Enough is Enough, Pirates Are Halfway There

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Well the season is halfway complete for the Pittsburgh Pirates, how are you feeling Pirates fans? I have recovered from my nearly broken foot (15 inning loss to the Braves June 8), the broken glass has been swept up (eight game losing streak May 3-10), and the wall has been repaired and the jersey reframed (11-1 stomping by Braves April 19).  Ian Snell surrendering five walks in a game-FIVE TIMES.

Plenty to cheer about was also highlighted in the first half.  The triple play.  Ian Snell having 13 consecutive scoreless innings pitched in April.  The opener and Zach Duke’s four hit complete game.  The joy of my son seeing his first game.  The five game winning streak May 16-20.  The ten run stomping of Atlanta on April 18 (when I orginally hung the new autographed jersey.)  Freddy Sanchez having six hits against the Cubs May 25.  Andrew McCutchen’s arrival and subsuquent Rookie of the Year performance. Cutch’s three extra base hits against the Braves June 8.  Cutch’s thirteen game hitting streak.

Similar to the highlights and lowlights, there have become two distinct types of reaction to the first half, those who are sick of all the rebuilding, trading of ‘stars’ and favorite players for prospects.  The second is those who are giving the Bucs another opportunity and realize the system was a mess in dire need of prospects, depth, and upside talent.  Absolutely no middle ground.

I heard a broadcaster the other day play a quiz about naming two players acquired for Aramis, Benson, etc…  It was a fair question and typifies the frustration.  I understand it.  And I let my frustration go when I started doing this idiotic blog, it feels better this way.

So now we move to the present.

I didn’t expect the Pirates to be anywhere near .500.  Not too many people,  gave the Bucs a shot this season…They were expected to battle the Nats for the worst team in MLB.  And, for a while, they sniffed .500.  We heard Jack Wilson and also LA Dodger Dirty Doug comment that it isn’t time to subtract (in reference to the Milledge/Hanrahan trade) when they are just five games out of first. 

Fellas, let it go.  The Pirates weren’t built to contend.  Glaring weaknesses show around the diamond.  Both in terms of expected production as well as depth especially in the middle infield. 

It’s still early and we could see those addressed in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, Congratulations to All-Star Freddy Sanchez.  Congratulations to Jack Wilson for being the best defensive shortstop through the first half of the season. 

The team has given us plenty to cheer about, plenty to complain about, and just enough spunk in spite of many trades, injuries, and the youth movement to manage to put together solid performances in most every game.  Especially considering eight rookies are putting on the black and gold at the moment.  The most in the majors.

However, lingering questions remain.  Where do the Pirates go from here?

We are staring at the major rebuilding of a baseball club.  I dare to say the team is halfway through it, because I believe after the team is gutted,  another wave of moves will need to be made as talent fails to deliver on expected potential. 

NH has done an excellent job at addressing this in the short term.  For example, look at the potential talent in the outfield.  We could have a last man standing match, or we could have…well, only time will tell.  That is the beauty of the undertaking.  Simply being a more healthy baseball club is satisfying to me, however, I want a champion and for now am willing to be patient. 

But if at any point, I feel the front office is not moving in that direction you will hear it first.  I am firmly believing in the ability of the front office and I feel in just a few years, PNC Park will be an exciting place to go again to watch competitive baseball by our Pirates. 

In the meantime, well, we wait patiently as the current franchise is dismantled.  It is bitter to watch, but much needed and obviously long overdue.

Patience is a virture for a reason.

Rumbunter thinks the Pirates will continue to build from strength and try to solve the middle infield depth challenge in creative ways.  In the meantime, power from corner OF and IF would be nice. Hell, even moderately improving the offensive output on the corner would improve the Pirates win loss record, especially within the division.

Bottom line, the Pirates are far from a finished product. The front office knows this and is steadfastly moving toward being the youngest team in MLB.   

Thus I encourage you to embrace it.  I know it does taste funny.

At the halfway point, two things stand out.  Pitching and defense.

The starting pitching is in the top five for innings pitched.  The bullpen is in the top five for fewest innings pitched.  Easy to figure this out. 

But it wasn’t easy to get there.  It tasted a little funny as well.

Tom Gorzelanny is in AAA. 

Ian Snell is in AAA.  (And still hasn’t allowed a run.)

Jeff Karstens is in the bullpen and despite one poor outing, he has looked solid in the new role.   

The rotation is a work in progress.  But it has skyrocketed from just 12 months ago.  Virgil Vasquez is trying to find his stride.  Charlie Morton has some nasty stuff, but injuries continue to haunt him.  Zach Duke is a near miss All-Star.  Ross Ohelendorf and Paul Maholm are struggling lately, but have shown they can contribute.

Is there a dominant ace?  Ahhh, no.  Thus, the rebuilding continues.  And that is admirable.  While it has improved, it still isn’t enough.  Most every team within the division except the Brewers has received better pitching.  

Add it all up and the Pirates, behind Joe Kerrigan, are performing at a more major league level than the starting staff from last year.  Big time.  But finished?  No.  Far from it.

NH could move any of the starters and I would smile about it.

Before the season started, all of us thought the Pirates would have trouble scoring runs.  Surprisingly, the Bucs have scored more runs than the Cubs,  Reds, and Astros.  (Just not when we play them head to head on the field)

The Pirates OBP of .331 trails only the Brewers in the division.  Yet, the Pirates have only drawn 251 walks while the Brewers have 324 to lead the division, thats a huge difference in baserunners. 

Bottom line on the offense:  It sucks.  NH could move any of those players and I would smile.  Only JHammer and your 2009 All-Star Freddy Sanchez are the two ‘above league average’ bats on the squad.  This must improve.

 Big Questions for the Pittsburgh Pirates 2009 Second half :

Can we play tough?  The last seven games our ERA is 5.53.  Today showed a lack of hustle by seven of the nine starters.  When does it end?  Will they develop a killer instinct, a ‘take on the world’ approach?  And who will be here in a few weeks and how will that impact the lineup?  This road trip can make a lot of pain disappear, or on All-Star Tuesday we will be doing anything but watching all of the talent amassed in St. Louis. 

Hustle in the second half should be a given, not something that is ‘addressed.’  Do you agree?  Please let me know what you think will happen in the second half in the comment section?

Can Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf return to form?

Lastings Milledge is a Pirate.   Will he answer the question regarding power from a corner OF spot?  Can he finally get The Clarks over the hump if baseball doesn’t work for him?

Joel Hanrahan is a Pirate.  A 27 year old with true heat that didn’t disappear when he put on the Black and Gold.  Exciting stuff.

Garrett Jones and/or Brandon Moss.  Long term Pirates or short term players?  Can they both deliver on the field instead of just in BP?

Delwyn Young.  Outstanding pinch hitter.  He is a firm believer that NL needs DH.

Ryan Doumit.  Welcome back.  Please rake quickly.

JHammer and Robinzon Diaz.  Who goes where?

Charlie Morton.  Don’t tease me.

Pedro Alvarez.  I bet you didn’t know there are 33 players named Alvarez in the minor leagues.  Pedro is the biggest all the way around of all of them.  Does that get me a Panera gift card?  I sense a hitting frenzy coming soon.

Jose Tabata.  A solid second half can save the season big guy.

Brad Lincoln.  Just how close is he?

Gorkys HernandezThe next Nyjer?  Well, if so let’s see that bat improve, Nyjer never hit below .300 right? 

Brian Bixler, Neil Walker and Shelby Ford.  Come on, it’s staring you in the face!  Bixler had a grand slam tonight as Curve got a come back win.Shelby didn’t he is batting .165.  (Click on the names for links to their page)

Erik Kratz and Chris BootcheckCongrats on the AAA All-Star game.  Packaged Trade bait for middle infield help?  We have catchers, we have right handed relievers…..

Ian Snell.  I don’t want to see him in another uniform other than Black and Gold.  However, I feel like I am firmly in the minority.  (And evidently, Snell didn’t post for a picture on his AAA page)

Tom Gorzelanny.  Please put him in another uniform at all costs.  However, I feel like I am firmly in the minority.  (Gorzo just looks thrilled in that picture doesn’t he?)

Neil Huntington.  GM of the Year?

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Tags: Andrew McCutchen Brandon Moss Charlie Morton Delwyn Young Freddy Sanchez Garrett Jones JHammer Joel Hanrahan Lastings Milledge Midseason Review Neil Huntington Paul Maholm Robinzon Diaz Ross Ohlendorf Ryan Doumit

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