Word broke late-Saturday afternoon that the Pirates fired third-base coach Rick Sofield and reassigned first-base coach Nick Leyva within the organization, per Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Biertempfel.
“It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our major league staff,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said.
Lacking raw power on the offensive side of the ball, Pittsburgh needed to rely on smart base running and speed in 2016. For lack of better terms, as statistics below show, the Pirates were absolute garbage on the bases.
Regardless of subpar running decision-making and young players not rounding the pillows like a big leaguer, early indications from Huntington made it seem as if no coaching jobs were in jeopardy.
“It’s easy to point fingers and it’s easy to say, ‘This area isn’t good enough,'” Huntington said after the season’s conclusion. “The first finger that should be pointed is in my direction. There are some things that I did and we did. We’ll get better.”
However, tremblings surfaced last night on Colin Dunlap’s Twitter page that Rick Sofield’s status with the team was uncertain.
Even though #Pirates front office recently claimed coaching staff will remain, heard last night Rick Sofield very well might be out.
— Colin Dunlap (@colin_dunlap) October 22, 2016
Now Sofield, who was also the base running and outfield coach, is no longer a part of the organization, and Leyva has been reassigned to senior advisor, baseball operations.
It comes as no surprise to see such a move made. During the tandem’s tenure in Pittsburgh, which began because of their previous history with manager Clint Hurdle, the Pirates had some of the National League’s most atrocious base running. Numerous bloopers and games were lost because of shoddy running gaffes overseen by the pair, often warranting little league comparisons.
In 2016, ranking 13th in BsR — a sabermetric showing how many runs above or below league average a team gets on the base paths — making the second-most outs at third base, finishing last on taking extra bases and recording the third-most outs on plays at home warrants Sofield’s firing. Also, tying for MLB’s second-most times being picked off and 37 caught stealing attempts doesn’t equate well with good coaching.
Time will tell what route the Pirates taking going forward. One thing is for sure, two new base coaches will assume Leyva and Sofield’s respective positions.
“Blindsided” by the news, Sofield said, “I’m heartbroken, but you’ve got to respect people doing what they think is best. for the organization. I had a great time in Pittsburgh. If I let anyone down, I’m sorry.”
Joe Cinello covers Pirates material for Pittsburgh Sports Castle. Connect with him on Facebook (Joey Cinello), Linkedin (Joseph Cinello) and Twitter (jcin13).
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