In a Parallel Universe, Pittsburgh Has The Best Pitching In Baseball
By Keith Glab 1/12/04
If you walk around the University of Pittsburgh campus on any October 13th, you'll hear a re-broadcast
of the radio play-by-play of Bill Mazeroski's famous World Series game seven home run.
But in 2006, October the 13th falls on a Friday. In addition to the annual seance at Forbes Field, you
shall be able to hear, barely audible, the sounds of the Pirates playing in the World Series.
"Pirates in the World Series! Not in this universe," you say.
Well, that's actually the idea.
You see, there is another universe that runs parallel to our own, in which everything baseball-related
happened the same as in our own, except for four differences:
1) The Pittsburgh Pirates did not trade Jason Schmidt to the San Francisco Giants on July 30, 2001.
2) The Pittsburgh Pirates did not waive Bronson Arroyo after the 2002 season.
3) The Pittsburgh Pirates did not trade Mike Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox on July 22, 2003.
4) The Pittsburgh Pirates did not trade Jeff Suppan to the Boston Red Sox on July 31. 2003.
This is often dubbed "The Bigfield Universe," illustrating Pirates' GM David Littlefield's reputation there
as a shrewd, calculating businessman who never makes a bad trade for his club. The interesting thing
about The Bigfield Universe is that the 2004 Pirates allowed fewer runs than any other Major League
team. Since I don't have access to a sportspage from that universe, I shall have to quickly crunch
some numbers to show you that this is the case:
In 2004, Jeff Suppan, Jason Schmidt, and Bronson Arroyo combined to start 92 games, allowing 247
Earned Runs in 591.2 innings of work for a composite ERA of 3.76. Pirates' starters Josh Fogg, Kip
Wells, Ryan Vogelsong, Sean Burnett, Dave Williams, and John Van Benschoten all combined to make
106 starts while allowing 339 Earned Runs in 588.2 innings of work, compiling a 5.19 ERA. Three
pitchers' 590 odd innings and 247 ER are swapped with six pitchers' 590 odd innings and 339 ER.
So over in The Bigfield Universe, the Pirates allowed 92 fewer runs than the 744 that they allowed in
our universe, since they didn't need to start those lesser pitchers with three workhorses like Schmidt,
Arroyo, and Suppan on the team. And those 652 runs allowed by the Bigfield Pirates were fewer than
any other team. (In our universe, the St. Louis Cardinals had the fewest Runs Allowed in baseball with
659, but I assume the Bigfield Cardinals allowed even a few more because they didn't have Suppan).
Notice that the 2004 Pirates in both versions of reality scored a disappointing 680 runs. But while that
translated to 72 wins in our reality, it translates to a winning record over in Bigfield.
Did the Pirates lose out on anyone useful because of the trades that didn't happen? No, since the only
good player Pittsburgh got out of those Littlefield trades was the surprising Mike Gonzalez, who in the
Bigfield Universe never left the organization in the first place.
How were the Pirates able to afford those quality pitchers? Surprisingly, Schmidt, Arroyo, and Suppan
combined to make less than $10 million in 2004. If the Pirates had swapped their Insidious Six for
those three, they'd have had to pay less than $7 million more than their 2004 team salary. That's a lot
for a small market team, but a reasonable amount to turn a small market team into a contender.
So on Friday the 13th of October, 2006, at PNC park, there may be enough of a mystical convergence
for you to hear the faint cheering for Odalis Perez and Jason Schmidt being the unstoppable
lefty/righty duo that led the Pirates to the World Series. But be aware that this cheering comes from
another dimension, another universe, where one man restrained himself from a few poor decisions to
become a Pittsburgh icon forever.
David Littlefield, you could have been Bill Mazeroski.
Notice something interesting in another parallel universe? We won't commit as long as you submit.