How Every Pirates Starter Gets a Ground Ball

aj burnett francisco liriano

By now, everyone knows the Pirates have placed an emphasis on getting ground balls from their pitchers. They’ve led the league in ground ball rate two consecutive seasons, featuring a staff full of above-average worm killers.

But how exactly do they induce these ground balls? Which pitches and in which locations give them an edge? Here’s a look at what the (projected) starting five did in 2014 — whether it be a groundout, ground into double play, or ground ball single; split by batter handedness (LHH on the left; RHH on the right)…

Francisco Liriano

francisco liriano ground ball pitcher

Two Seam 37%
Change 30%
Slider 25%
Four Seam 8%

When Liriano’s not making batters whiff, he’s making them put the ball on the turf. He loves his changeup (red dots) and slider (purple) for whiffs and grounders alike, while his two seam fastball/sinker (blue) is also particularly effective. There’s a ton of action low and away to right-handed batters; all of his stuff works down there, like this sinker that runs away from Peter Bourjos:

francisco liriano two seam

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Welcome to Bradenton: 2015 Spring Training Storylines

pitchers & catchers

“It’s the fans that need spring training. You gotta get ‘em interested. Wake ‘em up and let ‘em know that their season is coming… the good times are gonna roll.” — Harry Caray

Today is the official report date for Pirates’ pitchers & catchers, and the rest of the squad will roll into Bradenton by Monday. Spring Training 2015 is here; baseball is slowly but surely on its way back.

Neal Huntington and his staff had a tidy offseason — nothing flashy, but checking off every item on the team’s list of needs. As it stands, this team doesn’t have many question marks heading into the season, barring any injuries in the coming weeks. If you’re looking for positional battles, Pirates’ camp isn’t the place to be.

That being said, there are still some things to keep an eye on in Bradenton. Here, in no particular order, are our spring storylines for the Bucs…

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A.J. Burnett & Aging Curves for Starting Pitchers

aj burnett pirates

A.J. Burnett is back in black and gold. From a nostalgia standpoint, I’m pumped about that. He was an easy fan favorite in 2012 and 2013, playing a key role in bringing winning baseball back to Pittsburgh.

But, after all, he’s now 38 years old and coming off a season in which he battled a hernia and led the Majors in walks and earned runs. How much will he bring to the table in his final go-round? I want to say he’ll be okay — if he’s healthy, he should give the Pirates a ton of innings, while moving back to a more favorable ballpark with a better defense behind him. Can he be the same pitcher he was two or three years ago?

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