Monday, April 30, 2007

Josh Hancock

April 11, 1978 - April 29, 2007

Cardinals relief pitcher Josh Hancock died in a car accident early Sunday morning. This is a terrible tragedy for a franchise that is still reeling from the death of Darryl Kile in 2002. Hancock was 29 years old.

Deadspin has an excellent post about Hancock, one I highly recommend you read. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones during this difficult time.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pete Rose

I was pretty busy this weekend, and was able to watch only a small amount of Pirate baseball (For those interested in a recap, the Pirates took one of three from the Reds). I caught a few innings of the game today and happened to be viewing when Lanny and Bob Walk had a brief conversation about whether or not Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. Lanny stated that, "Based on what he did on the field, he belongs in the Hall of Fame." Walk agreed, and both held the opinion that Rose should not be allowed in the game of baseball in any other form. Coincidentally, I had been thinking about this same subject yesterday. I was wondering if Pete Rose was even that good? If you take away all the gambling and the lying and the like, what would we really have? I took a look at some of his career numbers, and I was quite surprised. Here is a sampling of some important statistics, along with his all-time Major League rank in parentheses:

After looking through these numbers, there are some conclusions we can make. Pete Rose played for a long time. He played 24 seasons, played in 254 more games and had 1,689 more at-bats than anyone else in history, and even continued playing while managing the Reds from 1984-1986. He also did a decent job of getting on base and was difficult to strike out.

But what makes him worthy of the Hall of Fame? His OPS+ was under 100 (below average) in six of his final seven seasons. While he was racking up an additional 884 hits during these years and becoming the all-time hits leader, he was not really helping his team. Should he be rewarded for playing until he was 45 simply to set this record? Having 67 more hits than Ty Cobb becomes less impressive when you consider the fact that he had 2,619 more at-bats than Cobb. Or if you consider that Rose had a career .302 average. This is a good career average. In fact, it is the same as the great Mike Greenwell. It is even a few percentage points higher than Juan Pierre's career mark.

How about his slugging percentage? Here are a few examples of players with higher career slugging percentages: Gary Redus, Ron Belliard, Placido Polanco, Don Slaught, Rafael Furcal, DARIN ERSTAD (See for more details on Erstad).

But he hustled, you might say. In fact, his nickname was Charlie Hustle. Who cares? I probably appreciate hustle more than anyone else you might know, but you have to be a great ballplayer to be in the Hall of Fame. Hustle points do not count, unless they translate into something tangible. If a player's hustle produces a large amount of stolen bases, that means something to me. Rose was successful on only 57.1% of his steal attempts. That is terrible. Let's move on.

So what does this all mean? It means that Rose played for a long time, probably too long. He had a lot of hits. He also made a lot of outs. The hits he had were mostly singles (3,215 career singles). For a singles hitter to be great, he must have a batting average that is much higher than .302. He must have an on-base percentage that is much higher than .375. For me to consider a player worthy of the Hall of Fame, he has to out-slug Darin Erstad. Forget the debate about whether a player's moral conduct should be considered in Hall of Fame voting. Pete Rose was very much overrated, and his numbers alone make him only a borderline Hall of Famer.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Break out the brooms, part II

The Pirates swept the Astros for the second time this season, finishing it off with a 5-3 victory this afternoon at PNC Park. Tony Armas struggled his way to a solid 5 inning, 1 run allowed outing. The offense was produced by two-run singles by Jason Bay and Ryan Doumit, and the Bucs added another when Xavier Nady was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Salomon Torres again was shaky in the 9th, but John Grabow was able to finish off the victory. The Pirates are currently 10-10. My observations from the ballpark:
  • Adam LaRoche is almost there. He was 1 for 4 with two strikeouts today, but I am confident that he will start hitting soon. His 8th inning foul ball quite possibly traveled 600 feet.
  • I thought I was watching a movie during that 8th inning. First the Pirates ignored the wisdom of Billy Heywood, who showed off his knowledge in the 1994 flick Little Big League. In one scene, he clearly explained that a number 3 hitter should not sacrifice with runners on first and second and nobody out. The clean-up hitter will be intentionally walked, meaning we just wasted our two best bats. We were lucky that Xavier Nady received the Roger Dorn treatment, as he leaned into a pitch and immediately was replaced by a pinch runner (thanks to Scott for pointing this out to me during the game).
  • If there are two things in this world that I absolutely can not stand, it is the KISS morning show and the pierogi race. Put them together, and you have an inning break from hell.
  • I was surprised to see Ryan Doumit walking out to the bullpen before this game. He kept up his hot streak with a couple of hits and two RBI's. Keep your eye on Doumit.
  • Jonah Bayliss did a great job escaping from the 6th inning. He entered with the bases loaded and nobody out, and shut the door with a pop-up and a double play. This kept the Pirates within one run, and allowed them to take the lead in the bottom of the inning. Bayliss got out of another jam with a double play in the 7th inning. That's great experience for the young kid.
  • About 25 minutes before the game, Lance Berkman jogged from the dugout into shallow right field. About ten feet behind him was the Pirate Parrot. The Parrot was skipping with his hands held high in an effeminate manner. That is the best visual description I can provide. You must trust me that this was one of the funniest things I have ever seen.
  • EDIT (04/27/2007, 1:45 PM): One last thing: I saw somebody wearing an autographed Shawn Chacon Pirate jersey. They actually make those?

Late-night smiles

The Bucs celebrated late on Wednesday night

We have seen this game before. For the third time in less than a year, the Pirates and Astros played a marathon game at PNC Park. Last season the Bucs won 8-7 in 18 innings and lost 7-6 in 15. Add the 16-inning game tonight, and you have the three longest games in PNC Park history.

Adam LaRoche singled home Jack Wilson in the bottom of the 16th inning, giving the Pirates a 4-3 victory. There were many Pirate stars in this game, such as the following:

  • Adam LaRoche - LaRoche did little before his RBI single in the 16th, and even that hit was just a slow groundball. But he is struggling so badly right now that this big hit might be what gets him rolling. He is extremely tense at the plate, and the exhilaration of this win might just loosen him up a bit.
  • Zach Duke - Duke rebounded well from a couple of horrid starts, posting a line of 7 IP, 1 R, 6 H, 1 BB, 1 K. He was hit fairly hard early on and his strikeout rate is still completely absent, but he got in a bit of a groove after a few innings and deserved a victory tonight.
  • Pirate bullpen - Salomon Torres blew the save when he allowed two runs in the 9th, but all but one of his hits allowed was a groundball with eyes. Other than that, the Astros were kept off the board by some unlikely heroes after Sully left the mound. Grabow was thrown in the fire for his first appearance of the season, but looked sharp as he shut down the 9th inning. Marte got a clutch strikeout to end the 10th, even as I moaned about how "unclutch" he is (No, we're not getting into that argument right now). Shawn Chacon walked three and had to work out of a few jams, but we desperately needed his four scoreless innings. Even the much-maligned John Wasdin got into the act, with two more scoreless innings. The Astros left 18 men on base in this game, and many of those runners reached base in extra innings. The bullpen deserves a pat on the back for battling and keeping this game tied for so long.
Now that we have discussed the positives, let's look briefly at the Pirates' offense. As with most of the early-season games, it was terrible. For most of the extra frames, we didn't even get anybody on base, let alone threaten to score. If it wasn't for a strong performance from our relievers/the ineptitude of the Astros' offense, we would have lost this game hours ago. This has to improve soon.

I believe there were about 17 people left in the stands at the conclusion of this game. If you were one of them, good for you. Who leaves an extra-inning game early, for crying out loud??

The Pirates and Astros will return to PNC Park in about 12 hours to finish up this series. Come on down to the ballpark for a relaxing game of baseball.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Maholm leads Pirates to first home victory

Ronny Paulino gave Paul Maholm some support with his second inning homerun

Beginning a 16-game stretch against only NL Central teams, the Pirates desperately needed a strong performance to lift the team's confidence a bit. Enter Paul Maholm. The young lefty pitched as if he had a plane to catch, completing a three-hit shutout in just under an hour. He needed only 99 pitches to finish off the Astros, and gave the bullpen the night off as the Bucs cruised to a 3-0 victory. Jack Wilson, Jason Bay and Ronny Paulino led the offense, as the home crowd witnessed their first victory in 2007.

This was an absolute gem from Maholm. He had the Astros off balance all night, and kept the infield alert with ground ball after ground ball. The defense was solid, especially third baseman Jose Bautista. Bautista has looked very comfortable at the hot corner, and I'm not sure anybody even remembers that Jose Castillo still plays for the team.

Jack Wilson continued his hot start to the season, doubling and scoring twice. Wilson now has an OPS of .814 on the year, and looks like he is, in fact, a capable number two hitter. Of course, he has a history of being a very streaky hitter. So I will keep my enthusiasm under control until we get deeper into the season.

Jason Bay looks like he might be about ready to explode. While April has been a relatively lousy month for him over the years, he has a career OPS of 1.018 in May. And if I remember correctly, Bay hit 22 homeruns in a three-day span last May. If we have been slightly below average without much production from Bay, maybe we can get over the "mediocre hump" when he gets rolling. It would also be delightful if he got hot during this vital stretch of games that began last night.

Adam LaRoche is a different story. He continued to struggle, going o for 4 with two more K's. He will start hitting eventually, but it would be nice if that started soon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Do or die

Chris Duffy steals second

The Pirates kick off a nine-game homestand against the Astros tonight at 7:05. We will see only NL Central Division opponents from now through May 10th, which means we are entering a pretty important stretch. A hot streak could throw the Bucs right into the middle of a division race, the opposite could have us eliminated by June. Paul Maholm will start tonight against Woody Williams. With the way these two have pitched, we could very easily see a 10-7 final. Or the Pirates might win 1-0, what the hell do I know? Our Bucs were able to regain a small bit of momentum with Sunday's victory, and hope to bring some confidence back east. The home crowd will be itching to see a victory, as the team is 0-4 at PNC Park this year.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Pirates - Dodgers

The Pirates and Dodgers survived the weather to play a game that will easily eclipse 1:00 AM Eastern time. Tony Armas will face Randy Wolf in this late-nighter. The Bucs are sending out their right-handed "power" lineup, with Bay, Nady and Eldred in the outfield. I'm home for the night, so I'll be doing a semi-live blog of the game. Look for sporadic thoughts throughout the night.

10:59 PM - It's hard to imagine that a 1st inning in which Sanchez, Bay and Eldred all strike out could be productive, but this one was. Aggresive baserunning by Jack and another clutch hit from Nady pushed a run across. Of course, Armas is off to a rocky start in the bottom of the inning.

11:01 PM - Is this a Pony league game, where we let opponents steal at will when there's a runner at third? 2-1 Dodgers.

11:51 PM - And I'm about done with posting for this game. 8-1 Dodgers, John Wasdin in the game. It's time to settle in for a long, long game. Goodnight.


The Pittsburgh Penguins deserve a big thank you from this city. They had an amazing season in '06-'07, and their success this year very well may have been what saved the franchise. This might have been the most exciting season of hockey I have ever witnessed, and I have vague recollections of Mario hoisting the Cup above his head. The team's early exit from the playoffs was disappointing, but the season as a whole was very encouraging. Expect to see these guys again next April.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Diary of a once sane man, nearly broken by 14 years of pain

Mentally exhausted after a long, tedious day, I emerged from a meeting and began strolling toward my car. It was almost 9:00 PM and the April air was crisp, yet comfortable. Staring aimlessly into the distance as I walked, I contemplated how far man might travel into space in the future the merits of sacrificing a runner to second with no outs late in a close game. I entered my vehicle and began the short drive back to my home. Knowing the Pirates were playing in Milwaukee, I tuned the radio to 104.7 and relaxed, as the soothing sounds of baseball engulfed my car. As if the broadcast was being put together for my ears only, I was immediately given an update to the game situation. 3-1 Brewers, top of the 4th inning, Adam LaRoche at the plate, one man on (Freddy Sanchez with a single), and nobody out. Jason Bay had homered for the Pirates lone run, and was waiting anxiously on-deck. Things began falling into place. LaRoche walked. Claudio Vargas, apparently timid after serving up a tater to Bay earlier, gave him nothing to hit and the bases were loaded with no outs. My enthusiasm began to rise, and the heartbeat that had been nearly undetectable 25 minutes earlier was now steady. Xavier Nady was coming to the plate, and he had produced clutch hits with runners on base in each of the previous two games. My thoughts filled with possibilities. We should tie the game this inning. A couple of things go our way, we could bust out a big inning. One or two clutch hits, we could have firm control of this game.

Nady strikes out. If he puts the ball in play, we almost definitely get a run. Painful images of Jeromy Burnitz, the Diamondbacks, and a hot June afternoon flash through my head. I can not decipher exactly what these visions signify, only that my head throbs as I see them. I shake myself out of it and tune back into the game. We are still in a good situation, as Ronny Paulino is stepping in with one out. He has struggled early in 2007, but has been productive with runners on in his young career. Paulino strikes out. I can not keep my eyes open, as an even more painful visualization of Freddy Sanchez and those same Diamondbacks moves clearly into my mind. What the hell was that?? According to Sanchez’s career stats, he has struck out 108 times in the Major Leagues (EDIT: This was written before he struck out four times this afternoon. Maybe I jinxed him). But I don’t recall seeing it happen once with my own eyes, especially looking as bad as he did in this vision. Several seconds pass before this flash of pain subsides.
Jose Bautista is our final chance now, as the Pirates are no longer in control of this inning. Minutes earlier, a big inning seemed likely. Now, scoring even one run seems remote. I also feel nauseous now, and my mind is cloudy. I am nearly home, yet I have no idea where I am. I don’t even realize that I am still in control of my car. Somehow I follow the road, despite the fact that my forehead rests on the steering wheel in dismay.

As expected, a resounding cheer explodes from the car’s speakers. The Milwaukee faithful commend their pitcher for striking out three consecutive Pirates. I pull into my garage and turn the key. The car falls completely silent and I do not move for several seconds. My mind is completely blank. My head no longer hurts, and my stomach has settled. I feel strangely calm. Maybe it is the fatigue. Maybe it is the fact that the Pirates still have 5½ innings to even the score. More likely, I am numb. I am numb from seeing this same situation repeated over and over for the past 14 years. Hope remains for a positive outcome each day, and failure causes tremendous pain. But that failure is expected. I have known nothing else since I was eight years old.

The rest of the game is a blur, as if I am watching it without wearing my contact lenses. I know the Brewers are letting Chris Duffy run around at will. I know that Jason Bay mildly threatens to hit for the cycle. I know that we lose 7-3. Most of all, I know that this game will be burned into my subconscious forever. It will flash before my eyes the next time this same situation arrives.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pirates complete sweep behind Gorzelanny

This is the starting pitching that the Pirates dreamed about as they entered the 2007 season. For one game, the rest of the team helped out also. Tom Gorzelanny allowed 1 run on 4 hits in 8.1 innings and Adam LaRoche led the offense with a three-run homerun as the Bucs finished off a two-game sweep of the Cardindals with a 6-1 victory yesterday afternoon.

The offense finally woke up, "exploding" for six runs. With the success the pitching has had, this team will win the majority of games in which six runners cross home plate. Adam LaRoche is showing small signs of breaking out of his year-long slump. His 3rd inning home run was his lone hit of the game, but any positive sign is welcome at this point. He has been taking relatively better at-bats recently, so it is not something that I am tremendously worried about. Although I wasn't able to watch this game, it also sounds as if the defense played well. Furthermore, the Bucs doubled their season total of stolen bases when they swiped two. This is the way this team must consistently play if they are going to have any success in 2007.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Snell snipes Cards

It wasn't pretty, but the Pirates finally pulled one out for Ian Snell last night. Snell was dominant again, as he breezed through six innings against the Cardinals. Snell finally ran into some trouble in the 7th, and after allowing one run, faced a bases loaded, one out situation. It seemed obvious that Jim Tracy would go to the bullpen, and television cameras watched him as he stood at the dugout steps. But Tracy sat back down and allowed Snell to face left-handed Skip Schumaker. You can definitely make the argument that this was a poor decision, but I will not argue with results. Snell bore down, induced a pop-up, then retired Dave Eckstein on a groundout to end the threat. Snell's final line: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 6 K, 4 BB. It appeared to be the ultimate escape, but would be surpassed by what transpired in the 9th.

Torres came on to try to nail down a 3-2 victory. An error, a sacrifice, a bad bounce off the 3rd base bag, and a hit batsman left Sully and the Pirates in a dangerous situation. Chris Duncan, who won a game with a long ball against Torres in Pittsburgh last week, was at the plate with the tying run at 3rd, winning run at 2nd and one out. But ice water poured through Torres' veins, and Duncan popped to shallow left. The Cardinals chose not to test the weak arm of Jason Bay, because Mr. Albert Pujols was coming to the plate with the game on the line. I just checked, and it turns out that Pujols has a career Success with the Game on the Line Rate of 1,251.82%. For those of you that are not up to date on your Sabermetrics, that is very good. But Torres now had liquid nitrogen running through his veins, and Pujols popped his second offering to Jose Bautista. Game, set, match.

The Pirates' offense continued to struggle despite the win. They were able to push three runs across in the 3rd, but continued to waste opportunities the rest of the game. In the 2nd, a pop-up and a double play quickly erased a lead off single from Ian Snell. In the 3rd, a lead off triple produced nothing. In the 5th, a one-out triple netted zero runs. With the lack of firepower in the lineup, the Pirates must take advantage of these opportunities. One positive was that Adam LaRoche seemed a bit more comfortbal at the plate. He only had one hit, but at this point I am encouraged if he simply looks decent swinging the bat. UPDATE: LaRoche added a three-run homerun today. The Pirates lead the Cards 5-1 in the 7th.

Ian Snell continues to impress me. I mentioned during the Astros series that I wasn't as high on him after last season as many others were. I am looking forward to shoving my foot deep into my mouth all season because of those feelings. He has looked phenomenal since the beginning of spring training.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Rain, rain, go away

The Pirates battled San Fran on Friday and Mother Nature the rest of the weekend

It appears as if I chose a good weekend to be away from Pirates baseball. Two of the three games were postponed, and I might not have been able to stomach Friday's game. I actually vomited twice just while reading the recap. I commented last week on the fact that both offenses had been terrible early in 2007. While the Giants make Zach Duke look like Jimmy Anderson, the Pirates followed the script, as Russ Ortiz made his case for the 2007 Cy Young award. It sounds like it was a good game to miss.

The Bucs are in St. Louis tonight to open a two-game series with the Cardinals. Ian Snell takes the hill and will face Anthony Reyes. Maybe the couple of days off will be what the Pirates' offense needed to break out of their ridiculous early season slump. Coverage will resume on this site beginning with tonight's game.

This is off the topic, but please pray for the folks at Virginia Tech. They were struck with a terrible tragedy today, and I can not even begin to imagine what the university is going through right now.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


The Giants' offense has struggled early in 2007

The Pirates welcome the San Francisco Giants to town this weekend for three games. It is quite possible that neither team will score a single run in this series. The Giants have already been shut out three times this season, including twice in their three-game series with San Diego earlier this week. The Pirates are fresh off three games with St. Louis in which they produced only four runs in 30 innings. If you're someone who watches baseball mostly for the offense, you might want to avoid the Pirates for a few days.

I will be out of town with no access to the internet for the weekend, and most likely will not provide any posts during this series. So if you're one of the four people that check this site for recaps and analysis, try out some of the more interesting Pirates blogs linked in the sidebar. I will be back in a few days.

Let's bring home three wins.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Cardinals complete sweep

The Pirates were defeated 3-2 this afternoon, finishing off a series sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals. Overall, the Pirates scored four runs in 30 innings in this series. The success or failure of Salomon Torres is totally irrelevant if this lack of offense continues.

We hoped to see a deeper and more dangerous lineup this season, one that could provide Jason Bay with some protection. With Adam LaRoche struggling and out of the lineup today, the Cardinals showed their complete lack of respect for any hitter that was not Canadian-born. Bay walked three times, and saw only one strike after the 5th inning. It's not too surprising that the Pirates only pushed across two runs.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Extra painful

The Pirates fell to the Cardinals 3-2 tonight when they were unable to hold a late lead. Salomon Torres blew his first save of the season and a sacrifice fly in the 12th inning gave the Cardinals the win.

I only saw the last inning of this game due to opening day for my softball team, so I will only comment on that final inning. From what the broadcast booth was saying after the game, this was a pretty sloppy game throughout for the Bucs. But there was enough garbage in just the 12th inning to put a short, negative post together.

Jason Bay's throw to the plate in the 12th inning was in time, and Ronny Paulino needs to make that tag. But this could have been a much easier out. In three plus years, I have not once seen Bay use a crow-hop when making a throw. He is flat-footed everytime, and rarely gets any power behind him. There is no reason he should throw a two-hopper to the plate from that distance. Maybe if someone would take a second and show Bay how to throw, pop-ups would not turn into sacrifice flies.

In the bottom of the inning, Chris Duffy led off with a walk. Trailing by one run with two right-handed contact hitters due up, this was a perfect time for a stolen base. Molina is tough to run on, and maybe hindsight is 20/20. But having Duffy in scoring position was the goal, and wasting an out trying to sacrifice is not the answer. If you're not going to run in that situation, why is Duffy even batting leadoff?

Now for our new daily segment entitled "Beat the Dead Horse." Why is John Wasdin pitching in the 12th inning of a tie game?? I will add one question mark at the end of that question each time I am forced to ask it.

Maybe it's better that I only caught one inning of this game. Tom Gorzelanny's strong start was wasted, much like Ian Snell's one day earlier. Tomorrow brings a 12:35 radio only game, as the Pirates try to avoid being swept by the Cardinals. Also, the Penguins begin their playoff run at 7:00 PM. It should be a nice full day.

Opening day woes

It was a rough day at the plate for Jason Bay and the Pirates

The Pirates lost another home opener yesterday, as Ian Snell's solid performance was wasted by the team's lackluster offensive performance. I was upset while watching the game, but softened a bit when I heard some insider news from a friend of mine. Apparently, some of the Pirates' luggage was lost while returning from Cincinnati on Sunday. The only equipment missing was the bat bag, although there was a bit of a scare when Adam LaRoche's confidence was briefly misplaced in the bullpen. Because of this, the team was forced to use only their fists to swing against Braden Looper. The end result: only 3 hits and 6 players were lost with broken hands.

Seriously though, that's three straight depressing home openers I have attended. Snell continued his excellent start to the season, and each day I am becoming more and more convinced that he and Duke are the real deal. He allowed only 1 run in 7 innings and deserved a victory. We are seeing a much more mature Ian Snell than we have in the past, and he seems to have a perfect balance of relaxation and that "Snell doesn't do that" attitude. I like what I am seeing from him.

The Pirates' offense was completely shut down, as Looper played the role of Chris Carpenter for the day. The pre-game festivities were enjoyable, with awards given to Lanny and Freddy and some well-deserved recognition for members of our armed forces. There was even a flyover. (I had never witnessed a flyover before, so maybe I'm wrong. But aren't they usually faster and more exciting? Were those just commercial flights heading to Ohio? Oh well.) However, that was about where the fun ended. The most noise from the crowd for the rest of the game came when the sun peeked out and briefly warmed the crowd in the 7th, and after Nate McLouth registered a pinch-hit infield single in the 8th. Just your typical home opener.

John Wasdin replaced Snell in the 8th and promptly was charged with 2 runs in ⅔ innings. Why is Wasdin pitching in a 1-0 game in the 8th? I have nothing else to say about that.

One more thing: If I have to hear a bunch of idiot fans cheering for the scoreboard to show a virtual fireplace, or a fish tank, or that damn squirrel on water skis one more time, I'm going to lose my mind and start giving myself paper cuts on my eyelids. I am embarrassed to be from Pittsburgh during those moments. I officially hate the Highmark jukebox as much as the Pierogi Race. Yes, it's that bad.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Home opener

PNC Park gets prepared for her big day

Today is the big day, the home opener. Ian Snell (0-0, 3.00 ERA) will go to the mound for the Pirates and will face Braden Looper (0-1, 4.50 ERA). The Bucs started the season with a 4-2 road trip and will look to continue their winning ways in Pittsburgh. The atmosphere figures to be much more positive than it was at last year's home opener, when the Pirates arrived after starting the season 1-6. Expect a big day from Snell, who was very sharp in his first start of the season. It will be a cold one, so bundle up if you're going down to the park.

Duke shines in 5-3 victory

The Pirates avoided a sweep today by defeating the Reds 6-3. Freddy Sanchez returned from the disabled list and looked exactly like the hitter we saw in 2006. He went 2 for 4 with a double and was also hit by a pitch. Brad Eldred also made his first start of the season and knocked in two runs with a homerun and a double. Jason Bay added a 9th inning insurance run with a solo homerun.

Zach Duke was dominant through 6 innings, shutting out the Reds on only 3 hits. He tired a bit in the 7th, and finished with a line of 3 ER in 6+ innings. He added 5 K's and did not walk a batter. The Pirates finished their opening road trip at 4-2 and will return home Monday in a tie for first place in the NL Central.

My thoughts:
  • It was nice to have Freddy back in the lineup. Through 4 at-bats, he still looks like a batting champ. His RBI double in the 6th was vintage Freddy Sanchez. Milton placed a perfect pitch on the outside corner, and Freddy drove it right into the gap. It just looks so easy for him.
  • I was shocked when I saw the starting lineup. Freddy leading off? Bautista hitting 8th? Nady in center??? And that's not even considering Eldred making his first start in the outfield. Sometimes I think I know what Jim Tracy is thinking. Sometimes he surprises the hell out of me.
  • Zach Duke looked very sharp. He and Snell might be a very nice duo this year.
  • I have always been a big fan of Ken Griffey Jr. I dream of a different world in which he is taking a run at Aaron's record instead of Bonds. But he disappointed me in this game. My little sister could have been at 2nd on the ball he hit off the leftfield fence in the 7th inning. Of course, my sister is a hustler. She wouldn't be caught dead watching a flyball instead of running. He also seemed to be running in quicksand while roaming rightfield. That makes me sad.
  • I had this to say on March 26th: "I don't think Eldred is ready to hit Major League pitching." It was only one game, but I often say things that are wrong.
  • I had the game on the radio when Bay homered, so I didn't get a chance to see it. But I was glad to hear he hit one to right. In the 5th, I nearly threw my shoe at the TV when he rolled one to short after attempting to pull an outside pitch. He has plenty of power to the opposite field, and should attempt to utilize it more often.
  • Salomon Torres is quietly having a very strong start as the closer.
  • Last year, at least deep in my subconscious, I was already depressed as I approached PNC Park for the home opener. I feel a bit better this season. Nice road trip to get things going.
  • 4-2

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Baby it's cold outside

I made the trek to Cincinnati on Friday to take in a Pirates-Reds game played in bitter cold weather. That was two days ago, so I will avoid the basic recap that you've probably already read. I will just give you a few of the thoughts that came to mind as I huddled under a blanket in section 112:
  • Great American Ballpark is a joke. Brandon Phillips hit a lazy flyball in the 1st inning that just carried into the right field bleachers. Also, it almost killed Xavier Nady. While Phillips' homerun was pretty cheap, Jeff Conine's blast in the 3rd was very legitimate.
  • In the top of the 2nd, Jose Bautista led off with a double. That brought up Jose Castillo. He quickly struck out on three pitches. With Freddy Sanchez returning today, there is little chance of Castillo getting back a starting spot.
  • The defense was terrible in this game. Maybe it was the cold weather. Maybe it was the players on the team. Either way, it was difficult to watch. Bautista made a sweet stop to save a run in the 1st, and apparently Chris Duffy made a nice catch in the 5th (I missed this play and have been unable to find a replay of it anywhere). Other than those two instances, it was like watching my church softball team chase the ball around. And if any of my teammates happen to be reading, please don't take offense to that remark. I am including myself when I say that.
  • I felt the same depressing feeling during this game that I often felt last season. Embarrassing defense and zero hits over the final seven innings gave us very little to cheer for while sitting in an opponent's stadium. Hopefully we can have a bit more success during the Yankee Stadium visit in June.
  • Josh Hamilton is clearly a fan favorite in Cincinnati. The former top pick received a nice ovation when he entered the game as a late-inning defensive replacement, and the crowd was on its feet when he came to the plate in the 8th inning. It was nice to see the city get behind this young man who has gone through some very difficult times in recent years. This was my fifth trip to a Reds game, and from what I've seen during my limited time there, it is a very classy city. That goes for Reds' fans anyway. I can't really speak for the rest of the city.
  • As I stood in front of my seat after the final out, staring blankly across the Ohio River, I glanced to my left. A young man that had noticed my Pirates jersey held up a sign he was holding so that I could see. It read, "Jason Bay kicks puppies." Priceless. I could only laugh.
  • This last point has nothing to do with Friday's game. Freddy Sanchez is playing today, and he looks exactly like the Freddy Sanchez of 2006. I like what I see.
  • Happy Easter to you all.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


The Pirates will travel to Cincinnati and open a three-game series with the Reds tomorrow night. Paul Maholm will make his first start of the season, and will look to continue the Pirates' current winning streak. Hopefully Great American Ballpark will help break the Pirates' offense out of its slow start. I will be driving to Cincy to attend the game tomorrow, so expect a first-hand report sometime this weekend.

The good, the bad and the ugly - Houston edition

The Pirates are off today after sweeping the Astros in Houston to start 2007. Let's take a look at some of their performances during the series.

  • Xavier Nady - Nady went 4 for 12 with a double and two homeruns in Houston. His 9th innning homerun on Monday saved the game for the Pirates, and he was most of the offense on Tuesday as well.
  • Jose Bautista - Bautista has looked sharp at 3rd base, and he has been hot at the plate as well. He was 6 for 13 with two doubles in the series, and provided most of the team's offense last night. If Nady and Bautista can produce for this team, good things can come about.
  • Starting Pitching - Duke, Snell and Gorzelanny each allowed two earned runs, and each kept the Pirates close long enough for the offense to come alive and produce a win. Look for more of this success throughout the season.
  • Bullpen - The bullpen was a bit of a question mark entering the season after the departure of closer Mike Gonzalez. However, they allowed only one run in the series and did not walk a batter. Hopefully this unit can continue this success.
  • Jack Wilson - Wilson was 6 for 13 in the series, and he looked like the two-hitter that Jim Tracy thinks he is. A decent offensive season from Jack would do wonders for the offense.


  • Chris Duffy - Duffy was 3 for 14 in the series, and was not very exciting on the bases. He did not attempt to steal a base and did not score a run. He is a large part of this offense and will need to produce for the team to have any success.
  • Jason Bay - Bay was the hero in the opener, with a game-winning homerun in the 10th inning. However, he has done very little other than that hit. He is 3 for 13, and is hitting the ball on the ground often. That is a clear sign that he is not comfortable at the plate.
  • Ronny Paulino - Paulino is just 2 for 14 thus far, and has looked nothing like the hitter that was terrorizing the Grapefruit League recently. Both of his hits have driven in runs, but he will need to reach base more often for this offense to survive.


  • Adam LaRoche - LaRoche struck out four times in the opener, and was 1 for 12 with 7 K's overall in the series. He has looked bad almost every time at the plate. It's amazing that the Pirates swept the Astros with almost zero production from Duffy, Sanchez, Bay, LaRoche and Paulino. I would expect LaRoche to get more comfortable at the plate as he gets more at-bats. Another series like that, however, may have those that have been here for the past 14 years calling for Dave Littlefield's head.
  • Jose Castillo - Castillo was hoping to have a fresh start to this season. However, he has looked awful at the plate, with that same clueless approach that we grew accustomed to seeing in 2006. With Freddy on the DL, this was his chance to earn his way back into the lineup. He has not succeeded.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Break out the brooms

The Pirates party again in Houston

Tonight the Pirates finished off a sweep of the Houston Astros, their first in Houston since 1991. The 5-4 victory was fueled by Jose Bautista, who was 3-5 with 3 RBI's. The Astros led 3-1 through four innings, but with the help of some miscues by Houston's defense, the Bucs rallied in the 5th. After Ronny Paulino hit a 600 foot RBI double to center, Xavier Nady lifted another fly ball to center. Chris Burke misplayed it, leaving runners at 2nd and 3rd. Bautista, who had plated a run with a double in the 2nd, followed with a single to center. Paulino and Nady scored, and the Pirates took a 4-3 lead. After Tom Gorzelanny walked, more errors burnt the Astros. Adam Everett booted a Chris Duffy groundball, then kicked it even farther away for a second error, allowing Bautista to score. The Pirates' bullpen again was dominant, holding the Astros scoreless until Craig Biggio's two-out homerun in the 9th.

Game Notes
  • I was encouraged by Gorzelanny's outing. He was hurt by some cheesy hits and shoddy defense, which allowed a couple runs to come across. Also, he appeared to have Carlos Lee struck out in the 1st. The pitch was called a ball, and Lee followed with an RBI single. All in all, he looked good.
  • That was a very sloppy game tonight. Five errors, fly balls dropping in all over the place, Gorzelanny was hit on an 0-2 pitch and later walked, and nothing seemed like a sure out. Oh well, it worked out in the end.
  • Jose Castillo is thinner. His defense looks better. But he still has the same lousy approach at the plate. It seems that every time he bats, he swings and misses on a first pitch breaking ball. Because he's trying to yank it over the leftfield fence. I think Jose Bautista's job is safe when Freddy returns.
  • Speaking of Bautista, he played a great game tonight. He had an excellent day at the plate, and also turned in a stellar defensive play on a rocket off the bat of Carlos Lee in the 5th inning. It would be nice to have that kind of production continue throughout the season.
  • This game turned in the bottom of the 4th inning. Gorzelanny nearly escaped a bases loaded, no out situation unscathed. He did allow one run to cross with a bases loaded hit-batsman, but this inning could have been far worse.
  • Early on, this team is looking suspiciously like the one we saw after the All-Star break in 2006. There's nothing spectacular happening, just solid pitching and situational hitting. And that is translating into wins. Let's hear from Jim Tracy on this topic: "37-35, 37-35, 37-35, 37-35, 37-35, 37-35, I'm awesome, 37-35, 37-35, 37-35, 37-35, 37-35, I am 3-0 so far, 37-35, 37-35, 37-35, you see what happens when people listen to me? 37-35!" Thanks for the input, Jim.
  • I wish someone would have focused the lens on FSN's centerfield camera.
  • That's another comeback victory.
  • It only took a few days for ESPN to notice the Pirates. Suddenly we're on our way up?
  • This is more fun than the start to 2006.
  • 3-0

Bucs go for the sweep

Tom Gorzelanny vs. Woody Williams

Tonight the Pirates will attempt to sweep the Astros in Houston for the first time since May 1991. Tom Gorzelanny will be on the hill and will attempt to carry over some success from his final start in the Grapefruit League. That was his only decent start of the spring. His mound opponent will be 40 year-old Woody Williams, who will make his first start for the Astros. Hopefully the Pirates' offense can put up some runs against an Astros' starter tonight. We can't rely on their bullpen falling apart every game.

Tommy John for Lincoln

Brad Lincoln, the Pirates' top draft pick in 2006, has undergone elbow ligament surgery and will miss all of 2007. The operation, commonly referred to as "Tommy John" surgery, will require a recovery period of 10-12 months. The Pirates hope to have Lincoln back by the beginning of 2008.

This news could be described as being somewhere between utterly amazing and totally expected. In the past ten years, the team has drafted seven pitchers in the first round. Lincoln is now the sixth to have major arm surgery before reaching the Major Leagues. Paul Maholm is the only one to avoid this curse.

They called him X-Man

Xavier Nady goes deep again

Xavier Nady continued his hot start to 2007 and Ian Snell set a career high with 11 strikeouts as the Pirates improved to 2-0 with another come-from-behind victory last night.

Nady's 2nd inning homerun landed near New Mexico and his bloop single in the 8th brought Jason Bay home with the eventual winning run. It's nice to see Nady start the season strong, especially after a discouraging spring in which he missed time to a stomach ailment and did not produce an extra-base hit or an RBI.

Ian Snell looked very sharp, striking out Astros batters almost at will. However, due to a Pirates' offense that continues to struggle, he left the game after six innings, trailing 2-1. The bullpen took over and, for the second consecutive night, shut down the Astros.

With one gone in the 8th, Jack Wilson alertly pushed a bunt past Dan Wheeler and was safe without a throw. Two batters later, Ronny Paulino worked the count full with two outs and the tying run at 2nd. As the runners broke with the pitch, Paulino was able to yank a flare over Adam Everett and into left-center to tie the game. Nady followed with his pop-up into no man's land and the Pirates had taken the lead. Capps and Torres quietly finished off the final two innings and the Pirates won again.

Game Notes
  • The pitching is looking good so far. The bullpen has quietly gone about its business, while Duke and Snell were both impressive. This will be an exciting season if that continues.
  • On the other hand, the offense has done very little. There have been some crucial hits, and a few clutch long-balls, but the team could use some more guys on base throughout the game.
  • Jack Wilson's bunt single in the 8th was beautiful. As unproductive as he has been at the plate the past two seasons, he still plays some brilliant small ball. It reminded me of a game last season when he knocked in a run with a two-out bunt single. That's just exciting. I am desperately rooting for him to have a decent season with the bat.
  • Adam LaRoche will be okay in the long run. Maybe he will come alive at about the point Freddy Sanchez returns from the DL. That would be a nice lift to the lineup.
  • I'll be honest, I wasn't as high on Snell at the end of 2006 as most people seemed to be. I thought he was getting a bit too much credit for his win total from a year ago. But he has been dominant since the very beginning of spring training. I am definitely a believer after watching him throw last night.
  • Xavier Nady was called a platoon player by many people this offseason. Most didn't think he had the power to hold down a corner outfield position. We are only two games into the season, but he seems determined to show a bit more pop than he did upon joining the Bucs in 2006. If that continues, the Pirates' offense might surprise some people.
  • From "In the 132-year history of Major League Baseball, the Pirates' win marks only the second time that a team has started a season with a pair of road wins in which it trailed going into the eighth inning." We are making history, folks.
  • 2-0

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

04/02/2007 Pirates 4 - Astros 2

Xavier Nady after his game-tying 9th inning homerun last night

The Pirates desperately wanted to start 2007 off on a good note, and they did just that, with an exciting come-from-behind victory in Houston last night. Jason Bay's 2-run homerun in the top of the 10th inning put the Bucs ahead to stay.

The beginning of the game was encouraging, as Chris Duffy drew a walk without swinging. Jack Wilson also seemed focused at the plate, patiently fouling off several pitches before finally flying out. Not unexpectedly, the inning produced zero runs.

In the bottom of the 2nd, the Pirates' defense began flexing its muscles. After two outs, Luke Scott singled to center. When he attempted to stretch his hit into two bases, Chris Duffy fired a dart and nailed him for the third out. The next inning, the defense showed up again. With two on and one out, Jose Bautista picked a tough hop out of the dirt and teamed with Jose Castillo to turn a slick 5-4-3 double play to end the threat. After a Luke Scott homerun gave the Astros a 2-0 lead in the 5th, Chris Burke attempted to score from second base on a one-out single by Roy Oswalt. Again, a Chris Duffy laser beam cut down the runner. In the 6th, with two on and nobody out, Jose Castillo showed a flash of his potential. He laid out to snare a shot off the bat of Carlos Lee, and made the easy flip to Jack Wilson for the double play. The Pirates' defense saved a few runs in this game.

All of this time, the Pirates' offense was being completely shut down by Oswalt. The highlight through seven innings was a rally-killing double play off the bat of Jason Bay. In the top of the 8th, Nate McLouth stepped to the plate. He was pinch-hitting for Zach Duke, who had pitched a solid game. McLouth came up big, with a legitimate bomb over the left-center field fence.

Brad Lidge came in to shut the door in the 9th. After two easy outs, Xavier Nady came to the plate. With the Houston faithful ready to celebrate a victory, Nady launched the first pitch into the leftfield seats to tie the game. The crowd was immediately silenced, as the Pirates' dugout erupted into euphoria.

In the 10th, Jack Wilson reached on his 18th infield single of the game. Jason Bay followed with his first jack of the season. Carlos Lee could only watch. Salomon Torres came on and pitched a routine 1-2-3 inning for his first save of the season.

Game Notes
  • The defense looked sharp last night. The success of the team defense could be a large factor in whether the Pirates have any success in 2007. The starting pitchers' BABIP was far too high in 2006. I was encouraged with the first game.

  • How about McLouth and Nady coming up big? It was assumed throughout the offseason that neither would hit for much power. They are both looking to silence some critics this season.

  • The offense looked feeble against Oswalt. It will be interesting to see whether it was a case of Oswalt being that good or the Pirates being that bad. It was nice to see the team come up big in some crucial situations, though.

  • That's a nice start to the season. Hopefully, the team can get on a little roll early on.

  • 1-0

Monday, April 02, 2007

Opening Day

Today is the day. Opening day. Every team is tied for first place. Every team controls its own destiny. This is the day of the clean slate, in which hope is alive for every player and every fan. Today the world changes.

The most beautiful image ever seen by man

Tonight the Pittsburgh Pirates open the 2007 season in Houston against the Astros. Zach Duke will be on the hill for the Bucs, and he will be opposed by right-hander Roy Oswalt. There has been a countdown in the corner of this website for several months, counting down the days, hours and minutes leading up to that first pitch by Oswalt. We are no longer using days, as our destination is nearly here. The phrase "wait 'til next year" was first uttered in April 2006. It first officially appeared on this site in September. However, those words no longer have any meaning. This year is all that matters. The last time the Pirates were successful, I was eight years old. I turn 23 today. It is time for a change. That change begins right now.