The Pittsburgh Pirates today clinched their 20th consecutive losing season, a mark that surpasses even the futility of our Kansas City Royals. That brought to my mind a pretty good question, which franchise is really more hopeless? To start I’ll look at the recent performance of the two clubs, as putrid as it is, and then I’ll finish with the future prospects.
While it’s true that the Pirates haven’t had a winning season in 20 years, it’s easily arguable that they’ve been more competitive than our Royals. For one, they’ve only lost 100 games twice in the last 26 years, while the Royals have done it four times in the last eleven. However, in terms of actual wins, it’s ridiculously close with the Pirates averaging 68.2 wins to the Royals 67.7 since 2000. The Pirates have a more recent playoff appearance, with three straight from ’90-’92 but they’ve gone six years longer without a championship winning their last in 1979. Trying to compare these teams based on their past performances is like a race between a Prizm and a Sunfire, so let’s move on to what the future looks like.
It might be easy to think that since the Pirates have won more games in 2012 they’re better set up for next year, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case. For one thing, the Royals are much younger. The average position player for the Royals is a full year younger than the Pirates and their pitchers are an average of three years younger. The Pirates best two pitchers, A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez, are 35 and 33 respectively and it seems unlikely they’ll match this year’s performance. On the other hand, their best offensive players, Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez, are both under 26 and just entering the prime of their careers. Whit the Royals having club control of virtually their entire line up, and most of them at an age where improvement is expected, I think you’d have to give the position player advantage to the Royals. I’m not sure anyone has a worse prospective starting rotation in 2012 than the Royals though, so until David Glass actually opens his pocket book this winter, the starting pitching edge goes to the Pirates. Although the bullpen may be an advantage for the Royals, I’m not sure it’s enough to put them over the top.
Looking at the minor leagues doesn’t offer a much clearer picture. Wil Myers is the best prospect in either organization, but the Pirates probably have the next three best is Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Starling Marte. While both clubs have exceptional talent in the minors, if anything I’d give the edge to the Pirates if only because their top two prospects are pitchers and we’ve all seen what a need that is for small market clubs.
Essentially there’s no separating these two clubs because they’re almost mirror images. Young players, hungry fans, embarrassing recent history and cheap owners. I guess you could call them our sister club in the National League, and that should be depressing enough for both fan bases.