Series Preview: Pirates @ Cardinals

Pirates vs Cardinals

Pittsburgh Pirates (12-10)

@

St. Louis Cardinals (15-6)

Friday, May 1st — 8:15 pm
Saturday, May 2nd — 2:15 pm
Sunday, May 3rd — 2:15 pm

Busch Stadium — St. Louis, MO

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The Pirates wrap up their long road trip with a three-day stay in St. Louis. The first place Cardinals play host, currently tied for MLB’s most wins at 15. They lost their ace, Adam Wainwright, for the season, but are rolling offensively and put three of their solid right-handers on the mound this weekend.

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Off-Day Graphics: Cole, Cutch, Discipline, Velo

gerrit cole pirates

Some random stats/graphics on the Pirates’ off-day…

– Tweeted one this last night…

gcole

Gerrit Cole‘s career line through 46 starts: 3.27 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 8.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9

And he’s been just dominant in his first five starts of 2015: 1.76 ERA, 2.19 FIP, 10.3 K/9, 2.4 BB/9

– Only Joe Kelly is throwing harder than Cole among starters, and only Aroldis Chapman is throwing harder than Arquimedes Caminero among relievers…

average fastball velocity 2015

Another clean inning for Caminero last night, including punchouts of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant with absolute gas.

A couple former Bucs there: Edinson Volquez is doing very well in Kansas City (1.91 ERA/2.64 FIP in first 4 starts), as is Bryan Morris in Miami (1.69 ERA/3.45 FIP in 10.2 innings).

– On the flip side, Mark Melancon‘s velocity is still down, and at this point it doesn’t look like it’s coming back any time soon…

melanconvelo

– On the offensive side of things, the Pirates have been refusing to draw walks — something they were very good at last season, when boasting the fourth-best walk rate in baseball. Three of last year’s most disciplined hitters are now gone — Ike Davis, Russell Martin, Travis Snider — and the Pirates currently have the worst walk-rate in MLB at 5.2%. Andrew McCutchen is the only regular with an above-average BB% thus far:

pirates plate discpline

* That’s the National League average for non-pitchers. 

They fared a little better on Wednesday night, drawing six free passes (five unintentional, one intentional), which was as many as they had in their previous five games combined. That included a rare two-walk performance from Starling Marte, who started the night with a 2.6% BB rate. Josh Harrison is the concerning one — he’s never been one to draw a walk, which isn’t ideal out of the leadoff spot. Walks are important — not only for getting guys on base, but for making the pitcher work, seeing as many of that pitcher’s offerings as possible, and elevating his pitch count in the process.

– Andrew McCutchen is the exception up there, still walking a lot and keeping his strikeouts down, amidst a huge slump. He’s batting .194/.302/.333 through 21 games, and his .176 batting average since Opening Day is his worst 20-game skid since September of 2011…

andrew mccutchen slump

He picked up a pair of knocks on Wednesday, including a booming triple to center field and his 1,000th career hit. He and his knee may not be 100%, but hopefully it’s getting better and we’ll be able to enjoy classic Cutch by the summer.

Go Bucs

Series Preview: Pirates @ Cubs

Pirates vs Cubs

Pittsburgh Pirates (11-8)

@

Chicago Cubs (10-7)

Monday, April 27th — 8:05 pm
Tuesday, April 28th — 8:05 pm
Wednesday, April 29th — 8:05 pm

Wrigley Field — Chicago, IL

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The Bucs are on a roll, winners of five in a row and eight of their last ten. They come off a sweep of the D-backs, their second in as many weekends…

…and now head to the Windy City to face a Cubs team that split a four-game series with them last week. This marks the beginning of a fairly important week for the Pirates, with six road games against Chicago and St. Louis.

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Series Preview: Pirates @ Diamondbacks

Pirates vs Dbacks

Pittsburgh Pirates (8-8)

@

Arizona Diamondbacks (8-7)

Friday, April 24th — 9:40 pm
Saturday, April 25th — 8:10 pm
Sunday, April 26th — 4:10 pm

Chase Field — Phoenix, AZ

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Winners of 6 of their last 10, the Pirates take an even 8-8 record out to Arizona to begin a nine-game road trip. While there were opportunities to make the homestand better (offensively lacking vs. Detroit), the Bucs are likely content with their sweep of the Brewers and split with the Cubs (especially after dropping the first two of that series) at this point in the season.

The Pirates could use some W’s before heading to Chicago and St. Louis, especially with their big three on the mound this weekend.

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Bucco Bullpen Report 4/23/15

pirates bullpen april 23

A look at the Pirates’ bullpen usage through 16 games. Green = good, relative to the rest of the bullpen; red = bad. 

Tony Watson, as usual, has 1) been good and 2) been relied upon. Tied for the most relief appearances in baseball, he’s pounding the strike zone and has yet to issue a walk. His two-inning save against the Cubs on Wednesday night was particularly important/impressive. The two killers for Watson: Todd Frazier‘s home run on Opening Day, and Welington Castillo‘s home run on Tuesday night, hence the not-great ERA/FIP so far. Other than those two, however: spotless.

Jared Hughes struggled on Wednesday night, but otherwise has been a horse. He’s actually striking people out — it took him 21 appearances to collect 10 K in 2014, but he’s already accomplished that through nine outings so far. Pair that with his usual dose of ground balls, and Hughes has been an important bridge from the starters to late-inning relievers in the early going.

Arquimedes Caminero‘s name is familiar to Pirate fans by now, thanks to his flame-throwing right arm. Not only is he getting called upon often, he’s getting the job done (for the most part). Caminero’s getting a ton of strikeouts and ground balls, and his role may only increase from here.

mark melancon

– After being a sure-thing in his first two seasons as a Pirate, Mark Melancon‘s early performance has been concerning to say the least. His ugly velocity loss has been well-documented, while his strikeouts are down and walks are up. Melancon was more effective on Thursday afternoon — he was locating particularly well, and velocity isn’t everything if you can do that… but it’s still a very notable trend to keep an eye on moving forward. They’re saying he’s healthy and will keep his job, but if he’s not, that’s a serious problem for both Melancon and the Pirates.

– Where is Antonio Bastardo? He’s faced only 15 batters thus far, nine of which came in low-leverage situations. There was a need for Hurdle to have a second lefty in his bullpen, but there seems to be a lack of trust early on… This report via Rob Biertempfel late in spring training wasn’t exactly glowing: “A longtime NL scout, who has watched Antonio Bastardo from Class A to the majors, wonders if the lefty can handle pressure situations. “If he comes into the game when you’re either two runs ahead or two behind, his stuff is excellent,” the scout said. “However, when he comes into a tie game or you’re one run ahead, he tries too hard, and he walks everybody. It drives you crazy, and that’s why he was available. To me, he’s better in the middle (innings) than he is as a setup or closer.” There’s a dramatic split between Bastardo’s numbers in low-leverage (.116 BAA, .353 OPS, 3.83 SO/BB) and high-leverage (.270 BAA, .844 OPS, 1.60 SO/BB) roles.”

The Pirates will head out to Arizona to begin a nine-game road trip on Friday.

Go Bucs