Saturday, March 24, 2007

Eldred walks

Walks are one of the main differences between Adam Dunn and Brad Eldred. They both strike out a lot. Dunn strikes out about 25% of the time and Eldred fans a bit more than that. The strikeouts, by themselves, are not that bad. The walks are the difference. Dunn will draw one walk for every two strikeouts, while Eldred is more of a one for every three strikeouts guy.

Walks, by themselves, are not that great. They are like infield singles achieved at the end of a long at-bat that may have been tiring for the pitcher.

Eldred's strikeout-to-walk ratio does not inspire confidence, but if he can learn to see a few more pitches and draw a few more walks, that could improve quickly. A man with his power would draw more intentional walks and face more nervous pitchers if he was a bit less of a sucker for the punch-out. For every additional walk he earns, the pitchers will give him a second for free. That's my theory. For this reason, it would be a lot easier for Eldred to improve his OBP that it would, say, for Jack Wilson to do the same. It's not such a wide gap, I think, between the man with this kind of power who really helps a team and the man with this kind of power who is not much of an asset.

So I have my eye on his walk numbers and, when I'm watching the game, I have my eye on his eye. This spring he has struck out a lot, even for him, which somewhat washes away the slight uptick in walks. The hopeful view thinks the strikeouts will come down and the walks will stick, but it's hard to be hopeful on this kind of sample size and this quality of sample consistency. Exhibition games are not the real thing or even close.

That said, he walked today and did not strike out. And, oh yeah, he hit a big home run.

Way to go, big guy.

Three pitchers sent to minors

Burnett, Youman, and Gryboski rode to Pirate City today, Paul Meyer reports. I'd guess this means Juan Perez is in as the second LH reliever, until Grabow returns. Meyer thinks Armas has clinched the fourth rotation spot, leaving Gorzelanny the fifth spot.

What's your take on MLB.com multimedia?

The good things about MLB.com multimedia are pretty self-evident. But, in my long experience with it, there's never been a year when the service has gone swimmingly and been delicious.

For example, right now I am trying to stream the archived audio of today's game. I want to listen. I bought the service for this purpose. I am seventeen minutes into the feed, and all that has been captured is WPGB, which is Fox talk radio. So I'm listening to what's obviously Republican party political propanganda right when I want to listen to baseball. When I attempt to forward the feed, it breaks, and I have to start over at the very beginning. What to do? I could bang my head against the wall and have more fun. I very much want to listen to the game feed, and I very much do not want to waste my time listening to something else. Did I pay for this? On the chance that this is a half-hour of WPGB that's been accidentally captured before the game begins, I am letting it run.

And Rowdietta, to make matters worse, is whining and jeering: "Why are you listening to this boring stuff?" When I tell the five-year-old that it is baseball, she says, "No it's not."

My long experience with MLB.com suggests that there's no way in hell they are going to respond like they care if I write to complain about this. Years ago I had much worse problems and was only contacted about 45 days after writing to them. And they more or less said, yes you are right, we can't get it to work on your computer type either.

So what to do? Rant at the moon? Blog about it? I dunno. But man I hate MLB.com today.

What's your take on this season's MLB.com offerings? I know Bones likes the tin-can-on-a-rope audio quality of the webcasts.

...indeed, the game starts 30 minutes into the feed. Some moron somewhere owes me a half-hour of my life.

exhibition: Twins and Pirates

The game starts at one o'clock. Ian Snell will pitch for the Pirates.

Plate discipline

Paul Meyer reports today that Jim Tracy has been lecturing Jose Castillo about "plate discipline."

"But coach," Jose said, "I already lost the extra weight."

Friday, March 23, 2007

Castillo still with the club

"As of today," Paul Meyer now quotes Tracy on the PG website.

Jose Castillo will be demoted to AAA ?

Bones, enduring the tin-can-on-a-string audio quality of the Yankees-Pirates MLB.com webcast, reports in the comments that the Post-Gazette's Paul Meyer just told the broadcast booth that Jose Castillo looks destined for AAA.

Paul Meyer on now and just dropped the bomb that he's convinced based upon Tracy's pregame comments that Castillo will be sent down to Indy. "As of today, we're done with Jose Castillo" agrees Wehner.

If Jose Castillo is demoted to work on his Manny-like defensive work, this would open a roster spot for Jose Hernandez or darkhorse utility candidate Don Kelly.

Don Kelly is from Mt. Lebanon. There has been talk in the broadcasts earlier in the week about the Pirates' current interest in acquiring and playing local boys. I have been thinking about this, and it makes a ton of sense. Who else cares enough to put forth the effort required to turn this team around? Regional pride might give some of these players the motivational edge. Why else would anyone work so hard to achieve what looks like such a long-shot goal?

Clearly not all the players are equally eager to win ballgames. Anyone who has watched this team for the last five years can see that.

The desire to make more money might be proposed as sufficient motivation for players to excel as a Pirate, but I don't believe that all the players feel this. Even at the major-league minimum, they are making a lot of money. And this is especially the case if they take it out of the country to spend it. (And if fans do not understand why so many players do not appear to share their impatience with ownership and management, they need only consider that most of these players are being paid very well. Bob Nutting would be one of my favorite people on the planet if he signed my enormous paycheck. I mean no disrespect to the players with this comment; I'm sure they would agree that opening the pay envelope never gets old for them.)

Don Kelly, if he makes the team, would be a #8 hitter for sure.

exhibition: Yankees at Pirates

Webcast today at one o'clock, so send email to the radio people as they will need things to talk about. How you do that, I am not sure, but I do know they often talk about getting email.

Shawn Chacon will pitch. With Kuwata pitching like Maddux, Moyer, and Glavine, Chacon might want to get some good results today.

Don Kelly

With Sanchez and Castillo ahead of him at second, this Don Kelly should get some playing time. Paul Meyer writes some words about him in his notebook.

Daily dose of Paulino

The Associated Press celebrates the big man.

Grew up as a big Pirates fan

Josh Sharpless, bullpen guy, by the Associated Press.

Due for some good luck

Tony Armas, fifth starter, by John Perrotto.

Guts of a burglar

Sean Burnett, sixth starter, by Paul Meyer.

I pitch like Greg Maddux, Jamie Moyer and Tom Glavine

Masumi Kuwata, seventh starter and/or possible swing man, by John Perrotto.

It feels much better

Jason Bay to Baseball Digest Daily:

BDD: How is the knee holding up?

JB: It’s great. It’s not an issue anymore. It feels much better. I don’t have any pain like I did last year. If I would had known it would feel this good, I would have (had surgery) much sooner.

I am looking forward to see him bust out some extra-base hits on people.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

This life is not that magical thing

Curt Schilling to Alex Beith.

Some thoughts about the lineup

Hey, this offseason there has been some talk about the ideal lineup and the likely Tracy lineup. (See also this PG page and this PG page).

Some have been concerned that Tracy looks poised to hit Jack Wilson second and Jason Bay fifth. I have stood to the side of these debates because I doubt lineups matter all the much. To me, it makes sense to give Jack Wilson one more chance to hit as he did once; if he does not do it in the first few weeks, then I think dropping him to eighth makes sense. But in the eight-spot, he's pretty certain to not be productive offensively. I say that on nothing but intuition, so "certain" is probably not a good word, but I'll use it.

Now I wonder if this lineup decision does not have something to do with Jason Bay. The Pirates look poised to bury him somewhat. He had that knee thing and he has not looked strong at the plate this spring. Could it be that the coaches anticipate a slow start to Bay's season? If he bats in the third spot, that would magnify the effect of any diminished production.

One other thing: Ronny Paulino looks more and more like a middle-of-the-lineup hitter to me. He's a big man and he's been hitting the ball with authority.

What are your thoughts? Do you also anticipate a weak first month or half from Bay? I know I am lowering expectations, but perhaps that's overreacting.

exhibition: Pirates at Blue Jays

Tony Armas Jr. will pitch.

I am curious to see if Jose Castillo returns at second. Watching the Red Sox yesterday, it was hard not to compare Castillo to Manny Ramirez. He plays second the way Manny plays the outfield.

Too bad he does not hit like Manny.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

BP Reality Check--Gerut edition

Here's another disappointment in the Baseball Prospectus. In the note on Jody Gerut, the BP Team of Talent expounds:

Gerut endured a lost season . . . . It didn't help that the Players Association had to file a grievance just to get the Pirates to agree that Gerut had a knee injury. The Pirates don't know much about baseball, but, when it comes to medicine, well, they know even less.

This looks like a zinger but, when it comes to reality, well, it only zangs.

I do not know the whole story of the Jody Gerut sideshow. I only know what was reported by the Post-Gazette and the AP and so forth. The story, however, was not about Pittsburgh medical prowess but about Jody Gerut behaving badly.

Gerut looked healthy and reported no physical problems throughout March 2006. To the surprise of some, he did not make the team. He was cut on the last day of camp. Only then did he call Dave Littlefield to say that his knee hurt, that he had been to another doctor without the team's knowledge, and that he was going to follow that doctor's advice and have surgery. Gerut had told reporters right after receiving the news of demotion that he was healthy and cleared to play and ready to do so. So something happened between that moment and the call to Dave Littlefield.

If he had the surgery while on the major-league disabled list, which (I think) was the goal with the call to the GM hours after being cut, then he would continue to accrue service time and receive his big-league salary. I am not real sure about this part, but I got the impression that the Pirates could not demote him if he was injured. So by announcing his injury, he was attempting to force them to keep him on the big-league roster.

Either way, and some details may be wrong, whatever the situation was, it caused the Pirates to call bullshit on Jody Gerut. Earlier that day he was fit and trim. After his agent learned that he was demoted, however, he now had a doctor who said he needed surgery? The Pirates put him on the minor-league restricted list, meaning Gerut did not accrue service time and did not get paid his 875K.

This is when the players' union filed the grievance. Over the next three weeks, the Pirates and Gerut reached a compromise. The Pirates acknowledged that he had patella tendinitis. Gerut agreed to treat it without surgery. To me it appeared that the truth was down the middle: his knee was hurt, but it was not hurt all that bad. Though I would like to play one on TV, I am not a doctor, and I pretend to know that patella tendinitis is a condition with many shades of gray between playing health and required surgery.

Even if the Pirates' medical staff did a Benny Hill routine in lieu of competent knee tests that March, Jody Gerut and his Grievance is not a story that makes the Pirates' doctors look bad. The incident, above all, put Jody Gerut in a bad light.

None of this is evidence that the Pirates have a competent medical staff. This is evidence, however, of the smarmy ignorance the BP Team of Talent display while they crack themselves up throughout the Pirates' player comments. They might as well blame the Pirates for Brandon Lyon's nerve transposition surgery--Boston said Lyon was healthy, so it must have been the Pirates' medical staff that injured Lyon's arm as they prepared it for the MRIs.

exhibition: Red Sox at Pirates

Read all about that Matsuzaka guy here in this Tom Verducci article for SI.

I want some of that doryoku. Pass it over here.

Game at one o'clock.

... game is on the TV. Matsuzaka hits Duffy with a wimpy breaking ball to lead off the bottom of the first. Good job, Chris, taking one for the team.

... hey, Castillo just made a good play at second base. And I just saw him backing up a 5-3 groundout.

... top of the seventh, Pirates down 4-2, Castillo looks bad and lazy fielding a ball and failing to make a play at the plate. ESPN is replaying it and talking about how that more or less exemplifies Jack Wilson's offseason remarks about him.

Sluggo's place in Pirate history

Another thing I may have learned from the new BP annual: the Pirates have not had many good catchers. Then I remembered this Stats Geek article from August 2004.

Catcher, unlike shortstop or right field, is not a position where Pirates have reached baseball immortality. The best catcher to wear a Pittsburgh uniform was undoubtedly Josh Gibson, "the Babe Ruth of the Negro Leagues," who played 13 seasons for the Homestead Grays and three for the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Gibson led the league in home runs nine times and in batting four times. None of the other 13 catchers in the Hall of Fame played for a Pittsburgh team.

But the Pirates had some very good ones. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract rates players' career performances through the 1999 season. [Forrest "Smoky"] Burgess, who played six seasons for the Pirates, was ranked the 28th-best catcher in history. Of the baker's dozen players who caught at least 400 games for the Pirates, seven more made James' list. Following [Smoky] Burgess were [Tony] Pena (34th), Al Lopez (41st), [Manny] Sanguillen (42nd), Don Slaught (67th), Doggie Miller (76th), Mike LaValliere (91st) and George Gibson (95th).

BP writes (page 401): "Don Slaught would probably make a list of the team's top-five all-time offensive catchers. For a franchise with a history going back to the nineteenth century, that's amazing."

Why is that amazing? Thirteen of the top 95--this is amazing? The Pirates' history of catchers strikes me as unremarkable.

So I don't get the joke. In the context, though, they appear to be smearing the great Sluggo. They can direct all the snark they have at ownership, general management, and the coaching staff, as far as I am concerned; they are the most on the hook for the current run of failure. The scattershot swipes at Pittsburghers, the team's history, the Monongahela's water quality, etc., don't strike me as fair. They are sophomoric.

I don't have a copy of the 1999 Abstract. Assuming Brian O'Neill quoted it fairly, James judged Slaught the 67th best catcher of all time, and the fifth-best catcher in Pirates history. Add Kendall and he's the sixth-best. His offensive record is not that impressive, but offense is only half the job of the catcher. Was Slaught's defense that good? Finoli and Ranier, who do not rank Slaught as one of the top 100 Pirates, write that his defense was not Gold Glove caliber but "more than adequate."

In the end, I think this is not something worth learning about the Pirates. But rather another example of how the BP "team of experts" get careless as they indulge their enthusiasm for ripping the Bucs. Someone vaguely remembered that Stats Geek article and tried to make a joke of it to fluff up the nothing they have to say about Humberto Cota.

Is Freddy ready?

John Perrotto isn't so sure:

Freddy Sanchez has not played in three weeks because of a sprained right knee. Though the Pirates are painting an optimistic picture of the reigning NL batting champion being ready for the April 2 opener, he isn't so optimistic.

"It's just the same old same old," Sanchez said. "I'm getting frustrated not being out there."

If Freddy's not ready, at least Jason Bay could hit third.

McCutchen to Indy?

While Walker and Bixler have received their minor league assignments (Altoona and Indy, respectively), McCutchen is still in camp. Paul Meyer reports that DL is thinking about sending McCutchen to Indy:

"There's a consideration of that because of his continued progress and how well he's performed," Littlefield said. "We'll kick that around some."
DL needs to kick that consideration right to the curb. McCutchen has 78 total ABs above A ball and belongs in Altoona for opening day.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

exhibition: Tigers and Pirates

This one appears to be no on the radio, yes on the internets as a "webcast" for gameday audio subscribers.

At the bookstore this morning, I purchased a copy of the new Baseball Prospectus annual. Wow--I have learned a lot of things about the Pirates that I did not know from this book.

Some of these things I did not want to know.

For example: Chris Duffy's speed "has not translated into great center field defense as of yet." I suppose that's what I get for trusting my lying eyes.

I would gouge them out with a bare bodkin, but I need them to keep reading.

Only one guy can bat eighth

The Stats Geek Brian O'Neill defines his "less than total faith in the abject failure of the Bucs" with his to-do list for a winning '07.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Sunday, March 18, 2007

exhibition: Pirates at Yankees

Duke vs. Mussina, underway.

Alay bumaye

This is two days old, but the NY Daily News reported that Cuban pitcher Alay Soler, recently cut from the Mets, is expected to sign with the Pirates. Soler was cut, according to Mets' pitching coach Rick Peterson, because "the inconsistencies were consistent."

Still, Soler might only be 27 and has upside, so this could be a nice pick-up for DL. With all the media buzz created over Yoslan and Alay, young Cuban players would be reminded that Pittsburgh still actually has a MLB team. (link via Rotoworld).

Grabow hurt

Grabow has been officially sidelined for the elbow inflammation that Paul Meyer described yesterday.

Lenny's R.I.P.A.

As for what to drink other than Rolling Rock, consider HeBrew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A.. At 10% alcohol, this tribute to Lenny Bruce is technically not beer, definitely not for regular consumption on hot summer days, but highly recommended for the delicious condensed obscenity.