Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

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.

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