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Grade-a-Trade: Wandy Rodriguez for Rudy Owens, Robbie Grossman, and Colton Cain

| July 31, 2012 | 1 Comment

Wandy Rodriguez - PiratesAs part of the 2012 push for the playoffs, the Pirates acquired Wandy Rodriguez in exchange for Rudy Owens, Robbie Grossman and Colton Cain.   This trade will take some time to evaluate the winner and loser, likely years before the three guys that the Pirates gave up in the deal become a known commodity enough to determine whether or not this is a win or a loss.

Initially, I personally like this deal as it gives up a position of depth in pitching (Owens and Cain) in exchange for a known commidity with a solid track record and multiple years of control in Rodriguez.  Grossman and Owens have combined to be the Pirates minor league players of the year for the past three years, but that is as much an indicator of the system those three years than the players.   I do think that Owens could have helped the team this year, considering guys like Bedard are in the rotation despite a major league worst 12 losses at the time of me writing this, and Kevin Correia having spent most of the season in the rotation as well.   But in a playoff race, you want the guys who have experience and have been there before, and Wandy qualifies as such.

Initial fan reaction has been mostly positive to this trade, and I personally would grade it as a B+ right now.  If Wandy can help this team get to the playoffs and advance, this trade becomes an A.  This trade will be revisited in the years to come to determine how well it turned out in hindsight.



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1st Place Pirates Keep Rolling

| July 4, 2012 | 0 Comments

July 4, 2012 NL Central standings

Happy 4th of July everyone.  The Pittsburgh Pirates definitely made it a happy 4th of July.  Just like they did the 3rd of July.  And the 2nd of July.  And 42 other days so far during this 2012 Major League Baseball season.  The Buccos are doing exactly what they need to be doing right now… making hay when the sun shines so to speak.  When you play the worst teams in baseball, you need to beat them.  And with the 6-4 win over the Houston Astros today, they did that for the 3rd time in the first 3 games of this series.   Today’s win, the first without the benefit of a Pirates home run in 12 games, moved the Pirates to 45-36 – a record that is more and more making the whole .500 or bust quest a very minor afterthought.

This team finds ways to win.  Today, it was Mayor Pedro, the Fort and the Legend all coming through with offensive games.  Pedro’s 2 run single now gives him an incredible 48 RBI this season, after 81 games in the books and 81 more to go.  It’s easy to figure out season paces right now, but considering his early season struggles, I’d have to take the over on his 96 RBI pace to end the season right now.  And while we’re at it, hats off to Pedro Alvarez for really sticking with it and working hard to persevere this season.  I think he is always going to be a streaky hitter, but at Clint Hurdle said, Pedro wouldn’t have gotten many votes for mayor earlier this year.  Not too many people believed in him, and now, he’s found a home in the middle of this lineup and has show terrific improvement with plate discipline and pitch selection.  He’s proving to be an inspiration to anyone that has ever had to overcome adversity in life, and he’s a guy that I am rooting for to be the best player that his talents will allow.

Michael McKenry has filled in admirably this last week or so when Rod Barajas get dinged up in the Phillies game, and Garrett Jones has also really picked up on his consistency as well.  Today, those three guys brought the lumber, going 5 for 9 with 4 RBI and 3 runs scored.  MVP in waiting Andrew McCutchen went 1 for 3 to keep his average at a National League leading .360.  And every Pirates starter except for pitcher Kevin Correia had either a hit or a run scored today, which has been typical of this total team effort we have seen this year.

The win today moves the Pirates above the Texas Rangers for the best home record in all of baseball at 26-13, and they are now 25-12 overall since May 24, which will be tied for the best record in baseball since that time if the Yankees lose to Tampa today.

Pirates will go for the 4 game sweep and a ’10 games over .500′ record tommorrow night, with Jeff Karstens facing Bud Norris.   The weekend ahead brings in the San Francisco Giants sans Matt Cain.  The weekend matchups for that series are:  Erik Bedard vs. Barry Zito, James McDonald vs. Ryan Vogelsong, and A.J. Burnett vs. Tim Lincecum.   There is a decent chance the Pirates could hit the All Star break in first place with a blistering 49 wins.

1st Place Pirates Now 24-12 Since May 25

| July 4, 2012 | 1 Comment

Pirates Zoltan Shirts (no affiliation with us, just a cool shirt)Last year, it was the Fort, Michael McKenry, with the play of the year for the 2011 Buccos.  This year, it was also McKenry with his hit off of Aroldis Chapman to beat the Reds earlier this year.

Until last night.

Drew Sutton last night was able to wrest the title of play of the year (so far, anyway) from McKenry for the 2012 title with his dramatic, completely unexpected but somehow not surprising, game winning walk off home run in the bottom of the 9th to beat the (hapless) Houston Astros.  That home run, Sutton first in the bigs since the 2010, put the Pirates into a 1st place tie with the Reds, who later last night lost to the Dodgers 3-1.

I’ll spare all of the talk about the PIrates being 8 games over .500 for the first time since the last day of the 1992 season, because to be honest, .500 no longer really matters.  Heck, finishing 82-80 and ending ’the streak’ this year seems like it would be a bit of a disappointment at this point in the season.

There just seems to be too much right for this team right now.  Things are clicking in a way that says that last year was last year, and this year is the first of many more in a good way.  They’ve got the Zoltan Z going on, like the Brewers’ beast mode claw from last year’s playoff run.  One of those things that when your opponent does it, you hate it.  But when it’s your team, it connects you with them in a way like no other.  Note: the image and subsequent link to the page where these shirts are sold are of no affiliation to me in any way whatsoever.  I just thought they were cool (though could be improved) and it would be great if a percentage of each sale went to Pirates Charities, but that’s not up to me… just saying).

Anyway, we have a potential National League MVP in Andrew McCutchen earning his way to an All Star game that he will be playing to win.  Because it *might* actually mean something to his team in October.

We have a closer who has blown two saves all year long, and an offense that picked him up by coming back to win both of those games.

We have guys who we acquired, traded the same day, and picked up off of waivers after he was cut by the team we traded him to coming in an hitting game winning walk off home runs.

We have a big time prospect pounding at the door in Indianapolis to come and join the party in Starling Marte, along with enough pitchers to solidly staff an 11 man rotation if we needed to.

We are 9 days away from the deadline to sign drafted players, and there is an incredible indifference regarding whether or not 1st round pick Mark Appel actually signs with the Pirates or not (He’d be insane not to sign, by the way. No more money coming his way, plus a chance to be part of a… yep, I’ll say it… dynasty in the years to come.  The only person who is hurt here is Scott Boras, since he’s already cost his client millions of dollars).

We have the best offense in baseball since June 1.  Incredible, considering the articles written here and everywhere else about how historically bad the offense was in April and May.

It’s a lot of fun right now, and it’s cool to be a Pirates fan.  I was wearing my Bucco gear every day in Milwaukee last week, and I was stopped over a dozen times by strangers wanting to talk Bucco baseball.   Not to mention, it is cool to go to Pirates games now.   Bandwagon fans or not, it’s a lot more fun to have those folks’ butts in seats.  Plus, the ticket sales justify everything we’ve been saying all along.  You win and they will come.  Well, the Pirates are winning, and the fans are showing up as well.

As Drew Sutton said after his incredible hit last night…  “every once in a while, you get a moment. You’d better enjoy it.”  I think truer words have never been spoken about anything in life.  And as baseball fans, the sport is all about life lessons as well, that we can teach our kids, and that we can learn from ourselves.  As those of us that thought that is might be “our year” every year since 1992, we all know disappointment and perseverance.

But this year, even if it turns out not to be “our year” when all is said and done, right now, we are all living in one of those moments that you get every once in a while.

You’d better enjoy it.

From Hapless to Happening – the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates

| June 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

Remember not too long ago when every article on the Buccos seemed to refer to the squad as the ‘hapless Pirates’?  Well, now that we officially have some haps, Pittsburgh is starting to become much more ‘hap’pening.  With tonights 9-1 drubbing over the, dare I say, ‘hapless Minnesota Twins’, the Pirates are back to within two games of the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central.  They are also one game behind the Giants and Mets in the race for the two National League Wild Card spots right now as well, with the Braves wedged in between a half game ahead of the ‘Happening Pirates’.

Yep, it’s only the first day of summer, but this team is built to last.  Even despite losing last year’s ace, Charlie Morton, to season ending Tommy John surgery, the pitching of this team has been outstanding.  Starters are terrific, bullpen has been solid… even AAA Indianapolis has one of the best pitching staffs in the league.  Although Brad Lincoln has struggled in his starting role, he was outstanding in the bullpen this year (and probably better suited for that role long term).   If needed, this team could easily call up guys from Indy like Rudy Owens (now at 6-2), Justin Wilson (73 K’s in 74 IP), Jeff Locke (72 K’s in 77 IP) and even Rick VandenHurk (5-0, 1.86 ERA) from a team that is 15 games over .500 and in 1st place by 9.5 games.

The Pirates 9 run outburst tonight launched them past the San Diego Padres to no longer be the lowest scoring team in the Majors.

So while the system seems to have pitching depth, the offense is what will make or break this 2012 version of the Bucs.  And the offense has been coming around and showing signs of life lately.  Casey McGehee is forcing himself into the lineup every night with a 9 game hitting streak now, and hitting .356 in June.  Pedro Alvarez is currently on a good streak that hopefully will last for a while.  Garrett Jones is hitting very well also.  Cutch is Cutch.  And the Pirates have been getting contributions from others as well, such as Josh Harrison putting together a nice run of games.  Even Clint Barmes is hitting .300 over the last week.   And wouldn’t you know it, but the Pirates 9 run outburst tonight launched them past the San Diego Padres to no longer be the lowest scoring team in the Majors.   Trailing by 1 headed into the game, they now lead the ‘hapless Padres’ by 8 runs in that category, and trail the Marlins by 15 runs for the next rung up the leaderboard.

The way this team has been playing so far this year, it is looking more an more legitimate that this team is going to hang around a bit longer than it did ‘post Jerry Meals’ in 2011.  And maybe after all those years of being ‘hapless’, Pirate fans are now just ‘happy’.