Yesterday FanGraphs released batted ball data, showing the numbers for soft, medium, and hard hit contact, along with some details on where the balls were being hit. These previously unreleased numbers give a deeper look into certain players, showing what kind of contact they are making, and giving some deeper perspective on their performances. I spent a lot of time digging through the numbers, and found a lot of interesting trends this year. Here were the most notable situations for the 2015 Pirates.
Pedro Alvarez – Out of 183 qualified hitters, Alvarez ranks 16th in hard hit percentage, with 40% of his batted balls going for hits. He also has the tenth lowest soft hit rate at 9.1%. The hard hit rate is in line with his 2013 numbers, but the soft hit rate is very encouraging, representing a career low. His previous low was 13.3% in 2013. That 2013 season saw a .233/.296/.473 line, with 36 homers. So far he has a .227/.322/.480 line with five homers. It would be nice if the 2013 version of Alvarez is really back, and the batted ball data suggests he is.
Francisco Cervelli – He has the best hardest hit rate among all catchers with 50 PA or more, and it’s not close. Cervelli is at 46.9%, and the next best is 39.1% for Caleb Joseph. On a non-batted ball related note, Cervelli also ranks sixth overall in the majors in pitch framing this year, saving a combined 3.5 runs so far between his framing and blocking.
Francisco Liriano – The Pirates’ ace is right where you want to be with the soft and hard hit data. He ranks 23rd out of 111 pitchers with a 21.6% soft hit rate, and ranks 11th with a 20.3% hard hit rate. Gerrit Cole isn’t too far behind him, ranking 13th with a 20.8% hard hit rate. The only other years that saw Liriano over 20% soft contact were 2014 and 2011. This is the lowest hard hit rate he has allowed in his career.
Vance Worley – On the opposite end of the Liriano spectrum, Worley has the third worst hard hit rate at 40%, and the lowest soft hit rate at 6.3%. That’s a big change from last year when he had a 27.4% hard hit rate and a 15.8% soft hit rate. Worley has never been above 30.5% hard hitting in his career, and that number came in his disastrous 2013 season. Last year was his previous low for soft hitting. Obviously these aren’t good early trends for Worley.
Andrew McCutchen – I was surprised that McCutchen’s numbers aren’t too far off his career numbers. His soft hit rate is 15.1%, which is a bit above the 10-12% range he has been in from 2012-14. Likewise, he has been around 40% hard hitting the last two years, and is at 34.2% this year. So there is some difference, but it’s not the drastic change I expected before seeing the numbers. One thing I did find interesting is that McCutchen is pulling the ball a lot less this year, with a 37% pull rate, down from 44.2% last year and 47.1% the year before.
**We had writers at all three minor league games tonight, and those games featured some of the worst defense of the year. Naturally, this would happen on a night when two of our writers were working on individual defensive articles, and on the same day I wrote about Josh Bell’s defense. That seems to be how these things work out. We had photos from every game tonight, including the Pirates game, on our Instagram account.