Bucco GIFs of the Year: August 2014

GIFs of the year… August edition.

– Andrew McCutchen was a little bored during his DL stint:

andrew mccutchen duck

– Look what Edinson Volquez found:

edinson volquez no look

– The Jordy Jig:

jordy mercer jig

– The Snider Shuffle:

Travis Snider shuffle

– That seven-game losing streak was soooo bad:

pirate fan kid

– Bucs finally get a win and celebrate accordingly:

gaby sanchez gatorade bath

– Bird on the field alert:

pirateparrot0001

Previous editions:

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

Go Bucs

Bucco GIFs of the Year: July 2014

Pirate GIFs of the year — July edition.

Ike Davis gets the Gatorade bath after a great walk-off win:

ike davis gatorade bath0001

A.J. Burnett tips his cap to the PNC Park crowd in his return to Pittsburgh:

aj burnett0001

Jordy Mercer goes nuts in the dugout after Andrew McCutchen put the team on his back in Cincinnati:

jordy mercer 0001

– Cutch legs out an infield single in the All-Star Game, beating out a great play by Derek Jeter:

andrew mccutchen all star game

– Down goes Cheese Chester. This injury forced him onto the 15-day DL.

cheese chester injury0001

Josh Harrison‘s (second) epic rundown:

josh harrison rundown

– Cutch videobomb city:

andrew mccutchen videobomb

– Jordy Mercer — unfortunate home run placement:

jordy mercer beer cup0001

Previous editions:

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

Go Bucs

Edinson Volquez & The Benefit of Good Defense

Major League free agency will start within a week (five days after the conclusion of the World Series, to be exact). While most attention will be focused on Russell Martin, Pirate free-agents-to-be Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez will also be in demand.

Over the last calendar year, Volquez has been an interesting case. The Pirates surprised everyone when they signed him to a one-year, $5 million deal in December, then looked like geniuses when he posted a 3.04 ERA in 32 games. Although things didn’t go as they would have liked, they trusted Volquez enough to give him the ball in the NL Wild Card game.

While the seasonal results were good and he made changes for the better, Volquez may have had more luck than skill on his side. He only struck out 17.3% of batters in 2014, the lowest mark in any of his full MLB seasons. That means more balls were being put into play, which generally isn’t a good thing.

However, Volquez was fortunate to have a good defense behind him. Overall, the Pirate defense saved 36 runs this season, six-most in baseball. Whether it was luck, skill, or just being in the right place at the right time, the defense helped Volquez limit opponents to a .263 batting average on balls in play. The only NL starters who had a lower BABIP: Johnny Cueto (.238), Shelby Miller (.254), and Doug Fister (.262).

If the Bucs didn’t make so many plays behind him, you can bet his ERA wouldn’t have looked as nice as 3.04. In fact, his FIP (which “measures what a player’s ERA would look like over a given period of time if the pitcher were to have experienced league average results on balls in play and league average timing”) was 4.15 — meaning he was essentially the same pitcher he had been in the past, with a lot more luck and maybe a little more skill behind him.

The thing is, Volquez’s shiny 3.04 ERA will probably get him paid this winter. But is he that much better of a pitcher than he was a year ago? His walk rate improved, but his strikeout rate declined. If his opponent BABIP regresses back to a normal .300, his earned run average will go back up as well.

Anyway, here are nearly 30 terrific plays that kept Volquez’s ERA down in 2014 and could get him paid in 2015…

[NOTE: Lots of GIFs. Give them time to load. If they don’t load quickly or at all, you can click on each individual one.]

1. April 17th — Travis Snider keeps a hit away from Yovani Gallardo:

volquezdefense0001

2 & 3. April 17th — Russell Martin doing what Russell Martin does — throwing out runners, first with one on and one out in the sixth, then same scenario in the seventh. Not a ball in play, but still very meaningful defense. Late in a tie game, the difference between man on second/one out and none on/two outs is huge.

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4. April 22nd — Pedro Alvarez flashes the leather:

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5. April 22nd — Jordy Mercer makes a nice play up the middle:

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6. May 10th — More Jordy:

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7. May 22nd — Josh Harrison with one of the Pirates’ best defensive plays of 2014:

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Eddie loves it:

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8. May 27th — Another of the Pirates’ best plays; this one courtesy of Andrew McCutchen:

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9. June 12th — Ridiculous play from Starling Marte:

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10. June 18th — Pedro, slick pick (and even makes a good throw!)

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11. June 23rd — So many good plays in this game. J-Hay:

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12. June 23rd — More J-Hay. Insane:

volquezdefense0011

Volquez owes Harrison a steak.

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13. June 23rd — How about some Pedro? With a pick from Ike.

volquezdefense0011.5

(Volquez also induced three double plays in this June 23rd game.)

14. June 29th — Starling Marte, good center fielder:

volquezdefense0012

15. June 29th — Chris Stewart gets in on the action:

volquezdefense0013

16. July 21st — Marte, so smooth:

volquezdefense0014

17. August 1st — Hello Brent Morel!

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18. August 7th — Gregory Polanco has a CANNON. Spectacular inning-ending double play:

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19. August 17th — Neil Walker showing some range:

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20 & 21. August 29th — On the night he was given the Heart & Hustle Award, Josh Harrison made a pair of great plays behind Volquez:

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22. September 14th — How about a TRIPLE PLAY?

pirates triple play

Right before the pitch, Tim Neverett said, “The Pirates have activated the bullpen. Jared Hughes is throwing.” Volquez hadn’t been pitching well to that point; next thing you know, a perfectly placed ground ball and well-executed triple play. Volquez stayed in the game and cruised the rest of the way.

23. September 20th — It’s Mercer time:

volquezdefense0019

24. September 20th — More Jordy:

volquezdefense0020

25. September 25th — More Mercer? Sure:

volquezdefense0021

26. September 26th — Last one, I promise:

volquezdefense0022

Keep in mind, this is just a sample of great defensive plays (i.e. the ones in MLB.com’s top play archive). There were surely more key plays behind him.

Some plays may be lucky, but that’s what a low BABIP is all about. You can see the benefits of a good defense, even if these plays are difficult to replicate. It’ll be interesting to see what happens should Volquez sign with a team with a worse defense. A.J. Burnett saw a huge dropoff from 2013 to 2014, and the Phillies atrocious defense might have had something to do with that… 2013 Pirates: 68 defensive runs saved, 2nd best in National League / 2014 Phillies: -39 defensive runs saved, worst in National League.

Volquez’s ERA and BABIP will likely regress regardless, but a lesser defense could really hurt him in 2015. It’ll be also be intriguing to see how much interest the Pirates have in bringing Volquez back — will they bet on a better strikeout rate and steady defense? We’ll see what happens. Interesting offseason ahead.

Go Bucs

Top photo: Jason Miller/Getty

Saturday Stat Sheet 8/2/14

- The Pirates have left 827 men on base this season, most in MLB. But that doesn’t mean they’ve been the worst at converting baserunners; their percentage of runners left on base is pretty average. Read more here.

– On the same topic, sort of: the Bucs still lead MLB in on-base percentage at .333. Next closest: Tigers (.331), Blue Jays (.330), Rockies (.330).

Edinson Volquez since the All-Star break: 13 runs (10 earned) in 15.2 innings (5.74 ERA). He wasn’t good in his last two outings (vs. sub-.500 teams, Colorado and Arizona) but this split is less than inspiring:

Volquez vs. teams under .500: 1.80 ERA
Volquez vs. teams above .500: 5.07 ERA

Jordy Mercer finally has his on-base percentage back to .300 after getting on base three times last night. He hit .199/.234/.274 in the first two months of the season (48 games) but has posted a .296/.347/.449 line since (53 games). Mercer’s playing some solid defense too, and the metrics agree — he’s saved seven runs, fifth-best among shortstops.

– Good to see Pedro Alvarez get that clutch, game-tying double last night — off a lefty. Just his 14th hit vs. LHP in 74 at-bats (.189 average).

– Another interesting stat from Beyond the Box Score:

Yeah, I don’t know why opponents give Cutch much to hit. Seems they’ve realized that over the last month by throwing more junk, but McCutchen feasted on a first pitch fastball in the 8th inning last night, sending it off the deep center field wall. It proved to be a pivotal point in the game, as Pedro’s double followed to tie it up.

Vance Worley gets the ball on Saturday night following his 100-pitch complete game shutout in San Francisco earlier this week. His 2.54 ERA is still looking nice, and let’s see if he can keep it up to hold onto his rotation spot.


Bucs’ batting through 109 games:

Pos Name G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
C Russell Martin 67 283 27 63 9 0 5 39 3 .279 .411 .385 .796 128
1B Ike Davis* 87 276 30 57 11 0 6 28 0 .244 .351 .368 .719 105
2B Neil Walker# 95 403 51 101 15 1 16 50 2 .280 .348 .460 .808 128
SS Jordy Mercer 101 374 42 87 18 1 7 36 2 .254 .300 .374 .674 90
3B Pedro Alvarez* 102 395 41 83 12 1 15 49 6 .237 .324 .406 .730 106
LF Starling Marte (7-day dl) 86 348 40 80 16 5 5 34 21 .255 .328 .385 .713 102
CF Andrew McCutchen 107 480 62 125 31 5 17 65 17 .307 .406 .533 .939 165
RF Gregory Polanco* 45 205 30 46 3 0 5 20 8 .253 .324 .352 .675 92
Pos Name G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
UT Josh Harrison 93 325 44 90 19 5 9 37 13 .297 .334 .482 .816 129
1B Gaby Sanchez 81 202 21 41 13 1 5 18 2 .227 .302 .392 .694 96
RF Travis Snider* 91 196 21 45 3 1 7 24 0 .257 .333 .406 .739 109
C Chris Stewart 33 113 8 26 3 0 0 5 0 .274 .369 .305 .675 95
UT Michael Martinez# 15 20 2 3 0 0 0 1 0 .167 .250 .167 .417 22
3B Brent Morel 8 15 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 .071 .133 .071 .205 -40
Pos Name G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
Team Totals 109 4235 458 957 163 22 100 442 76 .256 .332 .392 .725 105
Rank in 15 NL teams 3 4 14 7 3 3 3 1 5 3
Non-Pitcher Totals 109 4010 450 937 163 22 100 439 76 .264 .342 .407 .749 112
Pitcher Totals 109 225 8 20 0 0 0 3 0 .106 .147 .106 .254 -26
Pos Name G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/2/2014.

Pitching:

Pos Name W L ERA G IP H R ER BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP BB9 SO9
SP Charlie Morton 5 10 3.54 22 137.1 121 65 54 47 108 101 3.83 1.223 3.1 7.1
SP Edinson Volquez 8 7 3.91 22 126.2 120 60 55 46 83 91 4.51 1.311 3.3 5.9
SP Francisco Liriano* 3 7 3.97 18 95.1 83 46 42 48 104 90 3.92 1.374 4.5 9.8
SP Jeff Locke* 2 3 3.77 11 74.0 75 36 31 13 49 95 4.17 1.189 1.6 6.0
Pos Name W L ERA G IP H R ER BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP BB9 SO9
CL Mark Melancon 1 2 2.12 49 46.2 34 11 11 6 44 169 2.32 0.857 1.2 8.5
RP Tony Watson* 8 1 1.58 51 51.1 43 11 9 11 55 228 2.88 1.052 1.9 9.6
RP Jeanmar Gomez 2 2 3.49 33 49.0 53 21 19 16 32 103 4.52 1.408 2.9 5.9
RP Jared Hughes 5 2 1.84 41 44.0 37 11 9 11 22 195 3.90 1.091 2.3 4.5
RP Justin Wilson* 3 2 4.57 47 41.1 36 23 21 23 43 79 3.49 1.427 5.0 9.4
Pos Name W L ERA G IP H R ER BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP BB9 SO9
Vance Worley 4 1 2.54 8 49.2 45 17 14 8 30 142 3.51 1.067 1.4 5.4
Stolmy Pimentel 2 1 4.28 15 27.1 26 13 13 13 30 84 4.38 1.427 4.3 9.9
Ernesto Frieri 1 1 9.31 13 9.2 13 10 10 4 10 40 5.30 1.759 3.7 9.3
Travis Snider* 0 0 18.00 1 1.0 1 2 2 2 1 28 7.13 3.000 18.0 9.0
Team Totals 58 51 3.73 109 984.2 937 453 408 332 790 96 4.03 1.289 3.0 7.2
Rank in 15 NL teams 4 10 10 9 9 10 9 11 14
Pos Name W L ERA G IP H R ER BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP BB9 SO9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/2/2014.

Go Bucs

The Best & Worst of July

Best & Worst of: April | May | June

Wow, August already … As we flip the calendar once again, the Pirates are officially 2/3 of the way through the 2014 campaign: 108 games down, 54 to go — four months down, two to go. The final-third of the year will be a big one, but before that, let’s look back at some of the best & worst for the Bucs in July…


BEST

Neil Walker

The Pittsburgh Kid probably wishes the month wasn’t coming to an end — he tore up July, hitting .316 with a .941 OPS. He crushed five home runs and knocked in 13, boasting a 166 wRC+ — best mark on the Pirates for the month and seventh best in the National League. Walker was one of 11 NL players to be worth 1+ wins above replacement in July. On the year, Walker’s 16 homers rank second among second basemen, and here’s how he compares to the rest of the field in wRC+

1. Robinson Cano, 135
2. Walker, 134
3. Jose Altuve, 130
4. Ben Zobrist, 125
5. Daniel Murphy, 118
6. Chase Utley, 118
7. Dee Gordon, 112
8. Brian Dozier, 112
9. Howie Kendrick, 110
10. Ian Kinsler, 106

Jordy Mercer

Walker’s middle infield partner, Jordy Mercer, also had a great month at the plate. His power was down after a surge in June, but he managed to slash .319/.385/.440 while appearing in all 26 July games. His role has increased even more since Clint Barmes strained his groin, leaving Michael Martinez on the bench behind him. Mercer’s looked a lot better on both sides of the ball recently — heating up with the bat after a very slow start, and making plays with the glove despite being given a bad rep for his defense in the past.

Russell Martin

Another good month for the Bucco backstop — he hit .306 with a .409 on-base percentage in 22 games. That .409 OBP was second best among catchers in July, behind only Kurt Suzuki (who signed a two-year extension with Minnesota yesterday, leaving Martin as the only legit option on the free agent market for 2015). Russ threw out 48% of base stealers in July (10 of 21), improving his caught stealing rate to 38% on the year.

Travis Snider

Credit where credit is due. He only started four times in July and made just 31 trips to the plate, but hit .393/.452/.750. Snider went deep in three straight games he appeared in: almost clearing everything at PNC Park last Wednesday vs. LA, a big pinch-hit homer on Sunday at Coors Field, and then a shot at AT&T Park on Tuesday vs. Tim Hudson. Snider’s become a useful left-handed bat off the bench, hitting .279/.367/.465 in 49 pinch-hit appearances this season.

Francisco Liriano

He was shaky in his return game from the DL, but has been really solid since. Overall, just five earned runs in 23 innings (1.96 ERA), pulling his earned run average under 4.00 for the year and providing some hope for the stretch run.

Jared Hughes

Hughes was a horse in July, working in 13 of 26 games. And the best part? He surrendered only one run. His low strikeout and BABIP rates suggest he might falter sooner or later, but for now, Hughes has been a reliable arm out of the pen.

The All-Stars

Congrats to Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, and Tony Watson on making the NL All-Star team. Clint Hurdle coached alongside Mike Matheny, Cutch started the game, J-Hay came off the bench, and Watson retired the only batter he faced (Jose Abreu), so the Bucs were well represented at the Midsummer Classic.

The Volquez Complete Game

Edinson Volquez was “the stopper” on July 10th, as he prevented the Bucs from being swept in St. Louis. He hurled a 114-pitch complete game, allowing one run on six hits. The performance was worth a Game Score of 74, his best in nearly two years.

The July 1st Comeback

After being shut down by Wade Miley through the first eight innings, the Bucs stormed back to score three runs in the ninth and top the D-backs by a score of 3-2. Click here to refresh your memory.

The Sweeps

Entering July without a sweep on the year, the Pirates took care of that twice, sweeping the Phillies and Rockies at PNC Park.


WORST

Gregory Polanco

His first month in the big leagues? Great. His second? Not so much. July was a forgettable one for the rook, as he batted just .214 with a .596 OPS. His walk rate went down and the strikeout rate shot up, as he buried himself in multiple slumps. Polanco is now slashing just .247/.317/.348 on the year.

Gaby Sanchez

The right-handed half of the first base platoon hasn’t found a groove this season. Besides a .328 OBP that was aided by a 17% walk rate, Sanchez hit just .174 and slugged .217 in July. He hasn’t hit a home run since May 26th. He’s hitting .179 since the beginning of June.

Ernesto Frieri

LOL. A meltdown against the D-backs, the Kolten Wong walk-off homer, … just when you thought he was settling in, he got lit up in Colorado. Ten earned runs in 7.2 innings. The walks are up, the strikeouts are a bit down; 10.38 ERA since joining the Pirates.

Stolmy Pimentel

Stolmy rarely pitches, so small sample size here. He gave up four runs over six July innings, but the concerns are deeper — he struck out as many batters as he walked, his ground ball was & is very low, meaning more line drives and fly balls — batters have hit a fly ball against him almost 50% of the time in 2014. Eventually those ones get over the wall like we saw last night (and there were two others that fell just short of the wall).

Justin Wilson

Another rough month for Wilson. More runs (4.82 ERA, 6.45 FIP), more walks (5.8 BB/9), more homers (2, including a Matt Adams walk-off), and a .286/.405/.514 opponent slash line.

The STL/Cincy Roadtrip

After starting the month with a 5-1 homestand, the Bucs hit the road for a huge trip to St. Louis and Cincinnati before the All-Star break. It wasn’t good — a 2-5 final result featuring multiple blown games, two tough series losses that would’ve made an impact on the Central standings.

Trade Deadline

The Bucs swung and missed at the deadline yesterday. Landing an ace, like Jon Lester or David Price, would’ve been special. They were rumored to be in on both of them, but … whatever. It doesn’t really surprise me that they didn’t acquire one of them. When have they made a splash like that? At least adding a reliever, probably the most likely of their potential upgrades, would have been nice… All you have to do is re-read the Frieri, Pimentel, and Wilson sections above, remember that Jeanmar Gomez is nothing more than a long-man, and know that Watson and Mark Melancon can’t do it all themselves to think another relief arm would’ve been nice. But there was nothing. There’s still a chance to add players via trade in August as we saw last year, but I’m not expecting any hugely impactful players to sneak through waivers.


The Pirates played some solid ball in July and are in a good spot — they’re five games over .500, 2.5 games out of first place, and only 0.5 out of the second Wild Card. The next two months will be huge, not just for the Buccos but also for the other six or seven National League contenders … it’s a tight race and looks like it’ll go right up till the end. They need to cash in against Arizona, Miami, and San Diego over the next week because it’s gonna get tough after that — vs. Tigers, at Nationals, vs. Braves, at Brewers, vs. Cardinals, vs. Reds to close out the month. Should be a fun ride.

Go Bucs