I cannot believe I am actually about to write this, but the Pittsburgh Pirates on the strength of a 52-47 record find themselves in first place in the National League Central. It is amazing that after almost two decades of losing this team is actually getting it done on the field. The find themselves in this position based on a 25-16 record against their five divisional opponents, even though they are 0-5 against the Milwaukee Brewers. They also went 8-7 in interleague play, so they are not exactly setting the world on fire, but Bucs fans have to be happy about a winning record this late in July.
The Pirates offense has scored 382 runs on 808 hits. Those numbers rank 13th and 14th respectively among the 16 teams in the National League. They have also only hit 62 home runs, and have collected 177 other extra base hits. Pirate hitters have struck out 749 times, which ranks in the top half of the senior league, and drawn 308 walks, which is sixth fewest. This is something of a quandary, as the numbers seem to be telling us two different things. This team puts the ball in play a lot, but we do not see the tangible results of that.
Their pitching staff given up 378 runs on 865 hits. Both of those numbers rank in the top half of their league. The staff ERA is 3.43 and that is the fifth best staff ERA in the NL. However, they rank 16th in innings pitched, and they have struck out a NL low 603 batters. However, they have only given up 309 walks. That seems to indicate that this pitching staff challenges hitters, and more often than not are able to make outs in the field. The starting rotation looks ok, and the bullpen has done a decent job shutting the door on folks.