The Pittsburgh Pirates and what they need to change with their two-strike approach

Please, for the love of everything good, swing the bat with two strikes.
Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals
Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals / Jess Rapfogel/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Pirates have had some frustrating games early in the season. Despite eight of their last nine starters providing them with a quality start (Bailey Falter fell just one inning short of what could have been nine straight quality starts on Friday), the offense hasn’t given the pitching the support they need. Right now, they need to change their approach, more specifically when it gets to two strikes.

The Pirates are great at working counts. They average about 3.98 pitches a plate appearance. That’s the seventh-highest in baseball. They’ve had the most plate appearances where their batter was ahead in the count (including full-counts). In two-strike counts, they’re hitting .205/.289/.256 with a .257 wOBA, and 56 wRC+. They rank second in batting average, first in OBP, 5th in wOBA, and 7th in wRC+ with two strikes. But there are some worrying underlying factors that they need to change.

Look, I don’t expect any team to never go down looking. Umpires can make bad calls (we’ve seen that a fair amount this year, especially toward the Pirates). Other times, the pitcher simply just locates a pitch really well. It happens to the best hitters. But here’s the thing: they struggle to lift the ball in two-strike counts and are watching a lot of strikes go by, but they have the fourth-highest meatball pitch rate at 8.4%. Despite seeing good pitches that often, they’ve only swung at them 77.3% of the time. That is only the 16th-highest rate in baseball right now.

Again, I don’t expect them to never strike out on pitches in the zone and swing at every single good pitch, but if you’re seeing that many pitches you can capitalize on, it would be nice if they were at least top ten in meatball swing rate. This change could drastically change the overall production of this team, and help them take the major step forward they need.