Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Pirates regression train hits Miller Park

The Pittsburgh Pirates are a hot story halfway through the 2012 baseball season, and their sparkiling 48-37 record coming into Friday night's game was expected by precisely no one. Their run prevention is outstanding, as they treat opposing offenses the same way Walter Sobchak treats German nihilists. Their offense is another story, as it's basically a pile of hot garbage outside of the solid Neil Walker and fan-freakin'-tastic Andrew McCutchen. I suppose Pedro Alvarez isn't terrible, but he's kind of like a poor man's Adam Dunn at this point, if Dunn were shorter and had a better tan.

                                          Pirates players celebrating someone getting on base.

There are many regression candidates on the Pirates, and by many I mean almost the entire pitching staff. James McDonald is a fine young pitcher, but his batting average allowed is just .194 and that's not something that just happens. And for an extreme fly ball pitcher, his home runs allowed is stupidly low (Ryan Braun spanked one out against him tonight). Jeff Karstens reeks of Dave Bush to me, and AJ Burnett hasn't come even close to meeting his blow-up quota. Kevin Correia and Erik Bedard kind of suck. And then there's the bullpen, featuring gimmicky guys (Tony Watson and Jared Hughes), and veterans who are greatly out-pitching their peripherals as well as their career norms (Resop, Slaten, Grilli, Cruz, even Hanrahan).

So no, I don't believe in the First Place Pirates. And the conductor of the regression train is manager Clint Hurdle, who did one of the dumbest things I've ever seen tonight. Which is really something considering how many stupid things are done by managers daily. It was the defining moment in one of the most entertaining baseball games this season.

                                        Pictured: Clint Hurdle chewing styrofoam because DERP.

The situation; tie game, 8th inning, runners on second and third, two out. Rickie Weeks at the plate. Tony Watson pitching. Weeks has been better over the last month or so, but still sports a .200 batting average along with a titanic 100 strikeouts. What should Hurdle do? NOTHING. Have Watson (I'll get to him in a second) pitch to Weeks. What does Hurdle do? He has Watson intentionally walk him. I'll repeat rephrase that. HE INTENTIONALLY WALKS A .200 HITTER. Predictably, the tiring Watson threw a beach ball to Cody Ransom five pitches later, and predictably Ransom sent it to Argentina. Grand Slam, Pirates go one to lose by 3. I can fathom walking Joey Votto to get to a bad hitter (which Ransom is). But not a hitter with worse numbers than Ransom himself.

                                             Cody Ransom, thanking Clint Hurdle for giving him the opportunity.

There's so many things that went wrong here. The first is the fact that Watson was even in the game. Lefty Nyjer Morgan was supposed to lead off the inning for the Brewers, but was pinch-hit for by righty Carlos Gomez with the left-handed pitcher Watson entering the game. Hurdle then left Watson in to face seven consecutive righties. Now, Watson isn't a LOOGY, and actually has reverse platoon splits. But the Brewers crush lefties as a team, and Watson isn't even very good to begin with. Despite having better pitchers in the bullpen, Hurdle stuck with Watson for a whopping 35 pitches and was rewarded with a four-run deficit. Why not Jason Grilli? Or Juan Cruz? Or heaven forbid, Joel Hanrahan in a high-pressure situation? And finally, why intentionally walk anyone? There's two outs. You don't need a double play. Low-contact hitter at the plate. PITCH TO HIM. Hurdle did what a stupid manager does.

Now, the Pirates may still finish ahead of the Brewers. They may even make the playoffs. But holy cow, will their playoff opponent be excited to face them.

No comments:

Post a Comment