August 25-27 vs. Houston Astros

There were fireworks this weekend.  Explosions from rooftops, barges in the river, and the Astros lineup.  The Bucs were trounced in the last three games of the Thursday through Sunday series, dropping the contests by a combined score of 25-6.

Sunday’s 13-1 disaster was particularly disappointing–it made the Skyblast displays look like shows from a county fair.  Consider beat writer Ed Eagle’s lead:

"Shawn Chacon’s victorious Aug. 3 debut as a Pirates starter seems a distant memory now, as the righty is now 0-2 with a 10.63 ERA in his last three starts. On Sunday, he gave up seven runs on six hits and two walks to the Astros in 4 1/3 innings."

Apparently trying to top Chacon, Britt Reames, our 33-year-old mop-up man, gave up five runs on five hits in a hair under two innings of work.  Only John Grabow was able to contribute a respectable pitching line, tossing three innings of three hit, one run ball.

Meanwhile, the Bucs made Houston rookie Jason Hirsch look like Cy Young, knocking only five hits in the newbie’s seven innings.  By allowing one earned run, Hirsch’s ERA dropped to a miniscule 8.53.  Maybe Hirsch finally figured out the bigs after three terrible starts, or maybe our Pirates just rolled over.  In any case, at 50-81, the Bucs now need to run the table to avoid a 14th consecutive losing season.  They’ll need to go at least 13-18 to avoid losing you-know-how-many games.

To get back to talk of 2007, the Bucs allegedly are talking about a long-term deal with Freddy Sanchez even though he’s arbitration eligible this year and they hold his rights for the next few seasons.  Good move.  I always like seeing stars locked up early.  Also, Xavier Nady is adding his name to the Bay-Sanchez-Paulino list of core players for the future, as he’s hitting .345 with 12 RBI in his 24 games in black and gold since the Oliver Perez trade.  It’s not an adequate sample size to say anything for certain, but it’s looking like Nady enjoys being a bigger fish in smaller pond.

Moving on to more pressing matters, take a look at these offseason position "battles," basically groupings of players that Littlefield will have to pick a pony from–a choose your own adventure of sorts.  I’m thinking that all of the current Pirates in each set won’t be with the Bucs in 2007.  If they are, we’re likely going to be on our way to a magical 15th losing season without dramatic increases in production from the players in question.  Current statistics are being used; fielding stats are position-specific.

  • The Infield
    • Jack Wilson (452 AB-.282-8-32, 17 E)
    • Jose Castillo (429 AB-.270-14-60, 14 E)
    • Jose Bautista (302 AB-.255-13-35, 4 E)
  • The Outfield
    • Chris Duffy (193 AB-.202-0-8, 13/13 SB, 0 E)
    • Nate McLouth (270 AB-.233-7-16, 10/11 SB, 2 E)
    • Jose Bautista (302 AB-.255-13-35, 2/6 SB, 2 E)
  • The Backup Catcher
    • Humberto Cota (94 AB-.181-0-4, 5 PB, 1.000 FPCT)
    • Ryan Doumit (63 AB-.190-2-8, 2 PB, .986 FPCT)

My personal personnel choices would involve keeping Castillo, Bautista, McLouth, and Doumit; trading Wilson and Duffy (among others); and letting go of Cota (again, among others).

Castillo would retain his starting job at 2B after many long heart-to-hearts with Maz or another suitable mentor.  Bautista would be the newest Jose to play utility-man, but more like a Rob Mackowiak than a Jose Hernandez–meaning about 400 at-bats.  McLouth would be the fourth outfielder, serving as the primary backup at CF and the first pinch-runner while splitting time with Bautista at the corner spots.  Doumit would definitely be the second backstop, and in no way, shape, or form would he platoon at catcher, 1B, or OF.  The occasional pop that McLouth and Doumit have both shown from the left side of the plate would serve the 2007 bench well.

Trading Jack Wilson would be an eye-opener that would displease fans and draw plenty criticism from message boards, analysts, bloggers, et al.  Giving up on Chris Duffy could also be looked at negatively.  As much as I like both guys, they could bring solid returns from general managers that realize how inept the Pirates are with respect to evaluating talent (like a gold-glove shortstop and a speedster).

That leaves me with this working 25-man roster, which as always is subject to change:

  • Starters:  C Paulino, 1B/RF Nady, 2B Castillo, 3B/SS Sanchez, LF Bay
  • Bench:  McLouth, Bautista, Doumit, Randa (IF), Boeve (OF)
  • Acquire:  LH 1B, SS, CF (13 bats)
  • Starting Pitchers:  Duke, Snell, Maholm, Gorzelanny
  • Relievers:  Gonzalez, Grabow, Capps, Sharpless, Bayliss, Torres
  • Acquire:  RH SP, LH RP (12 arms)

Yurendell de Caster and Rajai Davis could be shipped out or spend more time at AAA.  Adam Boeve could be groomed longer as well, leaving another bench spot open for either a cheap journeyman or a young kid with a good spring, or Jody Gerut, who’s kind of a mix of both.  Shawn Chacon, Victor Santos, Britt Reames, and Ryan Vogelsong don’t fit into my plans either.  Let ’em loose.

Capps, Sharpless, Bayliss, and/or Torres could be packaged with Brian Rogers, Jesse Chavez, and Juan Perez in trades.  As it is, we have an excess of relievers auditioning to fill only four or five available bullpen slots.  The names Gonzo and Grabow should be written in stone.  Capps likely will be our setup man, but I’d move him at the right price.  In any case, with relative ease DL should be able to both make sure that the bullpen is a coffin-closer and peddle some of his depth to meet other needs.

That’s enough for now.  The Cubs come to town for three starting Monday night at 7:05.  Ian Snell squares off Angel Guzman, who’s 0-3 in his rookie campaign.  Barring statistical aberration, we should have a chance to break out of the funk.

Oh, and by the way, welcome to Captain Jolly Roger.  Ahoy, matey.

It’s A New Pirates Generation, everybody shout "Let’s Go Bucs!"

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