Here is who I feel will be in the Pirates starting rotation as of April 5th.
1. James McDonald- McDonald was the Pirates best pitcher in the second half of the season. His fastball may be tops among the Pirates starters and he has a great curveball which he often uses as his strikeout pitch. He still will have to make the trasition from reliable reliever with the Dodgers to shutdown starter with the Pirates. When this happens, the innings pitched goes way up, and JMac was a casualty in Spring Training. He does represent an injury risk, especially with his innings once again likely to rise. His stuff may be as close to ace like as the Pirates have, but he will have to be much more consistent. McDonald needs to feel that the mound is his once he steps on it. One other concern is his pitch count. He throws way too many pitches early on in the game and that resulted in him only getting past the seventh inning twice all season. If he works on correcting these concerns, he could easily have a 10 win season, something which I believe can be doable.
2. A.J. Burnett- The Pirates needed a front line starter and after whiffing on Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt, the third time was the charm with Burnett. Burnett has a fastball that has lowered these past couple of seasons, but expect a range of anywhere from 92 to 95 miles per hour. Burnett knows how to win as evidenced by his two World Series wins and a no-hitter. He will provide leadership to a young pitching staff that seems to be eager to learn from him. He however can be very down on himself and admitted to Pirates reporters just yesterday that he let too many people, “tinker with his delivery”. His 31 home runs he gave up last season are alarming, and while PNC Park is much more forgiving in that sense, there is only so much that can be done. Fortunately the Pirates have a speed outfield consisting of Alex Presley, Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata patrolling. Many critics view Burnett as Matt Morris 2.0, but while his pitches are becoming more predictable, he should fare well for the Pirates, a destination where the pressure is off and the New York media is off of his back.
3. Erik Bedard- Bedard is a scary thought as a #3 because he really could go either way. When he signed, I liked the idea because he was paid much like, if not less than Paul Maholm and when healthier, I feel is a better pitcher. Bedard, much like Maholm is a groundball type of pitcher. He will be aided by fellow free agent signee Clint Barmes and second baseman Neil Walker, who seems to improve with each game he mans the position. His first impression from Spring Training was not a good one, as he went to camp with a leg brace. I am unsure if he has fully recovered and is fit for duty. When I think of a leg brace, I think Akinori Iwamura and how he could not defend second base at all with the brace, and perhaps this is why I feel so pessimistic. If Bedard is indeed injured still, then the Pirates made a wasted investment, but given his track record, Bedard is worth the risk.
4. Kevin Correia- Correia could really go either way given his splits last year. If Charlie Morton continues to exceed expectations after his surgery, then Charlie could get away with being a #5 starter, knowing that his turn could get skipped at least twice. Hopefully this will motivate Correia to come back from his own injury and hold on to his spot on the staff. His August injury only added to the team's problems, and he will need to be a healthy and driving force this season. Correia also needs to improve his performances at PNC Park. You are expected to win at home, and prior to 2011, the Pirates were 40-41 at home in both 2009 and 2010. They regressed last season going only 36-45 and Correia's struggles were a big reason why. Correia does do very well on the road, and for the entire first half of the season, he was toe to toe with Roy Halladay for most road wins. Expect Pitching Coach Ray Searage to work really hard on making Correia a better and more consistent pitcher.
5. Jeff Karstens- Karstens has the best control on the team. He does not fool many people, which is why his location is the key for him to succeed. Karstens finally became a bona fide starter of sorts, but seeing that he was to be a bullpen arm, stamina was a huge factor towards the end of the season for Karstens, thus forcing him to be shut down and limited. Karstens has worked really hard this off-season in improving this aspect of his game. Karstens once again though could be the odd man out upon Morton’s return despite doing everything the club has asked of him. Regardless of his role, Karstens will go about his business without complaining and get the job done, because that is the type of person that he is.
When Morton comes back, here is my desired rotation. This is assuming that everyone remains healthy and uninjured:
5. Home starts: Karstens Road starts: Correia
This does look like a six man rotation, but let’s look at the facts. Kevin Correia is terrible at home. Even Kent Tekulve, who is normally very careful when criticizing his former ballclub called Correia, “absolutely horrendous” on a Root Sports postgame show last season. This also would ease Karstens into elevated innings counts and allow for him to focus and know his role right away. While I know that this won’t happen, I think this is an idea which should be seriously considered.
Lastly, I will just list my projected lineup and thank you for reading this blogpost:
1. Alex Presley- LF
2. Jose Tabata- RF
3. Andrew McCutchen- CF
4. Neil Walker- 2B
5. Garrett Jones/Casey McGehee- 1B
6. Pedro Alvarez
7. Clint Barmes
8. Rod Barajas
So the Pirates have acquired AJ Burnett from the Yankees. In exchange, the Pirates will take on $13 million of Burnett’s contract over the next two seasons and will give up Diego Moreno and Exicardo Cardones. Here is some info on whom the Pirates gave up.
Exicardo Cayones- Exicardo was ranked 16th by the Pirates Prospect 2011 Prospect Guide in terms of the Pirates top 50 prospects. He signed in 2008 for $400,000 which at the time was the largest signing bonus and currently ranks as sixth highest. They said he was more of a line drive hitter and can hit to all fields. He has some great speed but was a long drive away from the majors. He entered 2011 as very prmising, and had a chance to make it to the West Virginia Power. Injuries however derailed those hopes and he was assigned to State College. He was visably over-matched with a strikeout rate of 40.6 while still having no abilities to homer. Those rates are rates that even MLB power hitter such as Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds do not even approach. He was demoted back to the Gulf Coast League and hit .293 in 82 at-bats with a .427 slugging percentage. His speed makes him a center fielder, but he was blocked by Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Josh Bell among others. Cayones has the speed to be a great defender, but his offense is not up to snuff. He did not make the Pirates Prospects top 50 prospects for the 2012 Prospect Guide.
Diego Moreno- Moreno also peaked in the Pirates Prospects 2011 Guide with a ranking of 18th best prospect. He signed for $7,000 in 2006 and first appeared in the US in 2009. In West Virginia, Moreno had an 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings ratio. He had an opportunity in AA but was demoted back to A ball after a disagreement with Altoona’s coaching staff. Much like Cayones, Moreno fell out of the top 50. He has featured a fastball which tops out at 98 miles per hour, but routinely hits the upper 90′s. In high A, his strikeout numbers fell, and was losing control. Instead of protect Moreno, they sent a clear message when they protected Duke Welker who has a similar skill set. He had a 4.91 ERA in AA last season, and he has stuff that could possibly make the majors but health and attitude could determine that.
AJ Burnett had a rough go in New York. He gave up 31 homers last season, but remember, Yankee Stadium gave up the third most homers last season. PNC Park has a slight edge towards the pitcher, as evidenced by it allowing the sixth fewest home runs last season. Burnett has been labeled immature due in large part to his post-game antics after walkoff wins. Burnett has two World Series rings, and wished to remain on the East Coast. Burnett can mentor a young and injured Pirates pitching staff and can step in right at the top of the rotation. Burnett is very durable and will be able to eat many innings for the team. He wilted under the pressure of the Yankees media, but in Pittsburgh, the media is much less of a prescence.
Overall, this was a great trade for the Pirates in many ways. For one, this shows the fans that the Pirates are willing to spend money and those who say they are cheap are off base. While offering Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt larger contracts is one thing, this deal- a deal where the Pirates will pay $13 million shows fans that the Pirates are serious about trying to be a contender. This also shows that they were not satisfied with what they had. By taking on more of Burnett’s contract, the Pirates gave up two prospects, that while great stories, did not factor in their long term or Major League plans.
The last blockbuster deal the Pirates made with the Yankees had the Pirates giving Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady to the Yankees for Jose Tabata, Daniel McCutchen, Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens. The Pirates obviously won that trade and it looks like the Pirates are two for two in trading with the Yankees in the Neal Huntington era.
Well everyone, it is official, I am a season ticket holder. I found out that I did not get the internship on Monday and today I was able to call Jaclyn, my season ticket rep and pay for a full season ticket package for $399. You can’t top that.
I likely will attend at least 50 games, and 81 games according to Jaclyn makes more sense. While I already have a game in a Suite due to a contest I won and also get at least a Pittsburgh Baseball Club ticket, I can trade in any tickets I don’t use to get into higher prices sections.
I am very excited for April 5, when the Pirates start their PNC Park season.
Earlier today I got an email from the Pirates, which essentially said what I wrote on this blog a week ago.
Already a few season ticket holders again expressed their gratitude towards me for opening the ballpark earlier and anyone who did not believe me before knows now tha this really is true.
If you are disappointed by that, here is a fact. The Pirates consider 10 games as a season ticket plan, so if you are a 10 pack plan holder, then you also get in early. It is only $100 for 10 games to be a season ticket holder, so don’t complain about not having an opportunity, because it is very affordable.
Needless to say, the benefits are many to becoming a season ticket holder, so why wait and overpay for marquee matchups later?
Yes that’s right, now that I am a season ticket holder, I will be bringing my charity initiative back.
Last season I raised close to $600 and I hope to do even better this season. I will be trying to do very similar things. Things will operate very similarly to last year. Here’s what you can do to help:
1. Pledge a donation for each baseball I catch. Even the smallest amount helps The Children’s Institute and it would mean a lot to both myself and the children.
2. Make a one time cumulative donation. This would be a straight donation just out of the goodness of your hearts to help these children.
3. Buy various things that I collect: I will sell baseballs, autographed items such as programs, baseballs, baseball cards etc for charity and you are welcome to buy/bid on any of them. I likely will post each item up on here and in an album on my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?cropsuccess&id=1046751201#!/profile.php?id=1046751201). Everything I would sell would be 100% authentic and I offer fair prices. I do not charge a ridiculous amount of money for an item. I know all of the money would go to charity, but I realize that times are tough so I keep it fair. You never know what I will get. Last year I got a game used/autographed Lyle Overbay bat.
For those of you willing to help out, first of all thank you so much and your support means a lot. In terms of payment, I will take cash or a check. The check must be made out to The Children’s Institute. If you are giving cash I will need your address when you give me the cash. The Children’s Institute will want to thank you for your generous donation.
Also please only help out if you are serious. Please don’t waste my time by promising/pledging money if you are not going to follow through. That is not fair to me and especially not fair to these children. If you want to help me out, please follow through. This is not to sound harsh, but this happened once or twice last season and it is not fair to the children.
This past week, my friend Matt Shetler published this article onto the website bleacher report. You may remember he posted an article earlier in the season, and this was a follow up.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Point Park University Student Still Making a Difference
By Matt Shetler (Featured Columnist) on February 11, 2012
Last season, I had the privilege to meet and do a story on a young man who was attempting to make a difference.
That young man is 20-year-old and Point Park student Zac Weiss.
Weiss is one of those youngsters who has never seen a Pittsburgh Pirates’ winning season, but that hasn’t stopped him from being a lifelong Bucco fan and doing something positive along the way.
Last summer I learned about Weiss and his cause, which was called Ballhawking 2011: Proudly Supporting the Children’s Institute.
Everyone has seen the guys at Major League Baseball games rushing around to collect balls in the stands. Weiss is one of those guys, but he doesn’t try and make a profit for himself by selling the souvenirs to the highest bidder.
Instead he does something else. Something admirable for anyone, especially someone only 20 years of age.
Weiss had decided to collect as many balls as he could during the season and then auction them off. All the proceeds Weiss made would go directly to the Children’s Institute.
“I had to spend some time at the Children’s Institute as a child,” Weiss told me last summer. “I know what type of difference they can make in a child’s life. I’m a college kid with not much money in my pocket, but this is my way of trying to make a difference and help out.”
When we spoke at an Atlanta Braves game last season, Weiss was just getting his cause off the ground.
By the end of the 2011 Pirates season, Weiss had caught 137 baseballs and raised over $600 for the charity.
It doesn’t sound like a ton of money, but for a young man just doing what he can, it might as well be $600,000.
“I try and keep things very reasonable,” said Weiss. “I’m not trying to be an EBay type of thing. I got a ball autographed by Kirk Gibson who hit one of the most memorable homers in baseball history and is one very good manager and only sold it for $20. I don’t think people should have to pay crazy prices.”
Weiss has goals for the 2012 season, but they are of a different variety.
“I want to continue raising money for charity, but I applied for an internship with the Pirates,” said Weiss. “My main goal is to get that, but if I don’t, I plan on being at about 50 games this season, assuming I stay in good health.”
If he’s out chasing baseballs in 2012, Weiss has some goals already set for himself.
“I’d like to get 206 this season,” added Weiss. “That’s about the number I’ve caught total in my life. If we don’t have 15 batting practices rained out like the Bucs did last year, I may have a chance.”
Several of the Pirates have been very supportive of what Weiss is doing, including manager Clint Hurdle and All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan.
“Hurdle is involved with the Children’s Institute as well,” said Weiss. “I got to meet and talk to him before a Saturday batting practice. The Pirates equipment manager gave me a Lyle Overbay autographed bat and I also received positive reactions from both Hanrahan and Daniel McCutchen.”
Anyone interested in checking on the progress Weiss is making or making a contribution to the Children’s Institute can contact him on Twitter @wewill1992 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These days there aren’t may positive stories in the world of sports, but what Weiss has been doing is certainly one of them. He thinks his efforts for charity could be joined by a winning season for the Pirates.
“That’s what I really want to see,” added Weiss. “I think they are close and on the verge of turning things around. I can’t wait for Opening Day. Let’s Go, Bucs.”
I was given the bad news today that I would not receive the Pirates internship that I had been gunning for. I am disappointed as I viewed this as a great opportunity that could only add to my confidence and real world experience.
This disappointment means that I will be a season ticket holder once again.
I will be buying a full season at $399 and receiving the usual benefits that I receive, not to mention that I will also be getting in half an hour earlier on weekday night games as I broke last week on this blog. I am excited about that, and I have started training for the season and will carry this newfound anger and channeling it into the season.
I hope to be able to get to sit in the press box a couple of times and potentially job shadow a candidate that got the internship I was gunning for just to see what a day in their shoes would have been like.
Oh and I get to be in a suite for a game and that will be a cool experience.
Also, Ballhawkfest 2011 will have its eastern leg at PNC Park on June 9th. I hate the date for other ballhawks, as the Royals will be in town and it will be Heritage Day. After the game will be a postgame concert from Boyz II Men which means sellout at PNC Park. Ballhawks interested in the eastern leg of Ballhawkfest will have to act fast if they want to secure tickets. I told Alan Schuster who was in charge to pick a different date (Marlins in July) but it didn’t work out that way.
I still plan on attending at least 50 games next season and catching at least 206 baseballs. Although we may get the same amount of rained out BP’s, at least getting in half an hour earlier could make this goal very possible.
I am looking forward to the season and April 5th cannot come fast enough. Oh and six days until pitchers and catchers report.
I am typing this entry to break some major news to Pittsburgh Pirates fans, especially season ticket holders:
On Saturday’s PirateFest session back in December I met with Dennis DaPra, who is charge of PNC Park. Myself as well as fellow season ticket holders Erik Jabs and Nick Pelescak have all thought opening the gates at 4:30 during weekday nights was the way to go instead of the 5:00 gate time which has been the way PNC Park has operated in recent memory and our idea gained support from many Pirates season ticket holders. Dennis seemed very receptive of the idea at PirateFest and we left it there that I would email a letter I had written to him and he would discuss it with others at the ballpark.
I sent this letter to him and he replied the very next day that he appreciated me following up and would review it and then contact me as soon as possible.
I had not heard back as of earlier this week, so I sent an email this past Monday just to see if everything was going ok and if there was any progress that was made. I received an email almost instantly which said they were discussing the possibility and that he hoped to respond back to me as soon as possible. This got me very excited, as I knew that they were indeed seriously considering it.
To my surprise, I got a phone call from Pittsburgh Pirates, and I quickly realized that today was the moment of truth as I found out that it was Dennis on the other line. He said that he had discussed the possibility and told me that Mondays thru Saturdays the gates would open at 4:30, my letter was successful.
I can confirm that this is 100% true and was told that season ticket holders will receive something in the mail and this change will be advertised on the Pirates website and twitter feed.
Now the gates opening at 4:30 changes things for the weeknight games but not Saturday as this is the same time as before. Tradionally as I had said before, the gates would open at 5. Now remember, this is for night games only, so if a game is at Wednesday at 12:35 PM, then obviously the gates will not open at 4:30. Here is some more info on this change:
. The only gate that will open at 4:30 at these times (weekdays and Saturday afternoons) is the Clemente Gate which for those who do not know is right off of the Clemente Bridge and is the Center Field Entrance.
. Everything in terms of getting in is the exact same. You will go in and if you are a season ticket holder be allowed to go in for batting practice. If you are not, then you will have to wait until you are allowed in.
The only two things I do not know are:
1. Will you have to show your season ticket ID card (other team’s fans try to buy season tickets off of Stubhub so that they can get in early)? This could be very important.
2. At 5:00 will everyone be allowed into left field, or will they have to wait until 5:30?
This news is very huge as now fans will be able to witness an almost complete Pirates batting practice. Usually when us season ticket holders are getting in, the Pirates are running off of the field. Part of the season ticket benefits are a chance to see your Pirates hit and seeing them for two minutes is not suffice.
This also will allow children to experience their first memory with a Pirate.
With so many rained out BP sessions, last season was a bummer for many, however this change definitely makes me even more excited for the upcoming season.
All in all this enhances the season ticket experience, and I am glad that I wrote the letter. Hopefully this will boost the Pirates season ticket sales, and allow many to have an even more enjoyable experience.
A huge thanks definitely goes to Dennis and everyone at PNC Park for making this change happen.
I will update with any info if necessary on any uncertainties I posted above, but it is a great day to be a Pirates season ticket holder and only 10 days until pitchers and catchers report.
Update: I got one of my questions answered, and to get in for the season ticket holder portion of BP, you have to have either a season ticket or a season ticket holder ID card which will be mailed to you before the start of the season. This is the same policy as in seasons past.
(Pictures to come later in the week)
While everyone has their favorite baseball team and/or player, I decided to do things a little bit differently.
The way I formatted my team was to determine who has thrown/hit/handed me baseballs and signed autographs and from there make a roster of sorts. Note this is not a line up and some positions will have more players than others.
Catcher is a tough one because they do not normally field during batting practice.
Ryan Doumit- Doumit always had the power bat and it was a shame that I never caught a BP ball of his since PNC Park only opens up left field early to season ticket holders. He signed a hat I won and a baseball at PirateFest.
Russell Martin- I really liked him when he was on the Dodgers. He tossed me a third out ball after Clayton Kershaw struck somebody out.
Jason Kendall- Kendall in his prime was always reliable. He rarely struck out, played with passion and was a joy to watch defensively. He signed a glove I had in 2000 when I went to a game with my father.
This is where the fun starts.
Adrian Gonzalez- Gonzalez signed a baseball of mine when the Red Sox were in town last season. He had a great first half with the Sox and was a reliable power bat.
Prince Fielder- Watching Prince Fielder take BP is worth the price of admission alone. He just blasts home runs to places you have never seen before. I have been fortunate to catch two of his homers, but he tattoos them so don’t be surprised if you feel it when you catch it.
Joey Votto- Votto has often been overlooked because Albert Pujols and Fielder were in the same division as him. With both in the American League, all eyes will be on him. He signed a baseball for me last season.
Adam Dunn- Adam Dunn was also great at BP, at least during his breakout year with the Washington Nationals. I caught two of his BP homers in 2010.
Billy Butler- I got Billy Butler’s autograph when the Kansas City Royals came to Pittsburgh in 2009. This was before he because an underrated power bat.
Todd Helton- Helton was really nice and he signed my baseball. I forget the date but I believe that it was in 2009. It rained later that night but the autograph was safe and sound.
Freddy Sanchez- Sanchez was a batting champion with the Pirates and was consistent. A very nice guy who did great community work. I got his signature at Bowling With the Bucs as well as a couple of other times. It was sad as a person to see him go, and the trade has not worked out well yet for the Pirates as Tim Alderson has not panned out.
Neil Walker- Walker is a Pittsburgher through and through. He is very approachable and nice to talk to. I have a couple or so signatures from him.
Darwin Barney- Solid contact hitter and decent defender. I got the only autograph he signed on the day he wrote on my baseball.
Skip Schumaker- Hit a foul ball that I was able to snag. A versatile player as he is also able to play the outfield.
Notice a theme here
Pedro Alvarez- Have a Pedro signature or two and also have a complicated baseball he gave me.
Casey McGehee- McGehee was pointing at people to throw him baseballs and I kept getting skipped until he finally got to me when I kept rearranging myself. Nice to see him with the Pirates and he seems to be dedicated as he has dropped a decent amount of weight.
Kevin Youkilis- Hit a BP ball into the seats that I boxed everyone out for to make the catch.
Ronny Cedeno- Ugh
Here we go again
Andrew McCutchen- Tons of toss ups and some signatures.
Ryan Braun- A hit ball and a baseball signed.
Matt Kemp- Signed my 100th baseball.
Matt Holliday- Can put on a BP show and I caught one in center field a couple of seasons ago.
Andre Ethier- Hit one I snagged right after my 100th baseball.
Chris Young- Signed a ball. It was the last year the Diamondbacks were a terrible team and people were signing left and right. I think I got eight Diamondbacks to sign.
Carlos Beltran- Hit a ball I trapped and dove on top of to secure.
Cam Maybin- Exciting young ballplayer who may have finally started to put things together last season. A nice throw from middle center field grass.
Another decent list
Ubaldo Jimenez- Signed me a baseball
Tim Lincecum- Signed me a baseball and skipped every three people
Clayton Kershaw- Rolled me a baseball at the end of a BP.
Adam Wainwright- I was the only person he signed for on the 2010 day he signed. It was the day before his start.
Chris Carpenter (Cardinals)- Left baseballs by where I was standing. I grabbed one.
Bronson Arroyo- Threw me a baseball after he finished warming up.
Matt Garza- Autographed a baseball when he was on the Rays.
Edwin Jackson- Autographed a baseball when he was on the Rays.
Madison Bumgarner- Threw me a baseball.
Joel Hanrahan- Threw me two in 2010 and was cold to ballhawks last year. I wrote him a letter about my charity operation and he threw me one the next day.
Kerry Wood- Threw me one after he finished throwing last season.
Carlos Marmol- Threw me one of five balls I snagged from Cub relievers in 10 minutes.
Jason Motte- This was when Motte was not a closer and was nice. I knew he had a ball and asked him for it at the Cardinals dugout and without looking threw it up.
Evan Meek- Thrown me three. He seems intrigued by us catching baseballs and I ran into him on the street before. He knew my name all the way until regular season, although he still recognizes me all of the time.
Leo Nunez/Uviedo- Threw me one when I asked him in Spanish.
Wow it kind of looks like a 40 man roster. Hopefully I can add to this list in the near future.
(Pictures to come later in the week)
Everybody who has caught a baseball remembers how they got their first one. Mine was a foul ball hit by then Washington National, Willie Harris. The feeling of catching a baseball is like nothing else, and it fueled what has been a young 206 baseball snagging career.
Here is a list of players who have been a part of at least two snags:
1. Herbie Andrade: 14 baseballs
2. Andrew McCutchen: 8 baseballs
3. Euclides Rojas: 5 baseballs
4. Billy Hatcher: 4 baseballs
5. Ross Ohlendorf: 4 baseballs
6. Matt Diaz: 3 baseballs
7. Luis Dorante: 3 baseballs
8. Joel Hanrahan: 3 baseballs
9. Matt Lindstrom: 3 baseballs
10. Daniel McCutchen: 3 baseballs
11. Evan Meek: 3 baseballs
12. Tony Watson: 3 baseballs
13. Pedro Ciriaco: 2 baseballs
14. Adam Dunn: 2 baseballs
15. Prince Fielder: 2 baseballs
16. John Grabow: 2 baseballs
17. Garrett Jones: 2 baseballs
18. Charlie Morton: 2 baseballs
19. Bobby Parnell: 2 baseballs
20. Chris Resop: 2 baseballs
21. Luis Silverio: 2 baseballs
These people all helped me out with a grand total of 74 baseballs. That is the good news. Although I knew it already, I definitely need to catch more baseballs outright, because just based off of these 74 baseballs, only nine of them were hit and not found/tossed up. In addition only 20 of my 206 career baseballs were hit balls. This means that while I am great at toss ups, and my speed helps me a lot to get scrums or easter eggs, I will need to catch more baseballs to reach my goals and become even more of a factor.