Monday, May 4, 2015

Odds and Ends - May 4

  • The Brewers started the season 4-17. That's the worst start ever for the Brewers.
  • Tavis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune had a very smart article up over the weekend regarding the Pirates' defense. The whole thing's worth reading, but his takeaways are "the Pirates' up-the-middle defense was a weakness in the season's first month." He points in particular to Andrew McCutchen, noting that "His arm always has been a weakness, and now the range might be moving in the wrong direction...perhaps the knee is bothering him in the field as his defensive play in on pace to be the worst of his career."
  • Here's a stat that amazes me: The Pirates are the fifth-best hitting team in the league with runners in scoring position. It seems as if they're always leaving runners on base--Saturday night's 18 runners left on base was pull-your-hair-out frustrating-- but their OPS with runners in scoring position, .754, trails only the Braves, Padres, Rockies, and Dodgers. The problem isn't hitting with runners on base; it's getting runners on base in the first place. With the bases empty, they're last in batting average (.209), last in on base percentage (.250), and third-to-last in slugging percentage (.324). They've walked only 23 times with the bases empty, fewest in the league. That compares starkly to last year, when they were third in bases-empty walks with 260, barely behind the Nationals (261) and Dodgers (263), giving them the third-best bases-empty on base percentage.
  • Here are some more distressing numbers: Compared to the rest of the league, Pirates second baseman (primarily Neil Walker) have an OPS 6% above the league average for the position. Pirates left fielders (primarily Starling Marte) are 3% above average, and their first basemen (mostly Pedro Alvarez) are 1% above average. But the rest of the lineup...catchers 5% below average, center fielders 19% below average, right fielders 25% below average, third baseman 28% below average, shortstops 49% below average. Put another way, there are 85 players who have qualified for the batting championship to date in the National League, and the Bucs have none in the top 30 (Alvarez is 31st) but three in the bottom 15 (McCutchen, Josh Harrison, and Jordy Mercer). 
  • The top seven pitchers in the National League, ranked by park-adjusted ERA: the Nationals' Max Scherzer followed by three Cardinals and three Pirates. Adam Wainwright (who's out for the rest of the year, so won't retain his position) is second, followed by A.J. Burnett, Carlos Martinez, Gerrit Cole, Michael Wacha, and Francisco Liriano. The Pirates faced only one of the Cardinals' trio, Wacha, over the weekend, during which they scored four runs in 35 innings. 
  • Given the Pirates' run differential (3.7 runs scored per game, 3.1 runs allowed), their predicted won-lost percentage (runs scored squared divided by the sum of runs scored squared and runs allowed squared) equates to a 14-11 record. Instead, the Pirates are 12-13. Their two-win deficit--which could be viewed as bad luck--ties them with the 12-13 Marlins and the 10-14 Diamondbacks for the largest shortfall in the league.
  • One last McCutchen item: Sahadev Sharma of Baseball Prospectus has a nice interview of the Pirates center fielder. He talks about how McCutchen has consistently made adjustments over his career, and ends on an optimistic note about this season. McCutchen started a five-game hitting streak last Wednesday. On one hand, that's good. On the other hand, he's batting .240/.269/.320 during the hitting streak. His career slash line entering this season's .299/.385/.498. The National League average slash line to date is .247/.309/.383. Cutch isn't back yet.

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