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Monday morning mop-up duty: vote for Pedro?

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?

 

I’m not sure  but if the Pirates are to end their streak of futility, if they wanted to a seat at the postseason table they,  had to pull off some surprises and that’s just what this week has been  And this week, this month, Pedro Alvarez has surprised us most of all.

 

STARTING NINE

 

9. Is Alvarez the next Chris Davis? The low-walk, high-strikeout slugger, who suddenly finds his way? Alvarez is having the best month of his career and his torrid stretch continued into Sunday with another homer and a key triple in the 10th, when Mike Trout took a poor route on a flyball.

 

Alvarez’s June to date:  .316 AVG., 9 HRs, 22 RBIs, 1.132 OPS

 

(I suspect Scott Boras is no longer interested in talking extension).

 

Clint Hurdle said the breakout is tied to Alvarez letting the ball travel longer, making contact not before the plate but in the strike zone. Is it sustainable? No. No, in the sense that I don’t think Alvarez is a 1.132 OPS guy. He strikes out too much, he’s proven to be too streaky. But he’s never had a streak like this before. Alvarez has never had a .900 OPS for a month in his career and he’s going to flirt with a 1.000 OPS for this June.

pedro

 

Does Alvarez deserve All-Star consideration?

 

The Pirates desperately needed a middle-of-the-order run producer, can Alvarez be that guy the rest of the season? Or will he be prone to his typical extreme up and downs? If Pedro has found a new level of performance he could be the middle-of-the order bat the club so desperately needed.

 

8. Morton struggled on Sunday and he could be challenged to keep his rotation spot without better command and results. Still, this is a guy who is just a year off Tommy John surgery and the velocity is improved.

 

7. How about this for an under-the-radar trade that no one talks about: Jeff Locke and Morton for Nate McLouth.

 

NL ERA leaderboard:

1. Jeff Locke, PIT 2.01
2. Matt Harvey, NYM 2.05
3. Clayton Kershaw, LAD 2.06
4. Patrick Corbin, ARI 2.19
5. Jordan Zimmermann, WSH 2.26

 

Does any name stick out to you?

 

6.The Pirates’ rotation could get crowded in the coming weeks with a number of arms returning health, but I can’t see Gerrit Cole being  sent back down to Triple-A. This is a team now seriously in contention and Cole is one of it’s top 3 starting rotation options. Cole is not a finished product, far from it. But if you have command of the fastest fastball, among starters, 96.4 … that’s a good place to start.

 

5. There was some debate on whether Cole struck out Albert Pujols with a 93 mph changeup or two-seam fastball on Sunday but I’m certain the replay showed it was a changeup grip. It it was indeed a changeup it came in too hard, but it did have fading action. Cole doesn’t need perfect offspeed stuff to be effective, but when he has it the Ks will come.

 

4. I believe Jordy Mercer started his 11t game in the Pirates’ last 12 on Sunday. Hurdle was reluctant to call him an everyday shortstop but that’s what he is. His bat makes him more valuable than Clint Barmes and he made several big league throws this week.

 

Short term he’s the guy, but is Mercer the long-term answer at short?

 

3. Tony Sanchez got the call up this week and watch and see if he gets much time at catcher or if he’s simply part of a DH platoon. Sanchez has had throwing issues this season. While his bat has become less of a question, now his defense is in question.

 

2. Did we mention the Pirates have right-handed pitching depth?

 

Luis Heredia threw five shutout innings in his season debut on Sunday, allowing one hit while striking out five (four walks). This kind of the depth couild allow the Pirates to make a substantial deadline deal.

Luis Heredia 2
Luis Heredia is another projectable RHP in the system.

 

1. I don’t think the Pirates’ defense has received enough credit. The Pirates’ lead the Majors in converting batted balls into outs (73.1 percent rate) and it’s a key reason why they’ve been able to weather some injuries to starting pitchers. Shifts and speedy outfielders can make an impact.

 

STAT OF THE WEEK THAT MIGHT ONLY INTEREST ME: 101.88

 

Speed in miles per hour of a Cole fastball on Friday night.

 

HE SAID IT

“It’s hard to be perfect” – Jason Grilli upon blowing his first save of the season Wednesday.

Is it time to have some concern regarding Jason Grilli? He entered the week allowing opponents to score just four times in 34 appearances and he had touched up a couple times this week. It’s too early to panic, there was going to be some regression, but keep an  eye on Grilli.

 

MODEST PROPOSAL:

Assuming the rotation heals up, the Pirates don’t have many glaring holes. Right field is one and I’d be making calls. If not for the blockbuster, perhaps for a Michael Morse type of bat. Even if Alvarez continues to hit, the Pirates need another middle-of-the-order presence and a higher OBP atop the lineup.

 

NON-BASEBALL RECOMMENDATION: 

Visited the strip district for the first time this weekend. Great stuff. Honestly, you could probably cut your grocery bill by 30 percent doing your shopping there. Also found some Maryland-style steamed crabs at the seafood wholesaler. Great find.

 

- TS

 

9 Comments

  1. You mention Sanchez and his throwing issues. Have we ever gotten clarity on that? DK mentioned that he had the yips; and at times had problems throwing back to the pitcher.

    Having throwing issues and the yips are very different. Do we know which it is?

  2. It is frequently stated that 4/5 of the Pirates starting rotation at the beginning of the year haven’t been available recently. We should also acknowledge that 2 of those starters (Sanchez and MacDonald) weren’t very good, so removing them was addition by subtraction. It is a credit to the organization that it has apparently found more pitching depth than most of us realized.

    • Tom,

      It’s true Sanchez was a lottery ticket that busted. However, McDonald was a key part of the rotation in the first half of last season so losing him was a considerable loss. Is he one of the best five starters going forward? Probably not and certainly not if he’s not healthy.

      The organization deserves credit for creating pitching depth but I don’t think the defense and Russell Martin’s framing and sequencing are receiving enough credit for their roles in run prevention.

      - TS

  3. Tip of the hat to the Napoleon Dynamite reference. Really enjoy your blog entries.

  4. Monday Morning Mop-up should be appointment reading for Pirate fans, Travis.
    .
    You couldn’t have picked a better picture to illustrate Pedro’s turnaround. Hitting off that stiff front leg, not allowing his hips to open and hands to cast is what allows him to let the ball travel. That freeze frame is baseball porn.
    .
    Has the organization listed Heredia’s height and weight for this season. Dude looks like something between Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia.
    .
    Loved your Mike Morse proposal, and your trip to the Strip even moreso. I get all my produce for the week at Marty’s without needing more than a $20 bill. Hope you’re finding the move to Pittsburgh enjoyable!

  5. Hey Travis , go to the strip on a Steeler home game weekend, but don’t plan on grocery shopping

  6. “(I suspect Scott Boras is no longer interested in talking extension).”

    Why not? He’s not that close to FA.

    • Boras usually takes his clients to FA and through arbitration and is on record saying he thinks long-term deals for young players are typically a bad idea for the player

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