Thursday, September 30, 2010

A strange game (34-60)

Zack Duke made the case for letting him walk in the off season. He gave up 8 runs on 8 hits, although a few of those were unearned. Alvarez botched a couple of plays and Cedano made an error just to try and stay ahead of Alvarez in the race for worst defensive player on the team. He currently leads with 17 errors although Alvarez is hot on his heels with 16. Yet the Pirates scored 9. If the bullpen could have held. But it didn't. Martinez gave up two and Karsten gave up 1 himself as he shook the rust off. The Marlins win 11-9. The Pirate bats did not wake up until the 7th.

Oddly enough I feel real encouraged after this game. Duke was a disaster who was left out on the mound for far too long. But he will be gone and maybe JR will go with him. Or at least they will get a permanent pitching coach who will know how to handle a staff. McCutchen went hitless, but that does not bother me. McCutchen is solid, we know that. Tabata had multiple hits, Walker had two himself, one of which was a double down the line to score Tabata. The only early production. But we saw Pedro Alvarez get four hits and five RBIs including a three run blast in the 9th. We saw Bowker get a hit and play a little first again. Interesting. We saw Ciriaco get a pinch hit for a .600 average on the year. Diaz saw some time at short. Presley got a little time too, but no hits. But even better was seeing Brad Lincoln get an inning of work. He struck out the side. Three strike outs, no hits. A perfect inning. Good to see Brad get a good inning under his belt.

The Pirates of the future played pretty well. The Pirates of the past cost them the game, but in this season, I can live with that.

Matt Walbeck fired from Altoona (34-59)

The Pirates start their last game with the news that the League Champion Altoona Curve's manager, who was named manager of the year, was fired. Kind of strange. But probably a good move.

1. No reason to doubt that the reason given is a legitimate reason. Walbeck wanted to move up into AAA. Hard to blame him. Probably deserves it. But, this crop coming to AAA is the future of the franchise. If they don't pan out then Hunington is done and the Pirates are toast for another 10 years. Development is always better when you get a new set of eyes, a new voice. That is the point of having a different manager every year in the minors as you move up. So, no spot for him in AAA, so why not just part ways and let the man get the job he wants elsewhere.

2. I think that Walbeck probably deserves some criticism. Sure the Curve won. They should have with that rotation and that infield. Yet, the best hitting prospect on the team struggled all year in Chase D'Arnaud. Not exactly something you want to hang your hat on in the minors. You judge minor league managers by talent development. I think there is room for criticism here. D'Arnaud's set back. Do we even need to speak of Tim Alderson. He was a big time piece of the puzzle that had to be sent down to High A. Yikes. Those are two serious prospects (or at least used to be) that fell flat under Walbeck's watch. Now take a look at the prospects that got pushed up to AAA. Michael Crotta was lights out at AA, but only so-so at AAA. Does that mean he was not ready? Maybe. Maybe that is just his talent level. What about Daniel Moskos, another big name talent. Moskos was in his first year of bullpen duty, but had pitched at AAA last year. Moskos fell flat at AAA, and actually had to be sent back down to AA. Only Presley, who was a fringe prospect at best had any success in making the jump. Some of that blame has to fall on the manager.

3. I think the Pirates were already suspicious of Walbeck. Think back on the season and think about how many Pirate Prospects at High A were ready for the jump to AA, but never made it. Sanchez was ready, but went no where, and then took a pitch to the face. It was claimed that Hector Gimenez was having such a great season that there was no where to put Sanchez. It is true Gimenez had a great season, but he is a journeyman minor leaguer. Sanchez is last year's number 1 pick. You make room. Sterling Marte was ready before and then again after his hand injury. Yet, he too never made the jump. Marte was a consensus top 5 prospect in the system, and has to be added to the 40 Roster this year, but he has never even seen AA play. He is another guy you make room for, but they did not. They also did not promote Jeff Locke until the very end of the season.

So, I think the Pirates have been planning this move for a while.

As for last night's game it was an ugly loss. James McDonald continues to be impressive as he struck out 7 in 6 with only 1 run allowed. The Pirates lost anyway. Chan Ho gave up two and Martinez another. A late tally for the Pirates was pointless, and that is it for McDonald this year. He looks good for next year, but the Pirates cannot have the offense disappear like that and compete for the playoffs or even .500 next year.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Good News Number 1 overall pick is ours!(34-58)

The Pirates are now the proud owners of the number 1 overall pick. We can now rest players like Doumit and Cedano who were so crucial to us getting this pick. I look forward to seeing some young bats.

Seriously, some good news is welcome, and adding a bat like Anthony Rendon, who could arrive in Pittsburgh in 2014, will help the team. However, we cannot over look how well the Pirates have played recently. They have won 3 straight series, and are now in a position to win another thanks to a big night from Garrett Jones. Jones two run shot early in the game gave the Pirates a 3-0 lead for Burres. Burres did just enough to hold on until John Bowker came through with a bases loaded extra base hit. The Pirates rebounded from last night's embarrassing meltdown by Charlie Morton (surprise!). Morton gave up two leads and ruined a night where Alvarez was a triple shy of the cycle.

This is a look into next year, and the view is nice. Walker is hitting, Tabata is hitting, McCutchen is hitting, and Alvarez is hitting bombs. That is enough to give the Pirates a 8-3 record over their last 11 games. Jones hit today, and Bowker is shwoing signs of making a case for being the platoon mate of Milledge in 2011, but the main lifting has been done by the top of line up. If the Pirates can get better pitching next year, and hitting like this from Alvarez on a more consistent basis, they ought to be fighting for a Wild Card spot next year. Managment has indicated they are going to look for free agent pitching, and Lord willing they are done with Morton, so half of that above equation should be coming true.

Here is hoping that we can ruin the Cards and take this series as well.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Nightmare (31-56)

The Pirates won on Wed, but lost in the afternoon game today. The bad news first. The win was tossed by Charlie Morton. Yup. Morton won his second after throwing 6 innings of 2 run baseball. That is not good. Nothing is worse than a Charlie Morton showing signs of not being the worst pitcher in baseball. If he makes the rotation next year, it will set the franchise back several years. Like it did this year. Morton has had a few not horrible outings in a row.

The loss today was an example of why the Pirates had such a bad year. Brian Burres went just 2.1 innings, and the game was over by then. Burres has had a few good wins lately, but he cannot sustain it. This is what happens with Burres, and why he is not a big league starter anywhere other than Pittsburgh.

The good news is that Pedro Alvarez is back on track. A day off always seems to reset his swing. He hit a big double and a homer in the win last night, and had a double that hit the top of the wall tonight for the Pirates first run. They only managed one more on a late inning sac fly by McCutchen.

In the end, this can be seen as reducing the magic number for the first overall pick to 5.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I am speechless . . . really. (30-55)

The Pirates have gone on a mini-run and are possibly going to cost themselves the first overall draft pick. Their sweep of the Diamondbacks gained a lot of ground against those same Diamondbacks. The Pirates continued their good fortune with a win today against the hated Cardinals. Thankfully the Diamondbacks won as well.

This streak has been on the backs of Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, and Jose Tabata. These guys have answered the bell, and shown that when they get half way decent pitching they are going to get you the runs you need to win. Tonight they got good pitching from Malholm and he got a 5-2 win. Tabata got a big two run triple (scoring McCutchen). Tabata scored earlier on a base hit by Pedro Alvarez (good to see him getting RBI hits). And Walker scored on a fielding error off the bat of John Bowker. The Diamondbacks got a good view of Walker when he hit a walk off two run homerun that followed an RBI ground out by Tabata. Meek got a save tonight and one against the Diamondbacks. Those guys are playing good baseball right now.

Another reason this streak is going on is the fact that Jones and Milledge have been hurt. This has given Bowker a chance to play. Bowker has played both first and right field, which also has given Doumit room in the outfield and Synder behind the plate. Synder delivered at least one great game with three hits. Bowker knocked his first Pirate homerun and showed some good defense in both positions. I like him as the back up outfielder next year with Jones platooning at first. Add Synder behin the plate and the Pirates a team with a lot more power.

I have to admit I am enjoying the winning streak. I hope it continues just not so much that we miss out on the number one overall pick.

I still think JR is not using these prospects enough. I want to see the guys at short, I want to see Presley more, and I want to see Brad Lincoln.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Prospect Rankings

Since the minor league season is over, I thought I would post my Top 50 Pirate Prospects. It is hard to get a clear picture on a lot of the guys picked this year. And I put a slightly higher premium on producing at higher levels than some rankers do. Also, for me to get this list out, I had been working on it for a while so the stats are from about the end of August, not the end of the season. It should be noted as well that some of these are close enough to be interchangable. I also think that at about prospect 37 one can see that the rankings are more hope than projection. A lot of those lower guys may never come close to the majors. Some though are hopeful risers through the rankings.

Prospect Rankings:
1. Jameson Tallion. Taillon has plus pitches already. Not potential, but already. High 90’s, great curve. Slider. Knows a change up, but that is probably the pitch that will get the most work. Staff Ace, almost sure fire all star. Just needs to avoid arm problems. West Virginia will be worth seeing play baseball next year. Maybe a hotter ticket than the Pirates.
2. Rudy Owens – why Rudy Owens so high? Well,7.5 K/9 and more importantly 1.4 BB/9. That is the best of all pitching prospects in the system. Also 47% ground ball rate is good. And he did it all at AA. No lower competition in these numbers.
3. Stetson Allie. The only question with this guy is if he can be a starter. I see no reason why not. He can reach 100 mph, and I think his control on those pitches will come. His other stuff is already good, and that makes him a potential staff ace.
4. Sterling Marte. Marte was poised for a promotion before the injury to his hand. He suffered a rehab set back to lose more time, but still came back with the same level of good hitting (.333 AVG and .877 OPS), and good fielding. I think Marte has answered any questions about being able to compete at the higher levels. Still could develop some power, and thus looks to be a future starting outfielder for the Pirates. Can play any position in the outfield.
5. Tony Sanchez. A real shame that he got hit in the face and missed so much time. He gets beaned a lot. His defense is good. His bat continues to be better than had hoped for (.314 AVG and .870 OPS). He hits more line drives than I thought. About a 25% clip. I am starting to be a believer in Sanchez. However, he is not a world changing prospect. I think he is over rated by those who put him in the top two or three.
6. Jeff Locke. 8.5 K/9 and a 1.5 BB/9 along with 43% ground ball rate is great. Throw in the promotion in the middle of the year to AA without missing a beat, and I am a believer. I think Locke is a key move by Hunington in the unofficial project 2012. By 2012 the Pirates will have a new pitching staff, and Locke will be a part of it.
7. Chase D’Arnaud. A rough year for his average, but he got better as the year went on. Part of the reason he has dropped a little. Still, he hits lots of doubles (32), which is a good thing. Power potential. Probably will have to play second at the big leagues. He is only 23.
8. Colton Cain – why Cain this high? He is 19 and has an 8.35 k/9 and a 1.06 WHIP. That is really good. Sure he walked three guys for every 9 innings, but that is something that should improve with age. I am ready for him to get a shot at a full season. Seems early injury troubles did not slow him down.
9. Zack Von Rosenburg. He does not have the K’s Cain has, but much better control. Only a 1.94 BB/9 and a 44% ground ball rate to boot. He might start next year at A+, especially since one has to think Allie and Taillon are going to start at West Virginia (A). If he stays at WV can you imagine the starting rotation (Taillon, Allie, ZVR, and Cain). Wow.
10. Andrew Lambo. What a steal the Pirates got here. An outfielder who is still very young and hitting great. Signs of power at the AA level. Might even be higher, but a history of substance abuse has me worried. The next suspension would break his career. Hope the Pirates can find a place for this guy in their line up.
11. Jordy Mercer. I am not sure why everyone over looks Jordy. Better defense than Chase, and higher average this year as well (.279). High double count, and history of good RBI production. About a 20% line drive rate. Add to that the fact that he can play 3B, 2B, and SS, and you have a highly valued prospect.
12. Luis Heredia. The hype is there, but I cannot put him above some of the guys that are producing at AA level. I hope he lives up to it, but before this 16 year old throws a professional pitch, I cannot put him in the top 10. But over 90 MPH as a 16 year old is great news for the Pirates. Expect to see him GCL next year.
13. Bryan Morris. Okay Morris had a good year, but I am not sold. He has more bad ones than good ones and he should have dominated A+ at his age considering it was not his first time in it. Most people have him in the top 10. I hope that his new mechanics have made him that much better, but he has a history of attitude problems as well. He needs more than one good year to jump up to the top 10. If he does it next year at AAA, then the Pirates have just won the Jason Bay trade.
14. Nick Kingham. Okay, here is where I put him. Projects as at least a 3rd starter. Maybe higher. His first taste of pitching at Rookie league looked good. Strikeouts, no runs, multiple innings. He should be in the top 15 of the Pirates Prospects.
15. Brock Holt. Holt was on fire before his injury. Plus, this was all done at the A+ level. I did not expect him to jump to that level this year, but he showed he was up for he challenge. .354 AVG and .848 OPS in just about 200 ABs. I like Holt. Hope he comes back from the knee okay.
16. Daniel Moskos. I know that this might be high for him, but I think his stats were pretty good. He killed at AA, but struggled a little in AAA. Still 8.8 K/9 is good, and real good for a closer. Sure his walks were too high, but part of that was his struggle at AAA. He has the stuff to be a closer. Remember that this is his first year in the pen in the minors. Not a bad first year.
17. Mel Rojas Jr. Next year will be the year to see how good this kid can be. He has swoons right now, but it is the longest year of his career when you add in the full college season, so some of that should be expected. I want to see this guy over a full professional season. He has all the tools. Only 19.
18. Victor Black – this guy is still good. He had 4.2 innings this year, but still struck out 8 guys. He was hurt in training camp, got hurt again quick. Some of his bad stats are surely related to that injury. He misses an important year, but don’t forget this guy. At worst a very hard throwing closer.
19. Nathan Adcock. 7 K/9 and 49% ground ball rate. Looks good to me. He did this at A+, which makes me ranking him higher than some similar pitchers in the system like Miller, Lorin, and Irwin. Can he do it again next year at a higher level? I sure hope so.
20. Josh Harrison – again he had a real disappointing year last year. I want to see him do it again before I really get excited about him. He was weak after the trade last year, but this year is a different story. I expect him in AAA next year. If he could play short stop rather than just 3B and 2B, it would raise his value.
21. John Bowker. Some power at the AAA level. I like him. But not a lot because he has not been able to show the same stuff at the majors. I think it says good things about the Pirate farm system that he is outside of the top 20. He is out of options, so he has to be a back up at the majors this year. I think his power would follow him to the majors if he got the time, but there in lies the real problem.
22. Michael Dubee – good year and at AAA. It will be interesting to see if he makes the 40 man roster. He was formerly a highly regarded guy. He may have earned that back this year.
23. Quintin Miller. Some injuries slowed him this year. 5.5 K/9 is low, but he gives up a very small number of homers, and a 50% ground ball rate makes me think he has the potential to be a reliable back end starter.
24. Eric Avila. I like this kid. .277 Avg is good, but look at his power potential. He had 7 HRs and 14 doubles in rookie ball. Had good power numbers last year in Dominican too. Still young so this ought to increase.
25. Brett Lorin. An injury plagued year makes it hard to place him. Nothing above A ball, so that hurts his ranking too. 8 K/9 is solid. He could be good.
26. Tyler Waldron. Not sure if he is going to be able to stay a starter, but has convinced me to give him a shot. So his low end is hard throwing bullpen guy. I’ll take it.
27. Justin Wilson. Almost 8 K/9, but also near 4 BB/9. 50% ground ball rate makes up for it a little. 22 and in AA. He has to control his walks. But if he can get that under control, he can pitch at the big league level.
28. Robbie Grossman – yes this is a big fall in my rankings for Robbie. He did move up in competition, but he continues to swoon in the middle of the season. He was awful in May and June, but has hit .275 in July and August. His inability to hit on the road is a problem. Lots of walks, but tons of strikeouts. That did decrease some this year. Still young, but he is getting passed by with the other great prospects coming into the Pirate system.
29. Matt Curry. He hit well in State College. He could use more power since he is playing first base, but right now is the best first base prospect in the system.
30. Jared Lakind. I know, I know. This one is mostly hype. But he has potential on the mound or at the plate. That makes him worthy of this list.
31. Brooks Pounders – this guy has a 6.34 K/9 and a 2.5 BB/9 at the age of 19. Still he gives up one homer per 9 innings. That lowers him.
32. Nathan Baker. A decent strike out rate at 6.4 K/9. A 2.2 BB/9 is okay, but it was in A and A+ competition, so he is not going to be as high as say Justin Wilson who is the same age. 44% ground ball rate is not bad.
33. Trent Stevenson. I have to say I am little disappointed in Stevenson. He was drafted last year with the rest of the young guns, but Stevenson is older than they are. I was hoping he would show that age at these low levels with strong performances. So might be graded low because of my disappointment.
34. Philip Irwin. Age keeps him down. 23 ought to be good in A ball. Still a 8.3 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 is nice. 48% groundball looks real good. He should move up in the system. Next year in High A ought to be very telling. UPDATE: Promoted to a A+ at the end of the season. Too late to factor into ranking.
35. Zack Dodson. 6.5 K/9 is not so bad for this 20 year old in A-. I had higher hopes. His walks are also too high. But he does not give up the long ball and is a 92-93 MPH guy. I still think he has potential to be a back end starter.
36. Drew Maggi. This might be a little low for Drew. He has not had a lot of big league at bats. His defense ought to be up to snuff, but I am more worried than the Pirates about his offense. Still, if he finds a decent bat, this guy could be a starting short stop for the Pirates. His ranking should show I am skeptical of starting abilities for him.
37. Alex Presley. This guy had a great year. But he will be left off the 40 man roster again and it is hard to argue against it. Log jam at his position, and without real power (12 HRs), he does not have a great case despite the excellent year.
38. Evan Chambers. A bit of a disappointing year for Evan. Good power projection with 20 doubles and 13 HRs, but a .240 AVG is a killer especially with the high outfield talent in the Pirate system. It is not too late for him to come on and rise in these rankings.
39. Justin Howard. No power numbers hurt this kid. First base is a power position. Still cannot ignore his .341 AVG. It will be easier to place Howard after he sees some tough competition. Rookie league was clearly to low for him, but other guys stand above him. Maybe next year at WV would make the difference.
40. Jarek Cunningham. I am not as high on this guy as some. Great power numbers with 32 doubles and 12 HRs, but his average is far too low. Only musters a .763 OPS. Not sure he can stay as a shortstop defensively either.
41. Donald Veal. Yes, I dropped him because of his injury mostly. Plus 4 BB/9 is way to high for a guy in AAA with a taste of the majors previously. A bad sign for his future in my opinion.
42. Michael Crotta. A great year for Michael. I don’t think his stats support him being a starter. Not enough velocity. But, this guy might be a plug in the bullpen. A long relief guy capable of making an emergency spot start.
43. Tony Watson. He missed some time last year because of an injury. This is a good comback year. His age is going to hurt him. I still could see him making the bullpen one day. 8.6 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9. That could do the trick in the pen.
44. Diego Moreno. A strike out machine. 15 k/9 with only 1.5 BB/9 and a .70 WHIP. Look out bullpen this guy is a shoe in. Why not higher? Well, AA proved a bit much for him. I need to see success at that level for this 24 year old guy.
45. Adalbeto Santos. Nice year, but where is he going to play defensively? He is small and already displaced in the infield and taking some outfield starts. If his bat stays good, he could be a good prospect, but he has yet to face pitching that includes a lot more than fastball location.
46. Tim Alderson. He is 21 so I won’t throw him under the bus yet. But this kid’s psyche looks ruined. Biggest disappointment in the minor league system.
47. Calvin Anderson. I thought he would be higher, but he collapsed in July. Never recovered.
48. Matt Hague. Not enough power for first base. 25 and at AA. Still hit enough to make this list.
49. Junior Sosa. A 20 year old who hit above .300 most of the year (.296 on August 28). Not showing power potential, but was 20 out of 26 in stolen base attempts. Some one to keep your eye on as he progresses through the system. Should gain a better eye with more experience.
50. Zachary Foster. I still like this kid. He is 23 in A ball, but he struck out 41 in 57 innings. Still 20 walks is a bit bad. And you cannot rank bullpen guys all that high. 5 saves and 2 holds. Finished 20 games.

Some people who are not on this list, but still could find their way on are Aaron Pribonic (strike out rate way too low), Brandon Crompton (This kid came in a pitched really well in his limited pro time but want to see more of him before I get too excited), Quincy Latimore (nice power, but his average is uninspiring), Gorkys Hernandez (this kid is running out of time), Kyle McPherson (great year, but is it for real?), Erik Fryer (good stats at catcher but 25 and in A+ lowers that some), Exicardo Cayonez (high potential, needs plate discipline), Jared Hughes (walk rate is too high. Strike out rate is okay at 6 K/9, but homer rate is a bit elevated. For a guy with 55% ground ball rate it is worrisome so many left the yard), Vincent Payne (drafted this year and had decent beginning), Jeremy Farrel (.868 OPS), Aaron Baker (18 HRs), and Kevin Decker (okay probably not, but he is a Southern Conference man, and I will give him homer attention!).

All in all you can see the Pirates are loaded on pitchers and short on hitters. Still the Pirates look much better this year in the minors than last year. A rash of injuries stopped a few guys from really filling up the stat sheet. I also think we are beginning to see the impact of the Pirates investing in Latin America. The signing of Heredia, the continued improvement of Marte, and good years for Avila and Sosa make the Pirates a deeper organization.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Come on! (26-53)

The Pirates were humiliated last night ending a string of hopeful games. Zack Duke did his best Charlie Morton for the second start in a row. Duke gave up one run in the first, and got out of trouble to keep it that way. He gave up two in the second, but was almost out of trouble (two outs bases loaded single), and then in the third gave up another. In the fourth, he was lifted after only one out. The Mets hung at least three on him in that inning. I stopped watching after that for a while. It should have only been a two run base hit, but Doumit dropped the ball in right while trying to throw. Another horrible example of Doumit in the field. The Pirates only hope of dumping him is in the American League where he can DH.

What was even more frustrating in a situation clearly calling for Brad Lincoln, JR instead chooses to go with five different pitchers. He should have pinch hit for Duke in the third, but failed to do so. If he had lifted Duke for Lincoln, the Pirates might have stayed in the game. Instead, it turned into a night to see the young guys. JR did the right thing and lifted Walker, Tabata, and McCutchen. Some other guys got a look. Cedano also gave way to Diaz, but Lincoln was no where to be found.

Instead, we got to Joe Martinez, who gave up a run in 1.1. We saw Stephen Jackson, who has no future on the team. Gallagher, who pitched a good inning. We saw Daniel McCutchen, who is looking good for a bullpen spot next year. We also got a look at the newest Pirates, recently claimed from the Marlins. He pitched a scoreless inning as well. But no where did we see Lincoln. I don't get it. Someone help me understand.

Brad Lincoln is on this team right? (26-52)

First, I think we should all stop and appreciate what an asset James McDonald is going to be. I am not sure how comfortable I am in his lower velocity (93 instead of 96), but he did go deep into the game and did not give up any runs. It cuts his strike outs in half. Still, a great performance by McDonald. The offense was shut down, but that is not unusual.

The not-so-good goes again to JR. Why does he put in Chan Ho Park? Park is not good at this point in his career. Park had just pitched last night, and Brad Lincoln is sitting in the pen rotting. Lincoln not only can throw many, many innings, but was hittings something like .300 in his brief major league career saving pinch hitters. Yet, JR goes to Park, and the game is soon over. Pirates lose their 3rd extra inning game in the last 4 games. That says the Pirates are close, but not there yet.

The problem for JR is that he may be the reason they are not there. In the top half of the 10th, Andrew McCutchen hits a double. Just what you expect from your super star. Tabata, who is hitting .307, is next. They try to bunt McCutchen over. Now, some think bunting itself was silly. It is hard to argue that with your two best hitters and then your two biggest power threats coming up, bunting seems unneccessary. A base hit scores McCutchen. Even if they gun down McCutchen at home, it ends up with a runner on second and one out, as Tabata has the speed to take second on a throw home. But, since I am usually a fan of the bunt, I don't think it is a completely boneheaded call. A runner on third and one out ought to be automatic run scored. But, Tabata failed and McCutchen is thrown out at third. Basically that ended the threat. Even if we say the bunt is the right call, whose fault is it that a bunt cannot be executed well. JR's of course. If this were the only stupid fundamental the Pirates screwed up all year, maybe you could write it off as a fluke, but it is not. JR does not have this team mentally ready to play.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A nice weekend (26-51)

The Pirates just played a very solid series against the Central Leading NL Reds. They very nearly swept the Reds. Two of the three games went into extra innings, and the Reds won both of those games. The Pirates pulled a ninth inning come back to win the third game. Right now that is the difference between the two ball clubs. And even more impressive is that these games were in Cincy.

The Pirates blew one game, came back and sent the second won into extras, and came back and won the third. The Pirates win was the future of the team. McCutchen’s double with two outs gave the Pirates the lead. In the game before that the Pirates had come close on a double steal with Tabata and McCutchen after those two guys knocked out the closer. Dusty Baker went to Chapman, the 100 MPH rookier hurler. Neil Walker took him back up the middle and the Pirates had innings.

The only problem was again the managing. Yes, some late inning steals in a couple of those games looked beautiful, but it makes you wonder why JR does not run more with Tabata and McCutchen. What was really strange was that in both of the extra inning loses, he kept going with his short inning bullpen guys. He had Brad Lincoln in the pen. A guy ready to go, needing work, and capable of long inning counts. Yet, instead, JR went with nothing but short men, and each time it cost him. You just wonder why they did not go give the ball to Lincoln.

Overall it was an encouraging series for the Pirates. We will see how they build on it versus the lesser competition of the Mets and the better starting pitcher in James McDonald.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Back to normal (25-49)

Zack Duke ended the string of good pitching. This is why he needs to be let go at the end of the year. He is just not good. One inning was all he could manage. His line would have been much worse but Daniel McCutchen got out of a 1 out basese loaded jam for him. Then McCutchen exploded in the next inning, and Sean Gallagher got his shot. In the end 8 pitchers would take the hill. Sad.

But it is not like the Pirates offense was bad, they just couldn't score. How do you get 12 hits in a game and score only 3 runs. Alvarez is hot again with 3 hits in this game. Andrew McCutchen had multiple hits. Tabata chipped in one as did Neil Walker who extended his hit streak to 15. Pedro Ciriarco got his first making everyone wonder why Ronny Cedano is still starting. Alex Presley got a hit, which made you feel bad that there is no room for him on the team, Brandon Moss got one making everyone fear he will get some starts, and now it is time to wait and see what happens with the rest of these guys in the future.

Making matters worse Bradenton lost Game 2 of its play off series (1-1). Altoona dropped Game 1 of theirs.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A series victory (25-48)

Wow. The Pirates looked real good tonight. James McDonald brings a weapon that the Pirates have been missing. Real good pitching. His strike out rate was down, but he got through 7 with a little over 100 pitches. No runs allowed is the most important stat. He was in a real jam in the 6th with the bases loaded and one out, but he got the 5-4-3 double play. Neil Walker has a fourteen game hitting streak. Garrett Jones got two hits, and Pedro Alvarez picked up the Game Winning RBI with a nasty double. Dwelvyn Young hit a monster blast pinch hitting and the Pirates five run 7th inning was enough to get the win.

The main concern on the night was coaching again. I think JR got lucky sending McDonald back out for the 7th inning. He was high in his pitch count and a perfect opportunity to pinch hit came up with one out in the bottom of the 6th. It paid off, but with a bevy of new arms in the bullpen why not go get one and use it. Also, I didn't like using Meek and Hanrahan in the 8th and 9th. These guys need to be the big arms next year, so don't tax them too much this year. With a five run lead, I would have gone with some of the new guys. Martinez, Bass, Jackson, or whomever. If it got tight, you could always still go get Meek and Hanrahan. I appreciate the win, but it is time to start factoring next year into the equation too.

Let us see if we can get the series sweep tomorrow. Hopefully a glimpse at some of the call ups too.

September Call Ups

I personally like what the Pirates did. They have called up just about everyone they could. They have some big decisions to make in the off season, so might as well get a look at everyone you can. And why not go ahead and start bullpen try out right now. Might save some innings on Meek and Hanrahan too.

Here are the call ups. Brad Lincoln, Justin Thomas, Brian Bass, and Steven Jackson as pitchers. Alex Presley, Brandon Moss, Jason Jarmillo, and Pedro Ciriaco for the field.

Now some spots had to be opened up as Moss, Presley, Jackson, and Ciriaco were not on the 40 Man roster. So, Ross Ohelendorf was moved to the 60 Day DL as was Jeff Clement. Then Aki Iwamura and Eric Kratz were Designated for Assignment.

Mostly I like it. I like the massive additions. Clearly Lincoln needs to get some more starts under his belt. Thomas gives you an extra lefty in the pen. Jackson and Bass can help out a pen, so they have a benefit. Jackson has seen action already, and Bass might could give you a post start, which seems to be something the Pirates might need as Karstens looks fragile.

Ciriaco needed to be called up as well since he will be competing for a spot on next year’s roster with Argentis Diaz. He does need to play. I hope we have seen the last of Cedano for the season. Let the kid play. Presley was a bit of a surprise. I figure he will go unprotected this summer, but it is a nice reward for a great season. I look forward to seeing what he can do. I hope this means we will see little to nothing of Milledge and maybe a few more off days for Tabata and McCutchen. Especially McCutchen, who maybe playing through some injuries. Jarmillo, I could take it or leave it. I personally like Kratz better, but it is what it is. Moss played well enough to get a shot as well. He could be a valuable trade piece if they let him see what he can do in the outfield again.

My complaints are small. I like Kratz better than Jarmillo, but Jarmillo is younger. Neither is a prospect so no real issue. Although I think cutting him now gives the Pirates a better chance at him clearing waivers than if they did it in teh winter. So he should still be in the Pirate system. The other is Aki Iwamura. Yes, we are dumping him in the off season anyway. But I feel a little like we paid 4 million for him to play AAA ball. I would have preferred him to get some time at second or third (resting Alvarez) just to get a little more return on the investment. I suppose I would have called him up and left Bass off the roster as he is not fighting for a job next year. I do see how it would have been difficult to find time for Aki other than pinch running, and Bass can be used. Still, it seems like such a waste.

Other than that, I am excited with the new additions to the Pirates. Don’t forget that Bowker and Martinez were already called up. Should be nice to see how they fit into the Pirate picture as well. Let the competition begin.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Spoiler Alert! (24-48)

The Pirates continue to confuse by playing great today and following up a couple of series losses to pathetic teams by beating the Leaders of the National League East Atlanta Braves 3 to 1. Make it even stranger Brian Burres, who stinks so bad out of the bullpen, won his third game this year (all starts) by throwing a quality start, six innings of one run baseball.

It started great. The Pirates leader, Andrew McCutchen got a lead off walk, stole second base, and took third when the Braves catcher threw it into center. Why the Pirates do not put more pressure on teams by running more with McCutchen and Tabata is beyond me. Tabata showed his worth by getting the RBI ground out and the Pirates were up one to zip. Burres gave up a run in the second, but did get out of the mess. Neil Walker followed up a Tabata hit with a two run blast to cap the scoring in the 6th, just in time to get Burres the decision. The Great Pen of the Pirates struck again with Resop holding down the 7th, Meek the 8th, and Hanrahan the 9th. This is the potential the Pirates have.

The problem is also laid bare in this. The bottom of the order was awful, and produced no runs. Alvarez had one hit. Doumit had a hit (and a walk), but they never get together to drive anyone in. Cedano continues to be a joke in the line up and problme of right field today turned out to be Dwelven Young. As long as the top three are the only ones doing anything, then the Pirates have to have quality starts. That has been rare. But today shows that if they get them, they can win even against good opponents. All three of the bullpen guys should be back next year, and the bullpen is good enough to close out most games.

Despite the problems still in the Pirate line-up, I am just going to celebrate a victory.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Charlie's faults (23-48)

I have missed a few games because of important reasons. But the Pirates won two games out of 6 against really bad opponents. The Cubs and Nats are food that real teams eat alive. The Pirates cannot even win a series against them. The good news is that Doumit's bat came alive, Walker is on a roll, and Alvarez makes the most of every hit and finally tonight broke his homer slump with number 11. The bad news is that McCutchen is still slumping and the Pirates are still incompetent at base running and defense. Milledge is a joke on both, and worse yet is the second start of Charlie Morton.

Morton showed tonight why he is unable to be a major league pitcher. Yes, he regularly just throws the game away in the first couple innings by giving up 8 to 10 runs. Tonight, he gave up one run in the first inning, but pitched okay for innings two and three. Rare for Charlie. But then things got tough in inning number 4 and Charlie folded like a lawn chair. An error made sure that four of the five runs he gave up in the fourth were unearned, but they are still Charlie's fault. He cannot handle anything going wrong. This is why he so often collapses in the first innings. If it is tough, Charlie cannot do it. This is why I think he would be awful in the bullpen. Tough situations destroy Charlie Morton. And worse yet tomorrow Brian Burres is starting. Does anyone other than me remember how good Daniel McCutchen was the last time he started? Why has managment given up on "Pitch and Cutch" and still trying to shoe horn Morton in, not to mention Brian Burres? The Pirates stand in real need of Brad Lincoln getting a call up.

The only real good news for the Pirates this past week is that two of their minor league teams are going to the playoffs. More on that in a different post.