Saturday, March 11, 2006

Victor Santos

The impression I've had of Santos, limited as it must be, has been positive. Especially since he's a cheap Rule V guy, I'd be stunned if the Pirates don't keep him in the rotation, should he continue to pitch as he has so far. As Dejan Kovacevic describes today, his now-ugly spring numbers, ERA etc., will come down if he keeps up the good-enough work.

If you are not familiar with Santos, and why should you be, here's a description of his pitching style from the above link:

He is not a power arm, leaning hard on a first-pitch curveball, as well as a variety of fastballs, a slider and a changeup. When he is on his game, he keeps hitters guessing.

Santos looks well ahead of Vogelsong, I'd guess, who was awful just an inning ago in the Red Sox game. I have WEEI on. The two crusty guys in the booth, who I guess to be Joe Castiglione and some color guy (not Jerry Trupiano, who just came on) had some terse words. "This guy doesn't have very good command," the one said. A few minutes later, the other adds, "His command is seriously lacking." John Hershbeck is behind the plate; he is, if I remember right, one of the more generous homeplate umps.

Vogelsong came back, just after I wrote the above, and he worked a clean 1-2-3 inning.

Red Sox and Pirates

Real windy down there today.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Pirate beer

With the Twins broadcast rolling and some light office clean-up, I am emjoying one of these brews from Clipper City Brewing Co. of Baltimore. Both the Winter Storm, which I drank up last night, and the Small Craft Warning, which I am having now, come recommended. The first is pretty intense, maybe really yeasty (I could be more beer-articulate, I know), and well-suited for my degenerate taste buds. The second is also good, and not so overstated. It tastes like a Pils. It's good.

Friday game notes

As usual, random notes taken in the random portions of the game I heard with pen, paper, and some attention span to spare.

Jack Wilson played short with Stansberry at second. I thought he was a third baseman.

Victor Santos was good early, with a nice fastball tailing away at the knees, but then tired after the Twins bunted like crazy when the Pirates' minor-league infield showed they could not make a play on a bunt. Then it was falling behind, 2-0 on all the Twins' hitters.

Little Nicky Punto played a corner in the outfield, which is nuts.

Pittsburgh favorite Randy "the horror" Marsh was behind the plate. Both teams were giving the little tyrant the evil eye about the usual arbitrary-bordering-on-passive-agressive ball/strike calls.

McLouth homered early; not sure he stood around to admire the shot, but he was beaned with the first pitch in his next at-bat.

The Twins people were not impressed by the quality of the Pirates they saw. "They are going to have a hard time turning it around with this talent level," one of them said, more or less, at one point.

The broadcast was very good. I like the Twins' #2 guy, John Gordon, who did a solid no-nonsense play-by-play. There were no ads between innings on the commercials--this I just love. What do we hear? It's not dead air. It's more like this, faintly, in a mixed-up ballpark babel:

Program! program! program!
laughing, talking,
the occasional distinct laugh rising above the rest
the sound of warm-up pitches hitting the catcher's mitt
Ice cold beer!
And later, the park emcee doing the ticket lottery, calling the pierogie race. The word for all this is "ambience." This ad-free ballpark mic is what got me hooked on the internet broadcasts. If I'm not in the car or outside, I'll often listen to the web stream when I could be pulling KDKA on the GE Superadio. This, the hope for ballpark noise between innings, is one reason.

Pirates and Twins

Today's game will be at one, and it will be on the internets, maybe on the radio too; I'm not sure.

Victor Santos starts for us. STATS wrote this about him going into last season:

Santos is a finesse pitcher with good mechanics and excellent control. Like Wes Obermueller, he pitched exclusively to Gary Bennett and had the best season of his career. The matchup worked well, as Bennett usually calls for a curve on one of the first two pitches, and Santos' overhand curveball is his best pitch. Santos also throws two- and four-seam fastballs, a slider, split-finger pitch and changeup. In most games, he will use the changeup or the splitter, but not both. Lefthanded hitters tend to hit the ball in the air, while his outs from righthanders come about equally on groundballs and flyballs.

So, is all that still true? He has pitched in some of the worst places in his short career - Colorado, Texas. The Bucs would be nuts to throw him back soon, so I expect he'll win one of the April rotation spots.

The last time Santos pitched, the broadcasting crew had a "first webcast ever" party and forgot to tell us much of anything about what Santos was doing on the mound. I should have the game on today for sure, and hopefully I'll figure out if there's any reason not to think Santos can be as effective as say Josh Fogg.

Catching up

Snell sharp, DK reports.

Grabow sound and good, Rob Rossi reports.

No fastballs in the winter leagues, says Ray Sadler, in another Dejan Kovacevic report, this time on the trio of outfield prospects.

Is Craig Stansberry starting at AAA with those guys, or will that be Jose Bautista's job? Do we know yet?

Jason Bay will be back soon.

Flaco walked three and struck out three in one 35-pitch inning of WBC relief work. The first walk came with the bases loaded.

For, Ed Eagle reports that some of the Pirates were discussing a WBC game as one of the great upsets in sports history. Somehow I missed that memo. It's not surprising, though, to learn that the players are following the WBC so much more intently than American fans like myself. John Perrotto wrote earlier in the week and thinks the WBC is here to stay.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Busy day today. Bucs lost 2-1. Hope the fans came sleepy. Who pitched? Was Vogelsong back out there with his new delivery?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Pirates and Yankess

Tonight, sevenish, radio.

Up in the day game

The wire says the Pirates are up 5-0 in the ninth against the Reds in the day game. I could get used to winning. Yes indeed.

The Q & A

Not much news, but plenty of good summary, and one good Jose Castillo joke in this week's Q & A.

March strikes me as a strange time for the PG beat writer to be going on vacation, so here's to hoping all's well with Kovacevic and his family. We'd hate to have him on the DL this early in the season ... Nevermind, my bad, he's been recalled to the work the salt mines in Pittsburgh while Meyer prepares (in Bradenton) for the minor-league coverage he'll write this season.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Pirates 5-1

Here are some random notes gathered with half an ear on the broadcast. Zach Duke got roughed up today - 7 hits in 3 innings - but he's just the kind of pitcher, the Maddux thinking-man type, that I'd expect to bomb in spring training. So long as there is no hint of injury, there's about nothing he can do to worry me.

John Wehner talked of former AA, now AAA pitching coach Jeff Andrews' favorable view of Britt Reames. Greg Brown spoke at length of Jeff Andrews' good reputation around the league. And indeed Reames pitched very well this afternoon, throwing three hitless innings. He was sharp.

Many hitters - Craig Wilson, Jose Bautista, and Nate McLouth come to mind - had good at-bats with good results. McLouth hit a monster home run, and he stood at home to admire it before breaking into his trot.

The next radio broadcast is Wednesday night. Paul Maholm, Sean Burnett, Jonah Bayless, and Terry Adams will pitch against the WBC-depleted Yankees (or "Yankess" I think they are now called) in a split-squad game. The rest of the team plays a day game against the Reds.

Pirates and Braves

Just now fired up the broadcast from McKechnie Field. How was Duke?

On contracts

Two new items of interest for fans of the long-term roster planning: Brian O'Neill, as Stats Geek, figures the Jack Wilson contract was about right. Dejan Kovacevic reports the Pirates are considering an extension with Sean Casey. All this reminds me now of the Bonifay era. Once they got "the team" in place, and everyone was feeling good, the front office signed the key, "face" players to long-term deals. This was done with no regard to the success or failure of the team.

Jack Wilson and Sean Casey are A-OK with me, especially in the short term. But why can't the front office wait to see what this current collection of players is worth before signing some of them long-term?

Maybe to answer the perpetual whining about the Pirates not keeping players? (Is this "the curse of Bonds"?) One strain of "fan" whines, "They never keep their good players--why should I care the team? They will only break my heart by letting that heartthrob, Barry Bonds (insert name), go to the Yankees." Such people will cavil their way out of any expectation; they are too cowardly (!?) to admit they have abandoned their loyalty to a baseball team for, say, a video-game addiction or some other use of leisure hours. And they blame the Pirates for the feeling of guilt they experience when confronted with the fact that they no longer pay attention to the team. To them I say, look, it's baseball; fans should come and go as they please. There's no need to feel guilty about not devoting 100 of your summer hours to a team that wins 45% of their games. So don't make excuses and say stuff like, "If only they signed their best players to long-term deals."

All the serious fans, I think, know that the long-term is a phantom. Building a team now for 2008 or 2009 is building castles in the sky. Littlefield should worry and concentrate on 2006. This coming season is three times more important than 2007, and 2007 is three times more important than 2008. Any regular, experienced, long-term fan knows that.

To bring this story to an end, signing the "face guys" to inordinately long-term deals will do much more harm than good if those "face guys" are not the important parts of championship teams. Let's not trash our chances in 2009 for a sunny feeling in 2006. I like the David Littlefield that signs no one for more than the next two years. Who is this new goon, so willing to make impatient decisions about 2008 and 2009? Sean Casey is due for a good year. Let him have it. It's not mean-spirited or evil to see what he does in 2006 before thinking about signing him on for 2007.

Kip's surgical success

DK reports an "optimal outcome" for Kip Wells' surgery today. Transplanting Kip's leg vein into his armpit did the trick, and Kip gets to keep his rib. Recovery could be as short as 2 months. Wow, this is great news for Kip and the Bucs. All hail Robert Thompson! All hail modern medicine!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Mad as hell

Ian Snell. I like that guy.

Chris Duffy

What's up with Chris Duffy? It's night and day, the differing dope we hear on his play. Will Carroll just wrote in a for-pay section of Baseball Prospectus:

I’ve had at least three people tell me the Pirates' Chris Duffy looks terrible in camp, looking down and trying to say the right things. With his shoulder and hamstring taking away the strengths of his game, it’s going to be tough for him to hold onto CF, the position where the Bucs might be the strongest with Nate McLouth and Rajai Davis coming fast . . .

That paragraph is thoroughly laced with language straining toward hyperbole ("at least three," "looks terrible," "might be the strongest," "coming fast"). I read that as a combination of indecision (or imprecision) and general tendency. He's not sure how to spin the reports, so goes whole hog and moves on. Exaggeration is the easiest way to make a little thing big.

Yet with John Wehner, who coached Duffy some the last few years in the minors, now a broadcaster, and myself limited to what I hear on the radio for in-game analysis, I can only get the opposite picture. Wehner's promoting Duffy like crazy; so are the other guys. Wehner said today he's "running without a hint of trouble; free and easy; 100%" out there.

Here are my questions: (1) How does Duffy really look? I don't put a whole lot of stock into Carroll's comment, but let's assume he does have sources saying negative things. He did have to DH last week. (2) Are McLouth and Davis truly "coming fast"? I have not gotten that impression; not at all. Is there any chance either of those guys grabs the starting spot from Duffy before the end of the month? Finally, (3) if Duffy is looking "terrible" in the field, what business do the broadcasters have painting the opposite picture? Clapping harder is not going to influence Duffy's performance on the field. I'm all about the broadcasters being partisan, but they should also be professional, which includes being honest about the performance on the field. If they think it is virtuous or helping the team to do otherwise, I think they are mistaken.

My guess is Duffy looks good and bad; Carroll's sources call the glass half-empty and our broadcasters celebrate it as half-full.

Yet maybe one of you knows better? If so, fill me in.

Pirates and Twins

It's webcast only today. I have it on this computer. The starter for the Twins - LHP Glen Perkins - was awful in the first, throwing forty-some pitches, walking a bunch, and giving up extra-base hits to Jose Castillo and Jeromy Burnitz. It's hard to say how well Victor Santos ptiched; the broadcasters are clowing around, like no one is listening, carrying bullshit inter-inning conversations well into the action. More than once, Wehner had to slip in comments like "Santos takes ball one" because Lanny's head was somewhere else. Pay attention to the game, Lanny. It can suck for listeners, in any sport, when the play-by-play guy has such seniority over the color guys. There has to be at least one person more focussed on describing the action than on providing commentary--and that should be the play-by-play guy. No offense, but none of our broadcasters are that interesting in and of themselves. We tune into to learn not to hear John Wehner get cute with boasts about how he likes to eat cheeseburgers and knows nothing about wine. We tune into to hear the latest from the field.


Surgery is later today. Expert vascular surgeon Dr. Robert Thompson from Washington University in St. Louis will attempt to repair Kip's clogged axillary vein by replacing the damaged portion of the vein with a vein from Kip's leg. Dr. Thompson doesn't plan on removing the first rib, but will do what he has to once he gets in there. There's an outside chance Kip could be back later this season. Good luck, Kip, we're pulling for you.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Maddox released

In case you missed it, the Steelers released Tommy Maddox on Friday. So long, Tommy. Thanks for the memories. My favorite Tommy Maddox picture might be this one. Ryan chronicles the Life of Tommy here.

Pirates and Tigers

The still-undefeated exhibition Pirates play the Tigers at one Pirates lost this afternoon.

...I had the game streaming through the various computers and stereos around the house ... a few random notes ... not offered as highlights or anything ... just things I noted when near the computer with the open internets browser.

...Duckworth looked OK. Good breaking ball. Before the game, Littlefield did not name him as in the running for a rotation spot.

...Snell was good too.

...Eldred working the count, somewhat. He just went 3-2 and struck out on a pitch he regarded as a ball (he started walking to first). In his last at-bat, he backed away from a pitch that was not inside. He's working on it.

...joggin' Andrew: here toward the end of the game, McCutcheon lollygagged it on a non-infield-fly popup with runners on and two outs. Our KDKA guys duly noted it.

...web-only broadcasts tomorrow and tuesday. Back on the radio on Wednesday, against the Yankees, at 7:10.