Pirates Notebook: Jose Tabata Earning His Place in the Lineup

While Starling Marte made his return to the starting lineup earlier in this 11-game homestand, Jose Tabata has still received the majority of starts in left field and as the lineup’s leadoff man. For the record, Marte is healthy and missed Friday’s game because his wife birthed their child Smerling Marte.

But beyond that, why keep starting Tabata?

“We’re keeping Jose in there because he’s hot. Marte’s good to go,” Hurdle said. “This has been as good as we’ve seen him since we saw him in April of ‘11.”

Jose Tabata

Jose Tabata has been a revelation in the leadoff spot after Marte’s injury. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Hurdle’s right. On this homestand alone, Tabata is hitting .393 with two home runs. Overall, the improvement seen in Tabata has been a testament to his consistency and approach this season.

“The consistency of at-bats, been very good in the batter’s box as well, he’s been able to grind out some very good at-bats for us, very aggressive swings in offensive counts,” Hurdle said. “He’s played solid defensively, he’s gotten on-base, he’s run the bases well. It’s been a very good run for Jose, a very good confidence-builder as well.”

Confidence is good for a player like Tabata, who figured to be relegated to bench-duty with the arrival of Marlon Byrd and once Marte became healthy. Now, he’s receiving more time on the field than Marte and more cheers from fans than ever before.

“Everybody will respond to you when you play well,” Hurdle said. “The manager, the coaches, the press, the media, the fans.”

MVP Type Play?

Andrew McCutchen doesn’t have a hit since he hit his 20th home run Wednesday against the San Diego Padres. But that didn’t stop him from scoring the game-winning run last night.

McCutchen walked and then advanced to third on a throwing error committed by pitcher Homer Bailey who tried to pick him off first base. Cutch scored the go-ahead run on a sac fly from Marlon Byrd.

“Andrew, who doesn’t love to watch him run? When he goes then to go to third. And to have the quality at-bat we get from Marlon Byrd, because that’s been a challenging at-bat for us throughout the season,” Hurdle said. “For Byrd to show up and do that, so to take advantage of two opportunities.”

For Hurdle, the MVP is who he sees as “the baddest guy in the league.” If Hurdle could vote for his center fielder, he would.

“Look at Andrew’s numbers for the second half,” Hurdle said. “You want to do some digging, you want to match some things up, contrast, look at his numbers this year from the second half.”

Fair enough.

In the first half of 2013, McCutchen hit .302/.376/.471. In the first half of 2012, McCutchen posted a triple-slash of .362/.414/.625.

The second half, as Hurdle points out, is the difference. McCutchen hit .289/.385/.475 to finish 2012. Good numbers, but still not at the level McCutchen played at for most of the year. In 2013, McCutchen improved in the second half as he carries a .352/.452/.583 line into today’s game.

“He was in contention for the MVP last year, look what he’s done the second half of the season this year.” Hurdle said.

It also probably helps that the Pirates finished this season with a winning record, as opposed to how they finished last season.

“Without getting a hit since the home run, he continues to play the game, he continues to make a difference,” Hurdle said. “The other manager knows where he is in the lineup and obviously we feed off everything that he does.”

Lineups

Pirates

  1. Jose Tabata LF
  2. Neil Walker 2B
  3. Andrew McCutchen CF
  4. Justin Morneau 1B
  5. Marlon Byrd RF
  6. Pedro Alvarez 3B
  7. Russell Martin C
  8. Clint Barmes SS
  9. Jeff Locke P

Cincinnati

  1. Billy Hamilton CF
  2. Chris Heisey LF
  3. Joey Votto 1B
  4. Brandon Phillips 2B
  5. Jay Bruce RF
  6. Todd Frazier 3B
  7. Zack Cozart SS
  8. Ryan Hanigan C
  9. Bronson Arroyo P
Nate Barnes

Author: Nate Barnes

Nate covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects, and is an English Writing major at the University of Pittsburgh. Nate has covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report, and covered Pitt Men's Basketball, Duquesne Men's Basketball, and Pitt Baseball beats prior to this summer. You can find Nate on Twitter @NateBarnes_ where he'll keep you updated on each and every time Clint Barmes breaks up a no-hit bid with one-out in the third inning of ballgames.

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