Hmmmm...Joe Kerrigan says that they overworked Zach Duke and threw Paul Maholm out while injured, according to Chuck Finder of the Post Gazette. Are the inmates running the asylum?
The more worrisome case is regarding Maholm. Kerrigan as much as admitted that his knee was never really OK in 2009, and they sent him out with a brace for a couple of starts.
Now Maholm will never be mistaken for Sandy Koufax. But the lefty is a bulldog, and when he's on, he's capable of being a perfectly acceptable mid-rotation arm, and that's a valuable MLB commodity that should be handled with care.
No player, especially one with Maholm's demeanor, passes up an opportunity to take the ball. That's why teams have docs, trainers, and coaches - someone has to be the grownup and be willing to say "no" when the situation calls for it.
But in this case, it appears the Pirates would rather risk their talent than show the due diligence most clubs would exercise. Instead of shutting him down until his knee recovered, they sent him out to the mound 31 times, and he logged 194-1/3 innings on one leg.
We understand that Maholm downplayed his injury; he's a pro. We'd hate to think that a paper-thin rotation and the threat of 100 losses had anything to do with the decision to keep trotting him out to the mound.
Duke is a surprise. He went deep into games, as befitting his recent MO; he threw 3 complete games and should have had a fourth. He's worked 398 frames in the past two seasons, making 63 starts.
Most teams would be pleased as punch with that kind of performance. But Kerrigan thinks maybe they left him on the hill too long, citing his second-half meltdown.
He did toss 28 more innings in 2009 than he did in 2008, but that's just a 13% increase, pretty much within the limits. Actually, he should have imploded in 2008, when he jumped from 107 injury-plagued innings to 185 (and he did).
Hey, we thought the point was to get seven good innings out of a guy. His woes from August on had more to do with a bullpen that couldn't hold a lead and the trades of Jack Wilson and Steady Freddy, a major blow to a ground ball pitcher that doesn't miss many bats.
It seems to us that the answer is to cut down on his off-day regimen during the dog days (which the team says it did), strengthen the middle infield (which they did, too, to a degree), and put together a bullpen that he can hand the ball to in the seventh or eighth inning without fear of an impeding train wreck. That's yet to be seen.
Telling the media that a guy is gonna have his innings cut back isn't up there with the diatribes that the suits launched against Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny, we admit. But it does devalue a pitcher whose claim to fame is as a dependable inning-eater, and a little nagging voice wonders if it has something to do with contract leverage rather than effectiveness.
We'd like at least to see some more consistency in the way they handle pitchers; some are shut down and others are given the ball every fifth day. Ditto with the injured guys, like Tyler Yates, Craig Hansen, and Jose Ascanio, who pitched until it was time for the knife.
We're hoping that there's no management favoritism (or ineptitude) involved, especially with Littlefield-inherited pitchers, just a young coaching staff feeling its way around. But one can't help but wonder...