Share This Page

Can Pirates tame Nationals' success vs. ground ball pitchers?

| Thursday, May 22, 2014, 9:15 p.m.

The 2013 Pirates pounded hitters at the knees like no team in recent memory, generating the highest single-season ground ball rate (52.5 percent) and surrendering the second-fewest home runs (0.62 per nine innings) during the new millennium.

While Pirates pitchers still are inducing grounders at an MLB-best 50.4 percent clip in 2014, they're getting hammered when they allow hitters to loft the ball.

The Pirates are serving up 1.12 homers per nine innings, the fifth-highest rate in the game. Only the 1996 Pirates (1.13 HR/9) have been more homer-prone during the Expansion Era (1961-present).

Several ground ball-centric hurlers — including scheduled weekend starters Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano — are giving up much harder contact on fly balls this season. Overall, opponents are slugging .634 when hitting a fly ball against the Pirates. Last year they slugged .487.

Fly ball floundering

Pitcher 2013 FB slg% 2014 FB slg%

Francisco Liriano .375 1.063

Jeanmar Gomez .396 .957

Gerrit Cole .315 .743

Source: Baseball-Reference

At first blush, the Washington Nationals seem like a panacea to the Pirates' pitching woes. The Nats rank 19th in team on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) and lack the big bats of Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, both shelved with thumb injuries. But Cole and Liriano will have to be careful. Washington has many other hitters who elevate — and pummel — ground ball-oriented pitchers.

Jayson Werth, Tyler Moore, Jose Lobaton, Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche boast an above-average career OPS against ground ball pitchers, which Baseball-Reference defines as those in the bottom third of the league in the ratio of fly ball outs to ground ball outs.

Batter OPS vs. GB pitchers

Jayson Werth .869

Tyler Moore .848

Jose Lobaton .804

Ian Desmond .802

Adam LaRoche .769

MLB Avg. .683

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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.