Saturday, July 03, 2004

Game 78, Pirates win

Good start for Kris.

John Grabow's ready to come in for the eighth. That's a good Pirate name. Kinda like "Jack Nyargh." Grrrrrrabow.

Get more runs please.

...nice finish to that one. But eight games under .500 is just as disgraceful as nine games under .500. Sean Burnett tomorrow will try to do something about that. In the meantime, gather round the punch bowl and toast the jolly roger.

Jacob Luft on Benson

Jacob Luft wrote this back in April for Sports Illustrated. It begins like this:

Three years ago, the Pirates traded away a career underachiever on the verge of free agency.

Jason Schmidt, upon becoming a member of the Giants, instantly became the top-of-the-rotation workhorse the Pirates had been lacking. Schmidt went 7-1 for San Francisco down the stretch in 2001 and followed with 13-8 and 17-5 records in 2002 and '03, respectively.

Schmidt again

From John Shea's mid-July article for the San Francisco Chronicle:

The problem is there aren't many available starting pitchers. For every 10 position players on the trading block, there's one starter. And for every one starter, there's .01 aces. This year, it seems there's no equal to Randy Johnson (traded in July 1998 from Seattle to Houston) or Curt Schilling (July 2000 from Philadelphia to Arizona).

David Wells is 8-1 in the postseason, but he's likely out for the rest of the year. Chan Ho Park, a free agent next winter, was shopped earlier, but the Dodgers' recent surge in the standings prevents them from making a move. The Mets wouldn't mind dumping Al Leiter's contract, but it would be tricky because he can block trades to 10 teams, including interested suitors such as Seattle and Cleveland, plus the Giants.

We're left with Pedro Astacio (the Rockies are hesitant to exercise his $9 million option for next year), Rick Reed (the Mets need to start over), Sterling Hitchcock (a year removed from Tommy John surgery), Jason Schmidt (new Pirates GM Dave Littlefield may have other ideas) and Jeff Suppan (the low-budget Royals don't want to pay $3.8 million next year).

Other possibilities: San Diego's Woody Williams, Cincinnati's Pete Harnisch, Tampa Bay's Albie Lopez and the White Sox's James Baldwin.

The dilemma is they're all expensive, either in terms of dollars or talent required in return, so the Giants and A's will probably take a pass. It is what it is.

The "other ideas" alluded to there reflects the confusion among some observers as to whether or not Littlefield would enter a "rebuilding" mode by dealing Schmidt for a prospect or two.

The Giants didn't pass, of course, as they got Jason Schmidt in a deadline deal that burned a bunch of other teams and forced some crappier deals for crappier pitchers in the final day of the 2001 trading season. Schmidt was no sure bet to become the equal, for a few seasons at least, of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, but the potential was there and the change of scenery - one from a club that struggled for years to a club that was in the thick of a playoff race - did him a world of good.

Jason Scmidt like Denny Neagle

Here's Stan Savran in the July 28, 2001 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

It strikes me as rather ironic that Jason Schmidt is now in the position Denny Neagle was in five years ago.

Although Schmidt is nowhere near as accomplished as Neagle was then, there are great similarities in the circumstances surrounding these two men who were traded for one another about this time in 1996. Despite his unrealized potential, which, in turn, has resulted in unfulfilled expectations, Schmidt is the Pirates' most realistic, tradeable commodity. Not because of who he is, but because of what he is: a competent starting pitcher.

With the possible exception of Seattle -- what do you get for the team that has everything -- all the contenders are on the lookout for starting pitching. You catch Schmidt on a good night with a significantly better team behind him, you've got something.

One might legitimately ask, "Given the potential upside, why wouldn't the Pirates keep him?"

Because they can no longer afford to wait for him to reach that tantalizing potential, because he'll be a free agent and because whichever team signs him for whatever money, they'll do so at an inflated price.

Sound familiar?

Game 78, Wes Obermueller at Kris Benson

Wes Obermueller is pitching his way out of a starting job. The Brewers have given him eight days' rest to prepare for today's start so expect some scrappiness from a guy whose back is against the wall. Wes hails from Cedar Rapids, IA, and pitched for the Hawkeyes in college. He is a finesse righty with no good strikeout pitch and some serious weakness against left-handed hitting. Fortunately for the Pirates, some of our best lineups are those stacked with our left-handed and switch-hitters.

Kris Benson goes for us. Benson is not comfortable against Geoff Jenkins. Jenkins has not been hitting much lately or this year in general. He's streaky and he's always dangerous.

Hopefully the Pirates will come out and play with some urgency and some pride. Nine games under .500 is no place to be seen. They need to put that behind them.

Benson like Schmidt

Sam Ross Jr. has a take on the Benson-like-Schmidt theme in his latest.

Benson's age (29) is no strike against him for a team looking for a two- to three-month rental. For that matter, it's no strike against him for a team looking to sign him to a three- or four-year deal. Whether or not he lives up to the standards of Randy Johnson or Sandy Koufax is a pretty silly standard; there's plenty of good years left on his arm for him to live up to the standard of Jason Schmidt. It's not like Benson is 37 or 41 years old.

In other Benson news, the Twins are scouting him, too. They have some good prospects, including a left-handed slugging first baseman that would fit our needs pretty well.

...John Harper of the New York Daily News writes that "The Mets would love to get Kris Benson from the Pirates."

...Kevin Baxter of Knight-Ridder newspapers (reg. req'd) has the slow wit to include Benson in the "lackluster crop of available players" this summer. He also mentions Jason Jennings of the Rockies and Jamie "No, we're not trading him" Moyer of the Mariners. "Clubs don't want to wait too long because the two, three or four guys on the market might be gone to another team,'' Atlanta GM John Schuerholz told USA Today, reports Baxter reports H-Wags. Baxter's a little behind the curve. In his notes he writes that "One factor that has gone overlooked in Cincinnati's revival this season is the improved control of the pitching staff" and then goes on to talk about how the Reds are throwing strikes and not walking people. Not overlooked, Kevin.

Ron Cook on J.J. Davis

Ron Cook was impressed by Oliver Perez last night. We all were.

On J.J. Davis:

Give him a chance, Pirates fans say. Play him instead of Randall Simon. But every time Lloyd McClendon puts Davis in the lineup, he does something stupid. Last night, in the Pirates' 8-1 win in Game 1, he failed to run from first base on a 3-2, two-out pitch to Chris Stynes. You won't see a high school player make that mistake. It's inexcusable.
Davis can become a better player, but don't expect Mac to be in a rush to start him again soon. He's definitely behind the Hot Dog on my depth chart.

Heck, he's behind Sauerkraut Saul, too.

We'll take two

We have to find some kind of 8-RBI picture to frame and hang in our drinking room.

Bucs are still a disgraceful nine games under .500. Tomorrow they'll have another chance to do something about that.

In the meantime, it's nice to see some fireworks at PNC Park. They outscored the Brewers 21-3 today. Fun stuff.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Huzza Oliver Perez


And let's find some more playing time for Tony Alvarez.

Mateo traded to Royals

We'll raise a glass to him and wish him well. News here.

The Bucs and Moneyball

Just discovered Chris Kucharski's work at He sees higher OBP the lower you go in the minor-league system and wonders if the Pirates are putting an emphasis on that as they draft. Good eye, Chris.

The A's went for OBP not because they thought it the most important hitting measure but because they saw good value in players Now that OBP is valued more appropriately, what's the next opportunity for a small-market team? Former prospects such as Jose Guillen, Ruben Mateo, or Bobby Hill? Some kind of defensive ability? Bunting ability? Basestealing and bunting seem to be out of fashion and might be a buying opportunity for a team that has confidence in their value.

Games 76 and 77, Friday doubleheader

The Brewers are in third place in the NL Central and view the next few weeks as ones that will determine if they are buyers or sellers in the late July trade market. Here are the overall numbers for the Brewers' batters this year. Here's what they did last month. No one looks particularly hot or cold to me. They are a good team, even without Scott Podsednik, who has been limited and might sit out with some kind of plague. The Brewers are coming off a three-game sweep of the hapless Rockies in Colorado.

Chris Stynes will tell you it's damn hard to hit on the road after a cushy stretch on Planet Coors. If the Pirates can get a lot of movement on their pitches today, they could take advantage of this.

The Pirates will miss the Brewers' best pitcher, Ben Sheets, in the four-game, three-day series that begins today. Works for me.

For the men in wheat, game one will feature Doug Davis, a soft-tossing lefty with a handsome goat. An American-League castoff, he's won his last two starts and he's enjoying the best year of his career. He generates loads of groundballs.

The Pirates have seen him two times in 2004. In April he gave up many hits and the Brewers lost in extra innings. More recently, he threw six shutout innings to beat Kip Wells on a good day. No current Pirate has a meaningful record against Doug Davis. Chris Stynes owns a 5-for-12, one double performance. As a summary of past performance, that's exactly true; that's what happened. As a predictor of future performance, the margin of error on a sample of twelve is something like .280. All the 5-for-12 means, then, is that there is a 95% chance Stynes's "true" ability against Davis lies between .137 and .697. And that's only if you believe that hitters have "true" or "intrinsic" abilities up there in Plato's world of forms. (And this makes you an idealist. In America, we call such people "gamblers," "statisticians," or "crazy transcendentalists.") Anyway, such a thinker would consider Stynes' ability against Davis as a subset of his ability against all left-handers. He's hitting .159 this year off left-handers but .292 off them in 2001-2003. Confused? Imagine how Mac feels.

Perhaps the best case for getting him into the lineup tonight is the fact that the team has to play two. With his barky knee, Mackowiak is not a good candidate for eighteen innings a day. A manager normally uses his entire bench in the course of a doubleheader, so Stynes will be in there one way or another. Sad to say, but fans will boo and heckle him all night unless he makes a big hit or outstanding defensive play early. A lot of Pirate fans want Stynes to go away.

Why do we keep talking about Chris Stynes? My bad. No more writing about Stynes for a week, I promise. Let's talk about California-boy John Grabow, who was a maniac on Wednesday against the Cardinals. I'd like to see him do his strike-'em-out routine again this weekend.

Oliver Perez, our Amish-Mexican left-handed flamethrower, will start for the Pirates in game one. If you have been living in a submarine for the last year, Ron Cook's latest will catch you up on the who's and what's of this guy. Cook says "phenom" and other nice things. (Also note how Cook describes the Giles trade as "wonderful." Last year he called it "a horrible blunder" but, to be fair, there's no inconsistency given that he conceded Perez and Bay had a "chance" to be good. By "blunder" Cook alluded to not trading Kendall. If Littlefield sealed the deal by making the Padres grateful for not taking on Kendall's contract, then he deserves some serious credit as a horse trader. Or maybe he got lucky. Who knows. Either way, it's not sensible to make conclusive judgments on a trade that happened less than a year ago. We can only say: so far, so good wonderful.)

Joe Rutter also has game-day coverage of Oliver Perez's gradual emergence.

The Brewers tagged Perez on May 1 in a game the Bucs eventually won in overtime. Even with that rough start, the Brewers have a collective .641 OPS off Oliver. Better is the lack of power: they have no home runs and two doubles in fifty-three at-bats against him. How'd they score five runs off him in early May? They bunched up some singles. Here's hoping that doesn't happen tonight.

In game two, an unknown pitcher will take the mound for the Brewers. Their AAA ace, Ben Hendrickson, pitched Tuesday night so he'll receive no Sean Burnett-type callup. My wild-ass guess is going to be Matt Kinney, an enormous (6'5" 230 lb) 27-year-old righthander who started the season in the rotation. The Pirates haven't seen him this year, but Simon had two homers off him in a previous life. He hasn't been very good as a starter. With Wes Obermueller due up this weekend and struggling, perhaps they will give Kinney a shot to prove he's worth another turn in the rotation.

Dr. Jekyll Josh Fogg beat the Brewers on May 22. Geoff Jenkins likes Josh Fogg a lot.

Mac on pinch-hitting

Mac calls pinch-hitting "the most difficult thing to do in baseball." Bobby Hill is good at it. This from Paul Meyer's notebook.

McAnaney goes to college

28th round pick Patrick McAnaney will go to college. Be careful, buddy. College is not the best place for a future major-leaguer.

Tike Redman Figurine Night

Nashville loves Tike Redman. As they should, he's a lovable guy.

Jason Bay Rookie of the Year talk

John Perrotto and Paul Meyer report on the progress of Jason Bay.

Horse-trading news

T.R. Sullivan of the Star-Telegram reports that the Rangers are debating the future of Mark Teixeira (Tuh-SHARE-uh) and Adrian Gonzalez and weighing their need for a starting pitcher. Teixeira's already making $2.6M so cross him off our list. They'd rather deal Fightin' Blue Hen Kevin Mench, whose claim to fame also lies in the fact that he has the largest hat size known to man. Mench is 26, hits right-handed, has some range in the outfield, and runs the bases like a blooper-show clown. Gonzalez is 22, bats left-handed, and plays first. Clearly, Gonzalez sounds like the better fit.

Randy Miller at reports that a team source told him "the Phils have been scouting very available Pittsburgh pitcher Kris Benson, but are unlikely to deal for the right-handed starter." Ah, now we know they really want him.

Jon Heyman of Newsday reports the Mets could have had Carlos Beltran or Freddy Garcia for David Wright. The Yankees and the Mets are both scouting Benson. The Yankees prefer the Big Unit and the Mets also feel they need another bat.

Shannon Countryman of the Illinois Lincoln-Courier disses Matt Morris for losing to the "lowly Pirates" and argues they need an ace. Sorry, St. Louis, you can't have him.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Kris Benson vs. Jason Schmidt

When Jason Schmidt was traded in 2001, I was fed up with his injuries and his inconsistencies and his character and his tantalizing yet unrealized potential. He got healthy, the Pirates traded him, and he became one of the very best pitchers in baseball.

Here's a comparison of Benson's present-day career stats and Schmidt's career stats on the day he was traded to San Francisco.

Benson 29
Schmidt 28
Benson 746
Schmidt 883
Benson 121
Schmidt 142
Benson 40
Schmidt 49
Benson 48
Schmidt 53
Win %
Benson 33.1%
Schmidt 34.5%
Tm Wins, Avg
Benson 71
Schmidt 79
Benson 6.45
Schmidt 6.75
Benson 3.54
Schmidt 3.79
Benson 0.95
Schmidt 0.95
Benson 4.33
Schmidt 4.59
Benson 1.43
Schmidt 1.47

A few words of explanation: "Win %" indicates not the overall winning percentage but the percentage of starts a pitcher won. "Tm Wins, Avg" indicates the average number of wins of his team while the pitcher was a member. For 1996, since Schmidt pitched about 1/3 of his games for the Pirates and 2/3 for the Braves, a number was reached by weighting the finish of both teams appropriately.

In 2001, when Jason Schmidt was traded to the Giants, he was 6-6 after 14 starts with a 4.65 ERA. Right now, Kris Benson is 5-7 after 15 starts with a 4.78 ERA. The Giants were 58-49 on the day they acquired Schmidt, in third place in the NL West. Schmidt went 7-1 the rest of the way. The Giants finished at 90-72. Schmidt made $3.2M that year and was granted free agency on November 5, 2001. Five weeks later, he signed as a free agent with the Giants.

Dave Littlefield got Ryan Vogelsong and Armando Rios for a three-month rental of Jason Schmidt. Now that he's asking for prospects like David Wright, is it fair to say that he's "asking for the moon"? David Wright, unlike Scott Rolen, has never played a game at the major-league level. Let's not wet our pants over a guy with no big-league experience. Perhaps such a deal is not in the best interest of the Mets, but Wright is a reasonable demand for a pitcher of Benson's ability. Schmidt's post-trade history does not guarantee how Benson will pitch the rest of the year, but Schmidt's case does provide a reasonable precedent.

Mesa in demand

Doesn't surprise me.

Benson will continue to pitch well. He could be pitching here or in New York. No matter where he goes, the better he pitches, the more money he'll make on his next deal. I'm looking forward to his next start.

Q & A with Dave Littlefield

Ed Eagle interviews Dave Littlefield. Short version: The Bucs are after major-league-ready position players with power and they are ready to deal pitching. Evaulating the season to date:

"It was a pretty solid first couple of months and a poor June. We underachieved as far as the talent level of our starting pitching, played defense probably about per our expectations, and we've hit better than our expectations."

Main goal for the second half: Win more games.

Mighty NL Central

If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. This is no surpise to us - we pointed this out a month ago - but here it is from a conspicuously impartial source.

Meyer's Q & A

Paul Meyer is back from Key West to answer questions. There's a lot of good stuff in this one. A fan writes to ask why the Pirates can't get by as "lovable losers" and Meyer has the answer at the end of his paragraph: Pittsburgh fans don't abide losing teams.

He's also got the Davis-for-Mateo decision measured. I think the Pirates fear losing Davis because (a) he's a former #1 pick and (b) they were caught off guard with all the hullabaloo about losing the Rule V players. As you can see in more than one report, Mac is sick of hearing about J.J. Davis.

Of the five, only Jeff Bennett has contributed this year and he looks lost at times. I've never thought the Pirates lost much worth keeping in that draft, but I can't deny that they had room on the 40-man to protect one or more of these guys. Even had they protected one or two of those five players, how could they know Bennett was the one to protect? Sure, blunders were made, but the team received criticism - especially from the national media - that was far out of proportion to the crime.

Sam Ross Jr. on Mac

My experience has me agreeing strongly with this first paragraph.

Ross also breaks down both sacrifice hits from yesterday's game. McClendon did not order the first one and wouldn't have, not with Kendall already on second. That was all Jack Wilson.


Bones wrote this haiku Monday night:

Suppan no-no? No:
All-Star Jack runs in circle,
Man-god Mesa wins!

Smizik recalls Bonifay's House of Horrors

I don't know how you call Tony Womack a "thick" slice of anything, but this rest of Smizik's reminiscence is very well done. It's been a hairy-go-round at 2B since Womack left.

Ah, the horrors of Cam Bonifay. If Smizik didn't write such things, I'd be more successful at keeping these horrible, horrible memories from visiting me as I sleep.

Benson update

Meyer has it. The Pirates want someone who can play now. Add the fact that other "performing" players are in demand - it doesn't take much imagination to guess which players other teams want right now - and I guess the Pirates are looking to package Benson and "a performer" for a deal that includes someone like Jason Bay or David Wright. (The New York Daily News reports here that the Pirates are bent on Wright, as they should be, in their talks with New York.)

Speaking of which, if there is one untouchable "performer," it has to be Jason Bay. If two, add Oliver Perez. The rest of the team should be available. When you're 11 games under .500, there's no point in getting too attached to the guys who started while you were getting there.

... New York papers focus now on Ty Wigginton as trade bait. He's too much like our current Pirates to help our current Pirates, if you know what I mean.

...what could the Rangers offer? How about that Adrian Gonzalez? he's a left-handed work-in-progress at first that might fit well with the Pirates' plans for 2005.

...the Indians are rumored to be eyeing Benson and, with greater lust in their heart, Kip Wells. I'd trade Kip in a heartbeat if we could get a good collection of booty for him. (Don't worry; the link is safe for work.) That Grady Sizemore hits left-handed and looks ready for promotion. Since he starred for Akron, one Altoona's main competitors, in the Eastern League, surely the Bucs have a good measure of him. From what I can tell sitting here at my Pismo, Sizemore looks like a pretty big jewel to lay on top of such a chest.

...more news that the Phillies want him. Cole Hamels is a left-handed starter the Phillies won't use this year. But he's on a the DL with left elbow inflammation ... that's a huge red flag. And Marlon Byrd ... is he the next Ruben Mateo?

...FWIW, Pirate fans run down Benson more than we should. Sure, his career record is not so great and it's been marked with injuries and periods of rehabbing in the majors. Reminds me of another guy who was "injury-prone," "inconsistent," 47-51 lifetime, and sporting a career ERA close to 5.00 (Benson's was 4.27 coming into 2004) when he was traded.

Good recap

Paul Meyer did a nice job with today's recap. The bit about Kuntz putting the stop sign on Wilson made me laugh out loud. I also like how Meyer doesn't bother to explain the bottom of the ninth. Yeah, he's right, we already know. That's a good piece of writing.

Hot Dog

Steve Novotney has a report on Tony Alvarez that you should read if you think his AAA numbers suggest he's ready for a full-time job.

Jason Bay Rookie of the Year?

Rotowire suggests that Bay should be in the hunt for the 2004 Rookie of the Year award.

Someone help me out. My understanding is that a player needs less than 130 at-bats or 45 days on a MLB roster in the previous year to qualify as a rookie. Bay meets the at-bat requirement but the service time is close, especially if his 2003 DL time counts. Anyone know for sure?

I don't really give a damn about RoY awards or All-Star appearances. As a fan, for me they are distractions from the main event - the winning and losing - and I'd almost rather have a Pirate not win such awards. With RoY, you get these added expectations the following year. Better to come in under the radar I think. With the All-Star appearances, you miss three days of rest and risk injury in a mid-season exhibition game. Plus, both awards would surely increase a player's value at arbitration time. Sure, that's cold and calculating, but if you don't put the wins first when you're losing long and often, when do you put the wins first? After five in a row the Pirates are still eleven games under .500.

That said, out of a basic love of humanity, I have to root for our boys to win such things if those things help to motivate them and make them happy and so forth. They may be trivial to some fans, but I'm sure they are a big deal to some of the players.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Five in a row!

Another sweet victory as the Bucs beatdown the first place Cards with a broom. A solid team effort: Kendall, Jack, Mack-o-wack, and Rake Tedman combine for 10 hits. Chulo looks ugly on the basepaths but makes a nice play at first. Mesa's first blown save of the year is forgiven (Pujols can hit sometimes). Maybe now Bobby Hill will pinch-hit more often.

Big four game series with the Beer guys starts on Friday as the Bucs will continue to try to claw their way out of the cellar.

Down to the river time

I'm taking off Wednesday to enjoy the sunshine at PNC Park, and probably won't post again before Thursday morning. Enjoy the day people.

Game 75, Matt Morris at Kip Wells

As you've probably heard by now, Matt Morris is a home run machine with a miraculously low ERA of 4.27. He's given up 24 longballs this year, and he's on pace to surrender 51 (!) in 233 innings. All but three have been solo or two-run jobs. He's given up 100 hits in 110 innings so far, and of those 100, he's allowed 42 extra-base hits. He's a flyball pitcher so he's going to give up home runs. The strange thing is more homers (24) than doubles (18). In every other year, he's given up about two doubles for every home run. I'm guessing Matt Morris is pretty sick of hearing about this and won't give up any home runs for a couple of starts.

His strikeout rate has really come down over the last few years and his walks have stayed about the same. So when he's on and accurate, he's not going for the strikeout like he once did. He's brought his pitches per inning down under 15, which is good, and means he's a lot more likely to give you seven innings on 100 to 110 pitches. That's also good because he appears to be limited to something like 220 pitches for any two consecutive starts. If that pattern holds, since he went almost 120 the last time out, he may only go 100 this afternoon.

The lower K rate makes Morris a finesse pitcher, and that's also trouble since the Pirates haven't hit much off finesse guys this year. Even worse, his track record against the Pirates is outstanding. The current team is a collective 21-for-105 with only three extra-base hits off him.

In contrast, Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen are card-carrying members of the Kip Wells fan club.

Kip and the Bucs have their work cut out today. Go get 'em, Bucs.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Bucs win

Hey, that was a dandy. Sean Burnett is beginning to look like a keeper. And, it's great to string some wins together.

But let's not talk about a winning streak while the team is an inexcusable twelve games below .500. Twelve games below .500! That sucks. Maybe they will do something about it tomorrow.

Rake Tedman I mean Tike Redman "was the offensive star on a night in which the two teams combined for 12 hits" (says Ed). He's looking a little more like the guy we saw in the second half of last year. Just a little - let's not go overboard - but he gets a star for his pretty starless cap tonight.

Randall Simon had a hit and walked again. The walk was intentional so he's putting the fear of Sausage into someone right now.

All the jabbering Pirate fans pretty much agree that he shouldn't play now because he's not part of the future. (Myself included, of course.)

How do we know that? Not too many Pirates are signed for next year. How do we know who's part of the future and who's not?

Maybe the Pirates can get creative and re-sign Simon to some kind of one-year contract (with a pay cut; $800K is too much) that automatically voids if he reports to camp above a certain weight.

Or maybe not ....

Game 74, Chris Carpenter at Sean Burnett

We all know the story with Sean Burnett, our 21-year-old finesse lefty. The Cardinals have no reason to fear him. Edgar Renteria will be looking for a big day.

Chris Carpenter might be the closest thing to a power starter the Cardinals have right now. He's been their ace, but he's not much of a power pitcher. Oliver Perez is averaging 10.76 Ks per 9 innings and Kip Wells is averaging 8.47 Ks per 9 innings. Carpenter, at 7.13, is the best the Redbirds appear to need in that department. He sports a mid-90s fastball with a nice curve, and he's had excellent control this year. None of the Pirates have seen much of Carpenter.

He's a good story since he's really battled back from injuries. He had arthroscopic shoulder surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder last July after aborting a comeback from surgery to repair a tear in labrum the previous fall. The Cardinals kept his pitch count under 100 for most of this year. They stretched him out in his last start, however: he threw 120 pitches and outpitched Matt Clement with eight shutout innings. Carpenter felt strong at the end:

"I felt better the last few innings than I did the first few," Carpenter said. "I'm going to keep on going. I feel comfortable. I feel like I don't run out of gas. I expect to pitch well and go deep into games."

Expect the Pirates to pound Carpenter in the early innings and score, I don't know, eight or twelve runs off him.

Ward's thumb

Paul Meyer has the news in his notebook. He could be out for a while, but he's not lost for the season just yet.

Joe Rutter quotes Ward saying he'll be back in about two weeks.

The injury sounds like something that once limited Austin Kearns, but what do I know.

O'Neill on Simon again

Brian O'Neill has some fun playing at GM of the Pirates. His comparison of Stynes/Nunez to Benjamin/Nunez is a good one.

If Simon can get hot - he has four walks and two extra-base hits in his last eight at-bats, so maybe he's coming around - let him start and contribute. He can platoon with J.J. Davis. If/when Davis shows us he's ready for more, then let Simon go and replace him with someone who can pinch hit. It would be nice to have the big guy on the bench as a left-handed righty-killing pinch-hitter, but his track record as a pinch-hitter has never been good enough to believe he can do it better than Abe Nunez or Bobby Hill. A player like Simon can't sit. I'm not sure how it happens, but it seems like he gains two pounds every time he watches a game from the bench, and he's no good unless he's all lathered up. Maybe they could get him on the exercise bike for the first six innings and see if that doesn't improve his pinch-hitting?

Cook: deal Benson now

Yes, sure, makes sense to me. But let's not all get too eager and spoil the deal. Benson will continue to pitch well.

Jack confesses: it was dumb

Good partisan that I am, I was inclined to think that maybe Jack's baserunning wasn't quite as stupid as it first looked. After all, he did score and win the game.

Jack confesses, however. Here's the story.

With one out and the score tied at 1-1, Wilson drove a pitch from Julian Tavarez (2-1) into the left-field corner for an apparent double. However, Wilson kept going to third when he saw second base uncovered and mistakenly thought first baseman Albert Pujols was not trailing the play.

Pujols, though, was backing up, took the throw into the infield from left fielder Ray Lankford and threw to third base for what appeared to be an easy out. However, Pujols' throw sailed past third baseman Scott Rolen and into the tunnel leading from the Pirates' dugout to clubhouse, allowing Wilson to trot home with the winning run on the error.

"I've made some dumb plays in my time but trying to go to third base was my dumbest," Wilson said. "As soon as I took off and saw Rolen standing there ready to catch the throw I just kept thinking this is going to be all over ESPN and Fox Sports Net and how the headlines in all the newspapers was going to be 'Wilson's Blunder Costs Pirates Game.'

That is John Perrotto's fine reporting. For those of you who thought the local media would play this up as hustle and flash, check out Joe Rutter's story and Paul Meyer's report. (Looks like Meyer is back from vacation. Send in your rants for his Q&A.)

Mac on Burnett

Steve Novotney reports comments from Mac on Sean Burnett. From Steve's article I learned a number of interesting things:

The team's original plan called for Burnett to pitch the majority of the 2004 campaign for Class AAA Nashville. Once he missed action during spring training and in April with shoulder discomfort, not many expected Burnett would appear as a Pirates starter until after the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

However, after the start against Houston, McClendon decided to unseat right-handed rookie Ryan Vogelsong (2-7, 7.13 ERA) from the rotation and add Burnett.

"The fact is he's a talented individual who knows how to pitch. He's one of our best options to try and win games, and that's why he's in the rotation.

"He's had some little injuries that have made it tough for him to find his groove this season, but I think he'll be fine. He's built up now to where he can go out there and throw 110, 115 pitches just like the rest of them."

"He's missed some starts this year (with Nashville), Pittsburgh farm director Brian Graham explained. "But he wouldn't be up here if we didn't think he was ready physically. Nothing is that important. We're not rushing him at all.

So at the end of March, the Bucs didn't plan to bring him up here at the half-way point. And Novotney's wording makes it sound like McClendon was the one who made the decision on keeping Burnett around. Also we hear Mac shrugging off Sean's "bad" AAA numbers as the consequence of little injuries.

Elsewhere in the article, Burnett complains that he's never been allowed to throw more than 100 pitches per game since he signed with the team.

All in all, I'm really pleased with the way the team has handled this guy. My expectations are low in the short-term but high in the long-term. I think he'll be a good one.

Pedro Feliz & Chris Truby

In the spring I suggested that the Pirates should be suspicious of Chris Truby's improved hitting. I compared him to Pedro Feliz. Well, now it seems Pedro Feliz is not the laughingstock at the plate that he used to be. After knocking the ball good in March, Truby has settled in at Nashville to rip it at a .300 BA / .554 SLG pace. These Sportsnetwork stats pages don't provide OBP (how dare they!) but Truby has 22 walks in 240 at-bats. 35 of his 72 hits have been for extra bases. Truby is 30 so he better rip it up at AAA.

I am not suggesting that the Pirates should bring up Truby and audition him at third base. If Pedro Feliz can put it together at 29, however, maybe Truby could do well all of a sudden at 30. Perhaps I was wrong to laugh him off in March. Fair is fair, so here's a spot in the weak sun of the blogosphere for Chris. If trades or injuries lead the Bucs to consider him as a short-term answer at 3B, we'll support him when he comes up.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Happy Jack

Good picture.

...Dave Pinto summarizes the play at Baseball Musings. His take makes it sound not like daredevil baserunning but like heads-up aggressive baserunning.

Mets want Benson

Yes, the Mets are interested. As they should be.

If that gutty Ty Wigginton hit left-handed, and was signed at the minimum for a year or two . . .

Seriously, what should the Pirates want for Benson from New York? Scott Kazmir or David Wright would be nice, of course. I don't know much about their minor-league players. Blake McGinley throws with his left hand and he has good numbers this year. But he's a AA set-up guy. How about Neal Musser, a 23-year-old AA left-handed starter? I don't know if he looks too exciting on paper. Binghamton leads the Northern division of the Eastern league so there must be some decent players there.

...tues ... Here's how Baseball America graded the Mets' prospects coming into the season. Preseason prospect lists are obsolete by now - Kaz Mat is there at #1 - but that's a list of names the Pirates surely know as they look into a deal with the Mets.


Three hits, two runs, we'll take it. Benson went eight innings, allowed six hits, pitched out of some jams and only allowed one run.

Baseblogger blues

Brian, at Redbird Nation:

As Dan over at Get Up, Baby! pointed out recently, winning is often less interesting than losing, particularly for a baseblogger. How much more fun it is to pick over the latest faux pas, the downward trends, and the all-too-human failings of our favorite teams.

Davis will start vs. lefties

Ed Eagle spoke with Mac about his plans for getting J.J. into the lineup. Sounds like he'll start the next time we see a left-handed starter. In the NL Central, that will be ... August? Seriously, with Milwaukee (four games), Florida (three games), and Monteral (three games) left before the All-Star break, he could get starts against Doug Davis, Chris Capuano, Dontrelle Willis, Michael Tejera, or Scott Downs in the next few weeks.

Josh Sharpless

John Perrotto has a report about Sharpless, our Hickory hurler who's afraid of spiders.

"I scream every time I see one. I can't help it. I hate them. It's awful."
His recent streak of dominance coincides with him growing his hair long.
"I sweat 100 times more than I used to and I've got hair going everywhere," Sharpless said with a grin. "It's working for me, though."
Funny stuff.

Royals get Bautista

For cash. I wonder if the D'Rays held a little auction and sent him to the highest bidder.

Game 73, Jeff Suppan at Kris Benson

The Redbirds have been the tops in the NL Central on the strength of leading the NL in runs scored. Their offense has been powered by Pujols, Rolen, and Edmonds. In six games this year, the team has roughed up the Pirate pitchers at the rate of .296 / .377 / .479. They outscored the Pirates 39 to 23 and won five of six.

The Cardinal pitching has been good this year. Their pitchers have been solid if unspectacular and plenty good enough to win games with the strength of that offense. LaRussa has a number of good left-handers in the bullpen. As with the previous two series, however, the Pirates will only see right-handed starting pitching. Randall Simon may start at first throughout the series, then. He's been a maniac the last few days, drawing walks, hitting for power, and diving around to make good plays at first base. The only flaw in his recent play has been his inability to understand the signs given him by the third-base coach.

Former Pirate Jeff Suppan beat the Pirates on back-to-back starts in late May and early June. He's a finesse pitcher who gets a lot of flyballs. We haven't done much against finesse guys this year.

The Cardinals beat up Kris Benson in his two starts against them this year.

Look for all the trends to reverse. Jason Bay and Randall Simon will both have multi-homer games and Benson will outpitch Suppan by a wide margin.

That would be cool.

Ken Rosenthal Benson rumors

TSN's Ken Rosenthal reports that the Yankees, the Cardinals, and the Angels have been debating the acquisition of Benson:

The Yankees scouted Pirates potential free-agent RHP Kris Benson recently; the Tampa faction of their front office is said to like him, but the New York faction does not. The Cardinals and Angels are among the clubs touching base on Benson, but numerous scouts and executives question whether the pitcher can handle the pressure of a pennant race. "He's such an underachiever, it's sick," one executive says. "He's tough to watch. It doesn't look like he has a pulse.". . .

Clay, thanks for this find.

Smizik: Play Davis, bench Simon

His argument makes a lot of sense. I'm not sure I'd like to see that exhibition spirit in the middle of the season, however. Usually if a guy can't press his way into the lineup, then he's not worth starting. And it undermines morale across the team when some favorite son has a starting job and hasn't earned it the good old-fashioned way.

For sure, give Davis a start per series. The last time he played - or the last time I remember him playing - he was so bad, he would have cleared waivers eight hours later if every club had seen the tape of that game. It was bad out there in right field. Doug Frobel bad.

If Davis can't press for more time, don't give it to him. I may not be right about that, but that's the way I see it.

Home sweet home

As the Bucs come home, why not remind everyone that our home field is super-swanky.

Paul Hagan of Philly News toured them all and likes ours best. Jim Caple said the same thing, only louder some time ago.

I know I agree. I haven't even been to all the parks.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Pirates score 14

After tonight's game, they are on pace to score 727 runs, which is just what we expected. But they are also on pace to allow 833 runs, which is about 100 runs worse than we expected. The Orioles had a similar scored/allowed split last year and they finished with 71 wins. If the Pirates keep up the .403 winning percentage they'll finish with 65 wins.

Last year, they scored 753 and allowed 801. And they won 75 games.

Revisiting the Giles trade

Oliver Perez, Jason Bay, and the work-in-progress PTBNL Cory Stewart for Brian Giles.

A lot of writers said Littlefield made a "horrible blunder" there because he couldn't get San Diego to take Jason Kendall. One website asked, "This makes us wonder, what was the point on the Pirates side of dealing Giles, if they can't also get rid of Kendall's contract?" The transactions expert for another prominent website wrote that "Stunt Chimp" could have made a better trade. After some false graciousness on the impossibility of Littlefield's situation, the conclusion was this: "That said, clearly, on the surface, Dave Littlefield blew it, not getting an awful lot" for Giles.

As usual, the people who were most wrong (and negative) about the current Pirates franchise were national-audience writers who pay little attention to the Pirates. Take Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci, for example, who wrote that the trade demonstrated "misguided thinking" and that Littlefield acquired "a whole lot of mediocrity" that "won't bring this franchise back to respectibility." (If you read that link, notice that Verducci leads with a letter from a San Diego fan who writes to gloat confirm his notion that the Padres made out well with the deal.)

Pirate fans live with such nonsense twice. First, we have to endure it as it happens. Then, we have to listen to it as it is recycled by people who know even less of the subject than the "expert" who fed them that line in the first place. Since a majority of all baseball fans are flattered when a guy like Tom Verducci goes negative on any one losing franchise, it's no surprise that such ideas spread and endure. Unless you are a Pirate fan, such essays provide another reason to feel good about your attachment to your team. (I.e., "at least I'm not rooting for that team.")

The thing is, despite the negativity of a lot of writers, most of the fans liked the deal well enough when it went through. Certainly the majority of Pirate fans were willing to wait and see, I think.

It's not wise or possible to evaluate fully any trade until three or four years have gone by. In the meantime, however, the trade is looking OK for the Pirates, and it's pretty safe to say that many analysts rushed to judgment.

Game 72, Josh Fogg at Paul Wilson

This is a day game after a night game, so look for a wacky lineup with a mainstay or two getting a day off.

Paul Wilson is a good work-ethic guy who gets the most out of mediocre stuff. STATS tells me his fastball rarely touches 90. Yet he's had a lot of success this year, perhaps because he's been more of a groundball pitcher this year. He doesn't strike many guys out and he gives up some walks. He's a finesse guy. He has no meaningful record against the Pirates.

Josh Fogg hasn't had a really good start since June 4th, with disasters in two of his last three. Griffey, Casey, and Dunn have four homers off him in 28 combined at-bats.

'79 Pirates looking up at Expos

It's Sunday, so the Trib has their feature on what the '79 Pirates were doing this time that year. They were four games above .500 and six games back of Les Expos.

Jeff Keppinger

Kevin Gorman has a full report on this guy hitting .396 for the Curve.