The 2015 Pirates in Five Charts

Six months of baseball are in the books, and they were six good ones: the Pirates’ 98 wins leave them as one of the best regular season clubs in franchise history.

Pirates OverUnder .500

As good as they were through the summer, the 94-win team of 2013 finished that year with .500 ball down the stretch (24-24 in their final 48). Last year, they were only three games over (71-68) during the first week of September. This year, despite another slow start, the Bucs went on quite a remarkable run: they won 80 of their last 122 games, a .656 winning percentage since May 22nd that no other team in baseball came close to.

Of course, it still wasn’t enough to take the crown from St. Louis. The NL Central was a division for the ages, a true race-to-100 that came down to the final week:

NL Central 2015

The final standings:
1. St. Louis (100-62)
2. Pittsburgh (98-64)
3. Chicago (97-65)
4. Milwaukee (68-94)
5. Cincinnati (64-98)

Chicago finished on an eight-game winning streak. The young Cubs and their confident ace will be a tough task for the Bucs in Wednesday’s do-or-die Wild Card game. The Reds, meanwhile, dropped 14 of their last 15 games and will take next year’s #2 overall draft pick for their futility. The 68-win Brewers weren’t far behind and will select fifth. For finishing with the three best records in MLB, the Cubs, Pirates, and Cardinals will have the final three picks.

So, how’d the Bucs get to where they are? Their offense was solid:

National League Batting

The team’s non-pitchers — notably led by Andrew McCutchen, Jung-Ho Kang, and Francisco Cervelli, among others — collectively posted a .333 OBP (3rd in NL) and scored 4.22 runs per game (4th). By wRC+, they were 7% better than league-average as a whole, good for third-best.

Arguably the key to the Bucs’ success was once again strong and steady pitching. Led by Gerrit Cole, the starting rotation ranked among the best throughout the season:

National League Starting Rotations

You’ll notice a strong trend between ERA/FIP and team winning percentage in the National League. All five playoff teams were the five best by ERA: Cardinals, Dodgers, Cubs, Mets, Pirates.

The starting performances wouldn’t have mattered as much if they couldn’t hand the ball over to a reliable bullpen. The Bucs’ 2.67 relief ERA was the best in all of Major League Baseball this season:

National League Bullpens

Mark Melancon. Tony Watson. The Pirates were 79-1 when leading after seven innings.

All in all, this was a special season featuring one of the most well-rounded Pirate clubs we’ve seen. Hopefully it doesn’t end Wednesday night.

Go Bucs

Clinched: How the 2015 Pirates made it back to Buctober

It’s official: with a victory over the Rockies on Wednesday night, the Pirates have sealed their third consecutive playoff berth. Yes, it’s the third year in a row that the Bucs have clinched on September 23rd. Turning into the best day of the year.

Further, it’s now the third time that the Pirates have appeared in the postseason three years in a row:

Pirates Consecutive Playoff Appearances
(The playoff format expanded to two rounds in 1969… Three rounds in 1994… And expanded Wild Card in 2012.)

In 2013, the feeling was pure joy; finally, the playoffs were back in Pittsburgh. Last year, it was almost relief; the Pirates hovered around .500 for more of the season than we would have liked (they were only three games over on September 3rd), but a late run proved that the previous season wasn’t exactly a fluke. This team had what it took to be among the league’s best.

This season, though, the feeling is a little different. They expected to be here. They’re not celebrating as much yet, at least not publicly all-out. Chasing the Cardinals all year has, once again, been unsatisfying, and the thought of another do-or-die Wild Card game is not exactly flattering. This team, despite having the second best record in all of Major League Baseball, has spent exactly zero days in first place. That’s just too bad: they could finish with or near triple-digit wins to be the best Bucco club since at least the early 1990s.

Still, many teams would love to be in the Bucs’ position right now. It’s an awesome accomplishment. Regardless of what happens next month, this has been another great year for the team. Let’s take a look at how they got here.

Continue reading “Clinched: How the 2015 Pirates made it back to Buctober”

Appreciating Jung-Ho Kang’s Rookie Season

Unfortunately, there’s some bad news in the ‘Burgh: Jung-Ho Kang, the Pirates’ exciting Korean infielder, is out for the season. First reported by Dejan Kovacevic, Kang will be having surgery tonight to repair a busted-up left knee that was damaged by this Chris Coghlan takeout slide on Thursday afternoon:


It’s a shame to see Kang’s rookie season come to such an abrupt end, but it was a great rookie season nonetheless. Let’s not forget how it started: Kang came to the States chock-full of question marks, starting as a bench player after a bumpy Spring Training in which you couldn’t go a day without hearing how difficult it’d be for him to hit a fastball or fit in with his teammates.

Now, the four-year, $11 million deal to sign Kang looks like an absolute steal. By FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, Jung-Ho just had the best rookie season for the Pirates in decades:

Pirates Rookie WAR Leaders

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Baseball’s Best Starting Pitching Trios

liriano cole burnett

*Apologies for the lack of content as of late — I have recently started an internship at Baseball Info Solutions. Coverage here may be slow this summer, but we’ll try to update the site and our Twitter as much as possible.

If you paid any kind of attention to the Pirates-Mets series this weekend, you’ll know the team from Pittsburgh is in very good hands with the powerful arms at the top of their rotation. Yes, New York’s offense has struggled and featured a depleted lineup by Sunday, but the tone was set by Gerrit Cole on Friday, A.J. Burnett on Saturday, and Francisco Liriano on Sunday:

Cole has exhibited his ace potential all season to this point. Burnett has been better in his return to the Steel City than anyone could have possibly expected. Liriano shook off a couple of difficult starts, while still showing off some of the impressive peripheral numbers that made him successful in 2013 and 2014.

All told, this has been one of the best starting pitching trios in Major League Baseball through the first seven weeks of the season.

Let’s take a look…

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Series Preview: Pirates @ Phillies

Pirates vs Phillies

Pittsburgh Pirates (15-16)


Philadelphia Phillies (11-21)

Monday, May 11th — 7:05 pm
Tuesday, May 12th — 7:05 pm
Wednesday, May 13th — 7:05 pm
Thursday, May 14th — 1:05 pm

Citizens Bank Park — Philadelphia, PA


Follow us on Twitter @ForbesToFederal.

The Pirates finished a nice series win against the Cardinals at PNC, and now head to the other side of the state to face the 11-21 Phillies. No reason the Bucs shouldn’t be able to get a few W’s in Philly, and hopefully go to Chicago next weekend over the .500 mark.

Continue reading “Series Preview: Pirates @ Phillies”