Thursday, May 26, 2011

McCutchen: in the midst of a breakout

by Mike Z

So when I decided to do a post on Andrew McCutchen, I was planning to write how I though that he's striking out way too much to begin the season, which is keeping his production down. After looking at his stats, I realized he's probably having the best season of his career. Sound weird for a guy with a batting average of .246? I'll break down what I found to try and prove that he is having a very good season so far, and that it should only be getting better.

The first thing that jumps out to expain the low batting average is his low BABIP of .259. His career BABIP over his first two years was .319, so it's reasonable to expect it to regress back over .300, causing his average to jump as well. That said, I wanted to look into his batted ball statistics to see if there is a reason why the BABIP is low. It looks like batting in the 3 spot and trying to hit more HRs has a lot to do with it. The first 2 years had a fly ball percentage of about 39% and this year it is 46.9%, which in turn dropped his ground ball percentage from 43% to 36.7% From him trying to hit for more power, he's had fewer batted balls that he hasn't had the opportunity to run out for an infield single. But has this swing helped his power output?

A great indicator for power is ISO (isolated power), which is calculated by slugging percentage minus the player's batting average. In a nutshell, it takes out singles and measures the player's ability to hit for extra bases. McCutchen's ISO is .207 , good for 5th among all CF. The leauge average this year for ISO is .137, and McCutchen's highest ISO before this year was his rookie year when it was .185, which is a huge difference.

His plate discipline has improved greatly from the beginning of the year when he struck out 27 times in April, but only 9 times so far in May. His K% is down to 17.9% which is still a tad high for him, but it's well below league average of 20.7% His BB% is a great 12.6%, 4% over league average. Combined, his BB/K ratio of 0.81 is 2nd among all CF (Denard Span leads with 10.7). He's really putting it together now. His triple slash line for May is .277/.368/.494 which is much more like the McCutchen we expect.

Switching over to his fielding, he is drastically improved from last year. Anybody who's into sabermetrics will tell you how flawed all the defensive metrics are, but UZR seems to be the most reliable, although it doesn't take into account how hard a ball is hit. Last year his UZR/150 (ultimate zone rating over 150 games) was a miserable -12.9 but this year it's a respectable 7.9, good for 10th among CF. For fun, gold glover Nate McLouth is dead last at -29.1.

Putting everything together, his WAR is 1.8, tied for 27th in the league and tied for 7th among all CF. For as much as Pittsburghers tend to say he's only having a decent season and for the few people that drive me crazy saying he won't be as good as Jason Bay (he already is). If he continues on this trend through June like he produced in May, he'll be all over Baseball Tonight and MLB Network before you know it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ray Lewis is crazy

By Jeff

In case you missed ESPN's Sunday Conversation this weekend with Ray Lewis, here is my gift to you.

Here is an argument I had not heard before. No football this September will result in more "evil" and "crime" in our society. Why? Because people will have nothing else to do.

Really? There are other sports going on when the NFL season is happening. Also, I really don't think people will be sitting on their couches Sunday, notice there is no football, and then decide to rob someone. I'm sure there is a study out there somewhere that looks at crime rates for days local teams are on bye, but my quick Google search didn't turn anything up on the first page.

In Ray-Ray's defense, he plays in Baltimore. Crime tends to happen more there than in most places. Or he was just watching an episode of the "The Wire" and thought it was a documentary. Either way, there is some defense to what he said. But let's be honest. He's crazy.

It's not just a ridiculous statement, but look at Ray-Ray's expression when he says it. Those eyes tore through my soul. I would be amazed if Sal Paolantonio didn't crap his pants when Ray-Ray shot that glance. By the way, doesn't Paolantonio sound like it should be two separate words? Maybe he was born Sal Paul Antonio but needed a stage name. Who knows?

Girl Talk - All Day

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Should the Pirates have kept Jose Bautista?

by Mike Z

In the past couple weeks, a few people in the media and radio talk shows started tearing into the Pirates again for trading away Jose Bautista. Sure, it's simple enough to say "look at what he's doing now" to blast the trade, but very little is being brought up about his statistics at the time to determine whether the transaction was justifiable. That said, I decided to look at Bautista's statistics before the trade, and to provide some other "failed prospects" over the last couple seasons with the Pirates. This should hopefully provide some context over the moves.

With the statistics provided by Fangraphs, I compiled and calculated totals from the beginning of their careers (whether or not they began their career in Pittsburgh), up until the last game they played for the Pirates, as well as their age when the Pirates parted ways with them. The categories I used were Plate appearances (PA), batting average (AVG), on base percentage (OBP), slugging percentage (SLG), home runs (HR), runs batted in (RBI), and cumulative Wins Above Replacement player over the time span (WAR). I added in WAR because it also takes into account the player's defensive metrics as well. Here's my list of 5 players, in order of most plate appearances and let's see if you can guess who they are. Also, from not knowing who these players are, decide which, if any, of these 5 you would keep around.

Player A - age 24

1665 0.269 0.327 0.394 33 167 1.4

Player B - age 27
1562 0.234 0.332 0.361 43 97 -0.3

Player C - age 25
1228 0.225 0.341 0.338 22 108 1.3

Player D - age 25

779 0.258 0.317 0.393 17 81 0.8

Player E - age 25

743 0.238 0.303 0.385 15 78 0.7

OK class, pencils down. Here's who they are:

A=Lastings Milledge

B=Jose Bautista

C=Andy LaRoche

D=Delwyn Young

E=Brandon Moss

Anybody else as surprised as I was that Lastings Milledge out-performed Bautista with only about 100 plate appearances separating the two? With Milledge, Bautista, and LaRoche having a comparable number of plate appearances, I feel they make for a great comparison. I think these numbers make a great case that the Bautista trade at the time, is not only defensible, but almost surprising that anybody would trade for him at all.

Watching Bautista while on the Pirates, it was pretty obvious that he had the capability to hit for power, but the only person who he had a higher slugging percentage than on this list was Andy LaRoche, which in itself is pretty remarkable (I re-checked my calculations 3 or 4 times because I didn't believe it either!)

With 1500+ plate appearances, it looked like Bautista wasn't going to approve much more, and already being 27 at the time, there was every indication that at that time, he looked like nothing more than the 25th man on a roster. The WAR is glaring for him because over 2004 to 2009, his overall play actually cost the team about a win. This is mostly driven by his defense. Although he could play 5-6 positions, he graded only below average at RF, and downright awful at everything else but 1B.

You could make a great case that Milledge would have been projected to have a better career that Bautista. Regardless, there was no way anybody would have predicted THIS. Remember, he was a waiver claim by Toronto, so Every NL team passed on him before he passed through the AL. Even then, Toronto threatened to non-tender Bautista if he took contract negotiations into arbitration (he signed a one year deal instead). Sure, it sucks seeing the guy you had have possibly the greatest career turnaround in MLB history, or maybe even professional sports. There's no way of knowing, or even anticipating, Bautista doing this with the Pirates if he weren't traded. There have been reports that the mechanics of his new swing were suggested by the Pirates coaching staff but that he only decided to accept the changes when he realized that he would be out of the majors otherwise.

It is completely unfair to judge this trade based on Bautista's current production. Almost nobody cared, let alone were upset, at the time of the trade. He was that replaceable at the time and Andy LaRoche was coming in to try his hand as the next 3B. It doesn't look like there was anything else the Pirates could have done, and we just need to accept that, and just enjoy the show that Jose Bautista is putting on. A story like this may not happen again in our lifetime.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Random sports thoughts

By Jeff

It feels like a long time since I've had anything to say about sports. Well, here are the things that have been buzzing around in my head for the past week or so. Some of these are a little outdated. Deal with it.

Apparently Posada also refused to
take off his catching gear.
  • Jorge Posada is a little girl. Wait, that might be insulting to little girls who would be happy to play baseball, no matter where they're placed in the lineup, for almost $72,000 per game. Posada reportedly refused to play in a game against the Boston Red Sox because he was dropped to ninth in the order. He is batting .179, so why is he even in the lineup to begin with? This would qualify for the Athletes Being Stupid series, but I've pretty much said all I have to say on this matter.
  • How a week changes things. Last Monday the Pittsburgh Pirates were 18-17 and looking like a real baseball team. Then they lost six in a row. Now those are the Buccos we know and love!
  • Charlie Morton has two complete games, one shutout and an ERA of 2.62. Nate McLouth is batting .250 with three home runs. This is looking like a solid trade. Last year was a wash as they both were terrible.
  • Jose Bautista is destroying American League pitching again. Not only does he have 16 homers, but he's batting .372 and has scored 35 runs. And he's missed eight games. It's early, but I smell MVP.
  • While everyone is talking about Derek Jeter's struggles, nobody seems to be talking about Alex Rodriguez and his .266 average, Mark Teixeira's .257 average, and Nick Swisher forgetting how to play baseball. 
  • There is some kind of news about the NFL lockout. None of it means crap at this point. If no headway has been made come the end of June, I'll find a college football team to follow. Go Badgers.
Whose hand is that?
  • I'm not a big basketball fan. I don't know much about basketball because I rarely watch it. But even I know Dirk Nowitzki is really good. Really good.
  • I have actually been watching this round of the NBA playoffs. It seemed like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade gave up in Game 1. They responded well in Game 2. I hate Joakim Noah.
  • Mike's and my Rinko teams are sucking up the joint. It's my fault. Jeff Carter as alternate captain? What the hell was I thinking? Should have made the goalies captains.
  • And the San Jose Sharks are back. It looked like they may get over the hump this year, but a sweep is looking likely. 
Admit it, you think these CGI chicks are hot. You're not alone.
  • I saw "Thor" last week (2-D). It was all right. Nothing special. The whole time I was thinking that the makers of the movie really wanted Heath Ledger for the role of Thor. Marvel has me hooked. I want to see all these comic book movies even though I know they won't be that great. I blame "Iron Man" because it was really good. If only Robert Downey Jr. could play every super hero.
  • I've been playing "Final Fantasy XIII" and it's a little disappointing. The game is so linear. There is no exploring or world map. Final Fantasy games are all about vast areas that you explore and get into battles you are in no way prepared to fight at that stage in the game. This game feels like an old-fashioned side-scrolling game. You know, where you run from one side of the screen to the other and enemies will just pop up for you to kill. The story is good, but it doesn't feel like Final Fantasy or an RPG.
Frightened Rabbit - Keep Yourself Warm

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Rise and Fall of Dejan Kovacevic?

by Mike Z

First off, I want to say that not only was Dejan by far the best beat writer in Pittsburgh, I really feel he could be considered one of top beat writers in the country. While here and there, his opinion may have shown in some of his articles, I feel like he did a fantastic job in obtaining info, and re-checking it to give detailed, objective information while doing research on topics that were very relevant to the Pirates' situation. It was obvious that he worked so hard at his craft not only because he loved his job, but also he loved his hometown, and wanted to do his best for it.

This year, his job description changed from beat writer, to blogging all of the Pittsburgh teams via the Post-Gazette website. I was really disappointed he was leaving the Pirates beat, but decided in the end this wouldn't be a terrible move. First off, this was by his choice and he would be able to be around his family more (which he stated multiple times was a huge perk), and that he first was on the Penguins beat, so he should be well-informed and offer some interesting opinions. At the worst, he is still a fantastic writer and I loved his stuff on the PG's PBC Blog, so I thought I would enjoy this change. Man was I wrong.

The more and more I read of his, the more I just can't stand it. What set me off for this post is a tweet he sent off today in response to Tony Sanchez taking down his Twitter account, even though Kyle Stark indicated the Pirates have no restrictions on the Pirates using social media. His tweet:

"Bottom line: Every second anyone with wasted on tweets was time they could have been finding/developing a shortstop."

Seriously how does this have ANYTHING to do with player scouting and development? Regardless of what you feel about twitter, I'm fairly positive it's not going to cause organizations to lose track of all levels of their minor league. Now is it a fair criticism that the Pirates needed to address this but didn't? Absolutely, but this is a ridiculous association to make. He's carried this on ever since they missed out on trading for J.J. Hardy. Taking a shot is fine, but mentioning it constantly since December is not necessary.

Blasting the front office about Sanchez taking his account down is also ridiculous because the Pirates did say there is no restriction. In another instance foregoing fact-checking, he had a post blasting the Pirates for trading Jose Bautista, stating '"The Bautista who hit 15 HR with .360 OBP, good eye, multiple positions in field was good enough to keep over third-string catcher." The thing with this is, and I'm assuming he's talking about 2007 (the only year he hit 15 HR), Jose Bautista's OBP was the highest it was with the Pirates, and that was only .339, and was barely considered better than a AAA player according to WAR. (Sidebar: if there's enough interest in Bautista, I'll do a post analyzing whether it was an acceptable move at the time for the Pirates to cut bait)

Not only did he fabricate stats, but he's using hindsight to judge a personnel move using Bautista's current value, when his value at the time basically was a third-string catcher. He also did the same thing belaboring the loss of Nate Adcock in the rule 5 draft. If you have time, Dejan had a fantastic Twitter fight with Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects about this, so I won't go into it. Bringing all this together, it's simply more and more examples of Dejan (and I didn't touch his thoughts on the Garrett Jones/Matt Diaz platoon, Ryan Doumit, PR issues. etc...) sounding less and less like the great writer I enjoyed and more and more like the other PG blogger I despise.

I'm hoping a lot of this starts to change, but I'm not holding my breath. Kovacevic is doing what he wants now, which is great, but unfortunately I don't think it will ever come close to his beat writing. For a guy who recently whined about "basement run blogs", he's still got a lot to learn, and I'm not too sure I'll be reading him long enough to find out if he changes the professionalism of his blog for the better.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chuck renewed for Season 5

By Jeff

Sorry for the hiatus. There is a lot going on in my life right now so the blog has been a bit neglected.

Anyway, I am writing this quick post to say "Chuck" will be back in the fall for a fifth season on NBC. Wooo!

"Chuck" got another 13-episode order, and will hopefully get another 12 or so episodes if ratings are OK. So watch get caught up this summer and watch in the fall. This is one of the best shows on television. It's smart, funny, has great action and some excellent eye candy in Yvonne Strahovski. She is good for at least four cat fights with other hot women every season.

Sorry I don't have any sports thoughts today. It's kind of a dead time in my sports fandom right now.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

DUIs should lead to suspensions

By Jeff

If you read this blog on a somewhat consistent basis, you know I get extremely pissed when athletes get arrested for drunk driving and then don't get punished at all.

Well, I had a ray of hope when this article came out. It just makes sense to hold athletes feet to the fire when it comes to driving drunk. It's such a joke that there are provisions for weed and cocaine, but not alcohol. Sure, one substance is legal while the others are not, but driving while drunk is illegal and should have a specific provision with how to deal with players who abuse alcohol and choose to drive.

Of course, then I read this article, which got me upset. I hear players saying it drinking and driving should not be a cause for suspension because the guilty party might be punished by the law, and that should be enough.

I don't get it. Teams and the league fine and suspend players and managers for tweets or being critical of the league and umpires. But they shouldn't punish players and managers for breaking the law and endangering other people's lives? It's not a knee-jerk reaction as it was written in the Crasnick story. Drinking and driving has been a problem plaguing the country for years. And athletes need to be held to higher standards. That's the life they chose.

No is saying they can't have a beer after work. What I'm saying is they need to held accountable for their reckless actions. These prepared statements from the teams after the incident aren't enough. They always say they will monitor the situation and deal with it accordingly. Let me translate this. What they're really saying is, "We're going to act like nothing happened, keep our guy in the lineup and hope no one ever talks about this again."

What a joke.

Pearl Jam - Just Breathe

Dear NBA, I'm sorry

By Jeff

Last month I said something about not caring about the NBA playoffs because it would end up with the Lakers or Spurs playing the Celtics or Heat in the finals.


Now I can't really specific with how wrong I was. I've only watched two full games of the postseason. But looking at the results and it's easy to see how wrong I was about what would happen.

The Memphis Grizzlies, the No. 8 seed in the West, crushed the Spurs and is tied 2-2 with the Thunder. The Atlanta Hawks destroyed the Orlando Dwight Howard (Are there other players on that team?). And the Lakers crapped themselves and got swept by the Dallas Mavericks.

I wish I could give more details and opinions about the games, but I still don't care. I just wanted to take a moment to apologize to the NBA for judging them without knowing what I was talking about. It happens.

Big Country - Steel Town

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Stop with the bunting Hurdle before I hurt someone

by Mike Z

/RANT ALERT - hide the small children

I was able to watch the last two innings of the Pirates-Astros game as a study break, and did I make a mistake with that. Unless it's the pitcher hitting, I very rarely agree with bunting people over. ESPECIALLY when you're taking the bat out the hands of your best hitter.

In the 8th inning last night, the Pirates were down 3-2, with the pitcher's spot due to hit. Wilton (yes, Wilton) Lopez has relieved Wandy Rodriguez. Xavier Paul pinch hits and takes a walk on 4 pitches. So with a pitcher that isn't hitting the strike zone and McCutchen coming up, Hurdle decides he wants to just hand them an out. It doesn't matter if he's slumping or not. Considering his statistics as well as Lopez, do you want to know what it did for the Pirates? It DECREASED their odds of winning by 4%. Who cares if Paul is on 2nd with 1 out? I don't know about you, but I'd rather have first and second with no out from a single/walk/error, or if he hits a double, the game could likely be tied.

Hurdle trying to decide if he should bat Maholm 2nd.

The chance of hitting into a double play with an average hitter, let alone your best player, usually statistically hurts your chances to win, let alone break even. For every double play, there's a ground ball out to the right side of the field that advances the runner anyway. If McCutchen wants to try to bunt for a hit and not a straight sacrifice, that I have no problem with. The Pirates are not good enough to overcome their manager making it tougher for them to win games. So far, he's had McCutchen, Tabata, Walker, Overbay, Doumit, and also Alvarez who wasn't able to get his bunt down (which I could rant on for a few more hours with that decision alone).

It doesn't matter if bunting the man over is tradition strategy. I understand doing away with the sac bunt is more of a sabermetric thought process, and I probably wouldn't have as much of a problem if a position player like Cedeno is bunting, but this is inexcusable to me. Hurdle's showing so far he has no problem having anybody on the roster bunt. I think he's done a lot of things right this year, but if he keeps this up, I'll (almost) want John Russell back.


Death Metal Voice Exercises

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Friday!

By Jeff

I haven't had anything related to dogs in a long time, and I'm sorry.

Please accept this video as an apology.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Where Were You?: July 28, 2001

By Jeff

Editor's note: "Where Were You?" is a series where blog contributors will share where they were for memorable moments in Pittsburgh and general sports history.

According to, there have only been 24 walk-off grand slams in the history of Major League Baseball, which began 1876 (Some will argue 1869). To put that in perspective,  says there have been 396,186 games played and 261,043 home runs hit. For you math geeks, or people with a calculator handy, of all the home runs hit in the history of MLB, much less than 1 percent of them have been walk-off grand slams (It's like .00009). Brian Giles hit one of those walk-offs for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the team's inaugural season in PNC Park.

I was there.

Blog contributor Mike, his father, his godfather and I attended the afternoon game against the Houston Astros on a beautiful day. It was perfect for baseball. There were some hotties sitting in front of Mike and me that we didn't dare make a move on, as we decided to get wings that were all over our hands. Also, I can't remember that well if they were actually hotties. I was much more in to devouring my wings and watching the game.
The day I almost witnessed magic.

The day marked the first time I met Mike's godfather. He seemed like a nice guy. He bought the wings and was cracking jokes the entire time. He was very energetic and seemed to like talking to Mike and me, which is the exact opposite of Mike's dad. But Mike's dad provided the tickets (And a lot more after) so I am obligated to praise his generosity and all-around goodness.

Back to the game.

Roy Oswalt pretty much shut down the Pirates for six innings, as he allowed two runs on seven hits. Pirates starter Bronson Arroyo was OK, except for the two bombs Luis Castillo hit. Then Omar Olivares came in and Castillo took him deep as well.

Basically, the game was the Pirates vs. Luis Castillo, and Castillo was dominating. Not only did he have three home runs, but he was inches away from a fourth. Giles robbed him of what would have been a home run. Castillo actually received a standing ovation from Pirates fans after his third bomb. He deserved it.

Well, Castillo's assault and Oswalt's solid performance gave the Astros an 8-2 lead in the ninth inning. Fortunately, the fans rallied around their team and stayed to the bitter end. And boy did they get rewarded for their loyalty.

Astros reliever Mike Jackson, who entered the game in the eighth inning, struggled in the ninth. He gave up three runs, including a two-run homer (It ended up being the final home run of his MLB career) to cut the lead to three runs. Jackson allowed two more baserunners before he was pulled in favor of closer Billy Wagner, who finished the season with 39 saves in 2001. All of this was with two outs.

Game over, right? Yes, but not the way it was supposed to.

Wagner allowed a baserunner, bringing Brian Giles to the plate with the bases loaded. Fans were going nuts. Down three, bases loaded and the Pirates best hitter up to bat; could it get any more intense? Well, maybe if the Pirates were fighting for a playoffs spot, but let's not nitpick.

What followed was the 21st walk-off grand slam in the history of MLB. The crowd was roaring, Pirates players were racing to be the first to congratulate Giles, fireworks were exploding, and I was in a car crossing the Fort Pitt Bridge listening to the damned thing on the radio!

That's right, with the score 8-3 in the ninth inning, Mike's godfather wanted to beat the traffic all Pittsburghers know and despise. As we walked through the parking lot, we heard some fireworks that were the result of Meares' home run. When we got in the car, we didn't listen to the radio. Maybe Mike's godfather and dad didn't want us to hear the potential comeback, maybe they just didn't think to turn it on. I can't confirm or deny either event.

After a few minutes, the radio was turned on and I immediately began to dislike Mike's godfather. The postgame host could hardly describe the scene that had just occurred at PNC Park. The Pirates had won on a walk-off grand slam by Giles. One of the rarest accomplishments in all of baseball and I was in the backseat of an SUV on the middle of the Fort Pitt Bridge! And I'm pretty sure there was still traffic.

Can anyone blame me if I recently wrote a letter to Seal Team 6 regarding a special mission to Detroit?

In Mike's dad's defense, he, Mike, my dad and I were at a baseball game two years ago again where the Pirates were losing to the Kansas City Royals. It started raining pretty good and Mike's dad and the rest of us were miserable. But at no point did he propose we leave early. When I finally brought up heading out, he said along the lines of, "I wasn't going to say anything or else you'd hate me forever too."

We left and the Pirates didn't win. But we did leave early on July 28, 2001, and it's an experience that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Ben Folds - Sleazy (Ke$ha Cover)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mendenhall explains tweets... kind of

By Jeff

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall has posted an explanation for his recent tweets  regarding 9/11 that many saw as controversial.

Mendenhall's letter was reported on the Post-Gazette's Web site here.

OK, so he elaborated on his belief that people should not celebrate death. I never had a problem with that part of his tweets. What he doesn't explain is his reasoning behind saying we never heard Osama bin Laden's side of the story. It seems like he conveniently forgot to address the inaccuracy of that tweet.

I like that he came out with clarification. The apology shows he is smarter than his tweets on Monday. What I don't like is he didn't correct himself regarding only hearing one side of the story and hating someone without hearing them speak. Osama bin Laden gave his side. He was happy he helped murder innocents. Millions of people across the globe heard him give this message.

Mendenhall claims he wanted to encourage people to think and look at the issue from a different perspective, which I respect and agree with. The problem was his tweets contained false statements and that's where a lot of the anger toward him came from.

Pitching keeping Pirates afloat

By Jeff

The 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates are off to a better start than most people anticipated. They're 14-16 and have a 10-8 record on the road after only winning 17 road games all last year.

I said in a post in early April that this team was exciting. Not because necessarily because of their record, but because they were getting clutch moments from the young talent who are tasked with leading the team out of the dark ages. Players like Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez were making big plays and providing timely hitting. Pirates fans were counting on them to overcome the horrible pitching the team was supposed to have.
Despite his unimpressive hitting,
this pose is very impressive

But then something weird happened. The team's pitching staff started doing well and these young hitters all seemed to slump at the same time. There is no way I would have believed you if you told me in March Kevin Correia would have an ERA below 4 in April, let alone 3.

So the pitching is keeping the Pirates competitive while the young lineup with boat loads of potential hold the team back? When did we land in Bizarro World?

The Pirates pitching staff has a team ERA of 3.72, which is 10th in the National League. It's certainly not great, but who it's a lot better than I ever thought it would be. Leading the way are Kevin Correia and Charlie Morton, two men who were lightning rods for jokes in the offseason. Correia has an ERA of 2.90 and Morton, although prone to walks, is at 3.52. Blog contributor Mike is sitting in an igloo by Lake Erie right now yelling, "I told you so!" to the world about Morton.

While the pitching has pleasantly surprised everyone, including Mike, the lineup has gone to hell.

  • Jose Tabata started out great. He was batting .317 and getting on base at a .427 clip as of April 18. Today he is at .242 and .333, respectively. I have no idea what happened, but he's definitely striking out too often.
  • Andrew McCutchen has struggled since the second week of the season. While he has five home runs, he's batting .222 and striking out almost 25 percent of his at bats.
  • Neil Walker hasn't fallen off a cliff yet. He's batting .284 and has been consistent all season. But once again, he strikes out way too much. Are you seeing a pattern here? The Pirates strike out a lot.
  • Pedro Alvarez is a mess. Not only does he tuck his ears into his hat, but seems to start every at bat with an 0-2 count. As a power hitter, his 34 strikeouts would be defensible if he was hitting for any kind of power, which he is not doing. Alvarez has five extra-base hits in 99 at bats and only one of them is a home run.
While they are sucking right now, I still think this core of position players have the potential to carry the Buccos to a winning season in the near future. I'm also terrified as to what will happen to the team this season when the pitching comes back to earth and the lineup doesn't wake up. 

April gave us a taste of what this team is capable of if the pitching and hitting is clicking at the same time. Just look at that first road trip. The big question is can they ever do it again?