NEWS FLASH! The Pirates offense is bad. People have been trying to figure out how to fix it the entire season, and to that I say stop it. There’s no way to really fix this outside of just getting new players to try it. I’m sure we’ll eventually see some minor league guys take a few cracks at it, but as I wrote here, we aren’t going to see any trades made before July. I want to look closely at the at-bats the Pirates are putting up to try and figure out why they have been so bad.
I went straight to Baseball-Reference’s Count Analysis stats for the team. You can see the table here.
This stuff doesn’t answer the problems, but sheds some light on them.
The Pirates have made 1,273 at-bats so far this year. Here’s the percentage run down of who the count has been in favor of when all of these at-bats ended.
Batter ahead: 30.3%
Even count: 34.5%
Pitcher ahead: 35.2%
and here’s how Pirates hitters fare in each situation:
Batter ahead: .291/.439/.482
Even Count: .249/.252/.371
Pitcher ahead: .144/.223/.373
here are the numbers for the division leading St. Louis Cardinals, who have made 1,436 plate appearances this year.
Batter ahead: 35.0%
Even count: 34.0%
Pitcher ahead: 31.0%
here’s the Cardinals numbers in those situations:
Batter ahead: .307/.492/.525
Even count: .321/.331/.552
Pitcher ahead: .229/.230/.335
Comparing the Pirates to the Cardinals is hardly fair, just because of the market size and the players on the roster, but you can still see a problem here. The Pirates are only getting ahead 30% of the time. That’s a testament to pitchers really not being worried about the hitters in the lineup, although the one hitter on the team pitcher’s should be worried about, Andrew McCutchen, is only getting ahead 30% of the time.
The Pirates don’t have the big sticks to make up for lost outs and at-bats that are just handed away. They need to work the counts into their favor as much as possible. Obviously that’s not completely on the hitters. If a pitcher makes good pitches there’s nothing a hitter can do to help from getting behind. However, they really can’t afford to be swinging at balls early in the count. They have to have a better eye at the plate and not fall behind so often, because not even the best offense in the league hits well when behind in the count.
I’m not saying the Pirates need to change their approach at the plate – because I just don’t know the game well enough to say that. I’m confident that Greg Ritchie and company know baseball way more than I do and that they are doing all they can do help this team do the things that they control as well as possible – but the results aren’t showing up.
The next few games you watch, try to pay attention to how often the Pirates are falling behind in the count, and see what results from that. I bet you won’t like what you see.