2010 Pirates: What Went Right

For a 105 loss team, the easy joke would be to leave this post blank. But that would do a disservice to the players  who put forth the efforts and achieved positive results this year. I won’t do a What Went Wrong post; it would be too long and too depressing. So in the interest of positive thinking here is my list of What Went Right:

Pedro Alvarez – Debuted on June 16. Hit .256/.326/.461 over 95 games and 386 PA. Streaky, but made good adjustments and showed all of the potential he has to be a dominant hitter.

Neil Walker – After being written off as a prospect over the last year, finally showed the promise he had as a first round draft pick. Called up in May and held down second base admirably despite having little experience at the position. Hit .296/.349/.462 in 469 PA.

Jose Tabata – Debuted June 9. Hit .299/.346/.400 in 441 PA with a solid glove in left field. Only 21 years old so the power may still develop. If not, he’d remain a very good top of the order hitter.

Andrew McCutchen – Followed up breakout 2009 (.286/.365/.471) with an almost identical 2010 (.286/.365/.449). Still only 23 this season with plenty of upside.

James McDonald – Was the Pirates’ ace after being acquired at the trade deadline. 11 starts, 64 IP, 3.52 ERA (116 ERA+), 1.297 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 2.54 K/BB. Has better than league average swing-and-miss percentages on all three of his pitches. I look forward to seeing what he can do with a full year in the rotation.

Evan Meek & Joel Hanrahan – Held down the back of the bullpen all season. Meek made the All-Star team as a middle reliever, Hanrahan was the main closer after Dotel was traded.

The Draft – The organization added lots of top level talent again this year. Most notably Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie, rated as the top two high school pitchers available in the draft. They also signed 16 year old international free agent, Luis Heredia, rated by some to be as as good a prospect as Allie.

That’s my list.  There were some other nice things that happened but I tried to hit the biggest and brightest points. Piratesprospects.com has details on all of the minor leaguers who made strides this year as well.

Trust your eyes

I hope you all had a good extended weekend and spent the time happily with family and friends. I was able to squeeze in the Pirates/Braves game on Sunday between going camping for the first time in 25 years and regular Memorial Day and birthday celebrations yesterday. Since the game happened two days ago and details are readily available elsewhere, I’ll stick to my impressions of what I saw in the team.

  • Aki Iwamura is slow. From my vantage point his first step was nearly non-existent, meaning he had trouble getting to anything not hit within 6 feet on either side of where he sets up. Bucs Dugout has some video and discussion of pre-injury Aki vs. post-injury Aki here and here. Late in the game John Russell made a double switch, taking Iwamura out, sliding Neil Walker to 2B and bringing in Andy LaRoche. Yesterday the Pirates made the move official saying Walker would be the starting 2B for the foreseeable future. I applaud this decision heartily.
  • I was a little disappointed to see Delwyn Young starting, but just confused to see him in right field with Garrett Jones moving to left. I have yet to read any explanation for this anywhere online. DY made some nice diving catches, but I feel a more fleet-footed outfielder could have gotten under the batted balls earlier – turning them into routine plays.
  • Nice to see Jeff Clement hit a game-tying homer. He’s been hitting the ball better lately in limited opportunities. I was again confused (note the theme) why Russell would bring in Bobby Crosby to pinch-hit in the ninth. Clement had been the only offense so far in the game, hits better vs. lefties (Billy Wagner was pitching), and I’d bet has better bat speed than Crosby. It probably didn’t matter because Wagner was lights out but I say you should let Clement hit there. Give him a chance to face one of the best closers of the past fifteen years.
  • Paul Maholm had a good/bad outing. He was never overpowering and got into a lot of trouble (6 IP, 10 H, 3 BB, 5 K) but he fought through some very tough spots – including a bases loaded, no outs situation – and only gave up 2 runs. At the risk of slipping into further cliche’s, it was a gutty if unimpressive performance.
  • Joel Hanrahan pitched a dominant seventh. I was surprised to see him come back out to pitch the 8th and even more surprised the Russell let him pitch to Chipper Jones. Jones’ 2-RBI single was the result of the ball falling in the only open spot between Garrett Jones and Ronny Cedeno. The pitch itself was inside and had lots of movement breaking towards Chipper’s knees. Chipper did a good job fighting it off.
  • Jason Jaramillo caught instead of Ryan Doumit. If only there was someway to combine these two we’d have a heck of a catcher. Dewey’s bat was missed but it was nice seeing strong, on target throws to second and no passed balls.

The Pirate’s loss on Sunday meant being swept by the Braves so I’m probably happier having not gone to all three games.

The week ahead: Pittsburgh’s AAA affiliate the Indianapolis Indians are playing in nearby Gwinnett this week. Early plans have me going to games on Wednesday and Thursday. I’m looking forward to adding first hand glimpses of Pedro Alvarez, Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata to the accounts above. As always you can follow me on Twitter for in game comments and the occasional picture.

Also, Georgia Tech was awarded the #8 national seed in the NCAA baseball tournament. They’ll be hosting regional games this weekend, starting Friday night at 7pm vs. Mercer. The winner will face the winner of Alabama and Elon. I plan on hitting a game on either Saturday or Sunday and, again, will post pictures and comments to twitter.

Notes from Last Night

The Pirates got their eighth 1-run win last night, scratching out just enough runs against one of the best pitchers around, Roy Halladay. Most of the credit should go to Zach Duke, Evan Meek, Joel Hanrahan and Octavio Dotel who held the Phillies to one run.

Unfortunately I missed this game, instead going to see Ironman 2. My short review from twitter: Fun popcorn movie. Turn off your brain, ignore the plot holes and enjoy the ride.

Elsewhere:

In Atlanta, Bobby Cox was ejected from a game for the 155th time, extending his own all-time major league record. I hope he ends up with exactly 162, which would mean that for his 29 seasons managing he was essentially tossed out for an entire year. Alas, his current rate of 155/4385 means he’s only likely to be thrown out 4-5 more times. Time to pick up the pace Bobby!

From the always over-hyped NYY/BOS series: Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera blew the lead, Jonathan Papelbon came back from a terrible outing the day before to record a shaky save. I only care about this because I need Papelbon to rebuild some value in my AL only league.

Milwaukee: You got one good year out of Trevor Hoffman. Be happy with that.

Florida: Much has been written already about Hanley Ramirez’s lollygagging and subsequent benching. My favorite take come from Craig Calcaterra: “I have never won the “you can’t come out of your room until you apologize” game with my son. It’s way easier to be bad than it is to be good. I wish that weren’t true, but it is.”

I’ve always hoped in the back of my head that the Blue Jays’ third baseman would start a rally of people trying to effect change by staying in their automobiles for an extended period of time. This movement would of course be called the Edwin In-Car-Nation.

Programming note: I’m headed out to the Grand Canyon tomorrow for a long weekend. I don’t expect to post any new blogs while I’m gone, but I may post some pictures to twitter. You should be able to catch those on the left sidebar, or you can just follow me.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 285 other followers