Game 50 – Monster Mush
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.