Archive for the ‘Pittsburgh Pirates’ Category

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Texas Rangers

The Pittsburgh Pirates are on to something. While their current starting rotation might leave something to be desired, the outfield of the present and the future is as good as it gets.

By locking Starling Marte up for six years (plus two option years), the Pirates have an excellent left fielder in place right through his late-twenties peak – all at the controlled costs the Pirates need to survive.

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MLB: New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates

It wasn’t even a month ago when the Pittsburgh Pirates called A.J. Burnett‘s “bluff”, stating their plans to open Spring Training without him. At the time, this space interpreted that message as one of leverage. The Bucs weren’t about to let the enigmatic right-hander dictate terms between them. So they made a bunch of noise about moving on.

After Burnett agreed to a one-year deal (with an option for a second) with the Philadelphia Phillies, it looks like the Pirates made the right decision. At least they made a decision – they were out of the A.J. Burnett sweepstakes. A report from Pirates beat writer John Perrotto suggests the Pirates were never actually in the Burnett sweepstakes.

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The Phillies have a lot of problems. When general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. went to bed last night, he probably thought his pitching staff was the one thing he could count on in 2014. Sure, there are always injury concerns (as the bicep troubles of Cole Hamels indicate) but with Hamels, Cliff Lee, Cuban import Miguel Gonzalez, and low cost flier Roberto Hernandez

Maybe some outfield depth or viable backups for their aging infielders represent higher priorities. Maybe stripping down and rebuilding a little bit, using Cole Hamels as the future face of the franchise.

Clearly, none of us are familiar with the way RAJ thinks. Ruben Amaro Jr. doubled down for 2014, signing A.J. Burnett to a one-year contract with $16 million. Only the Phillies.

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MLB: Seattle Mariners at Pittsburgh Pirates

If there is one consistent thread running through the long, storied, history of Getting Blanked, it is a befuddled appreciation of A.J. Burnett. Always one of the most entertaining pitchers in the game, Burnett is now something of a marvel. Injury-prone strikeout artist dogged by overrated and “.500 pitcher” claims for years, Burnett figured it out for a while. His walk year with the Blue Jays was tremendous, working on short rest when needed (or “needed”) and putting up a career year. Then he played a central role for the World Champion Yankees in 2009.

Then he was bad (so bad) for a year. Then he was a Pirate. And he was born again! Two years in Pittsburgh, one good and one very good, leading the Pirates back to the playoffs for first time in a generation.

Now he’s a free agent. He’s also 37-years old and contemplating retirement. The Pirates want him and, frankly, need him if they hope to return to the postseason again before 2033, at which time Andrew McCutchen will be the disgraced all-time home run champ if history teaches us anything.

But with this need and a waning desire to play in more places than just Pittsburgh and near his Maryland home, Burnett gets to be choosy. Which means the Pirates need to go on something of an offensive.

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The Cardinals beat the Pirates last night. They pitched better and they hit better. St. Louis didn’t play better defense but it doesn’t really matter because even the best defense can’t stop a ball from going 15 rows deep into the outfield bleachers.

The Cards pitched better, needing just one pitcher to do so: Adam Wainwright. He pitched a complete game, dominating the Pirates with his curveball and other pitches that aren’t his curveball. His curve is the best in the business and he threw the living crap out of it. He’s pretty good, this Wainwright.

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MLB: NLDS-Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals

There is no shame in losing to the St. Louis Cardinals. They’re the Cardinals, the Yankees of Flyover Country. The factory for nameless, faceless productive Major Leaguers. They are quietly, annoyingly, the most successful team in baseball over the last decade. Since losing the 2004 World Series in four straight, the Cards have reached the playoffs six times, winning the title twice.

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Pittsburgh Pirates' Cole pitches against Texas Rangers during their MLB interleague baseball game in Arlington

The Pirates made a bold choice when they announced Gerrit Cole as their starter for Game Five of the NLDS in St. Louis. Cole is a rookie and, as such, isn’t a Proven Playoff Performer. A.J. Burnett, the Pirates ace and nominal number one starter, is a Proven Playoff Performer. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, he is “proven” to be “mediocre” when the calender flips to October – Game Two of the 2009 World Series notwithstanding.

Cole isn’t a veteran with dozens of big league starts under his belt, but his a product of the modern baseball development pipeline. It isn’t like the old days, where a kid performed well for his high school team, blowing away future farmers and decent men’s league players. Cole attended a top baseball factory and pitched in the College World Series, pitched in countless showcase games and prospect exhibitions and the Cape Cod league and so on and so forth. He’s pitched under pressure, this isn’t new to him.

What is new is the current edition of Gerrit Cole to the St. Louis Cardinals. They saw him dominant in Game Two of this series, the vastly improved Cole from the top prospect who emerged from the minor leagues this season only to post pedestrian strikeout rates and overall results.

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