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Pregame: Bucs prepare to host "Wacha, Wacha" and the Cards

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Rodriguez update

Wandy Rodriguez felt fine and in a "good place" physically after his rehab start on Tuesday, Clint Hurdle said this afternoon.

He and Jason Grilli both threw bullpen sessions today. Hurdle did not have a report on how those sessions went.

Suspensions for Snider and Martin upheld

Major League Baseball upheld suspensions for both Travis Snider and Russell Martin today. I have more on the suspensions and their relationship to Brent Morel's promotion here. The short of it is that the Pirates will play the first two games of the series against right-handed starters, without a left-handed outfielder. Hurdle would not reveal whether the team found out about the suspensions before promoting Morel.

"I take full responsibility for my actions," Snider said today. "I do not think a two-game suspension is unfair."

Snider said that the reason he appealed was because he felt the punishments handed out to other players involved in the incident were not proportionate to their crimes.

"The reason I appealed my suspension was based on a comparison of the other fines that were handed out for other people involved," Snider said. "When you compare the number of punches thrown and using a helmet, it's kind of just unfair."

Marte to remain where he is ... for now

Hurdle said that he likes the lefty-righty-lefty combination that Marte provides in the fifth spot. As long as the team continues to get production from the top of the order, it seems likely he will stay where he is.

With Snider's suspension, Jose Tabata will bat leadoff and play right field tonight.

Hitting approach update

On April 9, we looked at the Pirates early season approach at the plate. At that point, an improved approach was noticeable. Then, a perfect storm of slumps ruined the Pirates' offense, and the team spun into a 4-15 slide. The offense and the team have slowly bounced back during the recent homestand.

It's been 30 days since the original post, so here is a quick update.

Hurdle emphasized three aspects of approach during the first homestand of the season:

  1. Plate discipline: i.e. not swinging at pitches out of the strike zone.
  2. Hitting the curveball: Hurdle said they "lit up" the pitching machine during spring training, taking "more reps than we've ever done before; more swings than we've ever done before [against the curveball]."
  3. Driving the ball to all fields: a skill of added importance with more teams aggressively employing defensive shifts.

Plate Discipline update:

On April 9, the Pirates had an outside-the-zone swing rate (O-Swing%) of 26.5 percent, 5th lowest in MLB (28.8 League average). Over the past 30 days, their O-Swing% is 30.4 percent, a jump of 3.9 percent. For the season, they stand at 29.5 percent (league average, 29), 13th lowest in Major League Baseball.

Hitting the Curveball update:
Last season the Pirates were 13.6 runs below average against the curveball. On April 9, they were 2.9 runs above average. Over the last 30 days, they have tacked on 2.6 more runs above average. For the season they have added 5.6 runs, sixth best in Major League Baseball.

Hitting to all fields:
April 9th distribution of batting balls / May 9th distribution / League average
(All numbers are percentages)
Pulled: 24.4 / 27.8 / 27.8
Middle: 61.1 / 55.5 / 54.7
Opposite: 14.5 / 16.5 / 17.4

The Pirates are pulling and hitting the ball to the opposite field more more (3.4 percent pull increase, 2 percent opposite field increase), and hitting up the middle less (5.6 percent decrease). For the season, they continue to hit to the opposite field less than league average (-0.9 percent) and up the middle slightly more (0.8 percent).

The overall hitting approach took a step back when it comes to swinging at pitches out of the zone. They continue to hit the curveball noticeably better than last season, and their batted ball distribution is about league average.

(Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Reference)

"Wacha, Wacha"

Apparently, when Michael Wacha pitches, Cardinals' fans like to chant "Wacha, Wacha" in a cadence similar to that of Fozzie Bear's catchphrase "Waka, Waka." I tell you this only so that you can enjoy this video in which Wacha uncomfortably participates in his own "Wacha, Wacha" impression.