Year after year, avid baseball fans track what happens throughout Major League Baseball Spring Training. We assure ourselves that the results don’t really matter, and it’s probably mostly true that they don’t. And yet, as far as the Pittsburgh Pirates are concerned, we find ourselves looking for storylines, following games and attempting to identify player progression.
More than anything else, perhaps, is the importance of individual stats to suggest a burgeoning slugger or fireballer ace – but what about team stats?
Pittsburgh, 9-13 as of this writing, currently sports a run differential of -29. Run differential is, of course, the difference between runs scored and runs allowed, meaning the Bucs are currently being outscored at a fairly high clip.
It’s probably the case that Spring Training records don’t matter much, and I’m not putting much stock into the Pirates’ mark, but what might be of interest is the overall offensive performance of the Buccos.
In all major offensive categories, Pittsburgh is underachieving. The team’s .673 OPS is second worst in the National League, while striking out at the third highest rate in the NL (224) and walking the 13th lowest amount (62).
While the Pirates will be a more exciting team this year, concerns over offensive production are legitimate. Since the Pirates’ peak in 2015, the club’s had one of the middling-to-worst offenses in the league. The last three years have seen the Bucs sport an OPS of .641 (15th in NL), .673 (14th), and .655 (15th).
Fangraphs has the Pirates working with a -81 run differential over the course of the 2023 season, which works out to a 73-89 record, an 11-win improvement from last year’s totals. If the team is to reach that point – and hopefully push into 2024 with higher aspirations – then the team’s offensive output will need to see an increase in production. As it stands right now in Spring Training, Pittsburgh’s offense isn’t far out of line with last year’s production, a trend that may be concerning as Opening Day nears.