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Links on the Pirates’ offense and possible rule changes

Kansas City Royals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Can the Pirates Score Runs?

The Post-Gazette has an article up on the Pirates’ obvious weak point, which is their hitting. I don’t think it contains any surprises. Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle acknowledge the problem but profess their belief that the offense can improve from within through better coaching (coaches being cheaper than good players).

Huntington makes the not-especially encouraging statement that, “Older players tend to get worse. Younger players tend to get better.” The problem is, the Pirates’ lineup isn’t especially young. Hitters tend to peak around age 27. When the season opens, Francisco Cervelli will be 33; Jung-Ho Kang a few days short of 32; Starling Marte and Lonnie Chisenhall 30; Corey Dickerson nearly 30; Elias Diaz 28; Gregory Polanco, Adam Frazier and Erik Gonzalez 27; Josh Bell and Colin Moran 26; and Kevin Newman and Pablo Reyes 25. The team figures to have as many hitters headed in the wrong direction, at least based just on age, as in the right direction.

Hurdle’s contribution wasn’t much more encouraging:

A large part of that program will be driving the ball, which is different from lifting it, Hurdle said.

So it’s clear, if it wasn’t already, that the Pirates are rejecting an approach that’s working all over baseball. Instead,

I believe the home runs are going to come from the men we’ve already got internally, and I think it’ll be with tweaks and adjustments to their individual swings.

So there it is. Milwaukee adds a 24-HR catcher, St. Louis adds an annual 30-HR first baseman, the Pirates add tweaks.

Rob Manfred on Rule Changes

The MLB Commissioner had some things to say about possible rule changes, some proposed by the owners and some by the players. (H/t Thunder.) The contrast is interesting: The owners’ proposals are designed to speed up the game (without intruding on commercial breaks) and the players’ are designed to encourage teams to try to win. The owners, of course, want a pitch clock and a three-batter rule for relievers (unless the inning ends sooner). The owners continue to want their changes implemented this season.

Manfred rejected the notion of implementing the players’ proposals this year. The players want to see the following:

the DH in all games, an earlier trade deadline aimed at discouraging teams with losing records from trading stars, increasing service time for top young stars called up early in the season and rewarding and penalizing teams in the draft based on their records.

I assume that last one means rewarding teams for winning and penalizing teams for losing. Given the way revenue sharing has disincentivized winning for teams like the Pirates, it’d be good to see something pushing teams the other way. I haven’t the slightest hope, though, that the threat of a weaker draft position would push Bob Nutting to put the least bit more effort into winning. The only thing that would do that would be lowering his revenue sharing proceeds based on a lack of on-field success.

Anyway, it’s worth reading. Rule changes seem to get talked about a lot more than actually implemented, so I’m not convinced there’s more than smoke here until we actually see some fire.

Oh, and speaking of revenue sharing, Manfred also addressed the union’s pending grievance:

Manfred said the union is still in the fact-gathering stage of its grievance filed last winter accusing Miami, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay of not properly spending money they received in revenue sharing.

So now we know what’s happening on that front.