Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Month – May 2014

TWIBB Notes for the Week of 5-5-14 thru 5-11-14

Here are your This Week in Buccos Baseball Notes for 5/5/14 thru 5/11/14, the 6th week of the 2014 baseball season.

Weekly result: 4 wins and 2 Losses, 31 Runs Scored and 28 Runs Allowed

Hero of the week: Neil Walker delivered a huge 3-Run Homer in the bottom of the 7th inning on Friday night to erase a 4-3 Cardinals lead and put the Pirates ahead to stay. For the week Walker knocked in 6 runs.

Zero of the week: Bryan Morris. No player was more responsible for the two Pirates’ losses this week than Morris. He burped up multiple runs in relief outings this week in both of the Bucs’ losses. For the week Morris pitched just 2 innings, but gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, 3 earned runs, and allowed 2 inherited runners to score.

How do you spell relief? T-O-N-Y W-A-T-S-O-N. Tony Watson did get nicked for a blown save when he allowed a couple of inherited runners to score on Monday night against the Giants, but otherwise he was outstanding. And the Bucs have been leaning heavily on Mr. Watson. Watson made 4 appearances this week totaling 4.2 innings. He was credited with 0 earned runs and recorded 6 Ks. He picked up a victory and two holds.

#HURDLED: The dubious bunt calls from Clint Hurdle continue. In the 6th inning on Monday against the Giants, Hurdle called for the red hot Josh Harrison to sacrifice a runner to third base. So let’s talk about all the reasons this was a terrible play. First off, it was only 6th inning. Way too early to be playing for just 1 run. This game had all the makings of slugfest. The score was already 8-7. Why give up an out with the heart of order coming up? The runner was already in scoring position. Harrison has been hitting the cover off the ball. Prior to this AB he had 6 hits in his last 11 trips to the plate. A high scoring game like this called for a big inning. Finally, Harrison hasn’t proven to be a very good a bunter. How many times does Hurdle have to watch Harrison bunt two balls foul and be put into an 0-2 count before he realizes maybe it just isn’t a good idea to have that guy bunt?


Cannonballs: Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Jordy Mercer


The little things that matter: Ike Davis had a golden opportunity on Sunday Night to give the Pirates a series sweep over the Cards. He stepped into the box with the bases loaded and no outs and the Pirates trailing 6-5 in the bottom of the 9th inning. Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal had just walked Clint Barmes, one of the weakest hitters in all of baseball, on 4 straight pitches that weren’t even close to being strikes. So what did Ike do? He swung at this pitch.

In a no strike count hitters have to zero in on their pitch. Cut the plate in half and look for a pitch in your hot zone that you can drive. That is Hitting 101. A 98 mph fastball 3 inches above the strike zone is not a pitch that Davis can do much with. His anxiousness produced a weak popup and the Pirates would go on to completely squander an opportunity to steal another game from the Cards.


It must be Hidden Vigorish: Clint Hurdle had the Midas Touch with leadoff hitters this week. Josh Harrison, Travis Snider, and Jose Tabata all delivered multi-hit games from the leadoff spot in the order. I can’t explain it, so it much be Hidden Vigorish.

Stats that blow my mind: We are 37 games into the season and only two Pirate starting pitchers have recorded victories.

Records and Milestones: The Pirates’ 2-1 victory over the Giants on 5/6/14 marked the first ever MLB game to end on a play at the plate that was overturned by instant replay.


He said what: Clint Hurdle after allowing Gerrit Cole to pitch the 8th inning against teh Giants on Wednesday afternoon despite having already reached the 100 pitch mark.

Pushing through the eighth inning, the middle of the order, was very impressive. He’s capable of a lot of things out there. You saw the velocity stay at a much higher level today throughout the game, and actually his velocity played bigger later than it did earlier.


Tweet of the week: A new hashtag has been born!


Front Office Notes: Neal Huntington made the curious decision on Friday to add a player to the bench by recalling infielder Brent Morel from AAA Indianapolis. The entire Indianapolis outfield of Gregory Polanco, Chris Dickerson, and Jaff Decker was more deserving of a promotion, but Huntington went with Morel instead who was hitting just .215 with an .591 OPS at Indy. The decision went from bad to worse when the Pirates were forced to field an outfield of Josh Harrison in LF, Jose Tabata in CF, and Gaby Sanchez in RF due Travis Snider’s suspension and injuries to Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen.


On The Farm: This is an insane stat. Reese McGuire has played only 17 games behind the dish so far for the West Virginia Power. He already has thrown out 16 base stealers.
Highlight of the week: Starling Marte’s historic #walkoffreplay on 5/6/14


The Key to Beating Tim Lincecum

The Pirates face the Giants today in the rubber match of a three game series at PNC Park, and their mound opponent is none other that Tim Lincecum. In the offseason I wrote a post that gained some traction in the sabermetric community about FIP underperformers. In that post I looked closely at Tim Lincecum.

Once again Lincecum is considerably underperforming his FIP (ERA 5.12, FIP 4.47), and he is doing so for the same exact reasons as the 2012 and 2013 seasons. He is simply not the same pitcher with men on base.
Bases empty:
K/9 – 11.79
BB/9 – 1.47

Men on Base:
K/9 – 4.73
BB/9 – 4.05

With the bases empty he is an ace pitcher. With men on base he is significantly below replacement level. Is he tipping his pitches? Does he simply lose too much velocity and movement from his pitches when pitching out of the stretch. I don’t know. I am going to look closely at him today to see if I can find some clues. Regardless of the reason the key for this game should be simple for the Pirates. Just get some runners on base.

West Virginia Power Player of the Week – 4th Edition: JaCoby Jones

Shortstop JaCoby Jones went 9 for 27 with 3 Home Runs to win the HiddenVigorish.com West Virginia Power Player of the Week Award for the week of 4/28/14 thru 5/4/14. Jones drove in 7 runs and also drew 5 walks while hitting safely in 7 of the 8 games he played this past week. Jones is now hitting .300 for the season with a .858 OPS. He is also settling in defensively. After committing 7 errors in his first 20 games, he now has a streak of 9 straight errorless games. JaCoby Jones is one of the higher rated prospects playing with the West Virginia Power this season. Most scouting services rank him somewhere between 10 to 15 in the top Pirates’ prospect rankings. He was the Pirates 3rd round selection in the 2013 Draft out of LSU. Jones has a lot of tools and is considered an excellent athlete. He is fleet of foot with a lot of raw power. He has the potential to become a rare power hitting shortstop. There are some issues with his ability to make contact, and there is plenty of room to improve on his 22% strikeout rate thus far with the Power, but if Jones can maintain the kind of play he showed this past week he will start gaining recognition as the Pirates breakout prospect of 2014.

TWIBB Notes for the Week of 4-28-14 thru 5-4-14

Here are your This Week in Buccos Baseball Notes for 4/28/14 thru 5/4/14, the 5th week of the 2014 baseball season.

Weekly result: 2 wins and 3 Losses, 22 Runs Scored and 29 Runs Allowed

Hero of the week: Starling Marte. After a prolonged slump, Marte was dropped from the leadoff spot by manager Clint Hurdle. Marte responded by going 8 for 21 during the week with 2 stolen bases and 3 RBIs. He drilled a walk-off home run to give the Pirates a 6-5 win on Friday night. He also gunned down a runner at the plate in the Pirates 8-6 victory on Saturday.

Zero of the week: Travis Snider. Snider basically cost the Pirates a win all by himself in the second game of the doubleheader against the Orioles on 5/1/14. Snider misplayed a line drive off the the bat of Adam Jones that should have ended the inning. Instead it let to a 4 run O’s rally that tied a game the Pirates would eventually go on to lose 6-5 in 10 innings. In that game Snider went 0 for 5 with 4 strikeouts. For the week Snider was just 1 for 9.


How do you spell relief? M-A-R-K M-E-L-A-N-C-O-N. Mark Melancon pitched a pair of scoreless innings. He picked up the win on Friday night and a save on Saturday night against the Blue Jays.

#HURDLED: Clint Hurdle actually filled out a lineup card for a game this week that had Travis Snider hitting leadoff and Ike Davis batting second in front of Andrew McCutchen.


Cannonballs: Pedro Alvarez, Starling Marte


The little things that matter: Poor defense has been leading to big innings for the opposition. 4 times this week the Pirates allowed opponents to have big innings of 3 runs or more. All 4 of those innings featured errors or makable plays by the defense that could have limited the damage. It is an absolute must that the defense improves. This Pirates’ pitching staff is not capable of bailing out a bad defense. They rank 28th in the league in K/9, down almost 1 whole strikeout per game from last season.


It must be Hidden Vigorish: When Pedro Alvarez stepped to the plate in the 9th inning on Friday night against the Blue Jays the Pirates had gone 70 straight innings and a total of 263 at bats since last hitting a home run. Pedro would end that streak with a 2-run game tying blast. The Bucs would not have to wait very long for their next big fly. Two batters later Starling Marte smashed a ball over the center field wall for a walk-off home run to give the Pirates a 6-5 victory.

Stats that blow my mind: Through 31 games Pirates starting pitchers have a combined record of just 3 wins and 15 losses.

Records and Milestones: Starling Marte hit the first walk-off home run of his career in a 6-5 win over the Blue Jays on 5/2/14.


He said what: Jose Bautista reflecting on the end of his tenure with the Pirates:

After having been (in Pittsburgh) roughly five years and to send me down just three weeks before the rosters expanded was borderline a low blow. I knew I was going through the waiver process and there was a possibility of a trade or something. It was a relief for me because I knew what the perspective was about me here at that time. Going anywhere else was going to be better than staying here.


Tweet of the week:


Front Office Notes: A lot of bullpen shuffling this week. Casey Sadler came up to make his major league debut. Jared Hughes and Vin Mazzaro are back. Stolmy Pimentel was put on the DL.

On The Farm: Gregory Polanco’s batting average has dipped below .400. He is now hitting .393. Andrew Lambo has been almost as good as Polanco this season. Lambo has a triple slash line of .356/.437/.589. In the lower minors SS JaCoby Jones has been heating up for the West Virginia Power. Jones has a .333 batting average and 3 home runs in his last 10 games.
Highlight of the week: Starling Marte’s walk-off homer on 5/2/14


Former WV Power Pitcher Casey Sadler Makes His Big League Debut

Casey Sadler made his major league debut last night to become the 9th former West Virginia Power player to make it to the big leagues with the Pirates since becoming an affiliate of the Pirates’ organization in 2009. Sadler entered the game in the 7th inning with the Pirates trailing the Blue Jays 5-3. He pitched 2 innings of scoreless relief in a game the Pirates would ultimately come back to win 6-5 thanks to the 9th inning heroics of Pedro Alvarez and Starling Marte. It took Sadler 1114 days to make the jump from West Virginia to Pittsburgh. The Power to Pirates Tracker has been updated to now include Casey Sadler.

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