Maine, Mets Roll as Bucs Lose 7th Straight

It was bound to happen. Paul Maholm didn’t have a particularly sharp outing, though he was undone by one bad inning. The Mets batted around in a five run fourth inning to push open a 1-0 game. They would go onto win 10-1.

Maholm lasted six innings and gave up seven of the 10 Mets tallies. He struck out two.

On the flipside was John Maine. He won his third straight start with six innings of three hit ball. The Pirates only run scored on Paul Maholm’s first big league homer in the sixth inning.

The Mets had seven players collect at least two hits en route to a total of 17. Jose Reyes drove in three runs. Carlos Beltran homered off Maholm in the fifth.

The Good

Andy LaRoche cracked a pair of doubles

The Bad

Too much badness. Maholm was ineffective for once.

The offense continues to remain stagnant.

The Rest

The Pirates scored 70 runs in their first 15 games (4.7 runs per game) to go 9-6 in that stretch. In the most recent batch of 15 games, the club has scored just 56 times (3.7 runs per game) and went 3-12.

The last Pirate pitcher to homer was Matt Morris on 8/4/07 in his first start as a Pirate. Somewhere in Oakland, Rajai Davis is smiling. The last Pirate pitcher to homer twice in one season was Brian Fisher back in 1987.

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The Pirates pitched poorly in 2008

We all know that the Pirates’ pitching was terrible in 2008, and many of you may be tired of the topic by now. But if you are interested in another reminder, here it is. R.J. Anderson is doing a project over at Beyond the Box Score in which he is converting FIP into the more convenient FIP+. It is similar to OPS+ or ERA+ in that it adjusts FIP for league and park, and translates it to a scale in which 100 equals league average.

He is going around the league, providing FIP+ for every pitcher and giving a brief synopsis of each team’s performance for the season. So far, each team has generally had a reasonable split of above and below average players. The highest numbers tend to belong to dominant relievers, such as Brian Fuentes’ mark of 208. There are also some starters that posted remarkable numbers, such as Tim Lincecum’s 158. Then we come to the Pirates.

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Game #135: Suppan, Cameron Bop Bucs

PNC Park | 7:05 | Maholm vs. Jeff Suppan | Box
I’m posting this before it is over. The Brewers just tacked on three in the 9th to make it 11-3.
Jeff Suppan went seven innings and allowed just three hits. One of those hits was a two run dinger from Brandon Moss.
Paul Maholm’s day was ruined by a five run fifth in which Milwaukee batted around. Mike Cameron popped a three run homer for the big blow in that frame.
I’m not really sure what I expected. With Jason Bay and Xavier Nady gone, everyone and their Geico cavemen knew the Pirates offense would struggle. But this has been truly ugly. Both Adam LaRoche and Nate McLouth are hitting less than .250 for the month. The only thign to look forward to is to see what happens when the rosters expand on 9/1.
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Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable – 2009 Rotation

The Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable is a weekly collaboration of Pirates writers from around the internet. Thank you to all of the authors that have contributed to this post. To read more of their work, please click on the link next to each name. If you would like to submit a question to our panel, please e-mail me here.
Question:
Which pitchers do you expect to see in the Pirates’ 2009 starting rotation?

Mike from Hyzdu Headquarters
When looking forward to the 2009 pitching there are clearly many, many more options next year than there were this past spring, when it looked set in stone at the end of the previous season. The way things are shaping up in September, it seems as though it will be the audition for the rotation next year. Here is how I think it will shake out. (The starters are listed mainly in order of my certainty to make it, not what spot they’ll take.)
Paul Maholm – Based on what he had done this year, it is a no brainer.
Ian Snell – That contract they gave him in the offseason pretty much guarantees that they will run him out there in the rotation.
Jeff Karstens – His run of solid pitching since his acquisition, I would think allows him a spot in the rotation. He seems to me to be a Jeff Suppan type guy. Plug him into the rotation and he won’t provide you with too many worries.
Ross Ohlendorf – It seems from the day we traded for him they wanted him to BE a starter. Management must think very highly of his prospects as a starter and I will believe he will be given every chance at a spot in the rotation.
Tom Gorzelanny – This will be in my opinion the most highly competitive spot. You will have Gorzelanny, Duke, Dumatrait, Daniel McCutchen, Barthmaier, and some others competing for this spot. I would say that they would seek another lefty for the rotation, so that leaves Duke, Gorzo, and Dumatrait, who is coming off an injury, so I’d say he is out. Between Duke and Gorzo it will be a tough draw, both have positives, negative, and question marks. I’ll go with Gorzo.
We have plenty of options on the table now to work with a multitude of guys. It is a far sight better than when we were ‘depending’ on Matt Morris.
Randy Linville from Pittsburgh Lumber Co.
The 2009 Pirates rotation will be Tom Gorzelanny, Paul Maholm, Ian Snell, Jeff Karstens and a jump ball. Zach Duke’s performance has put him in the position of having to earn his spot in the rotation in 2009. If Snell has a poor 2009, he will be on the hot seat for 2010.
Jesse from Raise the Jolly Roger!
1. Maholm
2. Snell
3. Gorzelanny
4. Karstens
5. Ohlendorf
Andy Smith from Bugs and Cranks
If I had to assign the 2009 rotation today, my guess is it would look like this:
1) Paul Maholm
2) Ian Snell
3) Jeff Karstens
4) Tom Gorzelanny
5) Dan McCutchen
I would say the top three are definitely in the rotation, although you could easily flip Snell and Karstens depending on who pitches better down the stretch and in the spring next year. Obviously, the big absence with these five is Zach Duke, a prediction that would have seemed unconscionable just three years ago. I imagine he’ll compete with McCutchen and Gorzelanny for the fourth and fifth spots, but he’d probably have to blow the staff away to get the nod given his performance the last two seasons. I also suppose it’s possible the front office could bring in a veteran arm to compete, but given the near-ready glut of pitchers acquired at the deadline this year, I think the younger cheaper internal options seem like a better bet.
Matt Bandi from Pittsburgh Lumber Co.
The only lock for next yearís rotation is Paul Maholm. I think Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny are also pretty likely to be there, and I expect Jeff Karstens and Ross Ohlendorf to finish out the rotation. Zach Dukeís career is heading down the long reliever/sixth starter route, and I think he will fill that role next year.
Obviously, the most exciting aspect of the 2009 pitching will be the starting depth. I doubt we will see a repeat of this season, when we would often send a guy out to start simply because there was nobody else left. If any of the five starters above struggles or goes down with an injury, there will be plenty of options to turn to. Duke, Phil Dumatrait, Ty Taubenheim and Jason Davis should prove to be warm bodies that could make a start and give the team a chance to win. Depending on their progression, Jimmy Barthmaier and Daniel McCutchen could also be in the rotation mix at some point next season.
Also, keep in mind that Neal Huntington will have the entire offseason to bring in more talent. I am pretty optimistic about the 2009 pitching staff.

Sending a message

With the August 15th draft pick signing deadline approaching, there has obviously been quite a bit of talk about Pedro Alvarez. His drafting represented a change of strategy by Pirate management, being that he has loads of upside, is represented by Scott Boras, and will likely require a hefty bonus to complete the deal. As we near the deadline, many fans are growing nervous that the Pirates may not sign him. If they donít, much of the luster from the improved 2008 draft will be dulled.
One opinion about this matter really irks me, though. I have heard many people say something along the lines of, ďThe Pirates have to sign Alvarez to prove to the fans that they are serious about winning.Ē Wrong. Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington owe nothing to the fans except sound and rational baseball decisions. That is why they were hired, and that should be their focus.
I understand that we have suffered through approximately 15.5 years of misery. I understand that, for the majority of those years, Pirate management has made countless poor decisions, and often has done so with dubious motivations. I understand why we feel that we deserve more. I understand, because I was there.
But making a decision to send a message to fans is something old management would have done. Remember when Dave Littlefield sent a message by acquiring Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa and Sean Casey? The following year he sent another message by trading for Matt Morris and taking on his entire salary. He proved that the Pirates were willing to add salary. But that was a lot of money wasted with the goal being to satisfy the fan base, not to improve the franchise.
Now I am not saying that missing out on Alvarez would be acceptable. The Pirates absolutely need to sign him, as he is a huge ingredient in their rebuilding process. My point is that he needs to be signed to help the team win, not to appease the fans. If he is asking for a $10 million bonus, and the Pirates feel that would cripple the franchiseís future, they should be willing to walk away. Regardless of the inevitable backlash from fans.
As a small market franchise, the Pirates need to make unpopular decisions to remain competitive. The new regime proved that they were willing to do that with the recent trades. They traded away two of our most popular and productive players, because we needed the ability to field a team after 2009. Now there is a chance to do that, even as much of the fan base looks upon those trades as a simple salary dump.
Maybe the new regime has not yet proven themselves to you. Maybe you need them to sign Alvarez to be satisfied. Maybe you need much more than that. I, for one, am convinced. They have done everything they said they would do. They improved international and domestic scouting, went after impact talent in the draft, and dealt the teamís valuable veterans for young talent instead of gearing up for a run at a winning season. Thatís enough for me.
But none of this should matter to Coonelly and Huntington. They should not care what you think, or what I think. They need to do whatís best for this team, something they have done time and again. When the Pirates are once again a winning franchise, all fans will be satisfied.

Game #102: Herrera Wins His First

PNC Park | 7:05 | Herrera vs. Clay Hensley | Box
Don’t know if this game is a blip on the radar or the start of a beautiful relationship. If it is only a one night stand, it was a fantastic night. Yoslan Herrera allowed just six singles and one walk over six innings while holding San Diego scoreless. That effort earned him his first ML win.
The Pirates offense continued it’s recent frenetic activity. The Bucs clouted three dingers and scored nine runs. Clay Hensley was tagged for six runs in five innings. The Pirates scored a pair in the first. Jason Bay and Xavier Nady hit solo homers in the fourth to make it 4-0. Two more runs were tacked on in the sixth before San Diego got to reliever Denny Bautista for a run in the 8th. The Pirates got their final three runs in the bottom of the 8th. Two of those came from a two run blast from Nate McLouth.
Freddy Sanchez had two more hits. Herrera’s game score was 63. Combined in 62 starts last year, Tony Armas, Zach Duke, Matt Morris, Shane Youman and John Van Benschoten had just four starts that were better than 63.
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Halfway there – the good and the bad

With the Pirates at the halfway point of the 2008 season, I thought it would be a good time to assess which players have surprised us with their play. Some have been disappointments, while others have performed better than expected. You will not see Adam LaRoche in this post, as his numbers are very similar to last year at this point. I also did not choose Tom Gorzelanny. His struggles are not very surprising considering his overuse last season. And Nate McLouth is not mentioned, as his strong finish to 2007 led many to believe he would break out this year. Without further ado:
Pleasant Surprises
Ryan Doumit
Doumit has always had good offensive potential. The only question has been whether he could endure an injury-free season. While he has missed two chunks of time with finger and head injuries, he has hit phenomenally when in the lineup. With a .346/.391/.622 line, he has made a case for best hitting catcher in baseball. Despite accumulating only 169 plate appearances thus far, he has the fourth highest VORP among all Major League catchers. He will need to walk more to have any chance to sustain his extraordinary numbers, as his stats are driven quite a bit by his high batting average. But there is nothing wrong with your catcher sporting a .357 EQA at the midway point.
Phil Dumatrait
The Piratesí starting rotation has been in shambles most of the season. Dumatrait, scooped up off the scrap heap this past offseason, got his opportunity when it became obvious that Matt Morris was finished. He did a great job of stabilizing the staff, posting a 4.66 ERA and 1.50 WHIP before hitting the disabled list with shoulder issues. Nothing too impressive about those numbers, but considering how bad the Pirates have pitched, he was a welcome sight in the rotation.
Disappointments
Ian Snell
Snell signed a new three-year contract extension in the offseason, and was expected to anchor the pitching staff. His poor performance has been a huge part of the teamís pitching woes this season. With a 5.99 ERA and 1.93 WHIP, Snell has been anything but reliable. His K/9 has decreased, his BB/9 has shot up, and opponents have posted an .885 OPS against him. He recently hit the DL with a sore elbow, so maybe some time off will improve his performance. It better, because the Pirates are desperate for a dramatic improvement from Snell.
Freddy Sanchez
Sanchez has been a bit overvalued the past few years, as nearly all of his value has been tied up in a high batting average. However, his plummet this season has been remarkable. After a strong second half in 2007, he finished with an OPS of .785. This season, he has arguably been the worst hitter in baseball. With a line of .233/.262/.320, he has been a huge hole in the Piratesí lineup. It is possible that his sore shoulder has affected his hitting more than he has let on, but that is difficult to evaluate. He has only walked 12 times, something he needs to drastically improve upon.