Saturday, August 14, 2004

Game 114: Jamey Wright at Oliver Perez

Go Oliver. The Rockies have been pretty hot but who cares. We have to win this one.

Pirates want to make a move or Steeler mania will sweep over a good part of their fans.

Preaseaon: Steelers at Lions

Any thoughts about the game?

Let Down

This says it all:

"Tonight was frustrating because we thought we had a pretty good pitching match-up," McClendon said. "We liked our guy on the mound. We thought we could handle their guy a little better. It didn't work out that way."

From Joe Rutter's report.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Game 113: Jeff Fassero at Kip Wells

I have a hunch Kip Wells will be sharp tonight.

Also, regarding the whole series, the Pirates finally catch a team without a winning record, so there's some danger that the Rockies might catch them with their guard down. There is no little enemy, right.

The team is back to six games under, a station they've often occupied. If they can rattle off four straight wins, or win six of the next eight, and go into September a game under .500, then they have a chance at the 83-win season I prophesied earlier in the year. And a better chance at an 82 or 81-win season. Both things would be a cause for great rejoicing in Buccoland.

With all the call-ups, they will be a better team provided they play to win. The bullpen could be tremendous with an extra group of guys hanging around to sop up some low-leverage mop-up work & thus keep Mesa, Torres, Gonzalez, Meadows et al fresh. With some extra starters around, and it being the end of the season, Mac can yank Vogelsong or Fogg at the first sign of trouble and see what some other guy can do. The regular rotation of starting position players should continue throughout the rest of the year with occassional starts for cup-of-joe guys when matchups are favorable. If the Pirates play to win, the expanded roster will do more to improve them than it will do to help, say, the Cardinals or the Cubs.

...I knew that pre-game hot dog eating contest was a bad idea.


Preseason football, I could care less. But I see Kordell's name in the box score playing for the Ravens.

Was Kordell Stewart the Kevin Young of the Steelers? Or the Jimmy Anderson? Feels like Jimmy Anderson because when I saw his name under Baltimore I thought, man, wouldn't it be nice if we could start against him for a change?

The Boogeyman and J.J. Davis

Steve Novotney looks investigates the many fears of J.J. Davis.

Going into the season, I thought "getting nothing" from J.J. was an unlikely and absolute worst-case scenario.

All hail Zach Duke

Altoona numbers to date: five starts, 30 IP, 21 hits, 23 Ks, 5 BBs, 0 HRs. Oh, and a 0.90 ERA.

Jose Castillo

Ed Eagle and Joe Rutter catch us up on Jose Castillo's near-drowning rookie year experience. Castillo appears to be on the Jack Wilson career path.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Game 112: Jason Schmidt at Ryan Vogelsong

There is no little enemy.

Adios Little League

Well, not quite.

I blame fantasy sports.


From Ed Eagle's notebook:

McClendon denies that he has become a more aggressive manager this season. According to him, he is just finally getting a chance to make significant decisions late in games.

"I'm managing the same way I have always managed. The only difference now is I'm getting an opportunity to manage." said McClendon.

"The first couple of years, I just sat there [twiddling] my thumbs, watching us get beat. We were out of every game by the fourth inning. There was no managing involved. Now, we've got an opportunity to do some things. We're matching up. We've got some talent."

McClendon's a fine manager but he could learn a thing or two about presenting himself as such to the press. He was eaten alive by the snickering set when he made a comment, earlier in the year, that appeared to take credit for Craig Wilson's emergence as a hitter.

Also, it's not true that the Pirates were "out of every game by the fourth inning" when he started managing. They've won some games every year he's been the man. There's real danger in exaggerating the weakness of earlier clubs - it only sounds like Mac blaming his career win-loss record on his players. That's not what he meant, but the whole texture of these comments seem careless and maybe thoughtless to me. It will turn off the fans and maybe, down the road, embitter some players. The way he talks to the press may be the weakest part of his game as a manager.

He could learn or thing or two by studying Danny Murtaugh. Mac will be Mac, and I'm not suggesting Mac has to be Murtaugh, but any Pittsburgh manager could learn a thing or two from Murtaugh, especially when it comes to handling the post-game press conferences. Murtaugh, for example, made fun of managers who took credit or talked like they had a significant role in the outcome of the game. From my Pirates Encyclopedia by David Finoli and Bill Ranier:

He credited his players for the success of the team rather than taking the spotlight, often caricaturing himself. Lampooning a quote attributed to Dodger manager Charlie Dressen, who told his charges that if they kept the game close, he'd figure out a way for them to win, Murtaugh said, "Blow everyone away. Don't expect me to outmanage anybody. If you keep me close in the eighth inning, I'll blow it every time."

If you've never heard of Danny Murtaugh, click here.

...P.S. Twenty minutes after posting this, I found Joe Starkey's essay on the same subject. He quotes Jim Leyland:

"Nobody really knows strategy," Leyland said. "Managing is multiple choice. I managed a long time, and I can tell you this: When I had good players, I did OK. When I didn't, I wasn't worth a crap."

I don't agree with that. A manager can make a difference. The best managers let the team be the team; the worst ones meddle and provoke competition among the players that does not help the players compete as a team. It's not possible for a manager to add much to a team, but it sure is possible for a manager to screw everything up and ruin a team.

Anyway, even though it's not exactly true, Leyland is damn smart to say this when someone asks for his opinion on the subject.

Another sign that Mac still has some learning curve ahead of him:

"When it works, nobody says a (expletive) thing," McClendon said. "When it doesn't, it's all over the (expletive) talk shows: 'What a dumb (double-expletive) he is.' "

Mac says that like it's news. Hey Mac, guess what: the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. If you want to get out of bearing the responsibility for failed gambles, claim no responsibility for the successful ones.

Only the wins and losses will have much say in the city's final opinion of you as a manager. Talking about the difficulty of your job will not change that.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Game 111: Kirk Rueter at Sean Burnett

Keep the ball down, Sean., that was fun. Think Mesa needs a night or two off?

Pirate defense

We need better measures of defense. The Pirates lead the league in double plays - by a wide margin. They have the fourth-best "range factor" which is (putouts + assist / 9 innings). That would mean they get a lot of putouts and assists.

On the other hand, they have the league's worst "zone rating," which is something STATS came up with to measure the percentage of balls a player got and/or coulda got.

How do we reconcile these measures? The Bucs are middle-of-the-pack for strikeouts and walks. The only explanation I can see is this. Maybe because they are fourth in the league in groundball generation the infielders get a lot of opportunities to turn the deuce and throw guys out.

So the numbers add up to an overall picture of a team that doesn't get to many balls but makes the most of the balls they get.

Frame it

Reckless Jack.

Rob Biertempfel tells the story of that drinking-room trophy:

Second baseman Ray Durham got the relay throw about the same time Wilson was rounding third. The throw to plate got there well ahead of Wilson -- and he knew it.

"I was pretty much toast," Wilson said, grinning.

"I was there," Pierzynski said. "My arm was pretty much right across the plate. The guy made a great slide."

Wilson twisted his body slightly to the right and swiped his hand across the rear left side of the plate, avoiding Pierzynski's tag. Umpire Bruce Dreckman was right on top of the call.

"It was good that the throw beat me, because I was able to see where (Pierzynski's) glove was going to be," Wilson said. "He dove back and I avoided his glove with kind of a 'Matrix' type of move."

Words fail me. 83 wins, here we come.

Jack Wilson, Michael Young

Jack Wilson and Michael Young have had pretty comparable careers so far. Mike Young is ten months older than Jack Wilson. Jack broke in at 23, Young broke in at 24. Both guys are middle infielders. Jack is currently listed as 6'0" and 192 pounds, Mike is currently listed as 6'1" and 190 pounds. They even come from the same part of California.

JW 23 390 16 087 17 01 03 01 03 .223 .255 .295
MY 24 386 26 096 18 04 11 03 01 .249 .298 .402
JW 24 527 37 133 22 04 04 05 02 .252 .306 .332
MY 25 573 41 150 26 08 09 06 07 .262 .308 .382
JW 25 558 36 143 21 03 09 05 05 .256 .303 .353
MY 26 666 36 204 33 09 14 13 02 .306 .339 .446
JW 26 452 13 145 29 10 09 07 03 .321 .341 .489
MY 27 477 34 154 22 06 14 10 03 .323 .367 .482

The final two rows are the 2004 numbers as of tonight. If Jack Wilson finishes the year at .306, odds are he'll have a lower OBP but a higher SLG than Mike Young posted in 2003.

Mike Young provides a recent precedent in which a middle infielder without a lot of power, basestealing ability, or plate discipline suddenly blossoms into a .300 hitter. If Jack Wilson's career follows a similar path, next year will be better, not worse, than this year. What could be more fun than brazenly projecting a .323 / .367 / .482 year for Jack in 2005? That should rile up the Jack Wilson haters.

Also, if you like to translate statistics to account for the different ways that different ballparks play, consider that Mike Young has been playing half his games in Arlington, a park that extremely favors hitters, while Jack Wilson has been playing in PNC, a neutral park that doesn't much favor hitters or pitchers. Factor in this fact that Young has had an easier time posting his numbers and Jack's breakout is a bit more impressive.

That said, let's not get ahead of ourselves. The Mike Young comparison will be compelling only if Jack finishes strong. He still has 50 more games to play before he can close the book on a .306 season. We'll be rooting for him to do it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Ode to Runs

How do I love thee, Runs oh Runs.
Let me count the ways.
I love thee as Josh Fogg chaseth you home with a groundout.
I love thee as you sauntereth home on a triple by Bay.
I love thee as Jack, the quick one, tripleth time tenth.
I love thee as Craig, amid doubteths he's an everyday player, homerth to center.
I love thee and love thee as Tike, risen from the dead, doubleth home Rob and Craig.
I love thee as Humberto, pinch-hitting, singleth home Tike.
I love thee as Jack, the quick one, scoreth, quickly, from first on a double.
Oh runs oh runs.
I love thee freely, as men pour the wine.
I love thee purely, as men love to win.
Oh runs oh runs.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
Last week in Los Angeles.

Game 110: Brett Tomko at Josh Fogg

The season is two-thirds over. What's left is half of what came before. Teams and players who want to finish strong have to kick it in right now.

Brett Tomko is your basic right-handed innings eater. He was a second-round draft pick who picked up a lot of hype as he broke into the bigs with the Reds, who desperately wanted him to succeed. After throwing 200 innings in each of the previous two seasons for NL West clubs, he signed a one-year, $1.5M deal this past January with a $2.5M club option that won't be picked up, I'll guess. His similar pitchers at are Pete Schourek, Rick Helling, and Cal Eldred. Sounds right to me. Nothing terribly interesting in his record against the current Bucs.

All hail Jason Kendall

That's the theme of this week's Stats Geek.

Questec bugs

If the whole Questec thing interests you, check out Jason Karegeannes's report at Baseball Prospectus.

Power outage

When you play a bunch of rookies, you can't expect a lot of power. Most players develop power only later in their career. That's one of the reasons power guys are so expensive in free agency.

Bob Smizik gets editorial on the singles power of the 2004 Pirates.

Booing Barry

Steve Novotney sums up why some Pittsburghers will boo Bonds this week.

I also remember his struggles in the 1990 and 1991 playoffs.

But I would never boo him.

the real Jack Wilson

Charlie's VORB thinks about Jack Wilson. Go read it - it's well worth your time.

There's two things I'd say about it. First, I think we have to be more careful with the word "real." The only real thing about Jack's performance is his performance. All these numbers are real. The real is what happens; his .320 batting average is "for real." When performance analysts translate real stats by weighting them, say, to adjust for park effects, they aren't arriving at numbers that are "more real." They are getting at numbers that are more ideal. That ideal may be closer to the truth. Translated or idealized numbers may be more "true." But they aren't more "real."

The smart thing for any fan is to look at all the numbers, real and translated, and to develop your own way of seeing the players that combines those numbers with what you see with your own eyes.

He's using the term as part of the idiom, "for real," and what he's wondering is whether or not we can regard these numbers as evidence that Jack will do them again. Fair question.

I don't contest the theory that plate discipline (something like walks per plate appearance) correlates with batting average. Correlation doesn't prove causation, however. Teenagers who smoke cigarettes are more likely to be sexually promiscuous. The correlation is there. When your son starts sleeping around, however, the correlation doesn't suggest you could simply say,"Oh, don't worry. he will stop soon: he doesn't smoke cigarettes."

Every year, there are a handful of players who consistently post high batting averages with low on-base percentages and little evidence of "plate discipline." They tend to be little, speedy, top-of-the-order ball-in-play guys with little power. A totally unscientific gander at the current stats shows these guys with high BAs and no plate discipline: Aaron Miles (.315 BA / .348 OBP), Cesar Izturis (.300 / .342), Carl Crawford (.306 / .336), Edgar Renteria (.294 / .338), Tony Womack (.293 / .340), Alex Sanchez (.322 / .335).

I agree that no one should expect Jack to finish the year at .320. Obviously, he's not Albert Pujols and he's not Todd Helton. Only nine big-leaguers hit .320 for the full 2003 season. The odds are against a guy like Jack Wilson finishing there. Say he finishes at .310 with a .333 OBP. What would I expect in 2005? More of the same. Charlie's prediction - .270/.310/.430 - looks fine though I think .290 / .310 / .430 or .300 / .320 / .435 or .310 / .330 / . 440 would also make good predictions. Because of the kind of player that he is, I expect Jack will continue to post a pretty high batting average on a mediocre on-base percentage.


Ed Bouchette has a report on Kimo.

Defensive ends don't get enough press.

One of his unusual workout routines consists of tossing 10 used tires around, back and forth, back and forth until he gets tired.

Funny, Bones and I used to do that same thing. It's better than Madden.

Plax and Madden 2005

Interesting report from Chico Harlan on Madden worship in the Steelers' camp. Grandfather was a high school, college, and semi-pro football player in western PA and eastern OH back in the day. He liked to hit people. I have a hard time seeing him taking any interest in video games.

Maybe I'm wrong though. Maybe gamers are gamers.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Tough decisions

Ed Eagle sums up the decisions the Pirates will have to make in the offseason. We'll return to this in October.

I'm in favor of bringing back Jose Mesa for his shot at 300 saves. Not too many other clubs would use him as closer and he has a good relationship with Mac, who is smart enough not to get all Larry Bowa with him. I believe Mesa is Dominican but lives now in Ohio. If he wants to come back and will do so for a reasonable price, I say do it.

Padres unravel

Check out this report on the weekend's series from the Padres' point of view. More here.

The Friars are pretty "frustrated." Frustration - what's that? Never heard of such a thing myself.

Wants to be here

Ed Bouchette has a report on Adrian Ross saying he turned down more money from Cincinnati to play for Pittsburgh.

Randle El getting attention

Jim Wexell of the Beaver County Times pays some attention to Randle El.

Guys were making fun of me

From Joe Rutter's notebook:

Until this weekend, Tike Redman had fewer walks than Randall Simon. Then, he walked three times in two games, matching his total from June and July combined. "Guys were making fun of me," Redman said. Redman said he wasn't being any more selective at the plate than usual. "Pitchers aren't throwing me anything down the middle," he said. "Sometimes guys pitch to me. Sometimes they don't."

The .299 OBP is still laughable. I wonder now if July will prove to be some kind of fluke for him.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Bucs win series in San Diego

Put away the Ray Charles records. The Bucs won again. And more, here's another Ollie photo for the drinking room.

Off day tomorrow and then they are coming home to host the Giants to start a stretch of 17 games in 16 days. They'll fly West one more time this season (at Arizona, a week from tomorrow) and the rest of the road games are in the division except for the final series at Philadelphia.

Game 109: Oliver Perez at Brian Lawrence

Brian Lawrence is a control righty who is durable and doesn't walk many. He gives up his home runs. Left-handers are eating him up and Rob Mackowiak has shown some ability to hit him for power.

Expect four or more of Mackowiak, Hill, Nunez, Simon, and Redman.

It will be interesting to see if Oliver brings his A game with so many friends and family in the stands.

Vogelsong crawls into hole, buries self

Vogelsong is acting a little like Steve Kline. More of the same here. Am I the only one who makes that comparison?

Mac talkin'

Tells Ed Eagle that he likes Bautista. Also says Vogelsong still in rotation.

Tells Bob Dvorchak that Dave Williams was touching 92. That's code for big-league ready in this case.

All Hail Kip Wells

Puts team on back, carries team to victory.

And three cheers for Jose Mesa.