Some notes and quotes from this afternoon's press meeting with Clint Hurdle:
Changing bunting tactics based on the count:
There's been a lot of discussion about Hurdle's decision to sacrifice bunt with Starling Marte and Gaby Sanchez in the late innings of yesterday's game. We've debated the utility of bunting many times, so I won't revisit it. I'll only add that it is a mischaracterization of sabermetrics to say it has found bunting to always be a suboptimal tactic. For example, In The Book, Tom Tango writes, "Late in a close game, in a low run-scoring environment it is correct to often sacrifice with a runner on first and no outs (pg. 254)." Besides the run environment and game situation, additional factors that should be considered to varying degrees are the speed of the batter, the alignment of the defense, the type of hitter on-deck and the speed of the baserunner.
Another dimension was added to the bunting topic yesterday when Hurdle revealed that he switched off the sacrifice for Sanchez after he had a strike on him (Gaby bunted anyway). The question was raised: If a sacrifice is called for, why switch it off after one strike? This tweet from reflects DG Lewis best captures the issue:
@DavidManel If it's the right strategy with no strikes, why is it then the wrong strategy with 1 strike? Not like he was bunting for a hit.— DG Lewis (@dglewis517) April 3, 2014
At today's press meeting, Hurdle was asked about the reasoning behind turning the sacrifice play on-and-off after a strike. Here is his response:
Questioner: What is the reasoning behind switching the sacrifice off following a strike. Is part of the reasoning that it puts the defense a little off balance?
Yes, that is part of it. Also, we give him one pitch to try to get it down, if we don't get it down we move on ... (Also) Gaby is a guy that can handle the bat, if we can get the count to 1-and-1, or to 2-and-1, potentially, we can put the (hit and run) in play. That's the reason for switching off right there. It was one and done, we didn't get it done, move on.
I did the same thing with Russell Martin the night before, I'm sure you noticed that one, he ended getting hit in the back foot with a pitch, but we tried to bunt with one pitch, it didn't work, we took it off, he got skinned and took off on down to first.
Traditional platoon for another night or two
Travis Ishikawa will get another start tonight against righty Shelby Miller. So far, the platoons have looked rather traditional -- left-handers hitters starting against right-handed pitchers. The interest in this topic is not necessarily that it is the wrong move; rather, it is figuring out exactly what Hurdle meant when he described the platoon as not "cookie cutter."
Today, Hurdle was asked if there was a particular type of pitcher that he was more comfortable using Gaby Sanchez against:
Yes. He's got a real good matchup coming up Sunday with Wainwright as far as what we have, what they have. I do think it's important that we get some of these guys opportunities, like Snider. Tabata's got numbers against some of these guys as you break it down, better numbers at Busch than here, but he's got good numbers vs. the Cardinals. But there is a little bit of a common factor we're looking to get him the best chance for success early on. Absolutely.
And what I've seen right now is I want to get Ishikawa involved, in the lineup, based on how he swung the bat in Spring Training to see if we can continue to get some traction along those lines.
Cole's first start
Gerrit Cole gets his first start of the season tonight. He last pitched in Game Five of the NLDS vs the Cardinals. There were many questions from the media today about Cole and his continued maturation. Here are few selected quotes from Hurdle's responses:
I don't think he's changed a lot, by any means. I think he's just growing, he's maturing. He's got three competitive months with Major League service time. I think we should be mindful and remember that from time-to-time. We're in a hurry to build people up and evaluate them, then we'll also be the first one's to tear him down when things don't go the way we feel they should go...
I do think there are some people that think he is going to get better every time out. Well, there's going to be a time when the game will push back, other teams might push back. They'll be some more growth, more experience to be garnered...
He has tremendous confidence. I love the makeup he brings with him when he takes the field. Every time out there he has his mind on not just getting by, but to dominate. I think that is one of the things that has made him successful throughout his career.
Jeanmar Gomez and Stomly Pimentel are out. Everyone else available.