Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Beat Goes On..

* Some fans were left wondering when they discovered that Pedro Alvarez had tendinitis added to his list of ailments. That, at least, is something to not worry about. It's very rarely chronic, and the way he got it, during instructional league in the fall, is not unusual - he probably worked too hard.

The Pirate spin is he was in lousy shape, and there may be some truth to that; he probably did the minimum while in contract limbo. But our guess is that when he reported, he tried to impress the brass and just overdid it, causing the tendinitis. And the cure is, plain and simply, rest; no workouts allowed. So it ended up a no-win situation for the star-crossed infielder.

We don't have any problem with his conditioning. He's just a college kid getting a lesson in a fishbowl about professional shape, and we think he gets it now. Alvarez is a big guy, and he'll never look like Twiggy. The Bucs just showed some tough love (and maybe some residual ire at Scott Boras), and the message was received.

* The Pirates have seven guys eyeing an outfield spot, and five are lefty. We thought we'd take a look at their splits, and see what problems, and opportunities, that presents, using their career stats.

Two of the everyday players, LHs Nate McLouth and Brandon Moss, have fairly decent splits; McLouth's is .264/.252 and Moss' .244/.266 (yah, he hits lefties better, but he's only faced them 76 times) over their brief careers. McLouth's slugging percentage drops mightily against lefties (.536/.388); Moss' doesn't (.442/.422).

So John Russell may want to toggle McLouth around in the lineup, depending on the mound opponent, while Moss can be penciled in every day behind the middle of the order.

LH Nyjer Morgan's batting average shows a big split (.307/.250), but his OBP doesn't (.353/.339), good news for a top of the order guy. Both, though, are low. Ideally, you want at least a .375 OBP leading off, edging towards .400. Wait for those walks, Nyjer!

Eric Hinske is a batter that you want to pick your spots for; he needs protected. His split is .264/.219, and his slugging % is .458/.365, numbers befitting a LH platoon player.

LH Jeff Salazar rarely faces lefties; he only has 22 career at-bats against them. His splits are .245/.273, OBP .356/.273. Salazar is another platoon player.

The righties are Craig Monroe and Steve Pearce. Monroe is on an even keel, hitting .250/.259 with a slugging % of .443/.468. Pearce has raked lefties, batting .244/.266 with his slugging percentage at an eyepopping .348/.615 split. But with a mere 177 MLB at-bats, those numbers can't be counted on very much.

The verdict? Nah, not that easy. There's only three guys with any kind of track record. McLouth (4 seasons) and Monroe (8 seasons) hit pretty equally no matter which side they face, while Hinske (7 seasons) is a one-way batter.

The other four all have 2 or 3 seasons under their belt, so the sample doesn't tell much of a tale. Salazar, Moss, Pearce and Morgan are pups; none has batted over 275 times in the show yet.

Four of guys - McLouth, Moss, Morgan, and Monroe - so far seem capable of handling all comers, while Hinske, Pearce, and Salazar have sizeable splits. Still, not too bad for being young and tilted to one side of the batter's box.

* Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune-Review has the dope on Brandon Moss' knee surgery.

It ends up his knee was "too angled" for the microfracture procedure, so they just cleaned it out with the scope.

He also reports that Jeff Karstens is throwing bullpen sessions, so his achy elbow from mini-camp isn't a big deal at this point.

* Jen Langosch of talked to Joe Kerrigan, who doesn't have any major concerns over the Pirates' pitching mechanics:
"I see good deliveries. I see no major projects. I see a few tweaks, a few minor adjustments here and there, but everybody has that."

"But as a whole, we have a good set of deliveries here," he continued. "That's a good foundation. There are really no major projects to tear down and rebuild, which is great."
And that included Donnie Veal.

* Chuck Finder of the Post-Gazette profiled Adam LaRoche, who gave his preview of the upcoming season:
"We have the same core coming back. What we have going for us is the same guys with a little bit more experience, hopefully a little more established as a group, a little more confident. We still have to prove to ourselves that we're a good ballclub. It's going to be a grind.

"Again, clubs are going to look at us as not a threat. That's a fact. We're not going to scare a lot of people. Which is good, really; we can sneak up on people.

"We don't have the luxury of having injuries this year. I mean, can't do it. We got to get guys to stay well and grind it out. There aren't going to be a lot of homers hit. There aren't going to be a lot of shutouts. It's going to be a grind. But it's going to be fun. Guys want to win. Guys are competitive."

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