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2013 Pirates had NL's worst hitting pitchers

Jonathan Daniel

In yesterday's thread, some commenters mentioned Pirates pitchers' dreadful hitting last season. They weren't wrong -- the Pirates had the worst-hitting pitchers in the National League, and it cost them.

Here's a look at team performances by National League pitchers. Triple-slash figures aren't park-adjusted, but I'm having trouble finding team pitcher splits that list OPS+. The numbers on the right are FanGraphs OFF and wOBA.

1. Dodgers .177/.237/.229 -30.0 .215
2. Braves .148/.185/.206 -40.5 .177

8. Brewers .144/.156/.176 -43.5 .149


14. Giants .096/.144/.107 -52.7 .121
15. Pirates .104/.138/.104 -55.9 .115

That's bad. Pirates' pitchers -- and remember, this is comparing Pirates' pitchers to other teams' pitchers, who hit very poorly as a group -- cost the Bucs about a dozen runs against league average with their hitting.

How the Pirates got here probably won't surprise you. Here's a wOBA for everyone with at least 20 plate appearances.

Gerrit Cole .197
Charlie Morton .123
Jeff Locke .119
Francisco Liriano .106
Wandy Rodriguez .081
A.J. Burnett .081

Now, obviously, there are sample size issues here, since none of these guys had more than 67 plate appearances. But somehow Charlie Morton, a thoroughly dreadful hitter who's hit .087/.091/.110 for his career, was the second-best of the Pirates' six main hitting pitchers this year. To summarize:

Gerrit Cole: Cool
Charlie Morton: Ugh, I'm so bad at this
Jeff Locke: Somehow, I'm even worse than Charlie
Francisco Liriano: I COULDN'T CARE LESS
Wandy Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett: Somehow, we're even worse than Francisco

Liriano's hitting, in particular, is a giant joke, since he stands at the plate like he's in line at the DMV. A GIF of his "hitting" while rehabbing in the minors last year justifiably became a small internet sensation. Mostly, it's hilarious, because a pitcher isn't likely to get a hit anyway and because Liriano's pitching more than made up for the value he lost at the plate. Also, Liriano probably feels like he's being paid to pitch, and that, therefore, going through the motions of trying to hit is a ridiculous waste of time. I can sympathize.

Still, the Pirates' miserable hitting is costing them runs, and wins. Over the course of a season, terrible plate appearances add up. I'm not sure what can be done about it. Obviously, pitchers' hitting ability is, at best, an extremely minor consideration when deciding who to acquire, and the guys they have probably mostly are who they are. If someone could convince Liriano, in particular, to take his plate appearances seriously, though, it might behoove them to do so. And maybe Clint Hurdle could create a little competition among the pitchers to encourage them to stay interested -- anyone who can get more hits than Cole next year gets some sort of bragging rights, say. That's a pretty grade-school motivating tactic, I know, but that's why Hurdle is the manager and I'm not.

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