Pirates Notebook: Reviewing rule book, shifts

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Baseball's rule book is 133 pages thick, beginning with the one that states it is "a game between two teams of nine players each." And, in between, there surely are many rules that even the sport's lifers do not know.

"There are a lot of rules in there," Pirates manager John Russell said Saturday.

One of them not universally known, apparently, was rule 7.03 (a), judging by Andy LaRoche's reaction Friday in being doubled off third base when he returned there and Andrew McCutchen already occupied it. The rules states that the lead runner is entitled to the base and, in this instance, McCutchen would be the one declared out when tagged. When LaRoche walked off the base thinking he was the one out originally, he, too, was tagged out for a double play.

That cost the Pirates a promising rally in what proved an error-filled 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Russell and his staff addressed the matter Saturday, but he acknowledged the difficulty not only in preparing for such events but also in reacting even once the knowledge is there.

"It's a high-anxiety moment, a high-pressure situation late in the game, and now two guys are on the base, and the confusion sets in," Russell said. "It's a play you don't see it very often, and you can't really enact it. It's already been addressed, so the next time it happens, we'll know what to do."

And that, as he clarified, is for the lead runner to give himself up once other runners have advanced.

"Once Andrew has established control of third base, your job is done. You want to avoid the double play. That's the teaching point."

Russell again did not criticize LaRoche or third base coach Tony Beasley, who apparently did not give instructions on the scene.

GM: Shifts based on data

The Pirates' many defensive shifts this year, outfield and infield, are made not only at the coaching-staff level but also from above, with general manager Neal Huntington and his statistical analysts -- notably Dan Fox, director of baseball systems development -- deeply involved.

The infield shifts for St. Louis on Friday, unlike any the Cardinals had seen all year, contributed to the Pirates' loss -- as did Zach Duke failing to execute pitches aimed at that defense -- but Huntington said Saturday that the Pirates' data shows their shifts have paid off far more often than not.

"Our positioning is based on the pitcher pitching, and our subjective analysis of the extensive customized objective data available," Huntington said.

He declined, for competitive reasons, to cite specifics of that data.

Asked if the shift calls Friday were made at the management level, he replied, "Blame me."

Buried treasure

• Second baseman Aki Iwamura was replaced by Bobby Crosby for a second time in four games, this after missing a tag that led to St. Louis' winning run Friday. Russell, asked if he was sending a message to Iwamura, replied, "No, we've talked. And with the left-hander on the mound, this gives Bobby an opportunity."

• St. Louis slugger Matt Holliday was scratched from the lineup because of a groin injury, and he probably will not start this afternoon, either.

• Just in time for the blast of ... uh, cold weather, Paul Maholm got his annual buzz-cut in advance of his start today.

Dejan Kovacevic: dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . Find more at PBC Blog .


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