Saturday, May 21, 2005

Friday, May 20, 2005

Game 39: Rookies at Pirates

7:05pm. Wright and Redman.

I was tuned into a Rockies game the other day. The announcer, a good homer, read an email from a fan asking if the Rockies would finish the year with more win than the Pirates. The Pirates were selected not at random, of course, but as though they stood for Losing. The question more or less said something like, "Do you think we might - shudder - be as bad as the Pirates?" I forget the exact wording.

The two announcers were quite hearty with their knowledge that yes, this Rockies team was much better than that Pirates team.

This weekend, we'll see if they are right.

Redman the Champion

Dejan Kovacevic has 2000 words on Mark Redman.

Jose Castillo breaking out

John Perrotto writes about Jose Castillo.

Bucco Ball Boy

Chuck Curti profiles the Pirates' ball boy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Losing one-run games

The one-run, last-minute losses don't bother me like the hang-your-head, lose-by-ten losses. Jason Bay had the bases loaded and he struck out. Jack Wilson double play. So what? At least the team got to that point. If they keep loading the bases, all their problems will melt away, eventually. Even losing, the Bucs look competitive. Far better to lose by a hair than to lose by a lot.

Bring on Colorado ...

Game 38: Cubs at Pirates

Day game - first pitch 12:35pm. Glendon Rusch and Kip Wells. Right-handers have been torching Rusch this year. I'm sure Mac's aware of that.

Q & A time

Gather 'round.

I was at the game when D. Ward put the ball in the river. It sucked. The Astros pounded the Bucs early and late.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Starting the service-time clock

Baseball Prospectus: Another consideration with a player like Marte is the question of starting his service-time clock. How much of a concern is that for you, given the budget constraints the Braves and every other team must face?

Schuerholz: It's never an issue for us. Maybe that's just because of my attitude--we always seem to have quality talent in the pipeline behind the guy whose time clock starts, behind the guy who's going to get more expensive than his quality of play demands. So we'll just put another player in that role. We have great confidence in our scouting and development program, that we have a very full pipeline of talented players. If they're good enough, there's really no problem--they'll earn their way into a starting spot.

I cringe when I hear or read talk that the Pirates should keep a player in the minors in part because that prevents the starting of his service-time clock. Such talk, for example, was bandied about as a reason to keep back Zach Duke coming out of March. The real reason not to promote Duke was Dave Williams, who has been great in the fifth-starter role. Even if not starting the clock is so important, which I don't believe, then I don't understand what Littlefield would have to gain by acknowledging that this is a factor. It's cheap and whiny and repels me. Maybe he didn't acknowledge it; I don't know; I don't care to research it. It was most certainly mentioned as a factor in the Duke decision by various journalists and folks in the know. And I don't recall Littlefield refuting the speculation the way I thought he should. If I was the GM and someone asked me that same question Jonah Keri asked the Atlanta GM about Andy Marte, I'd say, "Hell no" and a bunch more unprintable words.

What I also like here in Schuerholz's reply is the easy confidence. If you don't have it, learn to fake it. That's should be part of the job. And why can't any GM have this confidence? Under the current CBA, the team gets three years for the first million dollars. That's twenty-one dog years and even more baseball years. And in the next three years, the players make less in arbitration, in most cases, than they'd make as a free agent. I don't care how po' the Bucs are, I'll never think it's less than penny-wise, pound-foolish to countenance talk about the delaying of a promotion so a player will cost the team less in four or five years.

Schuerholz handles himself well in that interview, which I totally recommend, over at BP in their for-pay area. Since he's a GM, I know he's talking out the side of his mouth, but still it sounds good. If he runs for office when he gets bored with baseball, I think he'll do well.

Pirate hitting, April 25 to May 15

The Bucs have gone 11-7 since last April 25 (and 9-5 so far this month). The numbers for that period are below. Here are some observations and thoughts that struck me as I looked at them for thirty minutes:

  • They hit 24 home runs in this three-week period. Those with more than one: Daryle Ward 6, Jason Bay 5, Lawton, Castillo, Jack Wilson, Wigginton, Cota, 2 each.
  • Jason Bay has been on a tear. 12 of his last 23 hits were for extra bases. Here's a list of some NL players who had more than half their hits go for extra bases in 2004: Russ Branyan, Barry Bonds, Jim Edmonds, Carlos Beltran, Mike Cameron, Adam Dunn, Vinny Castilla, Jim Thome, Luis Gonzalez, Albert Pujols, Brad Wilkerson, Ken Griffey Jr.
  • Craig Wilson was doubling like crazy when he went on the DL.
  • With six strikeouts in 65 at-bats, Darlye Ward has been making a lot of contact. Last year he struck out 45 times in 293 at-bats, and finished the year at .249 / .305 / .474. If he maintains the 90% contact rate, he could hit .300 this year, because when Ward hits the ball, he hits it hard. 11 of his last 21 hits went for extra bases.
  • Neither Bay nor Ward are hitting at a rate that I would regard as unsustainable. Both players saw 47% of their hits go for extra bases in 2004. For both players, then, the lofty extra-base hit percentage is just a bit above what they showed they can do last year. Watch Ward's strikeouts. They are the difference between a .249 / .305 / .474 line and a .323 / .343 / .677 line.
  • With seven strikouts in 42 at-bats, Jose Castillo does not look like a .300 hitter. But who cares? He doesn't need to hit .300 to be a major asset. He has five extra base hits and looks to be on his way to that breakout year we all predicted. Last year he struck out 92 times in 383 at-bats. If he maintains that 1-in-6 strikout rate and continues to show this decent amount of power, he'll finish the year with something like 25 doubles, 16 home runs, and a line like .275 / .325 / .440.
  • Rob Mackowiak has shown improvement with the eye with degeneration in the bicep. Another Pirate who has cut down on the strikeouts, he whiffed eight times in his last 47 at-bats. That's better than last year, when he struck out 114 times in 491 at-bats (17% vs. 23%). On the season, he's somewhere in between, so some modest improvement appears to be real. What's not been there the last three weeks, though, is the power. Last year, 37% of Mackowiak's hits went for extra bases. Over the last three weeks, his hits have rolled to the wall at about half that rate. Now at .309 / .374 /.392 for the year, he appears to be morphing into Jason Kendall. Has Mackowiak been tapping the easy singles into the holes the opposing infield has given him? Even if this is the case, I doubt he can sustain the .319 batting average with that many strikeouts. (Last year, Jason Kendall hit .319 / .399 / .390 with only 41 strikeouts in 574 at-bats.) If a player reduces his strikeouts from 23% to 17%, he's going to add about twenty points to his batting average. The K reduction plus the six walks in the last 47 at-bats, then, suggest the possibility of real OBP improvement. Last year Mackowiak finagled 50 walks in 491 at-bats. He paired that with a low BA and only finished with a .319 OBP. If he continues to improve his command of the strike zone - striking out a bit less, walking a bit more - he could finish the year with a league-average OBP of .340. Or even higher if he can houdini a .300 BA like Jack Wilson did last year. But where is the power? I'd rather see a .330 OBP with a .420 SLG than a .350 / .395. These aren't All-Star numbers but they are great for a player with Mackowiak's defensive ability and flexibility.
  • Jack Wilson is now hitting the ball as hard as he did in 2004 (38% of his last thirteen hits have gone for extra bases vs. 32% for all of 2004). He's striking out at the 2004 pace, too, so all he needs now is a little luck. I expect he'll hit .275 the rest of the way.
  • We knew Ty Wigginton could hit if he was not a starter, or only an emergency starter. This is what he did with the Mets. We also knew he was streaky. Well, the Bucs have demoted him into a part-time player and he has gotten hot. I've been impressed to see McClendon resisting the urge to start him after every multi-hit game. In his current role, he has value. Will he lose his value if his role is expanded? This is a bird-in-the-hand issue. I'm happy with what he's giving us now. There will be no Free Ty Wigginton t-shirt campaign coming to PNC Park. That may be unfair, but he had his chance in April and blew it. Let him fight for PT Craig Wilson-style. It appears to be good for him.
  • Cota has been an all-or-nothing thug at the plate. Dave Ross has hit like we expected when Littlefield acquired him for a three-bedroom home in Ohioville.
  • Freddy Sanchez, Bobby Hill, and Tike Redman have been non-factors. There must be some hidden vigorish in there somewhere.
BayJa PIT 18 77 0.319 0.367 0.639 30
WardD PIT 16 67 0.323 0.343 0.677 25
WlsnC PIT 09 30 0.435 0.606 0.739 07
Lawtn PIT 18 78 0.260 0.313 0.411 20
Cstlo PIT 10 43 0.357 0.372 0.595 16
Mkwak PIT 17 53 0.319 0.396 0.383 11
WlsnJ PIT 17 65 0.217 0.277 0.383 12
Wggtn PIT 10 32 0.276 0.364 0.552 10
CotaH PIT 10 39 0.229 0.308 0.486 09
RossD PIT 09 26 0.208 0.241 0.333 05
Snchz PIT 12 31 0.200 0.226 0.267 04
Redmn PIT 15 34 0.156 0.200 0.250 06
Sadlr PIT 03 08 0.250 0.250 0.625 02
HillB PIT 11 25 0.130 0.192 0.130 05
Resto PIT 04 09 0.000 0.222 0.000 01
Amzga PIT 02 04 0.000 0.250 0.000 01

On Ollie

Here's John Perrotto's version of the story. Rob Biertempfel has a note, too.

Perez is so unusual a starter, there really is no sense is having him rehab at AAA. He's going to crush AAA hitters doing things that will go punished in the big leagues. It sounds like he's working with Spin to recapture the mechanics he used last year.

Assuming there's no injury to his arm or shoulder, he should be ready to go soon enough. The rest of the starters have stepped it up. So much for the CW that said the Bucs would need 30 quality starts from Kip and Ollie to compete. Right now they look competitive without him. Getting him back in 2004 form would provide a huge lift, of course.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

All hail Ian Snell


Game 36: Brewers at Pirates

Gary Glover and Dave Williams. Bucs still sneaking up on .500. Also looking for their fifth win at home.

...Bucs win, 4-2. All hail most everybody. The Bucs are playing as well as anyone in the NL Central right now. I'd love to see them keep it that way for, I don't know, a month or five.