The Las Vegas Over/Under for Pittsburgh Pirate wins in 2016 was set at 87.5. When that news came out, it was discussed on our show. I suggested taking the under would be a wise move. Predictably this was not a popular opinion among some Pirate fans.

I got one tweet saying to me-”They won 98 games (in 2015) I don’t think you get how good you have to be to do that.”

Actually…I do. I watched for twenty consecutive years as they proved how hard it was to even win 82!


In fact, I’m still picking myself up off the floor after they won 98 last year…and that wasn’t even good enough to win the division. So, yes, I do “get” how hard that is to do. My question back to that twitter follower is: “Do YOU actually get how hard it is?”

Because, I don’t think you do. And this sentiment may extend to many others in the Pittsburgh fan base who are under the impression that simply because three playoff years have just occurred, a fourth has to follow by order of natural progression.

Of course winning 98 games is difficult. That’s why we haven’t seen a win total that high in Pittsburgh since 1991. And that’s why we haven’t seen it replicated in back to back years here since 1909-’10.

And that’s why I think it’ll be impossible for these Pirates to do it in 2016 given ⅗ of the rotation to end the year is gone (Happ/Burnett/Morton). At first base Pittsburgh is -17 in HRs with Michael Morse & John Jaso replacing Pedro Alvarez. They are -12 in HRs with Josh Harrison replacing Neil Walker. Also Jung Ho Kang may have a hard time recreating his .287/15/58/.816/4.0 WAR after that bad knee injury last season.


On the other side of the coin, there is reason to believe Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte may be able to pick up for that lack of production in the power department. And there’s an assumption run prevention will be dramatically improved on the right side of the infield.

True, it’s tough to imagine Jaso and Morse being worse than Alvarez defensively. Being good compared to the major league norm is what matters however. Given Jaso’s limited experience at the position, how can that be assumed? And where Harrison may improve in range at 2B over Walker, his ability to turn the double play isn’t believed to be as strong.

Then there is the schedule. Optimists surrounding the Pirates suggest the team will be fine because the Cardinals may not be as good either. And the Brewers and Reds may be even worse than they were last year.

But it’s tough to make an argument that the Cardinals have been picked apart as much as Pittsburgh has. And even if the Brewers and Reds are supposed to stink again in 2016, so what? They stunk last year and both teams were 21-17 versus Pittsburgh in 2015. And the Cubs were 11-8 and against the Pirates. And they appear to be the odds on pick to win the division this year.

Some will argue those numbers are bound to correct towards the middle. Fair enough. If that’s true though, can we then also assume that Pirates are less than likely to go 22-3 against the likes of ARZ/NYM/LAD/SFG (many of whom are predicted to improve upon their 2015 regular season results)?

But again, the debate wasn’t initially about replicating 98 wins. It was about getting above 87.5. And that’s an important number since 88 wins has been the minimum for the second wild card slot in the NL in recent years even going back to 2006 (before when a fifth team was added). If an 11 game drop seems precipitous, recall that Pittsburgh was six games worse in 2014 after winning 94 in 2013. And despite their losses that offseason (Morneau, Burnett, Byrd, etc) they still made the playoffs. But it took the likes of Harrison, Vance Worley and Edinson Volquez dramatically emerging to do that well.

Similar out-of-nowhere performances will be needed this year as well. And more of them too. I’m going under 87.5…with full understanding of how hard it was for the remaining players to be over that mark the last three years.

Posted in Pittsburgh Pirates