Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Month – September 2014

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.

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.



The Pirates Shark Tank Has Been Restored by a Pair of Johns

In 2013 the Pirates had one of the best bullpens in baseball. Their 2.89 ERA was the 3rd best in the league. Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli were awesome at holding late leads. The Bucs were 80-3 last season when leading after 8 innings. The Pirates’ pen was a devastating unit that earned the nickname the “Shark Tank”. But bullpens are a notoriously volatile component of a baseball team. In 2014 the Shark Tank lost its bite. They blew more 9th inning leads in the first month of the season than they did in all of 2013. The bullpen woes continued all the way thru mid-August. It looked as if this was going to be the achilles heel that would wreck the Pirates season.
Things began to change for the better after the calendar flipped over to September. The Pirates have won 10 of their last 12 games. They haven’t blown a save since August 26th. It appears the Pirates have finally found some power arms that manager Clint Hurdle can trust to bridge the innings between the starting pitchers and Tony Watson in the 8th inning. John Axford was acquired off of waivers from the Cleveland Indians on August 14th. Axford has allowed just 2 earned runs while striking out 12 in 9.2 innings. The other key addition was the August 31st callup of John Holdzkom. Holdzkom is a terrific story. A few months ago he was pitching in Independent ball. Now he is pitching out of the bullpen for a team in a playoff race. And he has been dominate. In 6 innings of work Holdzkom has allowed just 1 hit, 1 walk, and has rung up 11 strikeouts. Despite his inexperience Hurdle has not been afraid to use him with the game on the line. Holdzkom was given an opportunity to close in just his second major league game. He successfully converted that save opportunity. He already has earned 3 Holds. Holdzkom and Axford have been the key the the Pirates Shark Tank getting its bite back.

Pirates TWIBB Notes for Week of 9-8-14 thru 9-14-14

Here are your This Week in Buccos Baseball Notes for 9/8/14 thru 9/14/14, the 24th week of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 baseball season.

Weekly result: 5 wins and 2 Losses, 37 Runs Scored and 24 Runs Allowed

Hero of the week: Russell Martin. Martin knocked in 9 runs this week. He was 9 for 23 (.391 avg). Among Martin’s hits were his 9th homer of the season and 3 doubles.

Zero of the week: Ike Davis. Ike collected just 1 hit this week in 12 ABs. 7 of those ABs ended in strike outs. Ike’s September struggles are costing him playing time. He was benched on Sunday in favor Andrew Lambo. It was Lambo’s first MLB start at 1B.

How do you spell relief? M-A-R-K M-E-L-A-N-C-O-N. Mark Melancon had perhaps his best week of the season. He pitched 4 scoreless innings and allowed just 1 base runner on a single. Melancon struck out 6 and notched 3 saves this week in his 4 outings.

#HURDLED: Jordy Mercer has been swinging a very hot bad. His September OPS is .950. He has 3 homers and 4 doubles this month. Andrew Lambo spent most of the season on the Disabled List for the AAA Indianapolis Indians. He finally earned a call up to Pittsburgh in late August. He hasn’t done much yet to distinguish himself. On Tuesday against the Phillies Clint Hurdle elected to have Jordy Mercer sacrifice bunt in the 9th inning to set up Lambo for a pinch hit opportunity with a runner in scoring position. Mercer has been hot and he already had an extra base hit earlier in the game to drive in a run. Why on earth would Hurdle want to waste Mercer’s at bat?

Cannonballs: Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Russell Martin, Travis Snider, Neil Walker

The little things that matter: Most players learn the concept of protecting the plate with two strikes in Little League. Maybe Ike Davis didn’t play Little League. On Tuesday Ike twice watched strike three go by him. This is not a rare occurrence for Ike Davis. 43.5% of Ike’s strikeouts have been looking. League average is 24%. Ike has earned the reputation of being too passive of a hitter.


It must be Hidden Vigorish: Phillies backup SS Freddy Galvis entered Tuesday’s game against the Pirates with just 5 hits in 59 ABs this season. He had not stolen a base all season. With Jimmy Rollins injured Galvis got an opportunity to start. He was the difference maker in the game. Galvis was 3 for 3 with a home run and stole a key base in the 7th inning that let to the decisive go ahead run for the Phillies. The loss halted the Pirates 4 game winning streak. Sometimes you just can’t explain baseball. When a .085 hitter beats you during a playoff race you have to just chalk it up to hidden vigorish.


Stats that blow my mind: Russell Martin is batting .295 and has a .410 on base percentage. Those are both career highs.


Records and Milestones: We got to witness some rare occurrences this week. On Wednesday Andrew McCutchen hit his first inside the park home run. On Sunday something even rarer happened, the Pirates turned a 5-4-3 “Round the Horn” triple play. It was the first triple play the Pirates have turned at PNC Park. It was just the 4th “Round the Horn” triple play in team history, the last being on 7/23/1979 against Atlanta at Three Rivers Stadium. Also this week Neil Walker hit his 20th home run of the season. That is a career high for Walker and also marks the first time that a Pirates’ second basemen has hit 20 home runs in a season.


He said what: A series a quotes about the importance of that 5-4-3 Triple Play.

It was definitely the tipping point of the game – Clint Hurdle

It was huge. It fired up people. After that we were ready to go – Andrew Lambo

We were in a spot where we were playing just flat for the first several innings. All of a sudden, that kind of momentum carried over into the offensive side of things – Neil Walker


Tweet of the week: Fans are coming out in droves this season. Who said Pittsburgh isn’t a baseball town?


Front Office Notes: Charlie Morton has been activated from the DL and will take Vance Worley‘s spot in the rotation. At this point I would prefer to just roll with Worley.


On The Farm: Minor leagues seasons are all wrapped up. Fall instructs commenced on September 12th.

Highlight of the week: A 5-4-3 “Round the Horn” Triple Play will always a big deal, but when it comes at such a big moment like it did on Sunday it is an even bigger deal. The Bucs were already trailing the Cubs 3-0. Edinson Volquez was on the ropes. The triple play changed the game. The Bucs would go on to win 7-3.



The Beanball Solution – Two Bases For Above the Waist

Major League Baseball has a problem. Pitchers are coming in high and tight to the brightest hitters in the game with zero fear of retribution. The only real protection offered is the fear of retaliation against one of their own. But pitchers are obviously willing to go over that line, and a culture of vigilantism that leads to a tit for tat response to hit batsmen only causes these incidents to escalate in very dangerous ways. Reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen has seen a steady diet of pitches this season targeting his upper body. He has already been injured once this season as the result of a pitch from Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Randall Delgado that hit McCutchen in the ribs. The Diamondbacks felt the need to retaliate for a pitch from Pirates’ reliever Ernesto Frieri that broke Paul Goldschmidt‘s hand. And that hasn’t been the only time McCutchen has been thrown at. Pirate pitchers have hit more batters than any team in baseball this year. That makes for a lot of angry opponents that feel their only means of recourse is to throw at Cutch in retaliation. So that leaves Andrew McCutchen as a man under fire.
What I find interesting during these beanball occurrences is that the pitchers never suffer. They always get to fire the weapon but never have to worry about taking cover. When Giancarlo Stanton was hit in the face the other night by Mike Fiers, the man that had to take the punishment was Carlos Gomez. Seldom do you see a pitcher getting drilled for his own actions. Frankly, there is very little opportunity to take action against a pitcher that is plunking batters. It isn’t even a possibility in the American League due to the designated hitter rule, and even in the NL relievers never hit and starters rarely get more than 2 ABs a game.
There is a school of thought in baseball amongst pitchers that they must pitch inside to be successful, and there is no reason for them not do it aggressively. If a pitch gets away from them and plunks the batter the only penalty is the batter is awarded first base. That is an extremely light punishment and does not deter pitchers from throwing inside. To truly stop pitchers from wildly throwing up and in to hitters the penalties for missing in that location needs to be more severe. My solution is to change the rule so that if a pitch hits a batter above the waist the batter is awarded two bases. I believe this penalty would be severe enough to force pitchers to pitch more cautiously inside. Pitchers can still pitch inside if they want, but they would have to do so with more precision. I also believe this rule change would have a psychological impact that would lessen the desire of an opponent to retaliate for a hit batsman. Teams tend to be more inclined to retaliate if they feel hitting a batter was purposeful. If the penalties for hitting a batter were more severe opponents would be less likely to view a hit by pitch as intentional.
I am very much a baseball traditionalist that loathes the idea of most rule changes. But the game has already changed so much and sometimes that necessitates a rule change. In this period of baseball history batters are getting hit at extraordinary rates. In the last 30 years hit by pitch rates have more than doubled. In 1984 1 out of every 240 batters was hit by a pitch. In 2014 the rate has increased to 1 out of every 111. And pitchers are throwing harder than ever before too. Since pitchers seldom hit in this era they face the consequences for hitting a batter less than ever before. Star players are being put in serious jeopardy and the league is doing nothing to protect them. It is becoming evident that the game can no longer police itself simply thru fear of retaliation. That has to change or more stars like Giancarlo Stanton are going to be injured from high inside fastballs that get away from pitchers. It is time to create a real deterrent for hitting batters in dangerous areas. It is time time to make the penalty two bases for a hit by pitch above the waist.

Curve Balls No Longer Kryptonite for Starling Marte

Starling Marte has been red hot since returning from the Disabled List on August 5th. Over his last 32 games he has a triple slash line of .342/.402/.575. But there is more to these numbers from Marte than just a hot stretch. He seems like a completely different hitter. Marte has made adjustments to cut down on his whiffs considerably. Prior to his stint on the DL with a concussion Marte struck out 27.3% of the time. Since returning from the DL his K% has dropped to 18.2%.

The biggest factor in Starling Marte’s improved ability to make contact is better recognition of breaking balls. Curve balls are no longer kryptonite to Starling Marte. Prior to his concussion Marte whiffed on 20.4% of all breaking balls thrown to him. Since returning from the DL he has swung and missed on just 12.7% of breaking balls he has seen. Some of the improvement is simply from being more selective at the plate. But the vast majority is from recognizing the breaking pitches and adjusting his swing accordingly. Marte has cut his whiffs on swings at breaking balls from 40% to 27%. Here is the break down on Marte’s whiff rates on sliders and curve balls before and after returning from the DL on 8/5:

Breaking pitches Swings Swing Rate whiffs whiff rate whiff/swing ratio
Prior to 8/5

383 197 51.4% 78 20.4% 39.6%
After 8/5

118 55 46.6% 15 12.7% 27.3%


The numbers clearly show that Starling Marte has improved against sliders and curve balls. To me he also passes the eye test, and that has been most apparent in his recent ABs against Adam Wainwright. In the past two weeks the Pirates have faced Adam Wainwright twice. Wainwright is known for his plus breaking pitch. He has basically owned Marte the past two seasons, but in their most recent clash on September 2nd Marte took Waino deep, and Marte has not struck out against Wainwright in either of the last two games he faced him. He looks like a whole new Starling Marte…one that isn’t baffled by breaking balls.

Pirates TWIBB Notes for Week of 9-1-14 thru 9-7-14

Here are your This Week in Buccos Baseball Notes for 9/1/14 thru 9/7/14, the 23rd week of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 baseball season.

Weekly result: 3 wins and 3 Losses, 28 Runs Scored and 19 Runs Allowed

Hero of the week: Neil Walker. Walker was 9 for 28 with 5 extra base hits this week. He got the winning rally started in Saturday’s suspended game with a 1 out double in the 11th inning. He eventually scored the winning run. On Sunday Walker hit a first inning bomb to stake the Pirates to an early two run lead in a game the Pirates would win 10-4.

Zero of the week: Jeff Locke. Locke had an absolutely miserable outing in a loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday. He was knocked out of the game in the 4th inning after allowing 5 runs and 5 walks in just 3+ innings.

How do you spell relief? J-O-H-N H-O-L-D-Z-K-O-M. John Holdzkom made quite a first impression by pitching two innings of scoreless relief and striking out 5 batters while picking up his first major league save.

#HURDLED: Josh Harrison has more extra base hits than any player in baseball since the all-star break. Josh Harrison was named National League player for the month of August. On Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals Josh Harrison was asked to sacrifice bunt in the 8th inning of a 0-0 tie game. Hey Clint, WTF?


Cannonballs: Andrew McCutchen (2), Russell Martin, Jordy Mercer (3), Starling Marte, Neil Walker, Gerrit Cole

The little things that matter: The Pirates lost two games this week in large part because their starting pitchers couldn’t take advantage of the automatic out that bats last in the Cardinals batting order. On Monday the Pirates staked Gerrit Cole to an early 3-0 lead. Cole allowed a leadoff single in the third inning to Lance Lynn. The Cards would add two runs in the inning to get back into the game. Lynn is batting just .061 on the season. The Pirates ended up losing the game 5-4. On Tuesday Adam Wainwright had a 2 RBI single and an RBI ground out against Jeff Locke. The Pirates would lose that game 6-4. Not getting opposing pitchers out hurt the Pirates dearly.


It must be Hidden Vigorish: Gerrit Cole crushed a ball into the left field seats at Wrigley Cow Pasture on Sunday afternoon. It marked the first home run by a Pirates pitcher since Ross Ohlendorf went yard on 9/15/2011 at Dodgers Stadium


Stats that blow my mind: The Pirates lead the National League with a .329 On Base Percentage.


Records and Milestones: John Holdzkom made his major league debut on Tuesday and struck out all three batters he faced. It was just the 23rd time in MLB history that a pitcher has made such a debut. Holdzkom then earned his first major league save later in the week. Not bad for a guy that was toiling in independent ball just a few short months ago.


He said what: Cubs manager Rick Renteria has become quite a fan of Josh Harrison:

He’s a gifted baseball player. He does a lot of little things. Surprisingly, he shows you some speed, some pop, some tremendously acute aptitude for the game. He’s flexible — they can move him around. He’s a kid who, from what I understand, is a very hard worker and very driven and doesn’t take anything for granted.


Tweet of the week: Clint Hurdle is finally grasping that desperate times call for desperate measures.


Front Office Notes: The suits spent the week trying to hide from yet another public relations nightmare. I don’t think the Pirates really mean to extort kids. Regardless, this organization is good at creating P.R snafus.


On The Farm: The Bradenton Marauders were swept two games to none by the Fort Myers Miracles in the semi-finals of the Florida State League. Tyler Glasnow struggled in Game 1 by allowing 6 earned runs and 6 walks in just 3 innings.

Highlight of the week: Another week and another JHay highlight. In this one he drives in the go ahead run to give the Pirates the win over the Cubs in the contest that was suspended on Friday. This was a very big win for the Pirates. It snapped a 4 game losing streak:



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