Pirates notebook: Shifts, speedy outfield make defense elite
CINCINNATI – The Pirates successfully have worked around a number of injuries to starting pitchers, in large part because of their defense. No team has converted more batted balls into outs than the Pirates.
They entered Thursday's series finale at Cincinnati with the best baseball defensive efficiency in baseball. The Pirates have converted an MLB-best 73.1 percent of opponents' batted balls into outs. The major league average is 70.7 percent.
The Pirates, who have used 11 starting pitchers this season, have fielded the most efficient defense despite being without projected Gold Glove winners in the infield.
Manager Clint Hurdle credits some of the success to the team's increased use of defensive shifts, created from analytical scouting reports. The Pirates have increased their use of shifts this season.
“To think a book is the answer? No. Part of the answer? Absolutely,” said Hurdle of the team's advanced defensive scouting reports. “You still have to have people who can catch the ball and make plays. There were plays made (Wednesday) that the book didn't have. But there are plays we make because of our analysis and our strategic defensive systems.”
Among the plays the book didn't have was Jordy Mercer's throw from deep in the hole to get Zack Cozart at first on Tuesday, and Starling Marte's diving catch in the series opener Monday on a Brandon Phillips fly ball, which saved a run.
The book helps the Pirates, but so does having Andrew McCutchen in center field and the speedy Marte in left.
Pirates add pitching depth
The Pirates recalled reliever Duke Welker from Indianapolis and sent outfielder Alex Presley back to Triple-A. The Pirates sought an extra arm for their upcoming West Coast trip and to take some of the burden off their bullpen. Welker is 3-1 with three saves and a 2.78 ERA in Triple-A. He has 34 strikeouts and 20 walks in 35 2⁄3 innings.
Pirates, 1st pick negotiating
Grayson (Ga.) High outfielder Austin Meadows said Thursday he has not yet reached a contract agreement with the Pirates but that “we are still negotiating.”
Meadows was selected ninth overall in the draft. The Pirates signed their second first-round pick, Reese McGuire, on Tuesday.
Burnett provides brief update
A.J. Burnett said he was “doing great” when asked Thursday about his strained calf.
Burnett was placed on the 15-day disabled list last week. He has not been seen in a walking boot for several days and walked away from his brief interview Thursday without much of a limp.
Hurdle said on Wednesday Burnett had been “nowhere” near a mound.
Gomez nearing return
Jeanmar Gomez threw five innings of no-hit, shutout baseball Wednesday for Triple-A Indianapolis. Hurdle said Gomez probably does not need another rehab assignment before rejoining the Pirates. Gomez threw his sinker at 88-93 mph and threw his 26 of his 33 fastballs for strikes.
“He could very well be close to being back in the mix,” Hurdle said.
Hurdle declined to answer when asked if Thursday's start for Brandon Cumpton is expected to be the last for the rookie call-up. The Pirates are in search of pitching depth as they enter the road trip without 80 percent of their Opening Day rotation.
Since making an adjustment to slow down his approach and let pitches travel further, Marte has gone 13 for his last 41. He's also stolen seven bases in that period.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Lincoln tries to rejuvenate career in second stint with Pirates
- Pirates willing to consider high salary to keep star McCutchen
- Pirates notebook: Mercer gains celebrity in Kang’s home country
- Pirates notebook: Nutting expects club to win division title
- Pirates looking at ways to make McCutchen’s off days more productive
- Team interaction important to Pirates veteran pitcher Burnett
- Pirates’ Alvarez eager to prove he can play first, regain power stroke