NLCD Starters vs Bucs; Two Pittsburgh Pirates arrested

Since the National League Central Division teams have pretty much set their rotations for 2008 other than a late big deal or two, I thought it was time to take a quick look at how these pitchers have done against the Pirates franchise over their careers.

Obviously this isn’t perfect science, but it’s generally close.

First, the potential starters for each team I used herein are from each team’s MLB.com depth chart.

An asterisk by their names means that player’s stats were not used either because I expect them to be on the extended DL or I don’t have a career history against the Bucs worth talking about.

Here’s the potential starters:

HOU 44 Roy Oswalt STL 50 Adam Wainwright
51 Wandy Rodriguez 35 Joel Pineiro
41 Brandon Backe 23 Anthony Reyes
29 Woody Williams 48 Brad Thompson
52 Felipe Paulino  * 29 Chris Carpenter
MIL 15 Ben Sheets CHN 38 Carlos Zambrano
31 Dave Bush 30 Ted Lilly
46 Claudio Vargas 21 Jason Marquis
37 Jeff Suppan 53 Rich Hill
49 Yovani Gallardo 45 Sean Marshall
39 Chris Capuano 46 Ryan Dempster
12 Carlos Villanueva
* 43 Manny Parra CIN 39 Aaron Harang
61 Bronson Arroyo
31 Matt Belisle
* 34 Homer Bailey
* Edinson Volquez

Now let’s look at how each team’s potential starting staff has handled the Pirates over their career:

ERA career IP K/9 BB/9
Astros 3.23   332 7.4 2.1
Brewers 3.85   411 6.6 2.2
Cards 3.73     82 5.8 3.2
Cubs 4.55   372 6.8 3.5
Reds 3.93   188 7.3 1.8

Win% ERA
average 0.604 3.89

An average 3.89 ERA over 1,385 innings of work is pretty significant.

Here’s how we hit as a team against the NLCD starters last year:

BA OBP SLG OPS
Astros 0.242 0.297 0.404 0.701
Brewers 0.258 0.322 0.423 0.745
Cards 0.273 0.339 0.402 0.741
Cubs 0.246 0.320 0.378 0.699
Reds 0.274 0.318 0.444 0.763

When you consider the Pirates play 80 games against the division, starters generally throw 70% of the game, and earned runs are generally 90% of the Pirates run production, that would mean the Pirates are going to score 249 runs in the equivalent of 58 complete games using the 3.89 ERA.

Sounds good so far you say?

Add 15 interleague games where the Pirates average scoring 4.1 runs per game if they are lucky (62 R), 35 games against the teams out West averaging 4.3 runs per game (151 R), and that’s 108 games where we are expected to score a total of 462 runs.

Just to make it to 700 runs, we would need to score 4.4 runs per game on average for the remaining 54 games (30 of them against the NLED), or to make it to 724 runs like last year, we would need to score 4.9 per. 

I see the optimists are running.

The Pirates made it to 724 runs scored last year on a fluke – they just happened to play a lot of blow out games between August 1 and September 9th where they scored 8 or more runs in 40% of their games (16 of 40). Don’t count on that happening every year.

So when you hear someone telling you the Pirates scored 724 and they should be improved as a group in 2008, now you know better. They will be lucky to score 700, and that is with Bay’s expected improvement.

Fast stat:

The Pirates #3 hitter in 2007 scored just 80 runs in 665 at bats – third worst in baseball, had the second lowest OBP at .328 (.041 below the NL median), and had the lowest OPS in the game at .734.

Freddy Sanchez had 68% of those at bats. He racked up a .348 OBP which was .021 below the NL average and .778 OPS which was .083 below league average. Jason Bay had 14% with a .270 OBP and .625 OPS, and Adam LaRoche took it on the chin batting third 14% of the time with a .330 OBP and .778 OPS.

Ouch.

Hopefully Freddy Sanchez is healthy this year or Jason Bay picks up his game because the lack of OBP from the #3 hitter last year killed us.

Long-time pro scout Bill Clark penned a great article on Branch Rickey Wednesday you might want to read. You can follow that up with a little story on Clark’s work with the Pirates when he helped Isaiah "Fireball" Jackson get out of prison to pitch for the Bucs in the mid-sixties.

Good stuff.

Smoking gun.

Three days before one of the Pirate players called out Jim Colborn in John Perrotto’s column, the Pirates learned two of their minor leaguers were arrested at a DUI checkpoint in Sarasota – Kyle Bloom and Brandon Chavez.

Bloom_1

Click images to see full size.

Chavez

So much for the new wave culture rhetoric. Notice they were both driving vehicles heading back to Bradenton where they both live. And a cab costs, how much?

Two other Pirates’ pitchers – Cory Stewart and Jeff Miller – were arrested in 2005 charged with a host of crimes including pulic intoxication. Neither are in the game anymore.

The worst part about their getting busted? The police announced they would be setting up the roadblock in Sarasota in the Bradenton newspaper where they live.

Here’s a nice article on the Pirates new hitting coach, Don Long.

‘"To be a successful hitting coach, he went on, "you have to develop a rapport with (the players). And they have to trust what you’re telling them. That trust is important, whether you’re in the big leagues or in the rookie leagues. And if you develop that trust, then when it’s time to tell them what you see, I think they’ll listen."’

Cory Giger had a revealing piece on ex-Buc Mike Johnston in the Altoona Mirror.

‘‘Johnston appeared in 24 games as a reliever with the Pirates in 2004, going 0-3 with a 4.37 ERA, and has battled injuries off and on ever since. The hard-throwing lefty had surgery to repair a torn labrum in October of 2006, which marked the end of his tenure with the Bucs.

‘‘I got released the day I had surgery,’’ Johnston said. ‘‘I came out of surgery to a phone call from [assistant general manager] Doug Strange that I had been released. That’s not the best news coming out of surgery.

‘‘But it’s part of the game. I was part of the 40-man [roster], so they would have had to pay me a lot of money this year. They knew I wasn’t going to throw the whole year, so why take a financial hit when they’re pinching money anyway?’’

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