The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates finished the season with a winning record, Bill Clinton was about to get elected President of the United States for the first time.
In the 19 seasons since then, Pittsburgh has finished below 0.500.
However, the Pirates are currently 51-40, tantalizing their fans with the hope of ending this streak of mediocrity.
But are the Pittsburgh Pirates lucky or good?
What run creation say about luck
We asked the same question last year, which led us to analyze formulas for run creation. These formulas take raw statistics like hits and walks and estimate the expected number of runs scored. A deviation from this expected result indicates luck. A fortunate team on offense tends to cluster their hits together. A team with unlucky pitching and fielding gives up hits and walks in clusters.
Last July, we found that Pittsburgh had allowed 36 fewer runs than expected. Since the math expects two of every three teams to be within 14 runs of this average, the Pirates had been a very lucky team up to that point in the season. When this luck dried up, the Pirates dropped well below 0.500 (72-90) by the end of the season.
What about the 2012 Pirates?
This season, the Pirates have only allowed 21 runs fewer than expected. They have still been fortunate, but not nearly as much as last year. On offense, they have scored 10 more runs than expected. The run creation formulas suggest that the Pirates are 31 runs lucky this season. Since Pittsburgh has actually scored 34 more runs than they have allowed, they should have a +3 run differential. Teams with an even run differential tend to finish near 0.500.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are an average team.
However, they currently have a 51-40 record. If they win half their games the remainder of the season, the Pirates will easily finish above 0.500. They would need to get really unlucky, like having superstar Andrew McCutchen get hurt, to finish the season with a losing record.
Nineteen straight losing seasons.
It all ends this year.
Thanks for reading.
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