Friday, March 31, 2006

Another beer

This stuff is good, and it comes with pictures of Honus Wagner.

They trade Craig Wilson yet?

25-man roster almost set

Gerut, Duckworth to AAA. Jose Hernandez, Nate McLouth, and that surprisingly mature young man, Matt Capps, make the 25-man roster. Victor Santos will start the second game of the season -- against his old club. Rob Rossi reports for the Tribune-Review.

Right now, they have 27 players for 25 spots. A Craig Wilson-for-SP trade would eliminate one spot if it includes a pitcher or the release of Santos.

The decision to keep McLouth is great news. McLouth has earned it in March. Still, three plausible interpretations come to mind. (1) There's no confidence in Chris Duffy being ready for April, and the Pirates will play McLouth in center because they have no other option. (2) They regard McLouth's centerfield range as adequate, and they now see him as a legitimate starting option in CF for 2006's "pitching-and-defense-first" club. (3) They regard McLouth as a fourth outfielder, and they see no need to start him every day at AAA since the success or failure of his career will depend on him learning to contribute in limited opportunities.

So . . . it's still not clear to me just what the Pirates think they have in Nate McLouth.

Even with Craig Wilson on the roster until July (getting, say, 250-300 PAs for us this year), there's about 800-900 PA available for McLouth and Duffy between CF and part-time work. My guess is they don't know what they have with Nate McLouth. Why should they be too concerned? He has opportunity. With opportunity, he can more or less determine his own present and future role.

If you've never heard of Matt Capps, here's your excuse to drink a beer. He's six-three, right-handed, and throws about 93 mph over the top. All hail Matt Capps!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Readers Poll III: the first 17 games

Enough of predicting the win-loss record for the whole season. Let's hear your opinion of a more certain stretch of games: the seventeen that start the season for the Pirates.

The season starts with three games at Milwaukee. The first game is a day game, the next two are night games.

The Brewers have three starters who the Pirates have struggled against, and we'll see those three guys. The Pirates used to beat the Brewers like rented mules when both teams were bad; I'm not sure what their head-to-head record has been the last two years, but my sense is the Brewers have been getting payback.

Games four through seven are at Cincinnati. They play two night games and then, on Saturday and Sunday, two day games. The Reds will be coming off two day home games in three days, against a familiar opponent (the Cubs), which is more or less a pretty laid-back way to start the season.

The home opener, on April 10, a Monday afternoon affair, starts a ten-game homestand. The Pirates will get the Dodgers for four games. Two are night games; it will probably be cold, maybe wet too. But the Dodgers will be coming in from Philadelphia, so they should be acclimated.

The Pirates then have three games hosting the Cubs and three games hosting the Cardinals. Four of the six games are April night games.

At the end of the homestand, they get a day off and fly to Houston, where the Pirates are something pathetic, say 3 wins and 72 losses, over the last so many years. And then they go to St. Louis for three games.

Come Thursday, April 27, the season will be almost a month old. The Pirates just came back from two of their least favorite places. If they don't get ahead in the win column on that ten-game homestand, they could be six or more games under .500 before the month is over. Uh, not good.

So make your predictions: how many games will the Pirates win of the first seventeen? What will the record be when they get on the plane for Houston?

My guess is 8 wins, 8 losses, one rain out.

Working the bench

Finally read this Jim Tracy disseration by Dejan Kovacevic. There's a lot to digest. It all generally looks positive to me.

Tracy does look like a good guy for this job. The Pirates need to win with cheap players. Cheap players have weaknesses. They can hide those weaknesses by stocking the bench with one- or two-dimensional yet complementary players. Ergo, the Bucs need someone who shuffles the deck, works the platoon advantage, uses the full roster. Jody Gerut hits righties but can't touch the softest-tossing left-handed grandmother. Perfect: that's half the star for one-quarter to one-tenth the cost. Let other teams pay huge money for one player who does everything and the minimum for a fifth outfielder who never plays.

So bench spots are much more important on a cheap team than on an expensive team. The Cardinals or the Yankees may not need to pay much to their bench guys if they have a cast of all-around studs who never come out of the game. A small portion of what the cheap teams don't spend on top-tier veteran talent, then, should definitely go to the bench guys. In other words, keeping Craig Wilson, a player who will be "overpaid" in 2006 if you compare him to other bench players, even on teams like the Yankees, is smart cheap-team roster management.


Mark Hersh's comment led me to this article by Art Thiel for the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Wow. WTF? This should win some kind of unsportsmanlike conduct/poor taste media award.

Jim Tracy quiz

Take the Jim Tracy quiz by Dejan Kovacevic. Great, ingenious idea. I knew all the right answers and guess what, Tracy got two of three right.

I'd never walk in the run in the situation described with question one. Mike Gonzalez will saw off Barry's bat. And Tracy nearly bungles the final question. The odds of the double play, even with Sean Casey batting, are not so great that you do anything but turn him loose.

Joel Pineiro for Craig Wilson?

Dejan Kovacevic reports this rumor for the PG.

My reaction: Hey, that Pineiro guy used to be good!

Not sure what he's done lately.

... so I do a little research and I find this by Jim Moore, writing for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

How many will miss Joel Pineiro next year? Another question: Are the Mariners really going to trot this guy out there again this season? Combined, he's 13-24 with a 5.15 ERA the past two years. Personally, I love this guy, too, but have a hard time watching him pitch anymore. With the millions he's making, Pineiro should be a hell of a lot better than he is, and it's perplexing why he's not because we all know he once was.

And then it hits me, I know what happened to him: He's Kris Benson! WTF? And we're going to trade for him?

Then I remember ... Seattle ... that city hates Pittsburgh!

I smell a trap. Don't do it, DL!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

It's coming back

Now Alan Robinson reports the velocity is coming back for Flaco.

Of course, he can throw 69 if they swing and miss. There are many reasons, I think, that fans worry about whether or not he regains his velocity. And all those worries will be dispelled if he's as effective as he was in 2004.

... or maybe it never left. Rob Rossi reports:

Of concern to some -- but not Tracy, nor pitching coach Jim Colborn -- has been an apparent lack of velocity on Perez's fastball.

In 2004, he routinely was clocked between 94 and 96 mph. He hasn't approached such speeds this spring, though he said yesterday that his fastball was in the high 90s during his last outing March 24.

High nineties, right on. Like I said, as long as he retires batters, no one will have time or cause to worry about the velocity on his fastball.

Acoustic Ollie

The immortal azibuck, from the comments for the previous thread:

Acoustic Ollie looked pretty good. He may have learned how to pitch. He threw a lot of curves -- not sliders. His change of speeds was good, threw the curve as low as 69. That's a very effective gap. Too bad he wasn't still throwing 95+.

They did hit some balls hard, but they swung and missed a bunch too. Very small asterisk: the strike zone was large today, for he and Schilling.

2006: Ollie Unplugged!

Pirates and Red Sox

This game began at one; it's looks to be available only on Anyone watch or watching it and have a report on Oliver Perez?

Cuts today

Rob Rossi reports them. Looks like Jose Hernandez is down with the second UT job and the final bench spot.

John Perrotto, Plogger

John Perrotto has a "plog". Not sure if this has been or will be a regular feature. Curiously, it's not linked from the main sports page of the Beaver site. What he'll need, if this is to become a regular web traffic magnet, is his own URL and an RSS feed.

In this installment, he admires Craig Wilson for checking MLB trade rumors on a handheld. We should make up some Craig Wilson rumors and publish them on this site. You know, to see if we can get his attention.

KDKA v. Clear Channel

Bob Smizik reports today on the future of Pirates radio.

Would a move to Clear Channel involve a shake-up of the broadcasting crew, or are these men the employees of the Pirates?

Whatever. I am fond of KDKA for its history, and I regard them as something of a sentimental favorite here. But what I really want is more Pirates on the free radio in more places. Whoever gives the team broader coverage works for me.

Jack Wilson

Dejan Kovacevic reports this fact about Jack's spring:

Just consider this: In 39 plate appearances, he has swung and missed at exactly one pitch, a 3-1 changeup from Cincinnati's Brandon Claussen March 16.

Jack Wilson will have a big year, I think. Some will regard this expectation as overly optimistic, I know.

News Flash

This just in: Jason Bay is good.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


So this is the new or current explanation of Perez's lost velocity:

"When you have opportunities to get strikeouts, you feel good. I always was a strikeout guy," said Perez. "Now, I just have to go in trying to help the team. That's the most important.

"You don't think about you. You think about the team. Strikeouts are for yourself. The game is more important."

Perez also doesn't seem to be all that concerned about his velocity dropping from 95-96 mph in 2004 to the 86-89 range over the last two seasons.

"Last year, I was thinking too much about my mechanics and my velocity," said Perez. "This year, I am just working on my mechanics. My arm is good, stronger.

That from Ed Eagle's notebook.

Oliver Perez can be a soft-tossing lefty. Can he be a good one?

I wonder. I'm still a little drunk or just hungover from all the Randy Johnson comparisons. Is it time to let that go? Goodbye, Randy Johnson -- hello, Jamie Moyer?

The question remains: where did the velocity go? Did he only achieve it with mechanics the coaches consider too dangerous to continue? Are his new mechanics that different from his old mechanics? Does anyone expect he'll regain the velocity he once had?

Because it would be easy to make that promise, and because Perez insists he's stronger now, my guess is no, he never expects to regain the velocity.

Readers Poll I : The Team

Only six more days before baseball starts, so last chance for predictions (and last chance for me to subvert Rowdy's overly optimistic message with some healthy preseason cynicism):

1. What will the Bucs' record be this year?

2. Will we finish in last again?

3. Any other random predictions you'd like to share?

I'll start:

1. 75-87. The Bucs were 67-95 last year. They should be better this year, but I'm not too optimistic. Solid defense, a good bullpen, and man-god Jason Bay will not quite be enough to hold the anemic offense and young rotation afloat.

2. No. Bucs will finish above the Reds, who look awful.

3. McNuttings sell franchise in September. New owner Dan Rooney promptly fires DL.

Readers Poll II : Grounds crew and marketing

Inspired by our new motto and the newfound realization that "We are trying to be the benchmark in the sports industry in everything we do -- whether it's the grounds crew or whether it's ticket sales or whether it's marketing," I've raised the bar considerably in my expectations for 2006. I go so far as to ask you, fellow Pirates fans, to raise the bar too and voice your demands to the grounds crew, ticket office, and marketing people so they can get to work WILLing our demands to happen.

1. What can the grounds crew do for you, as a fan, to better your whole Pirates experience?

2. What kind of marketing gimmicks would convince you to buy more tickets and enhance your ballpark fun?

Again, I'll start:

1. First off, the grounds crew better damn well be prepared to bust their asses this year. After all this hype, I want to see them do backflips while running out to unroll the tarp. Plus I'd like some gimmicky lawn art, maybe with the new goofy mascot's face on the infield grass and the beatific visage of Jason Bay on the outfield lawn.

2. Again, primed by all this hype, I'm ready to bust marketing's chops all year long. Especially now that Wiggy's no longer around to bowl people over. I hereby demand a third mascot. And bullpen karaoke. And clowns, with laserbeams attached to their heads. Did I f---ing stutter?

Pirates and D' Rays

Paul Maholm, one o'clock.

Fourth outfielder

McLouth lacks the range to be considered a starting CF, John Perrotto reports. So far as I know, he authors the BA prospect list that he cites in his own article. In other words, Perrotto calls himself "Baseball America." The lack of disclosure there is a strange convention, unless, I suppose, all that work is peer-reviewed and edited by others at the publication.

Oliver Perez

Jim Tracy did not say much when asked about Ollie's velocity. That's a Rob Rossi story for the Trib-Review. Dejan Kovacevic also reports the "not a strikeout pitcher" line.

Absent from such talk is any speculation about when, if ever, Tracy expects Perez to get back into the mid-90s. Have they forbidden him from pitching in the same style he used in 2004?

Littlefield's contract

Dejan Kovacevic returns from his mini-hiatus to write about DL's job security.

Geek Rotation

Brian O'Neill on the rotation.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Pirates and Reds

Make notes.

Jose Bautista's gaudy spring

Take a moment to admire 25-year-old Jose Bautista's numbers this month: 15-for-51 (.353), 7 doubles, 4 home runs (.725 SLG), 13 strikeouts (25% K is acceptable for a power hitter), and 6 walks (the good walk rate, esp. when hitting .353, gets him to a .433 OBP).

He did this while playing all over the field. I heard he's going to pitch before the end of camp, too. I'm looking forward to that.

Nate McLouth has had a good spring at the plate, too. And so did the always-overlooked Ray Sadler, before he was sent down.

Pirates and Reds

Tonight,, seven o'clock.

I've been looking at other teams in the NL this past week. The Reds puzzle me. What the hey are they doing? I see two 600-PA players: Dunn and Lopez. Encarnacion looks great now, but he's a rook. And my attitude with newbies is this: until they play a full 650-PA season, I'll skeptical they can. He'll probably wear down in August and September. Ryan Freel should play a lot, but so will the utility infielders, Rich Aurilia and Tony Womack. If the Reds don't come up with some bodies worth playing often (Holbert? Snyder? Who are these guys?), I don't see how they will avoid Aurilia and Womack combining for more than 800 PA.

At first base, it's hard to see Hatteberg taking the field every day. He's seen a lot of time at DH in his career.

The bigger mystery is their outfield. Even with Dunn playing a lot in left, they have Griffey and Kearns for center and right. Griffey's a 400-450 PA player at this point; it would be imprudent to bank on any more than that from Mr. Hamstring's-connected-to-the-Ass-Bone. Austin Kearns has averaged in the low 300s the last three seasons. He's not durable. I foresee a lot of playing time falling to their backups, who now look to be -- Quenten McCracken and Jacob Cruz? That guy Dewayne Wise? It looks to me like they do not have enough players.

Some teams can afford to get more players any time they please. The Reds aren't one of those teams. The Opening Day lineup will be good, but I pity the Reds fans for what they'll likely see on August or September 1. Unless Griffey and Kearns both prove surprisingly more durable than they've been in the past, I predict we'll see one of the utility players - probably Womack - starting in left field, for a month or more, unless they somehow come up with younger options worth the tryout.

...that younger guy would be Chris Denorfia. JD Arney runs down the in-house options here.

...speaking of Hatteberg, it appears that Cincinnati has yet to embrace him as Casey's replacement. From Hal McCoy's Q & A posted yesterday:

Q — Didn't they trade Sean Casey because he didn't hit for enough power or drive in enough runs for a first baseman? Then why do they plan to play Scott Hatteberg at first base when his numbers are worse than Casey's? Hatteberg's a guy who has never hit more than 15 homers or driven in more than 82. — Gib, Washington, D.C.

A — And you forgot that Hatteberg's career batting average is nearly 35 points lower than Casey's. All this proves is that Casey's trade to Pittsburgh was a Salary Dump — capital S, capital D — because Hatteberg is not the offensive player Casey is. Bob Castellini's baseball people, led by former GM Dan O'Brien, convinced the new owner that the trade was a baseball trade. If it was, Dave Williams better be very, very good.

FWIW, McCoy adores Casey.

164 days

... until Thursday, Sept. 7th, when the Steelers will host the Culpepper-led Dolphins at Heinz to kick off the 2006 NFL season. "I think repeating means a lot to everybody in the organization," says Art Rooney.

In other Steelers news, Verron Haynes agreed to a two-year contract. So now 8 free agents will return (Verron, Deshea, Batch, Keisel, Tuman, Kriewaldt, Barrett Brooks, and Lee Mays), 3 are gone (ARE, Kimo, and Hope), and Quincy is in limbo. "We're still trying to get Quincy," Rooney said.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Pirates and Jays

In progress. Zach Duke works on his rosin bag tricks while Bengie Molina adjusts his cup.


Zach Duke, from his Trib-Review journal:

The most fun I've had down here was, of course, fishing. I've caught some Snook, some red fish and some Sheephead, which actually have human-looking teeth.

Well, actually, they're flat teeth like sheep have, but they kind of look like human teeth. It's very scary.

Sheephead aren't real big, but they kind of get to you. I've heard you can eat them. They probably taste like fish.

They probably taste like chicken.

John Thomson for Craig Wilson?

Paul Meyer reports a Craig Wilson-for-John Thomson deal might happen soon.