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An unofficial Pittsburgh Pirates blog



Updated: 2017-09-19T22:41:50-04:00

 



Another day, another shutout

2017-09-19T22:41:50-04:00

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Trevor Williams had the studliness oozing out his pores, but unfortunately for him the last time the Pirates scored a run I was watching the Steelers instead.

Williams allowed only three hits and two walks in five innings, while striking out six - but one of those three hits was a fourth inning fly ball that Domingo Santana dropped just inside the seats down the left field line.

Given a 1-0 lead, Chase Anderson breezed through the Pirates’ lineup, throwing six shutout innings before giving way to the Brewers’ pen. For the night, the Brew Crew hurlers struck out 11 Pirates with nary a walk.

The only time the Pirates even threatened to score a run was in the bottom of the sixth. Adam Frazier led off with a line single to center field and went to second on the pitcher Anderson’s errant pickoff throw to first. Starling Marte followed with a bunt single to third that put the tying run on third and the lead run on first with no one out. Marte stole second as Andrew McCutchen struck out swinging for the first out, Frazier held third as center fielder Brett Philiips unleashed a 104 mph throw to home plate after catching Josh Bell’s shallow fly for the second out, and then they both trotted out to play defense after Gregory Polanco popped out to short for the third out.

The bottom of the ninth went much as expected, with Corey Knebel getting a pair of swinging strikeouts sandwiched around a weak grounder, to earn his 37th save.




Gamethread: Do the Pirates have any studliness left for a Tuesday night?

2017-09-19T18:43:02-04:00

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Even with Starling Marte returning to the lineup, the Pirates, losers of their last eleventy some games, will start five rookies out of their nine. Trevor Williams (6-8, 4.26) will take the mound in the penultimate game of the year against the Brewers, who will counter with Chase Anderson (10-3, 2.88)

.

BREWERS

1 L Eric Thames, 1B

2 S Neil Walker, 2B

3 R Ryan Braun, LF

4 L Travis Shaw, 3B

5 R Domingo Santana, RF

6 L Steven Vogt, C

7 R Orlando Arcia, SS

8 L Brett Phillips, CF

9 R Chase Anderson, RHP

---

PIRATES

1 L Adam Frazier, 2B

2 R Starling Marte, LF

3 R Andrew McCutchen, CF

4 S Josh Bell, 1B

5 L Gregory Polanco, RF

6 R Jordy Mercer, SS

7 R Elias Diaz, C

8 S Max Moroff, 3B

9 R Trevor Williams, RHP




Pirates’ minor league recap: Bradenton

2017-09-19T18:25:09-04:00

Bradenton opened the season with a large percentage of the Pirates’ top prospects, most of them in the infield and the rotation. For most, but not all, of them, things went reasonably well on the field. Several of the top guys missed some time with injuries, but none of them look like long-term concerns. Hitters The top position playing prospects on the Marauders were shortstop Cole Tucker, first baseman Will Craig and third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes (pictured). The results for the three of them were variable. Tucker got off to a bad start in April, but in May he got red hot, not only hitting very well but hitting for power for the first time. The hitting breakout came with a big spike in his strikeouts -- he’s always had good plate discipline — but that didn’t carry over to AA when he got promoted in late July. Despite the bad start, Tucker had well above average numbers for the league by the time he was promoted to Altoona in July, after losing some time to a broken finger. He also led the league in stolen bases despite playing less than half a season there. And his glovework improved to the point where he was producing YouTube highlights. Hayes had a mixed season, hitting 278/345/363 with good plate discipline. All of those numbers were above the league average and he was one of the younger players there, but the lack of power remains a concern. He also went into the season noticeably underweight after spending the offseason recovering from a cracked rib and upper back problem. Between that, his age and the poor offensive environment in the Florida State League, I’m inclined to wait until he gets to Altoona before worrying about it. The odd thing was that he finished fifth in the league in steals, although he doesn’t run well. It’s impossible not to call Craig a serious disappointment. He hit 271/373/371 and, while it’s nice to see the patience, he’s a first baseman now and needs to hit for power. The lack of power can’t be explained away because it’s the FSL. He was two years older than Hayes and comes from a major college program. His ISO was less than that of organizational utility infielder Logan Ratledge, or the struggling Casey Hughston. It was well below those of middle infielders Tucker (who’s also two years younger than Craig) and Mitchell Tolman. Craig seemed to be picking it up with a big month of June, but he collapsed after that, slugging just .220 in August and hitting only one HR in his last 65 games. The only positive was that he played well defensively with the shift to first. The most noteworthy of the other hitters at Bradenton were outfielder Logan Hill and shortstop Stephen Alemais. After a rough 2016, Hill broke out, finishing tied for second in the league in HRs despite a mid-season promotion to Altoona. The caveat is that he turned 24 two months into the season. Alemais is a sometimes-spectacular defensive player whose bat is the big issue. After struggling to make contact during an injury-plagued stretch at West Virginia, Alemais spent the last month at Bradenton and seemingly toned down his swing. His K:BB ratio went from over 6:1 before the promotion to 1:1 after and he batted .317 at Bradenton. It was only 101 ABs, but hopefully the change will carry over. Second baseman Mitchell Tolman, outfielder Ty Moore and outfielder/catcher Kevin Krause also put up good numbers. Tolman hit 267/364/393, which is good for the FSL. He got a promotion at the end of the year and played well for Altoona in the playoffs. In recent years, the Pirates have had a string of players — especially left-handed hitting, or switch-hitting, middle infielders (Kevin Kramer, Adam Frazier, Max Moroff) for some reason — take big steps forward after moving from Bradenton to Altoona, so Tolman could be interesting next year. Krause hit 276/370/459, although he’ll turn 25 in November. For some reason, it wasn’t until late in the season before the Pirates started playing him every day. I have no idea w[...]



Pirates run bases like boneheads, lose to Brewers, 3-0

2017-09-18T23:04:21-04:00

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There is no excuse for the poor baserunning decisions the Pirates made in their 3-0 loss to the Brewers on Monday night. The best-case scenario is that Elias Diaz and Gregory Polanco simply didn’t care about a late-September game. Then at least there’s hope they’d choose more wisely in a meaningful situation. Then there’s less of the creeping feeling this organization can’t corral its players on the basepaths.

But there’s no reason for a baseball player to not know the basic idea of the cost/benefit of advancing a base when down multiple runs, and if that’s the case, it’s very troubling.

Diaz, who should probably also be reminded he’s not very fast, smacked a liner down the right-field line in the seventh inning. He looked dead set on getting a double, even though right fielder Hernan Perez would have had a play on the slow catcher had Perez cut the ball off on his first attempt. Instead, the ball got by Perez, rolling back to the wall. Crisis momentarily averted.

Then, however, Diaz inexplicably rounded second and headed for third. Perez bumbled over to the ball and leisurely tossed it to the cutoff man, who had plenty of time to get Diaz out by a few feet over at third.

It was a poor decision in a vacuum. With the bases empty, trailing 2-0, it was negligent of a player’s (or coach’s) responsibility.

What’s more, Diaz made a similarly awful play exactly a month ago. A responsible team would have had Diaz and/or third-base coach Joey Cora set straight quickly. The Pirates apparently are not that responsible team.

For good measure, Polanco, with none on and two outs in a 3-0 game in the ninth, tried to stretch a single to left-center, because YOLO. This play was a little closer, but no less foolish. The Pirates challenged the out call just because. It was upheld. Game over.

Again, the best-case scenario here is Diaz and Polanco just let their guards down in a meaningless game. That’s actually kind of understandable. What’s concerning is the possibility this stuff is allowed to fester on a team. That Diaz, having squashed a rally a month ago, either didn’t learn a thing on his own or was not approached about his reckless play. That runners might not understand that you need to protect outs, not risk them, trailing in a game.

If Cora or baserunning coach Kimera Bartee don’t quickly correct errors like this, Clint Hurdle should see that it gets done. If the manager fails in this regard, higher-ups in baseball operations should be concerned enough to make sure players know what the hell they’re doing out there.

In fairness, I’m not in the clubhouse. I don’t know whether this was something the team attempted to work on previously. But Diaz twice making the same mistake, one that should set off 700 sirens in a coach’s head, doesn’t speak well to the Pirates’ process.

A couple other things happened, too. Jameson Taillon pitched well, but gave up a home run to Ryan Braun in the fourth, then another run on his way out in the sixth. Brent Suter pitched like a taller version of Good Jeff Locke, not issuing a walk in five innings. The Pirates didn’t get a runner (safely) past second base, unable to capitalize on eight hits. Andrew McCutchen went 3-for-4 with three singles.

The Pirates have lost six in a row and 11 of their last 12.




Francisco Cervelli done for the season

2017-09-18T17:34:01-04:00

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In a thoroughly unsurprising development, Clint Hurdle has acknowledged that Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli won’t return this season.




Game Thread: Jameson Taillon looks to end Pirates’ losing streak

2017-09-18T17:08:30-04:00

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Losers of five in a row and 10 of 11, the Pirates open their final homestand of 2017 with Jameson Taillon taking the mound against Brent Suter at 7:05 p.m.

The Pirates will send a right-handed-leaning group against the tall, skinny lefthander.

The lineups:

Brewers

  1. Eric Sogard, SS
  2. Neil Walker, 2B
  3. Ryan Braun, LF
  4. Travis Shaw, 3B
  5. Eric Thames, 1B
  6. Hernan Perez, RF
  7. Stephen Vogt, C
  8. Brett Phillips, CF
  9. Brent Suter, P

— — —

Pirates

  1. Jordy Mercer, SS
  2. Jordan Luplow, LF
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  4. David Freese, 3B
  5. Jose Osuna, 1B
  6. Gregory Polanco, RF
  7. Sean Rodriguez, 2B
  8. Elias Diaz, C
  9. Jameson Taillon, P




Series Preview: Brewers at Pirates

2017-09-18T08:36:43-04:00

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The Pirates are holding Zombie Night at PNC Park next Tuesday, September 26, presumably in a celebration of their performance this month.

The Bucs (68-82) have won just one of their last 11 (a 7-0 victory in Milwaukee last Monday) and have a 5-11 mark in September after being swept in three games in Cincinnati over the weekend.

The Brewers, who took two of three from the Pirates last week at Miller Park, won two of three against the Marlins over the weekend and sit four games behind the first-place Cubs in the National League Central. The Cubs’ sweep of the Cardinals didn’t help Milwaukee at the top of the division, but it did leave the Brewers with a two-game cushion over St. Louis.

Season Series: 9-7 Pirates

At Pittsburgh

May 5: Pirates 4, Brewers 0

May 6: Pirates 2, Brewers 1, 10 innings

May 7: Brewers 6, Pirates 2

At Milwaukee

June 19: Pirates 8, Brewers 1

June 20: Pirates 7, Brewers 3

June 21: Brewers 4, Pirates 3

June 22: Brewers 4, Pirates 2

At Pittsburgh

July 17: Pirates 4, Brewers 2

July 18: Pirates 4, Brewers 3

July 19: Pirates 3, Brewers 2, 10 innings

July 20: Pirates 4, Brewers 2

At Milwaukee

August 15: Brewers 3, Pirates 1

August 16: Brewers 7, Pirates 6

At Milwaukee

September 11: Pirates 7, Brewers 0

September 12: Brewers 5, Pirates 2

September 13: Brewers 8, Pirates 2

Schedule

Monday, 7:05 p.m. - Brent Suter (2-2, 3.66 ERA) vs. Jameson Taillon (7-6, 4.78), TV: AT&T SportsNet

Tuesday, 7:05 p.m. - Chase Anderson (10-3, 2.88) vs. Trevor Williams (6-8, 4.26), TV: AT&T SportsNet

Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. - TBD vs. Steven Brault (1-0, 4.38), TV: AT&T SportsNet

Brewers

79-70 (78-71 Pythag, 4.60 RS/G, 4.34 RA/G)

Fun Facts about the Milwaukee Brewers

  • The Brewers played in the American League until 1998.
  • They should probably go back there.




Pirates’ minor league recap: West Virginia

2017-09-17T21:28:07-04:00

In a typical season, the Pirates’ South Atlantic League franchise is like the Land of Promise. Prospects are basically a game of attrition; over time, more and more fall by the wayside so that, at the higher levels, minor league rosters increasingly are made up of more suspects (or veterans) and fewer real prospects. At the lowest full season level, though, usually there are a bunch of guys coming up from leagues that serve mainly to introduce young players to pro ball. The weeding-out hasn’t really begun and every player looks like he could still be a prospect. With this year’s West Virginia entry . . . not so much. I’m not going to try to analyze the reasons here. Sometimes it’s just happenstance; I really liked the rosters at Morgantown and Bradenton, so West Virginia was a bit of a donut hole. Whatever the reason, the Power’s lineup was loaded with guys who really aren’t prospects. In fact, by weighted average, the Power had the oldest group of position players in the SAL. The pitchers were a different story. There was only one high-profile pitcher, but some dark horses as well. Their weighted average age was very close to league average despite the fact that a couple of college draftees ended up in the West Virginia rotation for large parts of the season. This was strictly due to overcrowding at Bradenton. Hitters The Power had one of the SAL’s better-hitting teams, but it was largely due to overage players who are hard to see as prospects. Apart from Hunter Owen (more on him in a moment), the team’s best hitter was first baseman Albert Baur, who at 25 isn’t a prospect. The Power also got a fair amount of production from Carlos Munoz, who’ll be a free agent this fall. Some other hitters whose production was decent, but not particularly good, were outfielders Clark Eagan, Ty Moore, Ryan Nagle and Garrett Brown. Eagan and Brown were 2016 draftees who didn’t exactly struggle, but didn’t put up the sort of numbers you’d want to see from college draftees playing at high A, much less low A. Nagle was drafted in 2015 and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I’ll cover Moore when I get to Bradenton. The two most prominent position prospects with the Power were shortstops Adrian Valerio (pictured) and Stephen Alemais. With Cole Tucker in Bradenton, the two of them were expected to share the middle infield at West Virginia. Instead, Valerio suffered a broken hand in spring training. When he came back, Alemais got hurt, then Valerio got hurt again (twice), then Alemais got promoted. (More on Alemais with the Bradenton recap.) In the end, Valerio got into 81 games and had something of a breakout, batting 273/301/442. He’s a pretty wild swinger -- he walked only 11 times — but 11 HRs from a guy who plays a legit shortstop and who won’t be 21 until next March is hopeful. The team’s best hitter was Owen, who had a 292/388/505 line. He didn’t walk much; the OBP was bolstered by 24 HBPs in just 83 games, which cost him some time here and there. And if you don’t think Pirate outfielders have some sort of hamstring jinx, try this: Owen is really an outfielder but played third at West Virginia because somebody had to. My understanding is that he struggled there, but in mid-July he played his first game all year in left. It appeared as though he was getting ready to move up to Bradenton to replace Logan Hill, who’d just been promoted. Sure enough, in his very first game in the outfield, Owen suffered a hamstring injury. He didn’t return until near the end of the season. In any event, as a prospect he’s suspect because he turns 24 in a few days. Several catchers who appeared with the Power are kind-of worth noting. Arden Pabst and Brent Gibbs were selected last year in rounds 12 and 7, respectively. They more or less shared the catching duties, although Gibbs,[...]