Best record in baseball but time for a change in approach? … A scout’s take on Cole … And three Pirates’ prospects in BP’s midseason top 50

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SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – So you awoke today to find the Pirates off to 48-30 start, winners of a season-best six straight, and tied with division rival St. Louis for the best record in baseball.

 

Just another June 27th in Pittsburgh, right?

 

The Pirates are coming off a 7-2 road trip despite being down A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez. Life is pretty good.

 

This should be a team that wins more than 81 games, barring an epic collapse. But  if this is going to be a postseason team, the Pirates have plenty of room for growth offensively. And to stick with St. Louis they’ll need to improve, unless you think Jeff Locke, Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett, Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli are each going to have second halves as good as their first.

 

Continue reading Best record in baseball but time for a change in approach? … A scout’s take on Cole … And three Pirates’ prospects in BP’s midseason top 50

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Is Gerrit Cole headed toward a Strasburg-like shut down or is there a different model in play?

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SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – We all know the Stephen Strasburg story of 2012 but I’ll repeat it one more time. Strasburg, the Nationals ace, was shut down after he reached 159 innings last season, despite the fact that the Nationals were in a postseason chase. Many among the Beltway populous were not happy.

 

Teams have become more cautious of protecting young arms and that’s mostly a good thing, I think.

 

Some question the credibility of the Verducci Effect — the theory pitchers 25 and younger are at a greater risk of injury if they have an innings jump of more than 30 in any given year —  but a team like the Nationals apparently subscribed to that type of thinking.

Continue reading Is Gerrit Cole headed toward a Strasburg-like shut down or is there a different model in play?

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Monday morning mop-up duty: vote for Pedro?

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SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – So let me get this straight, the Pirates began their 10-game road trip with a series split at  Cincinnati — beating the Reds with Ch arlie Morton and Brandon Cumptonin games started by Cincinnati’s top-of-the-rotation arms in Mat Latos and Homer Bailey  — and the Pirates then swept the Angels, they of the $145 million payroll, more than double than that of the Pirates. The Pirates did all of this despite being down 80 percent of its Opening Day staff.

 

That is overcoming the odds, folks.

 

Is it a testament to luck and good fortune? Depth? Skill? Planets aligning? Super Moon?

Continue reading Monday morning mop-up duty: vote for Pedro?

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A glimpse of what Gerrit Cole can be

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SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – We didn’t see Gerrit Cole’s slider, and really his changeup, until Friday night.

 

The slider, his second best pitch according to most scouts, had been on the shelf his first two Major League starts. Cole told me after his second start that he simply didn’t have a good feel for the pitch. Clint Hurdle said the Pirates had taken no pitches away from Cole.

 

Whether it was feel, or shelving the pitching to focus on fastball command, we saw the pitch Friday night and it was what scouts said it could be: a diving, darting low 90s offering.

Continue reading A glimpse of what Gerrit Cole can be

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The trade offer the Pirates should make: it involves a guy named Giancarlo

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CINCINNATI – Disclaimer: anyone can dream up a trade offer and hypothetical trades are what’s fueled dead-periods in talk radio for years.

 

So I’m not going to share them or create them unless I think they are A: interesting, B: within the realm of plausibility.  And I stumbled upon a a rumor meeting both criteria today from ESPN’s David Schoenfield today.

 

What do the Pirates’ need? They need offense. They are 12th in the NL in runs scored.

 

Where do they need offense?  Several places but particularly in right field.

Continue reading The trade offer the Pirates should make: it involves a guy named Giancarlo

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Peace talks today in Cincinnati? … The Pirates defense’s sum is better than its part … And could the Pirates have nine top 100 prospects entering 2014?

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A MARRIOTT IN NORTHERN KENTUCKY NEAR THE CINCINNATI AIRPORT – In eight games between the Pirates and Reds this season there have been 16 hit batsmen, and that doesn’t include brush-backs, and heart-beat increasing experiences like Neil Walker’s Monday.

 

Ten Reds’ batters have been hit, including Shin-Shoo Choo six times.

 

Six Pirates’ batters have been hit.  And Walker’s life flashed before his eyes.

 

Where does it end?

Continue reading Peace talks today in Cincinnati? … The Pirates defense’s sum is better than its part … And could the Pirates have nine top 100 prospects entering 2014?

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The amazing thing Neil Walker’s brain allowed him to do … and the Pirates’ toughest test to date

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Travis Sawchik | Tribune-Review

 

CINCINNATI – In the ninth-inning last night, Neil Walker had quite a scare.

 

Reds closer Aroldis Chapman unleashed a baseball that traveled 100 mph toward Walker’s head. A 100 mph fastball traverses 60 feet and six inches in 0.412 seconds, and with Chapman’s extension his release point makes that distance perhaps, say, 57 feet.

 

Walker had less than .4 seconds to try to avoid the pitch. He just avoided the pitch as it narrowly missed striking him in the face.

 

Continue reading The amazing thing Neil Walker’s brain allowed him to do … and the Pirates’ toughest test to date

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Monday Morning mop-up duty: wrapping up Gerrit Cole week

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PNC PARK – What did Pirates GM Neal Huntington take away from Gerrit Cole‘s first exposure to the big leagues?

 

Sure, there was the fastball that averaged 96 mph and hit 99 a handful of times. It was that express fastball that he leaned on heavily as 130 of his 161 Major League pitches have been fastballs (111 have been strikes).

 

Sure, there was the rare stamina as his final fastball Tuesday reached 98 mph. His final pitch on Sunday was 97 mph. Some of us sat fixed watching radar gun readings.

Continue reading Monday Morning mop-up duty: wrapping up Gerrit Cole week

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Gerrit Cole draws a crowd … Did Mark Appel make the right choice? .. and Aroldis 2.0?

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PNC PARK – If nothing else, I’ve learned this this week the people of western Pennsylvania are really interested in Gerrit Cole.

 

You’ve probably read that the Pirates sold 12,000 tickets in a three-day period when it was announced Cole was starting Tuesday’s game, the major league debut of the Pirates’ top prospect.

 

The ticket spike associated with Cole’s start (spike meaning the attendance of his Tuesday start compared to the following Wednesday attendance), was a 34.9 percent difference in ticket sales, even greater than that of Stephen Strasburg‘s debut in 2010 (32.5 percent).

 

Continue reading Gerrit Cole draws a crowd … Did Mark Appel make the right choice? .. and Aroldis 2.0?

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Is Mercer pulling a coup at shortstop? … And the Cobra 2.0 timetable

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PNC PARK - Clint Hurdle‘s confidence in Jordy Mercer has lagged behind much of the fan base, judging from my email inbox, but Hurdle’s confidence in Mercer is growing.

 

Mercer earned a second straight start at shortstop Thursday, the first time that’s happened this month. He’s had back-to-back starts at short three times this season.

 

Hurdle was asked if we are going to see more regular starts for Mercer prior to Thursday’s game.

 

Continue reading Is Mercer pulling a coup at shortstop? … And the Cobra 2.0 timetable

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