Saturday, May 12, 2007

Game 35: Braves at Pirates

James and Armas pretty soon. I am going out and will miss this edition of "Tony Armas night."


Jose Castillo and Alan Faneca both want out, the P-G reports.

Prospect grades

Wilbur Miller at OBN grades the top 30 Bucco prospects.

San Diego's yellow uniforms

These uniforms are awesome, I think. They would look even better in the full sun of summer day game.

The Pirates should do more yellow and less red. I like red as an accent but not as a main color. Maybe next year ...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Game 34: Braves at Pirates

Davies and Duke. Jim Tracy plays the same lineup that scored six runs last night. Smart play, I say.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pirates win 6-4

That makes two of three at Wrigley. Three under and coming home for many games.

Game 33: Pirates at Cubs

Maholm and Zambrano at 2:20pm.

... curious lineup. Sanchez, Bautista, Bay, Doumit, Nady, LaRoche, Paulino, Wilson, Maholm. Works for me. I like it. Here's hoping they do better than 1-for-18 to start the day off Zambrano.

... Haloscan is down so no comments at the moment. We will switch to comment plan B: smoke signals. I will keep an eye on the sky for your wisecracks.

... Zambrano drilled Freddy on lead elbow. He's on first, not looking too maimed. Bautista followed with a pretty double to right. Kill, Pirates, kill!

... thank you Matt Murton. Pirates 2, Cubs 0, Jason Bay standing on second. Jason Bay is clutch.

... Ryan Doumit, hitting cleanup and sporting some serious eye black, ropes a single into center. First and third for the Nads.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Game 32: Pirates at Cubs

Gorzelanny and Marquis in about four hours. Both these guys are 4-1 with pretty good ERAs.


Ron Cook offers his condolences in this column dated yesterday.

If/when the Pirates fall six games under .500, that's when I start shoveling dirt on the coffin. They could still rise from the grave, but recent experience suggests this rarely happens. Until they fall six games under, I'm game. I prefer not to think much on the possibility of making the playoffs or putting the Brewers in their place, sure, but I'm around and I'm paying attention and I would not be surprised to see the Pirates rattle off seven or eight wins in a ten-game stretch. Two starters are pitching like aces, after all, and the hitters have laid up massive hidden vigorish to enjoy in the warmer weather.

My point is not to be cheerfully optimistic or make a virtue of seeing the glass as half full only three games under half full. My point is that most teams are average, the Pirates could be average, and even the average team can surprise and hold a winning record. Just about any team can bump along at .500 ball, and it's not highly unlikely that an average team could finish five to ten games above .500. So until we know for sure that the Pirates are not as good as any run-of-the-mill ballclub, then my attitude will be to wait and see. The standings will tell me when the team truly sucks.

Why six games? That's a good question. If I'm so sure an average team could finish the year six games over, why, you might ask (humor me), why worry about falling six games under?

I draw the line at six games because of the learned helplessness. This appears to have characterized the Pirates' locker room in recent years. I think six games under might be something that would lead to that slackening of desire, that neglect of daily study of the standings, and that kind of pathetic, sheepish, we-will-hustle demneanor that prompts guys like Tony LaRussa to juggle the rotation so no ace is wasted on the Pirates. Such conditions might lead to .500 ball the rest of the way, as they did last year, but they are not going to make up the six games because that would change the environment in which the helpless find comfort.

A team can make up two or three games pretty easy on a ten-game homestand. They can't make up six games without winning 8 of 10. So I see a big difference between three and six games under .500. In the first case, a hot or good or lucky week could lead to that outpouring of optimism and media attention that attends the Pirates as they hold a .500 record. In the second case, the team requires a much more sustained period of winning. This puts the .500 record more than a week away with medium luck and good play. That's too long to wait. Enter the learned helplessness.

That said, I'm not really a sports psychologist. I just play one on my blog.

I am a patient guy. The standings will tell me when to stop paying attention. Right now I see a faint glimmer of life in this team. I can wait to see what they can do with it.

14 and 17

The Pirates are three games under and eight back of the Brewers. They've lost seven of their last ten.

They have Gorzelanny tonight, a getaway game at Wrigley, and then a ten-game homestand with the Braves, the Marlins, and the D'backs. If they can split the remaining two games, I imagine they could see .500 again before the end of the month.

Looking ahead, too, I'd circle the series with the D'backs. They have a younger team with nine rookies. And they have a winning record.

In the meantime, it's two more with the hated Cubs.

Annoyingly polite

Gene Collier is pro-beanball.

For the record, and I write this in small print, so to speak: a person or behavior that is polite cannot be annoying. "Annoyingly polite" is a nonsensical oxymoron of the class that includes "tall short" and "heavy light." Non-offensiveness is the essence of polite. So I'm not sure what Collier means. Supercilious? Obsequious? Whatever. It's not my job to put words in his mouth.

This has been the problem with the back half of the rotation. When those guys throw strikes, the other guys hit them--hard.

I'm all for any plan that enlivens the game. But the Pirates should wait until they are ten to fifteen games under .500 before they crack open Bones' all-Wiggy playbook.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Game 31: Pirates at Cubs

The Pirates will raise Snell in about two hours. Look for them to batter Lilly into a whimpering, self-loathing jelly-like mess on the mound.

A terrible hitting team

Dejan Kovacevic fires well-deserved salvos in his Q+A at unsound approaches (and the "undeniably poor" job done by hitting coach Jeff Manto) and an offense-challenged organization. The 2007 Pirates seem unlikely to make Dejan's list of "Things that make Pittsburgh great".

Today's Q+A mentions possible 2007 first-round Bucco selections: Boras clients Matt Wieters and Mike Moustakas.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Off day

The Pirates get a day off. They are 13-17, 4 games under .500 and 7.5 out of first. The Brewers are 11 games over .500 and running away with the division.

Tomorrow night the Pirates will play the Cubs at Wrigley. As I expected, the Pirates catch the Cubs just off a sweep of the Nationals. They've won six straight.

The good news for the Pirates: tomorrow night, there will be Snell to pay.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Game 30: Pirates at Brewers

Armas vs. Sheets. Doumit catching. Iowa Pirate waving the Jolly Roger in LF.

Pirates' defense has been nothing special

Dejan Kovacevic explains the perhaps unlikely combination of the Pirates' good fielding percentage and their not-good BABIP (opponents' batting average on balls in play). The players' range has not been good, and the fundamentals have been neglected. Pitchers like Duke and Maholm cannot be expected to look good if they start in front of a defense that cannot get to an above-average percentage of balls.