Just who are the Pirates anymore? In barely the last year, they have traded away OFs Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Nate McLouth, Nyjer Morgan, Eric Hinske, C Ronny Paulino, SS Jack Wilson, 2B Freddy Sanchez, 1B Adam LaRoche, 3B Jose Bautista and Ps Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny, Damaso Marte, Sean Burnett and John Grabow.
Wow. It certainly needed to happen, as Pittsburgh continued to parade a team out that would never be good enough to contend in the NL Central in September. It may be good for the future, but it's devastating for the present, fracturing team chemistry and faith. The trade of Nate McLouth angered some players, who actually lit a candle to the former Pirate in his locker after the trade. Said third baseman Andy LaRoche, who saw his brother traded away to Boston earlier this season:
"It's been ... almost like a bad dream. It seemed like every other day, we're trading one of the guys we're close with, one of our team leaders."
Pittsburgh won the first two games after the final trade, of Gorzelanny and Grabow, against the Nationals. Since then, however, they have dropped eight straight, being outscored 52-26. In losing 13 of 15, the Pirates have fallen to last in the NL Central, just 5.5 games ahead of the Nationals for the worst record in the league. Curiously though, their run differential is closest to the contending Seattle Mariners than any other team.
Naturally, trading away their core has stripped John Russell of fielding a competitive team. After posting winning months in April and June, Pittsburgh went 8-17 in July, only beaten in futility by their 1-8 August thus far. Adding in that the Pirates have a pitiful 17-39 road record, losing this series would be the greatest embarrassment of the season thus far.
If you are feeling sentimental towards the beginning stages of GenR, visit our friends at Bucs Dugout.
(45-66, L8, 6th, 16.5 GB)
Tuesday-Thursday: 3-game series at Coors Field
The Bats: D
Looking at season stats are obviously useless. Only the third baseman and center-fielder remain as carry-overs in the lineup since the last time we faced the Pirates six weeks ago.
Milledge came in the Nyjer Morgan deal, Cedeno came in the Jack Wilson/Ian Snell trade, while Pearce and Jones were internal callups to fill voids left from other trades. Young was promoted to be the everyday 2B when Freddy Sanchez was dealt and projected everyday catcher Ryan Doumit returned from the DL July 10.
You can judge by wOBA if you wish, but there are sample size issues all over the place. Garrett Jones is no Prince Fielder and Ryan Doumit is no Brian Schneider. The lineup is riddled with unpolished talent that could erupt at Coors Field - or completely buckle against good pitching. For more on Jones, who has 12 HR in 39 hits, check out this feature article from Fangraphs. McCutchen, Jones and Doumit are legitimate threats.
Hop after the jump for the scouting report on the arms, the D, the pitching matchups and the hot/cold players.
The Arms: D+
We will see Kevin Hart (obtained from Chicago in the Grabow/Gorzelanny deal), Princeton grad Ross Ohlendorf, and lefty Paul Maholm. All three are serviceable starting pitchers, but none should strike the fear in a lineup that scored 22 runs in the last two days against a team ranked 3rd in ERA in MLB coming in. The staff ERA sits at 4.42, 20th in the league, but that has slowly trended downward as the season has progressed.
Trading away John Grabow robbed John Russell of the only left-hander he has in his bullpen. Closer Matt Capps has a terrible Lidge-like statline.
|2009 - Matt Capps||2-7||5.97||1.75||35||15|
Joel Hanrahan is another failed closer in the bullpen. The rest of the pen is made up of Jeff Karstens, Chris Bootcheck, Jose Ascanio, Jesse Chavez, and Evan Meek. Karstens, Capps and Bootcheck are rated as below average relievers by Statcorner this year, though the other four have been above average in Pittsburgh.
The D: C
SS Ronny Cedeno and Andrew McCutchen are very good fielders, though the corner outfielders have been liabilities, especially Garrett Jones, who gives Brad Hawpe the rare opportunity to be the right fielder with the greatest range in the series. Delwyn Young is below average defensively at second base, though Steve Pearce and Andy LaRoche are fairly solid fielders. In the last series, I rated this team as having A defense. However, notable downgrades at second, right and left have dropped them significantly.
Tonight, 7:10 pm MDT
|2009 - Ross Ohlendorf||9-8||4.29||1.32||70||41|
|2009 - Jhoulys Chacin||0-0||1.80||1.00||9||3|
This is the best pitching matchup for the Pirates. Ohlendorf is having his best year, hasn't allowed more than two runs in his last four starts, and has managed a winning record despite being a Pirates pitcher. Hawpe and Tulowitzki beat him up at Coors on June 19. Meanwhile, Chacin will be making his MLB debut, and that 70-75 pitch count could be problematic for a guy who has walked three guys in five innings. Vegas isn't biting though, making the Rockies -190 moneyline favorites. Favors: ROCKIES slightly
Wednesday, August 12, 6:40 pm MDT
2009 - Kevin Hart
2009 - Ubaldo Jimenez
Thursday, August 13, 1:10 MDT
2009 - Paul Maholm
|2009 - Jason Marquis||12-8||3.65||1.28||72||48|
We miss All-Star Zach Duke again, but this other lefty has talent too. Maholm has a better tRa and stymied the Rockies for seven scoreless innings in May. Of course, we trashed him at Coors in June. His slider is his only above average pitch this season and he's allowed at least four rusn in four straight starts. Marquis' tRA is actually .07 higher than Maholm this season, but we know who has been the better pitcher. The Rockies' winnar had his 6-game quality start streak snapped Saturday in the Rockies only loss of the series, mostly due to atypical walks. He'll try for the fourth time for that elusive 13th win. Favors: ROCKIES moderately
There is no excuse for losing this series. We really ought to sweep, though I'm never confident in projecting a sweep when one good start from an opposing pitcher (which these three are capable) can derail that declaration. The Rockies are a better team overall at every single position except perhaps center field, though the Rockies boast a couple hot and talented "ballcatchers" there as well. Let's not get too down on this team if they drop one game, but this series absolutely must be won, and sweeping it would make whatever result of that Giants/Dodgers series sweet.
It's not Andrew McCutchen's fault Pittsburgh hasn't won in August. He hit 3 HR in their sole August win on th 1st and has 4 dingers this month, including a .364 average and a 1.220 OPS. Ronny Cedeno is hitting .314 with a surprising 2 HR thus far in August as well. Ross Ohlendorf has allowed 2 ER or less in four straight starts, and Joel Hanrahan has a 3.29 ERA with Pittsburgh.
Ryan Doumit has continued his disappointing season wby hitting just .194 with two XBH in August. Brandon Moss is just 3 for his last 19. Garrett Jones is 8 for his last 34, but half of those hists are XBH. Jesse Chavez has been scored upon in 3 of 4 outings and 5 of 8. Jeff Karstens has yielded 10 runs in his last 5 reliefappearances.