Friday, August 21, 2009

Reds Sing The Blues

If there are two lineups with less ability to go long than tonight's Pirates and Reds, well, it'd probably be in a whiffle ball league.

But the Bucs rode a pair of homers - a three run shot by Garrett Jones and a solo liner by Lastings Milledge - to a 5-2 win over Cincy tonight. Maybe they channeled Pops and Bill Robinson while decked out in the gold and black of the 1979 champions.

Charlie Morton continued his schizophrenic ways this evening. He was untouchable in the first, striking out a pair and finishing the inning with a mere nine pitches.

He ran through the raindrops in the next three, stranding five runners, and cruised through the fifth and sixth. Then Morton left with one out in the seventh with two aboard. In 6-1/3 frames, he gave up two runs on six hits and walked three, with three Ks.

Jesse Chavez, Joel Hanrahan, and Matt Capps mopped up, and none of them had a clean inning. But they put up goose eggs, and that's what counts. When the night was over, the Reds had stranded ten runners and were 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

The Pirates had all of five hits, and none after the fifth inning. But thanks to the long ball, they stranded just one runner all night. In justice, the Bucs centered up the ball pretty well against Micah Owings, scoring all five runs off him. Heck, half the outs Owing's got were roped.

But every so often, the baseball gods gotta throw a team a crumb. So it's four in a row, and the Bucs are now half a game from escaping the cellar.

-- LHP Phil Dumatrait is not going on waivers; he's coming back tonight. He'll have some breathing room on the 25-man roster as Jeff Karstens goes on leave to be with his ill grandma for a few days; he's expected back Tuesday. Evan Meek was moved from the 15 to 60-day DL with his oblique injury to clear a spot on the 40-man for Dumatrait.

-- Some weird scheduling: the Pirates play the Reds seven times in the next 13 days; they haven't played each other since early May. The teams have 13 games remaining against each other to duke it out for the bottom spot in the Central Division.

-- Tom Boswell of the Washington Post just loves Nyjer Morgan. He calls him the second coming of Juan Pierre, back when Pierre was da bomb.


WilliamJPellas said...

I must say, those were eye-opening numbers re: Morgan. Morgan looked like a decent player in Pittsburgh, but he's been on another planet in Washington. My guess is it's a combination of playing his real position---CF---and also just being on a tear. However, if he really IS this consistently good, or anything close to it, we will live to regret trading him. I don't think Milledge is going to be "all that"; while he's got a dangerous stick, he looks average in the outfield and he doesn't run particularly well. All things considered, I'd rather have Morgan than Milledge, at least if this season is any indication.

Ron Ieraci said...

Could be that Nymo is a late blooming Juan Pierre, Will. Speed guys seem to age well, too.

But the Pirates, I'm sure, figured they were loaded with speedy guys with no power - Jose Tabata, Gorkys Hernandez - and took a shot at a RBI type bat. We'll see how it works out; hopefully it'll turn out to be one of those rare win-win deals.

The only question about Morgan is whether he can keep the beat with his stick. The league average for balls in play is .300; Morgan's BIP average for July was a sick .438, and it's .375 so far this month.

As stats guys love to say, deviations from the norm tend to regress. To us Pitt grads, it simply means his average should eventually head towards the league average; ie, drop. Still, even as a .275 - .300 hitter, he's a nice player.

WilliamJPellas said...

Tabata is not especially fast, at least, I haven't seen it in his career so far. He also has that "thick" body type that tends to make guys a lot slower once they hit their mid to late 20s. I'd be surprised if he is even a 20 SB guy in the bigs. His calling card will be his bat, pure and simple.

I don't know that the Pirates, right now, in fact have a lot of speedy guys. I don't think they've got any, other than McCutchen, and while he's been very effective in a pick-your-spots kind of basestealing, he is not the speed merchant that Morgan is, and I'd be surprised if he ends up as good as McLouth was for us in that dept (not dissing McCutchen, who is obviously the read deal, I'm just talking about the team's overall running game).

I'll say, too, that it's disturbing to see how many homegrown CF types this organization has discarded without much to show for it. Mind you, I don't miss Chris Duffy, and Rajai Davis, while similar to Morgan, is not quite the hitter Morgan is.

Still, that's four guys---Duffy, Davis, Morgan, and McLouth---who all came up through our own system, and who can all run; 3 of the 4 (all but Duffy) are established major leaguers, and 2 of them (McLouth and Morgan) are better than average starters, and not ONE of them had a place in our organization?

Dunno if I buy that one. In fact, I know I don't.

Ron Ieraci said...

Offhand, Will, I'd much rather have kept McLouth than Morgan.

He filled the need for some punch, and unless Morton has something he hasn't shown yet, it doesn't look like that great a deal for us, although the effect of Hernandez and Locke will be a couple of seasons down the road.

But there's no question they've given up on any short-term success, so everything has to be judged three or four seasons from now.

I probably would have taken a more conservative path, but I guess in for a penny, in for a pound.

WilliamJPellas said...

I, too, would have opted for a more conservative path, though I honestly have no problem with any of the trades the suits have made---no problem in principle, that is---other than the Morgan and McLouth deals. Yes, I'd much rather have McLouth than Morgan, but I'd really rather have McLouth and Morgan in the same outfield with McCutchen. Now THERE's an airtight trio!

Again, Milledge might be a productive bat by next season. He'll never be a superstar, and with him there's always the chance of another brain malfunction, but I get why they like him. Still, in PNC Park, with his cavernous left field, you almost need two CF's to really do your pitching staff justice. Milledge is already being worked at first, which is not a good sign. So, we got worse defensively, worse on the basepaths, worse with batting average, and worse with our bullpen, in exchange for the possibility that Milledge will hit enough to make the trade look good.

Again, I think Milledge CAN hit. I DON'T think he can do anything else. Burnett was no great loss, though he's pitched well for Washington. But Hanrahan looks lost, and that means it's Milledge or we got taken to the cleaners.

But yes, the McLouth deal is the one that really gives me pause. I think Morton has real good stuff and real potential, but Morton for McLouth alone is a definite win for the Braves. That means that either Hernandez (unlikely) or Locke (hard to say) have to become productive big leaguers or we lost that deal, too.

The Jason Bay trade was, obviously, a loss for us, though with an asterisk---that being Bay's sudden nosedive in performance this season after the All Star break. There are some in baseball who predict an early end to his career for various reasons. Could we be seeing the beginning of his decline, or is he just having a bad second half?

Ron Ieraci said...

Will, the old wife tales say most MLB players start to lose it between 31-33 years-old. We'll see how it goes with Jay bay. He was always a streky guy at the plate.

The one thought your discussion popped into my head is the concept of value. The suits like to turn people over at max value, they always say. But I wonder how it is that they decide that a player like McLouth or Morgan is a flash in the pan or the real deal?

It's kinda odd, because those two certainly weren't traded for the money or team control. I know what the public thought process is; they leak that through the papers pretty well.

But I'd love to be a fly on the wall and hear what they actually think of the players they're dumping and the ones they're getting.