Mired below 500, the Pirates are starting to think about 2017. And one thing is certain: the team will need a completely new philosophy to winning games.
This year the Pirates have tried scoring a lot early, and that doesn't work. They've tried scoring a lot late and that doesn't work either. It might be suggested that perhaps preventing their opponents from scoring so much much might be an answer, but apparently the balls are painted with "Hit Me" and the other team's batters comply.
Could the Pirates open the checkbook for some pitching talent? Well, other teams have much deeper pockets and so that seems doomed from the start. What the Pirates are going to do is redesign PNC Park to hold down scoring then design an offense to take advantage of that, with the idea of winning games 3 to 1. And what this means is a team that can get scratch hits, steal bases, and sacrifice, while the park prevents other teams from playing their game effectively. With no new pitching talent likely to be acquired, the park will have to be the pitching staff.
The first step is to redesign PNC to prevent home runs. But the typical method - moving the walls miles from the plate, as in Forbes Field, will not be used. Instead, the outfield walls will be rebuilt to be 96 feet high. In addition to preventing home runs, 96 feet was chosen as the dimension to remind Pirates to steal bases. Ninety six is the team's individual season stolen base record, held by Omar Moreno.
But the next problem is how to cut down on other offensive events. The redesigned PNC will cut down on the outfield area where singles and doubles can fall by bringing the walls closer to home plate. Studies indicate the ideal distance to achieve the goal is a home plate to wall distance of 185 to 215 feet. The exact distance will be determined randomly, based on Andrew McCutchen's final 2016 batting average.
Of course, high walls close to the plate will result in a lot of balls bouncing back off the walls into the playing field, requiring a much different fielding technique. "I figure what we'll have to do" said Manager Clint Hurdle "is trade McCutchen, Mercer, and Harrison for some prospects and cash, and use the cash to sign some real good racketball players. Y'know, I bet a good racketball player could turn a double play on a hit off the wall. Wouldn't that be wild!"
Asked how such a bizarre team would win on the road, Hurdle said "I think we can win 20 games on the road through sheer luck. And with our bizarre park design, nobody else is going to be able to play effectively there, so we ought to win all 81 home games."
With the new park design, even a AAA pitcher could pitch shutouts most of the time against a typically configured team. "And that's really cool" said Hurdle. "because we already have a AAA pitching staff."