Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is the odds-on favorite to be the first MLB manager to be fired, as per the Bovada sports book in Vegas. Is that warranted?

Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has his critics. His lineup creation and in game decisions often draw the ire of fans and observers, and many wonder if his message has gotten stale with the club as he enters his seventh year at the helm.

Perhaps that vocal minority’s voice has grown. At the very least, it is now amplified enough to reach out to the desert, where the Bovada sports book has placed the best odds on Hurdle to serve as the first MLB manager to be fired this season.

If you’re the gambling type, here is a list of the top rated sportsbooks¬†where you can find a place to lay your bet down, including Bovada. But for now, let’s talk about if these odds are warranted. We can reach a conclusion by answering two simple questions.

Have the Pittsburgh Pirates plateaued under Hurdle?

The answer is not so obvious. One can easily point to last season’s 20-game drop in the win column as evidence of plateauing. However, as more distance is placed between now and the 2016 season, the more it becomes apparent that the 2016 version of the club was doomed from the start.

Whether it was due to rotation personnel blunders, an unprecedented bad year from Andrew McCutchen or the hangover from a 98 win – yet one and done in the wild card – season, 2016 was ill-fated.

A hiccup? Sure. A plateau? Not so much.

Is Hurdle holding the Pittsburgh Pirates back?

Those that find fault in many of Hurdle’s in-game decisions ask this question nightly. To answer in the affirmative, we would have to draw a nearly one-to-one correlation of Hurdle’s decisions in relation to costing the team games.

Those clamoring for a leadership change will undoubtedly point to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ lineup in the 2015 Wild Card game as an example. Hurdle famously went for defense with Sean Rodriguez over Pedro Alvarez‘s bat. Of course, their ire was moot as, by the time Rodriguez’s spot came up to hit, Alvarez entered as a pinch hitter with the game already starting to get out of hand.

Perhaps a more fair criticism would be to point to Hurdle’s loyalty. Many will think he should have benched McCutchen much sooner in 2016, and those same folks also go through a fair amount of hand-wringing over his loyalty to Tony Watson despite the left-hander’s rocky road as closer.

It is a well known axiom that MLB managers rarely exert direct, tangible influence over a game. Many point to bullpen management and lineup creation as chief indicators of managerial success. I’m going to add leadership as a criterion. Hurdle has been very successful to this point in changing the culture of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club.

But he also did that in Colorado with the Rockies. After winning an NL Pennant there, his message grew stale. Stars such as Troy Tulowitzki chafed under his leadership. Could that be happening with the Pittsburgh Pirates?

Despite being seven years in, it is still too early to tell. Now that some headline talent has joined the club – Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell – and more still to come – Austin Meadows – Hurdle may in fact be entering a new period of upswing. New talent can also help rejuvenate managers, after all.

Jason Rollison

Jason Rollison has been analyzing baseball and the Pirates in one way or another for 4+ years. Jason's previous stops include rumbunter.com, Pittsburgh Sporting News, Call To The Pen and several print publications. He also covers the State College Spikes for the Centre County Gazette (State College, PA) When it comes to analyzing baseball, he likes to take a middle-of-the-road approach, with one foot on the analytics side of the fence and the other on the old-school side. Having said that, he is a sucker for pitchf/x. Jason has appeared as a phone-in and in-studio guests in numerous outlets, including Trib Live Radio and 93.7 The Fan (CBS Sports Radio)