Friday, June 19, 2009

Let The Dogs Loose

OK, we thought we'd take a look at the maddening hot and cold bats of the Bucs. Just what is their problem?

Well, lack of power is the obvious bug-a-boo. It's tough to dump Jay Bay, the X-Man, and Nate McLouth, a trio worth probably 75 long balls per season, and replace them with Andrew McCutchen, Nate Morgan, and the flavor-of-the-day in right. Throw in Ryan Doumit's surgery, and suddenly there's a power outage of Biblical proportions.

Now the baseball book says that the middle of the field belongs to the gloves; any dingers they toss in are gravy. But the Pirate corners are strikingly AWOL in going yard. Adam LaRoche alone is holding up his end with 9 homers; he'll end up with his usual couple of dozen dingers.

But baby bro Andy has just three at the hot corner, Morgan one in left, and Brandon Moss and Delwyn Young have gone yard once. Pedro Alvarez (14), Steve Pearce (11), and Garrett Jones (10) are the only players in the entire Pittsburgh minor league system that have posted double figure home runs.

Throw in Calvin Anderson's seven at West Virginia, and you still only have four guys with some pop in the organization - and they all project to play first base, unless Pedro suddenly discovers some leather and athleticism at the hot corner.

What to do, other than plop Doumit in right field (which we read is being considered again, given his injury history and the performance of Jason Jaramillo and Robby Diaz, plus the drafting of Tony Sanchez in DK's article)?

Well, we've heard a lot about discipline and using the whole field; maybe that's part of the problem and one Donnie Long can address. Here's the Pirates' spray chart, according to Baseball Reference (and remember the averages are for balls in play only):

Pulled balls: 445 at-bats, 190 hits, .427, 28 HR/99 RBI
Middle of the Field: 1039 at-bats, 315 hits, .303, 12 HR/127 RBI
Opposite Field: 300 at-bats, 92 hits, .307, 0 HR/29 RBI

Andy LaRoche:

Pulled: .400, 3/13 - 2009; .326, 7/18 - career
Middle: .337, 0/14 - 2009; .256, 2/30 - career
Opposite: .278, 0/3 - 2009; .275, 0/9 - career

Brandon Moss:

Pulled: .372, 1/4 - 2009; .411, 4/12 - career
Middle: .303, 0/7 - 2009; .308, 5/31 - career
Opposite: .125, 0/1 - 2009; .237, 0/3 - career

Delwyn Young:

Pulled: .562, 0/2 - 2009; .571, 3/8 - career
Middle: .424, 1/8 - 2009; .339. 1/10 - career
Opposite: .529, 0/1 - 2009; .349, 0/1 - career

It shows that sitting back on the ball and going middle/opposite doesn't work for guys that are by nature pull hitters (which is virtually every middle-of-the-order hitter in MLB); it kills their run production and power. The team line shows it clearly, and the three young guns' stats confirm it.

In their short careers, they have no homers and 13 RBI going opposite field; 14 HR and 38 RBI when pulling a pitch. And they all have their highest batting average, both for the season and career, when they turn on a pitch.

So hey, we think it's time to pull the plug on sitting back and using the whole field. Let the dogs loose, develop an aggressive attitude at the plate, and turn the philosophy around to use the middle of the field to your foul pole. Can't hurt, right?


WilliamJPellas said...

No, it can't hurt, but you bring up a point that obviously needs to be addressed.

This organization is almost completely punchless from top to bottom. We might throw in Jose Tabata as a sort-of power source if/when he gets back in there on a regular basis. And Jim Negrych won't hit a lot of home runs but does have very good gap to gap power. But that's it.

All of which wouldn't be as big an issue if the team had lots of speed. But, lo and behold, we don't have a lot of basestealers, either. And yes, I know that the running game has fallen out of favor somewhat in recent years due to the influence of sabremetricians, who say that stealing bases really isn't worthwhile unless you succeed 80% of the time or better. Guess who we had on the team until recently who fit that description to a "T"? Nate McLouth, whose career totals to date show nearly 70 successful steals with 5---you read that right---5 caught stealing.

Nyjer Morgan and Andrew McCutchen can run, yes, and that helps generate a lot of triples and scoring from first base on a double and that sort of thing. So that's good. But they're not high percentage basestealers.

So, we don't have any sock, and we don't have a legitimate, put-pressure-on-the-enemy running game, so....

We're still at least a couple years away from putting a truly competitive team on the field in Pittsburgh. There's always the chance we'll acquire some heavy hitters through trades, of course, particularly as we rebuild the minor league system and have more chips to deal. But for the moment it's awfully frustrating watching this impotent team get mowed down night after night.

BTW, I for one would like to get a look at Garrett Jones if/when Adam LaRoche is dealt.

Anonymous said...

hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

Ron Ieraci said...

Well, hi to you, too, Hapi. Glad you stopped by. And Will, my point is that maybe the Pirate approach is hurting the power stats of the young guys. All the long-ball players we dealt, and holdover Adam LaRoche, were pull hitters.

I'm not advocating rolling over on balls that are away, but I think if the Bucs turned on balls that are middle-in, they might drop a couple of more balls over the fence - even if it's the first pitch.