Bucs Stage Improbable Comeback in Victory

Daniel McCutchen almost got the win. The Pirates were 9 outs away, clinging to a one run lead. Luis Cruz mishandled an inning ending DP grounder in the 7th, allowing the tying run to score. No decision for McCutchen (6 IP, 5 hits, 2 runs).

In the 9th, LA put their first three runners on base en route to scoring three times off of Matt Capps. At that point, whatever slight breeze that was keeping my sails half empty dissipated entirely. No hope.

But yet, there was. With Jonathan Broxton on in the 9th, the Pirates came all the way back. Andy LaRoche singled in one run. With the bases loaded, Lastings Milledge delivered what should have been a game tying single. But the ball scooted past Andre Ethier and Garrett Jones scored all the way from first with the game winning run. Woo hoo!

That made a winner of Capps and hung Broxton with the loss. Clayton Kershaw made the start for LA and was pulled after four innings as he is coming off a hiatus from pitching due to a separated shoulder.

The Good

Taking at least two of four from LA. Going for the series win tomorrow!

McCutchen pitched well.

Andrew McCutchen had three hits. LaRoche and Milledge each drove in two.

The Bad

The 7th and the 9th defensive half innings.

The Rest

LaRoche had just his fourth multi-RBI game of the second half of the year.

This was Andrew McCutchen sixth game with three or more hits.

This was the fifth time in 2009 that Capps has allowed three or more runs in a single outing. He had just four such incidents in 2007 and 2008 combined.

Pirates need to go 5-3 to avoid a 100 loss season.


Padres Earn Series Win in Extras

It was a nice comeback and it was good to see some fight in the fellas. The Pirates scored three in the 8th and one in the 9th to send the game to extra innings. But Jeff Karstens was torched for five runs in the extra frame as San Diego took 3 of 4.

Daniel McCutchen (6 IP, 8 hits, three runs, zero whiffs) was on the hook for the loss. Until Luke Gregerson gave up three runs in the 8th and Heath Bell uncharacteristically blew a 9th inning save. That took away a win from rookie Wade LeBlanc (5 IP, 5 hits, one run, five strike outs).

It was a 3-2 game coming into the 8th. But Chase Headley (solo) and Nick Hundley (two run) hit homers off of Jesse Chavez to push the lead to four runs. But Andrew McCutchen’s two run double off of Gregerson keyed the 8th inning rally. The Pirates loaded the bases with no one out in the 9th off of Bell, but managed just the tying run.

Headley’s RBI double in the 11th opened the scoring in that frame and was his fifth hit of the game. That outburst made a winner of Sean Gallagher.

The Good

The comeback.

Garrett Jones hit his 20th homer.

The Bad

Karstens got hit hard.

Another loss.

Only getting one run off of Heath Bell in the 9th.

The Rest

That was the 9th time this year that Headley has had three or more hits. It was his first three double game in his career. Combined Andy LaRoche and Brandon Moss only have six games with three or more hits.

Phil Dumatrait tossed a scoreless inning of relief. He has been scored on in six of his 11 appearances.

Adrian Gonzalez drove in two runs to reach 92 RBI. He is trying to become the first Padre ever to knock in 100 runs in three straight seasons. Only one other Padre – Phil Nevin – recorded three different 100 RBI seasons.

Dodgers, Garland Add to Bucs Woes

Jon Garland wasn’t sharp, but he didn’t allow the Pirates to have a big inning. The Bucs put runners on base in each of the first five innings, but only managed single runs in the fourth and fifth. Meanwhile, LA had matched that total coming into the bottom of the fifth when Andre Ethier hit a two run homer off of Daniel McCutchen to break a 2-2 tie,

The Dodgers added two more runs off the Pirates bullpen while LA’s relief corp combined for three perfect innings.

McCutchen allowed seven hits and four runs in five innings. Garland gave up three walks and six hits in six innings.

The Good

Andy LaRoche, hitting from the #2 spot, had two singles and scored a run.

The Bad

Daniel McCutchen didn’t pitch all too well.

Bucs have lost 15 of 17.

The Rest

Ethier now has 96 RBI. Assuming he gets four more, he will become LA’s first outfielder with 100 RBI in a season since J.D. Drew in 2006.

Each of the Dodgers starting 8 had at least one knock.

Garland has reached double digits in wins every year since 2002. This was his third career appearance and first career win against Pittsburgh.


Bucs Make Nary a Whimper in Record Setting 82nd Loss

Outlined against a blue-gray September sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction, and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Poor Player Development, Weak Amateur Scouting, Lopsided Trades and Ill-Advised Free Agent Signings.

Apologies to Grantland Rice…

If it wasn’t already officially football season in Pittsburgh, it is now. I think football season begins in the Steel City as soon as the Steelers start training camp.

It was an ugly gray day in Pittsburgh. I kept hoping that the skies would open up and the 82nd loss would come not as the result of a 27th out, but rather by the hands of the umpiring crew deeming the field to be unplayable. But not even that indignity could be spared. Let the record show that the final out was a routine fly ball off the bat of Lastings Milledge that found itself easily captured by Kosuke Fukudome. Is it irony that when the Pirates losing season streak started, only one player of Japanese decent had ever appeared in the Show, yet the player who recorded the last putout came from that island nation?

Ted Lilly and three Cub relievers combined on a 2 hitter as the Pirates were beaten for the 82nd time this season. Derrek Lee drove in three runs with a pair of homers. Both Pirate hits went for extra bases (solo homer from Andy LaRoche and an RBI double from Brandon Moss). Daniel McCutchen was serviceable – giving up nine hits and four runs in seven innings.

The Good

LaRoche homered.

The Bad

82 losses. Officially.

Getting two-hit.

The Rest

By the numbers – LaRoche and Moss have 15 homers and 83 RBI in 762 ABs. Jason Bay has 31/98 in 452 at bats.

Ted Lilly is now 4-1 against the Pirates all-time.

In just seven games in 2009, Lee has 12 RBI against the Pirates.

Bucs Drop Pair to Redlegs, Fall Deeper into the Cellar

It was an ugly day-night double header in Cincinnati. Making up a rained out game, the Pirates were beaten in front of a sparse crowd in the afternoon. They returned for the eveing game and were beaten again.

In the opener, the ML debut of Pirates starter Daniel McCutchen was pretty solid. He gave up four singles and a homer (to Drew Stubbs) in six innings, allowing three runs and whiffing five. He was matchd up against Kip Wells, who was also good – six innings and just two runs allowed. But, Jason Jaramillo singled in the 7th off of Carlos Fisher, tying the contest and causing neither starter to get a decision.

But Jesse Chavez allowed two singles and a fly ball to right that moved Darnell McDonald to third. Then Chavez uncorked a wild pitch allowing McDonald to score with the game ending run.

The second game started out rough. Paul Maholm was tagged for three runs in the first. The Reds used five hits and left the bases loaded while batting around. Past the first inning, other than a homer from Brandon Phillips in the third, Maholm was okay. Drew Stubbs added a homer in the night cap in the 8th off of Chavez.

Andrew McCutchen’s solo homer was the highlight of a three run sixth inning, but the Pirates could do little else against Johnny Cueto. He struck out five and allowed one run in 5+ innings. Nick Masset won the opener for Cincy.

The Good

Danny Bautista tossed two scoreless innings in relief of Maholm. He is unscored upon in 2009.

In addition to a good outing, Daniel McCutchen collected his first ML hit and his first ML RBI.

The Bad

Getting swept by a fifth place team.

Being in the cellar.

Being five losses away from securing yet another losing season. It is and has been a foregone conclusion.

The Rest

Last Bucco pitcher to get a hit in his ML debut was Maholm way back on 8/30/05.

You have to go way way back to 6-24-96 and Elmer Dessens to find the last Pirate pitcher to get a hit and an RBI in their first appearance in the Show.

Cueto now has four wins against the Pirates, his most against any team.

Maholm had not lost to Cincy since April 2007 when the Reds beat him twice.

This was the fourth time that Wells started against the Pirates and he was 3-1 in those outings coming into this afternoon’s game.

Pirates do not need to sign a mediocre free agent pitcher

Many have advocated that the Pirates add a veteran starting pitcher this offseason. One name that has popped up quite a bit is Braden Looper, so I will use him as an example of the typical middle of the road free agent starter.  He seemed like a good player to use, even though he is in the process of signing with the Brewers.  Below is a comparison of Looper to the current Pirate starters, using tRA*. I am also including expected 2009 salary for each player.

Here is a tRA primer.  tRA* is a regressed version of tRA. It has more predictive value than basic tRA.

Name tRA* Estimated Salary
Braden Looper 4.87 $5 million
Paul Maholm 4.33 $3.5 million
Jeff Karstens 4.76 minimum
Zach Duke 4.85 $2.2 million
Ross Ohlendorf 4.91 minimum
Ian Snell 5.58 $3 million
Tom Gorzelanny 5.97 minimum
Daniel McCutchen + 4.76 minimum
Jimmy Barthmaier + 4.34 minimum

+ The numbers for McCutchen and Barthmaier are from Indianapolis. The other pitchers’ stats are while with the Pirates. There is a sample size issue with many of these numbers, but it is a rudimentary way to compare the pitchers to Looper.

As you can see, Looper is probably middle of the pack in performance. He would easily be the oldest, as well as the highest paid. We are not expecting to contend this year, so why do we want a stopgap veteran starter that is unlikely to be any better than the other eight pitchers already on the roster? He would just be in the way, in my opinion. I would much rather learn whether players like Ohlendorf, Karstens, Snell, and Gorzelanny have what it takes to start in the major leagues.

One phrase that is greatly overvalued is “established major leaguer.” I would prefer that the Pirates scour the waiver wire for young, undervalued minor league starters with some upside.  That would provide some additional depth, in case the catastrophe of 2008 occurs again.  Focus on the Phil Dumatraits of the world, not the Braden Loopers.

Posted in 2009 Pittsburgh Pirates, Daniel McCutchen, Ian Snell, Jeff Karstens, Jimmy Barthmaier, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Tom Gorzelanny, Zach Duke. Comments Off on Pirates do not need to sign a mediocre free agent pitcher

Revisiting the Nady/Marte trade

Now that it has been about six weeks since the Pirates traded Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte and Jason Bay, let’s take a look back at how each of the players involved have performed with their new teams. Today we take a look at the deal that sent Nady and Marte to the Yankees in exchange for Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, Daniel McCutchen and Jeff Karstens.
At the time of the trade, many people saw the Pirates giving up a .330 hitter with pop and a dominant left-handed reliever for three mediocre pitchers and a talented minor league troublemaker. Let’s start with the players we gave up. Nady has increased his power production since leaving Pittsburgh (ISO: PIT-.205, NYY-.242), but has not reached base as often (AVG: PIT-.330, NYY-.286; OBP: PIT-.383, NYY-.341). The increase in isolated power combined with the drop in batting average has balanced out to keep his slugging percentage pretty steady (SLG: PIT-.535, NYY.528). Certainly, the increase in power has come from a ridiculous home run/fly ball ratio of 24.4% for the Yankees. It was 14% with the Pirates, which is about his career average. I highly doubt that he can maintain that elevated rate. Digging a bit deeper, Nady’s walk percentage has been closer to his career average of 6% (BB%: PIT-7.1%, NYY-5.8%) while his strikeout rate has been way above his career average of 19.9% (K%: PIT-16.8%, NYY-26.1%). He has chased many pitches for both teams (O-Swing%: PIT-30.47%, NYY-32.55%), but his contact rate has been much lower in New York (Contact%: PIT-81.70%, NYY-72.59%). His line drive percentage is still solid, though it is a bit lower than his April-July rate (LD%: PIT-26.5%, NYY-23.3%). This has led to a predictable drop in BABIP (BABIP: PIT-.367, NYY-.330). Overall, Nady has looked a bit more like the player he was in 2007 since joining the Yankees.
Marte has struggled since heading to New York. He has posted an ERA of 6.28, and a WHIP of 1.33. However, he seems to have experienced some bad luck. He has put up a K/9 of 13.19 and only allowed one home run in 14.1 innings. His BB/9 is high at 4.40, but that still leaves him with a solid K/BB ratio of 3.00. His BABIP is at .362, and the DER behind him has only been .667. In addition, his strand rate is only 53.8%, down from 74.9% with the Pirates. His struggles just go to show how silly it is to place too much value on a solid reliever. Their numbers fluctuate too much.
On to the new Pirates. Tabata reported briefly to Bradenton to rehab a sore hamstring. When he arrived in Altoona, he took the Curve by storm. Only 19-years-old when he initially arrived, Tabata hit .348/.402/.562 in 89 at-bats with Altoona. He also hit three home runs and stole eight bases without being caught. In 294 at-bats in the Yankees’ organization, Tabata hit .248/.320/.310 with just three home runs. Overall, his BB% was over 8% for the season. That is a great sign for such a young player in Double-A. He should be in Triple-A in 2009, and I am very encouraged about his future.
Ohlendorf was very solid in seven Triple-A starts after being acquired by the Pirates. He posted a 3.47 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP, and struck out 40 compared to eight walks in 46.2 innings. He has struggled in two starts since his recall to the Pirates, but I like what I have seen from Ohlendorf. He throws hard, pitches inside and is said to have quality off-speed stuff, though we have not really seen it so far. With some improvement in his command, I think he could be a solid starter in the Majors.
McCutchen was decent in Indy, sporting a 3-3 record with a 4.69 ERA in eight starts. He struck out 41, walked only seven and allowed 49 hits in 48 innings, all excellent numbers. His WHIP of 1.17 was very solid. McCutchen’s downfall was allowing a ridiculous amount of home runs. He allowed 12 home runs in those 48 innings, which led to the inflated ERA. If McCutchen can limit the long ball, he could have a very promising future.
Karstens was brilliant upon his arrival in Pittsburgh, throwing six shutout innings in his first start and flirting with a perfect game en route to shutting out Arizona in his second. Since then, he has posted an ERA over seven. I don’t see much in Karstens’ Major League future. He has struck out just over three batters per nine innings in 97.2 career innings, and I can see him only marginally improving those numbers. He looks like a right-handed Zach Duke that allows a few more home runs. Like Duke, he will probably end up as a fifth starter/rotation depth in the end. I think he will sneak into the 2009 rotation, at least at the outset of the season.
All in all, this trade looks much better than it did at the time it was made. The eventual outcome will obviously be determined by Tabata’s future performance. He lost quite a bit of his top prospect status with his struggles earlier in the year, but his stellar performance at Altoona should alleviate some of the concerns that he could end up being a bust. Even if it was a very small sample size.