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About last night: You can’t have it both ways…. Did Bud Black find Mark Melancon’s weakness … And does McCutchen have to do even more lifting?


PNC PARK – Some are criticizing Clint Hurdle for not leaving Charlie Morton in for the ninth inning Wednesday, in the Pirates’ third straight loss to the Padres, which came via a soul-crushing blown save by Mark Melancon.


Morton was excellent. But I can’t fault Hurdle. Morton was at 99 pitches, he hasn’t thrown more than 104 in a start this season. Just days earlier, some were criticizing Hurdle for leaving AJ Burnett in too long. And an argument can be made to support the the idea that Burnett, or any pitcher, should never go beyond 100 pitches. Burnett has a .985 opponent OPS when facing a lineup for a fourth time.


The numbers suggest that pitchers decrease in effectiveness every time they go through a lineup. They fatigue, they show batters pitches, and batters adjust to sequence, stuff and velocity.


Eventually one manager will have dramatic success using a piggy-back style staff and it will be copied. (We’re waiting on you, Joe Madden)


But beyond that radical concept, it made sense for Hurdle to trust the formula, to trust his bullpen, to trust Melancon who entered with a 1.10 ERA. Even the best relievers blow saves. The Pirates entered 74-2 when leading after eight innings. Things happen. It’s just that this happened in a September pennant race.


But you have to tip your cap to Bud Black on Wednesday.


Black loaded up on right-handed batters against the right-handed Melancon, which seems counter-intuitive.
But Melancon’s best pitch is the cutter, which he throws on more than half his offerings. It’s lethal against left-handed hitters. Lefties entered batting .148 on the season against Melancon, righties are hitting .259.


Expect this to be adopted more often by managers.


Melancon has now given up more runs in September (4) than August, July and June combined (3).




The blown save and loss robbed Andrew McCutchen of an MVP moment. In the seventh inning McCutchen crushed a two-run, opposite-field home run, his 20th homer of the year, to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead.


PNC Park erupted into M-V-P chants. McCutchen is the NL’s version of Mike Trout. He has a 8.0 WAR value in 2013, which is remarkable.


The Pirates’ offense is again lifeless, with only McCutchen’s bat seemingly awake. So can McCutchen do even more?










The landing spot – right-center – was of particular interest to me Wednesday because McCutchen has not had as much success hitting to the opposite field with power this season. This has puzzled McCutchen because he feels he’s hitting the ball with the same authority he just hasn’t had the same results. And his ball-off-bat exit velocity is the same.


So perhaps, McCutchen’s oppo shot Wednesday is the beginning of him finding an opposite-field groove like last seasons. A reach, yeah, but McCutchen is due for more opposite field power. And the Pirates need something more on offense.





– TS



  1. Adam Perry says:

    I don’t believe that the Pirates missing the playoffs WILL happen, at all, but as one of the few fans who never stopped following this team for a moment these past 21 years it makes total sense to think the Pirates missing the playoffs is *possible*. Was it crazy to think that the Pirates having a losing season last year was possible when they were 16 over .500?

    I’m not the best at math, but I think if Washington went 9-1 the rest of the way and we went 1-9 they’d take the last wildcard spot. It would take a collapse of epic proportions, but we’ve seen those before as Pirates fans. So it’s possible, but with the starting pitching the Pirates have this year there is not a bone in my body that believes it will happen.

    In conclusion, this season is truly crazy, and it will be interesting putting it in perspective when it’s over. A third baseman who had 25 HR and a .250 BA at the All-Star break but is hitting .190 in the second half with just a few HR? A starting pitcher who made the All-Star game but was in the minors later in the year? An unbeaten starting pitcher who sits in the bullpen? An MVP?

  2. bucfan59 says:

    Last I checked, managers were allowed to change pitchers when the one in the game starts getting knocked around. Melancon has pitched well, but there is no excuse for leaving him in the game, even with 2 out, when you have a full bullpen and critical game.
    Another case of Hurdle managing with his heart instead of his head.

    McCutchen may have said the right things, but the angry, disgusted look in his eyes right after the game said it all.

  3. NorthPirateFan says:

    Those criticizing the pitchers and pitching moves are continuing a pattern of laying blame where it does not really belong. Blaming a pitching staff, or the moves regarding the staff, for failing to hold the opponents to less than three runs in a game is patently absurd. The pitchers gave up three runs last night, that’s an ERA of 3 and ROCK solid work regardless who did it and when. On Monday they gave up 2 runs in the loss, over the last three games the ERA is 3.33, virtually where they’ve been all season and sitting at or near the top of the majors … and yet they go 0-3 for no other reason than they can only muster four runs in three games.

    The problem is the same as it’s been all year long, the offense is not keeping up its part of the deal and the reasons why begin with the manager. Last night is a virtual repeat of what we’ve seen all season, a RHP on the mound, a lineup filled with right handed hitters with horrible platoon splits (with one exception) the worst of them all sitting at the top of the lineup piling up outs, the best options for hitting against RHP sitting on the bench, scoring opportunities created on those rare occasions when people do reach base being erased by way of caught stealings, bunting and other assorted small ball stupidity that Clint Hurdle just adores.

    If the Pirates do fail to make the playoffs it will be the result of one person and two things; Clint Hurdle and his inability to properly construct lineup and use the players available to him effectively and his devotion to obsolete, down right archaic approach to managing an offense.

    It’s what got him fired in Colorado and he seems utterly incapable of changing and adapting to the modern game.

  4. Vic says:

    They poke several singles to RF against Melancon and now that’s a trend? It’s September 19. Do you think nobody noticed his LH/RH splits before, not that .257 is a bad average and its almost all singles. Sometimes it’s just circumstances in a game and not a trend to be feared. Overreaction.

  5. NMR says:

    Completely agreed, Vic.
    I think the fact that it took four weakly hit balls dropping in succession to beat Melancon is being overlooked. If THAT is the blueprint to beat him, I’ll place my bet on Melancon every time.
    Also factor in some odd pitch calling by Buck instead of Martin, as well. Only one curveball called all night and few, if any, inside fastballs.

  6. Goodness gracious, old old bucfan!

    Where is Wilver Dornel and his famous retort when one needs him?!

    Pirates——88 wins
    Hurdle——-65 losses

  7. National Mart of Records,
    Wisdom on both points!
    Only fallacy of “imagined blueprint” is that Melancon has faced a predominance of righthanded batters all season.
    Is it just me, or is John Buck working his way off this post-season roster?

  8. jdk47 says:

    McCutchen’s swing seems markedly different this year. All year it’s appeared he’s shifting his weight back more and getting the head of the bat out in front quicker, deliberately trying to pull it. As such, the change in power distribution should come as no surprise.

    I’m surprised that he doesn’t think he’s doing anything different. It seems pretty obvious if you look at his swing last year and this.

  9. John Diulus says:

    Gotta tell ya, Dejan, what a year for the Bucs rebuilding efforts to all come together! In most seasons, a division yields a single 90 win team which is crowned the division champ! But oh no, not with our buccos luck! The Pirates “become” the team we have been waiting for in a year which produced one of the best – if not most competitive, at the least – divisions in recent MLB history: THREE 90 wins teams (very likely) all from the NL Central!
    Like a child, my heart was literally broken last night as I watched that game slip from between our fingers. 74-3, the buccos were, when heading in to the 8th inning with a lead! We have equaled that loss total in the past week!
    I really am “OK” with the Bucs gaining a wild card berth. There seems to be a future now and division titles will come – although for the record I am NO fan of this new wild card system. This season should be a great example to MLB that this new wild card system is a bust. I wonder if they ever considered that each of the two wild card teams could be 90 win teams? I wonder if they were simply hoping that teams with a “lesser” season could still have a shot at competing- therefore opening the floodgates on fan hopes all over the country. It just makes my stomach ache to think that this amazing Bucco season will probably come down to ONE GAME! One error, one stolen base, one HR or one missed call by an ump can end a season of beauty! And if the Bucs can’t find a way to win at least 3 of the remaining 5 games against the Reds, we will be playing Cincy IN CINCY! If we must play in this stupid play-in game, I want that one game to be AT PNC. We have home field locked down with the Cards, but Cincy is still a story yet to be told!
    Dejan, I can still remember shedding tears, with my World Series tickets in my hand for luck, as I watched Jim Leyland bring in Stan Belinda (of all relievers!) that night against the Braves! The Braves could not hit Wakefield that year to save their lives! But Leyland, (like he always does) was already looking ahead to Wakefield starting game 1 of the World Series, so instead of winning that game by bringing Tim in to get the final out, I got to see Sid Bream run like he had a refrigerator strapped to his back while Bonds made one of his worst throws ever to the plate! My heart was broken that night. And I gotta admit, if this magical season comes down to ONE PLAY-IN GAME, it better end up in a win because I’m convinced that this season ending in anything else other than the opportunity to play a “real” playoff series will result in the same level of heartbreak! I know this team has a solid future now, so winning the NLDS is not necessary for me as a fan; but I sure do feel like this team deserves to play in that series!

    Heart-broken, but hoping in Oakland,
    John Diulus
    Pittsburgh, Pa

    Sent from my iPad

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