Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Pirates, let us count the ways. Second and third, no one out. No one scores. Bases loaded, one out. No one scores. They load the bases with one out again. Again, no one scores.

Matt Capps comes on, for the fourth consecutive game and fresh from blowing his first game of the year. He walked the first batter after being ahead 0-2. Sounds like a recipe for another dismal night in Pittsburgh.

But the Bucs weren't to be denied tonight and ground out a 3-1 win over the Nats. Ian Snell looked like the ace of old, going 6 innings and K'ing 6. He was finally efficient with his pitches, throwing 93 - and 61 were strikes. It was Snell's first W since April 12th, and he's now 3-6.

Capps got back on the bike again, getting a fly out and DP to end the game and notch his 16th save, a day late, maybe, but a rose by any other name...

Can there be a better breakout story than Ryan Doumit? He pumped out three more hits and another dinger, this one right handed. What a difference he makes in the middle of the order, especially with the continued Adam LaRoche funk.

LaRoche is hitting .213, 30 points lower than any other starter. And worse, his slugging percentage is higher than only Jack Splat's and Freddie Sanchez', our middle infielders. John Russell has dropped him to 6th in the order, and he may go lower.

He's batting .194 against lefties, and if they could platoon Joey Bats, they have every reason to do it for LaRoche, too. Our guess is the only reason they haven't is the hope that he snaps out of it so Pittsburgh can move him off its' books.

But hey, if the Pirate pitching keeps it up, Pittsburgh can afford to carry a glove at first base.

On the Pirate front: For all of the incessant yada yada yada, the Bucs haven't been at .500 since they were 7-7 on April 15. They've crept up to within one game of .500 five different times, and rolled back down the hill.

We'd like to see the media fixate on something else, like what the record will be on September 28th.

On the minor league front: Ronny Paulino is now 9-for-13 (.692) with 2 homers, 5 runs scored and 4 RBIs since being optioned to Indy on Friday.

>Class A Lynchburg's SS Brian Friday and 3B Jim Negrych have been chosen to represent the Hillcats in the California-Carolina League All-Star Game. Friday, the club's 3rd selection in last season's draft, is hitting .301 with 41 runs scored. Negrych's .353 batting average and 82 hits lead the Carolina League. The third baseman's 39 RBIs rank third. He's from Pitt.

>Hickory's 3B Bobby Spain was selected as a South Atlantic ("Sally") League All Star. He's hitting .312 with 4 HR's and had a 21 game hitting streak earlier in the season.

Neil Walker and Joey Bats better keep their heads on a swivel - Pedro gets drafted #1, and both Class A third basemen make the All-Star team. A veritable embarrassment of riches for Pittsburgh at the hot corner!

>Brian Rogers, who was released by the Pirates last week, signed on with the Tigers and has been assigned to AAA Toledo. That was his organization before he came to Pittsburgh.

On the draft front: The Bucs signed a gaggle of late round picks today.

They inked C Mark Carver (33) from North Carolina-Wilmington, 3B Matthew Payne (34) of North Carolina State, RHP Allan Knotts (38) of Louisiana Tech, LHP Michael Williams (44) of Mount Olive College, 1B/P Allen Ponder (45) of Auburn at Montgomery, and finally RHP Zachary Foster (49) of Pitt-Bradford.

Carver was a fifth-year senior, setting a school record for RBIs with 82 and hitting .347 with 16 HRs. According to Baseball America, he has an average arm and below-average receiving skills, but is pretty athletic and could move to another spot. The Bucs are gonna try him behind the dish for now.

Payne, a senior, went to school as a pitcher, was converted to the infield, and didn't earn a starting job until this year. He hit .320 with 9 HR's and drew about as many walks as K's at the plate, so he's got a decent eye.

Knotts is another 5th year senior, and he both started and worked out the pen, compiling a 3-3 record with a save and an ERA of 4.74. Williams is a senior and was 8-2 for the D-2 champs, Mt. Olive, with a 4.10 ERA.

Ponder is one of the hybrids that Littlefield loved so much. He went to Alabama as a pitcher, played 2 years, sat out 2, and finished at AUM as a 1B/closer. He was 8-1 with 6 saves and a 2.01 as a reliever, and hit .349 with 18 HR's for his NAIA team. He'll be 25 in September, so he better be a quick read in the minors.

Foster, a junior who attended Bradford HS, was 3-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 10 outings, 8 as a starter.

(We got most of their rundowns thanks to WTM's Pirate Player Profiles.


WilliamJPellas said...

Agreed that at this point, LaRoche is in there purely on the hope that he'll get hot for a few weeks and we can then trade him. It's a shame he's been mostly an underachiever since coming here, though of course there was always the suspicion in my mind that he never WAS that good but rather was more a product of Atlanta's awesome lineup when he played there. (That said, in fairness getting an everyday first baseman, even a so-so one like LaRoche, is still a great return in trade for a lefthanded reliever, even one as good as Mike Gonzalez was. Meanwhile I'm wondering when Jamie Romak, the other guy we got in that deal, is going to be promoted above class A.)

The Nationals really are an astonishingly bad baseball team. Here's hoping the Pirates do what needs to be done to take care of business so they can move on to .500. BTW, a .500 record in mid-June would be quite an achievement for a team with a millstone around its neck at first base, a cripple playing second, and its best two starting pitchers as season-long disappointments---though Snell is showing signs he might be coming out of it.

Ron said...

Yah, getting a position player for a reliever is always a smart play, tho LaRoche was a reach. We think if he quits trying to pull everything, his hits will fall, but after 10 weeks...

And Romak, we think, will move up pretty soon as the drafted players start to fall into line and get assigned. As far as Sanchez, he's come around at second. His arm finally seems fine. Now about that bat...

WilliamJPellas said...

Respectfully disagree re: Sanchez. I don't know how a shoulder like his COULDN'T affect your hitting, even though everyone swears up and down that it doesn't. I know he's supposedly healthy now that he made that good relay throw recently, but I still firmly believe he's significantly injured. I hope not---but I'll believe it when I see it. As good a hitter as he is, I have no other explanation for his struggles besides injury.

Ron said...

Bill, we think Freddie's locker must be next to Adam LaRoche's. Freddie's batting woes don't seem, to our casual eye, to be physical - he's just jumping at pitches and trying to pull everything.
He, even more than LaRoche, needs to get into a hitters count and use the whole field.
Unless his shoulder is causing him some pain when he tries to keep his hands back and inside out the pitch, as he did so successfully before - and it might, we surely can't say for sure - it looks more like his approach to us.
He wouldn't be the first guy to try to live up to a nice contract by going for the gusto instead of staying with what brung him to the dance.