Morton Fires Shutout at Wriglies

Turn about is fair play. At least that’s what they say. After being held to zero runs by Ryan Dempster on Tuesday night, Charlie Morton threw his first career shutout against the Cubs in the first game of a double header on Wednesday.

Morton allowed just four singles and three walks. He struck out a career best eight hitters. Ryan Theriot collected three of Chicago’s hits.

On the other side, Ted Lilly was troubled by a four run first. The Pirates collected three hits in the first and just three more thereafter. The outburst was triggered in part by Lastings Milledge aggressively breaking up a double play grounder that allowed Steve Pearce to be safe at first and scored a run. Jason Jaramillo followed with a two run, two out double for the second and third tallies. Brian Bixler’s single scored Jaramillo for the final run of the game.

Lilly struck out 8 in seven innings. He allowed five hits.

The Good

Morton’s effort.

Milledge going hard into second.

The Bad

Bucs whiffed 11 times overall.

The Rest

Morton’s previous career mark for whiffs was six, last accomplished 8/27/09 against Philadelphia. He had never pitched past the 7th inning before. He needed 119 pitches to complete the game. His previous high for pitches chucked in one game was 111, which he did in a six inning start for Atlanta last August.

This was Jaramillo’s first two RBI game since 8/31/09 against the Reds. Brian Bixler’s RBI was his first since April 26.

This was the 27th time the Pirates have struck out 10 or more times. Arizona leads the Show with 53 such games.

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Padres Win Close One in Absence of Pirate Offense

The Pirates scraped together a mere five singles and three walks as they once again failed to support a strong outing from Ross Ohlendorf. The Pirates starter allowed just one run on five hits and one walk in seven innings. He struck out five. Clayton Richard was equally good for the visiting Friars. He gave up just one unearned run (in the first inning) on four hits in six innings.

It wasn’t decided until the 9th. An error by Brian Bixler and two walks set up a sac fly from Henry Blanco for the game winning run. That made a loser of Phil Dumatrait and a winner of Luke Gregerson, who tossed a scoreless 8th. Heath Bell earned the save with a scoreless 9th.

The Good

Ohlendorf, once again.

The Bad

The offense, once again.

The Rest

Despite an ERA approaching 3.00, Ohlendorf is winless in his last five starts.

Garrett Jones had started every Pirate game since July 1, but got the day off.

Steve Pearce was 0-3 with three Ks.

Bucs Struggles in Milwaukee Continue

It is hard to win when you don’t do anything particularly well. Kevin Hart started and took the loss after allowing five runs in six innings. Phil Dumatrait and Steven Jackson each allowed a run in their inning of relief.

The offense scored three runs, all of which came in the 5th inning. The Pirates briefly held a lead that the pitching staff and the defense couldn’t hold onto. Delwyn Young committed an error to start the bottom of the fifth and that lead off hitter – Felipe Lopez – eventually scored on a double play ground ball. A goofed double play helped Milwaukee score a pair in the third. With one out and runners on the corners, Steve Pearce fielded a ground ball and tossed to Brian Bixler covering second. Bixler fell coming across the bag and was unable to complete the twin killing. That allowed one run to score and three batters later, Hart walked Prince Fielder with the bases loaded to force in another run.

Andy LaRoche hit a two run homer for the highlight of the Pirates offense.

Yovani Gallardo started but was ineffective. He gave up three runs in five innings. He struck out seven. Claudio Vargas was the winner in relief.

The Good

Lastings Milledge had two hits.

The Bad

Offense. Defense. Pitching. Attitude? see below

Bixler struck out three times.

The Rest

Ryan Doumit did not play after being pulled from yesterday’s game for undisclosed reasons. Skipper John Russell declined to give details, but confirmed that Doumit is not injured. Attitude issues?

This was LaRoche’s third homer of the month – tops in 2009 for him.

Gallardo had split two decisions against Pittsburgh in 2009. This was his fourth start against the Pirates this year.

Hart beat the Beer Makers earlier in the month in Pittsburgh.

 

 

Ohlendorf, Adam LaRoche Take Series from San Diego

Ross Ohlendorf settled in after allowing a two run bomb to Adrian Gonzalez in the first inning. He pitched into the 8th and gave way after giving up a pinch hit homer leading off the 8th to Edgar Gonzalez.

The Pirates offense worked early off Jake Peavy to erase the 2-0 deficit. Robinson Diaz drove in a pair of runs in the fourth with a two out single. Adam LaRoche hit a three run dinger in the next frame to break the tie.

Freshly recalled Brian Bixler stroked a two run double in the 8th and LaRoche homered again (solo) in the 8th for the final tally.

Ohlendorf gave up just five hits in his 7+ innings. He walked three and whiffed two.

The Good

Ohlendorf’s effort will be accepted all year long. Count me surprised at the early impact of the pitching staff.

Adam LaRoche is not just having a decent April. He’s actually having a good April. I was hoping for something other than a total bust. This is June/July type of production from him.

Don’t look now buy Andy LaRoche’s average is up to .264 after a 2-5 day.

Bucs travel to Milwaukee for three more games to close out April. With today’s win, the Pirates have guaranteed a winning April.

The Bad

Nyjer Morgan was CS for the second time this year.

The Rest

The middle of the Pirates infield included four guys who were not Opening Day starters at those positions- Robinson Diaz (C), Brian Bixler (SS), Ramon Vazquez (2B) and Morgan in CF.

This was the earliest two homer game in the season in LaRoche’s career. He had two dingers for Atlanta on 5/28/06. But he had never cranked two in April.

According to baseball-reference.com, Ohlendorf has been giving up more fly balls than ground balls. Today he retired 15 hitters on grounders and just three on fly balls. That’s good news.

John Grabow finished with two innings of work. It was his longest outing since 7/27/08, also against San Diego.

Is there value in losing?

One of the biggest debates among Pirate fans this off-season has centered on whether the team should be aggressive in the free agent market. My stance has been that it would provide little help, so why bother. The team is at least a few years away from being competitive, so why not wait until we have developed a good group of players before searching for that last piece. In December, I examined what it would take to build a contender through free agency. Let’s just say it was unrealistic.

Here’s an excerpt from a post Charlie wrote last week:

In the past, I’ve been dismissive of the idea of dropping real cash on veteran free agents, and I probably will be again. Just so I’m clear here: generally, I don’t think the Pirates should waste their money or future on expensive free agents, and I don’t think the Pirates should, at this stage, sign any free agent who jeopardizes their future in any way: by blocking an interesting youngster, by preventing them from spending lavishly on the draft or Latin America, or by causing them to have to pay the free agent while he’s declining and the rest of the team is very promising. But I think this market provides the Pirates a special opportunity to pursue legitimately good players without doing any of those things.

This is a smart way to look at free agency, and it is a thought process I agree with. But the question on my mind today is this. Does signing a player simply to improve the 2009 team hurt the future of the franchise? For example, if the Pirates hypothetically signed Manny Ramirez for a couple million and put him in left field instead of Nyjer Morgan, would it be counterproductive? He would not be blocking a young player, he would not destroy the budget and it would not be a long-term commitment. He would probably improve the team’s record by about five wins, getting us to 70 or 75 wins. That would make the season a little more bearable, and may even attract some additional fans to come down to PNC Park. It would also give the Pirates a lower draft pick, which hurts a team that is attempting to restock a lousy farm system. It would not make us a playoff contender. If you are not going to win, is there value in losing big?

About a month ago, Shawn at Squawking Baseball asked if the Pirates were losing on purpose for this very reason. (Pat commented on the post at the time.) He made a great point about the team’s usage of Luis Rivas:

Consider: this past spring, Dan Fox introduced a defensive metric on Baseball Prospectus that rated Luis Rivas as one of the worst defensive middle infielders in the last fifty years. Weeks later, Fox was hired by the Pirates. And yet Rivas played over 400 innings at second or short for the Pirates last year, with predictable results.

I should probably make something clear. I do not root for the Pirates to lose. I cannot do that. There is no better feeling than watching the team win a game, and that is exactly what I hope for every time I sit down to watch a game. In addition, I do not think Pirate management is purposely trying to lose. They made some mistakes when constructing the bench last season, and when Jack Wilson was injured, suddenly Rivas and Brian Bixler were our best options at short.

But wouldn’t it make sense to cut some corners in a year when contending seems improbable? Wouldn’t it make sense to sign Craig Monroe to provide outfield depth when someone like Adam Dunn is still out there? Dunn would be more fun to watch during the season, but management shoud not be worried about that.  They should only be focused on creating a championship team.  I’m not sure I know the answer. I know that if I were in charge of a major league team, I probably would not have the courage to purposely punt a season in order to acquire a valuable draft pick the following year. Then again, one must be bold to rebuild an organization that is in the Pirates’ situation.

Winter meetings, day 3 – Paulino traded to Phillies

Dejan reports that the Pirates are interested in Marlins shortstop Robert Andino.  Andino is 24, and has seen limited time with the Marlins in each season since 2005.  He never really hit well anywhere before last season, when he posted a .287/.352/.497 line in 181 at-bats at Triple-A.  Dejan speculates that the Marlins might be interested in Ronny Paulino.

12:25 PM: Here is a nice breakdown of Nate McLouth’s financial value in 2008.

1:40 PM: It looks like another team has added a shortstop that is not named Jack Wilson.  The Orioles are expected to sign Cesar Izturis.

8:10 PM: Dejan reports that the Pirates are expecting to make a trade that Neal Huntington referred to as “something small.”  This probably will be nothing exciting, but it could give us something to talk about for a change.

8:25 PM: Here’s a scary quote from John Russell:

The team we have now, we know we can play defense. With Nyjer Morgan and Brandon Moss, we can cover a little more ground on the corners in the outfield.

I think we are going to see way too much of Nyjer Morgan next season.

8:50 PM: Could the potential minor trade mentioned by Huntington be Brian Bixler to the Marlins for Andino?

9:30 PM: The Pirates have traded Paulino to the Phillies for switch-hitting catcher Jason Jaramillo.  Jaramillo is 26, and has spent the past two years in Triple-A.  He seems to have a decent approach at the plate and little power.  He is a decent defender.  A year ago, Baseball America said that “Jaramillo can become a reliable backup in the major leagues.”  He will likely compete with Robinzon Diaz as Ryan Doumit’s primary backup.

10:25 PM: Ken Rosenthal reports that Matt Joyce, a Pirates’ target in a potential Jack to Detroit trade, has been dealt to the Rays for pitcher Edwin Jackson.

2009 projections from Statistically Speaking

Last week, Brian Cartwright released his 2009 offensive projections over at Statistically Speaking. I figured I would take a look at the Pirates’ numbers. A quick warning…they’re pretty ugly.

Here is a look at projected wOBA in graphical form. In short, wOBA is a stat created by Tom Tango that combines the value of on-base skills and power into a single number that is a more accurate measure than OPS. It is on the scale of on-base percentage, with an average hitter coming in around .340.

 

2009 Projection

 

Player wOBA
Pearce 0.349
Ad. LaRoche 0.348
Doumit 0.345
McLouth 0.340
Moss 0.327
An. LaRoche 0.323
Sanchez 0.320
Bixler 0.312
Morgan 0.308
Wilson 0.306
Diaz 0.304
Cruz 0.274

 

For more perspective, here are some Pirate wOBA’s from 2008.

 

Actual 2008
 
Player wOBA
Ad. LaRoche 0.362
Doumit 0.371
McLouth 0.372
Sanchez 0.315
Morgan 0.339
Wilson 0.303
 

As you can see, Brian has a few Pirates in the average range and the rest as depressingly mediocre hitters. There are a few issues I have with the projections. I don’t see McLouth or Doumit, particularly McLouth, regressing quite so much. Also, I don’t think Pearce will outperform Andy LaRoche to this degree. Freddy Sanchez may rebound a bit more than this. Other than that, this is probably about what we can expect next season. It could get ugly.

Head over to Statistically Speaking to check out the rest of Brian’s projections. Some very good stuff there.

 

EDIT: It looks like the graphs are not showing up correctly in certain browsers, so I added lists so that everyone can see the numbers.

Posted in Adam LaRoche, Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss, Brian Bixler, Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Nate McLouth, Nyjer Morgan, Ryan Doumit, Steve Pearce. Comments Off on 2009 projections from Statistically Speaking