The Pirates: Fun with Stats
Using FanGraphs as a guide, let’s take a look at the 2018 Bucs, from the youngest player (Austin Meadows, 23) to the oldest (David Freese, 35).
Josh Bell led the position players with 148 games played, while Felipe Rivero-Vazquez led all pitchers with 70 appearances. Jameson Taillon made the most starts (32) and quality starts (20).
Starling Marte led the team in plate appearances (606), just ahead of Bell (583). Marte hit mostly second (58 games) or third (61) in the lineup, while Bell batted cleanup (65) or sixth (36).
Gregory Polanco led with 23 homers, Marte hit his 20th homer in the season finale to become the third Pirates player ever (and the oldest aT age 29) to hit 20 home runs while stealing 30-plus bases.
Francisco Cervelli finished with 12 homers, breaking his previous high of seven. Bell slumped to 12 dingers after hitting 26 in 2017.
Elias Diaz (277 plate appearances) and Adam Frazier (352) surprisingly belted 10 homers apiece.
Colin Moran collected 11 home runs in 465 plate appearances. Disappointing because of his home opener grand slam and vaunted launch angle improvement with Houston, yet reasonable for a first-year starter.
Only three players stole more than four bases: Marte (33 SB in 47 attempts), Polanco (12 in 14) and Corey Dickerson (8 in 11). Frazier, who spoke of aggressiveness on the basepaths in spring training, swiped one bag in four tries.
Bell led with a 13.2 percent walk rate, up from 10.6 percent in 2017. Marte walked at a 5.8 percent rate, but that upped his career mark to 5.0 percent. Dickerson had the lowest walk rate among regulars (3.9 percent). This was the lowest rate of Dickerson’s six MLB seasons, well below his career 5.8 percent rate.
Ivan Nova went 1-for-53, striking out 30 times for a 53.6 strikeout rate. Interestingly, Nova has never walked in nine MLB seasons, compiling a 0:92 BB:K mark. Max Moroff’s 35.8 percent rate early in the season made the decision to skip over him for a September recall an easy one. Not surprisingly, Polanco put up a career-worst 21.9 percent strikeout rate. The Bucs will take that trade-off (his career rate is 19.1 percent) so long as his power stays up.
If you guessed that Elias Diaz (14.4 percent) had the lowest strikeout rate among position players, raise your hand. Good job.
Polanco’s .245 ISO (Slugging – Batting Average) bested his career mark of .169 ISO. The right fielder bested Marte (.182 ISO) by a wide margin. Josh Harrison (.113) and Bell (.150) were among the biggest disappointments. Bell had a .211 ISO in 2017.
Dickerson’s .333 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) helped him hit exactly .300 in 2018. Marte recorded a .312 BABIP, which sounds good, but was actually 34 points below his career mark of .346. Anecdotally, it looked like Marte grounded out to third base more frequently than before. Maybe it’s just that his jogs to first base stood out. Jordan Luplow’s .197 BABIP has to get better in 2019 – the Pirates certainly have to hope so.
Diaz’s .286 batting average really seems to fly under the radar. Impressive for any player, let alone a catcher. The low number of plate appearances (277) probably helped him hit so highly, but the Diaz-Cervelli combo was very good at the plate.
Three regulars hit exactly .277, including Marte, Frazier and Moran.
Cervelli’s frequent conversations with home plate umpires pay off for his on-base percentage. He led the team (.378 OBP), ahead of Bell (.357). Cervelli holds a career .362 OBP, one of the top marks among active catchers. Kevin Kramer had a .135 OPS in only 40 plate appearances. It might not be fair to mention that because of the small sample, but it’s hard to believe he struck out 21 times – that’s Ivan Nova territory! Can’t wait for the day the light turns on for Kramer, so much potential.
— Moran’s .407 slugging percentage mirrored that of the team average. Moran’s position, third base, pretty much demands a better mark, however. It will be interested to see the competition for third between Moran and Jung-Ho Kang in spring training and beyond.
— Keep in mind, Bell’s .411 slugging percentage at first base is also lackluster. Who knows how many more games the Pirates win in 2017 with better production at the corners.
— The Pirates’ team .312 wOBA is below the generally accepted mark of .320. The statistic is similar to OPS but better reflects run scoring. Cervelli led the team with a .355 w/OBA. Polanco, with a .353 mark, was close behind. Jordy Mercer (.296) and Harrison .285, were among the laggards.
— Similar to OPS+, Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) measures how a player’s wRC compares with league average after controlling for park effects. Not surprisingly, Cervelli (125 wRC+) and Polanco (123 wRC+) lead Pittsburgh. A mark of 100 represents the league average and 96 represented the team’s average in 2018.
— The following statistic, BsR, is sure to capture the imagination of Pirates followers. Base Running (BsR) is FanGraphs’ all encompassing base running statistic that turns stolen bases, caught stealings, and other base running plays (taking extra bases, being thrown out on the bases, etc) into runs above and below average.
— League average BsR is zero: By comparison, the Pirates team average came out as minus-13.3. Harrison led the team with a 2.4 BsR, Marte – likely based on his stolen base total, came in second with a 2.1 BsR. Some may discount the validity of BsR, given Marte’s positive ranking and it would be hard to disagree.
— The worst BsR baserunner? Moran, with a minus-4.0 mark. Bell finished with a minus-3.3. Somewhat surprisingly, Dickerson ranked third-worst (minus-3.1).
— Polanco nearly pulled off a surprising feat of posting both the team’s best offensive WAR (14.3) and worst defensive WAR (minus-6.6). He finished with the best offensive mark, leading to an overall 2.5 WAR. Bell ignominiously won the team’s worst defensive WAR with at minus-14.8.
— For total WAR, Marte (3.7), Cervelli (3.3) and Dickerson (2.7)led the squad.
We’ll look at the pitchers’ numbers next time.
Thanks for reading, have a great day!