So if you didn’t already hear the Bucs play a double header tomorrow, with James McDonald and Charlie Morton taking the hill in games 2 and 3 of their series with the Rockies (now branded Rox by Pirates.com?). Now with two games in one day, maybe the Pirates can score 7 runs in a single day for the first time this season.
We all know how bad the Bucs’ offense is, but as the games go by and the Pirates still can’t hit, the historians are starting to open the record books for the sake of finding a worse team. Turns out, you have to go back over a century to find a more offensively challenged team.
The 2 runs a game average would give the Pirates 324 runs on the year with the only team failing to reach that mark being the 1891 Brewers who scored 227 runs in their season…over 36 games played. Yes, unless the Bucs fail to score more runs, they could be the worst offense baseball has ever seen. Oh and it gets better: only the ’65 Mets’ final tally of 56 games with one or less runs scored a game will be annihilated by the Pirates with their projected 76.
Yet the NL Central is so bad, the this lackluster offense is fourth in the division. Yes, FOURTH in a six team division. The Bucs are just ONE GAME BACK of the Brewers for second in the division and four and half back of the Cards.
Thank you Pirates pitching for this, as the Bucs currently boast the second lowest ERA in the MLB (2.63) and are holding opponents to just a .235 BA and a 1.23 WHIP. The reason to believe the arms won’t fall off this year as long as trends continue? The Pirates are second in all of the MLB in total pitches throw with just 2,036 through 15 games (roughly 135/game).
Moral of this story: the Pirates offense is really bad. Their pitching is really good. As the months warm up, both should come down (or up) to more normal levels but if the Pirates are going to be competitive and compete for .500 or even the Central since it’s so bad, they are going to need to add some explosiveness. Starling Marte anyone?
So if you didn’t hear, A.J. Burnett is with the Pirates and looks good. Like REALLY good. Like maybe this staff could be top 10 in MLB good if he produces like this all year. Burnett and Bedard look like a great one-two punch to keep the Bucs in every game they play. We still haven’t seen bad A.J. yet, but bad Bedard goes five innings and two runs. Not too shabby.
It’s the rest of the staff that will get the Bucs into trouble. As I wrote earlier, the Pirates have some interesting options in regards exclusively to Joel Hanrahan and Kevin Correia. Now the problem is that the correct way to write the above sentence should be “had.”
According to sources, Jeff Karstens’ results were sent to the one and only Dr. James Andrews. If you don’t understand, Andrews is the GO TO guy for all arm problems across all sports. If a pitcher is sent to him, I will bet almost anything it’s time for Tommy John surgery. Now, Andrews is famous because he basically gives his patients new and improved arms, but it’s still a year process before they’re back out on the mound.
That means that the rotation will probably be set as Burnett, Bedard, McDonald, Correia and Morton.
As expected, Jared Hughes’ rough outings have pushed him down to AAA with Brad Lincoln looking like the long reliever in the Pirates pen. (more…)
It may be cliche but it’s true: a bullpen and rotation are all mini puzzles that make up the giant puzzle of a MLB pitching staff. You need to have the right fit of lefties and righties while ensuring that not everyone throws the same in order to ensure that the manager has a guy for every situation. Coming into this season there were few guarantees, but they were:
Joel Hannerhan will be the closer.
A.J. Burnett would be the number starter by default.
The rotation would be an interesting jigsaw puzzle all year.
This is why you never make promises in baseball. The only sure fire thing Pirates fans know now is that unless Erik Bedard’s arm falls off (unfortunately very possible) he is the ace of this staff. Bedard, though winless, has baffled hitters all year and kept the Pirates close in every game. He has yet to tap 100 pitches an outing and even at his worst this season he only gave up two earned runs.
The rotation, with the loss of Karstens, now hinges on the health of A.J. Burnett and Charlie Morton. Morton looked ok in his last outing and while not stellar, did the job well enough. This next start could be a huge indicator if he’s truly “back.” Burnett is a different story.
His outings have been shaky at best in both high-A and AAA so far but their not due to his injury. His issue seems to be feel and control which is something a veteran like Burnett should not have lost over a winter. More than likely, Burnett will get the call up to fill in for Karstens’ start against Colorado on Monday and everyone will justifiably be on pins and needles.
This then means that with Burnett coming up, someone has to go down. Well Jared Hughes was the man I would have placed money on a few games ago until he ensured the Bucs had a chance against Arizona. Evan Meek hasn’t looked great so I’d assume he’s on his way down to Indianpolis.
This then leaves the bucs with a rotation of Bedard, Burnett, McDonald, Morton and Correia and a bullpen of Grili, Cruz, Hannerhan, Hughes, Lincoln, Resop and Watson. So where does this leave the Bucs?
Well for starters, the bullpen now becomes a cut throat place for Hughes, Lincoln, Resop and Watson who are the players most likely to be sent down when Karstens is healthy. There is an intriguing debate that comes with Karstens’ health: what to do with Kevin Correia?
Unlike Burnett or Bedard, Correia’s stuff combined age isn’t enough to warrant a starting slot, especially when McDonald, Karstens and Morton are all young enough to still develop. There has been some talk of platooning his services with another pitcher for a road/home split but that isn’t a good idea on so many levels.
In reality the Pirates have a couple different choices: keep him in the pen for games that McDonald or Karstens fizzle out early (very likely) and give him spot starts depending on injuries (again very likely). The Pirates could try to throw him in the roatation for road only games since he performs so well away from PNC Park, but that may be too unconventional for Correia or Hurdle to agree to. More than likely, Correia is moved to the pen and starts more as the season wears on the Pirates’ arms, becoming a starter once someone falls off for injury or fatigue.
But that’s not the main point of intrigue for the Pirates. The real questions will swirl around All-Star Hannerhan. (more…)
So if you haven’t noticed, the Pirates are just plain bad at hitting in this young season. The Pirates rank dead last in the MLB in SLG, Runs, and OBP while ranking 28th in AVG. The reason this is so frustrating is because their pitching is first in ERA, 4th in quality starts and 15th in WHIP. The Bucs are 2-3 with a 0-5 offense and a 5-0 defense.
We saw what happens when the pitching carries a lackluster hitting team last year: tread water/thrive in the first half, watch the arms fizzle out in the second half. The Bucs are 4 runs away from being 4-1 if they could have managed to score when they had both Roy Halladay and Chad Billinglsey in two on, one out situations at various points in their closest losses.
So how do the Bucs fix this hitting disaster so they can take advantage of these great opportunities? The most obvious answer is plate discipline.
In their two wins, Cliff Lee and Vance Worley lasted six innings. In their three losses, Halladay, Kershaw and Billingsley lasted 8, 7 and 6 respectively but the key is in their pitch counts. Billingsley threw 77, Kershaw tossed 88 and Halladay needed just 92 pitches to oust the Bucs.
In the latest two losses in LA, the Pirates were awful at the plate against Kershaw and that is somewhat expected. They were better against Billingsley, but never took advantage of opportunities to score with their small ball speed. Billingsley was vulnerable in the 6th inning last night and even though McClouth was just as much at fault as Walker, the bottom line is that they missed their best chance and deflated themselves far too much.
Alex Presley Casey McGehee and Andrew McCutchen are the only Pirates regulars with a BA over .200 which shows just how bad the hitting has been. McCutchen is the best hope for offense, Presley can run and play small ball while McGehee is somewhere in the middle. The rest of the team is no where to be found. Neil Walker look lost at the plate, the power potential of Garret Jones, Rod Barajas and Pedro Alvarez has resulted in strikeout and flyouts, not base clearing doubles.
The Pirates Opening Day lineup has been one of the worst kept secrets in Bradenton this spring. With the exception of injuries (A.J. Burnett) and the catcher spot, almost every fan knew who the Pirates would send out to face the Phillies this April 5. Now that it is set (according to Tom Singer) let’s take a look at what the 2012 Pirates’ starting 9 will look like and what their roles will be.
Locks Since Day 1:
These are the guys that this team’s production will be based around and Clint Hurdle is expecting big things. Not surprisingly, these are the players the Pirates have been focused on most and performed the best this spring.
CF Andrew McCutchen
Best hitter, best fielder, best baserunner, best upside…shall I continue? He is the face of the franchise. Some say he’s a future 40-40 guy, but this season, 30-30 should be the goal along with a .290+ BA and .400+ OBP to show continued improvement. If he stops swinging for the fences, he will have an All-Star year like the old Brian Giles.
2B Niel Walker
Another corner piece of the Pirates lineup, Walker’s role will be that of power bat. His fielding has continued to improve and I don’t know someone who doesn’t like what he brings to the clubhouse. That being said, Walker is a microcosm of why the Bucs’ bats are so weak. Walker only hit 12 homeruns last year with a SLG of .408. Hitting 25 homeruns and 100 RBI would be a huge improvement, but that still does not stack up well for a no.3 hitter comparatively. Still, that production from him would be a huge lift for the Bucs.
LF Alex Presley
After the season he had in AAA and Pittsburgh last year, Presley earned the chance to become one of the starting outfielders. Presley could be a huge bright spot for the team at the leadoff position, hitting over .300 and 25+ stolen bases when combined with Clint Hurdle’s aggressive base running. I really like Presley to be a hidden gem for the Bucs and for him to make a run for the All-Star game if he has a solid start to the season.
SS Clint Barmes
Unlike the other three, Barmes came in as the starter based on need. Hurdle knows what he is capable of from their time together in Colorado and playing with Houston would hurt anyone’s stats, but Barmes is the least impressive of these three, perhaps the entire roster (minus Pedro Alvarez). If Barmes can just hit .250-.265 and hit decent in big moments, his bat will be appreciated. Meanwhile in the field, he will be a great upgrade from Cedeno/d’Arnaud and he and Niel Walker’s fluidity will only improve as the season. (more…)
Pedro Alvarez returned to action today after a knee injury had him sidelined for a bit. Today was also the day that Alvarez was given the vote of confidence to start off in the majors this season. He then decided to erupt Pirates fans with a performance that was worthy of a start in AA Altoona instead.
Pedro’s game tonight was a microcosm of his struggles with the Pirates as Alvarez went 0-3 with two strikeouts and a weak grounder to first. He also committed an error that allowed the O’s to jump ahead 2-0. Unfortunately for Pedro, whatever scrutiny had been put on the Bucs by the media and fans has been squarely on Alvarez.
Pedro’s slump is reaching tragic levels as nothing possible seems to spark him. Some said plate discipline was the issue, but he takes two straight strikes to put him behind that leads to horrible easy strikeouts. He tries to pull the ball too much and his power seems to disappear 95% most of the time.
I am not alone in saying that Pedro should go to the minors, but some agree with ownership that the major leagues experience is what Alvarez needs to mature and move past this. Pedro has power and raw ability, but the point at which this makes a player is long past.
Alvarez needs to learn the details of hitting major league pitching. There is a large element of education to this, but sometimes players just don’t have “it.” I want to have hope in Pedro, but the more I see, the more the word “bust” comes to mind.
I know that this may turn away readers but it is the truth: SABRmetrics are the future of baseball and how the game can continue to be progressive in sports. These new stats give a much clearer picture to the game and allow for a much more thorough evaluation of a player’s performance.
One of my favorite basic SABRmetric stats is BABIP, or batting average on balls in play. The stat is easy to move up and down from year to year, but is used as a benchmark for pitchers of how “lucky” a pitcher is. .300 is considered average, with anything under being lucky and anything over being unlucky. A bad year is somewhere around .315 and that is the result of poor defensive play behind the pitcher.
Therefore, the best way to look at the statistic is to take the normal pitching gauges of ERA, WHIP, K/9 and then use the BABIP number to determine if the pitcher was aided or hurt by the defensive performance around him.
For the Pirates, the key reason the Pirates were able to ascend to first place in July was due to the defense and pitching. The Pirates staff was among the lowest in strikeouts, yet highest in groundball outs and one of the best in overall ERA. The Pirates are going to need to replicate this success again this season if there is any hope of a .500 mark.
The additions of Erik Bedard and A.J. Burnett appear to bolster the rotation as they replace Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf. BABIP will help us get a much clearer picture of whether or not the Pirates staff is truly seeing an upgrade or not by comparing the performances of Maholm and Ohlendorf to those of Bedard and Burnett with the luck factor included. Also, BABIP will help us get a feel for Jeff Karstens’ Charlie Morton’s, Kevin Correia’s and James McDonald’s seasons as well.