Mar 12, 2015; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) leaves the game during a spring training baseball game at McKechnie Field. The Boston Red Sox beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
The Bucs hit the most batters of any major league starting staff.
As a unit, the Pirates’ starters plunked 58 batters in 2014, good for most in the majors and far more than the league average of 35. Much has been written about the consequences that can come from such an approach, but perhaps it’s a good time for a refresher:
‘Unwritten rules’ aside, this approach to the plate can be problematic as it could put runners on base. While that in itself might not be a problem the loss of Russell Martin greatly amplifies things. Of the three candidates to replace Martin full-time, only Chris Stewart has a track record of consistently throwing out would-be base stealers, at 31% for his career, right on the 2014 league average. Francisco Cervelli and Tony Sanchez come in at a disappointing 22% and an abysmal 15% for their careers, respectively. While not only inviting opposing barbarians like the Diamondbacks to retaliate, it can put added pressure on the Pirate backstops to control the running game. It could be worse. The Bucs ranked in the middle-of-the-pack as a team in CS% at 28.9%, and the Pirates’ starters do play a part in that. None of them are particularly slow to the plate, and that does help cut down on opposing clubs’ attempts to run.
One way to guard against baserunners hurting you is to outscore them.
Next: How about a little help here!