Saturday, June 12, 2004

Seven straight

Well, that sucked.

Try again tomorrow.

P.S., dear Mac, please, try to never bring in Mesa with a four-plus lead. Throughout his career he's been combustible in non-save situations. I don't know why but it's predictable. If we need to get him some non-save work, bring him when he can't blow a huge lead.

not bunting in Oakland

Tie game, runners on first and second, no outs, bottom of the seventh. Benson in the stretch, Bobby Crosby batting. The Pirates can't believe the A's are not bunting. They run through their signs and plays, but he's not bunting. So Benson pegs Crosby in the leg.

...so that leads to a big inning and the A's go on to win. Anyone who says a bunt has hidden value because "things happen" when you bunt, because it puts pressure on the defense etc., should keep in mind that "things happen" whenever you do something unexpected. The not bunting rattled the Bucs more than any bunting ordered this year by Tony LaRussa or Jimy Williams or Ned Yost.

We're in the midst of a horrendous losing streak, but these are excellent games for fans to tune into since the Bucs could really learn a thing or two from these A's. No doubt the Reds learned a thing or two they might try on their next division rival. I'm seeing some value in interleague play: it gets the team out of old habits and forces them to re-assess their worth, to see them in a fresh light, before they resume them with the usual playing style the break out on, say, the Cubs or the Cardinals.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Steve Blass on Bill James

A good thing about being in Oakland is listening to Lanny and Steve talk about Billy Beane's whole get-on-base philosophy.

Steve Blass plays dumb like he doesn't know what "a sabermetric" is and like he's never heard of OPS. C'mon Steve that's on the jumbotron. You can't score points by playing dumb - you just look dumb. Lanny speaks awkwardly on the subject, like a 65-year-old guy trying to use the slang of teenagers. He knows what the stuff is, but feels self-conscious talking about it.

Maybe Steve Blass hasn't read a book the last twenty years. He says this: "Bill James has done more to ruin baseball than any other living human being. He has put numbers in front of the game, replaced the game with numbers." Lanny lets out a huge "whoa" and remarks that he hoped they were taping this episode. Inning ends and they go to commercial.

Steve Blass calls it "cybermetrics" as we come back from commercial and he and Lanny get into it. Lanny obviously thinks Steve Blass is being outrageous, maybe even embarrassing himself. Lanny asks what numbers Steve Blass approves us and Steve answers: ERA, standings. Two innings ago, he said runs were the most important number. Two out of three is pretty good. He's not really an idiot, he just sounds like one sometimes.

Bucs at Oakland

It's another good night for a surprise win from the Bucs. Whenever it seems like they'll never win another game, they win another game. USAToday's Sheridan calls them 12-5 underdogs, which is absurd, but not as absurd as the 13-5 of that opening day at Wrigley.

Brad Eldred

Dayn Perry of Baseball Prospectus identifies Brad Eldred as a quality prospect today. (It's a pay article; if you have a subscription, you can get it here). Dayn notes that he has "excellent raw power potential."

This amuses me because earlier this week we received a letter from a regular reader, Clay R. McNerney, which I've been meaning to post somehow. Here it is:

From Ed Eagle's column "Lynchburg third baseman Brad Eldred hit his 13th home run and drove in a pair of runs in a 6-5, 11-inning victory over Potomac. He is second in the Class A Carolina League in home runs and tops the league with 51 RBIs."

I saw Eldred play up in Frederick about 2 weeks back...goofy build to him but he can smack the piss out of the ball and is quite quick on the basepaths...he hit 2 doubles that night as I recall...looking at his season stats he is a doubles or HR hitter...65 hits this season with 30 of them either a double or a Home Run...a lot of SO's to be sure, but good contact when he hits...I wonder if he will see Altoona this season...

And I thought the only thing to do in Frederick was hit the Prime Outlets.

Anyway, Eldred's not a third baseman but a first baseman. I'm not sure who's playing third at Lynchburg. The roster down there currently lists three shortstops and two utility infielders. Yesterday it was Avelino Asprilla.

Inside Edge scouting

Lanny on KDKA remarked in the preseason that the Bucs dumped their advance scouts and signed up with Inside Edge for this year.

I bring this up because Richard Mathews mentioned it at OnlyBucs.

Is this a step forward or backward for the team? The Bucs are often criticized for relying on scouting more than on statistical analysis. Inside Edge probably represents some cost savings over a network of retired baseball guys in all the different cities. Do you think it does a better job alerting the team to things they should know as they head, for example, to Oakland? Or would the Bucs be better served hiring some old guy to fly to Oakland, sit behind home plate, and make notes in a composition notebook?

Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Bones

Their second boy was born yesterday. Wow. He's one big kid and he arrived in a hurry.

Last I heard the names were narrowed down to Elroy, Pie, Howeth ("Ginger"), Deacon, Arky, Grimes, Smoky, Rip, and Mackowiak. I'm sure Bones will fill us in on the little guy when he returns from the generous Honest Wagner paternity leave.

Pirates visit Oakland

The A's have the best pitching and the best defense in the Beer and Whiskey league. I hope the A's put on a clinic. After last night, it sure looks like the Bucs could use a little instruction in those areas. It'd be great if the Pirates won every game of the series by a score of 1-0. Or by any score.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

BP on the Wilsons

They're talking more sense at Baseball Prospectus these days.

It's not brave to predict Jack Wilson is unlikely to finish the season as a .350 hitter. They could also predict that no one in Pittsburgh will win the Powerball this year. Zzzzzzzzzzz. Still, I appreciate the dose of perspective there at the end of that piece.

So ... what's the over/under on Jack Wilson's OBP at the end of the season? We've been hoping for .340 but I guess .325 is more likely. His career OBP is up to .299 and he stands at .350 right now. June has been brutal and walks haven't replaced some of the missing singles.

OK, it's going to be 9-3 when all them runners finish circling the bases. I'm heading for the virtual parking lot.

Another kick in the groin

So Meadows gets tagged with the loss in game one. There's some good news in the box score. It wasn't all negative. For example, Simon had three hits and didn't ground into any double plays.

Thoughts on the draft

The Fallsman over at 'burghsportsguys has a review of some of the draft picks. Looks like he did some homework.

Brian Meadows

Here's that article on Brian Meadows we've been expecting to see one of these days. Rubber arm, thick skin, great performance. What more could you want from him?

Mac would rest young pitchers

From Joe Rutter's report in today's Trib:

"I'm under the belief right now that with our young pitchers, the more rest they get the better off they are," McClendon said.
The rainouts mean Perez will start tonight on a full week's rest.

Fogg on steroids

Steve Novotney has an article describing Josh Fogg's opinion of the steroids issue. Fogg is talking sense.

Baseball America coverage

Baseball America ran a draft day blog that loads easily now (very slow early this week) with comments about different selections. There aren't many comments about Pirates players. There's one - about Jason Quarles.

Danny Almonte

I enjoy reading Dominican Players, a weblog devoted to following the game from Santo Domingo. The latest here looks at Danny Almonte who is now 18. I was going to make a joke about his age, but it wouldn't be right ...

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Neyer on scout-speak

A few days after writing that I almost never read Rob Neyer, I learned (from Primer) that Neyer wrote an article about those comments we were looking at earlier this week. Of course I ran over and read it.

I'm sorry to see that he couldn't resist the opportunity to bash scouts for peddling irrationality - obviously when they say a man is built like a horse, they aren't expecting anyone to take them literally. Ditto for winning 15-20 games. Let scouts be scouts I say; why drain all joy from these things?

Rained out again

Nuts. Doubleheader tomorrow.

This time, it's Josh Fogg posing for the AP photographer in his boxer shorts.

Creech on the draft

Ed Eagle talked to Director of Scouting Ed Creech about the first day of the draft, and Creech summarized their selections with two words: power and speed. They got a lot of position players who "can fly" and a lot of pitchers who throw in the mid-90s. Creech said they didn't expect so much of that to be available and took what the draft gave them.

The password is: Photosynthesis

Anyone else catch Kendrell Bell and Clark Haggans on that ESPN password gameshow?

Tentative conclusions--

Kendrell: Smart.

Clark: Thrives in shade. Should be watered regularly.

Bucs are short, fat, young

This tells us the average height of the Pirates is 6'0". Eyeballing the draft picks, they appear to be about 6'2" on average. Many comments call a guy "tall" and there's only one conspicuous shorty.

Maybe all the draft picks are big these days. You know, they shoot the cows up with growth hormones and that's gotta get into our milk. Still, someone should ask DL if the Pirates were making an effort to get taller.

Here's a little chart I made out of those ESPN roster pages.

Pirates 6'0" 207 27.4
Astros 6'1" 205 30.5
Reds 6'1" 206 28.1
Cardinals 6'1" 209 30.2
Cubs 6'1" 210 29.6
Brewers 6'2" 210 28.3

N.B. Simon is listed as 240 pounds. Other heavies include Brain Meadows, who is 6'4", Daryle Ward, who is 6'2", and J.J. Davis, who is listed as 6'5" and 250 pounds. The only pitcher under 6'0" is Torres, who's 5'11". Bobby Hill and Chris Stynes are 5'9" with Hill at 180 and Stynes at 207. Maybe if Hill put on 30 pounds he'd be more qualified to play third. Many guys are in the 5'10" - 5'11" range and no regular position players are over 6'2".

On further review, I guess there's nothing to this. Most of the NL Central teams have pitching staffs made up of tall goons with not too many 6'4" and taller position players. Looks like you gotta be pretty tall to make a staff in the NL Central. Since the Bucs took a lot of pitchers in the draft, of course they took a lot of tall guys. Rather than throw this post away, I'll throw it up there for shits and giggles.

Unfortunate headlines dept.

Bradley Clapp has never heard this joke before.

Now that he's made that foolish promise - that he won't sign without a bonus of $400K - and fallen so low in the draft, I suppose he feels like he has to go to college and follow through on that threat.

He should cut his losses and sign with the Pirates for the suggested bonus. Does he really think he'll have a better chance at a pro career if he goes to college? If I were him, I'd far rather trust my arm and my future to a professional club.

He should have kept his mouth shut, taken whatever bonus was suggested for the second through fifth rounds, and gone right into some team's minor-league system. I don't know what the agents tell these kids, but the future is not bright for continued escalation of signing bonuses or even for maintainence of the now-ridiculous signing bonuses. The front offices around the league are in no mood to pony up Rob Mackowiak's annual salary for a one-in-eight chance some high school pitcher starts a game four or five years down the road.

Thanks to Gary at Primer for the link.

McClendon an "active" manager

A recent post by Brian at Redbird Nation called my attention to this study by Studes at Hardball Times.

He concludes that "Lloyd McClendon should really learn to cool his jets. Let your team play, Lloyd." The evidence is this: Mac leads the NL in the sum rate of stolen base attempts, sacrfice hits, and intentional walks per game. I wouldn't argue that Mac is the second coming of Danny Murtaugh, but I will say this study is foolish.

The stolen base attempts by the Bucs this year are just a bit above average (42) and what you'd expect from a team with relatively less power and regulars like Jason Kendall and Jack Wilson. A team of singles hitters has to get their runners to second and third if they expect to score runs. The steal is a logical way to accomplish this.

The Bucs have stolen 27 and been caught 18 times this year, a 3-2 margin, which is close but just below the overall average a team would like to have. Rather than analyze a manager's steal-calling on the overall success rate, though, it would make more sense to look at the attempts one at a time since the quality of the call is going to have a lot to do with the context as well as the success rate. A call might be stupid, but the runner is safe; a call might be smart, but the runner is out. Also, it's more than possible that the success rate has less to do with the quality of the manager's ability to pick spots than it has to do with the ability of the baserunner to execute the play. For example, Tike Redman was put on the team to leadoff and steal bases. He's gone 3-for-3. Is McClendon wrong to send him? Criticizing McClendon for Redman's 50% success rate is criticizing a manager for starting a player in a slump. We have to see how good Tike Redman can be, and we have to know if he's part of the problem or part of the solution. The only way to evaluate Tike is to play him and ask him to do the things you need him to do if he's going to be part of the solution. When you think about it, it's pretty obvious that McClendon isn't out there on the bases, so the blame is not all his every time he makes a smart call and the runner gets thrown out. The overall success and failure rate with steals doesn't provide any information that can be used to evaluate the quality of the manager's decision-making. It only describes how often these things have happened. Yes, it invites further study, but it's circumstantial evidence. There has to be more consideration of the context before these facts can support the kind of breezy conclusion Studes cheerfully offers about Mac's ability as a manager.

The more stupid part of evaluating McClendon's performance by this overall equation comes with use of sacrifice hits as a measure. Studes uses stolen base attempts but not sacrifice hit attempts. Could it be that the Pirates have more sacrifice hits in fewer attempts? Some teams are better at putting down sacrifice hits than other teams. Also it's a fact that the Pirates' pitchers have been stellar bunters this year, and many of those sacrifice hits were by pitchers. For example, Kris Benson had four sacrifice hits in one game. He has eight sacrifice hits on the season, and bunting is just about the only thing he can do with the bat. Is McClendon an intrusive hot-head because he asks Benson to bunt every time he comes to the plate with a runner on first and no outs? Does every team in the NL have a no-hit, good-bunting pitcher capable of four sac hits a game?

There may be something to Mac calling too many intentional walks, but I doubt it, knowing what I know about the way the bullpen is constructed. It's not like I sit around watching or listening to the Pirates cursing Mac for issuing so many free passes. Maybe I should pay more attention.

Either way, this was a silly study that wants to support a shallow reading of Mac's abilities as a manager. I'm all for constructive criticism of the manager. The team sure could win some more games. But it doesn't help to come to conclusions after this kind of superficial review of the team's tendencies.

This week's Q & A

Paul Meyer's Q & A contains a number of eloquent stories about going to the ballpark and the frustration Pirates fans feel about the continued losing. Meyer's absolutely right about the LaRussa-McClendon standoff.

Make sure you read the letters from George W. and Mike Percherke.

Roast him while we got him

If it weren't for Randall Simon, we wouldn't have editorials such as this one by the PG's Gene Collier. This is a lot of fun and brings to mind plenty of similar poor-taste games Bones and I played back in the day. Here's a sample:

Simon has none of that Draft Day commodity they call upside. He's got tremendous downside due in part to a considerable backside. Not only can't Randall hit (.206 with no homers before the rainout at Texas last night), but it's long since reached the point where you even want him to get a hit, because it only clogs the basepaths like a tunnel smashup at rush hour. As the locals lament, "Ain't nobody gon' nowheres."

Watching Simon run calls to mind the final days of Willie Stargell. Not September '82, the final days of Stargell's career; I mean April, 2001, the final days of his life.

Check out the whole thing, there's plenty more laughs to be had at Simon's expense. The rest of Collier's "BackDraft" is debatable, but he makes a good case for his selections.

3-2 Wells

As Joe Rutter reports, Spin Williams tried a joke on Wells' uniform number to motivate the man to throw more strikes and get more quick outs. It didn't work. Wells has been much too inefficient on the mound this year. Sounds like the coaching staff is all over it. If they can fix Oliver Perez, I'm sure they can fix Kip Wells. In case you've been living in a cave dug out on the banks of a river. there's more on the subject here.

25 years ago today

Steve Novotney looks back at the '79 team which was 28-28 at this point in the season. For those of us who remember the roaring '70s, it's always fun to go back and reconsider those teams.

Craig Wilson on the phone

This photo could use a better caption.

Second day of the draft

Got anything to say about the second day of the draft?

Looks to me like the Bucs stayed up the middle. I see two 1B total and one more corner outfielder taken. It also looks like they took a number of tall pitchers. A number of player comments praise desire and work ethic, but maybe the Bucs got just as many guys like this as the other teams. I don't know how often such praise appears in those comments.

All the comments are worth a read. Some highlights: one player, Patrick McAnaney, "HAS IDEA." Good. The Pirates also drafted "A HORSE" named Bradley Clapp. I know, this sounds like some kind of ticket-selling publicity stunt, but a horse could be useful as a pinch-runner.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Big Ben coming on

Ben left spring training as our seventh starter. He's coming on at Nashville. John Perrotto has the story.

Apparently he has a little soreness in his non-throwing shoulder. Nothing to worry about.

Bucs a top-ten team

Just noticed this in Joe Rutter's notebook for the Tribune-Review:

Bucs moving up

According to a Harris poll conducted in April, the Pirates are tied for ninth place as the nation's most popular baseball team, rising from No. 18 in 2003.

To no surprise, the New York Yankees were rated first, the Chicago Cubs second and the Atlanta Braves third.

The Pirates were one of four teams to move up nine or more spots from 2003. The others were the Houston Astros (20th to ninth), Detroit Tigers (15th to fifth) and Baltimore Orioles (tied at 18th to eighth).

Right on. Go read the Harris press release for yourself. Who would have guessed the Tigers are the fifth-most popular team? Now I understand why they got so much love for their somewhat strong charge from the gate this year.

Nationally, the Pirates are more popular than the rest of the NL Central, save the Cubs, who are second, and the Astros, who are tied with the Pirates for ninth place.

The poll was taken between April 13 and 18, 2004. The Pirates were in New York, sweeping the Mets, at the end of that period. This couldn't mean much in this poll, though, since only 38% of the nationwide cross-section taken by Harris said they follow baseball right now.

More evidence that the Bucs have a broad and sleeping fan base. Imagine what a little winning would do.

Simon with a runner on first

Brian O'Neill warms up the calculator and writes some more about Chulo today.

Simon's real close to getting cut, I think. His production is not there. He's too old to keep for any sign of progress, and he's not Chris Stynes with the glove. The Pirates can't justify keeping Simon much longer ... not to the fans, not to the other 39 players on the 40-man roster, and not to the coaches.

A lot of baseball fans assume that Simon is Mac's pet, especially if they don't really follow the Pirates and remember Mac as a free-swinger. But I doubt that's the case. This year, Simon has "contributed" two extra-base hits and three RBIs in 69 plate appearances. As the slowest man in baseball, and as the fat version of the slowest man in baseball, he's not going to leg out many doubles so any power he'd contribute would have to come from home runs. And he's not hitting them, or anything else.

And he has grounded into four double plays. That's what slow guys do. When we talk about Simon's ability with a man on first, we can't forget the generosity he shows to the other team's second baseman. When Simon grounds out, the second baseman can step on the bag, jump over the sliding baserunner, get set, put some more sunflower seeds in his mouth, tie his shoes, take a call on his cell phone, and still have time to throw to first to get Simon "hustling" down the line. Simon's four GIDPs in 70 PAs projects to something like 35-40 GIDPs over a full season of play. Praise Moses that's not happening. I don't know what's the NL record for GIDP, but Jay Payton led the NL with 27 in 2003, Brad Ausmus led with 30 in 2002, Vlad Guerrero led with 24 in 2001, and Moises Alou led with 21 in 2000.

How can a ballclub that finds dignity in "small-ball" keep this guy around? He's the last guy you want hitting with a runner on first and one out.

I truly doubt the Bucs are keeping Simon in hopes they can trade him for some C prospect or a manilla envelope stuffed with two-dollar bills. They are deluding themselves if they think Simon has any value on the trade market. Not even the Giants could use him right now. He's at least one month of intense conditioning away from being as good as he can be - which isn't that good. Simon : Pirates 2004 as Ward : Dodgers 2003. His days as a Pirate are numbered.

Neil Walker mania

John Perrotto has an article about Walker here. Jim Rodenbush, here. Kevin Gorman, here. That one has some good pictures - I like the one of "Proud Mom." She looks pretty happy to me, too. Ron Cook writes about Walker here. Mike White, here. Chuck Finder and Chico Harlan team up on Walker here. Finally, Ed Eagle has his version here.

The more you read about the pick, the better the pick looks. Welcome, Neil Walker. Hopefully we'll see you at PNC Park before too long.

Another thing. Not too many major-league baseball teams get this much or this much high-quality coverage from their local papers. Pittsburgh may be a small market for a ballclub, but it's definitely a high-quality market. The Pirates are a great team to follow and with the internet you can live anywhere and have all the reading material you can handle. You can also hear and see the games over MLB.com. Once Moses leads us to the Promised Land of .500 and better baseball, we'll be in a golden age for Pirates baseball.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Fun with draft comments

Since the game is going into extra innings, I'll look at this some more.

I dunno who writes the MLB.com comments, but they are pretty funny and may involve some jargon that we don't all understand.

For example, Brian Bixler has "LOOSE LIMBS." WTF does that mean? Are his arms about to fall off?

Eddie Prasch has "BODY SIMILAR TO J.D. DREW." Great. Just what we need: someone who breaks down all the time and spends half the season on the DL. Eric Ridener has a "COUNTRY BOY BUILD." WTF? I googled "country boy build" and got this site.

Juan Padron has the best comments field. He "CAN HIT 'EM HIGH & FAR." Even better: "HANDS WORK." Whew.

Monday night draft analysis

Here's how the first eighteen rounds break down by position:

pos all avg per team Bucs
c 48 1.6 2
1b 28 0.9 0
2b 24 0.8 1
ss 55 1.8 2
3b 25 0.8 2
lf/rf 57 1.9 1
cf 38 1.2 1
rhp 197 6.4 7
lhp 79 2.6 2

All players designated as "lf," "rf," or "of" are lumped together in the lf/rf category. Multi-position players were put into the category of their first listed position.

Looks like the Pirates drafted up the middle. No first basemen, few corner outfielders (one), and two catchers. Also an extra third baseman. Given that first basemen and corner outfielders have been pretty easy to get at a reasonable price on the free agent market, this distribution looks right for the Pirates. The only exception would be the lack of left-handed pitching.

Here's another table.

pos all # top 200 % Bucs first two
c 48 25 52% 11, 442
1b 28 8 29% none
2b 24 5 21% 412
ss 55 17 31% 52, 382
3b 25 6 24% 82, 352
lf/rf 57 20 35% 172
cf 38 15 39% 262
rhp 197 75 38% 112, 202
lhp 79 28 35% 142, 532

What does this tell us? A ton of catchers were taken in the first two hundred picks. Only six third basemen went in the top two hundred. The draft also had few highly-regarded second basemen.

Read another way, the draft looks like this:

overall name pos by pos
11 Neil Walker c 1
52 Brian Bixler ss 5
82 Edward Prasch 3b 2
112 Joseph Bauserman rhp 44
142 Kyle Bloom lhp 23
172 Atlee Johnson rf 10
202 Jason Quarles rhp 76
232 Eric Ridener rhp 88
262 Christopher Covington cf 18
292 Derek Hankins rhp 107
322 Matthew Guillory rhp 115
352 Juan Padron 3b 16
382 Brett Grandstrand ss 35
412 Jermal Lomack 2b 18
442 John Slone c 41
472 Ryan Herbort rhp 169
502 Matthew Bishop rhp 182
532 Cory Luebke lhp 76

The Bucs took the first catcher, the fifth shortstop, and the second third baseman. Unless the crop of third basemen is really, really weak, or unless there's no good reason to regard Prasch as the second-best third-basemen available in the draft, that third-round pick looks great.

Not much else to say at this point - if you have something to add, please put it into the comments thread.

...6/9 update. FWIW, Steven Goldman at Baseball Prospectus explains that there's never much in the way of draftable second-base talent.

2004 Draft, rounds 2 through 18

(2) 52. Brian Bixler, ss, Eastern Michigan

(3) 82. Edward Prasch, 3b, Milton HS, Alpharetta, Ga.

(4) 112. Joseph Bauserman, rhp, Lincoln HS, Tallahassee, Fla.

(5) 142. Kyle Bloom, lhp, Illinois St.

(6) 172. Atlee Johnson, rf, Tallahassee CC

(7) 202. Jason Quarles, rhp, Southern U.

(8) 232. Eric Ridener, rhp, Taravella HS, Coral Springs, Fla.

(9) 262. Christopher Covington, cf, Brookwood HS, Lawrenceville, Ga.

(10) 292. Derek Hankins, rhp, Memphis

(11) 322. Matthew Guillory, rhp, Louisiana

(12) 352. Juan Padron, 3b, Clear Creek HS, League City, Texas

(13) 382. Brett Grandstrand, ss, Coastal Carolina

(14) 412. Jermal Lomack, 2b, Prairie View A&M

(15) 442. John Slone, c, Miami (Ohio)

(16) 472. Ryan Herbort, rhp, Northwest Whitfield HS, Dalton, Ga.

(17) 502. Matthew Bishop, rhp, East Carolina

(18) 532. Cory Luebke, lhp, Marion HS, Maria Stein, Ohio

more on this soon ...

My mom's scouting report on Neil Walker

My mom lives in Pine Township and reports the following on newest bucco Neil Walker:

"He batted close to .700 this season and was 12 for 16 during the WPIAL playoffs which Pine Richland won, beating North Allegheny 8-1 in the finals. He was also a superstar on the football team which lost in the State final by one point, on a missed extra-point, in triple overtime. He is 6'3" and weighs 205. He is a switch-hitter and in his first two at bats in the first game of the season, he hit a homer from each side of the plate. He also pitches and has a cannon on his throws to second base. He has outstanding speed on the base paths. He has a baseball scholarship offer at Clemson."

Gammons on Mondy

From Peter Gammons' latest ESPN column:

"Bud Selig did look into whether or not Raul Mondesi manipulated the system by getting out of Pittsburgh and getting more money in Anaheim. But the Pirates assured them that Mondesi manipulated nothing, only that they were surprised he came back as soon as he did. Pittsburgh had grown weary of waiting for Mondesi to come back, but respected the fact that he was legitimately afraid for his family after a number of threats against his family stemming from the lawsuit by Mario Guerrero claiming Mondesi owes him more than $500,000 for helping him become a major league player. Guerrero won a court case, after three other judges dismissed the same case."

Grown weary? Mondy took his kid to school less than a week, and with Ward and Bay returning, why not suspend him without pay and wait him out? You can consider the Buc's explanation in one of two ways: 1) they are incredibly loyal to their players, even with rent-a-players with decades-long and seemingly inexhaustible bags of B.S. 2) Bucs are paving over their shame at being bamboozled, hoodwinked, etc., with a self-serving rhetorical high-road. Both suck.

Neil Walker, Pirate

This site should provide all the picks.

Neil is the son of Tom Walker.

This year's draft

The buzz about this year's draft - no one does "buzz" better than Peter Gammons - is that there aren't so many great players. No doubt in six years this draft class will be just fine, and plenty of the guys taken today will be young stars in the big leagues. A player doesn't need hype to learn and get better and make himself a star. In fact, hype might be another obstacle for some of these young men.

On Gammons' chart, look at the breakdown of the position players on the All-Star team from last year. Twelve first-rounders, sixteen second & later rounders, and eight undrafted Latin players. First-rounders are overrated. Also, that's a lot of undrafted Latin players. If the Bucs are going to win through young players, it's not the first-round pick that matters so much as the rest of the picks and the Latin American system. All the draft coverage will focus on the first round. I'd love to read some analysis of a random middle round - say, the tenth round - to get some inkling of what's going on down there. Surely it's the middle to late rounds that reveal a team's draft strategy and expose the strengths and weaknesses in that team's draft preparation.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Playing like it matters

Al at and another thing! was at the game today and blogged this remark:

Mike said, and I agree, that the Pirates were playing this game like it was a September pennant-race game. They did a double-switch; replaced a pinch-hitter (Ruben Mateo) before he batted; and no fewer than four of their players played two positions, including Jason Bay, who didn't come into the game until the seventh.
Damn straight. It sucks to lose, but when you are trying to avoid your twelfth straight losing season, every game better be this important all year long.

Maddox gets paid

Typical Rooney thing to do.

Reds keep throwing strikes

I've blogged about this before, but here are real numbers. The Reds are leading the NL in walks allowed. After 55 games, they have only given out 156 walks. The Pirates have given away 200 in 52 games.

The real story with the Reds is Casey-Griffey-Dunn in the heart of the lineup, of course, but it's worth noting that their pitchers are throwing strikes.

NL Central update

We head into the funhouse this week with more wacky NL Central vs. AL West interleague matchups. The Pirates are going to Texas, the Reds are going to Oakland, the Brewers are going to Anaheim, and the Astros are going to Seattle. The Cubs and the Cardinals will amuse one another with another chapter in that great rivalry. So far it sure has looked like the NL Central is the class of the NL: the Yahoo! standings show every team in the NL Central with a .500 record or better against both the NL East and the NL West (with the sole exception of Milwaukee, who has gone 8-10 against the West). I don't have numbers handy but memory says the NL Central does not usually travel well to Texas (the Pirates never win at Enron Field) or to the western cities.

The Reds just took 2 of 3 from Mighty Montreal, the Cards took 2 of 3 from Houston, the Cubs took 2 of 3 from Pittsburgh, and Milwaukee lost 2 of 3 at San Diego. Tonight, Griffey was good again. Once again, the Reds only walked two batters. Just looking at the box score, it looks like the Expos are trying to sneak some save opps over to Chad Cordero and he's blowing them Ryan Wagner-style. At St. Louis, Jason Lane got a Sunday start for Richard Hidalgo and Bagwell was quiet again. Out in San Diego, Adam Eaton was seen throwing a good game and Doug Davis gave up a bunch of hits. The Reds are 34-22, despite outscoring their opponents by only four runs, with St. Louis, Chicago, and Houston stalking, above .500, within five games. The Brewers are back to .500 with today's loss and the Pirates, five games under .500, and now 8 1/2 back.

Progress for Vogelsong

In the pregame stuff for KDKA, both Mac and Littlefield used the word "progress" to describe what they wanted from Vogelsong today. I'd say he showed it. The repetition of that theme made me wonder if the Bucs were asking Ryan to do something that he wasn't doing. He'll get another start, I'm sure.

Craig Wilson, brownnoser

Craig Wilson strikes me as a laid-back joker, as our kind of player. To celebrate Mac's two-game suspension, he treated Mac to some gifts. As Joe Rutter reports:

McClendon, who was suspended for his argument and confrontation with St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, also received a few timely gifts courtesy of outfielder Craig Wilson.

Wilson presented his manager with books titled "The Anger Workbook" and "Getting the Best of Your Anger." He also gave McClendon a Zen rock garden.

Way to brownnose the boss, Craig.

Fans need stability

Shelley Anderson is right that the fans need (a) winning and (b) some stability in the lineup.

She calls for the team to find and hold onto some "character" that the fans can identify with. After the team-rarely-wins problem, the next big problem for the fans is that there's no one player to identify with this team or with the whole rebuilding effort. Practically speaking, when you go to buy your Pirates jersey, what name do you order? You could order "Wagner 33" but the MLB rules specifically prohibit retired player names on the team's jersey from which they retired.

The team is not lacking for characters. Here's a good quote:

Randall Simon has potential with his upbeat demeanor and free-swinging style at the plate, although he's iffy as a long-term member of the team or even as the everyday first baseman. McClendon sees one more drawback.

"Chulo's a character, but you can't understand a word he's saying," McClendon said of Simon, who is from Curacao.

"Iffy" is a kind word, I think, to use to describe Simon's future with the team. The team's well-publicized eagerness to move Jason Kendall makes his tenure here look shaky. Jack Wilson and Craig Wilson would be logical choices from the current lineup but both players could be red-hot trade bait. Who wants to buy a Craig Wilson jersey and then find out that he's been traded to a division rival at the deadline? (Note to front office: Try to not to make trades with division rivals. Who would care about Aramis Ramirez's departure if he was playing now for the Chicago White Sox? As much as I like Bobby Hill, every time we face the Cubs, Bob Smizik is going to bust out with another article calling that a terrible, terrible trade.)

To fully rebuild the fan base, the Pirates are going to have to win, and they are going to have to sign someone to a long-term contract. This is important, however: they can hold off on the latter until the accomplish the former. Don't throw a bunch of money at one of the Wilsons until we actually win something with him.

My great hope is that the next guy the Bucs sign long-term is a left-handed pitcher who helped the team win their first division title in so many years.