Rough Night

For the second time in three nights, the Pirates blow a 3-0 lead and end up losing 5-4. In fact, this makes 3 times in the last 4 one run losses that the Pirates led by at least 3 runs at some point in the game.

The defense was atrocious. Paulino proved he isnt getting any better at blocking the ball. Jack Wilson let Sanchez attempt a kamikaze dive on a pop-up that he had an obviously easier play on. Ditto Burnitz with Castillo. These are veterans who should know better (though an unfortunate extenuation for Burnitz, since he probably genuinely couldnt get to the **** ball).

If I told you I was putting together a team that had:

  • one All-Star caliber outfielder who was in the top 10 of every significant offensive category
  • a third baseman who was leading the NL in batting average
  • a catcher who was leading all rookies in batting average
  • 5 everyday starters hitting at least .300
  • 3 regular starters and a bench player with at least 8 HR’s in the first 1/3 of the season
  • a starting rotation that was young, and wasn’t lights out, but managed to keep each game competitive

what would YOU think this team’s record would be? Sounds a lot like a .500 team, not a 22-39 stink-bomb.

1st star: Sean Casey. He had a great night, SF seems like a good park for him. Maybe the Giants would like to trade for him? Final line – 4-5, 2B, RBI

2nd star: Zach Duke. He wasn’t amazing tonight, but he put up another quality start, and managed to wiggle out of consecutive 2nd/3rd no out jams. plus he got a hit, which is more than Burnitz did. Final line – 6+ IP 6H 3R 3ER 3BB 3K (full house)

3rd star: Lance Niekro. I was going to give this to Jack Wilson until he shot his own team in the head in the 9th, rendering his 2-4 night worthless. I’d give it to Bay but I’d rather give it to Niekro, the only guy to manage multiple hits before the bullpen showed up. Final line – 3-5, 2 2B 2R

Think about this one for a minute. Jack Wilson + Sean Casey + Jason Bay = 7-10, 2 2B, 4 BB, 4R.

Let me say that again. Our 2/3/4 hitters reached base 11 times in 14 plate appearances and scored four runs.

Here’s something new to think about: Jeromy Burnitz is many bad things, but he is single-handedly depleting Jason Bay’s value.

Jason Bay is our lone All-Star caliber player, and therefore (rightfully so) should be given every opportunity to improve his team’s chances of winning every night. In Jason’s case, this includes stealing bases, since he is a legitimate 20-20 guy and, considering his hitting this year, maybe borderline 30-30.

Where is Jason hitting all season? Directly in front of Jeromy Burnitz, he of the 48 K’s in 199 AB’s. Yup, a strikeout every 4 at-bats. I can’t even begin to count the number of times, i.e. tonight in the ninth, where Bay was in a situation where normally, you would send the runner, but Bay CAN’T run because Burnitz is such a huge candidate for a strikeout-throwout DP. If Burnitz maintains his current pace, he will have 3 consecutive months of decreased AB’s and increased K’s (93/20 in April, 82/21 in May, currently on pace for 75/22 this month). It is a travesty that a player who stole 20 bases in 20 attempts last year is 5 for 6 through 61 games and 2 for 2 in the last 40 games.

some random numbers…

Burnitz is hitting .381 with 5 HR and 17 RBI when he puts the first or second pitch in play, .207/4/13 otherwise.

Craig Wilson is hitting .395 leading off the inning, and .462/5/13 when he puts the first or second pitch in play, including a ******** .583 with a 1.083 SLG (2 2B, 2 3B, 2HR) when he puts the first pitch in play.

(OK, now I’m reaching for obscurity)

Paulino is hitting .387 leading off an inning, and is overall a .392 hitter with no runners on (odd sidenote: according to his ESPN splits, Paulino has somehow had two at-bats where there was noone on and noone out, but he wasn’t leading off an inning.) He is hitting .400 when he puts a first pitch in play, .390 when he makes contact in any one-strike count, and .451 on everything BUT 0-2, 1-0, 1-1, and 1-2 pitches (.196)

Memoriam

A moment of silence for Michelle Danielle Mielicki.

She passed away over the weekend after recieving 7 gunshots to her torso, from the gun of her boyfriend of three years.

She was a major Cleveland Indians and Grady Sizemore fan.

Boy I hope the Indians do something in recognition. That would be proper.

Inbetween Thoughts

  • Perhaps the prediction was correct? Isringhausen blows it big-time tonight, the Reds win and are now 2.5 back of the Cardinals.
  • What is the deal with Taber Lee, and why is noone talking about him? The kid started the 2005 season at High-A Lynchburg, and had what would be a mediocre season by anyone’s standards. he hit .241 with minimal power, but a respectable walk rate and therefore an above average OBP. He then moved up to AA for a late-season cup of coffe and did nothing, hitting .208 in 24 games. This season he started all over again at Altoona and still didn’t do anything – he played in 17 games and hit .256 with a .626 OPS. Then he was promoted (?) to AAA, and in 15 games at Indy, including yesterday’s 3 for 3, he is now hitting .347 with an .854 OPS. Now, I understand these are both small sample sizes, but I wonder…1) where did this sudden flurry of hitting come from, 2) how on earth did he earn the promotion in the first place, and 3) is there any chance of him sustaining this? Is he closer to the next Freddy Sanchez or the next Warren Morris?
  • Kudos to Stephen Pearce, who is continuing to whack the ball very well since being promoted from A- to A+
  • Interesting overall facts: the leading hitters at both A- and A+ are the shortstops, Brent Lillibridge and Brian Bixler…..Indy should have an overflowing outfield in 2007 – Boeve and Thompson have both continued to hit since moving from AA to AAA, and Buttler and Ronenberg are both continuing to hit AA pitching well enough that they should sniff AA by September at the latest.

Continuity?

A good start to the road trip for the Pirates. Though I’m not enjoying listening to John Wehner yap about how amazing Ronny Paulino is as a hitter. Yes, he is hitting well, but based on his minor league numbers, he may be s tad over his head.

Good to see the old Ian Snell, the old Ronny Paulino, and the usual Freddy show up tonight. We did well against Aaron Cook (who has been extremely steady if not fantastic this year).

1st star: Ian Snell, just barely. He did a good job tonight. mixing things up and managing to strike out 10 – while only allowing 5 baserunners in the first 6 innings (though this Rockies team hasnt been seeing things so great of late) – before getting a tad sloppy in the 7th. Final line: 6.1 IP 6H 2R 2ER 1BB 10K

2nd star: Freddy Sanchez. An excellent night, posting his 9th game with 3+ hits and a couple two out RBI, including one that salvaged a nearly wasted bases-loaded inning. Final line: 3-5, 2B 2RBI

3rd star: Ronny Paulino/Jason Bay. Paulino gets the start because of his amazing cERA *snicker* and has a great night, with two singles, a grounder that was almost a hit, and a double that was almost a home run in four at-bats. Bay played his usual good game, reaching base 4 times in his 5 plate appearances. Final line: Paulino – 3-4, 2B  Bay – 2-3, 2B 2BB 1RBI

I think I am giving a couple anti-stars tonight to the WIlsons. Jack for going 0-3 with 2 K’s with RISP, and Craig for a pinch-hit GIDP. But, I hope to see them rebound tomorrow.

Here’s hoping we keep the mojo flowing with Paulie Walnuts tomorrow.

Next Time

Belated coverage of the third game vs. San Diego:

Typical Burnitz, couldnt hit a daggone fly ball to the outfield to score Bay when we needed it. Yes, Chris Young pitched well, but he did not pitch 8 shoutout innings well.

Still, not going to complain about a 7-3 homestand.

1st star: Chris Young. Yes, we made him look better than he actually pitched, but he’s going to be at least a #3 guy for several years to come if he continues his current work.

2nd star: Jason Bay. Yet another hustle play that created the Pirates only serious run-scoring threat. He even said that he knew the team was doing diddly, so he needed to bust tail to third. Too bad he stayed there.

3rd star: Bullpen. I certainly can’t complain about 4 innings of shutout relief, even if it wasn’t completel perfect.

Updates

Feel free to take a moment and give a vote to the poll…

Fact –

  • It appears Dave Littlefield isn’t completely stupid after all. He just stated on his pregame show that Freddy Sanchez has been "great" on offense and "nice" on defense (which I think is accurate) and that there is "no way we can remove Freddy from the lineup right now….Freddy is our third baseman." I can’t really complain about that.
  • DL: "One thing that is difficult to do is figure out how a guy is going to do." *sigh* And the interview was going so well.
  • DL again: "You have to play 162 games, and you have injuries, and you can’t bring up AA players to fill those spots." Yes, I actually quoted that verbatim. Since when can you not bring up AA players to cover for injuries? Isn’t that what Ray Sadler did last year? And what about all those AAA players? Strange, strange man.

Rumor –

  • It is being strongly rumored that Albert Pujols is hurt badly enough to go on the DL for at least two weeks and is expected to miss the three game series at PNC next week. That could make for an interesting series – I wonder how STL would shift their lineup to accomodate (just plugging in Luna at 1B just doesn’t ring of "solution" to me).
  • Rumors are also floating that the Dodgers are expressing interest in Greg Maddux. That honestly sounds like a win-win situation for both teams. Madduz has shown enough lately that I’m fairly sure that the Maddux from here on out will be closer to his April performance than his May performance, and the odds of that can only increase in moving to a contender like the Dodgers. The Dodgers win by being able to trot out a Penny/Lowe/Maddux/Tomko rotation, which would certainly become the NL’s best rotation. The Cubs would win because this season is probably in the books for them (much like ours is) and obviously, if you aren’t contending, you’re prospecting. The Dodgers have numerous prospects available to trade, most of whom would be warmly welcomed into the Cubs rather thin minor-league organization.

Just Funny – Roaming the Blogosphere, I found out that the BlueJays will soon have "Gustavo Chacin Cologne Night." No joke. Apparently one of the local radio stations cracked a joke about how Chacin’s name resembled a fancy fragrance. The franchise heard about this and decided to actually have Gustavo visit the perfume people and have them come up with his own scent. Now why can’t the Pirates do fun things like this? Find out what your players like, or joke about, or what the local media talks about, and have fun promotions based on that. You know, instead of non-stop fireworks and bobbleheads. Here’s calling for the days of "Jay Buhner Night" (Seattle promotion where if you shaved your head and put a goatee on your chin to resemble Jay Buhner, you got in half-price).

Numb3rs

See how I spelled it like that CBS show? The one with all those marginally successful actors that I’ve never watched.

Looking Back – I think we’re already starting to see a regression to the mean within our division.

  • Pirates – have won 7 of 9, finished May with best team ERA and BA, and were generally right with St. Louis in pretty much every category
  • Cubs – Chicago has won 4 of 5 (including two in a row vs. STL), though that is on the heels of a stretch where they lost 24 of 30 from April 26th through May 28th. The Cubs are still finding their middle ground after a pretty good April and an awful May.
  • Reds – Cincinnati has won three in arow after a stretch of losing 12 of 17. They were similar to the Pirates in May, above average pitching, and just as much run scoring in spite of worse peripheral numbers.
  • Brewers – Milwaukee is continuing the funk the Pirates put them in and have now lost seven straight. Their pitching was easily the worst in the division, more than their surprisingly good offense could overcome
  • Astros – Houston has now lost 9 of their last 11. Their pitching has been pretty darned awful lately, with the starters who smoked in April (nieve, Rodriguez, and Buchholz) pretty much getting hammered in May. They also are still finding their groove.
  • St. Louis was consistent, posting another 17 wins in May, though it certainly wasn’t due to their rotation, with only one starter posting an ERA under 4.50.

Looking Ahead – This should be an interesting month, and a lot has to do with health.

  • One would expect St. Louis to continue rolling, at least compared to the rest of the division. However, they lost their second straight to Chicago today, with Mark Mulder giving up 8 runs for the second start in a row(!). Couple that with the injury to Pujols, and we may see the Cards slip just enough to possibly make things interesting as we approach the break.
  • Milwaukee is going to continue to falter unless their pitchers can start finding the plate. Capuano’s start against Pittsburgh was probably an anomaly considering the year he has had otherwise, and Davis has shown fits and starts of his old self, but even then, the Brewers would need a completely healthy and true-to-form Ben Sheets to get things back in order.
  • Houston has had June start off just as poorly as May ended, with Rodriguez and Pettite both giving up 5+ runs for the 4th time in their last 6 starts (Though perhaps I should look into why Pettite started on short rest today). Between that and the shaky bullpen (which has ad most of it’s good innings after the starters had already given up chunks of runs), it’s safe to say the Astros are more than just Roger Clemens away from moving up the current divisional ladder.
  • Chicago’s rotation is starting to come around, namely Sean Marshall and Carlos Zambrano, but now it’s all up to Kerry Wood continuing to improve, and Mark Prior and Derek Lee returning healthy and productive – though all that still may not be enough to crawl out of the huge hole the Cubs dug for themselves.
  • Cincinnati is rebuilding momentum with a good pummeling of Houston this weekend, and continuing to get quality innings from Arroyo, Harang, and Elizardo Ramirez. Couple that with the prodictive returns of both Junior Griffey (.281, 6HR, 23 RBI) and Eric Milton (15.2 IP, 3R, 10K last 2 starts) and the Reds stand a decent chance of pulling even with the Redbrids by months end.
  • How about those Pirates? They put up excellent numbers in May, but only manages a 12-16 record for the month. That tells me they’re improving, not getting obliterated, but still losing a few that they should win. We’ll face some fairly mediocre teams the next few weeks (Colorado, San Francisco, Minnesota, Kansas City) outside of St. Louis, and my expectation is for the Pirates to parlay that into a 34-40 record by the morning of June 23rd. Unfortunately, after that, the Bucs will hit a very large wall that is built with bricks named Los Angeles, Chicago (AL), Detroit, and New York (NL). Once we get back to the notedly better pitching of those top notch teams, I expect the Pirates to slip a bit and find their win percentage right around where it is now heading into the break.