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Monday, August 08, 2011

Kovacevic: What happened to Pirates’ pitching?

I’d say bring in Joel Hanrahan and ask him…but it’s not a save the organization situation.

Some of that simply must be fatigue, as others in the organization will attest. But dig deeper with some advanced metrics, and it’s easy to see there is an element of the Pirates’ pitchers having been due some serious comeuppance:

• Through July 25, opponents had a .289 batting average on all balls put in play (BABIP), a statistic that distinguishes how much help a pitcher gets from his defense or from mere good luck. That figure was below the National League median of .295. Since July 25, it’s a whopping .349.

...“They’d all been so good for so long.” general manger Neal Huntington said. “A variety of factors came together at one time and ... well, we’ve gotten our heads handed to us more often than we’d like.”

About a month ago, management met to prepare for this possibility, based on the numbers.

“Our organization deals in a lot of those metrics, and we talked about how we’d pitched for three or four months and the expectancy as we moved forward,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Especially with a pitch-to-contact staff, you expect more contact, so you could anticipate more offense from the opponents. But, to the degree we’ve seen lately, it’s been way more.”

Repoz Posted: August 08, 2011 at 11:10 AM | 12 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: pirates, sabermetrics

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   1. BDC Posted: August 08, 2011 at 12:22 PM (#3895289)
Through July 25, opponents had a .289 batting average on all balls put in play (BABIP) [. . .] That figure was below the National League median of .295. Since July 25, it's a whopping .349

One rarely sees coincidences so stark, but on 25 July, Pedro Álvarez resumed play at third base and has been in the lineup most days since. I don't suppose a third baseman can account for 54 points of BABIP by himself, but is that just a coincidence? Álvarez played a lot in April and May, but perhaps his May injury took a lot out of his 3B range. Who knows. The poor guy is also hitting .205, so we may not be conducting this experiment much longer.
   2. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 08, 2011 at 12:35 PM (#3895292)
Alvarez is a pretty decent third baseman. And I don't know how he could stop home runs.
   3. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: August 08, 2011 at 12:44 PM (#3895294)
Alvarez is a pretty decent third baseman. And I don't know how he could stop home runs.

Home runs aren't included in BABIP.
   4. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: August 08, 2011 at 12:46 PM (#3895296)
Out of Maholm. Karstens, McDonald, Morton, and Correia, which of the five primary starters should we expect to improve in 2012?

They are all between 26 and 30 years old.

Correia and Maholm have been around awhile, and have been a little below league-average most of their careers.

McDonald is the youngest (26), was part of the trade of Dotel to LA, and seems like he could be a league-average starter at low dollars for the next few years.

Morton was part of the McLouth trade with the Braves. I thought he had the most upside, but his K/BB ratio isn't that good, he doesn't strike out a lot of guys, and in this, his best year yet, he has an ERA+ of 101. League average might be his ceiling, and I'm sure it's that high...

Kartens seems like the guy with the most upside in this rotation. His K/IP is low, but he doesn't walk anybody, and he has shown some ability in the past to perform at his current level (ERA+ well above 100). He was part of the Nacy/Mitre trade with the Yankees.

It's kind of funny - except for Maholm, the other four guys were traded to the organization, despite the fact they are all relatively young. It strikes me that they did pretty well in all those deals to get back guys who are pitching at least OK as major-league starters...
   5. Stormy JE Posted: August 08, 2011 at 02:10 PM (#3895325)
In response to HW:
Home runs aren't included in BABIP.

I suspect he was referencing this from Kovacevic:

"Some aren't even staying in the park. Through July 25, opponents homered on 9.2 percent of all fly balls, right around league average. Since then, they have homered on 15.2 percent, by far the worst such total in the past two weeks."
   6. zack Posted: August 08, 2011 at 02:23 PM (#3895330)

Through July 25, opponents had a .289 batting average on all balls put in play (BABIP), a statistic that distinguishes how much help a pitcher gets from his defense or from mere good luck. That figure was below the National League median of .295. Since July 25, it's a whopping .349.

The Pirates have stranded 76 percent of their runners, second-best rate in the league, and that tends to be unsustainable.

Maybe I am being unfair to Kovacevic, but this doesn't seem like his analysis at all. More like Huntington or some Pirates intern brought him all these stat talking points, and he's wording the explanations from them. The first one especially reads like it was a rewritten talking point, because it doesn't make sense as written but still hits the two main concepts.
   7. Babe Adams Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:05 PM (#3895400)
The schedule now turns turns horrendous for the Pirates. The Reds are the worst team they'll play in the next three weeks.

To the extent there might be an explanation for the collapse, I've been wondering if the team wasn't pushing toward the trade deadline mentally. It's a weird thought, but that date that has been the focus of the team for many years. In Pittsburgh, the season runs August through July.
   8. Stormy JE Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:15 PM (#3895404)
Shall we give a modicum of credit to management for taking on a little payroll instead of promising talent in order to acquire Lee and Ludwick at the trade deadline?
   9. Walt Davis Posted: August 08, 2011 at 09:00 PM (#3895643)
Out of Maholm. Karstens, McDonald, Morton, and Correia, which of the five primary starters should we expect to improve in 2012?

Probably none of them but your best bet is McDonald. He at least has the K-rate, needs to lower walks and HRs. (3 Pirate starters have HR/9 rates of 1.3 -- that's pretty bad). Plus he's the youngest. Morton is probably the second-best bet as we can at least explain his improvement this year due to his extremely low HR rate (which is consistent with his minors HR rate). If he can sustain that rate, he can have a Wang year or two.

The other three are all around the age where BIP pitchers start to fall apart for whatever reason. Karstens clearly can't improve in 2012 (given he's carrying an unsustainable 127 ERA+) but I wouldn't even put particularly good money on him being league average. Karsten's peripherals this year aren't much different than his career (91 ERA+) and this year is largely BABIP driven (258). Granted his career BABIP is 285 so maybe he's got a real skill there. Anyway, with that walk rate, he might have another Tewksbury/Silva sort of year in him but I wouldn't count on it really.

As to whether Huntington did a good job in getting these guys? I dunno, guys like this are pretty easy to find.* He grabbed organization's 6th and 7th starters, failed prospects -- the guys who typically chug along at about an 80-85 ERA+. And prior to this year that's what most of them have done:

pre-2011 ERA+:
Karstens 83
Morton 69 (just 250 IP)
Ohlendorf 95 (hurt this year)
Correia 90 (he was an FA signing)

There's nothing wrong with that, especially with a system as empty as it was when he took over. And it could be that Huntington is better at picking out 4th/5th starters vs. 6th/7th starters (i.e. the Cubs wish they'd had these guys around this season) but last year's rotation was largely the same and stunk (except for Ohlendorf at league average and a good half-season of McDonald) so I'm guessing this year is more luck (and improved defense) than anything else.

* The exception possibly being McDonald who was picked up in the very good Dotel trade. Due to age, his prospect status was no more but he's got the minor and majors K-rate to suggest legit average to above-average starter potential.
   10. NTNgod Posted: August 08, 2011 at 10:32 PM (#3895691)
Yahoo/AP: From first to free fall: Pirates suddenly plunge
Leading the NL Central on July 25, the Pirates lost the next day when plate umpire Jerry Meals admittedly made the wrong call in the 19th inning at Atlanta. And by Sunday night, Pittsburgh had lost 10 in a row and suddenly found itself trailing by 10 games.

Never before had a first-place team plunged 10 games back in a 13-day span, STATS LLC said.
The 1981 Minnesota Twins and the 1884 Detroit Wolverines are the only two other teams in big league history to drop from first place to 10 games back in the standings in a two-week span, each doing it in 14 days. But there’s a caveat with them: They were 0-0 at the time, so their designation of being first-place team when the collapse began might come with an asterisk.

The 1994 Milwaukee Brewers are the only other team since 1930 to endure an in-season free fall from first to a double-digit deficit in 15 days of less.
   11. Swedish Chef Posted: August 08, 2011 at 10:33 PM (#3895694)
   12. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: August 08, 2011 at 11:23 PM (#3895740)
Alvarez is a pretty decent third baseman.

No, he's not. He can't field worth a damn.

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