Tape not as good as experience against Cubs' young talent
Even a small sample size helps pitchers devise game plan
CHICAGO -- The Pirates could have worn out all the tape on Kris Bryant at their disposal before last week's series against the Cubs at PNC Park. They could have pored over scouting reports like they were cramming for final exams.
The truth is, none of that prepared the Bucs to face Bryant like, well, actually facing Bryant.
So, as the Pirates and Cubs reconvene this week at Wrigley Field, the Bucs can lean on their own experience and information as they face Bryant and Chicago's group of talented young hitters.
"It's somebody else's guy. You think you see where the pitches are. You're reading the swing. When you get in the park, you feel it," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said before Monday night's 4-0 loss, in which Bryant went 2-for-4 with a two-run single. "Our pitchers feel it. Our players see it. I think we have a much better idea of their swing path. I think we've got a much better idea of discipline at the plate."
It was Bryant's "seasoned" plate discipline that really caught Hurdle's eye last week in Pittsburgh. Bryant, the heralded top prospect, went 6-for-15 with three doubles, six RBIs and four walks in the four-game series.
"He laid off probably 12 borderline pitches in a four-game series, all in critical situations, and I think all but about one of them were a ball. That was impressive in and of itself," Hurdle said. "The ability to drive the ball, to leverage a swing out over the plate, to look to the big part of the field was good to see."
Even during that short time, however, the Pirates learned a few things about Bryant. They've done the same this season while getting their first extended looks at touted young Cubs Jorge Soler and Addison Russell.
That experience provides Pirates players and coaches with more information, which allows them to better prepare for future matchups. It's a small sample, but it's at least worth noting that all four of Bryant's strikeouts against the Pirates last week came in the clubs' final two games.
"I think we also got to see some of the things we thought going in were true, on ways to attack, different types of pitch selection," Hurdle said. "We've got a better idea on Soler now. We've got a much better idea on Russell as well.
"So you take that information. Now, you've got to go out and execute properly."