09/29/12 7:40 PM ET
Playing time dwindling, Marte a work in progress
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Pirates' running game not yet up to speed
PITTSBURGH -- The 2012 season hasn't even ended yet, and one can assuredly make a call on what will be the Pirates' biggest improvement in 2013: Running, and stealing, bases.An easy call, because there's nowhere to go but up. Before Saturday night, the Bucs had stolen 69 bases in 121 tries, a 57 percent success rate that was the Majors' lowest; Arizona was next at 64 percent. Also because the alarming failure rate has the club's full attention, and will lead to added emphasis on coaching speedsters how to use that talent. Andrew McCutchen was 20-for-32, Starling Marte was 10-for-15, Alex Presley was 9-for-16 entering Saturday. Mostly, though, because manager Clint Hurdle conceded Saturday that when it comes to the Pirates tapping their run potential, "there's more there." The last time Hurdle used that exact phrase was a year ago, about the Bucs' power production as they were wrapping up the 2011 season 12th in the National League with 107 homers. Essentially the same group now has 166 home runs, fourth in the league and within reach of the club record of 171 established in 1999. "We haven't run the bases in line with the skill-set we have," Hurdle said. "There's more bags to be had. Our stolen-base ratio isn't anywhere close to what it should be, or what we're capable of."
With Friday's loss, the Pirates clinched their 19th straight losing record against National League Central teams in as many years of interdivisional play. Before Homer Bailey's no-hitter, the Bucs were 38-40 against division teams and still had a chance for a winning division record for the first time since the Central's birth in 1994. Sunday's series finale against Cincinnati is also the final against the NL Central. Easily camouflaged by Bailey's no-hitter was the fact his 10 strikeouts increased Pittsburgh batters' season total to 1,312, a new club record, breaking last season's total of 1,308. The Pittsburgh staff took an ERA of 3.92 into game No. 158. The last season the team ERA finished below 4.00 was in 1998 (3.91).
"I think the world of Dusty, personally and professionally, and I do [wish] him a speedy recovery."
-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, on Cincinnati counterpart Dusty Baker, who is missing this series while concluding his recovery from a minor stroke
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.