Wednesday, June 30, 2010

When the pitching shows up the hitting goes away (4-10)

That is what happened on Tuesday night as Jeff Karstens pitched beautifully, but lost because of two homeruns giving up 2 Earned runs and 1 Unearned run for yet another quality start loss for Karstens. Doumit hit a homerun, his first in a long time, and that was all the Pirates could muster. Alvarez got a hit.

The same story is true in today's game. Brad Lincoln threw 7 great innings which saw him strike out more people than got on base. He did not give up a hit until the 4th. He got his ground balls, and that turned into a double play when needed. He did great, but going into the top of the 8th the Pirates had not scored and even squandered a bases loaded opportunity (thans LaRoche). After a Tabata out, LaRoche did manage get on because of an error and McCutchen singled, and then Jones doubled to plate the first run of the game. The next run came thanks to the fact that the Cubs intentionally walked Doumit to get to Alvarez (they brought in a new pitcher to face him too), and then with two outs they managed to walk in the next run. Hardly an offensive masterpiece (both runs were unearned). Hanrahan was deadly in the 8th throwing only one ball, striking out two, and getting a very quick inning. Dotel got the save.

If we could get both going at the same time that would be great. Getting Walker and Pierce back from injuries might help that.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Thank God for the Chicago Cubsa (3-9)

The Pirates have broken the road losing streak by playing the Cubs. Mostly it was because of Paul Malholm. He went 8 innings and only gave up 1 run. That is why he is still the ace of the staff. Andrew McCutchen added an RBI triple and then in the bottom of the 8th, Ryan Doumit hit a single, pinch hitter Ryan Church drew a four pitch walk after Cedano got out. Then Jose Tabata hit a double that just did score Doumit. It was unclear if the ball was going to be caught for a moment, and Doumit was tagging up. Then it hit the wall and went right into the hand of the center fielder and the ball gets to the catcher just as Doumit arrives at the plate. Doumit did not slide despite being told to by Young, who was on deck. It was super close and Doumit almost blew that game for us.

Still, a win is a win. Malholm was great. Dotel plunked Ramirez, but struck out the last two. Alvarez got a hit. It was Alvarez. That is a couple of back to back good starts from Ohlendorf and Malholm giving up a combined one earned run. Karstens was good his last outing too. Maybe the Pirates are about to at least play decent.

Prospect Watch

It has been a while since I did a good look at the next wave of prospects. I won't be focusing on Alex Pressley who went 5 for 6 and had the cycle last night.

Altoona has the next wave of people who will be arriving. Daniel Moskos was just promoted to AAA, so he is well on his way to joining the Pirates. Rudy Owens is the next big thing, and he is putting together a year that shows it. Owens pitched last night (got the win), and threw good. Four hits in five innings with 4 strikeouts, and only one earned run. His ERA is 2.74 and his record is 7-3. The other big names to watch are D'Arnaud who is still struggling. He is hitting .238, but does get a lot of extra basehits. Jordy Mercer is continuing to be an RBI producer (37) and is getting his hitting stroke back (.262). Of note he is playing 2B now and has played every infield position but 1B. Harrison (3B) may also be a prospect and he is doing better than last year. A .314 AVG and ability to play muliple infield positions makes him look good. Tim Alderson is struggling a bit. 48 strikeouts is not so good, and those have come in bunches. He is not winning like he did in the past (6-4). I think Alderson can be a back end starter, but I am losing hope for him being a great major league pitcher.

Bradenton's prospects are almost all gone. Sterling Marte is out with an injury. Brock Holt is out with an injury. Tony Sanchez is hurt. All were doing excellent. Robbie Grossman is hitting poorly (.210) with two many strikeouts. His glove is still solid, and it is too early to write this kid off. Owen Latimore is hitting .274 with some power and he may be a prospect. In the end, most of the stars are now pitchers. Nathan Adcock and Jeff Locke are doing well. Both deserve a promotion with WHIP's of 1.11 and 1.13. Aaron Pribonic has struggled, but shows signs of promise and Brian Leach is doing what he needs, but is not dominating.

It is a little early for the State College Spikes, but some reasons to be excited. Chase Lyles a very late draft pick from Northwestern is hitting great at almost .350. Adalberto Santos (in only 7 games) is showing real potential as well with a .919 OPS. Jhonathon Rhamos has an amazing 0.17 WHIP after two apperances (6 innings) and a 6 to 1 K to BB ratio. Brooks Pounders has a 0.78 WHIP and after nine innings has yet to walk a batter. Last year's draft picks of Von Rosenberg, Dodson, and Fuesser are all struggling a bit. Dodson has more walks than strike outs, Fuesser has a 7 to 4 ration, and Von Rossenberg is giving up a lot of hits, but has shown great control so far. This year's picks Decker and Waldron (4th round pick) are adjusting to the game. Both have 1.54 WHIPs and they have a 1 to 1 ratio of walks to strikes.

It is too early for Rookie league stuff, but I think there is a lot to get excited about.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

No earned runs allowed and we still lose (2-9)

That is right. The Pirates did not give up an earned run all day. Yet, the Pirates still managed to give away three runs. Four errors, two on one play that gave up a run were more than enough for the A's to win the game.

What was the good news? Tabata does appear to be heating up with two hits. Milledge is still hot, and now has a homerun. McCutchen's mini slump is over with a 1 for 3 night. Young got a clutch pinch hit, and Alvarez drew a pinch hitting walk. And Ross Ohlendorf looked great.

What was the bad news? Our defense was awful, and it was our defensive team in the game with LaRoche and Jarmillo playing, both were involved in run scoring errors. We squandered opportunities. Young gets a lead off hit in the ninth, but the next batter is a double play. We get the next guy on (Alvarez), and then Tabata drills one that bounces off of Alvarez for an out. Not good. Not good.

Jarmillo, I think should be in AAA. I like the kid, but I think he would benefit from everyday play. He was much better last year when he was regularly playing in a rotation while Doumit was hurt. Now he is shaky and has nothing to offer at the plate. Bring up Kratz, who has a better bat, and see if Jarmillo can turn into something at AAA.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Something worth talking about

The Pirates last two games were just not worth talking about. Getting crushed and giving up double digits and then Daniel McCutchen getting no offensive support and losing. McCutchen gave up 4 runs in 6 innings. At least Dotel worked a scoreless 8th. Tabata got one of the two hits, and he stole a base. Nothing else was even half way good.

But there was something worth talking about over the last few days. Brooks Pounders pitched great. He gave up three hits in five innings allowing two runs and earned a win for State College. That was great news. Kevin Decker the late round pick from College of Charleston, who I like a lot mainly because I grew up watching the Southern Conference pitched a good game, and they won again tonight.

As for the Rookie League Pirates they lost a hard luck blown save game in 10 tonight. But someone needs to give a shout out to Kevin Mort, a non drafted free agent signing from Ole Miss. He is leading the team with a .400 Avg. He is not a prospect, but seems to be up to the task of Rookie League ball. Of course the better story is Eric Avlia, who is a bit of a prospect. He is hitting well also with a .364 AVG and a 1.163 OPS. These guys are leading the team.

Brett Lorin pitched 5 scoreless innings for the Rookie Pirates tonight. Rehab start for him and he looks good.

Jeff Clement is looking good in AAA as he drove in 5 of the 6 runs for an Indy win, and the rest of the Farm system lost. Although in fairness the news out of Altoona was good. Justin Wilson pitched great, but the Curve don't have their closer any more and they gave up four runs in the ninth to lose. That stuff happens when your bullpen gets promoted. D'Arnaud got a hit, and yes it was another extra base hit. Jordy Mercer is almost back up to .260 with another multiple hit game. He continues to improve. And third baseman Joey Harrison, aquired in the Hart/Gorzelanny trade was hitless, but is still above .300. He is a prospect.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Organizational News

The Pirates have started moving around their prospects. This all started with Duke hitting the DL and Eveland being sent to AAA. This opened up two spots on the Roster and that was taken by Stephen Jackson (already on the 40 man) and Justin Thomas, who is new to the 40 and was picked up in the off season. I like Thomas another lefty in the pen to help out Lopez. However, it has been announced that Daniel McCutchen will start on Saturday. Probably means that Jackson is headed back down. I am glad to see McCutchen get another start as Morton will screw up despite pitching one complete game in AAA. It is time to move on from Morton. McCutchen was not given half the shot that Morton has already blown.

This of course opened a few spots in Indy. The headliner moving up to Indy is Daniel Moskos. Moskos has improved a lot this year (sinker ball has been added) and is finally in the spot where he should have been the whole time, closer. Moskos has been great and he deserves this move. You could tell Moskos would be a fine closer in college and the time he spent as a starter seems a bit of a waste. Alex Presley is hitting .350 in AA and was a key part off last year's High A title. He deserved a shot at AAA. And it opened up an offensvie spot in Altoona for . . .

Perhaps Calvin Anderson. Anderson is a guy who was drafted in the 12th round of 08, the year of Alvarez. He has been great for Bradenton with nice power numbers (9 HRs and 43 RBIs). And he is hitting a better average away from home, which gives one hope that his numbers will hold up in AA (Bradenton is a hitters park).

Perhaps, Jeff Locke or Nathan Adcock. Both pitchers are showing that they can pitch and are prospects to watch. These people both deserve a shot at the next level, and the question now is simply which one should get the shot.

Sadly not, Sanchez (top pick 09) because he took a bean ball in the face, fractured his jaw and then had surgery to fix it. That was three bean balls in two days. Sanchez has maintained an above .300 average all year and has 4 long balls. His developoment should continue at AA so we can see if he is going to be able to hit with the big boys.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Another loss for JR (2-6)

The Pirates took a real bad loss tonight and again it is the managers fault. Karstens was great giving up 3 runs in over five innings, but only 2 of those runs were earned (error Bobby Crosby). The young guns had a good day. McCutchen did not get a hit, but got on and scored in the first after an Alvarez double that also plated Jones, who extended his hit streak. Tabata had a 3 for 5 night and showed off his outfield gun getting someone trying to take an extra base. Walker had a hit and a run scored. It was a good night.

However, all of it was brought to nothing when Milledge took a bad path an ended up missing a diving catch down the line. It is not ruled an error, but any other left fielder makes that play because they do not take a circle path. That ended up being a two run triple, which then led to one more run scoring that inning. The reason I blame JR for this is that Milledge had no business being in the outfield. Milledge and Church were both in the line up, but Church (the better defender) was the DH and Milledge in the field. I cannot even fathom the reason for such a move. I get Milledge hitting. He is hot right now, and got two more tonight, but if they are both in the line up, then Church has to play the field.

Thanks for another loss JR. Thanks.

The Future is Now

I could talk about the massive defeat we just suffered (13-3). I could try to put a positive spin on it by talking about Jones or Alvarez connecting for another hit and RBI. I could talk about Eveland and his failure and release. I could defend the Eveland trade (which I will in a later post). But instead we need to focus on the important thing.

The dominating performance of Colton Cain and Trent Stevenson in the GCL. Both men arrived with high expectations, especially Cain. Both men suffered some minor injuries, but this was their beginning with the Pirates. This is the group that will probably arrive with Tallion and Allie (along with Zack Von Rosenburg). Well they impressed.
Cain threw 4 innings and only allowed 1 hit. Two strikeouts. No runs.
Stevenson threw 5 innings and only allowed 2 hits. He had a strike out and only one run.
That is a complete game between the two of them with only 3 hits. That is good. Now I know that this is only rookie league, but it is a great start.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Importance of McCutchen (2-4)

The Pirates were up 2-0 on the Texas Rangers and lost. Ohlendorf struggled with the second time through the Ranger line up, and the power the Rangers have and the Pirates do not have cost them the game 6-3. The Pirates out hit the Ragners 10-7, but still lost. Why?

The reason is the play of McCutchen. He is the carrier for this team. As goes McCutchen so go the Pirates. He wore the collar last night and thus the Pirates lost even though they got a 3 for 4 night out of Bobby Crosby.

This all goes back to my theory of every team needing one carrier (a guy who hits for average and extra bases), and championship teams need 2. You then need an RBI guy, of which Garret Jones is starting to look like one. He has a 12 game hit streak and got an RBI last night. You need a lead off guy, which Tabata will be, but he is slumping right now. Then you need a power threat. The Pirates do not have that as Doumit is not living up to his ability.

McCutchen is the carrier for the Pirates. He had an off night, which players will have, and a 10 hit night turned into only 3 runs. On the positive side Alvarez is showing signs of being our second carrier. His hit last night turned into a run, his first ever. When Alvarez does something it turns out great for the Pirates. His first hit, an RBI double. The next game, a game winning sacrifice fly. This game a base hit that sees him advance and score (thanks in part to an error). This is a good sign.

That said this game tonight is the best chance for the Pirates to take one in Arlington.

Monday, June 21, 2010

GCL Pirates

The GCL Pirates began their season with a loss today. The Rookie League team looks like it could be good as they lost 10-8 to the Yankees on a blown save. The roster will be one to watch.

Of course everyone will be watching Colton Cain, the potential ace drafted out of high school last year. He signed so late he did not get any time in the minors last year. His first start is highly anticipated, but perhaps his success is not as important after the most recent draft with two other potential aces drafted.

Joining the high expectations club will be 2009 7th round draft pick Trent Stephenson, who played in 5 games (4 starts for 15 innings) for GCL last year. He got 8 strikeouts in that short time. Also from 2009 this time the 12th round will be Jeffrey Inman. These starters will be something to watch.

Now I think that the GCL team has more offensive prospects than the State College team this year. 2009 10th round pick, Joey Schoenfeld will be a catcher on the team. But, most of the people to watch are products of the Pirates new and improved Latin American system. I have high hopes for both Jonathon Barrios (SS) and Eric Avila (3B). Gregory Polanco and Junior Sosa (both OF) are more possible prospects. In fact the GCL Pirates are full of people promoted from the DSL and VSL. How they perform might give us an indication of how Hunington is doing in Latin America.

It should also be noted that a few novelty (non-prospect) Pirates are on this team. Two Indian (the country) pitchers are still here: Dinesh Patel and Ringu Singh. Also the Taiwanese First base man Chin-Wei Hsu is on this team. They will be fun to keep track of even though they are not real prospects.

State College Spikes

The Short A Season has started and the State College Spikes are playing. The prospects to watch in State College are almost all pitchers. Zack Von Rosenberg tops that list. He pitched opening day and struggled. He gave up four runs in four innings, walking one, and striking out two. But before massive panic sets in remember the Pirates like to focus on control in the lower minors especially of the fastball.

Another great prospect is Zack Dodson. He too struggled in his openning game. Two earned runs in four innings. No strike outs and two walks.

The one I am actually most interested in is Brooks Pounders. Pounders is often left out of the top pitchers drafted by the Pirates, but Pounders is good. While not necessarily the over powering pitcher Black can be, nor the high upside that Cain and Von Rosenberg have, Pounders just wins. And his first outing was a loss, but he gave up only one unearned run. He recorded a strike out and no walks.

Those guys of course were all drafted in the first 10 rounds of last years draft. The Spikes have a few guys from this year's draft like Justin Benscko from Villanova, playing the outfield. The Spikes also feature Gift Ngoepe from South Africa. But the hitting prospects on this team are low.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Series Victory (2-3)

Well, it was a good day. The Pirates have a winning streak. Brad Lincoln had a quality start, but got a no decision. Alvarez had an RBI, the game winning RBI for a second straight game. Tabata had a hit and a run, McCutchen had an RBI and caused general havok, Jones extended his hitting streak and got more RBIs, and Walker played another good game. Dotel got his second save and Donnelly may have gotten past his recent troubles.

JR got ejected, which is rare, but it was still an emotionless ejection. It was more an ejection because he just stood around on the field. Still the Pirates responded.

The speed of the Pirates killed again as two first inning runs were all about the team speed. The Indians pitcher is a ground ball guy, and the Pirates got infield hit and an error and then Jones's ground ball got into the outfield and runners were scoring.

It will be interesting to see if the Pirates can keep it up.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Streak is Dead. Pirates win! (1-3)

Pedro gets his first hit and RBI on an automatic double. Jeff Karstens is making a case for a position on next year's rotation with a win and another clutch pitching performance. He gave up a run in the first, but then did not give up another until a three run homer in the 6th.

Streaky Lastings Milledge showed that when he is on, the Pirates can win. One of the reasons they have not won more this year is because Milledge has not been hot since we swept the Reds in the first month of the season. Lately he has started up a slow boil, and tonight he went 3 for 4 with a walk and 4 RBI's and 1 run.

But just to keep the drum beat up for a new manager, JR did make a huge mistake. I understand the need to get the win, but he wasted our bullpen. Here is the situation. You have plated several runs in a productive 5th inning, and there are two outs and Karstens is up. Now you either pinich hit or leave Karstens in to pitch. JR chose to leave him in effectively ending the rally. I have no problem with that at all. Karstens was rolling and had only thown about 55 pitches at that point. Karstens has some command issues coming out of the long inning and after two baserunners and one out (which was at third), Kartens gives up a big three run bomb that was just fair. Now, JR goes and gets him. The only thing that can tie the score now is another bomb. Karstens should have been allowed to face more hitters to see if his command was back. Instead JR goes for Carrasco, who gets no one out. The to face horrible hitting lefty, he wastes Javier Lopez. Lopez gets the lefty and then is left to face a righty, who gets a single. JR goes and uses Meek, who walks the bases loaded before getting Travis Haffner to end the inning. Meek bails out JR by going the 7th inning too. Hanrahan struggles but holds and Dotel puts one guy on but gets the save after McCutchen triples and Jones gets an RBI basehit to pad the lead.

Just to say something I think JR did well in this game was the use of speed. The Pirates are loaded with speed. McCutchen stole a base, Jones stole a base. McCutchen scored from second on an infield single. Add in the speed of Tabata and Milledge and this team can fly and should put a lot of pressure on pitchers.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Another day another manager inspired loss

It is hard to believe the Pirates find new ways to lose. Despite a nice rally in the 8th for 4 runs, the Pirates lost. Ross Ohlendorf did not have a good day. He got a quality start by giving up only 3 runs in 6 innings, but it was one of those starts that let you know the definition of a quality start is too loose. Ross had trouble all night. The White Sox got their first two runs on sac flies, which helped Ross avoid bigger run totals. But Ross did give up a two out double to score the third run. He finally had two decent innings, thanks in part to a double play by Neil Walker. But there is no way he should have gone back out after the 6th. He had not pitched well enough. I know the bullpen has not done great lately, but why did you trade for Dana Eveland if you are not going to use him. So in the seventh Ross got one out and gave up two runs. JR left him out there for too long. No doubt about it.

The top of the order did well again. LaRoche reached on a pinch hit, Tabata got on, Walker got on, McCutchen got a RBI basehit, Garrett Jones got an RBI sac fly, and amazingly enough Milledge got an RBI base hit. Then Alvarez (who went hitless) got out to end the inning. That is what the Pirates are capable of. They can score. Alvarez also broke up a rally in early innings when there were runners at 1st and 3rd with only one out. He hit into a double play. The kid will be fine, and on the bright side no errors in the field and one nice diving stop.

Hunington and Robinson extneded

Apparently the Pirates extended the contracts of manager John Robinson and Neal Hunington. I am thrilled that they are keeping Hunington. He is the greatest thing to happen to the Pirates in years. His drafts are brillant. His trades are brillant. The Pirates we are seeing today are already of his making. Alvarez is here and Tabata was aquired in a trade, in fact the same trade that brought tonight's starter, Ohlendorf. That trade was a clear win for the Pirates. Karstens too come to think of it. Trading away Jack Wilson and Snell brought the Pirates ridiculous riches. The trading of Grabow is probably a break even, with a strong possibility of relievers Hart and Ascino later. Hunington traded away Brian Bixler for goodness sake! This year's draft looks like it will put the Pirates over the top. Last years draft was pitching rich, and a cheap and clearly well scouted Sanchez as our catcher.

Even the moves he made that are not turning out okay were still great. He got value for Jason Bay, who was going to leave as a free agent. Now LaRoche looks like a flop and I am still not sure Bryan Morris is going to work out long term, but it was worth a shot. LaRoche looked promising at the time of the trade and who did we have at third at that point? Same thing with McLouth to Atlanta for Charlie Morton and Gorky Hernadez. Both look like garbage right now, but room had to be made for McCutchen, so McClouth had to go. He has not exactly made us sorry with his injury plagued performances. Even the Aki Iwamura signing cannot be faulted. Who thought he would not be able to hit .200? And who did we have to play a big league 2nd base? Jim Negyrch? It had to be done.

As for Robinson, I think that is a mistake. He makes strange decisions, and does not consistently run out the best line up. Tonight he is with Jones at 1B and Milledge in Right. I am not sure I like Alvarez in 6th rather than 5th, but Doumit hitting behind him to protect him is a good idea. Yet, he had no idea who he was going to hit second all year long until Walker. He plays Doumit at 1st and did not have LaRoche taking infield anywhere other than at 3rd until about a week ago. I was not too sure of some of his decision to put on the team either. I guess Kratz has weaknesses behind the plate, but Jarmillo is so bad with the bat I thought some AAA time might do him some good. At least Robinson is trying to steal more this year with Tabata and McCutchen, but he is not doing great things as a manager. The Pirates should shell out the big dollars and get someone good. Someone who will be able to teach these young guys how to win. Robinson has no experience with that. Bobby Valentine would be great. The article does note they can still fire people, which I think gives credence to an earlier report that the Pirates are talking about getting rid of Robinson. It can't be soon enough for me.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pedro Alvarez and the New Wave (0-1)

Time to start the count over again. Pedro is here. Aki Iwamura is the one sent to the minors to make room. I did not realize he had options left, so it is the perfect move. They still need to trade one of the excess outfielders to make room for Pearce. His arrival would be the final piece of the new look Pirates.

Alvarez showed his glove and got an error. He also scored after a walk. 0-2 is not a bad night. Especially since it was a hard throwing lefty. I am ready to see Alvarez on a righty. Tabata hit a homerun. That was a surprise and a welcome one at that. The Pirates just are not ready for primetime. Zack Duke was awful after the first trip through the line up.

Still, lots of stuff to look forward to with the Pirates.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Trade Deadline Expectations

The Pirates are always active at the trade deadline, and despite the GM's comments this year will probably not be any different. First let us look at why.

Pedro Alvarez is ready to play. Yet, there is no room for him on the 25 man roster. The Pirates (for some unknown reason) want Charlie Morton in the majors and starting. The Pirates also need to get Pearce back on the 25 man roster, again no place for him.

Second, the options to clear room. The Pirates ideally would love to get rid of the extra outfielders they now have. Tabata, Jones, and McCutchen are their starters. They have three back ups: Milledge, Young, and Church. Young is the one who is playing the best and is very young, althoug hI think that many would say Milledge has the highest upside. Church is the best defender of the group. One would think Church would be the person the Pirates are marketing, and they may indeed take offers for Milledge. They are both more proven than Young. Buster Onley thinks that the number of quality outfielders available this year is low. If DeJesus is not traded by the Royals, then the market is even worse. So, the Pirates may be able to get rid of one of these guys. Preferably two, but I doubt that would happen. Church would not cause any eyebrows to raise. He was never a long term part of this team. Milledge would cause some to complain about last year's trade to get him, and Young has shown himself to be good and the Pirates have gone through a lot of pains to keep him. But in the end I think Young is more marketable than Milledge. If the Pirates can trade two of them, then their problems go away. Alvarez has room as does Pearce. Morton can be found by just getting rid of one of the relievers like Carrasco or even Karstens.

However, I am not sure that two outfielders can be moved especially with them playing so pathetic. So, I think Zack Duke is still likely to be traded by the end of the year. Duke would be a solid left handed starter that could fill out the back end of a rotation. The problem is that I think a lot of pitchers are going to be on a the market so the Pirates are going to have to accept a lot less than Duke is probably worth. Some rumors have not only Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee, and Fausto Carmona on the market, but the entire Padres pitching staff. This will make a Zack Duke deal tough to accomplish.

Whatever happens, it needs to start happening soon because the Pirates need Alvarez now.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Karstens is better than Morton

If Charlie Morton comes back and takes Karstens spot in the rotation, I am going to be upset. In a year where the Pirates are showing that on-field managment is insane and unprepared, a few good things have shown themselves. Jeff Karstens is one of those things. Now, he ended up not getting any decision. He pitched 6 great innings. He got through the seventh after a homer. He did all you can ask. The Pirates could not get 6 outs with Karstens. 6.

And it is not the first time Jeff has come up aces. He pitched rather well against Strasborg. Hard to imagine blaming him for that one. He pitched great to get our first win in Miller Park this year, and started a minor winning streak. He had a few other nice outings, and one fairly bad one. This guy deserves that 5th spot. If you are not going to give it to Daniel McCutchen, then there is no way you can justify Morton who has been a disaster for two years as a Pirate, and less we forget was a disaster for a short time as a starter for the Braves. So much so they were willing to trade him. There is no reason to expect anything different from Morton.

Still the Pirates need to be able to find some runs somewhere other than the top 4 guys. Tabata, Walker, McCutchen, and now Jones are all the offense we have. Jones is starting to catch fire. If Walker can keep his bat going (which is starting to fade a bit), maybe the addition of Alvarez can give the Pirates enough offense to claw their way back into a chance for .500. I doubt it, but with 100 games left there is time for a late season charge.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Oh come on . . . (0-4)

The Pirates played okay tonight. Malholm pitched well, the relievers (with the exception of Donnelly) pitched fine. Hanrahan got two nice innings. But they still lost because of Manager JR. He tried to lose this game and did.

He lost this game because of another strange and pointless line up. Jones was the DH, and not the first baseman. Doumit, who is a catcher and not a first baseman, played first for the 3rd time since 2007, I think. And surprise this game turns on teh fact that Doumit cannot make a fairly normal play at first. The throw was low, but I don't think it bounced. Jones would have made that play. He catches it and the inning is over the Pirates go into the next inning up 2-1. Instead, it is a two run error and the Pirates go into the 8th down 3-2.

To their credit the Pirates tied the game and lost on a walk off homerun. After Tabata and Walker tied the game JR pulls Doumit from the game. But it is too late for defensive substitution now. He blew the game. Now his power might still come in handy. All that move did was reinforce in Doumit's head that he is not a first baseman. Also, Jarmillo is only hitting .178. He is not all that much better at throwing runners out than Doumit. I think it is a net loss to keep Jarmillo as a regular catcher and trying to squeeze your second best power hitter in at first.

The good news is Tabata can change games with his speed as he did in the 8th inning by stretching a single into a double and stealing third. That is speed. Jones is hitting now. His slow start is officially over. His average is up to .270 after two hits tonight. Jones got his 9th homer and scored the first run of the night on a double by Church.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Another loss (0-3) and a link

I am not sure what Coach JR was thinking, but it makes me renew my request for new managment. Tabata was not in the line up? Church at DH? That guy can actually throw people out from the outfield. Milledge has been lax in the outfield. I don't get it. I guess I can understand Doumit at 1B because if something were to happen to Jarmillo, you would lose the DH if Doumit had to go play catcher and the pitcher would then have to bat. And I can see the point in playing Aki here as he has experience versus these pitchers. But I would have put Tabata in the game for sure. I would have kept LaRoche at third and Walker at second and made Aki my DH. Milledge and Church then sit. At least something like that. Instead, Church plays and wears the collar. Aki gets two walks, but wears the collar too. I think Milledge managed a hit, but all the offense came from McCutchen. He got an RBI and he scored a run late in the game on a hit by Jones. Ohlendorf collapsed after sailing and the Pirates lose.

More importantly a nice round up of draft picks signability. Kevin Decker has already signed. I know we should not get too exicted about a 3rd day draft choice, but I grew up watching Southern Conference sports and while the College of Charleston is a rival of my alma mater, it is always good to see someone from the SoCon make it. Welcome to the Pirates Mr. Decker. I will be watching.

Also I am encouraged to see that Kingham looks like he could be easy to sign. I like him. Kirsch too. Rojas should not pose a problem. In fact, most of the top 10 should sign with the exception of Kime and perhaps Kubitza. That would be fine with me as I am not a fan of Kime. Too much of a project. Kubitza is not worth the money he is asking. Let him go to college. Gives us more money to make sure we sign Tallion and Alle. It is hard for me to believe the Pirates would not sign Tallion and Alle's price tag was well known. He wants 3 mil, and has turned down 2 mil. So, I think the Pirates had to know what they were getting into and wanted to get into it anyway.

Swept by the Nats (0-2)

Not a good day. The Nats bested us again. Yet even in this we can see the glimpse of what can be. Zack Duke led off with a double, and Tabata followed with a double for his first big league RBI. He is only 11 behind LaRoche for the year. Walker got a base hit to move Tabata to 3rd, and McCutchen got the sac fly. Sadly this incident also shows the problem. Jones and Doumit both got out and ended the inning. Jones has to do better. He is the one who has to pick up his offense. Doumit was playing his first game back, but he could stand to come up with a few big hits now and then as well. The rest of the line up is hopeless to get scoring or hitting.

One thing that could help is the moving of Alvarez up to the majors. He is on a real hot streak right now. He had another multiple hit game last night the help the Indians to a win. Daniel McCutchen only gave up one run in seven innings. He may be close to getting a shot again, but Eveland is in his way.

I guess a comment needs to be made on the no hitter thrown against Altoona. I don't think it is a big deal. It was the second game of a double header, and thus it was only a seven inning affair. Also the Curve only lost by a score of 1-0 thanks to the fact that Rudy Owens threw a six inning gem. He took a loss, but he pitched well. He needs to move up too. I would like to see him up in Pittsburgh next year about this time.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The New Pirates 0-1 - we still have some holes

Brad Lincoln kicked off the new era for the Pirates and pitched okay. His official line is 5 runs in 6 innings. The real line was 3 Earned runs and two unearned runs in six innings. A three run fifth inning sunk the Pirates, but Milledge booted one that was ruled a hit costing the Pirates the tying run. Cedano failed to make a play that every other short stop in the majors makes costing them the go ahead run. If they make those plays the Pirates go into the sixth with a one run lead rather than trailing by one. Then when they score the next run they are up two. Even if Donnelly and Carrasco still give up their runs the Pirates are only tied, but neither of those guys comes into the game if the Pirates have that lead. Oh yeah, Lincoln had two hits and an RBI.

Tabata had two hits, stole a base, and scored a run. Cramp pulled him out of the game in the eighth. He looked good. McCutchen is having his worst slump of the season, but still managed to score on a walk and he stole third. Walker had a couple of hits as well.

The problem now is that we still have some holes in the rotation. It looks like Karstens is going to be the fifth starter and that is a better choice than Eveland. But there is room for improvement there. The two big holes are Cedano and LaRoche. They have to go. One of them is slated for replacement soon. Yet the most disappointing hole on the team is Lastings Milledge. He cost the Pirates at least one run. He then had a bone head running play when he did not tag up on a fly ball to go to third. He would have then scored on the next fly ball, but now he was still at second. Luckly Lincoln bailed him out with a two out RBI basehit. I think that he needs to be out of the regular line up. He can be replaced now with Dwelven Young.

So keeping track it is now an 0-1 season. Let us see what tomorrow brings.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Strasborg is good, but the season starts tomorrow

Okay 14 strikeouts in 7 innings on less than 100 pitches is pretty good. But, I do think it was against the Pirate B team. When Doumit is out of the line up it is a vulnerable line up. No one is there to back up McCutchen and Walker who only struck out once a piece, and Jones at the 4 spot becomes very vulnerable. You can pitch him outside and if you lose him no big deal. With Doumit there you have to be careful of his power. He knows how to hit in the clutch, and get productive outs. This means usually tough situations to throw to Jones in, and you cannot be trying to catch corners on him. That leads to big homeruns for Jones or at least RBI fly outs. Cedano, Jarmillo, and even Young (who hit the homerun) are AAA quality guys that were just fodder for Strasborg. Still that kid is going to be good.

However the great news is that Lincoln pitches tomorrow and Tabata comes to the majors too. It looks like Jack Taschner is finished with the Pirates and Clement is going to get some time at AAA to work on his swing. Both good things. This also means Karstens stays with the team, which is good because for a while there he was going to get the win on Strasborg. Just a bad sixth. Overall a pretty good start from a guy who was not on the 40 man roster to begin the year. It also means that Jones will play first, which is where he ought to be, and Tabata can play the corner outfield. If he hits lead off that would be interesting.

Start counting the record from this point on as now is the new Pirates. Add in an Alvarez and I am already pumped about seeing the Strasborg kid again.

Draft 2010 Rounds 2-19

The second day of the Pirates is going on right now and the early ones on this day are all we are going to cover in depth as the late rounds will probably not be signed.

We all know by now that pick number one was James Tallion. A great future ace. Let us see the rest of them.

Round 2 – Stetson Allie – St. Edward High School, OH. This guy is a prep pitcher with big power and nasty breaking stuff. However he needs a change up, and of course control work, which most prep guys are going to need. He is ranked as the 8th best prep prospect, about 22 overall I think. He has a commitment to North Carolina, but I expect that the Pirates will be able to sign this guy, but for a load of cash.

Round 3 – Mel Rojas Jr., - Wabash College – This guys is switch hitting center fielder. He is the son of a major leaguer, and sometimes that helps with the work ethic. The Pirates have a lot of outfielders, but we will see about this guy. I don’t have a lot of info on Mel. Lack of power that hopefully will develop, but good speed.

Round 4 – Nicholas Kingham – Sierra Vista HS, NV – Another prep pitcher. A right handed hurler. He has a strong fastball and already has a change up. He has a high upside, but control and possible injuries make me nervous about so many of these prep pitchers. Ranked 186 of prep players.

Round 5 – Tyler Waldron – Oregon State (junior) – this guy was drafted by the Marlins out of high school, and is now moving up in the world. He can return for his senior season, so the Pirates might not sign him either. He is another right handed pitcher. He is the oldest pitcher in the crop right now. He was demoted to the bullpen after failing to live up to expectations at Oregon State last year.

Round 6 – Jason Hursh – Trinity Christian Academy, HS, TX – Another right handed pitcher from high school. I am detecting a pattern. This is the magic slot of the Pirates the last few years. Grossmann and Van Rosenburg were 6th rounders.

Round 7 – Austin Kubitza – Heritage HS, TX – Another right handed pitcher. This guy is going to have a lot to prove because the Pirates passed on Robbie Aviles who went a few picks later to Cleveland. Aviles is the 58th best prospect in the draft, but considered hard to sign. Austin is in the top 200 at 153, so it is not like he is without talent himself.

Round 8 – Dace Kime – Defiance HS, OH – A right handed pitcher from yet another high school. He is committed to Louisville. We will see how many of these guys the Pirates are really ready to throw money at to get them into the system. I am thinking that Kime may not be one of those players, especially if those in the rounds ahead of him sign.

Round 9 – Brandon Crumpton – Georgia Tech (Jr) – It appears the Pirates value right handed pitching. Not to mention youth. This guy can go back to school if he thinks he can get more money next year.

Round 10 – Zachary Weiss – Northwood HS, CA – Guess what? A right handed pitcher and again from High School. Again, I think this is one that the Pirates can go too if the others guys do not work out, but the top guys sign, I don’t think they will give Weiss a chance.

Round 11 – Daniel Grovatt – Univeristy of Virginia (Jr) – This is a left handed left fielder. This is a guy that I think the Pirates will sign. He gives them another left hander and outfielder. He hit .289 with a .385 OBP. He hit 8 homers, but was second on the team with 56 RBIs.

Round 12 – Vincent Payne – Cypress College – A junior college guy who is a right handed pitcher. Probably signable, but not in the same category as the higher pitchers on this list.

Round 13 – Christopher Kirsch – Marple Newton HS, PA – Surprise a LEFT handed highschool pitcher. This guy apparently was a late riser, but is probably a steal at the 13th round. A prospect and a project, but he has the tools.

Round 14 – Bryce Weidman – Southwestern Community College – A right handed pitcher. This guy is probably one that can be passed over. But we will see what the cards have in store.

Round 15 – Andrew Maggi (SO)– Arizona State – He is a shortstop. Right hander. The first infielder taken by the Pirates in this years draft. .343 Avg and a .430 OBP. No real power, but at short that is not a big deal. 34 of 42 in stolen base attempts. That shows great speed. Only a .961 fielding percentage is something worry about. He might not be a big league short stop and need to move to second or something. Still I like this pick. He can go back to college.

Round 16 – Matthew Curry – Texas Christian (sr) – A left handed hitter, right handed throwing firstbaseman. As a senior this guy will sign.

Round 17 – Ryan Hafner – Lee’s Summit HS, MO – A right handed prep pitcher to the Pirates. Kind of boring by now.

Round 18 - Chase Wentz – Louisiana State Shrevport (jr) – An outfielder that can probably play any of the positions.

Round 19 – Kent Emmanuel – Woodstock HS, GA – a LEFT handed prep pitcher. The Pirates are changing it up on us now.

This is where the draft stood at the time of posting. I think the Pirates probably will plan to throw a lot of money at Allie until he signs. Kingham, Hursh, and Kibutza will probably also get large chunks of change. If those four sign do not expect a lot of other action. I do think they will not have a hard time signing Waldron, whose last year at college was a disaster. I don’t think he will risk going back. The Pirates will sign Rojas. They will give him what he needs. Obviously the seniors they draft will sign. I would like to see them make a run at guys like Maggi, but it will depend at that point on the budget. Guys like Kirsch will get more money and better offers if Kingham and Hursh or Kibutza refuse to sign. It will be interesting to watch the Pirates try to sign some of these guys.

If the Pirates sign their top 3 picks and then at least 2 of the next 4, this draft will be a success. Of course the goal is to get all of the top 10, but this year that might be a stretch.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Draft Round 1

This is not the day of down in the mouth look at a bad loss and how below .500 we are. Today is the hope of the future. That hope is . . . Jameson Tallion.

Tallion a right handed pitcher from Texas with a high 90's fastball, and staying power. Leaves the fastball up a little too much, and that will be most of his work in the minors. Great curve and change make the fastball even better. He is high quality. Picking him shows that the Pirates are really looking to get the best player in the draft. He was rated number 2 by most people behind the already drafted Bryce Harper. The need for the Pirates is not pitching, as they are knee deep in prospects at pitching. The need was at short where another high school kid sat ranked third. I like the pick of Tallion. He can be great and maybe even faster than most. He is ace talent stuff. Good pick. Expect to see him signed as the Pirates will have money to throw him. As Tim Williams from Bucco Fans points out, they do not need to sign for organizational depth. They are going to sign for prospects. I also think that they do not have a Comp A round pick, which will save them a little money.

Here is a list of guys to watch for tomorrow as the Pirates will try to steal more by going over slot signing bonuses.

A good loss and a bad loss

The Pirates played a 10 inning game last night (June 6), and ended up lossing, but it was a good game. The Pirates managed to foil Tim Lincecum, and tie the game over and over again. Whether it was Garrett Jones hitting a two run homer, a Ryan Doumit RBI, or a late inning pinch hit homerun by Dwelven Young, the Pirates scored when they needed it. Even in the bottom of the 10th they had two on with one out. It was a good loss.

Compare that with today and the bad 6-1 loss to the Cubs. The Cubs have been our whipping boy all year, but we had to face their ace today with new guy Dana Eveland. Eveland was in trouble all day, but did not get hurt real bad. Yet, the offense was non existent. This shows the current impact of Ryan Doumit. Without Doumit Jones has no one in front of him and no one behind him. Jarmillo is an easy out (although his sac fly is the only RBI of the game). McCutchen had a triple and got stranded. Walker got stranded on a double. I understand the need to rest the catcher after a night game and before a MLB feature game against Strassbourg, not to mention the fact that teams are beginnig to figure out they can run all over Doumit. But, they ran on Jarmillo too, and he can't hit a lick. Crosby played third, and Young got a start in the outfield, but that line up just does not hold a candle to the one that includes Doumit.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Lineup that produces . . . with mustashes

The Pirates won a big game tonight against the Giants 6-3. Malholm pitched great, as did Meek and Hanrahan. "Doh"tel got the job done, but allowed a run and walked 2. But what I really liked about this game was the line up.

McCutchen led of and went 4 for 5 with a homerun. He hit the first pitch of the game for a double and that set the tone. He scored three times.

Walker was second and he went 2 for 3 with a walk and an RBI, which came on a triple scoring McCutchen.

Doumit was 2 for 3 with a two run homerun and 4 RBIs. He really benefited from having someone behind him in the lineup I think.

Jones was next, playing first base, and he only managed a 1 for 4 night. But having this RBI machine behind Doumit was a boost.

Dwelven Young was playing right field and he hit 5th. Young was 2 for 4. He is partly to blame for Jones not getting a lot of good pitches to hit because they were willing to challenge Young. He was up for it tonight. Outfield is where he belongs as well.

LaRoche was next and he went 0 for 4. The Pirates are not perfect. They have holes.

Milledge was next and in left. He was 1 for 3 with a walk.

Cedano hit 8th and was 0 for 3 with a walk.

The bottom of the order did not produce any runs, and they probably usually won't. Still if Young can hit and Milledge will get streaky they can eek out a few. What I like is that it removed a weak link by putting Jones at first. It also put all of the good hitters right next to each other. What is the point of having LaRoche hit third other than to put an out after Walker and McCutchen who are starting to look like magic together. And Doumit at 6th is crazy. The guy is the vet leader and can get RBIs even if they have to come as sac flies like he did in the 1st Inning. Put them all together and do as much damage as you can. It was enough tonight.

Friday, June 4, 2010

That was frustrating

Waiting out another rain delay was miserable enough. Then watching the Pirates blow a four run lead and be unable to score except in one inning was terrible. Duke was cruising until the 5th. The Pirates made the Giants pay badly for an extra out in the second or third (my memory fails me right now). Duke reached on an error that pushed across the first run. Then McCutchen doubled to plate two more. McCutchen's speed got him home on a single by Walker. Sadly that was it for the Pirates. Duke gave up a two out solo home run in the 5th, and then a two run home run in the 6th and then another two run homerun with two outs in the 6th. That was it. 6-4 Giants. Ryan Doumit tried for some late inning heroics, but his line drive was snagged out of the air on a great play, which took away at double at least. Doumit was leading off, so it would have been the start of something good.

The good news in the game was Walker's defense. He made a great play in the seventh on an over the shoulder catch and started a couple of double plays at second. He looks good in the field and behind the plate.

The other good news is that yesterday Brad Lincoln threw seven innings of shut out baseball. Alderson threw 5 innings of one run baseball, and Tabata and Alvarez each hit a triple. Why these guys are not getting promoted is starting to frustrate me.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dana Eveland

So the Pirates made a trade the other day. They picked up a washed up Blue Jay pitcher, Dana Eveland. The price was Double A relief pitcher Ronald Uveido. Uveido was put on the 40 man this off season, but I was never as high on this kid as the Pirates were, so I am not so devestated by this move. Uviedo probably would have made the majors as a bullpen guy. Nice fast ball, strike out pitcher, but fly ball pitcher. Still, he is a major league bull pen guy.

I don't have a problem with this trade as far as the personel. I think Eveland is going to be worth more than Uviedo. We have plenty of bullpen talent such as Moskos or Foster. And this year proves that spending some money on the bullpen can make it good in any year. Still, what worries me about this deal is that it seems to be saying Lincoln will not be up until July at least. Lincoln needs to be in the majors.

The only bright spot is that we currently have two holes in the rotation. Morton and Burres. I kind of hope Karstens gets one, and Lincoln should get the other. However, if Eveland gets one and Lincoln the other I will be happy enough. Let us see how this guy does before we get to bent out of shape about it.