2018 Pirates have chance to be historically mediocre

By Michael Dixon
Jul 20, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; A general view of a Pittsburgh Pirates batting helmet prior to a game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Through the first five months of the 2018 MLB season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been decidedly mediocre. That’s generally not a desired label in sports. The good teams are competing for championships. The bad teams at least get the high draft picks. But where do the mediocre teams fall? It’s not a good place to be.

But what if the Pirates could be the most mediocre of all-time? Would the historical element outweigh the word’s negative connotation? That’s the question that fans of the Pirates have to ask themselves over the season’s final month.

According to a study from Neil Paine of 538, the Pirates have easily been the most mediocre of any team in the four major sports in the most recent seasons.

On a scale that weighs winning percentage, points/runs/goals scored, and points/runs/goals allowed, where 0.00 is perfectly mediocre, the Pirates rank at 0.30. The next most mediocre team, the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, checked in at 1.44. So, Pittsburgh wins this year’s mediocrity bowl in a landslide. For reference, the most mediocre teams in the NBA and NFL were the Washington Wizards (1.64) and Seattle Seahawks (3.36), respectively.

But it doesn’t stop there.

The 2018 Pirates also have a sizable edge in the race to be the most mediocre MLB team since 1971.

No. 2 on that list — the 1979 Chicago Cubs — finished that season with a 0.49 rating. Unless Pittsburgh deviates too much from mediocrity in the final month of the season, that crown should go to the Pirates with room to spare. In fact, with a supremely mediocre final month, Pittsburgh could surpass the 1976 Vancouver Canucks (0.23) 1984 Cincinnati Bengals (0.20) as the most mediocre single-season team of the last 47 years.

The long season makes it a little easier to be statistically mediocre in baseball. No one game is going to throw off a sample that much. But in a 16-game season, one exceptionally great or poor performance can throw things out of whack, statistically. That’s what makes the 1984 Bengals being the most mediocre team of the last 47 years so impressive. Cincinnati deserves praise for holding on to that gold medal for so long.

But with only month more month of some exceptionally mediocre baseball, the Pirates can end that 34-year reign.