ShareThis Page

Statistically speaking: Pirates, Brewers possess strengths up the middle

| Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, 11:18 p.m.

The Pirates' recent seven-game losing streak dealt a severe blow to their playoff odds, which according to Fangraphs dwindled from 64.4 percent on August 13 to just 26.4 percent entering play Thursday. Now, the Pirates must stop the bleeding against the first-place Brewers, who have taken 10 of 13 games between the teams this year.

For the Pirates to leave Miller Park with a prayer of playing October baseball, their middle-of-the-diamond stars will have to outshine Milwaukee's. Both the Pirates and the Brewers are exceptionally strong at premium defensive positions that most clubs struggle to fill.

The Pirates' catchers, shortstops, second basemen and center fielders have combined to produce more Wins Above Replacement (WAR) than any other National League club. WAR quantifies a player's offensive, defensive and base running worth compared to a Triple-A-type talent. Milwaukee is a close second among Senior Circuit teams.

Team Up the Middle WAR

Angels 14.2

Twins 12.7

Pirates 11.8

Brewers 11.5

Royals 11.0

MLB Avg. 8.1

Center fielders Andrew McCutchen (4.6 WAR) and Carlos Gomez (4.8 WAR) lead their respective squads in WAR, though they couldn't be more different at the plate. The ultra-patient McCutchen is drawing walks more than twice as often (13.7 percent of his plate appearances) as Gomez (6.5 percent), who routinely knocks his own batting helmet off while taking mighty cuts.

Catchers Russell Martin (3.5) and Jonathan Lucroy (4.7), meanwhile, are virtually twins. They're both saving lots of runs thanks to their pitch-framing skills: 11.2 compared to an average backstop for Martin, according to StatCorner, and 18.5 for Lucroy.

The Pirates' and Brewers' strength up the middle helps compensate for a lack of production at some corner spots. The Pirates' third basemen rank 17th among MLB clubs in WAR (1.8), and their first basemen rank 23rd (0.1). Milwaukee has also struggled to get value at first base, placing 19th in team WAR (1.4).

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.