Monday, July 12, 2010

First Half In The Rear View Mirror

The good, the bad, and the ugly of the Pirates 2010 first half:


-- Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones are major league players. Lastings Milledge is trying hard to join the club through hard work and a July showing of a little pop.

-- None of the rookie class - Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, Brad Lincoln, or Pedro Alvarez - look as if they're over their heads, ala Brian Bixler. They'll be up and down while learning their craft, but they seem to have the tools and the time to develop them in the MLB.

-- Serendipity struck when Andy LaRoche, apparently the only Pirate option at second once Aki flamed out and Pedro arrived, got bumped into the Bobby Crosby role, which he is being groomed to fill in 2011, by Neil Walker. The suits were oblivious to Walker's ability to play second, or for that matter, MLB ball; give JR props for putting him there and sticking with him.

-- The suits score points for putting together a competent bullpen, keeping pick-ups Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek and building the rest from scratch. Give JR credit, too - he works them as well as possible, given the state of the starting pitching.

-- The players are still playing for JR, unlike last season, when they were devastated by the deadline dealing.


-- Aki Iwamura, who didn't rehab his knee much during the off season. It showed with poor infield play and worse hitting. And at leadoff yet!

-- Jeff Clement, who may still be a future option, was rushed to the bigs where he showed short streaks of talent but long spells of being overmatched by MLB pitching.

-- Shortstop. Ronny Cedeno and Bobby Crosby have combined for 14 errors and both have sub .240 BA's. Like Clement, they showed short bursts of productivity at the dish with long spells of sleepwalking. At least Cedeno can catch the ball; his UZR/150 is 8.4; Crosby's is -50.0 (for just 21 games; his career rating is 2.5).

-- Dewey and base stealers; a 10% rate is a little league number, not a MLB stat. A lot of blame belongs to the staff, but Doumit has been slow and often inaccurate at getting rid of the ball, too.

-- The bench. Delwyn Young is a proven pinch hitter, and that's as deep as it goes. The batting averages range from .236 - .186; not much help there.

-- Counting so heavily on unproven youngsters Charlie Morton and Kevin Hart to carry the staff and having no Plan B if they faltered.

-- Steve Pearce looked like he was going to be a viable player, at least as a platoon first sacker, until a string of injuries landed him on the DL. Now he may be a man without a position when he returns in August.

-- Botching the Miguel Sano signing, especially after watching Ronny Cedeno and Bobby Crosby play short this season.

-- The effect all this losing may have on a peach-fuzzed team. They're an awfully strong bunch if it doesn't get into their minds.


-- Bringing in all those pitchers that were DFA'ed. Who in heaven's name evaluates these guys?

-- A tie between the Andy LaRoche/Andrew McCutchen follies at third base and the outfielders knocking second basemen silly on pop flies.

-- The Pirate PR machine, which refused to give advance notice of Brad Lincoln and Pedro Alvarez's debuts, then admitted they had inked Neal Huntington and JR to new contracts last winter after being busted by the national media, followed by the firing of a disgruntled pierogie all within a two week span.

-- On April 22, 2010, the Pirates suffered their worst loss in franchise history, losing to the Milwaukee Brewers 20-0. During that series, they were outscored 54-3.

-- An 11-38 road record. There's no reason for it; it just is. The Pirates' 12-game losing streak in June. The 17-game road losing streak that also ended in June.

-- Opponent scouting that has led to dizzying shifts and the wrong pitch chart for the bad guys' batters. Pitchers batting eighth. McCutch batting second or third. Aki batting leadoff. Ryan Church taking at-bats away from Lastings Milledge. JR has to take the blame here, except for the pre-game scouting.

Still a ways to go.

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