Did the Pittsburgh Pirates make a mistake in extending their manager when they did?
For the past seven seasons Clint Hurdle has been the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In those seven years Hurdle has done a lot of great things for the Pirate franchise. However, the past two seasons have not gone well.
Clint Hurdle owns a 589-549-1 record in seven seasons as Pirate manager. This includes leading the Pirates to ending their streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons in 2013, as well as a trio of postseason berths. In the postseason, however, he owns just a 3-5 record with the Pirates and he has not won a postseason series.
The impact Clint Hurdle has made as a Pirate manager goes deeper than just wins and losses. When he came to Pittsburgh in 2011 the Pirates had not had a winning season or made the postseason since 1992. Quickly, he helped to reform the bond between the city of Pittsburgh and the Pirates by having the team in contention deep into the summer months in 2011 and 2012 before breaking through in 2013.
Also, he helped move the Pirates forward in the area of analytics and advanced stats. It was the work of people like Neal Huntington and Dan Fox that helped the Pirates become such an analytically driven team in the front office. But make no mistake about it, if not for Hurdle and his coaching staff adopting and embracing these stats many of the on-field changes that have led to recent Pirate success would never have happened.
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Despite all of the good Clint Hurdle has done in Pittsburgh, it might be time for a change.
After making the postseason in three consecutive seasons, the Pirates went just 78-83 in 2016. The team then took another step backward in 2017 by finishing 75-87. Many times throughout the past two seasons, especially in 2017, Hurdle made mind-boggling pitching decisions and seemed worn out during games.
Also, for as far as Hurdle has come with moving away from the old school way of managing, he still sticks to some old habits too much. Far too often Hurdle manages to try and get a starting pitcher a win or he will manage to the save, both of which have cost the Pirates many games during his tenure in Pittsburgh.
Prior to signing his four-year contract extension, Hurdle had a club option for the 2018 season. Had the Pirates picked up this option for 2018 it would not have been a bad move. While many people, myself included, thought it may have been time for a managerial change after 2017 there were still plenty of reasons to give Hurdle another season at the helm.
Not only has Hurdle proven he can win in Pittsburgh, the 2017 Pirates did not exactly have an easy season in terms of injuries and off the field issues. Jung Ho Kang missed the entire season after his offseason DUI, Starling Marte was suspended for 80 games, and Adam Frazier, David Freese, Francisco Cervelli, Gregory Polanco, Jameson Taillon, and Josh Harrison all had at least one stint on the disabled list.
The best course of action for the Pirates would have been to just pick up Hurdle’s 2018 option, and then use what happens in 2018 as a deciding factor in rather or not to extend him. At times during the 2016 and 2017 season things seemed to get stale for Hurdle and the Pirates, this is why jumping the gun with an extension last month was a mistake by the Pirates.
Did the Pittsburgh Pirates jump the gun in extending Clint Hurdle? Only time will tell. The best move, though, would have been to make Hurdle earn an extension in 2018 before giving him one this past September.