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Perrotto: Ben Cherington Stubborn With His Offensive Approach

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Pittsburgh Pirates, Ben Cherington

When Pedro Alvarez was confounding the Pittsburgh Pirates with his erratic hitting in the previous decade, manager Clint Hurdle often used a phrase about the slugging corner infielder.

“Pedro is stubborn in his approach,” Hurdle said.

I was never totally sure how to interpret what Hurdle was saying. Was he praising Alvarez for staying true to his core beliefs of hitting or was he slyly criticizing him for not being open to new ideas?

One thing you can say about Pirates general manager Ben Cherington is that he, too, is stubborn with his approach, at least when it comes to potentially shaking up his team’s lineup.

The Pirates have had one of the worst offenses in the major leagues this season. Their average of just 3.76 runs a game is 26th among the 30 MLB teams.

Yet the only significant move Cherington has made so far this season came last week when he promoted second baseman Nick Gonzales from Triple-A Indianapolis.

Perhaps Cherington has been prudent by staying patient. The Pirates scored a season-high 10 runs on Saturday in a win over the Chicago Cubs then had eight runs on Monday night in a victory over the Brewers in Milwaukee.

Then again, the two scoring outbursts in three days might be outliers. A truer indication of the offense might be the Pirates scoring at least three runs just 23 times in 42 games this season.

Either way, don’t expect changes. Cherington is committed to this group of hitters, even with five current regulars having an OPS below .600 – center fielder Michael A. Taylor (.571), left fielder Jack Suwinski (.566), third baseman Jared Triolo (.531), first baseman Rowdy Tellez (.486) and Gonzales (.432).

“Look, a lot of the guys that are here are going to be here,” Cherington said. “We’re going to get this thing going, largely with the group that we have here. We believe in that group. We just have to do it. I think much shorter term, at least from my experience in the past, usually where our energy is best focused on is not on, ‘how do we get this hitter’s OPS from .600 to .800 in a week?’ That’s hard. Over time, we try to do the things that would help that happen.

“Shorter-term, generally where the energy’s better focused is ‘how do we play a team game?’ How do we rely on each other? It’s that whole thing. Trust the guy behind you in the lineup. Fight this at-bat so the next guy has a better chance. Move runners. Play the team game. In the short term, in my experience anyway, that’s where you want the energy to go. That’s certainly been part of the messaging lately, will continue to make it part of the messaging. I’d still bet on this group to get better, and we know we need to.”

Cherington also said that it’s rarely one factor that causes a team to slump. He is correct with that assessment.

“We know we need to get better. Believe we will. Believe we can. Believe we will,” Cherington said. “Ultimately, I’m responsible for that. I’m the person who leads baseball operations, the person who is ultimately responsible for all of this. It’s definitely something I’m putting on myself more than anything to try to help figure out what we want to do this year, to accomplish what we want to accomplish.”

Supposing the Pirates want to accomplish anything more than another sub-.500 season they need to do more to shake up the lineup. If nothing, the optics would be better than doing nothing.

Then again, it’s never certain what the Pirates want to accomplish. The way they’ve sat on their hands while their hitting “attack” has been all but unwatchable – two of the last three games notwithstanding – makes one wonder if winning is not a top priority for yet another season.

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