Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Keep the Faith

A big win tonight giving the Pirates a chance to win the series with the D-Backs. Last time I was trying to decide between optimistic and pessimistic, and one would have to lean more toward pessimism now. However, it can still be said that the Pirates have faced some good pitching, the Phillies, and been on a west coast swing, which this young team has not ever dealt well with. They need to learn how to win on the road, but west coast swings are always rough. But those are mostly excuses.

Tonight, they won and they did so in good fashion. They faced Ian Kennedy, another great pitcher, and they hit him around. He was in line for the loss until a two out, 3-2 pitch from Grilli left the yard. Grilli would get the win to make up for it. The Pirate leader did their job. The team had 13 hits and they were mostly from the middle of the order. Four hits for McCutchen, three from Jones including a homer, and multiple hits from Walker. They pushed each other across the plate all night long. McClouth played for Tabata and had one hit. Tabata pinch hit later and got a walk. After losing the lead and having the game tied at 4, Presley got his first hit of the game, an infield one. Pinch hitter McGehee got a base hit to put runners on the corners and McCutchen's fourth hit of the game was a game winning RBI base hit. Even Alvarez did well. He grounded out twice, poped out once, and gave one a ride to the deep part of the park, but was robbed by the center fielder who hurt himself against the wall making the catch. He also had a nice defensive game. No strikeouts. And we should get a nice diet of righties coming up. Last chance for Alvarez in my opinion. He has to turn it on here against these righties because McGehee is playing great ball. Jones is starting to hit, meaning Alvarez needs to go to the bench or to AAA.

Pitching was great considering. Karsten left after the first inning with shoulder inflammation, which might explain his giving up two runs. He was not himself. Jared Hughes went 2.2, and gave up only one. Watson went 2.1 and gave up none. A nice inning by Meek despite only throwing between 92-94. Grilli was rolling until giving up the surprise homer. Then Hanrahan was no where to be seen, not even in the bullpen. The radio guys theorized it was flu. This gave Juan Cruz a save chance, which he converted in nice style.

Sooner or later other have to hit. Barajas and Barmes in particular. There are not other options to play for those guys. They cannot hit under .100 for much longer. McGehee is the option if Alvarez never gets it right. Tabata I do believe will come around. But if not, Gorkys Hernadez is ready for a shot in the minors, and soon so will Marte. The Pirates need to take this series, but for me the real test starts game after next when division play opens against the Cards at home.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Good or bad?

The Pirates are now 2-2 after another close game out in LA. The Pirates lost 2-1 after giving up another first inning run, and then getting it back in the 7th and giving up a solo homer to lose it in the 8th. They had Presley on with one out in the 9th, but McCutchen grounded into a double play to end the game.

So, the question is whether or not to be very excited about the season or very worried. Let's examine.

1. The Pitchers are pitching well. In fact, all of the starting 4 threw quality starts, and Morton looks great in AAA as our 5th guy and AJ Burnett looked good in his first outing after breaking his face in Spring Training.
2. Alvarez has had some good at bats and already hit a homer.
3. Presley and McCutchen are hitting very well.
4. The team is fighting unto the end.
5. Bullpen looks great as usual.
6. Clutch hitting is in abundance.
7. The Pirates started against the Phils and the Dodgers. .500 against them is pretty good.

1. There is no way the pitchers will stay this good.
2. We are not scoring very many runs. Take out Game 3 and the Pirates have only scored 3 runs.
3. Garrett Jones looks to be a disaster.
4. Outside of Presley and McCutchen consistent hitting his hard to come by.
5. Power is still a problem.

So it is too early to tell, but the rest of the Central is doing rather well, so we cannot afford a slow start.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Baseball is back!

Opening Day has arrived, and the Pirates drop a heart breaker to the hated Phillies. Still, the Pirates looked good from the mound. Eric Bedard was lights out and gave up one 7th inning run and then the Pirates threw two shut out frames from the bullpen against a very potent offense. Sure the Pirates got both their hits in the first inning and one of them was a real squib, but I feel more confident that the bats will come around against pitchers not named Roy Halladay.

Alvarez looked okay. He did strike out once, but only once against Halladay. That is a good sign, I guess. No errors from him and he helped turn a double play. The Pirates actually have lots of people to back him up this year, so I am not so worried about Alvarez. In fact, I think the Pirates have until they need to add a 5th starter in a few weeks to see if Alvarez is going to stick at the majors. If he is struggling, then he goes down to make room for a returning 5th starter, Charlie Morton. If he is hot, then expect Hague to head back to AAA. It could be Harrison, but I expect they need more back up middle infielders than corner guys. I can't see them dropping Navarro at all.

Still, it is an encouraging start. I am just as excited about watching the minors, but we will get into that another day. Today is about overall predictions.

NL East Champs: Phillies
- the rest of the division is good, but not good enough.
NL Central Champs: Brewers
- Man I hate to say it, but they are probably still the best in the division even without Fielder.
NL West Champs: Giants
- They were down last year because Posey was out. Their pitching is still good enough and their hitting gets an immediate boost with Posey back.
Wild Card: Pirates
- I am going out on a limb and saying the Pirates are going to pull it off. Mostly because of the uneven schedule. Lost of games against the Astros and Cubs, and I think the Cards are really going to struggle. Not so much because they lost Albert, but because they lost LaRussa. That is a bigger deal than most think.

AL East Champs: Rays
- Too much talent and it is not aging like the Red Sox and Yanks.
AL Central Champs: Tigers
- After last year's pitching and the addition of Prince, is there another choice here?
AL West Champs: Angels
- I don't think that this is a sure thing although they upgraded a lot. The Rangers have been very good. However, I do not think Hamilton can go 162 without a serious injury and this year with the better Angels, I don't think the Rangers can survive it.
AL WIld Card: Twins
- Another long shot. But everything went wrong for the Twins last year. Mauer, Morneau, Spam. They all look healthy again. Plus, Nick Blackburn is back and a very underrated pitcher. He is a ground ball guy and so are most of the Twins pitchers. This will be important in a division with a lot of big fly guys like Fielder and Eric Hosmer. I think they still have the best coach in baseball too. Gardinhire is able to get it done.

World Series: Rays and Giants
Champ: Rays

- I do believe this is the year for the Rays. They have great pitching, and they are finally going to put it together in the post season. They will out pitch the Tigers, who are overrated a bit because of their power. I also think the Giants have the pitching to make it all the way again. It is not as good as the year they won it all, but the Phillies are getting older. Their pitching is going to be tested in a great NL Championship match up.

Looking forward to a great season!