It’s time to face the cold, unbending facts regarding the Pittsburgh Pirates. They’re probably going to make the playoffs.
Yes, it’s still June and there are 86 games to go, but according to the analysts at Baseball Prospectus, the Pirates have an 84 percent chance of breaking their two-decade postseason drought this October. Following a three-game weekend sweep of the Angels, the Bucs are 46-30, putting them 7 1/2 games ahead of San Francisco and Colorado for the National League wild-card cutoff as of Monday morning.
The Pirates are due to regress a bit, as Baseball Prospectus has their projected winning percentage the rest of the way at .507, well off the .605 pace they’ve set thus far. Still, even if they split their remaining games, the Bucs will finish at 89-73, practically assuring at least a one-game wild-card playoff.
If the Pirates keep up their level of play, they have a better-than-average shot at knocking off St. Louis for the NL Central title, as they trail the Cardinals by only a single game. 98 wins may be too much to ask for this group, but that’s the number Pittsburgh’s on pace for.
Furthermore, the division should be the Pirates’ goal, if only to ensure at least a week of playoff fever in Pittsburgh. The second wild card has been a boon for spreading late-season excitement across MLB, but it merely guarantees a one-game extension to your schedule.
Considering their putrid recent history, it feels weird to ask the Pirates to get greedy. However, they are in a position to do so for the first time since 1992. Past is prologue, but that’s all it is. With national media voices suggesting franchise-altering trades, it’s clear the 2013 Pirates have announced their presence with authority.
Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington has said since arriving in 2007 that breaking .500 is not the franchise’s goal, as much as portions of the beaten-down fanbase cling to it. That mission has been ridiculed because of how far the Pirates have been from a playoff berth recently, but now the statement seems appropriate.
At this point, just posting a winning season without making the playoffs would be a disappointment. Strange but true: the Pirates need to make the division title their sole focus, 20 straight losing seasons be damned.