Thursday, April 15, 2010

Early Reviews

Last night (4/13) Aki hit a deep opposite field home run and Andy LaRoche hit an absolute bomb 420 feet to dead center. Meek and Donnelly pitched a combined 3 innings of relief, giving up one hit, no walks and getting five Ks. (Dotel made it interesting in the ninth giving up a two run homer before shutting them down).

This team has been an absolute disaster when it hasn't gotten a good effort from its starter (Morton, McCutchen, Burres) but has hit much better than expected, played pretty well in the field and shown surprising power with ten homers in their first eight games. They have shown good plate discipline and been able to work deep into counts, and are 9/9 in stolen bases with Cutch registering five of those.

The obvious problem is their starters, other than Morton, don't miss enough bats. In the 7 non-Morton starts the starters have 14Ks in 35.1 innings which translates to 3.6Ks/9 which just isn't going to cut it. (Morton struck out 6 in 3.1 innings in his only start). Add 16 walks and 6 HRs from the non-Morton starts and one could argue that the Pirates are very lucky to be 4-4. (And Morton got shelled in his start giving up 9 hits and 8 runs in 3.1 innings, despite the six strikeouts.)

The bullpen on the other hand has gotten 28Ks in 31.1 innings, a much more desirable figure although the 17 walks are clearly a bit higher than desired.

Early days for sure, but it appears that with Dotel, Donnelly, Hanrahan, Meek and Lopez the bullpen may actually be a strength. All five guys can get a strikeout when necessary. The bench with Church, Young and Crosby appears solid, certainly the best we've seen in the past 5 years. Obviously the performance of the "everyday" regulars is crucial, but it really is going to come down, very simply, to starting pitching, particularly from the 4 & 5 spots in the rotation. If the Pirates can get four quality starts every time through the rotation they have a chance to play .500 baseball. But, for that to happen they are going to have to stay extraordinarily healthy, which already appears to be a problem with Ollie missing his start on Monday, and hope that someone from the group of McCutchen, Hart, Veal or Lincoln eventually proves to be a passable fifth starter.* Without getting any strikeouts and with the four guys above being huge question marks thus far, this seems a tall order. And getting three good starts from the four anointed starters seems like a stretch at the moment as well.
(*-Pozterik- Management very much wanted Hart to win the fifth starters job because he does have the best stuff and the ability to miss bats, registering 8.6 K/9 through the minors and 6+Ks/9 in the bigs. Obviously if you are also throwing it to the backstop every fifth pitch and have no command whatsoever, that ability is a bit overshadowed. But, their willingness to give him every chance to win the job is rooted in the fact that the starters get so few Ks.)
There is much to be encouraged about thus far, but it seems clear even at this early stage, the season is resting on the shoulders of a rotation that lacks depth, doesn't strikeout anyone and hasn't shown an ability to keep the ball in the park or limit the number of free passes. Not a good recipe when the everyday lineup includes five or six guys still trying to prove their mettle in the bigs. Hope resides on the young pitchers in Altoona, Bradenton and extended spring training developing fast because it really doesn't look like anyone other than Morton even has the potential to be more than a #3 in a good rotation. That could make for some bumpy stretches during the remainder of '10.


absolute59 said...

Laroches home run was a bomb and he showed some real power.

Morton is starting to remind me of Kip Wells great stuff with no ability to be a pitcher. Remember how Wells would anounce that he had worked in between starts and determined that all would be well if he moved 6 inches to the left on the rubber and two starts later he would be getting bombed again. Kind of like Morton announcing to the world he was going to throw nothing but fastballs against SF. He needs to learn to be a pitcher not just a thrower. Hopefully that will come but at this point in his career I have my doubts.

The Hammer said...

I can't believe he was announcing to everyone that the key was pitch selection after he got bombed in Arizona. He said he needed to throw more fastballs early in the count. So he goes out and throws first pitch fastballs to 11 or the first 13 guys and they are sitting on it. Does he think they can't read in SF?