Charlie Morton goes against one of the guys that could keep 'Cutch from winning rookie of the year, JA Happ. A win steals us a series against one of the best clubs in the National League.
"One of the things I think has hurt Matt is the consistency of his save opportunities. You go three, five, eight days between saves, and that adrenaline rush changes. You look back, and I think you'll see he's done well when he's had consistent opportunities. A closer needs consistent work."
This is an interesting concept and it's true that Capps has been better this year when pitching on no rest than almost any other situation, but that's a very small sample sized and he's gotten bombed on both one and two days of rest. Which is to say that I'm not buying it, JR.
What I do think is interesting is when I went to his FanGraphs page to look at his average fastball speed, I found that his fastball speed isn't down this year (it's actually at a career-high 93.6), his changeup is nearly 2.5 mph faster than it's ever been. He's also throwing his slider way more (21.4%) than in the past couple years, though not nearly as much as he did in 2006.
These numbers back up what we already know; his walks are way up in 2009 (3.2/9 innings, way higher than his previous career high of 1.8/9 in 2007). His command just isn't the same this year. With less command on his fastball, he's throwing his slider and changeup more. Since neither are particularly good pitches (especially that changeup ... an 87 mph changeup is a terrible pitch for a guy with Capps' fastball) without his fastball to back them, he's getting crushed. If Capps doesn't throw more strikes, it won't matter if he gets regular work or not.
Internal monologue during the top of the tenth inning
Optimistic Pat: Extra innings? What if this goes on forever? Trivia's at ten, I might miss something really awesome.
Realistic Pat: Well, Chavez and Hanrahan both pitched already and we have to bring a new pitcher in. Who's next in line? Matt Capps?
Steven Jackson enters the game.
Realistic Pat: See! This game's going ten, eleven innings tops.
Optimistic Pat: Jackson hasn't been that bad this year!
Jackson puts the first two runners on base.
Optimistic Pat: Crap.
Phil Dumatrait enters the game.
Realistic Pat: Do I need to say it?
Optimistic Pat: No.
Ryan Howard bombs a three-run homer and the Pirates eventually lose 4-1.
One night after very nearly avoiding one of the worst losses of the season by producing one of the best wins of the season, the Pirates have to actually get back on the field and play the Phillies again. I know. It seems unfair, doesn't it?
Paul Maholm goes against Cole Hamels tonight and Hamels has been absolutely dreadful in his last four starts. In fact, since July 1st his ERA is over 5 and opponents are slugging .471 against him. The Pirates have actually already teed off on him once over that span, but lost the game when ... well, let's not talk about that. What I'm trying to say is that the team that jumped all over Joe Blanton and the Phillies' bullpen last night probably has a fair chance against Hamels tonight.
Hey! I remembered to make a poll this week! I'm just trying to take the public temperature on Garrett Jones right now. As always, vote on the left and click the comments to tell us why you voted the way you did.
I wasn't going to say anything, but a few people have already pointed it out to me in the comments and otherwise and so I just wanted to quickly mention that sometime while I was eating my Cheerios this morning, WHYGAVS got its millionth visitor. I honestly can't think you all enough for helping me make this little college time waster in something much bigger. In true comic book fashion, I'll have to write a post this afternoon that places Aunt May in grave danger.
UPDATE: Instead of May Parker, how about a long FanHouse post about Dave Parker's Hall of Fame chances being in grave danger? I'm making it a point to post this here because I know there are some WHYGAVS readers that were able to watch Parker play and I'm curious what you guys think about the Parker vs. Rice comparison.
After Andrew McCutchen got caught stealing in the fifth, struck out swinging in seventh inning, and badly misplayed Shane Victorino's flyball to center into a go-ahead triple for the Phillies tonight, for the very first time this year I thought that maybe he was starting to get tired and look a little bit like a rookie. "It happens," I said to myself, "He's been better than any of us could've hoped for or imagined since his callup in May and he's got an incredibly bright future with this ballclub. If he tails off a bit here, he tails off and there's nothing wrong with that." Ten minutes later, he sat back on a Brad Lidge fastball that Lidge left up in the zone and over the plate, and he whacked it right on the nose and over the center field fence for a walk-off, two-run homer. And now I'm looking at a line that says he went 2-for-4 with that homer along with a walk and I take it all back.
Of course, as awesome as the 'Cutch walkoff was, it really shouldn't have happened. The Pirates stranded runners on third base in the first, second, and third innings and a runner on second in the fourth and seventh. They had multiple chances to press Joe Blanton for more runs and could only score when Ryan Doumit and Steve Pearce put the ball over the fence. It was only through great work by Ross Ohlendorf (six strikeouts in 6 1/3, five hits, and only Jimmy Rollins' two solo jacks on the board ... and if you're curious his fastball averaged 93.01 and topped out at 95.7 and was over 94 about seven times) and the bullpen (particularly Joel Hanrahan and Jesse Chavez, who both stranded inherited runners for Ohlendorf and Phil Dumatrait) that the Pirates carried at 3-2 lead into the ninth inning.
Of course, then Matt Capps pooped all over that lead, aided by misplays in the outfield by both 'Cutch and Milledge (who, to be fair, was aggresively pursuing a pop-up and very nearly made a spectacular catch) and it looked like the Pirates were headed for one of those soul-sucking losses that they've been so good at racking up over the last 17 years. I'll admit it; I switched the channel after Victorino's triple and I only flicked back for the bottom of the ninth when I couldn't find anything interesting to switch to and saw that Luis Cruz had singled to lead off the inning. As it happened, that was the right choice.
Almost immediately after the Pirates' game ended, my Extra Innings channel switched over to the Giants/D'Backs game and while Matt Cain warmed up, the outfield scoreboard was visible and I could see "PHI 4 PIT 6" and I broke into a goofy grin. Who says August baseball is meaningless?
It's weird that I'm excited to watch the Pirates play tonight, right? After not seeing them at all over the weekend, I'm honestly curious to see what they do against the Phillies this week. I'm not optimistic about the result, I'm just curious to see how these guys stack up against a good team after a week in which we beat up on some bad ones. Ross Ohlendorf and Joe Blanton are on the mound tonight, so this one might represent the Pirates' best chance to take a game in this series. And you know I'll have my eye on the radar gun to see what Ohlendorf's fastball is doing tonight.
I had a long post about minor league stats and how their value differs with context and what I thought were some interesting examples from the Pirates and then right as I was putting the finishing touches on it, I accidentally opened up my RSS reader in the same browser window and lost something like the last 800 words of it. You would think that after doing this approximately 30 times in the nine months since moving from Blogger (with their autosave feature) to Joomla (no autosave), that I would've learned my lesson by now (while writing it I thought at least three times, "Whoa, this is getting long, I need to save this"), but I have not. So instead, you're going to have to settle for me making sure that you all notice the tidbit from this story in the Post-Gazette about Troy Buckley resigning his post as minor league pitching czar in the Pirates' system.
Buckley's run was marked by his controling just about every facet of the minor league pitching staffs and it was pretty controversial, but it was getting decent results. Rudy Owens and Brad Lincoln had big breakouts this year, and Justin Wilson is in the process of turning things around at Lynchburg right now. That might not seem impressive, but given what passed for a pitching prospect during the Dave Littlefield administration, I don't think it's bad work.
It's particularly interesting that he's doing this right now, because the pitching depth of the Pirates has improved immeasurably in the past month with the additions of Tim Alderson, the signings of several draft picks, and several other trade acquisitions. After two years of trying to MacGuyver a pitching staff out of the minor league equivalent of some chewed bubblegum, a few rubber bands, and some paper clips, he's stepping down just as he was given some tools to work with. Maybe I'm reading into this too much, but it seems to me that the timing here is awfully curious.