The Hanging Curve – Baseball Opinion Blog with MLB Analysis that won’t Bend or Break

Pirate Booty

It has been nearly a month since the Pirates completed their foray into the 2008 trade market (they were also able to send Bautista to Toronto past the deadline) with the big-splash, three-team deal sending Bay to the Bay City.  Here’s a breakdown of how all the bits and pieces of the various deals have fared, starting with the players that have departed from the Bucs.

  • Xavier Nady has continued his career year without pause.  He has already blasted eight long balls in 27 games with the Yankees, boosting his slugging percentage and OPS while his average and OBP have barely budged.  I find this pace unlikely to continue into next season, especially in the average/OBP side of things, he does have pretty good power though.  Even with Matsui back, Nady has remained a constant fixture in left field, Matsui moving into DH to help keep him healthy.
  • Dámaso Marte has not fared too well with the Yankees.  In 12 games he has a 8.68 ERA with seven walks in 9.1 IP.  He does, however, have 14 K, and four of his earned runs came to a walk of Byrd grand slam shortly after donning his pinstripes.  I think the Yankees have the wrong idea about Marte: I think he does better as a full-inning setup man (as I’ve said before) than as a lefty specialist.  The Yankees have pitched him less than an inning in half his appearances.
  • Jason Bay hit the ground running in Boston.  He has hit .333/.385/.529 with 20 R, 4 HR, 18 RBI and 3 SB in 21 games.  Plus, he has already compiled three outfield assists prowling the MUCH smaller Boston left field.  His first game with the Sox he tripled and scored the winning run in the bottom of the 12th.

Now, for the booty the Pirates plundered, starting with the Yankees deal:

  • Jeff Karstens’ first two games with the Pirates were brilliant.  He pitched six scoreless innings his first outing, following up with a game in which he lasted 7.2 perfect innings, and ended up giving up two hits in a CG shutout.  Since then, he has sparkled a bit less, but still his overall Pittsburgh stat-line is 3.48 ERA, 12/9 K/BB and a 2-3 record in 31.0 IP.  His problem so far has been 5 HRs in the last three starts.  I like Karstens because he has some pretty decent stuff, with absolutely no fear as a pitcher.  He pounds the strikezone like a redneck does his wife, which will in the end make him prone to up and down outings.  He has been, by far, the most efficient Pirate pitcher in recent memory (although Maholm has been pretty good about this).
  • Ross Ohlendorf has pitched six games for the Pirates AAA Indianopolis, going 3-3 with a 3.24 ERA and an exquisite 35/8 K/BB ratio in 41.2 IP.  He hasn’t shown much at the major league level yet, but Ohlendorf projects as third to fifth starter.  With the recent revelation that only Maholm is a lock for the 2009 rotation (I heard this on last night’s broadcast), he should at best be in the rotation and at worst help light a fire under some guys to get THEM into the rotation.  Both Snell and Gorzellany obviously have some offseason work to do…Snell needs to do some film study and mental work, Gorzo probably just needs to get back to being healthy after getting ravaged by Jim Tracy last year; but you can never be too sharp mentally.
  • Daniel McCutchen–hearing a McCutchen was being involved in this trade made my heart skip two or three beats.  By far the best prospect in the Pirates system for the last couple years has been Andrew McCutchen and for a second I thought the new management shipped off our best hope for success in the next few years, but instead it was a McCutchen we would be receiving.  He has pitched at AAA Indy for 6 games as well, going 2-2 with a 4.62 ERA.  This ERA may be a little unfairly inflated because he has a 1.14 WHIP and a pretty good 27/7 K/BB, so perhaps he has just had a little bad luck, or perhaps it’s the 8 HR he has already given up.  Again, this guy hopefully either enters the rotation or pushes some guys into a good healthy competition and at worst he becomes pitching depth in an organization that (before Huntington did so much work this year) was absolutely devoid of anything that could be claimed as a pitching prospect besides recovering Brad Lincoln and possible burnout Daniel Moskos (he was a stretch when drafted, but still has been puzzlingly bad compared to the solid first-round talent most teams pegged him as).
  • Jose Tabata is the most exciting thing to come out of these trades, at least prospect-wise.  He was listed behind Joba Chamerlain and Ian Kennedy as the Yankees’ third-best prospect.  He turned 20 two weeks ago and had to wait for a couple weeks or so after the trade to get started with AA Altoona because of a wrist injury.  Some have compared him to a young Manny Ramirez, but comparisons aside, he rehabbed in the Rookie League GCL Pirates for four games with an eye-popping (as it should be) .455/.538/1.091 (yes that’s AVG/OBP/SLG, not OPS) with 4 R, 2 HR and 7 RBI.  In AA Altoona he hasn’t slowed down much with .369/.423/.569 and 13 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, and 6/6 in SB attempts.  Considering that having barely turned 20, his power has likely not developed very much (escpecially since he is coming off a wrist injury), a .569 slugging average for such a young player in AA is very impressive.  I will definitely keep you posted on how he is doing.

And now on to the Bay deal:

  • Craig Hansen.  Ugh.  He has not performed well with the Pirates thus far.  There is no doubting the kid’s electric stuff.  He has a mid-90’s fastball and a tight, late-breaking slider that is just devastating.  When it’s in the strikezone.  For that matter, he has to get his fastball in the strikezone just so he has a CHANCE to throw his slider.  As was being rumored, he has been optioned to AAA Indy to work out some kinks in favor of 25-year-old reliever Jesse Chavez.  His outing last night in a bizarre (but at that point tight) game was a microcosm of his struggles.  He came into a tight game (Russel feels he has nothing to lose throwing the young guy into the fire at this point in another likely losing season), could not get the ball over the plate and ended up walking in two runs in a row to give up the lead and blow the save opportunity.  The other two runs he “earned” were inherited by the next pitcher.  His line is 0-2, 8.10 ERA, 3/12 K/BB (shudder) in 10 IP.  He has earned a save.  Last year and early this year have been encouraging that this kid can turn it around.  Hopefully the Pirates minor league coaching staff does more good than harm with him (not guaranteed by any means) and he’ll be the closer-in-waiting setup man for a few years to come.
  • Bryan Morris was the only prospect the Pirates received in this deal who wasn’t major league ready or close to it.  He missed 2007 with Tommy John surgery and pitched well so far this year with a 3.20 ERA and 72 K in 81.2 IP before the trade.  With the Class-A Hickory team, he has gone 0-2 with a 5.04 ERA and 11/12 K/BB in 14.1 IP.  HIs record is meaningless as the ‘Dads are 20-43 this year, but the walks are a little worrisome.  He managed to keep them to a not terrible 3.42/9 IP with the Dodger’s affiliate, but last year in rookie ball his walk rate was not good.  Something to keep an eye on for sure.  He has two good pitches and a changeup is in progress; he could go up or down from here.
  • Andy LaRoche was a very interesting piece to this trade.  His minor league numbers have been pretty impressive (.294/.380/.517 with 95 HRs over six years) but the Dodgers never really gave him a chance and instead opting to trade for Casey Blake to man third while plugging in Nomar Garciaparra at SS (shudder).  So far he has been pretty bad for the Pirates, only batting .125 while currently mired in an 0-for-20-something slump, but he does have a couple of dingers and 6 walks in 64 ABs.  I would wager that walk rate beats anyone who is currently on the Pirates excluding McLouth.  While showing great HR power even in the minors, some argue that his power ceiling is already met, evidenced by his lack of doubles in the minor leagues.  Time will tell:  he will be given a far better chance to succeed than he got with the Dodgers; Neil Walker is not ready offensively or defensively (but still quite young at 22) and Scott Boras, agent of first round pick Pedro Alvarez, has decided to play more games with the Pirates, after they defeated him in signing negotiations.
  • Brandon Moss has been the sole performer out of this deal so far.  Only batting .247 at the moment, he has an impressive 4 HR, 5 2B and 10 BB in his 81 ABs so far.  He’s patroled both corner spots well, more often playing the huge LF area vacated by Bay and turned in 2 double plays with 3 outfield assists already.  As opposed to LaRoche, Moss hit a decent number of homies in the minors with a prodigous amount of doubles, so that bodes well for his developing power.  Expect the 2009 Pirates outfield to be McLouth, McCutchen, Moss/Pearce–either in Platoon or whoever wins the job.  Expect him to be a fixture for a few years to come, perhaps being a centerpiece on the next competitive Pirates team.

Well, that’s how the Pirate booty has fared so far.  I’ll keep you informed.

RP Rotisserie

Trip and I were talking the other day about how ridiculous relief pitching has become. Since when was it not only socially acceptable, but common practice to have a pitcher(s) who can only pitch 1/27th of the game? At most? It’s cowardice.

Then, low and behold, the box score I was following spits out this gem of an inning:

A. Ramirez singled to left
K. Fukudome doubled to deep center, A. Ramirez to third
M. DeRosa singled to right center, A. Ramirez scored, K. Fukudome to third
R. Cedeno struck out swinging
D. Ward hit for H. Blanco
P. Feliciano relieved J. Smith
G. Soto hit for D. Ward
M. DeRosa to second on wild pitch
G. Soto intentionally walked
M. Murton hit for B. Howry
J. Sosa relieved P. Feliciano
M. Murton grounded into fielder’s choice, K. Fukudome out at home, M. DeRosa to third, G. Soto to second
R. Johnson grounded out to second

End result is Feliciano comes in to throw a wild pitch, and intentionally walk a batter, then he’s dumped for Sosa. And the Cubs play right back: they payed Ward something along the lines of $7,500 (his salary per diem) to stand in the on deck circle for a couple minutes.

Now, some of this I can tolerate. Take a Dámaso Marte. A manager might consider him a left-handed specialist because his career splits list a .193 BAA by lefties. However, righties have only hit .249, which is significantly higher, but it’s still good. The man can pitch to either side, he just happens to decimate lefties. Furthermore, these splits are for 184.2 IP for lefties and 232.2 IP against righties.

So, you have an inning with lefty-righty-lefty due up. Bring in your Marte, he’ll kill the lefties and probably get the right hander out too, but don’t use three pitchers like a goddamn coward. That’s how you get A.J. Burnett losing the game in the 14th inning.

Hanging Curves

  • Marte pitched two innings on Wednesday against the Cardinals, facing 4 righties, 1 lefty and 1 switch hitter. The lefty got a hit, but was caught stealing a play later.
  • Ironically, Sosa gets hung out to dry in the next frame of the game showed above. He ends up getting hammered while pitching the next inning, and being forced to pitch out of it to the tune of four earned runs.
  • Daryle Ward hasn’t made this much money by doing so little since he gave up competitive eating to play baseball.