Results tagged ‘ Charlie Morton ’
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
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…)
Confession: I have not watched a single inning of the Pirates-Giants action this weekend. This is partly due to my busy schedule but also due to the fact that every box score tells the same story that is frighteningly becoming the anthem of the Pirates 2012 season (and the rest of the league too, the Pirates are just the worst offenders).
The Pirates got perfected gamed by Matt Cain with the exception of James McDonald, something that both players are probably shocked about in retrospect. Honestly, the struggle was somewhat expected. The Pirates struggle with elite arms and based off of his contract, Cain has become an elite arm in the MLB.
Things just continued to get worse for the Bucs last night as a 3-3 ninth inning was broken after a Clint Barmes throwing error. Honestly though, the Pirates have played fantastic defense and odds said that would have to end at some time. With bases loaded and no out, fans should expect to lose, unfortunately the West Coast jinx found a way to make the loss that much more painful.
The thing about last night’s game as well was that the Pirates offense came alive early and really helped Charlie Morton. Morton only lasted 5 innings and 71 pitches, but the Pirates came out of his outing tied and didn’t let the game get away. Small moral victory, but it’s better than losing 1-0 with no offense, right?
Today’s game will place the Bucs against former Pirate Ryan Vogelsong as Erik Bedard takes the hill. Vogelsong is in the same situation as Morton was last night, so drawing out plate appearances will shorten his firs start back from AAA rehab. If there is a game the Pirates can win on this swing, this would be it.
Let’s Go Bucs!
The Pirates are getting out of LA as fast as possible but they are running straight toward San Francisco, not the easiest of opponents either. The good news: the Pirates actually won this West Coast series last year and Buster Posey is still day to day with shingles. The bad news: the Pirates pitching gauntlet continues with Matt Cain.
The Bucs will miss Tim Lincecum but will get Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong for the two games after the facing the highest paid RHP in MLB history. Zito is coming off a strong start in Colorado after stay late in Arizona to work on mechanical issues. Unfortunately, they seem to have worked.
There will also be the rehab special as Vogelsong will presumably go up against Charlie Morton. Vogelsong had a good outing in AAA just like Morton did but both pitchers could be on tight counts and short leashes, meaning that the bullpen had better not be blown in games prior.
The Pirates’ bats need to wake up as the only two players producing are Andrew McCutchen and Casey McGehee. This is a large spacious park so I’d expect to see fly ball and grounder batters like Pedro Alvarez and Rod Barajas struggle. Maybe this change of venue will allow for some of the hard hit Pirates line outs to fall for hits which would be a nice change of pace. Admittably, the Bucs need more help at the plate than a bad pitching matchup (example Capuano). The Bucs need a timid pitcher who can be shaken early by Presley through McCutchen and then offers up ham to Walker and Jones.
The good news: that pretty much sums up Zito and Vogelsong when they are off. If the Pirates don’t jump on these guys early, it may be hard to win this series especially with the strength of the Giants back end bullpen.
I’m hoping the Bucs find their luck by the Bay because staying up till 1am watching them miss opportunities is not my ideal weekend. Let’s Go Bucs!!!
When Charlie Morton first went to the DL, I wrote that this would not change the dynamic of the Pirates rotation too drastically. After Morton’s first rehab start in AAA Indianapolis, things could be set in motion for the 5th man.
Morton pitched extremely well with control and baffling AAA hitting. He allowed one run early that may have been a byproduct of a collision at first base more than anything else. Morton threw 98 pitches for a full outing of proof that he can more than likely make a big league start in the near future.
While nothing was ever set in stone, it appeared as if Morton would return to start against the Giants and normalize the 5 day rotation of the Bucs. As of now, Bedard, Karstens and McDonald can all rest at least 5 days between starts and Morton could come in before Corriea takes the ball again after tonight’s start in Dodger Stadium.
Nothing has been released from Pirates camp yet as to how the situation will play out, but expect a decision within the next few days so that Morton can meet the team in San Francisco. If Morton remains in AAA for another rehab start, it would mean that there would more than likely have to be a strong bullpen outing led by Tony Watson before Correia started again.
Based off of the Pirates’ recent performances out West, coupled with the strain that this scenario puts on a bullpen while out West, I am assuming that the Bucs would swap out a bullpen arm for a AAA starter if they keep Morton in Indianapolis, say Brad Lincoln?
The more likely option (at least preferable one) is to call Morton up and send a bullpen arm down to AAA. I would assume that would be Jared Hughes after his Philadelphia outing and Huntington’s recent comments, but who is to say the Pirates don’t send down Yaimaco Navarro or Josh Harrison? After the way Barmes has started the year, I would assume one of these guys will get playing time in LA.
If the Pirates struggle and the bullpen is used often before Morton is called up, I would expect one of these guys to be sent down. The Pirates need the arms while out West to keep games close for their small ball lineup.
Let’s spoil the 50th birthday of Dodger stadium and start this West Coast trip right. Let’s Go Bucs!!!