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April 22, 2014
by Travis Sawchik

28 comments so far - add yours!

Is Neil Walker becoming a star?

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’

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 →

April 19, 2014
by Travis Sawchik

48 comments so far - add yours!

Transaction analysis: Pirates like Ike. Should you?

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.

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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

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.

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April 15, 2014
by Travis Sawchik

48 comments so far - add yours!

Speed bump?

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 →

April 14, 2014
by Travis Sawchik

57 comments so far - add yours!

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

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?

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April 11, 2014
by Travis Sawchik

9 comments so far - add yours!

Fear the Brewers?

SOUTH HILLS – The Brewers are in a precarious position. They live in a small-market city. They reside in a division that has three playoff teams form a year ago. In the division are three teams – Pirates, Cardinals and Cubs – that have consensus top-10, if not top-five farm systems. The Brewers own the worst or one of the worst farm systems in game, according to Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus.

Yet, they still might have a fight or two left in them.

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April 9, 2014
by Travis Sawchik

39 comments so far - add yours!

A collective approach and early signs of an Alvarez breakout?

SOUTH HILLS –  I thought one Pedro Alvarez plate appearance last night at Chicago was particularly interesting and it was not his hardest-hit ball, the end result of his first-inning plate appearance. No, it came with one out in the eighth inning of a tied game, with runners on first and second, and Cubs lefty James Russell was brought in to face Alvarez, whose struggles with lefties have been well documented.

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April 8, 2014
by Travis Sawchik

24 comments so far - add yours!

Charlie Morton throws like Roy Halladay can he pitch like him?

SOUTH HILLS – If you pair achieved video of Roy Halladay with Charlie Morton footage you’ll be struck by how remarkably similar they throw, and not all of it is by accident. Back in 2011 when Jim Benedict and Ray Searage had Morton drop his arm slot and bring back his two-seam fastball, Morton was looking for comparable right-handed pitchers in size and delivery type to study. Continue Reading →

April 7, 2014
by Travis Sawchik

48 comments so far - add yours!

Monday Mop-Up Duty: the confounding TJ for JT outcome

PNC PARK – We still don’t know enough about injury prevention.

That’s what I took away from Sunday’s news that Pirates’ top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon requires Tommy John surgery. The Pirates handled Taillon about as cautiously as any top pitching prospect in Major League history. They took his workload and pitch restrictions to an extreme at times in the minor leagues. They ran him through biomechanical examinations, and they drafted him over Manny Machado because he was big, strong and had a clean delivery.

And his arm still broke.

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