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Stats Corner: Pirates showing center- and opposite-field power

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By David Golebiewski
Saturday, June 21, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

Pitching and defense lifted the Pirates in 2013, but this year's club is left trying to outslug the competition. The Bucs are scoring 4.07 runs per game — sixth-most in the National League — and are channeling the Lumber Company since Gregory Polanco's major league debut on June 10 (4.5 runs per game). The outfield prodigy embodies the Pirates' offensive approach, which emphasizes all-fields slugging over pulling pitches at all costs.

Most major league hitters show far more power when they pull the ball (a collective .591 slugging percentage) than when they connect to center field (.465) or go the opposite way (.427). Not the Pirates, though. While they rank near the bottom in pull-side slugging percentage, they're a top-five offensive when lining a pitch up the middle or to the opposite field.

Hit location SLG MLB rank

Pull .513 29

Center .515 4

Opposite .491 2

Source: Fangraphs

Sixty-two percent of the Pirates' hits have gone to center or the opposite field, well above the 58.5 percent MLB average. Their team slugging percentage has climbed 10 points to center field compared to last season (.505), and more than 50 points to the opposite field (.440 in 2013).

Starling Marte is racking up extra-base hits the opposite way, with a .721 slugging percentage that trails just Ryan Howard (1.000), Ryan Braun (.947), Paul Goldschmidt (.810) and Giancarlo Stanton (.765) among NL batters. Andrew McCutchen (.686) and Josh Harrison (.676) are also going “oppo” at an All-Star level.

Russell Martin ranks in the NL's top 10 in slugging to center field (.789), with Pedro Alvarez (.658), McCutchen (.582), Neil Walker (.556) and Harrison (.520) standing out, too. Polanco is clubbing pitches to all fields during his Roy Hobbs-esque debut: He's got twice as many hits to left and center field (12) than to his pull side (six).

— David Golebiewski

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