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.

Anthems, first pitches and other ceremonial stuff

Getty Images
3 Comments

The World Series is not just about the baseball. It’s about the bigger-than-usual stars singing the National Anthem, the more-famous-than-usual people throwing out the first pitch and all of the assorted to-do which surrounds the ballgames. Here is that sort of stuff for Game 1 and Game 2 in Boston.

First pitches:

  • Carl Yastrzemski will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for Game 1. Yastrzemski also threw out the first pitch of Game 1 in 2004, 2007 and 2013. The Red Sox won each of those games and each of those World Series so, yeah, go with what works, right?
  • Members of the 2004 World Series Champions will throw the ceremonial first pitch of Game 2. It doesn’t say which members, so maybe my dream of Manny Ramirez doing it will work out after all. Hey, he played for the Dodgers too, so let’s make this happen, OK?

National Anthems:

  • Singer-songwriter James Taylor will perform the National Anthem prior to the start of Game 1. This morning Peter Gammons tweeted that Taylor’s family helped build Fenway Park. Let’s file that under “interesting, but not so interesting that it’s really worth tracking down to confirm, so why not believe it?” Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.
  • For Game 2 the National Anthem will be performed by the Boston Pops, with the Tanglewood Chorus and the Boston Symphony Children’s Chorus doing the singing. The Boston Pops are conducted by Keith Lockhart, who was a career .287/.354/.425 hitter in 37 postseason games with the Atlanta Braves. I mean, at least I’m pretty sure it’s the same Keith Lockhart. Again: not interesting enough to check so, like Gammons’ thing about James Taylor, let’s assume I’m right about this.

Play ball.