Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010 Victory

It is always good to face the Cubs, no matter how hot they have been. We are a better team than they are.

One can view this victory as a great positive or a big negative. This is one of those games that reveals whether or not you are a glass half full or half empty kind of a guy.

Glass half full:
- Ross Ohlendorf pitched great. He gave up one run in 7 innings. He got the big strikeouts when he needed to, and settled into a groove. Over 100 pitches and a 2 to 1 strike to ball ratio.
- The stars all hit. McCutchen, Jones, Walker, and Doumit all raised their averages in this game.
- Clutch hitting. Two out RBIs are hard to come by on this team and it happened today. With a pinch hit from Bobby Crosby no less.
- Bullpen strong again. Meek and Dotel had great innings.
- Jones hit a homerun and got another hit. His bat might be heating up.

Glass half empty:
- Only two runs is hardly a break out game.
- The hits were spread out and not meaning full with the exception of Crosby's game winner. The Pirates remain unable to produce runs. McCutchen had a two out hit and a walk, but never scored. Walker had a two out hit or two and had no RBIs. This team is incapable of hitting all at the same time.
- We gave up early runs again. The Pirates do not ever seem to play with a lead. For this offensively challenged team that is a death sentence.
- What are the coaches thinking with this line up? LaRoche and his 11 RBIs is the third place hitter? Come on. He is not a RBI guy.
- Jones's homerun was on a mistake pitch that was supposed to be outside, but stayed inside. Jones remains incapable of hitting the pitch away for any power, and usually hitting it anywhere at all.
- Clement, LaRoche, and Church/Milledge did not show any signs of life during this game. That is bad.

Either way you look at it, it is still a win which are in short supply. In a quest for a winning season, you have to grab a few bad games like this one.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Fundamental Problem is . . . Russell

Pirates lose again. Burres pitched decent enough. Sad fact is that he had to make his own offense. McCutchen had a solo shot in the third, but Burres had a nice two out triple to drive in two.

But, the Pirates should have won. My problem is now with the manager, John Russell. The Pirates are in a losing streak. They need runs. Russell has to be willing to make runs, not depend on a big hit. He got one from the pitcher, but he was hoping for more from others. Here is the situation. The Game is tied 3-3. Ryan Doumit gets a lead off base hit. He goes to second on a wild pitch. So Bobby Crosby is in a hitters count with no outs and the go ahead run on second. Crosby should have bunted. That would have put Doumit on third with one out and Milledge up. All that would be needed is a fly ball to take the lead. Crosby swings away and flies out. Doumit still at second. Then Milledge is up, and Doumit gets picked off from second, then Milledge gets out and that ends the inning.

Russell has to be willing to manufacture runs. Crosby is not a power hitter. He is not giving up a chance at a long ball when you ask him to bunt. It was the bottom of the order. Take the runs how you can get them. Immediately after that the Pirates give up a sac fly and go down 4-3. Game over.

I am also disturbed with how often the Pirates make base running mistakes. Doumit getting picked off of second base is not the first time this has happened this season. Neil Walker was picked off just last week. Walker was doubled up on a line drive while on second base tonight too. Base running errors are killing this team which does not have the offensive power to over come them. You have to lay this problem at the feet of managers. When it happens this often it is a problem managers need to address.

Young Pitchers

Here is a good article updating us on the status of our numerous High School pitchers drafted last year.

The one pitcher drafted last year not on the list is Victor Black. He did pitch twice for West Virginia after an early season injury. He had one nice outing with seven strike outs. He only got two outs in his next outing, one of which was a strike out, but he gave up a lot of runs. He is now on the 7 day DL. We will see where he goes next.

I am looking forward the Short Season A league. We ought to have a large number of people to watch.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Charlie Morton on DL

Now, I hope that Charlie is not hurt. I never want anyone to be hurt. However, I am glad he is out of the rotation. The next 15 days are going to be a real chance for the Pirates to get going without a certain defeat in the rotation.

The Pirates called up Steven Jackson, who has been pitching okay in Indy and has big league experience last year. He was pretty good for them last year. Not a long term fix for the bullpen, but an arm that can take away some weight from the others.

Now for his spot in the rotation, I am not so sure. Brad Lincoln pitches tonight, and he might get called up to take the spot. If not then Jeff Karstens is the logical choice. He is already on schedule since he pitched four innings for Charlie last night.

We will just have to wait and see.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Needed Promotions

The Pirates will soon start promoting players in the system, I thought it was time to take a look at exactly who ought to be getting a promotion.

First, we have seen Neil Walker and Steven Pierce come up to the majors. Both deserved it, and arguably both have made the Pirates better. Tabata should be up. He is waiting for a trade to take place perhaps to open some room up for him. Brad Lincoln should come up soon and will replace either Morton (who I wish, but probably won’t happen), Burres, or Karstens. Just a matter of time for him. Alvarez will also come up, but probably it will not be until July as his numbers still need a little work at Triple A. I suppose Jeff Clement will end up in Triple A when Pearce gets back off the DL.

Second, we have seen a few lower class promotions already. Michael Crotta went up to AAA and Bryan Morris went up to AA. Both well deserved. Morris may actually be in line for another one before the year is out.

Third, a few others need to make the jump soon. Let us take a look at some of these guys who often get overlooked because they are not at the top of the Minor League System.

Brock Holt – Holt, who did well in Short Season A last year is doing even better in High A. He is hitting .342 and has an OBP over .400. He is not showing a great deal of power, and has 25 strikeouts in 38 games. He has shown that High A pitching is something he can handle. It is time to see what he can do against AA.

Nathan Adcock – This pitcher aquired in a trade last year is in complete control of High A hitters. He has a 2.50 ERA, a 5-2 record, and 54 strike outs compared to only 9 walks. What else does this guy have to prove? He should be in Altoona real soon.

Daniel Moskos – I know this sounds weird, but I think Moskos needs to be up. Moskos has shown he can dominate at AA out of the pen. He has 11 saves and is 1-0. His ERA is 1.25 and his WHIP is .92. He has a strike out per inning and only 8 walks so far. Moskos can do the job from the pen, but it is time to see if he can do it well against better hitters.

Rudy Owens – He may need a few more starts at AA, but before the year is out Owens needs to move up. He is 4-2 at AA, and has a WHIP of .95. A 5 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio is good. He might need to give up a few less hits, but Owens looks great.

Alex Presley – this young man who was drafted in 06 is doing great at AA. He is not a top prospect, but he is earning a right to try out the AAA crowd. He has a .372 average and an OPS of .970. I am interested to see if Presley can play his way into a nice prospect.

Kyle McPherson – He has a 3-4 record which is good considering how bad the West Virginia Power are right now. But his 48 strikeouts (1 per inning) and only 9 walks looks good enough to try the next level. He has a WHIP of 1.05.

Zachary Foster – I admit I am higher on this kid than most others. He should probably stay a little longer, but when draft picks start showing up some might want to be at West Virginia, and promoting Foster is a good decision. Foster is 3-1, but this is out of the pen. He could use more strike outs. He has 14 in 21 innings of work and 14 games. Foster has a WHIP of .95 and 3 saves which shows that Foster is a guy who could be a nice bullpen piece. He could use a taste of High A baseball before the season is done.

Now I left Jeff Locke off of the list, who is pitching brillantly, but just not quite as good as Adcock. I am also leaving Sanchez off the list. I think he needs a longer look at one level. I want to see if he fades at all over the heated summer behind the plate. I favor moving him along fairly slowly. But, if he keeps it up through the hot months, he would have earned a AA shot.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A GREAT day - May 25

The Pirates beat the Reds, who were in 1st. The Reds undefeated rookie Leake looked good and threw seven shut out innings and got a base hit. But you can always count on Dusty Baker to do something wrong. The Pirates were beginning to get hits on Leake. In fact they had gotten two singles with two outs in the seventh. Dusty let Leake hit (he got out) in the seventh and then gave up a fly ball that was miss played by Stubbs, and Aki ended up on third. Then Neil Walker rocketed a double down the line. Pirates had the lead. Hanrahan blew it by allowing a homer in the 8th, but Ryan Doumit hit one out in the ninth to save him. "Doh"tel got his 10th save.

It is clear that the ace of the staff is Paul Malholm. He pitched like an ace today. Did not have his best stuff. Threw as many balls as strike through about the first four innings. Despite that fact, he kept them scorless thanks to a double play, a pick off, and some just good pitching. He never let them score. He did find a rhythm in the later innings, but that is what ace pitchers do. Win when they do not have their dominating stuff.

The minors gave us four victories as well. Daniel McCutchen won, Rudy Owens dominated, and Kyle McPherson went 7 no-hit innings to get the win for lowly West Virginia. Alvarez had a pretty good day as did D'Arnaud, two guys who need to snap out of season long slumps. In Bradenton, Brock Holt went 4-5, which is about normal for him, Sanchez add two hits and Grossman added three. That team is just loaded when they are all hitting they cannot be stopped.

So top to bottom it was a big day for the Pirate organization.

Pearce to DL; Walker up

Neil Walker is getting called up. He will take Pearce's spot on the roster as Pearce hurt his ankle in last night's game. Lord willing Walker will start tonight at second base. Aki is going no where fast, and why sit the very hot Walker. Still, the Pirates management sat Pearce, who was hot when he came up, for a couple of games before getting him in there. So don't count on logic making a difference. Walker can surely hit .150 like Aki is doing now. Add in the fact that Aki's defence is not great, I don't see the problem.

This should be the start of some major moves. June will see Tabata and Lincoln up, hopefully earlier considering outing Burres and Karstens had last night. I have trouble seeing Tabata come up with Milledge and Church still on the team. I hope that trade talks are underway for one of them. I expect Church has greater value right now. Lincoln then I expect to be the first one up as Burres can be sent down without much problem.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Not good

The Pirates are drifting further and further away from .500 and are starting to look like a team that does not have what it takes to beat teams that are in the hunt.

Brian Burres reminded everyone today why he is Brian Burres and not a starter somewhere else in the league. Burres worked his way out of one jam, but failed to get the pitcher out to get out of a second. That opened the flood gates. Karstens came in and then Aki undercut him right away. Aki was given an error, but then it was removed for some reason. He has to go. The Pirates cannot keep him in the line up.

The offense did finally kick in, and they got 5 runs, but they had already given up 7. If the Pirates get 5 they need to win.

The only real hope for this season is that Lincoln, Alvarez, Tabata, and perhaps Walker are waiting in the wings. They could give this team a real overhaul. The Pirates really need to win this next game to avoid slipping far out of sight of .500.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pirate troubles end . . . for a day

The Pirates lost Saturday night, and the reason why was because they cannot get the clutch hit. 14 runners left on base is a lot. Big opportunites that came up empty in 6th, 7th, and 8th. In fact at least one of our runs on Saturday was because of a sacrifice fly. No clutch hitting at all. Coach played Jarmillo rather than Doumit because of the day game on Sunday. It turned out to be genius.

Doumit was the star of Sunday win. He went three for five with two RBIs including the 10th inning solo shot that ended the game. The Pirates showed that they can squeak out wins against top quality opponnents. Doumit did what he needs to do which is hit big shots and get the RBIs that the Pirates could not get on Saturday. McCutchen went two for four to increase his average to .323. Duke pitched well, but the save was blown by Evan Meek. The bullpen then held the Braves until Doumit's big hit, which gave Ocatvio "Doh"tel the victory.

The Pirates now need to prove they can beat quality opponnents by beating the Reds in Cinncy in this crucial upcoming series.

Friday, May 21, 2010

News and Notes

I am back from my two weeks of trips, and now I can return to the Pirates watch, but the Pirates have not exactly done well in my absence.

Today was bad. Ross did not have his stuff, the rookie for the Braves is the real deal, and the Pirates got beat bad. Shut out again.

The news from the minors is not great either. Sterling Marte had surgery on his hand. Will he recover any of his power ever? Bad bad bad. Robbie Grossman's average is plumpeting making the offense in Bradeton suffer. Pedro Alvarez is still not getting the contact he should in AAA. That is the bad news.

There is some good news. Altoona won today thanks to Bryan Morris. He is starting to look like a real prospect for the first time since we got him. Recently promoted, but a similar result. A big win and the overall ERA is still under 1. Mercer and D'Arnaud got hits. The Pirates also signed two 17 year old, two eighteen year olds, and one 19 year old Latin American players Guys to keep on eye on in the Summer Leagues.

The really bad news is that Tabata still sits in AAA as does Walker when they could be filling holes in Pittsburgh. Worse yet Morton goes tomorrow, so expect an early exit and a bad loss.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

4 Below .500, but some real bad news - May 15

The Pirates won another series today by defeating the Cubs again. The Pirates sit 4 under .500 and 5 games back on the slumping Cards. Only the Reds and Cards are above the Pirates in the central.

But today was more of the same for the Pirate offense. Score first in the first inning and then go to sleep. They got three thanks to some walks and then McCutchen and Church got busy. Malholm pitched great except for one inning when he put runners on second and third with no one out. He almost got out of that inning. But, 2 runs later the Pirates still had a lead. Carrasco and Hanrahan had clean innings. In the Top of the 9th Clement hit a home run the opposite way. It was the first Carlos Marmol had given up all year. Clement had a two hit day, but his first one was a single with not much on it. Still, that counts as a good day for Jeff. The homerun turned out to be huge because Octavio "Doh"tel walked a batter on four straight and then gave up a triple with one out. Then he turned on the juice and struck the next two guys out.

The really bad news is that according to Jennifer Langosh Sterling Marte has a hand injury that probably will require surgery. Marte was excellent and a top 10 prospect for the Pirates. This is not good. Not good at all. The Pirates are deep in the outfield, but Marte was the best with a higher ceiling than even Tabata.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pirates offensive explosion or sign of trouble

The Pirates won today against the Cubs and won big. Just 5 below .500. The big news today is that McCutchen and Jones each got 5 hits. Both had a homerun. And in that lies the problem. Jones had a 3 run shot. McCutchen had a solo shot. Jones hit a single earlier to score McCutchen. The Pirates lose big without them. The Pirates have to depend on these two, but they cannot lean this much on them. Both getting a homer and five hits is pretty unlikely to be a regular things. The Pirates gave up six runs, so the rest of the team needs to pick it up.
No hits for Iwamura. No hits for Cedano. Pearce still hitting under .200. Two many holes in the line up. Way too many.

Expect to see Walker by the end of May, and Clement down in the AAA. Not long after that will see Tabata up and a platoon system set up with Pearce playing against lefties and Jones in the outfiedl, and Jones at first against righties and Tabata playing outfield. My thoughts.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Karstens delivers again

So Jeff Karstens just blanked the Cards through 6 innings. That would make it his second quality start. Brian Burres put up his second quality start earlier as well, also a shut out. Now the debate is who to send back to the minors for Ohlendorf. I have the obvious answer. Charlie Morton. Morton now has two quality starts, but has twice as many starts as the other two guys, and his best start was against the hapless Cubs, not the power laden Cardinals. Karstens also put an end to a major Pittsburgh skid earlier showing he can throw under pressure, something Morton has proven by now that he cannot. The Pirates should wait to make a move until after the next Morton start. I bet it is a bomb. If it is, drop him to the minors. Keep the two who give you the best chance to win.

It is of note that Pearce finally got his first hit since being called up. He does this often to the Pirates. He is super hot in AAA, goes 0-12 or something like that to in the majors, and just as he is about to be sent back down, gets a clutch hit for an RBI buying him another 3 or 4 games where he will not get a hit.

The bullpen also was wonderful again. Octavio "Doh"tel even looked solid. A great sign for the Buccos. We need the big series win tomorrow.

What we learned in the loss - May 7

The Pirates lost to Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals breaking up the win streak. Zack Duke pitched well, earning a quality start and not getting a decision at all.

What we learned was that the Pirates can compete against one of the best pitchers in the NL, the best team in the Central, and we learned that the Pirates still make the mental mistakes that keep them a losing team.

The Pirates were down 3-2, but had first and third with no one out, and Garret Jones at the plate. Jones grounded to the pitcher, and he caught LaRoche in a rundown at third and home. McCutchen did what he was supposed to do and go all the way to third insuring that someone would still be on third. It does mean that McCutchen is out when the tag is applied as LaRoche has the right to the bag. The ump clearly points to McCutchen and signals him out. Andy then walks off the bag, gets tagged as well, and now there are two outs and Jones on second. What makes it worse is that the Pirates still managed to get a run on a wild pitch later in the inning to tie it. The Pirates should have won that game. They blew it on a mental error. They made two fielding errors as well.

Meek took the loss as Yadir Malina, the one who got the strange double play, came up with a clutch hit and the Pirates lose in the top of the ninth.

Our offense is starting to click with Jones hitting when guys are on, McCutchen getting on all the time, Andy playing very well, and Milledge starting to get into a hot streak. It is a shame these mental lapses rob games from us.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A win for Charlie - May 5

Charlie Morton pitches a win! Overall that was a nice game. Six innings and only two runs. Still, he did show in that fourth that he struggles getting people out when he is in a jam. But he did well, and that should be celebrated.

He was helped by Garrett Jones finding his stroke for some big hits. Andrew McCutchen hit well as always and surprisingly Bobby Crosby hit well. Pearce got the start, but does what he always does in the majors: nothing. He did show some good defense. But he will not hit at the big league level. I would rather they have called up Neil Walker.

Pirates get the series win, and now need to complete the sweep at home.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Minor League Look

The Minor Leagues took center stage today, and the outcomes were not good for the teams, but more encouraging for the top prospects.
First, Altoona, Bradenton, and West Virginia all lost, but Indy won. 1-3.

Second, Bradenton should have won, but they blew it. The final score was 1-0 so it is hard to blame pitcher Nathan Adcock. He pitched well. The bottom of the first saw Quincy Latimore strike out with runners on second and third. The sixth inning ended on Robbie Grossman getting thrown out stealing. The seventh started with Marte and Sanchez getting back to back singles (which would have scored Grossman in the sixth), but that threat ending because Marte got picked off of second. The ninth inning ended with Grossman standing on second while Tony Sanchez struck out. A game where the Mauraders could have won it. Grossmann, Marte, and Sanchez all got hits.

Third, Pedro Alvarez appears to be finding his stride in Indy. He is slowly getting better. In today's win he walked in the first, singled in the third (but was thrown out at home on a hit by Pearce), doubled in two runs in the fifth, grounded out in the seventh, and was hit by a pitch in the ninth. A good solid day for the top prospect.

Fourth, Tim Alderson went five innings, but allowed five runs, not all earned. However the good news in this is that he did not get the loss, and that he struck out 8. 7 of those 8 were swinging. Jim Negyrch continues his good play with a pinch hit RBI double. Daniel Moskos walked one, struck out one, and retired one more. He did not allow any runs. D'Arnaud got a hit and scored a run. Mercer had no hits, but got an RBI and a walk.

So not a bad night for some prospects. Alderson did give up a lot of runs, but that is more strike outs than he has had all season long.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pirates embarassed in LA

The Pirates won game one, but then dropped the next three. Charlie Morton lost, but did not get destroyed. Duke lost, and Karstens lost today. Karstens gave up six runs in five innings, but was not as bad as it could have been, and was inches away from a better result. A third inning run scored when it just was fair down the first base line. Milledge was close to a diving snag that would have saved other runs, but missing it, let it get past him. Still Karstens took the loss. The offense was almost all Garret Jones, which is the lone positive to take out of this. He hit two doubles today, getting RBIs both times. If Jones's bat is back, adn Doumit continues to be hot as he was all week, then the Pirates can have an offense against the Cubs that ought to score. The Dodgers pitching is much better than the Cubs.

In better news in the Minor Leagues Altoona beat Stephen Strassborg. Jordy Mercer went 1 for 2 and gathered another RBI. Mercer is having an excellent year.

Also Michael Crotta, who was called up to Triple A not long ago, pitched great, got a win, and only gave up three runs in seven innings. Only two of those runs were earned. Jose Tabata raised his average to .330. This kid cannot get to the majors fast enough. There is currently a place for him to start everyday. I hope the Pirates are trying to market either Church or Milledge. Tabata is too good to sit.