Thursday, June 30, 2011

Game 80 Recap - Pirates 6, Blue Jays 2

The Pirates used another great outing from Jeff Karstens to win their first interleague road series since defeating the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2003 with a 6-2 win at the Rogers Centre.

Andrew McCutchen got the Pirates off to a quick start in the first inning when he drove home Alex Presley with a ground out to third base. Presley did his job by tripling to open the game to set up the run.

Presley then used a nice at bat to drive home Josh Harrison after he doubled to lead off the fifth inning. Presley went the other way to fairly deep left field to earn the sacrifice fly and give the Pirates a two run lead.

Karstens was cruising for the Pirates and had no trouble with any Blue Jays hitter until the fifth inning when he made two bad pitches which resulted in a tie game. With one out he left a pitch up in the zone and J.P. Arencibia deposited the pitch into the left centerfield seats and two batters later Yunel Escobar took Karstens deep to tie the game.

The Pirates wasted no time getting back on the board thanks to some big time help from the Blue Jays defense. Lyle Overbay popped a pitch up to lead off the inning and Jose Bautista and Corey Patterson couldn’t figure out who wanted to catch it so that was bad enough for Toronto but then Escobar threw the ball away trying to get Overbay out at second which let him move to third. Ronny Cedeno they doubled home Overbay and designated hitter Brandon Wood cleared the bases with a two run homer.

Andrew McCutchen closed out the scoring by leading off the seventh inning with a double and scored on a Matt Diaz single.


-I honestly have no idea how Jeff Karstens does it. He throws a high 80’s fast ball and a low 70’s curveball and just hits spots. He gets ground balls and when he gives up home runs he only gives up solo shots. That is how. He makes it look so easy but I just don’t get how he just hasn’t gotten raked more often. I don’t care, it is a lot of fun to watch. I talked about giving up solo home runs and to date Karstens has given up 16 home runs and 15 of them have been solo shots. He doesn’t get into a ton of trouble and is able to work out of jams. In the month of June Karstens is now 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA. Man.

-I know I have openly bashed Diaz on here before but I think he might be starting to turn it around. He has had a really nice month of June with a triple slash line of .309/.345/.364 and seems to finally be getting comfortable hitting against lefties and if he does he will be a nice bench player to have and will finally be able to fill that platoon role that he was brought here to do. He isn’t going to give you much power but I think the offense will take what it can get.

-The Pirates offense got back into the grove tonight after not showing up the night before. They collected nine hits and those hits were by eight different players with Diaz being the only guy with multiple hits. The Pirates also collected seven extra base hits tonight and tied a season high with five doubles. Not too bad.

-The Pirates were 16-11 in the month of June and are now just two games out of first place in the National League Central heading into July. Just unreal what has been happening this year for the Pirates. At the beginning of the year this team was written off and now they are in the hunt, at the halfway point of the season, for the NL Central crown. Look, I know it probably still is a long shot for them to win the NL Central and challenge for the division but why can’t we hope for something great. Nothing says that Pedro Alvarez can’t come back and mash the ball like he did down the stretch last year or that Alex Presley and Chase d’Arnaud can’t continue to play well at the top of the lineup or that the pitching staff can’t still continue to be lights out. Why be a fan if you can’t dream? It is great to know that we may have something to dream about, at least at the half way point.

Pirates Game Day 80 Live Blog - @ Toronto Blue Jays

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Penguins Sign Asham

Late Wednesday nigth the Penguins announced that they signed Arron Asham to a one year, $775,000 contract.

Asham led the Penguins in the playoffs against Tampa Bay scoring four points (3+1) after a year that was full of injuries and missed games.

In 44 games during the regular season he scored 11 points (5+6) for the Penguins.
Asham is a highly versitle player and will be a great third and fourth line guy to bring back to the team for just about the same cost that he was making last year. You need to have guys like Asham on the team and it was a really nice sign by Shero.

Signings like this usually are on the back burner for most sports fans who want to keep eyes on the higher prized free agents but guys like Asham are just as important part of the team. He missed a lot of time (around half a season) so it will be interesting to see what he can do for a full healthy year.

Game 79 Recap - Blue Jays 2, Pirates 1

After last night’s home run derby in Toronto if I told you that tonight would be a 2-1 game with a combined 13 hits would you have believed me? I wouldn’t have even believed myself. Well, that is exactly what happened tonight at the Rogers Centre in a 2-1 defeat for the Pirates. The base running was bad and so was the offense for Paul Maholm who once again couldn’t get any help for a strong performance.

The Pirates actually got on the board first when Ronny Cedeno (who was the only offensive player to show up tonight) singled home Lyle Overbay. That was it for the offense.

The Jays tied the game with a leadoff home run from Eric Thames in the sixth and then took the lead in the seventh when Yunel Escobar doubled home Raji Davis. That was it. That was your scoring.


-Tough game for the offense. They only had four hits and really never looked in sync. Cedeno had two hits and Chase d’Arnaud and Lyle Overbay had the other one. Not going to cut it. When you have a guy give you a great effort like Paul did today you have to be able to put up three runs to give him a chance for a win and the offense didn’t do that.

-Maholm was good, again, tonight. He went seven full innings and gave up only two runs on nine hits on 98 pitches. After a 21 pitch first inning Paul really settled down and cruised until the sixth inning when Thames went yard and then in the seventh he gave up the hit that just went under Cedeno’s glove to score the next run. Not much you can do with that. All you ask your starting pitchers to do is to give you a chance to win the game and Paul did more than that tonight. Once again the offense couldn’t get any run support for Paul. So is life.

-The base running tonight was terrible. In the fifth inning Neil Walker got on base to lead off then moved to third on a well crafted hit and run by Lyle Overbay. OK, this could be something. Next batter, Matt Diaz, grounds to the left side and Walker gets thrown out by a mile at home. No reason he should have been running with a ball hit to the third baseman. They did score a run later in the inning but that doesn’t excuse bad base running. In the eighth inning Garrett Jones drew a two out walk and brought up Andrew McCutchen. OK, this could lead to something good. Jones then tries to steal (I guess) trips (I guess) and gets picked off. No idea.

Just a tough game to watch and had a really weird feel to it. Whatever. Game tomorrow.

Pirates Game Day 79 Live Blog - @ Toronto Blue Jays

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Game 78 Recap - Pirates 7, Blue Jays 6

Kevin Correia picked up his staff leading 10th win and the Pirtes offense showed up to push them to two games over .500 and within three games of first place with a 7-6 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night.

This was a wildly sloppy game that was a mixture between a whiffle ball hoem run derby and some terrible defense and neither team looking like any amount of lead would be enough for the pitching staff. The Rogers Centre is a launching pad for home runs and there were six home runs tonight while their playing surface was like playing with a bouncy ball on a blacktop surface.

Coming in the Pirates knew they needed to play some offense and that they did tonight. They used an Alex Presley home run in the third inning to plate their first two runs and you just knew that wasn’t going to be enough and they needed to add on. If you actually thought that then you were right.

Edwin Encarnacion hit the first of his two home runs in the bottom of the third inning to cut the lead in half off of Correia. After the Pirates got out of that inning they went to work in the top of the fourth inning thanks to some bad defense and pitching from Toronto.

Matt Diaz started off the inning with a triple (yea, I guess you can call it that) when he hit a bloop single to right field and it bounced over the right fielder Eric Thames’ head and rolled all the way to the wall. No error since nobody actually touched the ball, but probably should have been one. Garrett Jones followed with a run scoring single (if you want to call it that) when he hit a ground ball to first baseman Adam Lind but Jays starter Jo Jo Reyes just decided not to cover first base (like he didn’t even make it half way over) so it was an easy infield single for Jones. Ronny Cedeno followed with a bloop single to right and then Presley drove home Jones with a single to shallow center. Neil Walker rounded out the four run inning with a single to left center field to score Cedeno.

Correia followed up the four run top of the fourth by giving up a mammoth two run blast to Jose Bautista (hey did you hear he used to play for the Pirates) to cut the Pirates lead to only three. Two innings later Bautista reached on an error by Chase d’Arnaud to score Thames who triple to open the inning. You see when I talked about earlier? Just nuts.

So it’s a one run game and Luis Perez did a nice job after Reyes was pulled after three innings. He pretty much shut the Pirates down and gave up only one hit over his three innings of work until he entered the seventh inning when Andrew McCutchen just hammered a middle of the plate fastball to left centerfield that got out of the park in about .2 seconds.

It then got interesting. Tony Watson relieved Corriea in the bottom of the seventh and promptly gave up back to back homers to Corey Patterson and Encarnacion. One run game. Not good. Chris Resop gets the call and walks the first batter he sees and then gives up a double to Yunel Escobar to put the tying run and third and the winning run at second with no outs. High leverage. Resop gets a strikeout then intentionally walks Bautista to get to Lind. Jose Veras gets called in. First two pitches are balls and I then throw the rented DVD I need to take back to Family Video on the floor in disgust and the next pitch he gets Lind to line into a double play to end the inning. Thanks Jose.

Spotless eighth for Veras and Hanrahan in the ninth. Over.


-Presley was making his first start for the Pirates this year after getting called up yesterday. He was a September call up last season and got a cup of tea but there really wasn’t much to it. He was a monster for AAA Indy this year and he started off right for the Pirates with two hits and three runs batted in. He should get some regular playing time with Jose Tabata going to the 15-day DL so this isn’t going to be relegated to just the interleague series.

-KC was decent tonight. He only went six innings and gave up four runs but only gave up five hits. It could have been a lot worse and he did just enough to become the first Pirate since Steve Blass to earn his 10th win before the All-Star break. Nice accomplishment for a guy that most everyone thought wouldn’t be able to do much this season.

-Diaz went 3-for-4 with all three hits coming off the lefties that pitched for the Jays. I will allow it. When he was brought in he was supposed to be the guy who specialized in hitting the south paws and tonight he showed he could do that. Not sure if it was just Canada or if he is actually coming out of this slump but it was really nice to see. Hopefully he can come around start being more consistent.

-Can't imagine Cedeno starting tomorrow. In two situations he missed signs. The first was a hit and run he missed when Garrett Jones successfully stole second base when he was peaking half way (telling sign of a hit and run) and Ronny tried to bunt (no idea) and the second was when he had to call time out while on first base to have the third base coach run through signs again only to get thrown out on a pitch out becuase he was stealing. Any time you call time out as a base runner the other team knows something is on. Something was on. The steal sign. Cedeno was out by a mile. Clint Hurdle was not happy.

-Telling stat of the game? The Pirates were 4-of-9 with runners in scoring position and the Jays were 0-of-5. That wins ballgames.

-The Pirates did strike out 10 times but they also slugged out 12 hits. Whatever.

-Nobody likes Canada. Game tomorrow. Get your minds right.

Pirates Game Day 78 Live Blog - @ Toronto Blue Jays

Penguins Ink Pascal Dupuis

The Penguins have resigned 32 year old winger Pascal Dupuis to a two-year, $3 million deal this morning. Dupuis was an unrestricted free agent after last season.

Dupuis played in 81 gamse in the 2010-11 season and finished fifth on the team with 37 points (17+20) while averaging almost 17 minutes per game for the Penguins. Dupuis might be best on the penalty kill where he scored five ponts (4+1).

Overall this is a really nice sign for the Penguins and General Manager Ray Shero. Dupers made $2.8 million last season so they essentially got him for the same price after a 17 goal season. He took what many think is a "hometown discount" to stay with the Penguins. He will be heavily relied on to anchor a strong PK unit along with Jordan Staal and Matt Cooke and will be able to be a swing man and play on a vast number of lines. He has some speed and showed the versitility of a player that every team loves to have.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pirates Week In Review: June 20-26

This is going to be a hopefully new weekly post that I thought would be a nice addition to the site. This is going to be a Pirates weekly review where I go over the results for the past seven days and link up the box scores and the recap for each of the games. I also use the lovely FanGraphs and Baseball Reference to give you the box scores and the weekly stats for the team. I will try to have this up either late Sunday night or early Monday mornings, but you know how these things go.

Here is the Bucs weekly recap for this past week:

The Pirates had a pretty good week going 4-2 in their six home games at PNC Park. The Pirates are now 6-6 in interleague play with all the games this week coming against AL teams.

Monday, June 20 - Baltimore 8, Pittsburgh 3
[Box Score] [TRBB Recap]

Tuesday, June 21 - Pittsburgh 9, Baltimore 3
[Box Score] [TRBB Recap]

Wednesday, June 22 - Pittsburgh 5, Baltimore 4
[Box Score] [TRBB Recap]

Friday, June 24 - Pittsburgh 3, Boston 1
[Box Score] [TRBB Recap]

Saturday, June 25 - Pittsburgh 6, Boston 4
[Box Score] [TRBB Recap]

Sunday, June 26 - Boston 4, Pittsburgh 2
[Box Score] [TRBB Recap]

Here is how the Pirates batters and pitched over the week:

Andrew McCutchen proved to be the best hitter of the bunch with a 0.5 WAR according to FanGraphs, but one of everyone's favorite whipping boy, Ronny Cedeno, was very productive duing the week hitting .467.

Kevin Correia was a 0.2 WAR in his only start for the Pirates where he got a six inning win over Baltimore on Wednesday. Jose Veras, Daniel McCutchen, Joel Hanrahan, Chris Resop and Tony Watson all were great out of the pen for the week for the Pirates as their weekly stats show.

Here how the Pirats, as a team, stack up against the rest of the league during the past week:

The Pirates were pretty decent on the offensive end despite only hitting .266 over the past week, but really failed to get a ton of extra base hits as evident by their .101 ISO, which was in the bottom half of the league, for the week. Despite the slightly above average batting average the Pirates scored 28 runs, eighth best in the league, over the six games in the week and only struck out in 18.1% of their at bats which is head and shoulds better than the 25.5% of the time they struck out during April/May. To put that in more perspective the Pirates have struck out only 20.6% of their at bats over the month of June. A lot better.

The staff ERA this six game week was a very respectable 3.00 although that might be due to a little bit of luck for the Pirates. The ERA ranked eighth for the week among all major league teams. The reason I say the Pirates had a little bit of luck was due to the xFIP of 4.48 which measures what the team's ERA should have looked like over a give time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average. The xFIP of 4.48 was the third worst in the league due to the HR/FB rate of only 7.5%.

Here is how the NL Central sits after the week for the Pirates:

3PIT3938.5064.05.0L 13.83.9-0.237-4028-1216-109-106-619-2020-183-312-726-3013-822-2417-145-511-917-13
5CHC3146.40312.037.0L 14.15.0-0.931-4605-411-2211-124-716-2215-234-29-1321-3310-1219-3012-154-68-1210-20
6HOU2851.35416.057.0L 24.05.1-1.131-48-35-1313-227-103-513-2715-231-310-1316-3912-1116-3912-113-75-1510-20
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/27/2011.

The Pirates are only four games out of the league and have been playing some pretty good baseball. They are now nearly .500 at home and a few games better on the road. The last 30 days the Pirates are 17-13 while they are only 5-5 in the last 10. Pythagorean record (pythWL) is the record the Pirates should have as determined by their runs and runs allowed, so far this season the Pirates are actually two games "lucky" this season. I'll take it.

Next Week's Slate:

Tuesday, June 28 - Pittsburgh (Correia) at Toronto (Reyes) 7:07 p.m.
Wednesday, June 29 - Pittsburgh (Maholm) at Toronto (Morrow) 7:07 p.m.
Thursday, June 30 - Pittsburgh (Karstens) at Toronto (Villanueva) 7:07 p.m.
Friday, July 1 - Pittsburgh (Morton) at Washington (Gorzelanny) 7:05 p.m.
Saturday, July 2 - Pittsburgh (TBD) at Washington (Hernandez) 3:35 p.m.
Saturday, July 2 - Pittsburgh (TBD) at Washington (Lannan) 7:05 p.m.
Sunday, July 3 - Pittsburgh (TBD) at Washington (Marquis)  1:35 p.m.

Let me know what you think of the new feature and if you would like to see anything else in the weekly features the rest of the season.