Cardinals On Deck

The Pirates emerged from their nine game west coast trip with a 5-7 record; good for third place in the Central and a game better than I feared they would be after all the tough pitchers they’ve faced so far this year. This weekend, the first place (and Albert Pujols-less) Cardinals bring their 9-4 record to Pittsburgh for a three game set.

Pitching matchups:
Friday: Lance Lynn (2-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (0-0, 5.40 ERA)
Saturday: Jake Westbrook (2-0, 0.64 ERA) vs. Kevin Correia (1-0, 1.50 ERA)
Sunday: Kyle Lohse (2-0, 0.89 ERA) vs. Erik Bedard (0-3, 2.65 ERA)

Lance Berkman will miss the series with an injury and Jon Jay was recently injured as well. The real key for the Pirates will be, as always, trying to score some runs against pitchers who have been very effective this season. Hopefully a little home cooking will help.

Tonight’s lineup:
Alex Presley LF
Jose Tabata RF
Andrew McCutchen CF
Neil Walker 2B
Garrett Jones 1B
Rod Barajas C
Pedro Alvarez 3B
Clint Barmes SS
Charlie Morton P

I’d rather see Casey McGehee at 3B, but Pedro’s gotta play to get better I guess.

Weekend Wrap Up 4/15/12

Scores:
Friday: 5-0 Loss at San Francisco. Matt Cain dominates. Recap. Box score.
Saturday: 4-3 Loss at San Francisco. Close game falls apart in the ninth. Recap. Box score.
Sunday: 4-1 Win at San Francisco. Finally, a solid game. Recap. Box score.

Season Record: 3-6, 5th place in the NL Central.

Good: Another good start from Kevin Correia breaks the five game losing streak. Charlie Morton looks to be in good health in his season debut. Neil Walker with two two-hit days.
Bad: Two shaky outings from Joel Hanrahan. Chris Resop wasn’t sharp but the defense let him down. Jose Tabata went 0-9 and left 7 men on base.

Combined Box:

Pittsburgh      AB      R      H      RBI      BB      SO      LOB
Presley, LF 13 1 3 1 1 4 2
Walker, 2B 11 1 4 2 0 3 0
McCutchen, A, CF 11 2 2 0 1 1 2
McGehee, 1B 9 2 2 0 0 1 2
Tabata, RF 9 0 0 0 0 3 7
Jones, G, 1B, RF 7 1 2 1 0 4 0
Harrison, 3B, SS 7 0 1 1 0 0 3
Barmes, SS 7 0 1 0 0 1 3
Barajas, C 6 0 0 0 1 0 0
Alvarez, 3B 6 0 0 0 0 5 1
McDonald, J, P 2 0 1 0 0 0 0
Navarro, PH 2 0 0 0 0 1 4
Correia, P 2 0 0 0 0 1 3
Morton, P 2 0 0 0 0 1 0
McKenry, C 1 0 0 0 3 1 0
McLouth, PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
Hague, PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Totals 97 7 16 5 6 26 29

Batting:
Triples: Harrison (1)
Homers: Jones (1)

Baserunning:
SB: Tabata (2), Jones (1)
CS: McCutchen (2)

Fielding:
Errors: Morton (1), Barmes 2 (2)

Pittsburgh      IP      H      R      ER      BB      SO      HR
Correia(W, 1-0) 6.0 3 1 1 1 2 0
McDonald, J (L, 0-1) 5.7 6 3 3 3 1 0
Morton 5.0 7 3 3 0 2 0
Hanrahan(S, 1) 2.0 2 2 2 2 1 1
Grilli(H, 1) 2.0 1 0 0 1 3 0
Watson 1.3 1 0 0 0 0 0
Hughes, J(H, 1) 1.0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Cruz, J 1.0 0 0 0 2 1 0
Meek 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Resop (L, 0-1) 0.0 2 1 0 1 0 0
Totals 25.0 23 10 9 10 10 1

Transactions: Activated RHP Charlie Morton from the 15-day Disabled List. Optioned 1B Matt Hague to AAA Indianapolis.

Up Next: A three game set in Arizona ends the road trip. Expected matchups: Erik Bedard (0-2) vs. Joe Saunders (0-0), Jeff Karstens (0-1) vs. Ian Kennedy (2-0), and James McDonald (0-1) vs. Daniel Hudson (1-0).

More Tough Matchups On The Horizon

The Pirates have scored 11 runs in six games. An average of 1.83 runs/game. The team batting average is .199. What do you expect when a team of average (at best) bats faces some of the best pitchers in the league? Here are the opponents’ starting pitchers for the Pirates’ first twelve games.

vs. Roy Halladay, 1-0 L

vs. Cliff Lee, 2-1 W
vs. Vance Worley, 5-4 W
vs. Clayton Kershaw, 2-1 L
vs. Chad Billingsley, 4-1 L
vs. Chris Capuano, 3-2 L
vs. Ian Kennedy
vs. Daniel Hudson (*not announced yet, my projection.)

And here are the results of last year’s NL Cy Young award voting (from baseball reference):

Rank Tm Vote Pts 1st Place Share WAR W L ERA SV IP ER BB SO WHIP
1 Clayton Kershaw LAD 207.0 27.0 92% 7.0 21 5 2.28 0 233.1 59 54 248 0.977
2 Roy Halladay PHI 133.0 4.0 59% 7.4 19 6 2.35 0 233.2 61 35 220 1.040
3 Cliff Lee PHI 90.0 0.0 40% 6.9 17 8 2.40 0 232.2 62 42 238 1.027
4 Ian Kennedy ARI 76.0 1.0 34% 5.5 21 4 2.88 0 222.0 71 55 198 1.086
5 Cole Hamels PHI 17.0 0.0 8% 5.4 14 9 2.79 0 216.0 67 44 194 0.986
6 Tim Lincecum SFG 7.0 0.0 3% 4.4 13 14 2.74 0 217.0 66 86 220 1.207
7 Yovani Gallardo MIL 5.0 0.0 2% 2.7 17 10 3.52 0 207.1 81 59 207 1.215
8 Matt Cain SFG 3.0 0.0 1% 3.9 12 11 2.88 0 221.2 71 63 179 1.083
9 John Axford MIL 2.0 0.0 1% 2.7 2 2 1.95 46 73.2 16 25 86 1.140
9 Craig Kimbrel ATL 2.0 0.0 1% 3.0 4 3 2.10 46 77.0 18 32 127 1.039
11 Madison Bumgarner SFG 1.0 0.0 0% 2.8 13 13 3.21 0 204.2 73 46 191 1.212
11 Ryan Vogelsong SFG 1.0 0.0 0% 3.7 13 7 2.71 0 179.2 54 61 139 1.252
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/11/2012.

The Pirates face six of the ten starting pitchers to get votes as the best pitcher in the National League last year. When does it get easier? Matt Cain‘s one of the best pitchers in the league, Daniel Hudson has nasty stuff. Ian Kennedy broke out in a big way. Last year Ryan Vogelsong struck out 8 in 5.2 innings against the Pirates in the first start of his comeback year. The much-maligned Barry Zito threw a complete game shutout in Colorado in his  last start. Joe Saunders threw seven shutout innings in his first start of the year.

Seriously, the Pirates could easilty be looking at a 4-8 record when this stretch is over. If they want to be better, then:

1) Their own pitching needs to keep up the good work. Allowing only 2.5 runs/game has kept the Pirates in every game so far.
2) The bats need to find a way to string some hits together. Also, take some more walks. You can be selective while still being aggressive. Seven walks in six games is woeful.

Let’s hope they pick it up this weekend in San Francisco. The Pirates starters are slated to be James McDonald, Charlie Morton (season debut) and Kevin Correia. I’ll see you Monday with the Weekend Wrapup.

Correia Pitching For His Rotation Spot

With word that both Charlie Morton and A.J. Burnett will be back before the end of the month, the Pirates will be looking at six starting pitchers for five spots. Erik Bedard, Jeff Karstens and James McDonald all did their part in the season’s first three games. Now Kevin Correia, widely viewed as the weakest member of the starting rotation, gets to pitch in Dodger Stadium today to start making his case. How has Correia peformed in Los Angeles over his career?

Year G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA WHIP K/9 OPS
2003 1 1 4.0 6 5 5 4 1 2 11.25 1.75 4.50 1.448
2004 2 0 5.0 6 2 2 1 1 5 3.60 1.40 9.00 0.747
2005   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –
2006 1 0 0.0 1 0 0 0 1 0   –   –   – 2.000
2007 4 1 10.0 8 5 5 1 1 10 4.50 0.90 9.00 0.663
2008 2 1 6.3 8 6 4 0 1 5 5.68 1.42 7.10 0.667
2009 1 1 6.0 4 1 1 0 0 4 1.50 0.67 6.00 0.381
2010 2 2 11.7 11 4 4 0 3 4 3.09 1.20 3.10 0.584
2011   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –
in LA 13 6 43.0 44 23 21 6 8 30 4.40 1.21 6.30 0.712
career 258 131 895.0 947 484 458 111 335 623 4.61 1.43 6.30 0.770

Correia has performed slightly better in LA when compared to his career numbers, but that could be because Dodger Stadium is a park that is kind to pitchers or it could be simple noise in the data. Either way, 43 innings over nine seasons is nowhere near enough evidence to draw conclusions. Yet, his continued presence in the rotation will depend on how well he does over these first few starts. Let’s hope he continues the trend and gives a good performance tonight.

2012 Opening Day Roster with Trade Tree

The Pirates made their final roster moves yesterday, putting Chris Leroux, Charlie Morton and A.J. Burnett on the Disabled List and adding Juan Cruz to the 40-man roster. Here’s the to current roster for today’s 1:35 game vs. the Phillies.

LINEUP

LF Alex Presley
RF Jose Tabata
CF Andrew McCutchen
2B Neil Walker
1B Garrett Jones
C   Rod Barajas
3B Pedro Alvarez
SS Clint Barmes

BENCH

C Michael McKenry
IF Matt Hague
IF Josh Harrison
IF Casey McGehee
IF Yamaico Navarro
OF Nate McLouth

STARTING PITCHERS

Erik Bedard
Jeff Karstens
James McDonald
Kevin Correia

BULLPEN

Juan Cruz
Jason Grilli
Joel Hanrahan
Jared Hughes
Evan Meek
Chris Resop
Tony Watson

DISABLED LIST

A.J. Burnett (15 day)
Charlie Morton (15 day)
Gustavo Nunez (60 day)
Chris Leroux (60 day)

In honor of the best day of the year, I updated last year’s Whole Team Trade Tree to show how this current squad was built. (Click to embiggen.) Now play ball!

Morton to start season on DL

Per Kristy Robinson of Pirates Prospects:

Huntington said Charlie Morton will start season on 15 day DL. “It’s a tremendous progress to be where he is.”

To me, this looks like a procedural move, since Morton wasn’t scheduled to be in the opening week rotation anyway. This also sets Charlie up well to make the start on April 14, when a 5th starter will first be needed. Rob Biertempfel has some other quotes from Huntington which echo much of what he told me last weekend.

Other news: Four players were assigned to the minor league camp today but none of them surprising: Eric Fryer, Ryota Igarashi, Jake Fox and Nick Evans.

Spring Training 2012: Saturday 3/24 McKechnie Field Recap

Ed. note: Travel delays and prior commitments kept me from getting this posted sooner.

PirateFest was going on today, but I went to Pirate City instead. Luckily I arrived in time to get this shot:

Matt Hague (pirate ship hat) and Charlie Morton sign autographs.

Going inside I headed to the batting cages to see if anyone was hitting. Along the way I ran into club President Frank Coonelly and was able to ask him about the renovations that are going to happen at McKechnie Field. Specifically I asked if they considered making the outfield dimensions match those in PNC Park. Mr. Coonelly’s answers:

My thanks to Mr. Coonelly for his time. On to the game! Recap. Box Score.

Excellent: James McDonald. James was wild on the first two pitches of the game, causing me worry that it was going to be a long day. He would immediately right the ship and pitch 5 1/3 innings before giving up his first hit. Final line: 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, and 3 K. McDonald also showed a good glove and was able to coax a walk out of Astros pitcher Kyle Weiland.

Good: Neil Walker‘s 2-run single and Garrett Jones‘ 2-run bomb accounted for all of the scoring. Walker’s hit came after Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen both failed to get a runner home from third with less than two out. Jones’ shot landed more than 90 feet past the right field wall.

Very Bad: Ryota Igarashi showed very little control and is looking at a steep hill to climb if he wants to make the team. The five batters he faced went walk, walk, homerun, ground out, infield hit.

Pictures:

Another beautiful day at McKechnie Field.

Lineups. (J.B. Shuck?)

Jose Tabata in the batting cage.

Garrett Jones followed.

A good day for autographs. Morton signed a lot on his way to the clubhouse after his appearance at PirateFest.

Rod Barajas signed after a turn in the batting cage. Someone asked him about possibly setting a new record for homeruns by a Pirates catcher.

Andrew McCutchen is good people. He signed every day that I saw him.

James McDonald does some long toss to get loose...

…and then warms up to Michael McKenry in the bullpen.
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Former Pirate outfielder and manager Bill Virdon watches.

Mini McGehee doesn't appear to like the mini-parrot.

When the gulls start landing on the field, you know the game will be over pretty soon.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a wrap up and final thoughts.

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