Saturday, February 20, 2010

Competition Ain't Nothin'

You may recall that in 2009, despite all the lip service to accountability, the rotation and opening day lineup were pretty much etched in stone.

Zach Duke, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm, and Tom Gorzelanny were set in the rotation, while Jeff Karstens took the fifth spot. Ryan Doumit, Adam LaRoche, Freddie Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss, Nate McLouth and Nyjer Morgan owned their starting jobs from the first day of camp.

Don't expect much difference this year. Oh, the cast of characters have changed, but the competition level hasn't.

Ross Ohlendorf, Paul Maholm, Zach Duke and Charlie Morton are locks to start this season, and from the reports of the beat guys, the Pirate brass think the fifth spot is Kevin Hart's to lose; we'll see what Daniel McCutchen has to say about that. But again, the only competition is for the fifth spot.

The 2010 lineup is fairly well set, too. Ryan Doumit, Andy LaRoche, Akinori Iwamura, Lastings Milledge, Andrew McCutchen, and Garrett Jones are guaranteed positions.

And the rest of the competition isn't really that heated. The Bucs expect Ronny Cedeno to start at short over Bobby Crosby, so the only burning question is whether Jeff Clement can transition to first base; if not, Ryan Church goes to right and Jones to first.

That's not to say there hasn't been drastic change. Only two starters, Duke and Maholm, remain in the retooled rotation (nary a soul is left from the original 2009 bullpen), and Doumit and LaRoche are the only pair of everyday players left among the regulars.

It will only get more confused in the future. Pedro Alvarez and possibly Jose Tabata and Brad Lincoln loom large in the near future. And while there may not be much more talent joining them soon (maybe Gorkys Hernandez), by 2012 there will be a steady stream of pups ready to join the pack - Sterling Marte, Tim Alderson, Chase d'Arnaud, Jarek Cunningham and maybe Rudy Owens, among others.

So don't get hung up on the current position battles, or lack thereof. This team is still one that's in transition. Wait until late season 2011 and camp 2012; that's when it'll get interesting.


WilliamJPellas said...

Kevin Hart....bleecchhh. What Daniel McCutchen has to do to get a real look in Pittsburgh is completely beyond me. I would assume he'd be next in line if/when someone is injured or traded, but then again Brad Lincoln will be here sooner rather than later.

Mind you, it's great to see the team's depth slowly building up, him or trade him, already. I sure prefer him over Hart, I'll tell you that.

MarkInDallas said...

IMO, Hart is the more talented one. If he can throw strikes, he should get better results. But we'll see.

WilliamJPellas said...

If by "talent" you mean, he throws harder, you'll get no argument from me. But while we all love to have the big-armed guys that can miss a lot of bats, most major league pitchers are actually more of the "pitch to contact" type. Again, I'm not arguing that a guy who can both throw strikes AND throw hard makes the best pitcher. Of course that's true. But pitchers like that are exceedingly rare.

I keep thinking about the St. Louis Cardinals during the LaRussa era. Rarely have they had even one guy on their staff in any given year who really put the fear of God into you when you stepped into the batter's box. And that's true whether we're talking about their starters or their relievers. The vast majority of their arms have been reliable control pitchers who are steady, known quantities. Granted, they've been at the top of the heap when it comes to that type of pitcher, whereas most of our guys....uhhh, haven't been.

Still, the point remains. McCutchen may not be sexy, but he is effective, and in my mind ought to be the first choice as the fifth starter. But it looks like Russell and Co are bound and determined to hand it to Hart at all costs.