Pittsburgh Pirates Series Preview

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Amazing how quickly things can change.  When the Pirates and Reds met last month, they were in the thick of the NL Central race.  Now, they are 14 games behind the Brewers, and 1.5 games behind the third place Reds.  Based on my profile of them at the time, something like this isn't that surprising.  That said, I didn't expect them to fall apart as quickly and triumphantly (wrong word..what's the opposite of triumphant?) as they did.  

The profile of them as a team isn't much different than it was last time.  They can't hit.  While they did make changes to improve their team by acquiring Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick, Lee is now injured and their team wRC+ has actually fallen since our last encounter.  Their fielding numbers have also all declined over the past month.  It's to the point that I guess we'd peg them as around average compared to the above-average numbers we saw last year.

At the same time, their more volatile pitching numbers like ERA- have gone up for both the rotation and starting pitching, though xFIP- has been pretty stable in each case.  Interestingly, the Reds' ERA- has improved by 7 points in the past month: the rotation hasn't been great, but has been better of late than it was earlier in the season.

Park Factors for PNC Park (LHB/RHB)

via statcorner.com

wOBA: 100/98
HR: 99/73

PNC Park has been an absolutely brutal place for right-handed power hitters, at least in terms of home run numbers.  The alley in left field is very deep.  Overall, the park plays pretty neutral.

Position Players

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Per request, we now have PA's!  I had to scrunch things up a bit more, but I think it still reads ok.

How badly does this team need an effective Pedro Alvarez, eh?  He's in AAA, and mashing, but has been dreadful when with the big league club.  At a certain point, though, don't you have to just let the guy play?  The season's over anyway, in terms of making the playoffs.  Andrew McCutchen has slowed a bit, but his season is still spectacular.  He's 7th in the league in fWAR.  Tabata is interesting, mostly because I didn't expect the kid to hit.  He hits enough, and as a corner outfielder he covers lots of ground (though his fielding numbers don't support that).

Probable Starters

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The Reds' starter is official TBA right now, but I think it's Mike Leake's turn, so I penciled him in.  I'm a little out of it, but I haven't heard of a reason that he wouldn't pitch, aside from an uninspiring start earlier this week.  I'm hoping for a rebound performance from Dontrelle Willis.  I'm a bit concerned that he's not taking off a turn after his appearance last week, but I'm trusting the Reds here.  If he pitches well in his next few outings, I think we have to start asking whether the Reds should re-sign this guy for next year...and how much money that would take.

Kevin Correia's a pretty "meh" pitcher, especially outside of PETCO.  The most interesting Pirates pitcher continues to be Charlie Morton, who is just a ground ball machine.  I really didn't think he'd be able to do this all year, but his sinker keeps working for him.  James McDonald is also turning in a decent year in the rotation.  If he could just get those walks under control, he might be a pretty interesting pitcher.

Bullpens

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Goodness Joel Hanrahan has been a beast.  His strikeout numbers are good though not dazzling, but he never walks anyone and gets tons of ground balls.  2.36 SIERA!  I also continue to like Chris Resop, who has posted great strikeout totals and a sparkly SIERA this year out of the bullpen.  

Also worth noting: Aroldis Chapman has his SIERA and xFIP almost below 3.00 for the first time this season.  That, and Sam LeCure's performance, are the biggest positives in the Reds' pen.

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