Breaking down the Pirates-Blue Jays weekend series
The Pirates are piling up outs at an alarming rate this season, ranking 26th in the majors in on-base-percentage (.296) and 27th in runs (96) entering play Thursday.
The last time the Bucs had such a lousy OBP?
A century ago, when the 1914 club got on base at a .295 clip during the Dead Ball Era.
This weekend's series with the Blue Jays, who have the majors' fifth-worst team ERA (4.64), could be a panacea for the Pirates' run-scoring woes.
But to take advantage of Toronto's wild pitching staff, some of the Bucs' young hitters will have to learn the power of patience.
Blue Jays pitchers have issued 4.3 walks per nine innings, making them the most control-challenged staff this side of the White Sox (4.5 BB/9).
Friday's scheduled starter, Brandon Morrow, has the highest walk rate (6.45 BB.9) of any starter tossing 20-plus innings.
Saturday starter R.A. Dickey (4.58 BB/9) can't seem to corral his knuckleball, and Sunday starter Dustin McGowan (3.91 BB/9) also is handing out more free passes than the MLB average (3.2 BB/9).
Morrow and Dickey are throwing considerably fewer pitches over the plate than the MLB average, as are a quartet of Jays relievers:
Pitcher Zone Pct.
Neil Wagner 39.4
Sergio Santos 41.6
Steve Delabar 44.1
Brandon Morrow 45.4
R.A. Dickey 45.9
Chad Jenkins 46.0
MLB Avg. 47.0
Shortstop Jordy Mercer, sporting the lowest OBP (.222) among Pirates regulars, and Starling Marte (.308 OBP, 35 points below 2013) should be happy to see the Jays.
But they'll only boost their OBPs if they can show better strike-zone control: Mercer (35 percent chase rate) and Marte (31.9) are both swinging at more pitches thrown off the plate than the MLB average (29 percent).
David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.