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May 14, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


41 comments so far - add yours!

This is why we can’t have nice things

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MILLER PARK – I didn’t get much of a chance to comment on Jose Fernandez earlier as I was traveling and had to immediately get to work at the ballpark Tuesday, but what an absolute shame for not only the Marlins but the entire sport as this was perhaps the best young arm in the game.  While Tommy John surgery doesn’t end his career, it puts a career on hold, and the procedure is not always the automatic cure many believe it to be. Just ask Edinson Volquez and Francisco Liriano. Even Stephen Strasburg isn’t quite as electric as he was before surgery. I hope we get to see Fernandez return as what he was: a remarkable talent.

What’s troubling, including and beyond Fernandez, is this: of the 22 major league pitchers who have had Tommy John since Feb. 18 – an astonishingly high number –  the overwhelming majority have been young. The surgery patients have averaged 23.4 years of age. Think about how young that it is? Think about what that tells us? Think about what that might mean, for, say, Gerrit Cole. (Including minor league arms, the TJ toll is at 34 this spring, including Jameson Taillon.)

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May 12, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


81 comments so far - add yours!

Monday Mop-Up Duty: There will be blood

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PNC PARK –  Last night’s loss seemed soul crushing for the Pirates, blowing a late, golden opportunity to win the Million Dollar Arm Publicity Game. But big picture, the Pirates still finished their homestand with three series wins. It was a very good homestand (Jon Hamm even showed up). It could have been great.That’s progress.

The Pirates are relevant again as they head to Milwaukee. And if Pirates-Brewers was not a rivalry before the Easter Brawl of ’14, it is now.

The  two teams meet up for the first time Tuesday since the brawl last month that resulted in a number of suspensions, a black eye for Travis Snider, and Russell Martin challenging Martin Maldonado to Pay-Per-Vew fight.  So there figures to be some interesting drama unfolding over three days on the coast of Lake Michigan. But of course the more important question is can the Pirates or anyone else in the NL Central catch the Brewers? Continue Reading →

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May 7, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


73 comments so far - add yours!

Smart money is on Polanco … and approaching elite talents early

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SOUTH HILLS – The Pirates have fallen out of the gate, but you can applaud their off-the-field strategy of aggressively targeting young, core players to lock up to long-term deals. Earlier this offseason I wrote and about how teams should – and might have to be – more aggressive in locking  up young players as free agency and arbitration salaries continue to soar, lessening the incentive for players to sign long-term deals early in their careers, particularly as they draw closer to arbitration and free agency.

And the Pirates were as aggressive as any team in baseball history in offering a contract to Gregory Polanco.

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May 6, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


36 comments so far - add yours!

Up in smoke

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SOUTH HILLS – So you’ve probably heard bullpens are prone to volatility from year-to-year more than any other position group in baseball. This is in large part due to small sample-size, but you also see more max-effort pitching deliveries out of the bullpen, which leads to more stress, which leads to more injuries and performance drops. We knew it would be about impossible for the Pirates’ bullpen to be as good as it was a year ago, because it was nearly perfect for the first four months of the season. We knew there would be decline — but this is ridiculous.  Continue Reading →

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May 5, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


20 comments so far - add yours!

Monday Mop-Up Duty: what can we learn from the Jose Bautista trade?

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PNC PARK – Jose Bautista returned over the weekend. You might know he once played in Pittsburgh. You might be aware that he was from a fringy everyday player with the Pirates who became a four-time All-Star with the Blue Jays, a player who has averaged 38 home runs per season since 2010. It will not go down as Neal Huntington’s finest moment but could anyone have foreseen what happened with Bautista? Unlikely. I think even the Blue Jays initially batted Bautista lead-off.

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May 4, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


22 comments so far - add yours!

Is Liriano broken …. again?

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PNC PARK – One of the worst things that could have happened (is happening?) for the Pirates in 2014 was for Francisco Liriano to revert to  his 2011-12, 2007-09 self. You know, the guy that lost velocity, walked too many batters, and posted three seasons of 5.00+ ERAs. We expected regression. We didn’t expect Liriano to repeat The Best Season Ever Against Left-Handed Hitters. The Pirates could afford some give back just not a lot of regression. So far in 2014, there’s been too much fallback.

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May 1, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


32 comments so far - add yours!

Rearranging furniture

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SOUTH HILLS – Wandy Rodriguez (right knee) is scheduled to make a rehab start for Triple-A Indianapolis today and it’s an important one for Rodriguez. We know the Pirates only owe more dollars to Russell Martin in 2014.  We know Rodriguez has a solid MLB track record. But we also must begin to wonder how many more times the Pirates can run Rodriguez out there. His fastball has lost two mph. His curveball has lost bite according to scouts – though the pitch’s whiff rate is up – and his command has wavered since his return from his elbow injury last season. And at 10-16, the Pirates have lost much of their margin for error.

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April 29, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


48 comments so far - add yours!

Super 2 is not so super

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SOUTH HILLS – Pirates GM Neal Huntington maintains Super 2 status is not a “driving factor” in Gregory Polanco still renting in Triple-A while the Pirates are struggling offensively at the MLB level. The GM to openly say they are holding a prospect back because they don’t want to potentially pay him millions of more dollars during future arbitration years will be the first. We understand the game and it makes financial sense … though the competitive sense of it can be debated.

Still, as many pound the table for Polanco (perhaps even some coaches inside the Pirates’ clubhouse) I wonder who is actually really benefiting by holding Polanco back? Continue Reading →

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April 28, 2014
by Rob Biertempfel


108 comments so far - add yours!

Worst-kept secret: Polanco is very good at baseball

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ST. LOUIS -- It's like the final scene of "The Poseidon Adventure" this morningin the Lou, with the sun peeking over the Arch after a loud, stormy night. In a few hours, I'm off to Bawl'mer, where I hear it's gonna  be even wetter and colder the next coupla days.

Anyway, I spoke Sunday with GM Neal Huntington and asked about everybody’s No. 1 topic: Gregory Polanco, Superstar. Huntington insisted the Super 2 thing “is not a driving factor” when management decides when to call up a promising prospect. When I tweeted that quote, it got a lot of responses, some of the laced with four-letter words. (Remember, folks, I’m keeping my Twitter feed a family-friendly place. Drop an F-bomb = blocked.)

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