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Pittsburgh Pirates: St. Louis Series Allows Team to Revisit an Old Trade

In the tumultuous but ultimately disappointing, three-game series in St. Louis, there was a consolation prize: Pirate fans got a chance to see “what else” the team got in the trade for closer Octavio Dotel, made in 2010.

That “what else” was Andrew Lambo, who made his debut Tuesday night.

Lambo is a right fielder—a position that the Pirates badly need to fill with a better player than the three incumbents: Jose Tabata, Alex Presley and Travis Snider. The Pirates tried and failed to trade these weak hitters for for a replacement before the July 31st trade deadline. 

Lambo‘s claim to fame is his power, but he strikes out a lot, which is why there is doubt as to whether he will hit for average.  He lived up to his billing in the recent series when he struck out twice in nine plate appearances, but got on base twice, with his sole hit being an RBI double (he also walked once). In these regards, he somewhat resembles slugger Pedro Alvarez.

The first installment of the Dotel trade was James McDonald, whom the Los Angeles Dodgers had pegged as a relief pitcher after a few outings. His debut as a Pirate featured six innings of a shutout start against the Colorado Rockies in the summer of 2010.

The team could certainly have used that performance this past weekend.

After that, McDonald was an on-and-off starter before his injury early in 2013. He wasn’t consistent enough to be a true ace, but he actually put up “first starter” numbers for half a season or so in both 2011 and 2012 before regressing. As such, he was a valuable stopgap during those two rebuilding years.

But the Dodgers were onto something when they designated McDonald for the bullpen.

Time has shown that he lacks the endurance to be a consistent starter over the course of a whole season. Given the current strength of the Bucs’ rotation, he will probably find a place in the bullpen if his health allows, although that would certainly not rule out his being used as a substitute starter from time to time.

Dotel commanded so much in the trade because the Dodgers wanted a closer for a playoff run (that ultimately failed). This trade was somewhat reminiscent of another trade in the Pirates’ history: The 1998 trade of reliever Ricardo Rincon for outfielder Brian Giles, who was flipped in 2003 for another outfielder, Jason Bay, starter-turned-reliever Oliver Perez (and a minor leaguer who never made it to the majors).

A fair return for a good closer might be a middle-inning reliever and a utility position player. Lambo is at least a utility player, and, as a sometime starter, McDonald has been decidedly a better pitcher than Oliver Perez, never mind the average middle reliever. If Lambo turns out to be better than a utility outfielder and more like Alvarez, or even Bay, the trade of Dotel for those two will probably have been the deal of the decade.

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Pittsburgh Pirates: How They Can Win NL Central Even with a Losing Half-Season

The Pittsburgh Pirates‘ late summer regression appears to have begun in Colorado. The sweep by the lowly Rockies was only the third sweep of the Pirates for the season (the other two occurring to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves, who lead their respective divisions).

This may be a harbinger of tougher times to come as the season winds down. We’ve seen this movie before, but the good news is that the 2013 version is likely to be much milder than what was experienced in the past two years.

In fact, the Pirates can have a losing “half-season” (after the All-Star break) and still win the National League Central.

They started with a strong first half and were 56-37 as of the All Star Break; a 34-35 finish would give the Bucs a record of 90-72, good enough to win the division based on some other assumptions listed below.

A losing second half doesn’t seem impossible when one realizes the Pirates have scored only 95 runs since the All-Star break while allowing 93. This is an extreme version of a season-long trend that has the team’s light hitting scoring only 12 percent more runs than the stellar pitching and defense give up.

If the post All-Star break trend continues for the rest of the season, the actual second-half win total could be 34, 35, 36 or some number in that neighborhood.

The low number (34) is something of a worst-case scenario, and I actually believe that Pittsburgh will finish a game or two above this level. In essence, the 90 wins I’ve hypothesized in an earlier article as the team’s 2013 ceiling is now more like its floor.

What the Pirates have done right is lead the season series against both the St. Louis Cardinals seven to three, and the Cincinnati Reds, less convincingly, seven to six. This leads me to believe that the Bucs can win six of their remaining nine games against the Redbirds and three of their remaining six games against the Redlegs.

If they actually win nine more games against the two division rivals (starting from a base of 70 going into Tuesday night’s game against the Cardinals), the Pirates would need to win only 11 games (out of 30) against the rest of baseball to bring their total to 90.

That’s a bit of a pessimistic assumption, even for me.

But based on the run differential discussed above, I’d actually be surprised if Pittsburgh wins more than 15 of these 30 games. That’s because the team typically runs “flat out” early in the season, then falls prey to the late-season wear and tear of the kind that showed up in the Colorado series.

Normally reliable Francisco Liriano was hammered in a 10-run game. A.J. Burnett fell apart for one inning, and the game. The bullpen was unable to hold the line after Jeff Locke’s six-inning, two-run quality start. Two close calls on a double play and a balk went against the Pirates. (Hopefully minor) injuries were sustained by Starling Marte and Pedro Alvarez.

In 2012, the Pirates had a lackluster August, with a record of 11-17, followed by a horrendous September-October in which they won only nine of 31 games. In 2011, the Pirates had a horrendous August with a record of 8-22, followed by a lackluster 10-18 in September.

Even if my hypothesis of a lackluster ending (11-13 wins out of a set of 30 against the non Red-bird and -leg teams) but nothing too horrendous is correct, the Pirates will make it to the postseason. Adding the further hypothesis of a strong ending against the two division rivals would mean a division title.

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Pirates vs Brewers: Fight for Third Place a Springboard to Higher Levels

Third place doesn’t doesn’t seem like much of a prize, particularly in the National League Central. But it could mark the way to bigger and better thingsin the future. Relative to the past few years, Pittsburgh is on its way up. Milwaukee has seen better days, although this relationship is the reverse of what has happened this year.

Going into tonight’s game, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers have identical records, 74-72. Pittsburgh has actually done better against the rest of the National League, 70-64, versus 66-68 for the Brewers. But Milwaukee leads the two teams’ season series eight to four.

On paper, Milwaukee looks like the more powerful team.They’ve scored the third most runs (701) in the majors. Old standbys such as 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez have been joined by rookie Norichika Aoki among the league’s best hitters. The Pirates, meanwhile, are in the bottom third offensively, although they have their own MVP candidate in Andrew McCutchen.

To balance this, the Pirates seem to have a much better rotation. However, if you take the Brewers’ Randy Wolf (whose 5.69  ERA skews up the team ERA) out of the equation, the two teams’ starting pitching is almost evenly matched. This explains Milwaukee’s advantage.

The Brewers have scored 41 runs more than they have allowed, a differential that suggests that they should be more than two games above .500. The Pirates have scored four fewer runs than they have allowed, which suggests that should be a bit below breakeven. The Pirates are just luckier in close games, while they tend to lose bigger when they lose.

To see the Pirates neck-and-neck with the Brewers this late in the season is more than many Pirate fans, including yours truly, would have hoped at the beginning of the season. That’s because they have been doing quite well against the rest of the league.

But for Pittsburgh to be a true contender, they have to win more than five games a season against Milwaukee, which they have not done since 2006. They can start by winning this series, particularly since it’s at home, and lay a foundation for 2013.

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Pittsburgh Pirates Lose to Chicago Cubs in a Comedy of Errors

Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle’s description of the Pirates‘ 12-2 loss to the lowly Chicago Cubs as “Our worst game of the season,” doesn’t really begin to describe it.

More like “one of the worst games of the century.”

The team’s seven errors in a single game tied those of a game in 1985, and was one short of the club record in 1939, according to the Associated Press (via

Hurdle should know how bad a game it was. He got himself ejected from the game trying to argue for an out on a close play that would have shortened the sixth inning.

Unfortunately, it was the Bucs’ ace, A.J. Burnett on the mound. He gave up seven runs in the loss, but only three of them were earned.

Moreover, he left after five innings—which tied for his second-shortest stint all season—putting pressure on the bullpen. (The first was a 12-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.) A pitcher who contributes mightily to the opponents’ double-digit score was the one who the New York Yankees remembered, and dumped.

Two rookies, Starling Marte and Brock Holt committed two errors apiece, while one each was contributed by relative (for the Pirates) veterans Josh Harrison, Gaby Sanchez and Rod Barajas.

Even the relievers couldn’t catch a break. Chris Leroux, a much-maligned player, gave up two runs over 1.2 innings. But neither of them were earned because the two baserunners reached on errors.This caused him to be lifted for the newly signed reliever, Hisanori Takahashi, who gave up three earned runs and let in Leroux’s two unearned runs.

On the other hand, the Cubs played brilliantly.

Aside from scoring 12 runs (six earned), their rookie pitcher, Travis Wood, pitched six innings of shutout ball—the best of his career—while relievers held the Bucs to two runs. After Burnett’s three earned runs, there was just no way the Pirates could have won, even without the errors.

A loss isn’t nice.

But in this case, its “inoculative” effects could make it a a restorative. Because the Pirates played so poorly last night that today’s game is likely to be better—if only by comparison.

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Steve Pearce: The Strange Saga of the New York Yankees Utility Player

Steve Pearce has played for three different teams this season; four, if you count the fact that he was a Yankee for two separate stretches.

He was a cast-off from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011, easily his worst season. But even in his better years, he never distinguished himself in black and gold.

Pearce was signed as a minor-league free agent at the beginning of the season by the Yankees, sold to the Baltimore Orioles in early June, claimed off waivers by the Houston Astros in late July, and re-sold to the New York Yankees in late August. That’s a lot of transactions for one player in one season.

He had a strong showing with the Orioles and a weaker one with the Astros, but combining the two over a half season yields a performance close to his personal average. Extrapolating his best fractional seasons to a whole season might yield a moderately-above-league-average player, but taking his career as a whole yields a moderately-below-league-average player.

A league-average player is supposed to contribute two more wins than a replacement player, over the course of a whole season. During such a period, Pearce might be 1.5 wins above replacement (WAR), putting him closer to league average than replacement level. Even this might make him acceptable to the Yankees at this time.

Today’s Yankees aren’t quite the team that is usually a shoo-in for a postseason slot. With injuries to key players like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixiera, the falling off has been steeper at the bottom than the top end.

Which is to say, the Yankees haven’t been able to find as many good replacements as normally has been the case in the past. That is because their farm system is bare of good prospects, and more marginal players than usual are already playing.

In his brief tenure with the Yankees, Pearce has gotten three hits in 12 at-bats, for a .250 batting average that reflects his career performance. But the home run he hit last night against the Orioles represents a month’s worth of normal production for him. Meaning that if he hits a second one in September, he will have shown more power as a Yankee than has been the case over his career.

The Yankees have come down a bit compared to their past. Pearce may be coming up relative to his past. There might finally be a match between the two.

That is, if the Yankees continue to have injuries that require a substitute outfielder or first baseman. They also acquired another former Pirate (Casey McGhee) as a utility player (in a trade for reliever Chad Qualls).

And with a newly-respectable, though not championship, Pirates team, perhaps “former Pirate” might not be as pejorative a description as might have been the case a few years ago.

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Pittsburgh Pirates: How They Might "Sell" Brad Lincoln to the Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies want Brad Lincoln as a middle reliever from the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Bucs think that two months of Shane Victorino is too little in return. The Phillies think that eight months of Hunter Pence is too much.

My previous piece put forth the opinion that an offer of Lincoln plus something else for Pence might work. This piece is about how to work a deal with Lincoln assuming that the Phillies are willing to give up Victorino, but not Pence, for him.

The Phillies aren’t contending this year, so two months of Victorino are just a liability for them (but not for the Pirates who ARE in contention). On the other hand, with Chase Utely and Jimmy Rollins healthy, they might want to keep Pence for a 2013 run.

To state my position, I’m unwilling to trade Lincoln for two months of Victorino or Pence, but would be glad to trade Lincoln for eight months of Pence (who becomes a free agent at the end of 2013). Therefore, I would accept a deal for FOUR months of Victorino/Pence.

So how can one construct “four” months of Victorino (or Pence)? Indirectly, by using prospects. Specifically, I propose that the Pirates “sell” Lincoln to the Phillies for a mid-level pitching prospect, say Julio Rodriguez or Lisalberto Bonilla, using two months of Victorino to make up the difference.

In so doing, I’m assuming that Lincoln will be a low-to-mid rotation pitcher at best, and more likely, a long reliever/spot starter. I’m not in the camp of those who think that Lincoln will blossom into a top of the line pitcher. Those people wouldn’t be willing to trade him even for Pence.

Basically, I’m saying that I want, not a top of the line prospect, but a potential replacement for Lincoln; someone who has perhaps a 50-50 chance of developing into “Brad Lincoln” in two to three years. Two months of Victorino would then represent the other 50 percent. Or put another way, the two pieces together would then represent “four” months of Victorino, which is my starting point.

If the prospect works out, the Pirates would have gotten two months of Victorino for “free.” If not, they would have traded Lincoln for the two month rental in Victorino. The average of the two is worth several months of Victorino.

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Yankees’ Andy Pettitte: A Modest Proposal to Keep Him Pitching

“Aging” Andy Pettitte wasn’t too old to pitch a brilliant eight-inning shutout game Friday night against a formidable Cincinnati Reds team. This gave him his first win in 2012, and it made up for a weakish previous start against the Seattle Mariners

His skills are still what they used to be. That is not unexpected for an older player, even a pitcher.

What is likely to be lacking in an older player is endurance. And my proposed cure for that problem will be discussed below.

To illustrate the point, in 2010, his last full year on the Yankees‘ roster, Pettitte pitched a relatively short number of starts (21) and innings (129). That reflects his lack of endurance.

But the games he did pitch were of high quality. Two-thirds of them were quality starts, second only to the much younger CC Sabathia, and Pettitte’s ERA was a close second to Sabathia’s (among starters) as well. That speaks to his skill level, and it puts him way ahead of Phil Hughes and the lately lamented AJ Burnett.

Pettitte then grew tired and “retired” at the end of 2010. The Yankees made it through 2011 without him, then paid particular attention to the gaps that had developed in the rotation. They traded for Michael Pineda of the Seattle Mariners, offering them good-hitting catcher Jesus Montero in exchange. But Pinera suffered injuries in spring training that will keep him sidelined for the 2012 season.

The Bombers also signed former Dodger hurler Hiroki Kuroda. But their hopes were dashed when he (along with Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova) saw his ERA balloon as the season got underway. And Freddy Garcia, the worst of the bunch, was pushed to the bullpen to make room for rookie David Phelps.


So Andy Pettitte came to the rescue. He is not only an adequate replacement for any the aforementioned pitchers, but he’s a front-end-caliber starter whose 2012 ERA is lower than Sabathia’s.

It’s unlikely that he’d be pitching this well if he had gone through the grind of a 2011 season. But the “year off” appears to have done a lot of good. This fact points to a solution involving him.

It might be too much to expect Pettitte to pitch for the Yankees every year. But he might be capable of pitching every other year. That is, after the 2012 season, he might sit out 2013, 2015, etc., but throw for the Bombers in 2014, 2016 and hopefully 2018, maybe even 2020. This is my “modest proposal” for him.

Yankee fans will take their chances, and possibly their lumps, in odd-numbered years. But if such a year proves disappointing, they will have Yogi Berra’s consolation: “Wait till next year,” if Pettitte’s presence in the rotation is at most one year away for the foreseeable future.

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Pittsburgh Pirates Appear to Have Solved One Problem; Need to Work on the Other

The Pittsburgh Pirates started 2012 with a record of 3-7. This does not reflect the progress they have made in one important department of the game. It does, unfortunately, speak to the lack of progress made in the other major department.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Pirates were the first team since the 1988 Rangers NOT to have scored or allowed more than five runs in any of their first ten games. Their tally of runs allowed is near the bottom of Major League Baseball. But they were also DEAD last in runs scored.

Pittsburgh had five quality starts in those first ten games. That’s not a superlative total, but it’s better than what the Bucs have been used to.

More to the point, the five non-quality starts featured at least FIVE innings with no more than three runs, which is to say that they were all “near misses,” or what I call “quasi quality starts.” With this level of pitching, some other team might be 7-3 instead of 3-7.

The Pirates’ problem still lies with their hitting. Andy McCutchen, remains, well, Andy McCutchen. But most of the rest of the team is far behind him.

The main competitor to McCutchen in the batting sweepstakes, after ten games, is Michael McKenry, a backup catcher whose on base percentage actually exceeds McCutchen’s. Alex Presley and Casey McGhee are also hitting well (although their on base percentages are below league average because they don’t walk much).

Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, Matt Hague, Josh Harrison, Clint Barnes, Rod Barajas and Nate McLouth are ALL below the Mendoza line, with Garrett Jones barely above it. With the notable  exception of McLouth, none of these batters make up for it by walking more than the league average. 

It’s sad but true that pitchers such as Erik Bedard, Kevin Correia and James McDonald have been at least as productive offensively (so far) than  these position players.

Pirate batting has always been near the bottom of the league since the mid-summer 2008 trades of Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, followed by the 2009 exchanges of then-stars Nate McLouth and Nyjer Morgan, in most cases, to get pitchers (Craig Hanson, Bryan Morris, Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf, Dan McCutchen, Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez and Joel Hanrahan).

This pro-pitching bias also reflects in recent drafts. Admittedly, the Pirates got outfielder Josh Bell along with Gerrit Cole in the first two rounds (the ones most likely to be meaningful) of the 2011 draft.

But they drafted hurlers Jameson Taillion and Stetson Allie with their 2010 picks, two pitchers (counting a compensation pick) along with catcher Tony Sanchez in 2009, Tanner Schepper (who didn’t sign) and the lackluster Pedro Alvarez in 2008, Dan Moskos and another pitcher in 2007 and Brad Lincoln and another pitcher in 2006.

Pitching is genuinely important, and the Pirates have worked hard to solve this problem, signing veterans Erik Bedard and AJ Burnett in 2012 (plus Kevin Correia, last year). But in so doing, they have neglected their hitting. With only one of the two elements working for them, the Bucs will struggle to even hit the .500 mark.

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Oakland A’s Paul DePodesta: The Unsung Hero of the Moneyball Movie

The Moneyball movie is mainly about the Oakland A’s general manager, Billy Beane. And rightly so. For it was Beane that first imposed “sabermetrics,” or baseball science, on a major league club. But if his was the vision, DePodesta was the “execution.” The title of this article gives “Peter Brand,” his rightful identity.

Most baseball clubs follow sabermetrics to some degree nowadays, but with the possible exception of the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays, probably no club is as “religious” about it. (We’ll soon see what the New York Mets do, now that Beane’s former boss and former subordinate are both there.)

The movie condenses sequences for dramatic effect, and thereby “fictionalizes” some key events. (For instance, Beane did hire DePodesta from Cleveland, but not in the melodramatic manner portrayed onscreen. And he placed a call to, but did not “drop in” on, Scott Hatteberg on Christmas.) This created the motive, and the legal right, for DePodesta to refuse to allow the movie to use his real name. 

The plot centered around the fact that the low-budget Oakland As lost three of their most recognized players, first baseman Jason Giambi, outfielder Johnny Damon, and relief pitcher Jason Isringhausen all at the end of 2001 in free agency to richer clubs.It seemed unlikely that Oakland could repeat its 2001 trip to the postseason in 2002 without them.

Beane solved the problem by redefining it. Giambi was certainly a loss in any event, but Damon was so only on defense (more on this later), but not offense. And their designated hitter, Orlando Saenz had actually been a drag. So the job was to replace the combined offense of one star and two mediocrities, hopefully with three players at comparable positions.

The three choices were Jeremy Giambi, Jason’s younger brother (with many of the same talents and faults) promoted from the minors, Dave Justice, whose injuries made him an inferior outfielder, causing him to be “dumped” on the A’s, and a comparably injured and “dumped” catcher, Scott Hatteberg. All of these men were good at drawing walks with the knack for getting on base that the Oakland A’s prized.

Between the three of them, they replaced all of Saenz’ and Damon’s offensive contributions, and some fraction of Jason Giambi’s. (Other A’s veterans, third baseman Eric Chavez and shortstop Miguel Tejada had banner years that made up the difference.)

Moreover, the A’s coach Ron Washington miraculously converted Hatteberg into a superior first baseman (the movie does not show this), and his defensive upgrade over Jason Giambi compensated for the defensive downgrade of Jeremy Giambi and Justice versus Damon.

The emergence of Hatteberg as a first baseman allowed Beane to trade Carlos Pena, a promising rookie, for a badly needed fourth starter. (Oakland already had three superlative ones in Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito.)

The movie glosses over the fact that the Pena was sent to the Detroit Tigers for this pitcher–which turned out to be the New York Yankees’ Ted Lilly. (It was a three way trade in which the Tigers sent one of their pitchers the Yankees to close the loop.)

While it was Beane’s idea to trade for a new reliever, Cleveland’s Ricardo Rincon, DePodesta did a lot of backup work, identifying a (minor league) “prospect to offer to Cleveland, and also finding prospects at the San Francisco Giants and the New York Mets to ask (not too much, not too little) in trade for their inferior reliever, Mike Venafro. This was to distract the latter two teams from pursuing Rincon.

It was DePodesta that ultimately found a suitable replacement for Isringhausen. This was Chad Bradford, a minor leaguer in the Chicago White Sox organization. He had a low ERA but also a slow fastball, and a “submarine” delivery. that smacked of Little League ball. He was a great pitcher who didn’t look at all like one, a situation called “cognitive dissonance,”  over which DePodesta’s computer easily prevailed. 

DePodesta also found a plausible substitute for Kevin Youkilis, a fat, slow, infielder with a high walk rate that the Oakland scouts had allowed Boston to take in the 2001 draft. This was Jeremy Brown, a fat, slow catcher featured at the end of the movie, who could both walk and hit home runs, but not run, playing a key defensive position where his lack of mobility didn’t hurt him.

Brown was considered by many to be a failed draft choice. He rocketed through the minors, including AAA, but couldn’t “cut it” in the majors, thereby becoming “4A.” Some 60% of first round picks don’t earn careers in the majors, so Brown was in the 10% sliver between “above average” and “made it.”

Some say that Oakland lost its advantage since the early 2000s because the Moneyball tenets were adopted by other clubs. The truth may be more prosaic, although the decline probably stemmed from the success the club DID enjoy in 2002.

This led to an offer by the Boston Red Sox that nearly took Beane away from being Oakland’s general manager. More to the point, it led to DePodesta’s being hired away from Oakland as the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004.

Without him, Beane continued to choose players based on sabermetric principles, but the quality of his choices seemed to decline mid-decade, lacking the pin-point accuracy of DePodesta and his computer.

It has been said that the U.S. South lost the Civil War as a result of their greatest victory at Chancellorsville, in which their second-ranking general, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, was accidentally shot and killed by his own men. General Robert E. Lee lamented, “I have lost my right hand.”

Similarly, the Oakland miracle may have been attenuated, when the events of 2002 caused Billy Beane to lose his right hand man.

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September Call-Ups Give Pittsburgh Pirates a Chance To See Some New Pitchers

Tonight, Jeff Locke takes the mound for the first time against the Florida Marlins. He was the third Atlanta Brave acquired in trade for Nate McLouth over two years ago. As inconsistent as he as been, Charlie Morton, the original centerpiece of the trade, has been worth no less than McLouth, meaning that if Locke (and/or Gorkys Hernandez) amounts to anything, the Pirates would have gotten the better of the deal.

Most of the Pirates’ most critical September call-ups are pitchers. Pitching is what has gotten the team as far as it did, a Central Division contender, as late as late July. Its collapse in August accounted for the Buc’s swoon last month.

This is particularly true because two of the Pirates’ earlier mainstays, Kevin Correia and Paul Maholm have been shut down for the month. Two more, Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton, are question marks for the rest of the month.

But September is the month when teams get to expand their rosters by 15 players. This helps contenders get ready for the postseason. If it had happened a month earlier, when the Bucs were a real postseason threat, it might possible have saved their season, if not for the playoffs, for .500 ball. It’s now too late to talk about THIS season but not too early to start thinking about the NEXT one.

Earlier, this month, we got to see what Brian Burres can do. Burres was in and lost a neck-and-neck race to Jeff Karstens for “fifth” starter. Karstens turned out to be much better than a fifth starter, meaning that if Burres is only “slightly” worse than Karstens, that would be very good indeed.


Burres was impressive in a 5.1 inning, one-run start against the Chicago Cubs. He did less well in 3.2 innings against the Houston Astros (a no-decision that the Pirates won). Basically, he can pitch well for “short” innings but seldom more than six. That’s acceptable, given the Pirates’ bullpen heavy staff. Alternatively, Burres can work out of the bullpen as a “long” reliever.

On the other hand, Ross Ohlendorf appears not to have recovered from his injuries. He was acquired along with Karstens (plus Jose Tabata and Dan McCutchen) in a trade of Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the New York Yankees in 2008. He hasn’t been doing well since a rough 2010 spring training.

The other replacement pitcher of note is Brad Lincoln, although he worked as a reliever early in August, before starting in games in August and September. He’s had four consecutive quality starts, which represents an improvement from 2010.

The Pirates have a number of competent, but “short-innings” pitchers. As such, they need to pay more attention than most teams to their replacements. In 2011, it seems like the “replacement” process started too late to prevent the team from going back to their losing ways.



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