Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

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.
 

 

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.

 

 

Pirates TWIBB Notes for Week of 8-24-15 to 8-30-15

Here are your This Week in Buccos Baseball Notes for 8/24/15 thru 8/30/15, the 21st week of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 regular season.
 

Weekly result: 5 Wins and 2 Losses, 25 Runs Scored and 21 Runs Allowed.
 

Hero of the week: Andrew McCutchen. Andrew McChutchen is making another late push for an MVP award. This week he picked up 12 hits in 26 ABs (.462 AVG) and drove in 6 runs. Cutch is on pace for the first 100 RBI season of his career.

 

Zero of the week: Charlie Morton. The Pirates lost two games this week and Morton was the losing pitcher both times. In both instances he looked very good early only to implode after the 4th inning. On Sunday his poor fielding and inability to execute a sacrifice bunt also hurt the team.

 

How do you spell relief? T-O-N-Y W-A-T-S-O-N. Tony Watson is in the midst of another one of his long scoreless stretches. He went the entire month of August without allowing a run. This past week Watson picked up 3 Holds and 1 relief victory while tossing 3.2 scoreless innings.
 

#HURDLED: I got nothing. Hurdle seemed to pull the right strings all week long. He even played a hunch to give Pedro Alvarez a rare start against a left-handed pitcher. Pedro made the skipper look smart when he launched a ball 450 feet.
 

Cannonballs: Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Aramis Ramirez

 

The little things that matter: There are just some things that can not be learned in the minor leagues. One of those things for an outfielder is learning how to play all those quirky walls in major league parks. The Clemente Wall in PNC Park is not an easy wall to judge. It has taken Gregory Polanco a whole year to get comfortable with that wall. On Friday Night he proved that he has it down. Polanco played the a carom perfectly off the top of the wall to cut down a runner going to second base. With Polanco’s arm and his developing instincts opposing hitters are not going to be guaranteed second base just because they drive a ball off of the RF wall.

 

It must be Hidden Vigorish: Gerrit Cole has been a hard luck pitcher in the month of August. A five start winless streak to begin the month was the longest winless stretch of his career. But it is hard to keep an ace down for the long. The Cole Train pitched a gem in Miami on Thursday to snap his string of bad luck.
 

Stats that blow my mind: With a win on Saturday the Pirates reached 30 games over .500 and the calendar still says August. The last time the Pirates were 30 games over .500 before September was 1972.
 

Records and Milestones: Andrew McCutchen played in his 1000th career game on 8/24/15

 

He said what: Now that Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison are back from the disabled list Clint Hurdle has a lot of options at his disposal…and he knows it:

We’re going to have better options during the course of a game than we’ve ever had since I’ve been here. It’s a deep bench and just about every night we’ve got guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark, guys to work some at-bats, steal a base. We have more options and more talent and more depth. It helps you out, there’s no doubt

 

Tweet of the week: The Pirates looked flat in a loss to the Rockies on Sunday. They have played a lot of games in August with little time off. They finally get a day off before heading to Milwaukee to kick off the final month of the season.

 

Front Office Notes: The GM threw cold water on the notion that uberprospect Tyler Glasnow will be called up in September. Neal Huntington flat out said it is not going to happen.
 

On The Farm: SS Cole Tucker underwent surgery on his shoulder that will sideline him until late next season.

 
Highlight of the week: Gregory Polanco’s cannon saved the Pirates on Friday Night when he cut down Jose Reyes with this throw to the plate in the inning against the Rockies.
 

 

Pirates TWIBB Notes for Week of 8-17-15 to 8-23-15

Here are your This Week in Buccos Baseball Notes for 8/17/15 thru 8/23/15, the 20th week of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 regular season.
 

Weekly result: 5 Wins and 2 Losses, 30 Runs Scored and 23 Runs Allowed.
 

Hero of the week: Starling Marte. Marte’s bat caught fire this week. With a blast on Tuesday night he broke a long home run slump that stretched back to July 1st. Later in the week he would hit another home run – this time of the walk off variety in a 3-2 win over the Giants. Defensively he robbed Brandon Crawford of a home run early in that game. For the week Marte had 12 hits in 32 ABs and scored 8 runs.

 

Zero of the week: Jeff Locke. Locke was awful in his only start of the week on Friday against the Giants. On a night when Madison Bumgarner looked vulnerable the Pirates failed to take advantage because of Jeff Locke’s poor outing. Not only did he surrender 6 runs in 5 innings, but he also hurt the team defensively when he was late covering first base. He also failed to put down a sacrifice bunt.
 

How do you spell relief? A-R-Q-U-I-M-E-D-E-S C-A-M-I-N-E-R-O. Arquimedes Caminero ran his scoreless streak to 14.2 innings by posting 4.2 innings of scoreless relief this week. He was sensational in an extended outing during extra innings on Tuesday night when he shut down the Diamondbacks for 3 innings. He also picked up his 14th Hold of the season against the Giants on Sunday.
 

#HURDLED: In the 12th inning on Tuesday Night Clint Hurdle elected to pinch hit with Chris Stewart, the backup catcher and last remaining position player. In what can also be described as inexplicable the AB was wasted by asking Stewart to lay down a sacrifice bunt.

 

Cannonballs: Pedro Alvarez (2), Starling Marte (2), Jung Ho Kang (3), Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen

 

The little things that matter: PNC Park is the rare place where base runners have an opportunity to take second base on a fly ball. This happens almost never at other MLB venues, but at PNC Park fly balls to the North Side Notch make tagging up for second base a semi-regular occurrence. In the second inning on Thursday night Starling Marte tagged up and headed to second on one such fly ball by Andrew McCutchen. That extra 90 feet produced a run when Aramis Ramirez followed up with a book-rule double. This was the first run of the night and helped set the tone for a series in which the Pirates would take 3 of 4 games from the Giants.

 

It must be Hidden Vigorish: The Pirates have had plenty of games in which they stranded a small village on the bases in a losing effort. On Saturday they did the complete opposite. They won a game 3-2 and did not leave single runner on base.

 

Stats that blow my mind: The Pirates bullpen has won 18 straight decisions. That is the longest streak in baseball since the 1909 Pirates won 22 straight bullpen decisions.
 

Records and Milestones: Aramis Ramirez drove in the 1400th RBI of his career on 8/21/15.

 

He said what: Clint Hurdle discusses Pedro Alvarez’s defensive woes:

It’s territorial more than anything else. You’re receiving the ball more than you’re catching, gloving it and throwing it. The spin is different on the bat being on the other side of the field. It’s something he’s still working on.

That there is some spin. Time to stop making excuses for Pedro’s defense. He has been working at 1B since last August. He had all of Spring Training to get acclimated to the position. He could have gone to Winter Ball, but chose not to. He has been playing the position every day this season. Pedro shouldn’t be this god awful at catching a baseball.
 

Tweet of the week: Gerrit Cole is seriously going strangle an infielder before this season is over.

 

Front Office Notes: One old Travis returned and another old Travis gets 15 days off with a fabricated back strain. Travis Snider was signed to a minor league contract presumably with a promise of September callup. Meanwhile Travis Ishikawa conveniently went on the DL to make way for the return of Jordy Mercer. In other news another player went from hero to DFA’d the next day – this time the victim was Pedro Florimon who was DFA’d after hitting a walk off triple in the 15th inning on Tuesday.
 

On The Farm: Tyler Glasnow has 0.99 ERA in 5 starts with AAA Indianapolis.

 
Highlight of the week: Starling Marte giveth and Starling Marte taketh away. On Saturday he stole a homer and then crushed a two out 9th inning walk off home run to make the Pirates a 3-2 winner over the Giants.
 

 

Pirates TWIBB Notes for Week of 8-10-15 to 8-16-15

Here are your This Week in Buccos Baseball Notes for 8/10/15 thru 8/16/15, the 19th week of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 regular season.
 

Weekly result: 4 Wins and 2 Losses, 31 Runs Scored and 19 Runs Allowed.
 

Hero of the week: Gregory Polanco. Polanco is scalding hot. This week he picked up 14 hits in 29 ABs, scored 5 runs, and drove in 4. Polanco also continued to display the clutch gene. On Friday he drove in the go ahead run in the 10th inning against the Mets. In the 7th inning on Sunday he again drove in the go ahead run. He also blasted a mammoth home run high off the left field foul pole at Citi Field.
 

Zero of the week: Not a single player had an obvious poor week, therefore Zero Dishonors are suspended.
 

How do you spell relief? J-O-E B-L-A-N-T-O-N. The hefty right hander came up huge in a 14 inning win over the NY Mets on Saturday Night. Joe Blanton pitched the 11th-13th innings and whiffed 6 Mets’ hitters to pick up his first win as a Pirate. For the week Blanton pitched 4 scoreless innings, racked up 8 K, and surrendered just 2 hits and a walk.

 

#HURDLED: I covered this in detail earlier this week. Clint Hurdle absolutely stuck with Jeff Locke too long on Tuesday night against the Cardinals. It was inexcusable not to pull Locke after allowing two walks to begin the 5th inning. Head to head match ups against the Cardinals are precious. If the Pirates are going to catch the Cards Hurdle can not let a game like this get away from the Pirates.

 

Cannonballs: Pedro Alvarez (3), Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Aramis Ramirez, Gregory Polanco

 

The little things that matter: Two games were altered this week by the inability to turn a couple of routine double plays. Gerrit Cole had a chance to escape the 3rd inning against the Cardinals unscathed on Wednesday Night. Instead Neil Walker skipped a poor throw to first base, and Pedro Alvarez made an even poorer attempt to scoop it. The ball kicked away from Alvarez and two Cardinals’ baserunners scored. On Sunday the Pirates were on the receiving end of some charitable double play defense. With a runner on first base and no outs in the 7th inning Mets pitcher Bobby Parnell fielded a come backer and fired strike to second base. Unfortunately for Parnell, the Mets’ were confused on who should cover the bag and the ball sailed into centerfield. The Bucs would break the game open with 4 runs in the 7th inning.

 

It must be Hidden Vigorish: The Pirates finally won a game in St. Louis. The Bucs had lost 8 straight in St. Louis and 19 of their previous 22 games at Busch Stadium before exploding for 7 runs in the top of the 1st inning on their way to a 10-5 victory over the Cards on Thursday evening. It was the most runs the Pirates had scored in the top of a 1st inning since June 8, 1989, when they scored 10 runs at Philadelphia.

 

Stats that blow my mind: Against NL Central Division foes the Pirates are a combined W/L record of 21-29. Against the rest of the league they are an astounding 48-17.
 

Records and Milestones: The Pirates bullpen has won 16 straight decisions. According to Elias Sports that is the longest streak in baseball since the 1909 Pirates won 22 straight bullpen decisions.

 

He said what: Few things make Pirate fans as irate as “Sunday Lineups”. Clint Hurdle had a doozy of a “Sunday Lineup” this week – both Andrew McCutchen and Jung Ho Kang were given the day off against Mets’ ace Matt Harvey. The Pirates B team never got the memo that that they were supposedly overmatched. As Clint Hurdle noted the guys on his scorecard grinded against Harvey all game long.

The eight that went out there today battled their backsides off against Harvey

 

Tweet of the week: The Pirates’ bullpen has done a 180 in recent weeks.

We should give the GM some credit for the bullpen additions he made at the trade deadline, but we also need to credit the coaching staff for correcting issues with Antonio Bastardo and Arquimedes Caminero.

 

Front Office Notes: In my mind I imagine Neal Huntington is frantically blocking the Cardinals’ waiver claims. My mind and reality are not always in alignment.
 

On The Farm: Ke’Bryan Hayes has gotten off to a great start to his career. The Pirates selected Hayes with the 32nd overall pick in the 2015 draft. The 18 year old third basemen has slashed 347/441/397 in Rookie ball for the GCL Pirates.

 
Highlight of the week: I usually highlight a positive Pirates’ play from the week. But this throw by Yoenis Cespedes to cut down Sean Rodriguez at 3B was so extraordinary that I have to credit it.
 

 

Knowing When to Lift Jeff Locke

If the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to catch the St. Louis Cardinals in the standings Clint Hurdle is going to have to do a much better job of managing the back end of the Pirates rotation. Last night he continued a post All-Star Break trend of leaving back of the rotation starting pitchers in the game to give it away in the middle innings. Last night with the Pirates leading 3-1, Jeff Locke started off the 5th inning by issuing two walks to Cardinals hitters. The writing was on the wall – Locke was about to blow this lead. Yet Hurdle stubbornly refused to activate his bullpen. Locke would manage to finish the inning, but not before handing the lead over to the Cardinals. The Pirates lost the game 4-3 to fall 6 games behind the Cardinals in the standings.
 
It was painful to watch how Hurdle managed that 5th inning. It was so apparent that Locke should be lifted. If this was an early June game I would understand giving Locke some rope. If the Pirates were AHEAD 5 games in the standings over the Cardinals then it would be ok to try to let Mr. Nibbles chew his way out of the 5th inning. But the Pirates are in chase mode and these head to head match ups with the Cardinals are precious. The way Hurdle managed that game last night was flat out negligence.
 
Jeff Locke is not an ace. You can’t trust him in the middle innings of a close game in a playoff chase like you would Gerrit Cole. Clint Hurdle is obviously struggling with these kind of managerial decisions. Since I am more about solutions than criticisms I have created this Flow Chart to help the Pirates’ skipper know when to lift Jeff Locke:
 
jeff locke flow chart

 

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