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The curious case of the Pirates’ bats and the Pacific rim


SAN FRANCISCO – Clint Hurdle rejected my hypothesis.


Pedro Alvarez did the same. And Josh Harrison also shook his head in disagreement.


Still, I’m buying my own theory and it goes something like this:


The worst offensive environments in baseball have helped the Pirates’ offensive approach.


The Pirates entered Friday with 22 runs scored in their last four games, their best since four-game output since scoring 30 over four games at the Angels and Marines from June 21-25.


The interesting thing about both four-game bursts of offense is they each came in the worst offensive environments in the country: our nation’s ballparks along the Pacific rim.

File:San francisco in fog with rays.jpg

Is the marine layer making the Pirates a better offensive team?


Not only do these parks have large dimensions but they also have the misfortune, for lovers of offense, of being planted near the Pacific, where the marine layer lives. Heavy air + deep fences + plentiful foul territory equals a less-than-ideal run scoring environment.


Petco Park and AT&T Park rank as the two most difficult environments to scores runs in this season according to ESPN’s Park Factors.


But the Pirates scored eight runs at Petco on Tuesday and 10 runs at AT&T Park on Thursday. I think these parks have helped the Pirates’ approach, consciously or subconsciously. The Pirates aren’t trying to hit homers here. Yes, even Garrett Jones said he wasn’t trying to homer when he splashed down in McCovey Cove on Thursday.  He was reacting to an inside pitch. The Pirates are better targeting the gaps in California. They are using an all field’s approach and not trying to do too much. Pedro Alvarez has been a prime example of this.


At San Diego and San Francisco, Alvarez, instead of pulling everything, has used the gaps well: he doubled twice Thursday and tripled Tuesday at San Diego.


Alvarez told me he hasn’t changed his approach on the West Coast. Ditto for Harrison. Hurdle also thinks the ballpark affect on approach is limited.


Consciously, maybe that’s true, but subconsciously? Something has changed because Hurdle said the approach has been different out here in Cali — even though the message from the staff has been consistent throughout the season.


“It’s something I’ve talked about whenever I’ve talked to (hitters),” Hurdle said Friday. “One of the fist thing I heard a Little League coach say is hit the ball back hard where it’s pitched. The mindset we’ve tried to do a better job with: visualize the ball to the opposite field gap then react to the ball inside.”


That’s what the Pirates have done out West.


Now can they bottle it up and bring it back East?





  1. Vic says:

    If everybody rejects your hypothesis, it probably means your hypothesis is wrong.

  2. Derek Smith says:

    Interesting read. Maybe they don’t feel the pressure to do a lot in these ballparks and it relaxes them more? Who knows, but I hope they can keep it going.

  3. Derek Smith says:

    Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

  4. RobertoForever says:

    I like the theory. Maybe we can disguise the Clemente Bridge as the Golden Gate Bridge.

    For tonight’s game, I look forward to Frankie making it seem like offense at AT&T Park is impossible.

    Last night’s game was awesome. An under rated player plays the hero. #GroundChuck is back as the Charlie Morton we know and love. Thank Dr Andrews (I assume) and thank you Ray Searage, and Thank you to the Braves. Now if those southern Indians could beat the Cards a few times, I would appreciate it.

  5. Sisyphus says:

    That’s what they told Galileo :-)

  6. Travis Sawchik says:

    Ha. +1

  7. Travis Sawchik says:

    Something is going on because the collective approach has been much better

  8. Travis Sawchik says:

    Morton has been awesome. Clearly the third-best starter on the team right now. The new Brandon Webb/Derek Lowe?

  9. Jim Rockford says:

    Or the other factor is we’ve been running into worse pitching & worse teams on the Left coast. SD & SF are in last and next to last place repectively, the first two SD pitchers were terrrible, then they couldn’t touch Kennedy. And the Mariners and Angels are non-factors in the AL West both well below .500. Btw I still live in Malibu and drive a Firebird.

  10. RobertoForever says:

    Everyone complained when we lost to the bad Padres last year, and now we complain that the Bucs are beating the bad Padres? Color me confused.

  11. RobertoForever says:

    Morton now the 2nd best starter on the team? Maybe the first? He’s the hottest, that’s for sure.

  12. RobertoForever says:

    Travis Sawchik,

    A little birdie told me yesterday was your birthday! Hope you had some birthday love on the road for your birthday.

  13. Chuck H says:

    Now the Bucs are done playing on the west coast, and the real test begins. The next two weeks will really be the challenge against both the Reds and Cardinals. I don’t see it ending well for the Pirates, and I hope I’m wrong, but the management’s refusal to add another bat
    to our sometimes hitless and runless batting order, will make it almost a miracle if we
    come out on the long end of the season as winners. Without that extra offensive help and our pitchers getting weary of no run support, we are going to be runners up this season.
    Again, I hope I’m wrong, but good pitching alone can’t do it. It would make me very happy
    if we are even in the playoffs. GO, BUCS, you have had a very good season with what you
    had to play with.

  14. Travis Sawchik says:


    Thanks! I think I only told two people on the trip, so i might know who your sources are. Ha.

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