The adage we frequently hear is that good pitching trumps good hitting. With today’s kickoff of a three game series at PNC Park, Reds pitchers, not bad in their own right, have one way in which the Good Guys may see some success. Pound the strike zone.
Sounds so simple, huh?
This series matches two of the better pitching staffs in the National League. Weird to say, but the numbers do bear that truth. See for yourself.
Neither staff walks a lot nor do they permit many runs. You would be led to believe that the team that can get the offensive going would have a supreme advantage.
But there’s where issues abound. Neither offense is among the tops in the NL. Sure, the Reds had a flurry of home runs during their recent seven game home stand. Those blast helped propel them to a 6-1 record over that time. The bats may be waking up. A big plus.
So, back to the deal about Reds pitchers pounding the zone. The numbers speak for themselves. And they may be a telling side to why the Pirates offense has struggled. They do have a young nucleus, and that factor can impede some thoughts.
Here ya go.
The Pirates see more strikes than any other National League team. Upon looking at Fangraphs, Pittsburgh sees 50.5% of their pitches in the strike zone. That could explain why the Bucs swing at 48.1% of the pitches they see. That is also tops in the NL. What is happening is this: they are not making contact. The Pirates are 14th with a contact rate of 77.6%
There’s more to this. They also swing at at the second highest percentage of pitches outside the strike zone with a 48.1%. By contrast, the Reds look a little more disciplined. Here are their rates.
ZONE %: 49.1 (7th)
SWING %: 45.5% (7th)
CONTACT %: 78.3 (11th)
O-SWING%: 28.0 (9th)
Considering the Pirates own the NL’s lowest team batting average (.219) should make Reds pitchers want to hit the zone. They are more likely to swing…and more likely to miss.
There are two Pirates that have more than 100 plate appearances and swing at more than 40% of pitches outside the zone: Clint Barmes (44.6%) and Garrett Jones (40.3%). Four Buccos swing at more than half the pitches they see: Barmes (56.4%), Jones (54.1%), Rod Barajas (52.9%) and Andrew McCutchen (50.6%).
McCutchen is a different story. He’s the one that is producing despite appearing to be undisciplined. He’s not. McCutchen sees the most strikes (55.1% of the time), but he also owns one the Pirates lowest O-SWING% with a 24.2%. He less likely to “go fishing” after bad pitches.
The other three I mentioned do not own such fortune. The only other one that sees more than 50% of strikes is Barmes (50.4%).
Jones and Barmes should be prime targets. Barajas is slightly behind them. This trio is more apt to swing at pitches outside the zone. Be around the plate and they will hack away. Barmes will swing a team leading 41.6% of the time while Jones will 40.3% of the time. Barajas goes after pitches outside the zone 38.1% of the time. Again, this is based on Pirates that have more than 100 plate appearances.
One last thing. The Pirates have struck out 396 times, second most in the NL.
Even though the numbers show the Reds staff is ever so slightly lagging behind the staff of the Pirates, the Pirates offense has done little to aid their cause. The Reds offense is beginning to find its stride. Hopefully, this can hold form as the Good Guys hit the road for the next six games.