Chasing the Struggles of 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates Offense, Part One

The Pirates made improvements in 2011, but we enjoy analyzing the areas where improvement needs made for the future. The offense will be our focus today.

 

Everyone knows that the Pittsburgh Pirates didn’t hit especially well in 2011. But why?  We wanted to try and determine if there was proof to our belief that perhaps some players changed their approach at the plate when compared with 2010.

We felt that Gregg Ritchie had a different philosphy that he was teaching. We know that Clint Hurdle talked about being agressive and going to the plate with bad intentions.

But how did the Bucs hitters react to all that was taught in 2011?

Obviously not very well. But what specifics can we find to help ease the pain of another offseason and the forthcoming November rain? Was there something we could look to and believe that if improved in 2012, the Pirates offense might be much improved?

The Pittsburgh Pirates hitters did some poor things at the plate in 2011. Perhaps nothing more apparent than their tendency to swing at poor pitches outside of the strike zone.

We attempted to find the perfect offensive statistic that would help us. It doesn’t appear to exist, but we feel the closest thing would be some offensive statistics that Fan Graphs developed a few years ago. Amazin Avenue did a post which is similar to what we were thinking about and we used that as a baseline. (The post is linked below)

The one stat that opened our eyes to the 2011 struggles is O-Swing percentage: It is simply the percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone.

Simple enough right?

We looked at only those players with 200 plate appearances in 2010 and 2011. (We didn’t care about analyzing the fact that Matt Diaz chased bad pitches at the insanely high rate of 39.1%)

We felt that chasing poor pitches was something the Bucs hitters seemed to do rather regularly. It looks like we were correct with two notable exceptions.

Ronny Cedeno swung at 34% of pitches outside the strike zone in 2010.
Ronny Cedeno swung at 36% of pitches outside the strike zone in 2011.

Garrett F. Jones swung at 31.1% of pitches outside the strike zone in 2010.
Garrett F. Jones swung at 32.9% of pitches outside the strike zone in 2011.

Pedro Alvarez swung at 29.7% of pitches outside the strike zone in 2010.
Pedro Alvarez swung at 32.1% of pitches outside the strike zone in 2011.

Neil Walker swung at 28% of pitches outside the strike zone in 2010.
Neil Walker swung at 31.1% of pitches outside the strike zone in 2011.

Andrew McCutchen swung at 20% of pitches outside zone in 2010.
Andrew McCutchen swung at 22.5% of pitches outside zone in 2011.

It all adds up to this:  the Pirates chased a lot of pitches that weren’t strikes.  For some hitters that might be a good thing, but we wouldn’t say that about the Bucs.  The next time you hear Neal Huntington say, “when he expands the strike zone, he gets into trouble” you will be able to see that most of the Pirates important offensive players expanded the zone in 2011.

It’s another ugly trend.  A hideously high increase of almost 12 percent over 2010  from some of the key Pittsburgh Pirates. 

But we would be stupid to ignore two players that did listen to the new instructions in 2011.  Ryan Doumit and Jose Tabata significantly improved their ability to lay off pitches outside the strike zone in 2011:

Doumit swung at 32.2% of pitches outside the strike zone in 2010.
Doumit swung at 27% of pitches outside the strike zone in 2011.

Doumit showed a major improvement in reducing the amount of times he chased. He also was one of the Bucs best hitters during the season.

Tabata swung at 31.9% of pitches outside the strike zone in 2010.
Tabata swung at 23.6% of pitches outside the strike zone in 2011.

Tabata showed the largest reduction in chasing pitches out of the strike zone. It’s an improvement that puts him in line with McCutchen on displaying solid plate discipline.

It also should be noted that the percentages that Tabata and Cutch put up are well below the league average of 30.6. 

When we get around to it, we will look at some more keys to plate discipline including how well the Bucs made contact, who recorded the best swinging strike percentage and some other edge of your seat fun stuff.

When does Spring Training start again?

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Hat tip to Amazin Avenue for the inspiration.  The Mets had the best swinging strike rate in baseball.  Dave Hudgens is a guru and did some solid work as the Mets hitting coach in 2011. 

I’m not sure we can say that about Gregg Ritchie yet.

 

 

Topics: Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates, Ryan Doumit

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