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June 9, 2010

Between The Numbers

A Pirate Looks At 14

by Colin Wyers

I've already written about Strasburg's debut, but it's something that's probably worth writing about at least twice, don't you think?

Since the performance absolutely failed to cool down the hype, it seems there are some people looking to pour water on it on their own. One of the things you hear on occasion today is, "Well, it was just the Pirates."

Okay.

So far this season, the Pirates have maintained a .192 strikeout per PA rate. That's just barely above the league average of .187. That's, um, an extra strikeout every 200 plate appearances. (If you remove their showing against Strasburg, the Pirates had a strikeout rate of... .188.) The Pirates' problem on offense isn't their inability to make contact so much as it is their inability to make good contact.

And in 24 PAs, what are the odds of the Pirates putting up 14 strikeouts against a league average pitcher?

One in a million.

No, I'm serious, I did the math. The Pirates' strikeout per PA in last night's game was 4.875 standard deviations above the team's average, looking simply at the standard deviation we'd expect from randomness. That works out to around a one in a million chance.

And do you know what's really fantastic? Normally when we talk about odd baseball occurrences that are 4-5 SDs above (or below) the mean, the issue at hand is cherry picking. You're looking at this game because you already knew the outcome was unusual.

But with this game - someone told you ahead of time to watch, didn't they? Someone told you this game was going to be special before it happened. And then it was.

Don't blame the Pirates, kids. That was truly an impressive pitching debut, against ANY team.

Colin Wyers is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Colin's other articles. You can contact Colin by clicking here

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