Perhaps the ultimate reason for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 4-1 loss vs the Cardinals last night was not Jeff Locke‘s shaky fifth inning, Jordy Mercer‘s unlikely error, or otherwise. Perhaps it was the Pirates’ collective 1-for-8 line with runners in scoring position (RISP).
All year – at least in the games where the Pirates offense looks subpar – the team has struggled to bring runners home. Even when the proverbial shop is setup nicely, the 2015 Bucs often find a way to derail their ambitions. Look no further than Gregory Polanco‘s base running gaffe in the first inning last night. With runners on the corners and zero outs, the Bucs ended up getting a double play with no runs to show for it.
The fact is, the Pirates are a good hitting team with RISP, ranking fifth in the NL with a .266 average, fourth in RBI (251), and fourth in overall hits (188). So where does the perceived lack of performance with RISP come from? Surely not from Andrew McCutchen, the team leader in AVG (.391) and RBI (40) with RISP. Also surprisingly not from Jung Ho Kang, batting .316 in this regard. Starling Marte and Neil Walker are both batting .304 with runners in scoring position. So again – where does this idea come from?
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For one – strikeouts. The Pirates are decidedly mediocre in striking out with a runner on second or third, with 170 on the year, good for sixth in the NL. Two, consider this – the Pittsburgh Pirates have the fourth-most sacrifice flies w/RISP in 2015 with 22. While those are great -a run is a run, afterall – they limit the chances at a ‘big inning’ that can put teams away, and this can lead to the team ranking 19th in all of baseball in runs per game (3.99).
One last statistic for you – the Bucs leave the third-most runners in scoring position per game, with 3.75. To some, this may paint the picture of an inefficient offense. I tend to agree, then I take a look at the stats up above and I’m left scratching my head. My final assessment is this – The Pittsburgh Pirates are just a good hitting team with RISP. They can be better. Getting better at-bats with more patience would be a start.