With Sunday’s comeback win against the Diamondbacks, the Pirates pulled their record at PNC to 36-39 and their September record to 7-10. For a club that won 6, 8, and 9 games in June, July, and August, having seven wins by the 20th of a month is a bigger deal than it would be for most other baseball teams. Does it mean anything?
The short answer is that it doesn’t: it’s September, call-ups are up and the Diamondbacks suck almost as bad as the Pirates do. The longer answer is that there’s some meaning to be pulled out of the series because Andrew McCutchen is hot again (.923 OPS in September), John Bowker is starting to see some regular playing time and getting some hits (seven hits total in the last five games, all starts, with two doubles and a homer), and the pitching staff is looking generally competent again. And all of those things are nice to see at any time at all from a team that’s struggled like the Pirates have this year and if they can finish the season on even a slightly strong note, it’d at least be something to hang a hat on and that’s not a bad thing in what’s still almost certain to be a 100-loss season.
I’m a little struck, though, by the Diamondbacks awfulness this year. We always point out teams that we hope the Pirates can model themselves after: there’s the first tier with the Twins (who aren’t a great example because they do have money and they’re in a relatively big market), the Rays (the current gold standard), even the Marlins or A’s. Then there are teams like the Brewers or the Indians of a couple years ago, who built themselves a window but might not ever make it through it and who don’t seem to know what to do once the window closes. But what about the Diamondbacks? They put together a good, talented young core of players that took them to the NLCS way ahead of schedule in 2007, but now Kelly Johnson is their best hitter and they gave almost 200 innings to Rodrigo Lopez this year and they’ve already lost 90+ games for the second straight season. They might find their way quickly out of the woods (only Adam LaRoche is over 30 in their starting lineup, Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy are a couple good young arms, but things are certainly did not going according to plan there and now they’re looking for a new GM.
Of course, we’ve still got a couple years before we’ll really know if Neal Huntington’s plan is going to work out, but it’s worth noting that not everyone hits on their rebuilding plans even if that’s something that none of us really want to think about.