What were the Pirates doing on defense?

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Milledge defense.jpgThe Post-Gazette’s Dejan Kovacevic observed something quite extraordinary: in the early going of the Pirates-Giants game, the Pirates consistently shifted all three outfielders towards right, even with right-handed batters at the plate. This allowed Aaron Rowand’s leadoff double and Mark
DeRosa’s broken-bat, two-run single before the shift was removed. Kovacevic believes that Lastings Milledge could have reached both of those balls had he been positioned properly.

I didn’t watch the game live, but I just now went back and watched the replay on MLB.tv and, yes, the shift was rather ridiculous. The Giants broadcasters began questioning it during Edgar Renteria’s first inning at bat, saying that the Pirates “must have last season’s scouting report,” because unlike last year when Renteria was battling injuries, he can now pull the ball again. Even if that’s the case with Rowand, there’s no word on why they were running it during everyone else’s at bats. And I’ll add that the problem was exacerbated by the fact that the Pirates’ starter Brian Burres is a guy who works the cut fastball inside and that even if he’s not throwing there on purpose — which is rare — he misses inside all the time, which makes pulling the ball into an empty left field pretty damn easy. Just ask Mark DeRosa.

Overall, Kovacevic notes, seven fly balls were hit
to left with no outs recorded “through no fault of his own.
He simply could not cover the ground to get to them, whether because of
foul luck or flawed advance scouting or positioning.”

Pirates baseball: it’s FAN-tastic!

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.