Thursday Trade Tree – Jason Kendall

The number 18 has a history of being worn by some pretty good Pirates; from Bill Virdon and Matty Alou through Andy Van Slyke and Neil Walker. In 1996 it was donned by an exciting young catcher who would make three All-Star teams and was one of the best players in the league from 1998 to 2000 (OPS+ of 131, 136 and 124): Jason Kendall.

Young Jason Kendall was a lot of fun to watch until a thumb injury in 2001 sapped him of his power and he began his descent to the slap hitter we’ve known for the last decade. The trade to Oakland came just before he fell completely off of the table as a hitter, so good timing there. Unfortunately they didn’t get much in return, as was the norm at the time.

*I tried to find out what happened in the Bayliss trade at the end there but team officials were unable to find or confirm any information on who the PTBNL turned out to be or if the transaction was settled with cash. Neal Huntington should call Alex Anthopoulos and demand a player.

Exhausted (Jerry Meals redux)

Its been a long *two* nights now. I was only able to stay till the bottom of the 16th inning but I was home in time to see the ending. I’m actually glad my Dad and I had already left because he might have had a coronary over that call if we had seen it live. Kudos to the bullpen, especially Jason Grilli and Daniel McCutchen, for pitching 13 innings of scoreless relief. The offense missed so many chances to score, but McKenry, Walker and Paul did their part early.

A lot has already been written about this and I’m sure there will be more to come, so here are some links to the best stuff.

Video of the ending from MLB.com, and from Sports Grid.

Rob Neyer stretches his imagination and says the ump MIGHT be right.

Joe Posnanski says Rob Neyer is wrong.

Friend of the blog Larry Granillo imagines an alternate timeline where instant replay was in effect.

Pat Lackey has a quick, stunned take, a long ranting take and a more measured post too.

Via Rumbunter, a Benstonuim video of Jerry Meals calling bad things safe.

Brian McElhinney at Raise the Jolly Roger wasn’t so jolly.

Charlie Wilmoth is incredulous.

Jen Langosch has the inside scoop from the clubhouse, and the Pirates’ official statement.

I’m back at it tonight. I fully expect aliens to land at this point.

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.

Another sweep

Thanks to Vlad Guerrero’s walk-off single last night the Pirates were swept for the eighth time this season. Things looked good early when they went up 4-0 in the first, but as the game continued you could feel it slipping away. I’m out of anger at this point. The team is 25-47. They’ve won seven series and lost fifteen (with two pushes). After winning the season opening three-game home stand against the Dodgers they’ve lost or pushed the next five. The only winning road trip was a 3-2 set against Chicago and Philly. They are 7-2 against the Cubs, 2-1 vs. the Indians and 16-44 against everyone else. Is there any hope to find anywhere?

Season: Record: 25-47, Expected record: 20-52 (+5 games), Runs/game: 3.32
Opening Day to May 24: Record: 19-26, Expected: 12-33 (+7), Runs/game: 3.42
Since Walker recalled (May 25): Record: 6-21, Expected: 8-19 (-2), Runs/game: 3.15
Since Tabata recalled (Jun 9): Record: 2-12, Expected: 4-10(-2), Runs/game: 3.57
Since Alvarez recalled (Jun 16): Record: 2-6, Expected: 2-6 (even), Runs/game: 3.88

Call it amazing but the team scored more runs per game with Iwamura in the lineup than they have since Walker started playing every day. The offense has improved since Tabata and Pedro arrived, but the sample sizes are pretty small and even then not up to league average (4.42). Maybe I’ll revisit this in a month and see what’s changed.

In the mean time I’ll be cheering for the USA as they take on the hated Ghana-reans tomorrow. USA! USA! USA!

Pedro Alvarez news and lineup chaos.

Big news from last night’s post-game show with Rocco DeMaro: GM Neal Huntington confirmed that when Pedro Alvarez is called up he will play third base and Andy LaRoche will go to a bench/utility role. This is not entirely surprising as NH has always said that he didn’t want to devalue Pedro by moving him to another position unless he had to but this is the first confirmation I’ve heard or read.

I fully expect Alvarez to be recalled for the next home stand starting Tuesday.  The everyday lineup should then look like this:

Behold my awesome MS paint skills

Not too bad. One more power hitter at 1B/RF and it would look a lot better. Now given that lineup potential, why would John Russell do this tonight:

McCutchen CF
Walker 3B
Doumit 1B
Jones RF
Church DH
Milledge LF
Iwamura 2B
Cedeno SS
Jaramillo C

No Tabata? Church DHing? Doumit NOT DHing? Iwamura playing? Let’s tackle these individually.

Jose Tabata is a 21 and has been in the bigs for three days. Word from the Pirates (via Rocco) is that Tabata is just getting a day off. He’s played two games! More truthful would be saying “Justin Verlander is starting and we don’t think Jose’s ready to face someone that nasty.”

Ryan Church doesn’t need to be in the game at DH. He had one week last month where he was the only one who was hitting and now JR is in love with him. My guess is that he’s still regaining his strength after a nasty stomach flu and this is JR’s way to get his bat in there while taking it easy on him. But there’s no excuse for that when…

…You have your good bat/no glove catcher playing out of position at first base. If Doumit’s not going to catch he should be DHing. Barring that, Delwyn Young – who is as mobile as a road cone – who be a better choice at DH.

Finally there is Iwamura. I posted about his struggles last month and nothing improved after that. Luckily Walker was promoted and has hit well and been very athletic at second. I expect Aki is in because he’s more familiar with Verlander. Also, Andy LaRoche’s back has been a problem and he hasn’t hit at all lately either.

That’s the end of my lineup rant. If you’re still with me then thanks for reading. For all I know these guys could go hit six homeruns tonight and run away with the game. It isn’t likely but anything is possible in a single game.

The rookies are coming

There was much hype around Stephen Strasburg’s debut last night and he pretty well lived up to it. Of much more interest to me as a Pirates fan are tonight’s debuts of Brad Lincoln and Jose “I’ll break your finger” Tabata. With Tabata in the lineup and the promotion and success of Neil Walker at second I feel that the Pirates are that much closer to fielding a big league caliber lineup every day.

Here’s my stab at what I expect tonight’s lineup to be:

LF Jose Tabata
2B Neil Walker
CF Andrew McCutchen
1B Garrett Jones
RF Lastings Milledge
3B Andy LaRoche
C Jason Jaramillo
SS Ronny Cedeno
P Brad Lincoln

No too shabby. When Ryan Doumit is recovered from his concussion he should slot in at #5 moving down Milledge and LaRoche. Some more shuffling will have to happen when Steve Pearce is activated from the DL, but the real fun will start when Pedro Alvarez is called up. Expect major position changes or a trade then.

LINKS: In the meantime, there are tons of articles around the web today that sum up all of the possibilities better than I could.

Bucs Dugout

Bucco Fans

Raise the Jolly Roger

WHYGAVS

North Side Notch

Rocco DeMarro’s Unnamed Blog

Pirates.MLB.com

Baseball Prospectus (may require subscription)

Post-Gazette

Trib Bucco Blog

Hardball Talk

Rotographs

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.

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