I intended this post to be a study that examined how exactly the Pirates exceeded expectations this season. It was supposed to involve a comparison between preseason projections and end of season statistics. But I’ve found it almost impossible to concentrate on the task tonight. Instead, for the last hour I’ve stared out the window and watched the traffic pass on Penn Ave., while aimlessly refreshing Twitter.
The source of my writer’s block (or, more accurately, my lack of motivation) is almost certainly due to the sense of anticipation and, yes, some anxiety, that I’m feeling about tomorrow. And I’m quite sure that I’m not only one who has found it difficult to focus on much else except but the Pirates-Reds for the past day or so.
I’m not used to baseball being like this. Typically my relationship to the game is far less demanding. For five or six months every year, it is an easy summer companion that I meet up with at the end of a day of doing more important things. But tomorrow is different. It’s not different because baseball will suddenly gain anymore significance in my life than it should. And it’s not different only because it’s the most important baseball game to be played in this city in many years. It’s different because it won’t ever be like this again.
No matter what happens tomorrow, by what they have accomplished this season the 2013 Pirates have changed everything as it relates to baseball in this town. This team has brought winning baseball back to Pittsburgh. This team put an end to collapses. This team has already accomplished what Clint Hurdle has said numerous times during the season it was trying to do: (re)introduce a whole new baseball culture to the city. In other words, this team has fundamentally changed expectations for and perceptions of the franchise. And for all its done, the 2013 Pirates have secured their status as a team that 10, 15, 20 years from now we’ll find ourselves recalling every member of the roster. ("Remember Gaby Sanchez, Justin Morneau and Jeff Locke, they were on that team! And Lastings Milledge, wasn’t he…? Wait, no, he isn’t the guy I’m thinking of, it’s Travis Snider. Yeah, Travis Snider was on that club.")
The point I’m trying to make is that what makes tomorrow so special, and what kind of makes me not want it to get here too quickly, is that never again will the Pirates play a game of such significance against the backdrop of such an extraordinary (depressing) recent history. For avid baseball fans in this city, tomorrow is going to be like a first ______ (fill-in whatever tortured analogy you like: love, kiss or beer) after many years of wondering, perhaps forgetting, what it felt or tasted like. And the best thing about Firsts is not only do you never forget them, but the memories of them become richer and more important as time passes.
So enjoy and savor everything about tomorrow. Many of you have waited a long time for this, and the setting couldn’t be more perfect. Hopefully there is more distance to travel with this team this year, but even if it all ends tomorrow, it’ll have been a hell of a ride and it won’t ever be like this again.
I did get around to compiling some some interesting numbers tonight, so I’d thought I’d post a few of them:
- The 2013 Pirates' bullpen might rightfully be called the deepest in Major League Baseball history. Never before history has a team had five members of the bullpen log more than 50 innings pitched with a average leverage index above 1.0 (1.0=average leverage), while posting WHIPs under 1.25 and OPSes under .630. The five pitchers to accomplish this feat are Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, and Vin Mazzaro.
- The 2013 Pirates bullpen finished the season with the ninth-best shutdown-to-meltdown ratio since 1974 (first year of the statistic):
- The bullpen posted the 10th-best WPA score in history:
- The cumulative slashlines of Mazzaro/Wilson/Watson/Grilli/Melancon are very close to the slashline posted by Pedro Martinez in 2003:
Bucs (Pedro): 215 (.215)/.268 (.272)/.292 (.314)
- Mazzaro/Wilson/Watson/Grilli/Melancon season totals are very similar to those of Steve Carlton in 1972:
Bucs (Carlton): 340 (346.1) Innings pitched; 269 (257) hits; 82 (87) walks; 303 (310) strikeouts; 2.25 (1.97) ERA.
- Only the 2013 Pirates and the 2005 Phillies have had two left-handed relievers post WHIPs under 1.05 and ERAs less than 2.50 while pitching 70+ innings.
- The Pirates’ pitching staff tied the 1909 Red Sox for the most pitchers (14) with ERAs under 3.60 (minimum 30 innings pitched).
- The 2013 Pirates are the only team in history to have six starting pitchers with ERAs under 3.60 in 12+ games started (no relief appearances)
- A.J Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton combined for rate statistics very similar to those of Felix Hernandez in 2012:
Hits/9: 8.01 (8.11)
HR/9: .51 (.54)
BB/9: 2.96 (2.17)
K/9: 8.6 (8.65)
ERA: 3.20 (3.06)
- Cole has gone more than five innings pitched and allowed four runs or less in every start (19). That ties him for third-longest streak to start career in history.
- Pedro Alvarez posted numbers not terribly dissimilar from Sammy Sosa in 1997:
Alvarez (Sosa) 614 (694) Plate Appearances; 36 (36) Home Runs; .296 (.295) OBP; .473 (.480) SLG; 45 (47) BB; and 186 (174) K.
- For the first four years of his career, Pedro Alvarez’s slash numbers look strikingly like Chris Young’s:
Alvarez (Young): .236 (.235) / .315 (.317) / .443 (.438), 1750+ plate appearances