Statistically speaking: Can Pirates put away Cardinals' hitters?
Pitching was the foundation of the Pirates' first playoff run in a generation, as the 2013 staff had the third-lowest ERA (3.27) and surrendered the fewest home runs (0.62 per 9/IP) in the majors.
During a sub-.500 start in 2014, however, Pirates hurlers rank 17th in ERA (3.82) and are allowing nearly twice as many homers (1.14 per nine).
One question looms large: Can they finish off Cardinals hitters? They're giving up lots of hard contact in pitcher's counts, and the Cards' lineup is well-positioned to capitalize on any mistakes the Pirates make.
Overall, MLB batters are slugging well under .300 this season when they fall behind in the count. But Pirates pitchers have allowed a .352 slugging percentage when they hold the advantage over hitters — third-worst among all clubs. They also have given up an MLB-high 11 home runs in such situations. Last year, the Pirates had best opponent slugging percentage (.247) in pitcher's counts and got taken deep 17 times all season, the lowest total in the majors.
Pirates pitchers have struggled when ahead in the count.
Team Slugging Pct.
White Sox .350
MLB Avg. .287
Jeanmar Gomez (.600 opponent slugging percentage), Jason Grilli (.583), Justin Wilson (.500), Francisco Liriano (.419) and Gerrit Cole (.349) are getting scorched in pitcher's counts. The Cardinals, meanwhile, hold the fourth-highest team slugging percentage (.331) with their backs against the wall.
Cards batters thrive when behind in the count.
Player Slugging Pct.
Yadier Molina .826
Jon Jay .522
Matt Holliday .435
Matt Carpenter .375
Jhonny Peralta .350
David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.