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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.)

Continue Reading →

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April 28, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


39 comments so far - add yours!

Monday Mop-Up Duty: what’s most surprising about 10-16?

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SOUTH HILLS – One of the questions on Final Word last night was the following: What is most surprising about the Pirates’ struggles to date this season?

To review, the Pirates are just a game ahead of the last-place Cubs and 8 1/2 games behind the surprising Brewers. The Pirates were never 8 1/2 games out of first place at any point last season. The Pirates have lost 13 of 17 games.  The Pirates’ poor play has come at a costly time as the first 26 games of the season were all intra-division. The Pirates’ first out-of-division game is tomorrow in Baltimore.  Continue Reading →

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April 24, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


94 comments so far - add yours!

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.

Continue Reading →

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April 22, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


28 comments so far - add yours!

Is Neil Walker becoming a star?

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PNC PARK – We know Neil Walker is a consistent, useful player. Walker tallied 2.6 Wins Above Replacement in 2011. He produced 2.6 WAR in 2012. He totaled a 2.7 WAR in 2013. If you examine just that one metric that attempts to boil a player’s ability down to one number, Walker looked like a solid but stagnant player entering his Age 28 season this spring.

But quietly Walker has been improving in some important areas over time, and perhaps those improvements are accelerating in 2014.

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April 21, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


47 comments so far - add yours!

Monday Mop-Up Duty: Easter brawlin’ and trouble brewin’

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PNC PARK – The Brewers and Pirates are not going to be friends in 2014.

Not only have the Brewers raised the profile of the rivalry and added to the Pirates’ frustration level by taking six of seven games from the Bucs this April, but I think we are all aware of what happened what in the third-inning of Sunday’s Easter game. Continue Reading →

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April 19, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


48 comments so far - add yours!

Transaction analysis: Pirates like Ike. Should you?

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SOUTH HILLS – The man hunt is over.

The Pirates finally found their left-handed hitting 1B on Friday, a search that had been ongoing since the team parted ways with Garret Jones and did not resign Justin Morneau back in October. The Pirates were connected Ike Davis way back on Dec. 17. Though the Pirates lost out in the bidding for James Loney, though they did not heavily engage in the Jose Abreu sweepstakes and initially settled on March Cinderella man Travis Ishikawaka for the lefty-hitting Opening Day roster spot, GM Neal Huntington indicated the search for an upgrade at first base had not ended.

Just as Huntington and the Pirates were patient in waiting for the price on Morneau to come down last summer, they were also apparently willing to wait for the ask on Davis to decline. And this time, the acquisition could be more than a short-term fix and Davis under club control thru 2016. The Mets had two left-handed first basemen and had elected to give Lucas Duda the bulk of playing time.

Continue Reading →

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April 18, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


23 comments so far - add yours!

Commission the Ray Searage statue … and the game’s pace problem

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SOUTH HILLS – One of the most interesting developments this April, for me, is this number: 1.7. That’s Edinson Volquez’s walk rate.

It’s too early to know if Volquez has truly been fixed.  We only have a 21-inning sample size. But I’m also not sure Volquez has had a stretch of control like this since his All-Star rookie year, or perhaps ever.

Continue Reading →

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April 15, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


48 comments so far - add yours!

Speed bump?

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CINCINNATI – Prior to yesterday’s game, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle noted an issue plaguing the Pirates’ starting pitchers early this season.

“We’re not getting away with mistakes on the mound. Every fastball that was up in the zone got covered the Brewers,” Hurdle said. “Wandy’s mistakes haven’t been missed to date.” Continue Reading →

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April 14, 2014
by Travis Sawchik


57 comments so far - add yours!

Monday Mop-Up Duty: A hiccup or a warning sign?

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SOUTH HILLS –  Remember when Miller Park was a house of horrors for the Pirates? (It wasn’t that long ago). Well,  it is again as the Pirates  head to Cincinnati today fresh off of being swept by the upstart Brewers, this after the Pirates won their first three series of the season.

I wouldn’t make too much of the series. The Brewers are hot, the Pirates weren’t at the top of their game, and it’s April 14th. But that got me to thinking: what can we take from early April and small samples? Should we then not be making too much of Pedro Alvarez’s new found plate discipline and opposite-field focus?  Are the Brewers really a force? What do we take from April? What do we dismiss?

Continue Reading →

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