2012 Expectations: Coaches
Manager, Clint Hurdle: There are three main things I am hoping to see from Hurdle this season: 1) Smarter small ball management, 2.) Smarter bullpen management and 3.) Success from his own personal hitting projects. By smarter small ball management I am meaning he needs to better utilize the speed he has at the top of his lineup and bunt less often. With Tabata, Presley and McCutchen likely at the top of the Pirates lineup Hurdle needs to run aggressively but smarter. As for the bunts last season Hurdle did it with so much frequency that it became frustrating and a bit or a running joke; when the situation calls for it Hurdle should still absolutely call for a bunt he just needs to be more selective this season. Now as for the bullpen usage this mainly deals with his use of his closer. Some people advocate using Hanrahan in late game crucial situations instead of solely the 9th inning but I want to see Hanarhan stay primarily in the 9th inning role but I want to see Hurdle show flexibility and occasionally be willing to bring Hanrahan in during the 7th or 8th inning if the game is close and the situation critical. Also if Hurdle is going to stick to his no pitching 3 days in a row he needs to be more selective before sending out pitchers, i.e. if Hanahran pitched the day before he should not come to mound to close a game in which the Pirates have a 3 run lead. The final thing I want to see from Hurdle is for his personal hitting projects of Alvarez and McKenry to show success in the majors, being honest I am really indifferent on McKenry (it would be nice to see and all) but Alvarez is the key here.
Hitting Coach, Gregg Ritchie: There is only one thing I want to see from Ritchie this season, at least one person under his tutelage needs to step up and take his game to the next level. The Pirates really had no single hitter last season who exceeded expectations, that needs to change this season. I am not including Alvarez in this because I see him more as a project for Hurdle than Ritchie but somebody like Tabata, Presley, Walker, etc has to play better than what everyone is expecting. I actually think this is critical and failure to do this could end up costing Ritchie his job.
Pitching Coach, Ray Searage: The goal for Searage is to continue doing what he did last season. Bottom line the pitching staff for the first four months performed remarkably and all Searage really has to do is help that continue and maybe get it to extend throughout the entire season. I will mention a few tasks I will like to see him specifically address. 1.) Get Morton more confident throwing pitches other than his sinker, 2.) Help McDonald get deeper into games, and 3.) Tweak Burnett’s delivery, grip, something to make him lose a few mph of his changeup. Those three tasks along with continuing last season’s success and building off of it is what I am looking for this season.
1st Base Coach, Luis Silverio: In addition to being the 1st base coach Silverio will also serve as the outfield coach and the base running coach. I think his most important role this season is going to be base running but it would also be nice to see the outfield reach its full defensive potential. As for base running Silverio has to better train the Pirates base stealers like Tabata, Presley and McCutchen to make them more aggressive and smarter. I want to see the Pirates be smart and aggressive on the base paths this season and Silverio will have a big role in that.
3rd Base Coach, Nick Leyva: Leyva is also the club’s infield coach and he will have his work cut out from him there. The Pirates should get good defense from Barmes but the platoon of Jones/McGehee, Walker and Alvarez are not the strongest fielders. Leyva will have to work to get McGehee comfortable at a relatively new position and he will need to try and get respectable defensive performances from Walker and Alvarez. I want to see the infield defense be average or better this season. As for his role as 3rd base coach I had no real problem with how he decided to send runners last season so hopefully he just keeps up his work and maybe gets a tad more aggressive.
Bench Coach, Jeff Banister: To be honest I am not really sure what responsibilities Hurdle has delegated to Banister. A bench coach’s role is to help the manager with the day to day activities. Since I really do not know what Banister is responsible for it is tough to say what to expect from him but since he does assist Hurdle the same goals I gave to Hurdle apply to Banister.
Bullpen Coach, Euclides Rojas: The bullpen coach has a very similar role to the pitching coach but mainly works with the relievers. One job away from the relievers I am hoping Rojas partakes in is using his past experience with Burnett to help Searage form a relationship with Burnett. As for his work in the pen I think his two most important tasks this season will be working with Meek to help him regain his form and working with the left handed relievers to try and solidify that shaky spot in the Pirates bullpen.
Bullpen Catcher, Hebarto Andrade: I really have nothing to add here. As the bullpen catcher Andrade basically serves as an assistant to Rojas and is also responsible for throwing batting practice. During the winter months Andrade also serves as a catching instructor for the Venezuela winter leagues so maybe he will be able to Barajas and McKenry out in some capacity.
Coach, Mark Strittmatter: Strittmatter will serve as the pitchers hitting coach, work with the catchers and also help Ritchie and Hurdle with the hitting program. A lot of what I assigned to Hurdle and Ritchie applies to him but I would also like to see some improvement from the Pirates pitchers in terms of hitting. The pitchers will obviously never hit great but even so last season the Pirates pitchers were 100 OPS points below the National League average and that is not acceptable.
Strength & Conditioning Coach, Brendon Huttman: A new addition to Hurdle’s staff Huttman will take over a role that no one actually filled last season; the Pirates did have someone responsible for strength and conditioning but that was not his full role. Obviously the goal for him is to help avoid a repeat of last season’s major injury collapse down the stretch.