The ebbs and flows of the Pirates

Andrew McCutchen made Pirates fans smile this season and should keep them coming back in 2012. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Pirates shocked everyone this summer by remaining above .500 -- and in contention -- far longer than anyone expected.

After all, the Pirates lost 105 games in 2010 and hadn't finished with a winning record since a 27-year-old Barry Bonds carried them to a National League East crown in 1992. But after a July 25 win over the Atlanta Braves, Pirates fans witnessed their team sitting with a 53-47 record and in a first place tie.

Needless to say, the Pirates' improbable playoff push came to an abrupt halt. Call it bad luck, regression to the mean or a complete collapse, but the Pirates proceeded to lose 12 of their next 13 games, including three consecutive series sweeps by the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres.

During the streak the Pirates dropped from 10 Defensive Runs Saved (third in the NL) to minus-9 Runs Saved (ninth in the NL), meaning the defense cost the team more than a full run per game during that stretch.