Pirates’ 2011 in review

The wind was blowing slightly as I walked up to the T stop a few hundred yards from my house.  It was a pretty convenient place for a house, at least in my opinion, far enough to not have to listen to screeching 27/4, but close enough to be within walking distance.  My friend James and I were supposed to meet at the stop at about 6 PM, early enough so we didn’t have to deal with any traffic and  buy a decent ticket from a scalper or even the window.

We got off at the Wood Street station and began to make our way to the Park.  On the way there, we were discussing how surprising the Buccos had been to that point, even with injuries to key players like Tabata and Alvarez.  Mike McKenry was also the subject of discussion as we got close to the Clemente Bridge  and what we should do with him when Doumit came back, as he was pretty mediocre when he wasn’t wearing the tools of ignorance, and boy did he prove us wrong that night.  As we made our way down the double yellow lines, a scalper came up to us and offered us 2 club level seats ($25 each) for $100.  I understand they want to make a profit on a sellout night, but a $25 margin?  We ended up waiting in line for 5 minutes and buying SRO tickets for $9 a pop.

It was a t-shirt night, and they were giving away Tabata shirts.  I haven’t worn mine yet, as it hangs in my room as a reminder of that night. My memory remembers little of that night except for these two plays:

In the bottom of the eighth, Pedro Ciriaco was pinch running for Josh Harrison, I believe.  There were runners on first and second, but the next batter hit into what appeared to be a double play ball.  Ciriaco made his best play of the year sliding to break it up.  Next up?  Mike McKenry.  After fouling off seven pitches, and having some random dude in front of me shout “WRONG WAY” the entire time, this happened:

http://mlb.mlb.com//shared/flash/video/share/ObjectEmbedFrame.swf?width=400&height=254&content_id=16769411&property=mlb

It was a microcosm of the Pirates season headed into the all-star break on July 10th.    Everybody you would expect to not have been on our team headed into the season was producing, even players you had never heard of before a la McKenry.  Pedro Alvarez had been absolutely horrendous.  Jose Tabata was injured for the umpteenth time in his young career.  The Pirates’ “ace out of nowhere” was Jeff Karstens, who was 7-4 with a 2.55 ERA and a .242 BAbip.  In fact, the entire pitching staff had been outperforming any realistic expectations.  Look at these splits of the five pitchers who had been in our rotation for much of the year:

Charlie Morton

I Split W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
1st Half 7 5 .583 3.80 16 16 0 2 1 0 97.0 107 47 41 3 38 1 57 3 0 2 428 1.495 5.3 1.50
2nd Half 3 5 .375 3.86 13 13 0 0 0 0 74.2 79 35 32 3 39 4 53 10 1 7 341 1.580 6.4 1.36
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/4/2011.
James McDonald
I Split W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
1st Half 5 4 .556 4.42 18 18 0 0 0 0 97.2 104 51 48 13 49 2 78 4 0 3 435 1.567 7.2 1.59
2nd Half 4 5 .444 3.93 13 13 0 0 0 0 73.1 72 35 32 11 29 2 64 3 1 2 319 1.377 7.9 2.21
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/4/2011.
Jeff Karstens
I Split W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
1st Half 7 4 .636 2.55 19 15 1 0 0 0 98.2 88 34 28 17 18 3 58 3 1 2 392 1.074 5.3 3.22
2nd Half 2 5 .286 4.66 11 11 0 1 1 0 63.2 75 35 33 5 15 3 38 1 0 2 276 1.414 5.4 2.53
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/4/2011.
Kevin Correia
I Split W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
1st Half 11 7 .611 4.01 20 19 1 1 0 0 116.2 123 59 52 13 26 0 59 2 1 3 489 1.277 4.6 2.27
2nd Half 1 4 .200 7.23 7 7 0 0 0 0 37.1 52 31 30 11 13 0 18 0 0 0 171 1.741 4.3 1.38
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/4/2011.
Paul Maholm
I Split W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
1st Half 6 9 .400 2.96 19 19 0 1 1 0 121.2 101 45 40 7 42 4 75 7 0 2 504 1.175 5.5 1.79
2nd Half 0 5 .000 5.75 7 7 0 0 0 0 40.2 59 27 26 4 8 2 22 1 0 1 183 1.648 4.9 2.75
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/4/2011.

The only pitcher who actually improved after the All-Star break was James McDonald, and the only one who stayed relatively the same was Charlie Morton.  The old saying that “pitching wins championships” shined through for Pirates fans this season.   We had an ass sniff of first place going into the All-Star break, then we went all the way to fourth place in the NL Central.

However, the problem wasn’t also just pitching.  The Buccos had absolutely terrible offensive plays all through the season, averaging just  3.72 runs per game – 3rd worst in the NL (ahead of SFG (last) and SDP).   It also seemed as if every time we had a lead, we blew it.  The Pirates blew 39 leads all year, with the largest being 9.  That is only 7 less blown leads than the Astros, and it is a full 11 more blown leads than the Philadelphia Phillies.The largest was a seven run lead.

K-Dro Alvarez looked more like Ossie Alvarez this year, hitting  .191/.272/.289 with an OPS+ of 56.  That’s worse than Michael Mckenry’s OPS+ of 66, or even Dale Berra’s career OPS+ of 76.  On the bright side, he was better than Mario Mendoza (41).  Will Pedro ever come back?  Most likely not, but let’s keep on hoping.

The only good part of the Bucs year has been the emergence of outfielder Alex Presley.  Presley, 26, looks like he’s 6 years old had spent the previous 1.5 years in AAA Indy, where he hit .316/.371/.474.  Now, AAA success doesn’t always translate to MLB success, but so far it has for the left/right/whatever fielder.  In 58 games on the big club, Presley hit a .298/.339/.465 slash line.  However, he probably won’t be able to keep that up, but he will be pretty close.  I’d expect him to go  somewhere in the neighborhood of .295/.325/.430 next year.

Neil Walker is the best player in the world because of his RBI total, at least according to ROOT Sports.  Actually, he hasn’t looked terrible, but he did look less impressive than he did in his rookie year of 2010.  That said, he has improved a ton on his defense, his UZR was only -3.2 this year, as opposed to -10.8 the previous.  His RZR improved a full 51 points, going from .749 to an even .800.

Alas, the offense isn’t that good, as it appears that our only offensive weapon is really McCutchen, so it’s him and 8 other guys out there trying to make a living.

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