Morton Pitches Pittsburgh Past Padres

Charlie Morton allowed a first inning run and then no more over seven strong innings. He gave up six hits (four in the first two innings) and just one free pass, while striking out four.

The Pirates battled back early off of a wild Tim Stauffer. With the aid of four walks and a pair of triples, the Pirates scored three times in the first and never looked back. Brandon Moss’ two run triple was the big hit.

After that it was Morton. Stauffer was pulled after three, allowing the three runs on four hits and four walks. Jesse Chavez and Matt Capps each tossed a scoreless inning to end it.

The Good

Getting a win.

Morton’s outing

The Bad

Wow. Nothing.

The Rest

This was Morton’s first win since August 21 against Pittsburgh. In his next start, he was clobbered for 10 runs against the Cubs. This was his best start since he threw seven shutout innings against San Francisco in July.

Brandon Moss is statistically at least, having an awful year for a corner outfielder. Looking back at Pirate players that had 350 or more plate appearances and failed to drive in 40 runs, you have a collection of lead off hitters and middle infielders. Other than Andy Van Slyke’s disastrous final season in Pittsburgh, the list is populated with names like Jose Castillo, Abraham Nunez, Lou Collier, Mike Benjamin, Jacob Brumfield.

Advertisements

Cutch’s First Career Dinger Paces Pirates Offense

Andrew McCutchen, Andy LaRoche and Adam LaRoche each homered and drove in a pair of runs as Ian Snell won for just the second time all year.

McCutchen hit a two run homer in the third. After Joe Crede’s two RBI knock tied the score in the home half of the fourth, Andy LaRoche hit a two run blast in the fourth to give the Priates the lead for goo.

Adam LaRoche added a solo dinger and an sac fly later in the game and Robinzon Diaz drove in two with a double.

Snell went six innings. He gave up five hits, three walks and two runs. Francisco Liriano was touched for four runs on eight hits in seven innings. John Grabow pitched two innings and Steven Jackson mopped up.

The Good

Happy with Snell’s outing and would glady take more.

The brothers LaRoche share for the active roster lead in RBI

The Bad

Delwyn Young only had one hit. He is clearly slumping.

The Rest

This was Snell’s second win of the year. Win #2 last year came on 4/12 of 2008. But his third win of 2008 didn’t come until June 11. So, he’s not that far behind the pace.

Joe Mauer is hitting .425 but is 41 at bats away from qualifying for the leader boards.

Andrew McCutchen is the third Pirate rookie to record his first career dinger this year (Robinzon Diaz and Jason Jaramillo). He homered in his 13th game. Bucco rookies who have homered in the first 10 games this decade:

Robinzon Diaz – 7th game- 2009

Nate McLouth – 9th game – 2005

Ray Sadler – 3rd game – 2005

John Van Benschoten – 2nd game – 2004

Jose Castillo – 8th game – 2004

Andy Barkett – 9th game – 2001

Rob Mackowiak – 9th game – 2001

Craig Wilson – 4th game – 2001

Adam Hyzdu – 6th game – 2000

Alex Hernandez – 7th game – 2000

Tike Redman – 7th game – 2000

 

 

 

 

Snell Efficient and Monroe Supplies the Boom

Craig Monroe got the start in right today and drove in six runs. He did that by clouting a pair of three run homers. The first came off of Braves starter Jo-Jo Reyes and blew open a 2-0 game. The second came two innings later off of Buddy Carlyle.

Monroe’s outburst came in support of Ian Snell who didn’t need much. He went seven innings and allowed three walks, three singles and a double while preventing any Atlanta runs from scoring.

Ryan Doumit had three doubles and scored three times. Andy LaRoche had three hits – including two doubles – as the Pirates piled up nine extra base hits.

The Good

Monroe’s effort was the first six RBI effort by a Pirate hitter since Jose Castillo on 5/30/06.

LaRoche’s three hit effort was the third of his career.

Snell gets in the win column. He won twice in April in 2008 and then just once more before the All-Star break.

Thanks to three double plays, the Pirates only faced four over the minimum in a very quick (2:22) game.

The Bad

Nothing too bad. Nyjer Morgan is now hitless in his last two games.

The Rest

The Bucs have shut out the Braves two straight games, matching what Atlanta did to the Pirates in Game 6 and Game 7 of the 1991 NLCS. I won’t count that as being a payback in full.

Chipper Jones was out with a thumb injury.

This was Jo-Jo Reyes’ debut against Pittsburgh and his first appearance of 2009.

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.

Game #146: Oswalt Faces Minimum in Shutout

Minute Maid Park | 8:05 | Duke vs. Roy Oswalt | Box
I guess there is no shame in being shutout by Roy Oswalt who set the Astros club record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched. He allowed three singles and no walks over nine innings. The Astros defense recorded three double plays, meaning the Pirates sent up only 27 players to the plate. 70 of Oswalt’s 90 pitches went for strikes.
The Pirates had as many hits as they did errors. Zach Duke probably deserved better. He gave up all six Houston runs in 4-2/3, but only two of those were earned. Five of the six hits that Duke allowed came in the fifth inning when five of the runs scored. The inning was fueled by a throwing error from Doug Mientkiewicz trying to start a double play. Floodgates opened. Ballgame. Oswalt contributed a two run single in that inning.
Former Bucco Jose Castillo started at third for Houston, singled and scored a run.
Read the rest of this entry »

Has the Pirates’ plate discipline improved?

Early in the season, many people praised Pirate hitters for utilizing a more patient approach at the plate. The most cited evidence of this improvement was the number of times a player took the first pitch he saw. John Russell and his staff were commended for coaxing this team of free swingers into taking some pitches. However, there is a danger in simply taking the first pitch every at-bat. Once opposing pitchers recognize this trend, hitters begin finding themselves behind in the count right off the bat. While being patient and forcing the pitcher to throw additional pitches is an important aspect of hitting, plate discipline is much more valuable. In other words, swinging at pitches in the strike zone and taking pitches that are not. Simple, right?
FanGraphs has some wonderful statistics that quantify a hitterís plate discipline. Using O-Swing% (ďthe percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zoneĒ), 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%. Letís see how the Pirates are doing this year compared with 2007. (Note: pitchers are not included.)
To start, letís 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% of pitches outside the strike zone, just slightly higher than average.
The Pirates made two significant changes to their lineup this season. Doumit began receiving most of the playing time behind the plate over Paulino, who was a slightly more disciplined hitter in 2007. And McLouth was named the everyday center fielder, giving the Pirates a much better batting eye in the lineup. Thus far, Doumit (18.44%) and Bay (17.11%) have been much better than last year. McLouth (17.37%) has continued his smart hitting. Nady (27.02%) is still a free-swinger, but has improved. The addition of Doug Mientkiewicz (14.06%) has also helped. But Sanchez (37.70%) has continued swinging at everything and an overmatched Brian Bixler (33.33%) has received a considerable number of plate appearances due to Wilsonís injury. In addition, Bautista (23.79%) has apparently lost his excellent batting eye. As a team, the Pirates have chased 23.76% of pitches outside the zone.
As you can see, the Pirates have improved their plate discipline, but only by a small margin. Because the improvement has been modest, it is no surprise that the team remains in the bottom half of the league in walks and on-base percentage. Without some improvement in these categories, do not expect the Pirates to continue scoring runs at the impressive rate that they have thus far.
P.S. Is anyone wondering why Freddy Sanchez has struggled so badly this year? Beginning in 2006, his yearly Zone% has been 55.26%, 53.96% and 49.92%. In those same years, his O-Swing% has been 30.45%, 33.43% and 37.70%. In other words, pitchers are throwing him far less strikes, and he is increasingly chasing pitches. That is a recipe for disaster. A disaster we may be witnessing right now.

Game #33 vs. San Francisco

PNC Park | 7:05 | Dumaitrait vs. Barry Zito | Box
I think this is what the Giants expected out of Barry Zito but it still wasn’t enough. Their erstwhile ace went five innings and gave up two runs, both coming on a homer from Xavier Nady. He was aided by two line drive turned double plays that ended innings.
The real story was Phil Dumatrait earning his first ML win. He tossed 5-2/3 scoreless innings of three hit ball. He gave way to Tyler Yates with a runner on second.
The Pirates relief corp shut the door until the 9th when the Giants had three straight singles off Matt Capps to plate one. Capps finished the game with a 4-6-3 DP from the bat of Jose Castillo.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in 2008 Pittsburgh Pirates, Game Threads, Home, Jose Castillo, Matt Capps, May, NL West, Phil Dumatrait, Tyler Yates, Xavier Nady. Comments Off on Game #33 vs. San Francisco