Well the Pirates 2009 campaign is over. The team finished with a 62-99 record after a 6-0 loss to the Reds today. Pirates blogger Dejan Kovacevic posted his bests and worsts of the 2009 Pittsburgh Pirates today, and I was kind of disgusted by it, honestly. Sure, there is not much good to say about this season, but I completely disagreed with his take on some things in there. You can read that article here. Since my disagreement is so strong, I’m gonna go ahead and post MY bests and worsts of 2009. I’m gonna use the same categories as him, just different answers, for the most part:
Top player: Andrew McCutchen. I know he only played 4 months, but what McCutchen did in those months was fantastic. He hit .284/.361/.470 with 12 bombs, 54 RBI, and 20 SB. His defense was fantastic and he is only going to get better in the future.
Bottom player: Ian Snell. There is no arguing with this one. Snell was just awful this year, he did almost nothing positive. The only good thing that came out of Snell was Jeff Clement, whom the Pirates got from the Mariners in the trade.
Finest moment: I can’t argue with Dejan here either, McCutchen’s 3 home run night was probably the best part of the 2009 season. It got Andrew noticed on a national level and was just a feel good night for the future of the Pirates.
Foulest moment: Tough one here. I think the foulest moments were those first couple road games the Pirates would have after long homestands. The team would play so well at home, and then be a completely different team on the road and lose a ridiculous amount of games away from PNC, which was truly foul.
Emotional high: Gotta be the 11-7 start of the season and the early sweet of the then undefeated Florida Marlins.
Emotional low: For most fans it was the trades of Jack and Freddy, however for me it was long slumps of Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young, two Pirates who I was watching closely this year. If those two would have showed consistency and capability at the plate, the future would have been a lot brighter for the Pirates. However, they really didn’t show much this season.
Best front-office move: Low ticket-prices are always nice.
Worst front-office move: I suppose missing Miguel Sano hurts. It sounds to me like there was really nothing the front-office could have done there, and Sano’s agent is just a jerk, but there is a lot that I don’t know, so who knows what really went down. They should have signed him though, they were the front-runners and somehow they blew it.
Best personnel move: The trade of Nate McLouth and the trade of Freddy Sanchez. Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez, and Tim Alderson could all be huge parts of the future and could all be all-stars some day.
Worst personnel move: The John Grabow/Tom Gorzelanny trade. Sure, Grabow and Gorzo probably weren’t worth much, but it turns out that they pretty much got nothing for them. Hart was a complete flop and Ascanio and Harrison don’t impress me at all either.
Best managerial move: The infield play and the improved pitching. Big ups to Joe Kerrigan and Perry Hill.
Worst managerial move: Not utilizing the bullpen effectively. I feel like JR really isn’t good at game management and using his pitchers. That needs to improve.
Best quote: ”My gentleman’s name is Tony Plush.”
Worst quote: Anything that came out of Cryan Braun’s mouth.
Historical high: Andrew McCutchen’s 3-homer night.
Historical low: Number 17.
Top play: Jack Wilson’s backhand sliding, falling, tumbling, on his back, in the outfield, throw to first in July.
Bottom play: Ryan Doumit’s swing in April that cost him 2 1/2 months of the season.
Most encouraging: Ross Ohlendorf’s great performances, dominating at times, Lastings Milledge performance, and Andrew McCutchen’s many highlights.
Most discouraging: Andy LaRoche, Delwyn Young, and Brandon Moss.
Leap forward: There were questions about Andy LaRoche’s defense at the beginning of the season, but there aren’t anymore. He stepped it up big time with the glove… if only he could hit the ball.
Step backward: Matt Capps, 8 losses, 5.40 ERA… yuck.
Accountability: Neil Huntington, he has been consistent in his moves.
Lack of accountability: The “fans” running out of funny jokes to tell about the Pirates. I have grown to hate a lot of Pittsburgh sports fans because of their lack of knowledge and lack of respect for the Pirates organization.
Leadership: There really isn’t much… Zach Duke and Paul Maholm were the closest things we had to team leaders after the trades.
Lack of leadership: John Russell? I don’t know…
Positive force: Andrew McCutchen, and the small amount of hope he brought to the majors with him.
Negative force: The fans. I hate them.
Sweetest swing: Mr. Pedro Alvarez. The kid is gonna be a stud.
Miserable miss: Brian Bixler, one of the worst baseball players to ever suit up in a big league uniform.
Powerful crowd moment: Opening day when Zach Duke pitched a complete game shut out.
Weakest crowd moment: The other 80 home games.
Reason to believe in the 2010 Pirates: The pitching looked great at times this year, and their is offensive help on the way. This team can’t get any worse, and the future starts next year.
Reason not to believe: It’s rare that young talent clicks this quickly, and it won’t be easy for the Pirates young guys to put together a winning season next year, but it’s still doable.
The Minnesota Twins signed Miguen Angel Sano today. What is that about?
The three words that made Winston Churchill famous are now echoing to Pirate fans everywhere. The organization has hit a low point, the lowest point of any franchise in American sports history. The Pirates were considered one of the greatest baseball teams to ever play the game in the 70′s and 80′s, and now they have been degraded to a mere punch line. I can not count the number of times I have been made fun of in the last years for being a Pirates fan, and that pace has picked up tremendously since the Pirates’ have broken the record. However, I am an optimist and I am here to tell those of you who still have enough fanhood to be reading this to not give up, never give up.
Well instead of making a post of my own talking about the Pirates recent 4-sport record-setting of consecutive losing seasons in a row, I’ve decided to just post what my fellow bloggers are saying.
The Pirates lost today (4-2 to the Cubs). It was loss number 82 in a 162 game season, assuring that the Pirates will finish under .500 for a record 17th consecutive year. That goes for all four major North American pro sports.
I really don’t need to go into a long post about the last 17 years of this franchise. We all knew this day was going to come this season, and everybody has discussed how it got this bad at length for quite a while now. Still, I feel obligated to get some thoughts down on such a momentous occasion, so here goes:
In 1992, the Bucs lost a lot of their core to free agency and the like. A playoff team turned into a losing team pretty quickly, and while most teams recover from years like that, it didn’t happen (and still hasn’t happened) in Pittsburgh.
In 1992, I was one year old. Now I’m 18 and have never cheered my favorite club on to a successful year. Why? A simple combination of lack of money and awful decision making. People will say, “it’s amazing that in 17 years they couldn’t even get lucky once and have a good season.” Teams don’t get lucky. They have resources, either in talent evaluation skill or money. Up until about two years ago, the Pirates had neither.
You can win with bad decision making if you have enough money to make up for it (exhibit A: the New York Yankees). You can win without much money if you have a brilliant front office (Oakland, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Tampa Bay, etc.). The Pirates will never have the kind of money that the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, and Cubs have. Blame it on a small market, or Bob Nutting, or Kevin McClatchy, whoever. It’s a fact. You have to accept it. To overcome it, the Bucs had to draft well, develop players well, and use every single resource they have as well as they can and then sell it off for as much as they can get. It’s hard, and not particularly fair, but as we see year-in and year-out with the clubs I just mentioned, it’s definitely possible.
Cam Bonifay and Dave Littlefield failed miserably. Countless top draft picks have flamed out. Foolish trades were made with nothing but money in mind. Precious dollars were used on mediocre veteran free agents to fill a positional gap for a season or two, while draft picks were going unsigned and Latin American operations were a joke. People will say “the Pirates have been rebuiliding for 17 years, why should we believe they’re doing it now?” The Pirates were not rebuilding under Littlefield and Bonifay. They were, for the most part, just being amazingly stupid.
So now the new guys are in town and we still haven’t seen a result, just more trades and more losing. Any blog reader knows that I’m a believer in Neal’s strategy. It’s not that it’s gauranteed to work-it’s just the only option the Pirates have. Anything else would be the same old story-and it’s about time the Pirates have learned their lesson.
Jake from bucco-blog.com writes :
1. My beloved Pirates have won five World Championships. That’s more than the Mets and Cubs. Combined. Come back and talk to me when they catch up.
2. Ok, so our current ownership group runs the franchise like a Piggly Wiggly. What do you expect? Until Major League Baseball changes the welfare rules, I’ll continue to post an annual “Look How Bad We Suck” here every September for you to read.
3. “The Plan” is yet another chapter in “The Great Deception” and if you believe anything else, you’re as dizzy as the other 1.4M fans who flocked to PNC Park in 2009. We might have a little more talent in the system than we did two years ago, albeit little to no impact, we also missed way too many opportunities for the ‘best’ player. We’re still spinning our wheels.. the future is far from bright.
4. Our current roster is, far and away, the worst fielded product in Pittsburgh since Branch Rickey rebuilding days in the 50′s. It didn’t have to be this way had we had just a speck of better short-term planning.
5. Under the ‘new regime’ we have rovers quiting, quality field staff unwilling to serve out their terms, numerous cases of player cries for help, internal charges of unapproachable management, and one of the least experienced scouting staffs in the lower ranks. Yes, our GM was a virgin when he took over, our PD director a virgin, and our club President a virgin. On top of that two are lawyers and one a holistic practitioner. Throw in a virgin manager and.. Hold the jokes please – it’s really not funny.
6. While ownership names have rotated some and a few have been bought out, don’t forget for one second that Robert Nutting has been the Chairman of the Board of this franchise since January 2003, the year our top prospect, Aramis Ramirez, was dealt for a can of corn. The Nutting family has been in almost total control since – one way or another – and are firmly in control today. If you want a fans take on the Nutting ownership clan, mine would be this: nerdy misers who love to control others for a profit.
Oh, I could go on and on but it isn’t worth it. If I was granted a few wishes, I would ask for:
- realignment. Come on, why does my team always start the year with a double-whammy of a six-team division AND being in a smaller market?
- all the Pittsburgh boys brought in to turn this club around. I mean, look around, there are so many qualified Pittsburgh men working for other clubs it isn’t funny. I’d start with Branch Rickey as the President and hope he hired Tony LaCava as the GM.
- a reduction in season ticket prices for 2010.
The reaction over at bucsdugout was this:
The Bucs clinched their 17th consecutive losing season, setting a record for major American sports, with a 4-2 loss against the Cubs today.
Today’s loss was actually reasonably typical of this year’s team, from the seven innings I saw. They didn’t pitch terribly well, but they didn’t pitch horribly, either. The fielding was fine. There wasn’t anybody in the lineup who obviously doesn’t belong in the majors. They weren’t embarrassing. But they just didn’t hit enough. PNC was mostly empty due to the rain, and many of the remaining spectators were Cubs fans, watching the Pirates play mediocre, but not horrible, baseball.
If there’s any sort of thread that connects the 1993 squad that began all this losing to the 2009 version, I don’t see it. In fact, I’m too young to really put the first several years of the streak into perspective, and I associate most of the middle years with horrible, blunderous baseball played mostly by guys who either didn’t belong in the big leagues at all or were so old that the Pirates shouldn’t have been bothering with them. (Not that those categories are mutually exclusive.) This version of the team really has neither of those problems. They’re just not good enough right now.
Given what Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington inherited, that’s no surprise, and the obvious strides the Pirates made with young players, in the minors and with some in the majors, this year, suggest that someday soon things are going to be different. And so, although I know I’m supposed to feel some sort of disgust about this epic skid of losing seasons, I simply don’t. I felt it three years ago when Dave Littlefield was running the team into the ground. I’m not a football fan, but my brothers are both hardcore fans, and I was sitting on the couch with them when they saw that the Raiders had traded a 2011 first-round pick (quite possibly a top ten pick) to the Patriots for Richard Seymour. That was an extreme version of the sorts of bizarre moves Littlefield made on a regular basis. Whether you like what the Bucs have done the past two years or hate it, there’s a coherent rationale behind about 95% of the moves they’ve made. If Coonelly and Huntington can get this ship turned around, then being a Pirates fan is going to feel great for once.
For a different perspective, the writers over at TheUnsportsmanlikes have a series going where they look back at the positive Pirates’ moments in this long series of losing.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are now 1 loss away from being the first franchise in sports history to have 17 straight losing seasons. The Pirates suffered a tough loss to a Cardinals team that didn’t even start Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, or Yadier Molina. All 3 of those guys got at bats in the 10th inning of this game, but Pujols’ at bat was the only one that really mattered. The game headed for extras tied at 1 as the Pirates couldn’t get the big hit they needed to win the game in the 9th. Albert Pujols pinch hit to lead off the inning and hit a 3-2 fastball over the centerfield wall to put the Cardinals on top. Albert dropped his bat and admired his shot, which you don’t see from him very often. I was kind of upset with Albert there. He’s one of my favorite players and the guy in the league that I have the most respect for, and seeing him admire a shot that barely made it out of the yard kind of made me question his cockiness.
So I was at the Pirate game with my school yesterday… started talking about the Pirates with a couple of other kids in my class. One kid started talking about how the trades were awful and with this management the Pirates will never win. He went on to say that having an outfield or Jason Bay, Nate McLouth, and Andrew McCutchen, along with Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson would have made the Pirates a playoff team this year. I went on to remind him that without the trades they made they would have guys like Virgil Vasquez, John Van Benschoten and Ian Snell starting, which would result in nothing close to a playoff birth.
One of the most intriguing awards given out at the conclusion of the baseball season is the rookie of the year award. This year’s National League ROY race is going to be a good one. There are 4 serious contenders for the award this year, two pitchers and two Pirates. Here’s how the race sizes up, in my opinion.
4. Garrett Jones
The Pirates first baseman/outfielder has been fantastic since his call-up on July 1st. Garrett has provided some serious pop in the middle of the order, hitting 18 home runs in 55 games (that’s about 1 every 3 games, a pace that in a full season would result in 50+ homers). Jones has also been hitting for good average, his season clip is at .294 right now. He also adds an element of speed, as he has shown while swiping 9 bases in his 2 months with the club (he’s been caught only once). Despite all these great numbers, I think the fact that he didn’t play the first 3 months of the season will almost rule him out of this race.
3. Tommy Hanson
One of the Braves top prospects, Tommy Hanson burst on to the scene this year in early June. Hanson has been remarkable. He has made 15 starts as a Brave and won 9 of them. His ERA is a beautiful 3.15 and his most impressive stat is his 7.4 SO/9 rate. Hanson has unbelievable stuff and has been making some of the game’s best hitters look lost at the plate. If you were to watch him pitch you’d never know this was his first year in the majors.
2. Andrew McCutchen
If you have ever read this blog, you know how I feel about this guy. Andrew McCutchen has been the Pirates’ best player since his call up on June 4th (after the Nate McLouth trade). Cutch is sporting a very impressive .284/.359/.489 line. He has shown some power as well, hitting 11 home runs in 79 games (one every 7 games, a pace of 20+ in a full season). McCutchen’s best aspect has been his speed and his defense. Andrew has swiped 15 bases while only being caught 3 times. This number seems low, the kid has the speed to be one of the best base stealers in the game. Once he gets more knowledge of pitchers and more confidence, you’re going to see him stealing over 50 or 60 bags a year. His defense is remarkable, he covers more ground than anyone in centerfield and has made some ridiculous catches. However, all of this is not enogh to put him in front of the leader of the rookies,
1. J.A. Happ
The left handed young star of the Philadelphia Phillies has been ridiculous in 2009. He’s been with the team all year, but started the season in the bullpen. On May 13, he moved to the rotation and has been there ever since. He’s logged 149.2 innings this year and has a season ERA of 2.77, which is the 5th best ERA for starters in the National League. Happ has a 6.3 SO/9 rate and an impressive 2.00 K/BB ratio. He has won 10 games for the Phillies and is just another reason that the Phillies are cruising a top of the East division and putting them as a favorite for the World Series again this year. 2009 isn’t the first year Happ’s been in the majors, but it’s the first year he’s qualified for the league leaders, so it’s known as his rookie year. In 2007, Happ logged 4 innings (in 1 start), and in 2008 he got 31.2 innings (4 starts, 4 relief appearances). He’s been awesome for the Phillies and has a bright future ahead of him.
All that said, I wouldn’t mind seeing Happ get beat up a couple times in the last month of the season, raise that ERA a run or so… I really want McCutchen to win this award.
Don’t have much time here, so just a quick update on the last few days:
Neil Huntington and the Pittsburgh Pirates seem to be really supportive of my blog name. The “Mc” Effect will be tested again tomorrow as Daniel McCutchen will be called up to make the start in the first game of a day-night double header against the Cincinnati Reds. I wrote a little bit about McCutchen yesterday in my Future Of The Rotation post, little did I know that the future would come as soon as tomorrow. Let’s take a look at what McCutchen has been doing in AAA this year.
The Pirates have been playing great baseball lately, and that is mostly due to the solid pitching outings they have been getting. It seems all 5 starters have been going out and giving the Pirates a chance to win every game they play. This has really excited me for next season, if the pitching can be this solid, I really think this team can compete. Let’s take a look at the possible starters that could be in next year’s rotation, and who I like best to fill those spots.
26 starts, 7-7, 4.59 ERA, 0 CG, 102 SO, 1.426 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 5.6 SO/9
Overview: Paul was the Pirates opening day starter this year, but has not pitched as well as we were all expecting. He’s been really solid at home and has stretches of greatness. At 27 years old Paul still has a couple more years in his “prime”, but I think he has just about reached his ceiling. If he can become more consistent, I think he can be a solid arm in our rotation for the next couple seasons. His performance this year has definitely pushed him down my list though.
26 starts, 10-12, 3.68 ERA, 3 CG, 83 SO, 1.290 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, 4.2 SO/9
Overview: Duke is having a huge bounce-back year in 2009. He has been the Pirates’ best pitcher and sports that pretty 3.68 ERA. Duke was named to the All-Star team and has had a lot of confidence all year long. His performance this year has really shown that despite not having strikeout stuff he can still be effective as a starter. He pitches to contact but gets a lot of softly hit balls and groundouts. Duke is still at the young age of 26 and could have a little further up to rise until he hits his ceiling. I personally wouldn’t expect another season like this from Duke, but I still like him as a part of our future rotation.
25 starts, 11-8, 4.10 ERA, 0 CG, 84 SO, 1.306 WHIP, 2.9 BB/9, 5.1 SO/9
Overview: Ross has been great this year for the bucs. He has been getting better and better with every start and has really solidified a spot in the rotation for years to come. He, like Maholm, is 27 years old. However, I believe he has a much higher ceiling than Paul which he has yet to come close to. He has an outstanding sinker and on some nights can really bring it with the fastball. On those kinds of nights he doesn’t lose many games. I think Ross is going to be a key part to the future of this team.
13 starts, 3-6, 5.00 ERA, 0 CG, 43 SO, 1.571 WHIP, 4.0 BB/9, 6.1 SO/9
Overview: Charlie’s numbers aren’t impressive in any form of the word. However, he is still learning to pitch in the majors. He is 25 years old and has better stuff than anybody on the Pirates right now. The late-break he has on his pitches makes him almost unhittable at times. His problem this year has been consistency and control. He has been all over the place at times and leaves a lot of pitches over the heart of the plate. Charlie has been getting better and you can tell he is learning fast. I personally think that Morton can be a really good major league pitcher and possibly a 2 or 3 starter for us.
8 starts, 4-3, 4.14 ERA, 0 CG, 30 SO, 1.600 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, 5.4 SO/9
Overview: Kevin Hart was thrown into the Pirates rotation after he was traded here in the Gorzelanny/Grabow trade. Hart really doesn’t impress me much. His numbers aren’t bad, but he hasn’t shown much for the Pirates this year. He is the kind of guy who can look absolutely terrible on the mound some nights and is subject to getting rocked. I don’t see Hart being a starter for the Pirates past this year.
24 starts, 13-6, 3.47 ERA, 0 CG, 110 SO, 1.220 WHIP, 1.8 BB/9, 6.9 SO/9
Overview:McCutchen has some pretty impressive numbers. He has been great in AAA Indianapolis this year. He isn’t exactly a young-prospect, he turns 27 next month, but he is pitching great and could definitely help the Pirates rotation in the future. We will almost certainly be seeing him in a Pirates uniform next week as his name will be called in September call-ups and he will be added to the rotation as the 6 starter. You can never really be sure of a guy who has never pitched a game in the majors, but he definitely has some upside. You can’t argue with a 3.47 ERA in 142.2 innings pitched.
24 starts, (13 AA, 11 AAA), 6-7, 3.52 ERA, 1 CG, 101 SO, 1.228 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, 7.0 SO/9
Overview: Lincoln is a stud in the making. He is only 24 years old and was the Pirates first round pick in 2006. He has outstanding stuff and will battle for a starting job next spring. Lincoln has had some issues in AAA, with a 5.20 ERA there (although he is 5-2), but I expect him to work those issues out and become one of the Pirates’ best pitchers for years to come. He could even be our ace as soon as 2011.
23 starts, 10-2, 3.56 ERA, 0 CG, 81 SO, 1.235 WHIP, 1.7 BB/9, 5.8 SO/9
Overview: Alderson is a 20-year old future phenom. He is currently in AA for the Pirates, so chances are we won’t be seeing him next year, but the kid is so exciting I had to put him in this post. The numbers speak for themselves, he has incredibly control and great composure on the mound. He is leaps and bounds ahead of all the other 20 year old pitchers in his grouping. This guy is a future 1 or 2 starter, and teamed with Brad Lincoln could form one of the league’s better rotations with the Pirates.
So where does this leave us for 2010? Well if I were to pick it, I would say our rotation will look something like this:
1. Zach Duke
2. Ross Ohlendorf
3. Charlie Morton
4. Paul Maholm
5. Brad Lincoln
For 2011, I’d like to see something more like…
1. Brad Lincoln
2. Charlie Morton
3. Tim Alderson
4. Ross Ohlendorf
5. Zach Duke
Where does this leave guys like Paul Maholm, Kevin Hart, and Daniel McCutchen? I think Hart is going to be moved to the bullpen or just be held in AAA for emergency situations. I’d like to see the Pirates trade Maholm next year while he still has some value. I really don’t know what’s going to happen with McCutchen. They will give him a chance this year and probably get him starts next season as well, and his standing for the future will be based on how well he pitches over that time. He could be a 3-5 starter for the next couple years, or maybe they’ll move him to the bullpen where he has pitched before. Only time will tell.