Tell the truth. Last April you picked the Pittsburgh Pirates to win the NL Central Division. Yeah, me too. And we’re both liars.

As I write this the Pirates are either a half game ahead or behind the Milwaukee Brewers in what will be the most interesting division race this season. The NL Central looks like a 4-team battle. The Reds were last year’s winners. But St Louis were a preseason favorite though many thought the Brewers off-season acquisitions would give them the edge.

But no one, I mean no one, predicted the Pirates would be in the mix with 70 games to go. And why would you? They finished the 2010 season with 105 losses and last in the NL Central. They have not had a winning season in 20 years. 

These are not the Paul Waner, Pie Traynor, Ralph Kiner, Bill Mazerowski, Roberto Clemente, and Willie Stargel’ family. All indicators are they don’t hit. 

In fact the Pirates’ batting average (.247) is 11th in the league. The Cards, Reds, Brewers, and the Cubs and Astros have higher percentages. They are 11th in runs (371), 13th in home runs (62), and 11th in on-base percentage (.314).

They are not prolific.

The Pirates can pitch. Their young staff allows 3.40 earned runs per game. But doubters and stat guys would point out their WHIP (1.31) is the same as the Reds and Cardinals. The Brewers’ number is at 1.32.

They don’t field as well as the Reds and Cards (the Brewers are a softball team in the field).

History says they can’t win. When they were contenders in the 70’s, there was the Big Red Machine. Sure they had a big family once, years ago. But when they had the next shot Bonds couldn’t throw Sid Breams out at home. Sid Bream for crying out loud. It’s been high profit team constantly selling assets.

Sure, history can be a poor predictor. But I wouldn’t bet on them. They are the Pirates.

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An MLB Death March?

July 14, 2011

I was thinking  about two upcoming trips. Both begin Thursday. Both show promise. The question is whether each can avoid becoming a Death March. 

The Brewers are enbroiled in a war with the St Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds. Only one of the three will play in the post season. It is a whole new season.

And the Brewers begin this new season on the road. Their trip will take them from Colorado to Arizona to San Francisco. So far this year the Brewers have gone 7-5 against those three. Not bad. But then 9 of the 12 were at Miller Park.  

The Brewers have the best home record in the National League (33-14). Unfortunately, they have the worst road record in the league (16-29). Heck, if the Brewers had the Padres’ road record (21-25) they would be back in Milwaukee printing playoff tickets.

Well, OK. You get it. They don’t have to play 50% ball on the road to have a 5-6 game lead to win the division.

What explains the disparity? Who knows? It’s enough to be alarming.

And it could get worse. The Rockies have been average  at home (22-22).  But Arizona (23-19) and San Francisco (28-16) defend the house very well.

And where are the Cards and Reds starting the second half? The two first go to the Queen City. They hate each other. It’s either good for the Brewers or LaRussa’s guys get a leg up in the tightest of divisions.

The Cards then go to NYC to meet the Mets (what’s left of them) before playing the Pirates (and let’s not forget the Pirates). All of the three series are on the road.  

The Reds travel to Pittsburgh and go back home versus Atlanta. Atlanta is a playoff team but I’m not sure anyone “travels” from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh. Mark Twain’s characters may be. Advantage Reds. 

The point is the Brewers get the daunting  schedule. They travel the furthest. They have the longest stretch. And they are already the worst road club in the league.

I could be wrong. I often am. But it seems the Rockies often beat the Crew. And I know the D-backs have been beating the Brewers both home and away. Maybe the Brewers will finish a long trip by winning a series against the Giants. Sure.

The Brewers will welcome the chance to come home and host the Cubs. Well, may be. The Cubs have beaten them 5 of 7.

A promising season could be over in a week.

Meanwhile my family travels this weekend for 4 days  in the Wisconsin Dells.  It’s an annual get-together with the extended family. Her extended family. Getting smacked around by the Rockies doesn’t sound too bad.