Crunching numbers with the Pirates

There are two sides to just about every story, and such is the case with the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates.

As well as the Pirates have been playing in the first half of this season, there is always another viewpoint by which to look at things entering the second half.

Only time will tell which angle(s) will prove to be the more telling:

1.) The Pirates have proven just how important pitching is in baseball. The Bucs’ staff leads the National League in earned run average (3.07) and has allowed fewer earned runs (289) than any team in the league … BUT … Pittsburgh’s offense has generated a total of just 357 runs in 93 games, which ranks tied with the Washington Nationals for next-to-last in the NL. Only the Miami Marlins’ 305 is worse.

2.) The Pirates finished with 56 wins at the all-star break. In team history, only the 1971 World Champion Bucs, with 57 wins, had more victories at all-star time … BUT … The Bucs were just 5-7 in their last 12 games leading up to the break.

3.) The Pirates’ pitching staff has thrown a league-leading 13 shutouts this season … BUT … The Bucs have scored two runs or less in 34 of their first 93 games, and are 6-28 in those games.

4.) After finishing last season with 30 home runs, third baseman Pedro Alvarez has crushed 24 home runs already this season, and is on pace to finish with well over 40 … BUT … First baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones, who hit 27 homers last year, has just eight this season, and centerfielder Andrew McCutchen, who led the team with 31 home runs a year ago, has hit just 10 this year.

5.) The Bucs appear to be a lead-pipe cinch to break their consecutive streak of successive losing seasons, which reached 20 last year. They need a minimum of just 26 wins in their last 69 games in order to do so … BUT … Just last season, the Pirates appeared to be a similar lock for a winning year as late as August 8, when they were 63-47. They won only 16 of their last 52 games to wind up 79-83.

6.) The Pirates figure to be in the National League Central Division title race all season long, and an overwhelming bet to secure at least one of the league’s two wild-card playoff positions … BUT … The next month – starting with this weekend’s three-game series in Cincinnati and next week’s four-game trip to Washington, followed by eight games with the first-place St. Louis Cardinals between now and August 15 – will go a long way in determining the Pirates’ postseason prospects.

John Hartsock can be reached at