DK is reporting today that the Pirates are 'pushing' a trade of Freddy Sanchez, with either Colorado or San Francisco. I don't have time for much speculation on return right now, but I'd encourage you guys to engage in it on your own. If he goes to San Francisco, I feel pretty certain that another Sanchez, Jonathon, would headline the trade back in our direction. I don't know much about Colorado's minor league system, but Eric Young Jr. (meh) has been mentioned and the Pirates may shoot for a buy-low, Andy LaRoche style grab of Ian Stewart.
While listening to the early parts of this game, I had hoped that Andrew McCutchen grabbing Lance Berkman's double off of the Astros' stupid hill in center field and getting a throw to Jack Wilson who relayed it to the plate to nail the glacier-esque Miguel Tejada and keep the Astros lead at 1-0 would be enough to light a spark under a team that seemed listless in the early going. I was wrong. Charlie Morton kept getting hit hard (10 hits and all five runs in three innings) and for the third time in four games, our offense was completely shut down, pairing 11 strikeouts with only five hits. There's nothing else to say; so long as we don't hit, we won't win.
After the game, Steven Jackson and Steve Pearce were optioned to Indy. Jackson's going down to make room for Donnie Veal, who has to be recalled or offered back to the Cubs, but there's no immediately apparently replacement for Pearce. Ryan Doumit's not due back soon and there aren't any other outfielders deserving a call in Indy. It could be an infielder coming back up (Bixler or Cruz to provide depth with Freddy's back problems, perhaps), or maybe Lastings Milledge's rehab is going to be shorter than we all expected. Well, that or someone's traded. But it's probably one of the first two.
The extra two hours before this one starts has afforded me plenty of time to get a gamethread ready.
After Charlie Morton's rain-addled outing last Friday, I was hoping to get a chance to see him pitch in a regular, uninterrupted game to see how his control looks compared to his tailing command last week. That won't be the case since this game starts at 2:05, but I'll still be keeping an eye on it.
He'll face the lefty Wandy Rodriguez today, which causes Adam LaRoche to drop to sixth in the order. That leaves Garrett Jones batting cleanup. Dominated by Mike Hampton on Monday, Garrett Jones batting cleanup on Wednesday. This is not a great week for the Pirate offense.
If you missed yesterday's Volume 1, I loaded all of the PitchFX data, via Brooks Baseball, for Ross Ohlendorf from the Yankees in 2008 and the Pirates in 2009 into an Excel spreadsheet, made some charts, did some rudimentary statistics, and decided that his fastball has definitely lost about 3 mph this year, while gaining a small amount of vertical break (about an inch) and losing a larger amount of horizontal break (about three inches) without an appreciable change in strike percentage.
This only starts to tell the story on Ohlendorf, though. He's defintely been a better pitcher for the Pirates this year than I expected and he's outpitched his projections so far. How, exactly, is he doing this with a fastball that's not as good as the one he's thrown in the past? That's what I set out to do today, so follow along after the jump for more charts and technical jargon as I attempt to unravel the mystery of Ohlendorf.
This recap will be short because like last night, most of the time I spent watching the game tonight was actually spent poring over Ross Ohlendorf PitchFX. It's not my fault the Pirates and Astros aren't very interesting.
The most important thing from tonight's win was Paul Maholm's start. As I noted earlier, he's been going through quite the rough patch of late, so seeing him get six solid innings in tonight was a nice change. He wasn't great (six hits, two walks, two strikeouts) but he was certainly good enough to keep the Pirates in the game, and that's what's most important. Of course, it took way more of an effort to keep the Pirates in the game against Brian Moehler than it should've. It took seven innings for the Pirates to really get to him at all, but I suppose getting to him late is better than never getting there.
At this point, I could mention Joel Hanrahan's continued struggles or John Grabow's magic act in the eighth inning, but I want to point out something else. Jack Wilson, in his entire career, has hit 59 home runs. Twenty-four have come at PNC Park, which seems about right given how hard PNC is on righties. After tonight, ten have come at Minute Maid Park in 57 career games there. The only other visiting park he's hit more than two in is Cincy's Great American Ballpark. He hits a home run once every 23 plate appearances at Minute Maid. If we extrapolated that out to his career, he'd have 202 home runs! Over a 600 PA season with every game played at Minute Maid, he'd hit 26 homers!
This is all meaningless extrapolation, but he does really have a knack for aiming at that close porch and as a result, he came into tonight with a career .495 SLG at Minute Maid. What if Wilson were left-handed and able to do the same thing with PNC's right field. How different might his career arc look?
Freddy Sanchez is sitting out again tonight, which makes the lineup that JR has scheduled to take the field look like it's ready to be overwhelmed by the certainly not overwhelming Brian Moehler. So far the Bucs have dropped five of six in July and would really be mired in a long stretch of ugliness if not for the four-game winning streak against Cleveland and KC towards the end of July.
Anyways, Paul Maholm, who's a dreaful 1-3 with an 8.86 ERA and a 2.11 WHIP in his last our starts, goes out to the mound tonight to try and hold the Astros to under four runs, in which case the Pirates might have a chance. Maybe.
After reading all about Ross Ohlendorf's declining velocity and thinking about it a bit, I decided to put to use the massive amount of data that's made available to the public in the form of PitchFX to use and try to answer some of the questions about Ohlendorf. If you're just joining us, Ohlendorf was initially thought of as a power pitcher when we acquired him from New York, with a hard (95-97 mph) sinking fastball and little else. With the Pirates, his fastball has sat in the low 90s and he's seemingly relied a lot more on breaking pitches. So what gives?
Using Brooks Baseball to compile the data, I loaded every pitch Ohlendorf threw with the Yankees in 2008 and every pitch he's thrown with us this year into Excel to create some charts and try to figure out what's been going on with Ohlendorf. Because Dan seems like a cool guy and because his website has been an invaluable tool to me, I'm going to pass along the link to the famous Red Sox message board Sons of Sam Horn's auction to raise money to fight ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) as requested on his site. And if you're not familiar at all with Pitch FX, SOSH has a good primer that you should read here.Because this is a fairly long post full of charts, I'm going to stick it underneath a fold. To keep reading, click the "Read More" link, which is annoyingly located below the comments.
I suppose that my opinion that these Pirates are a better team than the teams that have taken the field in the past couple years isn't really enough to keep them out of last place. Despite "only" being seven games out of first place, the Pirates are three games behind the Astros for fifth place. With the way the team is playing right now, it certainly feels like they have some more room to slip.
Tonight, the Pirates take their two game losing skid up against Mike Hampton, who's entire "revitalization" this year has depended on his three starts (and subsequent wins) against the Pirates. Remove the 20 innings in which he's only given up two runs and 12 hits to us and his numbers this year look substantially worse. Virgil Vasquez gets the start for the Pirates. I strongly suspect that the pitcher Vasquez will end up being for the Pirates will be much more like the one that struggled mightily against the Cubs last week, as opposed to the one that dominated the Royals, but I suppose it's still early enough in his stint with the Bucs to hope that anything is possible, even if most of the evidence suggests otherwise.