Sports Magazine

Dunio : Hurdle's Questionable Decisions in Game 5

By Kipper @pghsportsforum
One key difference in the Pirates success this season was manager Clint Hurdle's willingness to implement sabermetrics into his game strategy. For instance, for most of the second half of the season, Neil Walker didn't start often against left handed pitchers because statistics showed Walker struggled mightily when he batted right handed against them. Even defensively, the Pirates improved drastically by implementing alignment shifts based on opposing players tendencies to hit to specific areas of the field.
In the NLDS, however, Hurdle failed to adjust the lineup at all despite statistics that supported change. For instance, Starling Marte and Neil Walker were a combined 1-38 for the NLDS and posted a batting average of .026 at the top of the Pirates lineup. Neil Walker failed to collect a single hit in the series.
Reserve outfielder Jose Tabata had a career .375 batting average against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright coming into the series. Albeit a small sample size, utility infielder Jordy Mercer was 2-3 with a HR (and added another pinch hit in game 5) in his career vs Wainwright. Despite the success, neither player was given an opportunity to ignite the Pirates punchless offense.
Pedro Alvarez was the Pirates best hitter in the post season. He batted .300 with 3 HR and 6 RBI with a slugging % of .800. Alvarez was slated in the 6th spot of the lineup as Justin Morneau remained a fixture in the cleanup role, even though he failed to produce an RBI in 6 post season games. Morneau technically didn't deserve to be rooted in the 4th spot as he only produced 3 RBI in 25 regular season games with the Pirates.
Furthermore, Hurdle announced before game 5 that Pirates ace Francisco Liriano was available to be used in a relief role. Hurdle pulled Gerrit Cole after throwing 5 innings (75 pitches) and allowing 2 runs. Rather than inserting his best pitcher (Liriano) in the winner-take-all game, he threw a blend of 5 relievers who gave up 4 runs and put the game out of reach.
It was a great season and the Pirates rekindled their relationship with the fan base, but the team will need better in-game managerial decisions to advance further in the coming seasons. Hats off to a fun season, but it feels like they could still be playing into mid October.

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