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The Pittsburgh Pirates in Week 5

Justin K. Aller

Week 5 was the second worst week of season so far for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They played six games and posted a 2-4 record. In Week 1, they went 1-5.

In Week 1 the problem was the offense: the Bucs averaged 1.33 RS/G, while only allowing 2.67. In Week 5 the problem was run prevention: the Piraets allowed 6.33 a game, while scoring an above-NL-average 4.5 per game.

Here are the updated runs scored / run prevention tables.

Run Scoring

(Click on images to enlarge)


For the week the Pirates averaged 4.5 RS/G (blue line). This raised their season RS/G to 4.03 (red line). Their run scoring is now only -.13 below National League average (gap between red line and purple line). They are currently 1.16 RS/G above their 2012 pace (gap between red line and green line).

Run Prevention


The Pirates allowed 6.33 runs per game this week (blue line). This raised their season RA/G to 4.06 (red line). Their run prevention is now .26 RA/G over 90 percent of league average (gap between red line and purple line). They are currently .38 RA/G over their 2012 pace (gap between red line and green line).

(An explanation of why we are tracking the offense to league average and run prevention to 90 percent of league average is here. All league averages exclude the Pirates.)

Win Probability Added

As measured by the statistic Win Probability Added, this week the starting pitchers cost the team -1.05 wins below average, the bullpen -.5 wins. The offense added .56 wins. (Interpretation: If you add all the WPAs together you get -1.0 wins below average. An average team would go 3-3. So, one win below average is equal to 2 wins, or 2-4 record for the week. WPA explained.)

In Week 5, the starting pitchers were most to blame for two of the losses, the bullpen for one loss, and the offense one loss. The table below shows this week’s WPA scores for each game played:


For the season the distribution of credit and blame for wins and losses breakdowns as follows:


The bullpen earned its first "most blame for a loss" this week. Overall, it still is largely responsible for the Pirates' above-.500 record, as it has a 5 to 1 ratio when it comes to most credit for win/losses. Overall, the offense and bullpen continue to maintain a nice net positive/negative contribution ratio (18 positive WPA contributions to 13 negatives for the offense; 21 to 10 for the bullpen), while the starting pitching continues to have more negative WPA contributions than positive (14 positive, 17 negative).

For the season, all three facets of the team have contributed positive WPAs in a game ten times (i.e. team wins). In five games the starting pitching, bullpen and offense have all had negative contributions (i.e. team losses).

(An explanation of WPA and this analysis here.)

Bullpen Usage

The poor performance of bullpen this week has led to much discussion of Clint Hurdle's bullpen management. In particular, his insistence on relegating Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli to defined roles, rather than using them when high leverage situations present themselves, is becoming a source of frustration for Pirates fans. In the tables below, I have attempted to help us visualize nature of problem.

Now, I should say ahead of time that this type of analysis isn't perfect. It doesn't take into account whether Melancon and Grilli were rested enough to be used in high leverage situations. However, in some cases, the fact that they were not rested IS the problem. That is, in a few instances they were used in exceedingly low leverage situations, which then made them unavailable for high leverage situations the next day. In any case, here is the data.

The Y-axis is the entering leverage that each reliever faced. The X-Axis is the game number. The shaded lines are Melancon (burnt orange) and Grilli (light blue).


In nine games either Melancon or Grilli, or both, had the highest entering leverage (I excluded games in which the entering leverage was miniscule, i.e. blowouts).

The table below shows the trend lines based on the data above. What they show is the stable, but somewhat declining, entering leverages of both Melancon and Grilli. Moreover, they show the declining usage of Jared Hughes (green line) and Tony Watson (grey line) in high leverage situations, and the increasing usage of Justin Wilson (yellow line) and Bryan Morris (bright blue line).


Again, bullpen management is much more complex than just responding to leverage. High leverage situations may arise quickly in the middle of an inning. A manager, not anticipating the trouble, may already have a middle relief pitcher warming up (especially if it is only the sixth or seventh inning) and, therefore, be forced to use the middle reliever instead of going with his best his option.

However, there have been enough questionable moves made by Clint Hurdle this year to make bullpen usage a valid concern. By limiting Melancon to and Grilli to defined roles, the Pirates' manager too often does not use them correctly or finds himself in situations where they are unavailable.


That is it for now. Enjoy the games this week as the Pirates play two games at home against the Mariners before hitting the road for four against the Mets.Consider following me on Twitter @DavidManel and Bucs Dugout @Bucsdugout

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