Pirates at the Break by the Numbers

I’ll just leave this here…

I ran into Jared Hughes in the clubhouse after the Pirates’ Saturday night walk-off victory against the Cardinals. I thought he summed up the victory in the best way possible. Not only Saturday’s win, but Sunday’s walk-off win, the whole series against the Cardinals, and the Pirates first half as a whole.

“I was in the clubhouse icing, and I said ‘Unbelievable’! Clint [Hurdle] was in here, and he goes ‘No, no, no; that is believable!’ He was right.”

All over Twitter, on the radio, on television, and all around me, the most used word to describe Sunday’s walk-off victory was “Unbelievable.” Clint Hurdle disagrees. What this team is doing is definitely believable, and their first half reflects upon that. Rather than trying to sum up in words some of the major stories, not only of this series, but of the first half, I decided to let some numbers speak for themselves.

0 – After the game on May 5th, Andrew McCutchen exclaimed that he was “sick and tired of going 0-for-freaking-4.” Since that date, McCutchen has been everything the Pirates have needed him to be.

Andrew McCutchen has been back to his MVP-self since he called himself out, saying he was "sick and tired of going 0-for-freaking-4".
Andrew McCutchen has been back to his MVP-self since he called himself out, saying he was “sick and tired of going 0-for-freaking-4”.

From the beginning of the year until May 5th, McCutchen had a line drive rate of 9.1% and a ground ball rate of 44.2%. Since then, his line drive rate is at 27.6%! That’s a difference of +18.5%. Coincidentally, McCutchen’s ground ball percentage went down 31.5%.

Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs wrote in June how the weight transfer in McCutchen’s swing was not normal early in the season, probably somehow impacted by the left knee that was bothering him.

McCutchen called himself out after that 0-for-4 night at the plate against the Cincinnati Reds on May 5th. The Pirates were 12-14 at that point and already 8.0 games back of the Central leading St. Louis Cardinals. Since then, the Pirates are 41-21.

0.12 – Statistics weren’t exactly on the Pirates side to win after going down in the 10th inning last night. According the @numberfire, the chance that the Pirates would be able to overcome a deficit in extra innings three consecutive times in two games, and win both, was at a rousing 0.12%.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, “it marked only the eighth time in modern major-league history that a team had won two consecutive games, both after having fallen behind during extra innings.”

5 – The Pirates and Cardinals have split their season series so far this year with 5 wins a piece. The Pirates were swept in the beginning of May in St. Louis, losing every game in extra innings on a walk-off. The Pirates took 2-of-3 from the Cardinals in Pittsburgh the following week. This past weekend, the Pirates took 3-of-4 from the Cardinals, winning twice in walk-off fashion in extra innings. Five of those tens games ended in a walk-off for the home team.

8 – The Pirates are 8-0-1 in their last nine series against the Cardinals at home.

10 – The Pirates have swept ten series so far this year. They swept five series all of last year and nine in 2013. 10 sweeps by the Pirates are their most since 1998 according the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Pirates have won 10 games in their final at-bat this season.

18 – At 53-35, the Pirates are a season high 18-games over .500. At the All Star break in 2013, the Pirates were 57-36 and one game back of the Cardinals in the Central. In 2014, the Pirates were 49-46 at the break and 3.5 games back in the Central. This year, they are 2.5 GB after winning 3-of-4 from the Cardinals over the weekend.

Also, Andrew McCutchen’s hitting streak ended last night at 18 games. McCutchen became the third player in the modern era to extend a single-season hitting streak to 15 or more games by hitting a walk-off home run on Saturday (Elias Sports Bureau). McCutchen hit .355/.677/1.183 during his streak.

20 – The Pirates are 20-13 in one run games at the break, leading the league in one-run wins.

40 – The Pirates have the best record in Major League Baseball at 40-19 since May 9th.

  • NH knows who will sign and who he’s trading. He has to. I don’t, that’s for sure.

  • 7 games over .500 and leading the league in 1 run wins would have seemed like a dream a few months ago when we lost game after game by the smallest margin.

  • “18 – At 53-35, the Pirates are a season high 18-games over .500. At the All Star break in 2013, the Pirates were 57-36 and one game back of the Cardinals in the Central. In 2014, the Pirates were 49-46 at the break and 3.5 games back in the Central. This year, they are 2.5 GB after winning 3-of-4 from the Cardinals over the weekend.”

    Yeah…but we didn’t win the division in 2013 even though we were down less games then than now…and we didn’t win the division last year, although if we had a 2.5 deficit at the break instead of a 3.5 deficit last year we would have been tied with the Cards heading into the last game. As good as we’ve been…the Cardinals have been just as good, actually better, all year. This is going to be a dog-fight until the end…and remember…we have them the next to last series of the year!

    • STL kinda stumbled into the break over their last 15 games. 6-9 over the last 15, so thats a key stretch they came to earth and in a lucky sequence of gameplay we were red hot.

      STL gets a bit of a nice schedule, but they just gotta play better than they have been recently. Red hot start but losses to teams they just shouldnt in SD and CHW.

      • Should Bucs be losing series at home to MLW and CIN? And the “since May 9” also includes an embarrassing 2-2 split with Phils.

        Anyway, looking toward the KC series, they’ve recently lost series at home to CWS and BOS. So with Liriano and AJ going, I like our chances to win that one.

        • No offense, but that first paragraph is dumb. In a season, every single team loses series they shouldnt. The whole “should we do that” makes no sense. Nothing about 2-2 against any team is embarrassing, its baseball.

          You lose against bad teams, win against good teams, and play well and bad and in between. For quality teams, good timing can make a season.

          • again being harsh unnecesarily, but i’m glad it isn’t directed at me for a change. This time, you are right, this post is spot on Luke, I couldn’t agree more

          • So you can say that the Cards shouldn’t lose games to certain teams but it’s dumb for anyone say that the Bucs shouldn’t lose games to certain teams. Got it. I didn’t see how much that PP status level cost when I signed up. Must be a secret deal.

            • I can point out how STL hasnt been better than us the entire year and point to how thats true. STL lost bad series just like we did, and we were the better team during that 15 day stretch. Much like they were playing way better over the first month.

              Losing to bad teams happens. For everyone. But acting like STL has been better than us the entire first half (as an above poster did) isnt accurate.

        • We will likely not beat the Reds until they trade everyone away. We don’t understand how to pitch to them, and Hurdle doesn’t understand matchups very well.

  • Nice to see the pirates play up to their potential( except for another slow april) let’s see it continue through the second half on into october.

    • The pitching has played above preseason expectations. The offense has underperformed as a team. There is room for optimism about the offense being better in the second half.

  • The Pirates are 35-13 since they fell to 18-22. That’s more than a quarter of the season playing at a .729 winning percentage. That’s quite an extended hot streak. I just hope they destroy the Brewers in Milwaukee to start the second half. They can’t lay an egg.

  • Great article, I love seeing things like this. Any way you break it down, this team is just GOOD. Looking forward to a strong second half and sending the cardinals to a one game playoff while we languish in a series.

  • Just listening to MLB Radio on the way back from the Golf Course and they were ranking the Top 5 Teams in MLB at the All Star Break – Cardinals 1, Pirates 2, Kansas City 3, Washington 4 and the Dodgers 5. Very nice company to be in Pirate fans.

    Interesting – I compared Kolten Wong and Alen Hanson. Both went through AA as 21 year olds, Hanson had the slight edge in batting. Both went through AAA as 22 year olds with Wong being slightly better offensively, with Hanson still about 100 AB’s to go, and Hanson is .984 fielding percentage 4.99 RF; Wong is .974 %age, 4.81 RF. Hanson is 135 chances less with only 6 E’s, and Wong had 13 E’s. Wong was a first round pick out of college; Hanson was a $90,000 International sign. And, both are leadoff hitters with pop.

    • Yes but Wong is in the MLB helping his team. Hanson is in Indy. I wish he were called up and was contributing here. But NH must know that he needs more seasoning

      • Bill, not sure if you are aware of the ages. While they have been about the same at the same age, Wong is two years older than Hanson. When he was Hanson’s age he had a very productive AAA season as a 22-year old. But that was not enough for the Cards. He went back to AAA to start the next year. As a 23-year old, he hit .360, with an OPS of .933, for the first part of the season before the Cards brought him up. It has worked out well for them.

        • Well said, if Hanson were to follow the Wong path he’d play the first half of next year in AAA (conveniently avoiding Super 2) and then show up mid season. Just gotta clear space for him to play somewhere.

          • Given Hanson’s propensity for slow starts to season, this scenario works best for reasons other than financial and player control, too.

    • I would very much take Wong numbers from Hanson. But let’s say he’s ready opening day next year or maybe a September call up for pinch running, pinch hitting, etc. What do you do with Walker? He’s not going to give a discount even if the Pirates were going to extend him which I don’t believe they are. So my question is do you trade Walker in the offseason? Maybe put Kang at 3rd, Harrison at 2nd and then let Hanson ease his way in and make Kang your utility guy again once Hanson sticks at 2nd? Pretty soon you’re going to have 4 guys for 2 positions if you ask me. Not a bad spot to be in but I’m curious to see how it’s going to work out.

      • Eric Marshall
        July 13, 2015 4:04 pm

        Really need to get Hanson up to give him some shots to show he can handle the job. Otherwise trading Walker would raise too much alarm and unrest. Crazy that he hasn’t been called up to play any role… pinch hitter, runner, give Walker a rest etc. I know he needs work but we need to be able to make a justifiable decision on Walker in the off season.

        • If he played some LF or RF the way Harrison did he’d be a perfect call up right now. But with Walker and Kang swinging the bat well he’d probably just ride the bench. So unless Walker goes down he’ll probably just continue to hone his game down in AAA.

          • Eric Marshall
            July 13, 2015 4:26 pm

            Definitely true. Just hoping we can find out if we have an adequate replacement before a decision needs to be made. Hanson could add value just by having more range and being a better defender. Again he would need to see the field and with Walker swinging the way he is recently that won’t/shouldn’t happen.

        • Sept call up

        • How would they know what they have in Hanson if he is a PH or PR off the bench, maybe with a spot start here and there? Even if he played every day, we’ve seen with Polanco and others that there are most definitely going to be growing pains at the MLB level even for great prospects, and it may take a full season or more to know what you will have in Hanson.

          But, even without knowing if Hanson is definitely the long term answer at 2B, I’d say it’s a safe enough bet along with Kang and Harrison locked up for the next four years to trade Walker in the offseason. I don’t think Hanson sitting the bench at PNC Park will make NH more comfortable with a Walker trade. In fact, I think they’d be more comfortable trading Walker if Hanson plays every day in Indy this year.

      • Paul Newmeyer
        July 13, 2015 4:24 pm

        Walker to firstbase. He can add some muscle not having to play second and handle first. This would be for next season of course. Walker would balk atoving to first

        • Paul…Walker is NOT moving to first base next year.

          I’d bet a Primanti’s on it.

          • So you think Alvarez will still be the Bucs 1B next year?

            • I wouldn’t be surprised if he opens year at 1B until Bell is ready to take over. But then again, I think it’s just as likely a vet is brought in to play most days at 1B until Bell displaces him. Alvarez would be best served to play in AL as DH at this point in his career.

              • I agree that Alvarez might be most valuable as a DH in the AL……unless the defensive issues get solved but they seem to be not physical in nature. I really don’t get this assumption that athletes who play a position all their lives (Bell in outfield) can be expected to become a major league first baseman just because they are great athletes. It is not working now by all reports. If we are overstocked at outfield talent then trade it for a first baseman. I think Bell will be star in this league. Keep him………If we are stacked with pitching, outfield and catching prospects then we should better the club by using some combination of the assets and going for while it all we have Burnett and a healthy staff. First baseman, right handed bat, situational bullpen arm.

                • i’ve said this same thing for years michael, but evidently prospects are not traded for prospects or very young players

                • Scott Kliesen
                  July 14, 2015 8:18 am

                  Willie Stargell would disagree with the assertion an Outfielder can’t learn to play 1B.

                  It’s somewhat common for players, especially Catchers, to learn to play 1B at the major league level. I have no doubt Josh Bell will learn to play the position well enough in the time he has to play it in the minor leagues.

            • Only position for Pedro without being a liability Could be RF — provided he can judge & catch Fly Balls. His only def asset is a cannon arm

            • The better question is whether one thinks Walker will still be Bucs 2b next year. They can’t keep Hanson down all of next year.

              • bucs: It will be a tough decision either way, but Neil is currently in his age 30 season, and I cannot see a Brandon Phillips-type extension in his future. I had hoped that he would repeat his 23 HR’s of 2014, and earn an extension (to play 1B) in the process, but I think that ship has sailed. If Alvarez is traded, then I think Neil at 1B is better than anything we can get on the market. He may decline, but the bottom line is that the Pirates have Hanson and Bell, and they are the future.

              • I concur and I think Hanson has a higher ceiling than Walker. Bleacher Report is releasing their top 20 for 2020 right now. They released 2B today and had Hanson ranked #5. Dilson Herrera was #17 I think. The potential is there. The write-up on him even said he’s got all the tools to be a star.

        • No way Polanco is getting traded this month. He’s finally showing signs of coming into his own and Pirates best future OF options are all still in Bradenton. Not to mention he’s payroll friendly for at least a few more years.

        • jesus….quit banging this drum. There is a better chance of Pedro going back to third than there is of walker going to first.

      • Walker to 1b until Bell is ready(2017), then a Super utility role replacing S.Rod.
        Walker can play 1B, 2B, 3B & maybe CrOf. Nice Bat off the Bench who gets 2/3 starts a week & 300 ABs/yr

        • Walker cant actually play defense well at 2B, so OF would be embarrassingly painful.

          • I don’t think he could play outfield either. I think he could go back to third, and potentially learn first base but it isn’t going to happen in my opinion with the buccos

            • Idk, they have to make a decision between those two at some point as i dont see them keeping both with Hanson ready to be up next season. Easy move would be to stick with Walker and move Pedro out, but Walker cant stay at 2B. But roster wise, he really doesnt make sense at 3B with both Harrison and Kang around.

              Someone has to move to 1B if they ship Pedro out, and it would seem a year of Walker there isnt stupid. Its not ideal, its not stupid.

              • “It’s not stupid” is the point. Yes, it would be lovely to go out and buy a big bat if one were available. But does anyone really think Walker would do worse at 1b than Pedro? I don’t think so. I can see a mildly positive wRC+ for Neil over there. Which is at least a marginal improvement.

                The other interesting thing with Walker is, given he’ll be making >$10mil in 2016, is whether Neal gambles on a QO at end of season. It would represent a one-season overpay in 2017 for Walker if he accepts, but also provides insurance and allows the FO to take more time with Bell. And if Walker doesn’t accept, he likely takes a lower multi-year offer elsewhere and Bucs get a comp pick.

                • Id be depressed if Bell was far enough away still in 2017 that they need Walker. Bell needs to work on his defense, but lawd if he isnt good enough in 1.5 years thats depressing.

              • I agree that its not stupid…..but i’d rather have Harrison, Kang, and walker to fill 2 positions and go get a first baseman if need be

                • 1B market sucks and its the most overpaid position outside of SP. Any 1Bmen of good talent gets crazy money, and whats left is Loney types that arent useless but arent a ton better than Walker some years. One position i never want to “go get” is 1B due to price. James Loney can get 8-9 million on the market….thats stupid.

    • Everyone here and everyone in the Pirates organization would take Hanson becoming Kolten Wong!

    • Nice comparison of Wong and Hanson. Pirates can only hope he does as much damage to Cards as Wong has done to Pirates.

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