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April 4, 2014
by Travis Sawchik

21 comments so far - add yours!

The beginning of something big?

SOUTH HILLS – While Opening Day was about as perfect as you could hope for from a Pirates’ perspective, this weekend series is really the fist intriguing must-see, match-up of the season. And what a way to start with two of the game’s best young right-handers in Shelby Miller and Gerrit Cole facing off. (Hopefully the weather cooperates.)

Last year  the Pirates took the season series 10 game to nine vs. the Cardinals, and then pushed the Cardinals to the brink of elimination in the NLDS. Was a meaningful rivalry was born then?  Continue Reading →

April 3, 2014
by Rob Biertempfel

5 comments so far - add yours!

Game 3: Cubs @ Pirates

My, but sunrise came quickly today and I might just doze off while blogging. If you have to ask why, then you haven’t yet read this.
Both teams blew out their bullpen’s Wednesday/Thursday in the 16-inning marathon. The Pirates used six relievers, including Stolmy Pimentel, who worked the final four innings for his first big league victory. “A good one to win,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ll figure out the pitching (Thursday).” Continue Reading →

April 3, 2014
by Travis Sawchik

23 comments so far - add yours!

Near perfection is no match for regression

PNC PARK – We know one of the salient reasons the Pirates broke the streak, won 94 games, and made the postseason last year was because of a bullpen that was nearly flawless for the first half of the 2013 season. The Pirates began the season 37-0 when leading after eight innings. That’s Rivera like and remarkable. The Pirates’ bullpen didn’t blow a lead when leading after eight innings until Jason Grilli allowed a home run to Jay Bruce in Cincinnati on June 19th. Continue Reading →

April 2, 2014
by Rob Biertempfel

11 comments so far - add yours!

Game 2: Cubs @ Pirates

The Pirates on Wednesday announced a sponsorship deal with 84 Lumber -- which got me thinking about a different lumber company ...

The Pirates on Wednesday announced a sponsorship deal with 84 Lumber — which got me thinking about a different lumber company.

Full disclosure: I’m an instant replay skeptic. It slows the game, sows seeds of self-doubt with the umpires and cannot guarantee that “every call will be correct.” I also don’t like the manager challenge rule — if replay is so wonderful, why can’t a skipper challenge every play from the first pitch to the last?
One of the flaws in MLB’s new system was exposed late Tuesday night, in the Giants-Diamondbacks game. Continue Reading →

April 1, 2014
by Travis Sawchik

47 comments so far - add yours!

Is Liriano’s left arm going to fall off?

SOUTH HILLS – That was about as perfect of an Opening Day as the Pirates could have hoped for.

The skies cleared. The temperature rose. Francisco Liriano and bullpen were in 2013 form and the Local Boy Done Good ended it with his first career walk-off. Good luck following up that one, Charlie Morton. As we’ll have to do with everything this April, really through May, we’ll have to attach the small sample disclaimer to every observation or statement that is made here. But we still need to write, talk, and generally kill time so here goes …

Continue Reading →

March 31, 2014
by Travis Sawchik

53 comments so far - add yours!

Monday Mop-Up Duty: A need for speed (updated with McCutchen ESPN commerical)

SOUTH HILLS – I hope some of you espace dwellers had a chance to take a look at our paper product on Sunday, which included our MLB Preview. Not to be nostalgic, but there’s still something to be said about actually holding a paper in your hand. It’s still the best way to present a story. I think the Trib team as a whole was pretty pleased with how the MLB section turned out and a lot of folks had a hand in producing it. I hope those that had a chance to read it enjoyed it. The cover story centered on what I think is one of the more interesting trends in the game: pitchers are throwing faster than ever before. And this has consequences. Continue Reading →

March 31, 2014
by Rob Biertempfel

One comment so far - add yours!

Pregame 1: Opening Day v. Cubs

The field, four hours before first pitch ...

The field, four hours before first pitch …

Happy Opening Day. Allow me to blast ya with some trivia, news and notes: This is Franicisco Liriano‘s second Opening Day assignment. He started Twins opener in 2009 and dropped 6-1 decision v Mariners & King Felix … This is just the third time the Pirates have begun the season in March. The won the previous two, both on March 31 — 10-1 at Cincy in 2003 and 12-11 in Atlanta in 2008 (12 innings) … Jinx alert! Mark Melancon beings this season with the longest streak of innings pitched without allowing a homer (63.0 IP) among all major league pitchers. … Jinx alert II! Reliever Tony Watson ended last season with a run of 21 scoreless outings. His streak of 20.1 innings without a run allowed is the third-longest in the majors behind Kevin Siegrist (25.0) and Hisashi Iwakuma (23.0). … This is second year in a row the Pirates and Cubs have clashed on Opening Day. The Cubbies were the opponent in the Pirates’ first game in the National League on April 30, 1887 at Recreation Park. I don’t think it cost $100 back then for a ticket, beer and parking, Then again, how much could it cost to park a horse and buggy?

Game 1: Cubs (0-0) @ Pirates (0-0), 1:05 p.m. PNC Park

Cubs: 1. Emilio Bonifacio cf, 2. Junior Lake lf, 3. Starlin Castro ss, 4. Anthony Rizzo 1b, 5. Mike Olt 3b, 6. Wellington Castillo c, 7. Nate Schierholtz rf, 8. Darwin Barney 2b, 9. Jeff Samardzija rhp
Pirates: 1. Starling Marte lf, 2. Travis Snider rf, Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 5. Russell Martin c, 6. Neil Walker 2b, 7. Travis Ishikawa 1b, 8. Jordy Mercer ss, 9. Francisco Liriano lhp
– Rob Biertempfel

March 27, 2014
by Travis Sawchik

105 comments so far - add yours!

2014 predictions

SOUTH HILLS – The following is the product of an exhaustive study of the Baseball Prospectus annual, Zips forecasts and Nastradoums Quatrains – combined with subjective observations from yours truly. The following are South Hill Command Center’s 2014 predictions, though I wouldn’t bet the ranch on anything you read below …

Continue Reading →

March 27, 2014
by Rob Biertempfel

5 comments so far - add yours!

Morning briefing: Game 29 v. Yankees


One last sunrise over McKechnie Field.

One last sunrise over McKechnie Field.

BRADENTON, Fla. — The sun had not yet risen over McKechnie Field on this final day in Florida for the Pirates when the team announced a minor trade. Outfielder Keon Broxton was acquired from the D’backs for the ol’ player to be named later. Broxton was assigned to Double-A Altoona. Broxton, 23, was a third-round pick in 2009. He spent last season at Double-A Mobile — playing mostly center field, but also getting a smattering of time in left and right — and batted .231 with a .655 OPS. He’s hit 50 homers in 566 minor league games. This is merely an educated guess, but this trade tells me the Pirates were indeed talking with Arizona about Didi Gregorius and Broxton’s name kept coming up in potential packages. Sometimes, the trades you don’t make lead to others that you do complete. Continue Reading →

March 26, 2014
by Travis Sawchik

96 comments so far - add yours!

Pirates strike gold with Marte but rank 27th in payroll. What’s the offseason grade now?

SOUTH HILLS – So we know how many of you felt about the offseason, but this should warm your heart: Starling Marte and Gregroy Polanco will be together in the Pirates’ outfield through at least 2020 barring a trade or unforeseen unfortunate series of events. That’s a long way away. Oh yeah, the NL MVP is locked up through 2018. The Pirates could have the best outfield in baseball for much of the rest of the decade. I don’t think that’s hyperbole.

Some very significant news this morning as the club and Starling Marte have reached a six-year, $31 million deal that includes at least one club option, according to John Heyman. This means the Pirates buy out Marte’s three arbitration years and at least two years of free agency. The deal starts in 2014. This means the Pirates have a chance to enjoy another-McCutchen like contract, which could provide tens of millions of dollars in surplus value. The Trib’s Rob Biertempfel first reported Marte and the Pirates were talking contract extension. Continue Reading →

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