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May Numbers

Friday’s loss was the 54th game of the season for the Pirates, meaning that the season is one-third over. So what better way to celebrate that mark than looking at the sabermetrics stats of the past month and change?

So get ready to pull up your baseball reference of choice and delve into the rabbit hole of advanced statistics: these are the big takeaways from the first third of the season.

1. There is no question Francisco Liriano has struggled throughout the first third of the season. He’s walking batters at a career worst rate (13.5 percent of plate appearances), forcing him to throw his fastball more (from 41.3 percent in 2013 to 54.3 percent this year). That fastball is also 8.1 runs below the league average according to Fangraphs. Throwing less sliders has lead to fewer chases, as batters only go after 25.4 percent of his pitches that are out of the zone compared to 32.4 percent in 2015.

2. In case you haven’t noticed, Gregory Polanco has been tearing it up at the dish, boasting a .308/.382/.559 line with 9 home runs and a 152 wRC+. For comparison, Andrew McCutchen had a .317/.404/.508 line, 21 home runs and a 156 wRC+ in his MVP season in 2013. Polanco also matched his career high in homers Saturday in just 55 games.

3. It seems like the move from Juan Nicasio to Jameson Taillon in the rotation is no longer an “if” but a “when.” Moving to the bullpen may be good for Nicasio, who posted a career best ERA and FIP out of the Dodgers’ ‘pen a year ago. His troubles this year have come against lefties, who are hitting .317 with a .953 OPS against him compared to just .208 and .633 against righties. Getting him out of games earlier may benefit as well, as he’s held batters to a .261 average through his first 15 pitches, but that number jumps to .305 with an .896 OPS on pitches 31-45.

4. Starling Marte is leading the Pirates’ with a .327 average, thanks in part to his .410 batted ball in play average. That BABIP ranked fourth in the majors coming into play Saturday, tailing only Jonathan Villar, MLB average leader Daniel Murphy and Mark Reynolds. David Freese is sixth with a .389 mark.

5. Jung-Ho Kang has been everything the Pirates’ offense has needed and more. 14 of his 21 hits through his first 86 plate appearances have been for extra bases (eight home runs, six doubles). That has lead to a video game-esq. .395 isolated power mark. Bryce Harper lead the league in that category in 2015 with a .319 figure.

6. Matt Joyce hit his fourth pinch-hit home run of the season Saturday, which tied him with Mark Johnson for the second most in club history. Johnson hit four in 1996, and Craig Wilson has the franchise record with seven in 2001. Joyce has a .516 OBP as a pinch-hitter through 31 appearances with 13 RBI. Willie Stargell holds the club’s RBI record off the bench with 16 in 1982.

7. After a disastrous April, Jeff Locke had a very solid May. He held batters to a .203 average in May and cut down on the walks, only issuing nine free passes in his six starts. He’s only walked one in his last three outings (22.1 innings), but he’s only struck out four in that time. His success of late has come despite seeing his groundball percentage go from 63.9 percent in April to 44.1 percent in May.

8. Francisco Cervelli struggled in May, only hitting .198 while seeing his walk total drop from 16 in April to eight. May was Cervelli’s best month in 2015, hitting .377. Still, despite hitting only .256 with no home runs, his wRC+ is still 93, which is only a little below the league average.

9. Mark Melancon has the second best save percentage among closers, converting 17 of his 18 opportunities (94.4 percent). He’s done this despite seeing his K/9 rate go from 7.28 to 6.17 and his ground ball percentage fall from 57.5 percent to 40.5. His ERA is at a very solid 1.93, but his xFIP stands at 4.39, which would be his worst total since his rookie season.

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