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Sunday column: The Pirates’ first-half MVP is …

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

The Sunday column picks the Pirates’ first-half MVP from one of the following two gentlemen, for whom I’m deeply indebted for this must-watch video …

Deep thanks to Ray Searage and Jason Grilli, as well as all of the pitchers interviewed. There actually were a couple others I couldn’t use because of space reasons.

And no, Grilli wasn’t invited to be part of that video.

Here is TribLIVE’s full Pirates coverage from PNC Park.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and, recently, his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.

Comments

  1. Great column. I’ve nominated Searage for every office possible this season, so I really enjoyed this piece.

    What a job he’s done!

  2. JRay3 says:

    Echo your comments above, nice to see Searage get some pub and attention for the job he has done.

    Totally agree with the piece that a good pitching coach can make a difference. In HS I was a thrower when I got to college and had a great pitching coach, truly learned how to pitch.

    You can see Searage is able to maximize his players talents and is a large reason behind this team’s performance.

  3. Dadtackular says:

    Good Stuff DK! Thanks for the video and the Sunday Column! Keep it going!

    DK: Thanks, Dad!

  4. Dadtackular says:

    What % of his job would you say is psychiatry?

  5. gregenstein says:

    Searage has done a fine job. That said, I’m assuming MVP is Most Valuable Player, and as such rules out the coaching staff.

    Since it is indeed the pitching that has carried this team, I will pick the player with the largest contribution from the pitching staff.

    Jeff Locke.

    I won’t argue with those who will say Grilli or Melancon or Wilson though. The bullpen has been stellar and deserves a ton of credit. Still, Locke has been outstanding including recently figuring out how to get into and through a 7th inning a lot of nights.

  6. pattonbb says:

    “Pirates RHP Sean Burnett (strained right calf) is scheduled to pitch a simulated game Tuesday. That could be the last step before he is activated from the disabled list.” – espn

    That was at the bottom of the espn game recap. Glad they’re paying attention.

  7. diehard says:

    Saw that. Just awesome. So glad for the MLB network.

  8. Yokesoverez says:

    I’m happy for Sean, but why is he taking AJ’s rehab start?

  9. pattonbb says:

    Maybe there was a trade that wasn’t announced. Or some extensions.

  10. Ghost says:

    Love, love, love these kind of pieces. Especially the inside peeks into what the players themselves are thinking. And it sounds like Searage is a great one as much as for what he *doesn’t* do (see: Colborn, Jim), along with what he does do with pitchers that have veered off track. At least, this is how I interpret the Melancon remarks about Searage.

    DK: What Colborn doesn’t do?

    Oh, you mean swinging bats at reporters who tell it like it is about terrible baseball teams?

    Not everyone handles criticism well.

    Glad you liked the Searage piece, Ghost. Thanks!

  11. Ermine says:

    According to CBS Sports. The Pirate shut down Wandy. He had more tightness in his forearm.

    DK: Hey, we cover the Pirates, too, Ermine! :)

    That’s been on our site for hours.

  12. Michael De Pitt says:

    Just Curious where we have the colors flying

    I’m Newark, DE

  13. Michael De Pitt says:

    and I mean Skull & Cross Bones

  14. Ghost says:

    Yes, Karen Price reported this. (She also said A.J. is coming around and will pitch a simulated game at PNC on Tues.) Sounds like code words for elbow trouble with Wandy, as some others have discussed here before. Not good. But with A.J. coming around, Cole exceeding expectations, and everybody else more than holding down the fort, don’t force Wandy back any sooner than feasible. Frankly, a subpar Wandy won’t measure up to the starting pitching we’ve been getting, lately. If a lengthy shutdown does the trick without surgery, then do it. At least have Wandy back by the end of the summer when other guys will be running low in the tank.

  15. Michael De Pitt says:

    DK

    Always MVP the fans that love them even though they some times hate them They are the MVPs of 20 yrs +

  16. Ghost says:

    Didn’t know Colborn did that. Yowsa! But I do remember that he and Jim Tracy rolled into town and immediately started meddling with everybody. Zach Duke came off a fine first season without Colborn, so Colborn tinkered with him until the kid was all messed up.

  17. Ghost says:

    Fellow regular Bizrow keeps a running list of just such locales from where we all post. He’ll surely add you to the list now. Check back tomorrow morning to see Newark, DE added. And welcome to our cozy lunatics asylum where it’s actually not so crazy to be a long-suffering Pirate fan anymore!

  18. JohninOshkosh says:

    Exceptional week of columnizing this past week, Dejan. Even against your usual high quality work!

  19. Reading says:

    Although all of the columns are high quality, the one that is my favorite was the Olympic “Decathalon” attending ten events in one day column. To me, that stood out as truly exceptional. Now back to baseball.

  20. JohninOshkosh says:

    I’m a newspaper junkie. Reading a good column is up there in the joys of life, at least for me. It’s like hearing a great song for the first time.

    DK: Appreciate all the above, guys. Especially the Decathlon reference. Trust me when I tell you those are among my very favorite to write at each Olympics.

  21. Eric Bowser says:

    * As I tweeted to AP reporter Will Graves after the Pirates game… “Is this real life?”… I mean seriously, 50-30…. TWENTY games over .500 – this losing streak is over. The fat lady was summoned to the airport, one-way flight to St. Thomas purchased and off she went. She won’t be seen again in 2013 for the Pirates. You can book it!

    * Ray Searage is an outstanding coach. Enjoyed the video & column.

    * My traditional first half MVP…. Russell Martin. He’s producing offensively and such a huge improvement behind the plate throwing out runners and handling the pitching staff.

    * Had a conversation with brother-in-law (a Cubs fan), asked if Pirates made one move, what would it be. I said, they need a right-handed hitting right-fielder. Maybe the third time is the charm to get Hunter Pence? Giants are not playing good baseball, yet they are only a few games out of first place in NL West. Problem is the team has little money to make a big move like Pence or Chicago White Sox outfielder Alex Rios. I wonder if they’ll take a chance with Jeff Francoeur, just released by the Royals as insurance if Jose Tabata doesn’t get healthy.

    * I hate saying this but… if Pirates make the playoffs… I can’t possibly advocate firing Neal Huntington. I wouldn’t award him with an extension. He picked the right manager with Clint Hurdle, made sure to keep Ray Searage as pitching coach, acquired A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez with practically no impact to the team and signed free agents Francisco Liriano and Russell Martin to controversial deals that have worked out so far.

    * Today is the NHL draft and the news isn’t all that promising about Pascal Dupuis and Kris Letang, so I expect the Penguins to start making moves to replace both players.

    * If a move has to happen tomorrow, in a bit of surprise, Shero decides to deal Letang to conference foe Carolina for their 2013 number one pick (5th overall), defenseman Ryan Murphy and forward prospect Victor Rask.

    * Which I have the draft working out as…
    1. COL – Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW
    2. FLA – Seth Jones, D
    3. TBL – Jonathan Drouin, LW
    4. NSH – Aleksander Barkov, C
    5. PIT – Valery Nichushkin, W

    * Nichushkin looks like Malkin on the ice, he’s a power forward that goes to the net, great size, good wheels, and nice shot. Many people are so afraid of Russians that I think that’s contributing to him being taken 5th overall. If MacKinnon was off the board and I was picking 2nd, I’d be taking Nichushkin next. You don’t miss out on a talent of this size.

    * Losing Dupuis is bigger than I think most are realizing. He brings comfort to Crosby and though I’m not a fan of keeping Crosby and Malkin comfortable after four years of disappointing playoff results, he’s much more than that. Dupuis averaged 1:55 PK time per game, that’s just not something that is easily replaced, especially with fellow penalty-killers Matt Cooke and Craig Adams as free agents. I’ve made it known that I’m not spending more than 2-years and $2 million per for Cooke and Adams time should be up.

    * Replacing Dupuis as the first line right-wing will be tough. Nathan Horton is going to get paid, look for something in the 6-year $36-42 million range, that’s too rich for the Penguins. Not many top line wingers get top PK duty and little PP time like Dupuis was accustomed to getting with the Penguins. That’s an adjustment the Penguins would have to make, not exactly something it seems Shero wants to do this offseason as he’s definitely wanting to retain most of the core players from the last few years.

    * This is why dealing Letang for an NHL-ready draft pick like Nichushkin or young forward will be pretty important, if Dupuis is out of the picture. There’s not much behind Beau Bennett, who I figure the team wants to be on the LW with Malkin and Neal.

  22. Reading says:

    Lead billing on Sportscenter. The graphic showing the three teams that were 20+ games over .500 before the end of June that missed the Playoffs made it extra special.

  23. John Lease says:

    DON’T JINX IT. Enjoy it, don’t jinx it.

  24. John Lease says:

    Really enjoyed the column DK.

    But my 1st half MVP is Jordy Mercer. He single handedly is keeping Barmes on the bench, and that is MVP worthy.

  25. Dave G says:

    Today’s game is #81, half-way point of the season.

    The Pirates will have either 50 or 51 wins and, either way, they’ll be on a pace for at least 100 wins.

    Let’s see… the last time the Pirates had such a solid record, they had a pretty good pitching coach then as well—Ray Miller.

    Is it, therefore, plausible to assert that having a superior pitching coach is tantamount to the success of a baseball team—moreso than having a great hitting coach or even a great manager?

    Searage is a rare gem and the Bucs need to hang on to this guy as long as they can.

    Great pitching can win you games. But a great pitching coach wins you championships.

  26. meglasdad says:

    While Ray Searage has done an incredible job ( the Pirates need to pay him whatever it takes to keep him) lets give the pitchers some credit. They still have to go out there everyday and do their job. As for trades, if the Pirates can’t get a BIG time bat for right field or a good starter, they maybe should just stand pat. People speak of the chemistry being messed up last year by the trades, I think it was more the morale of the team. They were rolling along, thought help was on the way, and Huntington gave them controllable years and projects hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. Can’t do that this year. HAS to be a definite upgrade, or just leave it the heck alone Neal.

  27. meglasdad says:

    Oh, I also really enjoyed the column and the video DK. Top notch as always.

    DK: Thanks.

  28. Bob Hasis says:

    You my friend get the prize. I couldn’t have said it better. TOTAL agreement here!

    However be wary of CH and his disruptive maintenance days, which are soon to be scheduled. Nothing better than this to take the stability out of the current chemistry and success we enjoy.

    The positions (in his mind) that will need rest are LF, CF, 3B, SS, 2B and C. Check it out to see who (gets maintained first)

  29. JoeyBats says:

    Hoka Hey everyone!
    .
    Pirates win…Pirates win!!! “L” wins down, …and “XXXII” to go.
    .
    Yes, GM Neal and Mgr. Clint ….82 wins DOES make a difference.
    .
    Beat Em’ Bucs !
    .
    PS: It’s not “Free shirt Friday” bringing the folks through the turnstiles for SRO. …
    It isn’t the Fireworks selling out Saturday night games….
    .
    “Just win, baby!” ;-)

  30. Drew71 says:

    And from one of the five above-the-fold stories on espn.com…

    “But what would it mean if the people signing the checks would pony up the cash to add a premium bat for right field? Everything. Or Nutting.”

    I’d link it but it really was just a fluff piece that covered NO new ground, written for New Yorkers, uninformed about the Pirates, who want to read some more baseball after absorbing the usual 177 New York baseball stories.

    Even the quote is stoopid. (And EYE know stoopid.)

    It’s NOT the money for a LESS than half-season rental. It’s the talent or prospects the Pirates would have to give up.

  31. PirateFaninGA says:

    Nice article DK. I’ll be honest I was skeptical when I saw the preview thread here last night. I’m not a fan of mid-season MVP articles. But this article rightfully gives Searage the props he deserves and straight from the players mouths!

    On the Wandy trouble, did you get a sense on this from being around the team? Is it season ending or more like back in August?

    DK: Glad you liked it.

    Didn’t discuss Wandy with anyone yesterday.

  32. Patrick(RI) says:

    All the credit in the world to Martin, Mercer, Marte and the so far today unmentioned Jones, but if the Pirates are going to win anything, the MVP better be McCutchen, or (gasp) Alverez.

  33. Drew71 says:

    One of my favorite things about the Wild Card standings?

    The Pirates are no longer listed.

  34. 21sthebest says:

    I’d go with Martin as my MVP so far. In fact, I prioritize backup catcher over right fielder right now.

  35. Double Deuce says:

    Agreed.

    BUT…

    My second favorite part about the wild card standings? Bucs have a DOUBLE-DIGIT lead in the loss column over the nearest team that would be chasing them (Nats) for the last wild card spot!!

  36. Patrick(RI) says:

    Nothing brightens up a sleepy, dull, grey morning like a DK baseball column. In the spirit of “coal to Newcastle,” everyone is correct about the writing.

  37. Drew71 says:

    It’s not just the 20 dingers and .832 OPS.

    Pedro had his average up to .247. In June, he’s hitting .310 and over 1.000 OPS.

    If he ends with a BA of around .270, he will MORE than double his 20 HRs in the second half. Just by accident.

    Then – holy crap – we won’t just get team MVP honors, he’ll get a few votes for the league.

    Pedro.

    Yeah. THAT Pedro.

    The guy we were calling a bust in April. (Me too.)

    Holy Crap.

  38. Jim S. says:

    I watched SportsCenter last night as well. It was done reluctantly, since MLB Network had the Dodgers game on, and I wanted to see highlights. John Bucigross (sp?) is usually a guy that is kind to the Bucs, but the segment was awful. He mostly highlighted that our first to 50 wins is the first time we’ve done it since ’60, I think, and that over the last 20 years it has taken us an average of 113 games to get to 50 wins. So, it was all about the 20 years of failure and not much about the 1. I guess that is to be expected. Disappointing nonetheless.

  39. Drew71 says:

    Late last night, after he had filed his column, Dejan called.

    I protect my sources. I won’t divulge what he said.

    But EYE said: “No, I will NOT pinch you.”

  40. Jim S. says:

    Excellent article, DK! Giving Searage his due for how this team has pitched was a great angle.

    As for the guys on the field, the fact that so many here have already named several different players speaks to the improvement of this team. At this time last year, it seemed the team was mainly being carried by Cutch and AJ. This year, we don’t have a true MVP, IMO, because we have different guys playing the role just about every night.

    In no particular order, all of these guys deserve some consideration:

    Pedro
    Cutch
    Starling
    Martin
    Locke
    Liriano
    Grilli
    Melancon
    Rest of the bullpen lumped together
    Jordy

    This is a true team, my friends. And teams win divisions and championships.

    From the management end, aside from how well Searage has obviously done, CH has done a masterful job of matching pitchers with assignments all year long. And, as much as many may not like to admit it, NH has provided some new chess pieces for CH and Ray that have given us a chance to compete every single night.

    Today would be a good day to send the Brewers limping back to Beer Town yet another game behind in the standings!

    DK: Thanks, Jim.

  41. Bob Hasis says:

    Upon further review, a solid catcher and a solid shortstop were both lacking last year, an improved Pedro, a top to bottom front to back bullpen have enormously made a difference and certainly a rock solid group of starting pitchers.

    For me, it is truly difficult to rate one over another.

    The continuing leadership of Ray Searage cannot be taken for granted.

  42. Jim S. says:

    Oh, and I forgot to add, they had to get that segment over so they could get to a commercial break before a special look back at LeBron’s years in Cleveland. I kid you not.

  43. Jim S. says:

    Columnizing. I love made up on the spot words that are so well done that everybody immediately knows what they mean. Nice, Osh!

  44. Jim S. says:

    Great question, Dadtack.

    I think, with about a dozen 20 and 30 somethings to help maintain at any given time, his job has to be more Dr Phil than true baseball coach. So much of success at that level, it seems to me, is about keeping teh guys focused and confident. The talent is there for just about all of them or they wouldn’t have made it. I’m sure he needs to know what buttons to push, while also needing to be on top of each guy’s mechanics.

  45. Arriba Wilver says:

    +1

  46. Jim S. says:

    I’d be ok if Wandy needed another 4-5 weeks, if it means he will be fresher and stronger for the stretch run. I just hope it is nothing worse than that.

  47. 21sthebest says:

    Well, yeah.

  48. Naje says:

    You really expect a player to start every game and be great? Players need days off. They’re scheduled well in advance.

    Hurdle knows what he’s doing and he did a great job with the still developing Mercer. Mercer’s made plenty of mistakes in the field and has, at times, made up for them with some timely hits. His range needs a lot of work. He’s adding to his game.

    The team is 50-30. Hurdle has done an exceptional job with what he has. And throwing a rookie SS into the fire at the beginning of the season was not a good idea. Especially a SS that was mediocre at best in the field.

  49. Naje says:

    Concerning Gerrit Cole and the demand that he stay with the Bucs… regardless of how well he pitches, he’s not going to go far beyond 155 to 160 innings this year. He’s at 92 innings right now.

    –Cole pitched 132 innings last year in the minors.
    –He has pitched 92 innings so far this year (68 in Indy, 24 w the PBC).
    –In general, the Bucs and most teams increase innings workload by 20 to 25 each year, maybe 30 at the most.
    –Project about 155 to 160 innings for him this season. That leaves him with approximately 65 to 70 innings, at most, to pitch this season.

  50. Jim S. says:

    I like everything you just wrote, JoeyBats.

    82 is very important. But, it is now just a mile marker on this year’s journey toward a bigger prize. I don’t want to limp there at Game 159, or something like that.

    I also love the SRO sentiment. I don’t live in Pittsburgh, any more, but I come back for games every summer and will be there in August to catch a weekend series with the family. I expect to plunk down more than I have in the past, and I also expect that the available seats will be less than usual – all good things!

  51. Jim S. says:

    Good points, Naje. We have been chronicling his innings on the blog here for awhile. I originally said they would cut him off in the 165 range, citing the same things you did. But, I also said this guy is a horse, and he is pretty efficient in terms of pitch counts. So, I’d like to see them stretch him a bit.

    I know we can’t always trust NH-speak, but I believe he made some sort of a comment to the effect that the Pirates have their own way of monitoring workloads, and that they feel they have prepared Cole well for his current workload. But, this could be just another controversy looming late in the year. Since it is beginning to appear that they will need him for more than expected 2 days ago, this will be interesting to monitor.

  52. tdb1977 says:

    On the game thread, I put down that I would not be happy until at least 42 more victories are our in pocket to give us 92 wins. This was the average amount of wins that it would take to win the NL Central over the last 6 years. Looking at the upcoming schedule until the All-Star break, we have 1 remaining against the Brewers, 3 with the Phillies, 3 in Chicago, 3 with Oakland, and 4 with the NY Mets. Projecting ahead if I may, we should in theory be able to get the sweep today, which would give us 51 wins. Take 2 from the Phillies, that would give 53 wins, eat the Cubs alive next weekend – 56 wins. Come back to Earth a little bit with the A’s – 57 wins. And jump all over the Mets to head into the All-Star break with 60 wins. That would be 3 more wins then they had in all of 2010, where they only had 57 wins – the last year under Russel. There is nothing right now stopping this team as it is just playing solid baseball. Yes, there are some bonehead plays on the basepads still. There are still miscues in the defense. But that seems it could happen with any team on any given night.

    As for team MVP at the 81 game mark – for me, Martin. I hated the signing in the Winter. I thought they overpaid on a player that was going to be worth a bucket of used baseballs and some pinetar. But what he has done to help this pitching staff behind the play, gun down baserunners that were attempting to steal, and still show some pop in his bat, Martin deserves it. Look at the games that Martin hasn’t started and look at the number of steals against this team. For all the love that McKenry gets – I would really like to see what Sanchez can do behind the dish. I would like to see how he calls a game, see what his arm is like, and give him a chance to swing the wood. Sanchez should be a much better option as a backup catcher going into next season over McKenry with Martin signed to the two year deal. But that is a discussion for the off season.

  53. Jim S. says:

    Folks, there is one thing I heard this morning that had a very nice ring to it – if you stop and think about it.

    “The Cardinals won on Saturday in Oakland, and this enabled them to KEEP PACE WITH THE FIRST PLACE PIRATES.”

  54. Jim S. says:

    Well said, (Biz)Drew!

  55. Naje says:

    The Pirates and every team in MLB monitor innings pitched very closely. The Nats did the same thing last year. No matter how much of a work horse a pitcher may appear to be, no one wants to see another Mark Prior situation and burn these guys out too soon. He’s got a long career ahead of him. There is no bending on this issue when you have young pitcher like this. There really is no need to risk him throwing more than 20 to 30 innings more than last year.

    Remember, this is his first taste of MLB. He’s got six more years to throw with this team, maybe longer. Don’t want to see him burned up now.

  56. Thundercrack says:

    Maybe you didn’t realize your tv was set to the ESPN Classic channel.

  57. Bizrow says:

    Thanks Ghost, Newark is added ;-)

  58. Arriba Wilver says:

    We also have 13 against the Cards the rest of the year. Those will be pivotal.

  59. Jim S. says:

    +1. I love what Mercer is doing. He is progressing very nicely, as I figured he would. This is how a contender breaks in a SS on the fly – a little at a time as he proves he deserves more rope. CH is to be credited this year with beginning to trust young guys a bit more.

    I am not a Barmes fan when he is the 24/7/365 starter at this point in his career, but I like a guy like him in the role he has currently been assigned. I believe he is mentoring Jordy to some degree, or so I read last week. If so, I applaud him for his professionalism. And, it is good to know, we have someone who will provide above average defense in late innings when necessary, or if Jordy needs a break.

  60. Bizrow says:

    All I can say right now is

    Beat Em Bucs

    Go like 60

  61. Thundercrack says:

    ‘I hate saying this but… if Pirates make the playoffs… I can’t possibly advocate firing Neal Huntington’

    As if the Pirates didn’t have enough turns at being the laughing-stocks of MLB and creating their own bad press.

    Fire the GM that gets the team to the playoffs for the first time in 21 years and see what happens.

    Plus don’t forget: Win or be fired

  62. JohninOshkosh says:

    John Smoltz, on MLB Network, said he always pays close attention to how teams do in the last week before, and first week after, the ASB. The good, playoff caliber clubs do not lose focus during that time period.

    The next 2-3 weeks are like Saturday at the Masters-moving day.

  63. Arriba Wilver says:

    I’m pretty comfortable with Martin as first half MVP. But another guy to consider is Marte. Neal in his interview on the Fan gave some stats that when Marte gets on in the first inning their winning percentage is higher than their overall inning percentage. Add in his defense, he’s a pretty big contributor.

  64. Arriba Wilver says:

    Interesting observation.

  65. Arriba Wilver says:

    +1

  66. Jim S. says:

    I agree with you on monitoring him, Naje. All I am saying is that it may not just be about innings pitched. Some guys average 18 pitches per inning, and Cole has been averaging less than that in the Bucs rotation. I think you would have to agree there is a difference in his work per inning than a guy like Strasburg who often sits at 90+ pitches in 5 innings vs. Cole working into the 6th in the high 70′s range. Stressful innings, or however we want to term it, are what teams really try to avoid. Cole seems to do a good job of that so far.

    The only bad inning I recall so far, in that regard, was the first inning on Friday. He was close to 30 in that inning. After that, he snapped back into much better efficiency. But, I am sure they put a big red mark on the high pitch count inning of inning #1 vs. Milw.

    My work horse comment comes from the fact that he has been throwing 100+ pitches since he was in high school with no apparent ill effects. He has been a full grown man for a long time, and earlier than most guys. But, don’t get me wrong here. I am all for the same caution with him as you are. I just think they may take a slightly different take on the science of workload than just innings pitched. NH has said as much.

  67. Thundercrack says:

    I just finished DK’s article and like a lot of you I liked it and got a lot of information from it.

    I may have to re-read it because two words that I didn’t see in the column were: James McDonald

    Either Ray can’t find the right button to push, JMac really is injured, or the problem with JMac is JMac.

  68. Jim S. says:

    Good point, Arriba. It still bugs me that we have to start that rainout vs. the Cardinals over from scratch. We had, what, a 4-2 lead in about the 3rd? Certainly not a guaranteed win, but I’d rather pick up where we left off. To me, that is one of the dumbest rules in MLB. I know that has been the rule for 100 years, probably. But, so what? I might be missing the wisdom of starting over, but I really don’t see it.

  69. tdb1977 says:

    That 5 game series in Pittsburgh at the end of July has been circled on the calendar. Take 3 of 5 and and either close the gap or expand the gap will be huge.

  70. Jim S. says:

    I think it goes hand in hand with the team that scores first usually wins in the 70% range. Marte has been huge.

  71. Jim S. says:

    Possibly all 3, Thunder.

  72. Bob Hasis says:

    Mercer was never any less of a defensive player than Barmes!

    Barmes has no range – can’t you see that.

    Barmes has no arm, which is why every throw to first is on the move – do you not know this. He cannot throw from a stationary position – with the normal PLANT, STEP AND THROW technique. Don’t use Mercer as a comparative if you doubt his skill – watch our opponents shortstops.

    Since you won’t be seeing much of Barmes anymore, give some thought to how he played the position as to what we are all enjoying now/

  73. hockeymonster says:

    If Letang wont take 7M per I’d like to see us end up with Drouin. Our top 6 with him and Bennett would set. That said considering I wanna win the cup I still hope Letang signs. If he and his 3.5M cap hit leave pens wont be able to replace him and the cup would be even a longer shot this coming season. Getting Drouin would mean trading Letang to one of the florida teams in the east which isn’t ideal but worth it if we get drouin in return. He’s got Kane’s shiftiness and playmaking ability and St. Louis’ sneakiness.

    Or if we want to get creative…maybe Colorado will take letang for the 1st pick then we could trade down to get drouin and more picks. MacKinnon is no doubt best player available but we don’t need another center and Jones I believe is overrated a bit.

    Starting to look like dupuis and cooke might test the market. If deal isn’t done by now chances are they’re pretty far apart.

    Here’s hoping letang still signs and pens coaches smooth things over with him. Replacing him with our cap space next season would be impossible unless we also trade PM and his 5M cap so we could rebuild our ill built defense. Some of you might remember my proclamation that we don’t win the cup with PM playing legit top 4 minutes. Considering this last playoff where only 3 dman in our top 4 played big minutes I think now we should see why. PM did ok holding his own but unless we reallocate his 5M for defensive depth purposes we will be living out the definition of insanity all over again.

    But then again what do I know? Not like Mr. Shero’s been taking my advise…

  74. Jim S. says:

    What is that saying? “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

  75. Arriba Wilver says:

    I hope your new found winning percentage holds up. :-)

  76. hockeymonster says:

    For clarification:

    Coaches had as much to do with pens getting swept as the construct of our defense. Our d isn’t built to play the style bylsma wants and julien definitely got the better of him. But the allocation of funds is just as responsible for end result.

  77. Jun 29 is the earliest the Pirates have reached fifty victories in the 162-game era (I didn’t venture before that), and the only time they did so in June. But dates mean very little in this case, because the start of the season has moved a lot over the years.

    In terms of game totals, at 50-30, it is the second lowest game total in the 162-game era, tied with 1972 and trailing 1971 (50-29) by one. In both those seasons, the Pirates not only finished with a winning record, but also they reached the playoffs.

    That said, we’re either looking at the end of The Streak or at a collapse of epical proportions.

  78. Drew71 says:

    You’re 60?

  79. Bob Hasis says:

    Cal Ripken played 2632 in a row. Maybe he was some kind of a freak, but are you saying 162 is out of the question – barring injury?

  80. Jim S. says:

    Bob:

    I’m simply saying I believe Barmes is a good defensive replacement. I know you don’t have to agree with this, but there are a lot of independent evaluations over the past few years that say Barmes is among the best defensive SS in MLB. I’m not making that up. As I said, you don’t have to believe it. The Pirates do believe it, and they aren’t alone

    I was among the earliest advocates of Jordy. I was saying he should get half the starts, and if he did well, it should be ramped up to 70% and then more. That is exactly what is happening, and I could not be happier. So, I totally agree with your analysis of Jordy. He is getting the job done at the plate, and I think he has handled his job in the field well.

    But, if not Bames as his back-up and defensive mentor, who would you prefer? They no longer have John McD. Josh Harrison? Brandon Inge? Just bring a new veteran in and hope he and Jordy hit it off. I believe young players usually need a vet to help them manage the new waters they encounter, especially at the toughest infield position (excluding catcher). Having Barmes there, and having him accept his role is a good thing to have.

  81. Jim S. says:

    Surely you are not suggesting Jordy will ever be anything close to Cal Ripken, Jr. He is a HOF’er. Jordy can have a nice career. Anything beyond that is a huge bonus, and more than can be expected of him. I’d love for him to turn into a JJ Hardy – solid defense with good pop.

  82. Eric Bowser says:

    Hi Alex… hope everyone is doing great down your way.

  83. Bob Hasis says:

    Jim, I’m not talking about Jordy, I was referring to Naje commenting on my entry about CH’s “maintenance days”

    My entry about Ripken was merely a statement that players do not specifically need days off, that CH likes to schedule.

    The entry needed to be located under Naje

  84. Eric Bowser says:

    Latest on Letang is that some positive movement was had between the two sides.

    If Letang would hit the open market next summer, he’s probably looking at a 7-year $63 million deal but that comes with the unknown of adjusting to a new city, coaches, teammates, and system.

    The Penguins could offer 8-years $56 million with the comfort of knowing the city, coaches, teammates, system, and best of all, playing with two of the best centers in the game.

    $7 million per vs $9 million per…. this comes down to how much Letang wants to be comfortable and highly paid versus not and really highly paid.

  85. Tom P. says:

    Somebody mentioned former Pirates Pitching coach Ray Miller in another post. There is a quote I remember being attributed to him in describing his effect on the 12 person pitching staff: “I helped three, I hurt three, and the other 6 didn’t listen to me anyway.” Maybe JMac fits in there somewhere.

  86. Arriba Wilver says:

    That difference per year is still a lot of scratch.

  87. Arriba Wilver says:

    I DO think Searage is the exception to that ” rule.”

  88. Eric Bowser says:

    Absolutely but Shero wants players who want to be here, want to win and understand that comes with a bit of a discount to keep it all together.

    I’m not criticizing Letang for wanting to get paid, like you said, that’s an awful lot of money to let go.

  89. Bizrow says:

    I wish

    That is in the rearview mirror

  90. Jim S. says:

    Ok, got it.

  91. Arriba Wilver says:

    No, Eric, and I wasn’t suggesting you were. Just observing. And I’m not criticizing Shero, either. I just think it makes a deal less likely, but you never know, and talking is good.

  92. Thundercrack says:

    I read where the Mets are starting to talk about Matt Harvey and if they’ll shut him down after a certain innings limit.

    Of course they are not in a pennant race.

  93. Sisyphus says:

    Feel free to hunt us up a list of all the players who played in 162 games over the last ten years or so.

    It will be a mighty short list.

  94. cherokee23 says:

    While 2 mil/year is a big difference, I dare say 87/71 have left more on the table than that. Also, how much is enough?! I know this can’t be compared to us average Joe’s in real life, but in the real world a case can be made that the difference between 70 grand & 90 grand/year is bigger than the difference between 7 & 9 mil. I know 20 g’s would make more difference in a normal guys life than 2 million to these athletes.
    Pretty simple to me, look at how quickly all the other negotiations have gone. 58 doesn’t want to be here. 87…71…14…..they want to be here

  95. Eric Bowser says:

    Pens and Letang deal about done…..

    Renaud Lavoie ‏@RenLavoieRDS 1m
    I’ve been told that the Penguins and Kristopher Letang are close to a deal. Small details to resolved and contract will be official. #RDS

  96. Jim S. says:

    Yeah, easy call for the Mutts on Harvey.

    I think it is a given that if Cole does not go down to Indy, and Wandy’s continued issue may make that a necessity, they definitely need to alter Cole’s workload at some point. Whether they go by innings or some workload criteria that I mentioned earlier, there is no doubt the reins on Cole will be pulled back at some point.

  97. Drew71 says:

    Epicurean. Because if that happens, somebody would be richly cooked.

    I hope.

    But I don’t think we’re gonna have to hope for that.

  98. Arriba Wilver says:

    As I was told once about someone who was making more than they could ever need, but still seemed greedy, it’s how theses guys “keep score.”

  99. Bob Hasis says:

    Yes it is a short list, as are CG’s.

    Sitting out due to injury or a slump was always there, but a maintenance day off is something I don’t get.

    Would you like to see today’s lineup card and discover Cutch and Martin are benched for maintenance?
    Or Walker, with Barmes at SS and Mercer at 2B?

    It would take the steam out of my enthusiasm

  100. Arriba Wilver says:

    Leyland did it, too. It’s hardly a new, Hurdle concept.

  101. Arriba Wilver says:

    Jandy is probably clicking those 9 wides.

  102. Thundercrack says:

    Barmes and McKenry are both in the lineup today

  103. NastyNate82 says:

    Stay clear of Jeff Francouer. If the Royals don’t want him that tells you all you’d need to know. They do need a RH bat though, both for the bench and against lefties as they’re pretty soft against them. Wouldn’t mind them going after Mike Morse in Seattle, or Rios. A wild card to me is the guy who is playing RF for the other team: Aoki. Very selective, gets on base, decent speed, rarely strikes out. A good all-around player, I think he’d help a lot.
    There is no way I’d take Nichushkin ahead of Seth Jones.

  104. NastyNate82 says:

    Yes, ride them into the ground until the wheels fall off.

  105. Eric Bowser says:

    Renaud reporting 8-years $58 million (7.25 cap hit)

  106. NastyNate82 says:

    So if Pedro gets ridiculously hot and ends up hitting about .270, leads the league with north of 40 homers, would Bucs fans push him for MVP? Think he should be up there?

  107. Bob Hasis says:

    And since it has been acknowledged maintenance days are scheduled in advance (why I couldn’t imagine), just what if today is one of those days for someone.

    Here we are in first place, on an 8-game winning streak, with great momentum, but 3-weeks ago we scheduled some rest time – tell me about the psyche affects of the team and the fans.

    Having a maintenance day might be OK – I said might – if from day to day you can perceive a guy is flagging a bit, but to do it well ahead of time without considering negative consequences is inane.

  108. Arriba Wilver says:

    Ryota Igarashi is shocked.

  109. Arriba Wilver says:

    Hard to argue with that.

  110. JohninOshkosh says:

    +1

  111. JRay3 says:

    Should definitely get consideration and be in the mix.

  112. Jim S. says:

    I think that would be “stays” ridiculously hot, Nasty. And, yes, a guy with 40 HR and probably 100 RBIs for a playoff team has to be considered.

  113. Eric Bowser says:

    good deal for both sides….

    I fully expect Matt Niskanen to be traded today, no way can they pay him $2 million as third pairing defenseman.

  114. Jim S. says:

    I’m a Letang guy, even though he had some bad spells in the playoffs this year. I’m glad they found a way to keep him.

  115. Arriba Wilver says:

    Ron Cook actually had a very interesting comment Friday. He said if the Pens idea is to get younger on defense, and jettison Niskanen and Orpik by next year, they should find a way to sign Letang. Sounded reasonable.

  116. Jim S. says:

    I think the so-called maintenance days are as much to get the subs some time on the field as well. Even though they may not give you as good a performance as the starters, back-ups need to play sometimes. Injuries can and do happen. So far, CH has managed it all expertly.

  117. Jim S. says:

    Arriba:

    Good point on Leyland and the maintenance days. How about Tanner? Masterful, I thought.

  118. Arriba Wilver says:

    +10 to Jim S. excellent additional point.

  119. Arriba Wilver says:

    Hurdle is a worthy successor to those two guys, as well as Murtaugh.

  120. Jim S. says:

    Anyone hear about expected attendance today?

    Would like to see both streaks extended – to 8 and 6, respectively.

    DK: Are you going, Jim?

  121. pattonbb says:

    Goldschmidt, Votto, CarGo, Beltran, Dominic Brown all have similar power numbers as Pedro, but much better batting averages. He’d have to hit >50 hrs to get in the conversation.

    Just my opinion.

  122. 21sthebest says:

    I have Cole starting the July 9th game and then he can start the July 23 game without missing a major league start.

    I have a feeling he’ll be throwing about 5 innings in Indy in the middle of that.

  123. 21sthebest says:

    I don’t think Mercer moves well laterally at all. But that’s the kind of stuff that never shows up in the box score and can be discounted in the defensive metrics.

  124. Hi, Eric. Everything good. And next month I’m headed to Pittsburgh for the first time! :)

  125. Somebody? I’d say “some bodies” would be richly cooked, and I mean that in almost the literal sense. hehehehehe

  126. NastyNate82 says:

    I kind of meant this in comparison to Ovechkin winning the Hart. A poor 1/3 of the season, followed by a humongous final 2/3. Kind of seems similar to me.

  127. Lad9 says:

    Would be a tough one for Jim DK. He lives in Illinois…

  128. Arriba Wilver says:

    +1

  129. Jandy says:

    You took my name in vain ;)

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