First Pitch: The Biggest Issue With the Pirates’ Daily Lineups

Last week I was covering the Pirates in St. Louis, and was asked a question after the lone loss of the series. I was asked why I didn’t focus on the lineup choices for that night. My response was that it wasn’t something that I considered an issue (the Pirates went all right-handers with a focus on defense to combine strategies with a lefty on the mound and Charlie Morton starting for the Pirates).

If you’ve ever watched “How I Met Your Mother”, one of the best episodes is the “Intervention” episode. Throughout the episode, the characters point out traits about other characters that no one else in the group noticed. Immediately, after pointing it out, you’d hear glass shattering, and it was suddenly impossible for the group to ignore the traits any longer.

That weekend in St. Louis, the glass shattered in my head. I suddenly noticed the lineup trends. And it wasn’t really the trends in the actual lineups I noticed. It was the complaining about the lineups that suddenly was impossible to ignore.

Before that Sunday game, there were more lineup complaints. The Pirates went on to win the game 7-1, taking two of three against the Cardinals, unlike their loss the night before. But the victory didn’t add any confidence in future lineups. I’ve noticed that before each game, there are always complaints about the lineup.

Never mind the fact that the Pirates have won six of nine since leaving St. Louis.

Never mind that they’re 27-15 since the trade deadline.

Never mind that they’ve crawled to three games back in the NL Central, while staying four games up for the top Wild Card spot.

Guaranteed that before every game, there are going to be some complaints about the lineup that the Pirates put out there. Granted, these complaints aren’t always from the same people. Some people complain when Jordy Mercer is starting. Some complain when Mercer is sitting. Some complain when Jung-ho Kang is benched. Some complain when Aramis Ramirez is benched. Some complain just to complain. And so on.

Here is the actual problem with the lineup: it’s not traditional. Or, the idea of traditional, which is the same guys going out there every single night.

The Pirates made a few trades at the deadline to give their bench a boost. They added Aramis Ramirez and Michael Morse, and both have been fantastic since joining the team. Morse came into today’s game with a .326/.408/.512 line in 49 plate appearances. Ramirez struggled at first, but has picked up his offense recently, with a .250/.314/.625 line in 35 plate appearances in September.

They’ve also had a boost from guys who were already on their bench. Sean Rodriguez has been one of the hottest hitters on the team since the deadline. It’s definitely not sustainable, but a lot of the lineup complaints the last few weeks have been about him, and he’s come through in a lot of occasions (excluding the one game where he started at shortstop and made some key errors that lost the game early).

During the early part of the season, the bench was struggling and there was a desire to have players who could come off the bench and get a hit, or step into the lineup when needed. The Pirates have that now.

But like I said, the problem is that this lineup isn’t traditional. They’ve got two platoon players on the right side of the infield in Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker. When a left-hander is on the mound, those guys are usually out of the game. A big problem for most of the year has been poor defense, and now they’re playing Jordy Mercer at shortstop more often to counter that problem. But Mercer doesn’t hit as well as Jung-ho Kang, who doesn’t field as well as Mercer, so now the complaints go from poor defense to a lack of offense at that spot.

Mercer getting more playing time means that they need to put Kang at third — where he’s better defensively — which results in a need to find time for Aramis Ramirez. He’s finding that at first base now, although this creates another problem when they bench a hot hitting Pedro Alvarez, or find less playing time for Morse. And then there’s Josh Harrison, who isn’t hitting like his 2014 season, but can still add value off the bench at several positions.

The Pirates don’t have eight guys who play every day of the week, with five guys on the bench who make the occasional start. They’ve got guys on the bench who would be starters with a lot of teams, and deserve playing time. They’ve got enough players playing well that no matter who they start, they’re going to be benching someone who is on a hot streak.

Then there’s the “Golden State” approach that they talked about before the season, where they aimed at working as a team, giving individuals days off to keep them fresh. From a total playing time standpoint, this actually isn’t much of an issue. Andrew McCutchen is on pace for 676 plate appearances, up from 648 last year. McCutchen was the only player on the roster last year who had more than 600 plate appearances. The next closest was Neil Walker with 571, and he was the only other player over 555. This year, Walker, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco are all on pace to top 600 plate appearances.

Then there’s Jung-ho Kang, who seems to draw the most complaints when he’s out of the lineup. Based on his season numbers, he’s on pace for 514 plate appearances. However, if we use his second half numbers (thus discounting the early season trends when he wasn’t an everyday guy), then we see that he’s playing for a pace that would equal 570 plate appearances in a season. Kang has never had more than 538 plate appearances in a season in his time in Korea.

You can understand why the Pirates would want to ease him into the majors and give him scheduled days off. At the same time, they’re not really giving him a ton of time off, as he’s still receiving a lot of playing time. In fact, heading into today’s game, he ranked fourth on the team in second half plate appearances, behind the Dream Outfield©, and ahead of any other infielder (including three plate appearances ahead of Neil Walker). Those same trends hold true the last month, and the last two weeks (although he’s actually third on the team in the last two weeks, with Marte seeing a drop in playing time).

The “Golden State” approach seems to be about strategically giving guys days off, no matter the schedule. It’s not holding back playing time, and in fact, playing time is being increased for most players, possibly because they’re staying healthy all season.

The Pirates have four guys who are on pace for over 600 plate appearances this season. They’ve kept injury prone guys like Francisco Cervelli and Neil Walker healthy all season. They’ve got more players performing well than they have spots in the lineup. I don’t think all of this is in spite of the lineup maneuvers.

Overall, Kang is probably the best example of what’s wrong with the daily lineup complaints. He’s getting more playing time than any other infielder. He’s getting slightly less playing time than the outfielders, but enough to make him the equivalent of an everyday starter. He’s going to have days off, just like any other player. The idea that he can’t be benched is unrealistic, as it ignores that every player sits. And complaining about how much he sits either ignores that he’s not really sitting that much, or ignores that he’s not used to 600 plate appearances per year.

As for the other players, similar situations exist. You’ve got more good players than lineup spots, and usually the lineup complaints are a matter of preference, while ignoring that the guys going in the lineups are performing well. There will be some moves that lead to losses, and those are never forgotten. But there are also moves that lead to wins, and those are never remembered.

The trend will probably continue that there will be lineup complaints before every game. If the Pirates lose, it will be attributed to the lineup, rather than the fact that even a 100-win team loses 62 times a year. As for me? I’m going to continue focusing on the bigger picture, where the Pirates have the second best record in baseball, continued success despite different lineups, and plenty of players staying healthy, on pace for career highs in plate appearances, and playing to their best numbers.

**September Call-ups Play Big Role in Pirates’ 5-4 Game One Victory / Lester Stifles Pirates in 2-1 Loss to the Cubs. Pete Ellis’ game recaps, live from PNC Park.

**Prospect Watch: Casey Hughston’s Homer Helps Give Morgantown NYPL Title. Congratulations to the West Virginia Black Bears for winning the NYPL Championship.

**Pirates Name Max Moroff and Yeudy Garcia Their Player and Pitcher of the Year. We just wrapped up our own Player and Pitcher of the Year decisions, and will be announcing those tomorrow. The Pirates made their announcement today, going with Moroff and Garcia, who both had big breakout seasons.

**Pirates Notebook: Vance Worley Replaces Radhames Liz. The Pirates called up Worley today and designated Liz for assignment.

**Chad Kuhl Promoted to Indianapolis. He’ll get a start in the playoffs if Indianapolis wins one of their next two games.

**Pirates 2015 Fall Instructional League Schedule and Roster. The first game is tomorrow afternoon.

  • Ooops “complaint” singular.

  • Rest is good but–with Mercer and Harrison each having recent 6 week “rests”–is it necessary to put Morse, SRod and Florimon into the lineup at the same time bunched at the end of the order, in a game which truly mattered (any game against the Cubs and Cards)?

    That was my complaints.

    Rest them in LA.

  • >> “The ‘Golden State’ approach seems to be about strategically giving guys days off, no matter the schedule. ”

    The only problem with this is that some games are worth twice as much in the standings: those with the Cubs and Cardinals. If what you wrote above is true, then the approach could easily be tweaked to make sure the best players played in the key games, and rested in the others.

    That said, I don’t have a big problem with the lineups. I think Florimon starting game 2 yesterday was puzzling, but I assume they wanted Mercer to have 2 days off in a row. I personally would never start Florimon in a pennant race (despite his cool last name), and would have let Kang play game 2 at SS.

    Also, one other observation: Alvarez is hitting lefties well (120 wRC+) this year in a small sample.

  • Love the site, disagree strongly with the article. We had a golden opportunity last night to field a lineup to get an off-Broadway, dress rehearsal of a possible WC pitching opponent. Let them all get 4 AB’s against Lester, in September, on the road, with a big crowd. Polanco could have benefitted from that. Kang could have. Walker could have. All 3 of those guys will be playing in our “jump ball” game and they should have been in the lineup. Rest them in Colorado, don’t rest them now Clint. I am strongly pro-Hurdle but this was foolish & indefensible

    • Agree with you Bill on the general premise. This was a huge game. Would Hurdle have played the reserves if we had lost game one?

      It is hard to believe that you put together 23+ paragraphs in defense of Hurdle and the second game lineup without mentioning the SS decision that has the majority of fans outraged….Florimon starting instead of Kang.

      I heard Walk(Pirates Broadcast team) on the radio today on this exact point saying “play your best……….it is that time of year.” We all know the Bucs are having a great year. The fact that many fans are critical of Hurdle putting the 3rd string SS out there in a game that could have buried the cubs chances of catching the Bucs doesn’t mean we have lost focus on the team’s success. Last week you said the Pirates have platoon situations at infield positions. Florimon and his.091 isn’t a regular “platoon” player…he won’t even make the post-season roster.

      I suggest you are missing the point of how this all started last week(and I’ll admit to pounding on it last week). The Pirates are having a great year and are just as good as the Cards. This may be our year to go for it all. Winning the division is an easier path to winning it all. Fielding a lineup that is not your best against the Cards last week and the Cubs last night contributed to both losses… the minds of many. The opinions are not formed with the benefit of hindsight after a loss. They are registered before, during and after the losses.
      I don’t see the Cubs “resting” their regulars.

  • I think the time has come to get Harrison out of this rotation and turn him into a bench/utility guy. He is not having much success at the plate – and yes one could argue he might break out any day and return to being the igniter of rallies he was last year – but to give him that opportunity you take at bats away from others. Morse has done well in very limited action – S-Rod has been among their best offensive guys the last monh or so.

    Over the winter the elephant in the room is Walker. He is a disaster defensively – and sub par offensively this season. If you want pitch to contact, ground ball types then it is time to look to upgrade at second base with a great glove. Addison Russell BTW is one of the leaders in DRS at second base.

    • Your two paragraphs kind of contradict each other. Harrison fits in well as a 2B platoon vs LHP, mitigating some of the sub-par performance of Walker. I’d even personally argue that I’d prefer him over Walker everyday, but I’ll stop short of advocating that here. I think a platoon at 2B and a good PH option would be a good role for Harrison the rest of the year.

    • This past weekend Harrison sure hit pretty well.

      • And unfortunately I think that will be the tease that defines him for the next year or so, until folks stop expecting 2014 to return.

        As much as we know 2014 Josh Harrison is never coming back, it’s impossible not to hope for the best when you see him line four hits into the outfield like he could do it in his sleep.

  • You rest players all season so that they will be fresh for this time of year. The “Golden State” approach is nice, but the NBA playoffs might force teams to play an extra quarter of their season. The baseball playoffs only require a team to play an additional 12% of their regular season schedule. There will plenty of time to rest players the final week of the season if they can’t close the gap.

    On the positive side, 5 years ago we didn’t have enough major league players to fill out an everyday lineup.

    • Exactly. These games right now are our version of the NBA playoffs. If Golden State is going to be implemented to pay dividends we should have been resting guys in July/Augus(which I think we were) It’s past the middle of September, it’s full sprint to the finish line as the less rested guy in front of us is… still in front of us.

  • If we see Lester again I sure as hell hope we don’t have harrison batting lead off. I don’t care if it’s a lefty, polancomshoukd leadoff as he will at least work some at bats. Jhay can’t bat 6th or 7th. Really don’t need him hacking at first pitches from leadoff spot vs a a guy like lester you need to get out of game

    • JHay’s OBP is inadequate in the leadoff spot. We really don’t have an ideal leadoff hitter right now in the top 13 position players. Polanco suits the position best. But if he is sitting against a lefty I would actually put Cervelli in leadoff because of his OBP. He sports a .411 OBP against LHP. What’s wrong with that? It’s not like he runs like Smoky Burgess.

  • Also what has the Golden State strategy done for Neil Walker? He’s healthy maybe but not really playing well. His 92 WRC+ when coupled with his defense has been a drag on this team in the 2nd half.

    • So are you arguing to bench Walker or just rambling? Because you trot out the Golden State thing even though it really has little to do with Walker (since he’s on pace for similar plate appearances to past years).

      Pick one against RHP, Walker or Mercer. You bench Walker, Mercer likely plays SS with Kang at 3B.

      • I’m not arguing anything. I’m stating a fact. Walker hasn’t been good in the second half. Really don’t have better options vs right handers at 2b. That doesn’t change the fact he hasn’t been playing well in 2nd half. Got it now?

      • To expound on the “Golden State” fervor some more, I’m citing Walker because although he has stayed heathy(correlation, causation who knows) he hasn’t played well in the 2nd half. I thought the purpose of Golden State wasn’t just for guys to stay healthy but to be playing their best ball down the stretch. Well Walker is a guy who has been in the system and played much better in the 2nd half of 2013 and 2014(WRC+ of 120 and 139 vs 92 so far in 2015). He’s at 206 PAs in 2nd of 2015 vs 228 in 2014 and 258 in 2013. So he will get more PAs than last year and perhaps a few more than 2013 if you want to attribute that to “Golden State”. Thing is he hasn’t been nearly as productive even though he is healthier and better rested. And this year we wouldn’t have had to worry about Nix/Martinez not that it would have been good for him to be injured.

        • So Walker has struggled in the second half, yes. Not sure how that correlates at all to the point if its “this doesnt really work”.

          One guy struggling in the 2nd half doesnt really prove a correlation at all, just like a guy having a huge 2nd half also wouldnt prove the worth of the program. Its gonna take more than 1 season worth of experience to figure out what is working and what isnt. Cherry picking one guy either way seems to be just biased toward a pre assumed idea.

          • Of course Walker doesn’t prove the Golden State doesn’t really work. However, the larger point is Cervelli and Walker staying healthy doesn’t correlate with hey that’s because of Golden State which the author clearly seems to be intimating. It works both ways.

            • I think your characterization of “clearly” isnt fair at all. I didnt read any of that as him clearly insinuating those two guys being healthy show the process works, but that they use a process like this due to multiple key players have less than stellar histories of playing 150 games a year.

              Seems like thats assumption, and 10 readers can give 8 different interpretations of that. Not clear.

  • Look it’s quite simple. Jordy Mercer is a MAJOR liablity against right handed pitching. His WRC+ of 51 vs righties is 39th of 41 shortstops with 150 PAs. Kang’s is the BEST at 137 WRC+. Baseball info solutions actually has Kang slightly better defensively this year at SS. I think Mercer is an upgrade defensively but there is NO WAY IN HELL his glove makes up for the disparity in offense vs righties. Kang should have been at SS in 1st game and if you’re going to play Jordy get him in lineup vs lefty in 2nd game.

    • And the first game, which Mercer had absolutely no business starting considering Lester would be on the mound in Game 2, was a great example of why plugging one good defender in the lineup to address team-wide defensive issues is just plain silly.

    • If you have noticed Mercers plate appearances you will see that he always takes the first pitch usually right down the middle of the plate and right off the bat he is behind in the count. There was a game in the first half of the season that I believe he had a walk off hit or winning hit that he jumped on the first pitch of course it was right down the middle of the plate and he got the hit. For the life of me I cannot understand why he doesn’t do it more often because it generally the best pitch he will see in the PA.

  • I suppose this is related but also random. I was stuck in traffic yesterday and had Satellite radio on the way home in-between games. There was a week old interview with Joe Maddon who some people would say has never made a mistake ever. They asked him about Andrew Friedman and what impact he had on the day to day starting lineups in Tampa Bay. Basically Maddon said that Friedman and his “nerds” (his term, not mine) flooded him with information about opposing pitchers, his hitters, games logged, innings logged, “stressful innings”, pitch counts, etc. and then they backed off and let Maddon make the decisions. I’m assuming that Hurdle essentially gets the same type of information and makes his decisions. Add to that the fact that he knows his players better than we do and whether or not they’re banged up, possibly asked for a day off. What I also thought was fascinating was he said that he rarely looked at the pitch counts. He said he focused more of when a pitcher comes out of his delivery or is trying to force something. This is not something I pick up on as a fan. I look at the pitch count and get cranky with a decision around the 6th or 7th inning accordingly. I think it’s ok to disagree with Hurldle if you’ve got a good premise for it. I think it would be unfair to say that coaches will make the right decision 100% of the time and we should just shut up about it as fans because we don’t know what Hurdle does. But I think Hurdle spends a lot of time deciding who plays and who doesn’t and he’s got more information at his disposal than we do as fans. For what it’s worth. So I think it’s fair to disagree as fans. We have that right. There are a lot of supremely educated fans on this site. But some of the Hurdle bashing recently, like he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing at times, just confuses me given the buttons he’s pushed recently and that more have worked out than not.

  • I’ll cut Hurdle slack here. There hasn’t been a DH here in 14 years. Starting Snider in LF in the 1st game certainly worked. And Florimon had the only AB of the night that went >5 pitches. IMO, on that basis alone he would’ve been more useful at #1 than Harrison.

    Lester is a good pitcher. But he’s not a great pitcher. There are no CYs in his future (in 10 years he’s received CY votes twice, finishing 4th each time). To beat a guy like that you have to hit his mistakes. And the Bucs didn’t do that. But the Cubs did hit Happ’s mistakes. That’s pretty much the game summary.

    • Harrison has been more patient at the plate lately but its for naught because be works the count to 3-1 or 3-2 and then swings at terrible pitches and strikes out or fly’s out weakly on what would have been ball 4. I’ve seen him and others on the team do this at least 10 times recently.

  • I’d also like to point out that episode was one of my favorites. I especially liked Marshall and his charts and the Cecilia example.

  • Tim there you go again using logic guided by your experience in assessing this team and its farm system. In short you are ruining the narrative, that has actually become a meme, that Hurdle, Huntington, et al do not know how to run a baseball team – evidence be damned.

    • That’s just an absurd post. Hurdle is beyond questioning for starting Pedro Florimon or Sean Rodriguez or anyone at any time? Absurd.

      Clearly they’re the professionals and I’m not, but I’ll be damend if I can’t disagree with a move here and there and voice an opinion about it.

      • No offense Dale, but I trust Clint to make out a lineup more than I do you (or me, for that matter).

      • I don’t really see how this post implies in any way that Hurdle or anyone else is beyond questioning. Seems to me that the point, which I agree with, is that Hurdle is being made out as someone who has no clue what he’s doing. And I don’t think there’s much evidence to support that. That doesn’t mean no one can question him, and it doesn’t mean we all just sit and watch games and say nothing afterwards. It might just mean that some people agree with/trust what the manager of one of the best teams in baseball is doing the majority of the time. Doesn’t sound very absurd imo.

  • I mostly agree w/ the premise and detail of the post. 162 games is a long season; there must be some manipulation of the lineup, especially considering the amount of depth/talent that the Pirates have. While we all have our preferences, it’s tough to argue – on a game to game basis – that Player A should be *definitely* starting over Player B. There is enough talent to give a guy a day or two here or there.

    However….it’s becoming increasingly difficult to defend the playing of Jordy Mercer. Yes, I’m well aware of him being our best defensive SS; yes, I’m well aware of the groundball tendency/intent that Pirates pitchers exhibit; and, yes, I’m well aware that he’s the better defensive SS than Kang. But, as with Barmes last year, there comes a point that a players lack of offensive capabilities outweigh the ability to defend. Mercer has reached that point weeks ago. He’s hitting *39%* less than the average major leaguer; he’s been worth *.1* WAR this year; he gets on base less than 30% of the time; and he’s slugging about the same as an average starting pitcher. Unless he’s Ozzie Smith (he’s not), he shouldn’t be playing more than a day or two per week.

    From here on out, they should give him the Chris Stewart treatment. Only play him when a specific starter is pitching, namely, Charlie Morton. He can’t be a guy that causes Kang to sit when they’re getting A-Ram ABs; his defense is simply not valuable enough to counteract his putrid offense.

    And, this is from a guy that places importance and trust on defensive metrics. It’s simply not enough to make up for his complete inability to hit.

    • are you complaining? 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • It seems that the Cubs are not much for hitting the ball on the ground. First game the Pirate pitching had a 3-13 gb/fb. game two was even 7-7. Looks like we can go with Kang at short vis Cubs and have a stronger lineup. As for the 18 innings, the Cubs played all their big guys for 18 innings. But, that said, I see their big guns may be slowing down.
      Rizzo 1 for 7 1 rbi obp has dropped about 40 pts since August.
      Bryant 0 for 7 5k Picked up since bad month in July, but those K’S
      Castro 2 for 8 Should get fined for throwing the bat, ie: hitting catcher with back swing
      Russell 1 for 7 4k quality all the way you look at him
      Fowler 2 for 6 1 rbi reason why Cubs are strong against lefties
      McCutchen 3 for 8 1 rbi only Pirate to play 18 innings.
      The rest system that the Pirates have been using all year as kept them fresh and for the most part free from injury. That said, I believe a better lineup could have been used in game two.

    • Very well said, Andrew. Jordy Mercer is the guy keeping these lineup issues from being resolved.

      I’ll also say that the purpose of the whole Golden State deal was to have the best players fresher at the end of the year. Well, guess what folks, we’re here!

      It would be absolutely insane to execute this season-long strategy all for the chance of being knocked out in a single wild card game. The time to play your best, who should be more rested, is right now.

      • Well stated. Nursed through the first 5.5 months and with only 20 games left to play, it is time to play your best every day, every game. If a WC Game is in the cards for the Pirates, I think having the home field advantage is an absolute necessity, whether it is against the Cubs or the Cardinals. If it is the Cubs and we see anybody other than Lester, I will be surprised.

        The Pirates earned the right to play some games with the lineup by winning Game 1. Clint likes to play those head games.

        • And depending on if we face Lester or Arrieta, a totally different lineup will be needed.

          I would hate to play the “best” every day and then ask Morse, or JHay to start in a WC game against Lester.

          Face it we have tremendous depth, every night someone is going to sit that is a viable starting option.

          • Morse had solid PA’s against Lester. Worked a walk, got to 3-1 on the double play ball and just barely topped that pitch. A fraction of an inch closer to the sweet spot and that’s a single and you have the tying run on 3rd with no one out.

            If it comes to that, I’d start Kang at SS, Ramirez at 3B, Morse at 1B and Polanco in RF.

            • Against LHP, Mercer at SS is a better play than Ramirez at 3B.

              • Almost all plays are better than Ramirez. Especially better than him at cleanup. Why does Hurdle always bat him cleanup? He is not protecting anyone. I see Kang against good fastballs and Ramirez aging self out there…please Hurdle, start batting Kang #4.

            • Are you starting JHay or Walker at 2nd?

      • In reality, with the importance of avoiding a one game playoff versus the Cubs looming large, our playoffs have already started. In this series especially, given the impact on home field advantage should the Pirates end up in the playoff with the Cubs, only the best players should be playing. Execute the Golden State strategy,if you must, only against sub .500 teams.

        • I don’t think this point can be overstated.

          For what it’s worth, I buy the whole Golden State thing. Not because of metrics or narratives, but plain old common sense. Baseball is long, players wear out, and having fresher bodies late in the season when other clubs are tired should give you an advantage. This doesn’t seem at all difficult to understand.

          But what neither the Pirates, nor Tim above, have attempted to explain is the limit. Where, and when, does this stop? At what point is it time to capitalize on having supposedly fresher players?

          This isn’t the NBA. The regular season matters. And there’s only 2 1/2 weeks left.

          Tim, the Pirates, and everyone parroting this Golden State talk should be asking themselves at what point do you take advantage of this system they’ve built.

          • I think it’s largely inconclusive. This is really the first season they’ve been able to do this. And it’s hard to quantify this approach. They’ve got a lot of players performing well and headed for career highs in playing time. Is that because of the scheduled days off, or is it just coincidental? And then there’s a lot of data we don’t know, such as the behind the scenes stuff that allows them to make the decisions, or how the players are feeling (or how the players would be feeling without this approach).

            • And that’s why I kind of bristle at articles deferring judgement to a system that is completely unproven.

            • Who is playing better with more rest? Cervelli is having a career year playing more than he ever did. The guys you would expect this to really benefit- walker/mercer and harrison all had much better years in 2013 or 2014 resting less. If anything I thought “golden state” would be implemented to rest cutch a little more. And kangs most torrid stretch of production was when mercer was hurt and he was forced to play every night.

              • I didn’t say anyone is playing better with more rest. I said that players are playing more, and players are playing better.

                Cervelli is having a career year and playing more than he ever did.

                I wouldn’t use 2014 as a baseline for Walker/Harrison. Walker is in the production range he was in pre-2014, and hasn’t dealt with nagging injuries.

                And your comment about Kang sort of argues in favor of giving players strategic rest.

                • 1 The Pirates are working Cervelli harder than the Yankees ever did? How is “Golden State” responsible for him not getting fluke injuries

                  2. Walker is not in the production range he was pre 2014. He is having worst season of his career with a WRC+ of 104. From 2010-2013 he was 121,106,112, 115. And he has been much worse in 2nd half

                  3. Kang was getting almost ZERO rest in July when he posted a WRC+ of 196 playing almost every night. How does that argue in favor of MORE rest?

      • Absolutely on point here as to playing your best now against the Cards and the Cubs. We lost both key games when the reserves were trotted out to rest our best.
        Being critical of a sub-par lineup is not losing focus on a good year….I submit we are focusing on winning the division and avoiding a single elimination game.

    • Good points, and without a million advanced metrics in front of me to analyze, I agree with you. To me, Mercer should be a late inning replacement and spot starter, essentially the Florimon of the 25 man roster (granted without the PR tool, and slightly worse defense, but nobody has a flawless bench).

      But, the other side of the argument is that Mercer has shown he can hit well for stretches (.262/.328/.425 in 2014 2nd half). I think they still see him as that Mercer. But he’s not. And unfortunately, now is not the time to let a guy find his groove at the plate.

  • Tim, can you honestly say you agreed with that lineup in game 2 last night? That if you were running the team that’s the lineup you would have put on the field, knowing that you have Arrieta on the mound tonight?

    • SufferinBuccotash
      September 16, 2015 7:47 am

      Have to agree with this. You’re chasing the Cardinals with 19 games left and trying to win the division to avoid the Arrieta match up in the Wild Card game. Pedro Florimon and Sean Rodriguez have no business being in the starting line up.

      If you want to go all righties, you can go Kang – Mercer – Harrison – Ramirez third to first, and Marte – McCutchen – Morse in the OF, with Cervelli behind the plate.

      Florimon should be a pinch runner or defensive replacement, period. Rodriguez should be a defensive replacement, pinch hitter, and injury replacement, period.

      You have to go with your best 9 or 10 now, and Florimon and SRod don’t fit in there.

    • Honestly, outside of florimon, I don’t see an issue. Starting against a lefty, Morse has been very good, SRod has been hot lately, and the lineup still had marte, jhay, cutch, cervelli, ramirez. I thought it was crazy the bucs fielded like 15 different players that are all (florimon aside) pretty darn good (or at least hot) ball players

    • I can see the logic behind it.

      You bench Alvarez and Walker against a tough lefty.

      Kang and Polanco both started game one. Kang had started seven of the last eight games. Polanco eight of the last nine. Do you want them following that up with two games in one day, plus a big game against Arrieta the following day, and a long road trip at the end of the week?

      And Mercer had started 11 of the last 12 games after starting game one. With Kang also out, that leaves Florimon for shortstop, and he was hardly the problem last night.

      In a vacuum, it’s not the best lineup they could have put out there. But you can’t judge lineups in a vacuum. You have to consider the schedule before and after.

      My question to you: which is a better situation:

      1. Having several guys going up against Lester in their second game that day, after long workloads for each player
      2. Resting your key players to load up the lineup for Arrieta the following night? Tonight’s lineup features all of those guys who rested in game two. And I’d have to figure they’re better off against Arrieta after playing one game yesterday, versus two.

      • Again, if you’ve invested in a system which rests your players over the entire course of a season, isn’t this *exactly* the kind of situation where you *do* rely on your best players?

        • I think that no matter who the opponent, they’re not going to play certain guys twice in the same day.

          • Very much agree. Certain guys.

            I don’t think you see this reaction if only certain guys were sat. I think you see this reaction when an entire new team is put on the field.

  • If you want guys to produce, you have to give them more than the occasional at bat. I don’t envy Hurdle having to keep this many guys happy and productive. It’s a challenge for sure. I think he’s done a good job juggling the lineups and keeping everybody involved and motivated.