Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Midweek Musings

This could be the year the Pittsburgh Pirates break their 20-year old postseason drought. It will most certainly be the year they break their 20-year run of finishing below .500.

Break the Curse of Sid Bream's Slide

The big story out of PNC Park tonight was the debut of Gerrit Cole, the number 1 overall pick of the 2011 draft. Since turning professional out of UCLA, Cole has drawn comparisons to Matt Cain and other sturdy starting pitchers. The interesting thing about Gerrit Cole is that he throws very hard, fails to strike out a lot of hitters, but can still miss bats with that fastball.

His season stats before the callup were actually poor for a top prospect. Cole struck out just 17.5% of Triple A batters, good for a paltry 6.2 K/9. He benefited from good defense in Triple A, as illustrated by his .216 BABIP. His 3.99 FIP in Triple A should be alarming, as a 3.99 FIP in the Majors is not top of the rotation production. There is something to be said about how much credit a pitcher should receive for causing weak contact.*

*If anyone knows of a published article, where the author tries to solve how much control a pitcher has on batted ball quality, please share in the comments section or on Twitter.

Tonight, Gerrit Cole struck out the first batter of the game, then just 1 of the last 26 batters he faced. If he has an arsenal of pitches that lead to easy grounders, lazy flyballs, and popups, then we can expect a low BABIP. Today, he didn't walk anyone nor give up and home runs, which helped limit his damage to just 2 runs from 7 hits. Today, he gave up a .292 BABIP, which is an average number. If his norm, at this point in his career, is giving up 2 runs while pitching into the 7th inning, the Pirates will gladly take it. To become a dominant player, Gerrit Cole will need to use his breaking pitches to rack up strikeouts.



Gerrit Cole was all smiles after his Major League debut (11 June 2013)

Getting back to all the good that's been brewing on the shores of the Allegheny River, by where the Ohio River meets the Monongahela, we wonder if what we see and feel is the truth. Their Senior Vice President/General Manager, Neal Huntington, has a respected tutelage and bright, open mind. He implemented a long-term plan for the Pirates that rebuilt the farm system and is finally beginning to produce admirably at the Major League level.

The Pirates appear to have one of the best bullpens in baseball. They have one of the best outfield duos in either league, with Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte. The lineup and bench also have power, speed, balance, and depth with talented players like Pedro Alvarez, Gaby Sanchez, Garrett Jones, Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, and more. Their starting rotation is highly questionable, but with wide ranging possibilities. With starters like A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Wandy Rodriguez, we wouldn't be surprised if any of those guys won a dozen more games the rest of the way, or lost a dozen.

Reading the standings proves to be murky with the Pirates. The Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds have them as most likely to win the 2nd Wild Card at 54.6%. Confusingly, the Baseball Prospectus Adjusted Standings expect the Pirates to finish with a worse record than the Cubs! Our guess is that the Pirates will win the 2nd Wild Card this season, with the 1st Wild Card going to either St. Louis or Cincinnati. Hopefully, we'll be able to continue enjoying the performances of stars like McCutchen and Marte.

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AP Photo / Jason Redmond

After years of frustration, Kyle Blanks is in a position to succeed with the Padres. Almost exactly four years ago, on June 19, 2009, Kyle Blanks made his Major League debut in San Diego. His size made an immediate impression, standing 6'6" and 265 lb. His production (10 home runs in 54 games, .355 OBP) was good enough to get Padres fans excited about the future. Here was a 22-year old man-child, flashing enough size and power to blast homers out of cavernous Petco Park. Unfortunately, his career was temporarily derailed by a season-ending injury in late August 2009. Blanks missed most of 2010 and 2012 seasons, recovering from Tommy John surgery and a blown out Achilles. Yonder Alonso hit the DL a few days ago, and Kyle Blanks goes from 4th outfielder to starting first baseman. He built up a .305/.407/.564 line in Triple-A and has a .299/.383/.555 line entering tonight's game. If you play fantasy baseball, he could be a sneaky play for the next couple of weeks. If you're just into real baseball, try to catch a Padres game in person or on TV. It's a treat to see someone this big play baseball as well as Kyle Blanks.

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Lastly, a beautiful throw from David Ross of the Red Sox:



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