Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 6/27/13
(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!
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Wilson: Comments about miracle water ‘perceived wrong’

Ryan Mallett missed Texans practice after oversleeping

Report: Barry Bonds loses collusion case

Martavis Bryant reportedly failed multiple marijuana tests

Mortensen: Krafts called me to apologize amid Deflategate drama

Packers smart to sit Aaron Rodgers for rest of preseason

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Is Rich Paul steering Tristan Thompson towards Toronto?

Kyrie Irving might not suit up for Cavaliers until January

Report: Martavis Bryant suspended four games

Phillies have finally escaped from payroll hell

Report: Paul Petrino took care of players' shoplifting incident

Joe Theismann on RG3: ‘It’s time for Robert to be quiet’

Frank Gore calls Andrew Luck ‘football God’

Eddie Royal joins the list of injured Bears receivers

Terry Stotts, Damian Lillard and the shapeless Trail Blazers

Jim Harbaugh thought phone call from Michael Jordan was a prank

The Buffalo Sabres have a 96% season ticket renewal rate

Karl-Anthony Towns is perfect for today's NBA

Serena’s grand slam bid prompts sell out of women’s US Open final

The Opening Drive: Utah alum Jordan Gross is fed up with the HarBros

In defense of Ryan Tannehill

Bowman: ‘Frustrating’ to lose Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks

Virginia Tech football’s alleged monetary fine system is ridiculous

Arian Foster expected to return by Week 4, possibly earlier

Florida AD: More neutral site football games possible

MLB 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!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Report: Barry Bonds loses collusion case

Packers smart to sit Rodgers for rest of preseason

Towns is perfect for today's NBA

The Opening Drive: Utah alum Jordan Gross is fed up with the HarBros

Five greatest NBAers without a ring

Exactly how bad is the NL East?

Five potential college football Week 1 shockers

Top 10 storylines for Week 3 of the NFL preseason

Wilson’s ‘Recovery Water’ plug sends the wrong message

The 12 most relevant teams in CFB

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker