Friday, May 22, 2015

5/22: Frankie Zippo, Willie's 3-HR, Josh's Long Ball, Buc-Giant Rumbles, Ducky-for-Pagan...

  • 1900 - Exposition Park was plagued by a series of fires set in the stands. The Pittsburg Press wrote that “It is believed the fires were started by persons who formerly held passes but whom the new management refuses to recognize,” referring to small stockholders who were cut out of the action by new owner Barney Dreyfuss. 
  • 1921 - In their first meeting of the season, the first place Pirates defeated the second place NY Giants 8-6 at the Polo Grounds. After trailing for most of the game, the Pirates scored twice in the eighth and six times in the ninth. Possum Whitted went 3-for-3 with a homer, George Cutshaw went 4-for-5 with two doubles, Cotton Tierney added three knocks and Max Carey belted a four bagger. Wilbur Cooper went the distance for the win. It was a 2-0 game in favor of Gotham going into the eighth; the G-Men had no quit in them either and scored once in the eighth and three times in the ninth to keep it interesting. NY lost that battle but won the war; the Giants took the 1921 NL title by four games from the Bucs.
Possum Whitted (photo - Retro Images Archives)
  • 1925 - The Bucs scored five times in the first inning, keyed by Glenn Wright’s three run homer, and then didn’t score again until the 10th, but it was enough to edge the NY Giants 6-5 at the Polo Grounds. Pie Traynor shot a liner off Wayland Dean’s shin that ricocheted into short RF for a double and scored on a two-out knock by George Grantham for the game winner. Vic Aldridge got the win; Dean was a hard luck loser, working 9-2/3 innings of one-run relief only to get tagged with the loss (and a bruise). 
  • 1946 - Josh Gibson hit a homer an estimated 490’ over the left center wall at Forbes Field to lead the Homestead Grays to victory over the New York Black Yankees. Gibson hit .379 that season and led the Negro League with 16 homers in 49 games. 
  • 1965 - The Pirates sent IF Dick Schofield to the Giants for IF Jose Pagan. Pagan spent seven years with Pittsburgh, hitting .263 and driving in the winning run in the seventh game of the 1971 World Series. Ducky played until 1971, but the light-hitting utilityman only batted above .221 twice during that span. 
  • 1968 - With the wind blowing out at Wrigley Field‚ the Pirates came from four runs down to defeat the Cubs 13-6. Willie Stargell hit three home runs and just missed a fourth, drilling a double that bounced off the left field railing and back onto the playing field. Pops also smacked a single for 15 total bases and seven RBI on the day. 
Willie and Roberto 1969 (photo - Post Gazette archives)
  • 2013 - Francisco Liriano outdueled the Cubs Jeff Samardzija 1-0 at PNC Park; the only run scored in the first, when with two outs Andrew McCutchen doubled and Garrett Jones singled him home. Liriano gave up two hits, a walk and K’ed nine in seven innings. It was only the second time in Pirate history that a pitcher began his Pittsburgh career by allowing a run or less in his first three outings, the other being Dave LaPoint in 1988.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

40 Games & Whatta We Got?

Time for the 40 game report card:

Starting pitching: Gerrit Cole improves every season; once he gets a little more efficient and deeper into games, he'll be the real deal. Frankie has some red flags (control, homers) that need watched; him turning into a mid-level guy hurts a rotation that's short of upper-end arms. AJ has replaced Eddie Volquez more than adequately. The bottom end hasn't held up; Charlie Morton is due back Monday, and Jeff Locke best check his rear view mirror to make sure Clayton Richard, Adrian Sampson and/or Casey Sadler aren't gaining ground. But none of the ready-for-the-show minor league guys appear to be more than back-enders.

Bullpen: Tony Watson is superman, Jared Hughes has been consistent and the jury is still out on Mark the Shark. Rob Scahill has been a find so far, but the other guys have been up-and-down. Indy's Bobby LaFromboise & Blake Wood could help from the left side if called on.

Infield: Jung-Ho looks like he's an everyday guy already. Josh is heating up, tho his glove has been surprisingly iron-clad of late. The Kid is consistent, and except for an odd homer by Pedro, first base is still a hot mess; Corey Hart hasn't shown any of the old pizazz. Maybe the surprising Deibinson Romero will get a call sometime. Alen Hanson is getting his AAA time in, but is a man without a spot right now.

Outfield: Cutch is slowly coming on and Starling is raking. Gregory Polanco has found the pine, and the Pirates don't really have anyone to adequately fill in. Jose Tabata is the latest guy on audition after DL'ed Andrew Lambo and Hart fizzled, and there's not a lot of step-in help; the best are Gorkys Hernandez and Jaff Decker in reserve.

Catcher: Get over Russ; he's gone. Fran Cervelli is league average with stolen bases, skilled enough at receiving and framing, and hits, though without any power. Stew is off to a great start as the #2. The biggest downside is that 40 games into the season, not one catcher has dropped a ball over the fence yet, and neither Fran nor Stew have exhibited any long-ball muscle in the past. Tony Sanchez is waiting at Indy with Elias Diaz in training.

Bench: Stew has been solid, as has been Sean Rodriguez. Jordy looks more and more like a younger Clint Barmes, while Hart and the fourth OF spot remain problematic.

40 down, 122 to go...

The Bucs are right where they were last year. In 2014, they posted a 17-23 slate and were 8-1/2 behind the Brewers; today they're 18-22 and nine games away from the Cards. The hitting is beginning to come around, but they still whiff more than they should and have a hard time converting runners into runs.

The pitching will be critical; Frankie has to shake his recent slump and AJ not regress too badly. The back end needs to carry its load better. The bullpen is fine at the late inning end, and as most relief corps, inconsistent in the long and bridge arms.

One thing that would help would be a leather revival. The Bucco D has saved just three runs per Fangraphs this season; they saved 39 last season. That's a three-win swing.

And a little nod by the baseball gods wouldn't hurt. Pittsburgh has lost all six of its extra inning games; they were 8-7 last year. They've outscored their opponents 154-145 in 2015 and their Pythagorean record is 21-19, so the club is underachieving at a pretty high rate thanks mostly to that overtime futility.

It's no time to throw in the towel, but the Bucs again have dug themselves a hole. There's not a lot of MLB-ready help in the pipeline for this year, so short of a deal, Pittsburgh will have to tango with who brung 'em and hope that a couple of underperformers shape up during the summer. They don't have much organizational margin for error, and probably need 70-75 wins in the coming months to make it a three-peat.

Extra Innings: Another Loss 4-3

Two soft hits and a walk loaded the bases with one out for Torii Hunter and his two-base smash off the right field wall gave the Twins a quick 3-0 lead off Jeff Locke and the Bucs. Josh's single and a double by Starling Marte brought home a Bucco score in the home half.

It stayed that way for a while; Locke regained his focus and tossed five scoreless frames. Josh had a tough couple turns on the base paths as he he was caught stealing and then doubled off first on a Walker liner a couple of frames later.

Jose Tabata brought the Bucs within a run with a two-out RBI knock that brought home Pedro in the seventh, and Cutch tied it in the eighth with a solo shot. But in the 13th, Joe Mauer hit his first homer since last August, lining one over the Clemente Wall off Antonio Bastardo. But the Bucco bullpen did its share, going seven frames and allowing just that one run.

Jose Tabata making his case for the fourth OF spot (photo: Getty Images)

The Pirates banged some loud outs and threatened a few times, but most often with two down. They cashed in twice with two away, but missed on four other occasions. The last was in the final frame, when Pedro whiffed with Jung-Ho at second.

The Bucs have the day off to ponder what could have been. The Twins used two big innings to sweep the series, while Pittsburgh could only answer a run at a time.

  • Jose Tabata is 2-for-2 as a pinch hitter with two RBI since being called up. he's the only Pirate pinch hitter other than Corey Hart to register a hit.
  • The Pirates are 0-for-6 in extra inning games this year.
  • Cutch tied Jason Bay for the most homers at PNC Park; both have 61.
  • Josh wasted no time; his first inning knock stretched his hitting streak to eight games. Ditto for Marte, who now has a seven game streak.
  • Altoona's Tyler Glasnow was placed on the disabled list due to a sprained right ankle. He twisted it earlier in the month running the bases, then was batted around when he tried to make a start earlier this week.

May 21: Mace, Sure Shot, Fitz B-Days, Wandy In the News & More...

  • 1859 - IF Fred “Sure Shot” Dunlap was born in Philadelphia. The slick fielder played for the Alleghenys from 1888-90, hitting .240. He also managed the club to a 61-71 record as a player manager in 1889. His declining stick - he was still a whiz at defense - led to a contract cut in 1890, when he jumped to the NY Giants of the outlaw Player’s League early in the season. 
  • 1907 - NL president Harry Pulliam dismissed the protest of Pittsburgh manager Fred Clarke over NY Giant’s C Roger Bresnahan's donning of shin guards. He was the first, and at the time only, receiver to add them to the tools of ignorance. A safety first guy, Bresnahan also developed a prototype batter’s helmet. 
Fred Clarke
  • 1909 - RHP Mace Brown was born in North English, Iowa. He tossed seven years (1935-41) for the Pirates and in every role, from starter to closer, with a line of 55-45-29/3.67. Brown was an All-Star in 1938, when he led the NL in outings with 51, winning 15 games and saving five.
  • 1913 - The Pirates beat Brooklyn 5-2 at Ebbett’s Field‚ and per Greg Beston of Retrosheet, set a small-ball MLB record with four sac bunts in an inning. Babe Adams notched the win. 
  • 1924 - C Ed Fitz Gerald was born in Santa Ynez, California. He spent six (1948-53) of his 12 big league years in Pittsburgh, mainly as a reserve, hitting .247 and also catching Cliff Chambers' no-hitter on May 6th, 1951. Fitz spent the second half of his career as a Washington Senator. 
  • 1948 - Frankie Gustine went 5-for-5 to lead Pittsburgh to an 8-4 win over the Dodgers. He scored four runs and drove in a pair at Ebbets Field. 1B Max West helped the cause by blasting a two-out, three run homer in the fifth. Fritz Ostermueller picked up the win.
Fritz Ostermueller 1947 Bowman series
  • 1962 - The Bucs beat the Cubs 8-4 at Forbes Field behind the first two guys in the order, Bill Virdon and Dick Groat. The duo went 8-for-9 with a walk, two doubles, scored twice and drove in six runs. Tom Sturdivant earned the win with 6-⅓ shutout frames in relief of Earl Francis. 
  • 2005 - Before a sellout crowd of 37,504 at PNC Park, Ollie Perez surrendered a pair of hits and two runs while striking out eight batters in five innings on the bump as the Pirates beat the Rockies 8-3. C Humberto Cota did the heavy work at the dish with a pair of hits, including a double, and four RBI. The victory was Lloyd McClendon’s 300th as the Pirates’ skipper. 
  • 2013 - The Cubs scored first and last, but the Bucs scored enough in the middle, keyed by a sixth inning Travis Snider grand slam, to eke out a 5-4 win. Snider’s grannie was his first and the first Buc pinch hit slam at PNC Park since Craig Wilson’s in 2003, turning a 3-0 hole into a 5-3 win. Wandy Rodriguez got the W over Matt Garza.
Travis Snider (photo - Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)
  • 2014 - Neither Pirate starter Wandy Rodriguez nor the Oriole's Chris Tillman made it through the first two innings of the game. It was the first time in either club’s history that both starters were removed so early in a game; the quick hooks were also a first in interleague play. (Rodriguez was designated for assignment the following day after giving up six runs in 1-⅔ innings.) The score was 8-6 Pittsburgh after two frames; the O’s tied the game late, then the Pirates rallied to take a 9-8 decision at PNC Park. The middle of the Buccos order - Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Starling Marte and Ike Davis - went 11-for-17 with six runs scored and chased home six more.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Locke v Pelfrey; Lineup (Jordy In, Polanco Out) & Notes

Today's Game: Jeff Locke (2-2, 5.40) toes the slab against Mike Pelfrey (3-1, 3.23). Locke is 0-2 in his last five starts with a 7.27 ERA, and has never faced the Twins. Pelfrey has been effective in the early going, but is 3-2 with a 4.78 ERA in five career starts against the Pirates. The game starts at at 7:05 and will be carried by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Today's Lineup - Josh Harrison RF, Neil Walker 2B, Cutch CF, Starling Marte LF, Jung-Ho Kang 3B, Pedro 1B, Fran Cervelli C, Jordy Mercer SS, Locke P.

El Coffee gets a seat tonight (photo: USA Today Sports)
Jordy's back after a 4-day splinter sesssion. Kang and Josh were shuffled a bit but remain in the lineup while Gregory gets a seat.Seems like Clint has his pick of slumping players to shift around.

  • Tony Sanchez is in the Pirate clubhouse on an "optional assignment," a 24-hour precautionary call up that's most often used when a club is uncertain whether a player on the active roster will have to go on the DL. Fran Cervelli took a foul to the mask yesterday, but after a day of testing is OK to go (he's in the lineup), so Tony can say "hi" and "bye" in pretty much the same breath.
  • Josh Harrison is on a seven game hitting streak, while Starling Marte has a six game string. On the other side of the street, Gregory Polanco has gone six games without a knock and Cutch is in a 1-for12 funk.
  • The Twins are 12-5 this month, the hottest May club in the American League. Pittsburgh is 6-11 over the same span.
  • Stolmy Pimentel was outrighted to AAA by the Rangers.
  • DYK - Clint Hurdle hit the last homer in Minnesota's old Metropolitan Stadium in 1981 as a member of the Royals?

Frankie Bombed Early; Bucs Chip Away But Fall 8-5

When Frankie could get a pitch over the plate, it was at the belt and flat; as you can imagine, it wasn't a good night.  It fact, it was pretty epic failure - he lasted two innings, giving up seven runs on five hits, two of which left the yard, two walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch while laboring through 55 mostly forgettable pitches. The fielding didn't help either; Starling ho-hummed a ground ball single to let one run in, and Kang's slight bobble of a DP ball extended a nightmarish second inning; six runs scored with two outs.

Down 7-0 in the second, the Bucs did try to come back, but the chasm was just too deep. Of course, if they hadn't stranded ten runners, they might have even made the game interesting. The Pirates did crank out 13 hits, but 11 K took some pressure off a Twin staff that generally is weak on whiffs. The sixth and seventh were especially frustrating; Cutch lined out to center two out and runners on second and third in the former, while Chris Stewart hit into a DP with two aboard and a run already in to close the latter. Pittsburgh ended up 4-of-17 with RISP.

Pedro sends a ball swimmin' (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
There was a memorable shot fired - Pedro caught a Ricky Nolasco sinker and drilled it 461', reaching the Allegheny on the fly and threatening to sink an unsuspecting boat bobbing in its dock.

Jeff Locke will face Mike Pelfrey tonight to close the quick two-game set with the Twins.

  • Pedro joined Houston's Daryle Ward (2002) and Garrett Jones (2013) as the only players to splash-down on the fly in the Allegheny at PNC Park. He has gotten two other shots wet in his career by bouncing balls into the river in 2013.
  • Josh and Jung-Ho continued their hot hitting; both had three knocks last night.
  • Fran Cervelli was taken out after taking a foul to the neck in the fifth inning. We'll see if that's still bothering him today.
  • Vance Worley made his first 2015 appearance from the pen, tossing two scoreless frames. The whole bullpen did its job; five pitchers gave up a run on three hits in seven frames.
  • Jose Tabata singled home a run as a pinch hitter in his first 2015 outing as a Pirate.
  • Charlie Morton made what's anticipated to be his last rehab start, working 6-1/3 innings for Indy. He gave up two runs, two hits and four walks with nine strikeouts against Boston's Pawtucket farm club.

5/20: Grantham, Phillips & Sanchez B-Days; Good, Bad & Ugly Games Highlight Busy Day...

  • 1856 - Horace Phillips was born in Salem, Ohio. He was an early manager of the Alleghenys from 1884-89, and led them to their first winning season ever in 1885. His best finish was second the following year, when his team went 80-57. He shepherded the club from the American Association into the NL in 1887. Phillips was yellow rag fodder during the era for various financial peccadilloes, and after he quit managing spent the rest of his years in various insane asylums. 
  • 1896 - Per John Dreker of Pirates Prospects “This Date In Pirate History,” Pittsburgh played Brooklyn at Expo Park. The Bucs fell behind 6-0 after three innings when it began to rain and Bucco manager Connie Mack told his team to go easy in the field, hoping that the game would drag on and be called. Pirate pitchers started lobbing the ball over the plate, tho Brooklyn caught on quickly enough and tried to make outs to make sure the game reached five innings. It was never called as the weather cleared up, leaving the Pirates in a 17-0 hole after five innings. When they realized the game was going to be official they began to play hard again. The Bridesgrooms pitcher, Bert Abbey, was told not to strain his arm and began lobbing the ball too, allowing the Pirates to score six runs in the last two innings for a 25-6 final. 
  • 1900 - 1B George Grantham was born in Galena, Kansas. He played seven years (1925-31) for the Bucs, hitting .315 with a .410 OBP. Grantham played for the 1925 and 1927 World Series clubs, hitting .364 against the Yankees in the 1927 match-up. His biggest season was 1930, when he hit .324 with 18 homers, 99 RBI and 120 runs.
George Grantham (photo: The Sporting News Collection/MEARS)
  • 1932 - Paul Waner tied the MLB record with four doubles in five at bats during the Pirates 5-0 win over the Cards at Sportsman’s Park. Big Poison set an NL record that season with 62 two-baggers. Larry French fired a two-hitter for the win. 
  • 1947 - Talk about your small ball! The Bucs beat Milwaukee 4-3 at Forbes Field as the teams combined for 22 hits, and every one was a single. Hank Greenberg knocked home the winning run in the tenth, making Tiny Bonham a winner. The teams added nine walks, too, and stranded 20 runners between them. 
  • 1948 - The Bucs bombed Boston 13-0 behind a big eight run fourth frame primed by a Ralph Kiner homer and double, while Elmer Riddle tossed a four hitter at Braves Stadium. Six Bucs had multiple hits, five had multiple RBI (led by Kiner’s three), and eight different players scored. 
Elmer Riddle (photo: TNFOTO/Out of the Park Development)
  • 1950 - An ugly brooming: The Bucs were no-hit for 9-2/3 frames by the Dodgers’ Ralph Branca‚ Jack Banta‚ and Dan Bankhead at Ebbets Field to lose the back end of a twin bill 4-3 in eleven innings. They dropped the opener to Brooklyn 3-2 when Gil Hodges pounded a two out, two run double in the eighth of Mel Queen; both runs were unearned.
  • 1956 - The Pirates drew their biggest crowd in five years (32‚326) and celebrated with a DH sweep over the Milwaukee Braves‚ 6-5 and 5-0, at Forbes Field. Dale Long homered in each game and drove in seven runs. Bob Friend won the opener and Ron Kline tossed a six hitter for the victory in the nitecap. 
  • 1960 - The Pirates stretched their NL lead to 1-1/2 games by edging the Giants‚ 5-4‚ on Roberto Clemente's single in the 12th inning. Clemente had three hits to raise his average to .378. Willie McCovey's homer in the ninth tied it for San Francisco‚ and a score in the 12th put them ahead. Don Hoak's single and a run-scoring double by Dick Groat set the stage for Clemente’s game winner at Forbes Field. 
  • 1962 - The seven and eight hitters for Pittsburgh, Don Hoak and Bill Mazeroski, went 4-for-7 with a walk, double, triple and homer, four runs scored and five RBI to carry the Bucs and Vern Law past the Reds 8-2 at Forbes Field. 
Don Hoak (photo: Exhibit Supply 1963)
  • 1978 - Batting against Wayne Twitchell of the Montreal Expos, Willie Stargell hit the only fair ball ever to reach the upper deck of Olympic Stadium. The red seat where the ball landed, 535’ away, was painted yellow to mark the spot. The Bucs won 6-0 as Bert Blyleven tossed a three hitter with eight strikeouts, amply supported by Pops’ five RBI. 
  • 1988 - Former skipper Chuck Tanner and MVP Willie Stargell were booed at TRS for coaching rival Atlanta. The Bucs won rather handily despite facing their old legends by a 10-3 score as Junior Ortiz and Mike Diaz teamed up to drive home six runs. Mike Dunne got the win in a game finished by Jim Gott. 
  • 1988 - C John Anthony “Tony” Sanchez was born in Miami. He was drafted in the first round (4th pick) of the 2009 draft out of Boston College and first appeared as a Bucco in 2013.
  • 2000 - C Keith Osik made the second mop-up relief appearance of his career, allowing five runs on five hits‚ two hit batters‚ a wild pitch and a home run in the ninth inning of a 19-4 loss to the Cards at TRS. Osik became just the second position player since 1900 to both give up and hit home run in the same game when he took Pat Hentgen deep in the eighth inning before surrendering a long ball to Thomas Howard.
As a pitcher, Keith Osik made a good catcher (2002 Topps series)
  • 2004 - Daryle Ward and Jason Bay each had a pair of homers and three RBI to lead the Bucs to a 9-7 win over the San Diego Padres at PNC Park. Mike Gonzalez got the win and Jose Mesa the save. Despite the homers and nine runs scored, the Bucs went 0-for-7 with RISP. 
  • 2005 - Matt Lawton hit the longest Pirate homer to date at PNC Park, blasting a 463’ rocket off Colorado’s Jamey Wright in a 9-4 Bucco victory. Lawton and Rob Mackowiak had three RBI each and Tike Redman went 4-for-4. 
  • 2011 - Neil Walker hit a homer and double, driving in five runs, to lead Pittsburgh to a 10-1 win against Detroit at PNC Park. Jeff Karstens earned the win, sealed by a trio of relievers.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Frankie v Ricky Nolasco; Lineup & Notes

Today's Game - Francisco Liriano (1-3, 2.96) climbs the hill against Ricky Nolasco (3-1, 6.38). Frankie hasn't been real sharp in his past couple of outings, dropping the last pair, so it would be nice to see him jump back up on the bar stool. He hasn't faced the Twins since his AL days. Nolasco hasn't gotten through the sixth inning yet this year, and the Twinkies bullpen's ERA is at the bottom of the AL pile at 4.19.  But he is 5-4/2.48 lifetime against the Pirates, so he's not been easy for Pittsburgh to solve. The game starts at 7:05 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

The Bucs are back, but Jordy isn't, at least tonite as Kang gets another start at short. Otherwise, a routine lineup card. Can't sleep on the Twins; Minnesota is in the thick of the AL Central Division with a 21-17 slate, three games back of the first-place Kansas City Royals. Their attack has been effective, even if lacking much power

  • Clint Hurdle announced that the Pirates will skip Vance Worley's start against the Twins, with off days bookending the two game series. He'll work from the pen.
  • The Bucs sent Wilfredo Boscan back to Indy and called up Jose Tabata. JT had an excellent average (.352) and OBP (.422) at Indy, but showed no power at all with just three extra-base hits. The bench had been a man short since the 12-inning game at Chicago, so now the roster is square. Justin Sellers was transferred from the 15-to-60 day DL to clear a spot on the 40-man.
  • Clayton Richard had a bit bumpier road in his third minor league start (second at Indy), giving up three runs on seven hits and four walks with two K in 5-2/3 innings, tossing 100 pitches
  • Kevin Creagh of the Point of Pittsburgh took on the daunting task of selecting a lineup of the worst-hitting Pirates of all time.

5/19: Kendall Cycle, Bibby Near Perfect, Long's Streak Starts, Leever Passes, & More...

  • 1890 - As Pirates Prospects John Dreker noted in "This Date In Pirates History," this day was a tough one for Pittsburgh baseball fans. Not only did the Alleghenys lose by an 18-2 score, but the Pittsburgh Burghers of the Player’s League lost big, too, 16-3. It launched the Alleghenys on an 11-game losing streak; the Burghers lost seven in row. 
  • 1915 - Player-manager Fred Clarke filed a patent application for flip down sunglasses that he designed to be used in the outfield. In addition to the shades, which the future Hall of Famer believes are "good for motorist, too", he also created and was issued patents for a sliding pad and a mechanical field tarpaulin 
  • 1937 - The first place Pirates dropped a 5-4 decision to the Phils at Forbes Field. Dolf Camilli stole home in the ninth inning with what was the eventual winning run after noticing reliever Mace Brown working from a full windup instead of the stretch, tagging Ed Brandt with the loss. 
  • 1953 - RHP Sam Leever, who spent his entire 13 year career in Pittsburgh (1898-1910) died in his hometown of Goshen, Ohio. Leever went 194-100/2.43 and won 20+ games four times. Leever wasn’t a hard thrower, but his curve and outstanding control made him one of the era’s better hurlers. Mark Armour of SABR passed on this Leever tale: “In 1924 Leever was startled to discover that he was dead, or believed to be so. As reported in The Sporting News, "he had a great deal of enjoyment out of reading his own obituary, and he appreciates all the nice things that were said about him, but he insists that he is not even half-dead. In fact, Sam says he never felt better in his life, and he has no thought whatever of cashing in." The misinformation was due to the passing of a distant relative with the same name; Sam didn't shuffle off this mortal coil until three decades later. 
Sam Leever - Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated...
photo Goshen Historical Organization
  • 1955 - RHP Ed Whitson was born in Johnson City, Tennessee. He never worked a full season during his 1977-79 debut in Pittsburgh, compiling an 8-9-5/3.73 slash. But he lasted 13 years in the show as a fairly durable starter, even making an All-Star appearance as a SF Giant. He’s also noted for his stormy stretch as a Yankee, highlighted by an altercation with manager Billy Martin. 
  • 1956 - Dale Long's ninth inning home run against the Cubs’ Jim Davis was the first of eight consecutive games in which he homered. The Bucs won the game 7-4 at Forbes Field. Long also doubled and had four RBI while Nellie King picked up the victory. 
  • 1971 - Roberto Clemente drilled Riverfront Stadium's first-ever inside-the-park home run off Gary Nolan. Clemente added a triple and two singles with three RBI and three runs to lead Pittsburgh to a 6-1 decision over the Reds, helping Bob Moose to the W. 
  • 1981 - Jim Bibby tossed a near perfecto, giving up a bloop leadoff single to the Braves Terry Harper and then retiring the next 27 batters in a 5-0 victory over Atlanta at TRS. Bibby coaxed Atlanta to hit ‘em where they were; he only whiffed three Bravos. C Steve Nicosia called the game and had a pair of runs driven in while Mike Easler scored twice. 
Jim Bibby photo via Sports Illustrated
  • 2000 - Jason Kendall hit for the cycle, the first ever at TRS, and added five RBI as the Bucs beat the Cards 13-1. The last Buc to hit for a cycle was Gary Redus in 1989. Kris Benson tossed a three hitter and struck out 11 Redbirds in the win. 
  • 2009 - Washington rallied from a 5-0 deficit to tie the Bucs in the ninth but lost 8-5 when future National Adam LaRoche doubled home a pair in the tenth off Joe Beimel, who became a Pirate reliever in 2011. Brandon Moss had three RBI and Andy LaRoche added two more in the W at Nationals Park. Tom Gorzelanny, who also made a later stop in DC, earned the victory.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The 2015 Roster Shuffle; Lost & Found Dep't.

After you get a few weeks into the season, everyone becomes kinda used to the roster as it's constituted. But it sure looked a lot different in September of 2014...

Lost: Russell Martin (FA) - Russ was pretty much deified in Pittsburgh, and his rep spread far and wide enough to land a five year, $82.5M deal with Toronto.  Who knows - he may be worth it; his slash is .284/.375/.560 for an OPS of .935 with seven homers and 21 RBI - oh, and a 48% throw-out rate against base stealers.
Found: Fran Cervelli (from NYY for Justin Wilson) - Cervelli isn't Russ, but he has a rep as an OK catcher with some hitting skills and a penchant for injury. He's hitting .290 with no power, has a league-average 29% toss-out rate and hasn't *knock on wood* been down or out yet.

Lost: Edinson Volquez (FA) - KC signed him for two years with an option for $16M, but he was a poster child for regression. Some regression; he's 3-3/2.74 and outperforming his year in Pittsburgh.
Found: AJ Burnett (FA) We all know the prodigal son's story; the 38 year old came back to the flock for $8.5M, turning his back on a bigger offer. And he's been the man so far at 3-1/1.38.

Eddie has kept his game on for the Royals (Shane Keyser/KC Star)

Lost & Found: Frankie Liriano (FA) - He stayed home, signing a three year, $39M deal.

Lost: Justin Wilson (1-0, 5.56) to the Yankees, Stolmy Pimentel (0-1, 3.97) to Texas, Jeanmar Gomez (0-0, 3.45) to the Phillies, John Axford (1.29, 0-0-4) to the Rox & Big John Koldzkom to the minors.
Found: Antonio Bastardo (0-0, 5.40) from the Phils for a minor league arm, Rob Scahill (1-2, 1.15) from the Rockies & Arqimedes Caminero (0-1, 4.86) from Miami for cash, and Radhames Liz (1-3, 3.77) as a FA.

Lost: Travis Snider (to the O's for two minor league P) - As a platoon starter, Lunchbox Hero is hitting .266 with a homer for Baltimore.
Found: Still looking. Andrew Lambo is hurt and not hitting (.040) while Corey Hart can't catch a cold isn't a threat at the dish, either, hitting .206. So far, the 4th outfielder is Sean Rodriguez's job.

Lost: Ike Davis (to Oakland for cash) and Gaby Sanchez (FA), the 1B duo. Ike is off to a good start with a .282/.345/.427 slash, tho he's now on the DL with a strained quad. Gaby is in Japan.
Found: Pedro Alvarez & Corey Hart (FA) took their place. Pedro's BA is .219; Hart's is .206. First base was and still is a sinkhole.

Ike is swinging it for Oakland (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Lost: Clint Barmes (FA) - Clint is now with San Diego, and hitting .244 off the bench.
Found: Jung-Ho Kang (FA) - The KBO star, inked for five years/$16.125M, is hitting .300, has shown a little pop, an adequate glove and may bump Jordy to the bench
Lost: Michael Martinez, Brent Morel, Jayson Nix etc. Last year's bench is now playing AAA ball for a variety of clubs.
Found: Sean Rodriguez (from Tampa Bay for Buddy Borden) - Rod plays just about anywhere and is off to a hot start, hitting .333 with a couple of bombs; he may make Corey Hart expendable.