This post over at the Pirates’ blog WHYGAVS is being rewtweed and reposted all over the Internet today because of a brilliant “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” riff on the whole Stephen Strasburg debut. And it is brilliant, so go check it out. But I like it much more for this passage from its author, Pat Lackey:
This is the most anyone besides Pirate fans will notice the Pirates all year. The Pirates are currently the national afterthought, the joke of a team that’s been sacrificed to the debut of the most hyped pitching prospect in the history of baseball. No one expects the Pirates to do anything in this game besides strike out nine or ten times, go back to the locker room with their heads between their tails, and give the huge assembled scores of media some nice quotes about how awesome Strasburg is.
And that’s all people should expect from the Pirates tonight. But no one wants to be a sacrificial lamb, and there’s going to be a lot of pride on the line for the guys in black and gold tonight. I sure as hell hope they go down with a fight.
Baseball is a team sport with a tough freakin’ learning curve. As I said this morning, I wish nothing but the best for Stephen Strasburg and I hope he has a great career. But at the same time, I wouldn’t mind it in the least if the Pirates — who are drawing comparisons to the Washington Generals for cryin’ out loud — lay the lumber to the kid a little bit to remind everyone that baseball is not best defined by huge, media-crazy moments like tonight’s game. It’s a game defined by the daily grind, stamina, perseverance and learning from one’s mistakes.
Go Strasburg, but go Pirates too.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP