Clint Hurdle provides insight on Pirates’ use of stats

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The Pirates aren’t known as one of the more Sabermetrically-savvy teams like the Rays and Athletics, but they do have Dan Fox (formerly of Baseball Prospectus) as the director of baseball systems development. Thanks to Fox and others, the Pirates are able to use stat reports to prepare lineups and pitching match-ups with greater specificity. SB Nation Pirates blog Bucs Dugout talked to manager Clint Hurdle, who provided more details about the way he utilizes the tools at his disposal despite not being a number-cruncher himself.

We have a system analysis that is so unique that what we do is, we have player batting averages, swing and miss rates, on base percentage, OPS, it is all laid out for that pitcher and 15 comparables. So truth be told, at times you can get a player that is 10-for-20 off a guy in real time and he doesn’t rank maybe in the top of your batting order if you were constructing one sabermetrically over the long haul. But also you can get a pretty good feel on what that kind of guy can do against those kinds of pitchers. It’s tool. It’s a useful tool. I’ll say that.

I’ve grown in the time I’ve been here by being open-minded, knowing I have some people upstairs that are really, really smart. But you have to mesh the two.

Many statistically-oriented writers have criticized managers’ tendency to give — to use an example — a bench player a start because he is 4-for-9 against the opposing starter. The reasoning behind that is nine at-bats is a terribly small sample size, making any information gathered from those nine at-bats largely meaningless. However, the Pirates’ method of grouping similar pitches together is quite interesting and makes sense. Grabbing, say, Andrew McCutchen’s performance against Cole Hamels won’t tell you much since it’s only 17 plate appearances. But grouping together left-handed starters with a 91-93 MPH fastball and an 82-84 MPH change-up would expand your sample size to a level where you can start to make conclusions about a player’s performance level.

The Giants are considering Pablo Sandoval at second base

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Pablo Sandoval could be tabbed to play second base in the near future, per a report from John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. According to Shea, Sandoval has been spotted taking grounders at second during pre-game warm-ups and may be considering switching to the keystone on a part-time basis.

It wouldn’t be the weirdest thing the 31-year-old corner infielder has done this year — that distinction goes to the flawless inning of relief he pitched in a blowout loss against the Dodgers last month. But it would represent a pretty notable departure from his comfort zone even so; Sandoval has primarily manned first and third base throughout his 11-year career in the majors and has also taken a few reps at DH during his resurgence with the Giants in 2018.

Of course, this wouldn’t necessarily be a permanent switch for Sandoval. As Shea points out, the Giants are thin on middle infielders after losing Joe Panik to a torn UCL in his left thumb and backup Alen Hanson to a left hamstring strain. Provided he can get up to speed quickly (no easy feat, according to infield coach Ron Wotus), he’d give the club some added depth behind Kelby Tomlinson and Miguel Gomez until Panik is ready to take the field again. Sandoval has impressed at the plate this spring, batting a healthy .270/.329/.429 with six extra-base hits and a .757 through 70 plate appearances.