Four percent. That's the unofficial sabermetrics odds on the Pittsburgh Pirates making the postseason. Looking at the rag-tag roster Clint Hurdle is working with, it's hard to disagree.
Barely any new players from outside the organization were added over the offseason (the only major players are Kevin Correia, Lyle Overbay, and Brandon Wood) and looking at the stat lines of players such as Neil Walker, Ronny Cedeño and Garret Jones, it's hard to believe this is a team fighting with the mighty Cardinals, Reds and Brewers of the NL Central.
Furthermore, adding all of these factors on with the fact that looking at the Pirates' box scores is like a Where's Waldo of minor league prospects (Alex Presley anyone?) this team is greatly out-performing the talent seen on paper.
Over the last week, the media from CNN to ESPN has been made aware of this resilient bunch, so much so that ESPN and FOX have placed the Pirates on national prime time games for the first time since 2002. But these next nine games are the true trial. The Cardinals, Braves and Phillies are all playoff and pennant contenders.
Will this sudden outpouring of love be but a just moment of euphoria or a long-term establishment of a fan base?
Regardless of what the ESPN apostles do, Pittsburgh and Pirates fans everywhere need to believe. The Pirates are in a no-win situation at the trade deadline, either trading away their future or not committed to winning in the eyes of major media if they fail to maintain Central contention.
But remember Pirates fans, all we pray for is .500 and that very well may happen this season. In the offseason, the Pirates will have the attention of free agents and prospects will continue to grow, but if the ownership is going to splurge on the game breaker needed to contend, the fans need to keep showing up in September.
The race for .500 needs to be just as thrilling as a pennant race.
The Pirates have something special and can be in the playoff mix NEXT season if the chips fall as expected. That doesn't mean the fans should stop believing, because the Pirates aren't the lovable losers anymore—they may just joined the Pens in Pittsburgh's youth revival of woeful sports teams.