When a team is struggling offensively like the Pittsburgh Pirates have in 2017, a manager will try anything to tinker with the lineup to produce more runs. Clint Hurdle may have found the answer, at least at the top of the lineup.
Adam Frazier has been nothing short of dynamic this year at the top of the order. He’s hitting .395/.489/.539 with two home runs, three doubles, and a triple when leading off this season. He’s also drawn 12 walks opposed to just nine strikeouts. All of this coming in 90 plate appearances. Frazier has been the perfect leadoff hitter without a doubt.
Josh Harrison the perfect 2
Harrison has been no slouch this season hitting .304/.366/.462 with six home runs, seven doubles, and a triple in 192 plate appearances. When batting second, Harrison is hitting .356/.412/.492 with a home run, three doubles, and triple in 68 plate appearances. The sample size is short on both hitters but the results have been fantastic.
When Frazier and Harrison bat one two in the order, the Pirates are 7-4 as a team. Harrison is 8-24 with a double, two walks, a HBP, and sac fly directly after a Frazier hit or walk. When both Frazier and Harrison get on base during an inning, the Pirates score at least one run 70 percent of the time. In total, they have scored 16 runs in the ten innings both players have gotten on. The Pirates are putting up 5.45 runs per game with Frazier and Harrison hitting one two. Keep in mind that the team is 19-4 overall when scoring at least four runs.
An underrated aspect of this duo is having a lefty righty combination at the top of the order. Both players can hit both righties and lefties (Frazier is a career .439 hitter against lefties). The pitcher doesn’t have an advantage either way.
A catalyst for the rest
With these two at the top, the Pirates’ lineup becomes deeper and formidable. With the return of Gregory Polanco, the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup could potentially look something like this: Frazier, Harrison, Bell, Freese, Polanco, McCutchen, Cervelli, Mercer, pitcher.
It has yet to be seen whether Hurdle will actually drop Andrew McCutchen down in the order. Now could be the perfect time though. The offense has scored 20 runs in the last two games in which McCutchen didn’t start. Coincidence maybe, but a lot of potentially big innings have been killed with a Cutch double play or strikeout this season.
The top four in this proposed lineup all have an OPS above .800. They all have a wRC+ of at least 116. If Polanco and McCutchen hit five and six, there will be far less pressure on them to be “the guys”. At this point in time, they’re just guys. When they do finally heat up, it will only make the lineup that much more potent.
The two best hitters on the Pirates this season have been Frazier and Harrison. They have gotten on base. They have even surprised us with some power. These two need to be batting one and two for the foreseeable future. I am all for tinkering with the lineup but this needs to be let alone. The Pirates may have found something special in their top two. All they need to do now is sit back and watch.