By Stephen Zielinski
Every so often Iíll write a few pertinent ó or useless ó comments for the Front Page. It keeps me out of trouble. The first installment:
My expectations for the season were low
Yet, the play of the team so far has made me look like a bug-eyed, knuckle-dragging optimist. To be sure, Perez and Wells will improve as will the hitting. They have the talent. So do some of the position players. Still, itís not as though we can expect Fogg, Redman and Williams to pitch like Cy Young candidates for the whole season, as they did during their first start. Even with their great work, the Pirates still are 2-5! And, the hitting wonít improve that much that we should reasonably expect this team to win more than 75 games this season. To get to this mark of excellence, the Pirates will need to win about .471 rate for the rest of the year. McClendonís crew are already in the hole.
The 2004 Forbes report
Gee, Pirate owners are doing well financially. And, glory be, they are getting a lot of value out of their players. Of course, thatís because the playerís payroll is so low!
See: Forbes 2004 Pirate Report
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Should McClendon be fired?
Is McClendon a good manager?
Is it McClendonís fault?
This season could turn into Littlefieldís Waterloo, though!
I agree with Richard M.ís assertion that it will take Perez a few more starts before he finds his pitching groove. Perez is all arms and legs. Given his first two starts, I do wonder if he was given a workout regime for the past off season. I suspect that throwing in a controlled manner would have been better for him than not throwing at all.
What he can do while waiting for his A+ stuff and command to show up is devote himself to learning how to pitch without these capacities. It helps when a pitcher can win ó that is, put his team in a position to win ó when lacking his best stuff.
Kip hasnít faired too well (crummy pun intended) so far this season. The Brewers have slaughtered him twice already. Since Iíve not seen him pitch, itís hard to say what the problem is besides what his high pitch counts and the walks heís issued tell us. He should be OK if heís not injured.
Lawton and McLouth
So far so good. While watching Lawton I wonder if Iím also watching the kind of player Nate McLouth will be when he makes it to the majors.
Of course, leave it to the very dense fellows in the Pirates front office to think up and then give McLouth the task of increasing his home run totals. Not only does this demand tell McLouth his game is lacking in some way ó itís not ó it also disturbs the basis of what has made him successful in the past. Instead of building on past success, the Pirates try to undermine it! Whatís up with that?
If the Pirates want to have power hitting prospects in the high minors, the best way to accomplish that goal is to have drafted them a few years ago. But, they didnít.
Sanchez and Hill
Is McClendon looking for ways to get these two into the lineup? If not, why not? Why has Mackowiak been given the second base job? After all, Mackowiak plays more than enough for someone who canít hit well. Worse still, heís picked up where he finished last season:
See: Mackowiak chart for 2004
It looks like Mackowiak tried to compensate for his late in the season hitting drought by taking pitches and drawing walks, as Wilbur Miller argued at the time. He walked at a respectable 10.2 and 15.0% of his plate appearances in August and September. Yet, his OPS for those two months were a crummy .665 and .597, which were far below the average for any position Mackowiak might have played during those months. Save for his initial leap to respectability after the All Star Break, Mackowiak failed to hit in the later months of the 2004 season. He mostly killed the Pirates once his May heroics went into the books.
So, when Castillo ó another hacker ó went down with an injury, Mac and Littlefield sent Mackowiak in as his replacement! Those two are clueless. Just clueless.
Sanchez/Hill Update: 4.11.2005
It looks like McClendon is making an effort to get these guys into the game. I guess averaging 2.5 RPG through the first seven games has impressed upon McClendon that the Pirates need hitters on the field!
Reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated! He hit the ball with authority during the Padres-Pirates series even though he didnít wind up with much to show for it. Heíll do fine this year. Heís aging nicely.