Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Rodriguez … Strasmas is in doubt Saturday (a reminder no young arm is safe) … Gerrit Cole’s missing command … and Sanchez’s new home

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MILWAUKEE – Wandy Rodriguez is really two different pitchers. There’s Wandy at home, and there’s Wandy on the road.

 

There are platoon splits and then there are Rodriguez’s  home-road, polar-opposite performances.

 

For his career, Rodriguez has a career 3.40 ERA at home. At home he’s one of the best left-handers in baseball. We saw it last homestand when he was nearly perfect for seven innings against the Cardinals.

 

Then there is the Rodriguez’s road resume.

Continue reading Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Rodriguez … Strasmas is in doubt Saturday (a reminder no young arm is safe) … Gerrit Cole’s missing command … and Sanchez’s new home

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The Pirates’ magic number: 3

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MILWAUKEE – So many good things have happened for the Pirates this April.

 

They’ve won 15 games in April for the first time since 1992. (And we know how that season ended: with a winning record, the Pirates’ last season with more wins than losses.)

 

The Pirates have done all this against some of the National League’s best teams, including winning a road series at St. Louis. And before taking down the Cardinals, the Pirates beat Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in consecutive days. Not bad.

Continue reading The Pirates’ magic number: 3

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The interesting things people said Friday

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So about last night …. it wasn’t so great for the Pirates.

 

Jonathan Sanchez didn’t record an out. He allowed two home runs and was tossed after hitting Allen Craig. They may be his last 17 pitches as a Pirates’ starting pitcher. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Sanchez will be available in the bullpen today because he threw so few pitches, but with Francisco Liriano ready on May 10 and Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole not far behind, it’s very possible we’ve seen the last of Sanchez as a starter. A decline in velocity combined with shaky command has led to extremely poor results for Sanchez, who is winless in his 18 starts.

 

Also in the series-opening loss, Neil Walker required six stitches to close a cut. He could be out for a few days. And for good measure, Hurdle and Jay Bell got tossed.

 

Continue reading The interesting things people said Friday

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Liriano’s sparkling rehab start shows why he might be the Pirates’ key wildcard (and a smart buy-low bet) …. and The Cobra II?

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We saw the bad version of Francisco Liriano, the guy who loses focus and command at times, in his second rehab start at Double-A last week. Liriano failed to complete three innings and needed 67 pitches to record eight outs.

 

We saw the good version of Liriano – the version the Pirates need come May - last night in Triple-A.

 

Against more experienced batters, Liriano did not allow a run over five innings, throwing 59 of his 72 pitches for strikes. Perhaps most encouraging for the Pirates is he didn’t walk a single batter while striking out eight.

 

He touched 95 mph. (He sat between 90-94 mph with his fastball in his previous start.)

Continue reading Liriano’s sparkling rehab start shows why he might be the Pirates’ key wildcard (and a smart buy-low bet) …. and The Cobra II?

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Baseball’s trend toward specialization and Brandon Inge’s (and the Pirates’) magic … and a former big-money draft pick is heating up

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Brandon Inge was batting .150 in 18 games at Triple-A Indianapolis before getting called up Tuesday to give the Pirates another option against left-handed pitching. The Pirates have struggled against lefties, entering Tuesday the Bucs were batting .169 with two home runs against southpaws.

 

So what does Inge do?

 

He authors game-winning hits in back-to-back games in Philly. Not bad. Not a bad lever pull there, Clint Hurdle.

Continue reading Baseball’s trend toward specialization and Brandon Inge’s (and the Pirates’) magic … and a former big-money draft pick is heating up

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Dylan Bundy and the Catch-22 that is prospecting for pitchers

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MT. LEBO – The consensus top pitching prospect in baseball, Orioles’ right-hander Dylan Bundy, went to see Dr. James Andrews on Tuesday.

 

Other than “I’m from the government and I’m here to help,”  the words “I’m going to see Dr. Andrews” might invoke the most fear of any phrase in the English language.

 

In case you’re a casual fan, Andrews is one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the country. He specializes in an elbow-ligament-replacement surgery called  Tommy John surgery, that while often effective, still requires a year of rehab and in some cases pitchers are never quite the same (See: Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez).

 

Bundy was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, but was the top talent on some team’s draft boards. The Pirates drafted Gerrit Cole No. 1 that year, and according a Yahoo! report, Bundy’s camp suggested the Pirates not draft him because they were not on board with his throwing program.

Continue reading Dylan Bundy and the Catch-22 that is prospecting for pitchers

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Travis Snider’s doppelgänger? And about last night: Taillon, Burnett struggle and changeups don’t always fool Alvarez

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MT. LEBO – Travis Snider‘s eight-game hitting streak came to an end last night, but one night doesn’t diminish the fine start he’s had to the 2013 campaign. Snider brings a .326 average and a .415 on-base mark into tonight’s game.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Snider looks more comfortable at the plate and believes he’s seeing the ball better.

“He’s trying to reacquire the most successful approach he had in the minor leagues. He was more of a gap-to-gap guy,” Hurdle said.

These observations are backed by the numbers. While it’s early, Snider’s showing significant gains in performance, in better handling the strike zone.

Continue reading Travis Snider’s doppelgänger? And about last night: Taillon, Burnett struggle and changeups don’t always fool Alvarez

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The key to sustainability … Attendance is down (yeah, it’s been cold) … The cruel aging curve

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CLARK BUILDING COMMAND CENTER – The Pirates woke up this morning a half game behind Cincinnati in the NL Central, having just completed a 7-2 homestand.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Pretty darn good when you consider the Pirates faced the Reds (playoff team in ’12), Cardinals (playoff team in ’12), and Braves (entered the ‘Burgh with two losses and left with five) during the homestand.

Now the question is can the Pirates sustain early this success and produce a winning season?

Continue reading The key to sustainability … Attendance is down (yeah, it’s been cold) … The cruel aging curve

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Francisco Liriano is not a robot … Neal Huntington talks Jameson Taillon and Luis Heredia … Alen Hanson’s shaky defense and Gerrit Cole’s shaky command

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Clint Hurdle said something revealing about Francisco Liriano – and his approach and expectations with Liriano – prior to Sunday’s game. He noted Liriano is not a robot.

Cliff Lee is a robot.

Lee’s a cyborg sent from the future to pound the edges of the strike zone with cutters, curves and two-seam fastballs.

Liriano is like most of us in that he’s human.

Hurdle isn’t expecting Liriano, who made his second rehab start Saturday at Double-A and will make his third rehab start at Triple-A on Thursday, to be a savior. He’s managing expectations. But he does hope with a tweak or two that he can be a viable rotation member. And he could be in the Pirates rotation in early May as there figures to be an opening or two. (Will Jonathan Sanchez make another start?).

Continue reading Francisco Liriano is not a robot … Neal Huntington talks Jameson Taillon and Luis Heredia … Alen Hanson’s shaky defense and Gerrit Cole’s shaky command

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Pedro’s progression to the mean

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“Regression to the mean” has become stat-heads’ favorite don’t-get-too-excited catch-all with which to curb your enthusiasm. It can tamper down any early-season or small-sample size excitement. For instance, Justin Upton is not going to hit 90 home runs this year, he’s going to regress to the mean. It’s math.

But you can also progress toward the mean.

And that’s what Pedro Alvarez has begun to do during this homestand.

The turnaround started in the St. Louis series when Alvarez began using the entire field as I write about in tomorrow’s notebook. Continue reading Pedro’s progression to the mean

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