First Pitch: A Look at the Hitting Splits in Greensboro

The Pittsburgh Pirates were affiliated with the Greensboro Grasshoppers in 2019 for the first time. They moved from the West Virginia Power, where they played in a ballpark that was fairly neutral as far as favoring pitchers or hitters. Initial searches after the Pirates became their parent club said that Greensboro was considered to be a better ballpark for hitters, though not a huge split. This morning we take a look at the hitting splits for the 14 batters with the most plate appearances for the Grasshoppers last year.

The players below are listed from the most at-bats on down.

Fabricio Macias – Macias was two completely different hitters at home and on the road. He had a .796 OPS at home, .649 on the road, so the park seemed to help him. However, he had more extra-base hits on the road and his batting average split is crazy: Home: .335 Road: .217

Grant Koch – If there was an advantage to playing in Greensboro, no one told Koch. He had a .488 OPS at home, .686 on the road.

Ji-Hwan Bae – Bae won the South Atlantic League batting title with his .323 average. He hit well in either situation, but he did better on the road. Bae batted .313/.400/.388 at home and .330/.405/.459 on the road.

Jonah Davis – Davis did much better on the road, with an .899 OPS and 13 homers in 45 games. He had a .701 OPS in Greensboro.

Mason Martin –  Martin had an .800 OPS at home in 41 games. He also played 41 road games and had a 1.059 OPS. Surprisingly, the home runs were just as easy either place, with 11 at homer and 12 on the road.

Connor Kaiser – He batted .200 at home, .200 on the road, in nearly an identical amount of playing time. He drew a lot more walks on the road and had a slight bump in slugging, resulting in a .696 road OPS and a .617 home mark.

Michael Gretler – Gretler retired back in March, but his stats can still help us with year-over-year data. He didn’t do well in either situation, but his home OPS (.626) was slightly higher than the road (.586).

Zack Kone – Kone was a similar situation to Gretler. Didn’t do well in either spot, but his home OPS (.556) was better than the road (.496).

Jack Herman – If there was ever someone who pushed the “Greensboro favoring hitters” envelope, it is Herman. He had a .934 OPS in 39 home games. It dropped to .686 in the 36 road games. He had nine homers at home, four on the road.

Justin Harrer – Harrer had a .196 average at home, with a .647 OPS. He posted a .762 OPS in away games.

Lolo Sanchez – Before he was promoted to Bradenton, Sanchez did slightly better at home with both his on base and his slugging. His .867 OPS at home was 73 points higher than the road.

Patrick Dorrian – The Pirates traded away Dorrian during the season, but (like Gretler) we can still use his data. Dorrian was fairly close to even in both situations. He had an .809 road OPS and .772 at home. He actually slugged better at home and his walk total pushed him ahead on the road.

Rodolfo Castro – Before he was promoted to Bradenton, Castro ate up pitching at home, with Jack Herman-like splits. He had a 1.000 OPS at home, .669 on the road. The odd part is that he hit seven homers on the road, seven at home.

Kyle Mottice – Mottice is the definition of a singles hitter, so there isn’t going to be a slugging advantage to a good home park. He gets on base at a high rate and he did a better job at home, with a batting average 40 points higher. His OPS was .855 home vs .795 road.

What we see here are 14 examples, with seven favoring home games and seven favoring road games. You also have three players with large splits that favor home games and three with large splits that favor road games. The big home split guys had a bigger difference home/away, but they also had fewer plate appearances by a wide margin, evening things out better. Overall, it’s basically a wash, making Greensboro look like a neutral park in 2019.



Every Pirates first baseman from 2004 until 2015



By John Dreker

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a game of note from 1937.

Tony Bartirome, first baseman for the 1952 Pirates. Before becoming the long-time trainer for the Pirates, Bartirome played one full season in the majors with Pittsburgh. He was a local kid, born and raised in Pittsburgh. He was signed as an 18-year-old by Pie Traynor, on behalf of the Pirates, early in 1951. Bartirome played just one season in the minors, then joined the Pirates in 1952, making his Major League debut three weeks before his 20th birthday. He hit .220 and was not your typical first baseman. He had 13 extra base hits in 124 games, none of them were homers. Despite the poor season at the plate, he accomplished something pretty impressive by not hitting into a double play all season. He spent all of the 1953-54 seasons serving in the Army before returning to the Pirates in 1955. Bartirome promised at the time to fight to get back his old job at first base but he ended up spending the next nine seasons in the minors before he retired as a player. He then became a minor league trainer for three years, before joining the Pirates staff in 1967. It was a spot he would hold until after the 1985 season, when he moved on to the same job in Atlanta.

Culley Rikard, outfielder for the 1941-42 and 1947 Pirates. He played seven seasons in the minors before joining the Pirates on September 20, 1941. Rikard had hit .339 with 73 extra-base hits that year, playing for Memphis of the Southern Association. The first day he was with the Pirates, he started in left field during the second game of a doubleheader, going 2-for-4 with a double. Rikard played a total of six games that year and then 38 games during the 1942 season, with half of those games coming as a pinch-hitter. He had his arm broken by a line drive in July of 1942 when he was throwing batting practice. He returned later that season for just one game and that was only as a pinch-runner. Shortly before the 1943 season started, Rikard was called to serve during WWII. He returned to baseball in 1946, spending the season with the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League. He hit .325 in 144 games for Hollywood, then rejoined the Pirates for the 1947 season. That year he played 109 games, hitting .287 with 50 walks, 53 runs scored and 32 RBIs. Rikard split his playing time between right field and center field, in what would turn out to be his last season in the majors. He played five more years in the minors before he retired.

Dan Sullivan, catcher for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys on April 18, 1886. On Opening Day of the 1886 season, the Alleghenys and the St. Louis Browns played a doubleheader. Sullivan caught the opener, his first game with Pittsburgh. It would also be the last game he played with the team and the last of his Major League career. He was released shortly after the game, then played for both Savannah and Memphis in the minors that year, but his pro career ended before the season did. He passed away within seven years of his last game at age 36. His obituary said of his time after baseball “He came (back) to Pittsburgh and started a saloon business without success. Then he disappeared and was not heard from again until the notice of his death.” Sullivan played a total of five seasons in the majors, the first three with Louisville, then he split the 1885 season between Louisville and St Louis. In his only game with the Alleghenys, he went 0-for-4 with two errors.

The Game

On this date in 1937, the Pirates took on the Boston Braves (also referred to as the “Bees” during this period) at Braves Field. The managers that day were Pie Traynor (Pirates) and Bill McKechnie. Traynor was one of the greatest players in team history, while McKechnie was not only a former Pirates player, but at the time, he had led them to their last World Series title in 1925. Traynor wasn’t playing at that time and he never took the field in 1936, but he did play five more games later in that 1937 season before his Hall of Fame playing career officially ended.

The Pirates lineup included a couple other big names in Pirates history. Out in right field stood Paul Waner, while Arky Vaughan manned the shortstop position. At first base was Gus Suhr, the man who some consider to be one of the best first basemen in Pirates history.

The Braves lineup was loaded with players with Pirates connections, some before this game, some afterwards. Deb Garms, who batted lead-off  and played left field, won a batting crown while with the Pirates in 1940. Al Lopez, batting cleanup, caught for the Pirates from 1940 until 1946. Vince DiMaggio batted fifth, he played five seasons (1940-44) with the Pirates in center field. Elbie Fletcher batted sixth and played first base that day. He played seven seasons for the Pirates. Tommy Thevenow, batting seventh and playing second base, had played five seasons with the Pirates already and would rejoin the team during the 1938 season. The Braves even went to the bullpen for another former Pirates player, Guy Bush, who played for the 1935-36 Pirates.

Pittsburgh won the game that day behind the complete game of Ed Brandt, a former long-time Boston Braves pitcher. Paul Waner scored two runs, while Arky Vaughan added two hits and an RBI. The Pirates scored two runs in the third, fifth and seventh innings, while Boston scored all their runs in the first three innings, one coming from DiMaggio, who hit a solo homer. At the close of play, the Pirates stood in first place with an 11-3 record.

Here’s the boxscore.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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