Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Francisco Lirian-QO

In roughly two weeks the Pittsburgh Pirates will have to make their first big decisions of the offseason – which pending free agents they should extend a qualifying offer (QO) to. The exact deadline will not be determined until the World Series has ended. Teams have five days after the conclusion of the World Series to make their qualifying offers. The QO this year is $15.3 million. That is no small sum for a team with a payroll budget of around $90 million like the Pirates. There are two pending free agents the Pirates will consider extending a QO. One is a no-brainer. The Pirates have already indicated they will make a qualifying offer to Russell Martin. There is no risk to doing so. He is practically guaranteed not to sign it, and if he does the Pirates will retain a player that is well worth the cost of the QO. As much as Pirate fans want Martin to be resigned the most likely scenario is he will turn down the QO from the Pirates and sign a multi-year extension with a larger market club. Under that scenario the Pirates would at least collect a draft pick in 2015 sandwiched between Rounds 1 and 2. The second player the Pirate will contemplate extending a qualifying offer to is Francisco Liriano. That decision is a little less clear cut, but I believe it is one the Pirates should make.
 

There is an outside chance that if the Pirates do make a QO to Liriano he might sign it. Although no player has yet to accept a QO, there were several players last offseason that probably wish they had. Nelson Cruz, Kendrys Morales, Ervin Santana, and Stephen Drew all found their market significantly impacted when their services were attached to the loss of a 1st round draft pick. Cruz, Morales, and Drew all signed 1 year deals for less than the qualifying offer. Santana signed a 1 year contract with the Braves for essentially the same amount as the QO. Eventually a player is going to end up just taking the QO instead of gambling on finding a longer term deal while their value is being suppressed by the signing penalty of a lost 1st round pick. Liriano profiles as the type of player that is most hurt by a QO. He is going to be 31 years old next season, he has thrown close to 1200 career innings, and he has an injury history. He also is too inconsistent to be considered a bonafide top of the rotation starting pitcher. Liriano is a better bet as a mid-rotation starter. For these reasons he likely would not fetch an enormous long term free agent contract even under the best of circumstances. He is inline for something like a 3 or 4 year deal in the $12-$14 million annual average value (AAV) range. The QO could really drag his market down further, which might make the $15.3 million 1 year salary that comes with a QO look like an attractive option to him.
 

If Liriano does accept a QO that isn’t such a terrible outcome for the Pirates. $15.3 million is some what of an overpay for Liriano, but it comes with no long term risk and he offers at least a fair chance at performing up to that level. Liriano can be maddeningly inconsistent at times, but he is also capable of being dominant. He is not a true ace but he is capable of pitching like one in stretches. In 2013 he pitched like an ace all season. He had some struggles in 2014, but there are signs Liriano can still be an elite pitcher. His K/9 rate of 9.70 and ground ball rate of 54.4% this season were even better than his 2013 numbers. Good luck trying to find another ground ball pitcher with those type of strikeout rates.
 

An even better outcome for the Pirates than Liriano outright accepting the QO is that it could lead to a discounted multi-year contract. If Liriano declines the QO the Pirates would still be in position to capitalize on his suppressed market. A 2 year/$25 million contract could be a win-win for all parties. The Pirates would retain Liriano at a lower AAV than the cost of the qualifying offer, while Liriano would get $10 million additional in guaranteed money above the QO. Either way the goal should be for the Pirates to retain Francisco Liriano. The best chance of that happening is by extending him a qualifying offer.
 

Sizing Up the Market for Russell Martin

Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin will be a free agent in a few short weeks. He is the best available catcher in this free agent class and will be highly sought after. Although Martin is on the wrong side of 30 he should still find several teams willing to offer him a multi-year contract in the neighborhood of $15 million Annual Average Value (AAV). At a minimum it will take a 3 year contract to ink him, and it is very likely it will take 4 or more guaranteed years to get a deal done. So here are the potential landing spots to sign Russell Martin.
 


The Incumbent

 

Pittsburgh Pirates
Why he makes sense for the Pirates: Martin is well respected by his teammates, adored by the fans, and the front office has already said signing him is a priority. Pitch framing and strong defense are two attributes the Pirates really value, and Martin is elite in both those aspects. He has been a prefect fit for the organization since he joined them two years ago. The Pirates intend to extend him a qualifying offer.

 
Why he doesn’t make sense for the Pirates: Money, Money, Money. The largest free agent contract the Pirates have ever handed out was the $17 million contract they gave Martin two years ago. It will take triple that to sign him now. The Pirates are a frugal organization that avoids risky long term signings. Catchers do not age gracefully. Martin will be 32 next season. Signing him comes with a significant risk that his play will regress and he will underperform the backend of the contract.
 


Strong Suitors

 
Red Sox
Why he makes sense for the Red Sox: The Red Sox ended up really missing Jarrod Saltalamacchia who left the Sox for the Marlins as a free agent last winter. Boston’s catchers combined for just 0.9 fWAR in 2014. Young Christian Vazquez has some talent, but the Red Sox are a team that aspires to be contenders every season. They probably won’t be comfortable just handing over the bulk of the catching duties to Vazquez. The Red Sox have a protected 1st round draft pick, so the qualifying offer that will be attached to Martin will not deter them. The Red Sox are a cash rich organization that is financially capable of bidding on the best available free agent talent.

 
Why he doesn’t make sense for the Red Sox: In the past few seasons the Red Sox have to stayed away from deals longer than 3 years. The Red Sox covet the roster flexibility that shorter contracts provide.
 

Cubs
Why he makes sense for the Cubs: The Cubs are a team on the come with numerous young position player talent. They might be ready to contend if they can get the most out of their pitching staff. What better way to do that than by adding a catcher like Martin that is great at handling a pitching staff and helps steal strikes for pitchers with his exceptional framing skills? The Cubs’ brass has also spoken of the need to add some veteran presence and leadership to the squad. As an added bonus signing Martin would also be taking away a player from a strong division rival. Much like the Red Sox, the Cubs have a protected 1st round pick and plenty of money in the coffers to sign a free agent of Martin’s ilk.

 
Why he doesn’t make sense for the Cubs: The Cubs actually have a fair catcher in Welington Castillo. Martin might also not believe the Cubs are as close to contending as they think. Would he take an offer from the Cubs if stronger contenders are beckoning?
 

Tigers
Why he makes sense for the Tigers: The Tigers are team in a win now mode and their catcher Alex Avila has suffered from several recent concussions. They are also not shy about chasing top notch free agents.

 
Why he doesn’t make sense for the Tigers: The Tigers have really expanded their payroll beyond a comfortable level, and their farm system has been left with a dearth of talent due to numerous trades in recent seasons. Signing Martin would continue to hurt them on both fronts as signing him will not be cheap and the Tigers would lose their 2015 1st round draft pick.

 

Rangers
Why he makes sense for the Rangers: The Rangers had an abysmal season in 2014 and the catcher position was part of the problem. Martin could really solidify a position in which the Rangers produced less than 1 fWAR. The Rangers also have a track record as being players in the free agent market. They also have a protected 1st round draft pick.

 
Why he doesn’t make sense for the Rangers: The Rangers have had a bloated payroll for years and they have hinted that they need to trim their budget. They had so many problems last season and catcher is probably not their biggest issue. They might be closer to going the rebuilding route than making a run at another expensive free agent.
 

Dodgers
Why he makes sense for the Dodgers: The Dodgers are a team that is in a win now mode and got underwhelming performances this season from catchers A.J. Ellis and Drew Butera. New GM Andrew Friedman has a reputation from his tenure with the Rays for valuing more advanced defensive catcher skill sets like pitch framing and blocking. Martin fits the bill. The Dodgers look like the favorites to land him.

 
Why he doesn’t make sense for the Dodgers: Even with subpar performance from their catchers the Dodgers still had the best record in the National League. The Dodgers have the highest payroll in baseball. How much higher can they go? At some point the escalators on the payroll luxury tax will be problematic for the Dodgers. It is also unclear how Friedman will handle having such a large budget. Although Martin would be affordable to the Dodgers I don’t expect they would make him an insane offer far beyond what other clubs would be willing to pay. Friedman is too smart to saddle himself with too much sunk cost at the end of any contract. Signing Martin would also cost the Dodgers their 2015 1st round draft pick.

 


Dark Horses

Blue Jays, Rockies, White Sox, Mariners, Mets, Braves
Why he makes sense for these clubs: These clubs have varying needs for a catcher. Among this group the White Sox and Rockies appear to have the biggest need for a good backstop.

 
Why he doesn’t make sense for these clubs: The Mariners have Mike Zunino and the Mets have Travis d’Arnaud. Both are younger catchers with upside, so unless these clubs absolutely love Russell Martin they probably will stick with what they have for now. Dioner Navarro did an adequate job for the Blue Jays last season. Although he profiles more as a backup, the Blue Jays will probably be inclined to stick with him instead of spending lavishly on Martin. The Braves have Evan Gattis who can mash, but defensively is a liability. Cost and the loss of a 1st round pick would probably dissuade them from getting involved in the market for Russell Martin. The Blue Jays, Mets, and Mariners would also lose a 1st round pick if they were to sign a free agent attached to a qualifying offer. The Rockies could really use a catcher, but Martin is likely out of their price range. The White Sox would be a good fit, but they are not likely to contend next season and that could affect their willingness to sink money into an aging veteran catcher.

 

How Teams Have Fared After Losing a Primary Catcher in Free Agency

In a few short weeks Pirates catcher Russell Martin will become a free agent. The Pirates hope to retain him, and for good reason. Like most primary catchers he is an integral part of the team’s success. Recent history has not be kind to teams that have lost their primary catcher to free agency. Over the past five seasons 13 primary catchers have parted with their teams via free agency. For this study I’m considering a primary catcher to be one that has started more than half of his team’s games behind the dish. Those teams on average have won 7.1 less games in the following season. If you factor the “Barajas” effect, the numbers look even worse. Three times Rod Barajas has left a team after being its primary catcher and those teams improved by 10, 4, and 15 games. The only non-Barajas teams that didn’t get worse were the 2010 Dodgers that improved by two games after losing Russell Martin and the 2009 Royals who also improved by two games after Miguel Olivo left for the Rockies. Excluding the teams with Rod Barajas, the difference after losing a primary catcher was 12.1 less wins in the subsequent season. Here is the full list of teams that have lost their primary catcher in free agency over the last five seasons:

 

Year Player Team Change in wins
2013 Brian McCann Braves -17
2013 A.J. Pierzynski Rangers -24
2013 Jarrod Saltalamacchia Red Sox -26
2012 Rod Barajas Pirates +15
2012 Russell Martin Yankees -10
2012 A.J. Pierzynski White Sox -22
2011 Rod Barajas Dodgers +4
2010 John Buck Blue Jays -4
2010 Yorvit Torrealba Padres -19
2010 Russell Martin Dodgers +2
2009 Jason Kendall Brewers -3
2009 Rod Barajas Blue Jays +10
2009 Miguel Olivo Roayls +2

 

Pirates 2014 Season From A to Z

A is for Attendance. The Pirates drew 2,442,564 fans to PNC Park this season to set an new franchise attendance record.

 
B for Bumgarner, as in Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner dominated the Pirates in a complete game shutout at PNC Park in the N.L Wild Card Game to end their 2014 season

 
C is for Cutch. Star CF Andrew McCutchen had another fine season and once against was an MVP candidate. He may not win the MVP award this season, but he is a virtual lock for his 3rd straight top 5 finish.

 
D is for Diamondbacks. A series against the Diamondbacks from August 1st – 3rd turned into a brutal beanball war that ultimately ended with the Pirates losing Andrew McCutchen for several weeks with a broken rib.

 
E is for Eddie V. Edinson Volquez was brought in as a free agent to replace A.J. Burnett in the rotation. Many, including myself, thought it was a bad signing. But Eddie V turned out to be better than expected. He still shouldn’t have been the starting pitcher in the Wild Card Game though.

 

F is for Frieri, as in Ernesto Frieri. The Pirates acquired relief pitcher Ernesto Frieri in late June from the Angels. Frieri was a disaster. On July 8th he gave up walk-off home run to Cardinals second basemen Kolten Wong. Frieri continued to suck for another month before the Pirates DFA’d him on August 8th.

 
G is for Grilli. Jason Grilli entered the season as the Pirates closer, but after a string of blown saves he was dealt to the Angels for Ernesto Frieri on June 27th.

 
H is for Hit By Pitch. Pirate pitchers are taught to aggressively pitch inside. One of the byproducts of that approach is that they hit a lot of batters. The Pirate pitching staff hit 88 batters which led the league by a wide margin.

 
I is for Ike. The Pirates acquired 1B Ike Davis from the Mets on April 18th. Ike spent most of the summer taking pitches, even when they were 3rd strikes.

 
J is for JHay. Josh Harrison was the Pirates surprise hero of the season. JHay’s rise from bench player to all-star was meteoric. He started the year as essentially the 25th man on the roster. By season’s end he was the leadoff hitter, starting 3B, and one of the most important players on the team. JHay could seemingly do anything… including Houdiniesque escapes from rundowns.
 

 
K is for Ks. Pirate hitters had significantly fewer of them this season. Under new hitting coach Jeff Branson the Pirates struck out 86 times less than in 2013.

 
L is for Lunchbox. Lunchbox is the nickname of Pirates RF Travis Snider. Snider has been much maligned for most of his tenure with the Pirates, but he had something of a breakout season in 2014 and eventually earned the starting RF job.

 
M is for Marte. After struggling for much of the 1st half of the season Starling Marte turned his season around after returning from a brief stay on the DL in late July. Marte was one of the hottest hitters in baseball over the last two months of the season.
 

N is for “No Move is the Right Move”. That was GM Neal Huntington’s explanation for why he didn’t make any trades to strengthen the team at the deadline.

 

O is for offense. This was the Pirates strongest offensive team since the early 90′s. They posted a 109 wRC+ (weighted run created plus) which was 4th best in the baseball and the highest total by a Pirates team since 1991.
 

P is for Polanco. Highly touted prospect Gregory Polanco made his debut on June 10th. He got off to a hot start but struggled in July and August. Eventually he was benched and sent back down to the minors.
 

Q is for qualifying offer. According to the front office the Pirates could not afford to offer one to A.J. Burnett.
 

R is for Russ, as in catcher Russell Martin. Martin is always great defensively, but this season he had a career year offensively too. Russ is a soon to be free agent and much of the talk this summer centered around whether or not the Pirates would be able to sign him to a new contract that would keep him in Pittsburgh.
 

S is for Sanchez. The Pirates have two of them and neither one did much this season.

 

T is for TOOTBLAN. The Pirates base running was comically bad at times this season. This incident was by far the worst offense.
 

 
U is for useless. Useless describes the Pirates bench in early August that consisted of Michael Martinez, Jayson Nix, and Brent Morel while a number of key players were on the disabled list.

 

V is for Vanimal, the nickname of pitcher Vance Worley. Worley became the latest pitcher the Pirates were able to find on the scrap heap and transform into a quality starting pitcher.

 
W is for walk-off. The Pirates had 10 walk-off wins in 2014 including this game winning home run by Neil Walker on opening day.
 

 
X is for xFIP. xFIP is a better predictor of future performance for pitchers than ERA. Vance Worley and Edinson Volquez both significantly outperformed their xFIP which means they probably won’t be as good next season.

 
Y is for yips. Pedro Alvarez had a very bad case of the yips this season. Alvarez led all of baseball with 24 throwing errors.

 
Z is for Zoltan. For the 3rd straight summer Pirate players flashed the Zoltan Z sign after getting a hit. The team didn’t start the season using the Z, but they brought it back in late April after an early season slump.

 

Pirates Are Aced Out Again

For the second straight season the Pittsburgh Pirates were bounced from the playoffs by an ace starting pitcher. Last year it was Adam Wainwright who silenced the Bucs’ bats in Game 5 of the N.L.D.S. This season it was a gem by San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner that ended the Pirates’ season in the N.L. Wild Card Game. Bumgarner was sensational. He allowed just 4 hits and 1 walk in a complete game shutout in which he simply carved up the Pirates lineup.
 
The success of these aces against the Pirates in elimination games just further illustrates how foolish it was for the Pirates to allow their hopes to rest on the shoulders of Edinson Volquez. The Pirates had the option of skipping Gerrit Cole in the final game of the season so he could be available for the Wild Card Game. Instead they took a long shot chance to catch the the Cardinals for a share of the NL Central Division lead. The plan backfired and the Pirates were left with no choice but to oppose Bumgarner with Volquez. Edinson Volquez had a fine season, but he is no ace pitcher. You can argue that Gerrit Cole is not an ace either, but in his short career he has already flashed some ace qualities including pitching very well in the the playoffs last year. I don’t know if Cole would have matched zeros with Bumgarner, but I liked his chances to do so better than I did Volquez.
 
Volquez did manage to put up zeros thru the first 3 innings until disaster struck in the 4th. Ultimately it was the breaking ball command that did Volquez in. He was unable to bury his curveball in crucial 2 strike counts. Pablo Sandoval led off the inning with a single off of a 2-2 curveball that Volquez left thigh high. Hunter Pence then hit an 0-1 fastball into left field for a base hit. That brought up Brandon Belt who turned out to have the key at bat of the inning. With the count at 2-2 on Belt, Volquez threw perhaps his best breaking pitch of the night. It was a sharp curve that broke below the knees. It was the kind of chase pitch that a pitcher has to make with 2 strikes when they need to get a big strikeout. Belt’s hands started moving forward but to his credit he checked his swing. Volquez would walk him on the next pitch. That brought up Brandon Crawford with the bases loaded and no outs. Crawford would deliver the big blow. Once again it was the curve ball that would fail Volquez. With the count at 1-2 Volquez hung a breaking ball right into Crawford’s wheel house. Crawford put the ball over the Clemente Wall to stake the Giants to 4-0 lead. With the way Bumgarner was pitching the game was essentially already out of the Pirate’s reach. Four batters in that 4th inning scored on Volquez, and he had gotten ahead in the count on all four of them. An ace would not have let them off the hook.
 
For the Pirates it was a sad end to a very good season, albeit one in which they took a step back. In the coming days I will post a detailed postmortem on the Pirates entire 2014 season. In the mean time I will lament on being aced out once again.
 

Edinson Volquez is the Wildest of Wild Cards

Wild Card Playoff baseball is here and there is no greater wild card in this opening single game elimination playoff round than Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Edinson Volquez.

wild card: a person or thing that could affect a situation in a way that cannot be predicted : an unknown or unpredictable factor. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

While the other three Wild Card teams will rely on the arms of their aces, the Pirates will send Volquez to the mound to oppose Madison Bumgarner. The Pirates backed themselves into this situation when they chose to take a long shot at winning the N.L. Central by pitching Gerrit Cole on the final day of the regular season. That left the Pirates with no choice but to turn to Volquez for the NL Wild Card game. Volquez isn’t the worst option. He has pitched extremely well in the second half the season, but he doesn’t provide the level of comfort in knowing that you will likely get an outstanding performance from him like you would an ace. Volquez truly is a wild card. He could be great, he could be terrible, or could be downright wild. Although Volquez has cut down on the walks considerably this year he still has moments of extreme wildness. Just three starts ago he walked five batters in an outing against the Cubs, and he tied with Tim Lincecum for the National League lead in wild pitches this season with 15. And there is no question that among the Wild Card round starting pitchers Volquez is by far the wildest.
 

BB/9
James Shields 1.74
Jon Lester 1.97
Madison Bumgarner 1.78
Edinson Volquez 3.32

 
As you can see Edinson Volquez is walking hitters at nearly twice the rate of the three ace pitchers that are being handed the ball in the Wild Card Playoff games. This is not say that Edinson Volquez isn’t capable of pitching a gem against the Giants. And perhaps there is just something apropos about a guy that can be more than a little wild taking the hill for these Wild Card Pirates.
 

MLB Playoffs and the Worst of the Best

Six long months of regular season baseball has whittled down the field to ten teams that will compete in the MLB post season beginning Tuesday, September 30th as the Oakland A’s travel to Kansas City to take on the Royals in the American League Wild Card game. There are a lot of great players that have had great seasons that have led these ten teams into the playoffs. I’m sure in the next few days you will hear plenty of talk about the potential impact of star players like Andrew McCutchen, Mike Trout, and Clayton Kershaw. What you won’t hear much of is the players that have dragged these teams down. Often getting to the playoffs isn’t as much about a team’s strengths as it overcoming their weaknesses. That is why I have decided to take a look at the worst of the best – the most underperforming players from each playoff team.
 

There are no shortage of underperforming players among the teams still vying for the World Series. Among the teams that qualified for the post season are 138 players that produced a negative fWAR for their team this season. A few of these players even hurt two playoff teams. Here is the list two team negative producers:
 

Ernesto Frieri: Angels -0.5 fWAR and Pirates -0.3 fWAR
Jayson Nix: Pirates -0.6 fWAR and Royals -0.2 fWAR
Jim Johnson: A’s -0.6 fWAR and Tigers -0.1 fWAR
 

Oscar Taveras (Cardinals), Justin Maxwell (Royals), and Alberto Callaspo (A’s) tie at -1.1 fWAR for the worst individual performance among the playoff teams this season. The Nationals had the fewest number of negative fWAR players with just 7. The Dodgers had the most with 19. Here is the list of each playoff team’s lowest producing player:
 

Team Negative fWAR players Lowest fWAR Player
Nationals 7 Scott Hairston and Nate McLouth -0.6
Orioles 8 Evan Meek -0.4
A’s 11 Alberto Callaspo -1.1
Royals 13 Justin Maxwell -1.1
Tigers 14 Ian Krol -0.5
Giants 16 Juan Perez and Javier Lopez -0.5
Pirates 16 Wandy Rodriguez and Bryan Morris -0.8
Angels 17 Brennan Boesch -0.6
Cardinals 17 Oscar Taveras -1.1
Dodgers 19 Chris Perez and Paul Maholm -0.8

 

Pirates TWIBB Notes for Week of 9-22-14 thru 9-28-14

Here are your This Week in Buccos Baseball Notes for 9/22/14 thru 9/28/14, the final week of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 regular season.
 

Weekly result: 4 Wins and 3 Loss, 26 Runs Scored and 24 Runs Allowed
 

Hero of the week: Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen made a late push for a second MVP with a solid week to close out the season. Cutch had 9 hits in 22 ABs this week and drew 7 walks. He also knocked in 8 runs and scored 7 runs.
 

Zero of the week: Jeff Locke. The Pirates were hot on the heels of the NL Central Division leading Cardinals and were riding a wave of momentum until Locke pitched an absolute dud against the Braves on Wednesday. Locke was shelled for 8 hits and walked 5 batters in just 4 innings before leaving the game with the Pirates trailing 6-0.
 

How do you spell relief? M-A-R-K M-E-L-A-N-C-O-N. Mark The Shark notched two saves in his only two appearances of the week. He pitched two scoreless innings while striking out three.
 

#HURDLED: The Pirates chose to take a long shot at winning the division and not alter their rotation to set up Gerrit Cole for the more likely scenario of a Wild Card game against the Giants. Instead Clint Hurdle gave the ball to Cole on the final day of the regular season despite the Pirates not holding their own destiny. Cole did not disappoint. He racked up 12 Ks and allowed just 1 ER over 7 innings, but the effort was wasted as the Pirates couldn’t muster any offense against Johnny Cueto. The bullpen imploded in the 8th inning and with it the chance of forcing a 1 game playoff with the Cardinals to claim the NL Central Division was lost. Now the Pirates hopes of advancing past the Wild Card game relies on the arm of Edinson Volquez. I would have preferred Cole. I suspect deep down Clint Hurdle would too. I do find it admiral that Hurdle chose to chase the bigger prize. As foolish as it was, it seems that it was an organizational decision to start Cole on Sunday against the Reds. That decision would have made much more sense had Clint Hurdle pulled out all the stops in games earlier in the week. Instead he stuck with Jeff Locke far too long in a loss against Atlanta, and on Saturday the Pirates lost in 10 innings with Bobby LaFromboise on the hill while Mark Melancon sat unused in the bullpen. This was not Clint Hurdle’s finest week.
 

Cannonballs: Andrew McCutchen (2), Travis Snider (2), Neil Walker (2), Gaby Sanchez, Jordy Mercer
 

The little things that matter: Gerrit Cole pitched a gem on Sunday but the difference in this game was that Johnny Cueto did a better job with the bat. Chris Stewart hit a lead off double in the 5th inning, but Gerrit Cole laid down a poor bunt that allowed the Reds to throw out Stewart at third base. It was an opportunity lost for the Pirates. In the 8th inning Reds manager Bryan Price inexplicably allowed Cueto to hit with a runner on 3rd base. Cueto would run the count full against Tony Watson before slapping a slow roller through the Pirates drawn in infield to put the Reds ahead 2-1.

 

It must be Hidden Vigorish: It finally happened. Francisco Liriano scored a run. Prior to the 5th inning on Saturday Liriano had batted 128 times previously in his MLB career. He had 9 hits and 8 walks but had never touched home plated safely. That changed on Saturday when Liriano reached base on a single off of Yorman Rodriguez and later scored on a Neil Walker base hit.
 

Stats that blow my mind: Only 11 qualified hitters in the National League had a batting average over .290. Three of them were Pirates – Josh Harrison, Andrew McCutchen, and Starling Marte.
 

Records and Milestones: Qualifying for the playoff is a pretty big achievement. The Pirates did that when they clinched a Wild Card after beating the Braves 3-2 on Tuesday night. Andrew McCutchen also hit is his 200th career double.

 

He said what: Pirates Bench Coach Jeff Banister has been with the organization a very long time. He was drafted by the Pirates in 1986. After calling it quits as a player following the 1993, the team hired him as a minor league instructor in 1994. He has been a coach in some capacity with the Pirates ever since. Banister remembers losing to Atlanta in heartbreaking fashion in the 1992 NLCS, so it wasn’t lost on him what it meant for the Pirates to clinch a playoff berth this week in that same city.

To do this on this field in this city against that organization is what I’ll always remember.

 

Tweet of the week: Tony Sanchez goes double barrel action with some cold ones during the Pirates playoff clinching celebration.

 

Front Office Notes: The Pirates announced that Charlie Morton had hip labrum surgery. The recovery time is 6-8 months which means he might not be ready for opening day 2015.

 

On The Farm: Johan De Jesus was suspended 72 games for PED use. De Jesus is an infielder that spent the 2014 season with the Pirates Dominican Summer League team.

 
Highlight of the week: Tony Watson gets Freddie Freeman to ground into a game ending double play to make it back-to-back Buctobers.

 

 

Reliving Every Pirates Walk-Off Win in 2014

There is still a week left for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2014 regular season, but the remaining schedule is all on the road. That means no more walk-off wins, not counting the post season of course. Walk-offs are always special to the home fans. Just by their very nature they are the most exciting type of win a team can have. The Pirates gave us plenty of walk-offs in 2014. 10 of the Pirates 51 home wins were of the walk-off variety. Let’s relive them all one more time.

 
1) March 31, 2014 – Neil Walker goes yard on Opening Day


 

2) April 2, 2014 – Tony Sanchez‘s pinch-hit RBI single in the 16th inning ends the longest home game in Pittsburgh’s 128-year history at 5 hours and 55 minutes.


 

3) April 21, 2014 – Neil Walker bloops a ball just over the glove of Reds 2B Brandon Phillips to drive in Russell Martin in the 10th inning


 

4) May 2, 2014 – Starling Marte hits a solo blast to walk-off the Blue Jays


 

5) May 6, 2014 – Perhaps the craziest walk-off ever. Starling Marte triples and then tries to score as the throw skips past the third baseman. Marte was initially called out at home. After a review the play was reversed giving the Pirates a walk-off win over the Giants.


 

6) June 19, 2014 – Shrimp Alert! The Pirates truly walk-off in this one as Reds pitcher Tony Cingrani issues a bases loaded walk to Russell Martin in the bottom of the 12th inning.


 

7) June 27, 2014 – Josh Harrison hits a double in the 11 inning to drive in Clint Barmes to beat the Mets


 

8) July 1, 2014 – Arizona Pitcher Wade Miley dominated the Pirates thru 8 innings and took a 2-0 lead into the 9th. The Pirates would rally for 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning capped off by Ike Davis‘s RBI single


 

9) July 19, 2014 – Jordy Mercer doubled home Neil Walker to give the Pirates a 3-2 win over the Rockies in 11 innings


 

10) August 20, 2014 – The Pirates snapped a season long 7 game losing streak when Gaby Sanchez lifted a fly ball deep enough to score Jordy Mercer to give the Bucs a 3-2 win over the Braves


 

So there you have it. All 10 Pirate walk-off wins this season. There was a little bit of every thing. We saw a few game ending home runs, an overturned review walk-off, and even a walk-off walk. It made for 10 fantastic finishes at PNC Park this summer. Hopefully we can add to this list in the post season.
 

Pirates TWIBB Notes for Week of 9-15-14 thru 9-21-14

Here are your This Week in Buccos Baseball Notes for 9/15/14 thru 9/21/14, the 25th week of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 baseball season.
 

Weekly result: 5 Wins and 1 Loss, 21 Runs Scored and 6 Runs Allowed
 

Hero of the week: Russell Martin. Super Russ takes Hero Honors for the second straight week. The Pirates scored just 5 runs in the weekend series against the Brewers. Martin drove in 4 of those runs. His clutch hitting was just enough offense to give the Bucs two huge wins over the Brewers. Martin is riding an 11 game hit streak.
 

Zero of the week: Neil Walker. Walker is the midst of a slump in which he has just 1 hit in his last 15 ABs. Walker has also killed a lot of rallies lately. He hit into 3 double plays this week.
 

How do you spell relief? T-O-N-Y W-A-T-S-O-N. Tony Watson tossed 4 scoreless innings this week. He picked up a Hold and a Save.
 

#HURDLED: The Pirates won 5 of 6 games this week and stuck a dagger into the hearts of the Brewers. The Pirates will be making their second straight playoff appearance. Any complaints about the manager this week would be nitpicking. The Pirates are rolling right now and the manager deserves a lot of credit for that. The #Hurdled segment is suspended for this week.

 

Cannonballs: Russell Martin (2), Starling Marte (2), Gregory Polanco, Neil Walker, Ike Davis
 

The little things that matter: When the breaks go your way you have to take advantage. In the 1st inning on Wednesday Francisco Liriano loaded the bases and fell behind 3-0 to Red Sox 3B Will Middlebrooks. The next pitch was clearly out of the zone but Liriano got a gift strike call from the umpire. Liriano ended the inning on the next pitch. He survived the 1st inning thanks in part to a lucky break, and went on to pitch 6 innings and pick up the victory. The Pirates are hot right now and a big reason why is they are taking advantage of every break they have been getting.

 

It must be Hidden Vigorish: The Brewers were crushed this weekend under an avalanche of Hidden Vigorish. Milwaukee has owned the Pirates for most of a decade, but that did them little good this weekend. The Brew Crew’s 2014 season was basically ended after dropping 2 of 3 to the Pirates. No playoffs for you Brewers, this is a Buctober!

 

Stats that blow my mind: Just 19 of Vance Worley‘s 82 pitches on Sunday were balls. The Vanimal is such a control freak.

 

Records and Milestones: This record is kind of a big deal….

 

He said what: Clint Hurdle can barely walk to the mound these days to make a pitching change. He was advised months ago to have hip replacement surgery. He refuses to have the surgery until the season is over. Hurdle feels he owes it to his team to wait until the offseason. I don’t think you can find a more selfless man to manage a baseball team. This quote from Hurdle about his hip pain tells you what kind of guy he is:

I say, Give me the strength and courage to burden my pain so that my pain doesn’t become a burden for others

 

Tweet of the week: I’m going to break a rule and use one of my own tweets for Tweet of the Week. Against the Brewers on Sunday Vance Worley was incredible. This tweet sums up his performance.

 

Front Office Notes: Neal Huntington made his feelings known that he doesn’t appreciate the high heat that Andrew McCutchen has been taking from opposing pitchers.

Andrew McCutchen is our best player…..we get get that our hit by pitches are high. I should check this, but how many of those are breaking balls? Others have alluded to our HBP numbers….but it seems our guys get dotted up with fastballs to the ribs.

 

On The Farm: The Pirates decided to part ways with Altoona Curve manager Carlos Garcia. No details yet on why Garcia was let go or who will manage the Curve in 2015.

 
Highlight of the week: The 3 run bomb that Russell Martin hit in the 8th inning on Friday night to give the Pirates a come from behind victory over the Brewers might be the highlight of the season.

 

 

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