Statistically speaking: Pirates should win ground game vs. Padres

| Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, 9:21 p.m.

With Andrew McCutchen ailing and Pedro Alvarez's power bat out of the lineup, the Pirates need their pitchers to post zeroes to stay in playoff contention.

Luckily, the Padres are enduring one of the worst offensive seasons in the franchise's 46-year history — and they're especially piling up outs against ground ball-centric teams like the Pirates.

While San Diego calls the pitching oasis that is Petco Park home, that doesn't absolve the club's lineup from criticism.

The Padres' offense has been 20 percent worse than the MLB average after adjusting for park factors, according to Fangraphs. That's worst in the majors and the third-lowest mark since the team was founded in 1969. Richard Nixon was president the last time the Padres hit so poorly.

Why is San Diego experiencing such a power outage? They're rarely lofting pitches, for starters. The Padres are hitting ground balls an MLB-high 48.8 percent of the time that they put the ball in play this year.

Dating back to 2002, only the 2005 and 2007 Twins have posted a higher single-season ground-ball rate.

When the Padres match up with an earth-scorching pitching staff, things get ugly. San Diego has a .644 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) against ground-ball pitchers, defined by Baseball-Reference as those ranked in the bottom third in the ratio of fly ball outs to ground outs. The Cardinals and Reds are the only NL teams to fare worse versus ground ball-slanted staffs.

Ground and pound

Team OPS vs. ground-ball Ps

Cardinals .621

Reds .638

Padres .644

Diamondbacks .654

Nationals .670

MLB avg. .682

Source: Baseball-Reference

Rene Rivera (.499 OPS versus ground-ball pitchers), Alexi Amarista (.636) and Everth Cabrera (.642) are struggling the most against ground-ball pitchers.

The Bucs, generating grounders at an MLB-high 49.9 percent clip, are poised to keep the Padres off the board. Jared Hughes (63.3 percent), Charlie Morton (54.9), Mark Melancon (54.8) and Francisco Liriano (53.0) could wage an effective ground war.

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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