Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tuesday Pirates Rant™

Slowly but surely, the conflict I mentioned last week is melting away. This team sucks. The guys are treading water at 7-10, which is impressive considering their offense is terrible, and three-fifths of their rotation are either terrible or in a slump. But it just isn’t going to last. I hope it does, but it won’t. At least, not unless the offense not only begins to play to its potential, but play above its potential.


* As much crap as I’ve given Chris Duffy on the Rant™ in the last 12 months, I should mention that he’s playing quite well. He’s batting .292 with a .361 on-base percentage. At the beginning of the season, I decided I’d be thrilled if he reached a .333 OBP, so...color me thrilled. When he’s on base, he’s a terror. He only has four stolen bases, but 3 of those came in the last week. And he plays fantastic defense. He’s the least of Pittsburgh’s problems.

* I can’t ask for more than a .300 average and .347 OBP from Jack Wilson. Not that he’ll maintain this pace, but he’s on pace for 200 hits and 100 runs. That’s more than I expected from him, even after less than three weeks.

* Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny have been unbelievable. It’s a tragedy that Snell has only one win in four starts...but his run support has been about -2 runs a game. Here’s Snell’s line: 27 IP, 24 K, 9 BB, 18 H (just 1.0 baserunners per inning), 2.00 ERA...and 1 win. It’s a good thing he pitches well angry, because he’s had plenty of reasons to be angry with the support he’s gotten. Here’s Gorzy’s line: 2.05 ERA, 3-0 record, 26.1 IP, 17 K, 6 BB, 20 H (just 0.99 baserunners per inning).

* Despite two blown saves and an unimpressive-for-a-closer 4.00 ERA, Salomon Torres has been fine. He’s been screwed, but he’s been fine.

* Young righty relievers Matt Capps (10.1 IP, 0.87 ERA, 5 K, only 6 baserunners) and Jonah Bayliss (8 IP, 2.24 ERA, 6 K, 8 baserunners) have been outstanding. Capps was good last year (and he’s on pace for 105 appearances for the season...probably not a good thing), but Bayliss has exceeded expectations thus far. Of course, it’s still early, and one bad appearance can cause an ERA to explode.

Nice. Five happy bullets. I’m impressed with myself.


* Um, the entire offense.

* Um, the entire defense.

* Um, three-fifths of the starting rotation.

* Okay, I’ll explain. For the season, the offense has a .240 batting average (24th in the majors), a .303 on-base percentage (28th), and a .372 (23rd) slugging percentage. That’s wretched. Oh, and they’ve hit as many homeruns as Alex Rodriguez.

* As for the defense...they’ve had a relatively small number of errors (9, tied for 3rd in the majors), but they seem to all come in clutch situations. On Saturday night, Salomon Torres managed to blow a save without allowing a hit. He walked Juan Pierre, and then Ronnie Paulino took over. Paulino, who the organization thinks is a superb defender despite little evidence to back this up, allowed a passed ball, then threw the ball into centerfield trying to nail Pierre. With Pierre now on third, Paulino allowed another passed ball, and the tying run scored. Awful. Naturally, the Dodgers hit a game-winning grand slam to win it in the 10th.

* Adam “Savior” LaRoche has been beyond awful. He has 6 hits this season (SIX!!), same as Pirates pitchers. Granted, three of those hits have been HR’s, but...ugh. Needless to say, a .105 / .261 / .281 (batting avg / OBP / SLG) line wasn’t quite what anybody was expecting from him. That’s worse than Brant Brown!

* Jason Bay hasn’t really gotten going yet either, though he’s batting like Ted Williams compared to LaRoche. His numbers are starting to crawl upward, at .262 / .360 / .477. His walk percentage, as always, is quite high. This suggests that he’s not seeing too many good pitches to hit. LaRoche was supposed to fix that problem.

* Catcher Ronny Paulino, who’s already been skewered in this Rant™ for his terrible defense, will now get skewered for his .182 / .211 / .218 line. He’s making Xavier Nady (.267 / .312 / .467) look like an All-Star. And did I mention that Ryan Doumit, last year’s “catcher of the future” until he hurt his hamstring and lost his job to Paulino despite beating Paulino out at every step in the minors, is batting .420+ (and playing decent defense) at AAA right now? I didn’t?

In other words, unless Chris Duffy gets a single, steals second, and is singled in by Jack Wilson, the Pirates don’t score. The pitching’s been mediocre enough to keep them in most games, and the Pirates are undefeated when they score more than 5 runs. Problem is, they’ve only scored more than 5 runs 3 times.

* Other than Snell and Gorzy, the rotation’s been terrible. After two solid starts, Zach Duke has imploded in his last two. He’s been the anti-Snell to this point, with a 9.00 ERA. In 19 innings, he’s given up 36 baserunners (insanely high) and 3 HR’s...and he’s only struck out 5. Yuck.

* Paul Maholm, in comparison, has been quite solid. His 6.18 ERA (and 28 baserunners in 16 innings) are something Duke can strive to attain.

* Tony Armas, Jr., this year’s major free agent acquisition, has managed to get 20 people out in two starts. That’s right, he’s lasted less than 7 innings so far. In the process, he’s given up 15 hits, walked 7, and struck out only 2 on his way to an 18.89 ERA. He was cheap, but...ugh.

And last but not least their manager and his assistants are still morons, as illustrated by this Bucs Dugout post. They actually think getting on base doesn’t really matter in the process of scoring runs. And they’re proud of their ignorance. I’ve come to admit that Tracy is a good “mindset” manager, and it seems like his guys try hard at all times. But a) most of them suck, b) Tracy and his coaches don’t know how to maximize what talent they do have, and c) Tracy’s decision-making continually puts the Pirates in an even worse situation. It’s pretty simple—you want the guys who get on base more to get more chances to get on base. How hard is that to understand?

Actually, I’ll stop there. I’ve had this rant before.

As the Post-Gazette’s Stats Geek told me this morning, the upcoming 9-game homestand (against the Astros, Reds, and Cubs) will tell what kind of season the Pirates are going to have. Eventually LaRoche will start to hit (surely), and eventually the players who are doing terrible will “return to competence”, as the Stats Geek says, and that will help. Despite the fact that the Buccos just aren’t very good, they still play in a bad division, and they can still strive for a respectable record because of that. However, there are still no prospects in the minors to replace struggling players, and there is still no long-term hope.

I just thought I’d mention that since, you know, it would feel like an empty Rant™ without it.