Yesterday, Starling Marte let the cat out of the bag when he told MLB Dominicana that he will be moving to center field in 2017. He mentioned that Pirates Manager, Clint Hurdle, called him just a few days beforehand to notify him of this change. Though he confirmed that he would be moving to center, no information was provided as to which corner Andrew McCutchen would be shifting to. That info was left secluded for all of about 18 hours.
Clint Hurdle announces Pirates expected outfield defensive changes for 2017. pic.twitter.com/FFcEqNaUeV
— Pirates (@Pirates) February 5, 2017
Today, likely due to Marte’s loose lips, Clint Hurdle made a statement declaring that Andrew McCutchen will be moving to right field and Gregory Polanco will man left. This decision doesn’t come as a great surprise to many. The writing was on the wall that Cutch was bound to be replaced as the every day center fielder. Many questioned which corner spot he would best serve. Ideally because of his arm, left field would make a lot of sense. Teams would certainly try and test it time and time again if he were to play right. However, half of his games will obviously be played in PNC Park.
It doesn’t take much of a mathematician to see the dimensions of our park’s outfield and notice that left field is as spacious as they come. If removing Andrew from center is because of his regressing range, the move to left certainly wouldn’t keep him from being exposed this way. Last season, Cutch posted career lows in defensive metrics. He posted an MLB worst of all outfielders with a -18.7 Ultimate Zone Rating and a -28 Defensive Runs Saved. In comparison, Marte posted a 12th best 6.2 Ultimate Zone Rating and a fifth best 17 Defensive Runs Saved among all outfielders. Moving McCutchen to left field would appear to still expose this outfield’s defense.
With this reasoning many people including us have envisioned a Cutch move to right. As spacious as our left field is, right field in PNC is pretty confined. As a matter of fact, it’s the seventh smallest right field in baseball while holding the third largest left field in the game. A move to right would serve Cutch best as there is a lot less ground to cover. Sure, teams will try and test his arm there, but that is a lesser of the evils the Pirates will gladly take.
With Marte in center and Cutch in right, Gregory will now be making his move to left. In theory all three outfielders are switching permanent positions, but Marte has been playing center when Cutch was not in the lineup while Polanco has played 254 innings at left in his MLB career. It’ll be an adjustment for all three players, but their athleticism puts me at ease to think it will be a smooth transition for all of them.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see Starling Marte in the gold glove talks in center field as he was so many times in left. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Polanco battling out Marcell Ozuna and Adam Duvall as a gold glove finalist in left field now either.
Hurdle said all of the players handled this professionally which should not come as a surprise. With the new outfield alignment and an expected rebound from Cutch, it is time to begin the talks of Pittsburgh having the best outfield in baseball once again.