A week after last season ended after the Pirates completed their second consecutive collapse general manager Neal Huntington met manager Clint Hurdle at his Hampton home. With little money to spend on free agents few impact prospects ready for 2013 and many outside the organization calling for a regime change Huntington and Hurdle discussed how to get more production from their returning roster. The meeting led to the success behind the Pirates' first winning season since 1992: an agreement to adopt perhaps the most aggressive systematic approach to run prevention — from alignment to pitching strategy — in baseball history. “It's the conversation where we decided to push all the chips in” Hurdle said. “It's the most aggressive presentation and defensive program I've ever been around.” The Pirates experimented with a comprehensive defensive philosophy the past several seasons but this was different. • Position players had to change. They had to shift from areas of the field where they had been stationed their entire careers and trust the pitching staff's ability to locate pitches. • Pitchers had to change. The staff had to rely on a new primary pitch and trust the radical defensive alignments behind them. • Old-school coaches had to change. Coaches trained in 20th century baseball orthodoxy had to trust 21st century concepts. The club's improvement would not come through adding Gold Glove-caliber fielders or pricey free agent pitchers but rather improving the sum of its defensive parts. The plan has been a success. In 2010 the year before Hurdle arrived the Pirates ranked last in defensive efficiency — or batted balls converted to outs. For much of this summer the Pirates have ranked first in defensive efficiency. According to Defensive Wins Above Replacement the Pirates' defense has added 12.8 wins to the club vs. its 2010 level of performance the difference between a winning season and a losing one.
Aggressive defensive plan has led to Pirates' turnaround
Pittsburgh Tribune Review | Sep 15