Hey, Mark Madden: Where’re the Holes??


Mar 21, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Edinson Volquez (36) talks with pitching coach Ray Searage (54) and left fielder Felix Pie (26) on the mound during the first inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Is it just me, or do the Pirates look like a pretty solid team?

I can’t tell, really… but do we still have a great lineup?  MVP Cutch.  All-star caliber 2nd baseman, left fielder?  NL Home Run champ? Top shelf rotation? Outstanding bullpen? You know… those folks?

We still have those people, right?

Hmm..  Funny,  if you listen to Mark Madden and/or Cook and Poni – or, as I like to refer to them whenever they try to talk baseball, Mark Sadden and Crock and Phoni – you would think those players don’t exist?

Sadden claims we have too many holes and still harps on Burnett.  Phoni said he is close to “hating the line up”. Crock says we don’t have a 5 hitter and still cries about 1st base and right field.  Blah, blah, blah.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a Pittsburgh sports radio talk show host would actually be right about the Pirates for once?  Is that too much to ask?  Just, you know, have some meaningful insight based on concrete fact that is accurate every once in a while?  Is it just me? Is that an unreasonable request?

Seems like it.

But fear not, Pirate Apologists!  I will be keeping track of the facts all year.  Somebody has to…

This is the part where Mark Sadden, Crock and Phoni, and everyone else who continues to claim we are doomed to a season of inequity should read on.   If they listen, it might actually make them sound like they know something about baseball.

Let’s talk about the “holes”.


First and foremost.  Just keeping score.  AJ Burnett 0-  Edinson Volquez 1

Do you remember this garbage?:

WE DIDN’T SIGN AJ BURNETT!?!?  WE’RE DOOMED! WE SHOULD FORFEIT EVERY GAME THIS YEAR!  WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?  (weeping, tears, crying, kicking, screaming, etc)

I certainly do.  I will be keeping track of how the mighty, mighty, batman does this year.

For those who listen to the Big Tuna Show and read the columns, you’d know I predicted AJ Burnett will have a 4+ ERA and spend ample time on the DL.  As I’ve said many times, he needed Pittsburgh more than Pittsburgh needed him.  And this season will prove it.

His last outing saw him walk 6 batters and give up 5 earned in only 5 innings of work to the Cubs.

I know, I know, Charlie just got roughed up a bit by the Cubs as well, but two different games.  Take away a few bloop hits, a couple seeing eye ground ball singles, and a mistake pitch to Starling Castro and he has a good outing.  Burnett imploded.

I will be watching his progress eagerly.  You should as well.  But enough about him.  Let’s talk VOLQUEZ.

Yes, Edinson Volquez. The forgotten one.  #volquezpower  What did he do in his first start as a member of one of the best rotations in baseball?

He only came in and defied ALL the critics who said a Volquez/Wainwright matchup would be a laugher.  (Not me, of course, as I predicted a Pirate victory on my show)

But as an answer to the critics who said he would be a no-good, washed-up, has-been, waste of $5 million, Edinson pitched 5.2 nearly flawless innings against the perennial NL Central bullies to shock everyone and cement himself as the 5 for the foreseeable future.   What’s that mean for the rest of the season??

Uhh…not much, unfortunately.

Burnett will have great games like he did in his first outing and Volquez will have bad games like he did last year.  But bottom line, for right now, the score is Volquez 1- Burnett- 0!!

And that makes me feel wonderful..


If I had a dollar for every time I heard the so-called experts complain about our first base situation, I would be as rich as Nutting.  I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing the argument.  For one, if you don’t like the first base situation, then at least make a suggestion on who you would go get to make it better!  And if you say Kendrys Morales, slap yourself.

Let me ask you a question.  Would you give up Gerrit Cole and pay $15m to a guy who hit .275 last year?  Because getting Kendrys Morales would require giving up a first round draft pick on top of a ridiculous salary.  A first round draft pick is invaluable.  A first round draft pick is Gerrit Cole.  It’s not even worth discussing Kendrys Morales for at least two more months.  At that point we don’t forfeit a draft pick if we sign him.  So, if he’s still around in June, go get him.  If he’s gone by then?  Oh, well.

And if you hate first base THAT bad… make a rational suggestion.  A suggestion that actually makes sense.  That’s what real baseball analysts do.  If you don’t have one…save yourself the embarrassment and don’t discuss it.

Look at the numbers.

Garrett Jones

.207 BA, .324 OBP, .565 OPS  (not to mention 11 strikeouts with only 6 hits)

Travis Ishikawa

.294 BA, .350 OBP, .938 OPS (only 3 strikeouts)

Justin Morneau

.345 BA, .387 OBP, .766 OPS (10 hits, 9 of which are singles and he plays in Colorado.  Not fair)

Overall, T.I. stacks up quite nicely, wouldn’t you say?  It’s early, but expect him to continue giving the Pirates good at bats every time up.  The numbers will decline.  But not as far as you think.  He is a professional ball player and he can hit.  Can we stop now?

Trust in Travis, friends.

Right Field

Ah yes, the bane of so many Pirate fan’s existence.  The reason so many umm….”experts?” predicted the Pirates to not contend this year.  Let’s look.

Marlon Byrd

.233 BA, .281 OBP, .615 OPS

Travis Snider

.250 BA, .333 OBP, .538 OPS

Jose Tabata

.250 BA, .367 OBP, .690 OPS

Wow… Marlon Byrd is really killing it in Philly, huh, guys?  Yeah, we really should have signed him for two years and not played Gregory Polanco until 2016.  That makes sense.

As for Tabata/Snider, we could probably expect this type of production all year.  Tabata should hit in the .270 range.  Snider in the .240-260 range.  Not a whole lot of power from either.  But hey.  Improvement from last year and help is on the way come July.

Marlon Byrd was a good fill in player in September but is he really good enough that you would have signed him to a multi-year deal and not played Gregory Polanco???

If you said yes, I’m going to have to ask you to leave the room so the grownups can speak.  There’s no decision there.  Polanco over Byrd.  Period.  THE END.  Can we stop complaining about right field now?  The argument is stupid.  Right field is locked up.  Polanco is the future.

For those of you who said we are doomed, Pirate fans will be holding you accountable all year; and for those of you who continue to say the Pirates are dead in the water because of the “holes” in our lineup?  Do yourself a favor, wait until the numbers drastically change, THEN at least you could sound quasi-intelligent about making the argument those positions will hurt us.

I do expect Travis Ishikawa’s numbers to decline slightly.  And the right field production will actually stay about the same if not slightly improve.   But overall, both positions will produce more then they did last year.  And if I remember correctly, we did okay in 2013.

As for now, Pirate fans…. So far, so good.  Keep the faith.  Raise the Jolly Roger.  5 wins 2 losses. Go Bucs.

Follow me on twitter for real Pirate insight @TheBigTuna and tune into the The Big Tuna show every Sunday an hour before first pitch on H4TV.