Numbers show more Ks than hits

By John Mehno

For the Mirror

PITTSBURGH–There’s a whole lot of swing and miss in baseball these days.

Too much, as a matter of fact.

Things are trending in the wrong direction this year, where projections say there will be more strikeouts than hits this season.

Part of the reason is an all or nothing mentality. Players sell out for home runs and don’t care as much if they strike out.

As a rookie last season, the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge hit 52 home runs but also struck out a whopping 208 times.

The Pirates run contrary to the trend. Entering Thursday night’s game against Arizona, the Pirates had 621 hits and 540 strikeouts. Their strikeout total was the second-lowest in MLB.

Manager Clint Hurdle was asked if he foresaw a day when there would be more strikeouts than hits.

“Ten years ago? No. Three years ago? Maybe,” he said.

Hurdle has also worked as a hitting coach and said people have been contacting him on the subject of the strikeouts vs. hits.

“I don’t have the angst that some people have,” Hurdle said. “The game is running this course and I believe there are reasons why it is. There’s been different importance put on different things.”

There used to be a stigma attached to high strikeout total. When Jay Bell played for the Pirates in the 1990s, he agonized whenever he would near 100 strikeouts.

That feeling doesn’t seem to exist any more. If enough home runs offset the strikeouts — as in the case of Judge — it seems to be of little concern.

“We seem to be an outlier,” Hurdle said. “There are teams that are still getting things done. The Brewers, the Diamondbacks. There are different ways to win games nowadays.

“The approach to hitting can be challenging, to say the least. The mindset. What you hope you get in a young player at 18, who hasn’t had 20 hitting coaches. Maybe he’s had 10. You have college guys who have had so many (coaches) and they’re pretty set in their ways.

“You try to have a conversations on what’s important to us as an organization philosophically. What’s important to them as an individual. What about team concepts? It’s still about scoring runs at the end of the day, so I can understand why the narrative is what it is.”

Making adjustments

At 60 (61 next month), Hurdle is one of the older major league managers.

Yet he says he enjoys the changing game as much as ever — just in different ways.

“I love the game,” he said. “I’m just finding different things to love about the game. There are some things I’m willing to fight for and other things that I need to let go of because they’re gone. Maybe they’ll come back. So I think it’s interesting.”

Kang update

The Pirates continue to list third baseman Jung Ho Kang as day-to-day,

He was removed from Wednesday’s lineup at Class AAA Indianapolis because of left wrist discomfort.

It’s official

The Pirates will play a doubleheader against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park on Saturday, July 14.

That will make up for Wednesday’s postponed game.

It will be a traditional doubleheader with the first game to start at 12:35.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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