The Pirates lineup has struggled all season long, and not surprisingly, they are near the bottom of every offensive category. However, the pitching staff has been one of the best in the leagues, and is keeping them in ballgames. Despite the abysmal hitting, the Bucs are just a few games under the .500 mark. Here’s a look at how good pitching can be more beneficial than good hitting.
A look at how the Pirates rank offensively among the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball:
- Highest strikeout rate at 23.0%
- Lowest walk rate at 6.2%
- 5th lowest ISO (isolated power) at .125
- 2nd lowest BABIP (batting average on balls in play) at .264
- Lowest batting average at .217
- Lowest on-base percentage at .269
- 2nd lowest slugging percentage at .342
- Lowest wOBA (weighted on-base average) at .267
- Lowest wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) at 65
- Lowest runs scored at 111
- Lowest RBI at 105
Other than Andrew McCutchen, the offense has been miserable. McCutchen has been the best by far, and possesses a .341 average with 5 HR and 16 RBI. Offseason acquisitions Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes have been disappointments, although Barajas has played well over the last week and boosted his average over the Mendoza Line. Alex Presley, who hovered around .300 last year, couldn’t figure it out after a hot start, and has been sent to Indianapolis. Josh Harrison, who saw little time at the beginning of the year, has collected a some hits over the past week since his walk-off single on Sunday. The team batting average of .217 and OBP of .269 are pathetic. You can’t expect to score runs if you can’t get on base. However, the pitchers have done their job and have competed well against tough competition. Here’s how the pitching staff compares to the others in MLB:
- 6th highest LOB% (left on base percentage) at 75.8%
- 6th lowest ERA at 3.42
- 12th in opponent’s batting average at .241
- 11th highest ground ball percentage at 46.5%
- 9th lowest FIP (fielding independent pitching) at 3.71
- 9th lowest xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching) at 3.73
Although they don’t have the top numbers, the Pirates are in the upper-half of the league in almost all pitching categories. The high LOB% shows that even though some runners are getting on base, the pitchers are stranding them and not allowing them to score. This leads to the low ERA of 3.42. The ERA could probably be lower if not for the 12 runs given up in one game in St. Louis. Other than that game, A.J. Burnett have performed up to par. Erik Bedard has also looked sharp after coming over to Pittsburgh in the offseason. James McDonald has been unstoppable and absolutely dominate as of late. However, Charlie Morton and Kevin Correia haven’t been their best at times. Still, the bullpen has picked up the slack and has done very well this season.
Hopefully the pitching staff can continue to be consistent throughout the summer. If the offense ever begins to click, the Pirates easily become a better team. Some teams are in the opposite situation as the Bucs: good hitting but bad pitching. One example is the Boston Red Sox, who have the 3rd highest batting average in the league at .272. However, their pitching staff has an ERA of 4.68, which is also the 3rd highest in MLB. They still have an identical record as the Pirates at 18-21, but sit in last place of the difficult AL East, 7.5 games out of first place. It helps that the Pirates are in a weaker division, and they haven’t played many games against the other Central teams yet. If the Buccos ever get their hitting going, this could be a pretty decent ballclub.