Pittsburgh Pirates OF Austin Meadows is not playing tonight, and Pirates fans are sharpening their knives. But are there any legitimate baseball reasons for not playing Meadows every day?
UPDATE: so, as it turns out, this is much ado about nothing:
Austin Meadows is out of the lineup a second day in a row and was unavailable last night after a fouling a ball off of his foot Sunday afternoon.— Chris Mack (@THEChrisMack) June 19, 2018
Worked out this afternoon in an attempt to determine availability off the bench tonight and is being monitored.
Still, the larger debate looms...
If you want to destroy the idea that the Pirates are arbitrarily sitting Austin Meadows tonight, pull this (twitter) thread as I walk away:
Want to know why Austin Meadows isn't starting tonight for the #Pirates? Here's a quick thread— Jason Rollison (@jrollisonpgh) June 19, 2018
Weezer references aside, Austin Meadows is sitting tonight, his second game in a row.
As expected, Pirates twitter is a firestorm of Clint Hurdle and Neal Huntington criticism. The prevailing wisdom is to play your best players every day. Certainly, no one would have fault with that, right?
Just digging around @fangraphs a bit and found something that I'm fearful of sharing with you, friends.— Chris Mack (@THEChrisMack) June 18, 2018
Remember, don't kill the messenger...
Since 5/31, Austin Meadows is hitting .245 w/.683 OPS
Gregory Polanco is hitting .256 w/.831 OPS#RIPMyMentions
Ok, look. 18 days in June wherein Polanco is outperforming Meadows does not make Polanco the better player. Quite the contrary, as many (rightfully, in my opinion) consider Meadows to be a more complete baseball player in many ways.
But for a club that also gets derided for not trying to win, criticizing the Pirates this harshly for sitting Meadows another day just does not compute.
At least not tonight.
If Twitter isn’t your thing, here’s the rest of the points that I had in the thread from up above:
First, Meadows’ whiff percentage against breaking pitches has risen sharply in June:
Second, tonight’s Brewers starter — Milwaukee’s number nine overall prospect Freddy Peralta — has thrown a curveball as an out pitch to left-handed hitters with great enthusiasm:
Whereas Gregory Polanco has been a little bit better in May-June at making contact against bending stuff:
In all likelihood, the decision from Hurdle to start Polanco tonight is likely two-fold: First to not put Meadows into a position to fail, continuing his slow descent back to Earth. Second, he is likely trying to get Polanco sprung after going 4-for-5 over the past two games.
Granted, Meadows has seen 36 breaking balls this month and Peralta has a very small number of innings under his belt. Small sample sizes all around.
But, these sound like baseball reasons to me, perhaps even legitimate ones.
To be clear, I am not defending sitting Meadows as much as the Pittsburgh Pirates have. It is my firm belief that Meadows needs to soak up every last at-bat he can and as soon as he can. Doing so can only help the club in 2018 and, more importantly, beyond.
Perhaps Starling Marte or Corey Dickerson could have used a down-day. This four-man outfield rotation does not need to be rotated only in right-field.
However, to say that Meadows sitting tonight is a travesty perpetuated upon Pirates fans and observers alike is a bit much, especially when there may just be a good reason.