ShareThis Page

Pirates GM: Pitchers' quick start will slow

Rob Biertempfel
| Monday, May 4, 2009

The numbers say the Pirates' pitching ranks as the best in the major leagues.

The numbers also say that might soon change.

Going into Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Reds, the Pirates had a team ERA of 3.42. Overall, they were allowing 3.70 runs per game. Both figures ranked first in the majors.

That success is a nod to the pitchers, of course, but also a big credit to the defense. The Pirates' have the best defensive efficiency rating (.731) in the majors.

The Pirates had better be good with their gloves — the pitching staff averages only 5.5 strikeouts per nine innings, third-lowest in the majors.

"There's one big indicator that shows we've benefitted from good fortune, which is batting average (on) balls in play," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We're markedly variant from the average, which means we're going to have a lot more hits fall in there pretty soon."

BABIP measures the percentage of plate appearances ending in a batted ball in play in which the batter gets a hit. Home runs are not included in the equation, since it's not possible to field a ball that is hit over the fence.

The Pirates went into the game with a .267 BABIP — tops in the majors and about 30 points better than average.

There will be days, though, when the defense is not quite as sharp. It's more likely to happen with shortstop Jack Wilson (finger) on the disabled list and Gold Glove center fielder Nate McLouth bouncing back from an strained oblique.

Catcher Jason Jaramillo is defensively superior to injured starter Ryan Doumit, yet Jaramillo sometimes may succumb to rookie mistakes.

In the fifth inning yesterday, Jaramillo's passed ball advanced Joey Votto, who scored when Brandon Phillips two-out single squirted past shortstop Brian Bixler.

Yet, even if the Pirates' stats tail off, Huntington is optimistic the end results will be better than a year ago.

"We feel like our pitchers are better," Huntington said. "Our defense is better from a personnel standpoint and a positioning standpoint. (Coaches) Perry Hill and Gary Varsho have been very aggressive in positioning our fielders. We feel like we're in the right spot more often than we were a year ago.

"Are we going to have (rough) stretches• We probably will. But we do think our guys are better, and as a result we're better than we were a year ago. I don't know if we're going to hold in the top five all year, but it certainly won't be a reason to panic if we have an outing or two when we give up some runs."

Pitches in play

Batting average on balls in play for Pirates pitchers (through Saturday):

Pitcher: BABIP

Zach Duke: .291

Paul Maholm: .267

Ross Ohlendorf: .260

Ian Snell: .289

Jeff Karstens: .190

John Grabow: .343

Sean Burnett: .136

Jesse Chavez: .208

Tyler Yates: .286

Matt Capps: .375

Craig Hansen: .263

Donnie Veal: .167

Evan Meek: .000

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.