Saturday, September 26, 2015

Frankie v Jason Hammel; Lineup (El Coffee Out) & Notes

Today's Game - Francisco Liriano (11-7, 3.41) climbs the hill against Jason Hammel (9-6, 3.79). Francisco's last start was a 3-2 win over Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium Saturday. He's gone 10-3 in his last 21 starts, and the Bucs have won 14 of his last 15 starting assignments. This will be Frankie's first start against the Cubs since an April no-decision. Overall, he's 4-2 with a 2.56 ERA in 10 career starts v the baby bears.

A-Ram is in today (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)
Hammel has had first inning woes, with an ERA over five for the opening frame. In fact, he's given up three runs or more in six of his last seven starts, getting past five innings just twice. His last start against the Bucs was a 5-4 loss; he got a no decision. Hammel split two April games, losing 4-3 and winning 4-0. He's been around the block with the Bucs, going 5-4/3.86 in 10 career starts. The game begins at 1:10 and will be on Fox Sports and 93.7 The Fan.

Today's Lineup - Starling Marte LF, Travis Snider RF, Cutch CF, A-Ram 3B, Neil Walker 2B, Fran Cervelli C, Pedro Alvarez, Jordy SS, Frankie P.

Looks like Gregory's knee is still bothersome; Lunchbox is in right. And we're a little surprised A-Ram got the start; he looked a little gimpy after his double last night, so we're guessing that's good news. Starling slides up to leadoff today with Travis in the two hole; otherwise same ol'.

  • The Pirates have won seven consecutive road games for the first time since the 2013 season and a win today would give them eight straight wins on the road for the first time since 1987. The last time the Bucs won seven straight games in one continuous road trip was 1987 and the last time the Pirates won eight games in a row on one road trip was during the 1938 season.
  • The Pirates are 34 games over .500 for the first time since 1991.
  • Gerrit Cole yesterday recorded his 200th strikeout of the season, joining AJ Burnett (209 in 2013) as the only righthanders in team history to whiff 200 or more batters in one season.
  • The Pirates are a MLB-leading 36-17 in one-run games.
  • The Pittsburgh feel good stories have a little different tone this season than they did in 2013-14. Now they're about how they team is built for the long run.
  • The Cubs clinched their playoff spot last night as the Giants lost. So did the Cards; Pittsburgh is just three games out of first.


WilliamJPellas said...

Agreed that Polanco's knee is a concern, even if he still hasn't put his talent together in a coherent package. Meaning, he is not a particularly great basestealer yet, and of course his hitting---while finally improving somewhat---is still less than what you want to see from a corner outfielder. BTW I read somewhere that Snider has lit up Hammel in years past, so Hurdle is probably playing matchups in addition to resting Polanco.

As for the Pirates being "built for the long haul", color me skeptical. They're pretty good, right now, and are obviously on a nice, three year run. But Burnett and A-Ram are going to retire, and those are two still-productive veterans who will leave a bigger hole on the roster than one might think at first glance. So they have to be replaced. The rotation, in fact, is surprisingly poor for a contender. Morton is just never going to get it and Locke is awful. Happ would look good as our third starter but is he going to want to come back to Pgh, and even if he does, is his performance in black and gold the real deal or a mirage?

Meanwhile, Kang will be coming off a serious injury and that leaves SS in the hands of Jordy Mercer---a guy I still say makes a fine utilityman but NOT a starter. What about Walker? And another season of Pedro? Uurrgghhhh.

As for what we have in the minors, I am definitely NOT one for the Neal Huntington Is A Genius - bandwagon. The farm system, to be sure, is much improved. But where are the top position player prospects? Seems to me that right now there are exactly three in the entire system: Bell, Meadows, and Hansen, in that order. To be sure, there are more pitchers, but the best of those---Taillon, Kingham, and Cumpton---were all lost for the season with surgeries. They are no sure things going forward.

All that to say: the Pirates, right now and for the next couple of years (read: until McCutchen leaves) will still be competitive and entertaining and they're in line for, probably, 85 to 90 wins. Nothing to sneeze at. But beyond that, the minor league system is definitely less than where it needs to be to ensure the same level of success, and significant reinforcements are needed to transition to the level of true World Series contender. I don't see that happening just yet, but the next couple of years will tell the tale. Replace the pitchers and McCutchen with similar guys, and we're in business. Fail that, and a major regression could be right around the corner. So, let's enjoy what we've got, while we've got it. I would sure love another crack at the Cardinals in the playoffs.

Ron Ieraci said...

Gregory is still raw, Wil; we'll see how polished his tools become. As for the future build, the system isn't tapped out yet - Josh Bell, Alen Hanson, Reese McGuire & Austin Meadows all have the look of everyday pro players, and there are a slew of competent OF'ers and middle infielders.

Injuries have taken a toll on the pitching; Taillon and Kingham missed a season; Kingham needs some work, & Cumpton may be done, so all that is concerning. But Cole & Frankie come back (and Morton, for what that's worth) and I think they'll try hard to keep Happ. They always find a FA during the off season, too, and have a good eye for the pen.

Nobody has an entirely home grown roster; the trick is to raise a few keepers and work the market.