Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What to do with Ross Ohlendorf and the Other Pirates Starters

Another Pirates game, another Pirates loss and another up and down outing from a Pirates starting pitcher.  Last night it was a typical Pirates start.  A few very good innings and then one thing goes wrong and the starter goes down hill both mentally and physically.

Ross Ohlendorf last night cruised through three innings. Yet,  the second time through the order struggled big time once again.  The problem always seems to be that the opposing hitters adjust the second time through, but the Pirates pitchers aren't capable of making adjustments as well.  If you want to throw some of the blame at Ryan Doumit as well, I'm fine with that;  but take Brad Lincoln out of the equation and these guys aren't rookies anymore.  They need to be better as a group.

What should the Pirates do?  Looking at all of the young guys they brought up.  For argument's sake, let's just say that by next season things start coming together and they have an above average offense that can score at or above the league average.  If that happens, well they still have no starting pitching.  I don't care what league you are playing in, you have to have good starting pitching to compete.

Let's take a look at the current crop of arms.

1. Zach Duke (3-8, 5.49era)-  The gutless wonder as I like to call him.  Duke may be a fifth starter on an average team.  It amazes me how he is aggressive in the zone until he gets two strikes on hitters.  I felt they should have dealt Duke last season when his value was at it's highest. It will now never be higher.  Duke simply doesn't have the ability to get consistent outs on a consistent basis.  He may throw you a gem every two months, but that's what fifth starters do for you.  Top of the rotation guys are supposed to take the ball every fifth day and give you a chance to win.  Duke isn't in that class of pitcher.  He will always be more than a hit an inning type of guy.

2. Paul Maholm (4-5, 3.77)- Maholm is hands down the team's best pitcher.  He battles and gives the team an opportunity to win most night's out.  That's all I can really ask for.  He doesn't give into hitters the way Duke does.  He doesn't have the greatest stuff, but will challenge hitters all game long.  Maholm is a three or four starter but he is a keeper.

3. Ross Ohlendorf (0-6, 5.43)-  Ohlendorf is similar to Charlie Morton, to the point I can't figure either out.  Ohlendorf has had some bad luck, but like Morton, seems to suffer mentally when things start to break down.  I'm concerned about his dip in velocity. He still may be having some back issues as well.   I don't think Ohlendorf is as good as his numbers from a year ago, but I don't think he's as bad as his current numbers.  In a perfect situation, Ohlendorf is a good back of the rotation guy.

4. Brad Lincoln (0-1, 6.50)- I'm not concerned with Lincoln at all.  He's pitching like most rookies pitch-up and down.  He has glimpses of looking dominant and at other times, well he looks like a rookie.  Rookie pitchers in the majors aren't supposed to look like Stephen Strasburg, They tend to fare more like Lincoln. He's got great movement on his pitches.  I would like to see him utilize his changeup more, especially to left hand hitters.  Overall, Lincoln should be fine.  It's three starts.  I don't think he will eventually be a one or two type starter, but instead; will be a solid middle of the rotation guy.

5. Jeff Karstens (2-2, 4.72)- Say what you want about Karstens, but Karstens flat out does his job.  He doesn't necessarily have major league stuff, but what Karstens does is compete.  Karstens hangs around just long enough to give the team a chance to win most night's.  He's not pretty and definitely not overpowering, but he is gutsy.  Team's often need a guy like Karstens.  I have no problem giving him the ball.

Overall, you look at the current crop of starters and basically, we have a pair of number three's (Lincoln and Maholm) and really three guys who wouldn't be in most rotations around baseball.

Facts are the Pirates need pitching as much as talented position players such as Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata.  The next wave of arms to come through are all performing well at Altoona.  That list includes Rudy Owens, Bryan Morris, Tim Alderson (although his drop in velocity concerns me as well), Jared Hughes and Justin Wilson.  Also keep an eye on Nathan Adcock and Jeff Locke, currently performing well at Bradenton.

Add to that a draft class that includes power arms Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie (who the team MUST sign both), the future staff has some promise, but that's still probably two years away.

You can root for Alvarez and for the Pirates to promote Tony Sanchez all you want, but any success for the Pirates in the future depend solely on the arms in the organization.  Hopefully, a few can get to the big club within the next season or so, because the current crop of arms just won't get the job done.


  1. Agreed. the Bucs must get arms. Pitching wins. They have to start getting outs and I'm tired of seeing back of the rotation guys throwing all of the time

  2. Keep Maholm and Lincoln and that's it. I'm also hoping Morton turns things around and can make an impact

  3. good call on maholm. he looked great tonight. They all should go

  4. No doubt they have to develope arms. Signing Taillon and Aliie is a must. There should be no negotitions Give them what they want. I thought they were "serious about winning"