Notes from Game 1

April 1, 2008

Exciting game last night. A few things worth noting:

– Doumit did not look very sharp behind the plate. The bat more than made up for it, but there was a ball in the 2nd i believe that he did a poor job blocking and let a guy get to 2nd, and another in the 9th that he inexplicably tried to backhand. Also, a couple of the close-ups showed he wasn’t doing a very good job framing the ball. I actually saw the glove go the wrong way on one pitch.

– Capps and Marte control..non-existant. Hopefully not a sign of things to come.

– Yates has a nasty looking fastball. Topped at 97 with some good looking sink. Control was an issue, as was expected, but when he hits spots, I’d have to believe he can be pretty dominant.

– Jason Bay..this could be a long year.

– McLouth swung the bat well. Couldn’t tell for sure, but his jumps on a couple of balls, namely the sliding catch in the ninth and a ball he had to go back on early in the game, looked a little slow. He gets a pass for not catching the ball that Bay missed in the 9th, because let’s be honest, everybody besides Bay just assumed he’d caught the ball. It looked like Bay even thought he was going to catch it until it hit the ground.

– The Pirates looked like a very sound fundamental club, minus a few small details (such as pop-ups to left field, but I’m ready to call that a fluke). I was happy with how Russell managed the game. After thinking about it, I like the sac-bunt that McLouth laid down with no outs and Morgan on 2nd (6th or 7th inning I think, can’t remember off the top of my head). Getting Morgan on third with Steady Freddy at the plate is a good move, as Freddy’s a high-contact-rate guy, and all he needs is a ball in play to drive him in. Unfortunately, Sanchez lined the ball right into the drawn in infield, but it was a wise call on Russell’s part none-the-less. Sanchez gets the RBI more often than not in those situations.

– The infield defense was very, very good. You’ve all seen the Jack Wilson web-gem double play I’m sure, but the play that saved the game might have been made by Jose Bautista. With SS Yunel Escobar at first and one out in the 5th inning, Chipper Jones hit a smash down the line. Bautista had to range way, way to his right to get to the ball, preventing a sure double, possible triple. He didn’t get an out from the stop, but plays like that are major damage controllers. Next play, Mark Teixeira grounds into a double-play, and the score stays 4-2 Braves, rather than at least 5-2 and possible worse. Those are the kind of plays that separate average teams from good teams, and good teams from championships contenders.

– Finally, Xavier Nady. Two home runs, both of righties. That man knows how to become a trade target. Now give us what we want Omar.

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Bucco Meetings Update

December 6, 2007

• Talks between the Buccos and the Indians have supposedly been on and off all week long, and though it was rumored the two teams were close to a five player swap that would send Jason Bay and Ronny Paulino to the Tribe in exchange for Cliff Lee, Kelly Shoppach, and Franklin Gutierrez, the deal was never made and talks appear to have died down, if they ever began at all.

To be honest, it’s a deal that I think has some serious potential, although I don’t see it happening until the season has begun. I have faith that Bay can bounce back strong next season, since I firmly believe that injuries were the main deterrent to his ’07 campaign. For that reason, it’s probably best for the Pirates to hold on to Bay into the start of the season, in hopes that the Tribe will offer a little bit more. Either Jeremy Sowers or Fernando Cabrera, both young pitchers with plenty of potential, could be good fits if Bay bounces back strong.

That said, Gutierrez is a guy I like a lot. He showed some improved power in ’07, belting 13 home runs in just 271 at bats, and his OPS increased for the third straight season.

Also, Shoppach could be a good fit, as he brings a stronger defensive presence behind the plate. His offensive numbers took a considerable jump from his sophomore year, and although I think Paulino can learn a lot from new manager John Russell, I wouldn’t complain about seeing Shoppach behind the dish for the Bucs next year, especially if Paulino continues to struggle early on in the season.

• The Pirates filled a hole when they signed utility man Chris Gomez to a one-year deal. Gomez is a perfect fit for the Buccos, as he can play good defense at 2nd or 3rd, and can fill in very effectively as a pinch-hitter. Though he sports just a .261 average for his career, Gomez is hitting an impressive .293 over the past 4 seasons, with an OBP right around .350. If Freddy Sanchez or Jose Bautista go down with injuries early in the season, don’t be surprised to see Gomez step in and make the Pirates think twice about rushing either of the current starters back into action.

• CF Nate McLouth has been garnering a lot of team’s attention, including the Cubs, Padres, Phillies, Giants, Marlins and Braves. With so many teams interested, it would be a very good idea for GM Neal Huntington to listen carefully to any offers, as McLouth is certainly expendable to a Pirates club stocked with outfield potential.

• Other rumors that I’ve come across include a potential Damaso Marte and/or John Grabow to the Yankees deal. One report I saw even had Ian Snell and Ian Hughes somehow mixed into the deal, but I highly doubt that there is anything behind those rumors.