Saturday, June 26, 2004

Huzza Tom Vilsack

The Kerry people are looking at Iowa governor Tom Vilsack as a potential veep choice. Vilsack, raised in Pittsburgh, also appears to be something of a baseball fan. From a NYT bio running tomorrow:

His great-grandfather founded Iron City Beer, the Iowa governor's mansion has a "Pittsburgh room," and Mr. Vilsack says he wants to be buried in a Pirates shirt with Willie Stargell's number and signature on the front and Roberto Clemente's number on the back.
Right on, Governor Vilsack.

Huzza roster moves

In the car an hour or so ago, I heard Mac on the pregame show with the news that Vogelsong will pitch out of the bullpen for now. Burnett will stay up. The team has more patience than me with Josh Fogg & his Jimmy Haynes impersonation. That's a good thing I suppose; the GM has to be one of the most patient people in the organization.

Vogelsong will add a right-handed power arm to a bullpen that needs help. He's been pitching better lately. Here's hoping he comes through in the new role. Maybe he can do a creditable Brad Lidge impersonation for us.

Hooray for it looking like Burnett is here to stay with a chance to show us a dozen or more starts.

If the Bucs play their cards right, they can develop the organization's tremendous young starting-pitching depth into a $4M pitching staff. If they re-sign Kip Wells, I suppose that would be more like a $6M staff. Call these guys up one at a time, give them a half-season or more to show their stuff, and then fan them out around the various roles.

Another move that surprised me was Ward's transfer to the DL. Tony Alvarez gets another chance in his place. For more than a year I thought he was the future in CF. Tike Redman stepped it up with Mateo pushing him. Perhaps Alvarez can keep Redman honest too.

Alvarez is another right-handed outfielder. He hits for decent average, has moderate power, good speed, and while he doesn't walk much, he doesn't strike out much either. He turned 25 a month ago so time is on his side, too. Welcome back, Tony.

...Jeff Wallner of reports the Vogelsong move now. Vogelsong's reaction is great, positive, upbeat, and both pitchers sound pleasantly surprised. Good solution to a nice problem to have.

..Bob Dvorchak's report indicates Vogelsong may be on standby to return to the rotation if/when the 'pen settles down and if/when Benson is traded.

...Rob Biertempfel also reports Vogelsong's role as long relief. He'll do some work that would otherwise go to Meadows or Torres.

Game 71, Oliver Perez at Aaron Harang

Ten games from the half-way mark, people. The season is flying by.

Of the Reds' big 3, only Sean Casey has done much against Oliver Perez in his brief career. Oliver threw a complete-game shutout against the Reds in late April.

Aaron Harang starts tonight against Kip Wells. Harang is coming off the DL. He was disabled for a sore right elbow in early June after two starts in which he gave up beaucoup hits and runs, and then he got roughed up in a rehab start for Louisville. The stiffness is gone from his elbow or was a few days ago when they cleared him to start, so he'll be throwing free and easy against our Bucs. Let's hope he fails to do anything about his 1.69 WHIP, his .325 BAA, or his 5.43 ERA. He's a huge guy (6'7", 240 pounds) but he doesn't strike out a ton (6.64 per 9 innings this year) and he gets an average groundball/flyball mix.

Craig Wilson has Harang's picture hanging in his locker. Jack Wilson and Randall Simon also have some hits off him.

Simon comes through in the clutch

From Bob Dvorchak's report on last night's game:

Rob Mackowiak got locked inside the lavatory in the visitor's dugout in the top of the eighth, with him due to bat. The door slammed behind him and wouldn't open. While maintenance men scrambled to find a key, Randall Simon grabbed a batting practice bat and whacked the door open after four or five tries.
Jeff Wallner at adds this quote:
"I had to hit the door real hard to get Mack out of there," said Simon. "He was getting frustrated. He didn't know what to do."

Everyone who thinks Chulo isn't contributing, dwell on this tale for a minute. Such intangible clubhouse qualities don't come through in the statistics.

More on J.J. Davis.

Steve Novotney has a report on the decision. Rob Biertempfel has an entry in his notebook.

Bautista on waivers

Rule V secret agent Bautista is on waivers right now. Now that Tampa Bay is winning big and gunning for their first division championship, they've decided they can't carry him. He could be coming back.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Six-run seventh = six-buck fifth

Uhh. The bullpen has been a weakness lately.

Ray of light: Bobby Hill was first man off the bench to pinch-hit. He struck out against Danny Graves. I wonder if he can maintain his good pinch-hitting numbers if Mac starts calling on him first. Only one way to find out.

Ruben Mateo was designated for assignment which means, if I understand this right - and nothing is more complicated than this stuff - (a) he's on waivers and it could take nearly a week for him to clear, or (b) the team needs written permission from him to send him to Nashville, and he's thinking about it. He's in his sixth season so he should be out of options. Players with five full years have the right to refuse an assignment to the minors - this is the "five" part of the five-and-ten rule for veteran players - but it's not clear to me if Mateo's 250 games over five and a half seasons qualify him as that kind of veteran. I doubt it. Either way, there's a good chance he won't play again for Nashville. Who would claim him off waivers right now? Kansas City? It's hard to believe someone wouldn't take a flyer on the centerfielder.

I don't know why the Pirates didn't expose him to more right-handed pitching to see if he could hit well enough to be a viable alternative to Tike Redman. That said, he came cheap, and the Bucs have a lot invested in J.J. Davis. And Tike Redman has been a better player later. It was a lose-lose situation for the front office.

Game 70, Kip Wells at Jose Acevedo

Here are the 2004 Reds. Half way through the season, they have three guys on pace for 100 RBI seasons: Sean Casey, Ken Griffey, and Adam Dunn. All three of those guys are left-handers so it's too bad we won't get a chance to hit them with Oliver Perez and Sean Burnett this series.

Tonight, if Adam Dunn comes to the plate with a big smile, maybe it's because he's 9 for 21 off Kip with four extra base hits. Those numbers don't indicate much, except that Adam Dunn is Adam Dunn vs. Wells, but I'd come to the plate with a smile if I was remembering all my extra-base hits.

Pitching-wise, the Reds have had excellent work from their bullpen. With a lead John Riedling, Todd Jones, and Danny Graves have been outstanding. The starters have been so-so.

The steady diet of right-handed starters continues for the Pirate lineup. Earlier in the week it looked like Aaron Harang would start, but now I see it's going to be Jose Acevedo, who has struggled for a month or so. He's a little guy for a pitcher (6'0", 185 pounds) with a much better K/BB ratio than Aaron Harang. His 5.31 ERA probably has something to do with the fact that he's given up 17 home runs in just under 80 innings. OUCH. That's not good. Project that over 200 innings and you'd have 43 dingers. Yeah, he's a league leader in that category. Only Matt Morris of the Cardinals has given more joyrides (23). FWIW, Milwaukee's Wayne Franklin led the bigs in HR allowed last year with 36. Acevedo has also given up 23 doubles; opponents are slugging .517 off him. Here's hoping he forgot to eat his Wheaties this morning.

Kip Wells is a power pitcher, of course, who gets a lot of fly balls, so we may see the all-hands outfield - if the Bucs have such a thing these days. Watch his pitch count tonight. If he can get through three innings in 45 or 50 pitches, that's progress; if he's thrown 80 after four, he's the mystery Kip we've been seeing all year.

Jack Wilson on being an All-Star

Steve Novotney interviewed Jack Wilson about the improbability of Wilson being elected an All-Star. There's no doubt about it: he deserves to be an All-Star this year. I've heard that at least a dozen times from play-by-play guys covering other NL teams in their broadcasts of non-Pirate games. Some will disagree, but it's fair to say that a lot of people think Wilson should represent the NL at short this year.

Wilson sees it as a small-market thing. He may be right, but I think he's laboring under a greater disadvantage, namely, the losing team disadvantage. Due to their long and distinguished history as a National League franchise, the Pirates are one of the more popular teams around the country. Most Pirate fans are slumbering with the "wake me when something good happens" look on their faces. (Exceptions can always be found, however.)

Pirate fans have never enjoyed teams of "lovable losers." Losing is not comfortable with us. Look at our mascot - since when has this team based its appeal on being cute? Even gutsy doesn't do it when it's not backed up with BOOTY I mean W's.

When the team starts to win more than they lose, many old fans will be back, and many new fans will join the crowd. When the Pirates put together back-to-back 90-win seasons, we can expect some of their better players to win All-Star elections. In the meantime, it sucks for Jack. But if you don't win with this franchise you can't expect the fans to get too sentimental about all the double plays you turn.

Tipping pitches

Chris Jenkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune has this dissertation on tipping pitches. Print a copy and give it to J.J. Davis. Maybe it will help as he studies the game from the bench.

Roster move today

J.J. Davis will join the team in Cincinnati and the Pirates will have to move a position player off the roster to make room. My guess is Ruben Mateo will head back to Nashville. I won't like it, but it makes sense that Davis would displace the last outfielder recalled.

...maybe not today. In his notebook, Joe Rutter explains they could keep Davis on the DL a bit longer, too.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Burnett good

The Bucs just lost to Roger Clemens and Brad Lidge, but Sean Burnett was good tonight. 109 pitches got him through seven. Except for the high walk number (4), he was just as we expected - five hits, one K, no home runs. Burnett passed this test, on the road, against a lineup that includes more than one future HOFer. The best thing for Burnett's development would be to leave him in the rotation and see what he can do in 13 big-league starts. Something would have to give for this to happen.

Read Bob Dvorchak's report for more & better.

Joe Rutter's report suggests McClendon will make the decision on Burnett's immediate future after Friday night's game. Sounds like plan A will proceed if Wells is healthy and pitches well. Question, then: what the heck is plan A?

Dave Williams, PCL All-Star

Found a press release here.

Game 69, Sean Burnett at Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens is just your garden-variety Hall of Famer coming off two bad starts.

Bob Dvorchak reports Burnett's respect for Clemens in a recent notebook. Joe Rutter was all over that too. The old guy / young guy angle has been picked up by the wire services, too.

The Pirates used the same lineup the last three games. Why expect anything different? Maybe Mackowiak or Bay will need a day off to nurse some achy body part.

Of course, none of the Astros have seen Burnett. Berkman switch-hits and crushes righties and lefties alike. Elsewhere in the lineup, Craig Biggio has been pounding lefties this year; Ensberg, Bagwell, and Everett have been pretty impotent against them.

No Pirate has more than six at-bats against the Rocket.

Looking ahead, we see the Pirates will head to Cincinnati after tonight's game. For the Reds today, the Mets gift-wrapped an easy victory real pretty. Mike Cameron got naked in centerfield and delivered it singing-telegram style. Sean Casey left the game with an ache in his hammy. I'd never hope for an injury to the Mayor but it would be OK if he sits out this weekend's series.

Double play rates

According to BP's measure of double play rates, Simon is the second-worst Pirate in that department. The top double-play maker so far this year? Bobby Hill. (Scroll down to the bottom to see the worst in this department.) Hill has six GIDPs in twenty-three opportunities; Hill has six in eighteen.

I'm not sure this is the way to measure the damage a hitter does with his tendency to GIDP. An overall measure would subtract base hits in GIDP opps from GIDPs. Anytime you put the ball in play you risk the GIDP, and you have to put the ball in play to generate scoring. Hill has surely done more in the other twelve opps than Simon has in his other seventeen. At least their current hitting averages suggest that.

Still, let the record show that, by this (flawed) measure, Simon's not the worst Pirate in the GIDP department.

Castillo learning third

The great Ed Eagle reports today:

Rookie second baseman Jose Castillo, a converted minor league shortstop, will begin taking ground balls at third base during batting practice in the coming weeks. McClendon believes the 22-year-old has the potential to develop enough power at the plate to contribute offensively as a corner infielder. "I think he'll get stronger," said McClendon. "Projection is always a tricky thing, but I believe he will eventually hit for some power.""
The Bucs may be looking ahead and wanting more room at 2B and SS for Bobby Hill, Freddy Sanchez, Terry Shumpert, and Jeff Keppinger.

Mac on Chulo

Mac got in a good one about Simon, and Bob Dvorchak caught it:

McClendon had already decided that Vogelsong wasn't coming back for the seventh. His pitch count had reached 107, and McClendon had been itching to give his bullpen a lead to protect. So with two runners aboard, the manager sent up Randall Simon to pinch hit. Simon, who has underachieved at the plate, drew only his third unintentional walk of the season to set up Kendall.

"That might have been the biggest accomplishment of the night," McClendon said of the walk to Simon."


World Cup nonsense

We don't give too many damns about the World Cup of baseball and think it's contrary to the interest of MLB in all ways save their current & asinine & ultimately self-destructive bent on world conquest globalization. Look here for an "AP Exclusive" on the effect a March tournament would have on the Spring Training schedule. This is a PR disaster waiting to happen, and far stupider & annoying that having opening day at 5 a.m. in some other country.

Bullpen woes

Bob Dvorchak sums it up in his notebook. Note the physical problems: Meadows has a sore back; Johnston has a sore elbow. (2pm update: Johnston just went on the DL; Mark Corey is up in his place.) Grabow is already putting on career-high appearance numbers.

Who could stabilize the bullpen better than Josh Fogg?

Vogelsong should stay up

Joe Rutter writes about the coming roster move to resolve the current six-man rotation. Once these guys come up, if I directed this soap opera, they'd stay the rest of the season. If you want to evaluate players, you need good stats. Stats must be interpreted in context, and if the context is shaky and unstable, the stats don't mean as much. Better to isolate variables and see what you get that way.

Joe writes:

If Burnett stays, the Pirates could put Vogelsong in the bullpen. Or Burnett could return to Class AAA Nashville, with a reliever joining the Pirates. A decision might not be reached until after Kip Wells' start Friday in Cincinnati.


McClendon doesn't think sending Vogelsong to the minors is the answer.

"I believe Ryan Vogelsong will be better served working under (pitching coach) Spin Williams than having him go to Triple-A and have him dominate at that level," he said. "

Either one of those guys could be dynamite in the bullpen.

If a Benson trade is in the works, and we need to buy a little time to make it happen, why not bump Fogg to the bullpen for a few weeks and keep Burnett and Vogelsong rolling in the rotation? The team could more or less schedule Fogg to come in after Burnett since it's not likely Burnett will be pitching too many complete games. Fogg is not a big-ego crybaby and he would understand how this could help the team develop these young arms.

Phillies, Yankees scouting Benson

Joe Rutter, "Mr. Eagle Eye," saw their scouts in Houston.

Hmmm ... what could the Phillies offer? Marlon Byrd?

Jerome Bettis with the Curve

Check out the Curve home page. The Curve have won 16 of their last 20.

... oops, pictures randomly rotate on that page. Try here.

Huzza Cardinals

Not those Cardinals. Ball State's local paper has this on BSU grad Bullington's start in the Futures game. Brother sounds tired:

"I found out, I guess it was Monday, to play in Houston before the All-Star game and that will be nice," Bullington said. "It'll be good to get some airtime."

Bullington will team up with some of the best prospect players from around the United States to face the world team on ESPN2. Bullingon, who is 5-3 with a 4.11 ERA, says the Futures game will give him a good chance to recharge.

"Getting to the Futures game is just the kind of thing I need right now," he said. "It's a good chance to re-charge the battery so to speak, it's a good reminder that you're not that far away from the ultimate goal."

Bullington has started 14 games for the Curve, giving up 83 hits and 25 walks in 72 1/3 innings. He has struck out 25. His last start went pretty well. I hope he enjoys his airtime.

Huzza Albuquerque

Surfing Google News this morning, looking for new things about the team that I might otherwise miss, I found the following letter to the editor:

IS IT JUST MY IMAGINATION, or are the Pittsburgh Pirates receiving less coverage this year in the Journal? They have one of the most storied franchises in the major leagues. Two words: Roberto Clemente.
--Rick, Moriarty
This in the Albuquerque, New Mexico Journal. Two words for Rick of Moriarty: Damn straight. I don't care where you live, your local paper has a journalistic duty to cover the Pittsburgh Pirates often and well.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Jason Kendall picture

Here is a good picture to download, print, frame, and hang in your drinking room.

... larger version from the PG. Thanks guys.

Pirates win

I feel funny ... kinda weightless.

Game 68, Ryan Vogelsong at Pete Munro

Pete Munro is a right-handed flyball pitcher who doesn't strike out a ton of guys. At 29, he's not a prospect, and he's in the rotation only because he's holding Andy Pettitte's spot. Pettite embarrassed the Bucs earlier this year. We'll be happy to take our chances with Munro.

Over his short career, he hasn't had a lot of success as a starter, but he's been good as a reliever. This year, he's reversed the trend, and wasn't great in relief but has turned in two good starts since he joined the rotation on June 13. He's only thrown 73 and 86 pitches in these two starts so the Pirates can expect to see the Houston bullpen early if they can make Munro work. No Pirates have seen much of Munro.

In his thirteen starts this year, Ryan Vogelsong, our right-handed power/groundball pitcher, has not faced Houston. Two of his last three starts have been decent. He'll try to make it three of four. If he does, we'll begin to think that he's turned a corner.

Perhaps because Vogelsong generates lots of ground balls, Chris Stynes has started at third the last three times Vogelsong has started. Maybe we'll see him at third tonight.

J.J. Davis ends his rehab assignment today & will be back with the team tomorrow. He'll ride the pine, study the game from the dugout, and, sadly, not be an attractive pinch-hitting option for lefties or righties.

...while you're thinking about Ryan Vogelsong, go read Steve Novotney's article put up today.

Now pinch-hitting ... Abe Nunez

If you're like me, those words make you look quick and desperate for the closest drink of whiskey. Nothing better summarizes the losing ways the Pirates have endured the last so many years.

Why does Abraham Nunez pinch-hit so often? Because he's a switch-hitter? I'm not sure that's a good enough reason to explain how often he pinch-hits for the Pirates.

When a team is trailing late, a pinch-hit provides a huge lift. Yet pinch-hitting is hard. I can't find the MLB average for all pinch-hitters anywhere, but I'd guess it's below the average for all hitting. So we'll keep our expectations low as we review Abraham Nunez's pinch-hitting career. Here it is:

2002 47* 0.204 0.116
2003 30 0.161 0.038
2004 31* 0.219 0.300

The asterisk indicates that Nunez led the team in pinch-hitting appearances. In 2003, Nunez was second to Matt Stairs, who made 39 appearances as a pinch-hitter and did well with them. (His eight hits and four walks produced three runs and nine RBIs for a .317 OBP and a .457 SLG.) As you can see through that link, Noonie's .038 slugging percentage for last year is not a typo.

The most important thing a pinch-hitter can do is not make an out. Usually the pinch-hitter appears in a hole in a lineup - he hits for the pitcher, for example, and there is someone with a good bat on-deck. I don't think that OBP is the holy grail of statistics. Its value is often overrated, in my opinion. The pinch-hitter, however, must get on base to either start or continue a rally. With runners in scoring position, most forms of getting on base are going to produce an RBI, too. Anything but an out.

Trivia time. Guess who leads the major leagues in pinch-hitting? Leads in BA, OBP, and SLG? Minimum plate appearances of 25. Give up? answer here.

Abe Nunez has had three years to work on his pinch-hitting game. Admit it, Mac, he's been a rally-killer. An out machine. Someone that's good for the get-this-over-and-go-home set.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but it's fair to say that Abe Nunez has not been getting the job done the last three years. Give someone else a try.

...P.S. Nunez has been pretty weak against lefties since 2001. 130 plate appearances between 2001 and 2003 produced 24 hits and a .211 / .326 / .246 line. This year, in limited action against lefties, he's hitting .231 / .286 / .231. He should only be an option against right-handed pitching with those kinds of splits.

Mac must want to kill Randall Simon. Here's this big-ass left-handed hitter on the pine and all he can do against righties this year is .187 / .244 / .227. In 2003, he managed .277 / .310 / .441. In 2002, his career year (at the age of 27, no less, that magical most-often best year in a ballplayer's career), he hit .320 / .342 / .510 against RHP for the Detroit Tigers.

Baseball in Virginia

Here's a profile of some dudes who want to bring baseball to Virginia. I found it on Primer, thanks to the immortal Repoz. Primer has a thread for discussion if you care.

I'm rooting for Las Vegas. Kick the Expos out of the NL East, and move Pittsburgh back into a division that doesn't play most of its games in another time zone. The 8 o'clock starts pretty much suck if the game is close and goes late.

Bud has already said MLB would like to move Colorado to the Central and Pittsburgh to the East. That won't tip the scales toward any potential host for the Expos, though.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Game 67, Kris Benson at Roy Oswalt

Roy Oswalt was throwing well the last time we looked in at the numbers from Houston. Since then, he's been subpar, losing his last two starts to Milwaukee and Chicago. He's a power guy who generates an average groundball/flyball mix.

No significant data on Pirates against Oswalt, but Ruben Mateo homered off him the last time he saw him, so hopefully we'll see him at the plate tonight. If he gets into the lineup, he'll probably appear in place of Bay or Redman. And maybe Bobby Hill will start tonight too.

...7pm so what do you know, it's the same lineup as last night. They did score five runs yesterday. Maybe my man Ruben will get to pinch-hit.

...11pm nuts.

More Ruben Mateo

Brian O'Neill busts out the OPS to ask why Ruben Mateo hasn't been playing more.

A few week or so ago I looked at the Pirates' 21-day stats and was impressed that the better a player was hitting, the more he was playing. The only exception was Ruben Mateo, but he was recently called up. I've been disappointed that he hasn't been in the game lately. For sure, of late the story is the horrible bullpen work we've been getting. That and the lousy starts. But we can always use more home runs, and Mateo didn't get into the game at all last night. I even sat on the floor looking at this picture. For some reason, a "matchup" one I guess, Abe Nunez and Randall Simon were ahead of him on the pinch-hitting depth chart.

If this is a you-produce, you-play team, Mac will be giving some starts to Mateo. My sense is he won't disappoint.

Mac on Simon and Stynes

Ed Eagle reports these comments from Mac on the fans' sense that the team might be better without Simon and Stynes:

Chris Stynes and Randall Simon have been at the top of the hit list. Stynes, a .280 career hitter entering this season, is batting .212 with no home runs and 11 RBIs in 132 at-bats. Simon, a .297 career hitter before this year, is batting .200 with no home runs and three RBIs in 85 at-bats. The Bucs' Opening Day third baseman and first baseman draw a chorus of boos at PNC Park each time they fail to produce.

McClendon, who said that he understands the fans' dissatisfaction, explained why the two remain valuable to the club even as they continue to struggle.

"I understand people's frustrations," said McClendon. "The first thing they say is 'Get rid of them.'

"OK. Let's release them. Then what happens? What happens to young guys who come up and can't compete at this level? Where is your depth? Then you get hit in the [behind] because you have nothing left."

In Mac's defense, he hasn't been starting these guys and he's wise to think about depth.

In our defense, Stynes is fine as a bench player who specializes as a defensive replacement, but we have Abraham Nunez and we don't really need both of those guys. If Stynes can't play well enough to start, he's gotta be high on the list of first to go. Him or Noonie or Bobby Hill.

Simon only started his last game because Bay was a late scratch. If Simon could lose some weight and get speedier, he'd get on base more often and he'd be more likely to hit like his track record suggests he's capable of hitting. In the meantime, it doesn't look like he's competing at this level. The Pirates could get the same "production" from Carlos Rivera. The team should never make a move like that just to make a move, of course, but with Ward's strong play, Craig Wilson's ability to play first, and Carlos Rivera's ability to play a bit, the Bucs don't look exposed on the first-base depth chart without Simon.

The fans don't know if the team plans to trade one or more of the position players, so we can't know how exposed the team might be down the road if they lose Simon or Stynes. It does seem pretty clear, though, that once these guys have played themselves into bench roles, it won't impact the team a whole lot if they stay or if they go.

One other thing, Mac: now is not the time to talk like our current collection of players can compete at this level. I'd say we've been hit in the ass pretty good already.

... 2:30pm update ... on second thought, that's a pretty impossible situation Mac was in. What's he going to say, "Yeah, we sure got some deadwood on this roster." Depth is a good talking point for retaining people. He could also talk about patience, gotta be patience, and he could say when they produce more, they'll start more. He can't back into that corner where he's defending the deadwood like they've been productive or will be for sure a week or two from now.

Note to Bob

Re: fourth paragraph. Can we stop counting? I can only take so much mind-numbing. When the Bucs win five of their next nine, then we can look back and laugh at what a good time June has been.

Joe Rutter and Josh Fogg

Joe Rutter and Josh Fogg trade comic lines in Joe's latest on the ongoing Ray Charles festival the Bucs have been enjoying in the locker room.

Minor league update

Lynchburg is back to .500, but Nashville just fell to .500. More as always here. We read this Trib feature daily.

Altoona in PNC Park

We liked the idea when we first heard about it. We like it more after reading these reports (here, here) on the anticipation of the Curve players for their game this weekend.

Bullington, Cortes in Futures Game

Details here, here, here, here.

Remembering the 1997 Pirates

Seems like an a good idea right about now. Steve Novotney has an article about Lamont's club.

Gammons making stuff up

In his latest essay, Peter Gammons makes up a trade that "makes sense" for the Pirates:

4. The Padres trade Xavier Nady to Pittsburgh for Kris Benson. In his start last Thursday, Benson threw better than in a long while, and this atmosphere might be perfect for him. Nady was almost in the Brian Giles deal last season, and could play first, third or the outfield.
Nady is a 25-year-old rightfielder who has some power. Nate Silver's PECOTA projection system compares Nady to Kevin Mench and a ton of other very similar players including Bill Robinson (Yankees version), Tony Perez, Bob Watson, and Eduardo Perez. Nady's been playing at Portland for most of this year. With Burroughs at third and the need for three centerfielders in that Petco outfield, it's easy to see how the Padres could be induced to part with him.

For the record, it doesn't look like Gammons has any evidence there has been any talk of such a deal. It's not even a rumor. It's just Gammons playing matchmaker & making stuff up.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Josh Fogg tonight

Good picture here. He should grow one of those Amish beards and then he'd look more like Oliver Perez.

1979 Pirates around .500 in mid-June

The Trib has been publishing stuff about the 1979 Pirates.

Game 66, Josh Fogg at Tim Redding

Monday's starter for Houston, Tim Redding, is a right-handed finesse pitcher & average ground/flyball guy. He's run hot and cold this season and has been mediocre this month.

No Pirate hitters have much of a meaningful record against Redding. Kendall's 1-for-14 at Enron whatever this year and usually he hits pretty well there so I anticipate a correction.

Josh Fogg, our right-handed finesse guy, leads the Pirates. Fogg has been generating more ground balls this season and you have to wonder if that's one reason for his recent success.

The big story tonight might be Daryle Ward's return to Enron Orange Juice Park. His career numbers there are better than the rest of his career numbers: .282 / .328 / .479 with 22 doubles and 14 home runs. The Astros were disappointed with his play in his 27th season; 2002 was his second straight "down" year after a most promising 2000 season. They dealt him for Ruddy Lugo - months before running his brother out of town for some off-the-field allegations - to Los Angeles in January 2003. The story then was that Ward was underachieving, the Astros wanted to reduce payroll, and Craig Biggio was going to play centerfield. Hunsicker's remarks at the time must have been irritating:

``I'm disappointed that we're not going to see him reach his full potential in an Astros uniform,'' Houston general manager Gerry Hunsicker said. ``He is still a young player with great talent, and I hope this opportunity will be positive for his career. We certainly wish him well.''
Ward proved him right, however, with his poor play last year in Los Angeles. Like Ruben Mateo, Ward has a chance to fulfill the considerable potential most people saw in him as a young man. It would be a great story if he plays this well all year, and it would provide Pirate fans with something to consider when they see Jose Guillen blossoming years after leaving the Bucs as an underachieving prospect.

Ron Cook on ripping the Pirates

Don't miss his latest. That throw from the outfield was godawful, and made me reverse my dim idea that Craig Wilson should be the first guy signed for next year. Trade him to the AL where he can DH and get mad prospects for him. We can find another bat for right field.

Interview with Ralph Kiner

Steve Serby has this interview with Ralph Kiner in yesterday's New York Post. Kiner, who dated Elizabeth Taylor, rates her an "11."

Being a fan

Inspired by Brian of Redbird Nation's analogy, here's some thoughts about being a fan.

What does it mean to be a fan? History can help. The word "fan" comes not from "fanatic" but from "fans" which derives from "fancy." This word, "the fancy," was used to describe the enormous crowds that assembled to watch the epic bare-knuckle prizefights of the nineteenth century. The fancy was a diverse mix of men from all social stations. They interacted as equals and had a grand time watching the fight, betting on it, drinking and getting drunk, fighting with one another, and doing all the other fun things people would do at such things. If the sun was shining and you had a spare dollar and the day off, you wanted to go and be a part of that crowd. "The fancy" became "the fans" and an individual member of the crowd became "a fan." The play on "fanatic" was obvious from the beginning of the usage of "a fan," I'm sure.

The sports fan is often caricactured as a man of id. And no doubt we do turn to sports because it allows us to indulge certain passions and self-delusions that we couldn't possibly indulge in our regular working lives. But sports does far more than deliver that high or sanction that rowdyism.

Being a fan means different things for different sports and in different places. A given team might have a fan culture that breaks down into a wide range of subcultures, too. At Wrigley Field, for example, not all Cubs fans are there to gratify their id's directive to swill beer and holler. Uh ... bad example. You know what I mean.

The basic thing that sports does is bring people together for diversion. The basic characteristic of a fan is not some lack of self-control but an eagerness to go and be a part of that crowd. It's an eagerness to be with lots of friends and lots of like-minded strangers in a setting where everyone agrees to ignore all the usual and painful objects of our attention - work, illness, pain, war - and enjoy all the amenities and distractions of the arena together.

After all, why are you reading this, right now? Not because you're still high off last night's Pirate game. And not because you are jonesing for a hit of irrationality, and not because you feel a duty to perform your religious devotions. Odds are, you're goofing off. You're at work, or you should be at work. You are taking a break. You have gone somewhere that's characterized by lots of people ignoring work. It feels good to be among such people, when you are so inclined. Even if you don't leave a comment or read some comment written by some total stranger, you still have the luxury of knowing you're among other people who are also goofing off.

That said, more Ruben Mateo please!

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Down to the river time

Cue the Ray Charles. Chris Adamski has the kindness to add 'em up and tell the world the Pirates have lost 17 of their last 20 games. Ouch. Put it that way and the Pirates are looking like ET in the river.

It's not that bad, though it is depressing. But let's not get mawkish.

A sentimental blues
Will worry you
And make you do
Things that you
Wouldn't do
Only when you
Hear these blues

A sentimental blues
Will wet your eye
You wonder why
You heave a sigh
You start to cry
Each time that you
Hear these blues

Sigh, sigh, sigh
And drool
Cry, cry, cry
You fool
Yes, I know that it's cool
Here's hoping the Astros think they'll have an easy time this week.

Steve with Kendall

Steve Novotney writes about a conversation he had recently with Jason Kendall. I'm not sure what Jason means when he says that money has ruined baseball. It's doesn't look ruined to me. He's earned his jack and we don't begrudge Jason one dime of his salary. If has the impression that all the fans think his contract "ruins" our team, well, he's wrong.

Here's one of many good quotes from the article:

"Listen, if there is one other thing I've figured out playing this game, it's that the easiest thing to do in baseball is to hustle. Hitting is hard. Fielding is hard. Pitching is hard. There are other factors that go into how well you hit, field and pitch, but hustling is entirely under your control. There's just no excuse."
Go read it yourself for the rest.

Joe Rutter: Mac is "green"

Joe Rutter shares our inability to understand why the MLB front office has abused Mac this season.

If "spraying" was a suspendable offense in the NFL, imagine how often Bill Cowher would watch the game from his office.

Oliver Perez

Perez threw 107 pitches to get through six today, or 17.8 pitches per inning, up a bit from the 15.4 pitches he averaged going into today's game. The last three starts he averaged 15.7 pitches per inning. He looks pretty tired here in the top of the seventh; his pitches are missing their spots. Here's come Mac to pull him. Good effort from Oliver Perez today, but not his best for sure.

Darlye Ward hits No. 10

Ward has been hitting well lately after that 1-for-23 stretch earlier this month. He went 10-for-37 (.270) with four extra-base hits (but no walks) in the nine games previous to this afternoon's match. Ward is one of the "washed-up," "mediocre" free-agent signings that has worked out pretty well so far for Dave Littlefield.

Craig Wilson gets the day off

He's in a rut, Mac says in this report by Joe Rutter.

Right fielder Craig Wilson didn't get the ball out of the infield, went 0 for 3 and is hitless in his past 18 at-bats. He has gone 2 for 34 in the past 10 games, dropping his batting average from .349 to .309.

Wilson is the only Pirates player to start all 64 games. Perhaps the grind is finally catching up to him. McClendon doesn't think that's the case.

"He's just in a rut and that's only normal," he said. "I think he'll be fine. His approach is fine and he's staying aggressive. ... He'll find his holes."

So ... Craig Wilson will find and mend the holes in socks as he rides the pine today?

Another Simon start, another GIDP

Simon has a track record of hitting, but not, I think, at his current weight. Bottom of the first, runners on first and third, one out, Pirates with a chance to have a big inning, Randall Simon at the plate, guess what happens.

It's important, when your starters are struggling, to score often and early and let them pitch with a lead. Kip Wells wrote about this a while back. I suppose Simon will continue to get one start per series so long as he's on the roster, but here's to hoping it's not much longer. The man's a weak-hitting GIDP machine this season.

How often has Kip pitched with a lead this season? Not often, I'd guess, seeing that he's often matched up against another team's ace.

Game 65, Garcia vs. Perez, Father's Day

Enjoy those promotional hats for Father's Day at PNC Park. The Pirates will face another power pitcher, Freddy Garcia. Garcia's name is often mentioned in trade rumors these days. (Click here for Peter White's essay arguing for a Garcia trade at Mariners Musings. Here's to hoping the Bucs score often and early and give Oliver Perez a good lead to protect.

And Happy Father's Day.