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Why Do The Pirates Always Fall Apart Down The Stretch?

WTM in the comments of Sunday's game recap:

It’s gotta be especially hard to keep churning out posts when the team itself clearly has packed it in for the year. That seems to be a growing pattern with this ballclub, and it can’t be blamed on John Russell any more.

I don't feel comfortable of accusing the Pirates of "packing it in," as if they've stopped caring. For one thing, they might not play well sometimes, but they're professionals. And for another, their salaries are dictated by their play, so tanking just doesn't make sense no matter how petulant and selfish they might be.

But doesn't it feel right to say that the Pirates usually fall apart down the stretch? Here's a look at the past several years.

Year Overall August Sept./Oct. Worst Month
2011 66-79 8-22 4-5 August
2010 57-105 8-21 13-16 August
2009 62-99 9-19 9-22 September
2008 67-95 7-21 10-16 August
2007 68-94 17-13 9-19 July
2006 67-95 13-15 14-14 June

Basically, you have to go all the way back to 2006, when the team was helmed by master motivator Jim Tracy, to find a season when the Pirates performed decently down the stretch. In each of the last four seasons, they've had their worst month of the year in either August or September.

I'm not sure there's anything to this other than small sample size and the Pirates usually trading useful players in late July. But it's hard not to wonder if the apathy that sets in come each midsummer has some effect on the team. In fact, I'm sure a lot of you are saying to yourselves, 'Well, duh, of course it does.' I don't think that's at all obvious, but I can't blame anyone for considering the possibility.