The highway to hell is paved with bad teams having decent April starts.
So, let’s try to find a stairway to heaven.
The Pittsburgh Pirates went 1-6 to start the season. They went 10-5 to pull themselves to .500 as the month of April is coming to a close.
Looking at the team stats, .500 seems to be a ceiling that this team will have difficulty getting beyond. The Pirates rank 20th in baseball in wOBA, 23rd in wRC+, 20th in FIP, and 8th in Defensive Runs Saved.
The biggest argument going in favor of this team is the fact that we’ve seen two completely different teams thus far. It’s easy to want to discount that 1-6 start and focus heavier on the 10-5 run.
Let’s pretend that something magical happened on April 9th, where the entire 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates roster just decided they were going to be a contending team. Here is how the Pirates have fared if we remove that 1-6 start, and only look at the 10-5 stretch since April 9th.
In that stretch, the Pirates rank 14th in wOBA, 17th in wRC+, and 13th in FIP. Those are better numbers than the season totals — obviously brought down by the 1-6 start — but they still don’t show a contender. At best, this would justify a .500 team. That’s not the approach I would take to justify this team being a legit .500 club, because it completely disregards their start.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign from the Pirates isn’t how they’re winning, but how they’re losing.
The Pirates won on Opening Day, then lost six in a row. Since then, they haven’t lost in back-to-back games.
One of the easiest ways to be a contending team is to limit the losing streaks.
On the flip side of this, they haven’t won more than two in a row all season. Another easy way of getting to contending status is maximizing the winning streaks.
The Pirates will have a tough schedule coming up, which will give us a better idea of where they stand. They’ve got the AL Central first place Royals for two games this week. That is followed by a three game series against the 11-10 Cardinals. They hit the road for six games after that, taking on the Padres and Cubs, and I feel like those are the only teams they play this year.
Where are the Pirates going to be after that 11-game stretch?
Are we going to be discussing how this is a team that is one game over or under .500? Will that early-season slump rear its ugly head again? Or, will the current stretch of winning two of every three games remain?
None of us know the answer. All we know is that this team is more fun to watch than we originally expected.