Results tagged ‘ Lyle Overbay ’

Why the Pirates have been slumping

Catcher- Chris Snyder just came back and is starting to produce. Ryan Doumit is still not the answer defensively and his hitting was not good either. Jason Jaramillo was sent down and was the best of the three thus far as Snyder was injured. Jaramillo continued his good hitting from Spring Training and defensively is a clear improvement over Doumit. It seemed like the team never traded Doumit and the three catchers either are good offensively or defensively but never both. Thus they all are missing a part of the game and it sets the team back.

First Base- Lyle Overbay has been a mixed bag. This “great defender” blew a play the second game of the season which cost the team a game. Overbay hit a nice home run against St. Louis, but hs hitting is not great. Much like Adam LaRoche, the lefty Overbay is known as a slow starter and this haunts the team. Overbay has not had a hit against lefties and in a power position, and he cost a good deal of money for not producing. He is going to have to do more, or else Steve Pearce may get some looks at first base.

Second Base- Neil Walker has been one of the best performing Pirates. He has picked up where he left off last season. The average is down and the strikeouts are up, however the power has improved and he is showing that he can defensively handle the second base positon. Walker will need to continue hitting like this, and he will have to hit better against lefties. He also struggled during the homestand and he will have to hit better for the hometown crowd.

 Shortstop- Aki Iwamura gave up his position to Neil Walker, and if Ronny Cedeno is not careful, he could be next. Pedro Ciriaco had no reason to be sent down, especially since we have seen Cedeno and Josh Rodriguez get off to less than stellar starts. Cedeno usually starts off fast, and offensively he has not done much and he just is not getting the job done. Rodriguez has also had some good looks and he is just as bad. He was kept for his power, and I don’t see any power and I see a lack of patience at the plate. Cedeno has made a couple of spectacular plays at the shortstop position, however the routine plays such as grounders and turning the double play are just not up to snuff. Every time a grounder is hit his way, I hold my breath as it is an adventure. The shortstop position will need to produce more offensively and defensively will need to field their position.

Third base- Pedro Alvarez is expected to be the next big thing here in Pittsburgh. He is expected to be a power hitter and as a free swinger, is being compared to Adam Dunn. This season he has not met expectations. He is a notorious slow starter and in AAA last year hit in the .220′s this season. Alvarez will heat up when the weather gets hotter. His fielding is another story. His weight is in question and his fielding is inconsistent. He can make the plays half the time, and his arm strength is strong sometimes a little too strong. Steve Pearce has had looks at third and offensively hasn’t done much and defensively hasn’t done anything wrong, but hasn’t been truly tested. For all we know, he can do well but otherwise is could be another Delwyn Young experiment gone wrong.

Outfield- Jose Tabata has been the most complete player this season. He showed commitment to the team by putting on muscle and playing in the winter. He has already stolen seven bases and has added the home run to his game. He did well hitting leadoff but last night was bumped to the number two spot in the order. Despite his speed, he seems unsure in left field when he has to backpedal. Andrew McCutchen is known as a slow starter, however fans expected more from him after he tore the cover off of the ball in Spring Training. It seemed initially as though it would work as he hit two homers to start the season against the Cubs, but has since slumped. Clint Hurdle has tried to get him going again batting him leadoff but he struck out four times and was not a part of the offense. Furthermore McCutchen has as many steals for the team as I do right now- ZERO. McCutchen said at PirateFest that he wanted to have that “Ricky Henderson mentality” and know that the base was his when he would steal a base. He has looked like Lastings Milledge out there as the other day he was caught in a run-down. He like Alvarez will heat up soon. The platoon of Matt Diaz and Garrett Jones has not worked out well so far, with Jones hitting the lone homer. Diaz has been starting more as of late and he got two of the Pirates four hits on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers. They need to produce now as that has been a part of the offense that has been missing. Finally we have not had a good look at John Bowker yet, but we know that he earned his spot with a solid Spring Training. He has been relegated to pinch hitting but has not done much with that. I say give him a start and see what happens.

 Starters- The ace has been Kevin Correia and minus one inning on his start on Wednesday, he has pitched magnificantly. Correia gave up that homer to Fielder and was unable to field a bunt on Wednesday and that cost him, but he was able to pitch well in his previous starts. He will have to continue to pitch well as he is the ace, but I am unsure as to how long he can keep this up. Paul Maholm had his second great start on Thursday against the Brewers but took the loss giving up two runs in the first inning and was not helped by the offense or lack thereof. Paul has looked like Zach Duke at times as he has looked very hittable. He will have to be able to pitch inside more like he is trying to do. Ross Ohlendorf was the weakest looking of the starters, as he pitched ok at best in his first start against the Cubs and now is injured and Jeff Karstens has been forced back into the starting rotation when he will pitch tomorrow against the Cincinnati Reds. Charlie Morton has been nothing but stellar for the team, getting a complete game win last night. He changed his arm angle in Spring Training and the walks are finally down. I believe that before he was tipping his pitches, and now is getting a ton of groundballs due in large part to that newfound sinker. James McDonald was slated to be the team’s ace until his injury in Spring Training. I don’t have much on him, but now he should be able to pitch deeper in the games. He just needs to stop those innings where he labors. He seems to pitch 30-40 pitches in an inning and it effects how far he can go in his starts.

Bullpen- The plesant surprise has been Mike Crotta. That new sinker has proven to be vital and he already is a staple in the bullpen. Chris Resop had some trouble against the Chicago Cubs in the second game of the season, but since has looked pretty good and has picked up from where he left off last season. Joe Beimel is back off of the disabled list and we soon will find out what he has. He can be used in many different capacities and is the lone lefty in the bullpen after Garrett Olsen was designated for assignment. He was ok at best, but he was a good filler. Beimel is in his second tour of duty with the Pirates. Daniel McCutchen was called up during the season and he will now serve as the long reliever with Jeff Karstens now in the rotation. His ERA was a bit high last season and he will have to limit the mistakes. Jose Veras slow the pace of play when he pitches and earned the loss on Saturday against the Colorado Rockies when he gave up three runs in that infamous sixth inning. He has good stuff but needs to place his pitches in more adventageous positions so that he can take command of the batter. Evan Meek is finally coming back after the shoulder injury and before had a couple of bad outings in a row. Meek was sick it cost him dearly as his placement was off. He would leave pitches up to where hitters had no problem hitting him. When he came back Wednesday against the Brewers, his fastball topped at 92 when it usually tops out at 96-97 so the arm is not 100% yet. Lastly, Joel Hanrahan has done a solid job. He is not being called upon to close the game as much as the team only won one of six total games thru the first homestand. Hanrahan is the only closer in the NL Central who has not yet blown a save and he just seems to have extra competitiveness when he squares off against the hitter. Hanrahan is showing the Pirates that the made the right decision when it came to who would close the game.

My interviews at PNC Park 4/13/11

 *Note: Before I begin, I do want to say that I left a couple of quotes out, but these do not affect what you are reading. Enjoy!

Pittsburgh Pirates Media Interviews

Pregame:

Manager Clint Hurdle:

1.      What does a rainout do to you, particularly the pitchers?

“It’s plays out in different ways. There’s times you really prefer to keep playing and there’s times when a day off is nice. We had the day off, and I don’t think that anyone was clawing or scratching and kicking their teeth or was going to walk out the door and head home.”

2.      On Evan Meek being ready for tonight’s game

“He’s fit for duty. He really well could be (in terms of is he still sick).”

3.      Lined up rotation for Cincinnati

“We still have a TBA (to be announced) on the 17th. Friday and Saturday will just fall in order with (Charlie) Morton and (James) McDonald.”

4.      On whether Jeff Karstens is available in relief for Brewers series

“He will be available thru the series.”

5.      Season breakdown in days or weeks?

“I usually break things down into ten game sets. It allows you to look at everyone a little bit.”

6.      Thru ten games now

“I think we have done some things right and some things wrong. There is room for improvement in some areas.”

7.      On Josh Hamilton’s slide and advising players against sliding headfirst

“Yes all of the time. There’s two players in the Major Leagues right now Rafael Furcal and Josh Hamilton that were hurt for sliding first.”

8.      Is there any leeway when a manager argues balls and strikes?

“You are not gone automatically. If you leave the dugout you have a good chance of being gone automatically. I have had running commentary with every ump since the start of the season, some more then others. There are a couple of umps that don’t even acknowledge the fact that you’re there, I’m sure for all the appropriate reasons. Most guys will say, ‘that’s it, any more and you’re gone’.”

9.      On Garrett Jones not being in the lineup

“Yesterday, I was looking at a lineup from the standpoint that we were going to play the three games series and that there were going to be two left-handers. Right now, Matt is swinging the bat better, so this Marcum kid he’s an interesting pitcher, his lifetime splits are reversed. Right handers are hitting 108 points higher against him than left-handers. I already am throwing three left-handers in the lineup today. I’ve encouraged people in the past to live outside the box and be creative and initially I did not do that yesterday and I got to sleep on it for a night, and I thought ‘let’s go do it’.”

10.  On getting switch-hitter Ryan Doumit to bat from the right side of the plate

“We’ve had the talk. I wouldn’t force anybody to do it.”

Charlie Morton:

1.      Where do you weigh in on the whole Electric Stuff groups online?

“Electric Stuff? Do I endorse it (laughs)? I mean I think I have good stuff, do I endorse it, sure (laughs). I appreciate the support.”

2.      On his new arm angle

“We actually started to tinker with it probably in the second week of Spring Training. It’s still kind of new. I think during Spring Training, I was so focused on competing and I hadn’t really adapted to it the way I wanted to. I think now, I’m getting used to it but the first couple starts, there’s going to be some control problems  but my misses are consistent, I’m missing down and in to a righty, and it just shows that I’m not making the adjustment but at the same time it is showing that once I do make the adjustment it will be consistent, I just got to work on it.”

3.      How do you plan on remaining confident and getting ahead of hitters in the count?

“I think what happened was mechanically, I was showing the ball really early. I may have been tipping pitches, I’m not sure, but I know that the hitters were seeing the ball really well. I adjusted some things, and release the ball a little later and as a pitcher, you can see the swings of the hitters, when I started seeing guys late on pitches after the adjustment, even if they were right down the middle, I knew was heading in the right direction, and that allows me to be confident.”

4.      Comparison of new arm slide to Roy Halladay

“An arm angle is one thing, results are another. Is it good that people like my arm angle? Yeah, it’s really good. If I can pitch like him, then I’ll be perfectly happy. I feel that when I can throw a ball down in the zone I’m going to get groundballs.”

5.      Rivalry with Brewers

“It’s similar to what we have struggled with in the past; winning the games on the road. We had a great first road trip, and I think we have something to prove. The key is not dwelling in the disappointment from things that have happened in the past. If we focus on those things, it’s going to bring us down.”

6.      On the fan incidents that happened this week

“I heard about it, I saw a picture of it and someone said it was on YouTube, I haven’t researched it. I heard about the usher that was killed, and stuff like that is more disappointing.”

7.      Anything to add?

“Go Bucs!”

Mike Crotta

1.      The sinker

“It’s got a lot to do with arm slot and just how you finish with your pitch. It’s a little easier for me to throw and Charlie’s pretty much the same way.”

2.      Is that your out pitch?

“That’s generally what I go to, especially being out of the ‘pen, You don’t want to get beat with anything but your best pitch, so I throw it more often then not.”

3.      Secret in terms of bouncing back from a rough outing

“You just need to have short memory. You can’t worry good or bad about what happened yesterday because obviously it doesn’t matter now. There’s nothing I can do about what happened yesterday whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, you just need to look forward and be ready for today.”

4.      What did do between this year and last year to make the team?

“I had the opportunity of making the team, and all I thought about was keeping my pitches down in the zone, and not really worrying about anything else.”

5.      How have you embraced the all-in call that Manager Hurdle has put out?

“You have to, you can’t do anything in this game halfway.”

6.      On his unique ritual before warming up

“I just want to try and get everything going”

7.      Trying to stay fresh for a 162 game schedule

“This is my first time in the bullpen, so it’s going to be a trial by error and learn by watching other people and how they do it and I’m going to try and take bits and pieces of guys that have had successful careers and see if I can mold that into something of my own.”

Postgame:

Manager Clint Hurdle

1.      On Marcum

“It’s what he does when he’s effective. When he left, truth be told, we may have barreled one ball, Overbay’s single, Diaz snuck a single through the middle of the infield, but there were a lot of miss hits along the way. He changes speed very effectively.”

2.      On Correia

“The one pitch hurt. The breaking ball- we wanted it down, and he left it up and Prince hit it to the biggest part of the ballpark.”

3.      On whether it is true that people make Kevin pay for his mistakes

“Yeah. I think that’s accurate. As is the case with most pitchers unless you have top shelf velocity or something like that. If you hang a breaking ball in this league, you’re more than likely going to be backing up a base or rubbing up another one.”

4.      On whether Correia had a play if he had gone after the bunt

“Well, we won’t know. We work very hard on our bunt defenses, we don’t have many of the ones we have. That one was a pitcher priority with a line. You all stood out there in Spring Training, and watched us go through our PFP’s all the time, and his priority was the line. If he gets to the ball, we have to throw to third in a nothing-nothing game. We had a chance of not facing three and four in their lineup, rather than having to.”

5.      Do you ever look at the .500 threshold in terms of wins and losses?

“No. It’s too early. My focus on us is playing with complete games and finishing games, getting better in every aspect every day we’re out there. We weren’t able to generate any offense tonight. We made a couple of mistakes on the mound, and paid for them and those are the things I am focusing on.”

6.      Evan Meek’s return back onto the mound and the bullpen

“It was very solid, I thought. I like the way that Crotta came back in and threw strikes, like the way Evan came in, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow, but it would be a big help to have him back in the back end of the bullpen again.”

7.      After being called back into Hurdle’s office for “not talking enough about the team losing the game”, the statement given by Hurdle:

“We’ve optioned Jason Jaramillo back to Indianapolis and we will activate Chris Snyder for tomorrow’s game.”

Kevin Correia

1.      The pitch to Prince Fielder

“I just hung it a little bit.”

2.      Overshadow five good innings you had?

“No, it was a bad pitch but it never should have gotten to that. I should have been out of the inning before that, and just one play with the pitcher. I didn’t field the ball the way I needed to, so it is what it is.”

3.      Think that bunt was going to go to Pedro?

“I had the line on that play, we’ve worked on it and worked on it. I threw the ball and I got over there, and I don’t know what, I think he just bunted it hard, and the grass kind of ate it up, but I’ve got to field that ball.”

4.      What do you make of your first few innings?

“I was pitching well, just getting outs. It only takes one inning, and I had a bad inning at a bad time.”

5.      Enjoying the pitching battle

“We had a good game plan and it was working, and I kind of went against it that inning, and I got hurt. I was staying with hard pitches down, and then I just flipped a curveball up there and I hadn’t thrown him that pitch yet, he was just on it.”

Jason Jaramillo

1.      Snyder

” I didn’t really pay attention to what was going on, obviously they had to make a move, so I’m going to go do my job, and try to get back up here as soon as possible.”

2.      Benefit for playing more

“I’ve feel like I’ve shown that I deserve to play here, and was doing a great job.”

3.      Take out of spring training

“The atmosphere and just what Clint has rubbed off of all of us and how much fun it is again. I’ve had a lot of fun here and learned a lot.”

Lyle Overbay

1.      On Marcum’s repertoire

“You don’t get to see what it does exactly, but I kind of have an idea of what he’s trying to do and he doesn’t make mistakes and when you’re down in the zone, you’re going to get a lot of groundballs, and he did a pretty good job tonight.”

2.      Did Marcum do anything differently than what you prepared?

“No. He’s going to throw that pitch down and away or he’ll mix it in, mix the cutter in, and throw the changeup and he’s got a good changeup. You’ve got to see it a couple of times, and realize how good it is.

3.      On Marcum’s velocity possibly being down

“Usually that’s where he’s at, 84-86. That’s just one of those things where it looks good coming in, and then all of a sudden, he gets such late movement that by the time it gets to your barrel, it’s moved off the plate and you’re hitting it off of the end instead of barreling it up.”

Joel Hanrahan

1.      How does it feel to be the closer?

“I feel good about it. Obviously, it’s an important three outs at the end of the game, and I feel like I can handle the job, and look forward to the opportunity.”

2.      How do you feel that you’ve matured as a closer?

“I think it’s a little early to tell that, but obviously my mindset is to go out there and have fun and not put too much pressure on myself, when before every out was a pressure situation where I kind of take that pressure off myself and just go out there and have fun.”

3.      What is the most important thing for you being in the closer’s role?

“Well there’s 24 other guys and eight coaches that are depending on me to finish the job and I just want to go out there and do it for everybody. It’s a team effort, and as long as we can all hold the lead in the ninth.

4.      Any more exhilarating feeling for you than just the 1-2-3 ninth inning?

“That’s a great day any day you can do that. It’s a long season, long year, and the games are kind of long themselves, so once you get those three outs, everybody’s kind of relaxed a little bit more, and it’s one of the best feelings you can earn that day.”

5.      Embracing Manager Hurdle’s all-in philosophy

“When I have a pair of pocket aces, I go all-in. You can tell that he’s definitely got our back, and that’s a big thing to know that a manager has your back, and it makes you want to play a little harder for him. We’re just trying to embrace everything that he’s trying to teach us, and use it out there in the game.”

6.      How have you guys have struggled at home but done well on the road, a change from the past couple of seasons. How have you changed your success on the road ?

“Back to the home part, it’s been a tough home series for us, where got in late Wednesday night, and then turn around and play on Thursday morning where that was our first time coming to Pittsburgh, and half the team it is their first time being in Pittsburgh, and the adjustment period of being settled into your apartment, and trying to get back to the normal life is not easy. Our goal on the road, is to go up there and change the things that we did last year, and we started off good with the first road trip, and obviously we need to both at home and on the road.”

7.      In your time, what have you made of the Pittsburgh-Milwaukee baseball rivalry?

“Well it’s kind of been one-sided and we need to do our part to turn that around. They’re a good swinging ballclub over there, and they’re going to play hard all of the time and we just need to step up a little bit against them.”

8.      What do you make of the incidents that happened at the ballpark this home stand?

“It’s stupid. There’s no reason for anybody to go on the field during the game, and I’m not going to come into your office and streak through your office, that would be just stupid, right? It puts us in danger, because you never know what could be happening. The thing that happened the other night, apparently the guy was drunk, so it’s not safe for anybody. Better him going home with the cops then getting behind the wheel of a car.”

9.      Anything else that you would like to add?

“No, I gotta go home bud.”

 

 

Notes about my media experience AKA this is last post until I post the interviews

1. I arrived around 3:30 and was the first in line for clubhouse access at 3:30. I saw a few players and Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said a quick and pleasant hello to me. Evan Meek then saw and remembered me and gave me a pound. Was he feeling better? I would think so, and he was available to pitch tonight and he pitched a 1-2-3 inning

2. I had no idea what to expect when I got into Clint Hurdle’s office. The only time I had ever seen an office was in Bob Knight’s autobiography, and his office was a MESS. I completely had no idea what was going to happen coming in and I had no idea who I would interview, and what I would ask. I walked in and saw Clint Hurdle waiting for us. We all put our recorders on the desk and asked questions of Clint. As a fan, it is easy to ask him a question, however I was a little overwhelmed by the situation. People were asking questions left and right, and I had no set gameplan and thus I just took it all in (no Clint Hurdle pun intended). The first question is always the hardest but when the postgame came, I got the last question and used it to talk about Evan Meek in the bullpen and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

 3. I then left the clubhouse and stayed on the field for all of Pirates BP.

 4. My first image of the field was all kinds of yellow jerseys, a large group likely the pitchers were in center with the players stretching directly in front of me by the third base side. I first was welcomed by Euclides Rojas and we shook hands. Pedro Alvarez, Rojas and Luis Silverio all were communicating to each other in Spanish. From what I saw the whole time of BP, Pedro was the LOUDEST of all of the players. Pedro then asked me a little later in English how I was and I tried to respond in Spanish to keep it going but he continued in English. Oh well, at least I tried to fit in.

 5. Andrew McCutchen then came on the field and he said hey to the Alvarez and Silverio and I totally expected him to walk past me. Everyone knows how I feel about Cutch, however at the ballpark, he is in his element, Mr. Personality. He was dancing in the outfield, singing along with Pedro in a girly voice during a song and usual antics. He actually said a “Hey boss” to me before quickly asking how I was, and responding to my reply. That likely was the best exchange we have ever had and I now respect him 1/22 more.

 6. Charlie Morton hit a BP homer and so did Paul Maholm who had to contend with the much tougher right field. The pitchers had a good laugh at Maholm’s expense when he hit five or six balls that hit the top of the cage and didn’t go much further. They had home run distance but kept connecting with the cage.

 7. When Pirates BP ended it started to get cooler than it already was and I just had a long sleeve dress shirt on. I went inside back into the press area. At this point, the players were changing and a saw a lot of bare body parts (nothing too graphic) and a lot of tattoos. Players were getting showers and they all were wearing sandals and hanging out. I decided to first interview Charlie Morton. Again, I had absolutely NO clue what I was going to ask anyone, and so I got the nerves out of the way pretty quickly. My first question to Morton was about the whole Electric Stuff buzz that was on Facebook and Twitter, and you will just have to wait for his response, but he was laughing and smiling the whole way which was the goal, to loosen him up. We talked about his new arm angle, comparisons to Roy Halladay, working on control of the arm angle, momentum and much more.

 Photo taken by Colston Cooper on a separate occasion

 8. An interview I really wanted to do was with Mike Crotta. I don’t hear much from the press about him and I wanted to really talk about his sinker and I was given that chance. It was an interesting interview and the sinker is the focal point of that interview. After this interview I went back to observe Brewers BP.

 Unrelated photo taken by my friend Kayla Thompson

 9. I tried to find out if they were going to increase security or do anything in response to the tasing, however I was told that nothing will be done. This confuses me, although next to no one would be/was at the game. It will be interesting to see if they consider changing in the future.

 10. After Brewers BP, I grabbed some dinner and then headed up to the press box, where I grabbed the pre-game sheets and then sat and enjoyed the game. I know what some people are thinking, and to answer your questions, yes I was able to watch the Penguins game as well, as it was on a TV right in front of me.

 11. The game had a very fast pace to it through the first few innings as both Kevin Correia and Brewers pitcher Shaun Marcum were pitching no-hitters, but Correia blinked first and then allowed a homer to Prince Fielder and the Pirates lost 6-0.

 12. Towards the end of the game I received a free media guide. The media guide much like the one I received in 11th grade was spiral bound. I also received a thumb drive which contained every MLB team’s 2011 media guide. I love reading the media guides and this is hours of great reading, and also potentially a lot of helpful ballhawking resources.

 13. I then went down with the rest of the press, and after the meeting with Hurdle and my question, we went into the clubhouse. We then were called back into Hurdle’s office where we were told that Chris Snyder would come up and Jason Jaramillo would be sent down. I am posting this again, just because I was one of a few people to first find out.

 14. We then interviewed Kevin Correia and I asked another question. Considering I heard that he was swearing upon entering the clubhouse, he was no problem in terms of speaking to.

 15. Jason Jaramillo agreed to his final interview before leaving Pittsburgh. He is sad not to be with the team but realizes that he likely will have more of a chance to play in Indy and hopes to be back up in Pittsburgh really soon.

 16. From there we all interviewed Lyle Overbay as he was a former teammate of Marcum’s.

 17. Things died down, and the other media members left for the night. I decided to spend one last interview being with Joel Hanrahan. We talked mainly about the closer position and also how he has grown as a closer and player since his Washington days.

 Photo taken Opening Day.

 18. It was an eventful and successful day for me, and not bad considering I had no gameplan coming in. I now know that I will need to plan for who I want to interview and at least have an idea of what to ask. Also there is a chance that I could get media credentials once a homestand, and that could be exciting.

 The next entry will be the transcript. What you just read before was a summary of what happened. There was quite a bit more, but you get the idea. Expect this next entry Friday or Saturday. I did take a decent amount of pictures, and I am unsure if I can get them to work or not.

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.

Pirates Early Series Preview Part 4: Shortstop

 As of today, here is the depth chart for the shortstop position:

 1. Ronny Cedeno

 2. Josh Rodriguez

 3. Pedro Ciriaco

 Unfortunately for the Pirates, they are very thin at the shortstop position. Essentially by defauly, Cedeno will be the new shortstop. I along with any other sensable Pirates fan know that Cedeno has no reason to be the team’s starting shortstop. Cedeno somehow managed to hit 8 home runs in his 136 games played. Cedeno seemed to get more and more tired as the season went on, and even worse, he played this off-season for a Venezuelan Fall League and thus I am concerned about how he will hold up this season. He also was a liability in the field committing 18 errors last season. His range factor was also down last season. In his 423 career games played at the shortstop position, he has made 56 errors. While that stat may be a little reassuring, his defense slipped a little last season and while he made a few nice plays, they often were overshadowed. Cedeno essentially is a great bench player, but should not be a starter for any team, even if it is for the Pirates.

 I went over the Rodriguez matters yesterday, as he is the team’s Rule-5 Pick. He was signed to provide some “competition” for Cedeno. I still have no idea why the Pirates have not gone after a shortstop as of late, but essentially Rodriguez will be the team’s starter if Cedeno gets injured (he is quite injury prone) or does not perform up to par. While that may be a scary thought, nothing could be as scary as Cedeno being the Pirates starting shortstop.

 Pedro Ciriaco was a part of the deal that sent Chris Snyder to Pittsburgh and Bobby Crosby, Ryan Church and D.J. Carrasco to Arizona. He was cited as the fastest guy in the Diamondbacks Minor League system which made me a little excited. Fan were supposed to see what he had to offer, as he was a September call up. Things got really exciting when he got hits in his first two at-bats. With Cedeno struggling, many wanted Ciriaco to start to see what he had to offer, but Pirates Management refused and even in the same breath said that they weren’t just happy with Cedeno’s play, but that he was a “lock” to start at the position for the 2011 team. The team never allowed Ciriaco to start a game, and thus he was pretty much a waste of a call-up. In his next two at-bats, he struck out before getting a hit in the second to last game of the season against the Florida Marlins. He got an at-bat on the last game of the season, striking out again. Essentially, Ciriaco was 3 for 6 with 3 strikeouts, which although it was an extremely small sample size, was not that impressive.

 The Minor Leagues do not offer much promise at this moment as Chase D’Arnaud is not ready for the Majors quite yet. It is obvious that the shortstop position is our weakest position both offensively and defensively.

 I am very surprised at the team’s approach to this position thus far in the off-season. I understand that the team is short on money, but they were happy to blow their money on two (perhaps even three) minor leaguers that essentially serve the same purpose (Josh Fields, Garrett Atkins and Corey Wimberly) and Lyle Overbay. It seemed like they spent their money on signing guys to seemingly show Ryan Doumit the door and seemingly ignore the shortstop position.

 If the Pirates decide to spend some money, they cannot ignore their shortstop position, as that and a left-handed reliever are their two biggest needs. Here are the shortstops still in the free agency market and my quick thoughts on them all.

Orlando Cabrera (36) – Type B, not offered arb: Cabrera was briefly connected with the Pirates this off-season, but the rumors were quickly denied. Cabrera is a defensive shortstop, which would benefit this team, but I believe that Cedeno has better power numbers. He and Ojeda are the oldest shortstop candidates, and Cabrera likely would command too much money anyways.

Bobby Crosby (31)- I actually would like to see the team bring Crosby back. He had a brief stint here, and never really had a chance with Arizona, and we could probably sign him cheaply. Crosby at least provides some depth for the team, and at 31 still could play an active role with this team.

Cristian Guzman (33)- Would be a great fit, and I believe would start over Cedeno, but likely will ask for too much money. Plus he is an old 33.

Jerry Hairston Jr. (35)- He seems to be older than 35, and I think he would ask for too much money.

Julio Lugo (35)- Not worth it at all. He would likely command too much money anyways.

Augie Ojeda (36)- Not a good fit at all.

Nick Punto (33)- Would be a better signing at least defensively, but would probably ask for too much.

Edgar Renteria (34)- He wouldn’t sign with us anyways. Probably will sign with San Fransisco.

 Here is my predictions for the depth chart come April 1 (no surprises here):

 1. Ronny Cedeno

 2. Josh Rodriguez

 3. Pedro Ciriaco

 Tomorrow I will write about the much more exciting and eventful third base position.

Pirates Early Season Preview Part 2: First Base

 As of today, December 23 here is the Pirates depth chart for the first base position:

1ST BASE:

1. Lyle Overbay

2. Garrett Jones

3. Steve Pearce

 Lyle Overbay comes in as the starter, and his accomplishments have been written about constantly within the past couple of weeks on this blog. Overbay will bring his .996 fielding percentage to Pittsburgh and an infield that will greatly benefit from his consistent and sound defensive play. Overbay is a lefty, and offensively projects very similarly to Adam LaRoche, meaning he will hit his share of home runs but he will get some walks and a boatload of strikeouts to go with it. I am eager to find out what his batting average will be, as last season he hit a disappointing .243 which was well below his career average. If he can hit at PNC Park, perhaps that $5 million deal will look a little better.

 Garrett Jones is not a great first baseman, and defensively he was unable to scoop a lot of throws that the average first baseman could make. I am sure that his frequent stints in right field don’t help his cause, but for a guy who played first base for AAA, I did not come off impressed. Jones seemed to do a good job against right handed pitchers, but other than that Spring Training home run against C.C. Sabathia last season, he did not have any really significant success against left handed pitching. With Overbay the starter at first base, Jones will lose those at-bats against lefties and share right field duties with free agent acquisiton Matt Diaz. While that will make his average look better, a lot of his power numbers could drop off. However in a way, I see Jones much like I saw Doumit in the second half of last season. This means, that if he gets hot with his bat, it may be too hard to sit Jones down and that could result in the benching of Diaz and/or Overbay.

 Steve Pearce had what seemed to be a comeback season for him, as he came up to the team after hitting .345 in Triple-A. Pearce was hitting the ball effectively offensively and then all of a sudden got injured. For Pearce, the problem has been either an injury or just looking overmatched in the Majors. Pearce is best known for starting the 2007 season with Class A Lynchburg and then making it all the way to a September call up with the Pirates. Pearce is a resilient player and perhaps is a dark horse candidate to make the roster.

 John Bowker would be one to mention on here as well. Bowker had a great September and clearly was the most useful of the September call-ups. Bowker appears to be a front runner for a bench position with the team. The thing that stands in his way is his competition. That sentence may sound stupid, but it is true, as Bowker is a lefty just like Jones and Overbay and his chances of getting the first base position are slim if any. There would have to be some significant injuries for him to start but his starting wouldn’t be the end of the world as we know it.

 Jeff Clement seems to be a forgotten man at the moment. Clement came to Pittsburgh in the deal that sent Jack Wilson and Ian Snell deal. Clement was the starter last season but an early season slump changed that. Clement was sent to the Minors to fine tune his game. Clement was always good for batting practice and hitting long home run distance balls into foul territory. First base has actually become a solid position depth wise for the team, so Clement is likely to go to the Minors to fine tune his game.

 Two other dark-horse candidates are the recent signings in Josh Fields and Garrett Atkins. Sure both naturally play third base but both could play first base if they had to. It helps that both guys bat from the right side as it would be more attractive to the team. Atkins may have the edge on Fields, as he hits more more power and a higher average. Still both have an outside shot and certainly a better shot than Clement. I see one of these guys making the team’s bench.

 So what have we learned about the first base position? Pretty much it is Lyle Overbay and the field. Here is how I see things stacking up come April 1st:

1. Overbay

2. Jones

3. Atkins

4. Pearce

5. Bowker

6. Fields

7. Clement

 Honestly Jones is not an attractive backup to me, as he like Overbay is left-handed so perhaps Atkins or Pearce would receive more looks at the first base position. Pearce and Atkins both to me are essentially even although I think that Atkins is the better hitter and Pearce the better fielder. Still, Atkins to me is just a tad better than Pearce.

 The Pirates early season preview will continue tomorrow with part 3, the second base position. Neil Walker surprised many when he grabbed the position from Aki Iwamura, but how will he fare this season, and who is his main competition? I will answer these questions and more tomorrow.

Entry on Pirates Promos, Caravan and Garrett Atkins

Here is some analysis on Garrett Atkins starting with the Wikipedia info:

Atkins was drafted in 2000 out of UCLA by the Colorado Rockies in the fifth round (137th overall). This time, he chose to accept the offer from an MLB club and began the process of reaching the majors.

Colorado Rockies

 2007 season

Garrett Atkins

Hit .301 overall, batting .349 at mile-high Coors Field, but hit only .254 in away games. However, one of the reasons for any substantial differences in home and road splits for Rockies batters is that they have to make adjustments in how they see pitches away from Coors Field – particularly breaking balls, such as sliders and curve balls – since those pitches act differently at Coors Field than on the road.

 2008 season

In 2008, Atkins spent much of the season playing first base in the absence of injured teammate Todd Helton, marking a defensive transition to “a more natural position for him.”

 2009 season

Prior to the start of the 2009 season, Atkins accepted a one-year $7 million dollar contract from the Rockies. He struggled in the 2009 season hitting .226 with nine home runs, and 48 RBIs. With the emergence of Ian Stewart Atkins became less of a priority in the Rockies longterm plans, he was thus non-tendered by the Rockies on December 12, 2009, officially making him a free agent.

Baltimore Orioles

2010 season

Atkins agreed to a 1-year, $4 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles. The deal includes a one-year club option for $8.5 million, with a $500,000 buyout. He is expected to be the starting first baseman.

On June 27, the Orioles designated Atkins for assignment.

On July 6, the Orioles released Atkins.

 Pittsburgh Pirates

 2011 Season

Atkins agreed to a minor league deal with the Pirates on December 23, 2010. It includes an invite to spring training.

 Atkins has a third base background, although he can play first base as well. As it was said earlier, he is on a Minor League deal and he is right handed. As a right-handed batter, Atkins can backup both Pedro Alvarez and Lyle Overbay if he makes the Majors. To me the signing was cheap, however confuses me. Here I was earlier this week singing the praises of the team signing Josh Fields and then the team goes out and wastes the small amount of money they have to sign a guy that could potentially become the next Delwyn Young on this team. I am not quite happy with this signing, although I still rank the Olsen signing as the worst of the off-season.

  Zac’s Grade: C+

Garrett Atkins Career statistics
Batting average     .285
Home runs     99
Runs batted in  

  488

 This came forth earlier in the off-season so here is the actual Pirates promotional schedule:

April
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Thu, Apr 7 Rockies Opening Day
2011 Magnetic Schedule All Fans
Fri, Apr 8 Rockies Free Shirt Friday All Fans
2011 Pirates Schedule Poster All Fans
Sat, Apr 9 Rockies Zambelli Fireworks
2011 Pirates Schedule Poster All Fans
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Apr 10 Rockies Kids Day
Kids Glove Kids 14 & Younger
Fri, Apr 22 Nationals Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Reusable Coffee Sleeve All Fans
Sat, Apr 23 Nationals Andrew McCutchen Action Figurine All Fans
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Apr 24 Nationals Kids Day
Kids Build-a-Bear Pirates Bunny Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Kids 14 & Younger

All giveaways and event dates are subject to change.

May
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Fri, May 6 Astros Free Shirt Friday FSN All Fans
Sat, May 7 Astros Pirates Cap Night All Fans
Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, May 8 Astros Kids Day
Kids Mini Bat Kids 14 & Younger
Mom’s Earrings All Moms
Fri, May 20 Tigers Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, May 21 Tigers Neil Walker Bobblehead All Fans
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, May 22 Tigers Kids Day
Kids Pierogy Beach Towel Kids 14 & Younger

All giveaways and event dates are subject to change.

June
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Fri, Jun 3 Phillies Free Shirt Friday Consol Energy All Fans
Sat, Jun 4 Phillies Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Jun 5 Phillies Kids Day
Kids Pedro Alvarez Replica BP Jersey Kids 14 & Younger
Fri, Jun 10 Mets Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Jun 11 Mets Skyblast featuring Zambelli Fireworks and Live Music TBD
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Jun 12 Mets Kids Day
Kids Pirate Parrot Cruise for the Cure Bobble Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Kids 14 & Younger
Mon, Jun 20 Orioles Blass/Sanguillen 1971 Championship Canvas Wrap All Fans
Tue, Jun 21 Orioles 1971 40th Anniversary Celebration
1971 Commemorative Ceramic Stein All Fans
Fri, Jun 24 Red Sox Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Jun 25 Red Sox Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Jun 26 Red Sox Kids Day
Kids Bucco Bands Kids 14 & Younger

All giveaways and event dates are subject to change.

July
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Mon, Jul 4 Astros Pirates Stars’n Stripes Reversible Floppy Cap All Fans
Fri, Jul 8 Cubs Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Jul 9 Cubs Skyblast featuring Zambelli Fireworks and .38 Special in Concert
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Jul 10 Cubs Kids Day
Kids Pierogy Wind-Up Racers Kids 14 & Younger
Fri, Jul 22 Cardinals Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Jul 23 Cardinals Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Jul 24 Cardinals Kids Day
Kids Jose Tabata Replica Alternate Jersey Kids 14 & Younger

All giveaways and event dates are subject to change.

August
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Fri, Aug 5 Padres Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Aug 6 Padres Skyblast featuring Zambelli Fireworks and Live Music TBD
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Aug 7 Padres Kids Day
Kids Drawstring Bag Kids 14 & Younger
Fri, Aug 19 Reds Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Aug 20 Reds Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Aug 21 Reds Kids Day
Kids Book Covers Kids 14 & Younger

All giveaways and event dates are subject to change.

September
Date Opponent Promotion / Event Presented by For
Fri, Sep 9 Marlins Free Shirt Friday All Fans
Sat, Sep 10 Marlins Zambelli Fireworks
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Sep 11 Marlins Kids Day
Kids Pirates Slippers Kids 14 & Younger
Fri, Sep 23 Reds Free Shirt Friday All Fans
2012 Magnetic Schedule All Fans
Sat, Sep 24 Reds Fan Jam featuring Steve Miller Band
2012 Magnetic Schedule All Fans
Scratch’n Win Eat’n Park All Fans
Sun, Sep 25 Reds Kids Day
Kids Growth Chart Kids 14 & Younger
2012 Magnetic Schedule All Fans

 

Although this came forth a while ago as well, here is the Pittsburgh Pirates Winter Caravan Schedule:

Group 1

Featuring outfielder Andrew McCutchen, relief pitcher Evan Meek, and broadcasters Bob Walk and John Wehner.

Date Location Time Event Details
Mon., Jan 24 Pittsburgh, PA 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. Allegheny General Hospital Visit
(private event)
Mon., Jan 24 Pittsburgh, PA 11:15 a.m. – 12 p.m. Autograph session at
Allegheny General Hospital lobby
Mon., Jan 24 North Hills, PA 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Autograph session at PNC Bank
in McIntyre Square
Mon., Jan 24 Somerset, PA 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. VIP Reception at
Seven Springs Mountain Resort (private event)
Tue., Jan 25 Wheeling, WV 10 – 11 a.m. Triadelphia Middle School Visit
Tue., Jan 25 Wheeling, WV 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Luncheon Event at Wheeling Island
Tue., Jan 25 Pittsburgh, PA 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Autograph Session at Dick’s Sporting Goods
at the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills
Wed., Jan 26 Freeport, PA 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. School Visit (Location TBA)
Wed., Jan 26 Pittsburgh, PA 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Carmalt Academy School Visit
Wed., Jan 26 Shaler Township, PA 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Autograph Session at Giant Eagle
Thu., Jan 27 Pittsburgh, PA 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Allegheny Traditional Academy School Visit
Thu., Jan 27 Pittsburgh, PA 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. School Visit (Location TBA)
Thu., Jan 27 Pittsburgh, PA
(Private Event)
6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Roberto Clemente Museum reception
(Private Event)

Group 2

Featuring pitching coach Ray Searage, starting pitcher James McDonald, infielder Neil Walker and broadcaster Tim Neverett.

Date Location Time Event Details
Mon., Jan 24 Washington, PA 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. School Visit (Location TBA)
Mon., Jan 24 Morgantown, WV 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Luncheon Event at Damon’s Restaurant
Mon., Jan 24 Uniontown, PA 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Autograph Session at Uniontown Mall
Tue., Jan 25 Smithton, PA 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. Visit to Dick’s Sporting Goods
Distribution Center (private event)
Tue., Jan 25 Latrobe, PA 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Luncheon Event at Giannilli’s Two Restaurant
Tue., Jan 25 Indiana, PA 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Autograph Session at Indiana Mall
Wed., Jan 26 Rural Valley, PA 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. School Assembly at West Shamokin Jr. High
Wed., Jan 26 Butler, PA 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Luncheon Event (Location TBA)
Wed., Jan 26 Steubenville, OH 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Autograph Session at Fort Steuben Mall
Thu., Jan 27 Poland, OH 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. School Assembly at Poland North Elementary
Thu., Jan 27 Youngstown, OH 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Luncheon Event at Butler Art Institute
Thu., Jan 27 Pittsburgh, PA
(Private Event)
6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Roberto Clemente Museum reception
(Private Event)

Group 3

Featuring bench coach Jeff Banister, first baseman Garrett Jones, relief pitcher Joel Hanrahan, outfielder Jose Tabata and broadcaster Greg Brown.

Date Location Time Event Details
Mon., Jan 24 New Castle, PA 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. School Visit at George Washington Intermediate
Mon., Jan 24 Meadville, PA 12:30 p.m. – 2 p.m. Luncheon Event at Allegheny College
Mon., Jan 24 Erie, PA 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Autograph Session at Dick’s Sporting Goods
Tue., Jan 25 Ridgway, PA 11 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. School Visit at
Ridgway Area Middle School
Tue., Jan 25 DuBois, PA 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Autograph Session at DuBois Mall
Wed., Jan 26 State College, PA 11:45 a.m. – 1 p.m. Luncheon Event at Damon’s Restaurant
Wed., Jan 26 State College, PA 1:30 P.m. – 2:30 p.m. Hospital Visit to Mt. Nittany Medical Center
Wed., Jan 26 Altoona, PA 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Autograph Session at Dick’s Sporting Goods
Thu., Jan 27 Ebensburg, PA 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. Ebensburg Center Visit (private event)
Thu., Jan 27 Pittsburgh, PA
(Private Event)
6 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Roberto Clemente Museum reception
(Private Event)

 

The Pirates Caravan will also visit Charleston, West Virginia, on Sunday, January 30 and Monday, January 31. The players traveling to Charleston will be announced at a later date.

  • Sunday, January 30: Charleston, WV – Hot Stove Banquet (Time and Location TBA)
  • Monday, January 31: Charleston, WV – Luncheon, Appalachian Power Park (Time TBA)

 

 

 

Pirates Early Season Preview Part 1: Catcher

  At this moment this is what pirates.com lists as the Pirates depth chart for catcher:

 1. Chris Snyder

 2. Ryan Doumit

 3. Jason Jaramillo

 I was intrigued to see that Tony Sanchez was not on this list, however with the injury halting his season, he will need more time and thus Jaramillo is the third person on the depth chart at this moment.

 Obviously today is December 22, 2010 and not April 1, 2011, and a lot can happen between now and then.

 First and foremost is the uniform of Ryan Doumit come April 1. With the signings of Matt Diaz and Lyle Overbay, it looks like Doumit’s options are slim and perhaps none. Doumit in the outfield was shaky at best, however his catching background gave him the strongest arm in the outfield. Still, Doumit is the team’s fifth outfielder behind Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Garrett Jones and Diaz which results in no much action. It would also make little sense to try the first base experiment either, as Doumit is a lefty like Overbay and he had a lot of trouble defensively at the position in his feeble attempts last season. Doumit will be used sparingly if at all at the position and only if Overbay would need a day off. This would only be because of Doumit’s power bat which many Pirates fans witnessed last season.

 Doumit at catcher is not much better, and Chris Snyder took the starting job away from Doumit and proved to be a great addition at the deadline. The Doumit catching experience reached an all-time low last season, as he failed to throw out 10% of all runners trying to steal a base and once again Doumit got injured. Each of the past few seasons, Doumit has been the team’s starting catcher, but injuries have either reduced or ended his season. It is obvious that Doumit is a defensive liability where ever he is placed on the diamond and thus it has been really hard to trade him and his expensive salary. If the team (almost) miraculously trades Doumit, it would likely be to an American League team, as he seemingly projects more as a Designated Hitter.

 Chris Snyder will at least start the season as the team’s starting catcher, with Doumit, likely an expensive backup. Snyder unlike Doumit has been a good defender for his position and does have some pop in his bat. Although his average is almost never high, Snyder can hit the home run and will be aided by the short left field that PNC Park has to offer. A big part of the defense Snyder has to offer is the way he helps to call the game for the pitcher, and pitchers trusted Snyder very quickly and it showed as with Snyder behind the plate, the pitchers seemed to find more success.

 Jason Jaramillo started last season as the backup catcher however he often found himself riding the bench. This was a change for him, as he shared starting catcher duties with Robinzon Diaz (although he started more games) last season and in 2010 was not playing much. Pirates Management concluded that Jaramillo must receive some playing time, and thus they sent him down to Triple-A to catch and sent Spring Training success story Erik Kratz up to the Major Leagues. Jaramillo got some much needed starts for the Indianapolis Indians, but after another Doumit injury, he and Kratz both had opportunities to catch. After the deadline deal that sent Snyder to the Pirates, Snyder got the bulk of the starts at catcher and eventually Doumit came back, essentially rendering both Kratz and Jaramillo useless. This off-season, Kratz was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies, and thus Jaramillo comes into Spring Training as the third catcher.

 The wild card in this whole thing is Tony Sanchez. Sure he has played in the Fall League, but it will be interesting to see if he performs in Spring Training. If he does, he could be the backup catcher. It truly is that close of a competition, as Doumit if traded would create a battle for the backup catcher position between Jaramillo and Sanchez.

 Listed below are two projected lists, with one being with Doumit and one being without Doumit:

1. Snyder

2. Doumit

3. Sanchez

4. Jaramillo

 

1. Snyder

2. Jaramillo

3. Sanchez

 Here is my thought process on this:

 The top one is displayed the way it is, because if Doumit is the backup, then the order will not matter. I think that regardless, Sanchez is a better overall catcher than Jaramillo, and he will prove that at camp. In the top scenario, Doumit is still on the team, and it does not matter who the third catcher is, as both will play in the Minors. In the second scenario, Doumit obviously is no longer on the team. I have placed Jaramillo second for the same reason that he was placed into the Minors. The Pirates may be slow to place Sanchez in the backup role for a variety of reasons. For one, Sanchez is young, and thus you want him in his prime when he will perform his best. It also brings up the arbitration period as the Pirates are a small market team, and they can slowly bring him up and avoid paying the big bucks earlier than they will need to be paid. Another reason is the injury. The Pirates purely for safety purposes may place Sanchez in the Minors to see how he performs. Finally, much like Jaramillo last season, Sanchez needs starts to help his development and for that reason, it would not make sense for him to be a backup.

 I feel that this is a pretty in-depth look (at least from a December 22nd perspective) at the catcher’s position for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I will be back soon to delve into the next position which will be the first base position.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates Off-Season Part 5

 For this fifth entry of the Pirates off-season I will talk about yesterday’s signing of Josh Fields.

 Before I begin, I will mention that I have not graded the Andy Marte, Fernando Nieve and Donnie Veal moves as the grades would not be high (in Marte or Nieve’s case probably both D’s) or would be incomplete (in Veal’s case due to injuries and inconsistencies). Now back to Fields and his Wikipedia background.

“He was selected as the 18th overall pick in the first round of the 2004 Major League Baseball Draft by the White Sox.”

 Entering 2005, Fields was ranked as the fourth-best prospect in the White Sox organization and the 95th-best prospect in Major League Baseball by Baseball America. He hit safely in 14 straight games from August 6 – August 21 for the Birmingham Barons, tied for the eighth-longest streak in the Southern League.

Prior to the 2006 season, Fields was once again ranked as the fourth-best prospect in the White Sox organization by Baseball America. He homered in four consecutive games from May 11 – May 14 with the Charlotte Knights, and was selected to play in the All-Star Futures Game at Pittsburgh‘s PNC Park. Fields made his major league debut on September 13, 2006, but did not record his first major league at-bat until September 18. In that game against the Detroit Tigers, Fields hit a pinch-hit home run off Detroit’s Jamie Walker. He became the third player in White Sox history to hit a home run in his first major league at-bat, joining Carlos Lee (May 7, 1999) and Miguel Olivo (September 15, 2002) as the only other White Sox to do so.

Fields entered the 2007 season ranked as the second-best prospect in the White Sox organization and the 45th-best prospect in Major League Baseball by Baseball America. Although he started the season at Triple-A Charlotte, he was called up to the White Sox after a season ending back injury to third basemam Joe Crede. He recorded his first multi-home run game on August 10 against the Seattle Mariners, hitting both off starter Jarrod Washburn. On August 26, 2007, Fields made his first start in left field, though he only played 21 games at that position before being moved back to third base.

Fields ended his first season as a Major Leaguer by hitting a promising .244, 23 home runs, 67 RBI, and an OPS of .788 in 100 games. His 23 home runs tied him with Bill Melton for 3rd most home runs by a White Sox player in their rookie season, Melton did that in 157 games. Fields received one third-place vote for AL Rookie of the Year.

Entering spring training for the 2008 season, Fields was expected to be the starting third baseman, with Joe Crede likely traded. However, Crede arrived at camp fully recovered from his injury and White Sox general manager Kenny Williams was said to be unsatisfied with the trade offers. This resulted in Crede being given the starting job and Fields once again beginning the season in Triple-A Charlotte. Fields had a disappointing, injury-riddled season with the Knights, in which he regressed to a .246 batting average and .772 OPS.

On July 25, 2008, he was called up to play with the White Sox after Crede was put on the 15-day disabled list. Fields underwent arthroscopic knee surgery at the end of the 2008 season, and was the White Sox’s starting third baseman in 2009 until Gordon Beckham was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte on June 4and took the position. On July 23, 2009, in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Fields hit a grand slam in his first plate appearance of the game. This would later end up being the game winning home run in Mark Buehrle‘s perfect game over the Tampa Bay Rays, winning 5-0. Fields also caught the final out of the perfect game, a groundout to White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez. Six days later he would be demoted to Triple A Charlotte to make room for newly acquired Mark Kotsay.

On November 6, 2009, Fields, along with Chris Getz, was traded by the Chicago White Sox to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Mark Teahen. On December 20, 2010, Fields was signed to a minor league contract by the Pittsburgh Pirates.”

 His career statistics are an underwhelming batting average of .229 with 31 home runs and 101 runs batted in.

 While this may seem like an insignificant signing baseball god Bill James projects Fields to be our second best signing next to Matt Diaz. It is fairly understandable why, as he is a right handed bat and can provide some power. The problem is that he is blocked in the outfield at the moment by Jose Tabata, Andrew McCutchen, John Bowker, Ryan Doumit, Garrett Jones and Diaz. Furthermore Pedro Alvarez at his natural position of third base and Lyle Overbay was just signed to play first base, which means it will be tough for him to even become a reserve for the team. That would require either a few injuries, or a really impressive Spring Training.

 Even still, an impressive Spring Training was not enough for Neil Walker last Spring, so perhaps Fields can use that as motivation. While it is very likely that Fields was signed to provide depth in the Minor Leagues, I still am a big fan of the move much like James, and see Fields contributing to the 2011 Pirates.

 

Zac’s Grade: B 

Pittsburgh Pirates Off-Season In Review Part 3

 So far, both of the previous entries have addressed two of the Pirates signings during the Winter Meetings and they have had mixed results in term of my grades. This time I am going to break down Lyle Overbay. As a note, I wrote a previous entry on this blog detailing both the good and bad in Overbay, so some of this information may be repetetive.

 “Overbay was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 18th round of the 1999 MLB draft. While playing in the farm system, he was named Diamondbacks minor league player of the year. He was briefly called up in 2001, but played mostly in AA and AAA until 2003.

 Overbay first played with the Diamondbacks as the full-time first baseman in 2003. He struggled, batting .276 with 28 RBI and 4 home runs. He was sent down to AAA Tucson in June, but was called up in September to be part of the 40-man roster expansion. He was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers during the off-season.

 Overbay was acquired by the Brewers in the trade on December 1, 2003 that sent Richie Sexson and Shane Nance to Arizona for Overbay, Craig Counsell, Junior Spivey, Chris Capuano, Chad Moeller, and Jorge de la Rosa.

Overbay was one of the more popular Brewers during his short stint with the team. Fans would give a prolonged “Oooooooooooooo!” cheer during his at-bats. Toronto fans do not necessarily use the O chant. Instead, they have been known to create large and brightly-coloured “O’s  also seen during his time in Milwaukee and hold them up during his at-bats. Overbay was also recognized for his time with the Brewers via a bobblehead doll in his likeness, given away during the 2005 season.

In 2005, he also played well with the Brewers. He hit a then career high 19 home runs, surpassing his 2004 total of 16. On July 23, he had a career high 6 RBI versus Cincinnati, hitting two home runs, including a grand slam. This feat was also the most in a season by a Brewer. He played very well against the Reds, batting .431 with 6 home runs and 18 RBI. He was traded to the Blue Jays in the off-season.

 On December 7, 2005, Overbay was traded from the Milwaukee Brewers along with pitching prospect Ty Taubenheim to Toronto in exchange for outfielder Gabe Gross and pitchers Dave Bush and Zach Jackson. Although, the trade was acknowledged as a needed acquisition for the Blue Jays, Overbay has not had the statistical impact hoped for, at least beyond 2006. In 2007 to 2008, Overbay statistically trailed Bush in the Sabermetric categories Wins above replacement player and Value over replacement player.

On July 5, 2006, Overbay was named American League Player of the Week after hitting .423 and hitting 4 HR during the week of June 26 to July 2, 2006.

In 2006, he had a career season. He batted .312 with 22 home runs, 92 RBI and 181 hits, which were all career highs. He had 46 doubles, which was tenth among the major leagues. On June 4, 2007, Overbay was hit by a pitch in the 6th inning in a game against the Chicago White Sox. The pitch was a high and inside fastball that ran in and hit Lyle in the hand, breaking 3 bones in his hand. He was on the Disabled List until July 13th, 2007, after which he rejoined the Blue Jays after the All-Star break. Since his return, he has struggled at the plate, especially with hitting for power.

On January 15, 2007, the Toronto Blue Jays signed Overbay to a 4-year contract, buying out his final two arbitration-eligible years, and his first two years of free agency, with a $24,000,000 contract. Overbay set a new team record on May 25, 2008 by reaching base in his 12th consecutive plate appearance by walking on a full count in the second inning. The previous record holder was Tony Fernandez who reached base 11 straight times. That season, he was criticized by fans for his penchant to ground into double plays. He finished 2008 tied for seventh overall in this category, with 24. Overbay is also one of only 14 players to hit into an unassisted triple play, serving up Asdrubal Cabrera of the Cleveland Indians on May 12th, 2008.

On June 8, 2009, Overbay was again named American League Player of the Week after leading the Major League in both batting average and slugging.

Overbay was named the 2009 American Legion Graduate of the Year.” (source Wikipedia)

 Overbay signed a contract with the Pirates for 1 year worth $5 million on December 14.

 As I said in the previous entry, Overbay is going to be paid less this season than he was in Toronto but Overbay realizes that he will be the everyday first baseman for the team. This will move Garrett Jones into a platoon situation in right field and probably spells the beginning of an inevitable end for Ryan Doumit.

 Overbay projects to be a great defender as witnessed by his .996 fielding percentage last season. Simply put, he will not make any glaring mistakes and that is a tremendous boost to an infield that was consistently inconsistent. Offensively, he projects to be similar to Adam LaRoche. Overbay will get his fare share of walks but he will strike out a ton which could prove to be a cause for concern. I am unaware if Overbay slumps in April a la LaRoche, however his .243 average last season is notably less than what LaRoche hit as a Pirate. With that said, Overbay is a good doubles hitter and he could prove to be a decent addition to this team.

 As I said in my other Overbay posting, I think that General Manager Neal Huntington focused on signing the wrong guy and of course that is not Overbay’s fault. What is Overbay’s fault is that he is left handed and our offensive need was a right handed power bat. The only signing that really applies to this would be Matt Diaz, although the signing of Josh Fields could arguably fit this category as well. Still there bigger needs than that, and they include a left-handed reliever and perhaps a more competent starter and instead Huntington spends $5 million on a first baseman and leads me to believe that either the Pirates are hellbent on getting rid of Doumit or their priorities are not in order. We’ll just have to wait and see what Overbay can do.

Zac’s Grade: C+

 

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