.600

Winning three out of five games isn’t very hard. Winning three of five twenty times in a row is very hard. That’s where the Pirates find themselves after 100 games: 60-40, second best record in baseball. If the team can keep up this pace through the rest of the season they’ll win 97 games. If they only win half their games they’ll finish with 91 wins. Six wins isn’t much of a difference of the course of a baseball season, but it could mean the difference between winning the division or playing in the wild card game. The inescapable truth here is that these Pirates are a very good team this season.  Better than we hoped, almost as good as we dreamed.

Jeff Locke takes the mound tonight in Miami. 100 games down, 62 to go. Enjoy the ride.

Pirates Sign Francisco Liriano

Reports out of Minnesota say the Bucs have signed LHP Francisco Liriano to a 2 year/$14M deal. Liriano is expected to join the rotation as the #4 starter, creating a competition for the final spot between Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson.

The 29 year old lefty has struck out an outstanding 9.1 batters per nine innings in his career and can be very effective when he limits his walks. Unfortunately, his control has been very erratic since tearing an elbow ligament during his fantastic rookie season.  Still, there’s some upside here and $7M a year is not bad considering what what the going rate for pitching has been this winter.

UPDATES: Multiple sources say that Liriano won’t take his physical until after the holidays, so this deal won’t be official for a while. Jon Heyman reports that the deal is actually for just under $13M, so hooray for saving a little cash.

The Pirates Will Do Very Little This Offseason And That’s Okay.

What will happen this off-season:

In the OF: Nothing. Andrew McCutchen is rightfully entrenched in center. Starling Marte is ready for a fulltime job. Travis Snider gets first crack at right field. Alex Presley and Jose Tabata provide depth.

In the IF: Nothing. Pedro Alvarez, Clint Barmes and Neil Walker are set at third, short and second. Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez will platoon at first.

Behind the plate: A partner for Michael McKenry will be picked up. It won’t be Russell Martin if his price is really 4 yrs/$40M. I don’t know how much A.J. Pierzynski is looking for. Toronto (J.P. Arencibia/Travis d’Arnaud/John Buck) and Boston (Ryan Lavarnway/Jarrod Saltalamacchia/David Ross) both have catching depth to spare. Trading with one of those teams seems like the best option.

On the mound: A.J. Burnett/Wandy Rodriguez/James McDonald will head the rotation. After that things are in flux. Jeff Karstens will be in the mix if he’s tendered a contract. Look for the team to add one starter making $8-10M/year. Kyle McPherson and Jeff Locke will fill the back-end or provide depth.

In the Bullpen: This is where the most change will happen. Joel Hanrahan, Tony Watson and Jared Hughes will be there. Every other spot is up for grabs. This is OK because reliever performance can vary wildly from year to year. Bullpens are also one of the easiest pieces of the team to build on the cheap. For those same reasons, it’s also possible that Hanrahan could be traded if another team is willing to give up a solid catcher or starting pitcher.

So that’s it. The Pirates will sign or otherwise acquire a catcher, a starting pitcher and a slew of relievers.

What else was to be expected? The major moves were made in July – Wandy Rodriguez and Travis Snider.

There aren’t any obvious bargains to be had on the free agent market. Look closely at that list and you’ll find that each player falls into one of three categories: old, bad or prohibitively expensive. Any significant improvement will have to come via the trade route. If they could swing a trade for Giancarlo Stanton or Wil Myers or a shortstop with half a bat to go with this glove it would be beyond great, but I just can’t see a deal like that happening. This is your 2013 Pirates team. And it looks a whole lot like the 2012 team.

Cubs Wrap Up

Scores:
Friday: 12-2 Loss vs. Chicago. 7 errors. Box score.
Saturday: 4-3 Loss vs. Chicago. Nothing going vs Samardzija. Box score.
Sunday: 4-2 Loss vs. Chicago. Grilli falters 2nd day in a row. Box score.

Season Record: 72-67, 3rd place in NL Central, 11.0 games back
2.5 games back of a Wild Card spot

Notes: Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you. The promise of the playoffs is slipping away even though it’s still right in front of them. Seriously, one good week and the Bucs could be tied with the Cards again. The offense had serious problems this weekend. Brock Holt and Pedro Alvarez were the only players to record more than one hit. Yet the Bucs walked 14 times, including 4 from Gaby Sanchez. Jeff Locke was effective in his second start. Jason Grilli took back to back losses; unusual since he’s been a shutdown reliever all year.

Combined Box

Pittsburgh AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG OBP
Holt, Br, 2B 13 2 5 0 0 3 3 0.385 0.385
Alvarez, 3B 12 0 4 2 1 1 9 0.333 0.385
Jones, G, RF, 1B 11 0 1 0 2 0 5 0.091 0.231
McCutchen, A, CF 9 2 1 1 2 3 6 0.111 0.333
Marte, S, LF-CF 9 0 0 1 2 4 3 0.000 0.167
Sanchez, G, 1B 6 0 0 0 4 3 3 0.000 0.400
Presley, RF 6 0 0 0 0 4 4 0.000 0.000
Harrison, SS 5 2 1 0 0 1 3 0.200 0.200
McKenry, C 5 1 1 1 1 2 2 0.200 0.333
Barajas, C 5 0 0 0 0 1 2 0.000 0.000
Barmes, SS 4 0 0 0 1 1 4 0.000 0.200
Clement, PH 2 0 1 1 1 0 1 0.500 0.667
Locke, P 2 0 1 0 0 1 1 0.500 0.500
Mercer, SS 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 0.000 0.000
McDonald, J, P 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.000 0.000
Burnett, AJ, P 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.000 0.000
  Totals 94 7 15 6 14 26 47 0.160 0.273

Batting

Doubles (3): Alvarez 2 (23), McKenry (13)
Triples (1): Holt (1)
Home Runs (1): McCutchen (25)

Fielding
E: Holt 3 (3), Marte 2 (2), Barajas (4), Sanchez (3), Harrison (5)
DP: (Alvarez-Holt-Sanchez), (Barmes-Jones), (Barmes-Sanchez)

Pitching

Pittsburgh IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA WHIP
Locke 6.0 7 2 2 0 6 2 3.00 1.17
McDonald, J 5.7 7 3 3 2 2 1 4.76 1.59
Burnett, AJ (L, 15-6) 5.0 8 7 3 1 4 0 5.40 1.80
McPherson, K 3.0 2 0 0 0 2 0 0.00 0.67
Leroux 1.7 0 2 0 0 2 0 0.00 0.00
Grilli (2 L, 1-6) 1.3 5 3 3 2 2 1 20.25 5.25
Resop 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0.00
Hanrahan 1.0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0.00 2.00
Hughes, J 0.7 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00 0.00
Watson 0.7 1 0 0 1 1 0 0.00 3.00
Takahashi 0.3 2 3 3 2 0 0 81.00 12.00
Qualls 0.7 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00 0.00
Wilson 0.0 1 0 0 1 0 0 -.– -.–
  Totals 27.0 34 20 14 10 22 4 4.67 1.63

Transactions: Activated LF Starling Marte from the DL. Activated RHP Chad Qualls from the DL.

Series Preview: The Cubs

Current record: 72-64, 3rd place in NL Central, 10.0 games back; 1.5 games back of a Wild Card spot

Up Next: Chicago Cubs, 51-85, 5th place in NL Central, 31.0 games back

Season Series: 6-3 (3-0, 1-2, 2-1)

Notes: Seven of the Pirates next ten games are against the Cubs. This is the time to make a move. Taking any less than five of these games would be a setback. I’m going to stop short of say that they will take that many games; predictions like that have not worked out well for me this year. A lot of breaks went the Pirates direction in June and July – 2 out RBIs, a key strike out to get out of an inning. A lot of those breaks went the other way in August. I’ll just say that if you’re looking for a team to get some breaks against, the Cubs have historically always fit that bill.

Familiar Faces: None

Probable Pitchers
Friday: LH Travis Wood (4-11, 120.1 IP, 86 K, 4.64 ERA, 1.24 WHIP)
vs. RH A.J. Burnett (15-5, 163.2 IP, 145 K, 3.63 ERA, 1.24 WHIP)

Saturday: RH Jeff Samardzija (8-13, 165.2 IP, 171 K, 3.91 ERA, 1.26 WHIP)
vs. RH James McDonald (12-7, 161.2 IP, 147 K, 3.90 ERA, 1.21 WHIP)

Sunday: LH Chris Rusin (0-2, 6.0 IP, 5 K, 9.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP)
vs. LH Jeff Locke (0-1, 9.1 IP, 7 K, 4.82 ERA, 0.96 WHIP)

No lineup yet.

September Call Ups

Now that the rosters have expanded, the Pirates called up the following players:

Eric Fryer, C
Fryer will serve as the 3rd catcher, allowing Michael McKenry or Rod Barajas to pinch hit on the days they don’t start.

Justin Wilson, LHP
Wilson has been great as a starter in the minors but will serve as an additional lefty arm out of the bullpen.

Jeff Locke, LHP
Locke will take over for Erik Bedard in the starting rotation. Management wants to get a good look at him so he will presumably stay there for the rest of the regular season.

Chris Leroux, RHP
Leroux can start or relieve and will be an extra long man out of the pen.

Brock Holt, SS
Holt has been killing the ball to the tune of .344/.406/.453 at AA and AAA this year after a down year last season at Altoona. He might see some time at 2B while Neil Walker is hurt.

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