MLB Betting: Could Be Historic Season for Pittsburgh Pirates
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 03/31/2009
Without hesitation the Las Vegas bookmakers have once again made the Pirates the team to beat for this upcoming regular season.
By team to beat, I mean team everyone is going to beat. On most sportsbooks including Bodog, the Pirates have the worst odds to win the NL Central, the National League pennant and the World Series -- and on top of that Las Vegas has set the over/under for Pirates wins at 67 ½, by far the lowest in the Major Leagues.
The San Diego Padres at 70 ½ wins are next lowest.
For the past 16 seasons of baseball in Pittsburgh, nearly all Septembers have proven to be obsolete because of the ball club's futility in the previous five months of the season. This season will be drastically different, not because the hapless Pirates are expected to compete -- that is completely out of the question -- but rather because if the Pirates play like they have the past 16 summers, this regular season will go in the history books.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have gone through 16 consecutive losing seasons, tied for the most for a North American sports franchise, a dubious distinction they share with the 1933-48 Philadelphia Phillies. That distinction should belong solely to the Pirates this season as management trots out another mismatched group of aging veterans and a group of lifelong Pirates that have grown used to the dismal baseball played in the town of Pittsburgh.
The fact that the Pirates play in the NL Central, a group that is expected to have a down year, and are still expected to win only 67 ½ games should tell bettors plenty. In the entire division only the Cubs (92 ½ wins) and barely the Cardinals (82 ½ wins) are expected to be over .500. The Brewers, Reds and Astros are all expected to have below .500 seasons, even while they play the Pirates 18 times.
The maligned Pirates pitching staff, the worst in the majors last season, expects to only get worse this season. Management did nothing to improve the starting five and will once again rely on pitchers that have notorious control problems like Ian Snell and Zach Duke. Paul Maholm is the only bright spot in the rotation but he is no better than a No. 3 starter on an average team.
With years of bad decisions made in the draft, the Pirates can expect no infusion of talent to the roster after the MLB All-Star Game like some teams that will be out of the race by that point. In terms of offense the Pirates have a suspiciously familiar lineup to the team that called it quits after management gave away Jason Bay and Xavier Nady last season to teams in the playoff hunt.
The only thing worse than having one LaRoche player starting at a corner infield position is having a second. Adam LaRoche and his signature April-June slump will once again start at first with his brother, a supposed prospect, Andy LaRoche at third base. The middle infield is the same with Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez after the Pirates could not give away Wilson this off-season.
The outfield of Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth and Brandon Moss strikes fear in absolutely no National League pitchers. The real fun can come with the bullpen where guys by the names of Yates, Burnett, Hansen, Veal, Bootcheck and Meek will try to keep Pirates into games after the pitchers take an early shower after about the third inning.
When it comes to the Pirates it's often better to place the Las Vegas over/under in terms of losses rather than wins. With the 67 ½ mark set by the bookmakers, that comes to over/under of 94 ½ losses for the Pirates as the make-or-break number between winning the bet or losing the bet.
Even for the Pirates 95 losses is a high number. Since the losing streak began in 1993, the Pirates have only surpassed 94 ½ losses four times. However they have been terribly consistent the last four years losing 95 games three times and 94 games once. The difference this season will be the loss of 2004 Rookie of the Year Jason Bay.
The team received nothing tangible in return for their best slugger, and after trading him last season the Pirates went an abysmal 16-37. That translates to a pace of 113 losses a season. The Pirates are already assured of losing 82 games to make history with 17 consecutive losing seasons but who knows, don't count them out when it comes to surpassing the New York Mets mark of 120 losses in 1962.