Although the Bucs ultimately collapsed to their 20th consecutive losing season in 2012, there were certainly plenty of memorable moments throughout the 162-game slate. As the calendar year comes to a close, it’s time to look back on the past season; here are our top ten most memorable Pirates moments of 2012.
10. Pedro Alvarez Game-Tying Home Run After Rain Delay vs. Colorado
Down by three in a game at Coors Field, Pedro Alvarez came up as the tying run. The rain had been coming down hard for the past inning or so, and the game was finally delayed when Pedro came up. After a 52 minute rain delay, El Toro stroked the first pitch he saw (from a lefty) to left field for a game-tying home run. Absolutely unreal moment for the few that stayed up to see it. The Pirates went on to lose the game, but it was still a great moment nonetheless.
9. Brad Lincoln vs. Jim Thome Staredown
The Bucs were up by a score of 8-7 in the bottom of the seventh in Philadelphia. Jim Thome, one of the nicest major leaguers and a guaranteed hall-of-famer, was up with two men on. Brad Lincoln blew an 0-2 fastball right by Thome, and the two stared each other down as they walked off the field. There was something about the whole situation that made it just perfect; the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia rivalry, a guy with 600 home runs against a young reliever for the Pirates… everything just seemed to fit. Awesome moment.
8. A.J. Burnett One-Hitter vs. Chicago
A.J. Burnett’s first year in Pittsburgh was a great one, and his best start came on August 1st at Wrigley Field. He held the Cubs hitless through 7.2 innings, and ended up throwing a one-hitter. He and Neil Walker, who drove in all five runs (including a grand slam,) single-handedly defeated the Cubs to rack up another win.
7. Andrew McCutchen Walk-Off Hit vs. Philadelphia
The 2012 opening series against the Phillies was a good one. Philly took Opening Day by a score of 1-0, the Bucs won the second game on a walk-off infield single, and it looked like Philly would win the rubber match. Down 4-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the Pirates scored two to get within a run. The stadium was split pretty equally between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia fans, so the Phillies fans were very vocal when they had the lead. Matt Hague tied the game in the eighth with his first career knock, setting up a dramatic ninth. With two outs and a runner on third, Cutch hammered a ball to center field. It didn’t get out, but it was far enough over the head of Shane Victorino to win the game and the series. Just the first of many great moments of Cutch’s season.
6. Back-to-Back Doubles Beat Chapman
Up until Michael McKenry got to him on June 7th, Aroldis Chapman hadn’t given up an earned run all season. If you look at the roster from 2012, Clint Barmes and The Fort were two of the least likely to double off of Chapman, but they both did it in succession to give the Bucs the lead in extra innings. The win got the Pirates within two games of the Reds and gave fans some bragging rights over those annoying Reds fans.
5. Pedro Alvarez Go-Ahead Home Run in 19th vs. St. Louis
The Pirates are very familiar with 19 inning games, and it was nice to be on the winning end of one in 2012. On August 19th, the team was still very much in the playoff hunt and any game against the Cardinals was important. It looked like the Bucs were going to finally end the game in the 17th, but St. Louis scored in the bottom half to keep it going. Finally in the 19th, Pedro absolutely destroyed a ball that put the Pirates back on top. It took more than six hours, but Pedro’s game-winner was definitely worth the wait.
4. Rod Barajas Walk-Off Home Run vs. Washington
Rod Barajas was really struggling through the first month of the season and the fans were letting him know how they felt. In a game against the Nationals, Rod was boo’d every time he came to the plate, but his walk-off home run made the crowd go nuts. It was a great win for the Bucs – beating the best team in the NL – and also became the unofficial birth of “Zoltan.”
3. Starling Marte Home Run on First Pitch in MLB vs. Houston
In the middle of a pennant race in late July, the Bucs finally called up Starling Marte to add some pop into the lineup. Marte didn’t take long at all to show what he could do. He led off his first game in Houston and crushed the first pitch he saw – a fastball at the letters – deep off the train tracks at Minute Maid Park. No matter how Marte’s career with the Pirates turns out, his first home run will certainly be something that fans remember for a while.
2. Travis Snider Robs Mike Baxter of a Home Run
By late September when the Pirates travelled to Queens, it was pretty clear that they weren’t going to make the postseason and even the chances of reaching .500 looked bad. Most of baseball had forgotten about them as they cooled off into September, but an amazing catch by Travis Snider brought some attention back to the team. On a ball that looked like a no-doubt home run, Snider climbed the wall, hung there for a second, and made the catch to rob Baxter. If this wasn’t the catch of the year, it was definitely one of the top three.
1. Drew Sutton Walk-Off Home Run vs. Houston
Considering the context, this has to be the top moment of the year. A.J Burnett had a chance to win his ninth straight game, but he got hit hard by the Astros. The Bucs battled back and took a one-run lead into the ninth, but Joel Hanrahan blew the save. Drew Sutton was the right fielder in the game and although he wasn’t charged with any errors, he misplayed a few balls hit into the corner that cost Burnett a few runs. He came up in the bottom of the ninth with a chance to redeem himself, and drove a walk-off home run deep to center field as the Bucs moved to eight games over the .500 mark. Pretty unreal moment for a guy who had bounced between teams his whole career and had a few special weeks with the Pirates.
Even though they fell short of .500 once again, 2012 was another great year of Bucco baseball. Obviously, these ten moments are interchangeable and the order varies depending on the person. These were our top ten moments; feel free to let us know your most memorable Pirates moments of 2012, either in the comments section or on Twitter.
Go Bucs in 2013
According to Michael Sanserino of the Post-Gazette, Andrew McCutchen has been named the 2012 Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year.
Cutch joins elite company as Sportman of the Year, as some of the biggest names in Pittsburgh have won the award recently. Those names include Dan Bylsma, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jamie Dixon, Evgeni Malkin, Mike Tomlin, Sidney Crosby, and more. McCutchen in the first Pirate to win since Jason Kendall in 2011.
He was quoted as saying, “It’s an honor to be named the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year. So many incredible athletes have won this award, including 18 in the Pirates organization. To be mentioned alongside these greats is humbling for me, and I am truly thankful of the support that I have received so far in my career in Pittsburgh.”
McCutchen will be honored at the 77th Annual Dapper Dan Dinner and Sports Auction. The event will take place on February 6th at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Tickets can be purchased HERE.
During the “Ask Management Q&A” at Friday night PirateFest, team president Frank Coonelly answered a question regarded the Bucs’ payroll for the 2013 season. In the process, he mentioned that the club could approach a payroll of about $70 million, which would be the largest in franchise history. According to USA Today’s Salary Database, the Pirates had a total payroll of $63,431,999 last season.
Since Neal Huntington & Co.’s first full season in 2008, the Pirates payrolls have looked like this:
|Year||Payroll||Highest Paid Player|
|2011||$45,047,000||Paul Maholm, Chris Snyder|
(Figures from the USA Today Salary Database.)
They have increased the amount of money dished out by nearly $30 million in the past two years alone. Another payroll increase would be a big step for the franchise, but keep in mind that spending more money does not always mean winning (see: Miami Marlins, 2012).
However, the large market teams in baseball, such as the Dodgers, continue to embrace the idea that you can simply buy championships. The Dodgers have been the big spenders of this offseason; their Opening Day payroll is estimated to end up around $225 million. The salaries of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, and Zack Greinke will turn out to be a total of $80 million, which is expected to be significantly higher than the entire Pirates payroll.
The Buccos find themselves in a predicament here. It’s difficult to fill out a roster each season while a) remaining competitive with the big market teams and b) staying inside the budget. The free agent market is insane this offseason. Although they scooped up Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano, neither player came on the cheap. Trades put the team in a tough spot as well, as you have to give to receive. You either need to deal prospects with future potential or current players with some value in order to receive anything decent in return. All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan, projected to make about $7 million in 2013, was just dealt to Boston for Mark Melancon, Jerry Sands, and two prospects. Since free agency and trading include high risk for a team like the Pirates, more pressure is placed on scouting and drafting. However, MLB now limits draft spending, so the Bucs are in trouble in that department, too.
Going back to what Coonelly said at PirateFest, is a $70 million payroll out of the question? Tim Williams at Pirates Prospects currently estimates it to be around $66 million. We’ll agree with Tim and say that Coonelly’s prediction will fall short. The additions of Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano, and the re-signing of Jason Grilli come at high prices; all three also represent some risk. Even though the Pirates owe large amounts of money to these three players in 2013, their payroll shouldn’t skyrocket too much – mainly due to the Joel Hanrahan salary dump. With these expensive additions, the Bucs had to deal Hanrahan for a few guys who will make league-minimum salary. Sands and Melancon could still be very valuable players, but they just come at a much cheaper price; that’s how the Pirates have to form their club. Garrett Jones, another Pirate that is due a big raise in arbitration, could be traded soon as well, even if it doesn’t make sense. At the end of the day, the Bucs can’t keep up with the Dodgers and Yankees of the league in terms of high-paying star power, but they may still build a formidable ballclub.
We saw last season that the Pirates can hang with the best teams out there, despite having one of the lowest payrolls. While a payroll increase would most likely be a nice boost, there is no guarantee of a winning product. Still, they will probably have to keep pumping more and more money into the franchise as teams around the league continue to pay ridiculous numbers to their players.
Full Name: Mark David Melancon
Born: March 28th, 1985
Height: 6′ 2″
Weight: 215 lb.
Mark Melancon was drafted by the New York Yankees in the ninth round of the 2006 Draft. Melancon, University of Arizona product, remained with the Bronx Bombers until the trade deadline of 2010, when he was shipped to Houston with Jimmy Paredes in exchange for Lance Berkman. He was strong in the closer role for the Astros in 2011, as he finished the year with 20 saves and a 2.78 ERA in 74.1 innings. After his solid 2011 campaign, Melancon was dealt to Boston for shortstop Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland. A brutal April and rocky relationship with controversial manager Bobby Valentine led to a rough 2012 season. He posted a 6.20 ERA and allowed eight home runs for the Sox, but finished the year strong, allowing just one earned run in his last eight appearances. Melancon now comes to Pittsburgh along with Jerry Sands, Stolmy Pimentel, and Ivan De Jesus, as Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt head to Beantown.
A quick scouting report via Pirates Prospects:
“He throws a four-seamer and a cutter, both of which average around 93 and top out at 95-96. The curve remains his best pitch and he occasionally throws a change. He’s a strong groundball pitcher, with a 53.8% groundball rate for his career. He’s been better against right-handed batters than left-handed, holding the former to a 226/293/336 line while the latter have hit 250/342/402 against him. He throws with a high-effort delivery that’s led to elbow issues.”
A couple videos…
Melancon making a slick play against former Bucco Jose Bautista:
A tough play to retire Hanley Ramirez:
Retiring Robinson Cano to get out of a bases-loaded jam:
Melancon is an intriguing piece of the Hanrahan trade, despite a difficult season with the Red Sox. There are a few positives to take out of his 2012 season, notably his strong September. In eight appearances that month, he surrendered just one run, one walk, and four hits, while striking out 13 and posting an ERA of 0.90. Peter Gammons, Buster Olney, and Boston beat writer Pete Abraham all believe Melancon will bounce back in Pittsburgh:
Melancon, who turns 28 in March, will be a crucial part of the Bucs bullpen. The departure of Hanrahan moves recently re-signed Jason Grilli into the closer position. Melancon should slide into the setup role, with Jared Hughes and Tony Watson providing middle relief. Bill James projects him to post a 3.47 ERA and an 8.53 K/9 in 57 innings next year. It’ll be interesting to see what he can do for the Buccos in 2013. He is still pre-arbitration eligible which is good for the cost-conscious Pirates, and he’s under team control through the 2016 season.
MLB Network remembered the life of Pirates legend Roberto Clemente by airing a special feature on Friday. It’s around 12 minutes long, but worth a watch. Check it out:
Full Name: Gerald Robert Sands
Born: September 28th, 1987
Height: 6′ 4″
Weight: 225 lb.
Jerry Sands was drafted in the 25th round of the 2008 Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He made his major league debut on April 18, 2011 against the Atlanta Braves. Sands went 1 for 3 with an RBI that night, with his first big league hit coming as a double against three-time All-Star Tim Hudson. He was dealt to Boston along with Rubby De La Rosa, James Loney, new Bucco Ivan De Jesus, and Allen Webster as part of the mega-deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to LA. Now he joins the Pirates as a main piece of the trade that shipped All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan up to Boston. Sands is under team control through the 2018 season.
Scouting report via Sox Prospects:
“Versatile bench player capable of playing corner outfield positions and first base. Can play center field in a pinch. Fringe-average hit tool. Swing is on the long side and can trigger on slowly. Tends to swing and miss too much. Creates leverage with hips. Solid-average power potential. Struggles with advanced off-speed stuff. Leads to being prone to striking out. Below-average speed. Average defender at first base and in left field. Doesn’t have the range to play center field or right field in more than an emergency. Average arm. Projects as bench player at the major league level, capable of filling in during stretches.”
Scouting video via Project Prospect:
Sands extending his hitting streak to 21 games in August of 2012:
This streak, coming as a member of the Class AAA Albuquerque Isotopes, ended at 21 games. He hit .296 with 26 home runs for the Isotopes last season.
YouTube legend Dodgerfilms catching one of Sands’ batting practice homers:
According to the depth chart on pirates.com, Sands fits into the club as the third-string right fielder. His addition further clogged the logjam of corner outfielders and first basemen the Pirates have, which could signal another trade in the works. He still has one option remaining according to Pirates Prospects, so he could see some time at Triple-A Indianapolis. Travis Snider and Jose Tabata, the two players Sands will likely be competing with, do not have any options left, which potentially gives them an edge in terms of making the big league club. A Sands-Snider platoon is definitely a possibility.
Tonight we asked…
…and the answers to tonight’s #FTFTrivia are…
Roy Face – 188 saves
Kent Tekulve – 158 saves
Mike Williams – 140 saves
Dave Giusti – 133 saves
Elroy Face racked up all of those saves while pitching a ton of innings. He wasn’t a conventional one-inning pitcher like we see today, so he pitched multiple innings in most of his appearances. He even won 18 games out of the pen in 1958 – still a record to this day. Face also saved three of the four Pirate wins in the 1960 World Series, but we all know why he didn’t get the save in that fourth one.
Kent Tekulve was the closer for the Bucs from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, and put up similar numbers to Face. He matched Face’s three saves in a World Series, and got the save in the series-clinching Game 7. Teke threw 1434.2 innings in his career. They all came out of the bullpen, so he owns the record for most innings pitched without ever making a start.
What’s most impressive about Mike Williams’ save number is that he racked them all up while playing on some really bad 90+ loss teams. He even saved 46 of the Pirates’ 72 wins in 2002.
Dave Giusti was converted to a reliever when he came to Pittsburgh, and was a key part of the team’s success in the early 1970s. Using the palmball, Giusti led the NL with 30 saves in 1971 and saved Game 4 in the World Series. From 1970-73, Giusti saved at least 20 games in each season, which helped bring his total up above 100.
Joel Hanrahan easily would have reached the century mark some time in 2013, but was traded this week and ended his Bucco career with 82 saves. Stan Belinda, Matt Capps, and Jose Mesa are the only other pitchers with more than 60 saves as a Pirate, with 61, 67, and 70 respectively.
Congrats to tonight’s winners: @_DrewBrown, @Zach_Morrison1, @ZacharyMWeiss, @fdawg30, and @johnlucas18.
Thanks to all who participated, and tune in next time for another edition of #FTFTrivia.
Go Bucs, 94 days until Opening Day
The Pirates clubbed 170 home runs as a team last season, which was the fourth-highest total in the National League. Their 170 bombs was a big increase from a total of 107 in 2011, when they finished 27th out of 30 MLB teams in the HR department. Here’s a look at the five longest Bucco homers of the 2012 season, via ESPN Home Run Tracker:
5. Andrew McCutchen - July 17th, 2012
Opposing Pitcher: Christian Friedrich
Stadium: Coors Field
True Distance: 448 feet
4. Pedro Alvarez – September 16th, 2012
Opposing Pitcher: Jeff Beliveau
Stadium: Wrigley Field
True Distance: 449 feet
3. Garrett Jones – June 2nd, 2012
Opposing Pitcher: Shaun Marcum
Stadium: Miller Park
True Distance: 451 feet
2. Garrett Jones – July 29th, 2012
Opposing Pitcher: Lucas Harrell
Stadium: Minute Maid Park
True Distance: 455 feet
1. Pedro Alvarez – August 28th, 2012
Opposing Pitcher: Brandon Dickson
Stadium: PNC Park
True Distance: 456 feet
- Ali Solis (claimed off waivers)
- Felix Pie (signed as free agent)
- Zach Stewart (acquired via trade from BOS)
- Clint Robinson (acquired via trade from KC)
- Vin Mazzaro (acquired via trade from KC)
- Russell Martin (signed as free agent)
- Jason Grilli (re-signed)
- Mike Zagurski (signed as free agent)
- Andrew Oliver (acquired via trade from DET)
- Ivan De Jesus (acquired via trade from BOS)
- Stolmy Pimentel (acquired via trade from BOS)
- Mark Melancon (acquired via trade from BOS)
- Jerry Sands (acquired via trade from BOS)
- Jeff Clement (DFA; signed by Twins)
- Eric Fryer (DFA; signed by Twins)
- Daniel McCutchen (signed by Orioles)
- Hisanori Takahashi (released)
- Kevin Correia (signed by Twins)
- Chad Qualls (elected free agency)
- Rod Barajas (elected free agency)
- Chris Resop (traded to OAK)
- Yamaico Navarro (traded to BAL)
- Brock Holt (traded to BOS)
- Joel Hanrahan (traded to BOS)
*Moves that could potentially impact MLB roster. All transactions can be viewed HERE.
In your opinion, have the Pirates improved this offseason? Please cast your vote, and feel free to let us know your thoughts either in the comments section or on Twitter.
Over the past few weeks, numerous rumors floated around Major League Baseball regarding a possible Joel Hanrahan trade.
Those rumors slowly became a reality on Saturday afternoon, as the Boston Red Sox closed in on a deal that would bring the two-time All-Star closer to Beantown. Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston was the first to report the rumblings.
Although a Hanrahan trade was inevitable heading into this offseason, this is still a tough pill to swallow for select Bucco fans. While the closer position is overrated, Hammer was a fan-favorite that saved 76 games over the last two seasons.
Neither of us are too upset that Hanrahan is gone. It was nearly guaranteed that he’d be traded this offseason. But we weren’t immediately pleased about what the Pirates got in return. We were pretty bummed to see the deal centered around former Dodgers prospect Jerry Sands. Boston beat writer Pete Abraham summed it up this way:
Apparently the Pirates are receiving “spare parts” after demanding a signficant return earlier.
From the opposite side of the debate, Jeff Moore of The Hardball Times claims that the Pirates have made a good baseball move.
Anyway, one name that frequently popped up as a possible return was shortstop Jose Iglesias. Despite a weak bat, Iglesias provides value defensively, as he’s great with the glove. Clint Barmes’ contract expires after 2013, and Iglesias is under team control until 2018. We would’ve liked this addition, as he could’ve stepped into the starting shortstop role after splitting time season. However, he was the first name to be eliminated from discussions:
The first member of the BoSox that was confirmed to be part of the package was 1B/OF Jerry Sands. Sands, 25, was sent to Boston from the Dodgers in the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford, among others, to LA. According to Jim Bowden of ESPN, he has a long, loopy swing. He is a career .289/.376/.562 hitter in the minors, but hasn’t found much success in 70 MLB games.
Sands just adds to the logjam of first basemen and corner outfielders the Pirates have. Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez are penciled in at first, while a bunch of underachievers, including Alex Presley, Jose Tabata, and Travis Snider, hold down the corners. Starling Marte is unproven as well, but will most likely be the starting left fielder. With the addition of Sands, there may be another trade involving one of the players sooner than later.
The second Red Sox prospect named was pitcher Stolmy Pimentel. The 22 year old righty hasn’t had an ERA under 4.00 since 2009 when he was in A-ball. He was 6-7 with a 4.59 ERA in 2012 with the Class AA Portland Sea Dogs.
The third trade chip is 27 year old reliever Mark Melancon. He was dealt to the Red Sox from Houston last offseason for shortstop Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland. Melancon was solid in the closer role for the Astros in 2011, posting a 2.78 ERA and 20 saves. He struggled last season in Boston in 41 appearances. Despite a rocky 2012, he is the most intriguing player in this deal that is coming to Pittsburgh. Switching back to the NL Central should help Melancon, and he’ll likely be a key piece of the bullpen. Some insight from Peter Gammons:
The fourth and final player coming from Boston is 25 year old infielder Ivan De Jesus. He went to the Sox with Sands last year in the mega-deal. De Jesus is a career .298 hitter in the minors; he’s hit just .205 in 48 big league games. He will not be included on the Pirates 40-man roster.
The other player leaving the Pirates in the deal is Brock Holt. Holt, 24, soared through the minors last season and earned a call-up after hitting .432 in 24 games for Triple-A Indianapolis. In 24 MLB games, he hit .292 (19 for 65) and potentially earned the right to battle for a backup infield job in 2013. Catching prospect Tony Sanchez is sad to see Holt go:
With the departure of Hanrahan, the Bucco bullpen is up in the air. As of now, Jason Grilli seems to be the only true veteran in the ‘pen. Mark Melancon has experience in the bigs. Jared Hughes and Tony Watson will be in there as well. After that? Who knows, but we expect a combination of young players, and maybe Vin Mazzaro (who is out of minor league options). The bullpen could either be solid or a total mess next year; it’s really too early to tell.
The Pirates haven’t stood pat this offseason, whether the fans like it or not. First, they gave $17 million to a decent catcher that could be a total flop. Then they gave a 36 year old reliever, who struggled down the stretch, nearly $7 million. They are taking a huge gamble of almost $13 million on inconsistent Francisco Liriano. Now they’ve dealt their closer for salary relief and a few unproven players. As we mentioned earlier, another outfielder or first baseman (maybe Jones?) could be on the way out. All of these moves are pretty risky, and could definitely put some jobs on the line in the front office. If/when Neal Huntington is fired, there could potentially be some moves to point to.
Andrew McCutchen was slightly confused when word got out on Saturday:
… then tweeted a cover-up:
… but ultimately wished Hammer well:
Best of luck to Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt in Boston.
Since last spring, Bucco fan Greg Allison has been working on a documentary about the Pirates, and it’s nearly set to be released. He uploaded the official trailer on Friday; here’s a look:
Greg plans on releasing the full documentary next Friday, December 28th. We’re excited to see all the footage and interviews he captured over the last several months.