Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Tuesday Pirates Rant™

The Rant™ is back after a Memorial Day-induced “I didn’t realize it was Tuesday until Tuesday was over” absence! Try to contain your excitement.

So the Pirates are now 24-33 with roughly two pitchers doing much of anything. However, they’re 1.5 games out of 2nd place in the NL “Comedy Central” and only 7.5 games out of 1st. If they were in the NL East, they’d be a half-game from last and 12 games out of 1st. NL West? They’d be in a distant last place (at least 3 games from everybody else) and a solid 10 games back. But no...they get to pretend like they have something play for for another couple of...well, maybe weeks, maybe months, depending on how the Brewers and Cardinals play.

Things are so screwy in the NL Central that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dejan Kovacevic, by all means a competent and sane beat writer, wrote this article last week—about whether the Pirates will be sellers or buyers at the trading deadline—with a completely straight face. Never mind that the Pirates went 11-18 in May and have started June a crisp 1-3...or that they’ve averaged just 2.8 runs per game since scoring 14 against the Reds on May 27...or that their bullpen has imploded since carrying the team the first few weeks of the season...they’re contenders, baby!! Just listen to the players!

Ask the Pirates' players, naturally, and they would welcome a boost to the roster.

"I was just talking to Freddy Sanchez the other day about that," shortstop Jack Wilson said. "Who can we go out and get? Who's available?"

"I think we've got a good chance in this division," starter Ian Snell said. "The window's there. It's just a matter of whether or not we want to take advantage of it. I know I want it. But you've got to add pieces to win."
This is precisely what I was scared of at the beginning of the season. This is a bad team. Possibly one of the worst the Pirates have had in a while. But because the teams around them are just as bad, they might do something stupid in another couple of months, like trade one of the three prospects in their system that anybody would actually want for somebody none of the real contenders (teams with both higher payrolls and actual minor league prospects) thought enough to make an offer for.

I was also scared of this scenario because I knew it would look like I was rooting against my own team in the Rant™. I don’t want to sound too cynical here. It would be really fun to watch the Pirates in the playoffs...but I just know this organization (i.e. GM and ownership) too well. If they make a trade at the Deadline, it will be three steps beyond desperate. Some GM will take advantage of Dave Littlefield, and any trade he could pull off wouldn’t even remotely help the organization. And beyond that, in the rare possibility that the Pirates win the division (probably with like 77 wins or something), ownership would do something horribly stupid like sign Littlefield to a 10-year extension. Plus, there’s absolutely no chance that they would actually win a series in the playoffs. This isn’t like last year’s Cardinals, who crept into the playoffs with 83 wins and won the World Series. The Cardinals were injured and bored most of the year, but everybody knew they might have a run in them. Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny, a horrid offense, a bad defense, and a broken down bullpen, would not be able to make a Cardinals-esque run. They just wouldn’t. I’m as eternally optimistic as they come, but...come on. When/if the Pirates make the playoffs in my lifetime, I want them to actually be a good team that has a chance to win...I don’t want them to have made it because the other five teams in their division were terrible...er, even more terrible than they were.

Then again, I don’t think the Brewers are going to sink too much further, and between them and either the Astros or Cardinals (or maybe the Cubs, but probably not), the NL Central will be won with between 84-88 wins...not 77. And since the Pirates are currently on pace for 68 wins...yeah...


* After a couple of rough starts, Ian Snell pitched wonderfully again in his last start. He is now 5-4 with a 2.93 ERA. His stablemate, Tom Gorzelanny, is cruising along at 6-3 / 2.52 as well. Unfortunately, two-man rotations haven’t existed since about the 1880s.

* Jason Bay has caught fire, and his numbers are once again very Jason Bay-like—.306 BA, .376 OBP, .530 SLG, 10 HR, 43 RBI. He’s on pace for 122 RBI...not only would that be a career high, but that would also account for about 2/3 of the Pirates’ runs on the season. Just kidding. Sort of.

* It should be noted that a couple other players have done pretty well lately. Adam LaRoche has raised his average to .223, which is relatively impressive considering where it was a few weeks ago. Also, Xavier Nady—traded to the Pirates for Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez last trading deadline—is putting up his typical numbers—.280 BA, 9 HR, 31 RBI. It ain’t great, but for the Pirates it kinda is.


* It should also be noted that Oliver Perez is now 6-4 with a 2.80 ERA for the Mets right now. He’s on pace for almost 200 K’s and looking more and more like the 2004 version of Perez that the Pirates misplaced for two years before trading him for Nady. Another awesome trade for Dave Littlefield. But hey...using hindsight isn’t fair...it’s not like anybody thought that was an awful trade at the time...oh wait...

* Starters Zach Duke and Paul Maholm continue to take one step forward and nine steps back. Duke is 2-6 with a 5.73 ERA, while Maholm is 2-8 with a 5.34 ERA.

* After a pretty decent month of May, Salomon Torres reverted to his April form by blowing a save on Thursday (ruining a strangely dominant start by Shawn Chacon), getting demoted back to his setup man role, then blowing a lead from that role on Sunday. The bullpen that carried the team through the first few weeks of the season, when the offense had no punch, has shown massive signs of strain lately...and after a couple of weeks in which Pirate bats actually connected with the occasional ball, the offense has disappeared again in the last week or so. That probably isn’t a very good combination.

* Did I mention that the Pirates are the worst baserunners in the league? Not only have they been thrown out between third and home THIRTEEN TIMES this season, but this week they also managed not to score on back-to-back doubles in back-to-back games. Think about that. Back-to-back doubles result in 0 runs. In back-to-back games.

* Think about that some more. That’s not only inept, that’s historically inept. But they’re contenders! Honest!

What a cynic I've become...

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