28 Games Later the Pittsburgh Pirates Defy Explanation.

Pirates GM Neal Huntington and President Frank Coonelly are knee deep in the middle of a rebuild that is easily the most difficult in sports history.  It’s not easy rebuilding a baseball club.  It is downright painful watching this club struggle as the front office works with limitations most will never comprehend.  Watching it hurts on many levels.  Baseball is not built for a quick rebuild.  The Pirates have been so bad for so long, most think it is impossible given the current circumstances Coonelly and Huntington face from ownership and perhaps more noticeably MLB.

So the first 28 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates have been difficult on the city of Pittsburgh and fans of the team.  We knew this coming into the season.  It’s similar to realizing a beating is coming, you just don’t know when it’s going to happen.  But each of us have accepted the fact that the beating will come. 

Some Pirates fans have written the team off this year.  Some have hung up their jolly roger and are boasting that they will never go see the Pirates play again.  I feel sorry for those fans.  But some of us understand this Pittsburgh Pirates club isn’t stocked with talent.  They are however stocked with players that want to win.  Desperately.

These players didn’t have anything to do with the past.  They just wear the same P on their hats, the same Pirates embroidered on their jerseys.  They are a fun team to watch play.  Hollywood could put some of this shit together.  We just would never believe it.

Hell, the Pirates organization has been tough on each of us.  After the sweep of the Chicago Cubs last night, many of us are now thoroughly confused.  If you are at this website, you must be a dedicated Pirates fans.  So let’s take a look at what we have learned thus far and understand that the Pirates have been fortunate to be where they are in the standings at 13-15. 

Much like the movie 28 Days, the aftermath of the roster explosion has left an intersting team on the field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  It has many question marks.  Still.  28 Days Later.

So knowing this,  we will make this quick and return again in 26 days for another follow up episode in the herculean efforts to rebuild of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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The Pirates have played an easy schedule.  The Pirates road record,  5-11, is not good.  The Pirates record at home is good.  It’s  8-4.  But the Pirates have played awful at home as well, mainly based on a humbling series sweep by the Milwaukee Brewers in April. 

In 28 games, the Pirates have been outscored by 76 runs.

Damn, I am confused.  Outscored 76 runs and the record is 13-15?  Yes it is.  Promise.

We saw the awful play of the infield coming and preached about it with many of you this offseason, but the struggles of the Pirates pitching caught us by surprise.  We thought the offense could be a tick better than projected, but to say we had any idea the club would be 13-15 in spite of all this mess would be a lie.  Heh, it’s been fun, but we have no explanation.

I am not certain the Pirates do either.

The Ugly:

1.  It can be broken down very simply.  When the Pirates pitching sucks, it really sucks.   I shouldn’t do this, but last year the pitching after 28 games was some of the best in the league, and rightfully so, the Pirates had 12 wins.  This year, the pitching has sucked, the worst in the league in fact, and the Bucs have won thirteen games.  Baseball is so damn simple and so freaking confusing at the same time.

2.  A 4-5 start was followed by the Pirates sweeping three games from the Reds which was followed by a 3-10 skid.  But the skid was all fixed by yet another sweep.  This time it was the Chicago Cubs being whisked out of PNC Park in a series in which the Pirates starters had an ERA of 1.89 and a 1.16 WHIP.  Huh?  Rocco explain this to us?

3.  Lastings Milledge was the missing link in the Pirates outfield last season.  Not much has changed.  Headed into tonights’ game, the Pirates outfielder was hitting just .171 since April 21.  He just isn’t getting it done. 

4.  Jeff Clement hasn’t touched a ball very hard in his recent 0-for-19 slump.  He was given an opportunity to be the Pirates starting first baseman and unfortunately swung and missed, much like he did at the plate consistently since April 5.  Sure, he had a stretch of unfortunate luck, but then the slump ensued.   Ugh. 

5.  Aki Iwamura is the Pirates highest paid player.  He has been awful defensively.  He runs like a first grade girl on the basepaths.  But he has been great at the plate, well in the first inning at least.  Headed into tonight Aki has hit .333 (6-for18) in the first inning, but .173 (13-for-75) in the “other innings.”

6.  Ronny Cedeno refuses to walk.  He has two walks in 89 AB.  Last year in 341 at bats with the Mariners and the Bucs he walked 19 times.  He has struckout 21 times in 89AB this year.  He struckout 29 times in 155 AB with the Pirates last year.   Bad.

7.  The defense has been disgusting.  The box score shows a few errors, but even more have never made into into the scoresheet.  Aki Iwamura is actually making Ryan Doumit look like Molina.   Obviously, that is not an easy magic trick.

8.  Brendan Donnelly has made eleven relief appearances. Donnelly has allowed seven earned runs on eight hits. He has given up 10 walks in nine innings. He is on the DL.  We expect him to be there often. 

9.  Octavio Dotel is receiving a RumBunter free pass. Did you ever have a child?  The month before your wife has birth is pure hell. The male species can do nothing right during this time.  However.  The upcoming joy should create a bounceback for Dotel.  I still think we will curse repeatedly in the ninth inning during his save opportunities.  One, because of the amount of runners he will put on base, two because of the solid contact he allows and finally because when he coughs dirt flies from his pie hole, but remember he is still showing indications of getting swings and misses.  Sigh.

The Dramatic!

10.  Chris Jakubauskas was lucky.     This is lucky.  The Pirates have been dramatic.  This is dramatic [especially against the Brewers.]   I am not calling 13-15 lucky although I probably should.

11. It could be argued that a gentleman named Brian Burres has been the Bucs best pitcher.  Certainly, he has been the pitcher with a propensity to win when the club needs him most.  What a story.

The Good!

12.  Ryan Church has started to get hot.  He hit key HR’s in the Cubs sweep.  His slugging is .482 and leads the team.  He has been dramatic since opening day.  [Church HR Video]

13.  Andy LaRoche has been a force at the hot corner, the plate, and in the lives of many kids he invites to the park in his tremendous community efforts.  He leads the team in OBP at .407.   When he spoke about team chemistry recently,  we normally blow stuff like this off, but this clean slate talk makes some sense.   His defense is often overlooked too.  Solid.

14.  Despite being majorly overworked, the Pirates bullpen has been Stargell star worthy.  Recently, the combination of Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan have been especially filthy.

15.  The team meetings are working. I have sent a business card.    The Pirates had another meeting today, this one with a guest speaker, focusing on team-building.  Sure enough, an 11-1 romp ensued a few hours later.   Book your next meeting at Nemacolin dammit.

16.  The Pirates allowed 20 runs on 25 hits against the Brewers.  Why is it in the good column?  Because it could have easily been 25 runs on 30 hits.

17.  Andrew McCutchen has been a catalyst.  His two homer game was a thing of beauty.   Rolling his ankle at first was not.  Bad Things man, Bad Things.  It’s a great video and it’s located at the top of this page under the Video tab.  Check it out.  Well, what are you waiting for?  

18.  Dramatic when combined with shocking is fun.  Cue the Ryan Doumit grand slam off Trevor Hoffman Part I.  The Ryan Doumit homerun of Trevor Hoffman Part II.

19.  The Ronny Cedeno walk off was special.  Then he slumped, nevertheless, the work of Perry Hill still shines brightly in the play of RC.  [Video]

20.  Paul Maholms’ glove work was highlight worthy.

21.  Garrett Jones’ walk off smash against the Reds was a fist pumping thing of beauty.   [Video]

The Future:

22.  Neil Walker is right back where he left off at AAA.  He was scorching before he was called up to the big leagues.  It is nothing different  than he did last season for  a few months before the callup.  I have seen enough of crap around the diamond, bring up Walker.

23.  Pedro is hitting at AAA Indianapolis, but still needs some work in my estimation.  What the hell do I know, I am just a truthsayer.  His pic looks cool.  He has seven homeruns and a pile of RBI in his last few games.  Damn, that picture looks cool. 

Pedro! Pedro! Pedro! Photo by Stephen Simonetto

24.  Jose Tabata has 37  hits which leads the International League and he also has swiped 13 stolen bases.    I have seen enough of Milledge.

25.  The buzz about John Russell in the last year of his contract? Jeff Euston of  Baseball Prospectus had an interesting take on it that I hadn’t heard before:

In Pittsburgh, Pirates manager John Russell has somehow cobbled together an 11-15 record despite an offense that has scored just 3.4 runs a game and a pitching staff that has allowed 6.8 runs a game. Despite 95 and 99 losses in his first two seasons, Russell’s relationship with the Pirates’ core of young players could buy him more time.

26.  The idea of a save is great, but rather limited.  Now, this idea sounds like what Evan Meek is starting to do.  The Douse?  The Book–Playing the Percentages in Baseball.

27.   To wrap:  I am confused and at the same time, damn glad I don’t have the job of making it better.

28.  See you in 26 games.

Topics: Aki Iwamura, Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Pirates, Pittsburgh Pirates Blog, Ronny Cedeno

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