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    Default Analysis: What happened to Pirates' pitching?

    Analysis: What happened to Pirates' pitching?
    By Dejan Kovacevic, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
    Monday, August 8, 2011


    So, what went wrong?

    The obvious culprit in the Pirates' epic collapse, including the 7-3 loss to San Diego yesterday at PNC Park that extended a losing streak to 10 games, is the pitching that led to their stunning ascent to the top of the Central Division.

    And the equally obvious explanation would appear to be fatigue, even if those taking the mound disagree.

    "I wouldn't say that at all," Charlie Morton said. "I mean, you always get tired. Baseball's a game of peaks and valleys. But being tired as an excuse? No."

    "Hey, I felt like Nolan Ryan last time I went out," Jeff Karstens said of his nine-run blow-up Friday.

    Still, the results have been as cruel as the clear correlation: On July 25, the Pirates were 53-47 and in first place, the pitchers owning a 3.17 ERA. Since then, they are 1-12 and 10 games out of the race, the ERA at 6.19 for that span.

    Some of that simply must be fatigue, as others in the organization will attest. But dig deeper with some advanced metrics, and it's easy to see there is an element of the Pirates' pitchers having been due some serious comeuppance:

    Through July 25, opponents had a .289 batting average on all balls put in play (BABIP), a statistic that distinguishes how much help a pitcher gets from his defense or from mere good luck. That figure was below the National League median of .295. Since July 25, it's a whopping .349.

    Some aren't even staying in the park. Through July 25, opponents homered on 9.2 percent of all fly balls, right around league average. Since then, they have homered on 15.2 percent, by far the worst such total in the past two weeks.

    The Pirates' pitch-to-contact staff averages just 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings, second lowest in the majors, which puts heavy pressure on the defense and on the pitchers to keep the ball in the ballpark.

    The Pirates have stranded 76 percent of their runners, second-best rate in the league, and that tends to be unsustainable.

    "They'd all been so good for so long." general manger Neal Huntington said. "A variety of factors came together at one time and ... well, we've gotten our heads handed to us more often than we'd like."

    About a month ago, management met to prepare for this possibility, based on the numbers.

    "Our organization deals in a lot of those metrics, and we talked about how we'd pitched for three or four months and the expectancy as we moved forward," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Especially with a pitch-to-contact staff, you expect more contact, so you could anticipate more offense from the opponents. But, to the degree we've seen lately, it's been way more."

    It has been 15 home runs in the past six games, one into the Allegheny River and several other moon shots. And even the weak-hitting Padres scored 28 times Friday and Saturday.

    "Water finds its own level, as they say," Hurdle said. "If the water is really high, it's going to dip."

    Although the pitchers are reluctant to acknowledge fatigue, pitching coach Ray Searage is not. But he doesn't point to arm fatigue.

    "What I'm seeing is that our legs are a little bit tired, and that's going to relate to your arm," Searage said. "That's why they call these the dog days of August. We basically laid it all out there for the first three or four months, and you're starting to see that now."

    Karstens has been the Pirates' best starter, but he also has stranded an incredible 85 percent of runners, and 17 of his 21 home runs were solo shots. All that boomeranged Friday, when nine of his 10 runners touched home plate and Chase Headley belted a grand slam. Karstens already has exceeded his innings total from last season, though not his pitch count, and he will need to show he can handle a full season.

    "That's not an issue at all," Karstens said. "We'll all show that."

    Maholm has been next best, but the Padres lit him up for seven runs in 6 2/3 innings Saturday, and his ERA swelled from 3.17 to 3.54. Kevin Correia, after a strong two months won him an All-Star invitation, now has a 4.78 ERA. Morton lost his dynamite sinker sometime in late May and didn't rediscover it until this past Wednesday. And James McDonald has been inconsistent and inefficient.

    "This is something we're going to have to learn from," Searage said. "Some of these guys are experiencing this for the first time. My job is to stay positive."

    In the bullpen, closer Joel Hanrahan has remained strong -- on those rare occasions he pitches, anyway -- but Jose Veras, Chris Resop and Daniel McCutchen have worn down, perhaps not coincidentally beginning with that 19-inning loss July 26 in Atlanta.

    But this has been about the starting pitching, for better or worse, as those in the rotation seem to realize.

    "It's on us," Maholm said. "We're the ones who go out there and pitch. We're going through a rough stretch. No one is happy, from the fans to anyone who plays the game. We have to turn it back around."



    Read more: Analysis: What happened to Pirates' pitching? - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt...#ixzz1URcC3DQU
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    Default Re: Analysis: What happened to Pirates' pitching?

    Like the rest of the team, it's gut check time for the pitching staff. There ain't much you can do about arm fatigue, however, they can control how they attack the strike zone and keep the ball down and to let Searage know they are running out of gas in their outtings. Communication is gonna be even more important now.
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    Default Re: Analysis: What happened to Pirates' pitching?

    I believe the Atlanta Braves have some sort of hoodoo voodoo hex on the Pirates. Just as things were getting good, things were looking to turn around..... the Pirates lose a 19 inning game to the Braves in which the Ump swings the game to the Braves. This sends the Pirates spiraling into a hell spin.

    I'm not one to believe in some sort of mystical curse, but hell...with the Pirates it's sure looking like it.

    First it was Sid Bream back in 92, now this. The curse is the only logical explanation. Until the Braves are contracted from the league, the Pirates will never be successful again, I believe.

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    Default Re: Analysis: What happened to Pirates' pitching?

    At this point, Maybe Brian Buress can help the staff, Get him up and see if he can get some starts in.

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    Default Re: Analysis: What happened to Pirates' pitching?

    Quote Originally Posted by foslrock View Post
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member. Show Quote
    I believe the Atlanta Braves have some sort of hoodoo voodoo hex on the Pirates. Just as things were getting good, things were looking to turn around..... the Pirates lose a 19 inning game to the Braves in which the Ump swings the game to the Braves. This sends the Pirates spiraling into a hell spin.

    I'm not one to believe in some sort of mystical curse, but hell...with the Pirates it's sure looking like it.

    First it was Sid Bream back in 92, now this. The curse is the only logical explanation. Until the Braves are contracted from the league, the Pirates will never be successful again, I believe.
    you know.. even if the pitching staff started to show it's collapse a series prior to the Braves ones against the Cardinals, it still pitched well in the 4 game series against Atlanta and has since then been brutally bad in almost every game ...

    ... I like the Atlanta Braves theory since I hate the Braves and need to really rekindle my hatred for them, this help
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    Default Re: Analysis: What happened to Pirates' pitching?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmie View Post
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    At this point, Maybe Brian Buress can help the staff, Get him up and see if he can get some starts in.
    They brought Lincoln up for this need I'm thinking. Personally I would go to a 6 man staff and I would also bring up Moskos as well since our BP is really fatigued. Any word on when Meek comes back? We will have Ohlendorf back as an arm that could get some BP work and then move into the rotation and have some pitchers move a start and get some rest etc... We have some options but the one thing that DK points out in this piece which is something I've felt from the onset is that the Pitching staff wasn't going to be able to keep up it's performance over a full season. The most important part is that it IS a pitch to contact group. Yes, some of the metrics are showing a lot of bad luck, mainly the amount of Homers hit and also that very high BABIP which like a very low BABIP indicates bad luck. Balls are now finding ways to open holes where before they were finding ways straight to the defense.
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    Default Re: Analysis: What happened to Pirates' pitching?

    Within this losing streak were a couple solid outings by Morton and MacDonald. Also within the losing streak were games that the team was tied or led in the 7th or 8th inning, despite subpar performances by starters. Whats wrong with the pitching, then? No one can get us to Hanrahan. There would be no 10 game losing streak if Meek were healthy, or, perhaps, if Neal would've gotten a reliever.

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    Default Re: Analysis: What happened to Pirates' pitching?

    Quote Originally Posted by buccoman View Post
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    Within this losing streak were a couple solid outings by Morton and MacDonald. Also within the losing streak were games that the team was tied or led in the 7th or 8th inning, despite subpar performances by starters. Whats wrong with the pitching, then? No one can get us to Hanrahan. There would be no 10 game losing streak if Meek were healthy, or, perhaps, if Neal would've gotten a reliever.
    That's the thing. When we have had those few good outtings, the relievers have blown it. The offense stayed quiet and the rest the SP's were rotten from the get go. Whenver we needed something, it hasn't come through. Just not firing on any pistons.

    also, at the time of the trade deadline, the re was nothing wrong with the Bullpen. Huntington picked up an innings eater type like Chilli but Watson had been a rock at that point, Veras still had an ERA in the low 3's which he still has etc.. We stil have Moskos down in AAA we can use, we will be getting Ohlendorf back, Lincoln is available, Meek should be coming back soon. The last thing we sort of needed was a reliever
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