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Will Pirates Go To Playoffs Or Break .500 This Season?

Pat Lackey writes about the Pirates' season so far and what we might expect from the team going forward. A summary: the Pirates probably aren't as good as their record so far this year, based on runs scored, runs allowed, and third-order win percentage. But the playoffs are still a distinct possibility.

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It's important to remember the Pirates' 2011 collapse. Something like that is certainly a possibility again this year. But it's less likely, because the Bucs are playing better now than they did last year.

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This is different than last year. When the Pirates were 53-47 and tied for first place on July 25th last year, their third order win percentage was .427, which was the third-lowest in the National League. There was no real uptick in their play from May to June to July and it was obvious that the pitching staff was treading on thin ice. The same red flags don't quite exist with this team.

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The Pirates' third-order win percentage (a win percentage based on runs scored, runs allowed, and the components thereof, things like total bases accumulated and allowed) this year is .489. They probably haven't played quite as well as their record so far suggests, but they also appear to be significantly better than any other season in the recent past.

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Also, the Pirates' record right now is better than at any point last year, when they peaked at seven games above .500. This year, they're 10 games above. I wouldn't bet on them making the playoffs at this point, but I would bet on them avoiding a 20th straight losing season. Who knows, though -- the Pirates have always seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of new ways of disappointing us.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.