Well as we get ready to resume the second half of the season, I have some thoughts on what to expect. The team has hit a low water mark at 12 games under .500. A record of 38-50 is even worse than last season at the same point. We expected this though, so no panic. Flat out , it looks like the team has given up.
We saw Nate Mclouth dealt. Are they a worse team without him? Absolutely not. They may not be better, but they are no worse. That trade opened up a spot for Andrew McCutchen in the lineup and added Charlie Morton to the rotation. I will take that.
We saw Nyjer Morgan traded. Are they worse off? Again, absolutely not. Garrett Jones now gets playing time and he has a big bat. They are worse off defensively, but I'm willing to take a gamble on Lastings Milledge. The team is not worse off talent wise at all.
The roster will continue to change, both by trades and call-ups for the remainder of the season. Let's take a look at what has happened and what to look forward to the rest of the season.
Catcher- Ryan Doumit gets hurt (AGAIN) and the Bucs do a fine job behind the plate. Jason Jaramillo and Robinson Diaz filled in admirably. Diaz hit .295 before he got sent down and JJ hit .255. He seemed to be getting worn down as he hit in the .280's for most of the season. The Bucs must decide on weather Doumit is going to be the player they want him to be, or even if he can be counted on to be healthy, or trade him and get something for him. My guess is he sticks around and preforms pretty well. First half grade for the position - C+
First base- Adam Laroche didn't get off to that horrible a start, but still has experienced several long rough patches. He is hitting only .250 with 12 HR's. Ignoring the numbers, he has become a tremendous defensive first baseman. With Mclouth gone and Doumit hurt, he has been counted on to carry the offense, something he is incapable of doing. His home and road numbers are insane. He is hitting .357 at PNC Park and only .159 on the road. Here is hoping Laroche gets hot, right on cue. He should be dealt, but with his 7.5 mil salary, don't expect the Bucs to get a big return. If anything, he should be dealt to move Jones to first base. First half position grade- C-.
Second Base- Freddy Sanchez has been performing like... well, Freddy Sanchez. The guy is a hitter. An ideal guy to bat in the 2 hole, but here, he is in a run producing spot. It looks like all the Freddy trade rumors have silenced. It's not that team don't want him, it's that they don't want that ridiculous $8.5 mil option that will kick in next season. Sanchez isn't exactly young, so dealing him makes sense, if they get a good return. If not, there is nothing wrong with having Freddy Sanchez open 2010 at second base. My guess is he gets dealt, but not until the off season. Position grade- B+
Third Base- Andy Laroche has been a surprise, especially after his struggles last season. he has been slumping of late and is down to .269, but I have liked the performance. His defense has improved tremendously as well. I would like to see him start showing some power and run production in the second half, as 4Hr and 34 RBI, just won't do it at a corner infield spot. Position Grade- C+
Shortstop- Jack Wilson has been his usual self in the field and has chipped in a little with the bat. It's his nightly web gems and his mouth that people will remember in the first half though. It's also that mouth that will likely get him shipped out of town. I am not a Jack Wilson fan, but if the Bucs can somehow get him and Freddy to renegotiate their deals and get them at a better number (I have heard this was an option), then I love the up the middle defense. If not, Wilson will be gone. Position Grade - C
Left Field- Nyjer Morgan was a first half surprise and Jones looks like he has a big bat. While Morgan was great defensively and no one else will be nearly as good, I still like Jones a lot. his 5HR in 11 games is double the amount of any other Bucco outfielder. I still see Jones playing first and getting a look at Milledge before the end of July. Position grade C+
Center field- The transition from Mclouth to McCutchen has been a smooth one. Cutch is definitely the guy this team is going to be built around. He is a superstar in the making. His .292 and 23 RBI out of the lead off spot has been fun to watch. In only 36 games, we can see what the hype was about. He is a perfect 7 for 7 swiping bags, something I'd like to see him do more. Position Grade B+
Right Field- I'm a little torn in right field. What a great acquisition Delwyn Young was. The guy can hit, as he stood at .313 going into the break. He is a liability defensively though. I really like Brandon Moss as a player, but have to start seeing production soon. This guy is so streaky. Two prolonged slumps, followed by two torrid streaks. He looks like a guy that will only play vs. righties now. Similar to Andy Laroche, I have to start seeing some power and run production. Only 3Hr and 23 RBI and the break for Moss. Only 6 Homers out of the right fielders isn't good. Position Grade- C
Starting Pitching- Paul Maholm has been ok, especially at home and Zach Duke has taken big strides to become his former self. It's the same old story with the Bucs though. Every time a pitcher takes a step forward, another one or two take a giant step back. Ian Snell was awful before his demotion. Ross Ohlendorf has been good at times, but he is your typical 4 starter. Jeff Karstens and Virgil Vasquez have been up and down as well. Morton was a nice acquisition, I love his stuff. When these guys have pitched well, the offense has tanked it for them. Especially Duke, who in his 8 losses, the team has scored a combined 7 runs.
The problem with the Pirates staff is that they just don't have that true power arm. They also are without a horse that is going to give the team a chance to win every time he takes the ball. I know the pitching has been better, but it's no where near where it needs to be. Expect to see Brad Lincoln in September and for Huntington to keep adding arms through deals. Position Grade- C
Middle Relief- These guys haven't been bad as a group. I like Chavez and Meek's arms, and the acquisition of Hanrahan was great to me. This guy has a cannon for an arm and should get it figured out under Kerrigan. Grabow has been iffy at times, but still gets the job done. I don't like having only one lefty, but that will probably change. Overall, not a bad first half for the middle guys. Position grade- C+
Closer- Matt Capps has not been good. The save numbers don't look bad, 19 of 21, but the way he is pitching just isn't very good. His fastball has been flat and he's not throwing strikes with his other pitches. The velocity is up and down as well. It's rumored teams have been interested and Huntington says he wants a power arm in a Capps deal. My guess is he stays and stays in the closers role, no matter how painful that may be. Position Grade- D-.
Overall, there have been some good things and some bad things. The good, is that some of the younger guys are getting a look and we are seeing a few surprises. The bad, this team has no power, can't win on the road and has an awful record in one run games. I hope Huntington sticks to the plan the rest of the season. I'm interested to see what the product will look like when he's done.