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5 Statcast storylines for '17 Pirates

March 31, 2017

As the 2017 season begins, so does the third season of Statcast™, the state-of-the-art technology that has tracked every play in every Major League ballpark since Opening Day 2015. And with two full seasons of data now collected, plus advances in applying that data, Statcast™ is better than ever. New

As the 2017 season begins, so does the third season of Statcast™, the state-of-the-art technology that has tracked every play in every Major League ballpark since Opening Day 2015. And with two full seasons of data now collected, plus advances in applying that data, Statcast™ is better than ever. New metrics, such as Catch Probability and Hit Probability, will provide a deeper layer of analysis and further our understanding of the game.
With that in mind, here are five Statcast™ facts to know about the Pirates heading into the 2017 season.
1. Can Cutch improve in the corner?
Andrew McCutchen will play right field this season after a rough 2016 in center. Last season, the Pirates played McCutchen shallow to try to take advantage of their pitching staff's batted-ball tendencies -- his average starting depth, 307 feet from home plate per Statcast™, was as shallow as that of any regular center fielder. The move didn't pay off. McCutchen's -23.2 Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games was the worst among qualified outfielders, as was his -28 Defensive Runs Saved. But sometimes a change of scenery is all it takes.

CF with shallowest average starting depths, 2016 (min. 9,000 pitches in CF)

  1. Adam Jones: 307 feet
    2. Andrew McCutchen -- 307 feet
  2. Ben Revere: 307 feet
  3. Denard Span: 307 feet
  4. Billy Burns: 309 feet
    *Deepest: Ian Desmond (329 feet)
    2. Can Gerrit Cole reclaim his dominance?
    Cole, who is slated to start Opening Day, was limited to just 116 innings in 2016 due to injury, mainly right elbow inflammation. But his dominant 2015 campaign isn't far in the past. Just two years ago, Cole was blowing hitters away en route to a fourth-place National League Cy Young finish. The right-hander's fastball averaged 95.9 mph, according to Statcast™, the fourth-hardest of any pitcher to throw 1,000 or more four-seamers.
    Highest average four-seam fastball velocity, 2015 (min. 1,000 four-seamers)
  5. Nathan Eovaldi: 97.3 mph
  6. Matt Harvey: 96.2 mph
  7. Kevin Gausman: 96.1 mph
    4. Gerrit Cole -- 95.9 mph
  8. Chris Archer: 95.8 mph
    3. Starling's sterling arm
    Starling Marte, who will take over for McCutchen in center field, has as strong an outfield arm as they come. According to Statcast™, Marte's average arm strength on "competitive throws" (throws at his 90th percentile or higher) was 97 mph, second-highest of any outfielder with at least 10 tracked throws. That helped him record 17 outfield assists last year, second-most in the Majors -- one behind Adam Eaton -- including two on 100-plus mph throws to nail runners at the plate. Time to see what he can do as an everyday center fielder in 2017.

Highest average OF arm strength on competitive throws, 2016 (min. 10 throws)

  1. Aaron Hicks: 99.4 mph
    2. Starling Marte -- 97 mph
  2. Danny Santana: 96.8 mph
  3. Carlos Gomez: 95.8 mph
  4. Jake Marisnick: 95.7 mph
    4. Gregory Polanco's newfound power
    Polanco hit a career-high 22 home runs last season, more than double his nine from 2015. The key was better production on his barreled balls. Barrels have an expected batting average of at least .500 and expected slugging percentage of at least 1.500, but the MLB average on all barrels in the Statcast™ Era (2015-16) is actually much higher: .816 average, 2.824 slugging. In 2015, though, Polanco fell on the very low end. His 19 barrels resulted in "just" a .579 average, second-lowest of any player with that many barrels, and a 2.000 slugging, the lowest of any player with that many barrels. In 2016, the script flipped: On Polanco's 22 barrels, he hit a perfect 1.000 -- one of only four players with 20-plus barrels to do so -- with a 3.227 slugging.

Lowest BA on barreled balls, 2015 (min. 15 barrels)

  1. Logan Morrison: .565 (13-for-23)
    2. Gregory Polanco -- .579 (11-for-19)
  2. David LaRoche: .591 (13-for-22)
  3. Jason Kipnis: .600 (10-for-15)
  4. Stephen Piscotty: .625 (10-for-16)
    5. Cervelli, ready for anything
    Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli has an interesting claim to Statcast™ fame: In the Statcast™ ERA, no one has gotten a hit on a faster pitch than Cervelli did on Aug. 31 of last season. Facing Albertin Chapman in the ninth inning, Cervelli lined an RBI single to right field… on a 104.2 mph fastball. He's the only Major Leaguer to get a hit off of a Statcast-tracked 104 mph pitch.
    Fastest pitches to go for hits, 2015-16
    1. Francisco Cervelli -- 104.2 mph (8/31/16)
  5. Stephen Vogt: 103.9 mph (8/7/16)
  6. Bryce Harper: 103.2 mph (5/29/15)
  7. Adeiny Hechavarria: 102.8 mph (7/10/15)
  8. Sean Rodriguez: 102.6 mph (8/1/15)
    *All five were singles off Chapman.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.