Series Preview: Pirates/Reds

The Pirates limp into Cincinnati tonight, looking to snap a 5-game losing streak against the equally hapless Reds. The Reds head into the series with the Bucs having lost 3 in a row, and currently reside in last place in the oft-criticized National League Central. While Cincinnati has gotten impressive performances from hitters such as Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Brandon Phillips, and feel-good story Josh Hamilton (now on the 15-day DL with a stomach ailment), the team is once again struggling to keep runs off the board. In particular, the back end of the Reds rotation has been offensive. Kyle Lohse (5.31 ERA) and Eric Milton (5.17 ERA; on the 15-day DL with a sprained left elbow) continue to prove that flyball pitchers, a bandbox stadium and immobile outfielders make for a combustible mixture. The bullpen, seemingly the focus of GM Wayne Krivsky’s efforts during his tenure (so much so that he traded regulars Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez to the Nationals for ‘pen help), remains mediocre. David Weathers (21.2 IP, 2.08 ERA 9.55 K/9, 1.66 BB/9) has been the only reliable reliever for a team that has often had to make use of its bullpen when workhorses Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo are not on the hill.
Tale of the Tape
 Pittsburgh Pirates
Record: 19-27
Runs Scored: 179 (14th in NL)
Runs Allowed: 219 (11th in NL)
Pythagorean Record (Expected team record, based on runs scored and runs allowed): 18-28
Defensive Efficiency (Percentage of balls put into play that are converted into outs): 0.685 (27th in MLB)
Cincinnati Reds
Record: 18-30
Runs Scored: 220 (6th in NL)
Runs Allowed: 239 (14th in NL)
Pythagorean Record (Expected team record, based on runs scored and runs allowed): 22-26
Defensive Efficiency (Percentage of balls put into play that are converted into outs): 0.681 (30th in MLB)
Probable Starters
LHP Paul Maholm (51.0 IP, 5.82 ERA, 4.94 K/9, 2.47 BB/9, 1.76 HR/9, 10.94 H/9)
RHP Aaron Harang (64.0 IP, 4.78 ERA, 7.88 K/9, 2.25 BB/9, 0.70 HR/9, 9.70 H/9)
RHP Shawn Chacon (33.2 IP, 3.48 ERA, 6.15 K/9, 4.01 BB/9, 1.34 HR/9, 8.29 H/9)
RHP Bronson Arroyo (63.1 IP, 3.41 ERA, 6.39 K/9, 3.41 BB/9, 0.28 HR/9, 8.53 H/9)
LHP Zach Duke (55.0 IP, 5.56 ERA, 2.78 K/9, 2.13 BB/9, 0.98 HR/9, 13.09 H/9)
RHP Kirk Saarloos (23.0 IP, 5.09 ERA, 5.09 K/9, 4.30 BB/9, 0.39 HR/9, 8.22 H/9)
RHP Ian Snell (64.2 IP, 3.06 ERA, 7.24 K/9, 2.78 BB/9, 0.70 HR/9, 8.21 H/9)
RHP Kyle Lohse (57.2 IP, 5.31 ERA, 6.24 K/9, 1.87 BB/9, 1.09 HR/9, 11.86 H/9)
Series Notes
– Cincinnati has not been kind to Paul Maholm. Maholm has a career 6.75 ERA at Great American Ballpark. Is this somewhat of a fluke or a symptom of something more troubling?
– Some interesting Maholm splits:
Career at PNC Park: 139.1 IP, 3.68 ERA
Career on the Road: 129 IP, 5.51 ERA
My guess? In his career, Maholm has been smacked around by righthanded hitters to the tune of .303/.375/.476. PNC Park is a tough hitting environment for righthanded power hitters, with a park index of 86 for righthanded home runs from 2004-2006. A park index of 100 is neutral. Anything above 100 favors hitters and anything below 100 favors pitchers(numbers courtesy of the 2007 Bill James Handbook.) Maholm receives a substantial break when he’s at home. Conversely, Great American Ballpark, Wrigley Field, and Minute Maid Ballpark are all excellent hitting environments for righthanded power hitters:
(Park indices for righthanded home runs, 2004-2006)
Great American Ballpark- 120
Wrigley Field- 117
Minute Maid Park- 110
Maholm, who already struggles with righhanded hitters, is being punished by the home ballparks of several division rivals.
Here are his career ERA’s at these three parks:
Great American Ballpark- 28 IP, 6.75 ERA
Wrigley Field- 19 IP, 4.74 ERA
Minute Maid Park- 9 IP, 8.00 ERA
 – Tony Armas Jr. was all shades of awful during his stint in the Pirates rotation. Armas was lit up early and often, never going more than 6 innings in any start. It will be nearly impossible for Shawn Chacon, recently converted from the bullpen, to be anything but an improvement over Armas. However, he is still Shawn Chacon. Chacon managed to throw his collection of slop in an effective enough manner to post a superficially acceptable ERA, but he still walked 4.01 batters per 9 innings and benefitted from a .268 BABIP (batting average in balls in play.) Considering that the league average BABIP is generally around .300, Chacon is likely to see some regression in that number. Chacon, a homer-prone pitcher who occasionally hangs his curveball and lets his ordinary fastball creep up too far in the strike zone, could experience some problems in the Great American Bandbox.
– At first glance, Aaron Harang‘s 4.78 ERA looks pretty mediocre. However, Harang has been a victim of Cincinnati’s…..uh, adventurous defense. Harang has a .330 BABIP, which is an exceedingly high number. Harang has posted very solid periphial statistics, and has pitched considerably better than his ERA would lead one to believe. Harang, a flyball pitcher, is clearly not being helped out by having Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn roaming the outfield.

Author: Matt Bandi

Matt has covered the Pirates at Wait ‘Til Next Year, Pittsburgh Lumber Co. and now Pirates Prospects. He served as Pirates team expert for Heater Magazine in 2009 and 2010 and has contributed to Graphical Player 2009, 2010 and 2011. Matt was also the editor of the 2011 and 2012 Pirates Prospects Annuals.

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