Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday news

Tom Gorzelanny has struggled mightily this spring and many believe he should have been sent back to AAA. Today, he made his final start before the team breaks camp. It is difficult to get a grasp on how someone is throwing in Bradenton when you are stuck in an office near Pittsburgh most of the day, but Gorzelanny's final line was encouraging. He allowed 2 earned runs on 4 hits in 6 innings and, much more significantly, walked only 1 while striking out 8. In addition, Dejan states that, "...he rarely was hit hard. Even Chris Heintz's solo home run in the second inning needed a healthy gust of wind to land beyond the left-field fence." All spring, we have been hearing that Gorzo was struggling with his command, but was close. That is why his K/BB of 8/1 today was so encouraging. The Pirates rallied for five runs in the bottom of the 8th inning to win, 5-3.

In other news, the final 25-man roster is nearly complete. Relievers Jonah Bayliss, John Wasdin and Juan Perez have officially joined the bullpen, while John Grabow was added to the 15-day disabled list as expected. Jose Castillo, Nate McLouth and Don Kelly have been named to the Pirates' bench, while Ryan Doumit, Brad Eldred and Humberto Cota will continue to battle for the two remaining spots. Jose Hernandez, Luis Matos and Dan Kolb all lost out on possible jobs. Three weeks ago, I was convinced that all three of these players would break camp with the team. Wasdin and Kelly are surprises to make the roster. Wasdin pitched a perfect 7th inning today to lower his spring ERA to 0.79. Kelly walked and scored in the deciding 8th inning. He is hitting .257 this spring.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Pirates marketing

Pirates advertisements are terrible. They have been terrible for many years, and that will be no different this season. The trend of many quick highlights and a popular song in the background does nothing for me, and I am someone who rarely watches a Pirates' replay without breaking out into goosebumps. These commercials are cheasy and make the team look like a joke. I have always felt that the team should focus more on the emotional aspects of the game. Watch the Penguins game tonight. Watch one of their commercials. Those are done very well. I can only wish the Pirates' marketing department is watching.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Roster updates

The Pirates' roster is becoming more and more clear each day. This is what we know at this point:

C - Ronny Paulino
1B - Adam LaRoche
2B - Freddy Sanchez (Jose Castillo)
3B - Jose Bautista
SS - Jack Wilson
LF - Jason Bay
CF - Chris Duffy
RF - Xavier Nady

SP - Zach Duke
SP - Ian Snell
SP - Tom Gorzelanny
SP - Paul Maholm
SP - Tony Armas Jr.

RP - Salomon Torres
RP - Matt Capps
RP - Damaso Marte
RP - John Grabow (Juan Perez)
RP - Shawn Chacon

That leaves seven open spots. Two will go to relievers, with Dan Kolb, Josh Sharpless, and Jonah Bayliss still in the hunt. I would expect Kolb and Sharpless to prevail, mostly because Bayliss lost some of his spring to an injury. The other five roster spots will make up the Pirates' bench. The only sure thing at this point is Jose Castillo. Other than that, there are many different directions that Jim Tracy could go. Luis Matos, Nate McLouth, Jose Hernandez, Michael Ryan, Ryan Doumit, Don Kelly, Humberto Cota and Brad Eldred all still have a chance. I would like to see Castillo, Matos, McLouth, Doumit and Kelly head north. I don't think Eldred is ready to hit Major League pitching, though he may find his way to Pittsburgh if LaRoche struggles against left-handers early in the season. Doumit should pinch-hit as well as back up catcher, first base and right field, allowing him to play a few times a week. Matos and McLouth should back up in the outfield, with Ryan waiting in Indy should one of those two falter early on. At this point, I would rather see Don Kelly play the role of Jose Hernandez this season. I don't think either are any good; I just like Kelly better. The fact that he is left-handed doesn't hurt either. This is a pretty sad bench.

Outside of Gorzelanny, the starting pitching has been a pleasant surprise this spring. Sean Burnett looks like he is ready to pitch in Pittsburgh again, and I would not be worried if Shane Youman had to make a spot start. Also, Bryan Bullington looked solid during limited action. I was concerned with the lack of starting depth coming into the season. I am feeling much better about that right now. The Pirates should have a few insurance options in the Indianapolis rotation.

NOTES: Juan Perez will likely make the roster out of camp due to John Grabow's injury. Assuming Freddy Sanchez starts the season on the disabled list, Jose Castillo will fill in at second base. Because of this, both Don Kelly and Jose Hernandez might come north at the beginning of April. That is a very scary thought.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Jose Bautista

In somewhat of a surprise move, the Pirates have named Jose Bautista as their starting third baseman. This appears to push Jose Castillo to the bench after being the Pirates' starting second baseman the past three years. It is fairly interesting to consider what we might learn from this move. Is Pirates management finally fed up with mediocrity and taking a stand against it, as Jim Tracy claims? Maybe Pat has this decision all figured out. Maybe Freddy Sanchez will not be ready for opening day. Keep your eye on this situation.

Jose Castillo "congratulates" Jose Bautista after having his job stolen

Thursday, March 22, 2007


I have recently read some opinons around the blogosphere about the fact that the Baseball Prospectus Team of Experts knows less about the Pirates than they seem to think. Most of these opinions are valid, but maybe we should be discussing Sports Illustrated also. I picked up my SI Baseball Preview issue this evening and opened it to the Pirates scouting report. I was expecting some bashing, probably most of it legitimate bashing. I was not expecting some of the ridiculous statements that I found. Here is an excerpt that comes at the conclusion of the article, one that had focused entirely to this point on Adam LaRoche and the Pirates offense:

This will likely be another long year at PNC Park because Pittsburgh doesn't have the pitching to contend. Projected ace Zach Duke allowed 40 more hits than innings pitched last year and finished 10-15; the rest of the rotation is a mess. The addition of LaRoche means the Pirates at least have the offensive firepower now to put up eight runs from time to time, and the Pirates will have to win a bunch of 8-6 games to be playing meaningful games after the All-Star break.

What lineup is this guy looking at? The Pirates offense was pathetic last season and, despite the addition of Adam LaRoche, will likely struggle to score runs in 2007 as well. The only real strength this team has is a young pitching staff that could turn out to be pretty decent. The offense will be the last thing that carries the Pirates to victories this season. The only real chance of the team being competitive is a healthy season and progression from its entire rotation. If I was Jim Tracy, I would march this magazine right into the locker room and show Ian Snell the above quote. Then I would sit back and watch him strike out 25 batters in his next start. Anybody who thinks the Pirates pitching staff is Zach Duke and a bunch of scrubs clearly does not watch much Pirates' baseball. I don't mind bashing the Pirates correctly, but don't just make things up without doing any research at all.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

03/17/2007 Twins 7 - Pirates 3

I finally got the chance to view some Pirates spring baseball this afternoon. Here are some of my observations while watching the game:
  • Green baseball caps are dumb.
  • Regardless of whether he's any good or not, I like Don Kelly.
  • It took a whole 6 pitches before we were told that Don Kelly is Neil Walker's brother-in-law.
  • Boof Bonser kind of reminds me of Jimmy Anderson. Except he's a much better pitcher than Jimmy was.
  • Why aren't the Pirates wearing green helmets? That must have been too costly. Or maybe after the hats were made, they realized how stupid it was.
  • I was thinking Armas was looking pretty good early on. Then Torii Hunter came to the plate.
  • Don Kelly could use a sandwich. Or maybe several sandwiches.
  • The Pirates' bottom of the 2nd inning started like this: leadoff single, high chopper over the third baseman's head for a single, a pop up that is misplayed and drops in, groundball off the pitcher goes for an infield single. Final result: zero runs. What is this, April 2006?
  • Here's a quote from Bob Walk. "Brian Graham has done a heck of a job." Sigh.
  • Jack Wilson actually looked like a good number two hitter today. 2-2, 1 BB
  • Don Kelly will play the role of Jose Hernandez/Mike Edwards at Jim Tracy's next job.
  • With all the Don Kelly references, you might think you are watching/listening to a Pirates broadcast.
  • The middle of the order looked very shaky today.
  • Masumi Kuwata looks like a guy that was a star in Japan. Five years ago.
  • Ronny Paulino looks like he's ready to make the trip to Houston.
  • Someone should have told Jason Bay about the "spontaneous" green hat/8-pack promotion. He probably didn't help the cause much during his interview when he said something along the lines of, "I get to keep the hat, I don't know that I will though."
  • That looked like a high school game. I think the Twins misplayed 31 flyballs. But the Pirates were kind enough to run the bases poorly so as not to take advantage,
  • Brad Eldred is still really big.
  • This looked like the same old Pirates game. Waste early opportunities, fall behind 7-1, start to rally in the 9th, bring the tying run to the plate, leave the bases loaded, lose 7-3.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

NL Cental

There has been some debate recently on the strength/weakness of the NL Central and the realistic chances of the Pirates winning the division in 2007. I figured this would be a good time to make my predictions for the division this season. I have blatantly stolen an idea from Rob G. (from The Cub Reporter) from a past Roundtable to make my predictions. This is a completely unbiased projection approach; however, there is nothing scientific about it. Without further ado, here you go:

1. Milwaukee Brewers
2. Pittsburgh Pirates
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Houston Astros
5. Chicago Cubs
6. Cincinnati Reds

I think that worked pretty well, though my method is not sophisticated enough to predict final win-loss records. Maybe it is time for the Pirates to "roll the dice."

Monday, March 05, 2007

Adam LaRoche - An Optimistic 2007

This is Part Four of an Optimistic Look at the 2007 Pittsburgh Pirates. Today’s section features Adam LaRoche. Keep in mind that these are not my realistic predictions for these players. This is a best-case scenario, something for the hopeful fan to dream about as we approach the upcoming season.

Adam LaRoche hits a baseball extremely hard.

Adam LaRoche was the most prized acquisition for Dave Littlefield and the Pirates this offseason. He is coming off a career season in which he went .285/.354/.561 with 32 homeruns. LaRoche started slowly in 2006, hitting .251/.325/.479 with 13 homeruns before the All-Star break. However, he was phenomenal in the second half, with a line of .323/.387/.655 and 19 homeruns.

There are a few different theories on what caused this dramatic turn around. One focuses on the fact that he began taking medication for Attention Deficit Disorder, a condition he has struggled with since high school. Even LaRoche himself, who generally prefers to keep his symptoms and play on the field separate, has admitted that he has felt a greater ability to focus at the plate since beginning treatment.

Another belief is that LaRoche simply needed a regular spot in the lineup to become comfortable. He had spent much of his career starting only against right-handed pitchers, mostly because of his anemic numbers against lefties. However, once given the full-time first base job during the 2006 season, he flourished. He improved greatly against left-handers, with a respectable OPS of .797.

Adam LaRoche had his breakout season in 2006, and will look to improve in his first season in Pittsburgh. He will be 27 years old, just entering his prime, and playing in a favorable environment this year. The right field seats at PNC Park are only 320 feet from home plate, and LaRoche seemed to enjoy depositing baseballs into these sections when visiting last season. It is not hard to dream of fly balls off of his bat sailing into the Allegheny River beyond right field. Expect LaRoche to be a major factor in the middle of the Pirates’ lineup in 2007

2007 Statistics: .301/.362/.584

I'm back

Hey folks, sorry for the hiatus. I had prepared all of my excuses about being busy and not having time to post anything, but I will spare you from my sob story.

I have missed some significant happenings during my time away. Most importantly, spring training has begun. As is usual for this time of year, my spirits are high and my smile is quick. Any moment that the sun peaks out from behind the clouds, I boldly proclaim that spring is here and it is time for some infield practice. Then I scoop up the nearest stone and try to play catch with whomever I might be with at that moment. After dodging this hurtling object, he or she must attempt to stay patient, while once again explaining to me that my mediocre high school baseball career ended almost five years ago and to please stop throwing rocks at people. Others may not enjoy this time of year as much I do, but thus far no serious incidents have occurred as a result.

Check back soon for more optimistic previews. Hopefully I will get through the starting lineup before the season begins.