So you could mention that Andrew McCutchen completely ripped the cover off the ball today with his triple and bases loaded double. You could talk about how the Bucs continually put their foot on the offensive accelerator. You could also talk about how Pedro Alvarez absolute HAMMERED a ball out of PNC Park and suddenly made us all believers again.
But none of that really matters because the Pirates only needed two of their seven runs because James McDonald brought his A-game to the park and pitched his first career shutout. James McDonald needed 120 pitches to do it, but he dominated the Twins for just six hits and one run. According to an ESPN graphic, it was J-Mac’s curve getting the job done, which is the second best statistically to Gio Gonzalez of Washington.
I thought that the most impressive moment of J-Mac’s game came in the final inning. Bob Walk mentioned that he though Hurdle would pull J-Mac because he already had over 100 pitches going into the ninth. However, J-mac remained incredibly focused and was locked in. For the record, that is the mental aspect we all feared he could never master. A game like this only shows the arrival of J-Mac, who is the first Pirates starter since the dead ball era to allow less than three runs in his first 14 starts (again, according to ESPN).
The Pirates did what they were supposed to do and took 2 of 3 from the struggling Twins and got plenty of rest and momentum going into a huge series against Detroit. If the Pirates can take the first two against the Tigers, they won”t have to worry about defeating Verlander. Let’s hope the Bucs’ bats stay hot so Pittsburgh can continue the dominance at home.
On Friday at approx 12:30 I am going on family vacation. It will be a lot of fun and I will be checking out some baseball hot beds in the Caribbean but the problem is that on the boat, internet = not cheap. Therefore I don’t know how many games I’ll be able to swing or just how “in the loop” I will be. I hope to have some analytical posts up and going throughout the week but game recaps will be lacking.
The readers of 1992 And Counting can help! If anybody has ever had the inkling to blog or is an avid Pirates fan with any bit of blogging/writing experience, tweet me (@acpregler) or leave a comment below before tomorrow morning and we can hopefully set something up where you write for 1992 And Counting for a week! Who knows, this could be the start of a real adventure and the site grows to be the Pirates version of Grantland (not a bad idea actually….) Anyways, please, if you can help out get in touch with me!
The bright side of this game was that I got to sit behind home plate and chat baseball with my dad so the game recap for the Pirates’ 2-1 loss is filled with tidbits of that conversation. The game moved along pretty quick until the switches in the 7th inning onward. Erik Bedard let up one run early to Josh Willingham who would haunt the Pirates all night.
Bedard would move on from this slight hiccup to last six innings of quality ball but once again, he looked like he was struggling for control. Bedard has some quality pitches like his curve but keeping it in the strike zone for strike three was an issue. He finished by my count just under 100 pitches.
Francisco Liriano was even better, pitching extremely effectively and shutting down the Bucs for 6 innings until the seventh where the game had it’s turning point. Liriano loaded the bases by walking Michael McHenry which led to Rod Barajas’ shot at immortality (kinda). Barajas smoked a liner into center which Denard Span dove for. He came up with the ball and Pedro, who was on third, tagged up. Jose Tabata would ground out to end the threat.
When Jason Grilli came up in the 8th, I remarked to my dad that a Cutch homer would bring up Hanrahan and end the game with a nice bow. I had no idea that Josh Willingham decided to take my advice and Grilli’s mistake cost the Pirates the game.
Some random tidbits from the game: left handed starters are the weakness of the Pirates lineup more than anything else. The team is loaded with left handed hitters (Alvarez, Jones, throw Walker in) and McCutchen is the only real threat. This team could really use a big right handed bat because McGehee isn’t a cleanup guy.
Pedro Alvarez is a smart ball player, he just can’t hit. If he would learn how to hit pitching he’d be a great all around player. He never left third on Barajas’ shot and played third very well. On the other side I don’t think Tabata will be a good player even with a bat. He lacks hustle and I’d much rather see an outfield of Harrison, McCutchen and Jones until Marte is ready for the show.
J-Mac goes for the Bucs tomorrow, hopefully he can win the rubber match for the Pirates. Let’s Go Bucs.
Heads up about game recaps and this blog at least for now: they will be hit or miss and not your normal recap. I have an internship with the Erie SeaWolves (AA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers) calling games on the radio and writing their game recaps so I have to be pretty plugged into those games. However, the TV in the booth usually has the Pirates game on so I do catch the action. Therefore no game recap means I didn’t watch the game and I won’t waste your time. I did catch some of action from tonight and this is what I picked up…
Josh Harrision should be starting every day. I really don’t like Jose Tabata all that much and his bad night at the plate combined with 9th inning fielding gaffe only made Harrison shine brighter to me. He may not have Tabata’s arm, but he does have greater speed, bat strength, and hustle. I’d rather have Presley lead off followed by Harrison allowing Niel Walker to move to the 5 spot, a better place in the lineup for his bat rather than 2nd.
Andrew McCutchen should not be 1 million+ votes out of starting the All Star game. He is an absolute beast. That is all.
Tony Watson is the real deal. Fans get so frustrated in minor league games when the managers leave out a reliever or starter after he’s been batted around for four runs and the bases are full but Watson gave an example of why it’s necessary. Young players who are successful and make the show bear down and get the outs with minimal damage.
Kevin Correia proved me wrong and at the same time, didn’t. Listen. He had a fantastic start by Kevin Correia standards. Shut out baseball with no real danger being caused. He had his best stuff going and got strikeouts and groundouts at key times. However, by that same token, he only lasted 5 1/3 and that is arguably the best he has in him.
If you look at a starter and say the best he has given us all year is 5 1/3 scoreless and he’s more likely to be pegged for 5-6 innings of 4+ run ball, I say get him out of the rotation. That is the definition of a spot starter/bullpen long reliever. You need your starter to have the capability of giving you a quality start EVRY time he trots out to the mound, not just once in a blue moon. Correia had an easy matchup and showed that he can take down a very inferior opponent: nothing more.
With the month almost turning to July and the Pirates just .5 games out of the Wild Card and 3.5 back of the division leading Reds, it’s safe to say that Neal Huntington and the Bucs will be buyers at the July 30 trade deadline. If you were to of asked me a month ago where Pittsburgh’s primary concern is, I would have said hitting. This hasn’t changed since then but the pitching dilemma has suddenly opened up discussion about the back end of the Pirates rotation.
The is no debating the stats: the Pirates are in the top half of the league when it comes to pitching. Led by a stellar bullpen, the Bucs have two legitimate aces at the top of their rotation in James McDonald and A.J. Burnett. As Bucs Dugout pointed out in an article after Erik Bedard’s Baltimore Debacle, the Pirates essentially shipped off Paul Maholm and replaced him with a very slight upgrade in Bedard. Bedard can stifle some teams but recently has not controlled the ball well and settles into the third starter role best.
That ends the bright side. Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton were both initially pegged to finish out the rotation but both have since been injured. Morton is out until late 2013 or 2014 with Tommy John surgery and Karstens is not expected back until July with elbow inflammation. In their stead have been Kevin Correia and Brad Lincoln, two disasters in progress. Correia has completely lost whatever he had last season. He is far too hittable and can’t keep the ball in the infield, let alone the ball park. Lincoln has more potential but racks up too many pitches early on when he has a decent outing. Neither look like MLB starters at this point.
What the Pirates Need:
The Buccos need to solidify their rotation if they want to make a wild card push. One bat isn’t going to fix their offensive woes and therefore the pitching must be as good as it can possibly be. Correia does not look like a MLB starter while Lincoln needs time in AAA discovering a changeup and pitch selection before he’s MLB ready. Unfortunately, one must stay in the lineup since only Karstens is returning.
Therefore, Huntington must find a legitimate number five starter for the Bucs by the deadline or the Pirates will have to pray that Lincoln learns on the fly in the majors.
Options: #1 Promote From Within
The Pirates and the All Star game have had a very weird affair over the past decade. Some years, like 2004 for example, genuine All Stars like Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez were represented to play in the Mid-Summer Classic. Other times, the Pirates send relievers like Evan Meek because no one else on the team is really worthy/the National League has a full lineup.
Last season, the Pirates got a combo of both situations as Andrew McCutchen and Joel Hanrahan both made it to Arizona and Kevin Correia was also added to the mix. Yeah, I forgot about that too. Anyways, for the Pirates this year, they seem to have a legitimately solid team with an ok number of All Star Candidates. But who will end up going?
Andrew McCutchen: By far and away, he is the All-Star of the Bucs. Buster Olney tweeted that he would give McCutchen a fourth place MVP vote at this time in the season, Jim Bowden wrote for ESPN.com that he thinks McCutchen should start the ASG and McCutchen leads the Pirates in every important offensive stat while being near the top on National League leader boards. However, according to Pirates.com, McCutchen is 11th in NL outfield votes and had yet to crack the one million vote mark. I have no doubt that if McCutchen doesn’t get the initial votes, he will be on the last man in ballot and win. If that doesn’t happen then the moment someone goes down with injury, McCutchen will be named to the team. Bottom line, he’s a guaranteed All Star.
James McDonald: J-Mac is 4th in the NL in WHIP at a microscopic 0.98 and leads the team with 78 strikeouts. As Rumbunter mentioned a month or so back, J-Mac would also be in position to start the All Star game and not affect the Pirates rotation or his 5 day rest between starts. R.A. Dickey has been the best NL pitcher by far, but J-Mac isn’t far behind. I don’t see how with all of the pitchers that the ASG gives spots to that he is left out. Another guaranteed All-Star for the Bucs.
Joel Hanrahan: As mentioned above, The Hammer is a returning All Star who is currently 3rd in the National League with 17 saves to this point. However, unlike the previous two players above, Hanrahan has arguably taken a step back from last season. Gone is the 1-2-3 9th innings and instead are two on two out save opportunities caused by himself. An argument could be used that his pitching is no longer a surprise, but a more accurate assessment would be that his control has gone down. While he has a better k/9, he has doubled his bb/9 and his HR/9 has gone up from .13 to 1.38. He lets himself get behind in the count and hitters know to look for the fastball. I think that Hanrahan is the best option for a third Pirate to get into the ASG, but it’s no shoo in either. Give it 60%.
A.J. Burnett: There have been two players in the last 20 years to win 6 straight appearances for the Pirates. Both came from the Yankees, both are a little different and both have faired far better in black and gold over pinstripes. Doug Draebek did it in 1990 and A.J. Burnett is doing it again in 2012. A.J. had one horrific start in St. Louis where he gave up 12 ER in less than 2 full innings of work. And yet, he is 7-2 with a 3.52 ERA. He has been nothing but dominant since and has more than likely earned a spot on the National League All Star game. But yet, with this being the year of the pitcher and the Pirates being, well the Pirates, I don’t know if it’s possible for A.J. to be get the attention of the right people to make the squad. I give him a decent chance, but no more than 40%.
Jason Grilli: 14.73 K/9 are not going to be ignored. In fact, only two National League hurlers have more strike outs than Grilli. However, Grilli is a set up man going through the fountain of youth that is Pittsburgh first half pitching and one really wonders if the set up man deserves an ASG bid. Personally, I think he does but with releivers, there is just as much of a “how much have I seen you before” element during the selection process. LaRussa will be managing the National League but I have no idea how much baseball he watches. Since the Pirates have only been on FOX twice, unless Brewers manager and NL coach Ron Roenicke puts in a good word for Grili, I think Jason misses out even though he clearly deserves it.
What do you guys think? Anyone else on the Bucs deserve a chance at the ASG?