Saturday, May 07, 2005

Game 29: Pirates at Diamondbacks

9:40pm again. That should give us plenty of time to get good and liquored, or to find something better to do with the evening. Seriously, my guess is the Bucs look competitive tonight. Arizona is due for a slide and the Pirates have been waking up with the bat. If Fogg has recovered from his crazy ear problem, he should be effective as usual, keeping the team in the game for six or seven. We can definitely score some runs on Russ Ortiz in Arizona.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Game 28: Pirates at D'backs

9:40pm, Oliver Perez and Javier Vazquez.

Pirate Johanssen

More pirate fun found at Boing Boing. That should give you something to do until game-on at 9:40pm.

Recent Pirates pitching

Here’s a snapshot of the Pirate pitching over the last three weeks.

name. G IP.. K. BB HR ..BA ..OBP ..SLG BABIP
Wells 4 24.3 20 12 1 0.234 0.362 0.327 0.309
Redmn 4 26.3 12 11 1 0.260 0.375 0.333 0.284
WmsDv 4 24.0 18 07 4 0.242 0.451 0.303 0.273
Perez 4 22.7 18 15 6 0.294 0.576 0.402 0.300
FoggJ 2 09.0 03 05 2 0.349 0.605 0.417 0.374
White 7 10.0 04 03 0 0.167 0.200 0.265 0.175
Gonzz 5 06.7 05 03 0 0.143 0.190 0.250 0.184
MesaJ 7 07.0 08 02 0 0.240 0.320 0.286 0.349
Grabw 6 06.3 05 03 0 0.227 0.273 0.320 0.287
Vogel 5 08.7 02 06 0 0.324 0.378 0.419 0.355
Meadw 6 06.0 04 04 0 0.393 0.500 0.469 0.468
Trres 7 08.0 01 02 3 0.300 0.767 0.364 0.222

Wells, Redman, and Dave Williams were solid, overall, in the last four starts. None of these guys pitched as well as any of the Cardinal starters, but they pitched better than all the Cubs starters.

Wells didn’t walk as many people as I remember him walking. He walked 11% of the hitters he faced, which was average. Redman may have been a little lucky in those four starts. Since he’s a soft-tosser, it’s no surprise to see his strikeout numbers so low. He walked at about the same rate as Kip.

BABIP is batting average on balls in play. This will vary much like batting average, but somewhat above it. Starters who throw 120 innings will finish the year with a BABIP between the .240s and the .340s. The latest thinking on the subject of BABIP is that pitchers exert some control over it, but it still appears to be 93% luck. (Go to Baseball Prospectus and search the archives for “BABIP.” Read what Nate Silver and Clay Davenport have written on the subject this spring.) Last year Redman posted a .308 BABIP. Right now he’s at .284. There may be some luck involved here, but I think he can sustain this level of excellence, low strikeout totals aside. His solid performance does not appear to be the result of some huge dose of luck. The same goes for Dave Williams. Williams gave up more home runs but he compensated for that with a pretty stingy walk rate. All three of these guys – Wells, Redman, and Williams – have been good and I don’t see any reason to think they won’t keep it up.

Oliver Perez was awful. Six homers and fifteen walks in 23 innings? That’s bad. Opposing hitters have posted a 978 OPS against him. I can’t stress enough how bad that is. He has faced 100 different hitters over the last three weeks. On average, they hit at rates that are comparable to Scott Rolen’s or Jim Thome’s 2004 numbers. One of his last four starts was a gem. In the other three he allowed twenty-one hits and thirteen walks in fifteen innings. Don’t tell me the bad start was the fault of G. Ogden Nutting when the team’s “ace” came back this “prepared” to lead to the team to the playoffs. Maybe he’ll return to his 2004 form. Or maybe not. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him scuffle like this through the All-Star Break. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see him throw another gem tonight.

The bullpen was solid enough. White won’t maintain those rates all year, but Mike Gonzalez might. Even if he didn’t get much in the way of breaks, Brian Meadows was not good. Grabow looks much better this year. Hopefully Torres regains his form soon.

All in all, the situation looks good to me, with Ollie as the wildcard.

make with tha dancin, yar

Check out these clowns. There seems to be some kind of Piracy renaissance going on.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Game 27: Pirates at Diamondbacks

Old lefty (Shawn Estes) and young lefty (Dave Williams) tonight out west in Retirementland. 9:40pm start. As with last night, I'll be lushing it up and some distance from a computer. Use this thread to record your ramblings, should you have them.


It was a good one. Kovacevic sums it up.

HOUSTON -- The Pirates first pulled off the unlikely.

They made Roger Clemens sweat.

Then, they pulled off the unthinkable and won on a night he was spotted a three-run lead.

To boot, they finished it off by smacking around Houston's sensational closer, Brad Lidge.

Daryle Ward and Jason Bay homered off Lidge in a three-run ninth to propel the Pirates to a 6-4 victory against the Astros at Minute Maid Park that unquestionably was their most satisfying of the season.

Full recap here.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Game 26: Pirates at Astros

The Bucs send Mark Redman to duel with another one of these AAA call-ups, some AAAA mule, I forget his name, Rocky Clementine? Something like that ...

On scapegoats

Like most of you, I scale back my attention to the Mighty Bucs when things hit the skids. It's just not that rewarding a hobby, duh, and there other things, like going to the zoo, that I can do with my time.

So I missed Dejan Kovacevic's M.A. Thesis on the financial health of the Bucs.

The way I see it, the payroll is more or less tied to tickets sales. The Bucs sell about 55% of their tickets. The quickest and easiest way to double the payroll would be to sell 95% or more of the tickets. The big-payroll teams sell 75% or more.

The PG estimates the team made about $13M last year. Their sources indicate that that Bucs are still more than $100M in debt for god knows what, Operation Shutdown I guess.

An additional $12M of payroll is not going to magically turn this team into a playoff contending dynasty, even if it's well spent. And what are the odds of spending it well? Drop $12M into players and what do you get - a Magglio Ordonez? a Chan Ho Park? or a Todd Helton? Can you get a Todd Helton for $12M?

Given that the Bucs have holes all over the diamond, I was on board with the plan to hold the money. We were all pretty terrified they'd blow the dough on Jeromy Burnitz or Juan Encarnacion, two guys Littlefield wanted, and now I think it's not unfair to say we were wrong about that. We could have used Burnitz's April or Encarnacion's April.

A lot of fans don't seem to get that the owners don't look to be profiting from the team. I hate penny-pinching illiberal callous-hearted bastard-bosses as much as the next person. In no way do I give a damn about Nutting's reputation. Let's all damn him to hell if he makes all his employees miserable and fills his newspapers with shit. Sign me up for that. But even if the evil Emperor Palpatine is stuffing that $12M in a mattress, and not applying it to the team's large debt, he's still making less than most of the superstar players. Last year, A-Rod made twice what the PG estimates the Nuttings could have plundered. The owner is not all-powerful here. There's no point hoping that these owners (or any other owners, for that matter) will swoop in and pour $100M of their own money into the payroll. That's not going to happen. That's not ever going to happen.

So how will the Pirates return to respectability? First, by catching some fucking breaks with the young players, that's how. They've already had a decent share of good luck with Jason Bay and Oliver Perez (2004 edition). They need to keep playing their cards the way they've been playing them and hope for more breakouts than busts. To state what should be obvious, the fate of the team is in the hands of the players we got, at PNC and in the minors. They own this team as much as the Nutting boys.

Second, to get a more competitive payroll, the Bucs are going to have to sell out most of their home games. Rising attendance will increase the value of the media contracts. Everything is tied to attendance, which is tied, duh, to winning.

We're not going to the ballpark to watch a team with a .400 winning percentage. Not when the zoo is less than half the price and every bit amusing for our small children.

You go to the ballpark, you drop a lot of cash. If the Pirates win, you love it and leave thinking, how soon can I come back here? Who can I bring with me? Fans want to share the winning experience. If the Pirates lose, you leave with some kind of nasty sick feeling. Some people blame themselves and say they are a jinx on the team. Others indulge all kinds of bitter vitriol. Others are disappointed to the point of depression.

One of these years the Bucs will have some kind of promising offseason. And they will start hot in Pittsburgh. If the Bucs were 16-9 instead of 9-16, much greater walk-up ticket sales would be there when they return to PNC.

It's like the old boating license story. You need experience on a boat to get the license, but you need a license to get experience on a boat. The Bucs need to win to sell out the stadium, and they need to sell out to win.

The only way out lies with the players we got. The addition of one $6M slugger and one $6M starter will not be enough. We need the guys we got to realize more of their potential.

The players own this team. If I'm the Nuttings, I offer an ownership share as part of the next long-term deal tendered to some worthy young man.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

All hail the Wilsons

Five hits, two homers, and so what about the funny-looking plays in left. Finally some hidden vigorish for the Bucs tonight.

On the Nuttings

John Perrotto has something to say.

Game 24: Pirates at Astros

Sometime today, probably 8:05pm. C'mon, hidden vigorish.

New Stats Geek. Next week, I'd like a column on the odds of so many position players getting off to such poor starts. Unless they all just suck, the odds have to be really slim. It's like they've joined together in some kind of bizarre career-suicide pact.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Game 23: Pirates at Astros

8:05pm. Anyone paying attention?

Astros recent hitting

While I'm at it, here are the numbers for the Astros.

LaneJ HOU 18 79 0.274 0.329 0.521 21
Bagwl HOU 17 75 0.254 0.359 0.365 18
Evert HOU 15 61 0.281 0.333 0.474 18
Ensbg HOU 16 63 0.245 0.365 0.377 12
LambM HOU 17 45 0.256 0.356 0.538 13
Biggo HOU 18 70 0.224 0.288 0.373 12
Tavrs HOU 18 69 0.206 0.275 0.333 17
Ausms HOU 12 41 0.263 0.333 0.316 09
Chavz HOU 08 26 0.308 0.308 0.385 06
Vzcno HOU 10 17 0.267 0.353 0.400 04
Burke HOU 13 40 0.189 0.250 0.216 06
Plmro HOU 12 13 0.182 0.357 0.455 02
Scott HOU 12 30 0.120 0.267 0.120 02
Brnlt HOU 09 09 0.000 0.200 0.000 00

Biggio, Ausmus, Taveras, Burke, and Scott have been pretty cold. Lane has been great. The rest have been average.

Bucs hitting, April 11 to May 1

Those who were reading Honest Wagner last summer may recall that I'm in the habit of looking at three-week splits. That's a good-enough sample, I think, to guage what's going on. The following analysis, however, tells us only what has happened. It can be lousy as a predictor of what will happen. And in no way can a three-week snapshot give us an accurate view of a hitter's overall ability.

The players are sorted by a metric I call "expected run production." Basically, it's PA*(OBP*SLG). OPS gets a lot of press these days but (OBP*SLG) works better once you get used to the funky numbers it generates.

Daryle Ward has been our best hitter these last three weeks. Note "RP" means run production, i.e., runs plus RBI. Lawton's number is low because he leads off. Hitting behind the bottom half of the lineup, he hasn't had much in the way of RBI chances. Hitting in front of the top half of the lineup, he hasn't often toured the full circuit from first to home.

WardD PIT 14 47 0.341 0.426 0.756 19
BayJa PIT 17 74 0.288 0.365 0.515 14
Lawtn PIT 17 73 0.270 0.382 0.397 10
Snchz PIT 15 39 0.306 0.359 0.528 06
Mackw PIT 16 55 0.280 0.345 0.360 10
RossD PIT 11 35 0.235 0.257 0.588 09
HillB PIT 13 33 0.290 0.324 0.387 10
WlsnC PIT 15 56 0.174 0.333 0.196 05
CotaH PIT 06 22 0.200 0.273 0.500 03
WlsnJ PIT 16 65 0.156 0.169 0.188 03
Wiggn PIT 13 35 0.147 0.171 0.235 05
Redmn PIT 11 29 0.111 0.167 0.185 03
Duffy PIT 04 03 0.333 0.333 0.667 01
Sntgo PIT 01 04 0.000 0.000 0.000 00
Amzga PIT 02 01 0.000 0.000 0.000 00

The Bucs have had four hitters carrying their own weight: D. Ward (I'll spare the weight joke here), Jason Bay, Matt Lawton, and Freddy Sanchez. I'd say that two of those guys have proven they are for real - they consistently do their share of the hitting. Freddy Sanchez has been a pleasant surprise. I'm not sure, however, that I've seen enough from Freddy to believe his overall hitting ability - the level at which he would consistently perform if a starter - is much different from that of Bobby Hill.

Dave Ross is still up there on the strength of those bombs. The .235 BA is about what we should expect from him. He probably won't repeat the .588 slugging outburst.

Most of the rest of the team is below the suckass line for (OBP*SLG). Hill has not been so good and everyone below him on that list, with the exception of Cota and Duffy, who did not see much playing time, has been downright wretched.


John Perrotto. Go Jack Jeter.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

19 of 21

Ed Eagle reminds us the Pirates have lost 19 of their last 21 at Houston, where they begin another series tomorrow.

Game 23: Giants at Pirates

1:35pm, some minor-league call-up and Ollie. Might rain, but they should get the game in. I'm taking Rowdy Jr. and Rowdietta to the zoo.

Craig f'n Wilson

So wtf is wrong with this guy? Look at the 2004 splits. See September? 13-for-76, 26 Ks (34%), 8 BBs, a .171 / .284 / .342 line? See post-ASB, 57-for-243, 80 Ks (33%), 20 BBs, a .235 / .322 / .453 line? Even Dave Kingman limited the Ks to 27%. Wilson struck out 28% of the time in the (very good) first half of 2004.

As we close the book on April, we can state plainly that Wilson more or less repeated those September numbers. 15-for-64, 21 Ks (33%), 13 BBs, a .234 / .388 / .250. That's a lot of walks - .388 is one hell of an OBP on a hollow .234 performance - but we're not asking him to lead off.

Strikeouts are not necessarily a terrible thing. Adam Dunn struck out 33% of the time last year and he's up to the same tricks this year. But he's batting .292. The difference there might be luck. But three-quarters of Dunn's hits this year have been for extra bases. Only one of Wilson's fifteen hits have been for extra bases. The difference there is not luck.

What gives? Any theories? Why more Ks and no power? One extra-base hit in 64 at-bats is Sean Burroughsesque.

And may we not hear "he's pressing." That's got to be the laziest thing in the world to "report." If a ballplayer isn't pressing every day out, especially if he's starting for a team that has endured twelve consecutive losing seasons, then he's not worth more than a shit or two. No more Kordell Stewart bullshit about how it's all about having fun. That's mollycoddle bullshit. If a player doesn't enjoy "pressing," or doesn't perform at a high level when he "presses," then he doesn't belong in the big leagues.

I can understand why a player would tell the media that he's pressing. If he's having some very difficult time doing some particular aspect of his job at the plate, perhaps (a) he doesn't want to talk about it and (b) he thinks it wouldn't help to tell the media and help spread the word. As if ballclubs get their scouting information from the opposing team's newspapers. So what's the real story here? My hunch is that we will have to figure this out for ourselves. Where has all the power gone?