Saturday, June 03, 2006

Game 56: Padres at Pirates

The Padres rest Jake Peavy and send instead a 25-year-old right-handed rookie named Mike Thompson. Peavy has some kind of shoulder owie that causes pain without affecting his ability to dominate. This may or may not be a case of an opposing club starting their JV against the 20-35 Pirates. If the Friars were in San Francisco, perhaps they would also skip or push back Peavy at this point in the season. There's no way to tell. Regardless, the Bucs catch a break here.

The Pirates send Zach Duke to the mound. Game on at seven o'clock.

Wins and losses

Dejan Kovacevic, PG beat writer, has found the problem underlying all our Pirate woes:

Sean Casey opened his morning newspaper yesterday and turned to a page he previously considered off limits.

"Yeah, I actually checked out the standings," he said with a big laugh. "I get the feeling that, hopefully, we're climbing up and wanted to see where we were. Hopefully, I'll get back into checking them every day."

Casey and others in the Pirates' clubhouse acknowledged avoiding the standings for most of the opening two months.

"It wasn't something I wanted to look at," reliever Mike Gonzalez said. "We were losing and losing, and it would bring you down to see it."

. . .

"The standings are something I don't even concern myself with," [Craig Wilson] said. "You've still got to go out and play the game the same way. I guess you could say that, later in the summer, if you're still in it, the standings become more interesting."

So, how long has this been going on? The Pirates must be one of three or four teams made up of players who do not look at the standings every morning. They have no good understanding of why they are 20-35 because they do not know (a) that they are 20-35 and (b) what it means to be 20-35. You can't know 20-35 without knowing 20-34. You have to study these things to learn.

That said, it should be easy enough to fix.

If I'm an owner, the GM, or a coach, I call Mike Gonzalez tomorrow morning and have a nice long talk about exactly where the Pirates stand. Then I call him the next day and talk about the standings some more. There is so much to learn from the standings. I talk about why Colorado is 27-27. And why they are in last place. "Do you think they will go up, Mike, or do you think they will go down? Do you think we are as good as Colorado? If you do not know today, I will ask again on Tuesday, after you play them." I talk about why Detroit is 36-19. I talk about why the Pirates are 20-35. Every day I talk about the standings.

Some days I talk about the schedule too. "How can we get four wins next week, Mike?" I demand specific answers.

There's nothing else worth talking about. No individual accomplishment merits any respect in the context of 20-35. If the players are serious about improving their won-loss record, they should, you know, study the won-loss records. If the coaches are serious about improving the won-loss record, they should, maybe, lecture about the won-loss records.

It's not going to fix itself. If the team is going to fix it, the team has to look at it.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Game 55: Padres at Pirates

Chan Ho Park and Oliver Perez at seven. Weather permitting.

I'm headed out to the mall to buy some more Steelers Super Bowl XL merchandise. Enjoy yourselves, everybody. It is a Friday in June.

Lasorda's dove

Gene Collier wrote a gentle, dovish lecture urging Tracy to not spare the rod and spoil the children.

People regard loyalty like it's a prime good. Not so. There is good loyalty and there is bad loyalty. The Pirates have a bad loyalty problem. They curl up in their little cocoon of a mutual admiration society. They don't come out. They remain far too comfortable while the team falls far, far below .500. Oddly patient in many wrong places, they stand in the pouring rain for a week or two expecting sunnier weather.

Now they've won six of seven after losing four straight. And they swagger like conquering heroes. Is that right?

Not 26-28

All hail the sweep of the Brewers, who are falling apart as management debates the old shit-or-get-off-the-pot question with Carlos Lee.

The Bucs scored some runs in a hurry the last week or so, raising their "RPI" index to .483. You'd think they'd be a 26-28 team, in other words, with this many runs scored and that many runs allowed.

It doesn't work that way, however. We can't expect any kind of one-run luck to "even out." They have fallen, and they have to get up.

The record is more like a bank account, and the Pirates are heavily in debt. They are 14 games below .500 today. 20 wins, 34 losses. No amount of playing great lately changes that.

Can they get back to .500? It's going to be like watching a young man pay off his student loans while making $500 a week. I have no doubt this group of players is capable of playing .500 ball for a long stretch of time, especially if they start that stretch as a doormat. But can they win 14 straight? And I've said before, in my most angry and bitter April moods, that we could expect them to win 9 of 12 at some point. Even the worst teams do that from time to time. What happens afterwards? How soon, for example, do they go out on the road and get swept in a series?

The individual games are great fun, but the sober second look at the morning standings suggests the illusion of playing better baseball is just that, an illusion. The RPI is horseshit. Freddy Sanchez's batting average is horseshit. Jose Castillo's and Jason Bay's home runs are horseshit. All that matters is the real standings.

On June 2, and they are 14 games under .500. That's heavy in debt.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Game 54: Brewers at Pirates

The Pirates are 19-34, fifteen games under .500.

Bush and Maholm at 12:30 today. Get me to the ballpark . . .

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Game 53: Brewers at Pirates

Chris Capuano vs. Ian Snell at 7:05 PM EST. Same lineup as the last two days as the Bucs look to score another dozen runs vs. the Brewers' best pitcher. Castillo will try to continue his Jason Bay impression.

the Q & A

It's Wednesday, so here's the Q & A.

Also use this thread to vent whatever intemperate remarks you might have to make about a team with an 18-34 record.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Game 52: Brewers at Pirates

Jorge de la Rosa vs. Victor Santos, 7:05 PM EST. Same lineup as last night, with Craig playing RF and batting fifth.

Tracy's stepson

John Perrotto interprets the 17-34 start:

it is disingenuous of Tracy to completely distance himself from the failures of this season.

He hasn't been immune to making mistakes, such as letting Oliver Perez go back out for the ninth inning of Sunday's 5-4 defeat against Houston after he had already thrown 120 pitches.

Putting a catcher like Ryan Doumit at first base where he could misplay a hot smash into the game-winning run in the late innings at Arizona last Tuesday wasn't a great tactical move.

Pinch hitting Hernandez, the Pirates' least productive hitter, for Craig Wilson, one of the Pirates' most productive hitters, in the 10th inning of the blown bunt game in Cleveland was another shaky decision.

Tracy is right to hold his players accountable. After all, they get paid large sums of money to perform.

But you get the feeling from listening to Tracy on a regular basis that he believes he was 17-0 in the Pirates' first 51 games and his players were 0-34.

Read the whole thing to learn about Tracy's stepson.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Pirates 14, Brewers 3

That's the best kind of victory in my book: beat the snot out of the other team. I tune out people who cavil about wanting to see a close game. No victory too big I say. Run it up.

The best of all possible games is the one where they other team plays really well. The pitchers throw squiggly darts, the outfielders make leaping grabs, and still the Pirates knock six balls out of the park and win 14-3. I want the other team to play well, you see. It's not as fun to score your 14 runs against a demoralized and bitter opponent who, you know, hands them to you.

Either way, this night rocks. It's especially good to get this kind of workout on Doug Davis, one of my least favorite rivals.

Matt Capps still has a few outs to get, but I'm confident the bullpen will hold this 11-run lead. Lots of gold stars to go around after this win.

Bones is right, tonight's lineup is a credit to Jim Tracy. I'd like to see the same lineup tomorrow - unless it's a righty, then I'd start Burnitz.

Game 51: Brewers at Pirates

Doug Davis vs. Zach Duke, 7:05 PM EST. Man-god Jason Bay goes for #7.

Update (6:40 PM): Casey returns and is batting third. Craig Wilson is ... starting in RF and batting fifth! All hail Jim Tracy! Freddy moves down to the six hole. I like this lineup.

Truck Facy

I was going to ease up on Tracy after Saturday night's masterpiece. But then on Sunday, Tracy sends young Ollie (trying to rebound from mysterious arm problems) out to start the 9th after throwing 120 pitches and the Bucs up 4-0. Incredibly bad idea. DK on Tracy being asked about the decision:

Asked if he had any second thoughts about using Perez that inning, Tracy began his response by pointing to Gonzalez's lack of control: "Well, when you see what took place after [Perez] left ..."
Classic. Dodge a direct question about whether he had second thoughts on his decision by focusing on the lack of execution of a young player. One could argue that DK is spinning Tracy's response a bit here, as Tracy doesn't actually mention Gonzo. But I don't think one could rationally defend Tracy's decision to send Ollie back out. Instead, to me this is another example of Tracy contributing significantly to losing a game that should have been won.

Santonio speaks

From the Trib:

Holmes said last night that he was on his way from a bar/restaurant in Miami Beach early yesterday and stepped off the sidewalk to avoid a gathering of people. A police officer yelled at him, Holmes said. A report written by the arresting officer said Holmes was obstructing traffic.

Holmes said he asked the officer why he yelled at him, and he was immediately placed under arrest.

"I wasn't trying to cause a problem," said Holmes, a native of Hollywood, Fla., who said he was in town to visit with his children, Santonio III and Nicori.

Not like Santonio needs any more explanation here, but he could also point out that everyone's doing it, as 557 people have been arrested in South Beach so far this weekend, including Washington Wizards players Gilbert Arenas and Awvee Storey. Storey also stepped off the sidewalk. Note to self: stay on sidewalk in Miami.

Casey back

Sean Casey is due back today, and Mike Edwards will likely be sent down to make room. Casey returning will mean CW will play less and drive down his trade value unnecessarily. If CW sits while Burnitz continues to play RF, then DL will likely ice the Nutting's quota of 100 losses. In other CW-related bloggy goodness, Billy and Charlie defend CW from Smizik.

Bay jacks in 6th straight game

Rotoworld zinger: "Bay now has as many homers as the Pirates have wins (16)."

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Game 50: Astros at Pirates

Fernando Nieve vs. Oliver Perez, 1:35 PM EST.

Santonio Holmes arrested

Santonio Holmes, in Miami unbeknownst to his mother, was arrested for disorderly conduct early Saturday morning:

According to the police report, Holmes was observed walking in the middle of Collins Avenue in a trendy area of South Beach littered with outdoor bars and restaurants. When traffic became disrupted and came to a standstill, a police officer told Holmes to "get out of the street." According to the report, Holmes "said several offensive words" to the police officer and was arrested.
"Holmes did not appear drunk and was not cited for public intoxication." Doesn't sound like a big deal, but I'm curious to hear his explanation of just what the hell he was doing.


Gorzelanny hasn't pitched since Wednesday. Will he get the call to start for Santos on Monday?

Pirates 8, Astros 7 (18 innings)

Wow. Make space on the drinking-room wall for an enlarged version of this beauty (Bay getting Wiggy with Eric Munson to score the winning run). In easily the greatest and most entertaining Pirates win of the year, the Bucs get jacks from PH Burnitz in the 8th and Castillo in the 17th to set up Bay's Wiggy-style in the 18th. All hail a rare great victory!