Pirates suffering from divisional dismay

Devin Daley

Throughout this season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been one of the best teams in the MLB. They have managed to keep themselves right behind the St. Louis Cardinals, who are winning games at a record pace. This is all great for Pirates fans, but it ultimately remains bittersweet that they’ll only be a wild card team, yet again, for the third year in a row. No matter how the playoffs go Pittsburgh fans will look back at this season and see it as a missed opportunity to win the coveted division title that St. Louis has held just out of reach. The main difference between the two teams: their record against their own division.
This year, the Pirates have experienced great success in every aspect of baseball. Their team ERA (Earned Run Average) has hovered around three almost all year. The only team that can claim the same is the Cardinals, who find themselves just below the three mark in team ERA. However, when the Pirates play the Brewers their team ERA jumps over a whole point to 4.39. Against the Reds the team ERA isn’t much better as it only drops fractions to 4.31 with still the final series against the Reds still to be played. The Pirates combined record against these two teams, who sit at the bottom of the division, is a very unimpressive 14-20.
The struggles aren’t limited to just the pitchers. Andrew McCutchen, the team’s obvious star player has seen some of his greatest struggles against the Brewers and Reds this season. Against the Brewers, McCutchen’s batting average drops drastically from his normal number right around .300 to .255 which is one of his worst marks against any team this year. His on-base percentage drops from a mark around .400 to .357 against the Brewers while his slugging percentage drops from a mark around .500 to a sad .238. McCutchen isn’t the only Pirate to struggle offensively against the Brewers, but the Pirates’ star’s stats are a good indicator of how things are for the team as a whole. Starling Marte and Francisco Cervelli are two batters who have had solid years unless they are facing the Brewers with Marte batting .220 and Cervelli even worse off at .212.
Explanations for such drastic changes in players’ stats are hard to come by, and many people just attribute it to player’s having bad games. However, such draughts over a whole season often have explanations. One simple explanation is that the Brewers have found holes in the Pirates’ way of playing baseball and have exploited it. This, however, isn’t very likely because they’re the only team in the league who has been able to make the Pirates struggle in this way.
Plus, if this was the case, reason says other teams would have figured out how to exploit these weaknesses in the way that the Brewers make it look so easy. Another explanation is that maybe the Pirates have been cursed by the actions of their former first baseman Randall Simon. In the 2003 season, Simon hit one of the sausages in Milwaukee’s sausage race, and since the incident the Pirates are 29-78 in Milwaukee.
Now, because a curse due to an incident involving a Pirates’ player, a baseball bat and people dressed up as sausages sounds a bit too crazy to be the answer, it may be helpful to turn to a quote from a former baseball great.
“Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical,” Yogi Berra said. I believe that is exactly why the Pirates struggle against the bad teams of the division. They know all the above stats as well as the struggles they have faced, and they are beat mentally before they even take the field.