McCutchen Rallies Bucs Past Tribe

Anyone here not impressed by Andrew McCutchen. The Bucs rookie CF was involved in all three Pirate runs – scoring once and driving in two – as the Pirates erased a two run deficit against Cliff Lee.

Lee and Ross Ohlendorf each allowed two runs in seven innings of work. Neither got the decision. That would be left to the bullpens. Both relief corps walked the bases loaded in the 8th. For the Pirates John Grabow walked three but escaped when he whiffed Ryan Garko. Earlier in the inning Nyjer Morgan tracked down a long fly off the bat of Victor Martinez. Joe Smith walked two in 1/3 IP and Rafael Perez walked one, but got Jason Jaramillo to ground into an inning ending DP.

Matt Herges was on in the 9th but gave up three straight singles – to Jack Wilson, Eric Hinske and Cutch – for a walk off win for the Pirates. Matt Capps tossed the 9th for his first win of the year.

The Good

Have to be happy taking 2 of 3.

Ohlendorf was fine, allowing five hits and three walks in seven.

McCutchen has a 13 game hitting streak.

The Bad

The offense continues to gimp along. There was clutchness when it counted most tonight.

The Rest

This was the fourth time this year Ohlendorf pitched seven or more innings. Ian Snell has gone that far just three times. Jeff Karstens pitched seven or more just once in his 10 starts before being pulled from the rotation.

A scary thought hit me that Cutch’s start is too reminiscent of Chris Duffy’s hot start back in 2005.

Jack Wilson had his fifth game this year with three or more hits. He had just five such games in all of 2008.

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Gallardo Pitches, Hits Brewers Into Sweep

It was a Ruthian effort. Yovani Gallardo allowed zero runs and whiffed 11 in seven innings and hit a solo jack for the only run of the game.

Ian Snell was the hard luck loser. He matched Gallardo’s zeroes through six innings before allowing the solo homer to the opposing pitcher.

The Pirates didn’t have a base runner until Andy LaRoche doubled in the fifth. The Pirates put two runners on in the 7th courtesy of an error and a walk. Both were stranded, obviously.

The Good

No complaints about Snell. He whiffed Ryan Braun thricely.

The Bad

Swept.

Gallardo is good, but is he that good? Let’s hope that Nate McLouth and Ryan Doumit come back soon.

The Rest

Former Bucco Chris Duffy collected his first hit since 7/27/07.

Hill added to coaching staff; Duffy, JVB among minor league free agents

I don’t have much time to write, but there are a couple pieces of interesting news today. First of all, the Pirates have added Perry Hill as their first base coach. Hill, a highly regarded infield instructor, was out of baseball last year due to personal issues. The Pirates have been trying to hire him for over a year. This is a very nice addition to the coaching staff.

Also, Baseball America has a list of minor league free agents available. I haven’t had a chance to search the list for familiar names, but I was able to glance over the Pirates’ free agents. There are a few notable names.

Read the rest of this entry »

Coaches, etc.

Just a couple of quick notes today.

With the hiring of pitching coach Joe Kerrigan yesterday, the Pirates have only one coaching vacancy remaining. According to the PG, the first base coach will not be Perry Hill in 2009. The distinguished infield instructor was nearly added to the coaching staff before the 2008 season, but he eventually declined due to personal issues. Those issues will keep him away from baseball again in 2009. The Pirates’ search for a first base coach continues.

Jose Tabata, Steve Pearce and Shelby Ford are hitting well in winter ball. Jamie Romak and Brian Friday are not. Chris Duffy went home. Kyle Bloom has been very solid in four starts. [link]

If you enjoy watching ex-Pirates in the postseason, you are in trouble. Matt Stairs is the only one remaining.

Pirates again lacked patience in 2008

In May, I took a look at the Pirates’ plate discipline in 2007 and 2008. In that small sample size, the team had slightly improved from the previous year. Now that the season is over, I figured it would be a good time to revisit this topic.
Here is an excerpt from my original post to get us started:

FanGraphs has some wonderful statistics that quantify a hitter’s plate discipline. Using O-Swing% (“the percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone”), we can determine whether certain players are fishing outside the strike zone on a regular basis. In 2005-2007, the average O-Swing% was around 23%. Let’s see how the Pirates are doing this year compared with 2007. (Note: pitchers are not included.)
To start, let’s take a look at the 2007 Pirates. Jose Castillo (35.11%), Matt Kata (35.11%), Freddy Sanchez (33.43%), and Xavier Nady (30.19%) were all major free-swingers. Castillo and Kata were sent packing after the season, but Sanchez and Nady returned to the starting lineup for 2008. Jack Wilson (26.24%) was slightly above average, while Ryan Doumit (24.96%), Cesar Izturis (24.50%), Adam LaRoche (23.36%), Chris Duffy (23.05%), Jason Bay (22.12%) and Ronny Paulino (21.54%) were all about average. Nate McLouth (18.95%), Josh Phelps (18.95%), Jose Bautista (17.85%) and Rajai Davis (16.82%) were the most disciplined Pirates. Overall, the 2007 Pirates swung at 24.58% (EDIT: My numbers were slightly off at that time. The correct O-Swing% in 2007 was 24.61%.) of pitches outside the strike zone, just slightly higher than average.

McLouth, Sanchez, LaRoche, Doumit, Bay, Nady, Bautista and Wilson received the most at-bats for the Pirates in 2008. Sanchez and Nady continued their wild swinging, staying very close to their 2007 numbers. Sanchez chased 33.33% pitches, while Nady swung at 30.47% balls outside the strike zone before being traded. Doumit (30.60%) also became a very impatient hitter in 2008. Wilson (26.94%) was very consistent with 2007, while LaRoche (22.55%) and Bay (20.65%) both improved slightly. McLouth’s patience regressed this year with increased playing time (21.87%), and Bautista also fell off from last season (21.19%). However, both remained slightly above average. New additions to the team’s bench received a moderate amount of playing time. Doug Mientkiewicz (17.15%) was the most patient player on the team, while Chris Gomez (23.35%) and Jason Michaels (23.71%) were right around league average. Luis Rivas (25.42%) was a bit aggressive off the bench.
Several younger players began receiving playing time after the trades of Bay and Nady. Andy LaRoche (25.30%), Brandon Moss (26.93%) and Steve Pearce (24.77%) displayed a bit below average patience. Nyjer Morgan, the oldest of the group, chased 27.65% of pitches outside the zone. One of the main reasons I remain optimistic about the futures of LaRoche and Moss is their history of patience in the minor leagues. These numbers will have to improve soon as they adjust to Major League pitching. The fact that Pearce was right in the same neighborhood in O-Swing% as these two is somewhat encouraging, as he seemed to swing at everything at times this year. In reality, he was much better in 2008 than he was in 2007 (29.27%), although both were very small sample sizes. I’m not convinced that Pearce can be a quality Major League hitter, but I think he has shown enough to get the same opportunities as Moss and LaRoche in 2009.
Overall, the Pirates chased 25.11% of pitches outside the strike zone in 2008. That number increased slightly from the team’s 24.61% in 2007. Accordingly, the Pirates were 27th in baseball in on-base percentage, and 26th in walks. It seems that the Pirates’ strong early-season focus on patience was mostly forgotten as the season progressed. Another likely reason was the increased playing time for younger hitters after the deadline deals, although the loss of the free-swinging Nady probably offset that line of reasoning a bit. Hopefully, as players like Andy LaRoche, Moss and Pearce mature at the plate, these numbers will become more respectable.
One other note. The Pirates Z-Swing% (“The percentage of pitches a batter swings at inside the strike zone”) dropped from 66.62% in 2007 to 63.16% in 2008. The 2005-2007 average was about 67%. I don’t think we can take as much from this statistic as we can from O-Swing%, as swinging at strikes is much more situational than swinging at balls. A batter should virtually never chase a pitch out of the strike zone, while there are many instances when swinging at a strike is the wrong decision. However, when examined along with the team’s O-Swing%, this may further indicate a lack of strike zone management.

Bautista Optioned

Jose Bautista didn’t see it coming. But, he was demoted. I’m a little shocked, as well. But, taking a step back, I think it makes sense. Andy LaRoche plays third. Neil Walker is supposed to be able to play third. Bautista had previously played 130+ games total at all three outfield spots. But, I’d rather see what Steve Pearce, Brandon Moss and perhaps even Jason Michaels can do.
As the Post-Gazette’s coverage points out, playing time in Indy might be scarce for Bautista with Walker at third and an outfield full of prospects. Did I say prospects? I meant Chris Duffy and Nyjer Morgan.
Bautista has had over 1500 ML PAs. I don’t think his career is over by any means. I don’t think he’ll ever see significant playing time in Pittsburgh again without a severe injury or someone completely failing.

Farewell (Again) to Craig Wilson and also to Bullington

He wasn’t hitting particularly well and it is hard to say whether the Pirates will get any value for him, but the Mariners have acquired Craig Wilson for a player to be named later. Actually, it isn’t tough to say: the Pirates will get nothing of value for Craiggers. The Mariners also cut Richie Sexson.
In 217 at bats with Indy, Wilson had 10 homers and 27 RBI. He had nearly three times as many whiffs as walks and only had six doubles.
I hope he gets back to the show and hits 20 homers in the second half for Seattle. I will always remember him like this.
In slightly less exciting, but equally unimportant news, the Pirates lost Bryan Bullington to waivers to the Tribe. For the record, I have as many career ML wins as former first round picks Clint Johnson, Bobby Bradley and Bullington combined.
Bullington was DFA’d to make room on the 40 man roster for Chris Duffy. I’m not sure what kind of future the team envisions for Duffy. I can’t imagine he is going to take any playing time away from any of the three outfielders that are currently starting.
I’m not sure which makes less sense:
1. Expecting Bullington to perform at the Major League level or
2. Designating Bullington to make room for a player who hasn’t performed at the Major League level
Regardless, neither Duffy nor Bullington could be or would be the difference between 65 wins or 75 wins or 85 wins.