Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pirates Game 103 Recap - Pirates 5, Cubs 0

I could sit here and talk to you about the Neil Walker home run and the Walker sacrifice fly and the nice games from Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen but this game starts and ends with one player and that is A.J. Burnett.

This was the best game that Burnett has thrown as a Pirate and to be honest that says a lot because he has been nothing short of outstanding this year. Today Burnett flirted with his second career no hitter until it was broke out with two outs in the eighth inning. While it sucked to see the no hitter broken up it doesn't take away from how good Burnett was. Even on the one hit by Adrian Cardenas it was a good pitch on the bottom of the zone. It happens. Burnett did get the complete game victory on 108 pitches and had some unreal nasty movement on his two seam fastball and his sinker and curveball were working as good as ever.

A lot can be said about what he means to this team but the Yankees and their fans have to be just stumped right now. Burnett is on pace for a 20 win season after getting number 13 tonight and while pitchers wins is an unbelievably overrated stat any time you can come close to getting 20 you have had a pretty good year. Before the season we all heard about how Burnett was a clubhouse cancer and about how he gave up two home runs but I would be shocked if you found someone who truly has a problem with the guy.

The rest of this game was mostly good. Walker drove home all five runs which started with a grand slam in the first inning and then a sac fly down the left field line in the seventh inning.

Jones was especially good tonight and while he only went 1-for-3 at the plate he drew a pair of walks which you should know as a Pirates fan is not small task for Jones who now has 4.2% walk rate. Pedro Alvarez also had a really nice game with a pair of hits and a walk. Alvarez seems to have found that nice middle ground and while he is still striking out over 30% of his plate appearances but that is something you will just have to deal with. He struck the ball well tonight and has been having much better at bats recently.

This Mr. McCutchen guy is pretty good at baseball. He has still been hitting at a .350+ pace during his "slump" but tonight he looked a lot better and it showed with a three hit night. This guy is carrying the ball club and it is fun to watch when a pitcher tries to throw something on the outer half and all he does is rope a double into the right centerfield gap.

It wasn't all good tonight. On numerous occasions tonight the Pirates had a runner on third with less than two outs and they were unable to score. I know it happens occasionally but you have to be able to put the ball in the air and score that run from third. Along with not being able drive home some easy runs the Pirates were pretty awful running the bases tonight. In particular it was Jones, Walker and Alvarez who turned what should have been a run scoring double from Alvarez into Walker getting thrown out between second and third. Just terrible. I don't even want to think about it anymore.

The Pirates look for the series win tomorrow. The loss on the first game of the series sucks but all that matters is winning a series. Get it.

Pirates Trade Deadline Reaction

Going into the last couple of weeks there were a lot of way the deadline could have gone for the Pirates. It started off with rumors that the Pirates were in talks to try and bring Justin Upton to the team and that was followed with some pretty strong consideration for the Pirates getting Chase Headley from the Padres and they were linked to almost every bat that was on the market.

The Pirates weren't able to get a big bat, mainly in part because the prices for those players were said to be extremely high or the players were taken off the market, but here is what the Pirates were able to do right around the deadline:

Wandy Rodriguez (Houston) for Robbie Grossman, Colton Cain and Rudy Owens

Travis Snider (Toronto) for Brad Lincoln

Gaby Sanchez and Kyle Kaminska (Miami) for Gorkys Hernandez and Competitive Balance draft pick

Chad Qualls (NY Yankees) for Casey McGehee and cash


All in all you are going to look at those players that the Pirates received and say that they didn't really do much and I have seen some people that said that they made themselves worse at the deadline. I am not one of those people and here are some of the reasons why:

-Improving now: While some might argue that the Pirates aren't better now than they are a few weeks ago I would disagree. With the addition of Rodriguez the Pirates gave them some much needed depth in the rotation. While Kevin Correia was throwing relatively well, winning his final six starts, it just felt that he was a ticking time bomb and the Pirates got a guy in Rodriguez that is durable and has been a good left handed arm to throw into the rotation. This also helps if Erik Bedard continues to struggle where they could throw Correia back into the rotation. In the same respect the offense and defense gets better immediatly with the additions of Snider and Sanchez. While both aren't hitting particularly well right now they have shown in the past that they are quality bats that pushing some guys to the bench who probably should already be there. Alex Presley isn't an everyday outfielder but will be a nice option on the bench and with Sanchez's great career numbers against lefties (.298/.390/.488) and will semi platoon with Garrett Jones at first base to give them another bat off the bench.

-Improving down the line: The Pirates not only got better now (marginally some will say) they get even better down the road. Both Sanchez and Snider are under team control through at least 2016 and both have shown the ability to hit in the big leages, especailyl Sanchez. While Sanchez had two pretty nice years before he struggled this year Snider was considered one of the best prospects in baseball not too long ago and is only 24 years old. Snider is a power bat that hits from the left side. Over the years we have heard a lot about the Pirates needing a left handed power bat and they got one that they control for a number of years.

-Giving up little: In all the deals that are outlined above the Pirates really didn't give up anything. I think losing Lincoln was probably the most significant but as I said before replacing relievers really isn't that hard in the grand scheme of things and with guys like Bryan Morris knocking on the door in AAA the Pirates have options. You might say that the next significant thing they gave up was the competitive balance draft pick they got which will be in the low 30's that will carry around a $1.5M slot value that they Pirates probably could have used. Other than that Owens is a back of the rotation guy and Cain is still trying to figure things out while Grossman is a fringy outfield prospect that might hurt losing but it is hardly the end of the world. I know some people will say that I overvalue the prospects in the system but when you can upgrade the team and not give up Cole/Taillon/Bell/Hanson you are doing the right things. I really think that most people look at Cole/Taillon/Heredia and think that all three of them are automatically going to turn into three number ones. That isn't how it works. If one of those three turns out to be a top of the rotation guy I think that would make most happy but when you start dealing away guys for rentals for a one shot deal you decrease your chance of having that power arm that you spend some much of your energy to just go for rentals.

-Improvement from within: The Pirates didn't even have to trade anyone to improve in one position on the field and that is via the call up of Starling Marte. While Marte has been up and down I don't think you can call the start to his big league career bad. There have been ups and downs but it sure beats watching Jones or Josh Harrison try to play in the outfield.

-The division did nothing: The Pirates were far and away the most active team in the NL Central. The Reds and Cardinals only acquired relievers and while that might make their pens a little better both basically stood pat. Both of those teams are still great ball clubs and the Reds will be getting Joey Votto back but neither the Reds or the Cardinals did much at the deadline.

-Not doing anything stupid: Huntington is taking some heat because some feel the Pirates did nothing to make the team better this year for the chance to be a World Series contender. While I understand the notion that the Pirates are a playoff contender it really isn't that clear cut for me. Take for instance Hunter Pence. Word floating around is that the Phillies wanted a Lincoln/Marte combo for Pence and that would have been a pretty out there move and probably a little too much for Pence. He is struggling a little bit this year playing at a hitters friendly park and moreover he will only be under control for this year and next year. It really isn't only giving up Lincoln and Marte that is the problem it is also the fact that you are going to probably have to pay him $14-$16M next year in his third year of arbitration. Pence is a good player but he isn't THAT good and we aren't even talking about giving up two players for him.

To wrap it up here (this has been way too long already) I know a lot of people are looking for the playoffs here, I know I sit here after every game and check out the wild card standings like I am taking a test on them in the morning. The part that really gets me about going "all in" this year is that if the Pirates don't win the division and stick in either that first or second wild card spot you are penciled in for a one game playoff. So, hypothetically speaking, you get Pence and you are in a one game playoff against the Nationals do you feel good about the Pirates beating Stephen Strasburg? Or the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw? I don't know if I do. A one game series is a huge toss up. Again, the Pirates could win the division and not worry about that but I don't think they are quite that good enough. This is a team that nobody expected to even get to .500 and now they are around 15 games over .500 going into August. I get that people want to go for it all this year but lets not treat this year like it is the last time the Pirates are ever going to have a chance to make the playoffs. Staying within themselves and making smart moves and taking necessary risks is how I think this team is going to contend for more than just one year and when you do things like the Brewers did last year with Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum you might make the playoffs for a year but then you are right back to where you were ten games under .500 and you don't have much of a farm system to speak of.

That is just my thoughts, what are yours?

Pirates Trade Brad Lincoln To Toronto For Travis Snider

While this happened yesterday it happened in the late hours of the night. I was in a bar with a few people in Chicago after watching the Pirates just get smoked by the Cubs and I got a text message from a friend that said "Buccos dealing." Well that made me kind of curious and excited so I snatched up my phone which only had about 15% batter left and I saw that the Pirates shipped Brad Lincoln to Toronto for outfielder Travis Snider.

This was one of those buy low moves that Neal Huntington has been doing this entire year and I think it is the perfect example of moving a piece at its highest value from a position that isn't too hard to fill for a young left handed hitter with high upside.

While it is true that Lincoln has turned around his career to become pretty dominant this year out of the bullpen. Generally speaking finding someone that could fill the seventh inning long relief role that Lincoln held is trying to find a penny in a wishing well. If there is one thing Huntington is good at it's finding bullpen arms. You don't think so? Last season GMNH got one of his best relievers, Jason Grilli, for nothing. NOTHING.

In return for a position where you can find a bunch of guys to fill, along with some guys that are currently in the Pirates system, the Pirates got Snider who is a 24 year old left handed outfielder. Snider was the Jays first round pick in the 2006 draft and has really had an up and down career so far. In 917 career plate appearances Snider has a .248/.306/.429 with 31 home runs. So far this season in 40 plate appearances he is hitting .250/.300/.556. That is a small sample size for this season but he could be a nice buy low asset. First of which he is only 24 years old and has played in the big leagues for any length of time since 2008.

I know a lot of people are sort of wondering why the Pirates would trade Lincoln for Snider seeing how good Lincoln has been. Fact of the matter is the rest of the way this year Lincoln might throw 30 more innings. Snider is going to be slated into right field for a majority of the game and they will have control over him till 2016. This is exactly what GMNH was looking to do if he couldn't get in on the big name free agents and when it was a foregone conclusion that those sellers were asking to receive $20 for $10 then Huntington had to go in another direction.

While a lot of people are saying that this move doesn't make the team better in 2012 I would probably disagree. This move puts Alex Presley on the bench and puts him in a position where he is more apt to succeed in the fourth outfield role. While Snider hasn't yet got it all together there is still some time to get there and it's not like he hasn't done anything at the major league level. He doesn't walk a lot (7.5%) and does strike out a good bit (27.3%) but the power is there and if the Pirates can fix up the swing a little bit could pay dividents for many, many, years to come. I know a lot of people are too caught up in 2012 but if the world doesn't end in December the team will need some talent going forward.

Pirates Game Day 103 Live Blog - @ Chicago Cubs

Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs - 8:05 p.m.
A.J. Burnett (12-3, 3.52 ERA) vs. Casey Coleman (0-1, 7.32 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (58-44)
1. Marte 7
2. Snider 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Walker 4
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barajas 2
8. Barmes 6
9. Burnett 1

Cubs (43-58)
1. DeJesus 8
2. Castro 6
3. Rizzo 3
4. Soriano 7
5. LaHair 9
6. Clevenger 2
7. Barney 4
8. Valbuena 5
9. Coleman 1






Hit the jump for the live blog


Gaby Sanchez A Pirate. Gorkys Hernandez Not.

In another move by Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington today he traded Gorkys Hernandez and the Pirates competitive balance pick to the Miami Marlins for Gaby Sanchez and minor lead bullpen arm Kyle Kaminista.

For those unfamiliar Sanchez is a first baseman that has spent his entire career with the Marlins. This season has been pretty abysmal for him but he has found success at the major league level. So far this season he is hitting for a .202/.250/.306 line with three home runs and a .244 wOBA. Not very good but the last two seasons have been much better with a .266/.352/.427 line in 2011 and a .273/.341/.448 line in 2010. Before the trade Sanchez was actually in AAA where so far this year he has a .302/.431/.491 line but I am not really sure how much you can depend on that since he plays in the hitter friendly PCL but whatever.

The nice thing about Sanchez is that he is under team control until 2016 so this has gone along with the other moves that Huntington has made which included the move last night to send Brad Lincoln to the Blue Jay for outfielder Travis Snider (which I will touch on a little later tonight).

It is kind of weird that this trade went down only for the fact that the Pirates dealt a draft pick that they received as part of the competitive balance lottery. That pick is the 33rd overall in next year's draft and based on some things I am reading would have been slotted around $1.5M. The Pirates also gave up Hernandez which really doesn't mean a whole ton to me. Hernandez looked lost for much of the time he was with the Pirates at the plate. He is an outstanding defensive outfielder but I am not really sure that is what the Pirates need right now.

I am not really sure what to think about Sanchez as a whole but I don't really think it is a lock to have him up on the Major League team. Here is some pretty good information from Tim Williams over at Pirates Prospects:



Interesting note but it's not as if Sanchez is 24 years old. He's 29.

Sanchez has been bad but he has shown that he can be a pretty good bat to have and when he does come up on the team (which he will at some point) he will make the bench stronger. I am not really sure what this means for Casey McGehee but it should be interesting going forward if Sanchez can continue to swing a good bat at the AAA level is that is where he ends up going.

Over his career Sanchez .298/.390/.488 against left handed pitching while only hitting .248/.314/.400 against righties so this looks like it could turn out to be a platoon option going forward.


Here is a little bit of info on Kaminista who is 23 years old and pitching out of AA for the Marlins:



Overall I like the move. It might not pay off initially but it makes the team better and when he does get called up to the big club I think it makes the bench better which in turn makes the team better. There was no big splash move made (yet at least) but that might not be the worst thing in the world with what some teams were asking for in the trade market.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Pirates Game Day 102 Live Blog - @ Chicago Cubs

Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs - 8:05 p.m.
Erik Bedard (5-11, 4.32 ERA) vs. Justin Germano (0-1, 3.00 ERA)






Hit the jump for the live blog


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pirates Game Day 101 Live Blog - @ Houston Astros

Pittsburgh Pirates at Houston Astros - 2:05 p.m.
James McDonald (10-4, 3.15 ERA) vs. Lucas Harrell (7-7, 4.07 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (58-42)
1. Marte 8
2. Presley 7
3. Walker 4
4. Jones 9
5. McGehee 3
6. Alvarez 5
7. McKenry 2
8. Mercer 6
9. McDonald 1

Astros (34-68)
1. Altuve 4
2. Gonzalez 6
3. Martinez 7
4. Moore 5
5. Pearce 3
6. Bogusevic 9
7. Snyder 2
8. Schafer 8
9. Harrell 1




Hit the jump for the live blog 


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pirates Game 100 Recap - Pirates 4, Astros 3

The Pirates haven't play a really good game in some time but they are still able to churn out wins and that is really all you can ask for. While last night it took a wild pitch to score the winning run tonight it was the Pirates getting their first hit with a runner in scoring position in the entire series. That is right, the entire series.

Pretty much a mundane game for the Pirates. The teams traded runs for the first few innings until the Astros took the lead with two RBI triple from Justin Maxwell to make the the score 3-2 Astros.

Things got interesting in the sixth inning as the Pirates loaded the bases with no outs. Pedro Alvarez came up to the plate and fouled a ball off that hit the dirt and spun in front of home plate where the Astros were able to turn the 2-3 double play to really take the wind out of the sails for the Pirates. Just as last night the Astros gaffed away an opportunity to get out of the inning without any damage. The very next hitter, Rod Barajas, was at the plate for another passed ball/wild pitch that scored a crucial run.

The back breaking hit came in the top of the eighth inning when Barajas got the Pirates first hit in 17 chances with runners in scoring position this series to give the Pirates a 4-3 lead. Barajas hasn't been very good in the recent past but I will take that clutch base hit every day of the week.

Wandy Rodriguez got his first start as a Pirate tonight and it didn't really go as planned. When I say that you have to kind of take it with a grain of salt because he earned the "quality start" going six innings and only giving up three runs but it really wasn't pretty. Coming into the game Rodriguez was walking only 2.20 batters per nine innings but tonight he walked five Astros which was only one off his career high. He has been a pretty good pitcher this year in terms of commanding the strike zone but today he looked a little off but was able to battle through it. He took the no decision but I am sure there were some butterflies and weird feelings he had pitching against the Astros as he spent he entire career in that organization. I wouldn't get too concerned with the walks tonight as he hasn't done that all season and even in his career he has never walked a lot of guys. In my eyes this was a one time thing and if this is a "bad" start for him then I can't wait to see the good.

I touched on it a few times already today but the Pirates just haven't got it done offensively. They have been able to get guys into scoring position but it is almost as if they are trying not to get those runners in. After tonight they are 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position and they are 3-0 in those games. That is something you can sustain and I will take any win but going forward they are going to need to do a whole hell of a lot better than that.

Starling Marte started off his Pirates career with a bang going 2-for-4 on the first night but since they he has gone 0-for-9 and didn't look that great tonight. He had a pretty nice at bat that resulted in an out off a pretty hard hit line drive but other than that his plate appearance has been pretty bad. This isn't something that is new but something that we knew was going to happen. A prime example of this was in one of his at bats when he was up 2-0 and swung at a slider out of the zone. When you are in a 2-0 count you typically look for "your" pitch and if it isn't there you let the pitch go no matter where it is. When I say "your" pitch I mean you look for a specific pitch in a specific zone and you don't pull the trigger unless it is there. That is something that Marte isn't very good at and if he can overcome that flaw he will be a much, much, better hitter. This is only three games so I will chalk it up to a good game and two not so good games but it will be interesting to see his adjustments going forward.

Clint Barmes had two hits, so there's that. I know a lot of people bang on Barmes because his offense is just so bad that I can't even explain it but if he could find a way to hit even .250 or so the rest of the way then that is a huge boost to the Pirates offense.

One guy that has been just outstanding this year in his role is Brad Lincoln. He came in for the eighth inning tonight and was just throwing filthy pitches. I know a lot of teams are looking at him when the Pirates are look for teams to deal with but it is really great to see him accept his rold after he didn't pitch well as a starter. He is a big time asset out of the pen and has a sub-1.00 ERA out of the pen this year.

The Pirates have a chance for a four game sweep of the Astros tomorrow which would be huge. I know the Astros are bad and that they have lost 12 games straight but winning four in a row against a team is pretty hard to do. The Pirates could take this candy and then go into Chicago with some momentum then they would be in really good shape after starting this ten game trip against the Cubs, Astros then the Cubs again.

Pirates Game Day 100 Live Blog - @ Houston Astros

Pittsburgh Pirates at Houston Astros - 7:05 p.m.
Wandy Rodriguez (7-9, 3.79 ERA) vs. Armando Galarraga (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (57-42)
1. Marte 7
2. Presley 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Walker 4
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barajas 2
8. Barmes 6
9. Rodriguez 1

Astros (34-67)
1. Altuve 4
2. Downs 3
3. Johnson 5
4. Martinez 7
5. Maxwell 8
6. Francisco 9
7. Bixler 6
8. Corporan 2
9. Galarraga 1




Hit the jump for the live blog 


Pirates Game 99 Recap - Pirates 6, Astros 5

To be honest I really have no idea how to describe this game. I didn't really get to watch a lot of this game because I had some things to do tonight but I did get to follow the game on my computer then on my phone then I got to listen to the last two innings of the game through my mlb.tv app on my iPod so it was a little bit of everything. For how bad the Astros have been the last month or so they really put that to the test tonight and choked up another loss in the ninth inning to the Pirates. The Astros tonight were vintage 2010 Pirates and it got the Pirates to 15 games over .500 with a 6-5 victory.

I won't start with the cronological order of how things went down tonight, all you need to know is how it ended. The Astros took the lead in the bottom of the bottom of the seventh inning with a leadoff triple then a one out sacrifice fly and you just kind of had the feeling that the Pirates were going to get one more punch. Luckily for them they got the knockout punch.

In the top of the ninth with one out the Bucs got to work. Michael McKenry capped off a huge night with a single then Drew Sutton and Casey McGehee both reached via the walk to set up Starling Marte. Marte drove the ball deep to center to score Jordy Mercer who ran for McKenry.

So, you sit back and think it's a tie game and going deep into the game favored the Pirates no matter how bad they played. Well, the next batter was Rod Barajas who hit for Alex Presley and the most Astros thing happened, wild pitch. That wild pitch scored Sutton from third and the Pirates had their first lead of the game. Joel Hanrahan came on and survived by working around a one out single which was followed by a stolen base for his 31st save which leads all of baseball.

By no means was this a "good" win for the Pirates but in the same breath it doesn't matter if a win is good or not, a win is a win. IT was ugly and it was against a really bad Astros team but if you win by ten it doesn't count more than a one run win where you get that final run in the top of the ninth inning. The Pirates need to stack wins and they are doing that against the Astros so far.

This game was really all about McKenry. With the Pirates down 4-1 in the fifth inning McKenry crushed a home run into the left field seats to cut the lead to one. Right now The Fort is hitting at a .267/.341/.567 line which is a .908 OPS. Yes, you can read that again. He went 3-for-4 tonight with the home run and a double and now has nine home runs in 120 at bats. I think his success is coming a lot from how the Pirates utilize him and not get him in there for too many games because I think he can get exposed if he plays too much but you probably need to get his bat into the lineup a little bit more now.

Andrew McCutchen bounced back with a pair of doubles tonight en route to going 2-for-4. He has been struggling a little bit the past week or so but still is getting his hits and making things hards for everyone else so you can't really complain. Most players would take his "cold streak" over their own hot streaks.

I rail on Alex Presley a good bit, for good cause, but he had a pretty nice game tonight with a home run and a single in the number two hole. I really don't like Presley hitting that high in the lineup since he has a pretty substantial problem getting on base but it was nice to get some production out of the two spot considering that Marte had a quiet night going 0-for-4.

The Pirates are now 15 games over .500. For the past 10+ years I would always either look in the paper or go online and look at the standings and I always remember looking at the top of the standings in each division around this time and seeing teams that are 15, 16 or more games over .500 and wondering what it would feel like if the Pirates would ever be in that position where a four or five game losing streak would still have them in a decent spot overall. I am not going to lie when I looked at the standings tonight and saw the Pirates that far above .500 it was really a strange feeling. I know they have been 13 or 14 games over for a while now but I think it is starting to sink in a little more for me. Fun times.

The Pirates will be sending Wandy Rodriguez to the bump tomorrow night for his first start since the trade. It is going to be fun to watch.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Pirates Game Day 99 Live Blog - @ Houston Astros

Pittsburgh Pirates at Houston Astros - 8:05 p.m.
Jeff Karstens (3-2, 3.52 ERA) vs. Jordan Lyles (2-7, 5.50 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (56-42)
1. Marte 7
2. Presley 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Walker 4
6. Alvarez 5
7. McKenry 2
8. Barmes 6
9. Karstens 1

Astros (34-66)
1. Altuve 4
2. Gonzalez 6
3. Johnson 5
4. Moore 3
5. Martinez 7
6. Maxwell 8
7. Francisco 9
8. Snyder 2
9. Lyles 1



Hit the jump for the live blog 


Steelers Extend Antonio Brown

In what was a bit of a surprise the Pittsburgh Steelers locked up receiver Antonio Brown to a five year, $42.5M extension. All the talk this offseason was about how the Steelers were going to sign Mike Wallace to a long term deal and how that might work but this news just comes out of left field and is welcome news.

Here is Antonio Brown's short history in the NFL:

Receiving Rushing
Year Age Tm No. G GS Rec Yds Y/R TD Lng R/G Y/G Att Yds TD Lng
2010 24 PIT 84 9 0 16 167 10.4 0 26 1.8 18.6
2011* 25 PIT 84 16 3 69 1108 16.1 2 79 4.3 69.3 7 41 0 10
Career 25 3 85 1275 15.0 2 79 3.4 51.0 7 41 0 10
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/27/2012.


Brown burst on to the scene last year after being pretty much quiet in his rookie campaign and when Wallace was being double and getting coverage rolled over the top Brown thrived into being the team's go to target. Over the final ten games of the season Brown caught 51 passes for 841 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

This is a welcome sign as the Steelers didn't need to sign Brown until after the season as he would have been a restricted free agent but the Steelers got ahead of the curve and got this done before any trouble was going to start. Brown had a breakout season this year and if the Steelers waited one more year this might have got much more expensive for the Steelers. Usually the team doesn't dish out big money for receivers but with Ben Roethilisberger in his prime the team knows they needed to sign some threats for him to throw to, starting with Brown.

With the signing of Brown I see a lot of people say that Wallace is now gone. I disagree with this because that isn't how the Steelers do business. The Steelers needed to sign Brown next season so what if the Steelers signed Brown next year for this same price tag and they signed Wallace before? These are mutually exclusive contracts and I still have a pretty good feeling that Wallace is coming back.

I know I am probably going to see that Brown is a better receiver than Wallace but they are totally different in what they do for the team. Wallace is the deep threat that is still learning how to run the underneath routes and still working on being a full time receiver. Brown does a great job of working underneath but he is not a great route runner. Different receivers and both still have work to do but it is great to see Brown locked up.

I think it is also worth noting that while Brown had a great season last year I think some of that can go to what Wallace does for the team. As I said above Wallace was drawing double coverage and getting the safety rolled over much of the time leaving Brown to work underneath with single coverage. I will take that all day. If Wallace is not there in week one does that double team flip to Brown? How does he handle that and can he be as productive as the top guy? I am pretty excited to see if he can if it comes to that.

All in all this is a pretty exciting deal to keep one of the most exciting play makers in the league on the team. I know you might do a double take when you see most exciting play makers but if you watched him play last year to any degree I think you understand what I mean.

2012 Olympics Preview: Gymnastics


After a long time in waiting we have finally come to it. The Opening Ceremonies for the 2012 Olympics are tonight. I conclude my previews with a look at Gymnastics, possibly the event that stung the most for American fans in Beijing when a team of 12-year old Chinese gymnasts beat the American women for gold. 

Gymnastics

There are actually 3 different types of Gymnastics in the Olympic Games: Artistic, Rhythmic, and Trampoline. When people think of gymnastics, it's typically the "Artistic" discipline.

Artistic Gymnastics

Men's Events: Vault, Floor, Pommel Horse, Rings, Parallel Bars, Horizontal Bar, Individual All-Around, Team All-Around
Women's Events: Vault, Floor, Uneven Bars, Balance Beam, Individual All-Around, Team All-Around

So just what are these events?

Vault - Run down a track and use a springboard and table to thrust yourself into the air, do some spins and stuff, land as steady as possible.

Floor - Basically a wide open space, points are given for using as much floor space as possible so competitors will set their routine to go corner-to-corner as much as possible

Pommel Horse - A balance beam with two bars on it that are used to hold onto and swing around doing gymnastics stuff. yeah, that was a horrible description, but it's one of the coolest to watch.

Rings - Gymnasts hang by two rings suspended in midair. This one is all about upper body strength and being able to hold your body still.

Parallel Bars - Another event that is all about upper body strength. Two bars next to each other make it a variation on Rings. The bars are obviously less flexible than the Rings so some moves are limited side-to-side but gymnasts do go front-to-back on the bars.

Horizontal Bar - Similar to the Parallel Bars except there is only 1 bar, so the repertoire of moves becomes even more limited.

Uneven Bars - Since Women don't compete on Parallel Bars or the Horizontal Bar, they are given a task that is almost more difficult - navigating two bars that are of different heights. This is one of the more entertaining events in the Women's competition as gymnasts routinely fly back and forth between the bars.

Balance Beam - If you honestly don't know what Balance Beam is then you didn't have a childhood.

98 gymnasts in both Men's and Women's will compete in the events. Nations can qualify up to 5 competitors and only nations with 5 are eligible for the team awards. As we all well remember from Beijing, the Chinese team of 12-year-old girls (which is illegal by minimum age standards) won the Women's All-Around despite an excellent challenge from the American team (all of which were of legal age to compete).

Nations eligible for Team All-Around

Men: China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Ukraine, USA

China, Japan, and the United States won medals at the 2011 World Championships and should be the front-runners for Gold again at the London Games. Japan edged the US by 0.010 points for Silver while the US had a 4 point advantage on Russia for Bronze. Two Japanese gymnasts (Kohei Uchimura and Koji Yamamuro) won Individual All-Around medals (Gold and Bronze respectively) at the World Championships, so they are certainly a team to be reckoned with.

Women: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Romania, Russia, USA

The US Women avenged their Beijing loss to the 12-year-old Chinese girls in the 2011 World Championships, taking home the Team All-Around and Jordyn Wieber winning the Individual All-Around Gold. The Russian team finished 2nd at the World Championships with the Chinese team barely edging out Romania for Bronze.


Rhythmic Gymnastics

Only women compete in Rhythmic Gymnastics which involves spinning around twirling streamers that aren't supposed to stay still or touch the ground. 24 competitors will compete Individually and in Groups. Russians have pretty much dominated this event, so don't be surprised to hear the Russian National Anthem being played at the end of this competition.

Trampoline

Remember how much fun it was to bounce on a trampoline when you were a kid? Well, someone decided this should be an Olympic event, just without other people on the trampoline to try to push off or land at the same time as you to make you go twice as high. Both Men and Women compete in the Trampoline and China dominated both competitions at the World Championships.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pirates Game 98 Recap - Pirates 5, Astros 3

Coming into this series I think we all knew that the Astros were a struggling club that had lost 22 of their last 24 games and that their payroll was only $11M or so since trading off nearly all of their top end lineup. Tonight was a good start to the four game series where the Pirates slugged their way to victory on the back of Starling Marte.

By now I am sure you heard of what Marte did, but if you didn't then you know that he took the first pitch he saw from starter Dallas Keuchel and put it into the left field seats on the first ever pitch he saw. Pretty awesome feat that I break down in an earlier post I had.

Later in the inning Garrett Jones followed an Andrew McCutchen single with a bomb to right field and then in the second inning Clint Barmes hit a two-run shot to score Rod Barajas and that was pretty much all the Pirates would need plus a couple more runs.

A.J. Burnett had things under control as he just cruised past a depleted Astros lineup and only allowed five base runners the entire game. He gave up a bloop hit in the third inning, a single through the right side in the seventh inning and then a pair of home runs in the eighth but other than that Burnett was in total control as you expect him to be. He struck out five hitters and had Astros hitter chasing pitches all over the zone while ramping his fastball up to 93 pretty late in the game. Nothing more here to see.

Marte was as advertised as he had some pretty nice at bats on the night. Aside from his home run he singled on a ball that just got through the left side of the infield but even if it was fielded they had no chance of getting the speedy Marte. While coming into the call up it was well known that Marte had a problem with strikeouts but he got behind in the count 0-2 on a couple of his at bats but was able to work the count even on both accounts so that is something that was really nice to see. Granted this was against a AAA pitcher but I think that might have been part of the reason to call up Marte when they did. The Astros aren't going to throw anyone out there that will overwhelm him so getting him up now and let him get his feet we against the Astros was probably a good call. It will be fun to watch him going forward.

Interesting to note that with the three home runs today the Pirates now have 110 home runs. Last season they only had 107 home runs through 162 games and this year they have three more than that in only 98 games. Yea, that is a pretty significant turnaround.

The Pirates have three more with the Astros and to be honest I expect to get three more wins. I know you can never expect to get a sweep because that is really hard to do even in a three game series but the Astros are really in a bad way right now and the Pirates need to jump all over that.

Starling Marte: Home Run On First Pitch Ever History

Tonight every Pirates fans got to see a little glimpse of Starling Marte and what he can bring to the game. Before the game started I think it was a great shot that ROOT Sports did by showing Marte sitting in the dugout by himself waiting for the umpires to come onto the field and it really was a cool picture to just see him sitting there, alone, soaking it all in for his first ever appearance for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Flash forward a few minutes and he was in the box, batting leadoff, in his first every game. Most might think that for a kid like this he would take a pitch or two to get settled in, but that isn't what happened. Marte saw the first pitch that was just above belt high and drove it out of the ballpark to left field.

As a fan this is the kind of stuff you love to see and it was really cool to see Marte round the bases and be greeted by his teammates. After the hysteria calmed down on twitter you really got to sit back and think that he went deep on the first ever pitch he saw. That isn't a very common thing and in fact it is only 28th time it has ever happened.

Here are the occurrences of those 28 times (Marte not included on this list):



That is some pretty cool stuff. Moreover if you are just talking about first every at bats where a player hit his first career home run Marte joins 109 other players who have ever done that, ever. Click here for the link to all those players.

Pretty cool accomplishment that I can say I witnessed live.

2012 Summer Olympics Preview - Swimming

Greetings everyone. If you have been around the blog for a while you know that I teamed up with Ian from The Steelers N'at a while ago to do a preview for the 2010 Winter Olympics so with the Summer Olympics right around the corner I figured I might as well do it for you guys again. In the summer games we have 31 different events and over the week we are going to be preview every single one of them. I am going to drop some knowledge today about swimming at the Olympics with a preview of men's and women's swimming events. While I give you a really vague idea of who is going to compete my boy Adam drops in to give you a better idea of what is going on. Even if it isn't better, it is better. Trust me. Ian dropped some information on "athletics" earlier in the day so make sure you go and check that out and make sure you check back every day to get your info on everything Olympics.


Swimming


There are a few staples to the Summer Olympics that everyone things of when you bring up the games. Those three things are undoubtedly basketball, track & field and swimming. Swimming has been a huge sell back to 2008 when Michael Phelps won eight gold medals but we will get more into that later. Swimming might look easy but if you have ever been in a pool and did some laps you know how hard it can be. It takes great cardiovascular training to be able to hang like these guys do and the weight room is a must to be able to hold up and have the stamina to compete at the highest level.

How it works: Here is a breakdown of all of the competitions that will be taking place on the men's and women's side:

Freestyle

50m (one length of the pool)

100m (two lengths)
200m (four lengths)
400m (eight lengths)

800m (16 lengths; women only)

1500m (30 lengths; men only)
10k (open water swim)



Backstroke
100m (two lengths)

200m (four lengths)



Breaststroke
100m (two lengths)
200m (four lengths)



Butterfly

100m (two lengths)

200m (four lengths)



Individual medley
200m (four lengths)
400m (eight lengths)



Relays
4x100m Freestyle (each swimmer swims two lengths)

4x200m Freestyle (each swimmer swims four lengths)
4x100m Medley Relay (each swimmer swims a different stroke two lengths; the order is backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle)

Each event at the Olympics are set in preliminary rounds for 200m races and shorter and the top 16 will move on to semifinals before going to the finals. In anything longer than 200m there will just be one preliminary round and then the top eight move directly on to the finals.

Pretty much other than that it isn't really much to explain. In a lot of the other events I have wrote about and explained during this preview series there are little nuances to winning and scoring but it is totally different here. The fastest time wins and really nothing else matters.

The USA Chances: It would be foolish to talk about the USA swim team without talking about Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte on the men's side. Phelps has been the staple of the United States in the pool as he has 16 medals all time with with 14 of those being gold. Phelps will be the favorite in all events that he is swimming in which will total six events. Lochte is making some huge waves in the pool as the main competition to Phelps and those two will be pushing each each and I wouldn't be surprised to see them finish 1-2 in a few events. Brendan Hansen and Anthony Ervin will be two other Americans to watch for. Missy Franklin will be the odds on favorite in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke as well as the 200-freestyle. Rebecca Soni will challenge in the 100- and 200-breaststroke with Dana Vollmer and Elisabeth Beisel also favorites in various events for a stacked United States team.

Pirates Game Day 98 Live Blog - @ Houston Astros

Pittsburgh Pirates at Houston Astros - 8:05 p.m.
A.J. Burnett (11-3, 3.59 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (1-2, 4.03 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (55-42)
1. Marte 7
2. Walker 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 9
5. McGehee 3
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barajas 2
8. Barmes 6
9. Burnett 1

Astros (34-65)
1. Altuve 4
2. Gonzalez 6
3. Maxwell 8
4. Moore 3
5. Martinez 7
6. Johnson 5
7. Bogusevic 9
8. Corporan 2
9. Keuchel 1






Hit the jump for the live blog 


2012 Olympics Preview: Athletics


Ian from The Steelers n'at here again to tell you about the Track and Field events of the Olympics.

Athletics

Someone must have found the phrase "Track and Field" to be offensive because now it's all grouped together under the heading of "Athletics." In all, there are 26 different events that make up "Athletics." These events are split between Track Events(100, 200, 400, 800, 1500, 5000, 10000 meter races for both men and women; 100m hurdles for women, 110m hurdles for men, 400m hurdles for both men and women; 3000m steeplechase for both; and a 4x100m relay and 4x400m relay for both), Road Events (Marathon and 20 km walk for both men and women and 50 km walk for men), Field Events (Long Jump, Triple Jump, High Jump, Pole Vault, Shot Put, Discus Throw, Javelin Throw, Hammer Throw), and Combined events which features a Heptathlon for women and Decathlon for men.

Qualification

To qualify for an Athletics event, there are minimum time or distance standards set by the International Olympic Committee. An individual nation may enter up to 3 participants per sex (6 total) in each event provided they each meet the qualification standard.

What Is That?

Steeplechase - This is an "obstacle" race where runners must jump over 7 "normal" hurdles and 1 water hurdle (a barrier with a puddle after it) in each lap of a 4-lap race around the track. On the whole, it is a 3000-meter race. Runners are permitted to step on the hurdles to get over them.

Discus - Athletes see who can throw a 4.5 pound frisbee the farthest.

Javelin - Derived from spear-throwing, is a test of who can throw the javelin (think long spear) the farthest.

Shot put - Have you ever taken a bocce ball and tried to hurl it? That's basically what shot put is. There is some technique that goes into it with spinning around in a confined space and using one's arm to "push" rather than "throw" the sphere (which weighs 16 lbs for men and 8.8 lbs for women). Shot putting likely began around the time cannonballs were invented and people started showing off about how far they could throw them.

Hammer Throw - This one comes from the Scottish Highland Games. In modern times, there is a weighted ball on the end of a stick. Competitors swing the "hammer" around in a circular motion to gain power and speed before throwing.

High Jump - The opposite of the Limbo. Athletes attempt to jump over a bar that gets higher and higher as the competition moves on.

Long Jump - If you can't figure this one out, stop reading now.

Triple Jump - Contrary to what you might think, there is only one distance measured here. However, this plays on the age-old adage "A hop, A skip, and A Jump." Athletes run down the track then take a hop, a skip, and them make a jump into the sand pit where the actual distance is measured. The hop and skip don't really count and are just for show (or generating more speed/leverage)

Pole Vault - Like the High Jump, except competitors use a pole that they run with and must insert to a stand while on the run that then bends and helps to lift ("vault") them upwards and over the bar.

Heptathlon - Seven events over two days for women (100m hurdles, High Jump, Shot Put, 200m, Long Jump, Javelin Throw, 800m).

Decathlon - The men's combined event features 10 events that are contested (100m, Long Jump, Shot put, High Jump, 400m, 110 hurdles, Discus, Pole Vault, Javelin, 1500m).

What To Watch For

The second week of the Olympics are set to get off with a bang (literally) as the 100-meter dash will run qualifiers and heats on Saturday then the semi-finals and finals on Sunday. Any time the fastest man on earth steps on the track, it's must-see-TV. The question is though - who is the fastest man on earth? Up until a month ago, that man was without a doubt Jamaican Usain Bolt who holds the World Record and the Olympic Record. However, at the Jamaican Olympic Trials, Bolt's training partner Yohan Blake beat him in both the 100m and 200m. Bolt is scheduled to run in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. The 100m final should be a good one as the top 22 times in the world this year were recorded by 5 men - Bolt, Blake, fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell, Americans Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay, and Keston Beldman from Trinidad and Tobago. In the Men's 200m, Jamaicans hold 10 of the top 20 times this year, with Blake and Bolt the frontrunners.


While Jamaicans dominate the short distances, Kenyans still own the long distance running. David Rudisha set a World Record in the 800m in 2010 and is still running strong, posting the 4 fastest times in 2012. Kenyans have also posted the fastest times in the 1000m and 1500m. As the distances stretch out, the Kenyan runners see challenges to their dominance from other African nations, specifically Ethiopia.


The top qualifier in the Women's 100m is Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. No confirmation of her relationship with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The top 5 times this year were all run by different women, separated by only 0.2 seconds, which could mean a wide open final in London. Americans are set up will for the 200m and might battle it out with a surprisingly strong Russian contingent (who have posted 5 of the Top 10 times this year). 

Americans to Watch

In the men's 100m, Justin Gatlin has the fastest time this year by someone not named Bolt or Blake at 9.80. Shockingly, that's only 0.05 seconds slower than Blake's qualifying time which was the fastest in the world this year. Gatlin has gone under 10 seconds 4 other times this year in the 100m. Tyson Gay has been around this rodeo before but could still make some noise for Bronze. In the 200m, 3 different Americans have run top 20 times, but only Wallace Spearmon will br running at the Games.

In the men's 400m, LaShawn Merritt who won Gold in Beijing, has the Top 2 times in the world this year and 3 of the top 10. Tony McQuay also has 3 of the Top 10 times in the 400.

In the women's 100m, Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix have both posted Top 5 times this season and should be in the medal chase. Felix has the best time in the world this year in the 200m with Jeter and Sanya Richards-Ross also posting top 5 times.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

2012 Summer Olympics Preview - Outdoor Water Races

Greetings everyone. If you have been around the blog for a while you know that I teamed up with Ian from The Steelers N'at a while ago to do a preview for the 2010 Winter Olympics so with the Summer Olympics right around the corner I figured I might as well do it for you guys again. In the summer games we have 31 different events and over the week we are going to be preview every single one of them. I am going to drop some knowledge today about outdoor water races at the Olympics with a preview of men's and women's basketball. While I give you a really vague idea of who is going to compete my boy Adam drops in to give you a better idea of what is going on. Even if it isn't better, it is better. Trust me. Ian dropped some information on soccer earlier in the day so make sure you go and check that out and make sure you check back every day to get your info on everything Olympics.

Outdoor Water Races


Canoe/Kayak (Slalom & Sprint)


It seems like everything I have talked about is something that you and your friends can go out and do for fun on a nice summer day. I guess that is why these are the Summer Olympics. When talking about the sports of canoe/kayak this could go one of two ways for you. You could go out on a canoe and maybe take some beers (beers are good) and a fishing pole with your dad or friend and not catch fish and get drunk all day. The other is that you are the adventurous type that likes to go kayaking down rivers where you could possibly die (I recommend not drinking beer for this one). Well in the Olympics it is more of the latter and while you might fall into the water doing these things the people that are competing here are very good at what they do.

How it works: There are two different types to the race which includes the slalom and sprint events. In the sprint there are 12 events and in slalom where the men compete in eight and the women in four and there are four different events where the men compete in three and the women in one. In the men's heat they use both kayak's and canoe's and in the women's events they use only the kayak.

All of the men's races are either 200 meters or 1,000 meters with a various number of athletes in the canoe or kayak. On the women's side they compete in the 200 meter or 500 meter race for sprint and both the men and women compete in 300 meter races for the slalom. For the men they either have one, two or four members for the sprint races and either one or two members for the slalom. On the women's side they will compete with one, two or four members in the sprint and with one member in the lone slalom race.

In the sprint there are heats that are consider the first rounds then they move into the semifinals and final. There are no more than nine "boats" that can compete in each heat and the number of heats is determined by how many entries there are. The first three finishers in each head are moved directly to the finals while the fourth through seventh spots move to the semifinals along with the fastest eighth place finisher.

In the Slalom there are also heats that blend into semifinals and finals. These are run a little differently than the sprints in that each boats have two runs each. They run in order of the finish at the 2011 World Championships. There is no set number of teams that advance as that totally depends on how many teams compete. In the semifinals they use the times from the heat rounds to determine times and the finals runs are the reverse order from the semifinals.

The USA Chances: On the men's side Hungary has 53 total medals but it is Germany who holds the most every gold medals with 20. Hungary has 14 gold medals and Sweden has 12. The United States has 11 medals total and only five golds as they didn't medal in 2008. Germany had six total medals in the 2008 summer games with five other countries earning three medals with Slovakia and Belarus having two golds each. On the women's side
Hungary has 71 total medals and won two golds in 2008. Germany has 29 golds all-time and will be a force and the favorite as they had eight total medals in 08 with three golds.


Rowing


Rowing is no joke. I know you may think that it is just a thing where you get into a boat a paddle for a little bit you are really kidding yourself. Not only do you need upper body strength to actually row the boat but something that people forget about is that you use your legs a ton when you row and you need to be just as strong there as you do with your arms and chest.

How it works: I am not going to even pretend to know what the hell is going on with how rowing works. When I was looking into this I just thought your rowed a long time and the winner is the winner. Like one race with one winner. Boy, was I naive.

Evidently there is two types of rowing events which are sweep and scull. The difference is that in sweep each athlete only has one row to work with and then use that on one side of the boat while in scull each athlete has two rows which they use. There are 14 total events in rowing with eight of them coming via the scull and the other six via the sweep.

Each race is 2,000 meters with different members in the boat for each of the different events.

For each of the events they are broker down into rounds, finals and what is called repechage. Basically the repechage is the "second chance" for the teams that lose in the competition the first time around. Basically the rounds turn into a double elimination tournament.

The USA Chances: On the men's side the USA has dominated competition with 69 total medals and 29 gold medals. Last summer games Great Britain took four medals including two golds while Australia had a pair of gold medals also. The USA only had one medal in 2008. On the women's side Romania has 29 medals with 17 golds to dominate everyone while the USA has 15 total medals with two golds.

Sailing


Honestly if I didn't know a ton about rowing before doing there preview then I knew even less about sailing. I mean obviously you are riding a boat but other than that not a lot of people probably know what is going on and that includes me.

How it works: There are ten events that take place under the sailing umbrella that use eight different kinds of boats. This has been a men's sport before this year where the women are breaking into the sport for the first time. The women compete in four of the ten events while the men compete in the six others.

Basically the boats, for the most part, race against each other in the opening series with the top ten performers going to the finals to fight for a medal for the men's competition. . There are ten races in what is called the "opening series" where the boats will get points for how they finish. Th points get added up and the top-10 performers go on to the finals. In the finals where the points are worth double that they are in the opening series.

In the women's matches they are a little different. They actually pair up and race off in a tournament style where the boats race against another boat. The event starts with round robin matches where every team will face-off against the other with the top eight teams of the 12 that are competing move on. After that it is a single elimination contest the rest of the way.

The USA Chances: I literally have no idea who is supposed to win so I will just go with overall medal count. The United States leads everyone with 59 total medal with 19 of them going for gold. While the USA has the top medal count it is Great Britain who has the most golds with 23. Norway has 17 golds and France has 13.

Pirates Game 97 Recap - Pirates 3, Cubs 2

The Pirates salvaged a win in the three games set against the Cubs and won the final game of the series after dropping the first two games to the Cubs. Today it was a 3-2 win with a Garrett Jones two out single that platted the winning run in the sixth inning.

Today was going to be a really tough game looking at the starters with the NL leader in ERA going for the Cubs in Ryan Dempster and the number five starter that has been pitching somewhat over his head for the Pirates in Kevin Correia. Every time that Correia is on the mound I get this uneasy feeling on my stomach but he has been a pleasant surprised as he limited the Cubs to a pair of runs on four hits through six innings on 78 pitches. I still don't think that Correia can keep this up but with the addition of Wandy Rodriguez I think that decision might have already been made.

As I said the Pirates were facing Dempster and he has been outstanding all season but the Pirates just did enough to get to him. Down 1-0 Neil Walker took a Dempster pitch into the right field stands and then in teh fifth inning when the Pirates were down 2-1 Michael McKenry took a 3-2 pitch down the left field line that hit the foul pole to tie it again.

The Piates took the lead for good in the sixth. Alex Presley had a one out single and then Andrew McCutchen laced a two out single back up the middle. Jones then came up and golfed a pitch down the right field line for a double and score Presley and give the Pirates a win.

All in all the series against the Cubs wasn't very good. They were unable to string together many hits and they couldn't score many runs. It is true that the Cubs pitchers did an outstanding job over the three game series but this really highlighted that maybe the Pirates do need that offensive boost. What made this series glaring is that McCutchen really struggled and only had two hits over the three games and really had some terrible looking at bats.

A win is a win though and the Pirates are guaranteed to not lost a game in teh standings tonight and instead of possibly losing three games in the standings they only lose as many as two any maybe only one. The Pirates travel to Houston for the next series and with all the moves the Astros have made they don't have a lot of major league talent on the field and right now their payroll is just above $11M. Really tough times for them not to mention they have lost 21 of their last 22 games before tonight. Yikes.

Pirates Call Up Starling Marte

Right after work today this word came from Kristy Robinson from Pirates Prospects:



That is the news that a lot of people were looking for over the past month and finally the day when he is in the big leagues will be here for the series with the Astros. Clint Hurdle said earlier in the year that when Marte gets called up he is going to be getting regular playing time so expect to see Marte alongside Andrew McCutchen in the outfield to be joined with someone else who isn't very good at playing the outfield.

Here is a brief look at Marte's trip through the minor league system:

YearAgeTmLevAffGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSTB
200718PiratesFRkPIT451561322729411111621029.220.307.288.59538
200819PiratesFRkPIT6529325753761029442081653.296.367.455.822117
2009203 TeamsA-Rk-A+PIT572562304271953352471256.309.371.430.80299
200920PiratesRkPIT2771000000001.000.000.000.0000
200920West VirginiaAPIT542472214169953342471255.312.377.439.81597
200920LynchburgA+PIT12202000100001.0001.0001.0002.0002
2010212 TeamsA+-RkPIT6828124847791952382691365.319.387.460.847114
201021PiratesRkPIT828266930254116.346.393.6921.08518
201021BradentonA+PIT6025322241701650332281259.315.386.432.81996
201122AltoonaAAPIT129572536911783881250241222100.332.370.500.870268
201223IndianapolisAAAPIT98427384641102013126121122890.286.348.500.848192
6 Seasons46219851787324543100343923913150101393.304.362.463.826828
FRk (2 seasons)FRk11044938980105143105536102682.270.346.398.745155
Rk (2 seasons)Rk1035337930254117.273.314.545.86018
A+ (2 seasons)A+6125522441721650342281259.321.391.438.82998
A (1 season)A542472214169953342471255.312.377.439.81597
AA (1 season)AA129572536911783881250241222100.332.370.500.870268
AAA (1 season)AAA98427384641102013126121122890.286.348.500.848192
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/25/2012.

It will be nice to finally see someone else in the outfield besides McCutchen who can play the position as Garrett Jones, Alex Presley and Drew Sutton have been manning left field and right field for much of the past month.

So far this year in AAA Marte is hitting for a .286/.348/.500 in 427 plate appearances which included 20 doubles, 13 triples and 12 home runs. Marte also struck out 90 times while walking 28 times. That has been the biggest complaint of Marte's game is that he is too much of a free swinger and he is going to strike out a lot and not take many walks. While this is still true with only 6.6% walk rate and a 21.1% strikeout rate. The walk rate is actually a pretty significant improvement over last season when it was just south of 4% in AA but his ISO and power numbers took a pretty big jump. When Marte was in AA he won the batting title last year and has regressed some since being in AAA but that is sort of to be expected and also a reason I am not sure if Marte is ready.

Make no mistake that I am excited as hell to see Marte play tomorrow but there are still some questions in his development. He has been a really streaky hitter this season where he will go off for two weeks and tear the cover off the ball and then go a couple weeks where he is striking out in half of his at bats. I don't think there is a clear indicator of when a player is ready but I think I would have liked him to stay in AAA a little longer to work out some more kinks. I understand that I am in the small minority in this situation but it is what it is.

I think the big thing to keep in mind is not expect Marte to really turn the offense around or take it to a whole different level. While he is a great prospect this is his first trip to the big leagues and he only has just over 400 plate appearances over AA. It will be interesting watching him develop and I am pretty excited to see him play in the outfield every day.