I Don't Mind the Pittsburgh Pirates Losing Close Games this Season

(Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

In a season meant for development and gaining players MLB experience, I do not mind that the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to lose close games.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates fell to the Washington Nationals last night, 3-1, in what many would consider a very winnable game against a very beatable team.  This defeat marks their fifth loss by two runs or less in their last five games.  There's certainly a world where the Pirates win all five of those narrow defeats.  If a few blunders don't happen and a couple of hits with guys on base happen, I'm not even writing this article.  As the saying goes, good teams find ways to win games and bad teams find ways to lose games.  But what about the teams that fall in the middle?

The Pirates perfectly describe a team in the middle this season.  They're on an upward trajectory with the young talent that they have on their roster but it's unlikely that they'll make any sort of splash in the playoff race.  We've seen the starting pitching excel in recent weeks while the bats have floundered.  

Yet, earlier in the season, it was the exact opposite.  The inconsistencies in all facets of the game have them stuck in the middle for the time being.  And that's ok because that's going to be the case with the young team they're putting on the field day after day.  

We, as fans, have cried for years for the organization to call up the young talent, and it seems that they've finally listened.  The biggest prospect of the bunch, shortstop Oneil Cruz, was finally promoted last week and has already shown the flashes that made him so highly regarded on his way through the minor leagues.  He, as well as all of the others, are going to have growing pains.  

We also saw top pitching prospect, Roansy Contreras called up to start in May.  He, too, has had some struggles while still having great results and gaining key experience.   That's part of the learning curve that comes with making it to the Major Leagues.  All of this is to say that I'm unfazed with them losing these tight games night after night.

Now, I'm sure this will receive some negativity so I have to preface this with saying that I'm not actively rooting for them to lose.  I want these guys to succeed.  However, I'm not overreacting to some close-game losses and it certainly doesn't change my opinion on the potential of the youngsters.  

As I mentioned above, we've wanted the Pirates to bring their best minor leaguers up to the big leagues for years now and they haven't been the least bit shy about doing so this season. I'm not certain if this is still the case as of this writing, but as of last week, the Pirates had the most players make their Major League debuts this season with 12.  Therefore, I'm looking at this season as a year of experience for a lot of these guys.  They're being given a year to acclimate themselves with major league pitching and the speed of the game.  We can't understate how valuable that is for them, and this team, moving forward.

As it stands now, the Pirates record after last night's loss to the Nationals is 29-45, just seven games away from the halfway point of the season.  This puts the team on pace for roughly 65-70 wins, if they continue at this rate.  Since they aren't destined for the playoffs (unless a miraculous turnaround happens), I'm fine with the losses because it also means that it will lead to a better draft pick.  

Now I know there are people out there that hate this mentality because it comes off as settling for poor play year after year.  But why not try to acquire better future assets to go along with the one's that are already being promoted?  Not to mention, they already have last year's first overall pick, catcher Henry Davis, waiting in the wings.  Why not get another talented prospect to pair alongside him in a season that seems likely to be a losing one?  

This isn't a notion I'm comfortable with when the season starts because every team still has the chance to exceed expectations at that point, regardless of how unlikely it may be.  But at this point in the season, I think it's only rational that the Pirates would be better served with a higher draft pick than risking future success with transactions to try and make the postseason this year.  This just isn't a team capable of winning playoff games as it currently sits.

I understand that you never want to see the team you root for to lose, especially when we've seen it for so long with the Pirates.  However, to me, these losses don't matter as much as they appear to for some fans.  While I surely would like to see this team hit better and make less mental and fielding errors, that is part of the ups and downs that you're going to see with rookies.  

As I noted, the pitching has vastly improved from where it was at the start of the season.  With half of the season left, if the hitting can follow suit, that will set this team up very well heading into next season.  I'm more focused on seeing individual improvement than I am seeing the Pirates win games.  Eventually, those will go hand in hand, but that time is not right now.  So let the losses go, no matter how discouraging they may be.  The core of this team is gaining valuable experience each and every game, which will only help this team moving forward.