Saturday, April 5, 2008

gone fishing...

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Pittsburgh is making a comedy of errors running the bases. The players better realize that they're expected to go hard from the box, and the coaches have to get a handle on just how far they can push the Pirates runners. It's not like they're gonna dazzle anyone with their speed.

What's hopeful is at least they're being thrown out in situations that rate taking a risk and not becoming the first or third out at third. Still, both the runners and the coaches have to get on the same page and share the same mindset.

And someone please tell 1B coach Lou Frazier that Fish RF'er Brett Carroll has the best arm in the Marlin organization. If the FSN-TV team knew that, he should too.

It's easy to understand why the coaches are trying to push the running game. Last night, five of our eight starters were batting .200 or under.

Jason Bay and Adam LaRoche need to have good starts after last year, and they're not. It leaves a huge void in the lineup and has to affect their confidence at the plate, creating a snowball effect. It only gets tougher without Freddie Sanchez and Jack Wilson.

The batters are being more patient, but it cost them some of their aggressiveness at the plate. The Bucs still let too many tomatoes float by and hack at the unhittable. Working a count is more than just letting the first pitch go by. It's an acquired art, and it'll have to be learned. Discipline always does.

The pitching stats so far show a drop from last year, and the Bucs were just 14th in the NL in 2007. The rotation has only gone around once, and you certainly can't draw any conclusions from that yet. But the bullpen has already made eighteen appearances. For a team that's gonna live by it's starting pitching, that's not a good sign.

And what was a big problem in spring training continues. Buc hurlers have given up 9 home runs in 5 games. It seems like the Pirates are giving up a big inning every game, and the long ball is a major part of that.

The staff hasn't quite figured out how to master damage control. It's hard when the outbursts are primed by walks and errors rather than the opposition beating the ball all over the yard. Still, keeping hitters in the park makes it ever so much easier. Keeping the bottom of the order off the sacks helps, too

It's safe to say that nothing is in sync yet for John Russell's Pirate club; hitting, pitching, fielding or baserunning. Will it eventually come together?

Well, there's nothing wrong yet that a hot pitching streak and a couple of bats coming alive can't correct. But until then, every flaw will be magnified. And the Bucs have quite a few to put under the looking glass. They have years of bad habits to break, and that's not an overnight process.

But we all knew that Pittsburgh was going into the year with the same faces that won 68 games last season. The success or failure of the new regime will be determined a couple of years down the road with a radically different roster, not in 2008.

On the management front:
The Pirates hired Brian Tracy, former manager Jim Tracy's son, to be pitching coach for the State College Spikes, their low Class A minor league club. Tracy, 24, was drafted as a pitcher in the 20th round last summer. Only Pittsburgh would draft a coach.

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