Change: Clint Hurdle’s Best Trait


Pirate manager Clint Hurdle possesses a lot of traits that I admire. Due to these traits, I have grown to become a huge Clint Hurdle fan during his five-year tenure as manager in Pittsburgh. Hurdle is a great leader, a player’s manager, and he brings a fiery passion and winning attitude that this franchise was dearly lacking before his hire.

However, the trait of Hurdle’s I admire most is his willingness to change. Prior to the 2013 season Clint Hurdle was very much so anti-analytics and sabermetrics with an old school outlook on baseball. That all changed in the 2013 season though when Hurdle changed his ways, embraced sabermetrics, analytics, and change, and the Pirates have taken off ever since.

As Travis Sawchick outlines in his best-selling book Big Data Baseball, seriously if you have not read this book you’re doing yourself a disservice, the Pirates completely overhauled how they play defense in the 2013 season. Hurdle began to use the analytics that men such as Dan Fox were giving him, and the shift began. Since the start of the 2013 season, the Pirates have shifted more than all but five Major League Baseball teams.

And there is no denying the shifting has worked. There have been countless times in recent years an opposing player hit a ball that seemed like a sure fire base hit, but a Pirate defender would be right there waiting for it. This includes both groundballs and fly balls.

Hurdle has also gotten 100% on board with the idea of changing your lineup depending on if the Pirates are facing a right handed or left handed pitcher. The various first base platoons the past few seasons, the way he platooned Neil Walker and Josh Harrison down the stretch at second base last year, or shuffling hitters in the lineup depending on the starting pitcher once again this was Hurdle changing in accordance with analytics.

The past week or so Hurdle has shown his willingness to change yet again. Andrew McCutchen has batted second, not his traditional third, his past four games. Traditionally teams have always bat their best hitter third, but this is not where they should be hitting. The sabermetrics and advance stats indicate that a team’s best hitter should bat second, and it looks like that is what McCutchen will do this season.

By batting second, McCutchen will get an extra 15-20 at bats this season. Doesn’t that alone sound very enticing? Also, last season no hitter in the National League came to the plate with two outs and no one on base more often than McCutchen. By batting McCutchen second, him coming up with two outs and no one on base in the first inning is immediately eliminated. Say Cutch comes to the plate with no one on base and puts a double in the gap, he is a lot more likely to score if he does this with one out instead of two.

Since taking over as Pirate manager prior to the 2011 season, Clint Hurdle has done a lot of great things. He guided the Bucs to their first winning season in 20 years in 2013, he’s guided them to three consecutive postseason births, he was 2013 National League Manager of the Year, and he’s restored a winning attitude in Pittsburgh.

However, the one thing Hurdle has done during his time in Pittsburgh that is the greatest is change. Hurdle has changed the way he manages and thinks by incorporating analytics every time he has had the chance. And in turn has changed the Pittsburgh Pirates back into winners.