Series Preview: The Mets

Current record: 19-22, 3rd place in NL Central, 3.0 games back

Up Next: New York Mets, 22-19, 4th place in NL East, 5.5 games back

Season Series: 0-0, First time playing.

Notes: The Mets come to the ‘Burgh for the only time this season. New York features a decent offense and below average pitching staff. If the Pirates can get to the Mets’ bullpen early they stand a good chance to win some games.

Familiar Faces: Ronny Cedeno, Jason Bay (DL), Miguel Batista (DL).

Probable Pitchers
Monday: LH Johan Santana (1-2, 43.2 IP, 46 K, 2.89 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)
vs. LH Erik Bedard (2-5, 41.0 IP, 44 K, 3.07 ERA, 1.34 WHIP)

Santana has been very effective this year, but has not been able to go deep into games. Bedard’s numbers have been slowly creeping up after his stellar start.

Tuesday: RH R.A. Dickey (5-1, 50.1 IP, 40 K, 3.75 ERA, 1.23 WHIP)
vs. RH James McDonald (3-2, 50.1 IP, 50 K, 2.68 ERA, 1.01 WHIP)

Hopefully the knuckler won’t be knuckling, or the Pirates’ free-swing ways could doom them here. J-Mac took a no-no into the sixth inning in his last start.

Wednesday: LH Jon Niese (2-2, 42.2 IP, 39 K, 4.85 ERA, 1.38 WHIP)
vs. RH Charlie Morton (2-4, 39.1 IP, 24 K, 4.35 ERA, 1.47 WHIP)

I have nothing to say about Jon Niese. Totally non-descript pitcher. I guess he’s lefthanded though. That’s something.

No lineups yet.

Updated Trade Tree – Jack Wilson

Back in December Arizona selected Brett Lorin from the Pirates in the Rule 5 draft. Lorin wasn’t going to make the team, so on Saturday the Pirates worked out a deal with the Diamondbacks, sending them the rights to Brett Lorin in exchange for minor leaguer Robby Rowland. This gives me reason to revisit a trade tree for the first time since I started doing them. So, without further ado, here is your updated Jack Wilson Trade Tree.

Here’s the original Jack Wilson Trade Tree, if you’re interested in that.

Thursday Trade Tree – Jack Wilson

He didn’t hit much, but boy could he pick it. Jack Wilson, fan favorite.

There was angst about it when it happened but it was time for Jack to go. He had been banged up the year before and hasn’t played a full season since. The return was pretty good, four prospects plus Ronny Cedeno. I know Cedeno has a lot of detractors and rightfully so. I’ve been one of them. But there is a real lack of quality shortstops around the majors right now. Getting rid of Ian Snell was a bonus here.

Now if only they could have pulled the trigger on the rumored Wilson for Jair Jurrjens swap the year before…

New Friends

James McDonald had an impressive Pirates debut last night: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, and 8 K’s/ Exactly the sort of thing Neal Huntington had in mind when he acquired him. Garret Jones and Ronny Cedeno hit homeruns and Chris Resop pitched a scoreless ninth in his Pirates debut. Pirates won 5-1.

And I didn’t see a pitch of it.

The 2010 SABR convention is in town and I was out at dinner with Larry from Wezen-ball and his fantastic girlfriend. Larry presented earlier in the day about Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang’s lifetime baseball stats. Its worth a watch if you’ve ever read the comic.

I’m looking forward to seeing them again tonight at the Braves/Giants game along with whoever else is around from SABR. If you’re in town come on out and say hi!

Wanted: Major League SS

Garrett Jones at 1B. Neil Walker at 2B. Pedro Alvarez at 3B. Jose Tabata in LF. Andrew McCutchen in CF. Lastings Milledge in RF. Ryan Doumit at C (We can discuss his lack of defense another time). That’s a pretty good lineup, or at least has the potential to be one if the young players mature as expected. What? I left something out? Oh yeah, a shortstop.

Shortstop is a big problem for the Pirates. Ronny Cedeno and Bobby Crosby have been inconsistent and below average. The front office knew this was a problem and tried to trade for J.J. Hardy in the off season, offering Matt Capps. Milwaukee opted for Carlos Gomez from the Twins instead. The closest options in the minors are not much better:

AAA: Argenis Diaz. Acquired from Boston in the Adam LaRoche trade. Stereotypical good glove/no bat type. Currently has an OPS of .600 after posting a .583 combined at Portland and Indianapolis last year.

Brian Bixler. Was called up in 2008 and 2009 with disastrous results. Was traded to Cleveland in the offseason for a low minors catcher. Recently reacquired for a PTBNL.

Brian Friday. Third round draft pick on 2007. 24 years old, decent prospect, hit well at Rice. Needs more seasoning though.

AA: Chase d’Arnaud. Fourth round pick in 2008. Currently OPSing .682 after going for an .852 clip last year at A and high-A combined. Best shortstop prospect in the system (#5 overall according to Buccofans.com) but obviously still needs some time.

With the internal options limited or unappealing, it time to look to other organizations for players who might be plundered. MLBTradeRumors.com recently posted a list of shortstops who could be available at the trade deadline. Alex Gonzalez and Yunel Escobar were traded for each other yesterday. Escobar projects as the kind of buy-low the Pirates should be in the market for, but I think the last thing they need is another head case player. (Jonah Keri just wrote a good article on perceived lazy players/head cases/etc. and their value.)

Here are the top outside options I see:

Stephen Drew – Hitting about league average this year which is good for a shortstop. Arizona is known to be in dealing mode but the Pirates probably don’t want to give up the prospects it would take to get him. Detroit is said to be interested.

Ryan Theriot – Having a down year and the Cubs are looking to rebuild. The Riot doesn’t have any power to speak of but can play second or short and will steal 20 bags while getting on base at a .350 rate.

Erick Aybar/Maicer Izturis – Not known to be available (Izturis is currently on the DL) but they seem like redundant pieces to me. The contending Angels are unlike to trade either of them now but I think one of them could be pried away in the offseason.

Getting one of these four players (and a cather who can , you know, catch) would greatly improve the Pirates fortunes for 2011. Did I leave anyone out? Know any other shortstops that would be a fit? Am I an idiot? Tell me in the comments below or on twitter.

Pedropalooza!

Pedro hits vs Zach Duke at Pirate City

The day has finally arrived – Pedro Alvarez has been called up to the Pirates. He’ll start at third base as I detailed in my previous post. I expect him to hit 5th between Jones and Doumit, but it wouldn’t surprise me for Russell to put him lower in the lineup as JR like to “ease guys in.”  (Note to JR: Not everyone needs to be eased in. Some guys will do better it you just throw them in the deep end and see if they can swim.) No word yet on who’ll be sent out to make room on the roster but the candidates include every player on the bench.

OTHER BITS: Lastings Milledge is getting squeezed for playing time since Jose Tabata was recalled last week. Not that I mind this, but its Ryan Church that he’s getting squeezed for and neither of them have been hitting lately. I can’t wait for Steve Pearce to get healthy and start playing first again so Garrett Jones can slide back to RF.

Tim at BUCCO FANS has a great redux on last year’s trade with Seattle. Well worth the read. I mentioned last week on Twitter that it is amazing how Ronny Cedeno is the best player to come out of this deal. If any of the three pitchers the Pirates received reaches the majors then it will be an even better trade.

But we can worry about all of that another day. Happy #Pedropalooza everyone!

UPDATE: To make room on the roster for Pedro, Akinori Iwamura was Designated for Assignment. The club has said they hope to trade him in the next 10 days. Good luck with that.

Pedro is batting 6th and playing 3rd base.

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.

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