Thursday, September 3, 2009

Off Day Ramble

-- Why the 18-50 road record? Well, the last at-bat is worth something. And a team that's built to play at PNC, with a soft infield, short porch in right, and a cavernous left field, has much less success at opposing launchpads than they do at home. No doubt there's a comfort level involved, too, being in familiar surroundings and the same time zone, and a psychological edge.

But ultimately, it's performance that makes the record what it is, and Pittsburgh just can't walk and chew gum on the road.

At home, the pitching staff has a 3.67 ERA; it's 5.51 on the road. They've given up 110 more runs on 88 more hits, with 67 of those hits going for extra bases.

At bat, they've scored 47 fewer runs, hitting .236 with a slugging percentage of .360 on the road, and .274 with a .435 slugging percentage at PNC, fueled by 19 more homers. The Bucs have hit 21 fewer long balls away.

The slugging percentage is the key stat. Opponents pound the ball at a .486 slugging clip away from PNC, and .398 on the North Shore. There's a 40 home-run difference between being at PNC and being away (opp/+19; Pitt/-21), and while not the only reason their record is so abysmal, it sure explains a lot of it.

If Pittsburgh won on the road at the league rate of 44-45%, their record now would be 65-67 instead of 53-79. A few less watermelons served up by the staff and a little pop in their lineup would help them become road warriors instead of road kill.

-- Perry Hill told Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette that he turned down the Bucs offer to return next season because he was promised that "the infielders with whom he would work would be kept around" and weren't.

Frank Coonelly countered in his weekly chat on that " no promises were made to Perry or any other member of the Major League staff that any individual player or any group of players would be deemed as untouchable."

GW's take? Except for Andy LaRoche, Perry's April infield has been traded away. Now he's looking to coach up two third basemen, two first basemen, Ronny Cedeno, Delwyn Young, Ramon Vazquez, and Luis Cruz, and he can see the process repeating next year. He's surely frustrated.

Now we're not quite sure why this was a surprise to him; Jack Splat, Freddy Sanchez, and Adam LaRoche were all long shots for returning to Pittsburgh in 2010. Maybe the process got to Hill, or maybe he was really convinced that his DP combo would live to play another day for the Buccos.

But at any rate, they're not. The Pirates are asking him to be a glorified minor-league infield coach, and he's balking. He left Florida for a couple of years to tend to his home fires - and he had three Gold Gloves there. There's no reason for him to not return to Texas again.

GW doesn't think this is a case about the benjamins - although their liberal use has been known to wield a little influence - but about burnout and ego. It'll be interesting to see if the suits can bring him back; it'll take money plus. Pittsburgh's organization is stronger with him. He truly does have a golden touch at teaching the game.

-- Since he was acquired in July from Pittsburgh, John Grabow hasn't allowed a run in his first 16 appearances as a Cub, a franchise record to start a Cubs career. He's allowed just 3 hits in 13 innings of work (although he's walked nine).

-- Adam LaRoche is digging his return gig to Atlanta. He's hitting .365 with 8 HR and 20 RBI in 29 games with a slugging average of .625 and an OPS of 1.071.

-- Jen Langosch of has a feature on the growing pains of Pirate prospect Gorkys Hernandez.

-- The Athletics claimed 25 year-old RHP Jon Meloan off waivers from the Pirates. Oakland is Meloan's fourth club this year, going from the Indians to the Rays to the Pirates. He compiled a 4.57 ERA with 60 strikeouts and 28 walks in 65 innings in AAA this season.

-- BTW, RHP Todd Redmond, who was traded to the Braves for Tyler Yates in 2008, is on the World Cup team with Pedro and Brad Lincoln. The 24 year-old was 9-6 with a 4.41 ERA at AAA Gwinnett.

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