The Anatomy of a 19-Year Losing Streak

“Hey, the Buccos are at .500”

“That’s pretty good!”

“For the Pirates.”

That’s how a typical conversation goes with any fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates whenever they reach that mark, even for just one game, that has eluded them for an absurd amount of time.  The sad part is that it’s true.  For any other Major League Baseball team, .500 in the long run is mediocrity; the Pirates haven’t even been mediocre for the past 19 years.

The last time the Pirates had a winning season, the Internet had not yet been commercialized, Bill Clinton had not been elected President yet, the Winter and Summer Olympics were still in the same year, and I was not yet born.

Since Bream slid and Bonds bolted, the Pirates have used 354 players at least one time that have never seen a winning season.  The number inflates to 387 if you include those who played before 1993.  The lowest ERA a Pirates team has seen since 1992 was a 3.91 team ERA – in 1998, when the league average ERA was 4.23 (The Pirates’ OPS+ was 112).  The most runs per game the Pirates have scored is 4.9 in 2000, when the league average was 5.0.  The closest to average the Pirates have been in this 19-year stretch was in 1997, when the team went 79-83, two wins away from .500.

The 2011 team seemed to be close to breaking the “curse” until their inevitable downfall in late July/early August when the team lost ten consecutive games, and won only one game from July 26 until August 8.  People bought in to the fact that the Pirates might be decent.

That’s what is upsetting.  One good month for the Pirates team and anybody believes that the Pirates can break the 19-year long streak.  It shouldn’t be this way.  We shouldn’t be talking about a streak with a team not being average for 20 years.

Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon for the Pirates.


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