One of my favorite ways to rate teams is to look at the middle of their lineup -- hitters three through six -- and compare their statistics. For the Pirates, that would be Jones, Ryan Doumit, Lastings Milledge and Jeff Clement. Since Clement played all of last season in the minors, I instead used Andy LaRoche, the scheduled No. 7 hitter who led the team in RBIs last season, in the group of four...
The Pirates group of four hit 47 home runs last year. St. Louis had 109, Milwaukee 105, Chicago 90, Houston 88 and Cincinnati 78.
In RBIs, the Pirates’ four have 167. The others: St. Louis 393, Milwaukee 342, Houston 336, Chicago 320 and Cincinnati 307.
The Pirates are absurdly short of other teams in their division in offensive production.
I cannot identify any possible problems with this methodology.
I say the Pirates will win 70 games, for what it's worth. Smizik is calling for the Pirates to lose 104 games (or maybe 103, if there's a rainout); the Bucs haven't lost more than 100 since 1985, and that's saying something given the number of terrible teams they've fielded since then. Teams that lose 104 games are very rare. Only three teams have done it since 2002. No doubt the Pirates aren't very good, and anything can happen, but there's no need to exaggerate.