Will tonight be loss #80? Can the Pirates shake the road blues to actually, you know, win a game? Can they put up a fight, or are they going to be steamrolled into this losing season like so many others? JR's breaking out a new lineup tonight with Milledge batting cleanup, but the Adam Wainwright vs. Kevin Hart pitching matchup is not favorable at all.
Working on Futilitywatch right now (will link when it goes live), then hanging out in Hermitage this afternoon before going to Meadville tonight for another rehearsal dinner, another wedding and (gulp) another tux tomorrow. Game threads are actually scheduled as promised this weekeend, and I will be around on Sunday should any historic events take place that day, so no worries. Until then, links!
WTM took some pictures of the Lynchburg Hillcats. They were actually in Winston-Salem last weekend, but given my hectic travel schedule of late I decided to sit that one out. Next year, with what will hopefully be a much less-busy summer, I'm going to do my best to see as many of the Pirates' affiliates as possible.
Also at Bucs Dugout, Dan Szymborski posts the ZiPS projections for Garrett Jones' next few seasons. And while we're on the subject of Jones, Chuck Finder has a great piece about "the Legend" in the PG today. Though when people call him "the Legend" it makes me think of The Natural and by extension, this guy.
Lastings Milledge's last 16 games: .398/.458/.596.
Now please refocus all of your energies into the helping the Pirates win four games against the Cardinals and Cubs in the coming week, so as to not set the worst record in sports against Tony Frickin' La Russa or 10,000 Cubs fans at PNC Park.
I've got to drive this afternoon to make my way back to good ol' PA for another wedding. Since tonight's an off-night, I'm going to set up this post and thread because I'm curious to see people's opinions on Pedro Alvarez after his first minor league season.
How much does his high strikeout rate (129 Ks in 542 PAs) affect your opinion of him as a prospect? Do his struggles at Lynchburg still worry you? When do you expect to see him in Pittsburgh?
I guess it's not fair if I don't answer these questions myself; I have downgraded my expectations for him just a little bit after this year. I think he's probably headed for a career in which he's a little more one-dimensional (that is, power oriented) at the plate than we had originally hoped; maybe falling somewhere between Carlos Pena and Prince Fielder. That's not a bad thing. Obviously both of those players provide the sort of thump that the Pirates need desperately even if they don't generally hit for a high batting average. I think we'll probably see him next year, maybe around June or July, but not before then because he's got to prove he can hit Triple-A pitching without flailing at pitches out of the strike zone.
It may seem important that Garrett Jones hit the 10,000th home run in Pirate history. That does seem like a momentous occaision, for sure. What I think is more important is this: Drew Stubbs hit three home runs in 472 plate appearances for the Louisville Bats in the PCL this year. He's hit four since being called up to the Reds two weeks ago, including three in 18 plate appearances against the Pirates in the last four games. And that, folks, is the Pittsburgh Pirates in a nutshell.
Three to go. If you've got tickets for Sunday's game against the Cards, you might be in for some history.
Let's briefly put on our time-traveling pants and go back to the magical, crazy days of last Friday. It was then that I wrote this:
What I am here to say is that it would be incredibly encouraging to see the Pirates beat the Brewers twice this weekend, just to prove to themselves (and to me) that they can actually play on the road at a level similar to the one that they showed at PNC Park over the previous nine games.
In the six games the Pirates have played since then, they've failed to win once. Watching the Pirates play on the road is kind of like jabbing a needle in your eye, so this afternoon game is a bonus for everyone who's a fan of eyesight this afternoon. Zach Duke and Homer Bailey, who destroyed us at PNC last time he pitched against us go at it at 12:35.
Neil Walker is getting his first big league start at third base, batting second. He will undoubtedly get two hits, including a key RBI double. That will cause people to tell me I'm an idiot for doubting him yesterday, which will cause me to respond with a post arguing that Andy LaRoche is better third baseman than Walker is, which will leave half of the people out there angry that I've defended LaRoche over Walker and the other half (me included) feeling kind of nauseous that we're having this conversation at all and hoping that Pedro Alvarez will keep it from being necessary in the future. So at least we'll have something to talk about for the remainder of this week.
Finally, someone is talking a bit about Ryan Doumit's benching. Today, his agent denied that Doumit's benching was pouting-related, denied that Doumit's been dogging it since the trade deadline, and said that Doumit loves Pittsburgh and John Russell. DK has also confirmed from a couple sources that Doumit's benching came because he slammed his helmet down off the ground, only to have it rebound in Luis Cruz's face. That apparently pushed existing tension between the coaching staff and Doumit over the edge.
Now, I know that Doumit's agent isn't the most objective source on this sort of thing, but I'm happy to have any sort of closure at all on this. I'm sure Doumit is frustrated with the trades and the team's play, but hopefully everyone can put this behind them now that the laundry has unfortunately been aired in public. I'll give Doumit the benefit of the doubt and continue to believe that his power-sapping wrist injury is why he's been so terrible since his return and hope that he'll come back stronger next year.
Also, I know this is mean to say, but I kind of wish there was a YouTube of Doumit slamming the helmet off the ground and having it bounce back up and hit Cruz. At this point, the Pirates would be much more entertaining if they tried harder to resemble the Three Stooges.
What in the world compels a team to be 30 games worse on the road than at home? Can anyone honestly answer this question for me? I mean, I understand that Zach Duke and Paul Maholm are better suited for PNC, that our outfield shift works particularly well with the big left-center gap in PNC, and other sorts of things that play to a homefield advantage, but 30 games? And why are we so bad against the division on the road? You'd think if we could adjust to PNC, we'd take time to find ways to do it in the five other parks that we play almost half of our road games in. It's almost certainly one of those things that can only be chalked up to "bad luck," which is a maddeningly incomplete explanation for something that probably is mostly bad luck but feels so damn real it's driving me nuts.
Also, tonight's game was painful to watch. There's a reason that Chris Bootcheck and Virgil Vasquez started the year out in Triple-A and why the Braves were willing to trade Charlie Morton.
Yesterday, I wrote that I felt bad that the current Pirates were going to take the brunt of the blame for this 17-year skid because they really don't have a lot to do with it. Of course, they deserve some of the blame, but then, a lot of guys do. And so I fired up Baseball-Reference and compiled a list of each person that's played regularly at each position over the last 17 years.
The method was simple; I tried to follow the progression of starters at each position through the losing streak (it's not exactly perfect in some places, but I did my best) then added a grab bag at the bottom of other illustrious/memorable/awful players. I'm surely missing a few players, but if there's going to be finger pointing this week these guys are a good place to start. Enjoy, or recoil in fear after the jump. Whichever.