Thursday, March 29, 2012

7 days

A mere week separates Pirates fans from could be our impending doom--or a great season.

No matter your opinion on the future result of the 2012 Pirates season, you can't help crack a little smile when you hear that first crack of the bat--even if it is Shane Victorino hitting a blast into the PNC Park seats in the first inning off of Erik Bedard (ok maybe no smiles for that one).

Good news out of spring training today: K-Dro..ahem..E-Dro...I'm sorry...PEDRO Alvarez went 2/5 today. AND, he only struck out twice!! Yes..that's improvement. Now really, I still think he is going to rebound with a decent season despite this atrocious spring. I could see something like an average around .240-50 and 20-25 homers. It would be even better if he could strike out under 16,227 times!!

Oh yes...and the bad news. McDonald got F'ing the Twins. The Twins. The Twins.

3 2/3 innings giving up 10 earned runs. That's less than encouraging. So much for the 7 inning performance he had several days ago--this Twins performance sends me back into panic mode.

A couple other notes...

-McLouth is having a huge spring. If he can get back to his "Pirates mode" baseball, ya know, specifically 2008, we could have an interesting situation in the outfield...

-Jason Jaramillo has signed a minor league contract with the Brewers, and Zach Duke has signed a minor league contract with the Nationals. Why is this important you ask?? It isn't.

-Juan Cruz will be headed north and join the big league club. Cruz was an interesting sign this offseason as it seemed pretty likely he'd be joining the bullpen.

-In case you...

1. Live under a rock

2. Live in a normal house and haven't heard the news

3. Don't watch ESPN (and you shouldn't)

...Chase Utley won't be playing on opening day, and as a result I'm sure, won't be playing the entire Pirates series. This is good news, because now the Phillies will only be a lot better than the the Pirates have a brutal April schedule.


Yo folks,

Since I don't think I've ever mentioned it on here before, make sure you check out my Twitter @thebattlinbucco...if you're in to that whole social media thing.

I have been doing live game updates as often as I can, and I'll be doing a lot more of that when we hit the regular season.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Josh Harrison, Pirates-Astros 3/24/12

Josh Harrison just keeps hitting the baseball...

He isn't a guy that is mentioned with the Pirates core of Cutch, Walker, Tabata...etc. Harrison is just a baseball player. Simple as that. He is a gritty little guy that hits the baseball and plays decent defense.

If there was one name that wasn't being discussed before spring training, that name was Josh Harrison. It seems to me that he still isn't being discussed. He leads the team in doubles this spring, but more importantly, he really is getting great wood on the ball. He had another double today in the first inning: a rocket shot to the opposite field gap.

For a guy that I looked at as a slap hitter last year, Harrison looks like he has added a little more power to his arsenal. He won't be an every day player, so he doesn't need to hit a ton of home runs. A good gap power hitter will be invaluable coming off the bench though.

Oh...and Harrison is hitting .520 this spring. So.......yeah.

Anyway, the Pirates lost 5-4 on Saturday afternoon, which isn't really a big deal considering the two pitchers who allowed the Astros to tie and win the game in the 9th and 10th innings won't see the light of day on the MLB squad. 

The Pirates have been looking at Igarashi, who gave up 3 runs in the 9th, but I don't think he's going to make it.

Walker had a clutch two out two run single in the first inning, and The Legend hit a massive moon shot home run later in the game. Cutch stole a base, and it remains very clear that the Pirates are going to be moving quite a bit on the base paths this year. That should be fun to watch.

It was also very encouraging to see James McDonald pitch 7 innings today, giving up one earned run. He only struck out three, but we have been hearing a lot about him having possible "dead arm" problems. This is a good sign, even though he was playing against the Asstros.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pedro Watch 3/18/12

And so continue the Pedro Alvarez updates that I am going to name "Pedro Watch" from now on. Why Pedro Watch? Well, that little slogan should come in handy when I'm speculating on when Alvarez will come up from the minor leagues.

Alvarez is on a figurative high speed train heading right toward Indianapolis.

A little less than a week ago, I gave an update and analysis on El Toro's spring training here. At the time, Alvarez was 3 for 16 with two home runs and five strikeouts.

Alvarez has been awful since then. Seriously. Awful.

Since my update, Alvarez has gone 1 for 7. He has struck out five times. Yeah, he struck out five times in his first 16 at bats this spring. That wasn't good. Now he has struck out five times in his last 7 times at the plate? What!?!?!?!

Here is a video of Alvarez to remind you that he actually used to be a dangerous hitter. But was that guy in the background on to something???

Dejan Kovacevic tweeted on Saturday that the Pirates had said this performance was "Not representative of [Alvarez's] whole spring."

Sure, that could be true. Pedro Alvarez could have 10 hits in the next week and blast three homeruns without striking out. He could draw two walks and hit a triple while playing gold glove defense. Or the more likely situation could occur...this depressing output from Alvarez will continue.

Here are a couple other Dejan Kovacevic tweets from Saturday relating to Alvarez. No, these are not meant to be inspirational.

"Alvarez: Swing and miss, swing and miss, swing and miss. That's six of those in a row."

"Alvarez's hat trick is complete. Another swinging K. There was at least a foul back to the screen in there."

Is this what it has come to? We are celebrating, or at least noting when Alvarez fouls a ball back to the screen!?!?!?

Now, it is important to realize that I am reading very heavily into these spring training statistics. Statistics which probably aren't a perfect way to predict future performance. Unfortunately, these underwhelming statistics are the only means by which I can speculate at the moment, and this blog is all about speculation until the actual season starts.

I think Alvarez is due for a turn around season, but he is trying very hard to ground my expectations, and he is succeeding.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Oh Pedro...

El Toro is the hot topic of the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates season. I really haven't felt the need to write about him seeing as to how I'm pretty sick of hearing about him myself....but I guess I'll weigh in.

Man. You shouldn't have changed your number Pedro. 

#17 Pedro

#17 Alvarez 2010- 95 games, 16 homers, .256 AVG, .788 OPS

#24 Alvarez 2011- 74 games, 4 homers, .191 AVG, .561 OPS


This spring- 16 ABs, 2 homers, .188 AVG, .750 OPS

The spring sample size is tiny, I know, and I would take it with a grain of salt even after a full month. He has just three hits this spring, which is horrible with 16 at bats, but two of them are homers. Watching some of these games, Pedro seems to be hitting the ball pretty hard. Luck always plays into baseball, and he might be a little bit on the unlucky side this spring.

With that though, are his five strikeouts. Five strikeouts in 16 plate appearances probably needs to improve.

Another issue is his walks, or the non-existence of them. Yeah...there are none. It's probably hard to walk when you are struggling at the plate as much as Pedro has been. That's why pitchers rarely walk, it's better to throw three meat balls down the plate than it is to give a pitcher a free pass. Similar situation to Alvarez. Pitchers would rather give Pedro meat balls than walk him. That's where Alvarez has to take advantage. He can definitely hit a fast ball, he just needs to do it with more consistency.

Whether you like it or not, I know I sure don't, the entire 2012 season rests squarely on Pedro's shoulders. No doubt about it. There are other players in this organization, but they really don't mean much if Pedro ends up in AAA by May or June.

McCutchen is not the Pirates clean up hitter. We saw him try to make up for the lack of power in the Pirates lineup last year when the Pirates were trying to win the division, it didn't work out for either the Pirates or Cutch. 

Lead us to salvation, El Toro.

Friday, March 9, 2012


Ok so I have calmed down from my Andrew McCutchen signing high...

It is a slight possibility that I may have overreacted to that situation just a bit. But c'mon. We're Pirates fans. Anytime something happens that makes me forget for one moment that we are a tiny market club with an owner              
who has a history of being frugal with his wallet will make me all warm and fuzzy inside.

But I digress. There are more important matters to discuss now. Sort of.

Starling Marte is a monster. Ever since the Pirates were contending at the trade deadline last summer, Marte's name has been an interesting discussion point.

Marte has been successful at every level. He won a batting title in the Eastern League last year at AA Altoona with a .332 batting average. His power also began to develop; Marte drove 12 balls out of the yard in 2011 (he had only hit 5 home runs the previous two years).

It's probably a good thing that the Pirates didn't deal Marte before their epic collapse. Marte has been a hot spot this spring training. He was an 8 hit streak yesterday before he flew out to right field. Yes, and 8 hit streak. Not 8 games with a hit in a row. 8 hits in a row. Holy sh....

I was able to jump on Twitter as I watched the last few innings of the Phillies game yesterday. Marte blasted a homerun on a pitch that was low and inside in the zone. He has quick hands and his power is developing.

He has blazing speed and is a plus fielder, although you wouldn't have known it by watching him in right field this spring. He has looked confused out there, but that's not his natural position.

So what are the Pirates going to do about it? Clint Hurdle was just on 93.7 The Fan. He said there is no chance that Starling Marte will be with the big league club.

Yes. If Starling Marte gets a hit in every single at bat for the rest of the spring, he will not make the big league club. This is slightly frustrating given the urgency of the 2012 season, but it is understandable that the club doesn't want Marte to skip AAA.

It will be interesting to see who Marte will replace, as he will inevitably have to replace someone. It comes down to Presley or Tabata. Personally, I'm a bit torn between the two.

There are accurate criticisms for both outfielders. Presley is still a question mark. He's never been through a full season in the majors. He isn't a great defender, though he is good enough to man left field in PNC Park. His swing, however, is solid. He has a very quick stroke that leads me to believe that we aren't going to see a ton of regression.

If anyone is in line for regression this season, it's Presley, but I don't think we're going to see too much of it. He has shown the ability to spread to ball around the field and he consistently puts the fat part of the bat on the ball. 

Tabata worries me. His ceiling is higher than Presley's, but ceiling isn't the best way to determine your starting lineup. Tabata's injury problems are of huge concern, as well as his lack of power. He does get on base at a good rate though, and serves as a better lead-off man than Presley

Marte will surpass both of them, and Presley will probably end up being the one that rides the pine due to Tabata's big contract.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pirates sign Andrew McCutchen

Neal Huntington shoots, AND HE SCORES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Andrew McCutchen has signed a 6 year deal worth $51.5 million. The deal buys out at least two free agent years, with an apparent option for another year.


This is huge. The Nuttings are willing to spend money to win...that much can really no longer be debated effectively. Neal Huntington has the ability to get things done, nobody can really argue otherwise anymore.

6 years for $51 million. That averages out to a little over $8 million a year. Compared to what McCutchen could likely get on the open market, this deal is a flat out bargain. We saw the Pirates sign Tabata sign McCutchen to a team friendly deal last summer. What nobody would have seen coming was Andrew McCutchen signing a team friendly deal the very next spring.

I really don't have much to say here. This is incredible. Perhaps I will have more to add in the morning but wow...huge. Huge. Huge. Huge.

Kudos Neal!!

Pirates Vs. Blue Jays Recap 3/4/2012

The final out has just been recorded in the Pirates "home" opener in Bradenton.

We have some good and bad stuff to talk about here.

Pitching- Erik Bedard went two innings giving up two earned runs, and Evan Meek gave up three runs through 2/3s innings. Not a very important result here as these guys aren't fighting for spots and have plenty of time to get their act together, but I'm looking for a good spring from Meek. We need to see positive results out of Meek more than we need to see positive results out of Bedard.

Hanrahan threw an inning of work striking out two. Good stuff from Hanny. Grilli and Moskos also threw a scoreless inning each, a good start for the bullpen guys in spring training.

Hitting- Nick Evans was the big story, hitting the first homerun of the year for the Pirates. This is the perfect guy to hit a spring training homerun. Evans needs to prove himself and it wouldn't hurt him to have a nice spring training showing. Evans might end up being a pretty valuable asset off the bench, and if the injury bug sets in like it did last year, we may see him in the starting lineup occasionally.

Barajas had a couple RBIs, while d'Arnaud and Hernandez each picked up one. McLouth went 1 for 3 with a double in the game.

Not a terrible game for the Pirates. The broadcasters said it was a pretty sloppy game played by the Pirates, I don't know to what extent though as it wasn't available to watch.

The Pirates play tomorrow night at 7:05 EST against the Baltimore Orioles. The game will be available to watch on MASN. Anyone who has will be able to check out the game, so I will be doing so. I do not think the game will be available in the Pittsburgh area.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

And We're Underway!!!

The Pirates have played their first spring training game!

And they were demolished....

I'm already hearing things like "foreshadowing" and "here we go again..."

I just don't buy it.

Especially looking at last years spring training standings. The Kansas City Royals finished with the best record in the American League. How did that translate into regular season success? Not very well. Spring training means nothing. No. Thing. N. Othing.


The Pirates are not trying to win. They are trying to figure out how the hell they are going to make sure they don't have a losing record two decades in a row when the real baseball starts in a month.

It's similar to when a top prospect plays baseball at a low level and does poorly. Chances are the top prospect isn't trying to put up great stats. He is working on a specific plate approach, a specific pitch, some way to prepare himself for the big leagues. That's what the Pirates are doing right now: preparing. So chill out Bucco Nation, there is nothing to worry about as of March 4th, 2012.

Except for AJ Burnett's shattered eye. That is cause for concern.

With the Burnett incident, one would think the rotation would look like:

1. Bedard
2. Karstens
3. McDonald
4. Correia
5. Locke/Lincoln/Reyes

I think Locke might end up being a pretty decent middle of the rotation pitcher. He's a pretty soft tosser, but he can hit his spots. We saw him for a short period of time last year and he got pounded. I don't think that's indicative of the kind of pitcher he is, and I would like to see him possibly get a shot.

Lincoln is the most frustrating player in the Pirates system. Yeah, Alvarez is a close second...but Alvarez has only been here for 3 years. Lincoln has been here for 5!!!! Yes, Lincoln has not had an easy go through the Pirates system with all of his injuries and such, but c'mon man! He is now a 26 year old "prospect," although he has definitely lost the prospect status in my eyes, and probably in the eyes of everyone else.

I wouldn't hate to see Lincoln on the mound in April to cover for AJB, but it certainly won't excite me. He'll give you a chance to win....but that's about as good as it gets.

Jo-Jo Reyes is...wait...did I just say Jo-Jo??? I thought this was JoJo..

Whoa....the Bucs just hit the jackpot...

Yeah I know Jo-Jo has been around for a long time. I probably shouldn't be amused by his name after all these years, but yep, I still am. Anyway, Jo-Jo is nothing but a little more pitching depth. He does not excite me whatsoever. But she does. Hmmmm.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Burnett Breaks Eye????


AJ Burnett broke his orbital bone during a F'ING BUNTING DRILL yesterday. Yes...that's right, HE BUNTED THE BALL INTO HIS EYE!


Video courtesy of

So what now??? James Harrison was out for a month with his orbital bone fracture this past NFL season. I'm not medical expert, but I would guess it won't take Burnett a month to get back. Burnett isn't going to have to collide with other gigantic men on a football field, he just has to pitch. So we'll see how this little incident pans out.

I guess that's what you get for playing in the AL for most of your career. They better put Bedard in hockey pads if he is going to partake in these bunting drills, a broken orbital bone might derail Bedard's entire year.