I think everyone here will agree that the Pirates have the worst offense in baseball. They don’t score runs. They don’t get on base with great enough frequency. They haven’t hit for much power. On a pure runs per game basis, this could be the worst Pirates offense in recent history.
Potentially, the pieces are in place for a good (or hopefully at worst a league average) offense. Potentially. But the offense isn’t good now and I don’t think there is hope for the offense to reverse course in this season. I took a look at recent history and it suggests that teams that start off poorly continue to wallow and struggle.
One school of thought regarding the sluggish offense is that the starting pitching that the Pirates have faced has been spectacular. But is that true? If the Pirates have faced more than their fair share of great starting pitching, then I would expect the overall numbers for those starters to be considerably better than league average. It is true the overall numbers for the starters the Pirates have faced are slightly better than league average. However, once I backed out the data for the starts in which they faced the Pirates, the numbers look more pedestrian. So, which is it:
1. Have the Pirates faced a plethora of great starters?
2. Has the Pirates dreadful offense helped opposing National League hurlers perform at a high level?
The answer is #2 because the stats for the starters independent of their starts against Pittsburgh aren’t particularly impressive. Let’s look at the data (collected at baseball-reference.com). The first set of data is for the average NL starter in 2012. The second row has the total stats for all pitchers who faced the Pirates, including their starts against Pittsburgh. In the third row, I have backed out all the data in games that were against the Pirates. The final row is data in games only against Pittsburgh.
|Average NL Starter||3.80||2.9||7.4||2.53||1.294|
|Starters Opposing Pittsburgh 2012 total stats||3.42||2.7||7.5||2.75||1.223|
|Starters Opposing Pittsburgh minus stats against Pittsburgh||3.52||2.9||7.4||2.58||1.258|
|Starters Opposing Pittsburgh in games against Pittsburgh only||2.82||1.9||8.1||4.19||1.023|
The starters facing the Battling Buccos have an ERA about 0.3 lower than league average in games in which they didn’t face Pittsburgh. And opposing starters have an ERA about one run lower than league average in games in which they chuck it against the Pittsburgh Baseball Club. The pitchers opposing the Pirates have an ERA that is 0.7 lower when facing Pittsburgh than when facing other teams. The Pirates offense is off the league average pace for runs per game by more than one full run (1.21 runs per game through games of 5/16/12 to be exact).
So, while the typical starter facing the Pirates has been better than league average thus far on the year, reality is the Pirates terrible offense has made those starters look very, very good. The Pirates aren’t scoring runs. The issue isn’t the strength the opposing starters. The issue is a poor offense.