Thursday, September 9, 2010

Keepin' Up On An Off Day

-- In Dejan Kovacevic's game story from last night in the Post Gazette, he casts serious doubt on the return of Zach Duke in 2011. He writes: "His losses are tied for fifth most among all pitchers with 120 or more innings, his ERA is the second highest, and his .320 opponents' batting average is the highest.

All of which might be pointing to Duke's offseason exit after five-plus years in the rotation."

Jen Langosch of noted that dynamic in her game story, too, when she said "Duke certainly can't afford to end the season without a bounce back. He's due to be arbitration-eligible again after the season, which puts him in line for a raise from his $4.3 million salary this season. His inconsistencies to this point likely have him at risk to be non-tendered this winter..."

Our feeling is that with Duke, what you see is what you get. He lets the ball in play, and if you have a team that can catch 'em, he's a competent pitcher. If you have a team that doesn't, like the Pirates (their .671 defensive conversion rate means that one out of three balls put in play against them become hits, and is 14th in the NL, while their 108 errors are 15th), well, a blown up ERA is what you get.

It's probably easier to replace a pitcher than an infield.

-- In the right field derby, the apparent winner is Ryan Doumit. Dewey has been hitting the ball fairly well since he's returned from his latest concussion, and he's been OK both in right and behind the dish, bolstering the theory that he needed a break from everyday catching.

The loser has been Lastings Milledge, whose erratic play in the pasture and lack of power have earned him long stretches of pine time. John Bowker hasn't shown much either; maybe a door is opening for Alex Presley/Brandon Moss if they show their Indy performances weren't flukes.

It's not the only hole in the Pirate lineup, but it's the only position being contested in September.

-- The Pirate suits believe that a bullpen is the easiest segment of a team to build from scratch. That may be true in March, but not so much in August. So far, of all the newcomers, only Chris Resop and Wil Ledezema have shown that they deserve a shot at coming back.

-- The Yankees signed Damaso Marte to a three year, $11.75M contract after they got him from Pittsburgh in 2008, with $4M due next year. In his time in New York, Marte has been 2-6 with a 6.60 ERA and only worked 45 innings.

He went to the Evil Empire with Xavier Nady; if Jose Tabata and Ross Ohlendorf keep on keepin' on, that deal has to go down as among the best of the Huntington era.

-- Jose Bautista leads the majors with 43 home runs and ranks second with 103 RBIs. His deal for Robinzon Diaz has to rank among the worst, though at the time it was just another ho-hum "change of scenery" trade.

He explained his rebirth at age 29 to ESPN's Jerry Crasnik: "When the front office believes in the manager and the manager believes in the players, it builds a chain of confidence. You go out there and focus on the things you need to focus on -- just seeing the ball and hitting it hard, instead of trying to get three hits one day so you can play the next. That's tough to do, especially when you're young. It's a little bit of what happened to me."

-- Altoona made the playoffs by riding its pitching, which finished second in the league with a 3.55 ERA. The Curve began its best-of-five series at home against Harrisburg Senators, which posted the league's best ERA of 3.51. A tight, well-pitched series was in store, right?

Well, not if the first game is any indication; the Sens won 10-5.

-- Tim Wakefield, Boston's 44-year-old knuckleballer who started his career in Pittsburgh, became the oldest pitcher to win for the Red Sox when he defeated Tampa Bay last night. His next goal is to become the team's top all-time winner. The win was his 179th career victory with Boston, 13 behind the club record of 192 shared by Roger Clemens and Cy Young, pretty fast company to run with.

-- Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports discusses the Pirates in his piece about tweaking the revenue-sharing funds. "For all the complaints about revenue sharing’s failings, the program’s successes — the Brewers, Twins, Rays and others — are undeniable. Even the Pirates, last in the majors in payroll, are an example of how revenue-sharing recipients can rebuild.

Fans do not yet see it on the field, where the Pirates recently clinched their 18th straight losing season. But the team has spent a major-league leading $31 million on the draft in the past three years. Whether the Pirates are choosing the right players remains to be seen. But it’s indisputable that they are trying to improve.

The union forced the Marlins, not the Pirates, into an agreement to raise payroll. Yet, the Pirates will not be allowed to proceed on this path forever. If their rebuilding efforts do not lead to a higher payroll, they eventually will get the same slap that the Marlins did. The idea is to develop better players, players who merit higher salaries, players who become stars."

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