Tagged: Daniel McCutchen

Why the Pirates have been slumping

Catcher- Chris Snyder just came back and is starting to produce. Ryan Doumit is still not the answer defensively and his hitting was not good either. Jason Jaramillo was sent down and was the best of the three thus far as Snyder was injured. Jaramillo continued his good hitting from Spring Training and defensively is a clear improvement over Doumit. It seemed like the team never traded Doumit and the three catchers either are good offensively or defensively but never both. Thus they all are missing a part of the game and it sets the team back.

First Base- Lyle Overbay has been a mixed bag. This “great defender” blew a play the second game of the season which cost the team a game. Overbay hit a nice home run against St. Louis, but hs hitting is not great. Much like Adam LaRoche, the lefty Overbay is known as a slow starter and this haunts the team. Overbay has not had a hit against lefties and in a power position, and he cost a good deal of money for not producing. He is going to have to do more, or else Steve Pearce may get some looks at first base.

Second Base- Neil Walker has been one of the best performing Pirates. He has picked up where he left off last season. The average is down and the strikeouts are up, however the power has improved and he is showing that he can defensively handle the second base positon. Walker will need to continue hitting like this, and he will have to hit better against lefties. He also struggled during the homestand and he will have to hit better for the hometown crowd.

 Shortstop- Aki Iwamura gave up his position to Neil Walker, and if Ronny Cedeno is not careful, he could be next. Pedro Ciriaco had no reason to be sent down, especially since we have seen Cedeno and Josh Rodriguez get off to less than stellar starts. Cedeno usually starts off fast, and offensively he has not done much and he just is not getting the job done. Rodriguez has also had some good looks and he is just as bad. He was kept for his power, and I don’t see any power and I see a lack of patience at the plate. Cedeno has made a couple of spectacular plays at the shortstop position, however the routine plays such as grounders and turning the double play are just not up to snuff. Every time a grounder is hit his way, I hold my breath as it is an adventure. The shortstop position will need to produce more offensively and defensively will need to field their position.

Third base- Pedro Alvarez is expected to be the next big thing here in Pittsburgh. He is expected to be a power hitter and as a free swinger, is being compared to Adam Dunn. This season he has not met expectations. He is a notorious slow starter and in AAA last year hit in the .220’s this season. Alvarez will heat up when the weather gets hotter. His fielding is another story. His weight is in question and his fielding is inconsistent. He can make the plays half the time, and his arm strength is strong sometimes a little too strong. Steve Pearce has had looks at third and offensively hasn’t done much and defensively hasn’t done anything wrong, but hasn’t been truly tested. For all we know, he can do well but otherwise is could be another Delwyn Young experiment gone wrong.

Outfield- Jose Tabata has been the most complete player this season. He showed commitment to the team by putting on muscle and playing in the winter. He has already stolen seven bases and has added the home run to his game. He did well hitting leadoff but last night was bumped to the number two spot in the order. Despite his speed, he seems unsure in left field when he has to backpedal. Andrew McCutchen is known as a slow starter, however fans expected more from him after he tore the cover off of the ball in Spring Training. It seemed initially as though it would work as he hit two homers to start the season against the Cubs, but has since slumped. Clint Hurdle has tried to get him going again batting him leadoff but he struck out four times and was not a part of the offense. Furthermore McCutchen has as many steals for the team as I do right now- ZERO. McCutchen said at PirateFest that he wanted to have that “Ricky Henderson mentality” and know that the base was his when he would steal a base. He has looked like Lastings Milledge out there as the other day he was caught in a run-down. He like Alvarez will heat up soon. The platoon of Matt Diaz and Garrett Jones has not worked out well so far, with Jones hitting the lone homer. Diaz has been starting more as of late and he got two of the Pirates four hits on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers. They need to produce now as that has been a part of the offense that has been missing. Finally we have not had a good look at John Bowker yet, but we know that he earned his spot with a solid Spring Training. He has been relegated to pinch hitting but has not done much with that. I say give him a start and see what happens.

 Starters- The ace has been Kevin Correia and minus one inning on his start on Wednesday, he has pitched magnificantly. Correia gave up that homer to Fielder and was unable to field a bunt on Wednesday and that cost him, but he was able to pitch well in his previous starts. He will have to continue to pitch well as he is the ace, but I am unsure as to how long he can keep this up. Paul Maholm had his second great start on Thursday against the Brewers but took the loss giving up two runs in the first inning and was not helped by the offense or lack thereof. Paul has looked like Zach Duke at times as he has looked very hittable. He will have to be able to pitch inside more like he is trying to do. Ross Ohlendorf was the weakest looking of the starters, as he pitched ok at best in his first start against the Cubs and now is injured and Jeff Karstens has been forced back into the starting rotation when he will pitch tomorrow against the Cincinnati Reds. Charlie Morton has been nothing but stellar for the team, getting a complete game win last night. He changed his arm angle in Spring Training and the walks are finally down. I believe that before he was tipping his pitches, and now is getting a ton of groundballs due in large part to that newfound sinker. James McDonald was slated to be the team’s ace until his injury in Spring Training. I don’t have much on him, but now he should be able to pitch deeper in the games. He just needs to stop those innings where he labors. He seems to pitch 30-40 pitches in an inning and it effects how far he can go in his starts.

Bullpen- The plesant surprise has been Mike Crotta. That new sinker has proven to be vital and he already is a staple in the bullpen. Chris Resop had some trouble against the Chicago Cubs in the second game of the season, but since has looked pretty good and has picked up from where he left off last season. Joe Beimel is back off of the disabled list and we soon will find out what he has. He can be used in many different capacities and is the lone lefty in the bullpen after Garrett Olsen was designated for assignment. He was ok at best, but he was a good filler. Beimel is in his second tour of duty with the Pirates. Daniel McCutchen was called up during the season and he will now serve as the long reliever with Jeff Karstens now in the rotation. His ERA was a bit high last season and he will have to limit the mistakes. Jose Veras slow the pace of play when he pitches and earned the loss on Saturday against the Colorado Rockies when he gave up three runs in that infamous sixth inning. He has good stuff but needs to place his pitches in more adventageous positions so that he can take command of the batter. Evan Meek is finally coming back after the shoulder injury and before had a couple of bad outings in a row. Meek was sick it cost him dearly as his placement was off. He would leave pitches up to where hitters had no problem hitting him. When he came back Wednesday against the Brewers, his fastball topped at 92 when it usually tops out at 96-97 so the arm is not 100% yet. Lastly, Joel Hanrahan has done a solid job. He is not being called upon to close the game as much as the team only won one of six total games thru the first homestand. Hanrahan is the only closer in the NL Central who has not yet blown a save and he just seems to have extra competitiveness when he squares off against the hitter. Hanrahan is showing the Pirates that the made the right decision when it came to who would close the game.

Pirates vs Milwaukee Brewers 4/14/11 PNC Park

 I came off a huge eight ball performance in the previous game, and knew that I was taking a huge risk by coming today. Going into today, I had a streak of 14 straight games of snagging at least one baseball. Erik Jabs told me that in order to reach my goal of 128 baseballs, my average would have to be in the three or four balls a game range, and going into the game, I was over five. He told me that I would have to snag 21 baseballs before the end of the month, and going into tonight’s game, I had snagged 16 in three games. Thru three games last season, I had five baseballs and thus I am well ahead of where I was at last year, in fact, more than three times better.Thru four games last season, the total was boosted to seven, so could I top the two balls I caught in game four last season?

 Going into the game I was not sure of what my goal should be. My lowest game was snagging four baseballs twice. I have gotten off to a fast start in April and had set a goal of two with the understanding that it may be too much to ask for. I had only 30 minutes of BP, mostly filled with Pirates just hitting lefties and no real lefty power. I was going to be on the field for Season Ticket Holder of the Game and this would take away from an eventful and snagging filled total.

 I was actually worried that I would get shut out and the Pirates were not hitting much of anything out and they weren’t throwing any tossups, in fact one trainer robbed Erik of a snag much to the delight of Daniel McCutchen.

 Something that pleased me, was that I was getting close to full strength. My running patterns and speed today were the best they have been all season, and I was able to cover a lot of ground. I nearly beat out Erik for a batted ball that normally would easily have been his snag. I was in the middle of left field and then ran close to the foul pole and just got beat out. A ball immediately then came Nick Pelescak’s way and I had to sprint all of the way back to a center table and just got there in time but Nick got it as his glove got down before mine. If I can cover that much ground without gasping for air, then the other ballhawks are in trouble.

 I am recovering from there run here.

 I did get lucky during the first group of Brewers BP as I was able to snag a homer for ball number 1. This extended my streak of consecutive balls in a game to a respectable 15 straight games, as I have not been shutout since August 20, 2010 a game against the Florida Marlins.

 It was 5:30 at this point, and I was to meet my agent, but I first wanted to search center field for Easter Eggs. I found nothing and quickly searched the back row and found nothing. Because I checked out the back row, I missed out on a BP homer to Jim Saylor. I was disappointed as I had a feeling that things would start to pick up, but at this point I was late in meeting my person so that I could be recognized on the field.

 My agent gave me to feeling that we would be on the field for BP and that excited me, however we were taken to the conference room to sit for 15 minutes. I had mixed emotions, as my body was physically exhausted for the wear and tear of the homestand and media obligations Wednesday. I still was a competitor and the day was looking to be a less than stellar one.

 The idea was for us to be on the field at 6 to watch the end of their BP, but the Brewers just like yesterday were trotting off the field when we all got on.

 When I went out to the area, I immediately saw a baseball that was left there and grabbed it for ball number 2. At that point I just stood on the field with others waiting for our various honors. Here is the pass we were given so that we could go on the field.

Photo taken by Colston Cooper

 I had to wait the longest in the line there, as the other two people were throwing out pitches. I did get to play catch with the Pirate Parrot. I already had played catch outside, but there really wasn’t anything better to do, and plus not many get to do that. We were quite close together though and that made it a little more predictable but it was still a good time.

 I then was recognized standing out on the field all by myself. I had to wave for what seemed like forever. I thought I had forced my smile but that was not the case.

 While on the field, Clint Hurdle came and made small talk with us while shaking out hands.

 “Back for more,” he asked me.

 Yep, I figured somebody would remember me from yesterday, but Clint actually said it. I actually wanted to ask him if BP on Sundays would continue as it did this past Sunday, but I never asked.

 The following is a cell phone photo taken by Colston. This explains the poor quality.

 I was supposed to deliver the lineup cards with Hurdle, however for some reason they did not do lineup cards and we went inside. I was so disappointed and thus the Pirates faced my wrath losing 4-1.

 As for the ceremony itself, it was the longest 10 seconds of my life. Smiling and waving, oh dear I feel for Ms. America. Anyways, my friend Kayla was by the bullpen watching Paul Maholm warmup, and the following photo was taken while I was on the jumbotron.

 

 I knew that I wanted to try and get the first tossup, however the elevator took two minutes or so and then I had to run from the middle of the 100’s section to the riverwalk center field area. It is not a short walk and I actually did finally bump into a woman literally when I was on the Riverwalk, I did not fall but the time may have cost me, as I missed the toss-up.

 I was able to get ball number 3 by making my best catch of the year. Erik, Nick and others kept changing their position on me. I was able to realize this unlike last year and picked the right around to be by myself. The throw from Andrew McCutchen was high and my gloove felt passive and I was worried, however I was excited, as I made the athletic famly.

 I am tired so going to cut this entry short. Ball number 4 came when I was by the bullpen when Herbie Andrade threw me a ball. I had reached my low of four and now stood at 20 2011 run. I now need one more ball to breaking that quota I need.

 I now have snagged 20 baseballs and it is exciting. I have started out very hot and fast I am excited.

 Baseballs Snagged: 20

 Total Baseballs: 89

 Total Baseballs given away in 2011: 14

 Notes: I am only 11 balls away from 100. I am quite excited.

 Next entry will and I repeat will come after the soap

Pirates early season preview part 10: Relief Pitchers

 As it stands right now, there are not many locks to the bullpen right now. Here is what pirates.com projects as the current bullpen.

 1. Joel Hanrahan

 2. Evan Meek

 3. Chris Resop

 4. Daniel McCutchen

 There are only four spots on the Pirates depth chart which is interesting, but due to all kinds of changes to the 40-man roster as well as the wide open competition in the bullpen, it truly is anybody’s job to win.

 Joel Hanrahan truly had a nice season for the Pirates. As one of two to make it the entire year in the Pirates bullpen, Hanrahan learned some valuable lessons from Octavio Dotel early in the year becoming the regular set-up man and eighth inning man. Hanrahan constantly mowed down hitters striking out a total of 100 batters, the second best total of all Pirates pitchers.

 After Dotel was traded in July, management said that Hanrahan and Evan Meek would share closing duties. This seemed to be a lie though, as Hanrahan got almost all of the closing opportunities.

 Hanrahan saved a total of six games and finished with a 4-1 record with an ERA of 3.62. In his 69.2 innings, he gave up 58 hits, 28 runs (all earned), 6 homers and he walked 26 batters. Hanrahan also had 18 holds.

 For Evan Meek, the road to the Majors was a long road. He was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 2002 MLB Draft but later played in the Minors for the San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He was selected by the Pirates in the 2007 Rule-5 Draft. During the season, Meek looked overmatched and he finished 0-1 with an ERA of 6.92. He was designated for assignment on May 4, 2008 and by Rule-5 rules was sent back to Tampa Bay on May 14. The Pirates sent cash to Tampa Bay in return for Meek and promptly sent him to the Minors. He pitched 9 games for the Altoona Curve and was then promoted to the Indianapolis Indians.

 Meek spent the 2009 season in the bullpen with the Pirates. He finished the season with a 1-1 record in 41 appearances, had a 3.45 ERA, gave up 2 home runs, 0 hit batsmen, 29 walks, 42 strikeouts, a .209 average against, and a 1.34 WHIP, in 47.0 innings pitched. Unfortunately for Meek, he got injured in the latter part of the season, and thus did not pitch down the stretch.

 Meek started the 2010 season as the seventh inning man behind both Hanrahan and Dotel. Then-manager John Russell asked Meek on numerous occassions to pitch multiple innings, and for most of the first half of the season had an ERA under 1. Early in the season, Dotel had given up a run in six straight games as closer and Meek was called upon for the save against the Los Angeles Dodgers and earned the save on April 29. Meek remembered the honor saying how much it meant for him, and how he idolized Los Angeles Dodgers Broadcaster Vin Scully and how much the save meant for him.

 An early highlight for Meek occurred on May 14 against the Chicago Cubs. He entered the game in the sixth inning with the score tied at 6. He pitched two scoreless innings and struck out four including Derrick Lee, Xavier Nady and Alfonso Soriano. The Pirates won the game 10-6.

 Another highlight came on June 10 against the Washington Nationals. He came into the game relieving Zach Duke. The bases were loaded with no outs, and Meek quickly got Willie Harris to line into a double play and then retired Cristian Guzman and ended the inning with only 6 pitches.

 Despite Andrew McCutchen being the front runner, Meek was the Pirates lone representative to the All-Star Game as he carried a 4-2 record with an ERA of 0.96. “It’s surprising,” Meek said. “A lot of starters and closers go to the game. I’ve always said there are a lot of great middle relievers out there who deserve to go to the game. I think they’re overlooked a little bit. It’s amazing to be selected, an overwhelming feeling.” Meek was the first Pirates reliever selected that was not a closer to the game since Mace Brown in 1938.

 On August 3, Meek stepped up to the plate against reliever Jordan Smith of the Cincinnati Reds. Despite the long shot, Meek lined single into right field and received an ovation from the crowd.

 Meek finished the season with a 5-4 record, an ERA of 2.14, 70 strikeouts, 4 saves in limited duty and 15 holds. All of these numbers were career highs.

 Chris Resop also has an interesting tale, as he went from seemingly the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. He was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the fourth round of the 2001 MLB Draft. He made his Major League debut for the team in 2005 and stayed with the team in 2006 until he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for Kevin Gregg.

 He was claimed off waivers by the Atlanta Braves on October 25, 2007. On May 28, 2008, Resop was designated for assignment by the Braves. He was assigned to the Richmond Braves until July 7 when the Braves sold Resop’s contract to the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese Central League.

 Prior to the 2010 season, Resop signed once again with the Braves and was called up on June 15 after pitching 73.1 innings, recording a 1.84 ERA and  allowing 46 hits, 27 walks, and striking out 81 batters. He held batters to a .183 average. 

 Soon after Resop was placed on waivers and on August 4, he was claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

 Resop got off to a great start with the team using his fastball and other pitches to overwhelm the hitter.

 Resop was doing a great job for the team and then another roadblock came for Resop in the form of injury. Resop was sidelined for much of the end of the season, although he did pitch close to season’s end. Resop’s work though exceeded everyone’s expectation, and barring injury, Resop is likely to start the season in the team’s bullpen.

 Resop finished his 2010 season with a 3.86 ERA although those numbers did not show his work in Pittsburgh as his one appearance in Atlanta resulted in an ERA 22.50/ This start did not reflect what he did in Pittsburgh. While wearing the Pirates uniform, Resop appeared in 22 games. In his 19 innings pitched, Resop allowed 10 hits, 4 runs (all earned), one home run, 10 walks, 24 strikeouts, and 5 holds. His WHIP was 1.05 and his ERA was 2.45 in the month of August and 1.29 in September. 

 Daniel McCutchen often times is the forgotten piece of the Xavier Nady trade. People remember that Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens were brought over. McCutchen tried to make a name for himself as a September call-up in 2009, and did a respectable job. In 2010 Spring Training, McCutchen beat out Kevin Hart for the fifth spot in the Pirates rotation.

 McCutchen had his struggles in the rotation though, and the Pirates sent him down to AAA to fine tune his game.

 McCutchen was brought up later on in the season and still wasn’t pitching up to par. The decision was made for McCutchen to pitch long relief and it was a role that McCutchen was fairly successful in. McCutchen still received the occassional start, and even emerged victorious in a couple, but McCutchen’s role is seemingly clear. 

 McCutchen finished 2010 with a 2-5 record and an ERA of 6.12. He appeared in 28 games and started only 9 of them. In his 67.2 innings, he gave up 83 hits, 48 runs (46 earned), 13 home runs, 28 walks and 38 strikeouts.

 From there the relief options are seemingly endless. One guy that will not be in the bullpen is Chan Ho Park. Park was designated for assignment by the New York Yankees on July 31 after having a 5.60 ERA. He was claimed off waivers by the Pirates on August 4. On October 1, Park became the winningest Asian pitcher in the Major Leagues. He was signed by the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball this off-season although the Pirates did seem to show some signs of interest in Park. Park went 2-2 with the Pirates in 2010 and his ERA with the team was 3.49 and finished with a total ERA of 4.66 for the 2010 season.

 One person that has a great chance of making the bullpen is Jeff Karstens. I failed to mention Karstens in my most recent post on starting pitchers. This is mainly because with the new mix of starters, it appears unlikely that Karstens will be a starter although there is a slight glimmer of hope for him.

 Jeff Karstens attended Pirates spring training as a non-roster invitee. He pitched relief in 8 games for a 6.23 ERA and was reassigned to the minor league camp.

He began the season in the AAA Indianapolis bullpen, but problems with starting Pirates starting pitching prompted a call-up on April 27.

Since that time, Karstens has become the Pirates’ most reliable starting pitcher, posting an ERA of 4.31 that is the lowest out of the starting rotation.

Karstens was the pitching matchup in the highly anticipated debut of young phenom Stephen Strasburg, giving up 9 hits for 4 runs (4 earned) in 5 innings for his second loss of the season.

 Karstens finished the 2010 season with a 3-10 record and an ERA of 4.92. Of his 26 appearences, Karstens started 19 times. He pitched in 122.2 innings, and gave up 146 hits, 72 runs (67 earned), 21 home runs, 27 walks and 72 strikeouts. Karstens though showed a lot of resilience and did not get much run support when he started, and thus his performance is not shown by his record. Karstens found himself with the ball in his hand when the Pirates needed a good performance, and more often then not he delivered. I could definitely see him being in the bullpen.

 Another possible candidate for the bullpen is Aaron Thompson. Thompson was signed off waiver by the Pirates, and as a lefty will probably be given every opportunity to start the season in the Majors. The team has a shortage of lefties in the Pirates bullpen. Thompson, a former Washington Nationals prospect, finished his 2010 season with a record of 5-13 (although he went 1-0 for AAA affiliate Syracuse) and an ERA of 5.65 (1.80 for Syracuse). He appeared an started in 27 games, and 141.2 innings. He gave up 169 hits and allowed 97 runs (89 earned). He also allowed 16 home runs and walked 56 while striking out 99. Thompson is the team’s top lefty relief arm option as it stands right now, and he could provide a lot of innings for the team.

 Another lefty option is Wilfredo Ledezma. Ledezma signed with the Pirates last off-season and started the season in AAA. He was called up on July 27 along with Steven Jackson to replace Brendan Donnelly and Brad Lincoln. He finished with a 6.86 ERA to go along with a 0-3 record. He appeared in 27 games and pitched 19.2 innings. He allowed 25 hits, 16 runs (15 earned), 2 home runs, 6 walks, 22 strikeouts and 3 holds. Ledezma was often a victim of bad luck though as he did not receive much help behind him. Still Ledezma was taken off the 40 man roster to make a spot for Thompson so Spring Training may be Ledezma’s last shot to make it with the Pirates, but as a lefty he will get looks but just because he is not on the 40 man roster, his chances do not appear to be that great.

 Another possible innings eater would be Sean Gallagher. The Pirates acquired him from the San Diego Padres for cash considerations on July 7. He appeared in 46 games (31 with the Pirates and 15 with the Padres). He finished with a 2-1 record (all three decisions were with the Pirates) and a 5.77 ERA. He pitched in a total of 57.2 innings, allowing 62 hits, 40 runs (37 earned), 7 home runs, 41 walks, 43 strikeouts and 3 holds (all with the Pirates). Despite his control problems and being off the 40-man roster, Gallagher was invited to Spring Training and thus has a shot to pitch himself into the Pirates bullpen. To do this, he will have to show control and limit the mistakes that plagued him in Pittsburgh last season.

 Another option for the bullpen is Chris Leroux whom the Pirates got off waivers on September 13. Leroux came off an injury earlier in the season and received limited time with the Pirates towards the end of the season. He appeared in 6 games with the Pirates pitching in 4.2 innings and allowing 4 hits, 3 runs (all earned), 3 walks and 4 strikeouts. He also had an ERA over 5 and a 0-1 record. If it makes you feel any better, his stats with the Marlins were worse as his ERA and WHIP were both higher in his 17 appearances with the team. I am unsure what the Pirates see in Leroux but they put Gallagher and Ledezma off of the 40-man and for no apparent good reason have kept Leroux.

 One final option that is not to be forgotten is Scott Olsen. I do not have him making my projected rotation and thus he is on this list. The team is short of lefties and Olsen in the bullpen makes sense, as he can eat innings as well as provide that left-handed arm the team needs. I have more information on Olsen in the starting pitching preview.

 There of course are more options for the bullpen, as these are only a few of them. Other names include Jose Ascanio who is still trying to come back from injury, Tony Watson a lefty, Kyle McPherson, Michael Crotta and Ramon Aguero. All of these options are on the 40 man roster.

 The Pirates have a lot of bullpen options, but one question remains, who will be the Pirates closer?

 Well it is a two-horse race between Hanrahan and Meek. Both have had their troubles with the position.

 Hanrahan relies solely on two pitches, in the fastball and slider. While it has gotten him this far, I feel that he needs to add at least another pitch because if he stays the way he is, he will become way too predictable. It is true that Hanrahan had 6 saves last season, but he also blew 4 saves last season. He just does not seem like a reliable option as if he were to be closer, he would have a ton of opportunities and when he closed for Washington, he did not fare that well either.

 Meek had some closing opportunities as well but each time he comes out to close, it seems to be an adventure. Technically speaking, Meek blew 6 games last year, but it is not like he pitched that many times in the ninth inning. When he did save games, they were very similar to Matt Capps when he wore the Pirates uniform. Meek in the ninth inning actually got what seemingly no other pitcher did, and that was defensive help. The defense had to help Meek save the day on numerous save situations and I don’t think that he is ready to take the ball in the ninth quite yet.

 Unless the Pirates can find a more reliable option, Hanrahan will have to be the team’s closer. Hanrahan will face some failure, but hopefully the team will be able to help him out.

 Here is my projected bullpen come April 1 2011:

 Scott Olsen- long relief

 Jeff Karstens- long relief

 Aaron Thompson- long/middle relief

 Daniel McCutchen- long/middle relief

 Chris Resop- middle reliever

 Evan Meek- set up man

 Joel Hanrahan- closer

 Of course all of this could easily change, as I think the Pirates could use another lefty. I think that Ledezma will fall short. As I said earlier, I project Olsen to just miss making the team’s rotation, although it makes sense for him to make it. This would provide the team with two left-handed arms in the bullpen in Olsen and Thompson. Both have starting pitching backgrounds and could be used as long or middle relievers. Regardless both can eat up a lot of innings.

 Resop is the only projected middle reliever and I can see him as the team’s regular seventh inning man, much like Meek was last season. Karstens has pitched as a long reliever in the team’s bullpen before so the title of long-reliever seems to suit him most although McCutchen has long relief experience as well.

This bullpen can have as many as four long relievers but perhaps two of these “long relievers” could move to provide middle relief and perhaps even move to long relief, as injuries happen and a long reliever or two may need to make spot starts.

 Thank you so much for reading my early season preview breaking down each of the Pirates positions as they stand today. I hope you have enjoyed my take. I will continue to keep blogging and I may put down quick previews of each team in the Majors. This would include breaking down either a division or team at a time. It would potentially feature key additions and losses, placement in division and more!

Pirates early season preview part 6: Left Field

 As of this moment, here is the Pirates current depth chart:

 1. Jose Tabata

 2. Matt Diaz

 3. John Bowker

 Tabata came over to the Pirates in the deal that sent Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen and Ross Ohlendorf to Pittsburgh. Tabata brought a lot of excitement to the city. Tabata had some off the field trouble involved with his relationships and his age, but he brought speed and excitement to Pittsburgh. Tabata was called up on June 9, and in his first at-bat singled. He hit .299 in 2010 and led National League left fielders in range factor per game at 2.09. Tabata stole 19 bases, but his power has not shown up yet hitting only 4 home runs. Upon growth and maturation, perhaps the power will come.

 I discussed Matt Diaz in a recent post, but essentially he will be in a platoon scenario in right field. That does not mean that he could not start in left field, but it just means that this is highly unlikely. History has shown Diaz struggling against righties and Tabata bats from the right side, meaning that Diaz has a slim chance of starting.

 John Bowker is the next option down the line, because if Ryan Doumit even stays in a Pirates uniform, he will play right field and has never played PNC Park’s left field, which as you know has some weird bounces. Bowker was brought over to Pittsburgh along with Joe Martinez in the trade that sent Javier Lopez to the San Francisco Giants (it worked out pretty well for them). Many complained of Bowker’s offense, but he was brought up as a September call-up. Bowker had some chances to start and he made the most of them, hitting .319 with 4 home runs and 10 runs batted in. Sure the sample size was small, but I was encouraged by what he was able to do. It will be interesting to see what Bowker has to offer.

 As it stands right now, here are my projections for the left field come April 1:

 1. Jose Tabata

 2. John Bowker

 3. Matt Diaz

 There always is the chance that a Minor Leaguer can take a position on this depth chart, and perhaps the super utility player Corey Wimberly could make a push on the depth chart, or even Josh Fields or Garrett Atkins. I don’t see that happening yet, as I believe that Pirates Mangement already has their minds made up over the position.

 Tomorrow’s entry will be on the centerfield position, which as we know is home to Andrew McCutchen, a friend to all Pirates fans, and always great to myself and all in centerfield. He puts on a show every night, and it makes thing exciting. It looks to be a great entry.

 

9/4 Pirates vs Washington Nationals PNC Park

 Again I went to this game by myself and I felt that I had something to prove. Upon trying to get tickets, I called the Pirates and found out that the game was nowhere near sold out.

 I got to the game very early and placed my backpack down that way I was first in line.

 Snagging today could prove to be both easy and hard. It would be easy as neither Erik nor Ian were at the ballpark leaving Nick and I to duke it out. Still though it was a Saturday night game as well as a Skyblast meaning that the crowds during BP could get really big really fast.

 First though I took part in photofest, something the Pirates do once a year. Among those I got photos with were Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata. It was a fun experience as it was my first time participating in it, but once it ended, I got back in line to prepare myself for BP.

 I talked with a lot of the ballhawks as I got ready for today, and Nick asked me how I was going to follow up my seven ball performance from the night before. I honestly was unsure but I told him that I would do what I could.

 Soon after the gates opened and I ran inside, but before I could get into the bleachers, I found that the gates was shut. There was no scanner! Wonderful, for a second I thought I saw the writing on the wall, but someone filled in for a moment and I was first through the gates. I searched for easter eggs in both the lower and upper seating bowl and found nothing. I later searched the third base side and found nothing as well.

 I got on the board rather quickly as I beat someone to a home run ball from an unknown Pirate for ball number 1.

 Soon after Daniel McCutchen caught a fly ball on the warning track and I called out to him. He seemingly ignored me as he kicked the ball out onto the grass. He then picked up the ball with his feet, and tried to pass it to me, but failed numerous times. After realizing that this wasn’t FIFA and that he hadn’t made the US World Cup Squad (he was only a few months late) he threw me ball number 2. Unfortunately for me, I lost the ball in the sun but slid across the bleacher and dove for the ball to get it. He legitimately threw the ball in the sun. The stunt slightly bloodied my already injured leg.

 Later on during the practice, Joel Hanrahan caught a ball and with Nick backing up threw me ball number 3. It was an easy catch.

 Then the fun began, a ball landed on the warning track and I asked Chan Ho Park nicely if he would throw me the ball. He responded saying, “what do you think I am, the ball snagging robot?”. As I pondered he did the moonwalk to a Black Eyed Peas song. He then picked up the ball and lobbed it to himself. He then lobbed it up and I playfully missed it scaring Nick and letting Park continue his joke. Eventually we connected and I had ball number 4. When everyone was asking me why I was dropping the ball, I told them that I was joking around and making them earn their salaries. In all seriousness though, the sun was constantly in my face and I would lose the ball in the sun. It was frustrating that I kept losing the balls and I was lucky that the Pirates bared with me.

 That was it for the Pirates portion of BP. I had given away two of my four baseballs and I proceeded to get in my red under armour yet again for the Nationals.

 Quickly, the Nationals began BP and seemingly nothing was heading towards the bleachers. Finally Wil Nieves hit a home run and there was a minor scrum between myself and Jim Saylor. With my glove firmly on it, he finally relinquished the ball and I found that the Nationals were still using the cheap training balls. Still I was pleased to have snagged ball number 5.

 Before 5:30 hit, I sprinted to right field bum leg and all. The gate was open and I was the first one up there but all of the balls were already gathered by the ushers.

 I then headed to center field to start snagging. Unfortunately for me, Adam Dunn did not take BP today, whether or not it was because he was not starting I don’t know, but that cost me at least one baseball.

 Towards the end of Nationals BP, a ball rolled out to right center and Pat Listach was walking towards it with a bat. He looked as if he wanted to toss it up and there were no Nationals fans around me, so I called his name and tugged my shirt to show him that I was a fan. Soon after ball number 6 was in my glove, and for the record I did not drop it. Upon snagging and adding some numbers together, I realized that the snag was my 50th snag of the season!

 I ended up giving the ball away to a girl though as a toss up was meant for her, but she dropped it and a kid ran and got it.

 That was all for BP. Then it was picture time:

 

 In this picture is Nick Pelescak with his 700th career snag, Jim Saylor, myself and one of the people who went to 10 ballparks in 10 days.

 Nick and I decided to hang out during the game. We camped out by the bullpen and the starter Paul Maholm tried to throw me a ball, but he threw it as if I was right handed and two spots more to the left of the bullpen. I was unable to retrieve the ball and I found no more luck all night. I left early in the game, I believe during the fifth inning. I never got a chance to search the ivy upon leaving.

 I snagged a total of six baseballs today and thirteen baseballs in two days. More importantly was that coming into the season I set a goal of 50 snags in my first season in the BHL, and I am happy to say that I reached my goal. I can’t imagine how lucky anyone who snags at Washington’s ballpark is.

 After much thinking in terms of when my next game is, I have decided that Monday’s Labor Day game will be next on my list. It is a day game after a day game so hopefully there will be BP. How will I do? Even I don’t know.  

9/3 Pirates vs Washington Nationals PNC Park

 I had made big plans for this game, as I was at Point Park to work on an article for the student newspaper. I was really looking forward to interviewing students about the topic but the moment I got off of the bus it started to rain. This angered me, as no students were any where near where I was and Pirates BP was at risk.

 After waiting for a little while I walked down to the ballpark and the rain had stopped. I was somewhat surprised to see that the grounds crew was pulling the tarp off of the field and that the Pirates were getting ready to take BP. This was going to be great as there was a chance to see more BP.

 I went to the game by myself, and got close to the front of the line. The usual suspects were there, and Ian and I who were separated by two baseballs at the time were ready.

 I had a feeling that because the Nationals are a good bp team, that today had the potential to be a career day for me.

 When we were let in, I searched for easter eggs, and came up empty-handed. In fact most of the Pirates BP was very uneventful. The only Pirate that really was tossing up was Chris Resop, and he had already tossed balls up to Erik and Nick. I started to get a little discouraged until Resop came over to talk to Nick and I. He asked us about BHL and how things worked. Between the two of us, we probably spilled out a little too much, but it was well worth it as Chris is a very cool guy. As the conversation ended, he told me that he would toss one up to me.

  Sure enough, a ball was hit in the direction of Pirate Daniel McCutchen and Resop asked him for the ball. Shortly after Resop threw a perfect strike right into my glove for ball number 1. Thanks Chris!

 

 For a long while afterwards I fell into another drought. Ian however was nowhere to be found and I had crept up to one ball behind him. His cousin on the other hand was getting baseballs left and right and ended up with six. The fact that he was a kid hurt me a little bit. As Pirates bp ended, I felt stupid as I only had one baseball and considering the circumstances, I was not happy.

 Nationals BP got under way pretty quickly as the Pirates had a late start. I decided to play center field as I have fared pretty well there during recent batting practice. Again I was getting unlucky as I was in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Ian’s cousin was getting some more toss ups and if there was ever a time to be patient, then this was it.

 Things changed for me when Adam Dunn stepped to the plate. He was hitting monster home runs and sure enough one went onto the riverwalk and after being bobbled by at least two people the ball went into my glove for ball number 2.  

 Ball number 3 came shortly after on another Adam Dunn home run. I almost snagged another Adam Dunn home run, but Ian got to it a second before I did. He had and finished with two snags on the day meaning one more snag and I tied him for third best ballhawk at PNC Park.

 BP ended without another snag but I had an extra ticket and I decided to search the ivy outside of the stadium as there was no penalty. Sure enough I went out there and one minute in, found ball number 4. This tied me with Ian but more importantly tied my single game record for most snags in a single game. That would be the only ball I found in the ivy, but it was well worth it.

 I then went into the ballpark again, and went by the bullpen to try for a toss up. Everything was going well but at the last possible second I missed out on the ball from starter Zach Duke as he threw it to a girl. My record attempting snag would have to wait.

 I spent the majority of the game with Ian and his cousin. My tickets were listed for the 300’s section, however two generous people gave me a ticket to section 139 and I played a couple of toss ups from over there. My closest call while there was in the fifth inning, when the ball was meant for me but a guy got his hand on it at the last second. I was not pleased as I wanted this record very badly.

 After a while and a Kent Tekulve autograph, Ian and his cousin left the ballpark and I aggressively tried for the “elusive” fifth ball of the day.

 My quest took me to the bullpen where Herbie Andrade was throwing a ball up to a kid who was having a little bit of trouble. I motioned for Herbie to throw it to me and soon after ball number 5 was in my glove. I made sure to give it to the kid and Herbie gave me a thumbs up. Luis Dorante (and his new beard) saw the whole process and tossed me ball number 6. I thanked them both and left to try and get the last Cutch toss up.

 The toss up was going to be in section 140 and I was stationed for it and it was a little to my right. I did make the catch however for ball number 7. I gave the ball away.

 As a quick side note, congrats to legendary ballhawk and my buddy Jim Saylor for catching his second home run of the season. He caught a Ryan Doumit home run. Long live the king!

 With my seven baseball performance that day, I had caught up to and passed Ian and also set a personal record. Because of the success of the day, I made a snap decision to attend the next day’s game. How would I do? You’ll have to read my next post.

 

 

8/20 Pirates vs New York Mets PNC Park

This was the third game of four on my busy schedule. I happened to hit traffic again and thus missed most of the Pirates portion of BP.

            I managed to catch Joel Hanrahan with a ball and he was hesitant to throw it. I ran over and we made eye contact and sure enough ball number 1 was in my glove.

            Shortly after I got Daniel McCutchen to sign my baseball.

            I then headed over to center field for the Mets portion of BP. I happened to notice Carlos Beltran taking cuts in the cage and also noticed balls leaving the seating area. I quickly ran over to the Riverwalk and sure enough a ball came my way. I had just gone over and thus the ball went off of my stomach. I ran it down and was in a footrace against someone else. I decided to dive and then flipped over. I saw ball number 2 in my glove.

            I continued to try and snag but unfortunately nothing came my way. With batting practice nearly over I made my way to foul territory and managed to get the signature of Mets closer Manny Acosta. I also managed to get the signature of Mets outfielder Jeff Francoeur earlier in the day.

            I then caught up with my friend Colston and then stayed over there and got the signatures of Herbie Andrade and Ray Searage.

            I tried for the Andrew McCutchen tossups but once again luck was not on my side.

            I went into the Hall of Fame Club as I grew exhausted and I got celebrity bartender Jim Rooker’s signature. I also talked to Rocco DeMaro and made the suggestion of using the song “Down Under” by Men At Work as the Pirates clinched their 18th consecutive losing season that night.

            Overall not a bad night, but with an abbreviated night the next game, we would have to see if I could achieve my goal.