First Pitch: The RISP Problems For the Pirates Are a Fluke

Two nights ago I wrote about how the Pirates aren’t perfect, but they are legit contenders. The main flaw with the team this year has been the offense, and one of the problems has been their inability to hit with runners in scoring position. As I also mentioned in that article, RISP numbers are not something you should build analysis on, as explained in this article by Matt Snyder.

But let’s entertain this idea for a second. If you look at the numbers, the Pirates hitters rank 29th in average with runners in scoring position (.231). Their overall offense has a .254 average.

Pirates players who have struggled in this role, along with their RISP average and their season average:

Garrett Jones: .207/.253

Neil Walker: .228/.259

Starling Marte: .230/.282

Russell Martin: .235/.256

Pedro Alvarez: .240/.236

Andrew McCutchen: .286/.313

Andrew McCutchen Pirates

Andrew McCutchen has a career .294 average and a .296 average with RISP. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

McCutchen hasn’t been bad, although he has missed a few opportunities in the last week, and he’s the star of the team so if he doesn’t come through on every play he’s seen as a disappointment. With the exception of Pedro Alvarez, everyone had a much better season average than an average with RISP. That’s the same as the Pirates as a team, and it makes sense that those two situations would match up.

So why does this happen? What’s the theory behind it? If Starling Marte is a .282 hitter, then why does he hit .230 with runners in scoring position? Is that just coincidence, or does it say something about whether Marte can handle the pressure?

If it does say something about whether a player can handle pressure, then that should show up over the course of a player’s career. But if you take a look at some of the players above, that’s not the case. Neil Walker has poor splits this year, but has a career .278 average and a .282 average with RISP. Garrett Jones has a .258/.243 split, which is a difference, but not as much as his difference this year. Russell Martin is exactly at .259/.259. Andrew McCutchen has a .294/.296 split in his career. Pedro Alvarez has been .237/.246. That’s a slight difference, like Jones, but not extreme.

In almost every case you’ve got guys who have identical career averages and career averages with RISP. That makes sense, as a player’s ability to hit shouldn’t change depending on how many men are on base. You might argue that there is added pressure on the player, but they’re also in an easier situation with added pressure on the pitcher and the pitcher throwing from the stretch. So there’s not much of a disadvantage.

There are two possibilities with the 2013 RISP numbers:

1. All of the above players have career RISP numbers in line with their averages, but for some reason they all lost the ability to perform with RISP in the same year for some unknown reason.

2. In each case during the 2013 season we’re talking about a sample size of less than 100 at-bats, and for some fluky reason a lot of players are under-performing at the same time, just like when the Pirates went a few months without a sacrifice fly before bouncing back to normal in that area.

The second one makes much more sense. In fact, I’m now going to end the non-sense of entertaining the validity of RISP numbers. It’s the second one.

This kind of stuff stands out when the Pirates are losing close games. You can point to a situation where they had a runner in scoring position and didn’t come up with a hit. You probably don’t notice the times where the Pirates have won games because they brought in a runner who was left in scoring position.

Basically there’s nothing that can be done. For whatever reason the Pirates have a lot of players with a huge gap between their averages and their RISP averages in 2013. That gap doesn’t exist throughout their careers, showing it’s a sample size issue this year. And the Pirates happen to have a fluky situation where a lot of those players are falling victim to sample sizes in the same year.

This is like the sacrifice fly issue. While you’re in the situation it seems hopeless, with no solution. It seems like a massive problem that will never be solved. Eventually the RISP numbers will line up with the regular batting averages. The downside here is that those numbers are also lower than the league average. But as I said the other day, the Pirates have been winning with pitching and defense, and have gotten just enough offense to carry them to first place in the NL Central. There’s the fear that this won’t last, but that same fear has been around all season, and the Pirates are still contending. And when their fluky RISP issues disappear, it will only make it easier for them to contend.

Links and Notes

**Check out the newest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 16: What Would the Pirates’ Playoff Rotation Look Like?

**Pirates Roundtable Live — Episode 5. James Santelli hosts, and this week’s guests include:

Prospects

**Prospect Notebook: Can Josh Bell Be a Future Power Hitter in the Majors?

**Prospect Watch: Josh Bell Hits 11th Homer; Kris Johnson Injured.

**Minor League Schedule: Kingham and Dickson Start Tonight.

**DSL Prospect Watch: Basulto Shuts Down Cardinals, Pirates1 Running Wild on Bases.

Pirates

**Pirates Officially Call up Andrew Lambo, Option Alex Presley.

**The Book on Andrew Lambo.

**Pirates Playoff Odds: Bucs Get Chance to Attack vs. Cardinals, D-Backs.

**Pirates Fall to Cardinals 4-3 in Miscue-Filled 14-Inning Thriller.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Bucco_Joe

    I think we are too far into the season for it to be a fluke. It may not make statistical sense, but this is who this team is. They get great pitching, play above average defense, and rely too much on the HR for offense. Last night’s was a perfect example of this, if they get some key hits earlier in the game, Marte’s screw up doesn’t cost them a win. Its really too bad, this team has the pitching staff to win a division maybe more, but this offense will prevent it from happening.

  • CalipariFan506

    I don’t think it’s a fluke either. Guys don’t change their approach for situations.

  • tripleplay24

    it amazes me how many times they have a guy on third with less than 2 outs and they cant score.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    Tim…I agree….it’s a fluke. The closer you are to a situation, the more it seems like these guys are all choking.

    Foo

  • Blue Bomber

    RISP is a BS statistic. The Pirates are just unlucky this year. Next year the same group of players could all be in the top 10. The Pirates are just an average to below average offensive team. That’s what they are, they’ve been that way all year, and it’s not going to magically change in August. They need to keep pitching well and playing defense.

  • Monkshot

    I agree with Bucco, this team’s offense consists of the HR a majority of the time. They very rarely put a inning together.

    • benh444

      Pirates rank 20th in the league in HRs and are 17th in ISO. That would suggest that their power numbers aren’t solely linked to just hitting the ball out of the park. Part of the reason the RISP stands out so heavily is because they are giving themselves a lot of opportunities with SBs and plus baserunning

  • Kevin_Young

    I’m going to take the side of the middle ground. I think a portion of it is statistical fluke, and a portion is not changing your approach. Best instance I can think of is Harrison last night with the bases loaded. Has an easy chance to take that 1st pitch to the opposite field and get a sac fly. He instead rolls over the next pitch for a DP. You clearly need to be focused on going the other way that at bat to help to get the ball off the ground, but he was looking to pull.

  • https://profiles.google.com/101510909979106143098 David Lewis

    Do people not RTFA??

    “I think we are too far into the season for it to be a fluke.”

    But we’re not. AB w/RISP:
    Jones: 82
    Marte: 74
    Walker: 81
    Martin: 87
    McCutchen: 123

    Anything can happen in 100 at-bats.

    “I don’t think it’s a fluke either. Guys don’t change their approach for situations.”

    So players should be able to change their approach with runners in scoring position to increase their chances of getting a hit. If that’s the case, then they should change their approach in that way in EVERY PA.

  • jg941

    Tim – It seems a little counter-intuitive that you would try to propose an analytical take on this subject and arrive at the conclusion that it is just a large collection of random, simultaneous flukes.

    It’s odd that we couch and categorize pitcher performances in terms of high-pressure/high-leverage situations, but somehow the sam econcept just can’t apply to hitters.

    The reality is that hitters can and do change their approach – positively or negatively – in certain high-lerage situations, no different than changing your approach on a 2-strike count.

    While I’m not saying it’s absolutely one or the other, to discount the high-pressure effect on some hitters is to potentially miss the warning signs and possible corrections in approach (just ask the Cards, when they don’t have their pitcher hitting with the bases loaded, that is :-).

    And to ignore that it’s even a possibility means that you are just sitting there shrugging your shoulders at the not-so-scientific conclusion that you are simply stuck with some unexplained, groupwide, simultaneous flukiness.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      “It seems a little counter-intuitive that you would try to propose an analytical take on this subject and arrive at the conclusion that it is just a large collection of random, simultaneous flukes.”

      If you can’t see how I arrived at that conclusion then you either didn’t read the article, or I didn’t do a good job of explaining it.

      The guys who I mentioned that are struggling above are not struggling in their careers. This year is made up of small sample sizes for each player. So in each case I’m saying that the career numbers are a better indicator of a player’s abilities than the 70-80 at-bats this year. And I think the fact that the Pirates have a lot of different players slumping at the same time is a fluke.

      “The reality is that hitters can and do change their approach – positively or negatively – in certain high-lerage situations, no different than changing your approach on a 2-strike count.”

      2 questions:

      1. As David Lewis writes above, if it’s so easy to change their approach and get a hit, why don’t they do this all the time?
      2. If it’s an approach issue, why do the career numbers (in a larger sample) look fine?

      “And to ignore that it’s even a possibility means that you are just sitting there shrugging your shoulders at the not-so-scientific conclusion that you are simply stuck with some unexplained, groupwide, simultaneous flukiness.”

      I wouldn’t call weighing sample sizes “not-so-scientific”.

      • Kevin_Young

        Well, batter approach does change. Guys will adjust to try to mover a runner over or score the run without a hit. Also, you’ll likely be pitched differently as far as pitch locations. Unless you’re Pedro and then you’re getting a breaking ball low and away regardless…

      • IC Bob

        Tim I have to agree with JG. Their is a big difference between high leverage situations and a guy getting a knock with a 10-0 lead. Additionally their is a difference when your team is 20 games under 500 and when you are in the thick of a pennant race. We have somehow been able to add high leverage to a pitchers stats but we can’t seem to do that for hitters. Clearly some guys are better at hitting with men in scoring position. Alan Craig is a beast at it and he is even better late in the game.

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          Allen Craig is unreal. Career average close to .300. Career average with RISP close to .400. I wonder if that has to do with the protection he receives and the quality of pitches he gets.

        • https://profiles.google.com/101510909979106143098 David Lewis

          In every other “clutch” situation defined by BB-Ref (late and close, high-leverage), the Pirates’ BA is equal to or greater than their overall BA (.245). (Late and close: .260. High-Leverage: .264.)

          Funny how the pressure doesn’t get to them in the 7th inning with the game within a run or the tying run at least on deck, but put a runner on second or third with two out and they fold like a house of cards. (With RISP and less than two outs, they’re hitting .250.)

          Random variation, folks. Accept it.

          • jg941

            A collective, simultaneous “random variation”, huh? Possible, I suppose; probable, not so much.

            I’m not picking on your thought process (and I rarely pick on Tim’s, if at all), but there are other variables that the “we can’t do anything about it, period” school of thought is missing or avoiding.

            Someone please ask the Cardinals if they take a proactive stance on approach changes with RISP, and then ask them why.

            On the Bucs – does Garrett Jones consider (or been directed to consider) thinking about putting one in left field in those situations, or does he just continue to think about putting one in the river?

            Does Cutch – maybe “trying to do too much/carry the team” – try a bit too hard to drive one thru the infield, and instead just end up over-swinging to pull the ball to 3B/SS (or strike out)? His is an approach that is dangerous to mess with, but is it worth considering a slight change in those situations – again, no different than batters have a change in approach on a 2-strike count. happens ALL the time, and you don’t seem to allow that it’s a potential missing variable in the RISP situation.

            Does Marte swing at pitches even further out of the zone than he normally does in those situations?

            I wonder if they fully analyze tape on their ABs from situation-to-situation (I mean, fully).

            There are other variables to consider – the ultimate pressure of the highest of “high-levergae” definitions (not just “late”, “late-and-close”, etc), i.e. THIS batter at the plate and THAT runner in scoring position, which laser-focuses the leverage/pressure directly on the batter.

            Do they have a new hitting coach/philosophy in 2013 that might affect their 2013 vs. pre-2013 approach?

            You have to consider those other variables and address them when there is an obvious situational and statistical problem, not just.

            Their tendencies with RISP are to excessively strike out, pop out or ground out weakly. Those arent “unlucky” BABIP line drives finding a glove, those are indications that the batter at the plate is doing something (more) wrong at the plate in that situation.

            Final question: if it continues for another 7 weeks, are you comfortable saying then that it was all just a freakish occurrence?

            • https://profiles.google.com/101510909979106143098 David Lewis

              They strike out less with RISP than they do overall (20% vs 22.3%).

              They walk more with RISP than they do overall (10.2% vs 7.6%), though some of this is probably attributable to pitching around hitters and IPs.

              Their ISO is lower with RISP than overall (.096 vs .144), which (combined with the other two) would tend to indicate they are changing their approach and not trying to do “too much” – the opposite of what some have conjectured.

              Do I know what the Pirates, Jay Bell, Clint Hurdle, or anyone else is thinking when they go up with runners in scoring position? No. Do you?

  • leadoff

    I have to think that the Pirate offensive problems and they do have problems is approach. I have seen a lot of St.Louis games this year and listened to their announcers talk about their approach to hitting which is clearly different than the Pirates. Lets start with the talent. The Pirates have as much talent as any team in baseball, so we can rule that out as a problem.
    The Cards have no power. They do change their approach with RISP, they shorten up, they go the opposite way almost every time, if they don’t they don’t succeed. Management has convinced the Card players that this is the way to go and it works, this I got from their announcers about a month ago.
    Defensing them would be easy for me to do, I would load up the opposite field and let them go the opposite way.
    Jay loves the outside pitch, the Pirates oblige him and pitch him away and he gladly takes those pitches to left field.
    A lot of baseball is in their heads, I don’t think the Pirates choked, I just think they got out smarted.
    Between McCutchen and the third base coach, there is no way that he stands at 3rd base, one of them or both should have ended up in the managers office before the next game, this is what I mean by being outsmarted, they have had this situation before, several times in fact and still have not fixed it.
    I have gotten to the point that when McCutchen is up I know what he is going to do, early in the game he is capable of almost anything, put a guy on 3rd base and he will try to pull the ball, the pitcher knows that, get 2 strikes on him and you got him, just drop that little breaking ball down and away and McCutchen is toast, you see a pattern has developed that every pitcher that pitches against him with a runner at 3rd or 2nd uses, yes sometimes they don’t get it near where they want it and he gets them, but is only their mistake when that happens. Alvarez is sometime childlike, he so easy. Hurdle has to wake up and drop him down in the order, you can’t have 2 outs at 3 and 4 in the order in clutch situations. They don’t really have a clutch hitter on this team, but Martin or Mercer might be the best bets.
    One other pet peeve of mine is this no doubles defense and where you let anyone drop singles in front of your outfielders because they are standing at the fence, what is up with that? The Pirates bullpen has to be the best in baseball to overcome that kind of defense, your giving them most of the field to hit in. My philosophy of defense is to play every hitter individually every time up, not to switch to a zone defense in the 9th inning, Hurdle has been watching too much football.

    • stickyweb

      How is Cutch hitting .286, which is well above the league BA, with RISP if it’s so easy to get him out that even you could do it? Seems curious. Perhaps you’re just remembering the times he makes an out, occasionally looking bad while doing it. After all, every player, even the vaunted Cards, makes an out about 7 times in 10. Easier to remember those since they happen more than twice as often.

    • Andrew

      These arguments are rife with heuristics and fallacies, look at the inverse of the Pirates situation. If the Cardinals “approach” is so great why are they the 2nd worst team with NL with base empty. The Cardinals with RISP currently have a wRC+ of 140, or if you like average .334. When the bases are empty wRC+ of 88, and an average of .240. (Others who are paid to write on baseball make the same point)

      (Overall the numbers are wRC+ 108, .274)

      This leads to the question of why are the Cardinals saving these great hitting approaches until at least a runner gets to second. It is utterly illogical to not maximize your number of base runners, as stated above why not take that approach at every at bat. The idea of “approach” with RISP is nothing more than an ex post facto, self serving story.

      • stickyweb

        Excellent point Andrew, but stop making me look up words like heuristic.

  • http://battlingbucs.wordpress.com battlingbucs

    The RISP thing is a fluke. The Pirates aren’t really failing in high pressure situations. In high leverage situations the team has a 103 wRC+ tied for the 7th best mark in all of baseball. That seems to indicate they are doing a very solid job of coming through in pressure situations.

    Meanwhile they have a 73 wRC+ with RISP. Those situations often involve little pressure. If you are up 6 in the 8th inning with a runner on 2B that is not a pressure situation. High leverage takes factors like that into account and in those situations the Pirates are doing just fine.

    • leadoff

      Statistically it is a fluke, in reality, it is no fluke, statistics are basically averages, this is not about averages, it is about isolated incidents, the isolated incidents show that there is a problem, burying your head in the sand won’t make them go away. I happen to think a batting coach getting to his hitters might have a better chance of making the problem ease up somewhat.

      • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

        Statistics take all of those isolated incidents and show what is most likely to happen. So if there’s a problem in an isolated incident, a larger sample of statistics will determine whether that isolated incident was a fluke or not.

      • stickyweb

        Let’s take the guy Tim mentions with the biggest disparity between his RISP avg and his overall season avg, Marte with a .052 difference. Assuming the 74 PAs with RISP is correct, do you know how many more hits Marte would need to raise his pathetic .230 RISP to his majestic .282 season? 3.8 hits. So are you trying to tell us that if Marte had 3 or 4 more hits with RISP you’d be fine with it and not mention it at all? Color me skeptical

        • https://profiles.google.com/101510909979106143098 David Lewis

          THIS.

        • Kevin_Young

          You get me six more hits with runners in scoring position in a year though and you’re talking about 9 runs …and that’s worth a win. Small sample size or not, you do have to take into account that it matters.

          • https://profiles.google.com/101510909979106143098 David Lewis

            No one is saying that it doesn’t matter retrospectively, just that it’s not predictive. Overall batting average is a better predictor of BA w/RISP than is BA w/RISP.

  • reddfoxx39

    You know what’s not a fluke. The Dodgers. 40-8 last 48.
    Elephant in the room is avoiding them in round 1. Seeing Kershaw twice in a short series could make this dream season a quick, funless nightmare in October

    • stickyweb

      They’re peaking too early :-)

  • leadoff

    I do have a concern about Marte.
    I saw him in ST game 2 years ago against the Orioles, he misjudged 3 fly balls in that game and they said it might have been the lights or dimly lit field. Last week he let a fly ball go right past his head, yesterday he drops the 2nd ball this year on a routine fly ball. I am beginning to wonder if there is not something wrong with his eyes. He just never looks comfortable catching fly balls to me.
    Before Marte dropped that fly ball going through my head was who would I want the ball hit to for the last out, I think about this a lot in close games and I came to the conclusion it was Walker. The reason I like Walker is because of his technique. McCuchen for example is a drop waiting to happen. I don’t like the hot dog catch.

    • stickyweb

      Agree about Cutch’s hot dogging routine catches. I can’t believe he hasn’t dropped one yet. If there were something wrong with Marte’s eyes, I can’t believe he’d hit over .100. So if he has a problem with fly balls, which I think is still a big IF, something else has to be in play.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.j.stein.3 Jeremy J Stein

      I like to catch hot dogs when they shoot them out of the mini cannons.

  • ChirpCity

    I’m in the same page as stickyweb. if garrett jones would happen to get 6 hits in his next 10 abs with risp (which seems like a lot but would only represent a hot week or 2), suddenly his risp average would ‘regress’ more than 40 points to his season average of .250. it’s just a sample size issue.

  • ChirpCity

    *on* the same page

  • https://profiles.google.com/100508923100437214310 William Beckley

    Tim, why do you ignore that baseball is 90% mental and the other half physical? (credit obviously to Yogi). While I accept the fact that most of these players have hit well with RISP in the past, I think that fails to take into consideration the impact and pressure of the current situation. In the current situation, these players are being reminded constantly of the team’s overall ineptitude with RISP. It’d be easy for that constant drumbeat to get in your head. They were obviously well aware of the sac-fly drought, so we can’t pretend they just don’t hear it. And if it’s just luck, why aren’t we seeing teams like the Reds and Pirates move back toward the mean? And why are you so willing to believe that the majority of the lineup is experiencing the same statistical fluke under the same situation rather than consider that the pressure could be building on all of them because of how bad it has been, and thus it’s a different kind of pressure than they may have experienced in the past when it wasn’t an issue?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      “In the current situation, these players are being reminded constantly of the team’s overall ineptitude with RISP. It’d be easy for that constant drumbeat to get in your head. They were obviously well aware of the sac-fly drought, so we can’t pretend they just don’t hear it.”

      I agree that the players might know about this. But I don’t think we can assume that they’re stressing over this as much as the fans, to the point where it is affecting their performance.

      “And why are you so willing to believe that the majority of the lineup is experiencing the same statistical fluke under the same situation rather than consider that the pressure could be building on all of them because of how bad it has been, and thus it’s a different kind of pressure than they may have experienced in the past when it wasn’t an issue?”

      It’s been pointed out that 3-4 extra hits changes things drastically with these small sample sizes. I think that in this type of situation you can’t chalk struggles up to pressure or factors where you’re guessing what is going on inside a player’s head.

  • Bucco_Joe

    Whether RISP is a good stat is debatable. The one thing that isn’t debateble is the high strikeout rate of this team. Scoring runners doesn’t always require a hit but it does require contact. This team already has two guys over 100 strikeouts for the season, the frst base platon is over 100, the duo of Mercer and Barmes is over 100. Tabata and Snider combine for over 100. Snider, if not hurt. would be over 100 alone by the end of the season. The fifth most strikeouts in the MLB, while 24th in runs scored and 20th in HR (8th out 15 in the NL which is probably a more accurate ranking without the DH). All of the offense problems starts with lack of contact.

  • https://www.facebook.com/roger.huffmanii Roger Huffman II

    Whoever scores the most runs wins a baseball game. To score a run runners must get on base. Then they must cross home plate safely . That happens via base hits and sac flies . So to say that hitting with RISP is made out to be a bigger deal than it is is laughable. So much is made of pitchers allowing hits/walks . Well, hits/walks leads to runs which the last time I checked mattered in baseball. It is just hysterical to see ppl downplaying this. They are in the bottom 3rd in all of baseball in runs scored and are 29th in hitting with RISP and sac flies and ppl don’t think that there isn’t a connection there!?!? Lmao is all I can say. Lmao. Also, I believe it is a team game so to split it up into individual ‘small sample sizes’ is Tim’s way of manipulating the stats to take the view that he wants . Last night the pirates were 1-12 with RISP . Cards were 4-14 . But again, it’s all overstated and doesn’t really matter. Ok. Lmao . Smh

    • leadoff

      “the pirates were 1-12 with RISP . Cards were 4-14″
      If the stats say this is good, I must be on another planet?
      Again the stats don’t say “When” players hit with RISP, the Cards 3rd and 4th hits with runners in scoring position won them the game. Whether the Cards failed 10 times and the Pirates failed 11 times is irrelevant. Anyone that has ever played this game knows there is a difference between hitting when the bases are loaded with 1 or 2 outs and you are one run down in the ninth vs hitting with a guy on 3rd and no outs in the 1st inning. Pressure does matter and players handle it differently, some choke and some excel, the Pirates IMO have a bunch of players that are not mature enough to handle it yet, does not mean they won’t get better, they might.
      One thing that has not been taken into consideration in this debate is the pitching, I believe the pitching has something to do with not hitting in the clutch, in fact quite a bit. I think if you are trying to prove that stats are the answer to the question of Fluke or Not a Fluke, one would have to analyze pitching in every situation and that would take some doing, not to mention in some cases special defense alignments.

  • moose7195

    If scoring RISP is a fluke, then what happen’s if it continues for the whole year? There’s going to be a sample size issue either way when you look at the end result. I mean, how many more ABs with RISP are we looking at with the players Tim mentioned. And if the struggling continues, can it still be a fluke then? I don’t think. This is the first real pennant race for every position player on this team except Martin, G. Sanchez and Barmes. And while the “its a fluke” excuse may have applied earlier in the year. We are at a point where noticeable improvements with RISP have been few and far between. I’m chalking it up to our starters having little to no experience in these high leverage situations, so while in a way its a sample size thing, I don’t see how it’ll improve this year. So it’s kinda hard to call it a fluke as much as growing pains.

  • Kevin_Young

    Bucco_Joe brings up an interesting point with K rates. Tim, could you possibly get a hold of our overall K rate as compared to our rate with RISP??

    • https://profiles.google.com/101510909979106143098 David Lewis

      Overall: 995 strikeouts in 4471 PAs, 22.3%
      RISP: 233 strikeouts in 1164 PAs, 20.0%

      Also of note, overall SLG: .389
      RISP SLG: .321

      If anything, this would indicate that the Pirates ARE changing their approach with RISP, attempting to put the ball in play more (and succeeding).

      • stickyweb

        This can’t be! I saw Cutch strike out with a guy on 2B last week. He sucks.

      • MattInMD

        With discussion about how a few percentage points in BA is a negligible difference, I’d think we could extend that to the 2.2% difference in strikeout rates.

        While it’s not explicit in the numbers you present, the lower BA and SLG numbers w/ RISP indicate that their BABIP must be lower.

        Obviously it’s impossible to GIDP with no one on base, but it SEEMS the Pirates do this a disproportionate amount w/ RISP. I’ve not found a site where I can see splits for the team as a whole, but I wonder what that those splits are and how they compare to the rest of the league.

        • https://profiles.google.com/101510909979106143098 David Lewis

          Wait, let me chase after those goalposts as they move off into the distance. Is it that they strike out too much with RISP, or is it that the sample size with RISP is too small to evaluate the difference in strikeout rates?

          BABip w/RISP is .272, compared to .298 overall, so yes, it’s lower with men in RISP.

          With a runner only on first and less than two out, the Pirates GIDP in 10.66% of PAs. With a runner on first and a runner on second or third and less than two out, the Pirates GIDP in 10.84% of PAs. So, basically, no difference.

          Pulling those numbers from BB-Ref is a pain for all teams, but simply using GDP rate (as a percentage of total PAs, as opposed to isolating PAs with a runner on first and less than two out), the Pirates are in the middle of the pack (12th lowest out of 30).

      • Kevin_Young

        Thanks for putting together that info David. The lower K rate is certainly interesting. The other thing that would be very intriguing is batted ball types. As we know those are 2 things that normalize much, much quicker so the SS isn’t as much of a problem. That’s definitely a good overall way to quantify “an approach”. I, in general, don’t like chalking things up to a SS fluke right away because you could be missing out an interesting study.

        • https://profiles.google.com/101510909979106143098 David Lewis

          It would be interesting, but I can’t figure out how to get crosstabs from the BB-Ref play index -IOW, I can get stats by bases occupied or by hit trajectory, but not by a combination of the two.

          • Kevin_Young

            Unfortunate…but it was worth the effort lol. I’d almost guarantee an interesting difference.

  • Gabriel Jones

    Ok, I have been reading the content of this site (which is 85% exceptional) for months but this is the first time I have actually made a comment.

    This article is complete lunacy. I would call it a fluke if the Pirates offense in years past had been stellar. However, this is certainly not the case. Baseball is a mental game and you need to accept that and stop trying to explain things with stats and sabermetrics BS. Accept that guys like Pedro Alvarez are mental midgets when it comes to any kind of pressure situation.

    • stickyweb

      Interesting that you picked the one guy from the article who is actually hitting higher with RISP than without. I think your judgements may be showing a little.

  • stickyweb

    Where are you guys getting the RISP stats? None of the sites I use have them so I can only comment on what other people have already posted.

    • MattInMD

      No luck for me finding them for the team as a whole. I found them for individual players on baseball-reference, but you have to go to the player’s splits. There is a link for these under the “Standard Batting” section header; when you hover the pointer over the “Splits” link a pop up shows allowing you to select by year or career. Once on your selected set of splits, you need to scroll down a ways to find “Bases Occupied”, which lists various scenarios, including RISP.

      HTH

      • https://profiles.google.com/101510909979106143098 David Lewis

        You can get team batting splits from BB-Ref as well – “Splits” under the “Batting” drop-down on the 2013 team page.

        To get splits for all teams at once, you need to upgrade to premium to get full access to the Play Index. Warning that if you do, your evening will be almost as shot as it is the first time you go to TV Tropes.

        • MattInMD

          Thanks. I figured it had to be in there somewhere, but I just couldn’t find it.

  • MattInMD

    “2. In each case during the 2013 season we’re talking about a sample size of less than 100 at-bats, and for some fluky reason a lot of players are under-performing at the same time, just like when the Pirates went a few months without a sacrifice fly before bouncing back to normal in that area.”

    Where did you get your numbers? According to baseball-reference.com, 4 of the guys you mentioned have 100 or more PA’s and 2 have over 100 AB’s:

    Player: PA | AB
    Jones: 93 | 82
    Walker: 100 | 81
    Marte: 83 | 74
    Martin: 104 | 87
    Alvarez: 148 | 124
    McCutchen: 146 | 123