Loading... Please wait...

The Ray Searage Effect

Posted by

Since taking over as the Pirates pitching coach in August 2010, Ray Searage has demonstrated a unique ability to maximize pitcher effectiveness. Collectively, over the last five seasons, the Pirates have led the majors in soft hit percentage, groundball rate, and Batting Average on Grounders and Short Liners, and are second in two-seam fastball and sinker usage—all ingredients for sustainable success on the pitcher’s mound.

MLB Team Groundball Rate Leaders, 2011-2015
Team Two-seamers & Sinkers Usage Soft Hit Percentage
Pirates 29.3% 20.7%
Cardinals 29.7% 19.6%
Rockies 15.1% 18.1%
Dodgers 19.6% 19.7%
Padres 20.6% 18.6%
MLB Average 21.2% 19.1%
MLB Team Groundball Rate Leaders, 2011-2015
Team Groundball Rate Batting Average on Grounders & Short Liners
Pirates 49.1% .233
Cardinals 47.6% .254
Rockies 46.8% .251
Dodgers 46.7% .238
Padres 45.9% .250
MLB Average 44.8% .249

Playing to these strengths, Searage and the rest of their coaching staff have given the Pirates a reputation as being one of the league’s most desired destinations for reclamation-project pitchers. Marrying Searage’s proven pitching philosophy with the team’s willingness to apply defensive shifts has allowed previously ineffective pitchers to flourish in the Steel City.

The results for pitchers under Searage’s guidance shouldn’t come as much of a surprise though. Two-seamers and sinkers tend to induce more groundballs than four-seamers and cutters due to their sinking-tailing action. Groundballs are most often converted into outs compared to flyballs and line drives, and far fewer of them end up as extra-base hits. And with the Pirates willingness to shift, there’s no surprise in the team’s ability to defend grounders and short liners well. But to fully understand the magnitude of Searage’s influence, let’s compare how pitchers' tendencies and performance changed after joining the Pirates. Since Searage took the reins towards the end of the 2010 season, the Pirates have acquired 10 starting pitchers during the winter months, including A.J. Burnett signing with Pittsburgh in 2012 and 2015 after stints with other clubs.

Starting Pitcher Performance after Joining the Pirates in the Off-Season, 2011-2015
Situation Two-seamers & Sinkers Usage Soft Hit Percentage
Before Searage 35.9% 17.8%
After Searage 38.6% 18.8%
Difference +2.7% +1.0%
Starting Pitcher Performance after Joining the Pirates in the Off-Season, 2011-2015
Situation Groundball Rate Batting Average on Grounders & Short Liners
Before Searage 47.5% .245
After Searage 51.0% .236
Difference +3.5% -.009

Using a weighted-averages approach, as a unit the 10 starters saw an improvement in all four categories after coming to Pittsburgh. Two-seam fastball and sinker usage increased by 2.7 percent. Opponent soft hit percentage increased by one percentage point. Groundball rate rose by nearly four percent under Searage’s direction. And, as most would probably expect, the Pirates newcomers performed 9 points better in batting average against grounders and short liners. With new off-season acquisitions Jon Niese and Ryan Vogelsong seeking a pitching resurgence themselves, it wouldn’t be a surprise to many if they found success under Searage’s guidance in Pittsburgh.


Sign up to our newsletter

Pages

Recent Updates