Pirates starters Locke, Wandy enjoying good fortune
After a turbulent April, Pirates starting pitchers have the third-lowest ERA in the majors during May and boast an overall ERA (3.90) slightly under the National League average (3.96).
A.J. Burnett arguably has been the league's best starter, but two soft-tossing lefties also are producing. Jeff Locke and Wandy Rodriguez have ERAs in the low-3.00s, seemingly giving the Pirates a trio of quality arms as they battle St. Louis and Cincinnati for NL Central supremacy.
Dig deeper, though, and the Pirates' rotation looks more like a one-man band.
Burnett has been a legitimate ace, according to Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), which estimates a pitcher's ERA based on strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed. Locke and Rodriguez, by contrast, are performing more like pitchers who should have ERAs in the high 4.00s:
ERA and FIP for Pirates starters (Min. 5 starts):
Pitcher ERA FIP
A.J. Burnett 2.73 2.38
Jeff Locke 3.15 4.73
Wandy Rodriguez 3.25 4.67
James McDonald 5.76 4.10
Locke and Rodriguez have been two of the most fortunate pitchers in the game so far when comparing ERA and FIP. They place prominently on a list of starters with an ERA much lower than their FIP:
ERA vs. FIP
Biggest ERA-FIP split among qualified starting pitchers:
Pitcher ERA FIP Diff.
Jeremy Guthrie 2.82 5.54 -2.72
Jason Marquis 3.49 5.61 -2.12
Matt Moore 2.44 4.42 -1.98
Scott Feldman 2.53 4.33 -1.80
Travis Wood 2.03 3.66 -1.63
Patrick Corbin 1.52 3.10 -1.58
Jeff Locke 3.15 4.73 -1.58
Wandy Rodriguez 3.25 4.67 -1.42
Kris Medlen 3.44 4.79 -1.35
Zach McAllister 2.68 4.03 -1.35
Locke (5.5 strikeouts per nine innings pitched) and Rodriguez (6.5 K/9) are punching out far fewer hitters than the average NL starter (7.1 K/9). All of that contact could balloon their ERAs. Locke (.231 Batting Average on Balls in Play) and Rodriguez (.233 BABIP) have BABIP totals that are more than 50 points lower than the NL average for starters (.288).
David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.