How does ROOT’s spring coverage compare to other MLB local networks?

charlie morton pirates

Other than select players battling for roster spots, there isn’t much at stake during spring training. Still, it’s a fun time for diehard baseball fans to see their favorite teams and players for the first time in the new season. For fans who can’t make it to Florida or Arizona, it’s nice to see some March games on TV.

ROOT Sports will be televising five of the Pirates’ spring training contests, with the first coming one week from today:

– Sunday, March 9th vs. Red Sox

– Monday, March 17th vs. Yankees

– Wednesday, March 19th @ Red Sox

– Friday, March 21st @ Yankees

– Saturday, March 29th @ Phillies (in Philadelphia)

For the Bucs, that’s a pretty standard amount. ROOT showed four each in 2011 and 2012, five in 2013, and now another five in 2014.

Here’s how that number compares to the rest of Major League Baseball for the month of March…

Angels 26 FS West/PRIME
Dodgers 20 SportsNet LA
Brewers 16 FS Wisconsin
Twins 16 FS North
Phillies 16 CSN/TCN
Cardinals 14 FS Midwest
Yankees 14 YES
Mets 13 SNY/WPIX
Red Sox 12 NESN
Rangers 11 FSSW/TXA-21
Astros 10 CSN
White Sox 10 CSN/WGN
Padres 10 FS San Diego
Cubs 9 CSN/WGN
Blue Jays 8 S-NET
Orioles 7 MASN
Nationals 7 MASN
Indians 6 SportsTime Ohio
Braves 6 FSSO/SPSO
Rockies 6 ROOT Rocky Mt.
Mariners 6 ROOT Northwest
D-backs 5 FS Arizona
Tigers 5 FS Detroit
Giants 5 CSN/NBC Bay
Pirates 5 ROOT Pittsburgh
Marlins 4 FS Florida
Rays 3 Sun Sports
Athletics 2 CSN
Royals 0 FS Kansas City
Reds 0 FS Ohio

Spring Training Broadcasts 2014
(click to enlarge)

Average is about 9. ROOT and the Pirates are on the lower end, though five seems… acceptable. Would be nice to see a bit more coverage (reports from Bradenton, etc.) but I guess we can wait until April.

The LA teams run away with the most spring game broadcasts. The Dodgers would have even more, but they’re missing over a week of exhibition action to start their regular season early in Australia. On the other end, I was surprised to see the Reds and Royals without any games listed on their local stations.

29 days until the opener.

Go Bucs

In 31 Days…

Jose Tabata (31) days until Opening Day.

A solid rookie year, injury-plagued 2011, a contract extension, and a disappointing 2012 for Tabata has left fans scratching their heads.

Three questions about number 31…

1. Will he make the team? The corner outfield spots are packed right now, and there should be some interesting competitions in camp. Tabata could be on the outside looking in, but working in his favor is the fact that he is out of minor league options. If the Pirates want to send him to Triple-A Indianapolis, they’ll have to slip him through waivers. Regardless of whether it’s Tabata or another outfielder, it’s reasonable to think a trade could be made before the end of spring training.

2. Can he stay healthy? The health of Bucco players is a recurring question in our “In … Days” segments. Tabata has battled a number of injuries in his career, and missed significant time two seasons ago. It’s tough to rely on an injury-prone player who’s been overall disappointing.

3. Will he regain his speed? Multiple reports coming out of spring training claim that Tabata has dropped weight and is in the “best shape of his life.” A huge part of his game when he moved through the minor league system was utilizing his speed, but he’s been slowed by injuries. He stole 19 bases in 102 games back in 2010, but swiped only eight in 103 games last year. He managed to get caught stealing 12 times in 2012. If Tabata wants to stay in the major leagues, whether it’s with the Pirates or elsewhere, he must use his legs to his advantage.

Go Bucs

Hurdle slots Russell Martin in the two-spot of Pirates’ lineup

We’ll start off with a tidbit of an article from December’s Winter Meetings:

[quote_box author=”” profession=””]”Hurdle recently drew some double-takes for thinking out loud about possibly batting Russell Martin No. 2; the Bucs’ new catcher has a lifetime OBP of .352 (albeit it slipped last season to .311).

‘How many prototypical leadoff men are in the game right now?’ Hurdle asked rhetorically. ‘But a man that can get on base, can score runs … and the second guy is maybe someone to walk, handle the bat, stretch out an at-bat and get on base.’

Sometimes, before manufacturing runs, a manager has to manufacture a batting order. Hurdle is at that point now.”[/quote_box]

Today, Russell Martin will suit up for the Bucs in their Grapefruit League home opener against the Atlanta Braves. Guess where Martin’s name is penciled into the lineup? If you guessed the two-hole, you are correct:

(via @Pirates on Twitter)
(via @Pirates on Twitter)

As Tom Singer mentioned in the aforementioned article, Hurdle actually drew some double-takes for his ridiculous thought of batting Russ Martin second. However, he’s apparently giving it a try anyway. Spring training is obviously a time for experimenting, so it’s not definitive that he’ll stay in that spot. Anyway, here’s a look at Martin’s offensive abilities for the job…

Batting him second isn’t that out of the ordinary, considering he’s been slotted there before. However, it was never his primary spot in the order. He hit out of the two-hole 14 times in 2007, 12 times in 2008, 12 times again in 2009, a career-high 22 times in 2010, and just once for the Yankees in 2011. The Bronx Bombers did not bat him second at all last season. Simply because he’s hit there previously should not give him that opportunity with the Bucs. Martin isn’t in his mid-20’s anymore, and his offense has been steadily declining.

Hurdle was quoted as saying he wants the second guy to draw walks. He walked a whopping 90 times in 2008, which was the 15th-highest total in MLB. His ability to draw walks in recent years has been nowhere near his impressive 2008 campaign, though. While Martin hasn’t drawn more than 53 base on balls in any of the past three seasons, he’s still posted above-average BB% rates. His 53 walks in 2012 would have been third-most on the Pirates, behind only Andrew McCutchen (70) and Pedro Alvarez (57).

The next Hurdle requirement is “handling the bat”; in this case, he most likely means bunting. Hurdle loves to bunt, and bringing Jay Bell in as the new hitting instructor potentially furthers the team’s goal to sacrifice in 2013. Bell led the league in sacrifice hits in 1990 and 1991 with the Bucs. He sacrificed 39 times in ’90, while starting 153 of his 159 games in the two-hole. He was slotted into the starting lineup as the second hitter 153 times again in ’91, and sacrificed 30 times. Bell was setting the table for the fan-favorite center fielder that was hitting behind him, Andy Van Slyke. Russell Martin – or whichever Pirate gets the two-spot – will be charged with the same task for Andrew McCutchen. Martin only has seven sacrifice hits in seven big league seasons; he’ll have to “handle the bat” in order to hit second.

Another of Clint’s keys for the two-hole is stretching out an at-bat. Martin does have some decent plate discipline, which is a plus. He only swings at about 20% of pitches outside the strike zone, whereas league average is around 30%. For comparison, Clint Barmes was around 40% last year. Martin can also make contact, staying consistent with the league average at 81% of the time. Making the pitcher work is always important, so he’ll have to take some pitches if he wants to hit in front of Cutch.

Finally, Hurdle mentions the need to get on base in the two-hole. This is arguably the most important factor, as you simply can’t have consistent outs coming before the heart of your lineup. Martin’s on-base percentage has steadily declined over the past five years, which potentially points to another regression. He peaked at an excellent .385 OBP in 2008, but posted a subpar .311 OBP last season. His batting average has dropped over the years as well, so it’ll be interesting to see how productive he can be in 2013.

His diminishing offensive abilities make for a questionable lineup card. Many project Neil Walker to hit second, and he’d probably be a suitable option. The Pittsburgh Kid bats fifth today, however, and Hurdle may want him there in a position to drive in runs. As we said earlier, it’s only spring ball and there’s plenty of time to experiment; nothing is set in stone. Although it is interesting to see Clint Hurdle follow through with his December quote about batting the Bucs’ new catcher in the two-spot.

In other Russell Martin news, he’s withdrawing from the World Baseball Classic. He wanted to play shortstop, in order to save his legs for catching during the regular season. Team Canada wasn’t so sure of that, so Martin decided to withdraw altogether. This is best for the Pirates anyway, as it’ll be useful for Martin to get acclimated to the pitching staff during that time.

Photo: Keith Allison/Creative Commons

Bucs open up Spring Training with a win

The Bucs squared off against the Rays in Port Charlotte to kick off their Grapefruit League schedule.  The Rays, playing with a split squad, started Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona) and Jeff Locke started for the Pirates.

Locke pitched three no-hit innings, giving up just one walk.  He ended being the winning pitcher because the rules for pitchers to qualify for a win are different in Spring Training.  Three Rays pitchers each threw one hitless inning, matching Locke.  Starling Marte notched the first hit of Spring Training when he led off the top of the fourth with single.  After stealing second and getting to third on a groundout, Marte scored when Garrett Jones grounded to first.  It quickly became 3-0 Pirates when Felix Pie tripled Chase d’Arnaud in and Darren Ford drove Pie in.

Chris Leroux, Bryan Morris, Mike Zagurski, and Duke Welker each threw scoreless innings after Locke, with the only Tampa Bay hits coming against Leroux.  Vin Mazzaro then came in and got two quick outs before walking the next batter.  After a single, Mazzaro balked and both runners advanced.  Center fielder Darren Ford lost a high flyball in the sun and allowed both runners to score on a book-rule double.  The third out was finally recorded to get to the ninth, where Brooks Brown pitched a 1-2-3 inning to earn the save.  Bucs win by a score of 3-2 and are currently undefeated.

If you’re going to take anything away from the first two games (including yesterday’s scrimmage) this spring, it should be how encouraging Starling Marte has been.  After tearing it up in the Dominican League this winter, he’s gone deep, laced a single, and stolen a base out of the leadoff spot already.  Looking ahead, the most exciting aspect about this spring could be the fringe players, and who will emerge as this year’s Matt Hague.

Go Bucs

Pirates’ Spring Training Schedule

Clint Hurdle speaks with the media after the first spring workout on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo courtesy @Pirates on Twitter)

With spring training officially underway, it’s time to look forward to the Bucs’ first exhibition game. The opening matchup of the spring comes on Saturday, February 23rd when a split squad will take on the Tampa Bay Rays at 1:05 pm. Here’s a look at their entire Grapefruit League slate:

Sat, Feb 23, 2013
Pirates @ Rays 1:05 PM
Sun,   Feb 24, 2013 Braves @ Pirates 1:05 PM
Mon,   Feb 25, 2013 Pirates @ Twins 1:05 PM
Tue,   Feb 26, 2013 Orioles @ Pirates 1:05 PM
Wed,   Feb 27, 2013 Rays @ Pirates 1:05 PM
Thu,   Feb 28, 2013 Red Sox @ Pirates 1:05 PM
Fri,   Mar 01, 2013 Pirates @ Orioles 1:05 PM
Fri,   Mar 01, 2013 Pirates @ Red Sox 7:05 PM
Sat,   Mar 02, 2013 Pirates @ Tigers 1:05 PM
Sun,   Mar 03, 2013 Astros @ Pirates 1:05 PM
Mon,   Mar 04, 2013 Phillies @ Pirates 1:05 PM
Tue,   Mar 05, 2013 Spain @ Pirates 1:05 PM
Wed,   Mar 06, 2013 Pirates @ Red Sox 1:35 PM
Thu,   Mar 07, 2013 Rays @ Pirates 1:05 PM
Fri,   Mar 08, 2013 Orioles @ Pirates 7:05 PM
Sat,   Mar 09, 2013 Twins @ Pirates 1:05 PM
Sun,   Mar 10, 2013 Pirates @ Orioles 1:05 PM
Sun,   Mar 10, 2013 Pirates @ Twins 1:05 PM
Mon,   Mar 11, 2013 Orioles @ Pirates 1:05 PM
Wed,   Mar 13, 2013 Blue Jays @ Pirates 1:05 PM
Thu,   Mar 14, 2013 Pirates @ Phillies 1:05 PM
Fri,   Mar 15, 2013 Pirates @ Astros 1:05 PM
Sat,   Mar 16, 2013 Pirates @ Twins 1:05 PM
Sun,   Mar 17, 2013 Yankees @ Pirates 1:05 PM
Mon,   Mar 18, 2013 Red Sox @ Pirates 1:05 PM
Wed,   Mar 20, 2013 Pirates @ Braves 1:05 PM
Thu,   Mar 21, 2013 Pirates @ Orioles 7:05 PM
Fri,   Mar 22, 2013 Rays @ Pirates 1:05 PM
Sat,   Mar 23, 2013 Pirates @ Red Sox 1:35 PM
Sun,   Mar 24, 2013 Orioles @ Pirates 1:05 PM
Mon,   Mar 25, 2013 Pirates @ Rays 7:05 PM
Tue,   Mar 26, 2013 Pirates @ Blue Jays 1:05 PM
Wed,   Mar 27, 2013 Twins @ Pirates 1:05 PM
Thu,   Mar 28, 2013 Pirates @ Yankees 1:05 PM
Sat,   Mar 30, 2013 Pirates @ Curve 2:05 PM

 

Highlights:
– The Pirates will see Joel Hanrahan in a Red Sox uniform at McKechnie Field on the last day of February. They play the Sox again the next day; they’ll face them March 6th, 18th, and 23rd as well.
– The Bucs will take on the Spain national team at McKechnie on March 5th.
– They wrap up spring training with an exhibition matchup against the Class AA affiliate Altoona Curve.

Go Bucs