Ultimate Standings: Pirates fall from first to eighth in MLB

Andrew McCutchen entered Friday hitting just down to .241/.311/.408 this season; over the previous three years, he hit .313/.404/.523. AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

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Pittsburgh Pirates

Overall: 45
Title track: 77
Ownership: 80
Coaching: 57
Players: 46
Fan relations: 57
Affordability: 20
Stadium experience: 9
Bang for the buck: 25
Change from last year: -37

Well, you can't host the wild-card game every year. But after three straight trips to the postseason and a 98-win season in 2015, the Pirates' U-turn in 2016, to a spot 25 games behind the NL Central-winning Cubs, made this their most disappointing season since Barry Bonds left town a generation ago. That isn't just on the field: The franchise suffered its largest attendance drop in 15 years and fell from a top-10 team in the Ultimate Standings to one in the mid-40s.

What's good

At least they've got PNC Park! The Pirates got the best score in sports when asked if their team "has a great stadium," and that waterfront property, combined with reasonable concessions and parking prices (and below-average ticket prices, despite a 27 percent increase this year), earned the team a ninth-place ranking in stadium experience. Even in a down year, the Pirates' affordable prices and (mostly) competitive play combine for a strong bang for the buck (25th overall this year, though down from eighth in 2015). On the field, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco aren't Andrew McCutchen's young proteges anymore. This was the year they actually passed McCutchen, and both are signed and under affordable control for the next five years.

What's bad

The Pirates had the highest Opening Day payroll in their history ($99.9 million) this year. Has it peaked, at least for now? There were ominous signs at the trade deadline, when the Pirates were alive in the wild-card race but still traded away both their closer (Mark Melancon) and Opening Day starter (Francisco Liriano) in the interest of saving themselves approximately $6.5 million in salary this season, plus the $13.67 million Liriano was owed next year. Is Andrew McCutchen next to go? The longtime face of the franchise is coming off the worst season of his career, has one guaranteed season (plus a 2018 club option) left on his contract and could conceivably be shopped around this winter. Fans don't appear to have much confidence in owner Bob Nutting -- he fell 29 spots this year to 88th -- so they clearly wouldn't put it past him.

What's new

After completing a season with their lowest win total since 2011, both manager Clint Hurdle (down 35 spots) and the roster (down 32) shared the blame. The good news: There are reinforcements on the way. The Pirates' three best pitching prospects -- former No. 2 pick Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl -- all arrived this season, as did Josh Bell, the first baseman of the future. The bad news: This team needs to rediscover its touch for finding and reinventing what seemed like an endless string of pitching reclamation projects. Pittsburgh remains at the forefront of the sport in statistical analysis and creative thinking. But with their limited revenue and payroll, the Pirates need more things to go right than your average team. This year was a stark reminder of what happens when they don't.

Next: Chicago Cubs | Full rankings