Here we are, 85 games into the season and at the All-Star Break, and the Pirates are 11 games over .500. This is a pretty exciting time, and as such I find myself beyond restless waiting for the second half to pick up on Friday. I keep checking Bucs Dugout, MLB Trade Rumors and other various sources of baseball information in an effort to get my midweek fix. I also had a fun little idea to group together the Pirates' record against opposing teams to this point in the season and take a look at where we will have to be in the second half to win these season series. It's nothing spectacular but I hope it's at least mildly intriguing. Please note that this is a pretty long article (about 3100 words now) and I apologize for the length; however I kept thinking of additional things I wanted to add. Feel free to yell at me about the length, but don't be too scathing!
I will start below with a preliminary listing of all teams the Pirates have faced/will face this year (along with the total games played between the Pirates and the corresponding team) and then discuss them individually in subsequent paragraphs.
Philadelphia Phillies - 7 Games
Los Angeles Dodgers - 7 Games
San Francisco Giants - 6 Games
Arizona Diamondbacks - 7 Games
St. Louis Cardinals - 15 Games
Colorado Rockies - 6 Games
Atlanta Braves - 7 Games
Cincinnati Reds - 18 Games
Washington Nationals - 5 Games
Houston Astros - 17 Games
Miami Marlins - 5 Games
Detroit Tigers - 6 Games
New York Mets - 7 Games
Chicago Cubs - 16 Games
Milwaukee Brewers - 15 Games
Kansas City Royals - 3 Games
Baltimore Orioles - 3 Games
Cleveland Indians - 3 Games
Minnesota Twins - 3 Games
San Diego Padres - 6 Games
Philadelphia Phillies, Series Record 4-3 (0 Remaining)
When the Bucs dropped the first two of the recent four-game set to the Phillies, I was a bit concerned. The Phillies aren't very good this year and though I wouldn't consider them a bad team a la Astros, I would probably still consider them a bad team. Fortunately, they were able to salvage the series to edge out an overall season series win.
Los Angeles Dodgers, Series Record 0-3 (4 Remaining)
The Dodgers are one of only two teams to have swept the Pirates this year, and the series definitely wasn't a pretty one. The Dodgers have slowed down lately and the Pirates have 4 games against them remaining, but given that Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier will almost surely be back from the disabled list by the time the Bucs face them, the series could still be difficult. I expect the Dodgers to win the season series, but for the Bucs to take two or three out of the remaining four would be perfectly acceptable. There's a good chance of that happening given that this is a home series if the Pirates can keep up their recent string of heavy hitting offense.
San Francisco Giants, Series Record 3-3 (0 Remaining)
The Pirates kicked off their season series with the Giants with 2 losses, which led to a season-high 5 game losing streak. They managed to squeak out a win to leave the series at 2-1.The Pirates and Giants concluded their season series last week which culminated in last Sunday's annihilation of the Giants' pitching staff. The Giants aren't a bad team so finishing this one 3-3 is pretty good.
Arizona Diamondbacks, Series Record 2-1 (4 Remaining)
The Pirates managed to get two pretty close wins over the Diamondbacks back in the month of April. They play a four game home series against them in August and while the Diamondbacks aren't a bad team, I see no reason the Pirates can't take three of four, especially given that Burnett and McDonald will probably both end up pitching in this one.
St. Louis Cardinals, Series Record 4-5 (6 Remaining)
Some debate can probably be made about this, but I think the Cardinals are the best team in the division. The Pirates lost the first two series against the Cardinals but came back to win the third, just missing a sweep. With only six games remaining against the Cards (a blessing, truth be told) the Pirates need to pull out four wins to win the season series. This would essentially be winning two games in each remaining series or sweeping one series and winning one game in the other. The way the Pirates have been playing this could really go either way but I suspect that the Cards will probably edge the Pirates out here. Though I would prefer the Pirates to win four of the remaining six, finishing 3-3 and bringing the season total to 7-8 is definitely respectable.
Colorado Rockies, Series Record 2-1 (3 Remaining)
The Pirates won the first series against the Rockies and barely missed a sweep when McDonald became a tough luck loser during the first game of a doubleheader at PNC, the Bucs losing 1-2. Since them the Rockies, with their abysmal pitching staff, have cemented themselves as having the second worse record in baseball (and only half a game from being tied with the Astros for worst.) The Pirates play their remaining three games of the season series in Coors Field next Monday through Wednesday and I would really like to see a sweep here. The Rockies pitching staff has the worst ERA in all of baseball (5.26) and the recently hot hitting Bucs should really be able to capitalize on this. The flipside of this is that the Rockies have scored the fifth most runs in the Majors (only 30 less than the Rangers, for perspective) and if the Pirates have one an off day (or days) offensively the Rockies could squeeze out some wins. I would like to see the Pirates get a sweep for this one but two would be acceptable. Losing more than that would be a bad sign (though certainly not conclusive) for a team that had a good start to last year and fell apart after the All-Star Break. Nobody wants to see that repeat and using bad teams like the Rockies as a springboard into the second half is a good start.
Atlanta Braves, Series Record 2-2 (3 Remaining)
The Braves have been under the radar (at least in my mind) due to the success of the Nationals this year in the NL East. That being said, they're not a bad team and taking two out of four is a pretty good start to the season series between these two teams. One thing that may have some Pirate fans concerned (justifiable or not) is that the regular season ends with these three remaining games. Given superstitions surrounding the Braves (Sid Bream, Jerry Meals, anyone?) this could prove to be a suspenseful series if the Pirates are within a couple games of the division or wild card, or even if they're a couple of games around .500.
That being said, I want to see the Pirates win two out of three. Unless the one loss ended up being their 82nd, of course.
Cincinnati Reds, Series Record 5-4 (9 Remaining)
The Pirates play more games against the Reds than any team this year, and so far they lead the season series. This is something that definitely needs to continue, especially given the closeness of the NL Central race. I'm not sold on the Reds being a great team, but they are a good team and will probably stay in contention. It's hard to say what will happen in the last nine games between these two teams but hoping for another five wins (ending the season series at 10-8) doesn't seem to be unreasonable.
Washington Nationals, Series Record 3-2 (0 Remaining)
The Nationals are a surprisingly good team this year and I think they're for real. Fortunately they didn't illustrate how for real they were against the Pirates which gave us a .600 record against them for the season.
Houston Astros, Series Record 6-1 (10 Remaining)
The Astros have been awful this year, particularly on the road, and are perhaps on pace for a 100-loss season. So far the Pirates record against the Astros is phenomenal. I don't expect it to remain this much of a blowout, partially because the Astros--while bad--haven't been nearly as bad at home and 7 of the remaining 10 games are away games at Minute Maid Park. Realistically I think the Pirates could (should!) go 7 - 3 here on out to finish the season series at 13-4. Maybe that's asking too much, but for the Pirates to stay in this they need to take advantage of opportunities (read: 13% of their remaining games against the Astros) such as this one. So far they've managed to do that; let's hope they can keep it up.
Miami Marlins, Series Record 1-1 (3 Remaining)
Given my preseason expectations, I am surprised to realize that the Marlins are 26th in the Majors in runs scored, having scored 11 less runs than the 21st place Pirates. The Marlins have severely underperformed this year and the remaining series is another one where the Pirates can capitalize. Let's hope they can
take 2 out of 3 sweep this one.
Detroit Tigers, Series Record 3-3 (0 Remaining)
The Pirates came back from a disappointing first series against the Tigers to take two out of three the second time around. It would have been nice to have taken more than just three but I don't think the Tigers are as bad as their record indicates. (I think they're actually pretty good--though this could be bias since the Tigers are my favorite AL team, who knows) At least Josh Harrison broke up a no-no and probably had some fun doing so during that first series.
New York Mets, Series Record 1-2 (4 Remaining)
The first series against the Mets was disappointing but has the distinction, at least in my mind, of being the last series before the preliminaries of the Pirates taking off this year. Seeing them come from back from a 4-0 deficit against Santana was fun, though. I think the remaining series against the Mets could be tough but winning the series isn't impossible. I think it's more likely that the Pirates take two, however, ending the season series at 3-4.
Chicago Cubs, Series Record 3-0 (13 Remaining)
The Cubs are a pretty bad team this year and having 13 remaining against them is another blessing. The Pirates should take at least 8 out of 13 but doing even better than that would be preferable. 6 of the 13 are at PNC which should help our chances. The odds against the Cubs should increase even more in our favor considering most of these remaining games are after the trade deadline. Since the Cubs will almost surely be major sellers, the chance of taking a large number of these games could increase exponentially.
Milwaukee Brewers, Series Record 2-1 (12 Remaining)
The Pirates got the season series off to a good start by counteracting the Miller Park Curse. Six of the remaining twelve are away games so let's hope they can keep that up. Given that the Pirates play three against the Brewers to kick off the second half, it would be nice to get it started with a bang by going at least 2 out of 3. There's some (understandable) concern regarding the sustainability of the Pirates success through the second half but starting off by winning the series against the Brewers and then the next series against the Rockies (as mentioned above) would be fantastic.
One thing to note--it seems like the Brewers will take their 9 games after the All-Star Break (which are all against NL Central teams) to evaluate whether or not they'll be buyers or sellers. I personally think that if they can put up some good numbers in those 9 games and become buyers they can enter contention in the Central. That being said, I would prefer them to tank over the next week and a half, become sellers and make it easier for the Pirates to clean house with them the rest of the season. We'll have to see what happens.
Kansas City Royals, Series Record 3-0 (0 Remaining)
The Pirates sweep of the Royals went a long way to counteracting the terrible Orioles series and allowing the Pirates to tie with the Nationals with the best Interleague record of 10-8. Though the offensive showing in that series wasn't spectacular, the series as a whole was just fun to watch, not to mention it giving the Pirates their second series sweep in a 10 day period.
Baltimore Orioles, Series Record 0-3 (0 Remaining)
This series wasn't fun to watch and really made me believe the wheels were coming off the wagon sooner than I would have hoped. I believe this is the first series of the year where the Pirates really suffered multiple blowout losses. It's easy to wish this series turned out better (which I certainly do), but seeing the Pirates bounce back from it was really refreshing.
Cleveland Indians, Series Record 2-1 (0 Remaining)
This series was great because it was a real resurgence for the Bucs. After being outscored by 14 runs in the preceding Orioles series and dropping the first game in the Indians series, the Bucs put up two consecutive 9-run games which included some much needed offense from Pedro Alvarez to brush off the skid. Since the Orioles series (and including this one), the Pirates have gone 16-7 which is just under a .700 winning percentage. It surely won't stay quite that good but it's a great sign (and hope) for things to come.
Minnesota Twins, Series Record 2-1 (0 Remaining)
This series was exciting to watch simply because the Bucs scored so many runs (compared to their scoring for the first half of the season) while giving up very few runs. Between the three games, the Bucs scored 17 while surrendering only 5, for a run differential of +12. It would have been nice to see a sweep here, but it was a pretty good series nonetheless.
San Diego Padres, Series Record 0-0 (6 Remaining)
The Pirates haven't played the Padres yet but they have some games coming up pretty quickly. The Padres are now last in the Majors in runs scored, so the April-May Pirates were basically a Padres placeholder. They seem to have some OK pitching but the Pirates should be able to take most of these. I would personally like to see 5 out of 6 but it's always hard to predict great outcomes like that. 3-3 isn't really acceptable here, though the Padres did have a nice little winning streak going on (5 games) including a sweep of the D-backs. Right before the All-Star break they played four games against the Reds, and after taking the first one the Reds brought the Padres back to earth for the other three. Let's hope we can do the same.
That about wraps it up. I want to close with a few additional notes about the teams the Pirates will face in the second half. Out of the 77 games remaining, 51 are against teams that are below .500 and 26 are against teams that are above .500. Below, I have broken down the competition further:
Teams Above .500
Cincinnati Reds - 9 Games (11.7 percent of the Pirates' remaining schedule)
St. Louis Cardinals - 6 Games (7.8 percent of the Pirates' remaining schedule)
Los Angeles Dodgers - 4 Games (5.2 percent of the Pirates' remaining schedule)
New York Mets - 4 Games (5.2 percent of the Pirates' remaining schedule)
Atlanta Braves - 3 Games (3.9 percent of the Pirates' remaining schedule)
Teams Below .500
Arizona Diamondbacks - 4 Games (5.2 percent of the Pirates' remaining schedule)
Colorado Rockies - 3 Games (3.9 percent of the Pirates' remaining schedule)
Houston Astros - 10 Games (13 percent of the Pirates' remaining schedule)
Miami Marlins - 3 Games (3.9 percent of the Pirates' remaining schedule)
Chicago Cubs - 13 Games (16.9 percent of the Pirates' remaining schedule)
Milwaukee Brewers - 12 Games (15.6 percent of the Pirates' remaining schedule)
San Diego Padres - 6 Games (7.8 percent of the Pirates' remaining schedule)
The Pirates' second half gives us a reprieve from two teams over .500 whose season series we have already completed (the Nationals and the Giants) while the only below .500 team the Pirates are not facing in the second half is the Phillies. Additionally--regarding the Nationals and Giants--the Pirates won both season series. The total percentage breakdown of the second half over .500 schedule and the under .500 schedule is as follows:
Over .500 - 33.8 percent
Under .500 - 66.2 percent
As you can see, the Pirates have an extremely favorable schedule the second half. I knew it was favorable but didn't realize the split was quite like this until looking into it.
Just a couple more pieces of data and I'm done, I promise. Below I am including the current series record of the remaining over .500 and under .500 teams. To clarify, the over .500 record includes our current record against the combined forces of the Reds, Cardinals, Dodgers, Mets, and Braves, while excluding the Nationals and Giants since we won't face them again. The under .500 follows the same pattern.
Over .500 Record to Date: Total: 12-16 (.429 win percentage)
Under .500 Record to Date: Total: 16-5 (.762 win percentage)
It could very well be unreasonable to expect this trend to continue, but keep in mind that some of the under .500 teams we have faced (i.e. the Brewers) are not as bad as the Padres, who we have yet to face. Even if the Pirates didn't do this well against the Brewers, the Padres should be easier pickings.
The above calculation is more for fun than anything. Any number of things can change, small sample size and all of that, but these are the results of the first half, and based on those results the second half is looking extremely favorable. To conclude, I have one more calculation I want to share, which is what the Pirates' second-half record will look like if they perform in the remaining series to the above tune (.429 against over .500 teams and .762 against under .500.)
Over .500 projected record - 11-15
Under .500 projected record - 39-12
Total projected record - 50-27
This would allow the Bucs to finish with a 98-64 record, guarantee them a playoff spot and give them just over a .600 winning percentage. I don't think anyone here would complain about that.
Alright, that's really it from me for now. I hope you enjoyed it, but even if you didn't I hope it at least served as something to take your mind off of the endless wait until the Pirates' series against the Brewers. Have a great week!