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Bucco brunch: How bad have the Pirates’ pitchers been as hitters?

Pittsburgh Pirates v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Every time I see Ivan Nova do whatever it is he does when he approaches home plate with a wooden object, I wonder if the Pirates’ pitchers have really been as bad at hitting as I think they have. Then it occurred to me how easy it is to check this at FanGraphs. So I did. It turns out, they’re incredibly bad. Worse, in fact, than the pitchers of any other NL team during Neal Huntington’s tenure. (For everything that follows, I ignored Houston, which left the NL after 2012. The Astros’ pitchers, though, haven’t been as bad as the Pirates’.)

Since 2008, which was Huntington’s first season as general manager, the Pirates have gotten the worst hitting from their pitchers of any NL team. They rank dead last in OPS, wRC+ and wOBA, as well as (non-pitching) fWAR, which includes baserunning and fielding as well as hitting.

Here’s the Pirates’ pitchers’ year-by-year rank in wRC+, which is first, and fWAR. Again, this excludes Houston, so it’s out of 15 teams.

2008: 11/11
2009: 15/15
2010: 14/13
2011: 15/15
2012: 14/14
2013: 15/15
2014: 11/12
2015: 13/12
2016: 8/7
2017: 10/10
2018: 13/13

(The uncharacteristic showing in 2016 came thanks to Babe Liriano and Gerrit Cole.)

Nova has certainly done his part. Of all pitchers getting 20 more plate appearances in 2017-18, he easily ranks last in fWAR and wRC+, the latter with an appropriately well rounded -100. In raw numbers the last two years he’s 2-for-104 (.019), both singles, with 61 strikeouts and no walks.

Just for the heck of it, here’s how the Pirates stack up in the NL (again excluding Houston) at other positions since 2008 in wRC+/fWAR:

C: 6/8
1B: 13/13
2B: 10/13
3B: 9/11
SS: 14/14
LF: 5/7
CF: 1/2
RF: 14/15

One thing that really stuck out and that I wasn’t looking for: As a team, from 2008-18, the Pirates rank dead last in the NL in both baserunning and defensive runs above average, according to FG’s measures.