2013 NLDS Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Andrew McCutchen
April 16 2013 Pittsburgh PA USA Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen 22 prepares to bat while in the on deck circle against the St Louis Cardinals during the first inning at PNC Park Charles LeClaire USA TODAY Sports

We continue our look at the 2013 Major League Baseball playoff matchups and focus our attention on the upcoming Division Series. First up are the Pittsburgh Pirates vs. the St. Louis Cardinals–from a statistical point-of-view

 

OFFENSE

Team

BB%

K%

ISO

OPS

wOBA

BABIP

UBR

wSB

wRAA

Pirates

7.6%

21.7%

0.151

0.709

0.311

0.294

4.4

-2.2

-15.2

Cardinals

7.8%

17.9%

0.133

0.733

0.322

0.314

3.9

-4.8

35.1

The Cards are the more patient team in this series and have the clear advantage when it comes to offensive efficiency and production. However, as one can see from the Isolated Power (ISO) stat, the Pirates can go yard at any moment’s notice (just ask Johnny Cueto). Their ISO is helped by possessing a higher FlyBall Percentage (FB%) and turning those flyballs into home runs (HR/FB%) at a higher rate than the Cards. It sounds a bit fluky, but it might prove to be the great equalizer the Pirates are looking for to keep up with the Cardinals’ more potent offense.

One thing worth pointing out is that manager Clint Hurdle, as we’ve mentioned before in August, has turned the Pirates into a hyper-hustling team. What they lack in offensive polish, they make up with total effort. They’re a slightly better baserunning team and Hurdle is not afraid to give his runners the green light. Furthermore, not shown on the table is the fact that the Pirates have the advantage in infield and bunting hit percentages.

Regardless of the Pirates’ hustle, as a collective, they’re too aggressive at the plate, possessing a higher Swinging Strike rate than the Cards. Meanwhile, St. Louis has a higher Line Drive Percentage, and makes better contact with the ball. Also worth noting, the Cardinals posted the best Clutch rating in the National League. Of course, the Pirates were dead last in the Clutch category.

ADVANTAGE: ST. LOUIS

FIELDING

It was very surprising to see the fielding numbers. The Cardinals do have the best catcher in baseball in Yadier Molina, but the Pirates backstops have also proven to keep runners in check.  Not that the Cardinals will be doing a lot of running so it will be interesting to see how Molina will keep the Pirates’ runners honest.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Molina does not play outfield. The Cardinals have the weakest arms in the outfield among NL teams. We had mentioned how the Pirates like to pillage the basepaths so it’s easy to imagine Hurdle and company salivating at this reality.

But the rest of the fielding stats come with mixed results. The Cardinals have the worst defensive range in the NL this season, but they’re better at turning double plays than the Pirates. And even though the Pirates have decent defensive range, they are also more error-prone than the Cardinals.

ADVANTAGE: EVEN

STARTING PITCHING

SP

K%

BB%

WHIP

BAA

ERA

ERA-

FIP

SIERA

BABIP

Pirates

20.8%

8.7%

1.27

0.238

3.50

96

3.46

3.77

0.293

Cardinals

19.6%

7.4%

1.25

0.245

3.42

94

3.45

3.87

0.294

The Bucs have the advantage over the Cardinals’ rotation in certain categories:

  • Higher Strikeout Percentage (K%)
  • Higher Swinging Strike Percentage
  • Lower Contact Percentage Against
  • Higher Ground Ball rate (GB%)
  • Lower Fly Ball rate

However, as we highlighted earlier, St. Louis’ batters are more patient and make better, overall contact. Also worth mentioning is that the Pirates, despite the lower FB%, are susceptible to the long ball (higher HR/FB%). The Cardinals, have better control of their walks and force more pop ups.

ADVANTAGE: CARDINALS

BULLPEN

Team

K%

BB%

WHIP

BAA

ERA

ERA-

FIP

SIERA

BABIP

Pirates

20.1%

7.8%

1.17

0.225

2.89

79

3.35

3.39

0.272

Cardinals

22.4%

7.4%

1.24

0.242

3.45

95

3.26

3.19

0.303

The Cardinals get a slight edge in K%, but the Pirates, helped by a decent defense behind them, don’t give up much in terms of base hits. Both teams have the lowest Line Drive Percentages (LD%) and HR/FB% among NL teams. The Pirates induce more grounders and pop ups, while the Cards have a higher FB%. Both teams’ bullpens are ranked first and second in the NL in Swing Percentage while Swinging Strike Rates are above 10.6%.

Safe to say that not much offensive damage will be done once the relievers come into the game.

ADVANTAGE: EVEN

It’s a lot closer than first anticipated, but based on our research, it would appear that the Cardinals are the favorites to win this series. Other intangibles that the Cardinals have over the Pirates is more depth, experience, home-field advantage, etc. Either way, based on the potential stalemates littered all over our study (i.e. Cards offense vs. Pirates pitching, Pirate base running vs Yadier Molina, etc), it should still prove to be a very intriguing series to watch.

All stats courtesy of fangraphs.com.

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