The one constantly positive thing that is refreshing about the Pittsburgh Pirates that is Manager Clint Hurdle.
Hurdle embraces the dumpster diving tendencies of the franchise – their lack of budget for player talent and their never ending list of reclamation projects.
In turn, the franchise allows Hurdle room to pursue his visionary tendencies to at least think about doing everything differently.
Enter Andrew McCutchen. The Pirates uber star and biggest bat.
Last year, McCutchen hit third in the Pirates lineup. Not surprisingly, 158 times that he came up to bat the bases were empty (second in the majors).
For Hurdle and the rest of the management staff, it raised a tantalizing question:
What if McCutchen batted second instead?
Here is what Hurdle had to say about the possibility to Jayson Stark of ESPN:
"“It’s about lineup construction, and the number of at-bats you get, and the weight that you put on the outs you make in those different spots,” Hurdle said. “It’s still an optimum place to hit, but it’s weighted differently now. When you look at it, most of the models that are put together are based on on-base production (from) guys at the top three out of four spots. So you still want a guy (hitting third) who can swing the bat and do some things. But it’s not the same, because the highest percentage of the time, they go up with two outs and nobody on.”"
Whether it comes to pass or not, we’ll only need to wait and see. But it does serve to remind us of one great fact. Hurdle is playing to win and continuously thinking about things in a different way than most of the competition. It’s good for the Pirates. It’s good for fans.
It’s just too bad General Manager Neal Huntington couldn’t convince owner Bob Nutting that there is more to winning than Hurdle’s visionary tactics and Ray Searage’s repeated reclamation successes. This team needed to pony up for some new starting pitchers.