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Opponents' Weakness May Give the Pirates an Opening

Tom AuSenior Analyst IIMay 15, 2009

TUCSON, AZ - FEBRUARY 22:  Josh Fogg of the Colorado Rockies poses during photo day at the Rockies spring training complex on February 22, 2009 in Tuscon, Arizona.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Call it the series of the Midgets. But the Pirates finally have some "easy" opponents for a change.

The 14-20 Pirates will play their next 10 games against teams with three of the worst records in the majors. The Colorado Rockies are 13-20. The Washington Nationals are even worse. The Chicago White Sox are a tad better. No team has a lower won-loss percentage than the Nats, and only four more teams are worse than the other two, and not much worse at that.

If the Pirates are going to turn their season around, they'll probably never have a better chance than here. If they win eight out of their next 10 games, they'll be 22-22, or .500.

That's not a slam dunk, even against these opponents, but not impossible either.

Not to say that the Pirates have done so well historically against these teams, because they haven't. Last year, for instance, they were 2-5, 3-4, and 0-3 against the Rockies, Nationals, and White Sox, respectively—5-12 in all. That's a major reason the Pirates won only 67 games last year. 

A more balanced collective result, say 8-9, would have put the Pirates at 70 games.

But "strength of schedule" gives them some reason to hope. The Florida Marlins feasted on the Washington Nationals and won two out of three against the Rockies. The Pirates ate the Marlins' lunch.

By the law of "transitivity," the Pirates ought to do well against the Rockies and the Nats. This will be the first interleague matchup for Pittsburgh and the Chicago White Sox, so I have no recent "priors" on that series.

The fact that the Pirates will be playing outside their division may help. They're 7-5 outside of the National League Central, 7-15 in it. But they have also done poorly in recent years against the American League Central, particularly against the Chicago White Sox.

Another reason for hope is that the Pirates are better in at least one of two major aspects of the game than each of these opponents. The Pirates' hitting is only as good as the Rockies', but their pitching is better. The Pirates' don't hit as well as the Nats, but their pitching is much better. Against the White Sox, the Pirates now appear to dominate in both arenas.

Still, these (a majority, anyway), are "must win" games for the Pirates, if they want to salvage their season. About this time last year, I "officially" gave up on the Pirates for the year when they went 1-for-3 against the Washington Nationals. I'd do the same now if they produced a comparable result here.

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