Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 10/29/14
(Opening image credit cdn.fansided) With their impressive win and subsequent sweep of “King” Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners, the Pittsburgh Pirates moved to 48-30 in their surprising 2013 season.  That evening, their NL Central rival St. Louis Cardinals lost for the 6th time in 10 games, dropping the Red Birds into a 48-30 tie with the Pirates, after being over 3 games up in the standings less than one week ago. A look at the MLB standings as they appear this Thursday morning is interesting for a couple of reasons: 1.  The Pirates and Cardinals now share the best record in baseball, and are in the same division- which doesn’t happen all that often. 2.  Of at least some concern to Pirates’ fans should be the run differentials between the two teams.  St. Louis is a MLB-leading +113.  To put that in perspective, the next closest team to the Cardinals is the Boston Red Sox, with a +78 differential.  The Pirates have only a +36 advantage, which ranks them 6th in baseball. 3.  Simply put, the Buccos are playing very well, but are significantly above where their run differential indicates they should be.  In fact, prior to yesterday’s games, these NL Central opponents’ expected Won-Loss records were: St. Louis Cardinals  51-26 Pittsburgh Pirates  43-34 So, the Cardinals are about 3 games below where they should be, while the Pirates are an impressive 5 games above where their run differential would place them. 4.  This is not entirely surprising.  Despite the injuries to SP A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez, the Pirates continue to have one of the best rotations in baseball, with much credit owed to pitching coach Ray Searage for maintaining the effectiveness of this currently piecemeal group.  Pittsburgh also boasts an impressive bullpen, and arguably the best closer in baseball this year in Jason Grilli.  So the team is currently winning an above average % of close, low-scoring games, which statistically may not be the case for the entire season. 5.  Interestingly, ESPN’s playoff probability tracker clearly factors this run differential into account.  Despite now identical records, the Cardinals have a 96.9% chance of making the playoffs, while the Pirates only come in at 80%. 6.  Regardless, Pittsburgh has been so impressive to date that for fans, coaches, and players, clearly the focus is shifting from breaking the streak of 20 straight sub-.500 finishes, to actually making the playoffs as well.  At this point, missing the playoffs with an 83-79 finish would probably be viewed with disappointment, even though breaking the streak of losing seasons means a great deal to the organization on the whole. 7.  Clearly, this run differential shows that the Pirates have at least one prominent need, and perhaps one not-to-obvious void.  Despite the recent power surge on their West Coast swing, adding an impact hitter over the next month is a need of paramount importance, which I’ve discussed here and here.  One of the amazing things about the sport of baseball is that, over the course of an epic 162-game season, rarely can a team maintain a hot streak or continue to defy statistical inevitability.  If the Pirates’ offense cannot increase their run differential, the team will eventually come back to Earth to some degree. Already showing the signs of fatigue? Image credit zimbio. However, a more hidden need may be the bolstering of the already overworked bullpen, which David Schoenfeld- a senior writer for ESPN- acutely points out here.  Despite the Pirates’ rotation being the best in baseball in 2013, Manager Clint Hurdle continues to have an early hook, relying on the bullpen to pitch an average of 3.55 innings/game, 2nd in all of baseball.   So as the July 31st trade deadline approaches, hopefully GM Neal Huntington focuses on more than just adding a quality bat.  In the meantime, let’s hope the Pirates continue to defy statistical conclusions with their exceptional start.  Thanks for reading!
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Texas A&M Aggies bench Kenny Hill for freshman Kyle Allen

Josh Smith's reaction to Faried's criticism: 'He's a clown'

Magic, Mia Hamm among owners of new MLS franchise

Michael Vick broke teammate’s finger with bullet pass

Wes Welker: 'I feel like the weak link' in Broncos' loaded offense

Greg Hardy will not play this season after trial postponement

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Chip Kelly on not weighing in on injuries: ‘I’m not Dr. Miyagi’

Saints vs Panthers: preview and prediction

Kevin Youkilis retires after 10 seasons in MLB

Ricky Williams says he retired due to poor quarterback play

Judge rejects request to move Aaron Hernandez murder trial

Jason Garrett optimistic that Tony Romo can play Sunday

WATCH: Russell Westbrook gets into it with heckling fan

PHOTO: The best sports-themed Halloween costume this year

WATCH: Jameis Winston forces fumble after throwing INT

Bruce Pearl dressed up as fellow Auburn coach Gus Mazhahn

WATCH: Jimmy Graham head-butts bench

Seahawks host football team from H.S. shocked by shooting

WATCH: Cavs intro in LeBron James’ first game back was wild

Did latest World Series win establish Giants as a dynasty?

Cavaliers give fans instructions on how to do 'Chalk Toss'

Explaining the Penguins loyalty to Marc-Andre Fleury

WATCH: Man obliterates house after Cowboys MNF loss

WATCH: Entire history of Nike in just under three minutes

Pirates News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Welker feels like 'weak link' in offense

Cavs intro for LeBron was wild

Greg Hardy won't play this season

Michael Jordan rips Obama's golf game

Torii Hunter in radio ad opposing gay marriage

Curt Schilling praises Bumgarner

GALLERY: Best of sports pumpkins

Top storyline for each Week 9 game

Williams' response to criticism

WATCH: Chevy guy totally bombs

Bumgarner pitches Giants to title

Report: Cubs to hire Maddon as manager

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.