Make pitchers work? That’ll work
In their 11-2 victory over the Mets today, the Pirates worked Jonathan Niese and three relievers into making a total of 157 pitches.
I bring this up because in a recent conversation, Clint Hurdle dropped a “145-or-bust” line on me. Translation: The manager’s daily target for his hitters is to make opponents throw at least 145 pitches, in his studied belief the red line to guaranteed wins.
Does the evidence of the first six weeks of this season support that belief?
Yes: The Bucs now are 8-3 when they see at least 145 pitches (which makes them 12-13 when they do not).
This brings up the intriguing balance between being disciplined enough to run up pitch counts, yet staying aggressive enough to not let pitchers get too comfortable.
However, the most interesting takeaway is that, despite the manager’s attention to this detail, the Pirates have forced fewer than 145 — in most cases, a lot fewer — in 25 of the first 36 games.
The biggest factor in making pitchers work, I would think, is not swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. It’ll be interesting to track the improvement in this regard.