Matthew Pouliot

Division Series - Pittsburgh Pirates v St Louis Cardinals - Game Five

Top-of-the-order struggles doom Pirates in NLDS

49 Comments

It was the bats that failed the Pirates in the end. Starling Marte finished the NLDS 1-for-19 with one walk and a hit by pitch from the leadoff spot. Neil Walker, right behind him batting second, was 0-for-19 with two walks.

It’s tough to generate much offense when your top two hitters reach base a total of five times in five games.

Batting third, likely NL MVP Andrew McCutchen was 5-for-17 in the NLDS, but he never drove in a run. He hardly the chance. Justin Morneau also had five hits without an RBI. The Pirates’ fifth, sixth and seventh hitters did the damage, with Marlon Byrd, Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin combining to drive in 13 of the Pirates’ 15 runs in the series.

There’s not really a whole lot the Pirates can take from this. The top two spots in the order weren’t problem areas this year. Despite his lousy walk rate, Marte had a .336 OBP while batting first and was 39-for-51 stealing bases, helping him scored 83 runs in 124 games.

Walker, ideally, is probably more of a No. 6 hitter, but his .256/.330/.477 line batting second is still a big improvement over the NL’s .262/.318/.392 line as a whole.

The Pirates will have to decide this winter whether to re-sign Morneau, Byrd and shortstop Clint Barmes or at least similar veteran facsimiles. They have Jose Tabata as a fallback right fielder, and he very quietly hit .282/.342/.429 in his 308 at-bats this year. They also have Jordy Mercer as a candidate to take over at shortstop. First base is the bigger problem area, and unless they want to shift Alvarez across the diamond (which doesn’t seem at all likely), they should add a free agent there, preferably one better than Morneau. Garrett Jones should be non-tendered.

The rest of the lineup will be back. McCutchen is under control through 2018. Walker and Alvarez are candidates for long-term deals. The Pirates should have plenty of flexibility this winter, what with A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, Barmes and Jones coming off the books and a likely attendance boost on the way in 2014. There’s no reason they can’t add a big free agent to their already potent mix.

No announcement yet from A’s on Game 5 starter

Division Series - Detroit Tigers v Oakland Athletics - Game One
3 Comments

Bartolo Colon finished second in the AL in wins and ERA this year, but there’s increasing speculation that the A’s may pick Sonny Gray over him to make the Game 5 start against the Tigers.

Colon took the loss in Game 1 of the ALDS after giving up three runs in six innings, but it was hardly a bad outing. All three runs came in the first, and his defense didn’t help him out much in the frame.

Of course, Gray was terrific in Game 2, striking out nine over eight scoreless innings in what was just his 11th big-league start.

It doesn’t seem like it should be all that tough of a call for the A’s. As brilliant as Gray was, he’s not overpowering and the Tigers could well have better success dealing with his curve while seeing him for the second time in five days. Colon has been a rock all year and was especially good in September, going 4-1 with a 1.16 ERA and a 33/4 K/BB ratio in 31 innings. Besides, it’d be easier to go to Gray in relief if Colon gets into trouble than the other way around.

The announcement on the starter apparently won’t come down until tomorrow. The A’s held a conference call with reporters today, but didn’t disclose their choice.

Is there room for Wade Miley under that bus?

Kevin Towers
11 Comments

Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers is a dinosaur, no doubt, but he’s also in charge of a major league baseball team, so we have little choice but to take him somewhat seriously, even when he goes on to a radio show (Arizona Sports 620’s Burns and Gambo show, to be specific) says stuff like this:

“I was sitting behind home plate that game and when it showed up on the Diamondvision of stuffing bananas down their throats, I felt like we were a punching bag,”

“Literally, if I would have had a carton of baseballs I would have fired them into the dugout from where I was sitting behind home plate.”

“You’d think the GM comes down and makes it a point to talk to the staff about it that at we need to start protecting our own and doing things differently. Probably a week later Goldy gets dinged, and no retaliation. It’s like ‘wait a minute.”

“Some of [the pitchers], contractually, it’s tough to move. But I think come spring training, it will be duly noted that it’s going to be an eye for an eye and we’re going to protect one another.”

Well, with quotes like that, one would think the Diamondbacks must have been plunked, what, twice as often as they hit batters? At least significantly more often, right?

No, of course not. Diamondbacks pitchers hit 60 batters this year. Their hitters were plunked 43 times.

But not all hit by pitches are created equal. What about the Diamondbacks’ big star, the aforementioned Goldy. The guy opposing teams were throwing at weekly. Or monthly. Or every other month.

Paul Goldschmidt was hit three times all year, on April 22 by the Giants, on July 31 by the Rays and on Sept. 19 by the Dodgers.

Interesting enough, Wade Miley was the pitcher all three times Goldschmidt was hit. And he was the one who never retaliated. The sophomore left-hander hit just four batters all season.

So, get rid of him, obviously. He’s making practically the minimum, so he’s not one of those guys who would be “contractually tough to move.” That was kind of an odd comment, too. The Diamondbacks’ only pitchers who would be tough to move without eating cash are Brandon McCarthy and relievers J.J. Putz and Heath Bell. And McCarthy would only be tough to move because the Diamondbacks backloaded his two-year deal so that he’ll make $9 million next year. Even so, there might be interested teams. Trevor Cahill isn’t exactly a bargain at $20 million for the next two years, but there are teams that would take that on.

So, get the Padres back on the phone. Ian Kennedy was the closest thing the Diamondbacks had to an enforcer this year, setting off a brawl with the Dodgers and hitting 10 batters in all. Which didn’t stop Towers from giving him away at the trade deadline. But if Towers asks nicely enough, surely the Padres will send him back to Arizona for that softy Miley.

Anyway, a lot of this is Towers diverting attention after his remade roster did no better than his old one. Not only is it a pathetic way to do so, but it should really get him fined by the league. Baseball doesn’t need its general managers publicly advocating throwing at and hitting batters.