Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Month – October 2015

Why Does Charlie Morton Get So Much Love?

The Pirates parted ways with Vance Worley this week after he was outrighted off the 40 man roster and claimed by the Orioles. That closes the book on the Vanimal’s two years stint with the Bucs. During that time Worley posted a 12-10 record with a 3.31 ERA and a 3.59 FIP. The way the Pirates handled Worley this past season still perplexes me. His production was never valued by the club. He was relegated to AAA at midseason while Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke continued to pitch like garbage for much of the second half of the season. That Worley was so easily discarded is not so hard to understand. From a pure stuff standpoint Worley has limitations. He doesn’t miss a lot of bats and he doesn’t roll a lot of ground balls. The Pirates aren’t the first team to throw Worley on the discard pile. The Phillies and Twins didn’t hold him in high regard either. The question that is begged to be asked following Worley’s exit from the organization is not about Vance Worley at all. The real question is why does Charlie Morton get so much love?
 

The Pirates coaching staff have always raved about Charlie Morton’s stuff. He does have great movement on his sinker. He does produce elite ground ball rates. The affinity for Morton can be seen in the nicknames Morton has been tabbed with over the years. Electric Stuff. Ground Chuck. These are great labels for a pitcher. Unfortunately, Morton is no where near a great pitcher. Morton’s production doesn’t come close to matching his hype. He has a career 4.54 ERA and 4.12 FIP. His career best FIP was in 2013 when he posted a 3.60 FIP in 116 innings. Morton pitches like a back of the rotation starter, and that is only when he is healthy enough to pitch. He has spent time on disabled list in each of the last four seasons and has never pitched more than 172 innings in a season.
 

Vance Worley was discarded after pitching to a 3.59 FIP over parts of two season with the Pirates. Charlie Morton was given a 3 year contract extension worth $21 million guaranteed dollars after posting a career best 3.60 FIP in 2013. And that my friends is a curiously un-Pirate like thing to do. The Pirates staff and front office are too enamored with Morton’s stuff and that has clouded their judgment on his value and role with the team. It is time the Pirates start treating Morton as his production warrants. He is producing like a back end starting pitcher and back end starting pitching is something that a contender like the Pirates should look at as a potential spot to upgrade.
 

Raise The Jolly Roger in Walk-Off Style – Videos of Every Pirates Walk-Off Win

The Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 season came to a disappointing end at the hands of Chicago Cubs in the NL Wild Card Game, but that doesn’t mean this season should be forgotten. The Jolly Roger was Raised an astonishing 98 times this season. 53 of those wins sent the hometown crowd home happy. There was a lot of exciting baseball played on the North Shore this summer, and as always the walk-offs were the most exciting games that will live on in our memories the longest. The Pirates gave us 11 such victories this season. Here are all 11 of them. Enjoy!

 
1) June 12, 2015 – Starling Marte grounds a single through the middle to knock in Chris Stewart as the Pirates beat the Phillies 1-0 in 13 innings.


 

2) June 14, 2015 – Same teams, same score, same exact type of hit. This time it was Josh Harrison playing the hero in the 11th inning.


 

3) June 26, 2015 – Jordy Mercer treated an old friend very unkindly when he doubled home the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Pirates a 3-2 win over the Braves. The losing pitcher was former Pirates’ closer Jason Grilli


 

4) July 6, 2015 – Pedro Alvarez knocks in the winning run with a single to RF to beat the Padres 2-1 in the bottom the 9th inning


 

5) July 11, 2015 – This was the most memorable moment of the season. The Pirates trailed St. Louis by a run in the bottom of the 14th inning. Neil Walker led off with a single and was followed by this home run to CF by Andrew McCutchen to walk-off the rival Cardinals who the Pirates were chasing for 1st place in the NL Central Division


 

6) July 12, 2015 – Just a day later the Pirates would do it to the Cardinals again. In the final game before the All-Star Break the Bucs rallied for 3 runs in the bottom of the 10th inning off of Cards’ closer Trevor Rosenthal. Gregory Polanco provided the winning hit by knocking in Jung Ho Kang.


 

7) August 7, 2015 – Pedro Alvarez played walk-off hero for the second time in the season with this game winning single to beat the Dodgers.


 

8) August 18, 2015 – This was perhaps the wildest game of the season and featured the most unlikely hero. The Bucs blew a late 5 run lead against the Diamondbacks and were forced into extra innings until Pedro Florimon drove in the winning run in the bottom of 15th inning with this trip…trip…triple!


 

9) August 22, 2015 – The Pirates had just 3 hits in this game, but all of them were solo home runs including this drive by Starling Marte with 2 outs in the 9th inning to down the Giants 3-2.


 

10) September 13, 2015 – The Pirates rallied from an early 6-1 deficit to take the Brewers to extra innings. Josh Harrison capped off the comeback with the game winning hit in the 11th inning.


 

11) October 2, 2015 – Another Marte Partay! Starling Marte hit his second walk-off home run of the season, this time in the 12th inning against the Reds.


 

Pirates 2015 Season Post-Mortem

This is will be my last post for a little while. I need a break. I can not handle the misplaced angst and over the top negativity many fans have right now towards my Pittsburgh Pirates. But I need to vent a little so here goes…
 
Eventually I’ll appreciate this season, but right now I can’t.
 
Misplaced angst over the team’s salary is driving me nuts. Needless to say I lay very little blame on the feet of the GM or the owner. Case in point:
 

  • The Pirates finished with a better record than the Cubs. They lost in the Wild Card game to a pitcher that makes less than half the salary of Charlie Morton. The Cubs core is largely minimum salary rookies. In fact, it was one of those rookies that drove in 3 of the 4 runs the Cubs scored in the Wild Card game.
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  • The Pirates lost the NL Central division to the Cardinals by two games. The two highest salaries on the Cardinals’ roster, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday, spent most of the year on the DL. Did the Cards spend money to fix the holes? No. The five members of the starting rotation the Cards used to win the division were paid about $18.3 million in salary. The Pirates starting rotation was paid just over $31 million. It was Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty that filled the void for the Cardinals offensively while Holliday was on the disabled list for a large chunk of the season.
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  • Meanwhile the Pirates added more salary to this year’s payroll at the trade deadline than any team in baseball. Sorry to burst your bubble folks, but the complaining over the team payroll is misguided angst. The Pirates have failed to advance for the simple reason that their players choked.
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    But GM Neal Huntington and owner Bob Nutting should be on notice that they must continue to work and spend to improve the roster. Frankly, the best spending may just be trimming fat. Eat whatever salary you need to just to make Charlie Morton go away. And take some more damn risks. They gambled on Jung Ho Kang and won. I’d rather gamble on risky yet high ceiling players than safe high floor players. And that includes turning to high ceiling prospects sooner if need be.
     

    This is just like the 90-92 playoff years all over again. Players choked. The bats of the core players went silent in an elimination game. This is largely the problem in the playoff exits in each of the last three years. Neil Walker and his 2 hits in 31 postseason ABs has now replaced Barry Bonds as the most disappointing postseason performer of any Pirate in my lifetime. Meanwhile opponents’ aces have out shined ours. Three of the last six complete game shutouts in an MLB postseason “winner advances” game have been thrown against the Pirates. They belong to Jake Arrieta 2015 NL Wild Card Game, Madison Bumgarner 2014 NL Wild Card Game, and John Smoltz 1991 NLCS Game 7. The bats came up small and so did our ace. Gerrit Cole spit the bit when we needed him most. No other way to sugar coat it….THE PLAYERS FAILED.

     
    This is what I’ll lay at the feet of the coaching staff. The teams that know the Pirates best continue to exploit their weaknesses. For as great of a pitching coach that Ray Searage is, his neglect at emphasizing and teaching how to control the running game has been an ongoing problem in games within the division. And Clint Hurdle can’t allow the team to be so damn predictable that NL Central Division teams can almost script their wins against the Pirates.
     

    I know eventually I’ll look at this season fondly. I find enjoyment in Pirates baseball during 100 loss seasons, so there is no way I can hate a season in which my Bucs won 98 games. But as Bartlett Giamatti famously wrote about the game, “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart”…and right now I am heartbroken.
     

    Hidden Vigorish and a Wild Ass Wild Card Prediction

    If you are a Pittsburgh Pirates fan you are most likely familiar with the term Hidden Vigorish, which is the inspiration behind the name of this website. Hidden Vigorish is a term coined by the late great Pirates play-by-play announcer Bob “The Gunner” Prince that describes a situation/team/player that is “overdue” to come through in the clutch. You need not be a Pirates fan or be familiar with Bob Prince to understand the concept of Hidden Vigorish. Essentially it is the “Law of Averages“, though the Gunner made it out to be an almost a mystical force that affected nearly all situations in the sport of baseball. A hitter in an 0-20 slump had an unbelievable amount of Hidden Vigorish stored up ready to swing the outcome of his next at bat to his favor.
     

    If Bob Prince were alive today he would most certainly have a wry smile on his face as he contemplates all of the Hidden Vigorish that is dripping from the 2015 National League Wild Card Game that is to be played tonight between the Pirates and the Cubs at PNC Park. So let’s take a look at one very Wild Ass, Wild Card prediction that isn’t all that far fetched when you factor in Hidden Vigorish.
     
    Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta is on an historic run in which he has posted a microscopic ERA of 0.75 since the all-star break. Since July 1st he has surrendered just two home runs – both hit by the lowly Philadelphia Phillies. Arrieta will have to overcome a tremendous amount of Hidden Vigorish to keep the ball in the yard tonight. And which Pirates’ hitter will step to the plate with the most plentiful amount of Hidden Vigorish on his side? That would be Josh Harrison who has not homered since May 15th. So, you heard it here first. Josh Harrison will take Jake Arrieta deep!
     
    Got your own Wild Card prediction that is influenced by Hidden Vigorish? Tweet it out with #wildcardhiddenvigorish
     

    Pirates TWIBB Notes for Week of 9-28-15 to 10-04-15

    Here are your This Week in Buccos Baseball Notes for 9/28/15 thru 10/04/15, the 26th week (and final week) of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 regular season.
     

    Weekly result: 3 Wins and 3 Losses, 20 Runs Scored and 23 Runs Allowed.
     

    Hero of the week: J.A. Happ. Happ took the hill for two must win games for the Pirates this week. This was his line: 12 innings, 0 runs, 4 hits, 3 walks, 11 strikeouts. On Monday he needed just 56 pitches to breeze thru 6 innings against the Cardinals. It was an utter shame he was lifted for a pinch hitter because the Pirates’ bats frittered away numerous chances to stake him to a lead. On Sunday he dispatched the Reds to give the Pirates the ever important home field advantage in the NL Wild Card Game. J.A. Happ was the best acquisition at the trade deadline that any General Manager in baseball made this season. Kudos to Neal Huntington on a job well done.

     

    Zero of the week: Charlie Morton. Morton takes the Zero Honors for the 3rd straight week. The Cardinals celebrated another NL Central Division title on Pittsburgh soil after Morton handed them 5 runs in just innings 2 innings in Wednesday’s night cap. Morton gave up 4 hits, a walk, and hit 2 batters. He was awful.
     

    How do you spell relief? T-O-N-Y W-A-T-S-O-N. Tony Watson continues to do what he does best….put up zeros. Three more scoreless innings for Mr. Watson stretches his scoreless streak (seems like this guy is always working on an impressive scoreless streak) to 12 straight innings. He scattered 4 hits, allowed zero free passes, and struck out 2.
     

    #HURDLED: Charlie Morton has an ERA north of 7.00 over the last month. Against the Cardinals he has a career record of 2-12 with a 5.68 ERA. Clint Hurdle said the second game of the double header against St. Louis on Wednesday was a must win game. If Hurdle really felt that way he should have used a starting pitcher not named CHARLIE MORTON.
     

    Cannonballs: Neil Walker, Francisco Cervelli, Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Pedro Alvarez

     

    The little things that matter: In a must win game you can’t waste opportunities. Hopefully the Pirates learned that lesson after loading the bases on 4 different occasions and stranding 16 base runners in a 3-0 loss to the Cardinals on Monday.

     

    It must be Hidden Vigorish: The Pirates walked 10 times but failed to score on Monday against the Cardinals. It was the second straight game the Bucs were shutout. On Wednesday afternoon the bats finally came alive as the Pirates chased Michael Wacha early en route to an 8-2 victory.

     

    Stats that blow my mind: The Pirates won 98 games this season. The Pirates are only the 9th team since the advent of divisional play in 1969 to win 98 or more games and not win their division. It was just the 6th time in team history the Pirates have won 98 or more games.
     

    Records and Milestones: The Pirates set a single-season attendance record by drawing 2,498,596 to PNC Park this season.
     

    He said what: A.J. Burnett isn’t quite ready to close the book on his career.

    In my mind, we ain’t done yet. We got a horse [Gerrit Cole] going up in a couple days against Chicago, and get me another start

     

    Tweet of the week: I think this is a perfect way to describe how Pirate fans view Gregory Polanco:


     

    Front Office Notes: Nothing to see here.

     

    On The Farm: Minor League seasons are all done.

     
    Highlight of the week: The fans demanding A.J. Burnett to come out for a curtain call on Saturday night in what could be the last time he ever pitches is such a feel good moment that it trumps the game winning hits or web gems that also occurred this week.
     

     

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