Monday, August 29, 2011

Another bullpen melt down

Wandy Rodriguiz always pitches pretty good against us. He did so again tonight. He had a rough 3rd inning, but even that was not all that bad. Harrison got a hit. McCutchen hit a fly ball to right that in most ball parks is a pre-warning track out, but in Houston was a two-run homer. Walker got on and Doumit hit a double to score Walker, but even that was played poorly by their left fielder. I thought it was catchable, but even if it wasn't he played the ball off the wall so bad that it gave at least an extra base to Doumit and Walker. After that inning Wandy was solid.

Ross Ohlendorf went 5 pretty good innings. He allowed two runs and struck out six. Nice work. Then everyone gave up a run. Veras came in and the game was already tied, and Veras allowed Carlos Lee to hit a three run homer. Look, I am not trying to be one of those Veras-stinks guys, but his arm is dead now. He had a great season, and I would not complain too much if they brought him back next year. But this year I think the work load is showing.

Brandon Wood went 0 for 4 with 4 K's. d'Arnaud might have joined him if he had not been lifted. He was 0 for 3 with 3 K's. Put those two guys in front of the pitcher and that is three easy outs in a row.

The Pirates did add one in the ninth when Jones walked and Cedano tripled, but what good is losing by three.

It is starting to look like the losing streak is still alive. I hope to see some guys get some playing time in September call ups. The real good news is that Jameson Taillon dominated the other night striking out 9 with no walks and no runs.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It was over in the top of the 1st

It really was over in the top of the 1st. What was really frustrating is that you could tell. The Pirates got on quick. Tabata and Presely both were on with McCutchen up. Now McCutchen got an RBI base hit and the Pirates now had runners at the corners with no one out. These are not just any runners, but speedsters. A good fly out scores Presley. Heck, a double play scores Presley. But with Walker, Jones and Harrison up, the Pirates did not get a second run across much less a third or fourth. And you could tell right then and there that this game was over.
Karstens then held up his part of the loss by giving up three runs. He would give up five by the fourth. He was not himself. Either he is not really right or was worried he was not right from his shoulder cramp last outing. He got beat around. Chris Resop would give up two more in his whole one out performance. The Pirates did push across four runs, but it was over by the time they scored their second run.

Not that this whole game was bad. Chris Leroux was amazing for 2 and a third. Multiple strikeouts and he faced the best in the line up. Daniel McCutchen also was okay. He got the Pirates out of the jam made by Resop. Both guys are probably in next year's bullpen. McCutchen has shown it all year, and Leroux is making his case. Right now I have to say it is a case I am impressed with.

Josh Harrison had two hits, but did not get the big hit when he needed it. Presley had a hit and a walk. These young guys played okay. Really when the Pirates put up four runs that should be enough, but today it was not. Many of the at bats were just going through the motions so that the game does not last all day.

Anyway, we are just a couple of days away from expanding the rosters. I expect that at least by the end of the AAA season that we will see quite a few people back. I would imagine that Moskos would be back. I imagine that Ciriaco probably comes back too. I don't see a reason not to bring back Alvarez. I do believe that there is no reason to leave Gorkys down when the season is over. Meek is almost certainly ready to be back, and will probably try to get a few innings in. However, that will mean a 40 man roster move. The question is do you drop Aaron Thomson. Right now I think not. He is probably going to have to come back as well since Karstens might be hurt. I think that means either Fryer or Jarmillo gets the ax off the roster. Whoever stays will probably come up. I think those are the only 6 coming up. No addition of Hague, and no Morris.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Here's hoping for a brawl

The one thing the Pirates are missing is some swagger and anger. They did just take 2 of 4 from the Brewers, but they dropped the first to the Cards. Watson did the best thing I have seen all year . . . he threw behind Berkman. It was right after a homer and Tabata had already been beaned. It was really the first time all game where a retaliation pitch made sense. They were losing and now it was out of hand. Time to get even. The Pirates had let a lot of that go all year. No response for beanings and brush backs of McCutchen. No response to the breaking of Lee's hand. It is time to get angry about being treated this way.

Over all the Pirates got their young guys back, and it provides some hope. I am pretty excited about this part of the year. Presely and d'Arnaud ought to get a good look along with Harriston. Lincoln is now in the starting rotation. That is good. Ohlendorf is back and should get some work. That could be bad, but necessary. The Pirates are ready for a push to .500. We will see what comes of it.

I would be more confident if tonight we rumbled.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Playing Long Ball can be fun

The PIrates won today by playing long ball. A rare sight. Karstens pitched okay, but not great. Albert got him once, and a RBI double in the 6th put Karstens out of the game. The game was tied at that point. 3-3. So 3 runs in 5.1 is not bad nor good. Less than what Karstens has been doing, but it kept us in the game. The Pirates saw Hanrahan give up a go-ahead run in the 9th on a sac fly. Weird. However the Pirates tied the game on a Neil Walker long ball. This was the first time the Pirates had scored since the Andrew McCutchen long ball. Resop pitched the 11th inning cleanly and saw G.I. Jones hit a walk off homer. Unbelievable. Jones crushed the ball that one-hopped into the river.

The Pirates have not won very many of these close games, and it is nice to get one. Walk off wins are always good. Tabata is back, and that is nice to see. The Pirates can right this ship and get back over .500 now. It is far too late to get back in the race, but we ought to be able to end the streak. The Brewers won again tonight, so no ground gained. If we could have just won once in Wisconsin, this upcoming four game set would have been much more interesting, but it is not the Pirates year.

The Pirates go for the sweep tomorrow night. We have not had too many of those this year either, so it is an important step in the development of this club to get a sweep or two before the year is over.

Cole and Bell in a big day

The PIrates won by the way. Doumit's towering blast lifted the Pirates past the Cards. But nobody cares today because the Pirates have the best farm system in the majors . . . or at least are now in the argument. Mostly because of the draft signings, but let us not over look the great AAA debut of Jeff Locke. He was good through 5. Good to see.

Gerrit Cole signed a MINOR league deal, which is unbelievable. It is at least 8 and apparently has incentives of another 9 mil if he makes the pros by 2013. Cole is probably going to be the 2 overall prospect in the Pirate system, and is clearly a future number 1. You have to love a rotation of Cole and Taillon.

Josh Bell adds some much needed hitting to the Pirates organization. They were very weak in position prospects with power, and Bell has that. Power, average, athleticism. The short stop of the future is Josh Bell.

The PIrates also inked Clay Holmes yesterday. Holmes is a great pitching prospect who throws 91-93. He has work to be done, but is young and I expect he will start in State College next year. It is probably that Holmes might could make the Top 50 prospects.

Overall the Pirates did great. They added pitching over on top of pitching, and a couple of good bats with Bell and Dickerson. Cadnon Myles is a guy who looks like he could be a major leaguer as well. Great speed, no real power, but athleticism to spare. Also 37th round pick Rodderick Jones is hitting well in GCL. He looks like he might turn out to be a real prospect. Taylor Lewis is apparently Andrew McCutchen like in his speed and has shown so with his love of the triple. So, there are some guys who can really play in this draft. I like it.

Great day for the Pirates. Great one.

I admit it

I admit that I have not been blogging because of getting swept by the Brewers. It was depressing. Nothing like getting your draft picks in to cure that!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Season on the Line

This series with the Brewers cannot be understated. The season comes down to this. We need a sweep. A sweep would put us only 7 games out, a series victory 9 games, and a series loss would be the end.

The Pirates did stop their ugly ways with a series win against San Fransico. We avoided their best pitchers, but we still got the win. McCutchen appears to be out of his slump, and we are hitting a little better now. The bad news is that we pitched our three best pitchers, and now we are going in with Correia, who has been outright awful, Malholm, who is okay, and then Morton (I think). The first two guys have to show up big.

As for everything else, the Pirates are making great progress in signing prospects. I have heard 60% and no chance of signing Bell, but the Pirates have signed almost all of the top 10 picks, and getting them into games at the GCL. It appears they are offering good money to a couple of other guys, and I have great hope for the Pirates.

The VSL played in its 6th straight championship, but this time they lost. Still a good sign for the Pirates as the VSL is loaded with some real good looking prospects.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A brief reply to Charlie at SBNation

It is always dangerous to disagree with Charlie as his command of the facts and stats is always impressive. His posts are great. But this time, I have to disagree with his view of our farm system.

Charlie's argument is that the farm system is a disappointment this year. Our top prospects are not excelling and exceeding expectations. He gives some good examples by going through his top 10 prospects.
He is okay with Taillon, disappointed in Sanchez, okay with Heredia and Allie, fine with Marte, very disappointed in Owens and Morris, and just okay with Cain while disappointed in Von Rosenburg.

I felt this needs a bit of a rebuttal. I will use my list of top prospects.

We can agree that Taillon is doing fine. There was really no way he could have exceeded expectations.

I had Rudy Owens next, and we can agree that he has really struggled. But I think there is reason to hope he is coming out of it, but still, he has had a bad year.

Allie was third on my list and we all knew walks were going to be a problem with him. He has shown that impressive ability in many of his games. He is young enough that this is real good year considering he is facing college juniors and seniors.

Marte is my next prospect and he has had a great year. Continuing to hit well despite the injury last year and the new AA pitching. His defense also sparkles along with his throwing arm. This guy looks great.

Sanchez has dropped off. His power is gone and his consistent hitting gone. The most troubling thing is his defense is also not so good anymore. I mentioned how I still think he is overrated, and apparently I overrated him too.

Locke started slow, but has been coming out of it. He has not had a major blow up year like Owens, and if he continues on his current path his overall year will not look that bad. A bad start held him back, but he is back on track.

D'Arnaud made it to the big leagues and while not a world beater up there, he had a great AAA year. He was hitting about .290 when he was called up. In the bigs he added third base to his position total. No reason to say he had a bad year especially remembering his low average last year. This was an improvement.

Cain has had a great year. I would say he is exceeding expectations. He is not doing so well out of the pen, but he is a starter who is getting tired.

Von Rosenburg has had a bad year giving up a lot of hits and homers. However, it is not a giant concern as his walk total is low, his strike out total still very impressive, and he has not yet added the speed that everyone thinks his body will add. Not a break out year, but not a bad year.

Now, I had Andrew Lambo at 10, and he has had the worst year of any prospect in our system. Just awful. But to make up for it, Jordy Mercer had a near break out year in AA, and has found his power is sticking around in AAA. He was a little slow to start there, but is getting into his groove now.

One could also argue for great years from Grossmann, McPhearson, and a break out year for Nick Kingham and Ryan Hafner. They have all been terrific.

I also think that Charlie fails to count those who made it to the pros. The farm system started off the year including Alex Presley, Josh Harrison, and Chase D'Arnaud not to mention Eric Fryer. All of these guys made the big leagues and did at least okay if not out right amazing like Presley. Also Daniel McCutchen was in AAA at the beginning of the year and he has pitched great in the pros. Daniel Moskos did alright, and is doing fine at AAA. This is great since some were worried last year he showed himself to be a bust. Not so.

Also it is true State College is struggling, but I think they are beginning to hit as Alex Dickerson is showing himself to be a good hitter and many of the others are adjusting to wooden bats. Dan Gamache is recovering from a hand injury, but is tearing up Rookie ball as he ought. Those are the two big contributors from this year's draft. The others are signing, but are high schoolers.

The farm system is not in bad shape and I think may actually be better than it has in years past.

Finally, a win

The Pirates got another great start from Charlie Morton and this time they scored. Just to make sure Charlie went one inning longer and gave up 0 runs rather than 1.

Garrett Jones had a great game with 4 hits. Walker and Ludwig, our RBI guys, each had at least one RBI. Alvarez had one too, but it came on a bases loaded walk.

Even better news is that State College hit well. Everyone on their team got at least one hit as they scored 14. Alex Dickerson hit a 3 run homer in the 9th to cap his 3 hit 4 RBI day. Ryan Hafner pitched great, and got the win. In Rookie League ball Luis Heredia got his first win pitching 3 good innings.

The Pirates did gain a half game, and the Reds lost so they leap them. The Pirates need to keep it going if they have any prayer of catching up on the Brewers.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ten in a row . . . ugh

This losing streak is just gut wrenching. We went from losing games to the Phillies, including one where we had a two run lead in the 8th, to losing to the Cubs, but mostly in close game fashion. We blew a two run lead in the 8th in that one too, and lost a one nothing game. Then the Padres came into town and our first game with them we open up a two run lead, give it up only to grab the lead back in the next inning four to three, only to give it up so that Doumit could hit a solo blast to go back up five to four. Only to give it up with a grand slam. We never recovered from that. We gave up double digits the next night too, and then tonight we were never close, but managed to keep them to seven runs. We lost seven to three thanks to a late inning three run shot by Brandon Wood.

The two good things on this losing streak have been Pedro Alvarez is raising his average and Brandon Wood is hitting long balls. Usually pointless long balls, but he still hits them. Wood ought to be the starting Short Stop. Cedano was benched yesterday for his lousy play. Not the first time this year. That is the real problem with Cedano. He gives up. He has shown this year he can play some defense, but he has occasional mental lapses. He will break the wrong way on a ground ball every now and then. But, worse than that. He quits. Whether it is not hustling down the line on a weak ground ball, having horrible at-bats because the game is out of reach, or double pumping on throws the first base allowing runs to score it is usually because Cedano has given up. You can see it. He just turns it off and goes on cruise control. There is no urgency to throw the ball because the game is over. Why bother getting an out and stopping another run. Why bother trying to turn that double play? It is awful. Wood has some power and the Pirates are desperate for power. And most importantly Wood does not give up. I hope by September never to see Ronny on the field again.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Time to worry about .500 again

I like what the Pirates did at the trade deadline. Derrick Lee and Ryan Ludwig are both upgrades. The problem is two fold. One is that the injuries are just catching up to the Pirates. Catcher, Third base, and corner outfield spots have been ruined by injuries creating four holes in the line up. When Presley went down after Tabata went down, it was too much. McCutchen and Walker both hit little funks at that time and that was it. Add in one screw job by the umps and the Pirates are back at .500.

The other big thing is that they had other holes that were not showing up. I am not talking about every one saying the pitchers will come back to earth. I do think Morton and Karstens are going to be fine the rest of the way. So will Malholm, although I would not have minded trading him. However, I think Correia was gassed about the All-Star break. No, I am talking about Ronny Cedano the walking hole in the line up. His defense had been better, and his offense had been around .250, which meant he was not the biggest problem on the team. Still, we need an upgrade at short. Cedano is injury prone. He often quits in the middle of games and will not hustle. He also still is a bad hitter and a bad defender. His inability to turn a clean double play probably cost the PIrates the game Malholm pitched against the Cubs.

One can hope that with Doumit coming back tonight and Alvarez hitting better than when he got hurt, we can expect to see a turn around in the outcomes soon. Morton has a big game tonight. He was beat down like old Morton last time out. However, that was against the Phils. This is the Cubs. He has to keep the Pirates in the game, who are scoring runs on the Cubs. They just need the defense and pitching to not put them in an early hole. The Brewers beat down the Cardinals, and the Reds are only a game behind us, so this is a must win tonight.