Sunday, April 26, 2015

Odds and Ends - April 26

  • On April 14, I noted that left fielder Starling Marte had struck out in 47% of his plate appearances, the highest percentage in the National League. In the ten games since, his strikeout rate is just 18%. (The NL average for position players so far this year is 19.4%.) He's also batting .323 with a .742 slugging percentage since April 14. His problem was that he was swinging on a lot of pitches outside the strike zone (45% of pitches thrown to him outside the strike zone) and missing a lot of them (61%). He's cut down on his swings outside the strike zone (his total for the year's below 41%) and, as a result, making contact more frequently (whiffing on 52% of out-of-zone pitches year to date). Looks like he started the year over-aggressive but has things together now.
  • The Pirates' offense remains a sore spot. They're batting .223 (11th in the league) with a .275 on base percentage (13th) and .364 slugging percentage (10th). Their OPS of .639 is 13th in the National League, 12th when adjusted for PNC Park. The only positions at which they're getting above-average offensive performance (measured by park-adjusted OPS) are catcher and second base. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen's got a .175/.294/.316 slash line--this is the worst 17-game streak of his career, I'm pretty sure [UPDATE 4/27: Nope, not at all. Watch you search terms! But pretty bad]; are we sure he's not hurt?--and last year's other top performer, third baseman Josh Harrison, is slashing .221/.264/.382. The team's been kept afloat by its starting pitchers, who have a 2.87 ERA (second best in the league), 1.16 walks and hits per inning pitched (third), and a 23.5% strikeout rate (second), 
  • No, Mark Melancon's velocity hasn't returned yet. But he's pitched in each of the last three games, collecting saves in each. His average cut fastball velocity: 89.8 mph Thursday, 88.7 mph Friday, 88.2 mph Saturday. (All figures from Brooks Baseball.) Recall that he's never averaged below 90 mph, even for a month, over his career. His recent success suggests that he's substituting guile for speed, but I don't know whether that'll last. If he struggles, the Pirates have plenty of depth, with lefty Tony Watson (3.00 ERA and zero walks in 11 appearances), righty Jared Hughes (2.89 ERA, 11/2 strikeout/walk ratio), or flamethowing Arquiimedes Caminero (98.8 mph average fastball velocity, second in the league to Reds closer Aroldis Chapman) probably 1-2-3 in the closer depth chart behind Melancon.
  • The Pirates' next series is against the Cubs. I'll hit that up tomorrow. The Cubs are the only National League team the Bucs have played this year with a winning record; they went 1-2 against the 12-6 Detroit Tigers in interleague play.

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