Hello, my name is David Manel. I am honored to be the newest regular contributor to Bucs Dugout. My goal is to bring you interesting and insightful analysis of the Pirates from a sabermetric perspective. I hope you enjoy reading my work as much as I enjoy creating it.
This is the first installment of what will be a weekly Monday morning series of articles comparing the Pirates offense and pitching/defense to National League average. Specifically, I will be tracking the Pirates offensive runs scored to NL average runs scored/game, and the runs allowed to 90 percent of league average.
The reason it's important to track the Pirates offense to league average is because it's likely that their run prevention will end up being only slightly better than league average. The Pirates appear to be good at preventing runs, but it is unlikely they will end up being elite. Therefore, in order for them to win 75-85 games this year, the offense is going to have to score somewhere close to a league average number of runs. Even if the pitching/defense were to hold at current levels, the offense will likely need to be within five percent of league average in order for them to contend.
I am tracking runs allowed at the lower rate of 90 percent of league average for the following three reasons:
1. It is becoming increasingly unlikely that the offense will come within five percent of NL average runs scored. If the Pirates are going to finish the season with a record close to .500, they're going to have to allow a (well) below NL average number of runs per game.
2. If the offense were to have an unexpected and stunning turnaround, allowing 90 percent of NL average runs would make the Pirates pennant contenders.
3. At this point, allowing a league-average amount of runs would be a disappointment. Expectations are that the pitching/defense will remain at least slightly better than NL average for the rest of season. Finishing the year at 90 percent of league average would be a special accomplishment, even if the offense never fully comes around.
Now, this week's numbers:
The Pirates played six games this week and scored 22 runs - an average of 3.67 RS/G. Their RS/G for the season increased from 2.88, to 2.98. Last week they needed to average 4.46 runs per game to reach NL average by the end of the season. That number has increased to 4.58. In other words, the Pirates offense will have to score at a rate 11 percent above current NL average for the rest of the season in order to reach a NL average number of runs scored.
(Blue = the average runs scored per game for the week. Red=the average RS/G for the season. Green=the average RS/G the Pirates will need to achieve NL average.)
(Click to enlarge)
Interpretation: the goal for the Pirates is to have the red line meet with the green line.
The Pirates played six games this week and allowed 16 runs, an average of 2.67 runs allowed per game. Their RA/G for the season decreased to from 3.65, to 3.53. Last week they needed to average 3.65 RA/G to finish at 90 percent of NL average runs allowed. That number has increased to 3.77. In other words, the Pirates pitching/defense will have to give up nine percent fewer runs than current NL average for the rest of the season in order to finish with 90 percent of league average RA/G.
(Click to enlarge.)
Interpretation: the goal for the Pirates is to have the green line remain above the red line.
Comparison to the 1968 White Sox
Over the course of the last week many comparisons were made between the '12 Pirates offense and the '68 White Sox. The comparisons were inspired by the fact that the '68 White Sox scored the least number of runs over a 162 game schedule. The Pirates 10-run outburst yesterday (5/27/12) helped make it less less likely that they will finish below that record. The '12 Pirates now average 2.98 RS/G, while the '68 Chicago team ended the season with a 2.86 average. At this point in the '68 season, the White Sox were averaging 2.54 RS/G.
However, the best comparison between the two teams is not raw runs scored. This is because the '68 White Sox played in a very different run-scoring environment. While they had a very poor offense, the rest of the league was down offensively as well ("The Year of the Pitcher"). Therefore, the best comparison between the two offenses is comparing their runs scored to the average runs scored in the league that season.
Currently the '12 Pirates RS/G is 72.33 percent of NL average; The '68 White Sox ended the season averaging 83.73 percent of American League average runs scored.
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Finally, each week I will update the Pythagorean record for the Pirates based on two scenarios:
1. The Pirates Pitching/defense allowing NL average runs; and the offense scoring its actual average runs ("League Average Pitching" below).
2. The Pirates offense scoring NL average runs; and the defense allowing its actual average runs. ("League Average Hitting" below).
(Note: Pythagorean record is simply expected wins and loses based on runs scored/runs allowed.)
Sunday's 10 runs helped the Pirates avoid another dreadful week of run production. In fact, it led to the second highest rate of run scoring of the season. The spread between their seasonal average, and the pace they will have to achieve in order to reach league average by the end of the season, is now 1.6 runs per game.
Again, the pitching was nothing short of fantastic. For the third week this season (Weeks 1 and 2 are collapsed into one data point), the Pirates allowed fewer than three runs per game.
The Pythagorean records really give us a sense of how much the pitching/defense is sustaining this team. We would expect the Pirates to be 13 games below .500 if they had allowed a league average rate of runs. Conversely, if the offense were scoring at a league average rate, and the pitching were performing the same, we would expect the them to be solidly in first place in the NL Central.
That's it for this week. We'll see where things stand next Monday morning after the Pirates play six games against the Reds (three games) and Brewers (three games). The Reds are allowing 3.77 runs per game and the Brewers are second from worst in run prevention, allowing 4.96 RA/G. In terms of scoring, the Reds average slightly below NL average at 4.06 runs; the Brewers offense has been slightly above average, 4.3.
Coming up mid-week, I will be posting a study examining Clint Hurdle's use of the sacrifice bunt. Rightly or wrongly, nothing unifies the Pirates fans on Twitter and elsewhere more than their frustration with his use of this tactic.