Pirates getting whiff of history
The Pirates may be last in attendance in the National League, but you can still find plenty of fans.
Just look in the box score.
When the Pirates struck out only eight times in a 3-1 loss to the Mets on Wednesday, the free-swinging, light-hitting club snapped a dubious streak that was nearing historic proportions.
The Pirates were threatening to become only the seventh team since 1918 to strike out 10-plus times in six consecutive games. No team in the past 90 years has fanned 10-plus times seven games in a row.
But give these Pirates some time. It's only Memorial Day weekend.
“It's hard to explain,” said Garrett Jones, who is striking out about once every four plate appearances. “Whether you are going up there too aggressive or being under aggressive, there's a fine line of seeing the ball and getting a good pitch to hit and hitting it.”
Here are some of the ugly truths through Friday's games:
• The Pirates have struck out an MLB-leading 382 times and are on pace for 1,375 strikeouts, which would tie the 2010 Marlins for third-most in major league history behind the 2010 Diamondbacks (1,529 Ks) and '01 Brewers (1,399).
• They are striking out on 24.1 percent of their plate appearances, which would rank second all-time behind only the Mark Reynolds-led '10 Diamondbacks (24.7 percent).
• They have struck out 17 times in a nine-inning game twice this season — the same number as the previous 125 years of Pirates baseball combined.
During last week's “fan-fest,” the Pirates whiffed 41 times in a three-game series in Detroit and 23 times in the first two games against the visiting Mets. Whether they were making Max Scherzer (15 strikeouts) look like Nolan Ryan or flailing as knuckleballer R.A. Dickey racked up a career-high 11 strikeouts, the scorebook was filled with Ks.
The Pirates were third in Major League Baseball last year with 1,308 strikeouts, setting a club record in the unwelcome category for the second year in a row. They don't have many strikeout kings this year — Pedro Alvarez is the only batter in the top 20 in the NL in strikeouts — just a lot of consistent whiffs.
“I can't really say what I attribute it to,” said Josh Harrison, who has whiffed only 11 times in 72 plate appearances. “A lot of guys are still trying to come into their own and get comfortable. When you're not comfortable, sometimes you are going to chase pitches or let the good ones go. You get overanxious. It's one of those things where guys sometimes are putting too much pressure on themselves.”
While most high-strikeout teams are free swingers with good power numbers, the Pirates aren't getting much bang for their buck. They have hit 35 home runs this season, 22nd in the majors. When the Diamondbacks shattered the major league record with 1,529 strikeouts in 2010, they had four players with at least 25 home runs and finished sixth in the majors with 180 home runs. The Marlins, who led the league in strikeouts in 2007 and '08, finished in the top five in home runs both years.
Other record-breaking strikeout teams (the '01 Brewers and the 109-loss 1996 Tigers) were in the top 10 in the majors in home runs.
The Pirates as a team are striking out as much as Willie Stargell (seventh all-time) while hitting home runs as frequently as Joe Randa (one HR per 44 AB).
Manager Clint Hurdle, the hitting coach for the 2010 AL champion Texas Rangers, and hitting coach Gregg Ritchie want the batters to relax at the plate.
“We are just trying to square up the fastball and hit the ball to the big part of the field,” Hurdle said. “We've all gone through periods of overcomplicating things and trying too hard and trying to do too much. We are trying to settle them down. See it good and put a good swing on it.”
John Grupp is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7930.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Liriano no ace, but he’s Bucs’ key
- Pirates notebook: Huntington staying patient as trade deadline approaches
- Pirates notebook: Polanco, Puig held out of series opener
- Polanco turned down multiyear deal worth $75 million with Pirates
- Pirates notebook: Similarity found in Alvarez throwing errors
- Monday’s scouting report: Dodgers at Pirates
- Pirates notebook: Cole’s bullpen session goes well
- Mercer’s run-scoring double in 11th lifts Pirates over Rockies
- Tuesday’s scouting report: Dodgers at Pirates