Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Are the Bucs the 1990 Atlanta Braves?

3-11 5.64 ERA
10-12 4.28 ERA
9-11 3.16 ERA
14-11 3.85 ERA
15-15 3.46 ERA

Who's starting rotation is this? It is not the 2005 or 2006 Pittsburgh Pirates, or any other Pirates team over the past 14 years of losing. It is the records of the 1990 Atlanta Braves, plus Greg Maddux. The ace of the staff, the one with the 3.16 ERA is none other than the immortal Charlie Liebrandt. John Smoltz, in his 2nd full season in the majors was the sole pitcher with a winning record. Tom Glavine, in his 3rd full season, was still not quite over the hump. Even Greg Maddux, then with the Cubs, wasn't Greg Maddux in the won-lost column.

There's starting to be a the rumble, the tremor of a theory here in the 'Burgh that the Bucs are the '90 Braves. (Brian O'Neill even mentions it in his column today.)

This is what we're reduced to, hoping that the 2006 Pittsburgh Pirates are the 1990 Atlanta Braves. The 1990 Atlanta Braves won 65 games, the 1991 Atlanta Braves won 94 games, finished 1st in the NL West and lost the World Series to the Minnesota Twins. Glavine was suddenly 20-11, Avery 18-8, Smoltz 14-13 and good time Charlie Liebrandt 15-13.

For this to be true, Duke, Maholm, Snell, et al would actually have to mature as pitchers faster than Smoltz, Glavine, and Avery. (Remember, Maddux didn't join the Braves as a free agent until 1993, 2 seasons after a pattern of winning was established.) On the other hand, the 2006 Pirates may already be better than the 1991 Braves offensively.

Look up the middle, '06 Pirates vs. '91 Braves

C: Paulino (.303 avg. .745 OPS) vs. Olson (.241/.661)
2B: Castillo (.272/.756 OPS) vs. Lemke (.234/.617)
SS: Wilson (.268/.682 OPS) vs. Belliard (.249/.582)
CF: Bautista (.275/.875 OPS) vs. Nixon (.297/.698)

The 2006 Bucs are clearly better offensively at all 4 positions.

Well, surely the Braves were better at the power positions right?
1B: Casey (.306/.820 OPS) vs. Bream (.253/.736)
3B: Sanchez (.363/.930 OPS) vs. Pendleton (.319/.880)
LF: Bay (.290/.936 OPS) vs. Gant (.251/.834)
RF: Burnitz (.227/.689 OPS) vs. Justice (.275/.880) (Yeah, we've got no place for Craig Wilson and his .270/.833 in this outfield.)

The 2006 Bucs are clearly better offensively at every position except right field.

I would feel better about this if it weren't largely an accident. A big part of the difference offensively for the 2006 Pirates is the fact that Paulino, Bautista, and Sanchez accidentally became starters when the Duffy, Doumit/Cota, and Randa went in the tank. Inexcusably, we continue to trot the horrible Burnitz over Craig Wilson, who has to be one of the least appreciated players ever to wear a Pirate uniform. Bautista and Paulino also still have a pretty small sample size to see if they will be long-term answers. At this point though, I'm willing to take happy accidents over atrocious decisions.

So as Pittsburgh prepares to stop paying attention to baseball in 2006 when the Steelers head to Latrobe, I will continue to scan the box scores and tell myself that the rotation is getting experience and maturing. Even is they lose 100 games, it will all be worth it when the pitching gets it together in 2007 and begins 14 years of dominance over the NL Central.

That'll get me through this year, but if the '06 Pirates turn out to be the '89 Braves and I still have to sit through the '90 Braves in '07, things will get difficult.


At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It could happen. Right now the Pirates are 42-70. After 112 games in 1990, the Braves were 42-70. The Braves started the season 2-13, even worse than the Pirates. Of course the Braves didn't have a 13 game losing streak in 1990. There's a possibility that next season could be better. The Pirates are better than their record, I think and I think their pitching could be a lot better. I think that if next season's no better, then I think it's time for Littlefield and Tracy to walk....


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