Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Polanco Thriving Since Returning to the Leadoff Spot

It is hard to not view the first three months of Gregory Polanco‘s season as anything but disappointing. On July 5th the talented young RF of the Pittsburgh Pirates was saddled with a 231/300/330 triple slash line. The Pirates were facing a crossroad. Not only was Polanco struggling, but the team had just lost leadoff hitter Josh Harrison to a thumb injury that would sideline him until September. With the trade deadline looming less than a month away this was a crucial time for Polanco. The Bucs had to be considering the possibility of acquiring a replacement for Polanco in the near future – one that could possibly hit leadoff. Instead of continuing to bury Polanco at the bottom of the lineup manager Clint Hurdle decided on July 6th to instead pencil Polanco into the leadoff spot. The Pirates lineup had been very inconsistent much of the season and Polanco’s struggles were a big reason why. It seemed a curious move to put a hitter with a .300 OBP in the leadoff spot. But the young OF has responded to the challenge.
Since Harrison’s injury Polanco has served as the team’s leadoff hitter almost exclusively (the lone exception was July 12th against the Cardinals when he hit 8th). Since returing to the leadoff spot Polanco has hit safely in 16 of his last 18 games. He has reached base via a hit or a walk in all 18 of those games. Polanco is slashing a robust 288/366/466 during that time and has scored 11 runs. He has been exactly the table setter that the Pirates have needed. The lightbulb has turned on for Polanco. Maybe that his breakout happened at the same time as his return to the leadoff role is just a coincidence, but it sure seems like that was the spark. Now that the Pirates’ questions over the leadoff spot and lack of production from RF have been answered by Polanco, GM Neal Huntington can direct his attention at the trade deadline on more pressing needs.

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