On June 13 th , Milwaukee started out on a four game road trip in Chicago.  I have documented this road trip as the beginning of a ridiculously tough schedule for the Brewers. When the trip started, Milwaukee was in first place and six games ahead of the fourth place Pirates.  Currently, Milwaukee is a 1/2 game out of first, in what is now a three team logjam. Yes, Pittsburgh has made up a few games in the standings.  There are several reasons why this has occurred.  Unfortunately for Pittsburgh fans, it has much less to do with Pittsburgh playing well and much more to do with the tough stretch of games assigned to Milwaukee for the last six weeks.  I know this seems like sour grapes, but I can prove it.

For example, since June 13 th , Milwaukee has played 13 home games and 24 road games and the teams had a winning percentage of .523.  Even quality teams will struggle against top competition on the road for a long stretches.  In comparison, Pittsburgh played 18 of 34 games at home against competition with a winning percentage of .476, including Houston a mind boggling nine times!  If you look at the MLB standings, the difference in the two team’s winning percentages equals roughly 6 games in the standings, which is about what Pittsburgh has made up thus far. Quite simply, they have made up games because they haven’t played quality competition on a consistent basis.

Secondly, that is all about to change. The Fool’s Gold booty the Pirates are looking to plunder must cross some treacherous waters over the next few weeks.  In fact, Milwaukee plays 21 out of the next 34 games at home, against opposition with a winning percentage of .454.  Considering how dominant Milwaukee plays at home, it is not difficult to envision the team playing well through the month of August.  For some context, Pittsburgh, is destined to play 20 of the next 37 games on the road against opposition with a winning percentage of .501.  Simple mathematics tells me that Pittsburgh is going to fade in the standings over the next five weeks.

The next reason I feel Pittsburgh will show their true fourth place colors has to do the high number of head to head matchups remaining against Milwaukee.  It is no secret that Milwaukee owns Pittsburgh when playing head to head.  If fact, the Brewers own a 41-11 advantage against the Pirates since 2008, including a perfect 5-0 mark this season against the new and improved Pirates.  Sure Pittsburgh may be better, but better than .500 against Milwaukee?  That is highly doubtful.  I predict Milwaukee will win seven of the remaining ten games against the soon to be fourth place Pirates.

Finally, Pittsburgh has scored less runs than the Houston Astros in 2011. The offense has struggled to score runs and to hit with any type of power.  If they struggled against poor teams, surely they will struggle in the second half against an elevated quality of pitching.  I feel that perhaps the Pittsburgh offense is like a character on Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.  As you may remember, in this game each opponent had a ‘secret’ maneuver that would easily defeat them once learned.  Much like this classic game, I believe that Andrew McCutchen can be neutralized by pitching around him with a high frequency in the second half.  I truly believe Pittsburgh does not have the type of supporting staff that can maintain a division race deep into the season with difficult competition.

It’s been refreshing to follow the Pittsburgh resurgence. I hope Pirates fans enjoyed the ride while it lasted because the fun is about to end.  Thanks to a relatively easy Pittsburgh schedule, coupled with a ridiculously difficult Milwaukee schedule, the Pirates were able to make up some ground in the standings.  Now that the tables have turned and the division lead should once again be extended.  I look for Pittsburgh’s offense to let the team down in the next month, in particular in games against Milwaukee and their quality pitching staff.

 

A Season You Have Probably Forgotten About By Now

The 1979 NL MVP award will go in infamy as one of the greatest travesties in award giving history.  Willie “Pops” Stargell was the emotional center, and the heart and soul, of the “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates.  Despite not being superior offensively, sportswriters gave 39 yr old Pops the benefit of the doubt because of his tremendous leadership.  As a result, Stargell was able to tie Keith Hernandez for the award, which is the only time a tie has occurred.  It was an outrage on many levels, but mainly because heart and leadership were being valued more than doubles and walks.  Hence, sportswriters spat in the face of modern baseball statistical analysis and gave the award to a man WHO DIDN’T EARN IT.

When comparing some of the top players in the National League of 1979, a pattern clearly develops .  It is almost like the old Sesame Street game where ‘one of these things is not like the other’.  I took a moment to put together a chart comparing some different offensive players I guarantee had a better season than Stargell.  The results may surprise you.

 

Stat

Winfield

Schmitt

Hernandez

Stargell

G

159

160

161

136

AB

597

541

610

424

H

184

137

210

119

HR

34

45

11

32

R

97

109

116

60

RBI

118

114

105

82

SB

15

9

11

0

ISO

.250

.311

.169

.271

AVG

.308

.253

.344

.281

OBP

.395

.386

.417

.352

SLG

.558

.564

.513

.552

OPS

.953

.950

.930

.904

WAR

7.9

7.6

7.4

2.8

2B

27

25

48

19

3B

10

4

11

0

XBH

71

74

70

51

BB

85

120

80

47

SO

71

115

78

105

 

Anyone that would look at these statistics and give the award to Stargell is outright irresponsible and borders on treason.  I thought I might make the case for each player winning with the benefit of 32 years of hindsight.

Dave Winfield :  The big man had his finest year in San Diego.  He led the NL in WAR, RBIs, total bases, and intentional base on balls.  In fact, he had more walks than strikeouts and hit over .300. Defensively, Winfield also won a gold glove in ’79.  There is little doubt when compared to Stargell, that Winfield had the superior season.  I suppose we’ll just have to take the sportswriter’s word that the 39 yr old Stargell had more heart and soul than the Hall of Famer Winfield that season.

Mike Schmitt :  The legendary third baseman had a typical Schmitt year .  He led in NL in walks, clubbed 45 homers, and won another Gold Glove.  Despite having a superior offensive year to Stargell in virtually every offensive category, it could have been even more dominant.  Schmitt had the 2 nd worst BABIP in the NL in 1979 with a .236 mark, meaning that he got extremely unlucky while dominating the old man.  I suppose we’ll just have to take the sportswriter’s word that the 39 yr old Stargell had more heart and soul than the Hall of Famer Schmitt that season.

Keith Hernandez :  Hernandez at least managed to save some dignity for the sportswriters when he tied for the award.  In truth, he could have easily won the award himself without controversy.  He led the National League in runs, doubles, and batting average.  Heck, he finished second in hits and on-base percentage, and won also won a Gold Glove Award at the position Stargell played.  I suppose we’ll just have to take the sportswriter’s word that the 39 yr old Stargell had more heart and soul than Hernandez that season.

Will Stargell :  Pops had 32 home runs for the World Champion Pirates.  Because of his advanced age of 39 yrs old, he was unable to play in as many games as the top players in the National League.  He failed to lead the NL in any offensive statistics and he stuck out over twice as much as he walked.  I suppose we’ll just have to take the sportswriter’s word that the 39 yr old Stargell had more heart and soul than the top players in the Nation League that season.

In conclusion, Willie Stargell was not an offensive, or defensive, force for the World Champion Pirates.  In fact, a case could be made that Dave Parker was the best Pirates player that season.  Sportswriters mailed in the award and gave Stargell the tie as a sort of career achievement award. That is not the purpose of the award and as a result, robbed Keith Hernandez of an opportunity to solely win an award he earned that season.  The next time a sportswriter claims to be a baseball expert because of his profession, kindly remind him of the mistake his colleagues made in 1979 in what was probably a season you have forgotten about by now.

 

Dates Appearing Closer on the Horizon

Today!!   The team returns home for a massive three series homestand against Chicago, Houston, and St Louis.  There will be some ground to be made up after the road trip and I expect the team to be back in first place by the end of this particular stretch of games.

August 22, 2011.   The Brewers are in Pittsburgh for four games in three days.  Need I say more?

 

Shameless Self Promotion

Please don’t forget to follow my Twitter account, @simplekindoffan.    If you aren’t following me, then you are missing out on useless tweets such as this .  

Are you traveling or will you miss an upcoming Brewers game because of a MLB black- out?  No worries, the PocketDoppler is here for you.  Brian has you covered with a nightly ‘250 words or less’ summary of what happened for the Brewers.  It is a quick and convenient way to stay on top of the team when the social calendar fills up in the summer.

 

 

 

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  • http://www.pittsburghpirates.com Shane Kilpin

    I hope you’re right. The Pirates scare me in this the year of the feel good sports teams winning it all. Packers, Mavs…Yes it’s a stretch to include Pitt on the same level but still, they scare me a little bit.

    • BrewTownBoozer

      Have I led you astray yet?

  • http://unclemikesmusings.blogspot.com Uncle Mike

    I think the Pirates are what the Brewers were in 2007: A year away from doing something special. If the 2012, ’13, ’14, etc. Brewers are lucky, Pirate management will do much the same thing as Brewer management seemed to be doing between ’07 and last season, and mess it up. If they don’t, and both teams manage to keep their good young players, Brewers-Pirates could be a good recurring storyline for years to come — instead of what could have been a good 1979 World Series (though the Pirates-Orioles series we got was a good one).

    And, for the record, Keith Hernandez did NOT deserve the MVP in 1979. It’s not “Most Outstanding,” it’s “Most Valuable.” Pittsburgh won the World Series, St. Louis did not make the Playoffs.

    • BrewTownBoozer

      Thank you for the reply Uncle Mike, I really do appreciate it. I wasn’t aware that a requirement for winning the MVP award was having your team make the playoffs? There are many instances of this very thing happening, including Robin Yount.

      Also, the award is voted on before the playoffs start, so winning a World Series essentially doesn’t matter int his instance. I thought the statistics would make any defense of Stargell rendered moot. However, I saved one for you in case there were any objections this week.

      Did you know Stargell didn’t even have enough at bats to qualify for a batting title? That’s the most outstanding/ valuable player in the NL? It was simply a career achievement that was given.