Pirates, Cardinals struggling against fastballs

| Friday, May 9, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Runs will be at a premium at PNC Park this weekend as the Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals bring anemic offensive attacks into the latest chapter of their National League Central rivalry.

Thanks to a lack of lumber, both clubs have fallen well behind the Milwaukee Brewers and must play catch-up to return to the playoffs thanks to a lack of lumber.

The Pirates rank 10th in the NL in on-base plus slugging percentage (.682), while the Cardinals have fared even worse (.670 OPS, 12th in the NL).

Pirates and Cardinals hitters crushed fastballs last season. The Pirates were the NL's best team when pitchers brought the heat, adding +0.39 runs of value per 100 fastballs seen compared to the league average. St. Louis also did considerable damage, placing third in the NL at +0.27 runs above average.

They're both getting manhandled by fastballs in 2014, however, ranking in the bottom third among NL clubs.

Can't catch up

Lowest run values vs. fastballs in NL:

Team Runs/100 fastballs

Padres -1.22

Cardinals -0.59

Diamondbacks -0.58

Dodgers -0.43

Pirates -0.42

Source: Fangraphs.com

No player has scuffled more against fastballs than Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer, who handled heat just fine while winning an everyday job in 2013 (+0.42 runs). Right fielders Allen Craig (+2.22 runs in 2013) and Jose Tabata (+1.3 runs) clobbered fastballs last season, but they have fans clamoring for prized prospects Oscar Taveras and Gregory Polanco in 2014.

Players Runs/100 fastballs

Jordy Mercer -4.46

Allen Craig -1.96

Jose Tabata -1.59

Peter Bourjos -1.41

Jon Jay -1.15

To make matters worse for the Pirates, scheduled Cardinals starters Michael Wacha (+0.08 runs per 100 fastballs thrown), Shelby Miller (+0.18) and Lance Lynn (+0.44) boast above-average fastballs. St. Louis hitters will have to contend with Edinson Volquez's gas (+0.96), but they could break through against Francisco Liriano (-1.66) and Charlie Morton (-1.23).

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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