Thursday, April 30, 2009

El Toro, Achy Breaky Bucs, and Occham's Razor

-- The Pirates officially opened the team's 46-acre Latin American headquarters and baseball training complex in El Toro, the Dominican Republic, today.

The campus style complex features 2-1/2 fields, covered batting cages, bullpens, a clubhouse, weight rooms, trainers' rooms, classrooms, conference rooms, recreation rooms, administration offices and a dorm big enough to house 90 players and staff.

Buc owner Bob Nutting hosted the grand opening ceremonies, and had on hand Frank Coonelly, Neal Huntington, Dominican Republic President Dr. Leonel Fernandez Reyna, Sports Minister Felipe Payano, scout Rene Gayo, and family members of Pirates Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente including wife Vera and sons Luis and Roberto, Jr.

The Pirates and the Clementes unveiled a four-foot tall stone monument featuring a bronze replica of Roberto Clemente's Hall of Fame plaque with his stats and bio written in both English and Spanish.

It was a big deal in the Dominican, and we hope the start of a pipeline to Pittsburgh.

-- The MLB Pirates aren't the only ones dropping like flies; the bush league Bucs are taking a whupping, too. Jose Tabata is the latest casualty; he'll be out 4-6 weeks with a bad hammy. RHP Bryan Morris will miss another month with a shoulder impingement, SS Brian Friday has vertigo caused by an ear infection and missed the last 10 days, and SS Jarek Cunningham blew out a knee and is out for the year.

There's a ray of light, though. If there's no setback today, Nate McLouth plans to be back in the lineup tomorrow for the Reds series.

-- GW is a little curious as to why the Brew Crew seemed to be getting the benefit of the ball/strike calls in the series just past. We can understand the first game; a Cy Young winner like Jake Peavy will and probably should get the calls on the black. Tuesday's game was OK; the plate was tight for both teams.

Yesterday, though, was a puzzler. Mind you, GW didn't see the game, being hard at work (are you reading this, Mr. Boss?) and it wasn't televised anyway. But the reports made it seem like Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo was getting a more generous zone than Ian Snell.

It doesn't seem like the Buc batters beef anymore than anyone else, and God knows JR doesn't ride the umps. Heck, in two seasons, he probably hasn't met half of them yet for all he comes out of the dugout.

Could it be that their reputation for nibbling and wildness has preceded the Pittsburgh staff, even affecting the borderline judgment of the men in blue? Dunno, but that's our working theory right now. We can only hope that as the season goes on, the plate becomes the same size for both sides and that the last series was just an anomaly.

Then again, for those to subscribe to the ever popular Occham's razor theory, maybe the Pirate batters just have really bad eyes.


WilliamJPellas said...

And/or maybe the Pirates batters in general just aren't very good.

Seriously, if you look up and down our lineup, how many hitters can you honestly say are in the "feared by opponents" category? Guys that they gameplan specifically to avoid or neutralize? Players who are legitimately among the top, say, 20% of their peers at their position?

Using those criteria, I'd say 3 Pirates players fit that description, with a fourth on the borderline. All the rest, and much of the bench, is punch and judy (though the bench is unquestionably far better now than it has been in years).

My 3: Ryan Doumit---in my view the best hitter the Pirates have in terms of raw ability---Nate McLouth, and, when healthy, Freddy Sanchez. Adam LaRoche is not quite in that category, though he's close. But really, that's it. Everyone else is average at best, and most are mediocre or worse.

Mind you, the Minnesota Twins are THE case study for how far a team can go if it's made up almost entirely of average offensive players from top to bottom. Other than Torii Hunter and, more recently, Joe Mauer, how many hitters have the Twins had who struck fear into your heart? I can't think of any. The Pirates, to me, are a very similar team.

That said, if Doumit could just stay healthy (I've just about given up hope), and we could add one or two impact bats---whether through free agency or the minors or both---well then. It's okay to have 5 or 6 average hitters if you have 2 or 3 great ones. That's how the Pirates of the early 90s were constructed.

By the way, our pitching staff is very much the same way. Maybe that means we're only a couple of great players away from being a really good team.

WilliamJPellas said...

Certainly our lineup, even with Doumit, does not compare with Milwaukee's. Not even close.

Ron Ieraci said...

No question they're a punchless lineup, Will. I'm not looking for peer respect; I'm just hoping that the umps will give them some professional respect, that's all.