Braves win again

This was another tough loss for the Pirates to the Braves. They came back with a clutch base hit by Jack Wilson in the 7th but gave up an unearned run in the 8th that proved to be the difference.

Leaving the bases loaded in the 6th and 7th was definitely a disappointment. Seeing Jose Batista swing at the first pitch he saw after Ramirez had walked back to back hitters made me cringe. We need a little patience Jose! Freddy Sanchez was once again intentionally walked to load the bases for Jason Bay and once again the move payed off as Bay popped out to center. One of these times Bay is going to make them pay for walking Freddy! Bay then proceeded to drop a fly ball which was a tough play but it should have been made and the Braves were on their way to scoring the winning run. A perfect bunt by Giles and a sac fly by Renters scored the winning run and the Pirates are denied a chance to take their 5th series out of 6 since the all-star break but 4-2 isn’t bad either!

Paul Mahala had a great outing and it seems like he is really turning the corner. In his last 4 starts he has gone 26.1 innings and allowed 11 earned runs which is an impressive era of 3.79. We are finally starting to see the pitcher we expected after last years nice run.

I am really looking forward to Chicano’s first start as a Pirate tomorrow afternoon. He will face Tim Hudson as the Pirates try to avoid a sweep by the Braves. Hopefully Chicano can revert to his form of last year and early this year and shake off his recent struggles with the Yankees. I really think he will be good for us! See you all tomorrow!

Ending Note: I am scared about the players we gave up at the trade deadline. It seems like every time we get rid of someone who isn’t very productive he turns into an all star or Cy Young contender! Sean Casey hit a homerun in his first game after only hitting three with us in 59 games. Kip Wells got a win in his debut and matched his win total (1) with the Pirates all season! And Craig Wilson is 2-4 with the Yankees tonight which seemingly matches his hit total for the whole month of July! Oh well, only time will tell I guess!

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Winning Streak Halted

Well the five game winning streak was nice while it lasted. Unfortunately it ended tonight, but the Pirates still played well.

Snell
Ian Snell continues to be the most impressive of the young starting pitchers. I would have to say that Duke and Maholm have received more hype than Snell who was questioned more than complemented. They always wondered if Snell was better suited out of the bullpen and if he was too small to be a started. Well tonight he matched a career high with 10 strikeouts and stood toe-to-toe with John Smoltz. It seems like Snell is a big game pitcher because he does his best against tough competition. He has pitched extremely well against Pedro Martinez, Ben Sheets, Francisco Liriano, Chris Capuano and now Smoltz. I really like what Snell has done.

Offensively we counted muster a rally against Smoltz. He was his dominate self and the Pirates only mounted a couple of nonthreatening rallies against him. Duffy went 0-4 but I still stand behind my prophecy that he will turn it around. Sharpless looked a little shaky with 3 walks in the inning but he got out of the jam. We will chalk the walks up to nerves. Nady went 1-4 in his debut and I am glad that Littlefield said his future is in RF because we NEED a left handed, power hitting first basemen. I am not afraid to pass a hat around the stadium labeled "Please help the Pirates sign a first basemen" and ask for loose change.

Here’s to hoping we can start another winning streak tomorrow. Our young pitchers are starting to pitch like they are capable of and once they get rolling we might have some promise for next year!

Ending Note: Nine major league players have matched, or exceed, the amount of steals the Pirates have amassed all season. Dave Roberts, Hanley Rameriez, Scott Podsednik, Carl Crawford, Ichiro Suzuki, Corey Patterson, Juan Pierre, Chone Figgins, and Jose Reyes are all at, or over 30 steals which is the Pirates total for the season. Ouch.

Trade Deadline Recap

First, a quick note. I am sorry for my lack of posting lately but I have been working three jobs and its has been very difficult for me to find time to post. Hopefully, I can find time every day or so like I used to, if not, I am just going to have to do it while I’m at work!

My thoughts on the trades:  I honestly liked the moves the Pirates made. I know there are a lot of people out there who don’t but I have my opinion and can write about it. (Which is why I created a blog in the first place!)

Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez to the Mets for Xavier Nady
I live in New York and my dad, brother, and two of my best friends are Mets fans, so I have heard and seen a lot of Xavier Nady and I like him. The Pirates wanted him a couple years ago more than they wanted Jason Bay, but thankfully they "settled" for Bay. Here’s the reasons I like the trade:
1) Roberto Hernandez is 41 years old and we only had him for two more months anyways. Once his contract expired he was going to get out of Pittsburgh faster than Wally Backman got out of Arizona. He was a good reliever for the Pirates but he walked a lot of batters and with guys like Sharpless and Bayliss in the minors it was time to see what they could do.
2) Perez has lost whatever "mojo" he had. I don’t know what happened and why he could throw a strike or get anyone out anymore but his days in Pittsburgh are over. The last straw for Dave Littlefield must have been his last start at AAA. Perez went 1/3 of an inning and gave up 8 runs! Maybe the Mets can figure him out but it doesn’t look promising.

Nady will play 1b the rest of this season but should shift to RF next year. Oh, and Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is a power hitting first basemen and a quality veteran starting pitcher. Pretty please?!!

Sean Casey to Detroit for Brian Roberts

Casey was to old, too injury prone, and lacked power to be the answer at first base for years to come. Which is the reason Littlefield dealt him. I don’t know much about this Roberts guy but looking at his numbers, he seems to be pretty good. I like the fact that he strikes out a lot of people and doesn’t walk many. Hopefully he can turn out to be a Matt Capps-like pitcher.

Craig Wilson to the Yankees for Shawn Chacon

For some reason, I actually like this trade. Chacon has shown flashes of brilliance (7-3 2.85 era for the Yanks last year) and Craig apparently didn’t fit into our plans. Chacon has struggled through injuries and a short leash with the Yankees this year but I think he can become the pitcher he was last year. Also, Wilson doesn’t have much value with the Yankees because he is behind Giambi at first, and Abreu in right. I guess they are going to platoon him with Andy Phillips. Whats worse for Craig? A platoon with Andy Phillips or Jeromy Burnitz?

Kip Wells to Texas for Jesse Chavez

I can’t believe the Pirates got a AAA reliever who throws 95 for Wells. Granted, his era is 4.43 but Wells has gone 9-23 over the past two years so just getting someone who plays baseball would have made me happy.

Time will tell if these deals were good or bad or indifferent. I am also going on the record to say Chris Duffy will return to his ’05 form starting tonight and continuing the rest of the season. The Pirates desperately need a spark-plug lead off hitter with speed and Duffy is going to be that. If not, I will buy you all a pack of baseball cards.

Random Thoughts

Its 2:21 in the morning and I can’t sleep because I am having nightmares about Scott Olsen and Randy Nolasco’s dominance. There is no better time to blog in my mind!

Just some random thoughts passed through my mind in the last couple of minutes. I thought I would share them because, well, that’s what blogging is all about.

The difference between the Pirates and Marlins is that the Marlins young, talented pitchers are actually pitching well and living up to their hype where the Pirates young, talented pitchers are just young and the talent level is becoming to be a big question mark. Do you ever think this young staff will start to string together some good starts? I sure hope so.

How crazy is the Shea Hillenbrand situation? I got to wondering what if that happened in Pittsburgh. The best candidate to be Shea in Pittsburgh has to be Craig Wilson who is upset with his playing time and wants a trade. What if Craig wrote "play for yourself" on the board along with "Sinking Ship." (Although sinking ship doesn’t really have the same meaning in Pittsburgh as in Toronto. This ship seemingly went down with the Titanic.) And then, Jim Tracy challenges Wilson to a fight. I am 100 % positive that Wilson wouldn’t pass on the fight like Hillenbrand did. Actually, I am willing to bet everything I own that Wilson would morph into the early 90’s version of Mike Tyson and knock Tracy out with one punch. At least we would make the headlines.

This trade deadline is going to be very interesting. The Pirates have so many move-able pieces that there is no telling what can happen. Rumors are that San Diego is interested in Randa, New York is interested in Roberto Hernandez, Anaheim is interested in Wilson, and Tommy John is interested in Salomon Torres. Seriously, his arm is going to blow out any second now. The most unbelievable rumors involve Kip Wells. Whoever is interested must be ABSOLUTELY STARVING for pitching help. How is there a market for a starting pitcher who is 0-5 with a 8.28 era? This isn’t like Wells has been an all-star pitcher and is just having a down year either. In his last 62 starts he has won 13 times! Well I hope someone takes him, maybe we can get Jose Canseco for him straight up.

Let’s see if the guys can pull out a win against Dontrelle which would make them tie or win all 3 series since the all star break. The matchup doesn’t look favorable on paper:
Willis 6-7 3.94 era 86 k’s vs. Gorzelanny 0-2 9.26 era and 8 k’s. Like I said, not favorable on paper.

Ending Note: This isn’t proven but I am about 95 % sure that the Pirates have been in last place since Day 1 of the season. That’s pretty pathetic and very tough to do. Especially given how bad the Cubs have played this year. Oh well, 14th straight losing season and its going down in miserable fashion.

Why???

I wake up this morning a little sore from the 13-4 pounding the Pirates received last night and I begin to read the Post-Gazette on line. To my complete surprise, there is a snippet in it saying Mike Gonzalez is on the trading block.

I ask WHY???! Let’s see, Gonzo is a perfect 14-14 in save situations this year and 17-17 dating back to the end of last year. He has tied the record for most saves by a lefty in a season in Pirates history and has struck out exactly 1 batter an inning. Oh yeah, and Gonzo is only 28 years old! Then I keep reading and the reason Gonzalez may be shopped around is Matt Capps. Capps saves ONE game and all of a sudden we have Gonzo on the hot seat. I will be severely pissed off if Gonzalez is traded.

I have nothing to say about last nights game. I am just going to move on.

I am going to continue my evaluation of the Pirates season and focus on the outfielders. My purpose is to show fans that there is more good than bad on this roster and the future is really bright (even though it seems REALLY dull now)
Outfielders
Jeromy Burnitz-
I am just going to get him out of the way right now. Absolutely terrible season. The Pirates should give up trying to sign veteran outfielders to contracts. Do the names Derek Bell and Raul Mondesi ring a bell? Add Burnitz to those two and you have the three bigger wastes of money than the things they sell on late night infomercials. 2006 Season: Badder than bad

Craig Wilson- To expand on Jeromy Burnitz lets just look at the numbers shall we?
Burnitz    .226    12 hr    37 rbi    28 runs    .274 on base percentage     .413 slugging    .687 ops
Wilson    .274    13 hr    38        37          .351                                  .498                .849
Oh yeah and the biggest comparison- Burnitz $6 million, Craig- $3.3 million. Big upgrade Littlefield.
2006 season: Good

Jason Bay- No debate on this one. Bay and Sanchez are the only reasons Pirates fans stay relatively sane. Another great year for Bay capped with a start in the All Star game. Can’t ask for much more from him, except maybe a little better production with runners in scoring position. 2006 season: Good

Jose Bautista- Is hitting the cover off the ball recently. He has raised his batting average all the way up to .275 and has a lot of power (11 home runs in 204 abs) At 25 years old, Bautista is looking like a very good player for the future. 2006 Season: Good.

Nate McLouth- He has had a decent season and he is still young. I would like to see him hit for a higher average but he plays the game real hard and has some nice speed. He is also good defensively, a nice backup type player. 2006 Season- Good

As you can see with these hitters, the good outweighs the bad. Everyone knows that hitting hasn’t been our problem so a look at the pitching will better show how bright the future really is. 

All is Wells

Kip Wells pitched had his first very good start of the season tonight and the Pirates put together an eight inning rally to get a 3-1 over the reeling Rockies.

It would have been nice to get Kip the win but I can’t complain it was a win none the less. Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch the game because I had to work so I used the live play-by-play on MLB.com. I didn’t see the relay that got Helton at the plate but it was definitely the turning point of the game. Grabow wiggled out the 8th inning and was rewarded with the ‘W’. Tracy brought Capps in for the save and Capps set them down 1, 2, 3 for his first big league save. We have to give credit where credit is due and Tracy deserves a lot of credit for what he has done with Capps. He was Capps’ number one supporter all through spring training and Capps has really rewarded Tracy for his faith. I see a really nice back end of the bullpen with Capps and Gonzalez for years, sprinkle in a little Josh Sharpless and we could become even better.

When I personally look at this team as a whole I see a lot more good than bad (which is tough to say with the way our record looks.) Since I am bored I am going to take a look at the roster as it stands now and analyze the players to see if they have been a positive or negative to the team. (This is my opinion, you may have others and feel free to voice them in my comments section.)
Catchers:
Ronny Paulino
– Paulino has been a pleasant surprise in his first season with the big league club. His average has been above .300 almost the entire time he has been in the majors. He has delivered some clutch hits (game tying single off Billy Wagner, game winner against the Nationals, to name a few.) He needs to improve defensively but his game calling and handling of the young staff have been remarkable. 2006 season: Good
Humberto Cota- Awful. I am not going to risk carpel tunnel typing about him. He *****. 2006 season- very very Bad

Infielders:
Sean Casey-
Rebounded very nicely after a back injury early in the season. We missed his bat while he was out of the lineup but are very thankful that he is back in it. You can count on him hitting .300 and pounding the gaps with doubles. 2006 season: Good
Jose Castillo-
His string of 6 straight games with a home run is impressive enough and he continues hitting. His average is up, he has matched a career high for home runs and he is 8 rbi’s short of another career high. Oh yeah, we have 2 whole months of the season left. 2006 Season: Good
Jack Wilson-
I went back and forth on this one. His bat has been really hot and really cold, there doesn’t seem to be an in-between with Jack. His defense has been good, but not great as in years past but I am going to give him a "good" because his performance hasn’t been disappointing. We didn’t think he was going to hit .320 with 20 home runs and for a shortstop .268 and 7 home runs is not terrible. 2006 Season: Good
Joe Randa-
His .282 average is pretty solid but the 2 hr and 16 rbi’s are not worth the $4 million we gave him. Unfortunately for Randa, the best thing he did for the team this year was get injured so Freddy Sanchez could get an everyday job so, in that respect, Joe hasn’t been completely useless.  2006 season: Bad
Freddy Sanchez-
There is no debate here. I don’t even need to back up my reasoning, but I will because Freddy is amazing. As we speak right now, Freddy is hitting .363 and leading the National League by .15 points. He is hitting .414 with Runners in Scoring Position and .470 against lefties! Move over Ted Williams! 2006 season: AMAZING!
Jose Hernandez-
He’s still on the team? He has 77 AB’s to Cota’s 76. I bet these two have spider webs all over their jersey and spikes. Let’s put this in perspective shall we. Ryan Doumit has 56 AB’s and he has been on the DL twice this season and hasn’t played since June 4th! 2006 Season: Bad

Okay that’s all I am going to do for now. Tomorrow I will look at the rest of the roster and give my own critique. As you can see with these young players so far, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, the light will become visible next season and the 14 years of misery will end soon!

Ending Note: Pittsburgh is last in the National League in stolen bases with 30. The last time we had anyone with speed was Tony Womack in 1998. Yes, Tony Womack. Watching the Pirates on the base paths is like watching the Pierogies race, only the Pirates aren’t as fast.

First series win in recent memory

The Pirates took two of three from the Nationals which marked the first time in over a month the Pirates won a series. I am not sure how to react. Am I happy that they won a series? Or miserable they lost 8 in a row? Oh well, I guess you have to take the good with the pathetic right?

Trade talks are really heating up as Sean Casey and Jack Wilson are now added to the numerous veterans rumored to be on the market. The list of available players reads as follows: Craig Wilson, Jack Wilson, Jeromy Burnitz, Sean Casey, Joe Randa, Kip Wells, Salomon Torres, Damaso Marte, and Roberto Hernandez. This means that exactly 36% of our roster is being shopped around. The latest rumor has Kip Wells going to New York for the rights to Dwight Gooden. Seriously, if we find someone to take Kip Wells, Jeromy Burnitz and his $6 million dollar contract, or Joe Randa and his $4 million dollar contract and get someone in return who has a pulse Dave Littlefield should be paraded around town on the shoulders of Pirates fans. The only person that I would be upset about trading is Craig Wilson (and that is only because he is one of my favorite players.) Get rid of the other scrubs. I wonder if we could package all 9 of them and get back Andy Van Slyke? After all, we are still looking to replace him in center field, 12 YEARS LATER! I did hear a rumor that the Pirates tried to package Craig Wilson, Jeromy Burnitz and Salomon Torres to the Yankees for Melky Cabrera and a minor leaguer. The Yankees surprisingly shot it down. They apparently didn’t want TWO right fielders who lost playing time to Nate McLouth and are used in a platoon for a 32-61 team along with a reliever who, and I quote my friend who read out of Sporting News "Despite his 4.63 ERA and 1.47 WHIP, Pirate reliever Solomon Torres leads the majors with 53 games pitched. Pittsburgh fans liken him to a pop up ad-he’s always there, always ineffective and always offering nothing of value." The absolute perfect analogy!

On a positive note, the Pirates are starting to get some national recognition. Unfortunately, its been from Jay Leno bashing them. Whether its his cracks about the Pirates losing to Ghana, or the latest remark about the Pirates winning an ESPY for best women’s softball team, it makes me cringe. Nobody makes fun about my team except me! And they certainly don’t do it on national television. After all, weDdp_leno are being bashed by a guy who attempted to revive his career and show by teaming forces with Diamond Dallas Page against the formidable duo of "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff years back. He was so desperate to attract fans that he turned to WCW. That’s even more pathetic than the Pirates season. What’s worse is Leno’s performance was so poor his athleticism was compared to that of Andre The Giant but Leno didn’t move around as well. At least if you are going to make fun of multi million dollar athletes don’t sell your soul to the WCW.