This comes only days after the last notebook, but hopefully I will have the time to get back to a weekly report. With a 6-3 win over Detroit today, the Bucs completed a 17 day grind without a day off at 9-7 (with one rain out). That's not bad baseball folks.
At 30-33, the Pirates have played good baseball for the better part of the season. If you eliminate the only horrid stretch of the season, an eleven game span where they went 1-10, then this is a team that's over .500. I'm not one of these guys that sees .500 as a successful season, but this team just has a different feel to it.
This team can compete, night in and night out. They get good starting pitching on most night's (anyone not named Ian Snell will do) and they bullpen has bounced back and can be counted on most nights. The main reason why this team can compete though is their defense. These guys catch everything hit at them. They are currently third in the NL in fielding percentage. for as many runs that the Bucco offense leaves on base, the defense has saved just as many.
The infield is tremendous. After a rough first week, Andy Laroche has turned into a solid defensive third basemen. Jack Wilson is playing at a high level and while I don't really like Freddy Sanchez's range at second, he catches everything he gets to and the Bucs are very good up the middle. Adam Laroche is also a very underrated defensive first basemen.
The outfield has been just as good. Nyjer Morgan doesn't have much of an arm but has been a huge surprise in left. The addition of Andrew McCutchen gives the team two legit center fielders again and take away most shots in the gaps at PNC Park. He can cover a ton of ground in center and after 11 games, it seems as if he is already taking better routes to balls. McCutchen adds a rifle in center and in right Brandon Moss has figured it out defensively.
Add all that up and good pitching and good defense should win games. Hey, I like the offense as well, but this team is better off when they prevent runs as much as when they can score them (which isn't often). Remember that even he best offensive players are expected to fail 7 out of 10 times. Great defensive players are expected to succeed 10 out of 10 times.
- It's time to get Delwyn Young regular at bats at the expense of Brandon Moss. I know I am the guy that said stick with Moss no matter what, but in the last 30 days, Young is hitting .339. All he does is hit and John Russell should stick with the hot bat. In the same time frame, Moss is hitting .268 and that is only helped by a torrid 2 week stretch. Moss has all the tools to be good, but he has to start driving runs in soon.
-Could the Pirates have 2 all-stars? A case can be made for both Sanchez and Zach Duke. Sanchez is hitting a solid .315 and should make it at a weak second base position. Chase Utley is a lock as could be the case with Orlando Hudson. Right now I would probably give Sanchez the nod over Brandon Phillips.
I will make the case for Duke as well. He has 7 wins, and a great ERA at 3.10. He should have 9 wins already at this point. If he gets to 9 or 10 wins before the all-star game, he should also be picked.
-Give Huntington credit for some of the minor moves he has made in his 2 seasons. Ryan Doumit has missed 50 games now and the Jaramillo/Diaz combination has held it's own hitting .296 combined. Another guy that he took a shot on is Steven Jackson. he will get the ball more often as he gets ground balls in key spots. I always wondered why the Yankees never gave him a shot, especially with their pen. Jackson has good stuff.
-Speaking of the pen, Gorzo did a good job down there while he was up. i was just scanning the bullpen ERA's and they were impressive, other than Capps (Meek 3.48, Chavez 2.63, Burnett 2.93, Grabow 3.72). Those are encouraging numbers.
-Charlie Morton's second start has been pushed back a couple days until the team heads to Colorado. I still don't like young guys having to pitch there, but even though it was only 1 inning, I liked what i saw from Morton. The guy hits his spots. fastball was 93-95, pitched inside and his curve ball breaks a ton. let's see what he can do over the next month, but I think he has a good make up about him.