Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Month – September 2015

Maintaining First Wild Card is a Necessity to Beat Arrieta

The Pittsburgh Pirates are mathematically alive for the NL Central Division crown, but realistically that dream ended when they dropped the first game of a pivotal series to the Cardinals at the start of the final week of the regular season. It is time to look ahead to a show down in the Wild Card Game with the Cubs. The Pirates are on a collision course with the force that is Cub’s starting pitcher Jake Arrieta. Arrieta has been masterful since the all-star break. He is 15-1 with a 0.89 ERA in his last 19 starts. He also has been terrific against the Pirates, and if his last start on Sunday Night is any indication the Pirates are in some real trouble. He was perfect through 6 innings. A Gregory Polanco single and an Andrew McCutchen HBP in the 7th inning were his only blemishes on the night.

 
There is hope that this time around things could be a little different, but only if the Pirates can change the venue. The Pirates were facing Arrieta on the Sunday Night ESPN game of the week at Wrigley Field. Arrieta is better at home and he is better at night. Night games at home he is practically unhittable. I have always hated the lighting at Wrigley Field and I think opposing batters feel the same. I don’t think road teams see the ball well at night in that park. A guy with Arrieta’s stuff is just unfair for hitters that already have enough trouble picking the ball up out of his hand. So just how good is Arrieta under the lights at Wrigley? This is a small sample size for sure but the numbers are still eye opening:
 
4 starts
30 innings
11 hits
3 walks
37 strike outs
1 run
 

It is crucial the Pirates maintain the lead over the Cubs for the first wild card spot. They currently hold a three game lead in the loss column. The Pirates stand a much better chance against Arrieta in the familiar hitting environment of PNC Park. If the Pirates are going turn the Lights out on Jake Arrieta and the Cubs they must do it at home.
 

Pirates TWIBB Notes for Week of 9-21-15 to 9-27-15

Here are your This Week in Buccos Baseball Notes for 9/21/15 thru 9/21/15, the 25th week of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 regular season.
 

Weekly result: 6 Wins and 1 Loss, 40 Runs Scored and 23 Runs Allowed.
 

Hero of the week: Jordy Mercer. Mercer caught fire in the high altitude of Denver and then carried it over to Chicago. His 3 Run Homer on Saturday that cut through the wind at Wrigley Field basically ended any threat of the Cubs catching the Pirates for the top Wild Card spot. For the week Mercer had 10 hits in 23 ABs. Four of his hits went for extra bases. He scored 7 runs and drove in 5. Great production from the bottom of the order.
 

Zero of the week: Charlie Morton. The Rockies shelled Morton for 6 runs and 10 hits in 4.1 innings on Wednesday. Luckily for Charlie the Pirates offense bailed him out. This makes two straight poor outings and two straight “Zero of Week” awards for Morton. The Pirates can’t afford another poor outing from Chuck as his next start will be against the Cardinals in a series the Bucs must sweep.
 

How do you spell relief? J-O-E B-L-A-N-T-O-N. Joe Blanton tossed 3.2 scoreless innings and picked up a pair of relief wins against the Rockies.

 

#HURDLED: I think Clint Hurdle does a pretty good job of managing his bullpen….when he finally decides to go to it. His problem is sticking with mediocre starting pitchers that are struggling way too long. This sounds like a broken record, but once again Hurdle allowed Charlie Morton way too much leash the 3rd time through the order. The bullpen is bloated with quality arms due to the expanded September rosters. Bobby LaFromboise, Vance Worley, or Rob Scahill are better options to pitch the 5th inning than Morton when he isn’t sharp.

 

Cannonballs: Starling Marte, Aramis Ramirez, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Jordy Mercer

 

The little things that matter: Mark Melancon found himself in some hot water in the 9th inning in a pivotal game on Friday afternoon against the Cubs. Extra base hits by Chris Denorfia and Starlin Castro cut the Pirates’ lead to 3-2. The Cubs right handed hitters seemed to be sitting on Melancon’s cutter and where driving the pitches on the outter half of the plate. With the tying run on 3rd base and only 1 out catcher Francisco Cervelli changed the game plan. Cubs hitters Jorge Soler and Javier Baez would see a steady diet of fastballs in on their hands. Melancon was able to cross them up with pitches on the inside part of the plate to get ahead in the count. Then he finished them off with big hard breaking balls that got the impatient Cubs rookies to chase strike three.

 

It must be Hidden Vigorish: Hidden Vigorish is the only explanation for what powered Jordy Mercer’s three blast through the wind gusting in at Wrigley Field on Saturday afternoon. It was Mercer’s first home run since June 3rd.

 

Stats that blow my mind: The Pirates have won 14 of the last 15 games started by Francisco Liriano.

 

Records and Milestones: A whole bunch of stuff this week. On Thursday the Pirates won their 10000th game in franchise history. On Sunday A.J. Burnett became the 32nd pitcher in Major League history to record 2500 strikeouts. And Starling Marte put himself in great company when he tied Hall of Famer Pie Traynor for most hits in a 4 game series. Marte collected 13 hits against the Rockies.
 

He said what: The Pirates clinched a playoff berth on September 23rd for the third straight year. There was a somewhat muted celebration in the locker room after the game. Gerrit Cole has his eyes on a bigger prize than just being a Wild Card.

I was a little surprised we even did anything. Our sights are set a little bit farther down the road.

 

Tweet of the week: I don’t think this was on A.J. Burnett’s bucket list.

 

Front Office Notes: The Pirates added Keon Broxton to the roster. His impact as a pinch runner has already been felt.

 

On The Farm: Minor League seasons are all done.

 
Highlight of the week: Pedro Alvarez atoned for a pair of defensive miscues by slugging this 3 Run Homer to give the Pirates a late come from behind victory over the Rockies on Thursday.

 


 

Pirates TWIBB Notes for Week of 9-14-15 to 9-20-15

Here are your This Week in Buccos Baseball Notes for 9/14/15 thru 9/20/15, the 24th week of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 regular season.
 

Weekly result: 3 Wins and 4 Losses, 23 Runs Scored and 29 Runs Allowed.
 

Hero of the week: Francisco Liriano. The Pirates needed a big effort to stop the bleeding from what had been a very tough week for the club. Liriano gave them just what they needed. Frankie out pitched Clayton Kershaw on Saturday Night to snap the Pirates 4 game losing streak. Liriano’s line read 7 innings, 2 Runs, 5 hits, 2 walks, and 9 Ks…and one very well deserved WIN.
 

Zero of the week: Charlie Morton. Morton came up small when the Pirates really needed him. With a chance to earn a split in a huge 4 game series with the Cubs, Morton put the team in an early 3-0 hole as the Cubs teed off on him. The Pirates battled back to take a 4-3 lead after 4 innings, but Morton again spit the bit in the 5th inning. Surrendering a 2 run homer to Anthony Rizzo was the big blow. For the day Morton pitched 4+ innings of batting practice to the Cubs. He gave 6 runs (5 earned), 9 hits (5 of them extra base hits), and mixed in a couple of free passes too.

 

How do you spell relief? M-A-R-K M-E-L-A-N-C-O-N. You can’t do any better than perfection, and Mark Melancon was perfect this week. 4 innings of work. 12 up and 12 down. No hits allowed. No walks allowed. Melancon notched 3 saves and struck out 4 hitters.

 

#HURDLED: The skipper took some harsh criticism over his lineups this week, and there is no denying that starting Pedro Florimon at SS during a playoff race is a bad idea. But I’m going to focus on Hurdle allowing Charlie Morton to face a Cubs lineup for 3rd time when Chuck clearly wasn’t fooling the Chicago hitters. Hurdle let Morton burp away a huge game.

 

Cannonballs: Travis Snider, Gregory Polanco, Pedro Alvarez (2), Neil Walker, Starling Marte

 

The little things that matter: Opposing baserunners continue to exploit the Pirates’ pitchers inability to hold runners. The Pirates have surrendered a whopping 136 stolen bases this year. The most concerning part is how many bags are swiped so easily. Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart are under such an enormous pressure to fire the ball quickly that many of their throws are winding up in CF leading to base stealers taking 3rd base as well. Allowing bases to go uncontested is becoming the Pirates best strategy. A low point was reached on Wednesday when the Cubs swiped 5 bags. Among the thieves was catcher Miguel Montero who swiped his first base of the year…and he got to third because of an errant throw!
 

It must be Hidden Vigorish: On Saturday the Pirates were set to face Clayton Kershaw – the 4th ace caliber pitcher the Bucs were pitted against in the last week. The first three match ups did not go so well. The Pirates could not find a way to win against Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, or Zack Greinke. Kershaw was taking a 13 start unbeaten streak to the mound. He had not lost since June 27th. But the Bucs got a huge effort from Francisco Liriano, and the Pirates lineup was able to scratch together three runs to hang a loss on Kershaw.
 

Stats that blow my mind: Feast your eyes on this one…

 

Records and Milestones: Mark Melancon set a new franchise record for saves in a season when he closed out the Dodgers on Saturday Night. He added yet another on Sunday to bring his total to a National League leading 48 saves.

 

He said what: A brutal take out slide by Chris Coghlan left Jung Ho Kang unable to walk off the field on his own power. In a total scumbag move Cubs skipper Joe Maddon decided to make a joke about it.

I don’t think it’s his knee. He has Plantar Fasciitis is what I heard

 

Tweet of the week: Noted baseball writer Keith Law summed up the Kang injury as well as anyone.
 


 

Front Office Notes: Neal Huntington made it quite clear that the blame for some recent odd lineup configurations should not fall on Clint Hurdle. The Pirates have a fatigue prevention plan in place and that is coming from the top of the organization. Said Huntington:

We’re at the point in the year where a rested club is as important as a good club. Sometimes a rested club is better than a non-rested good club. We’re trying to fight that battle of keeping our guys strong and fresh while at the same time putting this club in a position to win every game going forward

 

On The Farm: The minor league seasons came to a close as the Indianapolis Indians fell in the championship round of the International League, while the West Virginia Black Bears won the New Year Penn League championship.

 
Highlight of the week: Aramis Ramirez came through with this clutch hit to drive in the winning run in the 8th inning on Saturday Night against the Dodgers.

 

 

Pirates TWIBB Notes for Week of 9-7-15 to 9-13-15

Here are your This Week in Buccos Baseball Notes for 9/7/15 thru 9/13/15, the 23rd week of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 regular season.
 

Weekly result: 5 Wins and 2 Losses, 40 Runs Scored and 27 Runs Allowed.
 

Hero of the week: Jung Ho Kang. Kang heated up this week to spark the Pirates with 9 hits in 27 ABs and 6 RBIs. He blasted two home runs against Cincinnati including a grand slam on Wednesday that snapped a 1-1 tie in the 6th inning. Kang also came through with a clutch run scoring base hit in 7th inning on Sunday against the Brewers that knotted the game at 6-6.
 

Zero of the week: Radhames Liz. Liz made just one appearance this week and blew that game…twice! He entered the game on Thursday night in the 12th inning and promptly walked two Brewers hitters to set up Ryan Braun for the base hit that put Brewers up 4-3. Gregory Polanco bailed out Liz by tying the game up in the bottom of the 12th with a solo home run. Liz then proceeded to give the game away again by allowing two more runs in the 13th inning. This is the result you should expect when you entrust a game to a pitcher with a career 6.94 ERA.

 

How do you spell relief? J-O-A-K-I-M S-O-R-I-A. Joakim Soria pitched 4 scoreless frames of relief for the Bucs this week, picking up two holds in the process. Soria allowed 3 hits, 0 walks, and struck out 3 batters.

 

#HURDLED: Clint Hurdle needs some sense knocked into him for starting Sean Rodriguez at SS on Monday against the Reds. There are three better defensive shortstops on the Pirates roster. Sean Rod had only played 14 innings at SS over the last two seasons. HE IS NOT A SS! For some reason that is only known to Hurdle, the Pirate’s skipper decided to do yet again experiment with a player out of position. Rodriguez made Hurdle look foolish by booting two routine ground balls in the first two innings – the second of which led to the Reds scoring 3 runs. The Pirates lost the game 3-1.

 

Cannonballs: Andrew McCutchen (2), Jung Ho Kang (2), Gregory Polanco, Michael Morse, Pedro Alvarez
 

The little things that matter: The Pirates lost only two games this week and in both games opportunities were frittered away by base runners getting picked off. On Monday Sean Rodriguez was picked off in the 9th by Aroldis Chapman with the tying run at the plate. That is completely unacceptable. On Thursday Night Francisco Cervelli was picked off of second base by Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado.
 

It must be Hidden Vigorish: After being swept by the Brewers twice since the All-Star Break and then dropping the first game of a 4 game series on Thursday Night, some much needed hidden vigorish finally materialized to help reverse their trend of poor play against Milwaukee as the Bucs took 3 straight from the Brew Crew over the weekend.

 

Stats that blow my mind: Chris Stewart continues to be money with runners in scoring position. The guy has no power and rarely drives the ball hard, yet every time he gets a pressure AB with men on base it seems he is squirting a slow roller through the infield. He his hitting .313 with RISP this season and maintains a ridiculous .344 BABIP in all situations.

 

Records and Milestones: Nothing noteworthy.

 

He said what: Josh Harrison was quick to note that the Pirates weren’t going to let their recent struggles against the Brewers carry over to the series against them this weekend.

What happens in Milwaukee, stays in Milwaukee.

 

Tweet of the week: In September scoreboard watching can bring almost as much joy as watching the Pirates win.


 

Tweet of the week II: How cool is that A.J. Burnett was summoned back to the mound with the Bat Signal?


 

Front Office Notes: There is a price to success. When you are successful other people want to hire your talent. Pirates special assistant Marc DelPiano was hired by the Marlins. Neal Huntington is certain others will soon be leaving to advance their careers as well.

 

On The Farm: Vance Worley pitched a gem to propel the Indianapolis Indians into the International League Finals. Worley allowed just 1 run in 8 innings to pick up the W in the clinching semi-final round win over Scranton/Wilkes Barre.

 
Highlight of the week: Josh Harrison lines a hit to LF to give the Pirates 7-6 walk-off win over the Brewers.

 

 

Pirates TWIBB Notes for Week of 8-31-15 to 9-6-15

Here are your This Week in Buccos Baseball Notes for 8/31/15 thru 9/6/15, the 22nd week of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 regular season.
 

Weekly result: 2 Wins and 4 Losses, 28 Runs Scored and 29 Runs Allowed.
 

Hero of the week: J.A. Happ. Happ put a halt to the Pirates 4 games slide by pitching a gem on Friday Night against the Cardinals. Happ tossed 7 scoreless innings allowing just 3 hits while fanning 8 Cardinals hitters.
 

Zero of the week: Jeff Locke. Locke continues to be the weak link in the rotation. His latest stinker was a loss to the Brewers in which he surrender 9 hits and 5 earned runs in just 3.2 innings.

 

How do you spell relief? T-O-N-Y W-A-T-S-O-N. Tony Watson did not see the mound often this week but when he did it was more of the same. Watson extended his scoreless innings streak to 16.2 innings. He has not allowed a run since July 28th.

 

#HURDLED: I generally give Clint Hurdle a pass for his lineup construction. I understand he is trying to get some players some rest, trying to keep other players sharp, and sometimes he has to trade some offense for better defense. But I think Saturday he really erred by not having Aramis Ramirez in the lineup vs lefty Jaime Garcia. Ramirez is arguably the hottest bat in the lineup right now, and he is a noted Cardinals killer.

 

Cannonballs: Pedro Alvarez, Aramis Ramirez (3), Jung Ho Kang, Sean Rodriguez, Starling Marte
 

The little things that matter: When you load the bases with free passes the margin for error goes out the window. On Saturday Charlie Morton was victimized for two runs in the second inning after a bad hop ate up Josh Harrison, but Morton has only himself to blame after he lost the plate and filled the bases with two walks and a HBP.
 

It must be Hidden Vigorish: The Pirates took 2 games out of 3 against the Cardinals this weekend. It was their first series win in St. Louis since April 26-28, 2013. It was also their first road series win this year against an NL Central division foe.

 

Stats that blow my mind: It is unfathomable to me that a team can have a .600 winning percentage while playing so poorly within their division. The Pirates are only 23-33 against their NL Central division foes.

 

Records and Milestones: Nothing noteworthy.

 

He said what: A.J Burnett is just about ready to make his return. After pitching a simulated game against the Pirates bench players he had this to say:

I’m not getting paid to get our guys out.

 

Tweet of the week: Another embarrassing trip to Milwaukee has more than likely sunk the Pirates chances of catching the Cardinals….and Pirates fans in the Twitterverse know it.

 

Front Office Notes: Rosters expanded on September 1st and the following players were recalled: Jaff Decker, Travis Snider, Elias Diaz, Bobby LaFromboise, and Radhames Liz. Rob Scahill was also activated from the disabled list.
 

On The Farm: Steven Brault continues his impressive season with AA Altoona.

 
Highlight of the week: Starling Marte broke open the game Friday Night with this 2-run double in the 7th inning. The Pirates would go on to beat the Cardinal 9-3.

 

 

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