March 2011

State of the Pirates Union 2011

Men,

 You have worked blood, sweat and tears for this organization this Spring, and you should be commended for your efforts. Tomorrow is Friday, and thus your first game of the season. Let’s take a look at yourselves as a team.

 Catchers-

 Chris Snyder. You are injured and thus you cannot start for us, and we are upset. Now we have to trust Ryan Doumit who we have wanted out of here for the longest time. You are defensively capable but offensively incapable. When you come back you need to be consistent.

 Ryan Doumit. Who made Jack Black our team’s starting catcher? Your offense can be good but your defense is TERRIBLE. Throwing out less than 10% of runners trying to steal base is an atrocity, and you do not belong in the Major Leagues, but here you are not only in a Pirate unform but starting. Charlie Sheen thinks that you are winning, but that does not amount for much anymore. In the words of Princess Leia, you are our only hope, because Jason Jaramillo as a starter is just as bad.

Second base-

 Neil Walker. The Pittsburgh Kid. Considering that you had to adapt to play yet another new position is tough enough but at times you showed Gold Glove capabilities. Bill Mazeroski a Pittsburgh legend helped you with mechanics and you tried to soak it in. It is important that you do not have a sophomore slump and the city is your for the taking, and this is your make it or break it season.

Short stop-

 Ronny Cedeno. What can I say about a man who draws Sharpies and calls them mustaches? Well you can’t hit, you can’t field, what can you do right? You give us fits and there is no one better? Why don’t we have money for a real shortstop? Here, I am going to drop a baseball. Just like i thought, through the legs. Why are you still even here?

Third base-

 Pedro Alvarez. Your weight is an issue, but that was even before this season. You are outgrowing your position and thus the plays that separate a good third baseman from a great one and Alvarez is only good at best. You are our offense, you mash the ball but do not get frustrated by your average as that is the way you play and you should not change that.

Left field-

 Jose Tabata. You have packed on the muscles and we can tell. Your speed is a must as we expect you to run around the bases all of the time. You need to mash the homers and be a part of this offense. You are a part of the future, so failure is not an option.

Center field-

 Andrew McCutchen. We can tell that you want to win. You are the best CF in the majors but we have some concerns. Off the field, you are a scumbag, conceited and careless. You need to start driving people in and that is a glaring part of your game. You are the future and already are a good player, but it is time to become great, don’t you think?

Right field-

 Garrett Jones. You can mash righties on a good basis, but based on your rookie campaign, your power numbers are down. Please hit for a good average, and who knows, maybe you or this next guy could get traded.

 Matt Diaz. Time to speed up and buy into the program. You can hit lefties, but some more power needs to be seen. Let’s find out if you can handle that right field wall, no one really has.

Starters-

 I am calling all of you out. Along with defense, you are the main issue on this team. Ray Searage can only do so much. He doesn’t pitch the baseball, he only gives you the advice. It is your job to listen to what he has to say and to pitch with confidence. The bullpen cannot win games all by themselves (I’m talking to you Ross, Charlie and Paul) and that means you actually have to suck it up and pitch. There are no more excuses.

Relievers-

 Despite what I just said about the starters, no one is perfect. We have been losing for 18 seasons now and you will have to come in at tight spots or when the outcome of a game has already been decided. Regardless, pitch strong and attack the hitter. Joel, please prove to us that you can choose games. You failed to do that in Washington and were a mixed bag last season. Pitch with a purpose.

Bench-

Josh Rodriguez. What are you doing here? Neal said that nothing about you was special and the fact of the matter is that your precious rule-5 status is keeping you here by a thread. Our infield stinks defensively and you do not help that at all. Even in Spring Training everyone from the top of the organization to the bottom said you weren’t anything and normally would be one of the first to be sent down. You better perform or you will be let go faster than we can say bobble head.

 Steve Pearce. You made the Opening Day Roster for the first time so congratulations. You were persistant and eliminated the leg kick from your swing which will help you in the log run. Best of luck on sticking in the bigs this season.

Manager-

 Clint Hurdle. You need to stick to your guns. This team has a ton of personality and you can handle it, but do not lose the locker room. They are completely buying in to what you are saying and that means that you need to stay relevant to them. Practice what you preach. Make sure they run and let that know that losing is NOT an option.

 Tomorrow is the big day men, Opening Day is upon us in the windy city. You have worked all off-season for this. No one expects us to contend, but why can’t we? These fans deserve a winner, and it’s time to go all in and get the job done. 

 

They’re here!!!

 I will have pictures forthcoming when I get home later today, but yesterday in the mail I received my Pirates season tickets. Because I had to wait for my friends to pay, I got them later and did not get the fancy design with the players faces. Instead I got a shot of the park from a home plate seat perspective.

 All in all, the design is nice, but my ID has my name on it with a sticker and not with my name engraved in it, which sucks but hey it is what it is.

 Very excited for one week from today, because baseball season is almost upon us.

What ever happened to Jeff Clement?

 I was surfing on Facebook this past weekend, when a friend asked me about Jeff Clement, I found myself as not having an answer. I would like to think that I know a lot about the Pirates and Pirates baseball, but this one stumped me.

 I asked a couple of people on Facebook, and did not get much of a response.

 In his chat on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today, Pirates beat writer Colin Dunlap said he saw him two weeks ago, but other than that not much information was made.

 I decided to figure this out, and thus e-mailed Pirates President Frank Coonelly to get the answer, and a short while later I got the following response: ” Jeff was taken off the 40-man roster in the off-season and signed to a minor league contract. He is rehabbing in Bradenton and will report to Indy when healthy. Look for him in May or June.”

 My take; I find this quite interesting, Clement disappointed last season, however each season is a fresh slate, and hopefully Jeff can come back to Indy in May or June and work his way to the Major League team. Ideally, the hope is that he can become a September call-up as I have seen him hit quite well during batting practice.

My plans for Opening Day and other notes

 Well it looks like it is official, I will be Opening Day. Unfortunately, it will not be in the capacity that I hoped for. The plan was to be able to be a media member for the game, and thus write an article for the college paper in addition to potentially getting some stuff for my radio show.

 The good news was that I had bought a game ticket, from of all places my university. My “seat” is in the bleacher general admission, and obviously I will not be sitting, but rather standing and running around all afternoon.

 While I did not accomplish my main goal, this gives me an extra chance to ballhawk. With so many changes made this off-season, I will be able to have a day where I can feel everything out, before April 9, when my college paper will do an article on my ballhawking and such.

 The first homestand looks to be very exciting, and I have just been given better news, as I found out that on Wednesday April 13, it looks as though I will be a media member at the good ole ballpark. I am about 90% certain that this will happen, but will confirm for sure, closer to the date.

  So now with this new information in mind, here is my new first homestand schedule:

 1. Opening Day April 7- I will be ballhawking and happy for the start of the season. Praying for decent weather, although anything but cold and rainy will do.

 2. Fireworks Night April 9- Ballhawking and the student newspaper at Point Park University will be following my every move. No pressure.

 3. Tuesday April 12- Unless someone wants to give me a ticket, I will stand by the water outside of the stadium and hope someone hits it my way. This will go on for a while, but I have a 6 P.M. class, so we shall see.

 4. Wednesday April 13- Could go to this game ballhawking but likely will go as a media member. May do an article on it, may get some radio stuff, and may get both we shall see.

 5. Thursday April 14- Ballhawking for the first half hour and then will be honored on the field. Say hi to me if you see me and any pictures/videos would be appreciated. Also the last game of the homestand.

 So yes, quite a busy first homestand, but from a ballhawking standpoint, I want a much faster start than last year. I know the ins and outs of the ballpark, but now it is time to deliever.

 Also Erik Jabs very recently put up his blog post for the BHL, and I officially joined and my name is on the list. It will be game on for me starting on April 7, and I couldn’t be more excited.

 I will have my camera with me on that day, so the beginning of the picture era on this blog is about to begin. I hope to see all of you at PNC Park, and feel free to say hi!

 

Four Players Cut and Other Notes

 The Pirates have made four cuts today, and here they are:

.Andy Marte- Marte was one of the team’s first signings this off-season. He once was a highly regarded prospect however in 2010 with the Cleveland Indians, hit only .229 with five homers and 19 Runs Batted In. Mind you Marte only had 170 at-bats, this was enough for the Pirates to sign him to a Minor League contract. This Spring, Marte batted .364, however this was not enough for him to earn a spot on the team. Marte had a shot at making the Big League roster, however lost out on the corner infield battle to Steve Pearce.

.Corey Wimberly- Wimberly to me always seemed like a cheap Nyjer Morgan. He was acquired by the Pirates for righty Ryan Kelly. Wimberly at short during Spring Training was not a great idea as he kept bouncing his throws. He never played a position that well, and hit only .212. It took him a while to even get a hit, but finally got one, but too little too late.

. Brian Burres- This was the most surprising cut, as it had appeared that the Pirates wanted two relievers that were left-handed. He had been solid all spring, but his start earlier in the week against the Astros perhaps did him in. Still, Burres was widely expected to have a role in the bullpen and had proven his worth last September as well.

. Dusty Brown- This cut made sense as essentially Brown was the odd catcher out. The Pirates may bring three catchers with them when they play Chicago, and Brown was not in their Major League plans. He was signed to a Minor League deal after playing for the Boston Red Sox last season. He hit .321 this spring.

. Another announcement was made with this move that Steve Pearce has essentially clinched the backup corner infield job. Pearce made an adjustment in his swing where he eliminated the leg kick. Hopefully he can improve the timing of his swing. Manager Clint Hurdle said this is not 100% confirmed yet because there always in the possibility of a trade.

 . The last backup infielder job is between Pedro Ciriaco and Josh Rodriguez. Ciriaco has proven himself to be the better player, however Rodriguez is the Rule-5 Draft pick. If Rodriguez does not make the team, he will have to be offered back to the Cleveland Indians although General Manager Neal Huntington has said that in that case he would negotiate a deal to get Rodriguez back, a la Evan Meek a few seasons ago.

 .Chris Snyder remains to be hurt. He was scratched again from the lineup due to more back soreness. He is getting treatment but his status for next Friday’s opener is up in the air. If he cannot go, Ryan Doumit likely will be the Opening Day catcher with Jason Jaramillo the backup. Snyder will have to condition himself and get the proper at-bats if he should be ready to go. If he is injured for too long then only two catchers would be heading north and perhaps John Bowker could get than final roster spot.

. The bullpen has become an interesting battle, as Scott Olsen and Joe Beimel both will be unable to start the season, and with Brian Burres not making the club, Jeff Karstens will be the long reliever. This opens up the bullpen competition. Three relievers in Chris Leroux, Mike Crotta and Garrett Olson will compete for two spots. It is widely assumed that Olson will get a spot. Jose Ascanio is not faring well as Pirates Prospects blog says his fastball topped out at 91 miles per hour, slower than normal and also lacking command. If Karstens has to start in the rotation due to the injury to James McDonald, then Olson, Leroux and Crotta will all make the team.

. Clint Hurdle also seemingly made his final lineup official making Jose Tabata his lead off hitter. Andrew McCutchen will hit third, while Lyle Overbay will hit fourth. Pedro Alvarez will hit fifth.

. The Major League roster is now at 32 spots, and needs to be cut down to 25 in time for Opening Day on Friday.

Some Q&A with the Baseball Prospectus Team

  Yesterday on Twitter, people had a chance to ask questions of the Baseball Prospectus team. The chat went from Noon Eastern until 12:30, meaning the chat lasted half an hour. People could ask the questions and to have them answered would have to include a hashtag of #BaseballBNC.

 My twitter handle is @wewill1992.

 Here are the questions I asked that were answered.

 Me: How do you think the Pirates will do this season?

 Steven Goldman: PECOTA thinks they will do better than the Astros. Progress?

 Jay Jaffe: Better than the Astros. Nucleus emerging (Alvarez/Andrew McCutchen/Walker/Tabata).

 Me: Which free agent signing will mean the most to his team?

 Jay Jaffe: Adam Dunn shores up big DH vortex of suck for Chisox.

 Me: Who will win Rookie of the Year in both divisions?

 Steven Goldman: I just did some picks, went Hellickson/Freeman.

 Me: Who do you feel is the best lefty reliever in the game?

 Jay Jaffe: Big Matt Thornton fan.

 Me: Should more pitchers bat eighth instead of ninth?

 Christina Kahrl: Works for me, as long as the skipper adjusts his tactics likewise in-game, kicking the P slot away from at-bats when possible.

 Me: How much can a manager change their players?

 Christina Kahrl: He can define success or failure for his relievers, and for the players he chooses to carry on his bench.

 Jay Jaffe: Not sure change is the right word. Prefer: put in a position to succeed.

 Me: Will steals be up or down this season?

 Christina Kahrl: Up, because between the new managers and the flagging commitment to slug-only players.

 Me: Which three players are most likely to be on other teams by the deadline?

 Christina Kahrl: Ryan Doumit, Chone Figgins, Jason Marquis

 

  Participating in the chat also gave me the chance to win one of ten possible copies of the 2011 book written by Baseball Prospectus. It is 600 pages full of team previews, projections, analysis and much more. I ended up winning a copy of the book and will get it delivered soon.

 

The First PNC Park Homestand

Well it looks like the first homestand will be quite busy for me. Here is what it looks like right now.

 April 7: The home opener. They will host the Colorado Rockies, and I am hopeful that I will get media credentials. I have been told to email back on a specific date, as the press area should be filled much more because Clint Hurdle is managing against his former team. I am praying that they still have enough room for skinny little me, and I even told them that I would be willing to stand for the entire game.

 April 9: This will be my first day ballhawking. I have a lot of new things and my conditioning and confidence are at an all-time high. I was quite a slow starter last season and was lucky to get three on my first game. I will need to catch a couple of balls and have some luck. I cannot be a slow starter like I was last season. In addition, The Globe, the college newspaper at my school Point Park University, which I write for is going to be doing an article on my ballhawking. Both a writer and photographer are supposed to attend the game and follow my every move. It may come as a shock to them how much I run, but they will soon find out. I have no idea what they will ask me and if they will ask anyone else questions. All in all, there is no pressure at all for my first ballhawking day of the 2011 season (NOT!!!)

 April 14: This is when I will be recognized as the Season Ticket Holder of the Game. It will be crazy as I will ballhawk for 30 minutes, stop and then make a nice walk out of the stadium in preparation for the honor. It will be exciting and I hope to get tons of video/photo evidence of the event. It is the last game of the first homestand and against the hated Milwaukee Brewers, so perhaps I can motivate the troops.

 I hope to be able to take a ton of pictures to document all of these events. I imagine I will try to go to another game or two during this stretch if possible, but each of these events will take a lot of energy. I am very excited for each of these and it just makes me miss baseball even more!

Strengths and Weaknesses Part 1- Third base/shortshop

 This will highlight players that will be named as starters and then will highlight the bench players when they are named. I also will ask a question that hopefully will be answered this season.

Third Base:

Pedro “El Toro” Alvarez-

 Strength: Power is a huge strength for Alvarez and he showed the Pirates what he could do with the bat and his power will have to be huge again this season.

 Strength: In addition to power, Pedro was a very clutch hitter. When something needed to happen, Pedro wanted the bat in his hands and that walk-off home run against the Rockies perhaps best showcases this aspect of his game.

 Weakness: Glove work is a huge problem with Pedro’s game. For every couple of great plays, there were the not so good plays and this part of his game will need to improve dramatically this season as the infield as a whole was a liability defensively and it cost the team plenty of games. Pedro has gained some weight and perhaps will shift to first base soon if he continues to add weight.

 Weakness: The batting average is never going to be high with Pedro. Essentially Pedro is trying his best to become Adam Dunn, and while that will result in a ton of power, it will also result in a ton of strikeouts and they add up very fast. This is the way that Pedro plays and there is nothing the Pirates can do to change this.

 Question: Will Pedro experience a sophomore slump? You see this happen to a lot of athletes across many different sports, and the Pirates cannot afford to let this happen to any of the second year players, especially Alvarez. He is too important to this offense for too many offensive slumps, although Alvarez will have a number of cold spells throughout the season. Alvarez may be the single most important player on this team, and this is definitely true offensively.

 Shortstop:

Ronny Cedeno-

 Strength: Early season play has always been key for Cedeno. Cedeno loves to get into those fast starts, and his defensive efforts are best in the early parts of the season. If I have said this once on this blog, I have said it a million times, Cedeno producing in April is a huge reason why the Pirates perform in April, however once May comes and Cedeno declines, the team suffers greatly.

 Weakness: I could go the easy route with his inability to grow mustaches, however let’s start with his approach at the plate. In a lineup where he hits right before the pitcher, his job is to get on base so that the pitcher can advance him into scoring position. Cedeno often looked overmatched and often times I would even confuse him for a pitcher because he just looked lost at the plate. Cedeno tried to take an opposite field approach around the halfway point of the season, but that did not work either. I may sound very tough on Cedeno, but that is because I see what he does before the game and he works hard. As a season ticket holder, I see him in batting practice, and he consistently hits home runs so that is why I can be hard, because I know that he can do better, I have seen it with my own eyes.

 Weakness: Defense…. not much nice to say here either. Again, in April he was stellar and what comes to mind, is that Sunday game against the Reds last season, where he showed incredible range by fielding a ball and making a strong throw to first base and his body was carrying him over to third base and got the runner out. He is just a streaky fielder, and like Alvarez makes a lot of errors and at times just simple fundamental mistakes. When Cedeno came over in the trade that sent Jack Wilson to Seattle, we were told Cedeno is not Jack Wilson defensively but is fairly good defensively. The first part of that statement is definitely true, however the second remains to be seen.

 Question: Will Cedeno still be in a Pirates uniform at the end of the season? This one is hard to say. I actually am a huge Pedro Ciriaco fan as I am sure you could tell in my post last week praising him. Cedeno is likely to get the nod on Opening Day, however I see him faring much like Aki Iwamura last season. I think Ciriaco is much more defensively sound and their bats are about the same, although I like Ciriaco’s a touch more. I think Ciriaco takes over the job a la Neil Walker and then accels. Cedeno is just a mess and is frustratingly inconsistent and his play has more questions than answers and that is never good. Honestly, he is not even a utility player, Ronny Cedeno is NOT a Major League player, let alone a starter.

 Next Entry: Part 2- Second base/first base

The New Atkins Diet: Garrett Atkins cut and other notes

 1. The Pirates have unconditionally released Garrett Atkins today. Atkins hit .129 this spring managing only four hits in 31 at-bats. I along with many others predicted that Atkins would stick with the team, and my main reason was that Atkins played under Clint Hurdle in Colorado, however he never really got it going. Many also had anticipated that after his dismal season with the Baltimore Orioles last season that being reunited with Hurdle would help, as Atkins found a great deal of success in Colorado and the hitter’s friendly Coor’s Field, however that never came into fruition.

 2. Left-handed reliever Justin Thomas and right-handed pitcher Fernando Nieve were both reassigned to Minor League Camp, and neither was expected by anyone to make the 25-man roster and was evidenced by Thomas pitching in only 4 1/3 innings and Nieve being rocked in the early portions of Spring Training.

 3. Scott Olsen and Joe Beimel have both been injured for almost all of Spring Training and now Olsen is out of the fifth starter race and Pirates GM Neal Huntington “may be out of the bullpen competition”. There is a strong possibility that Olsen will start the season on the disabled list as he has recovered but according to Huntington, “…not where he needs to be”. Olsen spoke to the media today, and based off of those conversations, it is almost certain that he will start his year on the DL. With this news, it appears that Charlie Morton will be the fifth starter on this team as Brad Lincoln’s status is unknown. Morton has had a great spring and is getting his confidence back which will help this team.

4. Opening Day is April 1 in Chicago against the Cubs and either Paul Maholm or Kevin Correia will get the ball for the Pirates. Whomever loses this competition will receive the consolation of throwing the home opener April 7 vs the Colorado Rockies. I am sure that if it was up to the fans and even Correia, Maholm would get the ball, as he and Doumit are the longest tenured Pirates. Other than his start against the Red Sox, Correia has not fared well this spring and Maholm not great either however has shown promise and made adjustments.

 These are some of the Pirates news and notes for the day, and I am going to be posting an entry within the hour on some Pirates and their strengths/weaknesses.

What I Have Missed at PNC Park

 The walk that I took on Tuesday reminded me how much I missed the baseball season. This is a big list of what I have missed.

1. The fans- Let me clarify this for a minute. By the fans, I mean those that actually support the Pirates and you know who I mean. I mean the Season Ticket Holders and others that actually go to see Pirate games. I do not mean those who go because beer is cheap or because tickets are $1, because there is a bobblehead, because it is a fireworks or Skyblast night or because a really good team is at the ballpark. True Pirate fans are few and far between, but those that truly support can tell stories of the team and even some growing up in earlier decades. These fans are what make PNC Park the best ballpark in America.

2. Evan Meek/Herbie Andrade- I miss a lot of the other Pirates as well, but Meek and Herbie were the two nicest to me. Evan still knows me on a first name basis and Herbie may just be the nicest man in the world. Hopefully the good vibes will continue this year.

3. Ballhawking- This is just in reference to both ballhawking and the people. I have missed running ragid as that was my cardio for quite a while. It will be fun to step foot inside the ballpark and chase down the baseballs again for as many games as possible. Us ballhawks are all friendly with each other and anytime we can warmup, laugh/joke, and compete for baseballs we all have an enjoyable although at times frustrating experience. Good luck to everyone in BHL this season.

4. Lemonade Man- Just hearing this guy trying to scream the word lemonade never grows old. It should be another great season from Kenny.

5. The atmosphere- Despite ballhawking, you have to appreciate your surroundings. PNC Park once again is the best ballpark in America and some of the views are great. Unless you are seated behind a foul pole, there is not really a bad seat at PNC Park.

6. Big Yellow Dance Cam- Although he danced on my radio show A To Z Sports (on each Wednesday from 10 AM until Noon through the end of April at www.wppjradio.com), you have to miss Randy Page (aka Big Yellow) dancing in section 142 at each game that he attends.

7. All of the people I know that work at PNC- This would take way too many numbers to go into so they all go into one post. These people have helped me out in various ways, and they have all helped me on my PNC Park/ballhawking journeys so I thank each and everyone of them.

8. Hall of Fame Club- I know this sounds tacky, but when there is torrential rain, this is the place that I go. My seats are in section 141, and thus the sprint there is a rather short one if it rains. I also am right by the bullpen so my trek is not that far.

 So all in all I am quite excited for the season to start.

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