Monday, April 02, 2007

Words Cannot Express How Badly I Want To Blow Off Work and Go To RFK Stadium Today

I'll just have to wait until tomorrow night to see the NL East powers known as the Washington Nationals and Florida Marlins go one-on-one at beautiful, scenic, soon-to-be-replaced RFK Stadium for five dollars. Your Pittsburgh Pirates begin what will surely be another majorly depressing season tonight against the Houston Astros, rounding off an absolutely ridiculously busy night that includes finales of The Hills, I Love New York and the men's collegiate basketball season. You know it's a sad day when I might be more excited about the women's final - Rocky Top trying to break their championship drought against Rutgers, who defines the term "championship drought" - then I am the men's.

"Ray, people will come, Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. "Of course, we won't mind if you have a look around," you'll say. "It's only twenty dollars per person." They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.

And they'll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game, and it'll be as if they'd dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they'll have to brush them away from their faces.

People will come, Ray.

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhhhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come."

I'm taking off to work, but Dill has put together your Pirates preview for the season. Unedited, his words are after the ~tilde bang~.


1. Chris Duffy (CF) – A critical part to the Pirates success or failure this year. He had just as much to do with the Pirates 30-60 mark before the All Star Break as he did with the 37-35 finish last year. I can easily see Duffy hitting .320 and I can easily see him hitting .250. He’s done both before. But either way, the Pirates seem to go as Chris Duffy goes.

2. Jack Wilson (SS)

(From the 2002 book “Moneyball” – AKA, one of the main reasons why the Oakland A’s compete every year and the Pirates don’t)

“The magic number in a baseball inning is 3. Before 3 outs, anything is possible and any amount of runs can be scored. After 3 outs, nothing is possible and no runs can be scored. Thus, the more players that a baseball team has that do not contribute to making 3 outs in an inning, the greater the chance that team has to score. This is the importance of on-base percentage.”

As Chris said, the black hole of the Pirates lineup. I like Jack as a person just as much as the next guy, but I don’t like his numbers. Last year, Jack had a .316 On Base Percentage, which was better than his lifetime .306 On Base Percentage. The average On Base Percentage for Major League shortstops was .330 last year. His OPS was .686 while the league average for shortstops was .737. Obviously Jack is below par on offense.

So now you want to make the case that Jack plays great defense. Let’s check the numbers. Jack’s fielding percentage last year was .972. The fielding percentage for the AVERAGE National League shortstop was also .972 last year. Jack also had a huge drop in the number of double plays that he turned last year. Much of it may be have been due to Jose Castillo not caring, but nonetheless, Jack Wilson is a detriment to this team.

3. Freddy Sanchez (2B) – Unfortunately last years batting champion will start the season on the DL with a knee injury. Word is that he’ll only be out a week or two (Jose Castillo will play second and bat eighth until Freddy comes back). Don’t expect Freddy to repeat the magic of last year again, but do expect a solid league average season this year. With as much as he puts the ball in play, there’s no way that he’ll bat less than .300.

4. Jason Bay (LF) – Jason had some off-season knee surgery, but it seems as if he is his normal self this spring. If he can stay healthy, it’s hard to see him not having another 30 homer, 100 RBI season. Having LaRoche behind him and Freddy in front of him will make it much easier on our Canadian wonder boy.

5. Adam LaRoche (1B) – This is the first time that the Pirates have had a legit first baseman in our generation. I not only look forward to Adam depositing balls into the right field seats, but also some good off the field stories too.

Apparently this guy is a real hick. He loves all things outdoors and lives on a ranch in Kansas with no internet in the off season. His dad was a former major league pitcher who was one of the last guys to throw the epheus pitch. Adam said earlier this spring that he wouldn’t mind being a pitcher for the Pirates either. He was dead serious about it. Also this spring, he forgot his clubs when presented with the chance to play golf with Tiger Woods, and on top of that, wore jeans during the outing.. This guy will quickly become a fan favorite provided that he lives up to his potential on the field.

6. Xavier Nady (RF) – If Xavier can repeat his performance with the Pirates last year, then he is a solid guy to have on the team. He was able to hit .300 for the Buccos while his lifetime average is .270. Earlier this spring there was a fear that Xavier might have Chrone’s Disease, which is some sort of stomach ailment. However, after sitting out a few days, it was found that Xavier just had a bad stomach virus.

7. Ronnie Paulino (C) – The fat kid that everyone forgets about. I mean come on, give this guy some respect. He hit .310 in his rookie year, which is well above league average for a catcher. It was a true .310 too. Some guys will hit good for two weeks then bad for a couple weeks and have their average come out as well, average. But I think that every time I went to PNC Park between June and August last year, Ronnie was somewhere between .312 and .308. He is Mr. Consistency.

It looks like he may have added some power this spring as well. Ronnie’s monster spring consisted of a .500 average (23/46) with 4 homers and 15 RBI. Without a doubt, he was the Pirates best hitter in Florida. If he can carry it over, he could be a surprise All-Star this year.

8. Jose Bautista (3B) – The exact opposite of Jack Wilson. Even though he hit only .235 last year, he was still able to be productive with a .335 on base percentage. He also added 16 homers in limited at bats. In fact, if Jose had hit home runs at the same rate for 600 at bats last year, he would have hit 41 homers. If Jose can get the batting average up into the .270s and play every day, he has potential to be an All Star caliber third baseman.

Pitching Staff

  1. Zach Duke – So Zach got ruffed up a little bit last year, at least compared to his rookie year. However, he was starting to turn it around towards the end of the year. He was able to get his walks down and be more effective.

  1. Ian Snell – So much potential here. The owner of a minor league no hitter, many are projecting Ian to be one of the better pitchers in the NL this year. Like Duke, a key for Ian is keeping his walk totals down. If he can do this, there is no doubt that his stuff is good enough to be the ace of this staff.

  1. Paul Maholm – Paul had a terrible time getting started in the first inning last year, but started to get that turned around by mid-summer. Many try to compare him to Tom Glavine and if he can get anywhere near that, the Pirates are in good shape.

  1. Tom Gorzelanny – Tom has a mid 90s fastball which is rare for a left hander. He had a decent showing with the big club last year, even though his walk totals were much higher than they were in the minors. Like everyone else on this staff, getting them down will be a key to his success.

  1. Tony Armas has won the job for now with a solid spring, but there are others who may come into the mix later in the year. B.P. Chacon has a large contract and the Pirates may try to get their money’s worth. Also, minor leaguers Marty McCleary, Shane Youman, and Sean Burnett could fill this spot at times during the season.


Before trading Mike Gonzalez this winter, there was an article on Yahoo Sports ranking the Pirates bullpen as the best bullpen in the NL. With Dave Littlefield’s fetish for relievers, it should be the best. Salomon Torres will start as the closer with Matt Capps and his amazing control ready to take over if Salomon struggles. In middle relief, there will be some new faces. John Wasdin, Juan Perez, and Jonah Bayliss, who had a brief stint with the Buccos last year, are all right handers who have made the team out of camp. Overall, this should be a good unit.


I like this year’s bench a lot better than the benches in the past. We don’t have any complete players, but as a whole, this bench has speed and power. On the speed side, Nate McClouth will be an outfield backup again this year. Pittsburgh native Don Kelly will be a back up at second, short, and third.

On the power side, Brad Eldred crushed a team leading 6 homers this spring. The Pirates are experimenting with putting him in the outfield in addition to his first base capability. Also adding power potential will be Ryan Doumit who will catch, play first base and right field at times. And last but not least is good ole Humberto Cota, who’s best trait is probably throwing the ball back to the pitcher. This is a decent bench, which is infinitely better since the Pirates finally decided to cut Jose Hernandez, who in his time in Pittsburgh, was brought to you by the letter K.

Minor Leagues

There is pretty much nothing here with the exception of 20-year-old Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen plays center field and projects to be a .300, 20 homer, 25 steal, run scoring machine when he makes it to Pittsburgh. He should be similar to Mike Cameron in his prime. In addition, Neil Walker, from Pine Richland High School, moved from catcher to third base this spring. Both may make it to Pittsburgh this year if things go awry.


I don’t know what to expect. Last year I was very optimistic, but things didn’t turn out so well. So this year I’m trying to be pessimistic and maybe it will turn out the opposite. However, now that I have written this preview, I’m feeling optimistic. But for now I’m going to say 75 wins. I think we have the potential to break .500 but I really doubt it. In the Pirates organization, if something can go wrong, it will. So go into this season with the same hope you’ve had for the last 15 years, but expect to be disappointed. That’s how it goes for Pirates fans. At least PNC Park is nice.

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