Saturday, June 14, 2008

It's the same old song...

Ya know, it'd be nice to see a team in sync, pitching the ball, hitting the ball, catching the ball. Pittsburgh has a knack of doing one or two of the above, but just can't seem to put all three together.

The Pirates have scored 13 times and hit 5 home runs at Camden Yards. They've fielded pretty well. And they've lost both games.

There's talk about getting Matt Kemp, Chase Headley, Pedro Alvarez. That's nice, but what Pittsburgh needs is a couple of arms like the O's Radhames Liz or the Red's Edinson Volquez on the hill.

Buc starters can't carry a game past the sixth, and the pen is overworked and overexposed. Last year Captain Hook, Jim Tracy, went to the bullpen 395 times.

John Russell, who tries to protect his relievers, is on pace to make the call 425 times this season. His guys so far average 2.6 appearances and 3 innings per game. The five amigos will make 70-75 outings apiece at this rate. Matt Capps was the only Pirate reliever to pitch in more than 65 games in 2007.

Now part of that is that Russell doesn't trust his long guys very much, and Tracy had Shawn Chacon and to a lesser degree, Solly Torres, to eat innings. Also, the Bucs are competing more often, and close games require the back of the bullpen arms. But the Pittsburgh rotation has to control their pitch counts and get games to the 8th inning every so often.

It's an old adage, but starting pitching wins. Someone tell the Pirates.

On the Pirate front: The Post Gazette's Paul Meyer and the Trib's Rob Biertempfel reported that Adam LaRoche, benched for a second straight game, had a twenty-to-thirty minute, closed door meeting with John Russell yesterday. No mention of what was discussed was made by either side.

> Holy Moley! Chris Duffy will begin a rehab assignment with Class AA Altoona Sunday. Will wonders never cease?

On the minor league front: JVB continues to dazzle 'em at Indy. He pitched seven scoreless innings and allowed two hits, winning 2-0. He struck out seven and walked two. JVB's record for the Indians is 7-1 with a 3.74 ERA.

> At Altoona, Evan Meek pitched two scoreless innings of relief for his second save. He struck out three and dropped his Curve ERA to 2.81.

> 3B Bobby Spain stayed on fire, going 3 for 4 with a double and two RBIs. He's hitting .311 at Hickory. He was Pittsburgh's 19th round pick in the 2007 draft.

On the draft front: The Pirates reeled in three more draft picks. Signing on the dotted line were 3B Matt Hague (No. 9), RHP Owen Brolsma (No. 48) and OF Craig Parry (No. 50).

Hague hit .360 with 12 homers and 57 RBI in 62 games this season at Oklahoma State. He's shown good power and plate discipline, and hit well in the wood bat Cape Cod League. The Indians drafted him 11th in 2007, so the suits were well aware of him.

Hague's strong suit is his offense, and he profiles much better defensively in RF than either corner infield spot. Some scouts are intrigued by his pitching because he has flashed a 94 mph fastball in brief relief stints, but he was drafted as a hitter.

Brolsma had TJ surgery in 2005 and hasn't pitched much or successfully for Texas Tech, but he has a low-90s fastball and a slider as his second pitch. The Pirates apparently felt the long layoff (he also lost a year when he transferred to TT) hurt him and his arm was worth a look. He figures to be a reliever.

Parry, the Buc's Mr. Irrelevant, is a left handed power hitter from South Dakota State. He played catcher, outfield, and third, although in 2007 he was primarily a DH. He spent two years in JC ball before going to SD State, where he was an academic All-American. Parry hit .338 with 10 HRs.

That gives Pittsburgh 16 guys signed from the draft - but none of the top six yet.

(The draftee bios were taken in the main from WTM's Pirate Player Profiles, a most excellent site.)


WilliamJPellas said...

Yep, quick work by the front office to get the mid-to-lower round guys in here and on the field in a hurry. That's great to see. But yes, we need to see the top boys signing on the dotted line ASAP.

Last night's loss was incredibly bad. You just can't blow a 6-1 lead when you have a chance to hit .500 and move on from there. It's bad to blow it any time, but particularly bad last night. Do you think the team is psyched out by the prospect of actually getting better? Are they weirdly comfortable with losing? Whassupwiddat???

WilliamJPellas said...

Regarding JVB, I'm personally convinced that he's the quintessential four-A pitcher. Whether he was ever significantly better than that, I doubt we'll ever know, because of his catastrophic injuries. The bottom line about him, for me, is that while I admire him for gutting out his comeback to even be on the field at all, he simply is not a major league pitcher going forward. I think we need to turn the page with him and move on. Bullington, too.

Ron said...

That's back to back games Pittsburgh almost blew and then did lose a 6-1 lead , Bill. Thursday was almost a carbon copy of yesterday.
We think part of the problem is that Russell works basically with a five man bullpen, and when guys get the call in the sixth inning, the games start to pile up.
As we said, Osoria is notoriously streaky, and he's going thru a bad stretch now. We have no problem with Russell giving Burnett a shot to prove he can handle being in tight situations, but he hasn't lived up to that trust yet. He has to earn his paycheck sometime.
Another problem seems to be the approach the hitters take with the lead. Last night, the Pirates hit maybe four balls to the track, including a couple by Freddie Sanchez.
Looking to drive the ball has it's place - we notice most of Jason Michaels big hits have come with a runner on third, and think he's just trying to lift the ball to get him in - but once you have a big lead, the point isn't to tack on another 4 or 5 run inning, but to just keep plugging away for another one or two. Pittsburgh seems to be looking to finish out games with a long ball barrage.
Still, none of that makes a difference if the starter finishes out the game by going six or seven innings and giving up a three spot. This team's future depends on the starters work, plain and simple. And they've just not been able to close the deal yet. You should be able to carry a five run lead into the seventh or eighth, and then let the three amigos put it to bed.

Ron said...

Hey, Bill, gimme a yell at the Green Weenie link under the "Welcome to the GW" post on the sidebar - Ron

WilliamJPellas said...

Well said. The starting rotation, without question, has been the biggest disappointment of the 2008 season.

Re: what the hitters are doing, I'm tellin' ya: we're an NL team trying to be the 1980s Boston Red Sox! Nothing wrong with a 3-run homer, of course, but if ya play that way all the time, you're usually gonna end up around .500. It's rare that a feast or famine, swing from the heels team has a really good record---unless they're like those old Orioles squads that had, for example, FOUR 20-game winners in their rotation one year!

WilliamJPellas said...

Just sent you an email from my personal yahoo acct, let me know if it got through to you.