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    Default Yet I remain optimistic

    Pirates' offense among franchise's worst

    Friday, July 09, 2010
    By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    Pat Sullivan/Associated PressManager John Russell, center, talks with catcher Jason Jaramillo and third baseman Pedro Alvarez after pulling reliever Brendan Donnelly in the eighth inning Thursday at Minute Maid Park.HOUSTON -- Strictly within the scope of the two-plus hours it took Houston's Roy Oswalt to one-hit the Pirates, there was not much to dissect: Oswalt pitched very well, the Pirates hit very poorly, and the Astros got two home runs from Lance Berkman to prevail, 2-0, on an immensely predictable Thursday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.

    Manager John Russell summed it up succinctly: "Roy did everything he wanted to do."

    And it was exactly what anyone should have expected from Houston's ace facing a lineup with two-thirds of its nine players batting below .240, one-third batting below .200.

    Step back, though, and a far more striking image emerges of the Pirates' offense, which is solidifying its status as one of the worst in the franchise's 124 years:

    The .235 team batting average, lowest in Major League Baseball now that the Astros moved up in sweeping this three-game series, is the lowest for the franchise since finishing 1952 at .231. If .235 holds up, it would be the fourth-lowest in franchise history. The others that were lower came in 1892 and 1888. We now have, and most likely will finish the season with, ZERO hitters over .300!

    The 53 home runs, second-fewest in the majors, project to a total of 100, fewest since 91 in 1976.

    The 627 strikeouts, eighth-most in the majors, project to 1,194, six shy of the record 1,200 in 2006. (Pedro should be able to get us over the top. )

    They have been shut out eight times, projecting to 15, most since 20 in 1992, the last winning season.

    Of late, of course, it has worsened:

    From June 7 onward, the Pirates have averaged 2.9 runs per game, held to three or fewer in 20 of those 29 games.

    The 8-5 victory Sunday against Philadelphia ended a streak of 46 games without scoring as many as seven runs, longest in the majors since 1985.

    There have been only 10 home runs since June 8, none with a man on base. The latter streak grew Thursday to 27 games and exactly 900 at-bats.

    And never mind multiple-run home runs. The Pirates have managed only seven multiple-run hits in that same span.

    All of which raises the question: Is this offense under-performing or simply a match for the talent?

    "There's a lot of talent in here," shortstop Bobby Crosby said in another virtually silent clubhouse. "We show spurts of it, and then we go cold. And it seems like when we go cold, we go cold as a team. We've just got to find a few to scratch a few runs across."

    "I think the talent's here," first baseman Garrett Jones said. "I feel like we're a line-drive hitting team and not really a home-run team. Honestly, we're just not getting 'em to fall right now."

    That can be stated with certainty of at least two of the three everyday rookies, as Neil Walker had the most consistently sound at-bats in the series, and Jose Tabata repeatedly is lining out with authority, as happened three more times Thursday.

    "Unbelievable," Tabata said after this one.

    That raises another issue pertinent to the above numbers: The Pirates of the past month have included Walker, Tabata and Pedro Alvarez, with Walker delivering steady production at .290 but Tabata at .226, Alvarez at .194.

    Hitting coach Don Long forecast that "there are going to be times when they all struggle together," but he and Russell expressed optimism.

    "You can see the pieces there now," Russell said. "It's just a matter of putting it all together."

    Walker delivered the lone hit Thursday, perhaps unwittingly avoiding history with his looping single to right in the first inning.

    Otherwise, Oswalt's only blemishes were two walks and a hit batsman. He had eight strikeouts, threw 79 of 117 pitches for strikes and barely broke a sweat.

    "One of the best games I've ever seen him throw," Berkman called it.

    "It was funny," Oswalt said. "The first three innings, I was missing spots and kind of getting nervous about not being able to throw where I want. It seemed like I was able to hit a few more spots later."

    The Pirates seemed most flustered by Oswalt's fastball, which brought three caught-looking strikeouts.

    "His fastball's sneaky," Jones said. "Just explodes on you."

    The Astros hit eight home runs in the series after having only 50 beforehand, and Berkman was emblematic of that: He had eight before the series and added four.

    "He killed us," Russell said.

    Berkman's first home run Thursday came in the first inning off Ross Ohlendorf, another soft poke into the nearby Crawford Boxes in left. The next came in the fourth, also to those boxes but with more thump.

    The scouting report on Berkman during what has been a deeply disappointing season, according to one National League evaluator Thursday, is that he had been having a hard time catching up with inside fastballs. And yet, the Pirates consistently pitched him outside, at least until Ohlendorf finally busted him inside with the third at-bat and drew a popup.

    Ohlendorf blamed himself for the approach to Berkman, saying, "I should have gone inside, especially on the second home run."

    Ohlendorf pitched plenty well enough to win, lasting through seven with no other damage, but he still fell to 1-7.

    On that note, it bears repeating that pitching is a culprit, too -- though not on this day -- in the Pirates' 30-55 record that projects to 105 losses: The staff ERA of 5.10 is third-highest in the majors, highest for the franchise since 1952. And the starters deserve almost all of the blame, having only 16 victories -- in 85 games -- as compared to the relievers' 14 victories.

    "That's unacceptable at the major-league level," pitching coach Joe Kerrigan said.

    Milwaukee is next.

    Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10190...#ixzz0tBfRMRn8
    "Miles to go before I sleep."

    I'm not giving up, however.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Yet I remain optimistic

    Quote Originally Posted by exNCite View Post
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    "Miles to go before I sleep."

    I'm not giving up, however.
    I remain optimistic too. I think McCutchen, Lincoln, Walker, Tabata and Alvarez are all going to pan out as above average players. That's a pretty good reason for optimism.

    The series in Houston, however, convinced me that the whole on field managerial team--Russell and company--probably need to exit. There is just something intangibly bad about going into Houston every series, every year, and being so bad. Same is typically the case for Milwaukee.

    For Russell to save his job, he needs to demonstrate he can change those intangibles before the end of the year. The team has to perform in situations where they have historcially failed, like winning games in Houston and Milwaukee, whose teams are not really any better than the Pirates.

    I'm not even asking for big winning streaks, or a great finish to the season; just something that changes the status quo. Otherwise, Russell and the staff need to go....

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    Default Re: Yet I remain optimistic

    Russell is terrible and so is his whole staff. We wont get significantly better until they're gone.
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    Default Re: Yet I remain optimistic

    It is tough for me to remain optimistic at this point. To me, we just don't have the pitching and won't for many years if we strictly rely on our minors/drafting. I think the MLB scouts failed in their evaluation of our pitching return in our trades and this hurt us badly. Morton-Hart-Oehlendorff-Karstens are all end of the rotation or AAA pitchers. Duke-Malholm are both about as good as they will ever be. There doesn't appear to be an ace or even #2 type pitcher in our high minors.

    So, I will say that I really WANT to be optimistic, but baseball is all about pitching and we don't have it at this point and I have no idea how we get it other than wait till it comes up through the system.

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    Default Re: Yet I remain optimistic

    I also would like to be optimistic and I think there is some talent...but I DO think that the pitching is going to be a HUGE problem. There is some talent at AA...possibly soon to AAA...but everything else is realistically in the low minors. We really need to get a player or two via free agency...and I dont know if they will do that.
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    Default Re: Yet I remain optimistic

    Last night when my family saw the Pirates score on ESPN, my son said "we'll be good next year," which made me smile. Then my daughter promptly said, "don't you say that every year, dad?"

    It is getting more and more difficult to hang in there.

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    Default Re: Yet I remain optimistic

    Quote Originally Posted by WeAreFamily View Post
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    Last night when my family saw the Pirates score on ESPN, my son said "we'll be good next year," which made me smile. Then my daughter promptly said, "don't you say that every year, dad?"

    It is getting more and more difficult to hang in there.

    I agree wholeheartedly. I is getting just about impossible to believe in this organization in this sport ... as constructed financially. And just to add a little more cloudiness on the subject -- take a look at how well things are going for the Baltimore Orioles and their youth movement.

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    Default Re: Yet I remain optimistic

    Quote Originally Posted by glscott57 View Post
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    I agree wholeheartedly. I is getting just about impossible to believe in this organization in this sport ... as constructed financially. And just to add a little more cloudiness on the subject -- take a look at how well things are going for the Baltimore Orioles and their youth movement.
    I am not sure we can use the financial situation of major league baseball as an excuse. Teams with near the same market size, Twins, Reds, Rays, Brewers compete. The Padres went from **** to leading their division with **** near the same payroll as we have. The Reds are leading our division with a 68 million dollar payroll. Texas is leading their division with a 55 million dollar payroll. Oakland is 4 games below .500 with a 50 million dollar payroll. Atlanta is leading their division, 15 games over .500 with a 84 million dollar payroll. Those aren't anywhere near unattainable payrolls with our market. It just takes competant people steering the ship and a willingness to take on some risk in trying to get better.

    I personally think it is somewhat laughable when the FO thumps their chests about the draft. You would think they would be aware that the other 29 teams get to draft as well.

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    Default Re: Yet I remain optimistic

    Quote Originally Posted by WeAreFamily View Post
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    Last night when my family saw the Pirates score on ESPN, my son said "we'll be good next year," which made me smile. Then my daughter promptly said, "don't you say that every year, dad?"

    It is getting more and more difficult to hang in there.
    You know...the problem this organization faces is 5 years away I think. What do I mean by that? I mean, honestly, if this continues even just another 2 years.....they will have completely lost a significant portion of their potential fanbase. Its people like you...people like me...people like glscott...people like those on this board..........those who have held through the 17 years...have stayed true........when WE'RE gone...the Pirates as an organization will have a TON of problems. And YES that IS possible. The Pirates have already almost lost my generation...the Pens have gobbled them/us up (and I do LOVE the Pens).
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    Default Re: Yet I remain optimistic

    Mr Pgh,

    I agree with you. Even IF our big 4 come thru, we still need a SS, a RF, C (Sanchez has lost a year and many scouts still think he is average at best) and some Starters. Where are they gonna come from? Certainly not the minors, nor from Free Agency.

    Our starters would be Dorf, Maholm, Lincoln, maybe Duke and Karstens. They are ALL 'hope they pitch good today' starters rather than the 'geez, we should win with them on the hill' starters. And, of course, Morris and Owens are gonna save us. Heck, Duke had better minor league numbers than Owens.

    Nope, my optimism is almost down to zero...18 years will do that to ya.

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    Default Re: Yet I remain optimistic

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeFoo View Post
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    Mr Pgh,

    I agree with you. Even IF our big 4 come thru, we still need a SS, a RF, C (Sanchez has lost a year and many scouts still think he is average at best) and some Starters. Where are they gonna come from? Certainly not the minors, nor from Free Agency.

    Our starters would be Dorf, Maholm, Lincoln, maybe Duke and Karstens. They are ALL 'hope they pitch good today' starters rather than the 'geez, we should win with them on the hill' starters. And, of course, Morris and Owens are gonna save us. Heck, Duke had better minor league numbers than Owens.

    Nope, my optimism is almost down to zero...18 years will do that to ya.
    Here's where the Pirate organization is at:
    -You MUST sign Taillon and Allie...they are your best hopes at SP...and even they are a long way away
    -You MUST get the #1 pick and select Rendon next year.
    -You move Alvarez to 1B, Jones to RF, and leave Rendon at 3B
    -You MUST sign Drew Maggi...he's the best chance you have at a starting SS
    -You MUST go out and sign a top-notch starter
    -You MUST get VERY LUCKY

    That's alot of things that need to go your way...and alot of luck needed as well.
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    Default Re: Yet I remain optimistic

    [QUOTE=BigBen2112;91339]Here's where the Pirate organization is at:
    -You MUST sign Taillon and Allie...they are your best hopes at SP...and even they are a long way away
    -You MUST get the #1 pick and select Rendon next year.
    -You move Alvarez to 1B, Jones to RF, and leave Rendon at 3B
    -You MUST sign Drew Maggi...he's the best chance you have at a starting SS
    -You MUST go out and sign a top-notch starter
    -You MUST get VERY LUCKY

    That's alot of things that need to go your way...[HIGH-LIGHT]and alot of luck needed as well.[/[/HIGH-LIGHT]QUOTE]

    PIRATES + LUCK =

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    Default Re: Yet I remain optimistic

    I am holding out some hope for some of our minor league pitchers. We dont need them to come up and be cliff lee, but hopefully we can get 4 good pitchers and maybe, just maybe get a shutdown starter via trade when that time comes. This team would be pretty decent right now if it wasnt for the glaring holes at short, catcher, and right field (you can throw in 3rd base right now, but i think pedro is going to work out just fine). Thats 4 out of 8 hitters that are killing us at the plate. We need at least 2 more consistent hitters. Check out some box scores on games we win, the young guys are getting it done, while the rest are just rally killers. Doumit is so poor defensively and offensively this year that we arent going to be able to trade him for a box of ****. But thats ok because the media is going to beat the crap out of NH for trading him for below average prospects, which is all he is realistically worth, but his "reputation" among the media is worth its weight in gold. People want to see every guy come up and be an all star, but what you need is guys to come up and quietly go about their work, IE walker and tabata. I still think lincoln is going to work out too, he just needs to get a little seasoning.

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