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 Post subject: Off-Day Musings
PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 11:46 am 
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J_C_Steel is currently in a Starbucks in bucolic northern New Jersey, enjoying a half-sweet vanilla latte and preparing for a business meeting. You know what else I'm doing? Thinking about baseball. Because it's a disease, people. A disease.

Anyway, given that your 26-18 Pittsburgh Pirates have the day off on this rainy Monday, I thought I'd start a thread for my off-day musings. If you're so inclined, feel free to share your thoughts as well.

* All told, I'd say the Bucs are about 7 games better than I thought they'd be at this point in the season. So they got that goin' for them. Which is nice.



* Looking up and down the roster, I'm trying to figure out how many guys are overachieving, how many guys are underachieving, and how many guys are, I don't know, achieving (as in, meeting expectations). Here's a quick, subjective list:

Overachievers: (12) Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Starling Marte, Jeff Locke, Jordy Mercer (relative to sample size, of course), A.J. Burnett (he's very good, but not this good), Jeanmar Gomez, Justin Wilson (due for some regression), Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano, Vin Mazzaro
Underachievers: (8) Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Jonathan Sanchez (f*#@ you, man), Tony Watson, James McDonald, Chris Leroux, Phil Irwin, Jared Hughes
Achievers: (11) Wandy Rodriguez, Andrew McCutchen (he always heats up with the weather), Bryan Morris, Garrett Jones, Gaby Sanchez, Clint Barmes (he is what he is), Travis Snider, Michael McKenry, Jose Tabata (returning to form), Brandon Inge, Jose Contreras

* Looking at my list, it appears that the back-end of the bullpen is the part of the team most likely to see performance regression. We already saw that on Saturday with Melancon being victimized by a few ground balls. If the Pirates are going to continue to win at a .591 clip, they'll need to make up for that natural regression with some better contributions from the underachievers, including Watson (who needs to be more reliable), Alvarez (more consistent), and Walker (in the line-up and producing).

* If I end up watching the Bucs continue to refuse to hit outside pitches to the opposite field for entire games at a time, I may punch my iPad. This used to be the perfect time for a "throw something at the television" reference, but I don't watch baseball on my television. To be honest, I don't even know why I have a TV anymore. I watch more stuff on the iPad and the computer. Weird times, fellas. I hate change.

* I'm wearing a suit in this Starbucks, and I'm surrounded by ten guys in simple button-down shirts and jeans. I think they're all working on their resumes. I feel like Jack Donaghy in 30 Rock right now...



* I've seen a few posters voice concerns about Cutch. Don't worry about it, guys. Seriously. His knee is reportedly fine and, as I note in my list, he's a "heats up with the weather" kinda guy. He started killing it in mid-May last year and carried that through June and July. His OPSs in June and July in 2012 were 1.096 and 1.249. Plus, he's already started scorching the ball, posting an OPS of .948 in May (so far). He's also only struck out twice in his last ten games, and more and more of the balls he puts in play will fall. Relax. He'll be an MVP candidate again by mid-July. And he'll work on his Tom Cruise impression in the off-season...



* As much as I love watching playoff hockey, last night's excruciating loss by the Penguins was a straight-up stomach punch. Not fun at all. How can a team play perfect, shut-down defense 5-on-5 for an entire third period only to completely sh*t the bed when they get a power play for the last 1:32 of the game? And what was Dan Bylsma doing putting offensive players out there when all you want is to protect a 1-0 lead? Burns my butt hair, boys. Burns it.

* When Charlie Morton and Jeff Karstens are fully healthy, here's what I would do. The Rotation would be A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke. The long man would be Jeff Karstens. Middle relief guys would be Jeanmar Gomez, Tony Watson, Bryan Morris, and Justin Wilson. Late-inning guys would be Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli. I don't think Mazzaro or Hughes are good enough to bump any of those guys out of a spot.

* I'm really looking forward to getting home and watching Game of Thrones and Mad Men. Those are two excellent shows. And a reminder of why I still pay for television.

* I hope everyone has a wonderful Monday.


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 Post subject: Re: Off-Day Musings
PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 12:13 pm 
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I watch Game of Thrones and Mad Men every Sunday too. What an awesome combination from 9-11 PM. 8-)


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 Post subject: Re: Off-Day Musings
PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 12:13 pm 
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Great post and should make for a great thread.

-I attended the Cubs/Mets game yesterday and had great seats down the 1st base line by the Mets bullpen. My white butt hadn't seen the sun in ages and I'm currently nursing a fantastic sunburn. Here is a picture I took of the game yesterday. I'm kind of proud of this one. The black and white along with the unmistakable Wrigley Field make this look like 1921.

Image

-I ran my first half marathon yesterday morning. Ugh. I'm running the Chicago Marathon in October. I can't believe I have to double what I ran yesterday. Oh the humanity.

-Travis Wood pitching for the Cubs yesterday means the Pirates won't face their best pitcher. Unfortunately they'll still have to face Samardzidja, who owns the Buccos.

-I can't believe the Pirates are eight games over .500. Good times people! Fill the All-Star ballots full of Buccos!

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/all_star/y2013/ballot.jsp

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 Post subject: Re: Off-Day Musings
PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 12:39 pm 
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Great posts, JC and IA.

I would put Tabata in the overachiever group. He's hitting better than I expected. Sanchez too is hitting better than last year, though I did expect that..


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 Post subject: Re: Off-Day Musings
PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 2:24 pm 
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Russell Martin is clearly overachieving right now but I do hope that his BABIP numbers can stay in the .270 range. He was at .252 and .222 in his two seasons with the Yankees and it showed in his BA. If he can keep it up there I think it's reasonable to expect him to hit in the .260 range on the year.

Also, I think it's important to note that his K rate is at 9.8% right now which would be the lowest of his career by 2.4% and 9.8% lower than last year with the Yankees. You almost have to wonder if he has taken a vastly different approach at the plate this year given a different role in the lineup.


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 Post subject: Re: Off-Day Musings
PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 3:04 pm 
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Couple of points.

First off, what about JMac? Your list of 12 pitchers does not include him.

Second, You "achievement" lists are pretty spot on. I think some would call Tabata an overachiever based on last year, but I think he can do better even still. He HAS done better, right? I definitely see Pedro getting better...but even if he doesn't, his production numbers are okay. He hits HR and drives in runs. As you say, and everyone concurs, Cutch will get a lot better. But can he top last year's numbers? And why, again, has he quit stealing bases. He had a ton the first few weeks and hardly any since. Also, I really believe that Marte can pretty much keep his current pace, which would be awesome! Walker will improve. All told, I like this team.

And finally, I never saw that video of Cutch doing Tom Cruise. Pretty good stuff. I bet Cutch is a riot in the clubouse and a very fun teammate.

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 Post subject: Re: Off-Day Musings
PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 3:21 pm 
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Animal wrote:
First off, what about JMac? Your list of 12 pitchers does not include him.


I don't see him being a reliable option. His starts are entirely too unpredictable to write him into the rotation when he returns to health. I'll bet you see the Pirates use the entire 30-day minor league rehab window with James McDonald. If, when that's complete, someone in the rotation is struggling, you'll probably see him given a shot.

Animal wrote:
Second, You "achievement" lists are pretty spot on. I think some would call Tabata an overachiever based on last year, but I think he can do better even still. He HAS done better, right?


Indeed. I think Tabata may cool in terms of his offensive numbers against RHPs, but he's shown that he can be a .300 hitter with decent pop. It wouldn't surprise me to see him take the starting right field job by the end of the year. But Snider's been pretty good, too.

Animal wrote:
I definitely see Pedro getting better...but even if he doesn't, his production numbers are okay. He hits HR and drives in runs.


If Pedro doesn't improve from his current .201/.253/.388, he's going to hurt the team. His current WAR is 0.0, so he's been performing at replacement level so far this year. He HAS to improve on that, Animal.

Animal wrote:
As you say, and everyone concurs, Cutch will get a lot better. But can he top last year's numbers? And why, again, has he quit stealing bases. He had a ton the first few weeks and hardly any since.


He had two stolen bases in a game just last week, and he's well ahead of his 2012 pace. If he continues at his current rate, he'll steal 33 bases on the year. More importantly, he's been efficient, with 9 steals and only 1 caught stealing.

I believe Cutch will finish in the .300/.400/.500 range for the year, which is slightly below last year's numbers but damn good.

Animal wrote:
Also, I really believe that Marte can pretty much keep his current pace, which would be awesome! Walker will improve.


Marte's BABIP will drop, but he can probably hit between .280 and .300. He won't walk a ton, but he gets hit by a lot of pitches. I'd be very happy with .290/.350/.450 on the year for Marte.

As for Walker, he'll get back to his normal .280/.340/.420. Though, personally, I'd like to see Hurdle give Mercer some starts against LHPs. Walker's been abysmal against southpaws.

Animal wrote:
All told, I like this team.


Me, too. And the Pirates have some real depth in AAA, as well. Gerrit Cole, Duke Welker, Alex Presley, Felix Pie, and others have the capacity to help out the big club as necessary. I'm really hoping this is the year -- by which I mean PLAYOFFS.

But we shall see.

Animal wrote:
And finally, I never saw that video of Cutch doing Tom Cruise. Pretty good stuff. I bet Cutch is a riot in the clubouse and a very fun teammate.


He appears to be a stand-up guy in all ways. We're lucky to have him.


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 Post subject: Re: Off-Day Musings
PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 4:38 pm 
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IA, love the photo.

JC, Don Draper heard that you want to move Jeanmar Gomez to middle relief, this is his response:



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 Post subject: Re: Off-Day Musings
PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2013 5:39 pm 
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That is a great photo, IA. Well done.


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 Post subject: Re: Off-Day Musings
PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2013 12:28 am 
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Picture Guy knows how to take them, too!


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 Post subject: Re: Off-Day Musings
PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2013 12:43 am 
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val wrote:
Picture Guy knows how to take them, too!


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 Post subject: Re: Off-Day Musings
PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2013 11:44 am 
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My off day yesterday consisted of me making a last minute push to get 100 write in votes for the Republican Nomination for City Council in Johnstown, PA. I need 100 to get my write in to count to get my name on the actual ballot in November. And in the process got an email from the city newspaper telling me to stop using their facebook page to promote my cause. Oh and I baked muffins this morning.

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 Post subject: Re: Off-Day Musings
PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2013 12:17 pm 
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nad69dan wrote:
My off day yesterday consisted of me making a last minute push to get 100 write in votes for the Republican Nomination for City Council in Johnstown, PA. I need 100 to get my write in to count to get my name on the actual ballot in November. And in the process got an email from the city newspaper telling me to stop using their facebook page to promote my cause. Oh and I baked muffins this morning.


Image

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 Post subject: Re: Off-Day Musings
PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2013 4:12 pm 
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Northern New Jersey? Where?

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 Post subject: Re: Off-Day Musings
PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2013 4:17 pm 
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Willton wrote:
Northern New Jersey? Where?


East Rutherford, Wallington, and then Fort Lee. A tour of epic proportion.


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