Tag: Jose Tabata

Spring Training First Week in Review

| March 4, 2011 | 0 Comments

So most of this week I’ve spent working on some of the behind the scenes stuff for this site, so that we can be full speed ahead come opening day.  But at the same time, I don’t want to completely ignore the spring games that are being played each day now.

One week is in the books, and the Buccos already have 4 wins, not counting the Manatee rout.  They had 7 real spring training wins all last spring.  Does this guarantee wins come April?  Of course not.  But it can’t hurt, especially when you are teaching a team how to win.  So winning at any time is better than losing any time in my book.  And being 4-3 so far is just fine.  More importantly though, we should look at individual performances so far this spring, and that is the intent of this article today.

Leading the offensive attack in the first week of spring is the guy who should be our rock this year, Pedro Alvarez.   Pedro is off to a .357 start, with three doubles and a triple despite no long balls just yet.  In a funny spring quirk, he is leading the team in hits, doubles, triples, RBI and total bases, but not home runs.  He also has a team high 4 k’s so far.

Jose Tabata is also off to a good start, hitting .417 with 5 hits in 12 at bats.  But despite taking more pitches, our possible leadoff man did not draw a walk yet this spring and all five of his hits are singles so far. T-Bats does have 2 stolen bases during the first week.  Legend (Garrett Jones) had a decent start to spring with 3 hits (2 doubles) in 10 at bats so far, while Andrew McCutchen is one of the few Buccos to go deep this week as one of his 3 hits in 14 at bats (.217).   Neil Walker went 3 for 12 with a triple during the week (.250) (though Walker just singled against the Phillies as I am writing this)  and likely starting catcher Chris Snyder was 4 for 7 and a walk for a decent start to the exhibition season.  Newcomer Lyle Overbay also has a home run as one of his two hits in 10 at bats during the past week (.200), though also just singled against the Phillies to make it 3 for 11 (how about that for up to the minute batting average stats?). 

Some guys struggling so far include starting shortstop Ronny Cedeno (o for 11 so far) which is disappointing to see, but something to keep an eye on over the next few weeks.  Matt Diaz is also starting a little slow with one hit in 12 Pirate at bats this year.  Well, until just now, like Walker and Overbay, as he just singled as well to move to 2 for 13 on the season.  Three straight hits for the Buccos I’m typing about right now in today’s game. No such luck for Garrett Jones who ended the first inning and stranded a couple of runners.

But back to spring’s week in review. No real surprises or strong starts from guys needing a big spring to make the team.  Corey Winberly is 0 for 8 despite some early hype.  Andrew Lambo is 1 for 4 and Alex Presley 1 for 6.

On the pitching side of things, both Brad Lincoln and Charlie Morton are off to good starts, each giving up one earned run on three hits in five innings.  Lincoln has 2 K’s while ChuckMo has 1.  James McDonald has two scoreless innings under his belt, while Paul Maholm gave up 2 runs on 4 hits in his two inning outing.  Ross Ohlendorf gave up 1 run in an inning and two thirds, and Kevin Correia had a couple of runs in his first start as well as two more today in his first inning, but he did settle down today with 4 k’s (so far) today to have a team high 5 K’s on the spring season.    Nobody else is really standing out one way or the other, except maybe Mike Crotta having tossed three scoreless innings so far in the past week.

Defensively, Ryan Doumit has given up 2 stolen bases on 2 attempts, which was a major issue last year, which Chris Snyder gunned down the lone steal attempt against him.  Doumit also has been charged with two passed balls this week.  As a team, the Pirates only have three errors in these first seven games, one each from Josh Fields, Gorkys Hernandez, and Josh Rodriguez, none of which likely to break camp with the Pirates.

So, while not to take too much of this too seriously at this point in the season, it is a first look at even a small sample size of what we might see in 2011.  The biggest thing I noticed is the lack of surprises so far, and I am very curious to see if anyone steps up with one of those big springs that force the team to consider adding them to the roster, lineup or rotation.  I’ll check back with an update like this each week of spring, and also capture the final spring statistics to keep them for next year and throughout the season so that we can see what these numbers do or do not mean in the grand scheme of things once we have the 2011 season in the books.

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New Jack City

| February 23, 2011 | 3 Comments

Jack Wilson, for many reasons, was quite a fan favorite in Pittsburgh.  He was never a great hitter, was always a pretty good fielder, and always busted his tail for the black and gold.  As a fan, you felt like he wanted to be here, and despite having California roots, Jack always seemed to feel like a Pittsburgh guy.  A lot of the Pirate fan base was upset when Jumpin Jack Flash was traded to the Seattle Mariners a couple of years ago, and since the Pirates didn’t get much in return, aside from a lesser shortstop replacement (sorry Ronny), some minor league players, and some magic beans, those fans had every right in the world to be resentful.  After all, if this team isn’t going to be winning, at least let me sit and watch guys that I like, or that I can relate to.

I, for one, thought that it would take this team a long time to find another player who defined the face of the franchise the way that Jack Wilson did.  The Pirates had many better players during Jack’s tenure as Bucco shortstop - Jason Bay, Freddie Sanchez, Brian Giles, etc. - but none of them had the love of the fanbase quite like Jack had captured.  It would take someone truly special to replace Jack as that ‘face of the franchise’.  It would take someone who truly “gets it”.  Someone who works their rear end off, and hustles on every play, who wants this team to win, and who truly wants to be a Pittsburgh Pirate.  And if that someone could even be from Pittsburgh, that would be the icing on the cake.  I know, what are the odds of that ever happening?   Well, until Neil Walker was called up from the minor leagues last May, anyway.

Neil Walker - Pittsburgh PiratesI don’t think there is any better person, let alone player, to open this blog’s infant history with than Neil Walker.  In less than a full season, Walker has become the single most popular player on the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Like Jack’s situation, there are probably better players on the team – Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, probably Jose Tabata – but this Pirates team became Neil’s team almost the moment he arrived in ‘The Show’.  To watch Walker, to hear him speak, to see him deal with the media and fans…  he absolutely and unequivocally, ‘gets it’.   He’s a hometown kid that always wanted to grow up to play for the Pirates, and there is no place else he’d rather be.  

Unlike some of the other young players on the Pirates, no matter how good he becomes in the future, you just get the feeling that Neil Walker is going to be a Pirate forever.  Kinda like you felt with Jack, maybe even moreso.  How could they ever get rid of him?  Heck, he came up and hit .296 in his first season with the Pirates, knocked 12 home runs and drove in 66 runs.  He tied Albert Pujols for 3rd most RBI in the National League after the All Star break.  He didn’t even arrive in Pittsburgh until just before Memorial Day, and is playing a position that was one of the few he had’t previously been a regular at.  The expectations are that he will be much, much better in 2011.  That may be hard to achieve, and may be unfair to him, but it feels like it is almost a given seeing how hard he works and how comfortable he is in his role as a leader with, no, scratch that… as THE leader of this Pirates team.

Pedro Alvarez may hit 40 bombs this year.  Cutch may steal 40 bases, hit .320 and be a National League All Star.  Jose Tabata may break out onto the national stage with a huge year.  But this is Neil Walker’s team.  And there is no better person to have in that role, than someone who leads by example the way that he does. It’s been a long, long time for us Pirates fans since we’ve had a reason to be excited.  And history has shown, because of ownership, front office flaws, managerial shortcomings and a lack of talent, that the fans need to SEE something before they truly fall in love with this franchise again. 

But I just can’t help but feel like baseball is about to become relevant in Pittsburgh again.  And guys like Neil Walker are going to be a part of the solution that helps make that happen.   And if they don’t start winning, at least we’ll have a player that we can watch and enjoy, and somehow feel like we can relate to.

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