If David Littlefield has built his org on any model, the Twins would be the closest. We may not have their arms — yet.. we may not have the players who can get on base as well.. but we are awfully close to their style of play.
For instance, the Twins have very little power in their lineup just like the Pirates. Twins batters get on base in high numbers primarily from putting the ball in play, as they are ranked #1 in MLB in BABiP. The Pirates are #4. Even our walk rates are similar. But the problem with the Pirates is, they just don’t put enough balls in play as we have 250 +/- more strikeouts than the Twins do this year.
The Twins are fueled by their pitching and have an excellent mix of youth and veterans. The Pirates are fueled by only rookies, and sputter because of it.
On Monday, August 28, 2006, the Post-Gazette ran an article entitled "2007 payroll will be ‘plenty’" where their Pittsburgh Pirates beat reporter said:
"Littlefield reiterated his wish to acquire a left-handed power bat — for right field or first base — and a starting pitcher."
Jim Tracy also noted not too long ago that the Pirates lacked a veteran top of the order starter to make them complete. That is true, but Jim Colborn has a long way to go to get the pitchers he does have to throw more strikes first before Littlefield should probably add that starter, as the Pirates walk an insane number of batters.
If you have been reading my blog long then you know I have stated 100 times or more that our rookie catcher this year has a lot to do with the excess walk rate. No, he doesn’t throw the pitch.. but he did waive his mitt horribly early on, he did setup outside the zone early on, and he did have a habit of framing too many pitches to the point where home plate umpires simply didn’t believe him after a few innings.
But as Paulino continues to gain game management and mechanical skills, and our pitchers continue to learn to pitch, this stat will fall and, in fact, Duke’s and Maholm’s walk rates have already fallen dramatically since July 1.
Another problem plaguing the Pirates is their defense. Far too many balls in play are falling for hits.. well beyond the league average. Whether Littlefield needs to add more advance scouts, get more interns plotting pitches and charting balls in play, just get plain ole’ better defenders, or move players to more complimentary positions.. or all of the above, is another step that must be completed before he should consider making big moves.
But even balanced pitching staffs need to have some run support and the Pirates have done a miserable job of that in 2006. Averaging just 4.45 runs per game on average, we are 9% below just the median in MLB. That figure wouldn’t be so worrisome if we had the Twins rotation throwing all strikes past the bats of opposing batters.. but we don’t.
So, our offense needs more click. But who.. where.. how? And, how much of a bopper is really needed? Let’s first look at where we are at and then look at what we might need.
For the balance of this article, I am going to assume the following position players will be on the 2007 opening day lineup card:
Nady 1B, Castillo 2B, Wilson SS, Sanchez 3B, Bay LF, Duffy CF, Bautista RF
This assumes, of course, no trades are made and we open 2007 with the above lineup.
Now here is a breakdown of each of those player’s current year-to-date offensive production for 2006 as compared to the current MLB median for each position (based on qualified players):
Don’t look too hard at the number of walks or strikeouts as our batters may not have had as many at bats. I put those figures there just to give you a representative view. The Pirates numbers in those categories are how many above or below the MLB median for their position.
Now let’s take just one stat and look at it to understand the graphic — the difference indicated between the 2006 Pirates and the 2006 MLB median for RC27 (runs created per 27 outs — the second column) is about one-half run per game, or, 9% less production (median MLB qualified = 5.753 RC27 compared to the Pirates median of 5.274).
We are also about 15% less in ISOP (isolated power — this is huge.. more than huge.. it is our real problem in 2006).. and about 7% less SECA (extra base hits) and BB/PA. Those add up to quite a deficit.. actually, a huge deficit.
David Littlefield suggested he wanted to add a power left-hand bat to the lineup for 2007 but what does that really mean? For instance, Bautista’s RC27 is about 10% lower than the median qualified RF, so Littlefield will have to add a player that is at least 10% higher than the MLB RF median for it to mean anything. Can he sign an Abreu, Cuddyer, or JD Drew type of player that meets that additional production? I’m not so sure.
But even if he does add a player with just 10% more RC27 production, improving that position to just the MLB RF median will only gain us 2% toward the team’s 9% overall RC27 deficit.
See the problem? The current roster is too unproductive as a whole to gain from one position.
How about if we add two players.. let’s really go on a limb here. Let’s say we add Carl Crawford in CF and Brian Giles in RF to the balance of our above assumed lineup. What would that do?
That would do it for RC27. We would still be lacking power production and still be short in extra base hits and walks, but we would be a lot closer overall.
Now, can we possibly add the likes of both Crawford and Giles?
Not a prayer in the world.
I used qualified players in my examples here to show you the baseline that everyday players are producing for their teams. Not all teams have eight qualified players so the overall picture here is a bit distorted.. but not by much.
Instead, I wanted to show that by adding one player to our roster in 2007 isn’t going to improve this team. Nor will two, unless they are very high quality players. Probably not even three.. unless they can all improve the player they replace by 10% or more, and that would be quite a chore for any GM to pull off in Pittsburgh without player payroll going through the roof.
We simply don’t have the resources.. we don’t have players in the farm to trade, nor do we have $40m – $50m to add to player payroll each year for the next 3+ years on top of what we are now paying.
Ideally, we would look to improve internally either by replacing players on the roster with a prospect, or by improving the production of the players on the current roster. Littlefield has so far chosen to try and improve the current roster’s production, but as we have seen over the years, that isn’t enough.
Our farm system holds only two real impact players in McCutchen and Walker and they are at least one year off, if not two, before they contribute in a meaningful way. So getting help internally isn’t going to be the answer right away.
Littlefield has quite a chore ahead to try and improve the offensive numbers of this team for 2007. Some improvement will come from the players over time.. some will come in a year or so from the farm.. but not nearly enough to contend with when both of these items are factored in.. nor even if he adds one big bopper bat on top of it all.
The ‘getting better’ answer doesn’t seem to be in trying to improve runs scored dramatically. Not for the Pirates as we aren’t built to mash.. we’re built to chip away.
Can the answer instead be in fewer runs allowed by our pitching staff? Stay tuned for part two and we’ll see.
Let’s continue on from yesterday’s thrilling misadventure when we told you Saturday’s game included such highlights as:
– 6 of the Pirates 7 runs scored from Cubs errors..
– 4 of the Cubs 6 runs coming from two poor blocks by Paulino, a bad throw by Bay, and a Doumit error..
– overall total for the game: 10 of 13 runs scored from errors and miscues.
– 7 of the Pirates 10 runs came off Cubs errors or miscues..
– 4 of the Cubs 9 runs came off Pirates errors or miscues..
– overall Sunday: 11 of 19 runs came from errors or miscues.
Two game total:
– 21 of 32 runs (66%) scored from errors or miscues.
Combined three-game series totals:
– 49 R, 87 H, 8 E, 31 IN, and 11 hours of baseball.
What an absolute joke.
Should we cry that we played so poorly or should we be happy we won all three error-filled games? Yin yang.
Wow.. brutal baseball at its finest. And just think, we do this all over again next week but get to see 4 games in the series instead of 3! I just can’t wait.
Some of the Pirates finer plays today included:
– Nady with a throwing error to Sanchez..
– Sanchez with a throwing error to Nady..
– Santos poor base running.. he was called safe but out by a mile at 3B..
– Bautista taking an extra base to make the 1st out at 3B..
– Two singles off Cubs pitcher’s bodies..
– One Duffy bat hitting a fan in the stands..
– Doumit breaking too early on a suicide squeeze and should have been picked off..
And the number one play of the day?
– Burnitz K’ing on a dropped third strike, not running to 1B, and the fans booing him clear to the dugout.
– Tidbits –
The Pirates moved to 3rd now in the race to the cellar as the Royals won yet another game and the Rays lost. The Cubs are now just 1 game behind the Pirates and the Nats 2 games behind us. Oh.. Baltimore is now coming on strong and is just 7 games behind us with a ton of teams 8 out.
Memo to Littlefield: send McLeary back to Indy. Better yet, send Burnitz with him.
As expected, Dave Littlefield really didn’t want Victor Diaz enough to trade for him as the Rangers acquired him for a 2004 5th round catcher, not playing too well in AA, today.
The more Nady plays at 1B the more he is being exposed and showing us that he might be able to glove a hot shot or two, but he plays out of position often, he misses routine throws at him, and he has a hard time picking balls in the dirt. We have/had a couple of guys who were just like Nady.. Craig Wilson and Ryan Doumit.. decent bats with no position to play. I hope the Pirates can turn his glove and play around at 1B because if they can’t, I think I would have rather stayed with left-hand hitting Doumit over Nady even though his play at 1B is considerably worse.
2005 Pirates record 7/1 – 8/31: 21-35 .. .375 win %
2004 Pirates record 7/1 – 8/31: 29-27 .. .518 win %
2003 Pirates record 7/1 – 8/31: 28-28 .. .500 win %
NLCD.. winning percentages since July 1, 2006:
Astros 0.509 27-26 Cards 0.509 27-26 Pirates 0.491 26-27 Cubs 0.472 25-29 Reds 0.434 23-30 Brewers 0.415 22-31
I posted the numbers above now before the rosters expand and play becomes pretty much meaningless for many teams as they start evaluating youth in September. As you can see, it has not been unusual for the Pirates to play well from July 1 to Aug 31 and still have a poor winning record the next year.
Pirates winning percentage since the All-Star Game this year: .523 .. 23-21
Games remaining: 28
Magic number of wins required to have a .500 second half: 13
Magic number of wins required to have a .500 record since July 1: 15
On the first "Pup Peroni" night at PNC with 200 dogs taking in the game, the Pirates barked back in the 11th to win the game.
Cruising through 4 innings, having faced just one over the minimum from an error, Carlos Zambrano had a no-hitter going starting the 5th. Then his world fell apart..
.. in the 5th inning, the Pirates managed 4 hits and 3 runs all thanks to one Zambrano throwing error that should have been an inning ending double play.
In the 6th, the Pirates scored another run off a Zambrano fielding error.
In the 7th, Rajai Davis got his first MLB hit – a double – and scored on a clutch rbi single by Freddy Sanchez.
In the 11th, the Pirates scored 2 to win the game off a Freddie Bynum fielding error.
That is 6 of the Pirates runs scored from Cubs errors.. and 4 of the runs off two Zambrano errors. Remember those numbers, as we’ll revisit that in a minute.
The Cubs runs? About the same dog-style of play..
Maholm walked the bases loaded in the second and then Paulino forgot how to block a pitch in the dirt and a run scored. Pierre then hit a grounder to Freddy and another run scored.
In the 3rd, Ramirez singled and advanced to 2B on Barrett’s grounder to Maholm. Murton then singled sharply to Bay in short leftfield and big boy Ramirez made it all the way from 2B to home as Bay’s throw was way up the 1B line, Paulino missed it, it hit the home plate ump in the arm, and Murton took 2B. Bay would have EASILY nailed Ramirez had he made just a decent throw anywhere near the plate.
In the 5th, Ramirez was on 2B again with two outs and Murton hit a sharp grounder that Bautista made a great stop on, he threw hard to Doumit, Doumit missed the throw even though it was belt high and perfectly thrown, and Ramirez cruised home to score a run.
In the 7th, Ramirez walked and then Paulino made yet another stab at a McLearly slider down and away that bounced in front of his wrongly turned glove and Ramirez took 2B. Barrett then doubled and Ramirez scored.. but there was no way he would have scored from 1B without the wild pitch.
In the 11th, the Cubs were handed two walks and then Lee singled home one of them.
That is 4 of the Cubs 6 runs coming from two poor blocks by Paulino, a bad throw by Bay, and a Doumit error.
Total for the game: 7 runs scored from errors, 3 from poor fielding, and 3 normal.
And I didn’t even mention the rest of the plays where errors weren’t called but should have been because they didn’t result in a run being scored.
Just a doggy night.
– Tidbits –
It is nice to see Nady continue to hit well against right-hand pitching as that was the biggest knocks on him offensively. He continues to have a hole in his swing for low and away off speed stuff but pitcher’s aren’t feeding him many. Go figure. Hopefully Manto to get him to adjust on those.
Maholm pitched a nice game despite the walks and throwing the wild pitch with the bases loaded. He simply lost his arm slot in the 2cd. But of the 7 hits he allowed, all of them were singles.
Paulino is tired.. really, really tired, and it is showing up every start he makes now. Tracy needs to let Cota take over every third game or so to spell him.
I’m going out on a limb here and going to suggest that the org’s recent revelation that Gonzo has tendinitis in his elbow is not the real reason for his DL status. It doesn’t make any sense at all to DL Gonzo with "tendinitis" with the roster’s expanding September 1.
There have been reports that Gonzo has DAS.. known as dead arm syndrome. When mild, pitcher’s continue to pitch with it. When moderate, they might get sidelined a start or two. When severe, the have surgery because DAS is often accompanied by more problems in the shoulder.. typically a labrum tear or a lesion.
I have also heard a report that his knee is acting up. That might be the true reason he is out.. I don’t know.
Then we have heard the reports that Gonzo and Gorzy have tendinitis in their elbows and will resume pitching once the dye wears out of their system. But that makes this even more confounding.. Gorzy had already been throwing side sessions and bullpen work even after stating he had the stiffness. Now we are hearing they both will be back in throwing programs within a week. If they have inflammation so bad to be DL’d, they would be on anti-inflams and not throwing for weeks.
Something else is up and we probably will never hear what it was. It could be something absolutely nutty like Littlefield wanting to have Tracy see all these farm hands like McCleary.. I don’t know.
I also find it odd Jack Wilson remains out. Inner ear infections are no fun but does he even really have it? Or does the org just want to get a long look at Freddy at SS?
Now Snell is complaining of shoulder pain but the org said he is fine and he’ll keep pitching. Look for him to be shut down here soon.
The entire team is playing disjointed trying to get a firm grip on who they want for 2007 and on. Ok.. I understand all that but these are kids who are going to need a lot more than a month to step up and take command of an opportunity at this level, even if it is September. For example, just look at Doumit at 1B and you can clearly see he is not a MLB caliber 1B.. nor will he ever be. Nady there is a stretch.
None of this makes any sense.
Ernesto has pooped out (no pun on doggy day) and I’ll be heading home in the morning.
Poor Indy.. Littlefield has raided their team with Toledo breathing down their neck. I assume Littlefield has pretty much decided those at Indy right now just aren’t worth worrying about.
Here is Gonzo’s last 9 batters he faced 8/22 – 8/24 before being shelved. Does he look like he has "tendinitis" to you? LoL
Thanks for letting me know about the Posse not being at the game the other night Luke. But the Posse HAS to make a return call on September 17th.. it is a MUST show day. hehe
The Rays and Pirates are now tied for 2cd place in the cellar race at 5 games out. The Cubs are now 7 games out and the Nats 8. Oh my..
The ‘Dads won tonight against the Lexington Legends by a score of 7-5. I shot a few photos but don’t have time to post them up tonight. Brad Corley did pick up RBI #95 and #96 tonight. I did receive the following information at the game tonight that I thought I would share:
2006 South Atlantic League All-Star Team:
Manager: Roberto Kelly – Augusta GreenJackets
Coach: Mike Lum – West Virginia Power
Pitcher – LH: Matt Maloney – Lakewood BlueClaws
Pitcher – RH: William Inman – West Virginia Power
Catcher (TIE): Angel Salome – West Virginia Power
Catcher (TIE): Carlos Carrasco – Lakewood BlueClaws
First Base: Ben Jones – Charleston RiverDogs
Second Base: Eugenio Velez – Augusta GreenJackets
Shortstop: Tommy Manzella – Lexington Legends
Third Base: Mat Gamel – West Virginia Power
Utility Infield: Eric Campbell – Rome Braves
Outfield: Lorenzo Cain – West Virginia Power
Outfield: Andrew McCutchen – Hickory Crawdads
Outfield: Cole Garner – Asheville Tourists
Utility Outfield: Dexter Fowler – Asheville Tourists
Designated Hitter: Brad Corley – Hickory Crawdads
John M. Setzler, Jr.
(the guy with the camera)
MLBlogs is having a problem with
spammers a hacker (thanks Mark!) and have evidently implemented a new system that makes it very hard to post any comments. Even I can’t post anything to my own blog. hehe
Mark said it was corrected yesterday but I keep getting "your comment appears to be spam" when I try to post a comment so who knows.
Here is MLBlogs current status on the issue as it is out of my hands: http://mlblogs.mlblogs.com/mlblogscom/2006/08/mlblogs_comment.html
I am in South Florida waiting to be dispatched with Tropical Storm Ernesto. Therefore, I don’t know what the next 24 – 48 hours has in store and I may not be posting each night.
If you want to track the storm, go to the National Hurricane Center. You can also follow along in a great niche oriented discussion forum where I volunteer my time at the Central Florida Hurricane Center.
Prayers for everyone in Ernesto’s path.
What is more important to you as a Pirate fan..
- Climbing out of the NLCD cellar by the end of the year? or..
- Remaining in the hunt for MLB’s cellar for better 2007 draft picks?
I don’t know.. I’d rather see us lose a ton between now and October 1st but somehow I get the idea that the guys in the clubhouse have a different agenda.
Not that that is a bad agenda, mind you.
But it seems that every move the org is making the players are moving in the opposite direction.
The org has a three-day weekend almost all sold out with 3 skyblasts and they lose every game;
The org has photo fan fest and the team takes the worst beating of the year in front of the fans that come out to see them;
The organization puts Jack Wilson, Joe Randa, Jeromy Burnitz, Tom Gorzelanny, Mike Gonzalez, and Nate McLouth on the pine, and they start winning.
The Cubs? They just keep losing as if their clubhouse has decided to pull a 2005 Pirates Mac number on Dusty Baker. The Nats? They keep losing too.. as do the Rays.
If we aren’t careful, we are going to fall from the 2cd draft pick in 2007 to the 5th and, God forbid, if we happen to play too good the rest of the way out this year, we could fall to the 7th – 11th pick in the draft, as there are 5 more teams all losing like crazy right now. Falling 2cd to 4th would be a huge blow as we would most likely lose our chance to get a true, coveted #1 starter-type we need so bad. Falling 2cd to 7th would be devastating.
Funny, isn’t it, that the guys propelling the wins in these games are the ones that will be helped the most with the better draft pick.. our youth, who figure to be around for another 5+ years.
Anyways, the Pirates hammered a Cubs AA pitcher by the name of Angel Guzman last night. He reminded me a lot of Ian Snell in 2005.. little confidence with good stuff. You can tell he will be a good arm one day but he just doesn’t have the maturity right now to be handed the ball every 5 days. Ten of the first fifteen balls put in play off Guzman went for a hit.. all singles and one home run for a .667 batting average on balls in play.
That is a remarkable change from the April game Guzman pitched against us at Wrigley. We hammered Guzman then too but nowhere like tonight. The difference between the two games was this umpiring crew we have right now.
Someone please explain to me how we ended up with two series covering 7 days with these clowns umpiring the games? They are HORRIBLE. I can put up play after play after play where they made bad calls in every single game. And not just bang-bang plays either – I mean absolutely eye-popping bad calls.
Tonight for instance, in the 4th inning Bynum walked and stole second and was called safe. On replay, not only was he out, but he was out by a country mile and the umpire had his nose right in the play. Obviously Dreckman needs glasses (but we noticed that the other night, didn’t we?)
Not to be outdone, Ron Darling had to add his own blown call for the game when Pagen hit a hard grounder to Bautista in the 5th who took it off his body, regrouped, and threw hard to get Pagen at first. Darling called him safe. What made this call so bad was that typically bang-bang plays go to the defense but Pagen was out by more than a step and Darling still called him safe.
Tracy and his coaching staff lost it and Bautista was fit to be tide as the official scorer rang him up for an error — I assume because it would have been only the 2cd hit of the night off Snell.
The Cubs dugout was all over home plate ump Guccione all night long as he had a strike zone the size of a pea. But he is well known for that.. and he called it the same for both sides. Barrett, the Cubs catcher, refused to accept Guccione’s zone which caused Guzman a lot of grief on top of the fact his pitches were straight as an arrow and his slider didn’t slide much.
And how about Snell – picking up his 12th win on a 90+ loss team. Not too shabby.
– Tidbits –
Tonight they could be heard clearly over the FSN broadcasters who curiously seemed to want to cover them up as the chant got louder and louder.
Mark down September 17th on your schedule.. that is when Perez figures to pitch against the Pirates at PNC. What a game that will be.
Poor Paul Maholm.. he takes the mound yet again Tuesday night facing the hardest opposing pitcher on their team and, unfortunately, does so with Ron Darling behind the plate. Maholm hasn’t gotten a break since the all star game it seems.
Maholm hasn’t allowed more than 3 earned runs in 7 of his last 10 starts yet he lost three of the games and got three no decisions for his efforts because of a lack of run support.
Look for a good game from Maholm if bozo Darling calls a reasonable strike zone and Doumit isn’t behind the plate.
Andrew McCutchen continues to tell David Littlefield he wants an spring training invite next year as he rolled off a 2-3 game yesterday picking up 3 of the 5 Curve rbi’s. He is now hitting .345 at Altoona.
Ever heard of a player named Carlos Teller? He is a Pirate who is playing in his second year in a four year contract with the Pirates in the Venezuelan Summer League. He is a 20 year old southpaw who is throwing about 90 – 92 mph and doing very well. In fact, Teller has the highest K/9 in the entire Pirates farm system at 10 K/9. He has a ways to go to make it to the bigs as he still has command problems walking 5.7 per 9 and he also has a hard time getting left-hand batters out for some reason, but he is dominating VSL batters.
The kid is quite the rage in the VSL and there are some in the industry wondering why David Littlefield doesn’t promote him to Williamsport to see how he does and to get him some better instruction from the Pirates roving instructors. We’ll see where this goes because, if nothing else, we should be seeing him in the US next year.
As I expected, Tom Gorzelanny has been shut down for the rest of the year. I did not expect Mike Gonzalez to be shut down with him but I had heard his knee was acting up again and he was back wearing the knee brace. Perhaps Littlefield is just being cautious.
The official team word was that both had ‘tendinitis’ in their left elbow. But what pitcher doesn’t have some tendinitis anyway? LoL Gonzo had evidently complained of ‘tingling’ in his pinky which led to him being shelved.
I noticed tonight the Post-Gazette reporting that both players want to pitch before the end of the season so it could be a case of Littlefield simply wanting to shut them down over their own desires. I don’t expect to see them back this year. And I expect to see a few more pitchers shelved here pretty soon too like Duke and Maholm.
It all started Friday night when the Gimme Gimme punk band gave the fans nothing nothing.. it has gone steadily downhill in Pittsburgh ever since.
It was so bad today that even Kevin McClatchy didn’t bother to take his customary seat before the game started, even though it was photo fan fest day.
A slap in the face of the fans?
Maybe Kevin was as upset with this umpiring crew as the Pirate fans, players, and coaches were?
But nobody got slapped harder than the Pirate players today as they were absolutely humiliated as a group on their own turf in front of the very fans who came out to meet, greet, and honor them.
There is a long standing baseball stat that suggests that when a team has a player-child day at the park before a game that team has gone on to lose the vast majority of the games they played after the event. Maybe the players were drained from the earlier activities in the day? Perhaps..
In any case, it was a pure, old fashion beating we took today, the likes of which I haven’t seen since 2005.
I don’t put much stock in the rout.. big deal. We had Chacon on the mound who doesn’t figure into 2007 plans anyway and we had an umpire crew who obviously didn’t like being in Pittsburgh for the 4-game set.
Tomorrow is another day.
– Tidbits –
I will be posting little the next few days as I have been activated for hurricane emergency operations today with Ernesto bearing down on the state. Right now it looks like he will enter somewhere between Naples and Crystal River if he survives the Monday Cuban crossing, which we expect he will.
The real threat with this storm is flooding as we believe he may stall out a bit after making landfall. Hopefully, he turns into a rain event.
Zach Duke came into game 130 with a career 0-2 record and a 5.06 ERA against Houston and left this game with an 0-3 record and a 5.55 career ERA.
The Houston Astros simply own Zach Duke.
Zach and the Pirates had a lot of bad karma going in this game while taking the loss. Consider these Astros run scoring events today:
In the 2cd inning, the first two runs were scored off Zach from what should have been the third out in the inning when Randa made a bad toss to Duke covering 1B allowing two runners to score;
In the 4th, Everett hit a two out double into the left center field gap and took third, despite the fact one of the fastest centerfielders in the game ran the ball down and made a good relay throw to Sanchez. But Everett knew Sanchez did’nt have a Jack Wilson cannon relay arm and kept running risking the 3rd out at 3B.. and he was safe – without any relay throw at all.
Ausmus was then intentionally walked. Tracy had Randa holding Ausmus on despite two outs in the inning and the fact Ausmus had stolen only 21 stolen bases in the last 6 years, and Palmeiro hit a little grounder that bounced over Randa’s head that he could have easily fielded for the third out had he been playing back not worrying about Ausmus, and Everett scored.
Ausmus, who took 3B on Palmeiro’s bounce over Randa’s head, came in to score when Ronny Paulino failed to block a simple ball in the dirt. Unfortunately for the Duke and the Pirates, Paulino’s poor side-blocking mechanics kept his left leg up when shifting to stab the ball, the ball then bounced off his shin guard which should have been on the ground with his knee, and ricocheted off allowing Ausmus to easily score.
In the 7th, Pettitte singled on a little groundball that went right under Castillo’s glove. Taveras laid down a sac bunt that Bautista fielded and gunned Pettitte out at 2B for the first out, leaving Taveras at 1B.
Burke then hit a sharp liner to Nady in RF for a single who scooped it up and fired a bullet to Bautista who tagged Taveras out (the replay shows Taveras out), but he was called safe (by Darling), leaving men on 1st and 3rd – instead of 2 outs and a man at 1B.
Berkman then lined a double into the right centerfield gap to score two, albeit only one should have scored there.
Lane then took a called strike and Berkman attempted to steal 3B. Paulino threw a bullet to Bautista who laid his leg across to bag to block Berkman from being able to touch the base, Bautista tagged him out before Berkman got to the bag, but the ump (you guessed it – Darling) called him safe. So instead of Berkman being the 3rd out, the inning continued on.
Lane then hit a groundball to Freddy with the infield in to hold Berkman at 3B and getting the official 2cd out of the inning, but the 4th out produced by the Pirates. Then Ensberg lined a single to score Berkman for the Astros 7th run and Biggio grounded out for the official 3rd out, and the 5th real out.
Bad karma, bad luck, or bad umpiring? You’re right.. a little of all three.
I was bit concerned that Tracy even brought Duke out to pitch the 7th since he was already at the 84 pitch count and it was 87 degrees with high humidity at game time. Duke pitched well in the 7th showing Tracy made the right call, but the 26 pitch inning pushed Duke to 110 pitches for the day, and not what Tracy wanted to see.
Tracy has already talked about keeping his younger pitchers within 20 innings of their career high innings pitched this year and Duke started 2006 off having thrown 192 innings in 2005 overall, which was 44 innings higher than he had ever pitched before in one year. As we all saw, Zach started 2006 off as a bust and some in the industry wondered if it wasn’t because he had thrown too many innings in 2005. Who knows.. maybe.
So after giving up 10 hits, 7 runs, and 5 earned runs, over 6 and 2/3rd’s innings, Duke walked off the field with negative vibes feeling he had been roughed up pretty good. Duke’s career stats against the Astros after tonight’s performance ran to 0-3 with a 5.55 ERA, allowing 28 H and 16 R in 22.2 innings of work.
Last April 21st when Duke last faced the Astros, Zach had thrown only 52% of his batters first pitch strikes and got hammered most of the day working behind in the count. Also last April, Duke was behind in the count after the third pitch to 44% of the batters he faced. The net result from pitching behind in that game was:
2 groundball outs
2 home runs
Last night Duke threw 65% first pitch strikes and was behind the count after the 3rd pitch to 25% of the batters he faced resulting in:
3 groundball outs
1 intentional walk
So, pitching ahead last night helped Duke considerably. Unfortunately for him, his team leading 5.27 run support per start offense never got off the ground.
As you can clearly see from the graphic, the Pirates go as Duffy goes. It is quite evident from that graphic the dire need the Pirates have for a speedy centerfield defender who can also get on base from the leadoff spot.
Tonight was no different as the Pirates lost with Duffy going 0-4, but I’m sure the same can be said about Bay and Sanchez.. if they don’t hit the ball, I doubt we win many games either.
I found it pretty ironic that the heatseeking Pirates couldn’t do more damage to Pettitte, as he was pretty hittable last night. Bautista, Castillo, and Paulino all managed a couple of hits but they are singles hitters for the most part and it would take them all hitting .350+ for the year to really have a significant impact in games the top of the order chokes in.
We miss Sean Casey getting on base and we miss Craig Wilson and Burnitz batting 5 – 6 behind Bay. We just don’t have any power as we wait for the kiddies to fill out. In fact, we have only 10 home runs at PNC Park from July 1st on.
Can you name the Pirate who has hit the most at PNC since July 1?
Jose Castillo, with 2.
Here is the full list since the start of the year:
Burnitz, Jeromy 11
Castillo, Jose 10
Bautista, Jose 10
Bay, Jason 9
Wilson, Craig 8
That goes to show you the extreme need we have for a thumper bat from the left side of the plate.. or two.
– Tidbits –
Oliver Perez pitched tonight in Philly as expected and did very, very well. Mets fans better quickly get to know Ollie because if they keep booing him inning after inning, Perez will have a lot more 5th innings like he did tonight.
Perez took a one-hit shutout into the 5th and then lost his command. To his credit, Ollie had been dominating to that point hitting 94 mph on their stadium gun that is known to be off. Unfortunately, it can be off either way so it is hard to know if he was throwing faster or slower, or if it happened to be right on. The way Phillies batters were whiffing, I would estimate his speed to be in the 92 – 94 range as the gun suggested, with some pitches possibly hitting 95 or 96. That, of course, is no different than what we saw of Perez this year.
Perez’ success tonight was as expected as he has always thrown well at Veterans Stadium. The Mets plan to keep him on the roster and give him the ball every 5 days, as they should. That would mean Perez would end up pitching Sunday the 17th of September in Pittsburgh. My-oh-my.
Vogelsong got another win against another sub- .500 team last night. Oh boy.. he is really rolling along, isn’t he? Geez..
McCutchen couldn’t find the ball in 4 at bats last night but did draw a walk.
Here is a nice article on Pirates scout Jimmy Lester and his son, who is playing in the Little League World Series right now.
Remember Jim Colborn arguing with home plate umpire Gary Darling last night on the mound? I found out today that he wasn’t arguing.. he asked him for a loan.
Darling won almost three-quarters of a million dollars in a settlement against MLB stemming from his 1999 scab days and the judge posted the order on Friday before the game. When Darling said he wouldn’t give Colborn the loan, Colborn sat on the mound with his hands out to the side shouting at him all the reasons why he should.
As they left the mound Colborn told Darling he had a bridge in NY..
Looking to Sunday’s day game: gee, take two extremely poor pitchers and put them on the mound against two relatively flat teams and what do you get?
A loooonnnggg baseball game in the high heat and humidity.
Chacon and Hirsch face off for what I am sure will end up being a memorable contest tomorrow. However, all may be saved.. there is a 70% chance of showers and the Astros and Pirates play another series this year to allow for a doubleheader.
Larry Poncino will be the home plate umpire so expect a strike zone as big as the Nile River. Unfortunately for the Pirates, they haven’t won with Poncino behind the plate since 2004 and have only won 3 with him there since 2002. *ouch*
Remember this Tracy moment: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06097/680269-63.stm
Now recall that Colborn and Darling locked up on the mound jawing at each other Friday and Tracy and Dreckman locked up in yesterday’s game.
Want to bet a dollar Poncino locks up with one of the two tomorrow?
Scabs.. they stink.
The ‘Dads, as we lovingly say in the South, opened up a can of whoop-**** on the Lexington Legends tonight in Kentucky. The final score was 14-4.
Looking at the BOX, it seems that Cameron Blair (pictured on the left) had an outstanding night at the plate. In 6 at bats, he had 3 hits that included one double and one triple, and 2 RBIs. Interestingly enough, both of those RBIs were with two outs.
Tony Mansolino picked up his 6th homer of the season as well.
John M. Setzler, Jr.
(the guy with the camera)