Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mid-season editorial

As they approach the mid-point in the season, the big story is the ineffectiveness of most of the pitching staff.

The Pirates are rolling with a few flat tires in the starting rotation, and the failures of the starters have taken a toll on the bullpen. Opponents are averaging about 8 runs per game over the last week or so.

Edwin Jackson will start against Ty Taubenheim, who has been called up to make a start for the Pirates tonight. Denny Bautista, who was acquired in a low-risk trade to provide some relief for the overworked mop-up crew, has gone on the DL. T.J. "Steely Mc" Beam and John Van Benschoten have been recalled to eat innings, if they can. Dejan Kovacevic reports for the Post-Gazette that the indestructible-looking "Franky Six Fingers" Osoria could also be headed to the DL. Kovacevic also reports that Cuban defector Yoslan Herrara could be called up to start next week. Rotoworld reports the Bucs just picked up Ryan Drese. I guess we'll see him on the big club pretty soon.

The Bucs are 37-42 and seven games back in the race for the wild card. Another loss tonight and they'll fall to that depressing depth, six games under. One measure published by Baseball Prospectus suggests the Pirates have a 1 in 200 chance of making the postseason.

Pirate fans may be asking themselves if they think the team should gun for a .500 season, thus breaking that depressing run of non-winning seasons, or if they should make roster moves and trades that sacrifice the present somewhat for the future. I see the distinction as a false one. On one hand, .500 is not satisfying. If they finish the year at .500, I expect most Pirate fans will feel silly for thinking it was going to feel like a big accomplishment. It won't land the Pirates in the playoffs. On the other hand, I'm deeply skeptical of plans that see much beyond next year. In most cases, I think the best decision for next year is also the best decision for the rest of this season. And plans for two years down are fool's gold. Of course the team should stockpile all the best young talent they can; what I object to, and scoff at, to some extent, are the kind of plans that spell out who is our CF, who is our ace pitcher, who is our clean-up hitter, etc., in years as far away as 2010 and 2011. If the team stockpiles all the depth and promise it can in the minor leagues, it's wise to believe that players will appear as needed. What's not wise is pretending you know exactly which prospects will pan out, or which veterans will pull up gimpy and ineffective.

So it's six of one, half dozen of the other. The Pirates need to make roster moves and trades that will make them a better team right now and for next year. .500 can't be a goal, and liquidating the roster talent in the belief that there will be, at some later date, stunningly effective ways to spend that saved salary, can't be the plan.

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