Pittsburgh Pirates must continue to track movement


The 7-run outburst in the first inning of yesterday’s 10-5 win over the Cardinals was surprising for several reasons.

One of those reasons was hiding in plain sight. It was right there for us all to see, but it was lost in the euphoria of a Pedro Alvarez bomb, the evolution of Francisco Liriano at the plate, and a defensive miscue going the Pirates’ way for once. 

No, the main catalyst of the Pittsburgh Pirates outburst isn’t anything new. But for the Pirates’ dim NL Central hopes, they should hope that the opening frame bonanza turns into a trend.

The Pirates are still not seeing many four-seam fastballs, and must adjust accordingly.

Lance Lynn only lasted 0.2 innings but showed us 41 pitches on the day. Of those pitches, only 31.4% were four-seam fastballs. Despite relying more on his slider in 2015, Lynn instead went to the cut-fastball against the Bucs, throwing it 31.7% of the time. The Pirates answered in rousing fashion. 

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This is nothing new for the Pirates, who have seen increasingly few four-seam fastballs in recent memory. 2015 is no exception, with the Pittsburgh Pirates seeing the fourth-fewest percentage of four-seamers in MLB at 34.6%. The trend extends to two-seamers as well. The Bucs see only the two-seam in only 11.8% of their total pitches, third-fewest in MLB. Conversely, the Pirates see the fourth-most cut fastballs at 8.7%.

When we put all this together we see a pitcher in Lynn who tried to follow a playbook against Andrew McCutchen and crew, but the Pirates flipped the script and punished Lynn accordingly. The lack of fastballs is not going away any time soon, but if the Bucs can show that they can track pitch movement and make pitchers adjust, they may see a small uptick in four-seams. FanGraph’s linear pitch-type weights system tells us that the Pirates have a 21.2 rating on fastballs. In this metric, a score of 0 is average. In case you were wondering, the Pirates also excel with the curve with an 8.8 weighted rating. Cutters and and sliders not so much, with a -15.3 and -4.4 rating respectively.

For the Pittsburgh Pirates offense to continue to round into shape they must force opposing pitchers to throw them fastballs. The easiest way to do so is to repeat what happened in the first inning yesterday.

Track the movement, then punish it.

Next: Wake-Up Call: Leaving St. Louis on a high-note