Search Archives
Follow Us

Featured Sponsors


Mailing List
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Email Newsletter
For Email Marketing you can trust
Twitter Feeds

This site utilizes the MLB analytics platform powered by TruMedia Networks

Entries in Starling Marte (4)

Tuesday
Oct082013

Wainwright's Curveball Key to Bucs-Cards Game 5

The Pirates and Cardinals face off Wednesday night for the 24th and final time during the 2013 season, with a trip to the National League Championship Series on the line. The Dodgers' opponent in the fight for NL supremacy may be decided by whether the Bucs can accomplish something they failed to do in NLDS Game 1: Solve Adam Wainwright's curveball. Pittsburgh has struggled all year along against the curve, though a pair of trade pickups offer hope as the club tries to win its first postseason matchup since Willie Stargell and Dave Parker raked for the 1979 World Series champs.

Pirates batters are slugging a collective .268 against curveballs this season, which is 55 points below the MLB average (.323) and bests only the historically punchless Miami Marlins among all teams. In particular, Pedro Alvarez (.123 slugging percentage versus curveballs), Starling Marte (.237) and Russell Martin (.267) are flailing when pitchers snap off a curve.

For Alvarez, merely making contact against a curve is a coin flip. He's swinging and missing 49.1 percent of the time versus curveballs in 2013, the second-highest clip among qualified hitters (Dan Uggla whiffed 49.4 percent). Pitchers are well aware of his weakness, feeding him the seventh-highest rate of curveballs seen (12.6 percent) among MLB hitters. Unless pitchers hang a curve over the middle of the plate, Pedro's whiffing:

Alvarez's contact rate by pitch location versus curveballs, 2013

Marte, meanwhile, can't resist the urge to hack at curveballs thrown in the dirt. He's chasing curves at the fifth-highest rate (40.2 percent) in the National League. Like Alvarez, Marte's trouble with the curve is well-known: He has seen curveballs 11.8 percent of the time this season, the NL's eighth-highest rate. Marte expands his strike zone to go after low-and-away breakers:

Marte's swing rate by pitch location versus curveballs, 2013

Martin doesn't see as many curves as Alvarez or Marte (9.1 percent of total pitches), and he doesn't share their contact or plate discipline woes against the pitch. It's just that nothing happens when he puts curveballs in play. Martin is hitting a ground ball 62.5 percent of the time versus curves, the ninth-highest rate in the NL. Considering that Martin is a catcher with over 1,000 big leagues games to his name and his batting average on grounders (.228) is way below the big league average (.254), that's not a happy development.

Not all Bucs are scuffling against curveballs, however. Andrew McCutchen (.371 slugging percentage versus curves) and Neil Walker (.378) hold their own, while midseason trade acquisitions Marlon Byrd (.452) and Justin Morneau (.507) crush the pitch.

Wainwright, who throws the fourth-highest percentage of curveballs (27.3 percent) among starting pitchers and has limited hitters to a .230 slugging percentage (11th-best), schooled the Pirates with his signature offering in Game 1. He racked up six swinging strikeouts with his curveball, getting Alvarez, Byrd (twice), Marte, Martin and Morneau to chase out of the strike zone. Bucs batters went 0-for-11 against Wainwright's curve and didn't hit a single one out of the infield. If the Pirates are going to play for the pennant, that has to change in their Game 5 rematch.

Friday
Sep272013

Pirates vs. Reds: There Will Be Bruises

Barring a Cardinals collapse and a Pirates sweep, the Bucs and Reds will battle this weekend for home-field advantage in Tuesday's Wild Card game. Whether Pittsburgh or Cincy prevails, one thing is virtually guaranteed: a few players will depart Great American Ballpark with brand-new welts.

On average, Pirates batters have been plunked by a pitch every 71 plate appearances this season, leading the majors by a wide margin. The Reds rank second, getting hit every 83 plate appearances. Shin-Soo Choo (25 hit by pitches) and Starling Marte (23) are the undisputed kings of reaching first base the hard way, but Neil Walker and Todd Frazier (14 HBP apiece) also rank in the top 10 in beanings.

Part of the reason that these clubs get hit so frequently, other than the fact that Choo and Marte practically smother the plate, could be strategic. The Pirates struggle badly versus inside pitches, slugging a collective .376 (the MLB average is .411). The Reds are slightly below average (.408). Perhaps some pitchers smell blood and try to pound them inside -- too far inside in some cases.

Fewest PA between hit by pitches for hitters, 2013

The Bucs and Reds aren't just on the receiving end of bushels of hit by pitches -- they're also dishing out plenty of pain to opposing lineups. Pirates pitchers are plunking a hitter an average of every 88 plate appearances, again comfortably (uncomfortably?) leading the majors. The Reds, nailing a batter every 95 plate appearances, rank third. Charlie Morton, Pittsburgh's Saturday starter, has hit the third-most batters in the bigs (15) despite making his season debut on June 13. Mat Latos (10) ranks seventh among pitchers in hit by pitches, though he won't start this weekend. A.J. Burnett (9 HBP) and Homer Bailey (8 HBP) will, however, squaring off on Friday night. Alfredo Simon (8 HBP) also ranks in the top 25 -- and he's a reliever.

Like on the hitting side, something other than malice could be at work here. The Pirates' pitching staff has thrown the highest percentage of inside offerings (about 34 percent) in the majors this season, while the Reds (27 percent) place 12th. Both teams have been highly successful pitching inside: Pittsburgh has the lowest opponent slugging percentage on inner-third pitches (.342), and Cincinnati (.381) ranks seventh.

Fewest PA between hit by pitches for pitchers, 2013


Monday
Jul152013

The Most Valuable 0-2 Hitter

Needless to say, a batter doesn't want to get into an 0-2 hole.

Batters this season are hitting .152 on 0-2 pitches.

Frame of reference?

On 2-0 counts, batters are hitting .334.

On 3-1 counts, they are hitting .348.

Even on 1-2 counts, batters are hitting .167.

So when a batter gets a hit on 0-2 the effect is more than just the hit itself, but the impact of the letdown on the defensive squad when that batter comes through or, if you see the glass half-empty, the pitcher simply not putting the batter away.

0-2 hitters this season

So far this season, no batter has had more 0-2 plate appearances than Starling Marte with 55. Marte has gone 11-for-51 (.216) with three doubles and 19 whiffs.

Next, in terms of PA is Mark Trumbo going 8-for-52 (.154) with three doubles, a homer and 31 Ks.

Now I want you to pause a moment and think, of all the players in the majors who would most want to have with an 0-2 count at the plate to do damage to the opponent.

Don't immediately say Miguel Cabrera, he's a .125 hitter and he has no homers.

Don't shout Mike Trout either, he's a .200 hitter without a homer.

There is one guy, who consistently manages to find a way to damage his opponents, no matter what the count, no matter what the situation, no matter what the score:

Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia is a .360 hitter on 0-2 counts.

Pedey in 50 at bats has 18 hits, the most in the majors. Alexei Ramirez is next with 13 hits.

What's more, Pedroia has only struck out nine times on 0-2 pitches.

There are other good ones out there

Now, I don't want to minimize the three 0-2 homers that Raul Ibanez and Alex Rios have hit or the four doubles that Mitch Moreland, Matt Carpenter, and Carlos Gonzalez have hit.

And while I'll happily take Mark Ellis hitting .444 in 19 PA, Adam Lind .409 in 22 PA, and Chase Headley and his .375 BA in 33 PA.

But give me Dustin Pedroia's 18-for-50, .360 batting average and .333 with runners in scoring position with an 0-2 count.