Somewhere amid the morass of ejections, tantrums, and trash talk, the Pirates won themselves a pretty important game. The fading Pirates avoided a four-game sweep at the hands of the Dodgers, one of their key rivals in the battle for the final wildcard spot. The Buccos got two huge home runs from Garrett Jones, another bomb from Pedro Alvarez, and AJ Burnett “gutted” it out, pitching into the seventh inning, striking out seven batters against one walk, allowing six runs.
None of which anyone will be talking in regards to this game. This getaway battle featured multiple ejections; starting with Matt Kemp being thrown out while in the dugout, leading to Don Mattingly losing his mind and getting tossed. Later, Joe Blanton spun the wheel of YOLO by getting tossed from a game in which he was no longer participating, giving home plate umpire Angel Campos a piece of his mind as he left the field.
Later still, Hanley Ramirez got the attention of Burnett by making some…incendiary gestures as he rounded the bases after his fourth inning home run. Burnett got a version of the last laugh, striking out Ramirez in his next plate appearance, then taunting the Dodgers new shortstop by insisting he “sit down.” Whew. I thought weekday afternoon starts were supposed to be perfunctory walk-throughs played with one eye on the flight home?
Since the end of May, when they started their climb in the National League Central Division and wild card standings, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been a model of consistency. The Bucs’ longest losing streak of the season — five games — was way back in April. They had a four-game losing streak in mid-June and a three-game losing streak in late June. Those were counterbalanced by four four-game winning streaks between the end of May and the end of July and one five-game winning streak from July 17-22. That consistency pushed the Pirates from a record of 20-24 on May 23 to a 64-50 record today, a 44-26 pace over nearly three months.
But the last week has not been kind to the Pirates, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Bucs have dropped six of their last ten games and lost a game in the NL Central standings to the division-leading Reds, who also stumbled last week but managed to go 5-5. The Cardinals — of the +101 run differential — are lurking, just behind the Pirates in both races. And don’t forget Braves, Giants, Dodgers and Diamondbacks who are all battling with the Pirates for a wild-card spot as a fallback to a division title.
In consecutive games last week, the Pirates were done in by two different players who each posted games in the Top 250 in Win Probability Added this season. On Thursday, the Pirates were battling the Diamondbacks at home in the last game of four-game series. The Bucs had won two of the first three games and were ahead 3-2 in the 6th inning of final game. Wandy Rodriguez, acquired from the Astros before the trade deadline, was on the mound for the Pirates, trying to preserve the one-run lead. Rodriguez retired Justin Upton to start the 6th, but gave up a single to his former Astros teammate Chris Johnson, who’d also been traded at the deadline, to the Diamondbacks. Rodriguez then got Chris Young on a pop fly, bringing Wil Nieves to the plate.
Wherein the Getting Blanked crew talk about Buster Posey’s recent run of awesomeness, Stephen Strasburg’s reported innings cap, the impending fall of the Pirates, and Manny Machado’s hot start. Punishment is handed down for our most recent instalment of Proposition Hate, and we play Switch Hitter with three great pitching matchups in this week’s Washington/San Franciso series.
My heart goes out to the kid in the camouflaged Pittsburgh Pirates shirsey beside his younger and luckier brother, adorned in a black Pittsburgh Pirates shirsey and gold chain who won himself a foul ball this afternoon. No, it’s not because he missed out on the souvenir, or even that he’ll have to tolerate his younger brother telling the same story over and over again on the way home from the ballpark today. It’s for other, more deeply resonating reasons he receives my pity.
Look at the kid, as he adjusts his hat. Look at the expression on his face. It’s a wistful mix of misery and revelation. He just became painfully aware that the only significance the remainder of his life will encounter is to be found solely in his role as a supporting character in his brother’s life. His brother, at four or five years old, has already achieved a level of contentment with the world that he will never have.
Life will be incredibly easy for this younger sibling. And that ease with which he encounters positive experiences throughout his existence will only further burden his older brother, whose inescapable jealousy will heap misery on his days. Sadly, one brother has been chosen by fate to be a winner. The other has been chosen to be made aware of this inequality.
Something happened to this pair today. Fate made its presence known, and fate dictates that the younger brother will be the star of his own life, and the older brother is to be but a supporting player in that drama.
It all started like this: Scott Lewis, the operator of Getting Blanked’s GIF machine, is a die hard Pittsburgh Pirates fan. We were sitting around in the studio, waiting for something technical that’s far beyond my understanding to work. More interested in passing the time than an actual answer, I gave him the following scenario and asked him a question.
After 162 games, the Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds are tied for first place in the National League Central. A game 163 is required to find out who the division winner is, but the loser will then have a good enough record to compete in the Wild Card play-in game. If all your starting pitchers are ready and able to go, who pitches the game against the Reds?
This week’s Roto-Relevant Research is not actually about research. It’s about the new custom filters at FanGraphs which should allow fantasy players to find good comparisons for the most interesting players on their waiver wires.
Take Travis Snider. The Pirates did.
He’s a 24-year old with more than 500 plate appearances, an ISO under .200 (.181 for Snider), a walk rate under 8% (7.6% for Snider), and a 25+% (27.2% for Snider) strikeout rate so far — just to describe him in a way that will make for easy filtering. That search gives you 16 players since 1974. Once you take out the center fielders (Cameron Maybin, Austin Jackson and the like), the middle infielders (Benji Gil and Danny Espinosa for example), and the catchers (John Buck and Jarrod Saltalamacchia) and try to focus on outfielders that won’t add much defensive value, the list of comparative players whittles all the way down to …
As you may well know, I am somewhat fixated on Pedro Alvarez. It is rare to see a top prospect come so very close to wearing the “bust” tag only to suddenly figure things out at the big league level. Then slump badly again. Pedro Alvarez was something of a punchline, a player who started the season so slowly it made for great sport.