Saturday, July 31, 2004

All hail Ryan Vogelsong

He of the 77 pitches and 44 strikes. Sounds like he was scaring people.

I guess Kris Benson gave him back his mojo before he left for Atlanta.

Matt Peterson

Matt Peterson hails from Alexandria, Louisiana, on I-49 smack dab in the middle of the state, the birthplace of other notable ballplayers such as Warren Morris and Terry Mathews. It seems that no one spilled much ink on him as a high school player. At 6'5" and 210 pounds, he's a 22-year-old righty who's been pitching well for the Binghampton Mets of the Eastern League. The book on him says 90-92 mph fastball with a big-league curve and a changeup that needs to get better. He's said to have "savvy" and "poise" for a kid his age. Rotowire (if you subscribe to one baseball news service, I recommend Rotowire) puts it this way:

He has a solid 90-92 mph fastball that he throws to both sides of the plate on a downward plane, but his out pitch is a 12-to-6 curveball that will be a plus pitch with a little more consistency. His changeup also has shown flashes of becoming a solid offering and he did a better job with his focus and concentration on the mound in 2003.

In 2000, the Mets took him in the second round of the draft. He was 18 at the time so I assume he came straight out of high school.

In 2003, he spent most of the season with Class A St. Lucie. In his first start, he strained his rotator cuff and then missed about a month of the season. He finished well, with a 9-2 record and a 1.71 ERA. He had 73 strikeouts and 24 walks in 84 innings which suggests he's something of a power guy. Even better: he only allowed 65 hits in those 84 innings (that's a WHIP of 1.06, roto players). He made six starts in AA last year and wasn't so impressive but OK. The Mets returned him to St. Lucie for their playoffs and he obliterated the competition in two starts, going 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA. He got the Seiko watch they give out for winning the honor of Mets Organizational Pitcher of the Year.

The Mets brought him to camp this March. Praising him, Art Howe said he has a nice frame and that "the ball comes out of his hand real nice." Howe lined him up against the Dodgers early in the month. He pitched two innings, gave up six hits, allowed four earned runs, walked nobody and struck out two. That was it for his time in Spring Training. Then he went to AA Binghamton. Down there he started 19 games, threw 104 innings, allowed 97 hits, 45 walks, 90 strikeouts, and 11 home runs. He had a 6-4 record with a 3.27 ERA (but, I noticed, a lot of unearned runs too). Binghamton has been one of the best teams in the Northern division and has an overall record that is not quite as good as Altoona's.

Peterson is just now coming off the disabled list for a strained left oblique muscle. Other than the strained cuff in early 2003 and this strained oblique, I find no other record of injury. That doesn't mean he hasn't been hurt; it only means I can't find any other news about him missing time for being hurt.

This year, the Mets have been considering him closer to major-league ready than Scott Kazmir, the more highly-regarded prospect they sent to Tampa Bay, but they regarded him as still some time away. Some people doubted if he was dominating AA as much as his Single A performance led them to expect. But the season's not over, so we'll see what he can do for the Curve.

Peterson appears to rank right around there with Ian Snell, at least from a performance standpoint. In 20 starts, Snell has thrown 117 innings, allowed 120 hits, 34 walks, 103 strikeouts, and 13 home runs. I don't know how these AA starters come out with good ERAs allowing so many HRS. Snell's record for the curve has been 7-6 with a 3.38 ERA.

Looking in at the Curve, I see Zach Duke continuing to come on strong. In two starts, he's 1-0 with 12 strikeouts, 7 hits, and 2 walks in 11 innings.

Young pitchers are so unpredictably injury-prone, it's hard to get too excited about them before set foot on a big-league mound. The rarity of the exceptions – e.g., Mark Prior – prove that rule. So the best thing an organization can do is stockpile them. The more young starters you have, the better chance you'll have of developing your own Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and so forth. Peterson looks like a solid pickup for a team that plans to specialize in homegrown starting pitching.

Thoughts on the trade

More details about the big trade are out this morning. For one, the Pirates optioned Alvarez back to Nashville and moved Boehringer to the 60-day DL to make room for Wigginton and Bautista, Ed Eagle reports.

There are many "good-bye" details for Kris Benson, including this story by Steve Novotney and notes here, for example, and here on him leaving friends. My favorite line comes from Novotney's article. It's about the Anna Benson Factor. I still think teams pursued him not as a two-month rental but as someone to figure in their rotation for several years. With a outspoken supermodel wife, Benson would obviously move to New York, where she can work and get all kinds of national exposure. He wasn't going to sign with Minnesota when New York was available, I believe. Responding to her reputation for calling talk shows, Benson said: "What can I say? She's a strong lady,'' Benson said. "She believes in me, and if there's anyone who knows what I've gone through to get back to 100 percent, it's her.''

There's no doubt in my mind that Benson will be one of the better pitchers in the national league over the next year.

Wigginton arrives with the following:

"I'm definitely without a doubt very excited," Wigginton, a right-handed batter, said of joining the Pirates.

That's here, in Paul Meyer's article on the trade. We may be a little tired of hearing about hustle and blue-collar work ethics, but Wigginton does have some of that reckless abandon on the basepaths that Pirate fans have cheered since the days of the Flying Dutchman. The man consistently scores more runs than you'd expect for a .330 OBP guy. And he plays third base. There's a good chance the Great Ty Wigginton (as we always call him in one of my roto leagues) will grow on us. I'm ready to give him some time. Whatever he does, I doubt he'll make us miss Chris Stynes.

The trade came down to needing a third baseman. This is speculation on my part. Mackowiak is not a long-term answer there for various reasons. Neither is Bobby Hill. And the free agent market is going to be very tight and highly priced this fall. Rather than take the very best players available, Littlefield appears to have gone for the best players available at that position. Wigginton has obvious holes in his game (e.g., his defense) that will give the Pirates some leverage in arbitration. He shouldn't get too expensive. Also, the fact that Bautista projects as a third baseman appears to have been pretty significant since the Pirates took him instead of a more highly-touted catching prospect.

One thing this tells me is that Littlefield intends to work with the guys we have now. By focussing on such specific needs, Littlefield suggests that he does not think churning the roster is the best way to build up the team. If he only accepts the best overall players, then he puts himself in a position where he has to trade some more. He'd have to trade and trade and trade until the roster is balanced across the positions. This particular trade does not require the Pirates to make more trades. Fans of the current players might see that as a sign that DL intends to build around the players we have now. Maybe I'm seeing too much in the tea leaves, but it's something to consider.

I agree with Bob Smizik and sense that the Pirates got the best deal. He's more down on the quality of Benson than I am. My guess is that when men like Bobby Cox want to add Benson to the rotation, that doesn't indicate that Benson is not that great a pitcher. We'll see how well he pitches over the next year.

If the regular eight are Kendall, Wilson, Castillo, Wilson, Bay, Redman, Mackowiak, and now Wigginton, and if we're carrying 13 position players, the bench is what ... Bobby Hill, Noonie, Bautista, and some two of Simon, Stynes, and House/Cota. I'll guess we're going to keep Simon and Stynes. Bones may get his hot-dog eating contest as soon as tomorrow.

Here's hoping the deal ends any distraction the players might have been experiencing from the on-the-field challenges. Thursday night they pissed away a win in the ninth against one of the best teams in the league. Last night, Burnett got lit up by the Brewers. Tonight Ryan Vogelsong takes the mound and hopes to recover his March form. Losing Benson is a huge blow to the rotation, but it makes an opportunity where we have plenty of guys to audition. Adding Wigginton should help the offense.

I'll cut the Pirates some slack for treading water over the last ten. Now it's time to stop talking trade and focus on how the Pirates are winning and could win more.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Benson trade

Full details:

For Benson, eligible for free agency after this season, and minor league infielder Jeff Keppinger, the Mets traded infielder Ty Wigginton, highly touted minor league pitcher Matt Peterson and infielder Jose Bautista to the Pirates. The Mets got Bautista earlier in the day from Kansas City for minor league catcher Justin Huber.

Story here. Keppinger is the high batting-average singles hitter from Altoona. He was 24 in AA.

First reaction: let's see what Wigginton does in the black and gold before we get too depressed or excited.

Also: the big surprise is getting the Mets to burn Huber to get Bautista back. Littlefield admits a mistake and pays a price to undo it. He exposes himself to even more criticism about last year's Rule V draft. I kinda respect that. In the meantime, a lot of people are going to call Bautista getting "nothing" for Huber, who is a highly-regarded catching prospect.

And: Bucs trade pitcher, add two position players. Someone has to come off the 40-man roster somehow, and the Pirates have to make room among the position players for Wigginton and Bautista, who is going to stick around.

And: Mac said Wigginton will play first and third, and not cut into Mackowiak's playing time.

Ouch

Breaking news is DL got Wigginton, Matt Peterson, and Jose Bautista for Benson. Wow this seems bad for Bucs to me on the surface. All I can picture is the Simon vs. Wigginton hot-dog-eating contests in the clubhouse dining room.

Bye-bye Anna we'll miss you.

Game 101: Sean Burnett at Doug Davis

Nice to see Mr. Davis again. If Tony Alvarez starts in the outfield, this may be why.

An 8-1 victory sure would go down smooth about now. Hmmm. So thirsty . . .

Mortgaging the future?

The Mets are three games under .500 and seven and a half out of the wild card race. We're four games under .500 and a half game back of the Mets. How silly will a Benson trade tomorrow look if the Pirates win, the Mets lose, and we're ahead of them in the wild card standings?

All the we-won't-mortgage-the-future-for-the-present talk disguises the fact that Duquette is not looking to make a trade that helps the team this year. He's thinking long-term and using the phony "contender" status to justify keeping his best chips. The New York media provide cover by spinning his interest in our twice-injured and unproven ace as "keeping up with the Yankees." Is that the reason the Mets are pretending to be contenders? A likely story, I say.

Why are the Mets hot for Benson? The Mets seem keen because Benson has indicated he'll sign an extension with them. And, because they know he could be awesome long and soon. The Braves are also interested, the rumors run, because Benson, whose family now lives in Georgia, would do a deal with them on Sunday.

That's it: the Mets and the Braves don't want Benson for now. They want him for later. They want him for next year and the year after. They must figure that Benson will get more as a free agent in December than he'll take in a contract extension next week.

All the more the reason they should give up the nappy prospects.

"I don't think I'm a loafer"

Been there, done that.

This is a problem with the radical rebuilding schemes so many armchair GMs advise: players slack off when the expectations are lowered. (A corollary of this proposition is that we can expect underachievers to perform better when transferred to winning teams. Trust me, "Bones" Benson will go off in another uniform.)

The losing and the slacking off go hand-in-hand.

Kansas City has lost seven straight, and has scored just 11 runs over the stretch.

Royals first baseman Ken Harvey was taken out of the game by manager Tony Pena for not running out a pop fly in the fourth.

``Either we're going to play the game right or people are going to be on the bench,'' Pena said. ``I ask my players to run the ball out. Whoever doesn't run the ball out, I'm going to take him out of the game. It's inexcusable.''

Harvey said he ran all the way to the bag on the ball that was caught by first baseman Martinez.

``I thought it was good enough, but I didn't run hard enough,'' Harvey said. ``What I can do? That's his decision. End of story.

``I feel like I play hard everyday. I'm not trying to make this into a battle of what I do, but I think my effort speaks for itself everyday. Ask my teammates ... I play hard. I don't think I'm a loafer. If I'm the scapegoat, I guess I'll be that guy.''

Sucks for Tony Pena. A few more years of this and Royals marketing will have to sell "hustle" as the team's strong point.

For Harvey, a better answer would be less mopey, something like, "I started running hard but then I saw this beautiful woman in the stands. I slowed down to see if I could make eye contact and give her a smile. I let everyone down with this lack of self-discipline. I promise it will never happen again."

Boston likes Rob Mackowiak

John Perrotto reports that Boston has its eye on Rob Mackowiak should their deal for Jay Payton fall through. (Thank you, Rotowire, for the alert. Beaver County doesn't post their articles as early as the other sources.)

This is verry interesting since the knock against Wigginton (for me at least) is that he does more or less the same things that Rob Mackowiak does. And I like Rob Mackowiak and I think we need a potential starter and not a potential starting stop-gap/super utility guy.

Mackowiak should be eligible for arbitration with his service time. I have no idea what he would command. Wigginton came up in May of 2002 so he should be eligible for arbitration too, based on the little I know about on the subject. Wigginton is playing his 26 season; Mackowiak is playing his 28 season.

Remember folks, we only see the tip of the iceberg. We don't what, if anything, in these reports is true. And we know there are things we don't know. And we don't know how much we don't know. (Do I sound like Donald Rumsfield?)

For all we know, Baltimore has been making discreet inquiries about Randall Simon.

Ticket sales predictable, encouraging

Joe Starkey reports today on recent ticket sales for the Tribune-Review.

The bad news is that the season-ticket base remains low (under 9,000) and the overall pace remains behind the sadness that was the 2003 pace.

The good news is that the walk-up sales have been great this past week.

On Wednesday, they drew the largest mid-week walk-up sale (7,331) in PNC Park's four-year history. Yesterday's game attracted 25,988, including a walk-up sale of 6,533.

The Pirates finished the month with a 12-4 home record, by far, their best month at PNC Park.

They are 22-11 in the past 33 games.

No wonder the team easily exceeded its projected July attendance.

Win and when we come, we'll bring more friends. Win while we're with you, and we'll all come back soon. It's pretty simple.

Starkey adds another opinion I share:

[Mike Berry, the team's vice president of marketing and sales] still seems a bit caught up in the "work ethic" thing. He used the phrase several times and said, "We think we have a hard-working group of players that fans can really identify with."

Nobody wants to hear that stuff anymore. They want results.

Nail, head, etc. Sure, we appreciate the fact that battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won. We know that spirit matters.

But that's not enough. That's an expectation and not a hope. It's exasperating to watch Joggin' George Hendrick fail to reach safely when the throw gets past the first baseman. But it's not satisfying to watch the players hustle and lose. Having a good work ethic is the bare minimum.

We're not buying tickets for a team because they are sold with excuses. When the marketing people lead with this "they work hard like you" stuff, we're hearing excuses. "This team works hard" is code for "we probably won't win, but we'll hustle." As Starkey says, we're not buying that. "We got rid of George Hendrick" will not send me running to the ticket window -- especially when I know Randall Simon is still on the roster.

If the Pirates want to sell tickets for their August homestands, they should run ads that emphasize July's winning home record. Ads won't be as effective as the eleven o'clock news reporting a victory, but if Mike Berry needs talking points, winning more and building a home-field advantage should go up above the stuff about young guys with a good work ethic.

Oliver

For some reason I really enjoy reading about Oliver Perez. Ed Eagle and Rob Biertempfel oblige.

Benson

Sorry Batgirl, your Twins have backed off. Joe Rutter and Paul Meyer have that news.

Sounds like the addition of Lastings Milledge has Littlefield listening to the Mets again. Meyer reports that the Braves are in it.

Rotoworld reports that Peter Gammons reports the Pirates will trade Benson for Wigginton, Peterson, and Milledge tomorrow. Sounds like he did this on TV and threw in some speculation that the White Sox would give us a player to sweeten the deal and keep Benson out of Minnesota. That would be sweet. Maybe the Indians will throw in Grady Sizemore? How much protection money is too much?

I've learned a few things about media coverage since starting this blog. It was obvious enough that the New York teams get the most coverage. They have the most papers and the most people getting paid to write something every day. What's less obvious is two things. One, the New York writers present a lot more speculation and also indulge in more "L.A. Confidential"-type gossip stories. A lot of the news is soft. It's not factual and it's not always related to the play on the field.

Second, all of the national sources are on top of the New York coverage. Guys like Peter Gammons don't miss any of it. This stems from an imperative the national sources feel: they must report the New York news. They don't care what the quality is. If A-Rod swore like a teenage sailor with anger-management problems, that footage starts Baseball Tonight. If two guys at the New York Post have trade rumors, Peter Gammons has better trade rumors. The big national guys will not go on TV and hard news on the Colorado Rockies when there's any excuse to talk about the Yankees or the Mets.

This isn't the first time there have been rumors that the Pirates will trade Benson to the Mets "tomorrow."

The Atlanta and Anaheim sides are largely unknown. If Terry Ryan doesn't go on Minnesota talk radio to say he's out because we won't take Resto, then we wouldn't know that, either.

We're too in the dark to be able to second-guess how the Pirates are handling the negotiations. But we're not so in the dark. Maybe we believe Peter Gammons, or maybe we wait and see.

Maybe we wait an hour and read in the Post that the rumor is false. Think Gammons made it up just so he could bask in the glow of rapt attention? Today the Post says the Mets will part with Scott Kazmir (!) for Victor Zambrano (!!). Not the hot-headed Cub starter but the Devil Ray.

P.S. No more drafting players with girly first names. Would it be such a bitch to trade Benson if his first name was manly and menacing, like, say, Bones?

Music to my ears

From Ron Cook's piece on Plax:

But the Steelers have talked about getting back to power football. They want to run the ball more with Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis. They think that will take a little pressure off Tommy Maddox, who played like a 6-10 quarterback last season.

When I think of Maddox last year, all I remember is the 41 sacks.

Duce is going to make a great Steeler.

Bucs lose to Braves in late-inning rally

Paul Meyer has the recap.

One thing I don't get is the persistent criticism of the Pirates fans and Pirates media for their "infatuation" with Jack Wilson. We like Jack Wilson, for sure. Wilson is one of the most-quoted players in the clubhouse, yes. We get his version of events often. But I doubt Wilson would agree that we have a blind eye for his gaffes. Read the recap and see if you agree.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Ricky Williams's early retirement

So he quit to relax and smoke weed. That's what I'm reading right here. If we all didn't know that Ricky was retiring to smoke dope and be an idler, we'd see a much different response to his decision to get out early. More people would admire it.

A few years ago I had a meeting with a retirement counselor about how much I needed to put away every month. She asked, at what age would you like to retire? I said I don't know, 65 or 70, and she spit out her coffee. Most people say 50, she said. I'm young enough to not know what I'm talking about. Most of you people hope to retire early.

Football is such a brutal, body-destroying sport, I won't be surprised if early retirement doesn't become a lot more common among the highly-paid superstars. Barry Sanders was the first and Ricky Williams won't be the last. Seriously, once you had four million in the bank, would you play one more year and risk serious injury so you could retire with six million instead? How much is enough? I could retire right now on one million.

Free agency is still a pretty new thing in baseball and football. We haven't seen the last major change in the game that will be wrought by the rise of individualism among highly-paid American professionals. The middle of the twentieth century, with its memory of the Great Depression, its celebration of modest expectations, and its respect for stable careers and jobs that grew with the employee, was very kind to professional baseball and football. It was good for the team. Today, what could be more obsolete than the company man? In this era of looted pension plans, you're just a sucker - the most loathsome kind of fool - if you are so naive to think that your loyalty to one employer will be rewarded. The team player today is adept only at joining the ad hoc.

Considering that free agency was long overdue when it was first introduced, we can expect the rapid pace of related change to continue. There will be no more sports teams where the owners, front office people, and players all feel like one big family. That's gone forever. And the team concept will continue to erode. Especially as we pervert our appreciation of team sports with games like fantasy baseball or fantasy football.

The only thing that will preserve the tradition of single-team careers is a shortening of the average career. Some lucky and healthy baseball players will stick around into the 40s because the game can be so much easier on the body. And if the game and the travel become easy for you, why retire? If they don't have much health, however, why should the highly paid stick around into their 30s? Take Chipper Jones or Ken Griffey for example. Or J.D. Drew or, in a few years, Jose Reyes. How long will they stick around to risk further damage to their already crippled bodies?

Before long, guys like them will retire early to enjoy their money and their body in their wealthy retirement. Before long, football fans will expect players to retire after a few highly-paid years. And, when it's no longer shocking, the fans will idolize them for it. Because they, too, would do the same thing if given the chance.

Game 100, John Thomson at Josh Fogg

It's a battle of fifth starters as the Pirates close out this series with the dread team from Atlanta. It's a day game after a night game so perhaps Noonie and House will get a start somewhere.

If you're going to the game and plan to sit in the outfield, make sure you bring your glove. Thomson has been pretty easy to hit this season.

3:45pm ... grumble.

Benson, Twins "at loggerheads"

John Perrotto has his summary of the state of all things Benson.

I don't feel too qualified to make judgments since I'm sure we only learn about 2% of the overall picture through the media. I'll just sit back and wait for something to happen. And not be surprised if nothing happens after all. An 83-win season would have a lot of value for the team in terms of ticket sales, and Benson would be a big help in the drive toward that goal.

If Mike Restovich and Mike Ryan are the best the league will offer for him, then the rest of the league can go to hell. I know the Cool Kids on the web all think Benson's a "proven mediocrity," but the GMs around the league should know better.

Smizik on Cowher

This is the best case I've seen about the Cowher extension.

For me, it was a no-brainer. I didn't give it much thought. Of course you extend him.

Larry Bowa wants a pitcher

And he's ready to sing about it.

Manning signs

Details not released but believed to be a $20 million signing bonus. Whoa. I mean, double whoa. $20 mil guaranteed for eli manning. This is why you are happy you are not a giants fan. Look for Leigh Steinberg to ask for +$13 mil signing bonus for Ben despite his relatively low draft slot by saying not much ability separates him from eli. So far everybody is saying the right things about Ben's negotiations, but don' t underestimate Silky Steinberg. He smiles with iron teeth. Given the manning figure, and the fact that Ben won't play this year anyway, a holdout should not surprise.

Professional

Mac should apologize for the unprofessional comment. That ain't right. Few teams are so well served by their beat writers, and Mac has no right to question a reporter's professionalism over one story that got out of hand and embarrassed him and some other people.

And why the touchiness about the possibility that a frustrated twentysomething ballplayer would get upset with his boss? Is there a single GM in the league who is only loved, day in and day out, by his players? Of course they'll get mad at him sometimes.

That said, the players have their point - read this for an example - but all this is garden-variety grumbling about a garden-variety careless comment. And none of this is the fault of a beat writer.

Get some sleep, you Pirates people.

Mackowiak on his future

Steve Novotney interviews Rob Mackowiak, who discusses his season to date as well as his thoughts about the future.

Benson benson benson

Yawn. Still here?

Bob Dvorchak and Joe Rutter sum it up as of right now.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Back in the cellar

No big deal - just looking for a bottle of wine or three.

Tough day at the office

Picture says it all.

Blog post of the year

Batgirl has it. Enjoy!

Mac will let us know

Refreshing candor from Mac at the end of Steve Novotney's latest.

Wells not unhappy

Glad that got cleared up.

Game 99, Russ Ortiz at Oliver Perez

Tonight two aces square off at PNC.

After winning five straight starts, Russ Ortiz stymied the Bucs in Atlanta in his last start. It was a day game after a night game and Mac started some of the usual backups. Tonight Ortiz should see our best and brightest.

New Q & A

Paul Meyer's new Q & A is up.

The buzz in it shows that Pirate fans see some light on the horizon. They know the promised land lies over the next hill.

No Dougie

No surprise.

Wells not happy

I'm inclined to take Littlefield's side of this. We expect the players to try hard; they don't get points for that. Wells has not been the ace this year. You are what you are, as Tony LaRussa says (I think that's a LaRussa line), and the players have to be mature about it. No one is attacking his character or questioning his heart if he says the Pirates need to get more out of their ace if they are going to win a championship.

That said, Littlefield has been pretty blunt in his assessment of the team as lacking. I read those comments as putting some spine in his demands for particular kinds of players: we need them, he's saying, we have to have them. They are a lot like the comments Jim Duquette made about not trading his "first-born son": you can't have them, he said, we won't give them to you. Littlefield can't expect the players to go along with whatever stance he's taking as he negotiates with other GMs for the best players he can get. These guys are living in the moment and no team can roll like this without believing they could beat up some teams in the playoffs.

High emotion is good when the team is winning. More fuel for the right kind of fire.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Out of the cellar

Raise your hand if you once owned this album. Hard to believe Ratt is still touring.

This post has nothing to do with baseball or the current standings or anything like that, so I apologize for wasting your time. As you were.

Green Weenie

Brandon Linden has launched a new Pirates site, GreenWeenie.com. Drop in and cheer him on.

If you need help with the allusion in the title, enjoy these "Gunnerisms" of Bob Prince and read a fuller history in this biography of Danny Whelan.

Game 98: Paul Byrd at Kip Wells

We just saw this guy Paul Byrd and beat him.

...10pm ... all hail Rob Mackowiak. That guy is a keeper.

Two more for a glimpse of the Promised Land.

Mac on scheduling

Steve Novotney catches up with Mac and finds him scratching his head about the 2004 schedule.

Three games under

Anyone else catch Lanny's rant (on KDKA) last night about how everyone uses the expression "games under" incorrectly?

When someone says the Pirates are three games under .500, I take that to mean they have to win three games to get back to .500. Lanny would say the Pirates are one and a half games under .500 because if they had won one and a half games instead of losing them, then they'd be .500.

Lanny, why are you surprised that people prefer to look forward and think in terms of whole numbers? I was more irritated than amused because I had so many questions in my mind about the game. We need those guys to be our eyes. It must be hard to grind out play-by-play for game after game after game, so I don't want to sound too hard on Lanny, but sometimes he makes his job harder than it needs to be. All we want to hear is straight-up plain description of what's going on. Instead of some rant about semantics and how all the world but you is stupid, I'd so rather hear something like, "Wright adjusts his cap. Now he's scratching his balls. None of the Atlanta outfielders are moving. The fans on the left side of the upper deck are all wearing the same color t-shirt. Looks like a school group. They have the Andy Warhol picture of Jason Bay on the jumbotron now. Wright adjusts his cap some more. OK, now he's set. Here's the pitch . . . "

Another reason to not like interleague play

Tom Veil observes:

if interleague games were not counted, the Pirates would be in 2nd place in the NL Central and in 2nd place in the Wild Card standings

The NL Central standings would look like this:

STL 52 35 0.598
PIT 45 40 0.529
CHC 45 42 0.517
CIN 45 43 0.511
HOU 42 45 0.483
MIL 40 46 0.465

But every game counts so we live with that 2-10 interleague record.

Rob gets love, Mientkiewicz gets attention

Ken Rosenthal's latest Inside Dish shows some love for our man Mack:

Pirates IF/OF Rob Mackowiak, a former 53rd-round draft pick, began the week with 14 home runs in 309 at-bats. Mackowiak held his own batting third after 1B/OF Daryle Ward was injured, and few players can match his combination of skills. Not only is Mackowiak a left-handed hitter with power, but he also is an above-average runner with a right fielder's arm.

Charlie is blogging about Doug Manishevitz, a guy Rosenthal describes as a good fit with the Red Sox. Looks to me like the Twins want to move salary and open up some lines of playing time for other guys. Plus Doug has been underachieving. He has had tendon damage in his left wrist and he just came off a DL stint to get him healthy. He could be primed for a short burst of quality play for someone - it looks like a good buying opportunity if you believe in buying low and selling high. Necessity never made a good bargain and the Twins have some necessity to unload Mientkiewicz.

Like Charlie, I'm not sure Mientkiewicz is a great fit with the Pirates. Yes, he's left-handed and he fields very well and so he'd fit with the plan of adding guys that fit PNC and fit a rebuilding around starting pitching. On the other hand, he just signed for two years and he's owed $3.75M for 2005. I don't know how much DL will have to spend next year but we can only assume it's about the same amount as he had to spend this year. So it seems like a lot for the Pirates to throw after a first baseman with little power and a recent injury history that reminds me of Pat Meares. If I was Dave Littlefield, I'm not sure I'd want to come home from the mall with such a huge purchase after giving so many lectures on the limitations of the family's monthly budget. Can you see it? "Hi, honey, I'm home. Guess what . . . I got a great deal on an oriental rug that is going to be perfect in the living room . . . can you believe it was 50% off just because of this teeny-tiny tear down the middle? I'm sure your mom can sew it up and make it good as new and it only cost three thousand dollars."

Doug could be going somewhere else as part of a series of trades or a multi-team trade. The Twins want to lose him. GMs are bargain-hunters so he's probably getting a lot of interest around the league. The Pirates have shown interest in the past, but I do believe DL was asking about him before the Twins signed him to that big deal this past February. These days, other teams can better afford him.

...the good people at Bat-Girl are already mourning Doug's loss. Apparently, many fans in Minnesota love their Doug and don't want to see him go.

Pacific Northwest proud of Bay

The Bremerton Sun reports on Jason Bay's success for their readers in the Pacific Northwest.

Hickory No-No

No-hitter last night for Hickory.

New Stats Geek

Brian O'Neill looks at the pitching of the last month.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Game 97: Jaret Wright at Kris Benson

We just saw the Braves and they have continued to play well since we saw them last.

They'll start Jaret Wright, Paul Byrd, Russ Oritz, and John Thomson in this four-game (weather permitting) PNC homestand. The Bucs sold a ton of tickets this past weekend and I hope they sell a lot of tickets this week, too, though some heavy rain will discourage long commutes. The team has been responding to the "jolt" of the recent large and rowdy crowds and they'll need all the joltin' they can get as they finish this homestand.

Jaret Wright is the frontrunner for the Comeback Player of the Year. He was hurt a lot with the Indians and brought into Atlanta on a one-year, 850K contract. We all thought he'd wind up in the bullpen but he's churned out 19 starts this year.

His numbers are pretty good on the year but it's easy to see a few weaknesses. A right-handed power pitcher, he's been vulnerable to lefthanded batters this year (.283 / .371 / .420). He's also had a real problem with the stolen base the last few years - opponents have had success in 30 of the 32 attempts he's seen since the start of 2002. On the whole, though, he's been consistent and effective. He's the subject of feel-good stories worth reading.

Rain, rain, go away.

Bunting a runner to third

I saw this last night on ESPN:

NY YANKEES 1ST
-Top of the 1st inning
-K Lofton doubled to center.
-D Jeter sacrificed to pitcher, K Lofton to third.
-G Sheffield singled to center, K Lofton scored.
-A Rodriguez reached on infield single to third, G Sheffield to second.
-J Posada hit by pitch, G Sheffield to third, A Rodriguez to second.
-H Matsui hit sacrifice fly to center, G Sheffield scored.
-B Williams flied out to left.

Jeter gives away an out to move a runner in scoring position to third base. The ESPN analysts praise him for it and start to talk about "productive outs" and the wisdom of getting an early lead. No one mentions that Lofton would have scored from second on Sheffield's single.

Jack Wilson did this exact same thing on a Wednesday in late June::

PITTSBURGH 1ST
-Bottom of the 1st inning
-J Kendall hit a ground rule double to deep right.
-J Wilson sacrificed to pitcher, J Kendall to third.
-R Mackowiak singled to right, J Kendall scored.
-C Wilson popped out to third.
-J Bay reached on infield single to third, R Mackowiak to second.
-R Simon walked, R Mackowiak to third, J Bay to second.
-T Redman singled to right, R Mackowiak and J Bay scored, R Simon tagged out at third.

Mac came out and let everyone know that he didn't order the bunt, that it was all Jack Wilson, and we all agreed it was a boneheaded play and an example of the way Jack needs more work on some parts of his game.

The Pirates are often abused for their smallball tendencies by half-interested and half-informed writers who mainly devote themselves to more fashionable teams. So let's get this scenario straight. Even though Jeter did it and was praised for it on baseball's biggest stage, that was nonsense and Jeter was a bonehead for dropping down that bunt. Right?

Looks like a baseball team

Mac said that describing the Bucs last weekend.

Oliver Perez looked good on Friday. There should be a few more stars on that hat though. And the Saturday stripes were winners too.

What do you think of the 1979 uniforms? They're audacious by the current standard. And I like to see the Pirates getting insolent with the rest of the league.

To be a Pirate right now

From the end of John Perrotto's recap:

Mackowiak got it and the Pirates completed the sweep on a weekend in which they honored their last World Series-winning team from 1979 and drew a season-best 100,417 for the series.

"It's great to be a Pirate right now," Bay said. "It was just a great weekend all the way around."

Good time to be a fan, too.

Remind me to pick up my Jason Bay jersey the next time I'm in Pirate outfitters.

Ryan Vogelsong

John Perrotto has this on Ryan V. Bob Biertempfel has more here.

I think it would be wise to give him another try in the rotation if a spot opened up for him. He was pitching quite well before he fell apart in mid-April.

Necessity never made a good bargain

Those GMs sure can whine.

Remembering Pops

Steve Novotney talked with Mac about Willie Stargell and the way the game has changed since he was our man at first.

Pirate killings on rise

Highest level of Pirate killings in more than a decade. For real. It's kinda scary.

The Braves should stay out of the water this week.

Wild Card

Six games back.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Call 911, Scream and Shout, Wave Your Arms Around

Tike Redman is a man on fire.

Clean Sweep

My wife really likes this show which is all about this team that goes home and sweeps out all their shit and redecorates and then decides it's an all-new home and now they will go forward and kick ass and be the great winners they always thought they could be in that home.

She's always turning on TLC to look for Maternity Ward or Labor and Delivery or anything where women have babies and graphic C-sections and so forth, and that's all she finds, Clean Sweep.

This has nothing to do with today's tremendous victory so I'll wrap it and end the post now.

Remember the Grays

Milan Simonich reports on the movement in Washington, D.C., to have the Expos relocated there as the Grays.

I'm still hoping the Expos become the Las Vegas Explorers but, if they move to DC, I'm sold on this proposal.

A DC team should be the Grays. That town sees too much in terms of black-and-white. The Grays could remind them to find a middle ground.

Visit their website, Remember the Grays, where they have a petition going.

Pirates outscore opponents

Check it out. Pirates have scored 432 and allowed 427 on the year.

Some writers get excited about "run differential" and regard it as the best predictor of future success. It's another measure, I think, but one that's more descriptive than predictive.