The Post-Gazette had a couple of interesting tidbits in their coverage Monday.
The first was this quote from Tim Leiper with Altoona:
"Center fielder Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates’ top pick in the 2005 draft, has yet to hit well for Class AA Altoona this season…
"He’s right there. He’s absolutely right there," Leiper said. "The whole league is throwing him outside, and he gets big with his swing. It happens with young players." (emphasis supplied)
That is a very, very bad sign and exactly what I have been stating in this forum has been happening to Cutch since he left rookie ball. And I vehemenently disagree with Leiper – it doesn’t happen to young players unless they are told to change their hitting style from a gap hitting machine into a slugger.
I stated in June of 2006 that McClatchy had better contain David Littlefield’s desire to have Cutch swing a long bat or he could lose his swing. Any idiot could see the young man’s game was changing for the worse and the results are now clearly written on the wall as he climbs to almost 200 at bats and is still hitting around the Mendoza line.
At first I credited the advanced league pitching for McCutchen’s demise but Leiper’s statement above clearly tells me that isn’t the case. Instead, the organization has tried to turn McCutchen into someone he isn’t, and they failed.
The only thing Andrew McCutchen had going for himself was his self-confidence and quick hands, but the Pirates have robbed him of both. It’s going to take months and months to turn him around again and Leiper might be right – Cutch might be on the verge of getting hot. But not because his approach is good, but because the better pitching is being promoted.
That certainly seems like incompetence at it’s finest to me – almost as incompetent as waiting all those years to make a decision what position Neil Walker would play.
The second tidbit was this:
"General manager Dave Littlefield said Gary Ruby, who was in his sixth season as the Pirates’ minor-league pitching coordinator, resigned for personal reasons."
This is a guy Littlefield put in place late 2001 to turn the pitching in our system around and now he’s walking away mid-year?
While just about every level of pitching in the system is tanking?
Someone that loyal to Littlefield would get time off to take care of a ‘personal problem’ so I have to believe there is a lot more to this story than we are hearing.
But all I can do is guess until someone with a little more knowledge emails me and gives me the scoop. (hint – hint).
Obviously one of two things is going on here – either Ruby indeed has something going on that he needs to walk away from the game, or there is discord in the organization.
I tend to believe it is the latter. There’s just too much going on right now for there not to be discord. Throw in the Lincoln catastrophe, the one outing visit by Rogers, some hints about development problems with the Cuban pitchers in the lower levels, and the entire organization’s ERA blooming like a rose in high heat, and you just can’t help wondering.
Great.. now maybe we’ll be fortunate to see Lundquist as the rover.. or Andrews. Oh my..
The org is falling apart at the seams.
The Pirates have scored 4 or more runs in 14 May games and won 10 of them. That’s the good news. The flip-side is that their opponents have scored 4 or more in 18 and won 13 of them. Thus the Pirates 10-15 record in May.
Over the last three games the Pirates have racked up 40 hits and 33 runs in 28 innings of baseball. To their credit, they have been ‘clutch’ when they needed to be, patient when they needed to be, and even hit the occasional long ball.
Now, is all this because we are getting on track, because we have played three games at a low humidity, high temperature Great American Park, or a combination of both?
It’s neither, you’re right.
It’s because we are facing significantly inferior pitching who all seem to be taking the mound without any clue what so ever about the batters they are going to face. It’s almost like they just don’t care.. like they are all hurt or sick. We only wish our bats were this good, our advance scouting so adept, and our game so tight.
The Reds pitching machine has allowed a .412 on base percentage (56 of 136 batters have reached) and that has resulted in a dismal 10.29 ERA in the series. Reds starters alone have allowed a .459 OBP and have a 9.75 ERA over the three games. You can take a little league team and watch them beat the Yankees with those kind of numbers in their basket.
So don’t be fooled one bit by all this run scoring.
In fact, the hidden numbers tell us our pen has allowed a ridiculous 8.05 ERA and a .373 OBP too. You aren’t going to win many ballgames with a pen throwing that poorly. Our starters have kept us in the games with a 4.74 ERA and .365 OPB – but notice how high the OBP is even with the starters.
Way too high.
You can blame it on Great American Park playing small right now, or you can be realistic and realize our pitching is horrid , especially our pen which is non-existent, and realize the next 35 games has a major spanking in store for us before the break:
23 games at PNC against an average .507 win % team; and
12 games on the road against an average .501 win % team.
35 total games against an average .505 win % team
Oh – I forgot to mention that 6 of the 11 teams we face are all in the top 10 for lowest team ERA in baseball the last 30 days, and only 1 team is in the bottom 10 – Texas.
While I pray our offensive output against the Reds (third poorest team ERA staff last 30 days) translates against some of the best staffs in baseball in the next 35 games, I know better. You should too.
I can only imagine what is going to happen over the next 20 days. The Pirates are setup for a major downturn, the draft is coming where the organization might not take the best player available, and by the break the Pirates could be 14 games out of first in the cellar.
What does the organization do then?
Ok – with a little luck and the hope a few teams come to play us unprepared thinking we are an easy kill, we just might win a few more than expected. Might. Maybe.
And pigs fly too.
Sunday’s game was another pound fest and not worthy of discussion. Both pitching staffs looked like little league teams. For those batters like Bay that improved their averages because of it, good for them.
As I speculated yesterday, Brian Rodgers was given a bus ticket to Indy. The Pirates replaced him on the roster with Josh Sharpless.
Man.. talk about trading one garbage pitcher for another.. it’s a dysfunctional cycle. First McLeary, then Rogers, now Sharpless.
Josh has been getting creamed in a very poor hitting league this year. His BB/9 is off the charts at 5.49 and his BABiP is well over .300. And the worst part about it is that he has continually tanked since the start of the season.
To give you an idea of what I mean, in his last 5 games Sharpless has faced 43 batters in 10 innings of work, thrown 173 pitches, walked 4, and gave up 6 earned runs. That’s a 5.40 ERA in a very, very weak league.
Why not bring up Franquelis Osoria (3.00 ERA last 5 games)? You’re right – because that would require the Pirates dropping someone off the 40-man. But with Wasdin on the DL, Osoria could be added so there’s really no excuse. And you know what, I wouldn’t be disappointed one bit if Wasdin was released anyway.. or Armas.. or..
Geez.. it’s amazing how little depth we have considering all the blasted relievers Dave Littlefield has amassed in his trades?
I was asked by a reader to breakdown Capps stats since the May 6th game when he threw at Fielder’s head. Here it is:
April 2 – May 5: 17 games, 1.76 ERA, .204 BAA
May 6 – May 26: 11 games, 5.11 ERA, .286 BAA
But that’s not too unusual to see a reliever start off well and then tank a bit as the bats heat up. It’s what he does from this point forward that matters, and so far he is off to a rough start:
May 18 – May 26: (last 5 games) 6.00 ERA, .292 BAA.
I can’t wait to see how his straight heater fares against the Yankees, Mariners, Angels, Rangers, White Sox, etc.. in the next couple of weeks. I should take bets on how many batters he plunks in frustration. Hmm.. maybe not.. he’s one-inch away from being suspended now and only because the Commissioner’s Office knows the Pirates are in deep, deep bullpen do-do have they postponed his hearing, I assume. McClatchy is good for something, I guess.
Oh man, and we’re only 6 games into a 20 day, 20 game stretch.
I wonder who we have available to pitch in AA? Oh wait, they are on a 1-10 skid.
Wow. It just gets better and better.
Maybe I shouldn’t mention that we face the Padres starting Tuesday for three and they are sending LHP David Wells (4.85 ERA), RHP Chris Young (2.70 ERA), and RHP Greg Maddux (1.63 ERA) to the mound against us. Oh – and Trevor Hoffman now has 14 saves in a bullpen that doesn’t even have one pitcher over a 3.50 ERA on their active roster. Not one.
Get to know this name: Kevin Kouzmanoff. Don’t forget I told you to remember it.
Remember me pushing Littlefield to go after Casey Kotchman? He was available – for the right price. I can’t remember how many people emailed me and told me Kotch was garbage – that LaRoche was the real deal.
Man, is he on fire.
When talking about the first year draft, you often hear this catch phrase – OBA. It stands for ‘Overall Best Available’ and that’s what every team focuses on in each round of the draft – taking the best player available to them.
But the OBA for one club might not be the OBA for another club, as we’ve come to learn over the years. Some teams shy away from certain agents, some teams refuse to draft high school players in the first round, some teams prefer to draft the OBA for a certain position instead of the pool’s OBA to them at the time, and some teams consider the use of personality profiling more important than tools, as examples.
Dave Littlefield tipped his hat a bit on Baseball Prospectus Radio Saturday when he said his plan was to take the best player available who is closest to the majors. You can follow the link above to hear the entire segment or click this link to hear just the answer to that one question (Windows Media).
The are three draft picks who are considered to be closest to the majors in every poll from Baseball America to Top Prospect. They are (Baseball America ranking is in parenthesis):
1 — David Price from Vanderbilt (#1)
2 — Josh Vitters from Cypress High School (#3)
3 — Rick Porcello from Seton Hall Prep (high school) (#4)
I have to believe there is a 99.9% chance Price will be gone before the Pirates pick at number four. If he falls to us, Price should be our pick without question.
Littlfield probably has Vitters in his cross hairs, but so do the Cubs and possibly the Royals. If Vitters falls to us, Littlefield will take him. But the probability of Vitters being available to us has dropped almost daily.
So we have to look beyond Price and Vitters and there are really only two other candidates worth drafting at the number four spot – Rick Porcello and Georgia Tech’s Matt Wieters (#2). The quality of the players drops dramatically after the first few premium picks.
But one of the four players mentioned above will absolutely, positively, be available to the Pirates. The problem is that three of the four are Scott Boras clients and Littlefield has run from Boras ever since Bobby Hill days.
To be fair to Littlefield, Boras typically sets the asking price for his players at about 20% higher than true market value for the slot. That would mean the Pirates would end up paying a signing bonus of somewhere around $7MM – $8MM for one of the three players.
Should that deter Littlefield?
I don’t think so, especially when the organization has made it perfectly clear they have at least $3MM available for player salary for 2007 and it’s quite obvious they are not only not going to need it, but that they will be sellers again at the July deadline making even more cash available. When you consider the average first round pick received a bit over $4MM last year, that means the Pirates have no less than $7MM they could allocate – by their own admissions.
So there’s really no excuse not to take the best player available in the draft.
However, the Pirates have been linked to Beau Mills (#12), a left-handed slugger out of Lewis-Clark who plays third. After reading all the scouting reports I could muster on Mills, not only would he be a serious overdraft, but he isn’t needed in the organization considering we have converted Neil Walker to third base.
So where would Mills fit into the organization’s three year plan? He doesn’t.
There are a few other pitchers that will be available in the draft like Andrew Brackman at NC State, Michael Main at Deland High School who I watched with a scout throw and I like, Daniel Moskos out of Clemson, and Ross Detwiler at Missouri State. All of these guys rate higher than Mills except Main.
But the Pirates took a PR hit when Brad Lincoln fell to the wayside needing surgery. With all the bad luck they have had from the first round pitchers they have taken, there is a cry for them to take a hitter in the first round this year.
Vitters would solve both Littlefield’s wish list and the cries for a bat instead of a pitcher. However as the Rays have found out over the years, it’s next to impossible to trade a bat for a front line pitcher. If they could, Carl Crawford would have been long gone.
So while the Pirates fan base and media hype up their cries for a bat, Bucco Blog recommends that the Pirates continue to focus on pitching in the first round and if Porcello happens to fall to us, Littlefield should take him – Boras notwithstanding.
If Weiters and Porcello both fall to us, then we recommend Weiters notwithstanding the ridiculous signing bonus Boras will want. After all, Weiters could be a significant force in Pittsburgh by 2011 along side of McCutchen and Walker.
The Pirates’ fan base was already rocked one time this year with the revelation the organization had a $25MM operating profit in 2006, the organization has clearly admitted it has available player payroll it can extend, and now the team looks to be headed for another losing season.
Taking Mills over Weiters or Porcello could be the straw that breaks the camels back.
And it should.
2 hit batters,
14 runs scored,
9 pitcher changes,
.. and Bob "Mr. Japan" Davidson calling balls and strikes.
What a BORRRRRRRRR-ing game. And we’re due for more borrrr – inngggg baseball tomorrow when Sam Holbrook calls the plate. Ughhh..
This game needs an award for the worst pitching performance of the night and Brian Rogers easily takes it home. He threw a total of 12 pitches, went to 3-2 on both batters he faced with no less than a 5 run lead, and both batters went yard on him. He did not record an out.
Way to go Rogers — great job. If that doesn’t get him a ticket to Indy on the next bus lugging his 13.50 ERA (3 games, 32 pitches, 3 earned runs allowed, 1 walk, 3 hits), I don’t know what it will take.
That should also provide a huge red flag warning to all the fans about how well Indy numbers translate in Pittsburgh as Rogers came up with a 1.35 ERA over 20 innings of work at Indy and just a .154 batting average allowed.
Bronson Arroyo took the mound and
tipped his pitches pitched poorly all night long. hehe.. we own Arroyo – always have.. always will.
Nady’s two-out, three-run blast in the first inning, Laroche’s rbi single, and Bay’s rbi double in the 4th, was all we needed as the Pirates won 9-5.
The Reds first two runs came from bases loaded walks in the 3rd and 5th, Hatteberg crushed a Matt Capps slider for a solo shot in the 8th, and then Rogers gave up two home runs in the 9th. That’s all they got.
Yes, LaRoche hit a home run. Ok.. it came off a AA pitcher the Reds just called up who threw a heater right into his breadbasket. Who cares – a homer is a homer is a homer.
Chacon looked outstanding on the mound early but he still has that problem about not wanting to be aggressive to some batters and he just walks them, even with a four run lead (ala Maholm, ala Duke). That could have blown up on him several times but he was lucky enough to escape unharmed. He ran out of gas around the 50 pitch mark but stayed on through the 4th. He has 2 months of starts left before he’s dealt so expect reasonably good things from him.
Memo to Jim Tracy — do not let John Grabow start an inning. Get to know your players limitations better. How many times have we said that this year?
I will never buy a thing from ****’s Sporting Goods ever. I’m so sick of their MLB.tv commercials I’m about ready to start a ihatedickssportinggoods website.
By gosh, we’ve won two games against the worst team in baseball. I feel so much better now. Till tomorrow..
It wasn’t a pretty win, but we’ll take it.
Paul Maholm dusted off his 4-seam fastball and started throwing high and tight in the zone for the first time all year, and the end result was two home runs allowed in the seven hits given up over seven innings of work. Maholm was touching 93 mph.
The wind at Great American was almost at a halt which typically means balls in play to the outfield travel farther than normal, but you can’t blame the wind on Griffey or Phillip’s blasts – they were both legitimate.
For the Pirates, Bay hit one over the wall as did Nady, and Duffy, Sanchez, and Paulino all contributed doubles into the gaps – some wind-aided.
But the story of the night was the fact Jerry Narron allowed his closer – David Weathers – to take the mound for a second inning of work in the 10th after throwing 15 pitches total since May 19th.
Weathers loaded the bases after his 25th pitch with two seeing eye-type singles and a sac bunt by McLouth that was thrown to second by the Reds catcher Moeller to try and force out Wilson, but Tracy had started the speed game sending Wilson on the play and he was safe.
Chris Duffy then hit a deep sac fly to right on Weather’s 29th pitch to score Wilson, Sanchez crushed a flat slider into the rcf gap as a ground rule double to score another, LaRoche was walked intentionally for some reason to load the bases, and on Weather’s 36 pitch, he hit Jason Bay scoring another run.
The Reds then decided to send AAA pitcher Brad Salmon (career 7 IP in the bigs) and, as you know if you follow my blog, the Pirates eat AA/AAA pitchers for dinner and they immediately feasted.
Paulino doubled scoring two more, Nady singled scoring two more, Wilson singled scoring another, and then as if the Pirates put up the white flag and said, ok, that’s enough, Bautista and McLouth struckout or poped up to end the slaughter.
Six hits, two for extra bases, an intentional walk, a hit batter, a throwing error, and a misplayed sac bunt, and the Pirates had amassed eight runs – five of the eight coming off the arm of the Red’s rookie pitcher, albeit three runners were inherited from Weathers.
Torres pitched the 10th with an eight run lead to get some work in as he had only thrown 90 pitches all month, 50 in the last two weeks, and just 21 since May 16th. However, it took him 31 pitches to get three outs as rusty as he was, and Tracy has to be concerned about his availability because that is the highest number of pitches Torres has thrown in a game all year.
This was just the second non-Quad BS win all year.
Doumit was hit in the head with the bat by a Freel swing and was removed from the game. He seemed fine but he did take a pretty good blow.
Tracy dodged two major bullets in this game. It was a good thing Maholm was able to get thru the 7th because Tony Armas was warming up (6.39 career ERA vs Reds). And Capps came out with his 9.00 career ERA at Great American and retired three of the four batters he faced (#4, 5, 6 and 7 batters) while allowing a double.
Tracy started our runners often in this game and it resulted in two strikeout/throwouts early. But you’ll never hear me criticize Tracy for trying to play the speed game when his team is flatter than a pancake.
Jack Wilson and Jose Bautista made a few outstanding defensive plays tonight in support of Maholm.
Man it was really nice to see Bay crush the first pitch in the 2cd inning for a home run. I’ve been waiting patiently to see Bay start zeroing in on that first pitch he has always loved to go yard with.
Red’s batters put 9 first pitches in play on Maholm resulting in a 3-6 night with two doubles and a single, and they reached base with a throwing error by Bautista. That’s 4 of the 9 first pitch batter’s reaching base. Yikes.. the trend continues.
The Reds really looked like a hapless group. I don’t know what their team problem is but they look out of it.. much worse than the Pirates.
Tomorrow Arroyo takes the mound against the Pirates who are his daddy. He has posted a feminine 5.06 ERA his last three starts, lasted just 16 innings overall, and allowed a AA-like .397 OBP last 3. Oh, and he’s also lost every game he has pitched at Great American against the Pirates (0-2).
Chacon will be making his first start since September 2006. He has a 2.78 ERA in night games this year in 22 innings of work, the Reds have lost two of the three games he started against them in Chacon’s career, and he’ll have the advantage with home plate ump Bob Davidson who Arroyo seems to lose often when calling balls and strikes.
But listen to this, and listen carefully.. Friday night is the Pirates party night in Cinci, we are 0-6 in our last 6 Saturday night games, and the Reds are 6-1 last 7 with Arroyo on the mound against a team with a sub-.500 record.
What every Pirate knew was going to happen, finally did – Mike Gonzalez was shut down and is going to have TJ surgery.
But the Braves are paying for it, not the Pirates.
I mean, Gonzo had lost velocity last year, reported a tingling in his pinky, and was shut down by the Pirates for elbow tendenitis, yet the Braves dealt for him anyway.
Either the Braves due diligence team needs to be fired, the Braves traded under fan pressure not caring what the potential problem was, or the Braves held LaRoche about as high as an injured Gonzalez.
Take your pick.
I wish the best for Mike – he’s a stand up guy.
That’s what you get for not letting Frank Wren become our GM, John Schuerholz. Touche!
‘"But our batting average with runners in scoring position right now is deplorable," Tracy continued. "Go look at it."’
Ok Mr. Tracy, let’s look:
(Note: the league average figures do not include the Pirates – just the other five teams)
Looks to me like the Pirates are doing one **** of a job, all things considered. The team is just 7% off league average RiSP production (AB/RBI) at 47% of the payroll cost to the owners (PAYROLL/RBI). Maybe Tracy just had a brain fart and thought he was back in Los Angeles with a humongous payroll? I mean, you do get what you pay for.
Instead, Tracy should be quite satisfied with the productivity level he has obtained from the roster he has. Of course, Lloyd McClendon was fired although he was achieving even higher productivity rates.
While the batting average with RiSP might very well be ‘deplorable’ to Tracy, the true net result is that every 9.0 at bats with runners in scoring position one of his players is raking up an rbi, versus one rbi every 8.4 at bats across the league. That .6 difference over a year, all things being equal, is just 4 rbi’s.
Jim Tracy’s problem is not the team’s batting average with runners in scoring position. Jim Tracy’s problem is the way his batters fail to attack the zone. Let’s look at that a moment.
First of all you’ll notice his team is producing almost 1/2 an at bat more per game with runners in scoring position than the rest of the league (543 AB in 46 games vs 522 in 46 games). So the opportunities are there.
Secondly, you’ll notice the Pirates waste 1/3rd of those extra at bats in strikeouts and by grounding into double plays. Youthful batters love to swing for the fences. Remember how the old saying goes – the higher the slugging, the more K’s and double plays.
However, our SLG rate is significantly lower than the league average rate so there is no question our approach at the plate with men on base is less than appropriate. That also shows up when you see the Pirates have hit 3 extra sac flies than the league average.
Third, opposing teams have learned that there are huge holes in our swings when men are on base. We flail at strikes well out of the zone, we watch perfect strikes float right past, and we’re just generally confused.
Watch this and you’ll see what I mean. They will take the first pitch for strike one, swing for the fence on strike two, and then either watch strike three float past with their bats on their shoulders, or swing at a pitch 5 miles off the plate in the dirt.
That’s called poor guess hitting.
I understand Tracy and Manto want his young players to think more in the box. That’s understandable – they are developing. But the next time you see the team down two runs late, we have a runner at first with no outs, and an experienced batter like Jack Wilson comes up and tries to bunt his way on base, that’s not thinking – that’s playing stupid baseball.
We have to close the holes in our swings. We are too predictable.
Fourth, when a team is floundering in the box, the best medicine is to start the speed game. When was the last time you saw Jason Bay try to steal a base? Or Freddy Sanchez? Or when was the last time Tracy executed a hit and run?
All we do is hit sac flies and bunt, bunt, bunt.
Batters need to stop working deep counts with men on and start putting the ball in play. More hit and runs, more steal attempts forcing run and hits, and better overall thinking on the base paths.
Fifth, Cox needs to loosen his grip and send more runners and force the opposing team to throw us out. Man, he has been a real drag this year.
I really find it ironic Tracy ran his players in the ground by saying their RiSP batting average was deplorable. He knows better than anyone he has a roster of misfits. He also knows they are not producing too bad considering their age level and years of experience.
It’s up to Tracy and his staff. If they are willing to accept Jack Wilson bunting with no outs and a man at first down by one late in the game, or bats sitting on shoulders late, or backing out of the box shaking heads letting the ump know they are upset at the call, this team will never move forward.
And Tracy will never see a better batting average with runners in scoring position.
Unless, of course, he tells his employers to spend some of their profits on real ballplayers.
The Pirates have now gone 0-5 since THAT bone-chilling, no-play by Freddy Sanchez.. the play nobody wanted to talk about.
We have allowed .82 runs and 1.5 hits per inning to the opposition since that play (so high that is off the charts), we are scoring just .28 runs while piling up .92 strikeouts each inning since, and we have just lost our #2 starter for at least a few starts with a deep bruise on his pitching hand thumb.
But at least today we looked like a professional baseball team on the diamond as Tracy ran out his best possible defensive scheme (if you consider Sanchez playing second to be the best) and it resulted in us keeping the game close. Duffy threw out Rolen trying to take an extra base on a single, Gorzy picked Taguchi trying to take 3rd on him, and Paulino called a pretty solid game considering Cooper was being the plate.
Offensively.. well, that’s another story. Our batters always have a hard time with turning over their wrists and mashing the ball on the ground anyway so when we face a higher groundball pitcher like Looper, our poor approach becomes very exposed. Every team has one type of pitcher they get exposed from.
The fact we couldn’t hit Kip Wells is bothersome, however.
In the sixth, Bautista hit a fly ball the wind carried and it eventually hit the top of the 8′ wall in left that probably would have been caught by 90% of the left fielders in the game. Still, he had the luck on the play and the Cards didn’t, so he got the home run.
We had numerous opportunities to score more runs but the team is so flat right now all we could do is ground out meekly or strikeout with a man in scoring position all day. Just like yesterday.. and the day before.. and the day before that. There’s no kindling in the heart of these players to build a fire, as I always used to hear.
We take our magic circus act on the road to Cinci for four games that will go down as the cellar series. The pitching matchups seem to favor the Pirates some until you consider how low these Bucs are playing right now and the fact we’ve only won two of our last eight games there.
We normally crush Harang, and he usually fares poorly at Great American, so Game 1 might be one of the better chances we have to break out of our rut. Unfortunately, Paul Maholm (6.75 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 1.9 HR/9, 28 IP at Cinci) doesn’t pitch well at Cinci at all, and the Reds are 9-1 vs NLCD teams Harang’s last 10.
Then throw in the probability Doumit will catch Maholm instead of Paulino and, well, you might as well just hand the Reds 4 runs to start the game. This would be a great game to sit Sanchez and let Castillo take over second base, and throw Wilson back in the two hole with Duffy leading off.
Saturday night (Chacon — career 7.36 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, 2.0 HR/9, 22 IP vs Reds), Sunday (Duke career 4.50 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, .343 BAA, in 16 IP vs Reds), and Monday (Snell 4.50 ERA, 1.72 WHIP at Great American career), doesn’t really provide any relief. We typically start the Reds offensive machine when we play at Great American, so you can expect to see a lot of runs scored every game.
I realize that the media is saying Gorzy will be ready to make his next start. But, I doubt seriously he will if he indeed has a deeply bruised thumb. Look for him to be out 1 – 4 weeks depending on where the bruise is and how if affects his ability to feel his pitches. We should know how long later this weekend when he attempts side work.
I was asked a great question by one of my readers that I’ll answer here:
"Jake, you keep saying we are a streaky offensive team. Would getting rid of Manto help change that?" — Pat in Pittsburgh
I really don’t believe in hot or cold streaks. But I do believe that confidence is contagious. When I say ‘offensively streaky’ I mean our confidence is boiling over, and I’ll start saying it that way from now on.
Jeff Manto isn’t the problem. Our approach at the plate might possibly be tuned a different way with a different hitting instructor, but the results won’t change over time.
The problem is that we are a fundamentally weak offensive team. That is, the skill set our players bring to the table offensively can’t alter the final 162-game outcome unless one of two things happen:
1 — We see more luck than not over an entire year; or
2 — We replace players with players that have better offensive skill sets.
There is simply no other way. Changing batting approaches might get us an extra hit here, an extra run there, and bit more luck at different times. But the end result – runs scored – over 162 games is going to be nearly identical.
For example, Tracy has attempted #2 above by inserting Doumit here and there, but as you’ve seen the result has been negligible at best, and one could argue it has hurt us more than it has helped us.
Now the fans want to replace Armas with JvB or Bullington thinking their skill sets are better. But do we know that to be a fact? No, of course not. If we did, they would have broke camp with the team because Colborn is no fool – he knew where they were in April and he has a good idea where they will be in July.
I also tend to use the phrase ‘clutch hitting’ too much here. I don’t believe there is any way to accurately measure "clutch hitting". When I use that phrase here I really mean someone produced or didn’t in what the industry typically defines as a clutch-type of at bat, like say with two outs and driving a man in.
But was that a ‘clutch’ at bat for the player or was it based on the events at the time it happened? See what I mean? There are too many variables that influence the outcome for us to measure that one at bat against that of another player hitting somewhere else that night who might have failed.
So don’t blame Manto. Instead, if you have to blame anyone, blame the Pirates front office for fielding a roster with inferior skill sets to the rest of MLB.
Ian Snell will probably say he pitched a good game and a couple of his bad pitches got hit hard.
Of course, that’s what Gorzy said on the 19th, Maholm said on the 15th, Armas said on the 12th, and so on.
In fact, every single pitcher has said that exact same thing the last 7 games Ryan Doumit caught, and every game the Pirates walked away the loser.
Because Ryan Doumit is horrid at game management. Let me show you one simple stat that proves it.
How many home runs have Pirate pitching allowed in the last 30 days (28 games)? That’s right – 32.
How many games has Ryan Doumit caught the last 30 days? That’s right, 8.
Now how many home runs have Pirate pitching given up with Doumit behind the plate in those 8 games he has caught? Ah – you don’t know?
That’s 2.1 per game average and double the rate of all the other NLCD teams over that same 30 day period (132 games, 110 HR – as of those finished right now thru April 25th).
And 10 of the home runs allowed have come in his last three games catching. That’s 3.3 HR/G and triple the league average.
I understand the pitcher throws the ball – but the catcher throws up the sign and indicates where he wants it. And that’s far too many to be a coincidence which I started to believe thru May 12th, but now it’s out of control.
That clearly indicates Ryan Doumit is not watching film on opposing batters, or the pitching staff has no confidence in him, or the umps are squeezing the zone on him. One of the three, or possibly a combination of all three.
But whatever the case, the Doumit catching experiment has to end. Evidently the young man did what he had to to make it back to Pittsburgh and now his game has tanked after riding a high horse. Maybe he’s partying too much? Maybe he’s got a problem?
Catching is the center of defense.. it’s where it all starts. If we have to play Doumit at all, keep him in right field. Not first and not catching.. right field. You can’t put a rookie receiver behind the plate with MLB hitters in the box and expect to win ball games.
I’m sorry – it doesn’t work.
Needless to say, Snell allowed just 7 hits and 3 of them went over the wall on him Wednesday night while Doumit scuffed at the plate going 0-4. Doumit is now hitting .125 in his last 4 games.
But nobody could hit Kip Wells Wednesday who came in having lost 7 straight games and had an ERA over 6. Of the 5 hits we did manage off him, two were fly ball outs that Duncan misplayed (Bay double 2cd, Bautista double 6th) and three measly singles.
We did score two runs off Wells but one was unearned because LaRoche hit a routine double play grounder to Kennedy at second and it shot off him into center allowing Bautista to score after Duncan allowed his fly ball to drop in for a hit. The other run came from a Bay sac fly scoring Sanchez who singled in the same inning.
In true essence, Kip Wells, the league’s losingest pitcher, threw a three-hit shutout over 7 innings against us.
Talk about Brutal.
Chris Duffy, who Jim Tracy finally reinstated in the lineup Wednesday night, robbed Encarnacion of a home run in the first with a man on when he ranged far to his right and on the run jumped up and gloved the ball that was over the wall bringing it back into play for an out. It was a highlight reel play you’ll probably see all week.
Had Nady been in the game in center it would have easily been a HR and I would have been typing here that Doumit had allowed 11 home runs in his last 3 games instead of 10.
Bay threw out Edmonds at the plate. Rolen hit a fly ball to medium left field and Bay threw a flatfoot lob that beat Edmond and his bad hammy, even though the throw was off the line and Doumit had to go get it and bring it back to the plate to get him.
Jack Wilson is now 0 for his last 16, 1 for his last 24 (.042 BA over 8 games), and 5 for his last 39 (.128 BA last 13 games).
And we actually play him. Daily.
Gorzy against Looper tomorrow. Oh wait – Dale Scott will be the home plate ump and he just loveeessss the Pirates. Not. Look for a tight zone and the potential for a lot of runs in the game.
How about this headline from the Post-Gazette today:
"Nutting pledges to upgrade Dominican facility"
Boy – great stuff, but what’s the true value? There’s another statement right in the same article made by the Pirates CoB:
"What we hope to do is.. make this an investment that pays for years to come."
Does that mean you will take a Boras client in the draft, Bob?
Or try to keep guys like, ohhh, say.. franchise players like Armis Ramirez was? Or say.. Boras client Oliver Perez, who just won his 6th game this year throwing a seven inning, four-hit shutout over the Braves?
We’re now 0-3 since THAT damning play and we continue to be lazy, inept, and play futile baseball on all sides of the diamond since.
Jim Tracy had the guile to start Nady in center and Doumit in right knowing full well he was putting a poor defensive team on the field behind Zach Duke and it cost him dearly.
With the score 1-0 Pittsburgh in the bottom of the second, Duke gave up singles to Molina and Miles and got Edmonds to pop up. Up came the pitcher Wainwright and he hit a fly ball to deep center that Nady started in on and, by the time he retreated, it was over his head and two runs scored.
Whether or not Duffy would have run it down is debatable – I thought so, as it came down and hit the base of the wall near the ground. It’s a play Duffy routinely makes at more spacious PNC.
In either case, the Cards were still up 2-0 in the 3rd when Pujols led off with a single, Encarnacion hit a sharp line drive single to Bay, and Pujols saw Bay taking his sweet time and rounded second and headed to third. Bay stood flatfooted, lofted an extremely lazy relay throw to 3rd, the throw was offline yet barely beat the sliding Pujols and he was called out.. but Bautista dropped the ball.
Rolen then hit a sac fly to score Pujols and the score was 3-1.
The Pirates scored one run in the 4th to make it 3-2 Cards and in the 5th, Eckstein hit a line drive single into center, Duncan crushed Duke’s first pitch into the right center field gap for a double, and Eckstein went to third.
Pujols then hit a fly to Doumit who threw home and nailed Eckstein trying to score, Duncan took third on the play at home, and things started to look up.
For one second, anyway.
Encarnacion hit a little flair into center that scored Duncan, then Rolen hit a line drive to shallow center that Nady bobbled which allowed both Encarnacion and Duncan to advance an extra base.
Still 4-2 at this point with two outs, Jim Tracy orders an intentional walk to Molina to load the bases, and up to the plate came Jim Edmonds. After fighting off several pitches, Duke walked Edmonds scoring a run and leaving the bases loaded.
The score was now 5-2 Cardinals, no thanks to one fly ball over Nady’s head, one lazy relay throw by Jason Bay, one bobbled liner by Nady that forced Tracy’s hand to walk Molina to load the bases, and a walk by Duke.
Just unbelievable stuff.
So who does Tracy go to the bullpen and get to replace Duke who was removed with still two outs and the bases loaded? Tracy brings in none other than Brian Rogers.. my-oh-my.
Two pitches later Miles hammered a Rogers heater into right to score another and, if not for a base running error on the play by Jim Edmonds, they might still be batting.
The score was 6-2 after that inning.
Tracy went to the pen to get Saturday’s starter Shawn Chacon and he hit Ludwick leading off, got Eckstein to bunt but then got in the way of LaRoche trying to tag him, and then Duncan crushed the first pitch he saw into the right field bleachers to score three more.
For the fourth time in the game, the Pirates loaded the bases in the 8th and managed to get two runs from a sacrifice fly and a routine groundball Eckstein booted. In the first with the bases loaded and one out, we managed one run on a Nady single. And in the 4th we scored another run with the bases loaded and one out thanks to a Bay sac fly.
Game score 9-4 Cardinals.
Yet another Quad BS game in the books.
Chacon pitched in relief but he probably was scheduled for bullpen work tonight anyway so I don’t think it wall affect his start Saturday. But the way the Pirates front office has been making decisions lately, who the heck knows what they are going to do.
Todd Wellemeyer who pitched the later innings for the Cardinals looks like Josh Towers on the mound with straight heat running in the mid to upper 90′s. He was very hittable except to our guys whose heads are in the bucket right now.
Don’t expect a sure fire win from Snell Wednesday night. Snell has allowed a .341 OBP and has a 1.42 WHIP over his last 3 games, having allowed 24 hits in this 19 innings. And this isn’t the same Cardinals team he faced earlier in the year – they have a fire going now.
So does Kip Wells against the Pirates. However, Wells threw 125 pitches in his last outing so I don’t expect he will last long. Plus the Pirates are seeing the ball very well right now.
But the way things are going, we’ll probably have Nady in center and Doumit in right and we’ll give up 5 runs with bad defense.
Who cares if JvB got rocked – bring him up. We’re not going to win the wild card – let’s start getting these guys some innings under Colborn. What are we waiting for?