There is Nothing to be Gained from Bad Coaching

No, I’m not going to go ape on Derek Shelton and blast his resume. I’m not going to assume close to 20 games is enough to form fact-based opinion on the capabilities of the man. I will say, so far, he hasn’t done a good job.

Even if you believe Shelton has been told to downplay winning as a priority, I’m not seeing the vision. I don’t mean something as simple as not pinch hitting for Gregory Polanco with men on base against two lefty’s he would never hit. Oliver Perez is going to get Greg out 9 out of 10 times and Brad Hand is just as likely. I mean you have Osuna on the bench, last year’s league best pinch hitter, but I guess if you’re intent is to keep Polanco in there to ‘evaluate’ his ability in this area, ok. I might ask though, why?

It’s no league secret that Polanco struggles against left-handed pitching, I mean, this season his overall average is .075. He’s a career .249 hitter largely aided by Clint Hurdle shielding him from left handers as much as possible. Maybe he wasn’t shielding, maybe he was coaching. Maybe there’s nothing left to learn here.

Baffling.

How does the evaluation season match up with playing Jarrod Dyson in center? Is he better than Tucker in center? Oh God yes, and if you’re waiting for that statement to not be true to make the transition to Tucker more regularly, probably going to be waiting a while. Playing Dyson to shop him in a trade is silly, he’s put plenty on tape, no surprises left with him. He’s going to steal some bases, but not get on enough to make it matter. He’ll play excellent defense and aside from that be a prototypical 8- or 9-hole hitter. If someone wants what Dyson does, they don’t need to have seen him do it wearing black and gold. So, what are we doing here?

This isn’t even sour grapes for wanting Tucker to play, if I’m honest I don’t find him to be the best option for young guys that can play the position. I’d prefer to see Martin or Oliva splitting time with Tucker if you aren’t going to outright give him a shot as the starter.

Again, baffling.

Last night in the bottom of the ninth, as has happened so many times this season, I had questions. The first one was when Dyson managed to get on base, why do you need to bunt him over? This is one of the better base stealers in the game, Stallings isn’t a good bunter, and if you believe in analytics it’s flawed strategy.

Even so, I get it, old school small ball, and hey, it worked, purely by accident, but it worked. Now Dyson is at second and Frazier is up, what do they have him do, you guessed it, bunt. Not surprising to anyone watching from home he missed, and Dyson took liberties to stray too far off second, getting picked off. Now you have the slow-footed Stallings at 1st and Frazier is swinging away. He flew out to right which would have accomplished exactly what the bunt intended, if Dyson were in fact still a duck on the pond rather than a mope in the dugout.

That is really where last night’s ballgame was lost. Newman came up and roped what would have been another walk off single. Blame Dyson if you want, he surely deserves it, but it shouldn’t overshadow the questionable choices on the way there.

The coaching questions don’t end with Shelton, I mean of course the buck stops there but let’s keep going. This club decided to purge the management team, but two old faces remained. One was Joey Cora, and let’s face it, he hasn’t been put in position to wave too many runners this season, even so he’s had a couple questionable sends. More alarmingly, he is still in charge of coaching the fielders. Watching this team play last season, did you feel this was a strong suit of the club? Of course not, so why no change there?

Why bring that back? I still see fielders making poor decisions. Tripe baffling.

What about Rick Eckstein? Here’s a guy that the hitters lobbied heavily to retain. After last year I have to admit, totally on board. Keeping him in place was not with the intention of turning Erik Gonzalez into the teams All Star representative believe it or not, it was to keep Bell improving, keep Reynolds being Reynolds and hope for steady improvement everywhere else.

Bell is all over the place. No consistent approach, not even a consistent stance. Chasing and in general looking out of sorts. Reynolds has visibly changed his stance from last season to this, why? I mean these are the guys who went to bat for Eckstein so to speak, and now they look like they’ve regressed.

Bottom line, if you’re new coach is a former hitting coach, it’s at least a little weird to not let him hire his own guy. I have no way of knowing what’s going on in that clubhouse but if Eckstein was a big part of the success last season with the bats, he has to be just as much a part of the utter failure this season. Are we trying to create the power out of nowhere success of the Twins? No matter what they’re trying to do, is there any meaningful reason to let Josh Bell continue to go up there swinging as hard as he can from whatever stance he chooses?

Oscar Marin didn’t get much time with this staff, and that was before half of them were injured. He worked with Williams in the off season as they lived fairly close to one another, and there are no miracles for the Del Pozo’s of the world. As bad as the pitching has been, I honestly don’t know much I can assign to him. I guess analytically speaking the spin rates all look up, but its also a different mix of pitchers.

Even if you believe winning isn’t the goal, individual improvement needs to take place, and there is no good way to do that if you intentionally avoid trying to win. If the Pirates lose every game the rest of the season, it would be nice to feel like ‘hey, if they had more talent…’. Instead I’m left to wonder if there is an amount of talent that could actually get the job done with the way I’m watching the team be coached.

I’d like to believe they lost 6-3 last night because the Indians are a better team with better talent, and that’s certainly true. Instead I point back to three or four tangible decisions that would have actually helped evaluate some younger players, you know the stated goal, that could have won the ballgame.

It was absolutely time for Hurdle and Searage to go, I’m not pining for the glorious past. In 9 seasons of watching Clint manage the team I don’t think I had as many questions about what the management is thinking as I’ve had in this roughly one month of Shelton’s tenure.

If you’ve read my work for any length of time, you’ve seen I try to always see every angle on stuff like this. My frustration with Shelton so far, I can’t avoid his decisions contradicting themselves. I can’t imagine how the players feel.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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