There is an old saying in baseball:
"No matter what you do, you will lose 1/3 of your games and win 1/3 of your games. It is what do you do with the 1/3 left that determine's your season."
Using the above adage, last year the Bucs were 3-51 in the games that decided their 2010 season. Identifying which games were part of the 54 which determined the Pirates season is hard to do. I have looked thru last season's games and was hard pressed to categorize the games. But when you have bad pitching, hitting, and defense it is hard to win games.
I think this recent 3 game series with the O's is a nice reflection of Baseball's Rule of Thirds and how the Pirates this year are different from last year.
Game 1 was a blow out with the O's scoring early and often to romp to a 8-3 win. Categorized this one as part of the 1/3 you were going to lose during the season.
Game 2 was a Pirate romp. The Bucs scored early, added to the lead, and won 9-3. I put this in the category of 1/3 you were going to win.
Today's game was definitely in the category of a game that determine's your season. The Pirates take a small early lead, lose the lead, take it back, and then bring in the bullpen to shut the door. This is the type of game the Pirates did not often win in the past 18 years. Once they got behind, they would lose. If they were ahead, the bull pen would cough up the lead
Recall the Met game where the Bucs took a 7-0 lead early. This was a win served up for the taking, but the Bucs let it slip away. The Mets came back, grabbed the lead, and the Bucs failed to rally. This is another game that helps decide your season. In this case the Bucs lost it.
The Bucs present .500 record is a reflection of how they are finding ways to win their share of the 54 games that will decide their season. Right now they are winning mostly due to strong SP and a solid BP with a "lights out" closer. The defense is doing it's part but the hitting is weak. They are winning few games with their bats. I think the hitting will come, but they aren't doing it yet.
I also give credit to Hurdle and his staff. I think Hurdle is helping the players win games that under Russel they would lose. I don't think it is because of his in-game moves (yea that bunting thing!). Hurdle is manipulating his lineups better. He is giving guys better chances to succeed. It the Bucs finish at .500, they will have improved by 24 games!
Obviously the Pirates need to get much better, but the signs are there. And they are much more interesting to follow!