Game 28: Pirates (12-15) @ Rockies (17-8)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

One month of the 2011 baseball season is in the books, and I would be curious to hear your assessment of the first 27 games. A few things stand out to me, thus far…

  • I can’t say I necessarily expected the pitching to be carrying the offense. Coming into the year, the Pirates appeared to have a competitive lineup (particularly spots 1-6), but to this point that lineup has produced a .230 batting average and plated just 91 runs (ranking 15th of 16 NL teams). The pitching, on the other hand, is much improved over last year.
  • The degree of success of the Pirates’ bullpen has been a bit surprising, too. Joel Hanrahan has thrived in the closer’s role, though that wasn’t all that unexpected. Evan Meek didn’t have the month most thought he would as the primary set-up man, but the rest of the ‘pen has been terrific. The club finished the month with the lowest bullpen ERA (2.19) in the Majors.
  • Who thought Pedro Alvarez’s defense would be more impressive than his offense to this point? Yes, Alvarez has made some errors. But he’s also made some stellar defensive plays. And there has been much more of the latter than the former. However, at the plate, it has been a struggle since day one. Alvarez has just one homer, and he hit .200 in the month with 31 strikeouts in 90 at-bats. He has driven in seven, though two of those runs scored on an infield hit in the season’s opening weekend.
  • Strikeouts, in general, have really plagued this team. Four players — Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Jose Tabata — already have at least 23 apiece. Only the Padres have struck out more than the Pirates.
  • I thought this could be a breakout year for McCutchen, and it still can be. But to this point, the center fielder has produced well below his career numbers. The last two games have been a step in the right direction, but the dynamic outfielder has just not been consistent. And that’s particularly unusual for him.
  • On a positive note, the starts from Charlie Morton and Kevin Correia have been especially encouraging. Correia came into the year intent on proving he was better than he pitched in 2010. For Morton, this is a year of both renaissance and redemption. The Pirates couldn’t have asked much more of either starter in April.

As the team prepares for a fresh month, here are some news and notes before the Pirates’ series finale against the Rockies:

  • Jose Tabata (tightness in right hamstring) is, as expected, not in the lineup. He said that manager Clint Hurdle told him he will also sit out on Monday. That said, Tabata said he is feeling about 95 percent. He was riding a stationary bike for a while this morning and was walking without any apparent issue.
  • Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf is slated to throw live batting practice on Tuesday. He expects to throw another BP session after that and will then head out on a Minor League rehab assignment.
  • So far, the Pirates have been avoiding the lengthy losing streaks that have been an issue in recent years. But they’re also not enjoying any winning streaks either. The Pirates have not won consecutive games since April 17-19 in Cincinnati. They lost the next three games and then have alternated wins and losses ever since.
  • So how did April 2011 compare to April 2010? The Pirates just finished a 12-15 April. Last year’s club went 10-13 in the first month of the season. The club’s longest winning streak in April was two games; that happened twice.
  • If the Pirates can win on Sunday, the club will notch its fourth road series win of the season. That would match last year’s total.
  • The Rockies have held the Pirates to a .197 batting average in six games so far this year.
  • Outfielder Alex Presley was named Triple-A Indianapolis’ Player of the Month for April. Presley finished the month 30-for-90 with 13 runs scored, five stolen bases and eight extra-base hits. He reached base safely in 20 of the 24 games he played.
  • Xavier Paul is making his third start of the season, though it’s his first since joining the Pirates.

Lineups:

PIRATES: A. McCutchen (CF), X. Paul (LF), G. Jones (RF), N. Walker (2B), L. Overbay (1B), R. Doumit (C), P. Alvarez (3B), R. Cedeno (SS), C. Morton (RHP)

ROCKIES: D. Fowler (CF), A. Amezaga (2B), T. Helton (1B), T. Tulowitzki (SS), C. Gonzalez (LF), S. Smith (RF), J. Lopez (3B), C. Iannetta (C), U. Jimenez (RHP)

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

4 Comments

I was at PNC on the Sunday where they lost to Denver after coming back against them. I was impressed by how McDonald settled down after that disastrous 40-pitch, 4-run first. I think we’re going to see much better from McDonald as the season moves along.

I would assume that X Paul will get the start again tonight and if he performs as well as he did yesterday – I would like to see him inserted in the outfield and put G Jones at 1st base. Overbay has been one of the biggest disappointments both offensively and defensely that the Pirates have had.

Overbay has been disappointing defensively. He was brought in for his defense. Offensively I only expected somewhere around .250 with about 15 home runs. He’s below that pace, but I’m not all that surprised by it. I wanted Pearce to get more time at first (particularly against lefties) at the start of the season. At this point, I’d go almost to a pure platoon. Pearce is doing well when given a chance. He could be this year’s Walker, a guy they wanted to make a super sub but stuck as a starter when given the opportunity. I agree Jones needs playing time with the roll he’s on, but he’s not strong defensively at first and I think management is hesitant about putting him there frequently.

The offense has been disappointing while the pitching has overachieved. My biggest questions are can the starting pitching hold up and will Pedro Alvarez start hitting. I think most people, including myself, believe McCutchen will come around. Tabata and Walker are solid. Behind those 3 they need some big power bats. Garrett Jones seems to have regained his form which is huge for the Pirates, but the team needs Pedro to be a force in the lineup if they are going to be a good run scoring team. He has had trouble getting settled in new places, so my heart is telling me once he finds his footing this year, he’ll have a nice season. My head is so sure. With the pitching, Corriea is starting to make a believer out of me and I remain a McDonald fan. Morton has improved, but he’s still walking a lot of batters and that is going to cost him. The rotation still looks weak to me, but right now it’s helping to carry the team. Here’s hoping the pitchers can keep it going.

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