Saturday, September 04, 2004

Minor-league riches

As Josh Fogg is striking out the side in Houston, I'm reading this bulletin from Altoona.

Select bits:

Curve LHP Zach Duke will start Game One of the Eastern League’s Southern Division Playoff Series against Erie on Wednesday at Blair County Ballpark. Duke (5-1, 1.58 in nine starts with Altoona) has not faced the SeaWolves this season. The 21-year old southpaw is 15-6 with a 1.46 ERA in 26 starts between Lynchburg and Altoona this season and will likely be named the Pirates’ Organizational Pitcher of the Year. RHP Ian Snell (11-7, 3.16) will start Game Two for the Curve. RHPs Bobby Bradley (5-3, 2.98), Bryan Bullington ( 12-7, 4.10), and Matt Peterson (9-6, 3.88) are slated to pitch Games Three, Four, and Five, respectively.

OF Nate McLouth is the Curve’s new record holder in hits for a single season with 163. McLouth also has a shot at the club records in runs scored (96-Adam Hyzdu), doubles (39-Hyzdu), and stolen bases (34-Chris Duffy).

They love Hyzdu in Altoona so it's pretty meaningful that McLouth is gunning for some of his records.

On the team side, the Curve have shattered several club records already: wins (84), home wins (46), wins in a month (20-June), wins vs. one club (16-Akron), hits (1249), home runs at home (61), most players with 10 HR or more (6), shutout wins (11), most HR allowed (132), strikeouts (978), and saves (46).
Akron won the EL championship last year.

OF Jorge Cortes has batted a combined .302 with a career-high 11 HR and 55 RBI in 106 games between Lynchburg and Altoona this season…3B/OF Yurendell DeCaster tied for the Olympic Baseball competition lead in HR by hitting three for The Netherlands at the Summer Games…OF Chris Duffy has missed 22 of the last 27 games due to a sore right wrist. He’s expected to return to the lineup tomorrow to tune up for the playoffs. Duffy was named the Curve’s MVP prior to Thursday’s final regular season home game…1B Brad Eldred has hit a combined .305 (143-for-469) with 37 HR and 133 RBI (both career highs) in 127 games between Lynchburg and Altoona
He can strike out all he wants if he'll deliver more than a RBI per game. Call him up. Let's see how many times he strikes out before he goes deep. We can get an office pool going.
OF Nate McLouth ranks first in the E.L. in hits (163) and runs (92), is fourth in batting (.320), tied for first in doubles (38), tied for fourth in steals (31), and ninth in on-base percentage (.382)
We have to get McLouth, Duffy, Eldred, and maybe DeCaster on the 40-man roster or they'll be lost in the Rule 5 draft.

Game 135: Josh Fogg at Carlos Hernandez

Hernandez, a prety-hard-throwing lefty, missed all of 2003 after surgery to fix tears in his labrum and rotator cuff in his-non throwing shoulder. He had a fine year at AAA and has only made a few starts since his call-up. His results have been pretty mixed. We'll see what the Bucs can do against this lefty.

Friday, September 03, 2004

NFL week 1 - first impressions

Just looked at the spreads for week 1. I have some homework to do. What have the Redskins done to be favored against anybody, even at home on opening day? How is Seattle favored on the road in New Orleans? And how is Atlanta a four-point favorite on the road at San Francisco?

If you can help me with this homework, I'd appreciate it.

Enjoy the game tonight. Go Ollie!

Interleague 2005

Pittsburgh will face the AL East next year, according to this report. Should be fun.

Game 134: Oliver Perez at Roger Clemens

Both teams should score a lot of runs tonight.

Khalil Greene, Jason Bay, Jose Castillo

If Jason Bay doesn't win the ROY, it's going to be because the Pirates aren't playing "meaningful" games. The sportswriters can only watch so many games and follow so many teams. And we all know that stats from meaningful games are more meaningful than stats from meaningless games. In other words, because it's easier to hit home runs when you play for the Pirates, Bay's numbers will be discounted. All of our games are meaningless and pitchers - like Ben Sheets last night, or all those Cardinals last month - go real easy on the team out of pity. And when your lineup is brimming with home-run hitters, you get all that extra protection.

Truth is, the sportswriters will vote for the player they've seen more often down the stretch.

And they'll also say that it's harder to play the middle infield so Greene's numbers don't have to equal Bay's for him to deserve the award. And the fact that Greene played on a better team that won more games will give him more of the luster of a winner. And that will seem right because it's so much harder to hit home runs when you play for a winning team. Year after year, the home run champion is someone who plays for a team in the cellar.

I'd accept there's some validity to the case for Greene over Bay if there was evidence that playing a more difficult position or playing for a winning team wasn't mainly just an excuse to not like what you're ignoring. According to the MLB press release, Jose Castillo didn't get one vote for his good month. Over at OnlyBucs, wvbucco was the first to point that out. Good eye. He's right. What's up with that? He put up a 971 OPS with 12 RBI, 9 R, 3 HR, and 6 doubles batting eighth. The others receiving votes are deserving, but Castillo's numbers were nearly as good as Greene's. That's got to be worth one vote.

Not everyone is ignoring the Pirates: Mike Gonzalez got a vote. Maybe the sportswriters have the right general idea. It would be easier to recognize a decision to give the nod to Greene over Bay if Pittsburgh's Greene, Jose Castillo, was getting a little more recognition.

We love the run

Duh.

That St. Louis offense was the dot.com fad of the NFL.

Get well Lanny

Still wishing you a speedy and full recovery.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Run Verron, Run

And run some more.

Spoilers?

At the top of the wild-card standings in the NL, two NL Central teams - Chicago and Houston - will see a lot of the Pirates this month. Starting Friday, the Pirates play eight of their next eleven games against the Astros, including five at home. Then they start a nine-game stretch that includes six with the Cubs. The Pirates are a factor in the post-season equation for both teams.

...5:30pm ... speaking of spoiled, what was that thing in Milwaukee today? It stunk like spoiled meat.

...at least Wiggy's showing signs of heating up. He's been streaky in the past. I don't want to jinx it now, but here's to hoping he can do some streaky damage to them Astros this weekend. We all know the rest of the team has never shown much in Enron ...

Eldred, Duke win Carolina League MVP

Story here. Huzza for these guys.

(Thanks, Leeeny, for the heads-up.)

All hail the Curve

Congratulations, Altoona.

Game 133: Dave Williams at Ben Sheets

2pm start for this getaway day. Ben Sheets is an ace coming off a bad month. Not sure what's been ailing him. My guess would be he's fine but had to pitch against the Pirates, at Florida, at Atlanta, at Philadelphia, and at Wrigley.

We did OK against him on August 1.

Out of control

Here's Craig Wilson with no idea where the ball is going.

Last one

The super-lame NFL exhibition season ends for the Steelers tonight. We have to start making picks next week.

Helping Castillo

Coaches do a lot of little things for every player. Sometimes a player benefits greatly, sometimes not.

Jose Castillo has been red-hot since ending an uncomfortable period in which he was learning to use a leg kick. As Mac explains it:

Castillo is benefiting from a leg kick he adopted in his batting stance that has helped him hit the ball to the opposite field. "It's designed to let the ball travel to you," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "You can stay on the breaking ball a lot longer."

Joe Rutter has that and Castillo's gaudy numbers since August 10 in his notebook.

No leg kick in this photo but it's a good one nonetheless.

One for the DIPS crowd

There's a school of thought that says pitchers can't control where batted balls go into the field. The belief, I think, is that the statistics indicate that hitters can control the ball a little better.

Craig Wilson on his hit last night:

"I was just thinking to hit the ball hard," said Wilson. "After that, you can't really do much more. Where it goes is out of your control."

That probably describes Craig more than it describes all hitters. That from Ed Eagle's recap.

All hail Willy

That Craig Wilson sure is valuable coming off the bench.

Good time for Ty to come up with some hits. And a tip of the hat to Ryan Vogelsong, who did OK.

I enjoyed listening to Dave Littlefield talk with Greg Brown for several innings in the middle of the game. The GM should do color more often. My sense of DL is that he's a lot smarter than people think. He also regards the players as students who could do better, which is good I think, though I could see how some of the millionaires on the team would think they've outgrown that now that they've made it to the big leagues.

DL also described how Jason Bay's main competition for the ROY is Khalil Greene. It's coming down to those two guys.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

All hail Baseball Prospectus

Hardly thought I'd write that, this year at least, but they did an honorable thing and deserve a toast for it.

I tried to be gentle when I pointed up their role in the baseless ass-kicking Littlefield endured for that the trade. They should realize that it's only because I think highly of their work, potential, and influence that I blame them, in part, for having to hear or read comments like this a hundred times before April 25th.

I get alarmed about poison in the well because any rebuilding is fragile. This team, as far as they've come, could fall on their face next year. The Pirates still have a long way to go in the attendance department and nothing encourages progress like large and enthusiastic crowds. Knee-jerk negativity about the players, the owners, the GM, or the scouting people will not help to arouse the legion of dormant Pirate fans and point them in the direction of beautiful PNC Park. And I doubt the Pirates will win another championship before they start selling out their home games on a regular basis. There's a synergy there. As the team wins, the fans come back; as the fans come back, the team wins. With editorials like this one, the Baseball Prospectus people offer a brother a hand up. And for that we say huzza.

After we return to the World Series and vanquish the Yankees next October, then no small amount of discouragement will keep the fans away and we'll abide it cheerfully.

P.S. FWIW, the Bucs did "fix" Oliver Perez, as we learned at the end of Spring Training. I kinda doubt Jason Bay needed any fixing.

Big Country

Wow.

I would say 14 home runs and 50 RBI in the month of August qualifies as "pretty good."

41 strikeouts and 5 walks in 123 at-bats ... call him up!

Fun with the Cubs

Remember this day? It's in the news again.

Today's Q&A

Another good one. Allow me to remind you to catch up with Paul Meyer's weekly Q & A.

I admire the line of thought he takes with Kip and will adopt it as my own.

The Aramis rant is not thoroughly right. "Exactly the kind of player we have been trying to get to play third base?" Not exactly. For sure, we could have used him this year, but he still fails to look like "exactly" the kind of player we need there now and long-term. His errors are down, but Ramirez's other fielding abilities have been consistently bad or, shall I say, not Rolenesque. DL is right, he'll be playing first base before long. If we had kept this year, there's little doubt in my mind that we would have traded him this past July or would be letting him walk at the end of the season. He'd be too expensive and not the right fit for the Pirates.

A team rebuilding around pitching needs better fielding at the hot corner. That's another reason why this guy won't be the answer even if/when he starts to hit. And why this guy - look what the zone rating suggests - is no better as a long-term solution. I'm not defending the trade here so much as I'm suggesting that it's not likely that we'd all be loving Ramirez and wanted him re-upped to a long-term deal if the Bucs had kept him and dealt Benson last July.

Josh Fogg: 4th starter?

Many new reports about the improvement of Josh Fogg. Ed Eagle, the PG, and Joe Rutter were on the case yesterday.

Fogg gets results. If the Bucs don't bring him back next year, you know the Reds will be drooling in anticipation of signing him.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Anticipating September 1

John Perrotto rattles off some names in a bout of speculation. More pitchers would help. The rest of the guys can sit on the bench and make notes in their journals.

Ty Wigginton

Has been very streaky throughout his short career. He has hit .157 with one home run and seven RBI since coming over - Chris Stynes did that - but I expect Wigginton will bust out of this at that-darkest-before-the-dawn time, which might be right now.

Should Kip return this season?

I'd apply the June test. If it was June and he was this healthy, would he come back? If the answer is yes, then bring him back in September.

All hail Josh Fogg

He did it again last night. Now ... what's he worth in arbitration? How big a raise? I'd love to keep everyone who finishes the year strong.

Fogg is pitching as well as he has in his entire career, yes?

More triples

Stats Geek Brian O'Neill looks at triplin' Jack Wilson. He also runs down the history of triples with the Bucs. Back when a diamond was a diamond and socialists could run for President, one Chief Wilson rolled more than a few to the 462-foot centerfield wall at Forbes Field.

I wonder how many of Jack Wilson's triples were feats of derring-do. The guy has a reputation for being hard to stop on the basepaths. He's more like a feisty jackrabbit than a barrelling gorilla (Wagner), but he gets in there nonetheless.

Pirate prospects

With the minor-league seasons winding down, Charlie gets a jump on sorting out the prospects over at his blog.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

All Hail Dave Littlefield

Leeeny describes a conversation with Dave Littlefield. The story dates to the end of last winter.

Oliver the Tomato Grower

Just heard in today's broadcast that Humberto Cota has been trying to persuade Oliver Perez to forego playing in his usual winter league. Since Mexico will host the Carribbean World Series this year, odds are the temptation to go will be very great for Oliver.

Banging on the door

At least we're doing that much.

Game 129: Jason Marquis at Oliver Perez

Go Ollie. Time to start hanging "O"s for every Ollie out. Then, when Tony La Russa comes out on the field to whine, we can hang a "B" in front of them.

After the last two games, I'm looking forward to getting Kip Wells back. Sean Burnett is welcome too if the rest will help him keep the ball down.

Get well, Lanny, and come back soon.