1,799 days ago, the Milwaukee Brewers were swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates in a four-game series at PNC Park — June 25-28, 2001. That sweep ended the Brewers longest road series for the year. Just 7 days earlier, the Pirates had won their first three-game series at PNC beating the Indians.
Strangely enough, that series was played on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday just as the current series is being played. Also bizarre is the fact Burnitz and Jose Hernandez played on the Brewers at the time. The Pirates entered that four-game series 17.5 games out of first place and ended the year with a .383 winning percentage.
Cam Bonifay was fired 10 days later.
Then in 2004, we took another four-game series from the Brewers over the July 4th weekend.. again at PNC Park and right after sweeping the Cardinals. Pirate Chris Stynes was credited with the fourth game win and Chris Capuano took the sweep loss giving up 6 runs over 5.1 innings. True to form, the Pirates were 12.5 games out of first place in the division but ended the year with a more respectable .447 winning percentage.
Tomorrow, the Pirates go for only their third four-game sweep since PNC opened and again, it is against the Brewers who are on their longest road series of the year. While some of the names of the players in the song have changed sides (Santos, Burnitz, and Hernandez are playing for the Pirates this year) the lyrics remain the same — the Pirates are 15 games out of first place and, once again, headed for a dismal losing season.
Beating up on injury ridden, flat, hapless teams (the Astros and Brewers) seems like fun but, in reality, the Pirates aren’t getting any better because of it. In fact, we are probably worse for it. I mean, how many AA starters do we really expect to see this year? How many teams come in as flat at the Brewers have come in missing on all cylinders? How many more games are going to be started by poor starting pitching like we have seen the last seven games? Not many.. I promise you that.
Yes – it is building confidence but we have seen over the last 5 years the true value of confidence in the win and loss column, and it hasn’t been pretty.
So while Manto sits back and takes some credit for Castillo’s swinging a hot bat, while Tracy sits back and pats himself for moving Bay to the 6 hole to jump start him, and while Colborn sits back and takes credit for wins like Snell’s tonight, all we are really doing is digging a deeper hole. Because the first time Snell pitches against a team seeing the ball, he will give up 10 runs. The next time Castillo sees a team that has any scouting at all, all he’ll see is a steady diet of K-rations in the form of off speed stuff. And all Tracy will see is a hapless Pirate defense that has remained basically ignored through all the good times and more and more one-run losses.
Sure, there is some hope.. afterall, look how well the Pirates defense played behind Snell tonight considering how the balls put in play on him were crushed for the most part. Look how hard players are playing the game every day right now. It is exciting. And, sure, we are 1-11 in road one-run games so we could have a better record than we do. But we don’t.. we don’t.. we just don’t.
So Pirate fans, enjoy the fun while it is upon us because in just a few days or even a week, we’ll all be back to the ‘why did Tracy do this’ and ‘why didn’t Jack make that play’ and ‘how come Bay, Castillo, and Sanchez all went south at the same time offensively’ and ‘how does Littlefield still have a job’..
Personally, I think we are heading for a meltdown myself and I don’t think it will be pretty either. But this game is funny.. you have to play all 9 innings and you just never know. For now, I’m just going to caution my readers to have fun but be realistic.. we still have four rookies in the rotation, we still have a rookie catcher and center fielder up the middle, and our middle infielders have the lowest FPCT combination in the NL. But all that means squat if you score more than the other team.
Before any meltdown, I want the sweep first.
– tidbits –
Anybody else notice what is missing in this photo and has been since the Astros came to town?
Kevin McClatchy is nowhere to be seen. He had a death in the family and returned home before the holidays and I expect we’ll see him back soon, but here is to all hope that he doesn’t occupy that seat Thursday.
I would be smiling too if I were Jose Castillo. He is white hot right now and hit his 5th HR in the last 3 days and 7th HR in the last 5 games with 14 RBI’s.
What a show this young man has put on lately picking up where Mr. Bay left off.
His numbers the last 7 days? How about this: .348/.423/1.043 and leading all MLB players in total bases, all players with 10+ AB in SLG and home runs, and just one short of leading MLB players in RBI’s behind this guy:
Here he is crushing his 12th HR of the month tonight.
Jason leads all MLB players in May (as of 11:00 pm May 31) with 75 total bases, tied for the lead in RBI’s with Ryan Howard, is one HR behind Howard for the lead, and hit .321/.402/.688 during the month.
Obviously, Jason deserves the Player of the Month Award.
Congrats to Freddy for his 3-4 night. He now site just .002 points behind Cabrera for the NL batting average lead. Kudos to Sean Casey for saving a ton of errors the last few nights at 1B. His D has really helped us lately. In fact, kudos to Craig, Jack, Jose, and Freddy for some very tight defense tonight. Mr. Snell owes you guys a brew party.
Tonight’s win was the 4th straight win against a southpaw for the Pirates.
Kip Wells pitched his second rehab start today and went 3 innings throwing 54 pitches and 37 of them for strikes. Good luck to Kip as he continues to rehab.
It was a hot evening to play baseball tonight as the temperature was 88 degrees in Pittsburgh and 92 degrees on the field at 7:00 pm. But even hotter were the Pittsburgh Pirates, who continued to offensively mow down opposing pitchers at near record breaking levels since being humiliated by the Florida Marlins May 14th. During the last 14 game span the Pirates have:
– played .500 baseball (7-7);
– scored 99 runs and allowed 67;
– Pythagorean win % of 9.4 W – 4.6 L (we are -2.4 wins);
– averaged 12 hits and 1.8 HR per game; and
– averaged 2.5 runs from 2 out RBI’s per game.
That is mashing the ball. But despite all that mashing, we are theoretically -2.4 wins in the same period. Obviously our poor D takes some of the blame for that.. Tracy’s managing style takes a part as well. But the real reason is because as a team, we are still leaving 59% of all two-out runners in scoring position on the bases. Pythagorean records indicate how lucky you have been as a team and we simply have not been lucky. We have had to maul to win. Let’s hope we can use hard playing to win close games now that we are rolling.
The game started tonight with a Freddy Sanchez error at 3B on a Weeks bullet. The official scorer eventually changed it to a hit but Freddy should have made the play all the same. Santos got the next batter to hit into a double play and that essentially sealed the Brewers night as Santos rolled on throwing 3 hit ball over 6 innings with 5 K’s. In fact, the Brew Crew didn’t even have a runner touch 2B until the 6th when the score was already 7-1.
de la Rosa pitched for the Brewers tonight making just his 6th MLB start and the first start since 2004. You have to tip your hat to him because he pitched at least one inning with a split middle fingernail on his pitching hand, and that’s no fun.
His game plan was so obvious I was surprised the Pirates didn’t pick it up earlier than they did. Of the first 18 batters he faced, he threw 15 first pitch heaters and, amazingly, only one player swung on the first pitch during that period other than the pitcher – Freddy… both of his at bats. It really didn’t matter I guess because Pirate batters hit .700 on balls in play off de la Rosa through the first 18 batters. As I said, we are mashing.
Castillo and Freddy both had great nights going a combined 8-9 with 8 RBI’s and 5 runs scored mainly thanks to Jose’s two home runs. Jose just missed tying Aramis Ramirez’s 2001 Pirate record of three home runs in one game by about 10 feet.
But make no mistake about it – tonight was Jose Castillo night as he pounded Brewer pitching. Fans may not remember 2005 but Jose loves Brewer pitching and always hits them well.
One of the best plays of the game wasn’t a play you’ll find on any highlight reel.. it won’t be mentioned in the media by any of the beat writers I’m guessing, and it probably went unnoticed by most fans at the game. It was Jose Bautista’s 4th inning hustle on the base path.
Jose walked to open the inning and Jack bounced a grounder to short for what seemed would be an easy double play. Jose hustled down the line and slid hard toward Weeks and that caused a poor relay throw to 1B and Jack was safe. Jack eventually went on to score in the inning.
What made this play so special was the fact the game was already becoming a blowout at 6-1, the temp on the field was hot, and yet Bautista was hustling like there was no tomorrow. Jack also was hustling down the 1B line. Say what you will about Jose’s home runs but, to me, the fact these two players gave it all up on a simple little play showed me more team character tonight than I have seen in this team in a long time. And I mean, a loooonngggggg time.
Many of us take for granted the little things we see like Freddy hustling every play. We tend to think – well, that’s just the way Freddy plays.. he is like Byrnes or Wiggy.. hard all the time. What we are seeing is more than just hustle.. it is more than just determination… it is more than just playing hard because we are playing good baseball right now.. or even more than just a little luck. It is teamwork. And it’s new.. very new to the Pirates. Let’s watch and see how long they keep it up. I hope I am seeing the start of what Tracy originally stated as one of his initial goals: to play like the Cards.. every day.
– tidbits –
I don’t know why Tracy left Paulino in to catch after the 6th on such a hot day. That must signal something is either wrong with Cota (sick? hurt?), they might have a trade for him (doubtful), or just an oversight by Tracy. I think Tracy is pushing Ronny too hard and needs to back off him some of he’ll be toast in July.
Kudo’s to AA pitcher Winkelsas for his two innings of work tonight after getting hammered last night. That takes some guts. He has some pretty decent stuff and looks like he’ll be a keeper for the Brewers. I heard tonight he was a garbage man who tried out and got a spot in the Brewers farm. How do you not pull for a guy like that?
I am going to mention this quietly but say it all the same.. Bay seems to tank when Casey hits in front of him. I don’t know what it is but it is more like Bay protects Casey than Casey protects Bay. The numbers are there for Jason overall but the trend is obvious so let’s watch and see how this develops. Tracy may need to move Bay to the 5 hole and bring Craig or Burnitz into the 4 hole.
The draft is a week away and it looks like the Pirates will settle for either Lincoln or Drabek as we have been mentioning here at Bucco Blog. We’ll probably know more as the week unfolds and Baseball America starts cranking up the draft coverage.
Federal Street Guys
Click the play button to have the Guys bounce to the music
You have to give Littlefield and McClatchy some credit.. they took two solid months of abuse from the media, from the fans, and even from the players. You have to tip your hat to them even if you only do a flash tip then pull the hat off and stomp on it – and then burn it.
But let’s consider a few things.. the last 28 games the Pirates have won 12 for a .429 winning percentage. That’s not much to write home to mom about though, is it? In the last 20 games the Pirates have gone 9-20 for a .450 winning percentage.. last 13, 6-13 for a .462 winning percentage.. last 4, 3-4 for a .750 winning percentage.
But that isn’t the best part by any means.. not even by a long shot. Look at this offensive improvement over the same period of time:
Last 28 games: outscored opponents 139-129 and averaged 4.96 runs per game
Last 20 games: outscored opponents 120-103 and averaged 6.00 runs per game
Last 13 games: outscored opponents 87-66 and averaged 6.69 runs per game
Last 4 games: outscored opponents 38-20 and averaged 9.50 runs per game
That is a 76% increase in offensive output over the last 28 days of play. But wait.. Casey just rejoined the team.. Perez is just finding a groove.. Bay just got hot a week or two ago.. heck, even Burnitz was batting just .185 on May 9th and Craig just .255.
Boy – we keep scoring 5 runs per game on average and we can hide an E here and there. Score 8 runs or more a game and we can hide a ton of E’s and that is *exactly* what we need to do.
But don’t go getting all fuzzy inside.. not just yet anyway. It is great we took 2 of 3 games from both NLCD teams we played (CIN and HOU) recently.. and, sure, we have gone 6-7 since that horrible Sunday Marlin game for a .462 clip even though we played 6 of the 16 games on the road losing all but one. And, yes, our schedule is going to get easier and easier as we approach the ASG. So there is a lot of hope building.. I can see that. But reality is reality.. we are talking about Ogden Nutting’s Pittsburgh Pirates – right? LoL ok.. ’nuff said.. I think you get the idea. Just when is the trading deadline this year? *ouch*
Memorial Day was just that for Sean Casey – memorial:
What a positive lift for this team. Welcome back Sean! Crank up that trade value dude!
The Pirates ended up with a season high 18 hits and 14 runs and, hey, Bay wasn’t even charged with an error in the 1st inning on Fielder’s hit that he lost in the sun so we played error free for the most part.
But the Brewers? LoL.. they looked like the Houston Astros on steroids today. The best goof play of the day was this one. Weeks made a great flip to Hall covering the bag but, instead of going for the ball, Hall ran.. literally. Paulino was sliding hard and he just said – ‘no way’ and let the ball go. Thanks to Mr. Hall, 2 runs scored on a sure out. What a play.
You would think Mr. Hall would have a bit more courage playing in MLB. But the Brewers came into this game with the 3rd worst infield in the NL just ahead of the Pirates and then the Marlins.
Just how many balls does Jack have to watch fly through the infield he doesn’t get to with left hand pitchers on the mound before he makes an adjustment?
16 by my count. He *finally* made the adjustment in the 9th and played Weeks a few steps from the bag and took a single away from him. I have to admit, Tracy’s coaching staff is *very* slow to make adjustments but when they do, it typically works out. We’ll keep watching how many balls go between Jack and the 2B bag with a lefty on the mound the next week or so.
You have to tip your hat to Brewer pitcher Gonzalez who just came over from the Mets. He pounded the zone the first time through the order we saw him but then it he simply lost it and was very lucky to escape only giving up 3 runs. BTW, he is essentially a AAA pitcher and is a Snell clone (high heat, little else).
Then the Brewers thought it wise to allow some AA kid named Mabeus to make his MLB debut. The poor kid.. he was hammered. After Castillo tagged him for a HR in his second inning of work you could see his body go limp and the kid looked like a lost puppy. He then walked Paulino on 4 straight and then Matt Capps took the batter’s box the first time in his MLB career and Mabeus threw two of the first three balls over everyone’s head to the screen, allowing Paulino to get to 3B. Obviously, he walked Capps and he eventually scored so congrats to Capps for his first ML plate appearance and run scored even though he doesn’t have an at bat yet (great trivia question).
BTW, with the Brewers putting AA pitchers on the mound and the score rung up so high, Tracy benched Casey and Bay. hehe
Kudo’s to the top of the Pirates lineup going 9-15 with 6 RBI’s and 7 runs scored. Freddy and Craig continued to rock-n-roll too going a combined 5-8. Kudo’s to Duke for pitching a decent game.. not flashy.. not spectacular.. just good enough. And a tip of the hat to Fielder for putting one in the river off Duke. It was only the 13th to hit the drink so far (it took a hop before it landed in the water).
Gosh we just love right hand pitchers at PNC Park. Looks like we are starting to enjoy lefties too the way Davis was manhandled today allowing us just our 3rd win against southpaws.
Anybody else notice the jinx was off the bench today? hehehe Baseball superstitions.. you have to love them.
Leave it to Bucco Blog’s 2005 Most Balls Award Winner to blow his first 2006 game because he threw too many balls. As most of us fans who have watched Gonzo’s career unfold in Pittsburgh would tell you, never, EVER, bring Mike Gonzalez out of the pen with men on base. That is suicide.
Gonzo has been pitching well up to this point but only because he hasn’t been exposed yet. Bucco Blog listed Mike as one of the projected foolers this year saying:
"Poor Mike is being thrust into the closer’s role and he still can’t find the plate. How many walks with the bases loaded will Tracy have to see before Mike goes back to being a setup man?"
This won’t be his first time this year to walk home a run and it certainly won’t be his last unless Tracy starts reviewing film on Gonzo from 2004 and 2005 and learns what makes him tick. He is well known for his lack of command.
Ok.. so the pen stunk today.. what’s new? Did anyone expect the Pirates who had only won 1 game on Sunday this year, and had yet to win any day games at home, to not blow up some how after all the emotion displayed after Saturday night’s game? Same old, same old.. as Tracy would probably say – it’s a circle you follow and when you ride it, sometimes it turns into a square. hehe
What bothered me most about this game wasn’t Gonzo’s walking batters.. wasn’t the lack of offense against a rookie pitcher who came in with a 5.36 ERA and who had been allowing a .336 OBA – afterall, we are very flat except for Bay, Burnitz, Paulino, and Craig Wilson for the most part, it was because our position players were out of position most of the day… in fact, most of the series. It was well hidden the two games previous because the Pirates averaged 10 runs per game, but when games are close, or in the ‘photo-finish’ as Tracy would say, it becomes very obvious.
Let me give you an idea of what I mean using today’s game as an example. Jack Wilson made the first two outs of the game taking groundballs. One of them he had to range deep to his right into the hole to make a good play – but he made them both. Jack didn’t see any more action until the 6th (a little pop up) because Oliver Perez dominated the Astros striking out 9 batters.
In the 7th inning, Jack fumbled a grounder he should have played.. E Jack. Perez got Ausmus to ground into a DP and that pretty much squelched the Astros that inning. Then in the 9th, things got ugly.. Ensberg led off with a single past Freddy who was playing him pretty much straight away but on that play we can see where Jack Wilson was positioned:
Here is Ensberg’s career spray chart at PNC. The blue arrows show us where Ensberg typically hits the ball.. either to the 2B side of SS or to straight away 3B.
The first photo below shows where Ensberg’s 9th inning grounder went – right past Freddy who was playing him mid-field and straight away.. just like the chart indicates he should be. But look at Jack.. he is toward the hole.. not toward the 2B bag.
In the 10th, Ensberg led off with a shot right up the 2B side of SS where our arrow indicates most of his balls in play go at PNC. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a scouting report from one field and worthless in that context. But when I ran Ensberg’s spray across most NL fields vs. left hand pitching, it is almost exactly like the one above.
Clearly, Jack should have been cheating Ensberg in his at bats during the day toward 2B. In Friday’s game Jack made a play on a small popup Ensberg hit in short CF behind the bag. Almost every ball in play Ensberg hit during this series went to left or center where the chart and blue arrows show.
Ensberg’s hit in the 10th was the winning run, of course, and it was a play Jack Wilson should have been in position to make. Now, this isn’t about Jack (although his D has been horrible this year) – this is about scouting and Tracy’s coaching. Let’s look at a couple more.
After Ensberg single past Freddy in the 9th, Lamb dropped a little fly ball into left field.
In my opinion, Bay had two choices.. continue running all out and make a dive for the ball, or pull up and let it fall to the grass and then play the bounce.
Bay chose the latter. Lamb is a left hand batter so the ball was tailing away from bay as he ran toward it.. also, Jason has been playing Lamb straight away in LF and not too deep so it was a well placed hit by Lamb.
But take a closer look.. could Bay have made the play?
The first photo shows the downward projection of the baseball and Bay’s location and the "x" marks where the ball hit. The second photo shows Bay pulling up as it hits the grass. I think this ball should have been caught myself but I will give Bay the benefit of the doubt. The rest of the 9th was simply Gonzo’s disaster after Ensberg and Lamb got on base.
The 10th started with Ensberg’s hit we mentioned above should have been an out in our book.
With Ensberg on 1B, Lamb bats and sharply hits a ball to the 2B side of SS.
Once again, Jack is shading toward the hole at SS to a batter who sprays the ball toward the 2B side of SS. What makes Jack’s position a bit more curious in this play is the fact Ensberg is at 1B and Jack would typically be the one to cover 2B on a steal with a left hand pull-hitter at the plate.
To be fair, Jack was shaded a bit more toward 2B than he had been playing Ensberg.. but obviously not enough.. especially since Lamb had already taken advantage of Jack one time this series by him playing Lamb toward the hole.
Look back at Lamb’s spray chart and you will notice all the balls in play that went for singles toward the 2B side of SS and ended up in short CF. Also notice only three groundballs have ever been hit to the hole side of SS or further left. Tracy should have played Lamb all series like teams play Burnitz on us.. with the SS a couple of steps off the 2B bag.
Ok.. so Ensberg and Lamb are both on base from questionable singles and up to the plate comes Preston Wilson.
Look at Wilson’s spray chart.. the guy either homers or the ball is put in play to medium outfield depth. Over the last two years, the spray chart to the left is a good representation of Wilson’s hitting.
Now take a look at the picture blow the spray chart. For God sakes, Burnitz is playing no doubles depth on a guy who hasn’t hit a double in years (exaggeration of course).
Realize, of course, the picture shows Burnitz on the run.. he was much deeper and is coming in to make the play. You can see how far Castillo is in the OF already to give you an idea how far Burnitz has already traveled.
What in the world is Burnitz doing playing so deep? THAT, my blog friends, is poor scouting and poor player positioning by Tracy. Wilson’s little popup fell right at Burnitz’s feet for a single scoring Ensberg who should have been out to begin with.
Now, we aren’t talking about oddball hits or one-time positioning cases here.. this is how the entire series went. In fact, this is how the entire year has gone. I spoke with a MLB scout a week to ten days ago who said the Pirates play one of the deepest outfield positions of any team in the NL. He couldn’t give me any reason why that made sense and quickly pulled out stats showing me the number of flyballs going for hits against them exceeded league average.
While Tracy might be ragging the players for non-performance, Bucco Blog is going to continue hammering Tracy for his obvious errors whether they are the result of organizational problems or his own bad judgment calls. Now, I don’t mean nit-pick things – but common sense, fundamental baseball coaching blunders like a lack of scouting, preparing, and positioning players.
As for the game tonight, the team is back in their SLG mode living and dying by the home run. Bay’s blast tonight set a new Pirate record for the most home runs in May by a Pirate. Bay (affectionately being called Mr. Radioactive by Bob Walk) now has 30 RBI’s in his last 15 games. Wow.
– tidbits –
Note to Jim Tracy:
When things aren’t going your way and you want to try and change things around, you can either dye your hair green like Lou Pinella, pick up bases and throw them like Lloyd McClendon, or don the rally hat like Garner did in Sunday’s game.
Out of them all, I think Garner’s worked the best.
When did Tracy add a female to the coaching ranks? In fact, when did Tracy add a female in heels to the team? She isn’t wearing on of the team’s trainer shirts. Security isn’t allowed to sit in the dugout.
So who is this person who mysteriously showed up in the dugout tonight?
Isn’t there some kind of superstition in baseball about women in the dugout..?? Naw.. old school rot… right?
Drop me a line dude.. I HAVE to get more of this Posse de’ Perez stuff on here!
By the way, Walkie said you should be called "Jefe" – chief in Spanish.
The kids rallied Perez all night long and at one point, Ollie even turned and pointed up at them. I could hear their chants all night long while Perez was pitching. Great stuff! Here is another group shot:
Man, I want one of those sombreros!
Has it really been since July 23, 2004 when we last swept a three-game series?
A major clubhouse blowup today I heard.. we’ll see if any of the media outlets picked up on it and report it.
Talk about going from one of the best buzz’s in the last 5 years on Saturday night to being squished like a roach on the wall on Sunday. I know it is Memorial Day weekend but I thought that was all about our giving back to those who fought for our freedom – not on the field. Whew.
What an unbelievable game this was. The game will go down in history as Bayday.. what a great game he had.
When you pit two flat teams against each other, winning an 18 inning marathon seems more like winning the world series when it is finally over. We might look back at this game in the future and call it the turnaround game, but don’t hold your breath. Just who is available in the pen for the next week anyway? Calling Josh Sharpless.. calling Tom Gorzelanny…
Instead of trying to describe every event, let me just give kudos to those deserving and then leave you with a visual image of the game.
Kudos to Maholm for hanging in despite being sharp. Kudos to the two Wilson’s and Bay because they are obviously the only Pirate batters seeing the ball right now, although Castillo went yard in the 17th to tie the game so kudos to him as well. And, kudos to the Pirate pen (including Santos) who pitched 13 innings in relief and only allowed 3 earned runs. The rest of the kudos are obvious in the graphics below.
To be quite honest, this was a strange game.. the Astros needed it bad, the Pirates wanted it bad, and it seemed like nobody really cared offensively except..
.. Jason Bay. What a masher. Jason hit his 5th HR in as many games to tie a 1956 Pirate record. But that is just the short of it – it was his 9th HR in his last 9 games which was also a franchise record and has now hit 10 HR’s and 32 RBI’s in his last 18 games.
Click the start button to hear Capt. Blackskull
One of the kewl parts of getting a college education was the right to open expression. In psych 101 you would probably be asked if you are for or against the death penalty.. when you say you are for it, the professor would say what if 100 people were lined up against the wall all facing execution today and one of them is absolutely, positively innocent. Would you still take all their lives in the name of the State?
You quickly feel through your moral values and proclaim – yes.. I am for the death penalty and I would execute them all even if it couldn’t be determined which of the 100 was innocent. Afterall, no law is perfect and the will for the good of the whole must be carried out.
Then the professor turns back to you and says, what if your mother was one of the 100 and you felt she was innocent?
Your mind turns to cheese as you back off your rigid moral stand and admit you wouldn’t take your mother’s life, as you sink into your seat. The next 4 weeks the class debates the issue and goes through what is more commonly known as conflict resolution.. not only individually, but peer-to-peer. The debate is open, free, and valuable to each party – if they participate.
In Business 101 we were asked a simple question: If you are Donald Trump and you want to hire a CEO run your business would you hire a proven manager or an unproven leader? The choice seemed obvious.. I chose the proven manager as did 100% of the class. We were all wrong in the professor’s view, of course.. managers are a dime a dozen – leaders are a diamond in the rough. For the next 16 weeks we found out why.
In baseball, the:
GM should be the leader: develop new approaches to long-standing problems and open issues to new options; first use their vision to excite people and only then develop choices which give those images substance; focus people on shared ideals and raise their expectations; shape ideas instead of responding to them; have a personal orientation toward goals; provide a vision that alters the way people think about what is desirable, possible, and necessary.
Manager should be the manager: emphasize rationality and control; be a problem-solver (focusing on goals, resources, organization structures, or people); be persistent, tough-minded, hard working, intelligent, analytical, tolerant and have goodwill toward others; be good at reaching compromises and mediating conflicts between opposing values and perspectives; act to limit choice (reactionary); attempt to reconcile differences, seek compromises, and establish a balance of power; relate to people according to the role they play in a sequence of events or in a decision-making process.
Managers are very good at maintaining the status quo and adding stability and order. In conflict resolution, they always stand closest to those they manage.. not those that manage them.
Leaders should be good at stirring people’s emotions, raising their expectations, and taking them in new directions. In conflict resolution, they stand closest to the organization, not those in the organization, although on rare occasions, a good leader can do both.
Baseball managers can, and do, become good leaders. Look at Bobby Cox as an example. But a manager must first learn to manage to gain the trust of those they manage. A leader cares less about trust for the most part because he already has it.
Now let’s take a step back to Tracy’s statements to the press yesterday about the players being the fault of the Pirates losing season. Was he being a manager or a leader in his profile?
Right.. a leader.
But in the very same article he openly admits those he manages have yet to learn to trust him (buy into his system). So what does that say about Tracy?
Right again – he was being a poor manager.
One of the most prolific statements I remember from my business class days was this:
"Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing."
It is very easy to see Jim Tracy’s comments to the press were ill-timed, of poor decision, and made to make himself feel better. He might as well have just come out and said "I have done nothing wrong. I am perfect. The players are all at fault." What would have been the difference?
Depodosta fired Tracy because he wanted to be a leader – not because he was a poor manager, although that was debatable to many Dodger fans (see this Tracy Chronicle for some humor: http://ericenders.com/tracychronicles.gif).
Littlefield should be fired because he is a manager and not a leader. McClatchy should be fired because he is also a manager and not a leader.
Leaders learn from teachers who are involved in their daily routines. Look at Bobby Cox – he surrounds himself with teachers.
Now, for the Pirates ballclub to take one baby step forward, the first thing that has to happen is that Jim Tracy needs to take that first step.. he needs to take responsibility for his actions. Tracy has belittled the entire org since he was hired.. development teams, farm systems, previous coaching, and even scouting. Now he has come out hacking away at his very charges with a knife.
Until Tracy takes the first step, there won’t be any players following him.. he has cut too deep into the player’s wounds. These aren’t grown men he is dealing with – these are immature young men for the most part – most of which only have a high school education.
Jim Tracy is a bigger fool than I thought he was if he thought for one second his statements would motivate his players. Some things in baseball you don’t do – they are cardinal sins. One of those is trashing your players in the media.
Before Tracy’s comments yesterday I tolerated him. Now I find him extremely arrogant, conceited, and blameless. He is, after all, a perfect leader – in his own mind. So I will recommend Captain Blackskull to read the following book:
Then hold training days where a few kegs of beer are brought in and conflict resolution is openly welcomed.
I wonder if these are the Posse de’ Perez kids back as the ‘Go Bucs’ kids?
If they are, I reiterate once again, Kevin McClatchy needs to get his PR machine working and get these kids tickets to all the games! I mean, it isn’t like he can’t afford it or anything! Come on Kevin.. DO IT!
Fireworks night at PNC tonight, a ton of people in town to eat, drink, and be merry here for the holiday weekend, parades in town tomorrow, festivals on Sunday, a picnic with family on Monday, and a ton of good baseball wedged in between. Man.. no hurricanes, no game rainouts, cold Corona’s, a hot pool, the start of summer.. what more can anyone ask for?
That’s right.. a Bucco Win. But not just a win but a blowout win against a NLCD team ahead of us in the standings. The Pirates obliged us tonight by doing just that.
BTW, the Pirates play 30 games in the next 31 days and I am here to tell you I expect us to play at least .500 ball. I smell it.. I feel it.. I hear it.. it *will happen*. Watch and see.. you heard it here first. –
UPDATE: Believe it or not, Jim Tracy just came out in the media (11:00 pm Eastern time) and blamed the Pirates worst start in 52 years on the players. OMG. Has he lost his dang mind? I want to sit down and cry.. I really do. I mean, when the skipper fails to take heat off his youthful players and instead starts pointing fingers at them trying to make himself look better, it is obvious his time has come to leave the ship. What a bonehead thing to say/do.
If I worked underneath him, and he pulled that crud on me, dang if I would want to play under him. Nor should we expect anyone else to want to. One credit I will always give to Lloyd McClendon is that he took the heat on himself.. he kept it off the players. The end result was *always* more productivity for the dollar than any other team in baseball. Maybe not in wins, but in payroll/performance.
Wow. For a team that has huge clubhouse problems, has player’s challenging every thing the org says and does, has infighting now between the coaches in the farm and the GM, has players walking away in digust, and now it’s leader telling them it is all their fault they are losing, I don’t know how much more this ship can sink. I mean, it certainly can’t be McClatchy and Littlefield’s fault this org is a mess, can it? Unfrkinbelievable.
Snell had a typical Snell game.. lots of hits hammered off him, a few K’s sprinkled around, poor command and control for the most part, but he did enough to keep his team in the contest and that is the name of the game. I mean, just ask Snell what he thought of his performance tonight.. or better yet, ask Colby what he thought of Snell’s affection toward him after the game:
Yep.. he kissed Colby. Lanny and Blass has a good time with the kiss. But to be honest, I’m a bit worried about it. hehe
Yeah – the clown act continued tonight with Paulino forgetting once again how to properly block pitches down in the dirt:
Notice his glove is pointing downward instead of pointing up in the air and his blocking stance is a crouch instead of a blocking crouch. It was called a wild pitch but that was no more a wild pitch than there is a man in the moon.
Ronny has a very long way to go defensively.. these are things catcher’s learn in little league and are polished over the years. Not at the bigs level. I have to believe the org will eventually move Ronny out from behind the plate.. maybe a corner OF position.. maybe 1B. He is simply not an acceptable MLB catcher defensively and with the basic skill set he is displaying, he never will be, imo.
An interesting note was announced tonight about Paulino from the Pirates broadcasters. Lanny said Tracy made his decision in spring training that he wanted Paulino to be the catcher this year. I guess they waited until Doumit ended up hurt before making the move. I assume that had to do with service time as well so Ronny wouldn’t get a full year in and they could maintain a 4th year option on him and probably more than 3 years in arb before he hit the magical 6 years of service time.
And Jose Castillo added another E to his resume tonight with this little ooppsss:
Paulino was attempting to throw out Traveras on the steal and Jose just simply let the ball go right between his legs and he ended up at 3B. The batter eventually walked.
Well, the two third inning E’s really didn’t matter because Snell lost his composure, lost his train of thought, and lost his mind when he next threw a 2-1 heater up in the zone to Ensberg who took him yard with the 2 men on base.
Offensively, the Buccos exploded. Eight of our twelve runs came on clutch 2-out hits and half of the position players had 2 or more rbis. I won’t even talk about the Astros ‘no fear’ decision to pitch to Jason Bay all night long – Garner has simply lost his mind as hot as Bay is. I doubt Jason gets another quality AB the rest of the series now. But then, Craig Wilson and Burnitz are almost just as hot. And how about Paulino going 4-4 with 3 rbis and a run scored? Wow.
And how about the Astros poor D tonight? They came in 8th best in the NL but looked more like the Pirates have the last month. Obviously their heads are hanging low right now after being manhandled by the Nats the last 3 games. But they battled all night long even so.. they ended up punching out 11 hits and 5 runs which is good enough to win most games.
Tracy has a hard decision coming up when Casey comes back Monday. Obviously, Craig is odd man out but Tracy isn’t going to sit a hot Craig so maybe Nate will be the one sitting and Freddy moving up into the leadoff spot? But who plays CF? Shoot, if we can score 6+ runs a game, it probably won’t matter if Bay is in CF.
Kudo’s to Torres, Hernandez, and Vogey for shutting down the Astros the last three innings to just one hit.
– tidbits –
Pirates had scored only 13 runs in 21 games in the 4th inning all year until they erupted for 7 more tonight.
Dejan mentioned last night that JVB challenged Littlefield about his medical condition and went to go see Doc Andrews who promptly shut him down for two weeks. That is the third player to challenge the Pirates medical decisions this year so far – Gerut, Wells, and now JVB. Wells had been diagnosed correctly, of course. In Gerut’s case the Pirates wanted more of a conservative approach to see if they could get him back into the lineup. That didn’t work. And now JVB. I expect with the problems JVB is having with this org, he could end up in court one day with them or released by the org ala Bradley.
Still no Duffy. But check out this coincidence (don’t get mad Duff):
from May 1st – May 14th
Jason Bay = .244 BA, 1 HR, 7 rbis, 11 K’s (11-45)
Jeromy Burnitz = .095 BA, 1 HR, 5 rbis, 12 K’s (4-42)
Duffy assigned May 14th..
from May 15 – May 24th
Jason Bay = .417 BA, 7 HR, 17 rbis, 6 K’s (15-36)
Jeromy Burnitz = .354 BA, 1 HR, 6 rbis, 7 K’s (11-31
Pirates have played 18 one-run games and are 3-3 at home and 1-11 in away games. The Pirates winning percentage overall is .298.
The Braves have played 20 one run games and 3-3 at home and 4-10 on the road. The Braves winning percentage overall is .511.
Still think one-run games has something to do with the team’s overall record?
Three of the six lowest FPCT teams in MLB are in the NLCD.. MIL, PIT, and CIN (FLA, NATS, and LAD round it off). Only the Pirates and Marlins are playing under .500 baseball.
The Pirates have yet to win a game on a Monday or a Thursday in nine attempts. Obviously, they are the only team in baseball to have not won at least one game on two different days. BTW – we have just 1 win on Sundays in 6 attempts. Gonna bet on the Buccos? Do it on Tuesday or Saturday games where they have gone 9 – 6.
Pirates have yet to win a game against a left hand pitcher thrown at them at home and they are 1-15 overall against southpaws. How ironic is that considering we are a left hand oriented pitching team? BTW, every single NLCD team has a winning record against southpaws.
Pirates are 10-6 at home vs right hand pitching but just 3-12 on the road.
Pirates are 12-4 when leading after the 6th inning (9-1 at home) and 0-27 when trailing. So much for last year’s come back kids.
The Sports Editor at WVU’s student newspaper called Dave Littlefield an ‘idiot’ for signing Burnitz. www.da.wvu.edu/XMLParser/printstory.phtml?id=22813
The Pirates have fallen below KC in DER (% of times a batted ball is turned into an out) at .667. Only the Twins are worse. Good job Tracy.. can you play the OF even deeper for us so we end up dead last? Geezz..
Of all MLB qualified starters, Paul Maholm (3.63) and Zach Duke (3.52) rank 87th and 89th respectively in run support out of 98 starters.
Jack Wilson ranks 22cd out of 29 qualified SS in FPCT.. Jose Castillo ranks 20th of 23 at 2B… Paulino ranks 2cd to last of all catchers with 200+ innings… McLouth ranks 5th worst of all CF with 190+ innings in CF… *ouch – there is the middle of the diamond for you and quickly explaining why the team is second worst in baseball at -35 runs defensively.
Craig Wilson ranks 9th best in FPCT at 1B… Burnitz and Sanchez are middle of the pack and Bay is the best (all in FPCT). At least we have the corners covered. Geezz.. good work Dave.
The Pirates have played 29% of their games this year so far so it is about time for Bucco Blog to start looking closer into some stats.
Let’s start today with the basics.. runs scored (RS) and runs allowed RA) by the team broken down by inning, offense, and home and away games.
We see the Pirates (P) have scored a total of 92 runs, allowed 131 to opponents (O), and have scored more runs than their opponents in the 4th and 6th innings overall.
Interestingly, 45% of all opponents runs scored have come in the first three innings and Pirate pitching is allowing an average of 2.3 runs in each of those first three. That is very, very high – almost twice the league average. Because our staff is reducing the average runs per inning below league average after the first three, it shows they are adjusting in-game pretty well. Of course, that could also be explained off some by the other team simply knowing they have a big lead and sitting back some too.
Now look at the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings.. 35% of all runs scored have come mostly from our relievers on the road and late hooks by Tracy.
Pirate batters are scoring an average of 3.5 runs per away game and that isn’t going to win many ballgames when we are giving up over 5. We do have a league average 8 hits per game on average so we are not hurting there so much.. it is probably more when we get the hits than how many we do get of course. We’ll look at that in another article.
Tracy needs to combat the youth effect that is allowing so many runs early in away games. Sweet Lou’s answer to that was to start his relievers in the game first then bring in the starter. That didn’t last long of course but Lou’s idea might have some merit. Another thought is that the starters just aren’t getting warmed up enough and that responsibility falls on Bobby Cuellar. The last thought is that the battery isn’t seeing enough film, aren’t being fed enough scouting reports, and/or aren’t being instructed well enough how to go out as a youthful battery and get the game plan down early. One of the things I will talk about in another article coming up is the fact our starters tend to hit the mound early in the game and follow the exact same routines, game after game and that is allowing other teams the ability to scout them easier.
Away game errors are off the chart at almost 1 E per game. As I mentioned yesterday, one of the reasons Bonifay was fired was because his teams were averaging almost .83 E’s per game late in his career with the Pirates, which is very high. Fundamental baseball requires good defense – especially on the road. 13 of those 24 errors cost us 9 of the 22 games we have lost so far in away games.. we were just never able to recover from the runs allowed from them.
Tracyball supposedly stresses good D. We have a rookie CF, a rookie catcher, and mostly rookies on the mound. That is three of the five players up the middle being raw which spells disaster anyway, so higher team E’s are to be somewhat expected.. but not 1 per game. Also, with so many rookies playing each game that have never played in some of these parks, a higher E count is expected too. But, again, not 1 per game.
As the year goes on, we’ll see what adjustments Tracy makes to combat these away game issues: early runs allowed, higher number of errors, and same-old, same-old routines from starting pitchers.
Look at the starting pitchers runs allowed in the first three innings again – 44% of all runs allowed. That is way over league average for home games. Then look at the 5th and 6th innings.. another 28%. Wow! Obviously, Tracy needs to pull a quicker hook on his starters because they are getting hammered the third/fourth time through the order.
Possibly Tracy needs to consider dropping pitch counts down to the 80 – 85 range while he is developing these kids since he is carrying 12 pitchers? I saw he almost pulled Duke in the 5th last night to pitch hit for him.. he left him in and he gave up two singles, hit a batter, and allowed another run to score. I understand the old school way is to throw them out there for 110 pitches and get their feet wet no matter what. But to be honest, most starters come up in the pen for a year or two on balanced teams before going into the rotation so limiting their work only makes sense.
Errors at home games are below league average where they should be and, despite the fact Pirate pitching has allowed more runs than we have scored, the lower E count translated into a higher winning percentage. Of course, big ball parks hide pitching woes too. hehe
Pirate away game woes are the direct result of sloppy defensive play for the most part. Not scoring runs on the road is hurting us too because of the lack of timely clutch hitting, but nowhere as bad as the errors are hurting us.
Here is a breakdown of the Pythagorean winning percentage (using ^1.83):
|away||8.9 – 17.1||4 – 22||-4.9|
|home||9.8 – 11.2||10 – 11||0.2|
|overall||18.7 – 28.3||14 – 33||-4.7|
With only 29% of our games having been played and being almost -5 wins shows how unlucky this team has been this year. But has it been bad luck? Or has it been bad play? Or has it been bad managing? Everybody will give you a different answer but to me, it is a combination of all of the above.
Baseball is a game of adjustments. Clearly, Tracy is not making adjustments quick enough. We’ll check back when we have played 60% of our games to see if he had made any by balancing the first 29% against the second 31%.
If ever a professional team needed to come home to some lovin’ it is the Pittsburgh Pirates right now.
In just the last six games on the road, the Pirates have:
– committed 9 errors;
– allowed 21.8% of all runs scored against them to score unearned;
– lost 3 one-run games and each one the Pirates had errors in the game;
– were only outscored 1.16 runs per game (chokes on UE runs allowed);
– and out hit the opposing teams 56 – 53.
Over and over I have mentioned here how our defense has been killing us all year. One of the main reasons Cam Bonifay was replaced by Kevin McClatchy is because of the amount of player errors Cam had in 1999, 2000 and starting the season in 2001 that contributed to team losses. Littlefield started to get that under control from 2002 – 2004 but it has been all downhill since.
Let’s take a hard look at our play in just the month of May. We have played 21 games so far and:
– committed 21 errors (1.0 E per game);
– have been out scored by only 5 runs despite the errors;
– have been out hit by only 2;
– gone 7-14.. a .333 winning percentage;
– hit .261/.325/.395 (23rd best OPS);
– had a team ERA of 4.17 (14th best) but allowed a .357 OBA (27th worst) – so we are stranding runners just not limiting offensive opportunities.
Now let’s look at what Bill James Pythagorean winning percentage says we should have done over that period: 94 runs scored, 99 runs allowed = .476 pyth winning percentage (using ^1.83) * 21 games = 10-11 record. So, in the last 21 games we are -3 wins.
Jim Tracy and the Pirates brass continue to harp the fact we are in every game – that we are just losing close games because of one hit we are missing, and other rot like that. Fact is, we have lost 19% of our games in the opponents last at bat. Obviously, the pen isn’t getting the job done at times. Other times, we don’t play fundamental baseball and fall apart on the field with errors. And other times we lack clutch hitting from those who are in the game or those Tracy pitch hits with.
By my count, Jim Tracy has single-handedly lost 5 of the 14 games lost in May with bonehead decisions he made in the game. You can read back through the game notes to recount some of the insane moves he has made. At times I wonder if he doesn’t have a hidden agenda to have this team lose a ton, but I think it is probably just his micro-managing style more than anything. He tends to throw the old school ‘book’ aside too often.. and it is costing him. He gets out-managed often.
Tonight’s game was rough.. a couple of errors here, a miscue there, a smarter manager on the other side that was getting breaks Tracy didn’t get, poor relief pitching again, and viola.. another loss, despite scoring 7 runs on 12 hits and our 4 and 5 hitters going 6-9 with 4 rbis and 3 runs scored.
Zach had a rough outing.. many of the balls put in play were hammered off him. It was obvious AZ had scouted him well and the players were ready for him. With poor defense behind him, he never really regained himself although he had a couple of good innings where he made some adjustments to the AZ batters. But when you see a pitcher get 14 of 17 balls in play hit on the ground and nine of them go for hits, you can pretty much assume your team either didn’t scout the other team to well or the baseball Gods were not in your corner. I tend to think it was the former.
Jose was charged with 2 E’s but only one was real.. the second one was a throw to Craig that bounced in front of Craig and he should have scooped it and the inning be over.. instead, one run scored from the E’s.
How about Bautista holding two runners at 3B with the threat of his arm tonight? Whoa! Very impressive. Obviously AZ had scouted him well and knew about his cannon arm. And, did I see Nate McLouth unload one from medium CF and throw a bullet to the plate? Even though it was off the line, why in the world has Nate not been using that arm in previous games? Was it just a lucky throw tonight or is he holding back in games? Hmm..
Paulino had a hard time behind the plate again and it cost us one run. He simply can’t side block – he stabs and he needs to work on that. Tracy isn’t cutting the kid any slack whatsoever and he is obviously tired. BTW, did Ronny really call for a 1-0 fastball from Torres on Green with the bases loaded?????????????? Wow..
Growing pains are hard to deal with as a fan. We have been pitching and hitting much better lately but have lost our defense even more than usual. But that is the sign of young players.. they focus on one thing and lose focus on another. It will eventually all start coming together. We hope.
God Bless Jason Bay. hehe
– tidbits –
Still no word on Duff. I received an email today that indicates the Pirates are just about as sick of him and his game plan as Duff is with the Pirates. One source of mine which I will call a poor source but who has had some things right in the past, said Duffy filed a grievance. A very good source I checked with said he hadn’t heard anything about that.. yet.. so take it with a grain of salt. Peace Duff.
Amazing how Craig Wilson all of a sudden gets white hot after the Yankees reinstate Sheffield from the DL and are now saying they may not make a move for an OF. Hmm..
Pirates take a late night flight home tonight and get in in the wee hours. Thursday won’t seem like much of a day off and, if I had a guess, Tracy will probably call them in for a mandatory workout the way they have been playing.
Sean Casey is rehabbing with Altoona for 3 games starting today I hear. I am surprised Littlefield even sent him down to be quite honest. All we need is one little mistake.. one problem.. one wrong turn or twist of the back and we might not see Sean the rest of the year. So may some of our baseball Gods please be with Sean for a couple of days.