Stats Corner: Pirates need better D to stay in playoff picture
The Pirates deployed an analytics-driven, shift-heavy defensive approach in 2013, helping the club surrender the second-fewest runs in the majors. But as the Bucs hover near .500 in 2014, they rank just 18th in run prevention. Pirates fielders aren't gobbling up grounders and covering the gaps like last year — and that's bad news for an injury-ravaged pitching staff that's allowing hitters to put more balls in play.
The Bucs were the majors' eighth-best defensive squad in 2013, according to Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), which measures how many runs a player saves or costs compared to an average fielder at his position. While they saved a collective 42.9 runs above average last year, the Bucs have been 7.4 runs below average this season. That's 23rd in the majors and last in the National League.
Andrew McCutchen was stellar in center field last year, saving about eight runs above average per 150 defensive games played (UZR/150), but he's last among qualified NL players at his position in 2014. McCutchen is one of five Pirates showing a double-digit decline in UZR/150.
Out of the zone
2013 2014 Player UZR/150 UZR/150 Diff.
Andrew McCutchen +8.4 -22.8 -31.2
Jose Tabata +2.9 -23.4 -26.3
Travis Snider -1.6 -27.4 -25.8
Neil Walker -0.8 -21.7 -20.9
Clint Barmes +14.2 +3.4 -10.8
Changes in defensive metrics require a larger sample size than offensive stats to become meaningful, so the Bucs probably aren't this bad. And Gregory Polanco — rated by Baseball America as the best defensive outfielder in the system — now patrols right field. Improving defensively will be critical to the Bucs' playoff chances, considering that the starting rotation is striking out fewer batters this season (7.35 per nine innings) than last (7.9), and injured strikeout artists Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano have been replaced by pitch-to-contact arms such as Brandon Cumpton and Jeff Locke.
David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
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.
- Cole struggles as Brewers continue Miller mastery over Pirates
- Gameday: Pirates at Brewers, Sept. 2, 2015
- No bitter brew for Mercer over reduced playing time after injury
- Two wild-card format hurting Pirates in short term
- Gameday: Pirates at Brewers, Sept. 1, 2015
- Pirates notebook: 6 September call-ups include first-timer Diaz
- Rossi: Continuing legend of Pirate Ray
- Mercer’s return from DL further crowds infield
- Pirates turn nifty double play in 9th, edge Marlins
- Pirates notebook: Burnett encouraged by extended simulated game
- No certainty for Pirates’ call-up veterans