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Who’s up first? Who should be up second?

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PNC PARK – You might be aware of Starling Marte‘s early-season, swing-and-miss struggles. Marte entered Thursday tied for the NL lead in strikeouts (33) and struck out to lead off things against Tony Cingrani to take sole possession. While Marte’s walk rate and out-of-zone swings are down, he’s simply producing too many empty at bats,  especially atop the lineup, which is one reason the Pirates would like to see him bunt more often.

Clint Hurdle maintains Marte will be the team’s No. 1 batter until a better candidate arises. The problem with the Pirates over the last couple of years has been there are no ideal table-setters. Heck, we’ve even championed Travis Snider to lead off in this space. I think Neil Walker makes sense as a lead-off hitter against right-handed pitching. It’s not just the Pirates, there’s not a lot of speedy, OBP guys in the game.

Of course perhaps the club’s best lead-off candidate is perhaps lurking in Indianapolis.

You might be familiar with the name Gregory Polanco, the club’s No. 1 prospect, a six-tool player (if you include plate discipline). Polanco is hitting .410. He has three steals, three walks and he struck out as often as he walked last season. Of Polanco’s first 170 swings this season only six were swings and misses. That’s absurd.

I don’t know if Hurdle would place a rookie as a lead-off man, I kind of doubt it, but it’s an important question because Andrew McCutchen needs more runners to bat in.

If you haven’t, I recommend reading David Manel’s piece on how to maximize Andrew McCutchen in a lineup. The short of it is McCutchen is coming up to bat in too many, two-out-and-bases-empty situations. This is a pitfall of the No. 3 spot in any lineup but particularly when a team lacks an ideal lead-off man. McCutchen should have been a 100-RBI player last year given his power and modest strikeout number.

Sabermetric studies have found that the No. 2 spot is where teams should its best hitter to best leverage his at bats and to maximize the number of times he comes to bat in a game. This is a slight variation from conventional wisdom which advises the best hitter bat third.

This is Hurdle’s rationale when asked by Manel:

“Yes, I’ve thought about. If you go (with him at) two, then the percentage of the guys hitting in front of him are eight-nine-one. I don’t know if that is an advantage. We’ve moved him theoretically, we’ve talked about it. We’ve done it on paper. We’ve worked all through these lineups. And, if certain things work, yeah there could be an advantage (to moving him). But, again, it’s hypothetical. So what we’re trying to do is deal with a human being, put some guys in front of him that have shown a history of getting on-base. To maximize his at bats in a leverage situation with some people on base.”

Batting your best hitter third instead of second will never be a manager’s greatest strategical blunder but McCutchen does need more runners to bat in.

Moving Walker to the No. 2 hole this week was a positive step in that direction over the OBP-challenged Russell Martin, who missed a second straight game Thursday, and who might have suffered a lower-leg injury on a slide home Monday.

Adding Polanco to the No. 1 or No. 2 spot could be a further boost the lineup. It could make McCutchen the 100-RBI player the Pirates need him to be.

- TS

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Comments

  1. Brendan says:

    Marte has batted lead off since he was first called up, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Polanco might be inserted into the top of the lineup as well.

  2. Steelkings says:

    1 run again. Perhaps they should have another meeting

  3. FLACOOP says:

    WE HAD BETTER FIGURE SOMETHING OUT PRETTY SOON BEFORE WE ARE OUT OF CONTENTION BEFORE POLONCO IS EVEN CALLED UP. HOW IS IT THAT ALL THE OTHER CLUBS CAN CALL UP THEIR PROSPECTS WHEN EVER THEY NEED THEM AND WE HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL MID SEASON. MONEY RULES FOR THE SMALL MARKET TEAM.

  4. cmat0829 says:

    Trav, good stuff as always, and VERY timely. I do understand the Reds are hitting Votto second, but I also hear Clint when he is saying that having 8-9-1 hit before Cutch may not be a good formula for him to get more RBI chances. Especially if 8 (Mercer, Barmes or Stewart) continues to be an almost automatic out, followed by the pitcher. If you are going to hit Cutch 2, you might as well hit him leadoff, to see if he can spark the offense, which also getting the wraparound RBI shot.

    Trav, did you consider perhaps moving Cutch DOWN in the order, to produce the same effect? I tend to like Cutch in the cleanup spot, which gives one more chance for someone good in front of him to get on base, but also could utilize Cutch as leadoff spark if the first inning goes 1-2-3. In this lineup, you’d have to hit Walker/Tabata(orSnyder) and perhaps Ike Davis in front of Cutch, which also has the added benefit of breaking up the lefty K-susceptible power guys (pedro and ike).

    Lastly, how much of any of this speculation is really to deal with the fact that Marte is just failing (and flailing) right now as a hitter…. Maybe the simpler solution is to get Marte the hell out of being in front of Cutch…..
    at least for a while.

  5. cmat0829 says:

    Worth a shot… a player who has good plate discipline and rarely strikes out and has good speed… just like Cutch who led off when he first came up. I like it…. .

    Polanco RF
    Marte LF
    Cutch CF
    Pedro 3B
    Walker 2B
    Ike 1B
    Martin C
    Mercer S

    OR

    Polanco RF
    Walker 2B
    Cutch CF
    Pedro 3B
    Martin C
    Ike 1B
    Marte CF
    Mercer SS

    Oh and one more thing… with Mercer and Marte struggling, replacing Martin with Stewart is just too much to bear (or in terms of offensive firepower, too little to bear). I also think Clint missed a chance on getaway day to get JayHey in there at leadoff today, but oh well.

  6. macchamp74 says:

    Cardinals holding off calling up top prospect Oscar Taveras….they are not small market.

  7. Rob Scott says:

    Lets be realistic. Could Polanco help the lineup today, of course! However it would cost the team a year in arbitration and that is more important than winning. Polanco will come up in June when Bucos are 25-35.

  8. Genovee says:

    LOL – I don’t know if it’s the result of frustration or disgust or having lost all confidence in the hapless Buccos as a team, but lately I’ve been finding their ineptitude very humorous. I’m also laughing at the unbridled and irrational optimism of Neverett, Brown and Blass. Although hope is supposed to spring eternally, it seems that very often when they say how good an upcoming player has done or will do in a situation, they jinx them into faltering.

  9. Donald says:

    It doesn’t help when you have a career .215 hitter starting at catcher, then giving away essentially 3 runs last night with throws that looked like Ryan Doumit was back. Tony Sanchez can at least contribute with the bat. Maybe we see both Polanco AND Stephen Drew come June? PLEASE??

  10. Johnstown Russ says:

    Imagine if Pedro were hitting .260 right now. Imagine.

  11. Johnstown Russ says:

    Brandon Cumpton always seems to pitch up to the competition. Nice game today in spite of the bean balls. He should stay in the rotation until he proves otherwise.

  12. Kenny Bauer says:

    Get Marte out of leadoff now….he Ks way too much….and Alvarez cannot hit .173, even if he does have 30 hrs a year…..leading off with Walker a possible…but he is showing power and may have to keep him where he is….Harrison may be the answer…..he can at least hit ball in play…..but we really do not have anyone good to lead off now….the other guy is right, Polanco may be the answer, this year.

  13. Steelkings says:

    Sk’s 9 obscure thoughts

    1. The Pirates need to think outside the box.
    [URL=http://s893.photobucket.com/user/steelkings1/media/shopping_zps459b0210.jpg.html][IMG]http://i893.photobucket.com/albums/ac138/steelkings1/shopping_zps459b0210.jpg[/IMG][/URL]
    Gluten Free Sunflower seeds

    2. Andrew McCutchen will absolutely go off once the Pens are eliminated from the playoffs. That season ticket holder is like all the other Yinzers who cant quite focus while Sid the kid is skating around. With that said, in the next few days, for the Pirates, Its go time!

    3. While many thought Tuesday April 22nd was just a huge game with a division rival, most did not know it was also “Hey Bob, remember what it was like” night at PNC Park. Each of the 11000 in attendance was allowed an additional seat for their Jacket and another one to simply spread out in.

    4. In March in the “predictions thread” an Idiot had this 27 game regression prediction. What a moron. No way can the Pirates pull that off.
    _______________________
    The injury bug hits the Pirates hard : A disappointing 67- 95 leaves the Pirates with the 6th pick in the following years draft.
    ______________________

    5. Maybe it would help if they took the comfy couch from right field and put it in the dugout.

    6. Hats for bats! Keep the bats warm stupid bat boy. Somebody get Jooboo a cigar and some rum.

    7. Russ Martin needs to be pampered to stay healthy? Back to back days off to keep lower body pain from becoming a larger problem. Im pretty certain I heard his agent scream “SHUT UUUUPPPPP!

    8. .176 with 22 K’s

    9. Seriously speaking on this one. The Bucco’s don’t have any nasty guys. They are all soft and cuddly like their manager. They lost their guy with the edge. Remember him? The guy covered in Tattoos. You know, STFD? Cole tried to be that guy once, but he’s not quite there. He barked at Gomez and then walked away. And the Pirates still lost that game. Leadership seems non existent in the clubhouse. It certainly cant come from someone hitting 175. This team has lost its identity. It playing uninspired boring baseball. A team with much the same players resembles nothing of the feisty battling Bucco’s of 2013.

  14. NMR says:

    Great blog, Travis, and thanks for linking that article by Manel.

  15. NMR says:

    “Somebody get Jooboo a cigar and some rum.”

    Steelking wins the blog, yet again.

  16. NMR says:

    Have you heard any chatter in thr organization about reigning in Marte’s swing this year, Travis?

    I can’t find a lot of good video, but it seems like he’s developed a huge load before his hands fire through the zone. The bat head is practically pointing at the pitcher. It would be one thing if selling out for batspeed produced more power while adding K’s, but the opposite seems to be happening.

  17. Bama Ken says:

    Well all this all proves is that last year was a fluke. I can see it now, right out of the movie The Natural

    We review…
    all the fears and anxiety
    …which are so
    inherently symptomatic…
    …of a losing team.
    The mind is a strange thing, men.
    We must begin by asking it…
    …”What is losing?”

    Losing is a disease…
    …as contagious as polio.
    Losing is a disease…
    …as contagious as syphilis.
    Losing is a disease…
    …as contagious as bubonic plague…
    … attacking one…
    … but infecting all.
    Ah, but curable.

    Now, I want you to imagine…
    …you are on a ship at sea…
    …on a vast…
    …calm ocean…
    …gently rocking.
    Gently rocking.
    Gently rocking.
    Gently rocking.”

    hahahahahahaha

  18. Steelkings says:

    McCutchen is hitting 59 point higher with runner in scoring position. Just sayin

  19. Steelkings says:

    This is really good video because you can use the grid created by the cage net as reference points. Watch Martes head. He jerks it all over the place. Not like a high Schooler, but a lot for a major leaguer. It goes side to side on one swing. It is up, back, forward, down and back up. Then watch Cutch and Polanco right behind him. The keep it on one plain. Back and forward. very smooth. My guess would be that because of his extra head movement he struggles to see the ball well.

  20. NMR says:

    re: 9) One of my favorite guys on Dejan’s Blog, Milo Hamilton, had this to say about AJ yesterday:

    “AJ was good at taking the ball and striking out 10 or 11 guys every game. That’s where his value was. All that other stuff is elevator music.”

    Completely agreed.

    And while I absolutely understand and agree with what you’re seeing regarding boring/uninspired/whateveryouwannacallit baseball, lets not pretend like these same guys didn’t go through stretches EXACTLY like this during each of the last three years.

    This is their MO. This is what they do. What has yet to be determined is if and when they’ll go on one of their two month runs where nobody can beat them.

  21. Nate83 says:

    It seems to me a majority of teams wait until June. Some prospects start the year in the majors but that is mostly guys who already had a full year off AAA or at least 400 or so at bats. Polanco only had something like 10 at bats in AAA. If a prospect doesn’t start the season in the majors in almost all cases they don’t come up until after the Super 2 deadline. It’s just not the Pirates that operate like that.

  22. Nate83 says:

    If that is their record when he comes up then he wouldn’t have been enough to make a difference this year anyways. Maybe they have 27 wins instead of 25 but 1 players especially a rookie who hasn’t done anything in the majors yet can’t make that big of a difference.

  23. Well hell, if the season is lost why not just wait and call him up next year? No need starting that service clock early.

  24. NorthPirateFan says:

    The problem seems to me the Pirates’ or perhaps Hurlde’s insistence on finding the “ideal” lead off man to replace Marte rather the best one available to them.

    There may not be “lot of speedy, OBP guys in the game” but it’s Hurdle’s old school notion that there must be speed at the top of the order that needs to be questioned especially given Marte’s demonstrated poor base running instincts and his propensity to remove himself from the bases on those rare occasions he manages to reach base … speed really hasn’t paid many, if any dividends for this offense so how about they move on and just just find and OBP guy to hit there and should the ideal candidate come along worry about whether he should hit there or not at that time?

    Again, as I said at the start of the season the question of why Josh Harrison AND Clint Barmes, especially Barmes at this point, are still on this roster needs to be raised. Perhaps the best, albeit temporary, solution would be to send Barmes packing and let Chris Dickerson, .339 OBP in the majors, platoon in the lead off spot with Marte at least until Marte gets his act together and Hurdle can continue to have his precious speed at the top of the order.

    Not ideal either but certainly better than what we’re witnessing as the Brewers look ready to pull away from the rest of the division.

  25. NMR says:

    Perfect angle, Steel. Thank you very much.

    Nice observation regarding Marte’s head movement. Makes sense that this would inhibit pitch recognition, which he clearly has problems with.

    Also illustrates my point on bat load. Watch the angle of his bat relative to the ground at the moment he begins bringing it through the zone. I bet he’s a good 30 degrees further toward the pitcher compared to Cutch. That’s significant, and means less time to see the pitch.

  26. NMR says:

    Fine post, North, but I can’t understand how anyone can be worried about the Brewers pulling away from the Division.

    We’re THREE weeks into the season and they’re on a 122 win pace. I promise you they won’t end up within 35 games of that.

  27. Warren says:

    Unfortunately this year AJ is only striking out 6.1 batters per 9 innings, while walking 5.2 batters. The guy we signed to replace AJ – Volquez – is performing significantly better.

    Not having AJ is the least of the Bucs’ problems.

  28. Steelkings says:

    NPF,
    The Pirates won last year on Pitching and Defense. Why did you choose Barmes to go and not Mercer? They are both hitting under .200. Yet Barmes is way better, I mean way better defensively than Mercer. Mercer has less range and still at this point doesn’t position himself well and takes horrible angles to balls. Barmes has such quick hands and a really strong arm where Mercer looks like he’s throwing a bowling ball.

  29. NMR says:

    Strongly agreed.

  30. NMR says:

    Which has absolutely nothing to do with my post.

  31. NMR says:

    Check out the Joey Gallo portion of this article for what I’m talking about regarding Marte:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/prospect-watch-big-power-numbers/

    Starling isn’t quite that bad, but you’ll easily see the similarities.

  32. Steelkings says:

    I know you guys have no belief in leadership. Or at least very little. Pete Rose once said that if you notice a guy standing out from the crowd because he “leads by example”, what you really have seen is one guy doing his job while everyone else isnt.

    Publicly stated by players in 2012. The whole dynamics of the clubhouse changed after a trade that no one considered a big deal at the time. Casey McGhee was traded for Chad Qualls. McGhee wasn’t the greatest player but he was an on your toes type a personality. Everybody gravitated to him. He was the guy with the shaving cream.
    Go back and look at last years highlight film of the 2013 season. Guess who is delivering the shaving cream pie in the face in most of these shots. Thats right. That AJ guy. Those type of guys, like them or not, make it exciting to come to work.

  33. NMR says:

    You really don’t see the enormous flaw in your argument?

  34. Nate83 says:

    Although I agree, are you sure you don’t want to modify that to within 30 wins of that. 87 seems kind of a low guarantee. I wonder what Vegas has adjusted their over/under for wins to be?

  35. NMR says:

    Yes, I’m sure I do not want to change that estimate.

    As Pirate fans, we know exactly how hard it is to play 162 games of injury-free baseball and exactly what happens when you have little depth.

    The Brewers have zero depth. No pitchers, no hitters, and no prospects with which to attain either at the deadline.

    The Brewers reach 87 wins one way and one way only: no injuries or declines in performance.

    I’m easily comfortable taking the under.

  36. Steelkings says:

    no. explain it to me

  37. Steelkings says:

    I can tell you where they will get 9 more wins…

  38. NorthPirateFan says:

    The reality is that Polanco probably couldn’t help today if he were called up today. Yes he’s a great prospect and we all have high expectations for him but the truth is it’s the rare player who makes the transition from the minors to the majors and has an immediate and sustained impact, there’s usually an adjustment period so rushing players to the major expecting them to be a savior tends to not always work out for the player or the team.

    There are other less drastic moves that could be made to address the problems that wouldn’t start Polanco’s clock prematurely while dumping the weight of the Pirates’ success on his shoulders.

  39. NMR says:

    AJ Burnett was also on that 2012 team. If his leadership were so important, wouldn’t it be logical to assume that it may have done something to slow one of the worst collapses in the history of major league baseball?

    Look, I absolutely believe leadership is necessary, and I absolutely believe Burnett and Hurdle helped change the culture of a young, inexperienced clubhouse.

    But this team is neither young, nor inexperienced. And it certainly isn’t Bobby Valentine’s Fried Chicken and Beer Red Sox.

  40. Steelkings says:

    Ok, Ill explain it first:

    For all you saber guys i’ll start with a fact.

    Fact: Baseball is played by human Beings.

    1. McCutchen does not lead by example. He is not a leader. That is easy to see. He is simply a better player than everyone else.

    2. McGhee gets traded and the Pirates go from kicking ass to into the toilet.
    3. AJ Burnett leave in the off season and the Pirates start the season in the commode.

    If you want proof go to AJ’s twitter page and see how many current pirates exchange tweets with him daily.

  41. NorthPirateFan says:

    I’m not worried about it now or the Brewers specifically , but I’m worried the team seems a bit complacent and willing to ride this out. If the problems persist and Memorial Days rolls around to find the Pirates in last place or next to it behind the division leader by double digits … that’s going to be a big hole to dig out of.

    The likelihood of that happening increases everyday that they keep putting the same players in the same roles without making any changes at all including obvious small ones like tinkering with the lineups.

  42. NMR says:

    Very much agreed, North.

    But let’s remember that this team was 6-3 through the first 10 days of the season. We’re really talking about two weeks of bad baseball. Those two weeks were unquestionably bad, no sugar coating it, but I don’t see much reason to predict it will continue for another month.

    If it does, however, you can be darn sure the playoffs will be a pipe dream.

  43. NMR says:

    You never even came close to answering my question.

    Do that, and you’ll convince me.

  44. Steelkings says:

    Both Burnett and McGehee were new to the team in 2012. The difference is that McGehee was a veteran to not only the NL, but he was a 1st baseman in the division his entire career. He knew everyone. Very popular amongst players.
    Burnett on the other hand was new to the NL. It takes time to lay your strong personality on those your not familiar with.

    There is no doubt that the departure of Burnett has had a negative effect on this team. And I lay the blame on Huntington’s shoulders, not because he didn’t resign him, but because he didn’t cut ties earlier.

  45. Steelkings says:

    Wow good stuff. How did you find that?

  46. NorthPirateFan says:

    Because as it’s been discussed the Pirates have invested in the notion of shifts and positioning to increase their defensive abilities making the things Barmes allegedly excels at less valuable. Of the three guys who’ve played short stop this season Barmes has the worst range factor, DWAR, fielding percentage and far and away the worst offensive production.

    It’s a simple matter of probabilities moving forward; the likelihood Mercer can hit enough to make up for any defensive short comings is much higher than Barmes’ defense being good enough at his age to cover up offensive production that has gone from bad to worse to nothing short of disastrous. Barmes has a .367 OPS to this point and hasn’t posted one over .600 since 2011 in a hitter friendly Houston ball park. You we think the offense is struggling now, plug Barmes in to lineups regularly as see what happens.

    Like it or not Barmes is 35 and it is clear that is career is coming to an end and if the Pirates continue to hitch their wagon to that horse they’re going to pay a price for doing so long term. Mercer isn’t hitting as well as expected or hoped but the Pirates can ill afford to have a glove man as a regular at any position who hits a poorly is very likely to continue to do so as Barmes does.

  47. NMR says:

    I really don’t know how to respond to that, man.

    Can you at least acknowledge that you’ve pretty much made up this narrative as you go? Do you at least understand – from the view of a skeptic – how it seems like you’re simply selecting bits and peices to support your opinion?

  48. NMR says:

    I follow FanGraphs daily. I will worn you that the majority of their content is sabr-based and can be a bit presumptive even for me, a guy who appreciates such things. You’ll want to ignore those articles, and I don’t particularly blame you, fwiw.

    But they also employ some scout-types that seriously know what they’re looking at. Guys who have actually worked in the league, not just blogged on the internet.

  49. Andrew says:

    NMR best thing about that article, Kolton Wong, Allen Craig, and Jean Segura. I read the Marte comment as a throw away, it tells us something we already knew.

  50. Andrew says:

    Interesting discussion I will warn that if you are hoping for a change at the end of the Pirates bench you might be disappointed. John MacDonald and Brandon Inge, were kept well past the point of utility, June 10th and August 1, respectively.

  51. Steelkings says:

    Duh! 90% of everything written by bloggers is some form of speculation. But its not like I made it all up. There is some basis.

    http://triblive.com/sports/pirates/3112295-85/huntington-pirates-walker#axzz2ztn76XlO

    See the chemistry section, first player mentioned. And then there was this DK quip on the deal.
    DK
    ” It might have gotten lost in Bob Nutting’s announcement about bringing back the Pirates’ front office and ditching Hoka Hey, but it was noteworthy that he spoke with four current — and respected — players on the roster for his investigation. The gist of their sentiment, as I’ve heard it: The trade deadline was a major letdown. And least popular was the bizarre trade of Casey McGehee for Chad Qualls.”

    “Some guys are upset about it, of course, because they had their sights set on him coming back,” Locke said. “I think it’s unfortunate we weren’t able to bring him back here, partly because he’s a great clubhouse leader. But he’s also a 200-strikeout, 200-inning right-hander, and that’s kind of a big deal.”

    Read more: http://triblive.com/sports/pirates/bucsgalleries/5578559-85/burnett-pirates-locke#ixzz2zusOwUhP
    Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

  52. Nate83 says:

    I agree with NMR on the overall topic. Leadership important but not even close to the reason for the collapse(s)

    McCutchen doesn’t lead by example??? I think his off season workouts would disagree with that. I also think the fact that he has improved some part of his game every year would disagree as well. Maybe he doesn’t lead by talking or yelling but he most definitely leads by example in my opinion.

  53. NMR says:

    @Andrew, I think you’re talking about the “Hitters to worry about” article, but yeah, I certainly didn’t mind seeing it populated with Central Division foes!

    The Segura portion was the one that surprised me the most. Love Fangraphs for stuff like this. They let the numbers do the talking, and the numbers say that Segura hasn’t been a very productive hitter since June of last year.

    Seems to definitely be taking a step back, along with Zack Cozart.

  54. Nate83 says:

    Fair enough but they played pretty good at the end of last year without Braun. I had them between 82-85 wins to start the year but after seeing their pitching do so well to start the year I can conceivable see them getting 90 wins.

    I don’t think their pitching will continue at this rate but if they just go .500 the rest of the year they are at 86 wins. 71-69 gets them to 88 wins. I think most of us think they are talented enough to be a .500 team the rest of this year and you can’t just take the 16-6 start away.

  55. NMR says:

    Never questioned the talent, Nate. I questioned the depth.

    They already have three starters with FIP’s over one run higher than ERA and their entire bullpen is pitching way over their heads. Couple that with nobody to replace their only four position players that can hit and I think you could easily see these guys playing below .500 the rest of the way. Think about how much season is left.

  56. Nate83 says:

    I could be wrong but weren’t you one of the posters along with myself that agreed with Groat before the beginning of the year that the Brewers had been underestimated and could finish above .500. What has changed?

    I’m not saying you are wrong and they will definitely get to 87 wins I’m just surprised you promised it when they just simply have to go 2 games over .500 to achieve that number and I thought you had a good opinion of them before the beginning of the year. You are definitely correct they don’t have the prospects to improve the team later this year and lack depth.

  57. NMR says:

    You’re absolutely correct, Nate. I was one of the ones who said that the Brewers were talented enough that they COULD finish above .500, and that hasn’t changed.

    However, I’m positive I never said that I EXPECTED them to finish over .500, and those are two very different things, in my mind.

    So I suppose “promise” was too strong. There is still the chance that all starters could stay healthy, bullpen could continue pitching over their heads, and none of their key bats miss significant time.

    I just would consider it a minor miracle considering the nature of major league baseball.

  58. Steelkings says:

    “I think his off season workouts would disagree with that. I also think the fact that he has improved some part of his game every year would disagree as well. Maybe he doesn’t lead by talking or yelling but he most definitely leads by example in my opinion.”

    That’s what he supposed to do! That’s why he makes more money than most everyone in the country. That’s not leadership. That’s a work ethic. And no, they are not one and the same. Like Rose said. That’s one guy doing his job.

  59. Steelkings says:

    See, Im back to the human element. Lack of leadership isn’t the reason for the collapse. But it is contributory. Being in a slump is the polar opposite of being in the zone. Its like being in a fog. Waiting for failure. As if its a certainty. Waiting for something to happen instead of making something happen. Leadership is when a guy, after a team losses 2 or 3 in a row, warms up in the bullpen wearing a batman tee shirt just to get a buzz going in the crowd.

  60. John Lease says:

    There’s a Caps Lock key, fix it.

  61. John Lease says:

    Thank goodness Barmes started a few games and got his average to .167, or the calls for him to playing short would be deafening.

    This team needs to play the Cubs again, ASAP.

  62. NMR says:

    Ok, you’re just trolling us now, right?

  63. Nate83 says:

    Steel you he doesn’t lead by example. I don’t know what your definition of lead by example is but mine is with actions instead of words. I’m pretty sure Cole and Snider showed some fire last Sunday. Martin, Gabby, Cole, Liriano, Grilli and Hurdle. I’m not sure how many leaders you want in the room but those all seem to guys that are “leaders”. This teams issue is not leadership.

  64. Nate83 says:

    Fair enough. I actually think 87 is a pretty good number to put their projected wins at right now. If we had any chance of meeting up after this year I would bet you an adult beverage on the over and call it a fair bet. Since we can’t it will have to be a fictional beverage.

  65. Nate83 says:

    The sky was falling at least 4 or 5 time last year when they would lose 5 out of 7 or 6 out of 8. How many times last year did we project a stretch where we thought they would be lucky to win 3 or 4 of the next 10 against tough competition and they would win 7 or 8. On the other hand how many times did they lose against inferior competition and collapse number 3 was all but a foregone conclusion. It’s a long season. Hopefully they have their worse stretch of the year out of the way.

  66. Patrick(RI) says:

    Late comment re Brewers lack of depth. As I recall, it is partly due to a trade to get a big-contract pitcher for rent in a winning season where they had no pitching depth. I suspect that they will find suitable replacements if the need should arrive.

  67. Jim S. says:

    It could be that they are just hitting their worst stretch of the year (losing 11 of 14 or wherever it ends before the tide turns) at this point. Since it is so close to the beginning of the season, they have not built up any reservoir of confidence among most fans. Last year was just pure luck, I guess.

    For now, I am concerned but I will continue to believe they will end up with several more than 81 wins.

  68. Nate83 says:

    They did give up a lot to get C.C. but none of the those pieces and parts have ended up amounting to anything. They just generally have been horrible or unlucky at either drafting good players or developing them.

  69. Jim S. says:

    Really good observation, Steel.

  70. Patrick(RI) says:

    Another random thought. This time about AJ. How would like to be “Spikes” Maldanado facing AJ an inning or two after that action? It is possible he might not have tried to break Mercer off at the ankle in the first place?

  71. Jim S. says:

    So, you’re saying their bullpen will eventually give up at least one run this year? ;-)

  72. Patrick(RI) says:

    Part of my point was that the Brewers will act, if necessary, so I would not count on “depth” as a cause of any decline.

  73. Jim S. says:

    I believe Hurdle’s statement that moving Cutch to #2 would place him in the position of having to rely on maybe the weakest #8 hitter in the league, maybe the worst hitting pitching staff at #9 in the league, and the struggling Marte at leadoff for RBI opportunities. Based on that, I’d stick with #3 for Cutch.

    Marte, in spite of his struggles, has somehow managed to post a .315 OBP so far. I know that isn’t good, and it is trending downward. But, maybe he has hit rock bottom, and will get his hitting pointed back in the right direction. He is not a conventional hitter. He swings at pitches he shouldn’t, then seems to take pitches he shouldn’t, and flails often at breaking stuff low and away. He also did this a lot last year. Has the league figured out how to get him out consistently now, or is this just a bad stretch that he will recover from? I think we’ll know in a few weeks, but I am not quite at the point right now of saying he won’t rebound.

    I like Walker at #2. But, let’s face it, the guy just can’t hit RHP. :-)

    Marte has to be placed either #1 or #2 when he arrives. That seems obvious.

  74. NMR says:

    Act with what, exactly?

    Worst minor league system in baseball.

  75. Jim S. says:

    Andrew and NMR, I missed that article. What did it say about Craig and Wong?

    Personally, I have been waiting for the Craig regression for more than a year now. And, I’m not just talking about the RISP regression. But, the longer he continued to hit, I just thought he was another of those Cardinals who blossom late.

    I have thought Wong is a good prospect who will have a nice career.

  76. NMR says:

    Ha, boy would I love to make that happen, buddy.

  77. Jim S. says:

    Steel:

    Please tell me you didn’t link the arrival of McGehee to the Pirates “kicking *ss.”

    Gumby would be proud of that stretch.

  78. NMR says:

    “But, maybe he has hit rock bottom, and will get his hitting pointed back in the right direction…”

    What really worries me about Marte is that he’s got nothing but an unsustainable BABIP going for him early this season. Thats all that is keeping him from truly hitting rock bottom.

    He’s taken three walks since the first week of the season, which not so coincidentally is good for exactly the same walk rate of 4.4% that he’s posted the last two seasons. The rate at which he’s getting hit by pitches has also predictably come back to normal with just 1 in every 50+ PA, half the rate at which he got hit last year.

    Now I don’t suspect he’s a true talent 30%+ strikeout guy. But I don’t think it’s at all out of the question to see him regress back towards the rate at which he struck out as a rookie. That’s still a good player, don’t get me wrong, but it’s sure as heck not a guy that’s gonna be worth his option years to the Pirates.

  79. NMR says:

    Sweet Jimmie,

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/some-hitters-to-start-worrying-about/

    Craig’s analysis comes down to him hitting too many groundballs while Wong adds a high percentage of popups to that mix.

    Card’s could be finding themselves in a bit of a pickle with Craig struggling, Matt Adams ready to plummet back down to earth, and Taveras perpetually hurt.

  80. Jim S. says:

    Meant Polanco needs to be placed at #1 or #2 when he arrives. Sorry.

  81. Chuck H says:

    Why do you want Mercer in there? He’s worse than Barmes as a hitter. Better yet-the original Mendoza.

  82. Jim S. says:

    He worries me also. I believe we have concluded here that he has always carried a higher than avg. BABIP, so maybe it isn’t a fluke. More bunt hits than average, a few grounders beaten out that others can’t due to his speed, maybe more than an avg. # of groundballs. Does that account for it? I always contended that it appeared he hit the ball harder than the avg. guy, but I admit that was just my eyeballs taking a guess at what they thought they saw.

    He seems similar to Carlos Gomez to me. I always thought Gomez was a guy who struggled, struggled, wait for it … boom! Maybe Marte will figure some things out. Gomez does get to hit in Milwaukee. I don’t about Marte, but he’s going to need to make adjustments to go to the next level.

  83. Jim S. says:

    @NMR:

    I gotta admit, the Sweet Jimmie part made me smile. That was good.

    I hope those analyses on Craig and Wong are correct. I still think Craig is overrated. But, darn it if he hasn’t always found a way to get it done. I’m always skeptical of the late bloomers – Craig and Carp are two on that team right now.

  84. NMR says:

    I miss our buddy Groat! See him posting on DK’s Blog today but can’t get mine to show up for some reason.

    As for the Cards, they had to sell something for all that luck with runners in scoring poistion last season, right?!

  85. Andrew says:

    That was the article, sorry I leave a link next time, I also check Fangraphs daily I like to watch the Pirates’ hitters wRC+ bounce around 100. Anything by Tony Blengino is great, I loved this one about pull hitters.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-pros-and-cons-of-pulling-the-baseball/

    The Cardinals have a history of developing non-toolsy players into good hitters but you are right Jim these guys usually take a little longer to develop and they have shorter shelf lives. Think David Freese, I think Craig fits that model but it early, the other thing I’ll add is that foot injury he had, Lis Franc, ends careers in football and basketball.

  86. Jim S. says:

    Good point. They bought a few free agents to plug holes on the staff heading into the season. Upgrades during the season take more than just money.

  87. NMR says:

    Actually just realized it was down to the .370s, Jim. Was over .400 up until two games ago (yeah, I know, small sample sizes!).

    Still don’t think that’s his true talent level, but wouldn’t surprise me if he could be somewhere around .340-.350 consistantly. I do know what you mean about loud contact last year, but its hard for me to believe a guy with such significant contact issues can square up the ball consistantly above average when he does get a bat on it. Not saying he doesn’t, but that just goes against what I personally see as logical.

    Gomez is definitely a good comp, although Starling is in trouble if he can only muster a similar .313 career BABIP. And yeah, Gomez owes a big thanks to his home park. Power numbers drop big time outside.

  88. Chuck H says:

    Tonight’s game with the Cards has to be a turning point of sorts. As good a pitcher as Cole is, he is going to need some run support also, which the Bucs can’t supply as their record of late demonstrates. Cole, to me, seems like the kind of guy who would decide to just throw the ball down the middle and hope for the best if he thought the team wasn’t trying hard enough to get him some runs. Just saying!!!

  89. Andrew says:

    Of note Marte has been the Pirates 3rd most valuable position player this year despite strike out 32.4% of time (good lord.) Obviously there are several factors but the biggest is Marte’s inability to lay off sliders/pitches with hard horizontal break. Jordy Mercer has a similar problem. He swings at them more than any other pitch type and whiffs more than any other pitch type and it has gotten worse this year.

    Marte will have a higher than average BABIP on groundballs, and he hasn’t hit many flyballs or infield flys so this explains his above average BABIP. He needs to make more contact and lay of hard breaking pitches, it is simple to write much much harder to do. I hope he doesn’t end up like Starlin Castro.

  90. Brendan says:

    Travis, it’s early but so far Scott Kazmir is indeed looking like a terrific bargain.

  91. Ed says:

    Cumpton is going to remain in the rotation the rest of the season. Wandy is finished and Hurdle can’t realistically believe having him in the rotation is better than Brandon. Then there’s the matter of Ike Davis. Why is it Huntington keeps picking up other teams failed first round Draft picks ( Brandon wood as an example). They could have gotten Trumbo and passed. Look at the start he got off to before he went on dl.

  92. Steelkings says:

    I guess as NRM said…Im just a troll. Its about as big an insult as you can lay on a blogger. So , you know what pal. Im not gonna say what i really want to say because the trib really runs a clean site. Im just gonna go for a while.

 
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