The Pirates were widely considered to have improved their attack while standing pat on the pitching during the off season, but the early results (as of 5/1) are just the opposite.
The runs per game allowed have dropped from 5.35 in 2010 to 4.25 in 2011; the ERA has improved from 5.00 to 3.73, and the WHIP has been shaved from 1.491 to 1.335. Walks and Ks are still a problem, though, as the starting rotation is still pretty much a pitch-to-contact group.
They've been helped by a steadier D; their defensive efficiency (balls in play converted into outs) is .701 this year, and was just .671 in 2010, while the 2010 UZR/150 of -9.2 has improved to 1.9 in 2011. The fielding percentage of .979 has remained the same, so the numbers indicate better range by this year's defenders.
For the hitters, it's a different tale. Runs per game scored in 2010 averaged 3.62; it's 3.54 in 2010. The BA has dropped from .242 to .231, slugging % from .373 to .342, and the OPS+ from 83 to 79.
It'd be nice to see the pitching and hitting get in sync.
Clint Hurdle's effect on the club is hard to have a good handle on yet; it's just too early in the season. He has the advantage of his position players being set, and a bench that's now built to contribute.
But he is much more aggressive in managing a game than JR was. He doles out the bullpen workload well, and because of the better bench isn't afraid to make two-for-one switches or sit a guy for a game or two if he's struggling.
He's aggressive in his approach, too. JR was a professor, caught in teaching moments (and in justice, trying hard to turn outfielders and catchers into infielders), while Hurdle lets his boys make their mistakes and learn from them. Of course, he doesn't have to deal with Lastings Milledge, making his sale that much easier.
And even his more off-the-wall moves - a Pedro bunt, an Overbay/Snyder hit and run - seem to be less tactical moves and more strategic. He preaches everyone should be capable of doing anything, and he walks his talk.
Hurdle is a veteran, professional skipper, and at this stage of the Pirates development, seems to be the right fit for the team.