10/03/12 1:04 AM ET
Hurdle already has a plan for '13 lineup
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Hurdle proud of progress, stung by finish
PITTSBURGH -- You can't sugarcoat it. Not that Clint Hurdle ever tried. But when you remove the gray of the Pirates' progress, leaving only the black-and-white of their finish, Hurdle admitted "Yes, yes," this is the toughest-to-take finish of his decade as a Major League manager."I'm not happy with the finish at all," said Hurdle, whose midseason contenders broke the tape with a sub-.500 record. "I don't think you can just walk away from all that we were able to accomplish, but we continue to demand a lot of ourselves. Winning something of value, some tangible evidence -- a championship, a division. A playoff opportunity." Hurdle alluded to the Pirates' image improving in Major League circles; "street cred," he called it. "We're striving for excellence, not looking for external acceptance," Hurdle said. "But the conversations I've had with opposing players and managers ... in their perception, we're gaining traction." The sum of the 2012 Pirates' positive parts definitely did not add up to a satisfactory whole. "The pitching, overall, continued to evolve in a much better fashion,"said Hurdle, running down his top takeaways. "The increased power. In the bullpen, we had our men go post to post. "Individually ... the emergence of [Andrew] McCutchen, [Neil] Walker was about to have his breakout season [until herniating a disc in late August], [Pedro] Alvarez became a factor. [Garrett] Jones had a strong bounce-back season."
The last word
"There is more to do. There is unfinished business in front of us."
-- Hurdle, signing off on a 2012 season in which the Pirates significantly improved their win total for the second straight campaign.
The trio of Andrew McCutchen (31), Pedro Alvarez (30) and Garrett Jones (27) entered the final game with the fifth-highest home run total (88) for three Pirates teammates in club history. They were one from tying the fourth-highest of 89 shared by the 1949, '73 and '99 editions. The Bucs also have a trio of pitchers with 12-or-more wins (A.J. Burnett, James McDonald and Kevin Correia) for the first time since 1991, when the names were John Smiley, Zane Smith and Doug Drabek. That does not include former Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez, who went 5-4 with the Pirates toward his overall record of 12-13. Pittsburgh's season-long nightmare with the running game had an odd turnaround in the last two weeks of the season. Prior to Wednesday's finale, the Bucs had been successful on 14 of 19 steal attempts -- while throwing out four of 11 opposing runners.
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.