Saturday, July 18, 2009

Giant Arms, Pee Wee Bats

Barry Zito must have had flashbacks to his Cy Young days; at one point he retired 15 consecutive Bucco batters after giving up a run in the opening frame. Then again, the Pirates have made a lot of guys with ERAs north of four look like Cy Young winners.

But Charlie Morton overcame some early control woes, and looked a lot like a guy trying to become the top-of-the order pitcher in the Pittsburgh rotation. He went seven innings of three-hit, no-run ball, striking out six and walking a pair, none after the second inning. He only threw 90 pitches, but was lifted for a pinch-hitter.

John Grabow and Matt Capps were equal to the task, although Capps had to work out of a second-and-third, one-out jam to notch his 20th save in a 2-0 Buc win. Morton evened his record at 2-2 and saw his ERA drop to 3.12.

-- The most interested guy in the trading deadline for Pittsburgh has to be Lastings Milledge. He's killing the ball at Indy (Milledge is on a 15-for-21 tear), but like Andrew McCutchen, won't get the call to Pittsburgh unless a full-time spot opens up. His chance is if Adam LaRoche is moved and Garrett Jones takes over at first base, leaving left field for Milledge.

-- Sometimes all it takes is a little change of scenery. RHP Jeff Karstens pitched two perfect relief innings last night and is 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 13 games since being sent to the bullpen. He was 2-3 with a 5.30 ERA in 10 starts to begin the season. Karstens' line now is 3-4, with a 4.50 ERA.

If Virgil Vasquez doesn't shape up, Karstens could be back in the rotation shortly.

-- Speaking of pitching... Bucco starters are 27-35 with a 4.47 ERA, a .275 opponent batting average, and 5.1 K's and 3.1 walks per 9 innings. Most encouraging is the innings worked; the staff goes 5.9 innings per outing, just a tick better than the NL average of 5.85 innings. And it shows in the bullpen stats.

The bullpen is 12-15-20 with a 3.79 ERA, .239 opponent batting average, 6.4 strikeouts and 4.9 walks per nine innings. If only the relievers could cut their walks...the average pen gives up 4.1 passes per nine.

Overall, they're pretty close to NL average, quite an accomplishment for Joe Kerrigan and his charges. The only glaring lack is the ability to miss bats - the Pirates are last in the NL in strikeouts, even behind the sad sack Nats in that category. The league benchmark is 620; the Pirates have rung up 482.

The NL batting average for balls in play is .295, and that represents 41 hits more the Pirates have allowed just because they can't put hitters away.

-- Four is the magic number for the Pirates. When they score four runs or less, they're 10-33; when the pitching allows 4 runs or less, they're 32-26. When they score five runs or more, they're 29-16; when they give up five or more, they're 7-24.

The Bucs' record is 39-50. The Pythagorean record, or what the runs scored/runs allowed predict it should be, is 43-46. That's a huge difference. Pittsburgh is 10-20 when they give up 4 or 5 runs, and that's where the feast or famine offense is killing their record.

It puts too much pressure on the pitchers. They've given up five runs or under 61 times, or 72% of the games. The arms have kept them in games, but inconsistent run production has been the season-long bug-a-boo.

-- DK reports that
"Chase D'Arnaud, a shortstop prospect with Class A Lynchburg, will miss several weeks to a sprained thumb ligament, director of player development Kyle Stark said this afternoon.

D'Arnaud, 22, was the Pirates' fourth-round draft pick last summer. He batted .291 through 62 games for low Class A West Virginia, then .279 through 19 games after being promoted to Lynchburg."
-- The prized prospect of this year's July 2nd international free agent class, SS Miguel Angel Sano, passed his Major League Baseball age and identity investigation, a source in the Dominican Republic told So that saga should come to an end shortly, one way or another. (EDIT - other reports say SI is premature, and we'll have to wait until next week for the decision. Sheesh!)

No comments: