Tuesday, August 4, 2015

JA v Jake Arrieta; Lineup & Notes

Today's Game - JA Happ (4-6, 4.29) gets his first start as a Bucco, and it's a tough match up against Jake Arrieta (11-6, 2.62 ). Happ got off to a strong start, but was batted around in his recent outings, losing five of his last six decisions. The consensus is that he's a competent back ender, and a change of scenery can't hurt. This will be the first time he's met the Cubbies since 2012.

JA Happ gets his first start in a Bucco uniform tonight (photo Associated Press)
Jake has become an elite pitcher over the past two seasons. He hasn't allowed more than three runs in his last eight starts (and gave up three just once over that span) and all his peripheral performance stats - FIP, xFIP, SIERA - are nearly identical, so he's not using any smoke and mirrors to pad his numbers. Arrieta has 94 MPH heat to go with a cutter and curve and collects 9+ K per nine innings.

He's split with the Bucs this year, winning 5-2 & losing to AJ 3-0, and is 4-1/2.43 in six lifetime starts against the Pirates. It's not a great matchup for Happ in his Pittsburgh debut. The game starts at 7:05 and will be on Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Today's Lineup - Gregory Polanco RF, Starling Marte LF, Cutch CF, A-Ram 3B, Jung-Ho Kang SS, Neil Walker 2B, Pedro 1B, Fran Cervelli C, Happ P.

Usual recent lineup card with A-Ram at cleanup and Pedro in the seven hole.

  • Yesterday's rainout was the first at PNC Park since the 2013 season.
  • It'll be interesting to see if and how Clint restructures the rotation after Frankie's two inning stint yesterday.
  • While AJ got good news re: his elbow, we'd curb our enthusiasm. Guys like Jason Grilli and Jason Vargas took six weeks to return from similar injuries (Vargas blew out his UCL when he did come back), and both had rehab stints to ease back into action. The minor league schedules end a week into September, so AJ may not have anywhere but Pirate City to prep even if four weeks proves a good estimate.
  • MLB.com has an updated Top 30 Pirate prospect list; you might be surprised to see eight of the top ten young guns are position players.


WilliamJPellas said...

Agreed were AJ is concerned. No doubt he will try to gut out a few more innings or outings before he hangs 'em up, given that this is his last year, but I wouldn't expect much from him. If the Pirates make the playoffs and he can make a couple of effective 5-inning starts in the postseason, I think that's about the limit for him.

Ron Ieraci said...

Yah, will, I think he really hopes to get back in mid September; I hope the Pirates can evaluate him professionally rather than emotionally when he's ready to return. By playoffs, four man rotations are the norm, with the fourth guy spotted; we'll see what Locke and Morton can do in the next few weeks; maybe Liz will became this year's John Holdzkom in September.

WilliamJPellas said...

Locke has been awful since the All Star break, and once again I can't believe this front office gave away a serviceable younger veteran lefthander like Clayton Richard. Then it turned around and got rid of the much younger Vance Worley in favor of just-unretired Joe Blanton. Blanton has done fairly well for the Pirates, of course, but is he really that much of an upgrade over Worley, and what about next year and beyond? If they had kept Richard, they would not have had to bring in J A Happ, who has NOT looked good in a Pirates uniform to this point. Neal Huntington definitely has had his moments as the Pirates' GM, but he has made entirely too many headscratcher moves and missed on too many talent evaluations for my taste.

Ron Ieraci said...

Ah, Will, I'm not one to obsess over the back end of a rotation too much. Richard is better than Happ, no question, but isn't an upgrade to Morton or Locke, IMHO. Maybe Huntington keeps Eddie Volquez if he knows Taillon & Kingham would go under the knife. And I still think Worley would have been plugged into the rotation if AJ's injury was known a turn or two sooner; that was just bad timing - they hardly used Vanimal out of the pen, and Blanton is multi-purpose, so I think that's a defensible move.

A couple more turns and Worley should be ramped up, Liz could get a call, and AJ by all reports will be back by September, for rehab anyway. It's not ideal, but the controllable pitchers went down; it happens. I fault the 40-man management more than talent at hand, with a dash of all those HS arms that didn't pan out as an added factor.

WilliamJPellas said...

Definitely agree with you where "all those HS arms that didn't pan out" are concerned. My brother made the same point recently, ie, that the key to small market success is drafting well AND having as many good young players arrive in the big leagues more or less all at the same time. Huntington's second draft---from which very little emerged---has definitely hamstrung the front office's recent dealings. There's a hole on the roster, in other words, where two or three serviceable-or-better big leaguers from that draft ought to be contributing in Pittsburgh, and they aren't there.

Agreed that the team had no way to know that there would be serious injuries to Taillon and Kingham (and Cumpton, don't forget) and I don't miss Volquez (who can trust him to keep it up?) BUT the Pirates now have two sinkholes in their rotation; Locke and Happ are just bad. The Cardinals are so good that I can't say in all honesty that this row of dominoes is ultimately what will cost the Pirates the division title, but....I guess it's back to the Wild Card Game again.

Ron Ieraci said...

You have the give the devil his due, Will - I like Pittsburgh's pen more than the Cards, but even with Wainwright out, the Redbirds have a sweet rotation. Martinez stepping up to become a solid 2-3 guy was huge for them. One more mid-rotation arm would have been a big boost for the Bucco staff. I understand the Pirates were looking, but I suppose the price wasn't right in a seller's market, especially with so many high cost rentals. I was sort of hoping they'd pull the trigger for one of San Diego's young guys, and it hurt when SD backed off from dealing.

One thing to note about the back end of the Bucco starters is that the defense this year just hasn't clicked, and the worst thing you can do for back enders is make them work four and five out innings, especially with this current stretch that has A-Ram & Pedro on the corners. We'll see how it works out; still a lot of ball left, and the Pirates, for better or worse, spend most of September playing within the division.