Three or four wins a week.
That’s the difference between a 75-game winner and a 100-game winner.
As we’ve seen during the opening stages of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2023 season, a team doesn’t always get three *or* four wins each week.
Sometimes it’s one. Sometimes it’s six.
Sometimes a team goes multiple weeks without getting three or four wins.
Sometimes a team has multiple weeks where it feels like they do nothing but win.
Contending teams are the ones who avoid the variances and remain most consistent in the long run.
The Pirates have been one of the hottest teams in the game. They’ve been one of the coldest teams in the game. And they’re 26-25 on Memorial Day weekend.
“Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It’s 25 hits. 25 hits in 500 at bats is 50 points, okay? There’s 6 months in a season, that’s about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week – just one – a gorp… you get a groundball, you get a groundball with eyes… you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week… and you’re in Yankee Stadium.
— Crash Davis
The Pirates have an offense that ranks in the middle of the league across the board.
AVG – .247 / 16th
OBP – .325 / 14th
SLG – .408 / 14th
wOBA – .321 / 14th
wRC+ – 99 / 15th
For an offense that was pretty squarely at the bottom of the league in 2022, the above results are great to see in the first third of the year.
What I find interesting is how the Pirates are excelling with a lot of high OBP/SLG results. The average isn’t always up there, but they’ve got productive hitters.
Rodolfo Castro has a .263 average and an OBP that is over a hundred points higher at .366. He adds power, with a .175 isolated power marker that is one of the lower ends on this list. Defense takes away from his overall value, but he’s hitting well enough to be a regular.
The Pirates have a productive trio in the outfield. Connor Joe has a .255 average, .350 OBP, and .226 ISO. Jack Suwinski has a .233 average, .350 OBP, and .256 ISO. Bryan Reynolds has a .292 average, .343 OBP, and .222 ISO. Those are all very similar numbers, with a key difference that Reynolds is the best hitter of the group, while trailing the other two in walks. Suwinski (31.3%) and Joe (27.4%) have higher strikeout rates than Reynolds (17.4%). There’s no one correct path. The Pirates have a more traditional star performance from Reynolds, and two Moneyball outfielders in Suwinski and Joe.
A huge credit to Carlos Santana for providing defensive stability at first base, combined with a .328 OBP. The Pirates were planning on Ji-Man Choi playing some of that time at first base, and Santana’s offense has maintained a passable level while stabilizing the entire position. Andrew McCutchen is doing the same thing for the DH role, with a .364 OBP and a .192 ISO.
Tucupita Marcano has added offense, with a .341 OBP and a .203 ISO. Since he’s arrived, he’s spent most of the time at shortstop for the Pirates, moving Castro to a better position.
Jason Delay has nearly as much playing time this year as Austin Hedges, and leads all non-Oneil Cruz Pirates hitters with a .371 OBP. He also has a .469 slugging. Hedges brings more experience behind the plate, but lacks any offense. Both catchers have strong defense, and the Pirates feel there’s an intangible quality from Hedges that impacts the pitching staff.
That pitching staff, by the way, ranks 8th in ERA (3.81) and 7th in FIP (3.93).
At the start of the season, I predicted 79 wins for the Pirates. That was completely based on trust in the ZiPS projections, and my attempt at projecting out the depth charts.
In a 25-week season, the Pirates would need to win 3.16 games a week to hit my projection. The previous disclaimer stands about how you don’t always get 3.16 wins per week.
Sometimes it’s 1.58. Sometimes it’s 4.74.
I’m not even going to go into what they’d need to do each week to hit 82 wins.
The point is, this game isn’t ever going to look the way you want it to look, even if it ends up at the predicted outcome.
The Pirates have taken a big step forward in the first part of the 2023 season, compared to their 100-loss season in 2022. MLB seasons are long and full of variance, but the Pirates have managed a winning record and some positive individual results through some extreme variance thus far.
At the very least, this has been an enjoyable start to the year, and a positive step forward for the Pirates.+ posts
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.