Morton, McDonald, ‘Pen Look Sharp. Bowker DFA’ed.

Charlie Morton looked great Tuesday night and deserved the win, but it didn’t go that way.

Evan Meek laid some spotty work, still battling an illness. Some errant throws from Joel Hanrahan and Lyle Overbay cost us the run that did us in, though I doubt Overbay could have nailed the speedy Darren Ford as he flew into home, but I digress.

Chris Resop
and the rest of the ‘pen are looking fantastic as our projected weakness is proving to be a strength lately.

James McDonald looked sharp getting the win Wednesday night after hurling 6 scoreless. Good to see.

Brandon Wood looks to be transitioning well here, and Ronny Cedeno’s lack of hustle isn’t helping his own cause at all. Wood has a great shot at becoming our man at short.

The big story however is the acquisition of Xavier Paul, a speedy, light hitting, outfielder from the Dodgers organization.

With this pick up many figured Huntington would option Steve Pearce to AAA Indy since he still has an option left but that doesn’t appear to be the case as of Wednesday night according to Colin Dunlap of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Dunlap tweeted and later posted an article stating that John Bowker was alerted he is being designated for assignment. Bowker told management he wishes to seek an oppurtunity elsewhere even if he passes through the waiver wire.

Many fans are questioning this move as Bowker has more experience and hits for more power, but we have way too many bats like this in the organization. Bowker, Jeff Clement, Andrew Lambo, Garrett Jones just naming a few, the latter two being more established and starting material but still similar.

When the stats are compared Paul projects to have some more potential moving forward and presents Clint Hurdle a chance to sit Andrew McCutchen without moving Jose Tabata over to centerfield as Paul can play all three outfield positions with ease and pretty solid defense. Paul also adds some speed off the bench.

In comparison the stats speak for themselves. Paul and Bowker project to be very similar, if not the same at the Major League level with Paul being younger, striking out more, and stealing more bags.

As for keeping Pearce? The guy has more heart than anyone on the team. He plays hard, can field multiple positions, and hasn’t given management a reason to doubt him yet this season. Plus his overall stats are significantly better than both Paul and Bowker.

Have a look for yourself:

Career Statistics

Player Name

Stat Type Bavg  Obp Slg  OPS G AB R H 2B  3B  HR  RBI  SB  CS  BB  SO
John Bowker

 MLB .237 .288 .393 681 209 544 54 129 24 5 17 71 2 2 37 125
Xavier Paul

 MLB .230 .281 .333 614 55 135 19 31 9 1 1 12 3 2 10 28
 
John Bowker

Minor .303 .370 .501 871  618  2369  384  717  154 24 89 388 27 25  239  491
Xavier Paul

Minor .290 .359 .448 807 723 2696 438 783 158 28 70 381 93 52 279 651
Steve Pearce

Minor .292 .367 .519 886 554 2042 336 597 166 10 92 394 44 27 222 359
 
John Bowker

College .323 .372 .514 886 113 381 58 123 21 5 14 74 4 3 30 76
Steve Pearce

College .348 .423 .674 1097 127 491 110 171 34 0 42 133 6 2 53 64

Putting the Fan in Fanatic

I’ve been really caught up with school and work for the past few months, and the holidays were an especially hectic time, so this is my first blog post in a very long time. I figured that the news in baseball is pretty old at this point, and this time of Spring Training is very slow so I’d come back and get reacquainted with a different sort of post. I hope you enjoy, or at the very least I make you think.

Left Field Loonies and the Dog Pound. White outs, black outs, red outs, and everything else. This is the life of a fan. I could go on for days about the ridiculous stuff I’ve done for my team, and I’m sure any fan could. The question is: where do we draw the line? When are we being too much of a fan?

                I can tell you, truthfully and honestly, that the video of Sid Bream sliding into home makes me cringe and curse. I wasn’t even coherent at the time, and was still in diapers. That goes to show you how big of a fan I am. I’ve laughed, cried, screamed, and jested with the best of them. I’ve toasted beers to my team, and spat in anger at the thought of our rivals. Hell, even 80% of my wardrobe is black and gold and/or Pirates related. Am I too much of a fan? Is this healthy? I don’t see an issue with it. I’m not hurting anyone, though I’m sure some jilted ex girlfriends would tell you differently.

                I recently had a conversation about hockey with a fan of a team that rivals the Penguins. I won’t say which team, because I refuse to lump this ignoramus with any professional organization for fear of dirtying their name, but this particular fan was ranting on and on about Sidney Crosby’s injury and how it was a beautiful thing. For those unaware, Sid has been out for quite a few weeks now with a hefty concussion. So let me get this straight. A brain injury is a good thing? Absolute ignorance.

 

 
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Sid’s concussion troubles began after a harsh hit in the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.

 

               Now, don’t get me wrong. Last baseball season when Andrew McCutchen took a fastball to the neck, I cheered heartily when Paul Maholm hit the opposing pitcher in his next at-bat. Mind you Maholm can control where he’s throwing and how hard, and Mike Leake -who I believe was pitching for the Reds that day–took one in the meat of the thigh at about 70 mph. Kid stuff. But, when we’re talking injury, brain injury, and you cheer for that, you’re just disrespecting your sport.

                ESPN just put together a very good segment on brain injury and concussion and it’s after effect in pro football players. Very good stuff, unfortunately I can’t find it online. Anyway, the expert analysts on the show displayed that many brain injuries, especially when recurring, lead to depression and higher risk of suicide in retired athletes. So you tell me that’s a good thing? Educate yourself.

                How many times in sports do we see an athlete get a concussion and never come back the same? How many catchers in baseball have taken one too many foul tips to the mask and never performed the same? In fact, the Pirates may be seeing the effects of this right now with catcher/outfielder Ryan Doumit.  

                Doumit, projected to be the Pirates’ Brian McCann as he came up through the system, was a .300 hitter in his major league debut. The rookie showed high upside and ample promise, as the Pirates made hi m their every day catcher and sought to place him as a much needed middle of the lineup bat. Doumit, however, has suffered a string of freak injuries since then. From broken wrists to concussion like symptoms, Doumit has be on the DL his fair share of times in his not so lengthy career, suffering multiple concussions over the past two seasons.

                Doumit now barely scratches a .260 average, and only drove 13 home runs out of the yard last season, as he lost his starting position due to shaky defense, and is looking to re-establish himself as a major leaguer on a team that isn’t quiet about trying to trade him away.

                Doumit’s troubles may, or may not be the result of concussions, but the catcher told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette last month that he’s had at least 10 “small concussions” from baseball since he was 18-years-old. That’s not a few, that’s 10. I’m no doctor, but you can be the judge.

 

Doumit.jpg

Doumit has suffered a plethora of injuries in his career, concussions being the most prominent.

                Now, celebrating injuries isn’t the only way being a fan goes too far, how about the brawls, the drunken arguments, and the trash talking? The bar fights and tailgate tiffs. All of it is unacceptable once it reaches a certain point.

                Last summer a Phillies fan was killed outside of Citizens Bank Park following an argument after a game. That story can be found here: http://www.myfoxphilly.com/dpp/news/local_news/Phillies_Fan_Beaten_To_Death

                But that’s just Philly right? Wrong. Things that this happen everywhere. “Even here in Pittsburgh?” You might ask. Yes, even here in Pittsburgh. After suffering a loss in the playoffs, a local Pens fan murdered his wife and torched their house following a dispute related to the game. You can find that story here:  http://network.nationalpost.com/NP/blogs/postedsports/archive/2010/04/23/police-say-man-killed-wife-over-dispute-about-penguins-triple-overtime-game.aspx

                These things occur every day, everywhere, and every type of event. So the next time you pick a fight with that rival fan next to you, or those drunks behind you, ask yourself if it’s really worth it. There’s a big difference between being passionate, and being reckless.

Over the Hurdle – Pirates Hire New Manager

It’s been over a week since I posted anything new on here, I’ve been going crazy with work and school and what-not lately. Quite a few things have happened in the Pirates community, most importantly the hiring of a new manager, so let’s get right to it:

The Pirates made the announcement Monday morning that they had officially hired former Rockies skipper and Rangers hitting coach, Clint Hurdle.

Hurdle was immediately very vocal about his thoughts on the Pirates management, history, and most importantly players.

Management apparently did a phenomenal job with selling Hurdle on the team. Hurdle said that he was very pleased with how Neal and company “defended their brand,” and that he, as well as the big guys in the front office are “all in,”

Hurdle stated that he was gravitated to Danny Murtaugh, Chuck Tanner, and other former players in Bucco management when he was a young man. Hurdle said that Pittsburgh was the right place for him and it “felt right in his heart,”

Hurdle told media members that he plans to have face-to-face meeting with players in the upcoming weeks to get a better feel for the team.

Hurdle was confronted by a fan in his online chat via Pirates.com.

The fan asked the newly appointed manager:

What’s more important to you, Mr. Hurdle — the number of 2010 Pirates’ wins or developing young players?”

Hurdle responded in a way that was blunt, and unlike anything we’ve seen here in Pittsburgh from any management official.

“Sounds like a trap question to me, but here it goes … I just looked at the record again from last year. More wins required.”

Personally I like Hurdle, he’s my kind of guy. Hurdle’s blunt, to the point, and doesn’t like excuses.

He told media outlets that the youth excuse will not be tolerated that “There comes a point in time where you have to look a guy in the eyes and let him know it’s time.”

As for his history, Hurdle seems to be an offense oriented coach which is understandable coming from being the manager of a primarily slugging team and being a hitting coach.

He likes small-ball, and his Rockies led the league in sacrifice bunts at one time, which is okay unless it gets too out of hand.

Hurdle also isn’t the kind of guy who overworks pitchers as he rarely let any of his starters extend beyond 100 pitches in his time as manager for the Rockies.

I can’t wait to see this guy take the helm. He has my endorsement until he gives me reason to revoke it. Here’s to a good season, best wishes Clint.

 

Hot Stove – Beltre a Bucco?

The burners of the hot stove have only been lit for 48 hours now, but they’re already cooking up some juicy food for thought.

 

While the Pirates probably won’t be big players for high-end free agents, even coming out and saying they won’t even think about taking a look at Cliff Lee, it feels like Christmas to Bucco fans when they hear that the Pirates are going after more than your obligatory utility-man or underrated reliever/emergency starter in free agency.

Early this week Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated tweeted that the Pirates are being surprisingly aggressive in the free agent market, he later tweeted that they’re allegedly showing interest in Adrian Beltre.

Beltre is one of the most sought after players this offseason and will most certainly demand some big time cash, but management has stated they have the ability to spend this year.

Beltre put up a ridiculous .321/.365/.553 in 2010. He’s known to be a consistent player with a fantastic glove. He’d truly be an upgrade to both the offense and the defense.

Beltre can be a bit sporadic with his offensive numbers however and he’s had a few seasons with under 20 HR’s but also had plenty where he made a push 30.

Also with such news you must look at it with sound reason. Can the Pirates really afford Beltre? If they can indeed, would he even be interested in signing here.

Neal and his team would have a lot of selling to do. Beltre has been very candid in stating that his decision to hit free agency and decline another guaranteed stint with Boston weighed heavily on the opportunity to win, and family concerns. For those of you unaware, Beltre’s family resides on the west coast.

Often times though, rumors are just rumors. I know it’s fun to entertain the idea of a lineup featuring McCutchen, Tabata, Alvarez, and Walker (if he returns to his 2010 form) but is it realistic? My vote is no, it is not, unfortunately.

Some speculate that the management team of the Pirates is being pressured by league commissioner, Bud Selig, to spend but I feel that’s just another rumor. Selig has shown much approval in the Pirates organization’s “draft hard” mentality and has been open in saying he is pleased with the organization investing more in the draft than any other team.

The call to Beltre could be no more than just a call, a price check of sorts, but it is an encouraging sign to Pirates fans. Neal Huntington isn’t just standing by this time around; he knows what is needed to improve the club and is doing everything within his means to do so. Let’s hope he keeps the mentality going, especially in terms of pitching.

Here’s to diminishing the generation’s worth of losing for the Pirates.

 

 

adrian_beltre.jpg

Will Beltre be a key puzzle piece in the Pirates organization or is NH just playing phone-tag? Only time will tell.

2011 Coaching Staff – Thoughts, Concerns, and Changes

It’s freezing outside, work restricts me from leaving my current confinements, and I’m currently in that stage between being tired and going stir crazy. Long story short, all I can think about is baseball.

 

I just finished watching “2010 Pittsburgh Pirates: Light at the End of the Tunnel” On FSN. It was a pretty decent watch, but all it did was make me want more baseball. 

 

Enough boo-hooing, let’s get into this:

 

You know it, I know it, your grandmother knows it…2010 was a flat out let down for Pirates fans. Neal Huntington, Bob Nutting, and Frank Coonley got us all riled up and ready to watch the Pirates compete with all their talks of contention and a youth movement, and stocking up on talent for the future last winter and needless to say, we all got a big, 105 loss  lump of coal in our stocking.

 

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not your A-typical fan who is all hot and bothered and ready to burn them at the stake for the past three years. I didn’t really think they’d compete…did you? I didn’t expect to see one of the worst teams in Pirates history either though.

 

I think the management team has the right idea here, they refuse to spend wastefully in the free agent market and put faith and encouragement into their young players which is something special. Hitting the field knowing that your superiors believe in you brings a whole new level to your game. Unfortunately that’s not all you need in Major League Baseball.

 

John Russell is out, our starting rotation was a revolving door of 5+ ERA’s, our hitters swung at anything, and our defense couldn’t catch a cold, let alone a baseball, half the time. These are all things you know. I won’t bore you with specifics. Yet somehow there are still believers out there, still fans making their way to the North Shore to see their Buccos. There has to be something on the horizon, right? I believe there is. No one’s organizing walk outs, which would fail miserably anyway. (I mean really, if you pay $9 or more for seats, $10 for parking, and $20 on food you aren’t going to leave. That would be a poor investment. Stick it out, maybe you’ll catch a foul ball or witness a huge comeback. Who knows?)

 

John Russell.jpg

John Russell signed on with the Pirates before the 2008 season. He posted a 186-299 record in three seasons as manager. He was promptly relieved of his duties after the end of the 2010 season.

 

From any angle, 2011 already looks like a better year for the Pirates. Most of the talent is here, and if it isn’t here chances are you’ll see this coming season. Here are my thoughts on next season’s coaching staff: 

 

Manager – Clint Hurdle

 

Hurdle is expected to take the manage job. He’s done a pretty good job in his day as a hitting coach but was a pretty mediocre manager in Colorado. (He had a track record of 534-625 in 8 years with the Rockies. Still better than anything JR had.) He wouldn’t be the worst guy to get the job. Half of Pittsburgh is jaded because Tony Pena or Phil Garner, or Andy Van Slyke weren’t considered for the job, but last time I checked half of Pittsburgh doesn’t run a major league team. Besides, these are probably the same people who criticized the old management as “homers” when they drafted Neil Walker in ’04. Now Neil is in consideration for Rookie of the Year. I think they got over it. 

 

Hurdle may make the team hit better, which is great. He’s considered by many to be loyal to the front office, which some people criticize but that’s neither here nor there at this point. I like to focus on the positives. He’s been around baseball his entire life and worked with the Rangers who are somewhat similar team. He’s been known to be passionate and outspoken with his team and will more than likely drive this team to do better. We’ll just have to wait and see.

 

Clint Hurdle.jpg

Hurdle was manager of the Colorado Rockies from 2002 until 2009. He was replaced by former Pirates manager, Jim Tracy. 

 

Bench Coach – Jeff Banister

 

Banister’s been with the organization since he was a player and he knows these guys really well. Banister’s a good guy who’s had his share of rough times and only lasted in the big leagues for one at-bat. He got a hit and you got to love a guy who’s hitting 1.000. Banister is also considered to be second in the running for the manager position. He’s young enough, passionate enough, and has the desire to win as much as anyone in the Pirates organization. I’m almost certain that he’ll stay on the bench coach if Hurdle gets the job as manager.

 


Banister.jpg

Jeff Banister (above left) has been with the Pirates organization for over 25 years, first as a player and later as a coach. Though he only had one at-bat at the Major League level, Banister has the experience to make a great coach.

 

 

Pitching Coach – Ray Searage

 

They’re crazy if they don’t. Plain and simple. Searage made progress with Charlie Morton who was just outright disastrous this season. The man is clearly a miracle worker and put in visible work with his staff. The rotation got better in Ray’s short time with them and he knows many of the pitchers from their time in AAA Indy. They should at least give him a shot at it. Some pitchers openly said that Joe Kerrigan tried to change their mechanics. Brad Lincoln seemed to suffer the most from it. Searage didn’t do too shabby at ironing out kinks that were allegedly left by Kerrigan, hence the reason he’s my pick for Pitching Coach.

Ray Searage.jpg

Ray Searage replaced Joe Kerrigan as interim pitching coach for the big league club in Septemeber. 

 

Hitting Coach – ???

 

This job is pretty much up for grabs. Whoever lands the manager job will probably get the say here, which will be interesting. Hurdle will probably pick somebody relatively good as he was a hitting coach himself and didn’t do too shabby. Banister would probably stick with Don Long, which may be a mistake. I like Don, he seems like a great guy, but he just isn’t getting the job done.

 

Third Base Coach – Anyone but Beasley

 

Remember when Andy LaRoche got caught up going  after being told to round the bag and ended up getting himself and McCutchen out? Yeah, me too.

Beasley.jpg 

Both Andy LaRoche and Andrew McCutchen would be tagged out at third due to a slew of baserunning errors, partially on Tony Beasley’s behalf.

 

First Base Coach/Infield Instructor – ???

This position on the coaching staff is much like the hittign coach as it’s up for grabs. Unfortunately the Pirates have no shot at ever landing Perry Hill again as they would not let him negotiate with other teams after leaving Pittsbugh still under contract. Carlos Garcia hasn’t done very well here but would probably remain with Banister at the helm. Hurdle may try to mix things up a bit, but whoever he found would have to be a miracle worker with how woeful the defense was in 2010, especially in the infield.

 

ERROR.jpg

The Pirates ranked in the bottom of the MLB for defense in 2010 after being number one in 2009. This team is in strong need of guidence for the future as the youthful core of the team shows promise, but needs polish.

 

That’s about it in this department. I don’t feel the need to examine bullpen coaches because I don’t think they have much impact on the game and the Pirates have a pretty successful outfield without the aid of an outfield instructor.

 

On-Deck: Coming Up Short – The Pirates Lack Impact An Shortstop in System

2011 25 Man Roster – Platoons and Puzzle Pieces

I felt like I was stuck in a time-warp as I had been writing this and researching for a solid two hours, but the clock barely turned. Then a friend of mine pointed out that it is indeed the night we turn the clocks back.

I was relieved to find out I wasn’t going insane, but also reliving 2010 Pirates stats is enough to drive any person mad.

So in some zany, time warp fashion, this entry will fall before the coaching staff entry, which it shouldn’t have.

I’m probably the only once who cares about this though, so let’s move along and dive right into this:

 

25-Man Roster:

 

Non-Tender Candidates – Zach Duke, Andy LaRoche, Delwyn Young, Jeff Karstens.

 

Zach’s gone. There’s no two ways about that. He just isn’t performing and is past his prime, which is a real shame considering the Brewers were willing to part with JJ Hardy for him around this time last year.

 

Andy’s here to stay. Expect to see him getting work all around the infield. If he can play a good enough shortstop he can provide some flexibility off the bench, plus keeping him around avoids having another potential Jose Baustista situation and nobody wants another one of those.

 

Delwyn will not be non-tendered. Anyone who says he will is out of their mind, he’s just way too valuable as a hitter. He’s a solid hitter off the bench and would have a lot of trade value with an AL team looking for a DH. His glove work is below average but he can play the corner outfield positions and some second base. Don’t ever think about third base…that was horrendous. If Del-Y’s leaving it’s through trade, his talent won’t be wasted.

 

Jeff seems to be a candidate for being non-tendered but he remains a solid 6th starter and long relief guy. The issue there is that guys like him grow on trees. He could be some nice icing on the cake in a trade deal. I don’t really expect him to go.

 

duke.jpg

Zach Duke was wildly ineffective in 2010. In the season following his 2009 All-Star campaign, Duke posted an ugly 5.27 ERA.

 

Roster Needs:

 

Starting Pitching – Dave Bush

 

I expect the Pirates to dig up one “diamond in the rough” type pitcher this off-season. I wouldn’t expect anything mind blowing, and I doubt they’ll get a very long contract. We have a ton of talent coming up in the next few seasons in the pitching department. Expect the guy they sign to get a one or two year contract. It will most likely be a guy coming off a bum or mediocre year, that can be signed low but can eat up innings. My pick would be Dave Bush. The Pittsburgh native is serviceable, familiar with NL-Central hitters, and isn’t too old at age 30, Bush is also going into free agency for the first time as reports say that Brewers officials are urging him to test free agency. He seems to be the Pirates type of guy.

 

First Base – Steve Pearce/Garrett Jones or John Bowker

 

Almost everybody expects Huntington to go out and look for a solid right handed first baseman with some pop in his bat.Why go outside the organization when it’s going to be there in spring training? Steve Pearce has been cheated out of a good look as a first baseman, first being blocked by Adam LaRoche and later having season ending surgery after demolishing Triple A pitching and getting a call up. He’ll most definitely platoon with either Jones or Bowker. Personally I think Jones plays some much better defense in right field.

 

Right Field – Lastings Milledge/Garrett Jones or John Bowker

 

Milledge was ridiculous this past season with runners in scoring position, and hit pretty well despite a major power outage. I’d expect to see him split time with either Jones or Bowker. I made my case for Jones here. With the Jones/Milledge/Bowker/Pearce combo out there night after night I’d assume you could count on a solid 25 homers from each position. That would be a great improvement over this past year. The downside in right field is that Milledge takes some pretty interesting routes to the ball, makes a lot of unnecessary diving catches because of it. Hey, it looks nice though.

 

bush-799007.jpg

Bush has a career 4.68 ERA and is coming off a mediocre season, going 8-13 with a 4.54 ERA in 2010 with 107 strikeouts.

 

Now onto the good stuff, finally!

 

Pitching Rotation:

 

1. James McDonald – This guys our staff ace currently. He’s got some powerful stuff and can use it.

 

2. Paul Maholm – Paul’s reliable, for the most part at least. We know what we’re going to get out of him. He’ll probably be trade bait at the deadline though as long as the boys from AA Altoona perform well in AAA and have successful call up stints.

 

3. Ross Ohlendorf – This guy’s an absolute workhorse and was unfortunately sidelined a great deal due to injuries and when he wasn’t had more than sub par defense behind him. The only reason he’s #3 and not #2 is because most managers like to split up their lefties and righties at the top of the rotation.

 

4. Free Agent Pitcher/Brian Burres/Brad Lincoln – This spot will be a toss up going into Spring Training unless NH finds a solid starter to fill the void. Burres showed some real poise as a starter at the end of the season and put the thought into our heads that he could go out and do it every five days. Lincoln’s a guy who claims to have suffered from some mechanical changes that Joe Kerrigan had him try out. Let’s hope this former first-round pick fixes his stuff and comes out and deals. He borderline dominated Triple A and with a fastball that hits 96, he’d be a nice face to see in the rotation. If Burres gets the Nod, Lincoln ends up in Triple A. If Lincoln gets the spot in the rotation Burres will end up in long relief.

 

5. Charlie Morton – Morton is an interesting guy. going 0-9 in hist first 9 starts in 2010 after being projected as a potential ace early in his career. He seems to work well with Searage, and has made some major strides. Let’s hope he gets his act together and finally puts in some good work. We all know he has “great stuff” but let’s see it in action this year. If he goes with his fastball and overpowers hitters instead of dancing around the strike zone and trying to finesse guys then I think he’ll be excellent for this young team.

 

Bullpen:

 

Daniel McCutchen -He’s a solid arm with great control. He can also spot start if need be.

Jeff Karstens/Brian Burres – Karstens is much like McCutchen but is out of options. Burres would supply a second lefty out of the ‘pen who can get both sides of the plate out.

Jose Ascanio -As long as Spring Training goes well managment’s going to want to get a good look at this guy, finally.

Wil Ladezma – With a mid 90’s fastball, some decent control, and a recently signed contract, expect this guy to be out lefty specialist.

Chris Resop – This waiver claim put on a show at the end of the season and looks comparable to Evan Meek. He’s a lock.

Joel Hanrahan – He looks to be a solid set up man, and throws straight fire. Lacks control at times though.

Evan Meek – Closer for sure. Do I really need to explain? 2010 All-Star, legitimately.

 

Ledezma.jpg

Ledezma was recently inked to a one year contract for 2011. The left-hander appears to be an integral part of the 2011 bullpen.

 

Lineup:

 

1. Andrew McCutchen CF – Cutch is your a-typical leadoff guy and one of the best young stars in the game.

2. Jose Tabata LF – Solid defense and speed in PNC park’s giant left field. A steady bat with discipline keeps him in the two-hole.

3. Neil Walker 2B – Neil is capable of becoming one of the top second basemen in the game. Some have suggested moving him to third and Alvarez to third, but that would rob Neil of crucial developmental time at second and Anthony Rendon is almost a certain lock for our #1 pick in this years draft. If he keeps hitting he can remain in the three hole and supply a solid 20-25 HR’s

4. Pedro Alvarez 3B – Alavarez is a budding star and has a ton of raw power. He’s your prototypical clean-up man. He should get better at 3B and showed some flashes of brilliance in ’10 at the position, but is inevitably going to move to first in the future.

5. Garret Jones/Steve Pearce RF/1B – These guys could combine for a solid 30+ homers and provide steady bats with some pop, especially in a platoon situation.

6. John Bowker/Lastings Milledge 1B/RF – Bowker destroys righties, Milledge kills lefties. In a platoon they could be solid RBI guys and combine for a good 15-20 home runs. Both could be insane against their opposites pitching wise.

7. Ronny Cedeno SS - This guy is absolutely mind blowing. He has some fierce power and has potential to beat pitchers up. He’s quick, great hands, and has terrific range, but then he’ll blow plays, and bunt with two outs. The man is a true enigma. He has shortstop locked up for the time being. I look for him to hit about .255 with around 10 HR.

8. Chris Snyder C – Snyder’s a great defensive catcher with some pop. He has great plate discipline, but can’t hit for average. He always has a great OPS though. Look for a .235 average with about 15 HR.

 

Bench:

With platoons already factored into the lineup that leaves three bench spots.

 

Ryan Doumit C,RF,1B – Doumit probably won’t be traded but will provide a solid backup catcher with pop and will see time in RF and unfortunately 1B.

 

Andy LaRoche 3B, INF – Andy will stick around and be our utility guy. He’s a great guy, especially in the community and has potential to blow up at any minute. Like I said earlier, if he can get shortstop down he’s got a bench spot locked. The position shouldn’t provide a problem as LaRoche played short in college and was drafted as SS.

 

andy-laroche defense.jpg

Andy LaRoche showcased some impressive defense in 2009, but struggled in 2010. LaRoche also has showed pop in his bat at times. He has been servicable as a backup option and could become a more integral part of the bench if he can return to the shortstop position.

 

Deadline Deals:

One thing Pirates fans can always count on is that there will be movement at the trade deadline.

Garrett Jones/Jeff Clement – Jones had a rather diappointing sophomore campaign in 2010, but if the Pirates can work him enough and build up some value they may be able to move him for a decent return in 2011. Jeff Clement will more than likely start 2011 in the minors so it will give him time to continue to work on his swing and defense in case he is provided an opputunity to step into Jones’ shoes at some point. Clement would be a nice platoon partner for Steve Pearce as well, as Clement hit seven home runs with his time with the Pirates this year, which was roughly about a third of the time Jones had. Mathematically that would put Clement at 21 homeruns, even with Jones’ total in 2010. Clement could also be argued as a trade candidate but Jones would draw more attention due to his impressive 2009 rookie year.

 

Paul Maholm – Maholm has been the most consistent pitcher for the Pirates, as the coaching staff and fans pretty much know what to expect from him every time he steps onto the mound. Maholm has drawn some trade interest from many of teams, especially the Dodgers this past season. If Maholm holds it together he could be a big move at the deadline as by then Rudy Owens or Justin Wilson will be likely to be ready to take his place in the rotation.

 

Various Minor Leaguers – This topic is up for debate. Are the Pirates in the stage where they can start pawning off some of their talented, yet road blocked minor leaguers? I’d say so, especially in the outfield department. The Pirates could easily part with some select players in the near future to bring in a more useful return. Look for Chase d’Arnaud, Jordy Mercer, Gorkys Hernandez, and Starling Marte’s names to come up. d’Arnaud and Mercer are pretty similar middle infield types who could be sued to sweeten a trade. Gorkys appears to be somewhat of a bust, and I would like to see Marte stick around, but with Andrew Lambo potentially on the horizon he may be dealt.

 

Ryan Doumit - His name comes up all the time, unfortunately other teams have seemed to stay way from him as thus far he appears to be damaged goods.

 

In the On-Deck Circle: 2011 Coaching Staff – Thoughts, Concerns, and Changes  

A Lesson in Pirates History

I created this blog to fill the void that was left after the end of the baseball season and to get some practice in my newly found place in the journalism field. In this opening segment I will give a general overview of the baseball in Pittsburgh for those who may not be as familiar as others with it. Hopefully I’ll spark some interest in some new people or at least occupy your time while you could be doing something much more productive. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

 

               Every year on October 31st a portal between the world of the dead and the living and spirits run free amongst us for one evening. This evening is what we celebrate as Halloween. While All Hallows Eve may put a frightening punctuation on the month of October something even scarier than the dead walking happens to baseball fans across the nation. For the end of October brings the heart wrenching end to yet another glorious season in the sun.

                For some, especially Pirates fans, the season ends much earlier for us as post season hopes for Pittsburgh baseball were dashed a generation ago with the hopes that Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla would sign long term contract extensions.

 
 

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Bonds (right) and Bonilla (left) were two staples on the Pirates during their early 90’s pennant races. They both departed in 1993 to seek bigger contracts with bigger market teams.
     

       Every fan has their speculation as to why the Pirates find themselves at a loss (or 90+) season after season. Whether those speculations be that upper management team members are lining their pockets with cash, or are too cheap to spend , all the way to the curse of Willie Stargell (For those of you unaware, our beloved Willie unfortunately passed away on April 9th, 2001, the same day PNC Park opened its gates.) Any way you chalk it up the Pittsburgh Pirates are the worst franchise in professional sports history. That is truly something to be embarrassed about.


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Bob Nutting (Pictured above) is current majority owner of the Pirates and is highly criticized by many.

 

                18 straight years of losing have left us nothing to look forward to except Spring Training and September call ups where, until recent years, not much beyond AAA scrubs have been displayed. Not to mention the countless draft picks that were squandered foolishly by past management. I will grant that the Littlefield/McClatchy era did bring about some former faces of the franchise, whether it be through scouting or fluke they managed to reel in Jason Bay, Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, and Nate McLouth (All of whom were All-Stars in their tenure with the Pirates.)  

The past management also brought in some budding young stars on today’s team, i.e. Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker. (I suppose you could even throw Paul Maholm’s name in there as well though he isn’t exactly budding anymore)

 

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Dave Littlefield (Pictured above) is former Pirates GM and is scrutinized by many fans.

 

             These young stars have been supplemented by other stars and supporting cast by the newest management team of Bob Nutting, Frank Coonley, and Neal Huntington. This group has managed to bring in Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez, James McDonald, Ross Ohlendorf and have most recently drafter a slew of promising youth in Tony Sanchez, Jameson Taillion, and Stetson Allie. This team has more than their fair share of complete busts though, which may be on account of bad scouting or just plain old bad luck.

A few players who haven’t panned out as planned are Andy LaRoche, Lastings Milledge, and Charlie Morton. Most recently Garrett Jones proved to be somewhat of a letdown as he barely matched his home run totals from his rookie season in his sophomore campaign. These are most definitely not the only players who have been busts, but some of the most prominent. All of the above players were acquired as a part of trade package except for Jones who was signed as a minor league free agent.

 

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After a bad start to his Pirates carreer in 2008, LaRoche put together a solid 2009. Considered to be a dead lock for the second base position with the arrival of Pedro Alvarez, LaRoche was beat out by Neil Walker due to abysmal defense and an inconsistent bat in the 2010 season.

 

Coming up in the On-Deck Circle: 2011 25 Man Roster – Platoons and Puzzle Pieces

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