What jolted my thinking was an excellent article about the Brewers by Rany Jazayerli. It's called "Undervalued Sluggers: Can the Milwaukee Brewers play winning baseball without playing defense?" I recommend it.
In the article he talks about the Atlanta Braves going from worst in '90 to first in '91. They did it by improving defense.
In 1990, the Braves ranked dead last in defensive efficiency; their defense turned only 69.8 percent of balls in play into outs. In 1991, that number jumped to 73.4 percent — best in the National League.
I wonder what happened to the defensive efficiency of the Pirates? Well, in 2010 they converted 69.8 percent of balls in play into outs. Eerie, isn't it. So far in 2011, they are converting 71.6 percent of balls in play into outs.That's 12th in the majors. FYI, the Cubs are 30th, Astros are 29th, Brewers are 24th, Cards are 18th, and the Reds are 4th.