Getting Behind The 8-Ball

Does it seem like the Pirates’ pitchers always give up a run in the 1st inning to the opposition?  As I watched James McDonald give up a run to the Diamondbacks in the 1st inning of Wednesday’s game, the thought sure crossed my mind.  The erstwhile Paul Maholm, in my mind’s eye, was the master of this unwanted skill.

So I went online to Baseball Reference’s Scoring Page and wanted to prove/disprove my suspicion.  I thought I would go back 5 years and check the 1st inning run breakdown.

2007 — Pirates scored 101 runs in 61 games during the 1st while giving up 132 runs in 67 games

2008 — Pirates scored 83 runs in 43 games and gave up 122 runs in 54 games

2009 — Pirates scored 80 runs in 48 games and gave up 106 runs in 62 games

2010 — Pirates scored 92 runs in 44 games and gave up 103 runs in 57 games

2011 — Pirates scored 85 runs in 49 games and gave up 85 runs in 48 games

Over the past 5 seasons, the Pirates have had a 107 run deficit during the 1st inning, with last year being the only year they’ve come close to breaking even, let alone having the upper hand on their opponent after the 1st inning.  Within this 5 year period, the Pirates’ opponents scored runs in the 1st inning on average 57.6 times a year.  That’s a shade over 1 time every 3 games.

Conversely, the Pirates have scored runs in the 1st inning on average 49 times a year, a shade under 1 time every 3 games.  So there’s a net of 8 times per year the Pirates are being outscored by 21 runs a year.  It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s still an incremental loss.

The more interesting research project, which I do not have the time or inclination to perform, would be to cross-check each box score over the past 5 years and see how many times the Pirates either led, trailed, or were even after the 1st inning of each game.

We all know that the Pirates have not been very good over these past five years, or have had very good offensive teams, so I wondered how an above-average team with a good offense fared over the past 5 years.  I chose the St. Louis Cardinals as a test case.

2007 (78-84) — The Cards scored 63 runs in 39 games, while giving up 109 runs in 58 games

2008 (86-76) — The Cards scored 117 runs in 57 games, while giving up 72 runs in 42 games

2009 (91-71) — The Cards scored 97 runs in 57 games, while giving up 92 runs in 53 games

2010 (86-76) — The Cards scored 113 runs in 57 games, while giving up 73 runs in 39 games

2011 (90-72) — The Cards scored 103 runs in 56 games, while giving up 74 runs in 38 games

Interesting to note that the only time the Cardinals had a negative run differential in the 1st inning was the only year in the past 5 that they have had a losing record.  Probably not a direct correlation to overall record, but it is an interesting trendline.

Overall this same 5 year period, the Cards have a 73 run surplus over their opponents in the first inning, an average of 14.6 runs per year.  The Cards averaged scoring a run in the 1st inning 53 times during this period, while their pitchers set the tone by allowing a run only 46 times.  Again, very incremental differences matter as there is a net of 7 games and 14.6 runs per year.

The Pirates are not perpetually trailing after 1 inning, even though it sure seems that way at times, but this did reveal an interesting potential correlation between having a winning team and having a losing team.  Perhaps an enterprising staff writer at Pirates Prospects will take the time one day to flesh this out further and see if A+B does = C, with respect to 1st inning run differential.

Analysis
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