Jun 7, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Mark Melancon (35) reacts with catcher Chris Stewart (19) after recording the final out against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. The Pirates defeated the Braves 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
The 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates were a bad team away from PNC Park, going 37-44 on the road, scoring 332 runs while allowing 332.
57 games into the 2015 season, the team is a much better road team, standing at 16-16 with 133 runs scored against 112 runs allowed. Fresh off of a 7-3 road trip, the Pirates look like a competent team while wearing the away jerseys. Why the turnaround year to year with largely the same roster? The answer lies in a few different places, and we’ll take a look at a few of them here.
Take a look at some selected hitting and pitching stats for the Pirates so far in 2015.
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So what to make of these stats? Let’s start with the offense. The Pittsburgh Pirates offense blossomed over the past month, and we can see from these stats that a lot of the maturation happened on the road. Despite playing in 2 fewer road games than the Washington Nationals, the Pirates rank third in runs scored on the road, with an average of 4.06. This is actually right on par with the 2014 club, which scored runs on the road at a 4.09 clip. In terms of extra base hits, the Bucs also had comparable numbers year-to-year, ranking third in end-of-year extra base hits and fourth in runs. I included the strikeout numbers to illustrate that even for their good road performance offensively, they can still take strides.
The difference between the ’15 and ’14 Bucco road teams starts to come to light when you look at the pitching. Ranking second in the NL in ERA this year (yes, second to the St. Louis Cardinals) at 2.99 is a marked improvement from the 3.80 road ERA last season (good for seventh in the 15 team National League). Looking further at the pitching, we can see a few other highlights that would explain the Pirates’ pitching staff’s road excellence. The team has only given up 17 home runs on the road in 2015, .53 per game and good for second in the league (yes, second to the St. Louis Cardinals). This is far below the NL average of 25 total HR per team. Opposing hitters are batting .248 in their home parks against the Bucs, ten points lower than the league average of .258 In 2014, the Bucs gave up .88 home runs on the road per game and the opposition hit them at a .253 clip. While at first those may seem like incremental improvements, the cumulative effect can’t be undersold – the Bucs are giving up less home runs on the road this year while teams aren’t hitting as well against them. This can be the difference in the close road games that the Pirates seemed to struggle with in 2014. All of this has led the Pirates to give up almost a full earned run less per game.
So from these team-level items, we can see that the Pirates are still scoring just as many runs but have limited damage from big flies while giving up less overall runs per game. What about individual performance? Let’s take a look at some of the Pittsburgh Pirates road standouts, starting with the offense
Next: Individual road hitting