During this rain delay I had time to do a lot of writing and thinking about this team. It's not a real good time for casual Pirates fans, but the real baseball fans need to just stick with it. I will be the first to admit that the last six games had me frustrated as hell watching the now feeble offense. Getting shut down by Gorzelanny yesterday was just as bad as the 17-2 beat down the day before. Leaving me with the question of, Where is the offense?
The answer is easy, it is mostly all at West Virginia and Altoona, but in the meantime, it would be nice to see these guys go out and at least battle. What happened to the patience and the solid approaches they had been taking at the plate all season? It's now become a collection of light hitting guys that are swinging for the fences and that approach simply never works. Remember that they are the youngest team in baseball and bad swings like this will happen. Better to happen now while they have nothing to play for. However, to me, these are the times when these guys can gain valuable experience and become major league hitters.
Let's take a look at the last 5 games. Tuesday started with a 7-3 win at Colorado and they had a good approach as a team. They had 11 hits, while drawing 9 walks. Seven of the hits went for extra bases and they stole 6 bases. They still struck out seven times, but on six of them the batters worked a full count. After that, you see the results drastically change, as did the teams approach at the plate. Wednesday's 8-0 loss to the Rockies saw the Bucs get only 4 hits and 5 bb's. No extra base hits, while fanning 8 times. Thursday the Rocks hammered the Bucs 10-1. The Bucs garnered only 3H and 3BB's. One extra base hit and 9k's.
Onto Chicago they went Friday and a 17-2 beating occurred. Offensively, they had 7 H and only 3bb's. Again only 1 extra base hit while 7 k's. Yesterday's 3-1 defeat, they showed even less patience, swinging at everything. Only 5 hits and 3bb's. One extra base hit and a whopping 13k's. You can see a theme and a pattern going on here. The Pirates are awful when they are a free swinging team. Including their win this week, they are batting .178 as a team. In the 4 straight losses, the have had a total of 21 hits and only drew 14 bb. Only 3 extra base hits, while striking out 37 times. They haven't stole a base in the 4 losses, after stealing 6 in the win. You can't be aggressive on the bases when guys aren't getting on base frequently.
I will address the power problem first. I have heard all the time lately that the guys brought over in deals aren't hitting for power. Mostly people are talking about Moss, Milledge and Laroche. I'm not worried about the home runs. Any hitting coachin the majors will tell you that the power will come. Young hitters have alot to do when they get to the majors. They basically have to learn how to hit. The biggest jump is between AAA and MLB. They have a lot to worry about at the plate. Picking out pitches to hit, picking out pitches to lay off, recognizing what the pitcher is doing to them, learning to go the other way, situational hitting, etc. Basically, learning how to have quality MLB at bats every time to the plate. Major league pitching can't be duplicated in the minors. Only the real special players can make a flawless transition to the majors. I'm confident the homers will come, especially from Laroche and possibly Milledge.
My problem is none of those 3 guys, or anyone else in the lineup is having consistent quality at bats right now. No one on the team is driving the ball, using the gaps. Everyone in the lineup has become pull happy. That's not a good approach for young hitters to take, ever. That's not the approach for veteran hitters either. I don't know if hitting coach Don Long isn't getting the message through, which I doubt, because when things are going good, everyone shows what they can do at the plate. I feel the pressure of losing is getting to these guys.
I also feel changes are needed although i wouldn't panic to make them since this team isn't going anywhere. Steve Pearce is not any everyday big league player. Bring up Clement and get him some at bats. He has nothing more to offer a AAA team and from what I hear, his defense hasn't been that bad. Keep Pearce up though, there are worse bench players around. Another option that could be considered is to bring Pedro Alvarez up. Get him some at bats at the MLB level. He has put it together at AA. He is hitting .350 at Altoona, hitting with power and drawing walks. I'd leave Young and Cedeno where they are. They are beginning to look solid up the middle. I'm also still a fan of Laroche at third.
In the outfield, I pretty much leave it the same. Milledge will be fine, but has to learn how to play left field. On a side note, Why do the Pirates continue to play defensively on the road like they are at PNC Park. I hate having the left fielder play well in the left center field gap all the time. They get killed on balls down the line. Milledge doesn't cover as much ground as Nyjer Morgan did, you would think they would adjust the outfield alignment. especially with the amount of ground McCutchen can cover in center. Suddenly we can't catch a cold in the outfield.
I would drop Milledge down to sixth in the order though. Put him in a spot where he can succeed and possibly some RBI spots. Cedeno would be a much better 2 hole hitter. He just handles the bat better. Not everyone can hit in the second spot of the order. Drop Milledge down now.
Starting today it would be nice to see the Bucs battle everyday at the plate. Go down fighting at least. Being aggressive doesn't mean swinging at everything. They have a much better team than they have shown this month. it would be nice to be able to go out and play spoiler for teams like the Cubs and Brewers. No more tanking it, it's getting painful to watch.
-Not to many since we haven't done anything of note lately, but you have to feel a little bad for Duke. He could easily have 15 wins this season. Every year though there is a guy who doesn't get run support and this year it's Zach.
- Have you noticed that Ohlendorff velocity has been back his last couple of starts. Having Joe Kerrigan around has been valuable to some of these guys. Tweaking the wind up and Ross's fastball has been backup to the 94-96mph range. He still has to find a way to be able to pitch the 3rd time through the order. He needs a second out pitch.
- I'm about tired of watching Moss come out of his shoes swinging for the fence. He is one guy that needs to simplify his approach.
- Not much good can come out of a 17-2 loss, but give Steven Jackson some credit for taking one for the team. He tossed 4.1 innings of scoreless relief, saving the bullpen.
-Give Pirates management credit for applying the resources they have in the right places. They have signed all top 10 of their draft picks and their aggressive approach has been noticed around baseball. They have drawn several compliments around baseball. It's a very good sign for the franchise's future.