Hurdle: Bucs overcoming E's due to 'gut,' 'grit'

Hurdle: Bucs overcoming E's due to 'gut,' 'grit'

LOS ANGELES -- It wouldn't rank as one of the biggest miracles in the history of a game that always amazes, but the Pirates are on their way to a 90-win season and playoff appearance as MLB's runaway errors leaders.

Neither has happened -- not even close -- in a full season of play since the three-division format was created in 1994 (that was used as a reference point, to put teams on a level playing field as far as reaching the postseason, with the Wild Card).

The last time the Pirates led in errors, in 2010, they had 105 losses. 

The Bucs took 87 wins and 114 errors into Saturday night's middle game of the series against the Dodgers. The wins are already a "record" number; the 19 teams to lead MLB in errors from 1996-2014 (the 1994-95 seasons were shorted by play stoppages) averaged final records of 64-98.

"I'm well aware of that," said manager Clint Hurdle. "We've had stellar play from everybody, the [problem] has been the overall consistency."

Hurdle attributed the Bucs' unprecedented ability to overcome this flaw to "gut and grit. You play forward, you have no other choice. Once you've dug a hole, you've got to dig out of it, and we've shown the ability to that."

Still, when people qualify the Bucs' record by saying it could be so much better, this is one of the areas of which they speak.

Hurdle has appreciated, and exploited, the defensive versatility that was one of GM Neal Huntington's offseason driving forces in assembling the roster. Excluding the two "specialty" positions (pitcher and catcher), the Bucs have used 34 different players at the other seven positions.

Could that conveyor belt have contributed to the rash of errors?

"We don't talk about errors all that much, but that's probably a decent point," said second baseman Neil Walker, one of the few who have not appeared at another position. "Certainly a lot of other factors play into that … guys like [Aramis Ramirez] playing first for the first time, and [Sean Rodriguez] had to play short a couple of times."

While recognizing the concept as "a fair question," Hurdle discounted the defensive shuffle as a factor in the errors.

"Defensive consistency has been a challenge, but you can't put it on one group," the manager said. "I've broken it down [by type of error, throw or fielding], and there's really no rhyme or reason. We just haven't taken care of the ball the way we need to, and that has complicated things for us."

A documented reason for the Bucs' high errors total: As one of the Majors' top users of defensive shifts, their fielders get to more balls, increasing the opportunities for miscues. As proof, while having four more errors than any other team, the Pirates are also tops in fielding chances -- 247 more than any other team.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.