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Entries in Pittsburgh Pirates (35)

Thursday
Jun132013

Cole's Fastball Lethal in MLB Debut

With three near-triple-digit fastballs that stung Russell Martin's hand and Gregor Blanco's ego, Gerrit Cole announced his arrival as baseball's new velocity king. The first overall pick in the 2011 draft shut down the Giants during his MLB debut Tuesday night, allowing two runs in 6.1 innings pitched and even driving in a pair of runs off Tim Lincecum. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage wanted Cole to take a simple approach, and the 22-year-old did by pumping fastball after fastball. The results? Simply dominant. Here's more on Cole's lethal fastball.

  • Cole had little need for his secondary stuff, throwing 65 fastballs out of 81 total pitches (80.2%). His heater averaged 96.1 MPH and topped out at 99.4 MPH. For comparison's sake, Stephen Strasburg (average fastball speed of 95.4 MPH) throws the hardest among qualified starting pitchers. Cole's nearly 100 MPH pitch to Gregor Blanco in the first inning was the fastest thrown by a starter in the majors this season, just beating out Justin Verlander, Wily Peralta (99.3 MPH), Strasburg (99.1 MPH) and Matt Harvey (99 MPH).
  • He retained that fastball zip deep into his start. Cole threw his fastball at an average speed of 97.2 MPH in the first inning, 96.1 MPH in the second, 95.6 in the third, 95.3 MPH in the fourth, jumped back up to 96.7 MPH in the fifth and then sat at 95.4 MPH in the sixth and 96.3 MPH in the seventh. His last fastball of the night was 97 MPH.
  • When you've got a fastball like Cole's, why nibble? He threw 45 of his 65 fastballs (69.2%) over the plate. Cole also pounded hitters at the knees, throwing nearly half (47.7%) of his gas in the lower third of the strike zone.

Cole's fastball location on June 11, 2013

  • Giants hitters missed seven of the 34 fastballs (20.6%) that they swung at, comfortably above the 14.7% MLB average for starting pitchers.
Sunday
Jun022013

Liriano Thriving Low in the Zone

You could forgive Pirates fans if, upon hearing their club signed Francisco Liriano over the winter, they had bad flashbacks to Oliver Perez. The comparison wasn't hard to make: A tantalizing lefty with low 90s gas, a wipeout slider...and the aim of a blind-folded dart-thrower. Liriano issued five free passes per nine innings during the 2011-12 seasons, racking up a five-plus ERA and even getting banished to the bullpen for a time last May. Add in a broken non-throwing arm that wiped out the first month of his season, and expectations were low that Liriano would show the form that earned him All-Star status in 2006 and AL Comeback Player of the Year in 2010.

But Liriano is doing just that. He has punched out 39 batters and walked just nine through 29 innings pitched, and he has yet to surrender a single home run. The 29-year-old is keeping the ball in the park by pounding hitters at the knees: He has thrown 62% of his pitches to the lower-third of the strike zone, the highest clip among starting pitchers throwing at least 400 pitches this season and well above his 52% mark from 2012. Here's more on Liriano's prowess low in the zone:

  • Liriano is inducing whiffs 50% of the time that hitters swing at his low stuff, narrowly beating out baseball's strikeout king, Yu Darvish, for the best mark among starting pitchers.

Liriano's contact rate by pitch location, 2013

  • Liriano is also getting plenty of swings on low pitches thrown off the plate, as his 36% chase rate attests. The only starters with a higher chase rate on low stuff are Shaun Marcum, Johnny Cueto, Hisashi Iwakuma, Ervin Santana and Felix Hernandez.
  • With all of those whiffs and chases, Liriano is limiting batters to a .191 slugging percentage on low pitches. That's 12th-lowest among starters and over 120 points below the big league average (.314), though A.J. Burnett (.153 opponent slugging percentage on low pitches) still has bragging rights in the Pirates clubhouse.
Friday
May032013

A.J. Burnett's Curveball Racking up Ks

A.J. Burnett takes the mound tonight against Washington boasting the top strikeout rate (12.3 per nine innings pitched) among National League starters. His hook is the reason why. Burnett's sinister knuckle-curveball has already felled 29 batters this season, which is the highest total for any breaking or off-speed pitch in the majors aside from Yu Darvish's slider. Here are three reasons why Burnett's curveball is so effective, in honor of the many punch outs that the pitch has produced.

  • A.J. almost never hangs his curveball high in the strike zone. He has thrown just four percent of his breakers in the upper-third of the zone this season. That's lowest among all starters who have tossed at least 100 curves in 2013.
  • He's not just keeping the ball down -- he's also avoiding the heart of the plate. Burnett has placed 19% of his curveballs over the horizontal middle of the strike zone, well below the 24% average for MLB starters.

Burnett's curveball location in 2013

  • Batters have swung and missed 47% of the time against Burnett's curve, tops among starters. The MLB average is a comparatively puny 27%. Almost all of Burnett's strikeouts with his curveball have been of the swinging variety (27 of 29, or 93%).
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