The Pirates and the Crushing Blow of Six Horribly Wretched Games

The Pirates, and by extension their fans, should be used to losing by now. Much like a garbage man should be no longer mind hefting around bags of refuse and Lindsay Lohan should be accustomed to court-ordered drug rehab, the Pirates should be nearly immune to the crushing sting of defeat. If 20 consecutive losing seasons and two straight years of contention followed by the crushing betrayal of August and September (including a Houston Astros-ian 20-39 after August 1st), losing should be easy. But baseball, that cruel mistress, always teases players and fans with its promise of better tomorrows. 

And it's not like a bad start ensures a poor season. The Pirates were 2-4 through six games last season, before fighting for first place into July. The 2011 team was 4-2 en route to a 72-90 record. Last year's World Series winning Giants dropped their first three and were 2-4. So the simple fact is that two series at the beginning of April really doesn't say a whole lot.  But the Pirates, with a few decent mid-rotation options and a dreadlocked and likable superstar finally had a club that seemed to be able to best that mythical 81 wins. So while starting 1-5 is not great and can be overcome, scoring all of eight runs in that time is still pretty disgusting. 

To give example, the Pirates have scored fewer runs than Coco Crisp and Adam Jones have for each of their respective clubs. The Pirates, should they continue on this path of damnation and brimstone are currently on pace to score a whopping 216 runs for the season, only slightly more than the 192 the Original Billy Hamilton scored for the 1892 Philadelphia Phillies. 

The Pirates team OPS is a whopping .348. That's not a typo by the way, their OPS is .348. Last year, only Justin Christian and his .340 OPS in 61 plate appearances had a lower OPS among non-pitchers. Add in the hurlers, and that number still only climbs to 29. If you'd like to give the Pirates some extra credit for having faced Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, just remember that not a single pitcher with more than three innings had an OPS against of lower than .348 in 2012. 

The team OPS+ is -1. I know all those pluses and minuses get confusing, so I'll reiterate: the team's OPS+ is negative one. In the history of Major League Baseball, among players with more than the 193 plate appearances the Pirates have had, only two players have a negative OPS+: Bill Bergen's -3 showing in 1911, his final season, and Frank O'Rourke's -11 mark in 1912, his first season. No, I have no idea what the hell was going on in those two years. 

The Pirates have two players with an OPS over .500: Starling Marte (.261/.292/.261) and Andrew McCutchen (.238/.304/.476). They have hit one home run. For comparison purposes, the Rockies, who lead the league with 39 runs scored, have a .945 OPS with five starters OPSing over 1.000, knocking out 13 HR.  

The Pirates are 21-for-176 with 5 XBH and 14 BB, good for a .119/.188/.159 line. Unfortunately, remove the three runs the Pirates have scored against the no-longer-a-closer Carlos Marmol and the team has hit .125/.180/.148, good for a .328 OPS.

I can keep cherry picking bad stats if you'd like. The Pirates have 28 total bases, last in the league. The second worst team, the Cubs, nearly double that total with 55. They're also last in hits, home runs, tied-for-last in doubles, and, perhaps not surprisingly, are tied with the Twins for most caught stealings. At least that's something they can hang their hat on. 

In the end, the Pirates could go on to win 85 games and grab the second wild card. Or, they could lose 93, but do it in brand new ways that have nothing to do with this truly putrid week of baseball. Come October, unless the Pirates continue to be so historically bad, we'll forget all about these first six games, it just becoming one cold streak in a season full of peaks and valleys.

But damn it, if we don't write articles about small sample sizes, what are we supposed to do for the first two months of the season? Inspect old World Series footage? Actually, that doesn't sound half bad. 

(Source: Baseball-Reference Play Index. Man, what a service. All stats through 4/7/13).