#134PiratesTrivia Answer 5/31/12

Tonight we asked…

…and the answer to tonight’s #134PiratesTrivia is…

Willie “Pops” Stargell

Stargell had a total of 75 sacrifice flies in his 21 seasons as Pirate.  Pops is also the leader in many other offensive categories, including home runs (475), RBIs (1540), and intentional walks (227).  The hall of famer is one of the most popular players in Pirates history, and was a key part of two World Series champion teams, including the “Family” in 1979.

Pirates sac-fly leaders:
Willie Stargell – 75
Bill Mazeroski – 70
Roberto Clemente – 66
Al Oliver – 62
Andy Van Slyke – 50

Stats from FanGraphs.com

Congratulations to tonight’s winners: @AJBurghnett, @cocktailsfor2, @Ned_Flanderz, and @BurgFaninNJ.

A few people guessed Bobby Bonilla, who had 47 sacrifice flies with the Pirates, and holds the franchise single season record.

Thanks to all who participated, and tune in next time for another edition of #134PiratesTrivia.

Go Bucs

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Why Trading For a Bat Isn’t the Solution

Everyone knows that the Pirates’ offense has been bad in 2012.  At one point, they were on pace for a historically bad offense, and were dead last in just about every offensive category.  And while the offense has picked up slightly over the past week or two, it’s still not providing enough runs for the pitching staff on a night-in-night-out basis.

Naturally, fans want improvement now.  They don’t want to wait until the trade deadline to improve the offense, it has to be done now.  There’s two things wrong with this mindset.  First, the only real trade bait the Pirates have is pitching, specifically Joel Hanrahan and possibly a few minor league prospects (NOT Jameson Taillon or Gerrit Cole, obviously).  Let’s say the Pirates were actively shopping Hanrahan.  What’s the most any team would give up for Hanny in late May/early June.  Not much, at least not a Major League-bat that fans seem to think the lineup is missing.  Hammer’s trade stock will be much higher in late July, when teams will be desperate for another arm in the back of their bullpen, and they’ll grossly overpay for him.  There’s absolutely no reason for NH to make any rash trades that will end backfiring later in the season.

The second reason that begging for a trade doesn’t make sense is that the answer to the offensive problems won’t come from outside the organization.  Look at 2011.  At the trade deadline last year, the Pirates were 54-52, and just 3.5 games back of first place.  Neal Huntington’s move was to trade for Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick, two guys who were solid career hitters and were expected to help the team make a run at the division.  What happened next?  Lee was hot for a few games, and then got hurt, while Ludwick did absolutely nothing and also ended up on the DL.  The Pirates went on to finish 72-90, and although they got Lee and Ludwick for pretty cheap, they didn’t help the team at all.  2012 has been almost the exact same story as 2011 so far.  The pitching has been great, and is keeping the team afloat in the division, while the offense struggles to score enough runs to win games.  As of today, May 30th, the Pirates have played 49 games and have scored 145 runs, for an average of just under 3 runs per game.  The team batting average is .219, and would be last in just about every category if it weren’t for the A’s.  The main point here is that for the offense to hit well enough to make a run at the postseason, the guys within the organization have to step up.  Pedro needs to step up and become the cleanup hitter that he can be, Tabata needs to be getting on base more often, and the bench guys have to come through when they get the chance late in games.  Triple-A players like Matt Hague and Jordy Mercer need to take advantage of their promotions and produce runs when they get the chance.  It won’t take much.  There have been countless situations where there’s runners in scoring position with less than two outs, which should be easy RBIs.  Time and time again though the Pirates leave these guys on base, and end up losing the game by a run or two.  The pitching staff has been so unbelievably good this year that even scoring 3 runs in a game means that there’s a solid chance the Bucs will win.  The current 25 players plus the handful of others who spend time with the Pirates and AAA Indy are enough to make this a winning team if the offense hit even half as well as it could.

Just to give an example how little trading for a “bat” will help, look at Paul Konerko.  He’s currently leading the league with a .381 batting average, that’s 67 hits in 176 at-bats.  The Pirates are 345/1576, good for a .219 average.  If you add Konerko to the team, the collective batting average would be .235, which would be the fifth worst in the league.  So yeah, not even adding the best hitting in the game right now would magically improve the offense.  It has to come from the guys the Pirates already have.

Go Bucs

Burnett gets Bucs back to .500

Tonight’s rubber match between the Pirates and Reds featured a pitching matchup of A.J. Burnett and Johnny Cueto, and it was another low scoring game.  Burnett got off to a shaky start in the first, giving up a book-rule double to leadoff man Zack Cozart.  Pedro Alvarez muffed the play on Drew Stubbs‘ bunt, putting runners on the corners.  Jay Bruce lined out to first base, and then Brandon Phillips drove in run on a sac-fly.  Burnett did a heck of a job to strike out the next batter, limiting the damage to just one run.  Jordy Mercer picked up his first career hit with a single in the first.

The first scoring chance the Bucs had came in the second.  Garrett Jones tripled, and after Matt Hague grounded out, Rod Barajas was intentionally walked to get to Burnett.  He worked the count full, fouling off pitch after pitch.  He finally drew a walk, loading the bases for Jose Tabata.  He swung at the first pitch, hitting a dribbler to second for the third out.

Burnett and Cueto both pitched well in the middle innings, and A.J. had retired 15 straight Reds at one point.  The Pirates finally cashed in on a chance to score in the sixth on a string of great 2-out at-bats.  Neil Walker drew a walk, and Jones worked the count full.  Walker was off on the pitch, and Jones singled through the hole into right to put runners on the corners.  Hague doubled to right-center, driving in two and increasing his hit-streak to 6 games.

The bullpen took over with the 2-1 lead after Burnett went 7 innings and gave up just two hits, and Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan both pitched scoreless innings to close out the game and increase the Pirates record to 14-9 in one-run games.

Win: Burnett (4-2)
Loss: Cueto (5-3)
Save: Hanrahan (13)

BOX SCORE

Go Bucs

Not-so electric stuff

After a torrential downpour delayed tonight’s start by two hours, the Pirates and Reds finally got going around 9PM.  Charlie Morton retired the Reds 1-2-3 in the first, and the Bucs had runners on the corners after Andrew McCutchen tripled and Pedro Alvarez walked.  Neil Walker grounded out to end the threat, and Morton started falling apart in the second.  Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier both hit RBI doubles to make it 2-0, and then the scoring continued in the fourth.  Frazier tripled into the North Side Notch, and Josh Harrison‘s relay throw sailed into the stands above the dugout, giving Frazier a ‘Little League Home Run’ and making it 4-0.

The only run Homer Bailey gave up was in the fifth on a Casey McGehee pinch-hit RBI single.  Doug Slaten pitched a scoreless inning, Chris Resop gave up a run, and then Jared Hughes gave up three.  Brad Lincoln and Jason Grilli pitched the eighth and ninth respectively, keeping the Reds at 8 runs.  Bailey continued to shut down the Pirates’ lineup, going the distance for the complete game.  He’s now 6-0 in his career versus the Pirates, and 4-0 at PNC Park.

Morton’s final line: 4 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 K, 1 BB

Pirates (24-25) – Reds (28-21)

Win: Bailey (4-3)
Loss: Morton (2-6)

BOX SCORE

Go Bucs

PNC is ‘Home Sweet Home’ for Bucs in 2012

In 2011, the Pirates finished with identical home and road records: 36-45. The grand total came out to be 72-90, despite streaking to the top of the division in mid-July.

The Bucs have seen more success at the home than on the road so far in 2012. In their 25 home games to date, they have 15 wins and 10 losses, which equates to a winning percentage of .600. However, they are 9-14 in 23 away games.

The Pirates offense, as everyone knows, has been horrible both at PNC and at opponents’ stadiums. The offense has produced two more runs on the road (73 road, 71 home), but the pitching has surprisingly faltered somewhat on the road.

At home, the pitching staff has given up just 67 runs (2.68 per game). On the road though, the pitchers have surrendered 100 runs (4.35 per game). The 100-run mark is padded with the 12-3 and 10-7 losses to St. Louis, among others.

Offensively, the Pirates are averaging 2.84 runs per game at home, and 3.17 runs on the road. Although the offense is less apparent at home, the pitchers are stepping up their game at PNC. Still, they are right at the .500 mark through the first 48 games of the season, and just three games back in the division. Through 48 games last season, the Bucs were 22-26 and 6.5 games back.

Considering their road record and some of these numbers, can the Pirates stay around the .500 mark through June? After the final two games of this Cincinnati series, they head to Milwaukee for their first matchups of the season with the Brew Crew. They don’t return to Pittsburgh until June 8th to face the Royals and a short homestand. After hitting local spots (Baltimore and Cleveland), the Pirates will host the Twins and Tigers at PNC. When it’s all said and done, the Bucs will play just nine of their 27 June games at home.

It’s always tough to win on the road, and this Pirates team is going to overcome some adversity if they want to breakout this season. This offense must get going and the pitching must stay consistent. We’ve seen some good signs this homestand, especially the past four games. Not only has the pitching remained spectacular (see: James McDonald) but the bats are waking up as well. Pedro Alvarez seems to be going on a hot streak, and has a modest six-game hitting streak. Rod Barajas has raised his average 49 points over the last two weeks and has 4 HR/9 RBI this month. Andrew McCutchen is still on fire, and is hitting .387 in May. Hopefully the Pirates can put everything together at once and get on a roll like they did midseason in 2011.

Go Bucs