Presley doing what the doctor ordered

After re-acquring Drew Sutton and inserting him into action, manager Clint Hurdle was unsure of how to configure his lineup. Instead of putting Jose Tabata or Alex Presley in the leadoff spot, Hurdle placed Sutton in the top spot. Sutton, who turned 29 on Saturday, has been adequate in that position, but nothing spectacular. Hurdle said the following about his usual leadoff hitters, Tabata and Presley:

“You look at the numbers of our leadoff hitters, that’s not what we need,” Hurdle said. “I mean, a .260 on-base percentage [for Alex Presley], a .288 on-base percentage [for Jose Tabata]. It’s tough. And it’s hard on them, because they want to do better, but this is the Major Leagues. It’s not the try hard leagues. We’ve given both of them a number of at-bats, and you have to be able to find your way and produce as well.”

Presley, who hit just .244 (19 for 78; entering Friday’s game) since returning from Triple-A Indianapolis, simply was not getting on base enough. He has batted out of the first spot in 38 of his 57 games, but sat out of the lineup and leadoff role for a few days. However, Presley has made the most of his opportunities the last couple games and is doing exactly what the doctor (manager) ordered: getting on base.

The biggest improvement that Presley has shown is drawing walks. Before Wednesday, he had drawn just six walks this season in 53 games; presumably why his OBP was so low. Here’s his performance over the past four games:

PA AB H Runs BB
Wednesday 2 0 0 1 2
Thursday 1 0 0 0 1
Friday 3 3 2 2 0
Saturday 5 4 1 1 1
Totals 11 7 3 4 4

His four walks in the past four games nearly doubled his season total; he’s had hits in nearly half his at-bats as well.

Presley came into Wednesday night’s game as a pinch-hitter and ended up drawing walks in both of his two plate appearances. He pinch hit on Thursday afternoon and drew another one, increasing his walk totals by 33% in just three trips to the plate. He had a solid game on Friday night, once again as a late-game replacement. Presley was a large part of the Pirates’ drubbing of the Cardinals, as he deposited one into the right field seats in his first at-bat. His long ball was back-to-back with Clint Barmes go-ahead homer and put the Bucs up by two.

He returned to the leadoff spot and starting left field on Saturday. A quick look at his stat line may not show much, as he went just 1 for 4. However, he showed some more positive signs. He drew yet another walk, as well as giving the Pirates some insurance in the ninth by using his speed. Presley laid down a perfect bunt and easily beat it out. He advanced to second on a wild pitch, moving himself into scoring position. He went to third on Jose Tabata’s sacrifice bunt, and scored on Drew Sutton’s grounder to short. It was an impressive play considering the infield was in, but he beat Daniel Descalso’s throw to the plate. Presley also tacked on a stolen base in the game.

Over the last few days, Presley has shown signs of being an effective leadoff hitter: getting on base, using his speed, scoring runs, etc. In just four games, his OBP has gone from .252 to .272, a whopping 20 points. There’s still some work to be done to pull it up to a respectable percentage, but Presley should be able to build upon it. Simply put, the Pirates will score more runs the more he gets on base. The players who are batting behind him have been red-hot as of late; their June stats:
Andrew McCutchen — .370 avg, 7 HR, 26 RBI
Garrett Jones – .300 avg, 5 HR, 15 RBI
Casey McGehee – .291 avg, 5 HR, 16 RBI
Neil Walker – .292 avg, 2 HR, 17 RBI
Pedro Alvarez – .262 avg, 7 HR, 20 RBI

The Bucs offense had an insane month of June. Although they probably won’t match it, it’s definitely something to build on. If Presley improves and plays solid baseball out of the leadoff spot, the middle of the order can drive him in. As long as they keep up their solid offense, there’s no reason that they can’t keep winning ballgames.

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