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The Pittsburgh Pirates Offensive Catastrophe

Posted By Bradley Woodrum On May 24, 2012 @ 11:00 am In Pirates,Today in FanGraphs | 57 Comments

All numbers current through at least Wednesday morning.

The Pittsburgh Pirate offense is the worst in the league. Evidence:

Will this extra terrible offensive season continue? Or will regression cause the Pirates miss their chance to burn the record books in the spectacular flame of Awfulness?

The 2012 Pirates are Worst in the League. As in:

So they walk like contact hitters (not at all), and they strikeout like power hitters (incessantly), but they are in fact neither power nor contact hitters. The never walk, and they always strikeout…

And it might be easy to blame their BABIP:

But their De-Luck’d team wOBA is still only .300 — worst in the De-Luck’d league — and if we consider that the league BABIP is .030 points lower than the slash12 xBABIP formula projects (likely a result of shifting), then the Pirates’ expected wOBA drops to .281. That is still better than their .268 wOBA, but clearly unacceptable for any modern MLB team.

Let’s put that in historical context:

    1) The Pirates have the 62nd worst walk rate (5.9%) of 2340 teams since 1900.

    2) Their .269 team wOBA is tied for 5th worst since 1900. There are no modern teams ahead of them.

    3) Of those teams that have strikeout numbers (the K didn’t become an official hitting stat until 1913), the 2012 Pirates currently rank 2nd highest (out of 2164 teams) with a 24.3% strikeout rate.

    4) Since 1919, the end of the Deadball Era, the 2012 Pirates rank as the 12th worst offense, scoring only 0.082 runs per plate appearance (the 2012 Padres are 15th with 0.083 R/PA; the 2010 Mariners sit at 28th with 0.086 R/PA).

    5) Can you believe this team is only a few games under .500?! That the Angels do not have a better record than them!?

So who has made the Pirates offense terrible? Not Andrew McCutchen (158 wRC+); not utilityman Josh Harrison (116 wRC+). But yes to pretty much everyone else.

Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, Rod Barajas, Casey McGehee, Alex Presley, and the always offensively underwhelming Clint Barmes have combined for about a 62 wRC+. They have a combined K-rate of nearly 23%.

Will the Pirates go down as one of the worst offenses in history? There’s certainly a chance of that. But at the same time, there’s cause to hope they can and will improve.

If we De-Luck the Pirates position players, we see quite a few possible BABIP regression candidates. But if they meet only the downgraded expectations of an adjusted slash12 xBABIP, only Michael McKenry (.329 De-Luck’d wOBA) crosses to the positive side of league average, while Harrison (.279) drops well below it.

Still, we can expect some of these players to either (1) change their approach and get better results or (2) get replaced faster than an NBC sitcom.

But until then, continue selecting every starting pitcher who plays against the Pirates in FanGraphs the Game.


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