There was going to be regression to the mean because, well, there always is.
The Pittsburgh Pirates had a 20-8 record on the morning of April 30. It was the second-best record in the major leagues and the Pirates were perhaps the biggest story in the game, non-pitch clock division.
It was a stunning start for a franchise that has finished last in the National League Central each of the last four seasons and lost 101 games in 2021 and 100 in 2022.
The Pirates’ winning percentage was .714 at that point, which works out to a 116-46 record over a full season.
Obviously, the Pirates weren’t going to play at that pace all season. They were eventually going to cool off and regress to the mean.
However, even the most cynical Pirates fans – and there are justifiably many – couldn’t have expected what happened next. The Pirates’ fall has been just as stunning as their rise in the standings.
When the Pirates were blanked by the Orioles 2-0 on Saturday night in Baltimore, it marked their 11th loss in the last 12 games.
Not long ago, the Pirates couldn’t lose in what seemed like an alternate universe. Now they are losing at a clip that makes the previous two seasons look like good teams in comparison.
It hasn’t just been regression to the mean over the last two weeks. It’s been regression to the extreme.
Hitting has obviously been a big problem. The Pirates have scored 18 runs in the last 12 games, and you don’t need to take Algebra II – and please don’t unless you must – to know that works out to an average of just 1.5 runs a game.
The Pirates haven’t scored more than three runs in any of those dozen games. In half of the contests, they have either been shut out or held to one run.
In the Pirates’ lone win in that span, they needed Mitch Keller to throw a four-hit shutout against the Colorado Rockies.
Through the first 28 games, the Pirates averaged 5.5 runs a game and had a slash line of .267/.346/.456. They are “hitting” .177/.264/.288 in the last 12 games.
Run prevention has been a problem, too, just not as acute.
The Pirates’ ERA was at 3.51 after they routed the Nationals 16-1 on April 29 in the second game of a doubleheader in Washington. The Pirates’ ERA is 4.94 over the last 12 games, raising the overall figure to 3.85.
The biggest problem of all for the Pirates has been a schedule in which they have faced the Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays and Orioles within a two-week span. The Pirates have lost all eight games against that trio of American League East clubs who have a combined 79-40 record.
Simply put, the Pirates can’t compete with the very best teams in the big leagues.
However, they might be good enough to compete in the very mediocre National League Central. Despite the nosedive, the Pirates are in second place in the division just 1.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers.
The schedule will eventually ease up and the Pirates won’t keep playing at the .083 clip of the past two weeks. Just like they weren’t going to play .714 ball all year.
The bottom line is the Pirates are 21-19 at the one-quarter mark of their season. Just about anyone would have taken that when the season began.
It’s just the crazy way the Pirates have made it to 21-19, the regression to the extreme that can be both frustrating and confounding.