The Improved Pitching

With today’s win by Jeff Karstens the Pirates starters have matched thier total of 34 wins from last season. By the way there are still 76 games to go, so I think its a safe bet the Pirates will beat that total by maybe a little bit. Obviously the Pirates pitching has improved but just how much has it? Lets take a look at the Pirates numbers through 85 games (so excluding tonight) and compare it to last year’s 162 game performance.

Starters

2011: ERA – 3.58, WHIP – 1.324, BAA – .259, OPS – .716, SO/BB – 1.77, K/9 – 5.4, BB/9- 3.1

2010: ERA – 5.28, WHIP – 1.527, BAA – .297, OPS – .830, SO/BB – 1.83, K/9 – 5.6, BB/9 – 3.1

Obviously there is a huge improvement in the ERA and a fairly large one in the WHIP. Surprisingly though there is little change in the strike out and walk rates. Looking at the BAA and OPS it is clear the pitchers are doing a much better job getting hitters out and limiting extra base hits.

Relievers

2011: ERA – 3.17, WHIP – 1.328, BAA – .244, OPS – .682, SO/BB – 2.03, K/9 – 7.5, BB/9 – 3.7

2010: ERA – 4.57, WHIP – 1.433, BAA – 2.57, OPS – .743, SO/BB – 2.00, K/9 – 8.1, BB/9 – 4.1

Once again there is very little change in the strike out and walk ratios which is rather surprising. Also once again as expected the ERA, WHIP, BAA and OPS are all down rather significantly.

So now we see by how much the Pirates pitchers are doing better but we still don’t know why they are. The most obvious reason would be they were striking out more batters and walking less but as we see that is not the case. So a deeper look is needed.

WHY?

We are only going to focus on one number, OPS against. Lets take a look at different situations and see where the best improvement has been. Take note the current difference in OPS is 94 points so strong areas of improvement should be substantially higher than 94 points.

2011: vs RHB – .654 OPS, vs LHB – .779, as RHP – .716, as LHP – .661

2010: vs RHB – .780 OPS, vs LHB – .831, as RHP – .770, as LHP – .842

The areas here that stick out are against vs RHB (down .126) and as LHP (down .181) . This would seem to indicate that a big reason for improvement is that our LHP are doing much better against RHB. This is true but with only Maholm, Moskos and Watson on the team as lefties this likely isn’t having a huge effect.

2011: Home – .665, Away – .741

2010: Home – .754, Away – .842

Neither of these differences are that much greater than the overall difference of 94 points. So I think we can safely eliminate these splits.

2011: Age 25-: .701, Age 26-30: .702, Age 31-35: .864, Age 36+: NA

2010: Age 25-: .795, Age 26-30: .809, Age 31-35: .742, Age 36+: .734

The numbers do not show a change that is more significant that the 94 point overall change but I think this might be a very good reason. The Pirates are getting better performances from younger pitchers and are not relying on older pitchers. This is a very positive sign and is an indicator that this pitching staff may actually be legit.

Now we will look at how the pitchers have performed against the different spots in the order.

2011: 1st – .781, 2nd – .733, 3rd – .769, 4th – .702, 5th – .713, 6th – .747, 7th – .758, 8th – .577, 9th – .519

2010: 1st – .688, 2nd – .824, 3rd – 1.020, 4th – .890, 5th – .807, 6th – .777, 7th – 771, 8th – .793, 9th – .572

I think now we might be getteing some where. The pitchers are faring significantly better against the middle of orders. Also they are taking better advantage of the bottom of the order especially the #8 hitter. So they are getting the run producers out, that is a huge reason.

Now since we have determined that part of the success at least is younger pitchers neutralizing the heart of the order lets look at other great improvements.

2011: RISP – .614, Men On – .668, Late & Close – .684, High Lvrge – .705, Medium Lvrge – .694

2010: RISP – .840, Men On – .809, Late & Close – .719, High Lvrge – .767, Medium Lvrge – .791

What the above numbers show is that the pitchers are coming uo big in key crucial situations.

Just a couple more splits to look at at. Next up pitch counts.

2011: 1-25: .701, 26-50: .613, 51-75: .716, 76-100: .744, 101+: 1.156

2010: 1-25: .753, 26-50: .794. 51-75: .900, 76-100: .852, 101+: .720

The 101+ pitch count obviously shows that the Pitchers aren’t doing well very late in games but the rest of the splits show a different story. Simply put the Pirates pitchers are going deeper into games and performing better.

The last reason I though might be a reason for the pitchers success was first pitch strikes but that isn’t the case either. In 2011 Pirates pitchers have thrown a first pitch ball in 41.7% of thier PA, in 2010 they threw a first pitch ball in 42.2% of thier PA. Not much of a change really.

Recap

So what do all these numbers show us. Well not much really. The Pirates pitching is better not because they are performing better in one or serveral areas but because they are performing better in nearly all areas. The few that stick out are that younger pitchers are leading the staff, the pitching is holding opponent’s middle of the orders in check and that the pitchers are stepping up in “clutch” situations. I think I and a lot of the rest of the baseball community has to accept the fact that the Pirates pitching isn’t a fluke. Eighty-six games in I think they deserve the benefit of the doubt, this staff is for real. Who would have guessed that?

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