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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Ollie's pitch count

Just got back from playing some basketball and was a little peeved to find the game not on TV, so I turned on the webcast. Nice to see Jack get a hit, especially one that then scored him. Say what you want about him making excuses or being weak or whatever, I like the guy. He'll come around soon.

Important things I've noticed:
1) Ollie's thrown 68 pitches through 5 innings, which screams "efficient pitching" to me. Especially given that, unfortunately, he also gave up back-to-back homers in the 4th.
2) He's yet to walk ANYBODY. After walking nearly 1 batter/inning in his last few starts, it's very refreshing to see an apparent command of his pitches come back.

Not sure what his velocity is like, anybody there to see it/hear about it?


Monday, May 30, 2005

20 reasons why we should beat Al Leiter

1) Because if we don't win, I just might cry.
2) Because he's 2-5.
3) Because his ERA is 6.91.
4) Because Mark Redman is pitching.
5) Because Redman is 3-4.
6) Because Redman's ERA is 3.15.
7) Because Leiter walks more people than he strikes out.
8) Because his opp. BA is higher against lefties than it is against righties (.314/.270) despite being a lefty himself.
9) Because the guy who is undeniably our best bat right now is a lefty, ergo giving him a favorable matchup.
10) Because Leiter's ERA is even higher in day games than it is in night games (7.36/6.75).
11) Because he's managed to have 0 scoreless outings and has yet to strike out more than 4.
12) Because he's also managed to give up 8 runs twice, much like our pal from Saturday, Eric "no really, I WANT you to hit it out" Milton
13) Because Leiter has walked as many as 6 batters in a single outing, and has yet to walk none.
14) Because Jason Bay is the man, and has found his swing again.
15) Because Leiter used to be a Yankee, and the Yankees suck.
16) Because over the course of his career, Leiter's ERA has been higher in May than in all other months but October (when he's pitched only 4 games.)
17) In fact, May is by and large his worst month of the season throughout his entire career.
18) Because he dominated Jason Kendall, who sucks and is now gone, giving us a better chance at hitting him.
19) Because we've been bouncing back and forth between big games and games where we can't score at all, and after yesterday we're due for a big game.
20) Because if we don't win, I just might cry.


Saturday, May 28, 2005

Worthless blathering about how we should beat Eric Milton tonight

Yesterday I wrote up my summary of Ramon Ortiz and essentially came to the conclusion that we should be able to hit up and down the field. Suffice to say, such was not the case and really only Mackowiak got to him with the 3-run homer in the third. Of course this wasn't enough for Fogg, and he had to go and blow the game, and well....don't get me started on the rest, it makes me feel bad for Freddy Sanchez.

Tonight we're going against Eric Milton, the NL leader in homers allowed. We faced Milton on April 21, and Bay hit his first homer off of him. We put up 3 runs on 5 hits in 5 innings, walking twice and striking out once. I'm going to say this here and now, a bold prediction if you will: we WILL score at least 2 runs off of Milton. There, I said it. So far this year, he's yet to manage a scoreless outing, and has given up only 1 run once (technically if you go by EARNED runs he's done it 3 times.) He gives up an average of 4 runs/start, and his ERA for the season is 6.32. He tends to fair better against lefties than righties (.256/.302 opp. BA, respectively) and neither of those numbers indicates that we'll be getting tons of hits. He has a pretty good K/BB ratio of 33/14, so I'd expect a few whiffs from the likes of Bay and Ward since they'll be reaching for the longball against him.

On a mildly related side note, Milton is from State College, which only makes me want to beat him more. GO PANTHERS!


Lloyd says something shocking

I was reading Dejan's article for today and about fell out of my chair...Lloyd publicly acknowledged that Bobby Hill is indeed on the roster. He even (and this is amazing, I know) said that he might try to start him sometime soon. Lloyd's brilliant managerial mind (see, this is why we can't be managers, we don't understand how to run a team like this):
"Having gotten Sanchez a start for the first time since May 13, McClendon next wants to get one for Bobby Hill, perhaps this weekend. Hill has not started since May 4. "You can't expect those guys to just sit on the bench, then come up and get big hits for us," McClendon said."
I know what you're thinking - 'what, you can't keep guys on the bench for 3 weeks and then expect them to be your best batter? I never knew that!' Well, join the club, because I always thought that the longer they sat, the better they became.

At least he's admitting that they need to play and he's actually playing them, I guess I shouldn't complain too much.


Friday, May 27, 2005

Ramon Ortiz: A brief overview of tonight's opposing pitcher

Tonight we match Josh Fogg against Ramon Ortiz. A righty with 6 years in the league, at quick glance his stats provide little to be afraid of. So far this year he's compiled a 1-3 record, and has made it out of the 6th inning only once. I don't know if his longevity is poor or if he just keeps getting pulled because he sucks, but his highest pitch count on the year is 100. His ERA this year is 5.40, but don't be fooled - after his first game it was 1.80, and its been awful ever since. After that first game, he has given up one home run and at least two games every time he's pitched, which is a total of 25 innings in 5 starts. Not exactly overpowering or a master of control, his K/BB ratio this year is 14/11. He's pretty easy to hit, giving up 5 or more hits in each of his 6 starts this year, and his split against right/left handed batters is .383/.328. So he doesn't fair quite as well against righties, but I'm really hoping that that doesn't keep Lloyd from playing Mackowiak. If we were talking about a difference of 150 points, I would understand, but .328 is nothing to sneeze at in terms of opponent BA, and given that Mackowiak has the hottest bat in baseball this month (see the Dejan link below) I see no reason to not play him. Of course I, along with many other people, have felt that way for a year and a half now, so who knows. If Tike and Ty are going to keep hitting the ball like they have been of late, I suppose I can't really complain about them being in the lineup. Although that doesn't mean that I have to like them.


Pirates 8, Reds 4

Last night was refreshing. It felt good to know that we didn't have to worry about blowing a close game, and it felt better to see Ollie pitching (fairly) well. His outing last night was almost identical to his start last Saturday:
Yesterday: 5.1 IP, 3 H (1 HR), 2 ER, 5 BB, 8K, 109 pitches, groundout/flyout ratio of 1/7
Saturday: 5 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 2 ER, 4 BB, 8K, 96 pitches, GO/FO ration of 1/6
Last night was only the third time he went over 100 pitches this year. The first time was against the Cubs (101 in 6 innings, 5 ER, 4 BB, 6K) and the second time was his masterpiece in Houston (121 in 7.2, 0, 2, 9.) He hasn't had to be a highly durable pitcher thusfar, but that's mostly because he hasn't pitched well enough to keep him in the game. Hopefully as the season progresses his performance will continue to get better and his IP will go up. One stat that concerns me a bit is his groundout/flyout ratio, which on the year is 30/64. Obviously guys are getting under the ball (12 HR allowed in 47.1 IP) and a lower number of groundballs means a lower number of DPs. This is fine since when he's pitching well he isn't allowing many hits, but if he starts letting people on base runs will start piling up on him. Although with the way our infielders have been playing lately, maybe he's on to something.

Looks like all Bay and Lawton needed was a little tough love. Bay was 1-3 (an RBI double,) had 2 walks, and scored twice. Lawton had a chat with McClendon before the game in which Lloyd told him to relax at the plate and not put so much pressure on himself. It seemed to work, as he went 3-4 with a walk, 3 runs scored, and 2 RBI, finishing a triple shy of the cycle. Lloyd decided to shuffle up the batting order a bit, switching Jack and Tike at the 2 and 7 spots. Both went 1-5 with a double and a run scored. He also switched Mackowiak and Castillo at the 5 and 6 spots. Mackowiak continued his ridiculous hitting in May (good Dejan Kovacevic article here) going 3-4 with a walk and 3 RBI. Guy's been straight up ridiculous this month, and fortunately Lloyd has decided to start playing him against all righties we face. A sound decision if you ask me, although I'd play him every day if given the opportunity. Castillo, on the other hand, went 0-5, and is in a 3-17 slump that has dropped his average from .314 to .301. After hitting 2 homers in his first 6 games back from injury, he hasn't hit one in the 13 games since. He's also still not drawing any walks, with 3 in his 79 ABs this season. Why has this guy not gotten a day off since coming back? Unless I'm forgetting something, he's played in every game since he got off the DL. I'm not saying to bench him because of poor performance, I'm just saying that we should give him a day off and give Sanchez or Hill a chance to play for a while.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

Pirates/Reds story on Page2

As is my afternoon tradition, I was killing time at work by reading Page2 of ESPN.com and saw an article about how the Sox-Yankees rivalry wasn't the best of all time. Figuring it'd be some whiney Mets article but also bored senseless, I read it anyway. This is what I found there, much to my delight. It's not really about the current Pirates, but its nice to see our team get onto Page2 for something good. Well, if you can call it good...its better than getting on there because we're being made fun of, which is more typical.


Tonight's game

Tonight we find out if Ollie is really on his way back or if last Saturday night was just another fluke in what's really been a terrible season. Saturday he was wild at times, walking 4, but also had moments of brilliance as he struck out 8 in 5 innings. His only mistake was giving up a 2-run homer to Matt Holliday, but other than that one pitch he kept himself fairly safe and out of trouble. He also brought his ERA down from 8.03 to 7.50, which looks less painful but is still probably triple what everybody was expecting it to be.

The Reds haven't had the best May, going 8-15 so far. However, they're just getting off a 3 game sweep of the Nationals, a team that isn't overwhelmingly good but has been pretty decent throughout the year. We, of course started off hot and have since cooled down, going 2-6 over our last 8 games. Mind you had one or two plays in each game gone in our favor, we would have been 7-1, with last night's beating really being the only game that we didn't have a good chance to win.

Ollie's opposition tonight is Elizardo Ramirez, a fairly young right-hander who went to Cincy as part of the Cory Lidle deal with the Phillies last season. His numers aren't overwhelming by any means, and so far this year he's 0-2 with a 4.80 ERA. He doesn't pitch as well against lefties (.278 opp. BA vs. .250 for righties,) so hopefully we'll see Mackowiak in the lineup tonight. Last season he pitched as a reliever a few times. In 15 innings, he gave up 17 hits (including 3 HRs) and 8 runs while walking 5 and striking out 9. As I said, nothing overwhelming, but not like he's somebody to look past, especially since he's still young. The way the Pirates have been playing at this point, I think we need to take every AB as seriously as we can until we start winning a few games again. It's not that we aren't hitting, we're just not getting runs. Hopefully we'll be able to rough up a youngster like we did when we faced Houston's Ezequiel Astacio to start our last winning surge.


Growing concerns as we head to Cincinnati

Yes, we've lost 4 in a row and 6 of our last 8. After a streak in which it looked like we were going to hit .500 and start to turn the corner from "potentially decent team" to "actually decent team," we've started to suck. Hard. Problems include things like Mesa totally dropping off, Bay and Lawton's averages tanking, and our inability to hold a lead.

Yes, I said HOLD a lead and not GAIN a lead. Last night was the first time in our last 16 games that we haven't had the lead at some point. In that stretch we've gone 8-8, which wouldn't be terribly awful except that we started out 6-2. So apparently having the lead at one point means little about our chances of actually winning the game. Might this have something to do with our bullpen? You don't suppose..... I'll spare you the ranting about Mesa, because we all know that he's decided to suck lately, allowing tons of walks, hits, runs, and what have you. I'm more concerned about Torres. He had a pretty good start to the season, getting his ERA as low as 1.17. Obviously ERA isn't the best indicator of a reliever's performance, but thats low enough that its indicative of good work. He allowed 1 run in his first 8 appearances, totalling 7.2 innings. He's allowed 6 runs in his last 4 appearances (though only 3 were earned.) In his 8 appearances in the month of May, he's walked 6 batters and struck out only 1. His K/BB ratio is now 4/11. Did I mention that 2 of those last 4 appearances were against the ROCKIES? We can't survive this coming month with one of our better relievers giving a clinic on how to throw balls (against the Rockies, he got Barmes to ground out on the 2nd pitch, then threw 9 straight balls and 12 in 13 pitches to walk the bases loaded before getting pulled.) Does anybody know why we haven't been using Grabow more often? He's been doing pretty well this season, so I'm hoping its just because we don't utilize our lefties very often (and when we do, we have no reason to not use Gonzalez.)

I'd like to formally invite Jason Bay to quit oggling the balls as they come to the plate and hit them instead. Less Peeping Tom and more Michael Pitman please. He has great potential, but if he keeps striking out this much (11 times in the last 7 games, with only 5 hits) we're going nowhere but down. Matt Lawton could also use to find his swing (4 K's and 4 hits in the same 7-game span.) His OPS has dropped from .823 through the first month of the season to .747 now. And obviously Jack isn't hitting anything at all except the fan sitting in the 3rd row when he tries to turn a DP or throw someone out on a slow roller. When the top 3 batters in your lineup aren't getting any hits, it doesn't give you much hope for winning the game.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bucs/Cards game 3 preview

So we're going back for one more beating tonight. Not the "we got whooped 20-0" kind of beating, the "hey look, we've got a chance....we've got a chance....we've got a chance.....hey look, we'll screw up and blow it at the last second" kind of beating.

Mark Redman vs. Mark Mulder. A battle of ex-Oakland Marks. Should be a pitching duel much like the last two games have been (granted that's only because our offense hasn't been able to knock runs in.) Redman has been pretty fantastic over his last few starts. His K/BB ratio isn't exactly overpowering, but he just isn't letting people on base. Fortunately for us, he's also been running deep into games (2 CG's in his last 4 starts, 12.1 innings in the other 2,) so that means our bullpen won't have to handle much work. If our offense can manage to string a few hits together to get us a few runs, that'd be fantastic. There's no reason we couldn't have won both of the last 2 games, so it's about time for us to take one. As long as we're not subject to any more Lloydmanagement then I won't even feel the urge to hurt/mame anybody. No more trying to bunt people over with Tike, no more hit-and-runs with high-percentage strikeout guys batting, no more bizarre lineups (Wigs should be in tonight, sadly).

As soon as Jack gets his game together, this team is going places. Oh, and as soon as Tike forgets to look both ways crossing the street and gets nailed by a vehicle in the bus lane. Then we're golden.


The rantings of a frustrated Pirates fan before 9 AM

Last night's game was a fantastic kick in the groin...thank you Lloyd.

Yeah, that's right, I'm blaming that on Lloyd. Was it all his fault? No, obviously not, since we couldn't get a clutch hit to save our lives. However, he did manage to, well, manage our way out of the game. I like Lloyd...he's a good guy, he motivates the players to try hard, but I think he lacks the capacity to think sometimes. We seem to enjoy giving the Cardinals extra chances to beat us, it's almost like its a game for him to see how many chances we can give them before they make us pay for it. Last night we got our leadoff runner on several times, yet managed to score him....never. When Mackowiak got on base in the 11th, we had a good shot at scoring him, but not to worry, Lloyd was there to have Tike try to bunt. This was probably one of the worst bunts I've seen in recent memory. Not only did he hit it right down the third base line, but he also managed to hit it hard enough that they got to it on one hop and easily threw Mackowiak out. Then telling Tike to run on the 3-2....I can't even fathom how hard he must try to lose games sometimes. Instead of pinch hitting Restovich for Cota, couldn't we have put him in for Tike? Of course I would have done that in the first place, because for some reason I feel like Restovich is a little better than Tike. But enough bitching about Tike and Lloyd.

What's going on with Jack? I know his early season slump was because of his slow recovery from an appendectomy. I had no real problem with this, while it was frustrating it's not like I could blame him for a slow start. As recently as last week it looked like he was starting to turn the corner with 2 consecutive 3-hit games. Then all of a sudden, he drops off the map. He's got 3 hits in his last 17 ABs with one official game-blowing error (last night) and 2 bad plays that essentially cost the game the night before. It's not even an issue of recovering from surgery anymore, he's just flat-out not playing well. He's not playing up to par defense, and he isn't seeing the ball at the plate at all. This year he has 8 walks and 17 K's in 158 ABs. He hasn't walked in a week. He has looked better in May than April, certainly, but even a huge improvement would still put him with average numbers. I'm not going to call for his head or say that he should be sent to Indianapolis or anything, but I do feel like once in a while he should sit a game or two and let Sanchez get some chanecs. Jack's best quality is his heart and love for the game, which would make him a great teammate from the bench, someone to rally the troops.

Other lineup notes: As much as I (and everyone else, for that matter) have hated Ward in the past, he's been one of our most consistant hitters this year. He flirted with .300 for a while (I know, not exactly amazing stuff but c'mon...its Daryle,) and he's been drawing walks lately. Yeah he struck out 3 times on Monday...everyone has a bad game here and there. Point is, in the last week he's walked 5 times. He walked only once before that all month. He's not going to be our best contact hitter or anything, but he's been driving in runs and getting himself on base lately, which is something that can't be said for the better part of our lineup.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Craig Wilson Treatment

So what exactly was the point of trading for Mike Restovich? So that he could sit on the bench and watch Tike Redman be utterly AWFUL at the plate? Why are we sequestering Ryan Doumit at AAA and allowing Dave "Mendoza" Ross to suck up at-bats. Why have Freddy Sanchez and Bobby Hill's appearances dropped of faster than Ja Rule? Why does Mackowiak continue to get appearances only at second and barely ever third?

It's the Lloyd McClendon-patented "Craig Wilson Treatment," named for the first victim.

This treatment is reserved for so-called "players without a position." The Pirates organization has an unhealthy obsession with defense. Tike, Wigginton, etc get the majority of starts because they seem to be built to play the position. The Pirates, however, can't afford to keep superior offensive players on the bench to to average or mediocre defensive skills at such a position. Restovich has better career stats and has the build of a power hitter, but he is not a natural centerfielder so the Pirates keep him on the bench except for select scenarios. Mackowiak has power and has improved his obp this year; Bobby Hill is an obp machine; but they are not natural third basemen so they get the bench in favor of Wigginton. Jack has been slumping for the entire year, but he's a "proven veteran" so obp/ops machine Sanchez gets the bench. Doumit has the talent to hit major league pitchers, but he is below average in defense--so he has to stay at AAA.

If these players looked like naturals at their positions, then they would be our starters. An offensively-challenged team like the Pirates can't afford to let defense take precedent over the offense. It's time for Restovich in center, Mackowiak at third, and significant Sanchez at SS. Don't keep them on the bench for too long like you did to Craig, Lloyd.