Bucs Swoon Continues as Astros Pull Away

The Astros broke open a close game with six runs in the seventh inning as Pittsburgh’s conclusion to the baseball season gets uglier.

Charlie Morton pitched well enough – three earned runs in six innings.  But the offense struggled against rookie Bud Norris. He allowed just one run on six hits and seven whiffs in six innings.

The Astros big inning came at the expense of Joel Hanrahan and Jesse Chavez. The largest damage was a two out three run tater from Carlos Lee, which came on the heels of an error from Ryan Doumit during a rundown.

The Bucs lone run was a solo dinger from Andy LaRoche.

The Good

The season is almost over.

The Bad

All the losing.

The Rest

Is it possble that Jesse Chavez is out of gas? All three runs he let up were unearned, but his second half ERA is 6.00 in 21 IP after a 3.19 ERA in 36-2/3 IP in the first half.

This was Norris’ first career appearance against Houston.

This was Morton’s best appearance in his career against the Astros. Previously he allowed 11 earned runs over 10 innings in two starts. Morton posted an ERA way too close to 7.00 over his previous eight starts.

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Joel Hanrahan and peripheral stats

When the Pirates acquired Joel Hanrahan from the Nationals, I immediately noticed the huge discrepancy between his peripherals and his unsightly 7.71 ERA. Hanrahan struck out 35 batters, walked 14, and allowed three home runs in his 32.2 inning with Washington this year. That comes out to a FIP of 3.60, more than four runs lower than his actual ERA. I immediately liked the acquisition, as it seemed obvious that Hanrahan’s absurd .451 opponent’s BABIP was dramatically damaging his numbers. Superficial improvement seemed imminent, regardless of any authentic progress being present.

Fast forward to today, August 28. Hanrahan has thrown 19.2 innings for the Pirates, with an impressive 25 strikeouts, a less impressive 11 walks, and zero home runs allowed. His FIP with Pittsburgh is 2.37, and his ERA is a much improved 2.75. The walks are concerning, as the one knock on Hanrahan has always been poor control. Even with the excellent strikeout rates, he will need to focus on limiting his walks in order to be successful.

Another concern I have with Hanrahan is that, despite his high strikeout numbers, he remains very hittable when the ball is put in play. His Pittsburgh BABIP is less outrageous than it was in DC, but it remains a very high .396. This is probably due to his high opponent line drive rates, which jumped from an already elevated 24.1% with the Nats to 28.8% with the Pirates. When opposing hitters make contact, they are hitting Hanrahan hard. Combine that with his high walk rates, and you have far too many base runners when Hanrahan is on the mound.

Due to the unusual combination of low contact percentages and high line drive rates, Hanrahan’s tRA is probably the best indicator of his performance. tRA places a run and out value on every event (K, BB, HBP, line drive, ground ball, outfield fly ball, infield fly ball and home run) and totals everything up to provide expected runs allowed per nine innings. (Keep in mind that this number will be higher than ERA, as it uses total runs as opposed to earned runs. I believe multiplying tRA by 0.92 will adjust it to the ERA scale.) Using tRA allows us to get a better grasp on the value of a pitcher who has a high K%, BB%, and LD%.

The 2009 league average tRA has been 4.39 for relievers. Hanrahan’s tRA with the Nationals was 4.36. His tRA with the Pirates has been 3.15. Hanrahan was about average in Washington, despite his high ERA. He has been very good with Pittsburgh.

 

P.S. Sean Burnett’s tRA with Pittsburgh was 5.22. With the Nats, it has been 4.39.

Reds, Bailey Prevent Sweep

Homer Bailey allowed one run on four hits and four walks in seven innings of work. The Reds offense scored single runs in four different frames to beat Kevin Hart.

Brandon Phillips put a sandwich on the scoring with RBIs in the first and seventh innings. In between, the Reds got run scoring plays from Jonny Gomes and Joey Votto. Meanwhile, the Pirates left the bases loaded in the first and two men on in the second inning. The Pirates didn’t score until the fifth when Andrew McCutchen walked, stole second and scored on a single from Delwyn Young. That was the last time a Pirate batter would get so far as second base as Bailey got better as the game progressed and the Reds bullpen did the rest.

Hart gave up three runs on six hits in five innings. Joel Hanrahan loaded the bases and struck out the side in the 9th.

The Good

Young had two hits to go along with his RBI.

Chris Bootcheck tossed a perfect 8th inning to lower his ERA to less than 20.00.

The Bad

Getting beat by Homer Bailey, who for all the hype, has not pitched very well this year.

The Rest

This was Young’s 22nd multi-hit game of 2009.

This was Bailey’s first career appearance against the Pirates. His ERA coming into the game was 7.53.

Brandon Phillips has driven in 70 or more runs in four straight years. The last Reds second baseman to do that was Hall of Famer Joe Morgan from 1975 to 1978.

Marquis, Colorado Help Bucs Continue to Swoon

Jason Marquis allowed jus three hits and a run in seven strong innings as Colorado earned a series win by piling up 15 hits against Pittsburgh.

Troy Tulowitzki’s solo homer highlighted a two run first off of Paul Maholm. He allowed three runs in the first two innings before settling in. However, he didn’t make it out of the 7th. Clint Barmes hit a one out, two run homer that chased Maholm from the game. Joel Hanrahan came in and retired the final two hitters.

But the Pirates offense was once again stagnant. The lone run came on a sac fly from Andrew McCutchen in the fifth. And it wasn’t enough.

The Good

Hanrahan has not allowed an earned run in six August outings. That sound you hear? That’s the sound of me reaching.

The Bad

Where to start. Maholm wasn’t effective. Matt Capps couldn’t get three outs in the 8th, yielding four hits (three doubles) and three runs before being pulled for Steven Jackson. Garrett Jones was fitted for a Golden Sombrero – 0-4 with four whiffs. The defense committed two errors.

The Rest

Marquis is now 10-6 against the Pirates in his career, making them the first club he has beaten 10 times. He has given up four runs in 15-2/3 innings in 2009 and has won seven of his last nine decisions against Pittsburgh.

Maholm is now 1-4 against Colorado all time. He has not beaten them since 2007.

This is the seventh time this year that Capps has allowed more than one earned run in an appearance. Last year that happened just five times all year.

Tulowitzki has homered in three of his last four games. Tulowitzki came into the game .463 against the Pirates.

Cards Continue Mastery Over Pirates

Chris Bootcheck’s first career appearance as a Pirates didn’t go well. He started the sixth in relief of starter Charlie Morton. He gave up a single and three walks to force in one run. With two outs, he gave up a bases clearing double to Albert Pujols that pushed the game wide open. Pujols had failed twice earlier with runners on base before connecting in the fateful sixth.

Adam Wainwright was effective for St. Louis. He was perfect through three innings. He went 6-2/3, giving up seven hits, one run and no walks. He struck out six. He tossed 83 of his 112 pitches for strikes.

The Pirates made a ‘too little, too late’ bid with a two run homer from Ronny Cedeno in the 9th. Ultimately, Ryan Franklin had to be summoned to get the last out.

Morton was okay. He was in trouble a lot, giving up seven hits in five innings. But they got just one run off him.

The Good

Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones had two hits each. Cedeno singled in addition to his dinger.

‘White Flag’ Joel Hanrahan struck out four in two innings of work.

Lastings Milledge ran hard all night.

The Bad

Umm. The bullpen?

The Rest

This is day one of my annual trek to Pittsburgh. Across Ohio and up I-79. My brother and I stopped off at the Mall at Robinson before coming downtown. I was not surprised to find that most of the stores that carried sports stuff were emphasizing the Steelers and Penguins over the Pirates. The Dick’s store at the mall had jersey t-shirts of Garrett Jones. We both laughed at that.

After that we did the yearly routine. Check in at the Renaissance (three wedding events at the hotel today – I always feel underdressed coming into the hotel in a t-shirt and shorts). Down a couple of doors for some slices from Giovanni’s Pizza (still outstanding and something we look forward to every year). Then onto the PNC.

The banners hanging up around the outside of the stadium are surely different than what they were in April. Garrett Jones, Jesse Chavez, Charlie Morton and Jason Jaramillo all have banners.  

I guess I’m no longer amazed at how poorly the the team markets itself. I’m a diehard and I’m armed with money and I’m eager to buy something. Yet the only thing that strikes my fancy is a $49 t-shirt (http://www.redjacketshop.com/products/RJ623PIP.htm). I’m not that eager to pay so much for a t-shirt. So, for now, I have nothing in my hands.

My brother and I were talking about all the jersey t-shirt opportunities that the team misses out on. They limit themselves to Clemente, Stargell and Maz. I’d buy shirts with John Candelaria, Al Oliver, Jim Bibby, Richie Hebner, et al without thinking twice about it if they were $20 to $25.

Ken the Lemonade Vendor (www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEpQhGajjeU) was in full voice. That’s always a treat.

A woman with the last name of Coonelly sung the National Anthem. Not sure if she is related to Frank Coonelly. She did a nice job. Though my brother noted – very Simon like – that she appeared to scream it in some parts.

I enjoy some of the ways they introduce players on the big board. I especially like the baseball card introduction this year. It is fantastic to hear the hot dog shooting jingle “…so catch yourself some meat.” Cracks me up every year.

Delwyn Young became an instant favorite of my brothers as he was introduced before his at bats by the Biz Markie song “Just a Friend”.

It was a sellout crowd and 7th largest in PNC history. The post-game fireworks and OAR concert are certainly the reasons. We skipped both. Though we can hear and see the fireworks from our room. I think the music has already started, but the fireworks have been intermittent over the past 30 minutes. It is 11:45 right now.  So, not sure how they are dealing with playing with the sound of fireworks booming in the background.

Speaking of music to be introduced by, this was my first visit to PNC Park that didn’t involve hearing Jack Wilson and his signature song “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Kind of sad. I also lament the loss of the between inning ‘mullet cam’ from earlier years at PNC.

Bullpen Blows One

Wanted: as many ways to lose as possible.

Ross Ohlendorf wasn’t sharp, walking five in six innings. Despite that and allowing four hits, the Snakes were able to tally just once off of him. He left with the lead thanks to a two run homer from Andy LaRoche in the second off of Doug Davis.

But it didn’t hold up. With one out in the 8th, Joel Hanrahan walked a batter and then threw poorly to second base after fielding a comebacker. Alex Romero tied the game with a single and then Stephen Drew broke the tie with a two run knock.

Chad Qualls yielded a solo homer to Garrett Jones in 9th as the Pirates fell a run short. Davis one after allowing just those two runs on four hits in seven innings. Qualls got the save. Hanrahan took the loss.

The Good

Jones’ Wrecking Crew rolls on.

Ohlendorf worked through his issues. He pitched out of jams, inducing no double plays.

The Bad

The Pirates collected just five hits.

Hanrahan

The Rest

Davis has beaten the Pirates in two straight outings against them.

The Pirates have not had a rookie hit double digits in dingers (before Garrett Jones did it this year) since Brad Eldred in 2005.

Ohlendorf was bidding to become the first Pirate 10 game winner since 2007 when Tom Gorzelanny and Paul Maholm both got to double digits.

Drew came into the game hitting .341 against the Pirates in his career in 82 ABs.