30.6 F
Thursday, December 1, 2022

Pirates Still in Playoff Picture, Thanks to Horrible Second NL Wild Card Race

The Pittsburgh Pirates lost a huge series this week, getting swept by the St. Louis Cardinals. As a result, they dropped in the projected standings, and are currently last in the projected contenders list below. The good news is that Milwaukee is riding a nine game losing streak, and the Braves have been playing .500 ball for quite some time. So while the Pirates were hurt by this last week, they certainly aren’t out of the race.

The playoff odds and projections come from the top three projection sites: Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs and ClayDavenport.com. Here are the latest projections.

Baseball Prospectus: 82.9 wins, 21.4% chance to make playoffs

The Baseball Prospectus odds dropped about 10%. BP is the lowest on the Pirates right now, as they’re the only projection system of the three that has them below 30%. The Pirates need to pick up two wins in the BP projections to take the second Wild Card spot.

FanGraphs: 83.2 wins, 31.1% chance to make playoffs

FanGraphs has the Pirates with the best odds to make the post-season, which makes this the first time that I can remember that a projection likes the Pirates more than the projections from Clay Davenport. The Pirates are still ranked last of the contenders here, but only need one win for the projected second Wild Card spot.

Clay Davenport: 83.3 wins, 30.6% chance to make playoffs

Clay Davenport is similar to FanGraphs, in that the Pirates only need one more projected win for the second Wild Card spot.

The Competition

Here are the rankings of the NL contenders. To get “contender” status, a team must have a 15% or better to make the playoffs in all three projection systems.

  Team Odds W L




































The Pirates dropped from sixth to seventh this week. They are one win in the projected standings behind the Brewers and the Braves. The second Wild Card spot is currently projected to be decided at 84 wins. That’s why the Pirates still have a shot here. They have been struggling recently, but so have the Brewers and the Braves. The Pirates have an easy schedule coming up against the Cubs, Phillies, and Red Sox. They need to take advantage of this schedule to try and make up ground on those other teams, while hoping that the free-fall continues in Milwaukee. At this point it’s looking like the only playoff hopes for the Pirates will be as the second Wild Card team.

+ posts

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.


Pirates Prospects has been independently owned and operated since 2009, entirely due to the support of our readers. The site is now completely free, funded entirely by user support. By supporting the site, you are supporting independent writers, one of the best Pittsburgh Pirates communities online, and our mission for the most complete Pirates coverage available.

Related articles

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I predict 13-8 rest of the way. Braves go 11-9, Brews 10-11. Bucs win 2nd WC by a game.

Which turns out to be for naught when they fly out to SF and face Bumgarner. But hey, we get a 163rd game, right?


We have seen that big changes can take place from week to week, IMO it all boils down to who is hot and who is not. I don’t have a stat for this, but I have to believe the Pirates have run into red hot teams quite a bit and if you keep running into those teams you are going to be riding a roller coaster, as they are.

S Brooks

I’m not sure how to quantify that, but the Pirates have certainly had poor luck of the more traditional kind. By base runs, their record should be 3 games better, 74-65. First place in the NL Central by 3 games over the Cardinals and – this is not a typo – Cubs.

The bulk of this shortfall is on the offense – they’ve scored 24 fewer runs than expected and given up 7 more. Pretty close to last year, when the team scored 34 fewer runs than expected and gave up 1 less.

I still maintain that performance, and not luck, is what has the Pirates in this spot in the first place – NL-worst defense and #2 in the league in blown saves.

However you look at it, by a true talent measure, this is a playoff-caliber team that is underperforming and unlucky.


Totally agree, this team has underperformed and been unlucky. As far as the defense is concerned Alvarez had a large part in the bad defensive stats, since he has been removed I believe the defense is better.


Nope they still are awful defensively at 1st, 2nd, and CF. Pedro was actually pretty good as a fielder – his throws were the issue and some of those would have been stopped/caught if the first baseman wasn’t a stiff.

The offense appears better using some metrics – but the problem is they have had a large number of games when they have scored 3 runs or less – 68 or almost half – those are hard to win and make for more opportunities to blow a save – score six or seven runs and you give your bullpen a nice cushion to work with. Combine this with a defense that gives up a couple of extra runs a week and things can and do get ugly

Lukas Sutton

You lose credibility calling Cutch “awful” defensively. Factless and ignorant comment. Then you go on to try to find a way this offense isnt one of the 2 best in the NL. This team has a great offense, an up and down rotation and a shaky bullpen.


What would YOU call a CF who ranked 20th out of 20 of those who played at least 400 innings in CF? Who has a DRS of -7 for the year. Since there are just 15 NL teams I don’t think it is “ignorant” to call him out as awful.


I’d call him our CF and MVP. I don’t know what kind of analysis goes into figuring this stuff out, but it doesn’t pass either the eye or smell test. Not when Cutch converts more “impossible”, “difficult” and “50/50” plays than most other CFs. Maybe he needs to move in a bit late in games. His arm isn’t great, we know that. But I’m not inclined to move him out of CF. You?


I agree with Lonley here, this is the list of of players who have played at least 2500 innings in CF since 2009, by the two different defensive ratings McCutchen is 23/30 and 26/30.


You have to remember that there are players in center field who would not get significant playing time if not for their fielding, Bourjos, and Andres Torres, and while not on the list because they don’t have enough innings yet Juan Lagares and Billy Hamilton. Being able to field a premium position keeps these guys in the lineup. In an ideal world McCutchen is moved to left field, the Pirates should at least work on his positioning he isn’t saving any runs playing deep and is letting catch-able balls fall in front of him.


The average run scored per game in the NL is 3.98 this season, this isn’t 2004. 68 games with 3 runs scored ranks 8th in the NL, so essentially average, and that is while playing home games in a park ranked 24rd in overall offense. The most 7 runs or greater games by an NL team outside the Rockies is 28 (Nationals, Giants, Brewers), the Pirates have scored 7 runs or more in 24 games, the Pirates issues is not offense, it is pitching.


Andrew, thanks for all the good data – and perhaps we can agree it is a combination of bad defense and the lack of at least one top of the rotation starter. Huntington talked about this last Sunday. The Bucs have a staff of middle to bottom of the rotation guys but they do not have a Kershaw or Wainwright. Last year they had several guys perform for stretches at TOR level. As a result, the Bucs have 3 shutouts – the Cards have something like 18. It is pretty hard to lose a game when the other team does not score.


Agreed, it is run prevention, the Pirates have a rotation of guys pitching like #3 and #4 , and have seen some big drops in fielding at a couple spots. In 2013 Pirates allowed 1 or no runs 40 times, this season 23.


Look at the errors for Alvarez and if you take them away, the Pirates are in the middle of the pack for errors. Yes, Alvarez can field baseballs, but throwing is about half the equation as far as how good a fielder someone is. As far as 2nd base is concerned Walker is a good 2nd basemen, not a great one, but he makes all the plays without making a lot of errors, that is good enough. 1st base is another story, there is nobody that is really good playing 1st base, but their error rate is not that bad, they just don’t make all the plays they should make, but there is no Dick Stuart among them. Cutch is playing center field where the coach puts him, all the outfielders are placed by the coach and some of those are exaggerated by shifts.


Errors are only part of the story – range matters and Walker has none – he belongs on a corner. And if you really think the coaches have any control over where Cutch plays you and I need to talk about this bridge I own that iam looking to sell 😉


This article, an interview in 2012, prior to Pirates becoming ore data oriented and aggressive in their shifting suggests that coaching has an input in outfield positioning.


Regardless of who is responsible for positioning, McCutchen likely plays too deep, if you look at this Inside Edge fielding charts at Fangraphs, there is a smattering of 60%-100% plays that fall in front of him, and he isn’t converting an inordinate number of low percentage plays behind him.

There is no facet of Alvarez’s fielding that rates even average. His range is just below average, but using that an attempting to state he has been a serviceable fielder at 3rd is the fallacy of composition. However I’m encouraged that the Pirates plan to attempt to try Alvarez again at 3rd this offseason, playing near average defense and hitting about 10-14% above average he can be a 2.0-3.0 Win player, he’ll never achieve that type of value platooning at 1st.

S Brooks

Yes, Pedro was a big culprit, but unfortunately he’s not alone. The Pirates are overall poor at 1B (12th in UZR, 13th in DRS); 2B (last in UZR, 9th in DRS); 3B (last in UZR, 9th in DRS); RF (13th in UZR, 8th in DRS); and CF (last in UZR, 11th in DRS).

It shows up in games too. The play at the plate Wednesday with Molina running was charitably a 50-50 play at worst, and Cutch didn’t come close to converting it. Cutch’s error on the Jay single in the St. Louis game 2 weeks ago put 2 runners in scoring position, and both scored on Holliday’s subsequent single. At least one of those runs is on Cutch in a game the Bucs lost 3-2. The week before that Davis’ error cost the Pirates 3 runs in the Nats game they lost 6-5. With the number of 1-run games the Pirates find themselves in, these errors, misplays and lapses have an outsized effect on wins and losses.


Good summary SB – add to the stats that Cutch plays a very deep Center Field [ “no one will ever hit a ball over my head” ] and has at best an average arm we see a lot of bloop singles to Center than other CF would have a chance of catching and a lot of extra bases taken on pretty routine plays. I have a tough time fathoming how this just doesn’t get a lot of media attention – the numbers are there fore every one to see – including Cutch [and Walker]

Share article

Latest articles


Latest comments