The guy simply does not get enough run in these parts. His remarkable career is passing us by entirely too quickly, in part because the Pirates are blacked out in Columbus, Ohio by Major League Baseball. We only get to catch a handful of McCutchen games per year; and every time we do he does something that is absolutely one of a kind. Let’s preface the post by saying the Pirates weren’t blacked out tonight.
Mike Trout is the best player in the American League. If you hit the ‘freeze frame’ on the National League, right now it’s McCutchen.
Two innings later in the top of the 11th, the backbreaker. The kill shot. The death knell, and the dagger.
If you’ve watched as much baseball as we have; and lets be modest, if you’ve seen a lot of baseball you knew it was the type of home run that the opposing team just isn’t going to come back from. McCutchen ripped Cincinnati’s heart out and served it to them in their home stadium Saturday night.
McCutchen is the National League MVP again if things continue. He deserves the majority of the vote; even if the Pirates come up short. He’s also got 15 steals in 15 attempts, something no one is talking about enough. McCutchen is close to the perfect player right now; and you’re missing out if you’re not paying attention to the NL’s version of Trout.
Today’s season preview is written by one of my good friends and a long-time Pirates fan who has seen Roberto Clemente play live. He grew up near Pittsburgh watching Zambelli Fireworks nights and can recite Pirates history with the best of them. My good friend Matt Sarich hopes for another year like last year but worried about the team relapsing after their first loss in Spring Training. Such is the life of a Pirates fan. He has no twitter, and he has no other blog. Put your hands together for Matt as he shares his thoughts on the 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates.
Welcome Pirate fans to opening day……and here is the first pitch……and the season is over. That refrain was repeated for 20 long years and then HOPE came!!
It has been a long time since so much optimism surrounded this team. A year ago fans were gearing up for a 21st straight losing season but with many years of investing in their farm system things started to pay dividends. Continue reading →
Since we’re fantasy baseball nerds, we’ll be running down as much of a commentary as we can prior to your March fantasy drafts. If you’re having a draft before then, you’re violating a major man-law. Don’t do it. You’ll inevitably draft some guy who breaks his nads installing a hardwood floor or something. Here are our top-20 Outfielders for fantasy baseball 2014. We’re running this down similar to the guys at Razzball, though we could never pretend to be of the legendary status they’ve achieved.
1. Mike Trout: Until the younger bull knocks the old bull off the hill (Trout is the old bull in his age 22 season, didn’t you know?) you have to keep putting this guy here and leaving him alone. We just hope you were one of the lucky bastards who snagged him late and were able to keep him after that lackluster cup of coffee in 2011. That was so, so long ago. We figure Trout finally wins that MVP award, hits 30 homers, drives in around his career-high 97 and steals close to 40 while hitting around .320 again. No regression in sight.
2. Andrew McCutchen: There’s just no reason to move an MVP much when he’s entering that magical age-27 season. He wasn’t as Heavenly as his 2012 last season, but he was still remarkable and helped owners win a lot of leagues. What is there to say that hasn’t been said (that’s what we hate about these rankings at the top, everyone has these guys up here). McCutchen is a Ferrari, get him in your garage if you can.
3. Carlos Gomez: This is the guy we’re pretty proud of. He was our major sleeper heading into 2013, and he finally put it all together. What we love about Gomez is he’s a guy who seems to want those stats for you. He steals bases when his team is up big, he challenges for the extra base, he isn’t happy settling with that three-hit night. He plays the game hard and we think the power could enjoy another slight up-tick in 2014. The only thing about Gomez that sucks is when he takes away home runs from your other fantasy players playing center field. He owes Jay Bruce several.
4. Giancarlo Stanton: Big Mike struggled last season hitting .249, but he’ll enter 2014 with major motivation: play so well he can escape Miami for greener pastures and a mega-deal soon following. This will be the year that he eclipses 40 home runs if anyone does in the National league. This will be a .900 OPS season. This will be the year he finally plays like a first rounder. As they say on eBay, bid with confidence.
5. Carlos Gonzalez: 2010 seems so long ago when he finished third in MVP voting. Since then he’s missed time each season but was still spectacular when he was on the field. The only question with Gonzalez is health, if you believe he can stay healthy he will be stellar and steady. He’s not going to go out there and hit .260 at Coors Field. It’s just not going to happen. A solid first-round guy if he can play in 140-150 games.
6. Adam Jones: He’s in a great lineup, he’s in a nice hitter’s park, he’ll be just 28, and he’s baseball’s closest present-day version to Eric Davis. What we like most about Jones is his games played the past three years: 151, 162, 160.
7. Bryce Harper: Someday soon the nagging injuries that drive fantasy owners like us nuts will end, and Bryce Harper will have the biggest numbers of his young career. It’s not too much to ask for a player like Harper to post an average in the .280-.290 range with upwards of 35+ home runs and over 100 RBI and runs scored. We don’t look for him to steal many more than 10 – he’s bulked up – but that power is coming in a big way. He hit .344 and 9 HR in April last season. If he can put that together over a full year like he’s going to try to do……
8. Jacoby Ellsbury: We don’t like that he’s turning 30. We don’t like that he misses monstrous amounts of time about every other season. We do like that he is in that hitter’s park in the Bronx and think he offers 20-50 potential. Solid bet to be very good in the near-term. I want no part of him in a year or two though.
9. Jay Bruce: The Reds are going to have an average year. Jay Bruce is going to have a career year. He’s entering his age-27 season. He’ll get as close to 40 home runs as he has yet and he’ll hit around .275, and with Bruce what you’re buying is the consistency. A lock for 30+ home runs and 150 games played. His slumps will make you want to drown kittens. His hot streaks are other-worldly.
10. Ryan Braun: He’s really not going to miss a beat when he returns from his little hiatus in 2013. He’ll be the same old Braun, which is video-game numbers. It won’t be his career year, but short of that you’re getting one of the top sluggers in baseball with some steals, albeit a few less steals and probably a few less homers. All things considered, a guy we would love to have; even with the cheating!
11. Justin Upton: So now the world knows that he’s not the second coming of Ken Griffey Jr., and that’s okay! What Upton is, is just a pretty good player. And he’s going to be more comfortable in his second season in Atlanta. Something about Upton worries us a little bit; but when we think about it it’s just the poor taste he left in our mouth in 2012. Even then, he was pretty solid. He’s deserving of this high ranking.
12. Shin-soo Choo: He’s going to score a lot of runs out in that Texas heat and don’t be surprised if his numbers improve across the board in a lineup full of threatening hitters.
13. Yasiel Puig: There will be no in between for Puig in 2014. He does not simply maintain; he either becomes full-fledged fantasy superstar or completely collapses in his sophomore campaign. We’re talking .240 or .315ish with power and steals again. Either way, it’s going to be VERY entertaining. Biggest risk factor of anyone in these rankings.
14. Jose Bautista: He may be quickly approaching his decline. He is at an age where it is reasonable for a lot of players to lose bat speed and miss time to injuries. But we believe enough in Joey Bats’ skills to say he will provide one more glorious summer in the sun for fantasy owners. A return to the 30’s in HR, 100 RBI, and an OPS in the .900s for those that believe.
15. Jason Heyward: We don’t really plan to target him – which is why he’ll inevitably break out. If that’s not a good enough reason, keep in mind he’s playing for a monster contract. If you believe what the scouts originally said about Heyward back entering 2010, that huge year is coming this year or next.
16. Allen Craig: The guy with two first names always wrecks shit when he’s in the lineup. He’s a .300 hitting machine in a baseball town where everything seems to line up nicely for that organization. He’ll probably have a DL stint included, but if you can weather that storm you’ll get a .300 average, 20+ homers, near 100 RBI, and peace of mind rotating him between OF and 1B.
17. Matt Kemp: Another guy we don’t want to own, in part because his risk is not worth the overpay it will take to land him on draft day. If for some reason the bargain exists in the middle rounds – take a flier on the guy. The decline might only be a season or two away, but for now Kemp has something to prove and will be taking the field for a team with World Series expectations. It should be a nice year for the back of his baseball card.
18. Starling Marte: A lot of people out there will shy away from putting Marte in their top-20 because it’s too out on a limb. His power numbers should improve and he’ll be a realistic possibility for a 20-40 season. His average should not dip much further than .280 because speed like his doesn’t slump. An .800 OPS player who will be 25. The soon to be Pirates outfield of Marte, McCutchen, and Polanco could be a lot of fun.
19. Yoenis Cespedes: Why do I feel like the guy is probably older than his listed age of 28? He’s probably like 34, but these damn Cubans are ageless wonders with their chicken blood voodoo cocktails. If you want a projection on him an average of his first two seasons is fair to expect: 25ish HR, .265-.270, 81 RBI, 12 steals, 70 runs.
20. Domonic Brown: The bottom line is power comes at a premium these days in baseball. Gone are the days where any number of middle infielders slug 27 home runs for you and drive in 80-plus. For that, you’ll need to pick up a guy like Brown who should continue to hit home runs in bunches. If it wasn’t for an injury he would have easily entered the 30-homer club. He’ll be inducted in 2014.
Left-handed pitchers have a tough task against McCutchen, who isn’t fooled by anything but the best off-speed pitches. He looks for pitches out over the plate, so it is possible to sneak a fastball by him on the inside, but it would require a plus fastball and is a risky approach. The best way for LHPs to attack McCutchen is with soft stuff down and away; if the pitches are in the strike zone, he will still try to pull them through the left side. He barrels the ball up well even while trying to pull pitches on the outer half, but if they are down in the strike zone, the damage is typically limited to singles. Shifting three infielders to the left side can help combat the amount of balls that make it through the infield.
Right-handed pitchers can use more of the entire strike zone, but staying low and away is still the key. Because of his quick hands, he is susceptible to good off-speed pitches and good breaking pitches, especially on the outer half. He crushes fastballs, however, especially once he gets ahead in the count. Even when a pitcher falls behind, he still must attack with breaking pitches, despite the risk of walking him.
Regardless of handedness, the key to McCutchen is to stay low and away and make him pull pitches he doesn’t want to pull. As evidenced by Chart A below, McCutchen’s power comes when he gets his hands extended on pitches up in the zone. He does a better job than most of hitting those balls hard enough to get them through the infield, but at least that keeps the ball in the park
I went on to find similar reports on Joey Votto, Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon Phillips, and other key offensive players who made the postseason. I know what I’m doing tonight.
Yesterday had a little bit of everything. The Pirates won the first game of the twinbill 2-1 in 11 innings around the time that most of us were getting home from work. Alex Presley singled off the pitcher’s mitt and wiley veteran Russell Martin scampered home to give the Pirates a very Cardinals-like win.
In game two, it was the crowning game of Pittsburgh baseball this season. The man I consider the MVP of the National League as things sit, Andrew McCutchen; hit a two-run home run to seal things the way an MVP does. It was one of those moments; in front of a home crowd, where you just know that the moment will endure. People in Pittsburgh will remember this doubleheader sweep in this magical season and they’ll remember the day their best player had and the swing he had to put away Goliath.
And the Pirates two winning pitchers yesterday were guys named Vin Mazzaro and Brandon Cumpton. Tell me that’s not Cinderella. Cumpton was a guy who started his year in the minor leagues. He threw seven shutout innings to win his first game of the season. This is a team who has started the likes of Cumpton, Jeff Locke, and Jeanmar Gomez. Their ‘ace’ Francisco Liriano has an arm that was surgically put back together.
It’s just a bunch of guys playing hard and getting more value out of themselves then anyone had them getting before the season began. There have been some unlikely winning teams over the past few seasons. I would argue that the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates are more fun than any of them.
I don’t really have to explain how it’s stupid to have an exhibition game between the two leagues determine for one team who gets home field advantage in the World Series, particularly given the way the rosters are put together….however.
For now I’ll enjoy the pitching show the AL put on tonight. They only gave up three hits to an all-star NL lineup. Here is the pitching numbers from the night.
For the offensive side, Jose Bautista ended up with the game winning hit – a sacrifice fly in the 4th inning. JJ Hardy and Jason Kipnis added the 2nd and 3rd RBIs. The best offensive play on the night was clearly Prince Fielder legging out a triple.
The NL didn’t fare well. Never getting more than a hit in any inning and only advancing a man to 3rd base once.
It’s fun to see all these guys get together and play a game and mostly have a lot of fun doing it. It was fun to see Mariano Rivera get the MVP in his last game (not sure why they didn’t use him for the save).
A few final thoughts:
Fantasy owners are pissed at Matt Harvey for knocking the knee of Robinson Cano.
Neil Diamond is old and its hard to get New York fans to sing a Boston song. I’ve never seen more disinterested New York fans as I did during the first verse of “Sweet Caroline”.
Has there been a better player than Carlos Beltran who has played for 5 different teams and seemingly been written off several times.
I have no idea how Joe Mauer didn’t throw out Andrew McCutchen. Perfect throw.
Manny Machado made another ridiculous play at 3rd. When is this guy moving to shortstop?
Try to enjoy tomorrow. It’s the only day in the year with out a game played by any major sport. Maybe read a book or do something productive with your life. You’ll only have one day to do it.
You have to be starting to get the feeling that the Pittsburgh Pirates are just having one of those special, memorable summers. Something just feels different. They’re gutting out wins – night after night – with a bunch of blue collar players and patchwork pieces.
Tonight on FOX Saturday Night Baseball was no different. The Pirates beat the Mets 4-2 at PNC Park, largely behind a big night from their star Andrew McCutchen. Cutch has had a solid, but short of spectacular first half. He’s hitting .300, but his power numbers are down. If the Pirates get anything close to an MVP-caliber second half from the guy, they’re going to the playoffs.
Here’s his 10th home run of the season which tied the game tonight for the Buccos. It was a shot, displaying that ‘power to all fields’ that scouts said McCutchen would develop:
An inning later, McCutchen would single in the go-ahead run. It would stand up. Jason Grilli locked down his 29th save of the season with a scoreless ninth.
Tonight my wife asked me if I had to bet money on it, who did I see going to the World Series. The simple answer would have been ‘I wouldn’t’ and right now, I definitely have no idea. But as I thought about it, I told her the Detroit Tigers and after a short amount of consideration, why not the damn Pittsburgh Pirates? They’re pretty sound in all facets of the game and I think they’re going to be even better in the second half.
As we approach the All-Star break, count me as one who thinks the Pirates have a legitimate shot at getting to the World Series this year. The Reds are fading, the Nationals are probably done, I don’t buy the Braves, the Dodgers still have a ways to go, and I think the Pirates just might have enough to take down the Cardinals in a long NLCS series. Call me crazy if you want. These guys have something going.
We had a feeling that this was going to be a special summer for the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s almost July, and the Pirates season is at it’s zenith. Last night the Pirates won 10-3 in Pittsburgh over the Milwaukee Brewers. It was the club’s 7th straight victory. They took a one game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central standings with the Cards 6-1 loss in Oakland last night.
Last night was a fun game that I attended with some guys from work, and it featured a little bit of something for everyone. The highlight of the night was this majestic opposite-field blast from Jay Bruce, his 13th home run on the season:
And that wasn’t the only long ball we saw. Zach Cozart and Todd Frazier had upper deck jobs (I missed Frazier’s because I was grabbing a beer for my buddy) and Joey Votto snuck one out the other way.
I’ve never really taken a shot of the Great American Insurance building behind the park. Here it is in all of it’s glory.
Bruce warming up before the start of an inning. And I think the kid on the right field line who warms him up every inning *might* be the nephew of Walt Jocketty or Bob Castellini. Something is up with this kid. He throws worse than a woman. He is scared to death of the ball. Anything thrown his way where Bruce puts anything on the ball and the kid looks like he wants to run out of the way and allow a fan to take the brunt of it. He short-hopped Bruce multiple times. He is a special brand of hideous.
You are a big league team; and that’s the best you can do with a ball boy? Something is rotten in Denmark with this.
Here’s Andrew McCutchen. Love watching the guy play. He did his thing with a couple of line drives for base hits, and took his usual bean ball to the middle of the back later in the game.
“Strikeouts for LaRosa’s” is new at the ball park this year. It’s a deal where you get a free small LaRosa’s pizza when Reds pitchers strike out 11 hitters or more in a game. The Reds didn’t give anyone strikeout pizza last night but that’s okay because I’m on a diet and LaRosa’s is kind of overrated. It’s like the Cincinnati equivalent of Donato’s.
We had fourth-row seats out in right field behind our version of The Mick. It was a great night for a ballgame. I’ve sat in a lot worse then mid-80 degree heat and all night the weather stayed clear.
And any perfect night at the park is capped off with Aroldis Chapman coming into the game throwing 99 MPH heat, and ended with him striking out a hitter with a 101 MPH fastball. He also threw inside on Neil Walker before striking him out in absolutely demeaning fashion.
Another ballpark has been crossed off the list. Another bucket list item fulfilled. The fact that I got to see my favorite team win 6-0 and Johnny Cueto threw a one-hitter was just icing on the cake of what was a great night in my charmed life.
The day started immediately with a trip to Primanti Brothers. I would give it five stars out of five. We parked our car and went to the original location, and I would recommend that anyone going to Pittsburgh for the first time does the same thing.
Here’s the famous mural of Pittsburgh folk on the wall in the original Primanti Bros. I could sit and stare at it for hours it’s so well done. This is where you get a sense of the rich tradition that this town has from it’s sport. Clemente is a God-like figure in these parts. He sits in the middle of the mural, symbolically.
Look at Jimmy Leyland there! This is just awesome. Let’s do one more.
Willie Pops Stargell says hello.
I didn’t get a shirt because I didn’t carry any cash with me (stupid move). But I did get a couple of items that were pretty damn solid.
Best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life, the corned beef at Primanti Bros. It’s a little over six bucks I think. So good in fact that I had one also after the game (in which I only remember a little bit).
And here’s Iron City Light. It’s really not that light and does have some bite to it. Kind of reminded me of when I used to steal my dad’s Michelob out of the fridge. Those Michelob’s weren’t all that tasty but they were the only beer there. I don’t know, I drank these because I was in Pittsburgh. Then I went ahead and had about six more.
We stopped at this cigar bar after Primanti Brothers. What I remember about getting to this great place – which is called ‘Leaf & Bean’ for the homemade coffee they brew – is that you have to walk through a cool little market district to get there that has a lot of family owned businesses and farmer’s market type stops along the way. Very cool little section of Pittsburgh.
We talked shop with some cigar salesman who were very hospitable to my friends and I. For purchasing our cigars they allowed us a shot of some really good rum. And then pretty soon they were talking hockey, cities, and baseball with us and just letting us pass that rum around the table. Great cigars too. A perfect way to start any ballpark tour.
And then it was time to head to the ballpark.
When it was finally time to head to the stadium, we had to walk across the Roberto Clemente Bridge.
In my opinion, this here above is one of the most beautiful views in all of baseball. This is where you finally start to get an idea that you’re about to see a special stadium.
And once you get across that bridge, here is what you see. I missed the Willie Stargell statue and could have gotten a pick of it on the walk back to our parking garage after we spent the night; but I had a skull rattling hangover and my cell phone camera was dead and somehow; and this is the craziest part of all, but yes somehow I had maintained by camera all night long only to have lost the batteries within it. You tell me how that happens.
Alright so according to MLB The Show 13this is supposed to be ‘Bucco Blasts’. I know this because, well; I also have a Pirates franchise going on the game. I think this is one of the coolest items in any stadium.
So when we entered the stadium we actually had the chance to bullshit for Sean Casey for a little bit. He’s always been a great guy, I remember actually talking to him back when I lived in Cincinnati when he would climb into the Diamond Club seats at Great American and take pictures with fans. He’s truly one of the best guys who have ever played the game of baseball.
And I owned him in fantasy baseball in 1999. What a summer that was for him. He was riding in the high .380’s in that summer. And right then I thanked him for 1999. He got a big kick out of that and right away he remembered what a year that was for him and the Reds. I then asked him if he still talks to Adam Dunn at all, naturally. He said he saw Dunn in Spring Training and they still stay in touch. He said he went out with Dunn in Spring Training and couldn’t handle it. “I’ve got three kids at home and Dunner tried to close down every bar, I can’t hang with him anymore.”
I then asked him how much longer he thinks Dunn will play – he said pretty quickly he thinks Dunn has one more season left in him, tops. This is a man who knows and has been around the game. Time will tell if he’s right.
Would you look at that skyline! Just look at it!
Here’s the pirates jacking around before the game. Andrew McCutchen center stage.
One of the best all around players in baseball on display for us. Andrew McCutchen went 0 for 2 against Johnny Cueto with a hit by pitch. He didn’t come to bat a fourth time because the Pirates only collected one hit. I kind of wanted to see him do something big, but just to say I saw him play live in Pittsburgh is a pretty cool deal and worth the price of admission.
And there he is in centerfield in front of those ‘PIRATES’ hedge bushes. If you hit a home run into those bushes as a Pirates player on MLB The Show 13 you unlock a code or trophy of some type.
And our boy Jay Bruce had a signature game with us in attendance at the yard. Here’s his 8th home run of the season – this cost us a round of beers after we had just bought a round. This is the happiest I’ve ever been to buy back to back rounds of cold ones.
One of our favorite players around the league, The Dread Pirate is finding his way once again.
We were actually watching this game live (illegally – MLB blackout restrictions can’t keep us down) when McCutchen went boom off the last arm in the Brewers bullpen, poor Mike Fiers. Pirates win 4-3 in a thriller. And the Pirates are hanging tough at 22-17. They’re not going to the playoffs or anything. But it would be good for baseball if the Buccos were able to finally crack that .500 egg after all these years.
We’ve got a suspicion this is going to be the year.
My friend asks me on Google Talk today where I was valuing Andrew McCucthen. Now, walk off home runs aren’t a category in any fantasy league I know, but if they were, you’d be happy with Cutch tonight. This was your basic late inning relief no out walk off home run. On a 2-2 count, Cutch took Fiers over the right center field wall.
No need to even tally this one up. We can just look in on the post game celebration. The Pirates are hanging in there so far. Can they keep it up, or will they suffer a similar late season collapse.
Lets face it, the Pittsburgh Pirates being relevant again would be good for baseball. Other moribund teams have enjoyed short revival runs that energized their fan base and became the league’s big story for that given year. The Pirates haven’t finished a season over .500 since the first President Bush was in office. I still believed in Santa Claus.
But not all is lost. The Pirates have one of baseball’s top five players at the center of their franchise in Andrew McCutchen. They have the only two Clint’s in baseball donning their threads (Hurdle, Barmes) and that counts for something. Expectations are so low in the Steel City that if the Pirates can just win more games then they lose, it will become a league-wide story.
For a team that failed to get it done last season, they’re dressing a lot of the same guys up in the same part in the play this year.
Major Off-Season Moves:
Signed Russell Martin to a 2-year, $17 million dollar contract
Signed Francisco Liriano
Traded for Vin Mazzaro
Traded for Jerry Sands
Traded for Travis Snider
Seems like a little bit of shuffling deck furniture on the Titanic doesn’t it? Don’t feel that way, Bucco-faithful. The Pirates have shored up some key areas just a bit. If a few guys can realize their potential and others return to their old form, the Pirates are going to treat you to a fun season.
This evening on The Baseball Show podcast, I was joined as always by co-hosts Mike Rosembaum (Bleacher Report Prospect Pipline, Golden Sombrero) and M.J. Lloyd (Halo Hangout, Off-Base Percentage).
Topics of discussion included:
-The Hall of Fame voting
-Which teams that have never had a Hall of Famer will next get the opportunity to have one?
-Baseball’s new mandatory HGH testing policy
-Justin Upton’s rejected trade to the Seattle Mariners, and why would the Diamondbacks try this hard to trade him?
-MLB ’13 The Show Cover Campaign Talk
-Zips Projections for the Angels, Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton