Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tuesday Pirates Rant™

Jim Tracy, on yesterday’s 3-0 loss to Braden Looper and the Cardinals: “You need to have more than three hits, and we didn't get them.” That’s why they pay him the big bucks, folks.

I’m going to try not to be too anti-Tracy today. He’s obviously a good motivator, and so far his pitching coach, Jim Colborn, has done pretty good things with the pitching staff. And the Pirates are 4-3 and have spent a week straight over .500. The last time that happened? 2003, when they were over .500 from 3/31 to 4/18. So I really shouldn’t be complaining about anything yet.


Now that Freddy Sanchez is healthy, we got to see Jim Tracy’s ideal lineup...what he envisions will take the Pirates to the playoffs...for the first time yesterday. This ideal lineup was 1) Chris Duffy, 2) Jack Wilson, 3) Freddy Sanchez (the league’s best #2 hitter, only Tracy says his “ideal spot” is #3), 4) Adam “Savior” LaRoche (3-for-27 on this young season), 5) Jason Bay (the Pirates’ best hitter for the last three years). This stupid batting order means that, played out over the course of the season, slap-hitting Jack Wilson and his .300 OBP will see about 50 more plate appearances than Jason Bay and about 16 more plate appearances than Freddy Sanchez, last year’s league leader in batting average and doubles. Does that make any sense at all? Any? Tracy has said, hundreds of times now, that this is the lineup that “makes sense” for him. And that makes sense to me. Because Tracy has no sense.

Anyway, moving on...


• Well, first of all, the Pirates are 4-3. That’s not all that great when you consider they started 3-0, but...again, they were not over .500 for even one day in 2005 or 2006, so for the Pirates this is an amazing accomplishment.

• I complain—with great justification—about Jack Wilson’s horrid on-base percentage (anything less than .333 is pretty bad), but at least he’s batting .300, I guess. He even has a home run!

• Xavier Nady is hitting for power, which is good. He’s got the reputation of a decent power hitter, but he just didn’t show it in a Pirates uniform last season. His line so far is .280 AVG, .333 OBP, .600 SLG, 2 HR’s, 4 RBI’s so far. Those aren’t world-beater numbers so far, but compared to other Pirates hitters...well...that’s Babe Ruth.

• 3B Jose Bautista is batting .308 with a .462 slugging % so far. That’s very good considering how far he tailed off in the second half of last season.

• Much-maligned Chris Duffy has played phenomenal centerfield so far—which was expected—but much more surprisingly, he’s hit well too. His on-base percentage of .346 is infinitely better than how he started last week. He’s even walked twice! Pretty sure that’s more than he walked all of last season.

• The starting pitching, three-fifths of it anyway, has been quite good. In five combined starts, the first three starters of the season—Zach Duke, Ian Snell, and Tom Gorzelanny—have combined for a 2.90 ERA so far. Snell, in particular, has been amazing. In 13 innings, he’s struck out 14, walked only 2, allowed only 13 baserunners, and has a 2.08 ERA. Unfortunately, he’s 0-1, but that’s not his fault. We’re dealing with a small sample size here, but this is a much, much better start than the staff had last year.

• The two most important guys in the bullpen—closer Salomon Torres and setup man Matt Capps—have been unhittable. They’ve given up 1 ER on 1 hit in 8 1/3 innings, struck out 5, and walked none, and Torres is 4-for-4 in save opportunities. He’s a notoriously slow starter, so it’s a relief that he’s hit the ground running as a closer.


• Jim Tracy’s decision-making still sucks. Never mind the batting order thing...yesterday, with the Pirates down 1-0 in the 8th, he inserted career minor-leaguer John Wasdin into the game for no apparent reason. I guess everybody else needed resting? All I know is, my immediate thought when he came in was, “Oh great, it’s going to be 3-0 really soon.” (I swear, that’s what I thought.) And it was 3-0 really soon. Yes, he has to make do with the roster he has, and maybe the cold weather made him reluctant to pitch somebody good when they were losing already, but...John Wasdin? Ugh.

• I’ve already mentioned this, but Adam “Savior” LaRoche is 3-for-27 with one HR and THIRTEEN strikeouts. But at least he’s batting ahead of Jason Bay...

• Catcher Ronny Paulino, who was absolutely unstoppable during Spring Training, is...stoppable now. He’s 4-for-26 with one extra-base hit. But hey...he’s only struck out 4 times!

• The other two-fifths of the rotation—Paul Maholm and Tony Armas, Jr.—sucked in their first outings, allowing 22 baserunners (and 10 runs) in nine combined innings. It’s only one outing each, but still...eww...

• Beyond Capps, Torres, and the surprising Jonah Bayliss, the rest of the bullpen...well...it stinks. It’s not really their fault, though. You look at the names—John Wasdin, Damaso Marte, Juan Perez, and Shawn Chacon (who, admittedly, pitched decent in his only appearance)—and you know they’re going to suck. That’s the GM’s fault, not theirs.


Cory from MVN on the depressing home opener.

The wind blowing in from the Allegheny was freezing; the only thing colder in Pittsburgh today was the Pirates’ offense.

Bad jokes aside, this is going to get old in a hurry. Ian Snell pitched a gem, but the Bucs didn’t give him any run support. If we were facing Roy Oswalt again, I wouldn’t mind—but Braden Looper, Ryan Franklin and a banged up Jason Isringhausen? They’re not world beaters.

The Pirates’ offense—the one we’ve been dreaming of, with a murderer’s row of Sanchez, LaRoche and Bay—only managed three hits. No base runners passed second. If you’re wondering, we’re averaging 3.85 runs per game—and that’s not good.

John Wasdin wasn’t particularly effective (don’t ask me why he was in the game to begin with) and neither was Marte, but Snell and Jonah Bayliss sure were. (I’m starting to believe that Ian’ll have an ERA around 2.00 to go with his five or six wins—he looks sharp.) The staff will keep us in ballgames; the batting order needs to kick things up a few notches. I won’t beat the horse, it’s long dead.
Pat from Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke on, well, the depressing home opener.

Snell could've given up no runs today and it would've been too many. Chris Duffy was the only Pirate that got any kind of wood on the ball the whole game today. I know it was cold out, but three hits against Looper, Franklin, and Isringhausen is pretty bad (though admittedly, Isringhausen looked better than last year). I don't even know what to say, really? LaRoche looks clueless at the plate in person, kind of like he's never seen a baseball before. It's too early to start piling on guys, but I'm a little more concerned now.Two other things of note: Jason Bay batted fifth today. That is a bad idea. I don't like to harp on the lineup, but Bay shouldn't be fifth and Bautista shouldn't be eighth. Also, John Wasdin is not an eighth inning guy in a one run game. Ever.
And finally, a blog I’m really excited about...being that I’m a numbers nerd and all...