Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pirates State of the Team

Good win last night. Santana had a couple big hits yesterday. Lets hope that continues. Now, for my Pirates review.

The Pittsburgh Pirates

Current Record: 23-44 (6th NL Central)

Manager: John Russell

Team Outlook: They're the Pirates. If you are reading a MLB blog, you know all about them. They aren't good, they haven't been good in the past, and chances are they aren't going to get much better. I hope they do, and with so many high draft picks, they should.

When only one of your starters has an ERA under 5.00, Paul Maholm, you have some issues. The Pirates have the second highest team ERA in the majors. You cannot expect to win games if your pitchers don't even give you a shot. The only bright spot is that all five starters are age 27 or younger, so in theory there is room for improvement. Malholm is also the club leader in wins with four. Four? Really? This starting core really needs to improve if the Pirates believe they can ever win.

Luckily for the Pirates, the bullpen is actually not that bad. Evan Meek has a .70 ERA in 38.2 innings pitched to go along with 35 strike outs. That's a pretty good line. Javier Lopez's 2.22 ERA in 24.1 innings pitched is decent as well. On the down side, he only has 12 strike outs. Joel Hanrahan, D.J. Carrasco, and Brendan Donnelly don't have that impressive stat lines, but they aren't awful either. One stat that does stand out is Hanrahan's 44 strike outs in only 28.2 innings pitched; that is quite impressive. That turns out to be an unbelievable 13.81 K/9. Octavio Dotel's 5.61 ERA is not acceptable if he is to keep the closer role. Meek and Hanrahan could be used as trade bait for contenders in need of bullpen help and that might be the best part of their success this year.

Pittsburgh's pitching isn't the only part of their game struggling; their position players aren't helping either. Fielding wise, they are tied for the third worst fielding percentage in the league with .979%. To go along with that, they also have the third most errors in the league with 53. Bad pitching + Bad fielding = a lot of runs scored by the opposing team. A lot of errors come from lack of focus or lack of drive from continuous losing.

Starting to sense a pattern? The Pirates are near the bottom of the league in most statistical categories. 29th in team batting average, 29th in total RBI, and last in hits; this team struggles in all aspects of hitting. One of the few bright spots on the team is Garret Jones. While 10 home runs and a .278 batting average aren't spectacular, the 42 RBI is decent, especially for a struggling team. Ryan Church is batting .180 in 120 at bats; he should be either released or sent down to AAA because that is just unacceptable. Ronny Cedeno is struggling with a .232 average, not a surprise. Lastings Milledge isn't having the greatest year, but through 12 June games he is batting .342. If Milledge could find some power, which he hasn't had throughout his career, he could be a dangerous middle of the order player. Since suffering concussion-like symptoms last week, Ryan Doumit has been struggling more than usual. Neil Walker and Jose Tabata are both young players who are still getting used to playing in the big leagues and only time will tell how well they can adjust to major league pitching. The Pirates need Pedro Alvarez to show why he was one of the top prospects in all of baseball. At this point, Alvarez still doesn't have a hit; a bit surprising even though he has only played 3 games. At 6-3, 223 pounds, he has a ton of power potential. Alvarez needs to play well if the Pirates want to win games.

Key Player to Watch: Andrew McCutchen
McCutchen is a beast in center field. He is one of the more athletic players in the game and can routinely be seen diving his way into Baseball Tonight's Web Gems segment. At age 23 and only his second year in the majors, McCutchen is establishing himself as one of the best overall players in the game. Due to his explosive speed, McCutchen is batting .319 with 17 stolen bases. While he won't challenge Albert Pujols or Ryan Howard for the home run title, his 7 home runs are solid for a speed player. One might be concerned that he only has 21 RBI, but I'm not. When no one around him is getting on base, there aren't opportunities. Also, he plays for Pittsburgh, cut him some slack.

Prospect Watch: Chase D'Arnaud, Argenis Diaz, Tony Sanchez, Gorkys Hernandez, Starling Marte

Wrap-Up: 2010 is another long year for Pirates fans. Luckily Andrew McCutchen is there for your enjoyment, but there really isn't that much else to look forward to right now. Hopefully Pedro Alvarez pans out and the pitching staff settles down a little bit. Look for another last place finish by the Pirates this year.

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