Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pirates Game Day 50 Live Blog - vs. Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Johnny Cueto (5-2, 2.53 ERA) vs. A.J. Burnett (3-2, 4.19 ERA)


Lineups:

Pirates (24-25)
1. Tabata 7
2. Mercer 6
3. McCutchen 8
4. Alvarez 5
5. Walker 4
6. Jones 9
7. Hague 3
8. Barajas 2
9. Burnett 1

Reds (28-21)
1. Cozart 6
2. Stubbs 8
3. Bruce 9
4. Phillips 4
5. Heisey 7
6. Frazier 5
7. Costanzo 3
8. Hanigan 2
9. Cueto 1



Hit the jump for the live blog 


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pirates Game 49 Live Blog - vs. Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Homer Bailey (3-3, 4.19 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (2-5, 4.27 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (24-24)
1. Tabata 7
2. Harrison 6
3. McCutchen 8
4. Alvarez 5
5. Walker 4
6. Jones 9
7. Hague 3
8. Barajas 2
9. Morton 1

Reds (27-21)
1. Cozart 6
2. Stubbs 8
3. Votto 3
4. Phillips 4
5. Bruce 9
6. Ludwick 7
7. Frazier 5
8. Mesoraco 2
9. Bailey 1


Hit the jump for the live blog 


Monday, May 28, 2012

Pirates Game 48 Recap - Pirates 4, Reds 1

It seems like it has been a while since I have got a recap up here and if you are one of the (few) people who check in for a recap on a regular night then you are in luck because I got your fix right here. The Pirates picked up their fourth straight win and took the first game of the series against the Reds 4-1 on Memorial Day. This win comes on the heels of a series sweep of the Chicago Cubs and now has the Pirates an even 24-24 on the season which is four games better than their record at this point last season.

For the second straight game the Pirates offense really showed up with some big time hits but this game was all about James McDonald. McDonald continues to be dominant this year as he went eight full innings of scoreless baseball giving up only five hits and retiring the last 12 batters he faced. While he only struck out five batters this game was one of his most efficient of the season. There really wasn't much the Reds the could although they had two great opportunities in the third and fourth inning where the Redlegs had runners on first and second base with no outs but McDonald shut the door and didn't even allow a runner to reach third base. Outstanding. Last season McDonald only went seven innings or more twice (the most being 7.1 innings) in 31 starts but this year he has accomplished that feat five times already with two starts going eight innings. Really great to see.

The offense pounded out ten hits and scored runs in each of the first three innings. This really isn't something that the Pirates have done all season but at some point the offense was going to start performing. They have been so bad but at some point they were going to string together a few good games and they did so against former Pirate Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo only was able to last four innings and that got into the Reds bullpen so that was great, especially with two more games left. Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones collected a pair of two out RBI in the first inning and then Neil Walker doubled home James McDonald with two outs in the second inning. Rod Barajas rounded out the scoring in the third inning with another Pirates two out hit to scored Alvarez who doubled for the second time in the game. The Bucs struck out only five times in the game and hit .500 (4-for-8) with runners in scoring position. Every starter but Clint Barmes had a hit.

Alvarez really had a nice game with a pair of doubles and nearly had a third double in his third at bat but Drew Stubbs made a pretty outstanding play against the wall in centerfield. In those three at bats he worked the count and got a pitch he could drive and hammered it. He grounded out a double play in his final at bat but it was really a nice day at the plate. He now has a five game hitting streak and has driven in a run in three straight games. It has been a really up and down season for Alvarez but maybe we are starting to see him go on the uptick a little bit here. He only has one strikeout in his last three games and has been putting together some good plate appearances. By no means is this a finished product but it would be great to see him go on a little streak again.

Barajas also had a nice game with a pair of hits and although they were both singles he is giving a little confidence to the bottom of the Pirates lineup. While Barmes doesn't look like he can get it done Hot Rod seems to have found his groove and now has a .231/.288/.398 line which is pretty much what the Pirates were looking for when they signed him. If he can prove that the month of April was just a bad streak then this signing goes from being a bad one to a decent to good one.

Pirates are back at it tomorrow. I might not be around much of the next couple of weeks due to my travels but I will try and get something up here and there.

Pirates Game Day 48 Live Blog - vs. Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates - 1:35 p.m.
Bronson Arroyo (2-2, 3.22 ERA) vs. James McDonald (3-2, 2.51 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (23-24)
1. Tabata 7
2. Walker 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Alvarez 5
5. Jones 9
6. Hague 3
7. Barajas 2
8. Barmes 6
9. McDonald 1

Reds (27-20)
1. Stubbs 8
2. Valdez 6
3. Votto 3
4. Phillips 4
5. Bruce 9
6. Heisey 7
7. Cairo 5
8. Hanigan 2
9. Arroyo 1



Hit the jump for the live blog 


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pirates Game Day 47 Live Blog - vs. Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates - 1:35 p.m.
Matt Garza (2-2, 3.72 ERA) vs. Erik Bedard (2-5, 3.52 ERA)



Hit the jump for the live blog 


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pirates Game Day 46 Live Blog - vs. Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:15 p.m.
Paul Maholm (4-3, 4.73 ERA) vs. Kevin Correia (1-5, 4.50 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (21-24)
1. Tabata 7
2. Harrison 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Alvarez 5
5. Walker 4
6. Hague 3
7. Barajas 2
8. Barmes 6
9. Correia 1

Cubs (15-30)
1. DeJesus 9
2. Castro 6
3. Mather 8
4. LaHair 3
5. Soriano 7
6. Stewart 5
7. Barney 4
8. Lalli 2
9. Maholm 1



Hit the jump for the live blog 


Friday, May 25, 2012

Pirates Game Day 45 Live Blog - vs. Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Ryan Dempster (0-2, 2.28 ERA) vs. A.J. Burnett (2-2, 4.78 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (20-24)
1. Tabata 7
2. Harrison 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Alvarez 5
5. Walker 4
6. Hague 3
7. Barajas 2
8. Barmes 6
9. Burnett 1

Cubs (15-29)
1. DeJesus 9
2. Castro 6
3. Mather 8
4. LaHair 3
5. Soriano 7
6. Cardenas 5
7. Barney 4
8. Hill 2
9. Dempster 1


Hit the jump for the live blog 


Pirates Roundtable Podcast Episode 12

Once again I was lucky enough to be asked back on a podcast that was hosted by Jon at McEffect along with Brian at Raise the Jolly Roger and Jim at Northside Notch to talk some Pirates stuff that is going on.

This was the first podcast since the first week of the season and I think you know where we were going with this one. Here are some of the things that we talked about:

-The Pirates bad offense
-The Pirates great pitching staff
-Can the hitter be bad for the entire year
-How good the bullpen has been
-The draft and what we might expect
-MUCH MORE

The podcast got cut short. I was running the show from my end and it turns out that in my neck of the woods there were some pretty bad storms that knocked out my internet for spurts so that is why I was studdering through my draft breakdown and then eventually shutting it down. Hey, it happens.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wikipedia Knows All In Terms Of Pirates Trades

So this was a pretty slow day in terms of Pirates baseball news. Usually I get off of work and go to the gym and I get back to my apartment just in time for first pitch. Not today. I had to tap into my dry DVR and actually watched a movie (something I very rarely do) to pass the time. That was until I got a tweet from Jack that the Pirates had made a trade. The link that followed was pure gold.


Yep. The Pirates traded Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox for Kevin Youkilis. Want to make this even better? I then got a tweet from David to check out another Wikipedia page.


You really can't make this stuff up.

As you know you can always trust Wikipedia.




As you can imagine this was not a true transaction. If you look at the date the trade happened May 26. It is May 24 today. Pretty funny stuff but some people actually took this seriously. That in itself makes it funny and has me concerned for human kind. Whatever.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pirates Game Day 44 Live Blog - vs. New York Mets

New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates - 12:35 p.m.
Jonathon Niese (2-2, 4.85 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (2-4, 4.35 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (20-23)
1. Harrison 9
2. Hernandez 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Walker 4
5. McGehee 3
6. Barajas 2
7. Navarro 5
8. Barmes 6
9. Morton 1

Mets (23-20)
1. Baxter 7
2. Nieuwenhuis 8
3. Wright 5
4. Duda 9
5. Murphy 4
6. Davis 3
7. Cedeno 6
8. Johnson 2
9. Niese 1


Hit the jump for the live blog 


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pirates Game 43 Recap - Mets 3, Pirates 2

The Pirates offense was terrible again. Struck out 13 times which included a career high 11 to Mets starter R.A. Dickey. They also scattered seven hits and really they never mounted much of a scare. Only a few times they had a runner in scoring position and while they do have a great record when they score two runs or more it just wasn't meant to be.

James McDonald continues to be outstanding. He went seven innings and scattered four hits. He also struck out eight batters which is the fifth time he has struck out eight or more batters. To put that in a little better perspective he only did that three times in his career before this year. He is striking out over nine per nine innings and while he has been dominating with his slider he used a much more wide variety of pitches tonight and was just locked in. The only time he got into some trouble was when he gave up a free pass here and there but if you go seven innings and give up only three runs you have an outstanding chance to win.

Josh Harrison continues to play some really good offensive baseball. He started in right field tonight and was the only Bucco to have more than one hit. He tripled to set up the first Pirates run and doubled later in the game. It is good that he can play any position on the field because it gives Clint Hurdle some more flexibility with the lineup to get Harrison in but he should be playing every single day.

Garrett Jones just was brutal tonight. He is in the midst of a 3-for-29 slump and just looks really lost at the plate. In the ninth inning he had a chance with one out to try and be the tying run but he was swinging at pitches way outside of the zone and ended up striking out in the ninth on a pitch that bounced in front of the plate. I guess the reason he does get some playing time is that Casey McGehee has been just as bad and the Pirates don't have a real first baseman so I have no idea what you do.

I will continue to say this until he is cut but Nate McLouth should never touch the field. Another just brutal at bat today and actually produced contact but was a popup to the shortstop. I can't even remember the last time he did something well offensively or defensively but this act needs to stop.

The good thing is that the Pirates have a chance to win the series tomorrow. No idea how, but they do.

Pirates Game Day 43 Live Blog - vs. New York Mets

New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
R.A. Dickey (5-1, 3.75 ERA) vs. James McDonald (3-2, 2.68 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (20-22)
1. Tabata 7
2. Harrison 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Alvarez 5
5. Walker 4
6. Jones 3
7. Barajas 2
8. Barmes 6
9. McDonald 1

Mets (22-20)
1. Baxter 7
2. Nieuwenhuis 8
3. Wright 3
4. Duda 9
5. Murphy 4
6. Davis 3
7. Cedeno 6
8. Nickeas 2
9. Dickey 1



Hit the jump for the live blog 


Monday, May 21, 2012

Pirates Game 42 Recap - Pirates 5, Mets 4

Just has been the case most of the year the Pirates respond to a loss with a win and for the 10th time this year they picked up a win after trailing. What was no so common about tonight was that the Pirates were able to overcome a four run deficit after two innings and capitalize on some pretty poor Mets play and take the first game of the series.

The Mets were charged with three errors the worst of which was a three base error when center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis and left fielder Mike Baxter nearly collided and Nieuwenhuis had the ball hit off his glove (which he still should have caught) and it went all the way to the wall. With one out Clint Barmes hit a shallow fly ball to right field which barely scored Neil Walker.

It really wasn't all that play. This was one of the few times that the hitters actually picked up the starting pitching after Erik Bedard only lasted five innings and was beat up for four runs in the second inning. After that happened people were actually saying they were turning their TV off and the game was over. I guess they forgot this was a nine inning game.

The Pirates got a pair back in the fourth inning with back-to-back-to-back doubles by Josh Harrison, Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez with no outs. Things looked really good but as good as that made you feel the very next hitter was Walker and he tried to bunt but popped it up for the first out. I have no idea why Walker thinking a bunt was a good idea there. After the game Clint Hurdle said that the bunt was something that Walker did on his own but he, in not so many words, approved of it. This is what is wrong with all the bunting that takes place. It is out of control and I am not really sure if it will ever change under Hurdle.

Anyways the Pirates used some great innings from the pen to hold the fort until the player named the fort came through. With the Pirates down 4-2 and a runner on first he came up with a big hit and took a Johan Santana deep to left centerfield. I am not a big McKenry fan but he seems to get those big hits from time to time and it was really nice to have this game have one of those big hits. This was after I said in pregame that I thought Rod Barajas should have been playing. What do I know?

McCutchen is still really good. 2-for-4 on the night. No idea why anyone is pitching to this guy.

Back at it tomorrow.

Pirates Game Day 42 Live Blog - vs. New York Mets

New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Johan Santana (1-2, 2.89 ERA) vs. Erik Bedard (2-5, 3.07 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (19-22)
1. Tabata 7
2. Harrison 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Alvarez 5
5. Walker 4
6. McGehee 3
7. Barmes 6
8. McKenry 2
9. Bedard 1

Mets (22-19)
1. Torres 8
2. Turner 4
3. Wright 5
4. Hairston 7
5. Duda 9
6. Rottino 3
7. Cedeno 6
8. Nickeas 2
9. Santana 1



Hit the jump for the live blog

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pirates Game Day 41 Recap - Tigers 4, Pirates 3

Just a frustrating game. The Pirates struck out 17 times in the game. Tigers starter Max Scherzer accounted for 15 of those strikeouts with all of them being of the swinging variety.

The Pirates actually held a lead for most of the game. They scored their only runs on a pair of home runs by Rod Barajas and Neil Walker but managed only four other hits during the game.

The real game changer came in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Tigers were actually being shut down by Kevin Correia but the wheels really came off in the seventh although it really wasn't Correia's fault. Prince Fielder left a bloop single into right field where Nate McLouth couldn't get to the ball and left it for Clint Barmes who couldn't get there then kicked it to the left field line. It was scored a double for Fielder. I put this one on McLouth. As the left fielder coming in on the ball he had a much better chance at the ball than Barmes did as he was backpedaling to get to it. McLouth had the opportunity to dive for the ball and that would have been the best bet since this was a blooper and that if he missed it then Fielder would still only have a single. Just a bad play by McLouth.

Delmon Young singled the next batter to score Fielder and tie the game and Correia was pulled after 6.0+. Things just went downhill from there. With one out and runners on first and second Tony Watson and Barajas got crossed up on a pitch and it let the runners move up. After the game Barajas explained that he changed the signs with Watson and then just forgot he changed them which resulted in the cross up. I am not really sure if I buy that since Barajas went out to the mound the pitch before the passed ball but it does seem like now it was his fault. I would be willing to say that on 90% of cross ups that happen are a fault of the pitcher, this one just seems like a freak accident, but one that shouldn't happen.

After that the infield was drawn up Alex Avilia singled up the middle to score a pair and that was just about it. It wasn't a pretty inning.

This offense has just been so bad. The strikeouts are happening at an alarming rate and this week alone the Pirates have been averaging over ten strikeouts a game. You just can't have that.

Correia was pretty good. I still don't think that he should be in the lineup today but he gave the Pirates a solid performance. While it was a good start I think he benefited largely from pitching in Detroit as he gave up 12 fly ball outs compared to only four ground ball outs. That park is huge and there were a ton of long fly balls that were hard hit. I think if that was at PNC this could have been a much different game.

I am not really sure why McLouth was in the game today but after his performance today I would not be shocked to see him released by June. It was just really that bad. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts but none was worse than the last of the game. With a runner on first McLouth worked the count to 2-0 before letting a fastball right down the middle go. With the count full McLouth watched another pitch right down the middle. He hasn't had a hit since May 6. Like I said before I liked the deal before the season but this has been pretty awful.

Mets tomorrow.

The Pirates and Adam Lind

Yesterday the Blue Jays did something that was thought to be overdue when they outright wave Adam Lind after he has struggled for much of the season. Lind had a breakout year in 2009 when he went off for a .305/.370/.562 line and blasted 35 home runs and 114 runs driven in. Since then, not so much. It all hasn't been terrible as Lind has hit for 23 home runs in 2010 and 26 home runs in 2011 so you can see why my timeline was a flutter with talks of claiming Adam Lind. At first I was intrigued about the possibility but the more I looked into the idea the worse idea I thought it was. Let me explain.

First when you talk about getting Lind you are getting him and his bloated contract he signed in the 2010 season which was for four years for a total of $18 million. That deal also includes team options for the 2014-16 season with buyouts for each of those years. Basically what it comes down to is that if you picked up Lind through the waiver period you will be buying the remainder of the contract for this year plus next year plus the option years/buyouts. That means if you get Lind and have him this year and next year then buy him out you will pay for about $12M for two years of Lind. That is a lot of dough.

Tim did a really nice post over at Pirates Prospects about the value of Lind. What it basically boils down to is do the Pirates want to pay Lind $12M over this season and next season to be a platoon player? Why a platoon player? Well, to be honest, Lind isn't very good at hitting left handed pitching. In his career he has a career triple slash line of .218/.261/.343 against lefties in 691 plate appearances. That is not a guy I want playing every day and probably someone that wouldn't play in an every day role.

I was talking with some people last night about the idea of the Pirates picking up Lind and the most common thing that they brought up was the fact that Lind can hit the ball out of the ballpark and has done so the past three teams. While I agree 100% that Lind could probably hit the ball out of the field of play more often than anyone else on the Pirates roster that shouldn't be the end all be all of picking up a player. When you are looking to acquire a player and you are only able to cite one statistic as to why he should be picked up then you probably don't have a great reason for getting him on the roster. While the 26 home runs were great last year he also had a .295 OBP, .315 wOBA and a 95 wRC+ and was only a 0.5 bWAR. At what point to do address the average to below average other numbers across the board when you talk about his home run totals? Couple that with his terrible career line against lefties and I would as again, is this work $12M over two years? Actually when you look at Lind's entire career the 0.5 WAR from last season is his second best season. The best was obviously in 2009 when it was 3.7.

As Tim broke down in his article here are Lind's OPS over his career:

2007: .678
2008: .755
2009: .932
2010: .712
2011: .734
2012: .586

So the 2009 season seems to be more of an outside number than any of the others so you are looking at someone who is mostly going to play against right handed pitching that will give you anywhere from a .700 to a .750 OPS. Again, is that worth $12M over two years?

The Pirates platoon situation hasn't been good this year as Casey McGehee (.198/.288/.264) and Garrett Jones (.230/.253/.425) haven't been good but if you are getting him for that platoon role then you would be playing him instead of Garrett Jones with Casey McGehee still playing. Sure, Jones could play right field but is that really the answer the Pirates are looking for?

As I was talking to James Santelli last night he brought up the good point that a more justifiable solution would be for Lind to come in as the replacement for Nate McLouth who has been awful this season but again are you willing to pay that much for a platoon bench guy. Couple that with the fact that Lind doesn't offer you anything defensively (career -13.3 UZR) and hasn't play a full outfield slate since 2009.

This is all assumed, however, that the Pirates would pick up Lind on waivers, something that I would doubt any team would do. After he clears the Pirates would be able to talk to the Jays about a trade where they could get him for much, much, cheaper, but at probably only a 0.5 bWAR guy how much is a good price? Probably not a whole ton. I am not saying that the Pirates shouldn't inquire about Lind, but saying that they should absolutely pick him up off waiver is not the way to go about it. The same arguement was made that "he's better than anything we have now" which sounds good at first but doesn't mean you should make bad decisions because of it. When it isn't your money it is an easy decision but those same people are flipping out about Clint Barmes' deal are begging for this Lind deal.

Like I said nobody will probably pick up Lind on waivers, which is good for the Pirates, and if they want to try to go after him that would be great, but lets not act like he will turn this offense around, because he will not. I would have to say thanks, but no thanks, for Lind.

Pirates Game Day 41 Live Blog - @ Detroit Tigers

Pittsburgh Pirates at Detroit Tigers - 1:05 p.m.
Kevin Correia (1-4, 4.50 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (2-3, 6.26 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (19-21)
1. Tabata 9
2. Walker 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Alvarez DH
5. Jones 3
6. Harrison 5
7. Barajas 2
8. McLouth 7
9. Barmes 6

Tigers (19-21)
1. Kelly 8
2. Dirks 7
3. Cabrera 5
4. Fielder 3
5. Young DH
6. Boesch 9
7. Peralta 6
8. Avila 2
9. Raburn 4



Hit the jump for the live blog

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pirates Game 40 Recap - Pirates 4, Tigers 3

Andrew McCutchen > Your favorite major league baseball player. That simple. As some point I envision that Clint Hurdle goes up to McCutchen and the conversation goes something like this:

Hurdle: Hey Andrew, listen, we are not really good at this whole hitting thing so I am going to need you to pretty much be the offense today.

McCutchen: OK skip, whatever you say. I will try my best!

Hurdle: [slaps him on the ass] atta boy

For real though, this was the McCutchen show today as he went deep twice and drove in all four runs in the victory. I am not even sure why teams are pitching to him at this point in the season. You could walk him and not be scared one bit to face what is behind him. At some point this season teams are just going to stop pitching to him and the Pirates offense is going to suffer big time. Unless they can get someone to formulate a few hits behind him this could go real bad real fast for the team. This might be something for a post by itself but McCutchen's success is kind of different this year. While his line drive rate is up this year his ground ball rate is really high. He also is supporting a pretty high BABIP that will regress but if he can get the ball in the air a little bit more I think he will be fine. He is also swinging at a ton more pitches this year and making contact more often both inside and outside of the zone. What is very encouraging is that McCutchen is hitting to all parts of the field. Two of his home runs this week went to right field and when he is doing that there isn't much you can do to get him out.

While A.J. Burnett's line wasn't either good or bad I thought he had a nice outing all things considered. A big part of what I like to "evaluate" pitchers on is what kind of outings they have when they just simply don't have their stuff. He only had two strikeouts today and really didn't have command of his pitcher or have his curve going. He gave up seven hits and three walks in six innings but didn't give up the lead. It was really nice to see him battle through knowing he didn't have his stuff and still get the win. It wasn't pretty but it worked.

Of all the things that happened today the most impressive thing was that Josh Harrison both walked and got hit by a pitch. The first walk of the year for Harrison and only the fourth of his career. I mean he never takes walks so I think it was more impressive that Tigers starter Drew Smyly was able to walk him. That is no easy task. On a more serious note I think that Harrison needs to be playing shortstop. There is no real reason that Clint Barmes should be sent out every day when Harrison has been playing well.

Nate McLouth really shouldn't see the field either. Another terrible at bat today. He was more of a defensive replacement in the seventh but I have no idea why when you have Gorkys Hernandez on the bench. I would have much rather seen him in that situation than McLouth. No idea what Hurdle is thinking. Pair that with a suicide squeeze with runners on the corner and one out with Casey McGehee at bat and you have another game where Hurdle basically pulls terrible situations out of a hat. As Matt Bandi of Pirates Prospects said during the game McGehee hasn't bunted since the 2006 season so why would this be a good idea? I just don't get it.

Something that will probably go widely under the radar was the inning of relief that Joel Hanrahan turned in. He did pick up his ninth save but this was probably his best looking outing of the year. As I have noted he just hasn't looked like himself this year with his control but today it was really good. The slider was filthy good and his fastball was back up to a consistent 98 where this year it seems to have been more around 96. Hopefully this is the start of better things for Joel., I don't mean that Hanrahan has been bad this year because he hasn't, but he hasn't been as dominant as he was last year. Really good to see though.

Nice win for McCutchen the Pirates. Although they can't really hit and strike out a ton (12 times today) they still find a way to win. It would be huge to pick up a series win tomorrow.

Pirates Game Day 40 Live Blog - @ Detroit Tigers

Pittsburgh Pirates at Detroit Tigers - 4:05 p.m.
A.J. (1-2, 5.12 ERA) vs. Drew Smyly (1-0, 2.31 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (18-21)
1. Tabata 9
2. Harrison 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Alvarez 5
5. Walker DH
6. Barajas 2
7. McGehee 3
8. Navarro 7
9. Barmes 6

Tigers (19-20)
1. Kelly 8
2. Dirks 7
3. Cabrera 5
4. Fielder 3
5. Young DH
6. Avila 2
7. Boesch 9
8. Peralta 6
9. Santiago 4



Hit the jump for the live blog

Game 39 Recap - Tigers 6, Pirates 0

Welp, not much to say on this one. Obviously Justin Verlander is one of the best pitchers in the game right now and when he is even good he has a chance to throw a no hitter. It wasn't a huge stretch to say that last night there would have been a reasonable chance to see Verlander throw a no hitter. The Pirates threw Nate McLouth and Clint Barmes in the lineup with Josh Harrison leading off. If this made you feel good inside then I am pretty sure you just woke up from a 20 year coma and someone told you the Pirates were awesome and Verlander was not. I would assume that most of you were not in a 20 year coma.

Needless to say I was not able to watch the game. I actually went out in Milwaukee as it was the first time in like a month and a half that I had a full weekend off from work so I wanted to take advantage of that. The Pirates were in the second inning or so when I went to take a tour of Lakefront Brewery. Let me say this, if you are ever in Milwaukee go take that tour. It is a very small brewery but it was an awesome experence. The beer was really good too and you got a free pint glass after the tour so it really was a win-win. I hope my tour guide is reading this and gives me a free beer the next time I am there.

Anyways we got done with the tour and it was around I went to check the game and I told someone "I hope they have a run, just a run." It was the sixth inning and I saw the Pirates had no hits. I paid it no mind as there was a good bit of game left and I went to the bar as we waited to get seated for a fish fry they had at the brewery. Had a beer, sat down to eat and the Pirates were still being no hit. I kept watching my phone and I turned to my friend and his girlfriend, who are both Brewers fans, and I said that Verlander was no hitting the Pirates through seven. They said "oh, so that is why you are watching your phone." Well, yes, that was why.

I tried to ignore it because it was still relatively early in the night and watching the gamecenter on the ESPN app really drains my battery. I checked back a little later and before I even saw something by friend said "are they still getting no hit?" I described that they had not yet had a hit, after eight innings. I told the people I was with if the Pirates got no hit I would seriously consider taking 20 shots right on the spot. Bad times.

I waited a minute so that the Tigers could hit then I turned it back on. At this point the two people I was with were just as curious as I was. Michael McKenry was up and I saw the blue dot that said he put it in play. I prayed. He did, but he was out. One out. Then Harrison got down 0-2 and I just was in bad shape. Gamecenter said the third pitch was a ball but it was for sure in the strike zone. I was stunned. Next pitch there was a blue dot. "Josh Harrison singles to center."

I threw my hands up in the air, gave both the people I was with high fives and we were also sitting with another four people at the table who we had no idea who they were but I stood up in the fish fry and yelled YES as I looked up at the ceiling and gave the four people across the table two rounds of high fives. They had no idea why I was so happy and one of the guys looked at me and said "So, was it a boy or girl" I said it was a boy. I mean, what was I supposed to say, the Pirates don't have any girls on the team.

I ordered a beer and went about my night.

I know there was some discussion about the Pirates getting now hit. Obviously by my story you see that I didn't want the Pirates to get no hit but at the same time this was Verlander going for his third no hitter. This is another level of historic stuff. I would never openly cheer for my team to get no hit but if it would have happened last night I would have been pretty pissed that I wasn't able to watch a no hitter. I would have gave Verlander the props he was due and appreciate the feat, because although it seems like it happens all the time, it doesn't.

Bucs back at it in a few hours.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pirates Game Day 39 Live Blog - @ Detroit Tigers

Pittsburgh Pirates at Detroit Tigers - 7:05 p.m.
Charlie Morton (2-3, 4.05 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (4-1, 2.47 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (18-20)
1. Harrison DH
2. Walker 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Alvarez 5
5. Jones 9
6. McGehee 3
7. McLouth 7
8. Barmes 6
9. McKenry 2

Tigers (18-20)
1. Kelly 8
2. Dirks 7
3. Cabrera 5
4. Fielder 3
5. Young DH
6. Avila 2
7. Boesch 9
8. Peralta 6
9. Raburn 4


Hit the jump for the live blog

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pirates Game 38 Recap - Pirates 5, Nationals 3




Well that was a little better than the past couple of nights, wasn't it? The Pirates put up double digit hits for what seems the first time in forever and Andrew McCutchen continued his dominance of the Nationals in a 5-3 win. It was nice for the guys to get a win after losing a pair of games in a row. Not letting this snowball into a long losing streak is key and at the tail end of last year the Pirates would have coughed up this game and let the Nationals win it. The Nationals made it a close game but the Pirates did what they haven't done much this year and that was get the insurance run when they needed it.

James McDonald had a pretty weird outing tonight. For the first five innings he was just simply outstanding. He allowed only one base runner (a walk to Bryce Harper) and struck out nine of the first 12 hitters he faced. Then came the sixth inning, and for as good as the first five innings were the sixth was pretty bad. He wasn't able to finish the sixth inning as he only went 5.2 innings but did enough to still earn the win. In the sixth the Nationals led off with back-to-back doubles and JMac almost got out of the jam as he got a ground out and a strikeout with runners on second and third (no the lead off double did not score on the second double. I know, weird) but Ryan Zimmerman singled through the right side to cut the Pirates lead to 3-2. He was then pulled. Overall he struck out 11 guys and even though he had a bad sixth inning the outing was still pretty good. A big problem with McDonald in the past was that he would throw too many pitches and couldn't command the zone but that has totally changed this year and this game he was good as was evident by five almost perfect innings. It is just the kind of progress you like to see and hopefully it continues.

So, this McCutchen guy is pretty good at baseball huh? What did he do tonight? Oh nothing much, just went 2-for-4 with a pair of home runs and raised his average to .349. He is on some kind of tear right now and he owns the Washington Nationals. In his career against the Nationals he 38-for-86 with ten home runs. His OPS is well over one and for some reason he just likes playing that team. Just pretty ridiculous stuff. With the way the Pirates offense has been this year I have no idea why people are pitching to this guy. He had a little cold streak like three weeks ago but has since just been on fire. It is really fun to see.

Josh Harrison is earning himself some playing time. I am not a huge Harrison fan because I think he is no more than a depth bench guy but he had another two hits tonight which included another extra base hit. With how Clint Barmes has played I see no reason why Harrison should be on the bench tomorrow. Sure he is not going to keep this up for a really long time but you have to ride the hot hand while you have it.

I have talked about this the last couple of nights but Rod Barajas has actually been good. Three hits tonight and his average is now up to a more respectable .214 as he hit another home run tonight. Now Barajas isn't going to be a guy who is going to hit .270 as he is a .230-ish career hitter and he isn't going to get on base a lot but what he does give you is really good defense and a steady hand behind the plate for the staff. I can take him hitting .240 or so if he can get to that. He has been playing pretty well lately as the great James Santelli noted:



If there is one guy who needs to forget about this game it is Jose Tabata. Not only did he go 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts but he misplayed a few balls in left field. It has been a pretty frustrating year for Jose already and he was swinging a pretty good bat for a few weeks but has cooled off since and I think you are starting to see the frustration come out a little bit. In the ninth inning with runners on first and second Tabata hit a ball pretty much on the plate and it was played for a 2-5-3 double play and Tabata just jogged the whole way down to first base. I know he is frustrated and I understand that but you have to try and leg it out. I would sit him tomorrow as a sort of punishment and I would make sure that the media knows that is why he was sitting. You can't do stuff like that, it is embarrassing.

Joel Hanrahan got the save for his eighth of the year but he didn't really look good. He allowed the tying run to reach base and really just doesn't look confident out there. The velocity is still there but the command that he had last season just doesn't seem to be. As you know I am a guy that thinks the Pirates should try to move him but he isn't pitching well right now. Hopefully he can go on a hot streak. He has the talent in him and when he can find it, watch out.

There aren't many reasons I want to see Nate McLouth on the field. Just bad.

Justin Verlander tomorrow. Yikes.

Pirates Game Day 38 Live Blog - @ Washington Nationals

Pittsburgh Pirates @ Washington Nationals - 7:05 p.m.
James McDonald (2-2, 2.42 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (2-3, 2.14 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (17-20)
1. Tabata 7
2. Walker 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Alvarez 5
5. Jones 9
6. McGehee 3
7. Barajas 2
8. Harrison 6
9. McDonald 1

Nationals (23-14)
1. Desmond 6
2. Bernadina 7
3. Zimmerman 5
4. LaRoche 3
5. Harper 9
6. Espinosa 4
7. Ankiel 8
8. Flores 2
9. Zimmermann 1


Hit the jump for the live blog

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pirates Game 37 Recap - Nationals 7, Pirates 4




The Pirates dropped their second game in a row with a tough 7-4 loss to the Nationals. The Pirates were right in the game despite Gio Gonzalez tossing 10 strikeouts in seven innings pitched but pretty much Adam LaRoche stole the show tonight as he continues to dominate the Pirates.

The Nationals struck first for two runs in the first two innings of the game and were up 2-0 and you might have thought this game was over. Ryan Zimmerman knocked in Bryce Harper, who tripled in the first, and then Ian Desmond homered for one of three Nationals home runs in the third inning.

The Bucs got the game cut in half with a Josh Harrison single to center to score Yamaico Navarro and you had the feeling that this was a game again. Washington then got back-to-back home runs from LaRoche and Xavier Nady off of Erik Bedard and you once again thought the game was over. Really unfortunate on the home runs by Bedard as he cruised with easy strikeouts of Harper and Zimmerman and even got ahead of LaRoche 1-2 before it unraveled.

In the seventh something happened that kind of left everyone stunned as Harrison went deep for a two run bomb in maybe the farthest ball Harrison has ever hit and it was again a one run game and it was only the seventh inning. Even Meek was called in to relieve Bedard and it got bad. Overall Meek hit a batter and walked two more to load the bases for LaRoche who took the first pitch (I think) down the right field line for a bases clearing double. That was about all she wrote. The Pirates offense did a little bit and got some base runners but just couldn't get that one big hit.

Overall Bedard was pretty good on the night. He did give up four runs and three home runs but he did strike out seven. Early in the game he looked a little stiff but before the back-to-back jacks he had retired ten straight batters in a row. It would have been nice to get a little more offensive support but I guess this is something that all the Pirates pitchers are kind of used to.

Meek was called up earlier in the day when Alex Presley was sent down and he was pretty much thrown right into the fire. He did give up the three run double to LaRoche but overall I thought Meek looked a lot better in this game than he did at the start of the season. Now, I know he hit a guy and walked two others but he had some good movement on his slider and he was pumping his fastball up to 96 on a few occasions. His location wasn't great but a lot of those pitches were borderline pitches that he wasn't getting the calls on. That is not an excuse because he should not have put himself in a bases loaded position but I am looking at his outing from a big picture view. You can work on the control stuff but it is a little harder to work on the velocity and movement aspect.

I guess the question that everyone is asking is why Meek was in this spot in the first place. He was in the minors as of today and then he got thrown into a huge spot in the game when the Pirates pen had some guys that got rest yesterday. I guess I don't have a ton of problems with it but I would have probably went with Cruz or Grilli. It just sucks that this is what really cost the game.

I know I get on Harrison a good bit on here and on twitter but the kid came to play tonight. He went deep with the two run bomb that for a second really got the Pirates back into the game and had some pretty good at bats on the night. He was the offensive spark at the bottom of the lineup that they needed. Rod Barajas continued to hit pretty well as he had a hit and got on via an error in the ninth inning. The bottom of the lineup showed some life and it just sucks that the pitching faltered late.

Clint Barmes is just lost. I talked about it my earlier post tonight about how bad his plate discipline has been and if you read that during the game and watched his at bats then you probably know what I am talking about. I would like to see Jordy Mercer get some time too because I honestly can't watch him play in the field much longer.

I just wanted to touch on LaRoche for a little bit. His bases clearing double was his 1,000th hit of his career and I think that is a pretty nice feat. I was always a LaRoche fan when he was with the Pirates and in my estimation when he came to the Pirates the fans and media put some really unrealistic expectations on his plate. Fans didn't like him because he wasn't an early season performer. While I might agree with that LaRoche wasn't as bad as some people want to remember. Over his three year career with the team he accumulated a .265/.340/.469 line for the Pirates and for all those "he did it in the second half when the season was over" here are some of the early months in his three year tenure: hit .269 in Mar/Apr in 09, .257 in May of 08 and .283 in May of 07. I don't know about you but that isn't as terrible as some might want you to think. Sure, he wasn't great but he was a pretty good first baseman for the team and I don't think he ever got the credit he deserved while he was here.

The Pirates finish up the series tomorrow. At least they don't have to face Strasburg.

Pirates Plate Discipline Breakdown

As you know the Pirates have been playing some pretty close ballgames all season. Before Wednesday’s night game against the Nationals the Pirates have played in 16 one run games and 12 different times they scored either one or zero runs in a game. So roughly 33% of their games they have scored less than two runs. Not really your offensive explosion of games.

While they haven’t scored many runs they have been able to win games. The Pirates went into the game on Wednesday with a 17-19 record which outplayed their Pythagorean record by three games. The Pythagorean record gives you a rough idea of what a team’s record could be by the runs scored and runs against so you can understand why the Pirates probably should be worse than they are thanks to being the last team in the league to score 100 runs and being 18 runs short of the next closest team.

There are two ways you can look at the Pirates so far this season. One way is that you can say that the pitching has been outstanding and has really given them a chance to stay in games enough where the offense could get that one or two runs (literally) to earn the victory. It sure doesn’t hurt that the team ERA of 3.21 ranks third in the league while stranding 76.6% of runs and holding s respectable 3.77 xFIP. Obviously the pitching has been good, the hitting on the other hand, has not.

That is where I am going with this today. As you may know the Pirates have done a few things on offense than aren’t very good and the first of that is striking out a ton of times and taking very few walks. Combine the two and you don’t have a recipe for run scoring so you can understand where the Pirates trouble comes from. This is reflective in the team’s .273 OBP which is worst in the league. But, how bad is the team’s strikeout and walk problem? Actually, really big.

Thanks to the lovely plate discipline chart on FanGraphs you can just see how bad it has been for the Pirates. The first thing I want to look at is the Pirates inability to take the walk. While there are a few guys on the team that can take a walk (McCutchen, Walker, Alvarez) there are still many, many, more that are not able to do so. In a lineup with Clint Barmes and Rod Barajas there aren’t very many OBP guys but taking walks have been few and far between. The Pirates only have drawn 79 walks while the league average is around 115 walks.

To say that the Pirates have free swingers in their lineup seems like a pretty standard thing to say, but looking at the plate discipline stats really shows that. As a team the Pirates are the second most likely team to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone at nearly 34% which is 4% higher than the league average while they only make contact on those pitches 66% of the time which is a few percentage points below what is considered average. Translation? They are swinging at a higher percentage of pitches outside of the zone and not coming in contact proportionately with as many pitches as other teams. Barmes is one of the prime offenders of this as he is swinging at exactly 50% of pitches outside the zone which is second most in the league among players with 50 plate appearance or more. The worst part is that Josh Harrison, the guy who is backing him up in the field is swinging at 52% of those pitches. Both Barmes and Harrison also are making contact at a lower rate than the team average which makes those swings look even worse. It is no surprise that both Barmes and Harrison combined has drawn one walk on the season.

As a team the Pirates are just swinging and missing at way too many pitches which is a main reason for the large strikeout totals. They rank second in the league as they swing and miss on 10.3% of all pitches and is much higher than the standard 8.5% which is largely considered league average. Obviously some of this is going to overlap with swinging at a ton of pitches outside of the zone but the Pirates just aren’t putting the bat on the ball a lot. The Pirates have six players that have a swing and miss rate above 10% which includes five regulars (if you consider Garrett Jones a regular). There are just too many times that the Pirates are swinging and missing at pitches. It should go as no surprise that Barmes leads the charge in this at 14.8%.

Swinging and missing at pitches outside the zone and not even touching balls is one thing but not making contact with a ton of balls in the zone is another. The Pirates, as you can imagine, are pretty bad in this aspect to. They rank eighth from the bottom only contacting pitches in the zone 86.1% of the time. League average is about 88% but when you are swinging at a ton of pitches outside the zone and not making contact with them that puts even more importance on you putting the ball in play when you get a pitch in the zone. Now the Pirates do swing at their fair share of pitches in the strike zone (66.7%, third in league) but they need to do a better job of putting those in play. Even striking another one or two percent of balls in the strike zone can mean more than getting hits but it puts more pressure on the defense and can improve that league low OBP. Also when you have as low as a BABIP as the Pirates do (.267, third worst) you want to put the ball in play as much as possible because that number will come closer to league average (.290).

Just for an idea of how the Pirates look as a team here is the graph of the hitters:



NameO-Swing%Z-Swing%Swing%O-Contact%Z-Contact%Contact%Zone%F-Strike%SwStr%
Josh Harrison52.00%72.70%62.90%65.40%87.50%78.80%52.40%77.80%13.10%
Clint Barmes50.00%69.70%59.70%63.20%82.20%74.10%49.30%67.30%14.80%
Garrett Jones41.60%74.30%52.80%69.10%79.50%74.10%34.20%53.60%12.70%
Rod Barajas37.80%74.00%54.30%66.70%86.20%78.80%45.70%59.80%11.10%
Pedro Alvarez35.00%72.70%49.50%51.10%88.30%72.20%38.60%59.30%13.10%
Jose Tabata34.70%72.10%51.90%63.20%87.70%78.90%46.10%65.40%10.80%
Andrew McCutchen32.10%71.50%50.50%72.80%86.70%82.00%46.70%61.30%8.90%
Neil Walker30.30%65.10%45.20%77.10%94.80%88.00%42.90%62.50%5.40%
Alex Presley30.30%63.20%44.70%67.50%91.00%82.00%43.60%70.40%8.00%
Yamaico Navarro25.30%52.60%39.10%68.40%92.50%84.80%50.30%57.50%5.80%
Casey McGehee25.30%62.70%41.50%78.70%79.80%79.40%43.30%56.20%8.50%
Nate McLouth23.00%57.00%39.00%88.50%80.70%83.10%47.00%52.90%6.50%
Matt Hague21.40%65.00%47.10%66.70%84.60%81.30%58.80%44.40%8.80%
Michael McKenry19.60%58.10%40.10%55.60%86.90%79.80%53.30%59.60%7.70%



Key:Average
O-Swing%: The percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone.30%
Z-Swing%: The percentage of pitches a batter swings at inside the strike zone.65%
Swing%: The overall percentage of pitches a batter swings at.46%
O-Contact%: The percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with outside the strike zone when swinging the bat.68%
Z-Contact%: The percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with inside the strike zone when swinging the bat.88%
Contact%: The overall percentage of a batter makes contact with when swinging the bat.81%
Zone%: The overall percentage of pitches a batter sees inside the strike zone.45%
F-Strike% – The percentage of first pitch strikes.59%
SwStr%: The percentage of total pitches a batter swings and misses on.8.50%


While some on the team are busy swinging at baseballs outside of the zone there are some guys who are doing some good things. A guy who I consider a freer swinging hitter is Neil Walker but over the past couple of years he has really tightened up. This season Walker is one of the better Pirates and staying within the zone only swinging at pitches outside the zone 30% of the time while making contact with those pitches over 77% of the time. Walker has also been outstanding at putting the ball in play as his overall contact percentage of 88% leads the team and his z-contact % of 94.8% is best on the team among qualified hitters. Z-contact % refers to the number of balls he comes into contact with in the strike zone. Walker is swinging at pitches in the zone around 65% of the team which is around average but he is making contact at a really high rate during those swings. This is a huge reason why Walker has cut down his strikeout rate from 17.7% in 2010 to only 13.2% so far this year.

I know a guy that is getting a ton of play this year is Pedro Alvarez and when you look at his numbers they are kind of interesting. Watching the games I was of the mindset that Pedro was swinging at less pitches out of the zone and really making better contact on the pitches he was swinging at. That is half true. This season Alvarez is swinging at more pitches out of the zone than he did in his first two years (35%) and he is making contact at around the same rate on those pitches outside of the zone (45%). Where Alvarez has improved is actually in swinging at pitches in the zone and making contact with those pitches. In 2011 Alvarez set a career high swinging at pitches in the zone almost 64% of the time while making contact 84% of the time. Both of those numbers are below league average but this year is better than last as he is swinging at over 68% of pitches in the zone and making contact 87% of the time which is more in line with league average. The increased contact rate at pitches in the zone have upped his overall contact rate to over 72% and if he can start being more selective as he was in 2010 then he should get even better.

As you all know I am a huge Jose Tabata fanboy but he has had a pretty tough year at the plate and from looking at the numbers you can see why he is struggling. So far this season he is swinging at a ton more pitches out of the zone (34.7%) than he has over his career (28.7%). He is making contact at a much less frequent rate this season than he did the year before in terms of swinging at balls outside of the zone (63.2% this year and 67.2% career) while his overall contact rate is under 80% for the first time in his career. All of this isn’t helped by his 10.8% rate of swing and misses so it is just a puzzling picture to look at as he is significantly worse in most categories.

Not swinging at balls outside the zone and putting the bat on the ball when it is in the zone seems like an obvious thing but it is something that the Pirates are struggling with in a big way. I know the Pirates swing through a ton of pitches which is largely responsible for the league-worst 22.4% strikeout rate and the near league low 6.2% walk rate. While a lot of people are looking at the team and saying that they need to get more hits I would argue that having a better approach at the plate would be equally, if not more, important than having hits. The hits will come, you just have to put the ball in play.

Pirates Game Day 37 Live Blog - @ Washington Nationals

Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington Nationals - 7:05 a.m.
Erik Bedard (2-4, 2.57 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (4-1, 1.94 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (17-19)
1. Tabata 9
2. Walker 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. McGehee 3
5. Navarro 7
6. Barajas 2
7. Barmes 6
8. Harrison 5
9. Bedard 1

Nationals (22-14)
1. Desmond 6
2. Harper 8
3. Zimmerman 5
4. LaRoche 3
5. Nady 9
6. Espinosa 4
7. Moore 7
8. Flores 2
9. Gonzalez 1


Hit the jump for the live blog

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pirates Game 36 Recap - Marlins 6, Pirates 2




Games like tonight have been more few and far between for the Pirates so I guess you can't be overly disappointed because this stuff happens but it still doesn't make it any easier because Kevin Correia couldn't get it together and gave up a five spot in the fourth inning. I am sure 2006 me would look back at this and slap me across the face because this was way better than anything he saw in his time, but I might slap him back because, well, just because.

For the fourth straight game the Pirates got on the board in the first inning. This is not a novel concept but it is nice to see them jump out early but it would be a ton better if they could add on to the lead, which they can't. It would have also been ideal if Correia didn't immediately give up the lead in the bottom half of the inning but those are two totally separate issues.

The four inning was really the game. Correia wasn't especially good in the first three innings, but he was getting by. The Marlins scored five runs on five hits and Correia was pulled before the inning was over. He ended up only going 3.2 innings with one of those outs in the fourth inning coming via a sacrifice bunt by Josh Johnson, the pitcher. I dunno, you know I am not high on Correia at all and it would be nice to not see him trotted out there every fifth day. He is not able to strike anyone out and has been pretty lucky going into tonight with his BABIP and strand rate and has given up a bit too many home runs. I guess I wouldn't mind seeing Rudy Owens up to see what he can do and probably deserves a shot. All told I don't think that Correia will be in the rotation much longer.

The offense wasn't great again. After the first inning they only had four hits and two of those came in one inning when they were able to get runners on first and second with no outs but then Andrew McCutchen struck out and Pedro Alvarez grounded into a double play. At the time the game was tied and it would have been nice to take the lead again, but with the way the offense has been going this shouldn't have been a huge surprise.

The bullpen was really good again. After Corria was smacked around the pen worked 4.1 scoreless innings between Chris Resop, Tony Watson and Jarred Hughes. Combined they only gave up four hits and struck out four guys. The pen is probably due to regress since they have truly been amazing but I am going to ride this high a little longer. I know it will come back closer to the norm but whatever.

The Pirates are now done with the Marlins in a rare two game series. They will meet up with Washington for another two game series before having to face the Detroit Tigers. It is going to be a tough stretch of games but on the bright side they will not face Stephen Strasburg. On the bad, really bad, side they will face Justin Verlander on Friday. Yikes.

Pirates Game Day 36 Live Blog - @ Miami Marlins

Pittsburgh Pirates at Miami Marlins - 7:10 p.m.
Kevin Correia (1-3, 3.47 ERA) vs. Josh Johnson (0-3, 5.87 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (17-18)
1. Tabata 9
2. Walker 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Alvarez 5
5. Jones 3
6. Barmes 6
7. Presley 7
8. McKenry 2
9. Correia 1

Marlins (18-17)
1. Reyes 6
2. Infante 4
3. Ramirez 5
4. Morrison 7
5. Stanton 9
6. Dobbs 3
7. Bonifacio 8
8. Buck 2
9. Johnson 1



Hit the jump for the live blog

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pirates Game 35 Recap - Pirates 3, Marlins 2

For the first time in the 2012 season the Pittsburgh Pirates can say that they have a winning streak. They did what they have been doing all season and getting a few hits and pitching great and they end up with another one run win over the Marlins. At times it wasn't pretty but at times it was. At times it looked like the flood gates would open for the Marlins but it didn't. Clint Hurdle managed another pretty bad game but the Pirates were just good enough.

This game really started out like every other. The Pirates got a spark in the first inning with an Andrew McCutchen sacrifice fly. It was actually a really nice inning where the Pirates got only one hit but turned that into a run. Jose Tabata led off the game with a double then moved over on a Neil Walker fly ball then scored on the McCutchen sac fly. That is manufacturing a run.

The Marlins were back on the board with a Hanley Ramirez monster home run on a first pitch fastball in the bottom of the first inning. Rod Barajas came back with another home run to give the Bucs the lead in the second. The Marlins tied the game again with a big two out single by Emilio Bonifacio. The Pirates got the last laugh when Pedro Alvarez doubled home McCutchen in the fifth inning for the final run of the game. Good to see Pedro getting the big hit despite striking out three times in the game. Whatever.

Brad Lincoln was the spot start tonight since Erik Bedard was being bumped back to start on Wednesday and he threw a really nice game. He was able to go five inning and he only gave up a pair of runs and four hits. He only struck out three batters but what he didn't do was get into a bunch of trouble. He only walked one and while he gave up a bunch of fly balls it actually worked to his advantage that they played at Miami because that ballpark is massive. When you have a guy that is a spot starter you hope he can give you five innings and keep it close enough for a win but Lincoln did that and more. While I don't think that he is a starter I think he is a very important part of this staff in his role and he showed that tonight. Big ups.

Barajas hasn't been good this season, at all, but he is starting to heat up some. Along with his home run tonight he led off the seventh inning with a double and went 2-for-3 on the night. Over the last five games he is 6-for-17 with a pair of home runs and two doubles. While that is an extremly small sample size and you can't really take a ton from that it sure is nice to have him string some good at bats together. It really made all the difference in the game to have someone in the bottom three that could make a difference.

I have said it about a million times already but the bullpen has been outstanding. They were outstanding tonight. Jarred Hughes pitched a scoreless seventh and then Jason Grilli came in and just slammed the door shut when it looked like the Marlins were going to tie the game up. With one out the Marlins got runners on first and third and then Grilli proceeded to strike out Logan Morrison and got Giancarlo Stanton to pop out. Grilli is averaging like 16 K/9 which is unreal. Joel Hanrahan looked pretty good in picking up his seventh save.

Clint Hurdle once again makes his presents felt. Just some really head scratching stuff that ran the Pirates out of two innings. If you want the breakdown of what happened go over to WHYGAVS and read it from Pat.

Not really going to get into that much more. The Pirates got a win and they are hanging around now only three games back after the Cardinals lost to the Cubs. Really crazy how close the Pirates are despite some of the things that have been happening this year.

Pirates Game Day 35 Live Blog - @ Miami Marlins

Pittsburgh Pirates at Miami Marlins - 7:10 p.m.
Brad Lincoln (2-0, 0.63 ERA) vs. Anibal Sanchez (2-0, 2.01 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (16-18)
1. Tabata 9
2. Walker 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Alvarez 5
5. McGehee 3
6. Presley 7
7. Barajas 2
8. Barmes 6
9. Lincoln 1

Marlins (18-16)
1. Reyes 6
2. Infante 4
3. Ramirez 5
4. Morrison 7
5. Stanton 9
6. G. Sanchez 3
7. Bonifacio 8
8. Buck 2
9. A. Sanchez 1


Hit the jump for the live blog

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pirates Game 34 Recap - Pirates 3, Astros 2 (12 inn)

Ya, I have no idea how to even begin to talk about this game. The Pirates won a game that was so poorly managed that I think both teams were trying to outdo one another but in the end it was Clint Barmes and Josh Harrison that came through for the Pirates in the 12th inning to give the Bucs their second series win in a row.

Brad Mills, the Astros manager really outdid himself today. It first actually started in the top of the seventh inning. Wandy Rodriguez was throwing a gem but came up with the bases loaded and two outs with the Astros up 2-1. I actually thought it was a good call to keep Rodriguez in but a lot of people thought that Rodriguez should have been pulled for a pinch hitter to try and knock in another run. I don't know, Rodriguez was rolling and only gave up three hits, one after the first inning, and was dominating the Pirates. That wasn't really where Mills fumbled it though. Going to the bottom of the ninth Rodriguez only had 94 pitches but instead of sending him back out there Mills brought on his closer Brett Myers to close it out. What does Myers do? Blow the save. This is why the save is a terrible way to manage your pitching staff. Rodriguez goes out there and probably gets the complete game win, instead the Astros lose. No idea why it was so dead set that Rodriguez stayed in the seventh inning but couldn't pitch the ninth because it was a save situation.

Clint Hurdle managed this game just as bad as Mills. After Pedro Alvarez tied the game in the ninth inning with a sacrifice fly and still had runners on first and second with one out. Instead of keeping Casey McGehee in the game he pinch hits for him with Nate McLouth. McLouth strikes out looking on a pitch literally right down the middle. I have no idea why you send McLouth up there. Pinch hitting is fine but Nate has been really bad this year. Because Hurdle had already used Garrett Jones earlier in the game and McGehee was out that meant that Yamaico Navarro could play first base. That would have been good except that after the McLouth strikeout Hurdle pinch hit Alex Presley for Navarro. So there was nobody else to play first base. That meant that Rod Barajas had to play first base. Yes, for real. After Barajas singled in the 10th Hurlde used his last bench player, Barmes, to run for Barajas. This left no player in the Pirates lineup that has ever played first base. Barmes played the position and luckily didn't have to do anything for two innings. That also meant the Pirates had no bench players as of the 10th inning. Moreover Hurdle was only using relievers for one inning when they could pitch more than one inning. The Pirates finished the game with only two reliever left and the Pirates only pitched 12 innings. What was Hurdle going to do if this game went 15 or 16 innings? Just really shoddy managing from Hurdle and the Pirates won despite him today.

The Pirates offense struggled for much of the day again. Luckily for them A.J. Burnett was pretty lights out going eight innings and only giving up two runs on six hits. He only struck out four but this was another really good outing for him and really makes that Cardinals disaster a blip on the radar.

The offense managed only seven hits and struck out 13 times. At one point between the 10th and 11th innings they struck out five straight times. The offense has just been terrible for most of the season but somehow they get the big hits when they need them and that is all you can ask for. This was a pretty dirty win all things considered but you know what, dirty wins and clean wins all count the same and right now the Pirates are 16-18 after playing arguably the toughest schedule in baseball.

I know I might sound kind of negative about this game as a whole but a win is all that really matters. I really think the offense can't be this bad the whole year. I do think that Barajas and Barmes will improve and that the Pirates will go on a streak of hot hitting for a couple of weeks so that should help.

I know a lot of people are worried about what happened last year with the pitching staff but I think this year is totally different than what the Pirates had last year. In 2011 the Pirates were a staff full of guys that pitched to contact and they rarely struck anyone out. This year they have Burnett and Erik Bedard that can strike out eight or ten guys a start and with the way James McDonald has been pitching this is more of a strikeout staff than it is a pitch to contact staff. Why does that matter? Well, when you pitch to contact you are going to rely more on luck that those balls are going to be hit to your guys and use your defense much more than if you can strike out guys. With the Pirates having a pretty bad defense a pitch to contact staff would have went way downhill like last year but with three of the five spots being occupied by more strikeout guys that gives you a much better chance at not totally falling off a cliff. I don't think that the Pirates will keep up pitching this well all year (second best ERA) but I do think that they will not go from really good to really terrible like last year.

A win is a win. If the offense gets hot and the pitchers can throw around the way they are now then this is going to be a lot of fun through the summer.

Pirates Game Day 34 Live Blog - vs. Houston Astros

Houston Astros at Pittsburgh Pirates - 1:35 p.m.
Wandy Rodriguez (3-3, 2.14 ERA) vs. A.J. Burnett (1-2, 6.08 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (15-18)
1. Tabata 9
2. Walker 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Alvarez 5
5. McGehee 3
6. Navarro 9
7. Barajas 2
8. Harrison 6
9. Burnett 1

Astros (15-18)
1. Schafer 8
2. Lowrie 6
3. Martinez 7
4. Lee 3
5. Bogusevic 9
6. Johnson 5
7. Castro 2
8. Gonzalez 4
9. Rodriguez 1



Hit the jump for the live blog

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pirates Game Day 33 Live Blog - vs. Houston Astros

Houston Astros at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
J.A. Happ (2-2, 5.24 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (1-3, 4.61 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (14-18)
1. Tabata 7
2. Walker 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Alvarez 5
5. McGehee 3
6. Navarro 9
7. Barmes 6
8. McKenry 2
9. Morton 1

Astros (15-17)
1. Schafer 8
2. Lowrie 6
3. Altuve 4
4. Lee 3
5. Bogusevic 9
6. Maxwell 7
7. Downs 5
8. Snyder 2
9. Happ 1



Hit the jump for the live blog

Pirates Game 32 Recap - Astros 1, Pirates 0

Here is pretty much all the info you need to sum up the game last night:

If you saw this in the box score you probably thought the Pirates won (excluding the loss tag for James McDonald):



Then you would have to look at the runs the Pirates scored. None. Highlighted by this inning:


That made me want to throw up my dinner before I even ate it.

Ugh.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Pirates Game Day 32 Live Blog - vs. Houston Astros

Houston Astros at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Bud Norris (2-1, 4.58 ERA) vs. James McDonald (2-1, 2.70 ERA)
Lineups:

Pirates (14-17)
1. Tabata 9
2. McLouth 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Alvarez 5
5. Walker 4
6. Jones 3
7. Barajas 2
8. Barmes 6
9. McDonald 1

Astros (14-17)
1. Schafer 8
2. Lowrie 6
3. Altuve 4
4. Lee 3
5. Bogusevic 9
6. Johnson 5
7. Maxwell 7
8. Castro 2
9. Norris 1


Hit the jump for the live blog

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pirates Game Day 31 Recap - Nationals 4, Pirates 2

Going into the game tonight you kind of knew it was going to be a tough one and at the start of the series I felt this would be the game they would drop in the series and it pretty much came up the way I saw it in my head. The Pirates struck out a bunch of times and was able to keep the game close enough to have a chance to win and it just wasn't in the cards tonight.

Stephen Strasburg struck out 13 batters in only six innings of work. He was dealing and at one point he struck out seven straight batters before Jose Tabata broke it up. Strasburg is really good and the Pirates tend to strikeout a good bit (fourth most in the league with 21.3 K%) so I figured this would be an 11 or 12 strikeout night for Strasburg. I was pretty close to being right.

Things weren't all bad. Tabata really had a nice night and had a pair of hits and was the only starter that didn't strike out in the game. Andrew McCutchen continues to roll as he had an RBI single and nearly tied the game in the eighth inning with a warning track shot.

Not even really sure where to go from here. Kevin Correia had pretty much one bad inning that did him in. He gave up two jacks in the sixth inning when Robert Bernadina went deep and then Adam LaRoche went deep two batters later.

All told the Pirates won 2-of-3 from a team that was rolling coming into town. You tell me before the series that the Pirates win the series and I take that every time. It kind of does suck because they were right in the game against a really tough pitcher after striking out 13 times. They had a chance to sweep but just fell short in another tight game. Grand scheme this was a good series.

The Pirates now have a three game set with the Astros. Should be exciting.

Pirates Game Day 31 Live Blog - vs. Washington Nationals



Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pirates Game 30 Recap - Pirates 4. Nationals 2

Back-to-back wins means one thing. One more game and it's a winning streak. I know you may think that winning two games in a row is a winning streak, but you are wrong if you think that. Winning two games in a row is consecutive wins, winning three is what you call a winning streak. Not really sure how this is supposed to feel. It has been so long.

The Pirates did it again and most of it was due to the pitching staff and Andrew McCutchen.

At the start of the game things were going well. Erik Bedard was dealing in the first inning, came out for the second inning and got hurt. I mean of all the things we shouldn't be shocked about it was Bedard getting hurt but it really doesn't look that bad as he was only suffering from back spasms/ He had this problem once before in his career and was back to pitch in nine days. I don't expect him to miss much time, at all.

With Bedard gone after only one inning the pen really had to work in overdrive to get though the game. Five different relievers went on to pitch the other eight innings and only gave up four hits and struck out 11. I call that being successful.

Brad Lincoln got the most work going three innings and only throwing 40 pitches before being pinch hit for. I know before the season I was pretty hard on Lincoln for not pitching well and pretty much just having average stuff. This year he has been really good. He lowered his ERA to 0.63 and in the role of spot starter and long man he really excels. His fastball is up to 94 and sometimes 95 and his breaking stuff seems much better than a year ago. I am more than glad to be wrong about this and if Bedard has to miss some starts I feel good about Lincoln taking his spot.

Jared Hughes pitched two innings striking out four and only giving up a single hit. Things got a little murky later with Juan Cruz and Jason Grilli as they combined to walk three batters but also got out of some big jams to keep the Pirates ahead. Joel Hanrahan came in and earned his sixth save and didn't look good doing so but he did give Ryan Zimmerman to strikeout with the tying run on second.

McCutchen is locked in. Pay from WHYGAVS had a post up today that he was ready to break out and break out he did. He went 4-for-4 and in his first three at bats he singled and in the final one he hit a bomb to left field. After struggling some the last couple of weeks and battling with the flu he has his average up to .330. Ho hum.

The third inning was really as good of inning that the Pirates have had all season. They get runners in scoring position with a string of base runners only to score one run or none. After Josh Harrison flew out Lincoln struck out but reached first base after the ball got away from Wilson Ramos. Tabata then singled through the right side to set up first and third with one out and then Neil Walker and McCutchen singled back-to-back to score a couple of runs. Then, with two outs, Casey McGehee singled to the shortstop and McCutchen scored from second base. Scored from second base on an infield single. No idea what shortstop Ian Desmond was doing, but I will take it. Not really good base running by McCutchen but it worked out. I will allow it.

Really a good win for the Pirates. They are starting to win more of these types of games. They are getting good pitching (only gave up four hits tonight) and the offense is getting better (eight hits) so they are able to win games like this.

A win tonight was really nice. They have to face Stephen Strasburg tomorrow night and it isn't going to be easy but knowing they already have the series win over a pretty good team makes it all the better.