Pirates' all-fields approach showing results
In spring training, Pirates first-year hitting coach Jeff Branson and manager Clint Hurdle preached a renewed commitment to an all-fields hitting approach.
They hoped such an approach would cut the club's strikeout totals and improve the Pirates against off-speed pitches. The last 2013 memories of the Pirates' bats were of them whiffing against Adam Wainwright curveballs and Michael Wacha changeups in the National League Division Series. The Pirates ranked in the bottom 10 percent of baseball against the curveball and changeup last season.
The first-half returns of the all-fields philosophy? They are mostly encouraging.
The Pirates ranked second in baseball in on-base percentage (.332) and tied for ninth in batting average (.257) entering Saturday's game against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park. The Pirates were 17th in baseball on-base percentage in 2013 (.313) and 22nd in batting average (.245) last season under Jay Bell. Part of the improvement is tied to the Pirates using better the whole field, as their batted balls to the opposite field have increased this season.
The Pirates have become more effective against off-speed pitches after Hurdle felt the club was too pull happy, too often trying to jump on fastballs last season.
“The best swing you'll find is on that pitch that is down and away, that perfectly hit ball down and away. It puts you in position to hit every other pitch,” Hurdle said. “It's just kind of the way the game of hitting works. Everything is predicated off a line drive to center field. … In (using the whole field) you're building more consistency in the long run.”
The Pirates have traded some power for on-base percentage gains. This is particularly true for lefties at PNC Park, where there is a deep left field.
For example, the number of pulled balls Pedro Alvarez has put in play has fallen from 41 percent last season to 37 percent this year. His strikeouts have dropped, but so has his power production. Alvarez tied for the league lead with 36 homers last season but is on pace to fall below 30 homers in 2014. The Pirates' home run production and slugging percentage is down slightly this season.
“I don't think there is a tradeoff because if you are being pitched away, it doesn't make a lot of sense to create a swing and get out over the plate and yank balls,” said Hurdle of trading power for on-base percentage. “One thing here about going to the opposite field is there are some rewards, not so much in home runs, but there is gap power. There are doubles. There are triples.”
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.
- Increasing player salaries pinch financial flexibility of Pirates
- Baseball America names Pirates as organization of the year
- Pirates sign free agent 1B-OF Goebbert, RHP Webster
- Former Pirates pitcher Happ agrees to $36 million, 3-year deal with Blue Jays
- Pirates protect top prospects in advance of Rule 5 draft
- Pirates sign independent league pitcher
- Pirates, Orioles had trade talks involving 2B Walker
- Pirates, Happ interested in coming to terms on deal
- Rossi: Baseball should retire Roberto Clemente’s No. 21