The Pirates appear ready to roll it back next season under the leadership of President Frank Coonelly, general manager Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle, per Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pitching Coach Ray Searage is keeping his feet on the ground for now as he awaits ownership’s decision about his own fate. It stands to reason that Searage could be the fall guy if Hurdle returns after a tough season on the hill (and off) for Pirates pitchers.
Ex-Pirates pitchers, meanwhile, have excelled this season, as Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton, and Gerrit Cole can be counted among the league’s best. One could see their success as a testament to the tutelage received in Pittsburgh, as Searage suggests, though if ownership deems the above trio’s development as linked in any way to their departures from Steel City, a change in the coaching staff would seem appropriate.
The Pirates weathered criticism and fisticuffs throughout the year for a strategy of pitching up and in that didn’t always meld with a staff that struggled with location (3.63 walks per nine is the 23rd best mark in the league). And while it’s unnecessary to rehash here some of the obvious off-field complications for Pirates pitchers, the team’s 5.22 ERA is certainly apropos to a conversation about Searage’s future. As of today, they are tied for 26th in the league by ERA – easily the worst of the Clint Hurdle era. A fielding independent mark of 4.77 provides a slightly sunnier look on the Pirates’ year, though even that glass-half-full approach puts them in the bottom half of the MLB.
There was progress made on the offensive end, though Searage likely can’t claim much credit for Steven Brault’s “breakout” season at the plate The Pirates plan on converting their swingman into a two-way player a la Michael Lorenzen of the Reds. With a .341/.357/.439 mark across 49 plate appearances, you can almost argue Brault is a more polished offensive player than on the hill, where he is 4-6 with a 5.16 ERA/4.77 FIP across 19 starts and 6 relief appearances. The plan for now is for Brault to return to the rotation next season, though how exactly that would mesh with a role as a part-time outfielder is still in the storyboard phase of development.