26 April 2012
The first word that comes to mind when the names Robby Hammock, Ramon Castro, Landon Powell, Carlos Ruiz, Alex Avila and A.J. Pierzinski may not be masterminds but when their counterparts: Randy Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Dallas Braden, Roy Halladay, Armando Galarraga and Phil Humber, names are mentioned I either immediately remember their perfect game or incredible control and career. The reality may be that these pitcher's talent would have carried them through a perfect game regardless of who was behind the dish, but my opinion is that such an achievement should be credited to the one catching just as much as it is to the one throwing. The catcher has to be in the zone as well; calling the right pitches, setting up in the right locations, and playing a human brick wall.
The perfect game for Humber and Pierzinski on Saturday sparked the beginning of this conversation in my head, but it only grew louder as the Burnett/Barajas battery took the field at 7:05. Almost any pitcher will tell you that his performance and success depends greatly on the other 8 players on the field but most importantly on the catcher. It is a special bond that pitchers and catchers have, a bond that may have played a large part in the reason Burnett is even with the Pirates this season. Barajas was Burnett's designated catcher during his 3 year stint in Toronto and 2008, Burnett's last year with the squad, is arguably the best season of his career. During the 2008 season he threw to Barajas in 24 starts and went 14-6 with a 3.27 ERA versus going 4-4 with a 6.05 ERA with Gregg Zaun behind the dish. (source: Tom Singer http://tomsinger.mlblogs.com/2012/02/14/burnetts-bff-rod-barajas/) That season alone may be the reason Burnett chose Pittsburgh as his next stop, a desire to return to the hay day and to the relationship he had built with a capable backstop.
It is a trusting relationship where the pitcher has complete confidence in their catcher to handle everything he can throw at him. I genuinely believe that the success that Burnett will see in the next two years with the Pirates will be due in a large part to the pairing he has come to love and feel comfortable with. Also, lest we forget, the pitching, especially starting pitching, that we have seen through the first 18 games of this season must also share the spotlight with the counterpart receiving the pitches. The pitchers feel comfortable with Barajas and also McKenry. This illustrated thoroughly with the performance by JMac today. A no-hitter into the 7th is an incredible accomplishment for both Mc's on the battery. An accomplishment I believe will appear more often now that the Pirates organization has shored up the holes in the backstop.
25 April 2012
18 April 2012
Seriously Bucco fans, our pitching staff is looking like a top of the league staff. All you naysayers will probably come up with a million reasons why this isn't the case, but the numbers don't lie. In fact the numbers are quite favorable. Our team ERA ranks 3rd in the National League behind Philadelphia and Washington. Yes I said Washington. A direct correlation to ERA is usually opponents batting average which is a very respectable .237; below the league average. Tony Watson has been lights out on the mound stranding all 9 runners that he has inherited. And lets not forget the job Juan Cruz has done especially very recently in the absence of Hanrahan. Cruz has in fact been the biggest surprise carrying over the strong stuff we saw this spring into the regular season, not allowing an run as of yet.
16 April 2012
14 April 2012
"Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come. "
Being angry about how your favorite teams are playing and coaching does not make it very easy to be hopeful, energetic or uplifting when writing or thinking about them. In fact, it makes it almost impossible because on the one hand you want to be cynical, you want to be an armchair base coach, you want to yell obscenities and throw ottomans; yet on the other hand there is an innate feeling in humanity to continue rooting for the underdog, to be unsatisfied with losing, hope springs eternal.
It seems as though the Pirates hitting does not suck, because it seems it doesn't even exist. The team is batting .178 with the highest individual average belonging to Kevin Correia (sure that's just 1 hit in 2 plate appearances, but its still better than position players Barajas, Walker, Alvarez, Hague [HE HAS 20% OF THE TEAMS RBI'S! WHY'D THEY SEND HIM DOWN! GET RID OF ALVAREZ! WAAAAHHHH!], Harrison, McLouth, and Navarro who all have 1 or 0 hits in numerous at bats). The silver lining is that hitting isn't the only thing the pitching staff is doing to keep the team fighting in games, the pitching has been above or at par for every game. 5 of the 7 games have been won or lost by only 1 run and while they've only scored a horrendous 11 runs, they have only allowed 20 through 7 games. The 3 division leaders in the NL: Nationals, Cardinals, and Dodgers, have given up 18, 30, and 28 runs respectively. So while this mainly looks like a terrible offense highlighter, the hope should focus on the outstanding job the pitching staff as a whole and the defense behind them has done to try to win the first 7 games. The hitting will come. Hope springs eternal.
08 April 2012
Different day, same story. Just one day after Alex Presley's walk off infield single the Pirates were back at it with another game of late inning heroics. Had you asked me mid-way through Saturday's game what the outcome of this series was going to look like I would have without question not been able to predict how things played out.
07 April 2012
I'll admit, I don't know a ton about Mr. Burnett. The things I DO know are as follows: statistically he is a good pitcher; an ace on many staffs yet not a top-tier, elite pitcher. His bunting skills are suspect, almost a necessity as a pitcher in Clint Hurdle's NL army. And, he has a tough exterior typically sporting a focused look on his face and tattoos up and down his arms. One thing I didn't know is what kind of character he has. I've been told he's a leader (a quality I think the Pirates clubhouse is in need of, particularly leadership by a veteran ball player) but haven't had a chance to catch a glimpse of it until tonight.
While rehabbing with the Bradenton Marauders, "Assassin", as I'm sure his mother calls him, pitched 4 2/3 innings striking out five, giving up one run and eventually taking the 5-1 loss. After the game, Burnett made comments that struck me immediately and spoke toward the kind of person he is both on and off the playing field. When asked about the game his performance, and the other single-A players he said:
"They had some good at-bats, and I had some great plays behind me, too... Those guys played hard tonight), and it was a good game all around."
This struck me because he uses two personal pronouns to refer to himself, yet neither one reflects his performance. He had an opportunity to inflate himself and talk about how well he pitched (despite throwing against some of the lowest minor leaguers in the system) or to give some credit to the other players and also express his pride in himself, but he chose not to. He chose to instead lift up the efforts of the entire team and praise the skill and passion of the coming generations of Pirate players. I hope that Cole, Taillon, and the rest of the future Buccos in Bradenton are paying attention and taking in what AJ has to offer them. Drive and humility are desirable characteristics in anyone, especially your veteran ace.
These are certainly pieces of character that I am looking forward to seeing wear the all black jersey, P on the left chest.
05 April 2012
Cutch is the fastest three hitter in the game and Roy is one of the best aces in the game. At worst bunting puts runners on second and third with one out. This would have allowed Walker to get an RBI without a base hit. With Halladay pitching you are lucky to get one run in nine innings of play let alone in the first inning, and that was an opportunity that slipped through our fingers that could have changed the game. I know hindsight is always 20/20, but with a pitcher of Roy Halladay’s caliber on the mound, present sight needs to be 20/20 as well.
Even with the loss today there were still gleanings of a different, better team. Seeing Erik Bedard throw the way he did gives us a great feeling to know we might finally have a legitimate number 1 barring his health. Keeping it all in perspective, Opening Day is still only 1 game that means no more than the other 161.