Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pirates vs. Cardinals Preview (Series Two)

The Pirates continue their ten game stretch with another road game against a division opponent. This time they play a team who they had little success against in the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals were second only to the Brewers in terms of runs scored against the Pirates, but oddly enough were tied with the Reds for second most wins by the Pirates against any opponent (division or non-division). In terms of winning percentage Pittsburgh’s .400 against the Cards was their second best in terms of division play.

The Cardinals were dealt a huge blow when All World SP Adam Wainwright went down with an injury that will require Tommy John Surgery. The Pirates may have been in line to face Wainwright in the last game of this series, but instead will probably face Carpenter, who seems to be doing just fine after nursing a hamstring in Spring Training.

St. Louis will also be without slugger Matt Holiday who had to receive an appendectomy last week. That’s good news for the Buccos as Holiday hit .375/.434/.688, his OPS 1.121 was tops amongst teams he logged 35+ PA. He had 18 hits against the Pirates, nine of which went for extra bases (3 homers, 6 doubles).

His career numbers are a little more tame. Although 14 homers and a .946 OPS isn’t exactly what I’d call “tame”. Regardless that’s a pretty big hole, and a ton of production that the Cardinals won’t have. The Buccos need to take advantage of it.

If the Pirates are going to make progress this first ten game stretch is huge. They struggled most on the road and against division opponents, they great opportunity to work on both problems with six out of their first ten on the road. Even further the Pirates play 28 games in the month of August, including 15 games on the road. If Clint Hurdle is going to inspire this team the first month’s schedule should give him ample ammunition. These are the sort of things that can be used to bring a team together, these guys will spend half a month on the road together fresh out of Spring Training. Hopefully they come together.

After taking two of three from the Cubs, the Pirates need just one win to play .500 this series. You want more than that but it’s definitely a start.

St. Louis Cardinals probable pitchers are Kyle Lohse, Kyle McClellan, and Chris Carpenter.

Kyle Lohse (32), RHP

Kyle Lohse kick things off for the Cardinals in this divisional matchup. One of four righties in the rotation, Lohse, struggled with injuries for the second year in a row. He limped to a 4-8 record in just 18 games, split evenly by his DL stint to take care of a forearm injury. Before his DL stint, which started after his last start on May 22, he was 1-4 with a 5.89 ERA while giving up 63 hits in 47.1 innings. After he came off the DL on August 15th he was even worse. While he got two more decisions (3-4), his ERA ballooned to 7.25 over his last nine games giving up 66 hits in just 44.2 innings, and allowing 7 homers in those nine games. He did have a very solid Spring so the Cardinals are optimistic he is returning to his true(r) form.

The story was the same against the Pirates last season. In his three starts, all of which came after his DL stint, he lasted 6 innings just once and gave up a homer in every game. He did go 1-1 against the Pirates despite his 7.53 ERA, and the fact that Pirates hit .371 off of him.

His career numbers tell a much different story though. Even including those three starts his career ERA against the Pirates is a solid 3.51 and he is 5-1 in 10 appearances. Still the Pirates have produced some hits, one an inning, so depending on which Lohse the Pirates get this could really go either way.

Kyle McClellan (26), RHP

One of the Cardinals young arms, McClellan hasn’t had a start since he had one in 2007 at the A+ level. McCellan beat out old friend Ian Snell for the number five spot after Wainwright was lost for the season after a very solid Spring in which he only allowed two runs in 23 innings. His performance last year guaranteed him a spot in the rotation. McClellan led the staff in ERA, appearances, and H.9 while also leading the bullpen in innings pitched, batters faced, and strike outs. The only problem he had last season was the longball. His 1.1 HR/9 was second only the Blake Farnsworth who split time between the bullpen and starting.

McClellan absolutely dominated the Pirates in his six appearances last season striking out five in six innings, while walking two and giving up zero hits.

His career numbers tell a pretty similar story. He has 20 appearances against the Pirates and has a 1-0 record with two saves. His 1.52 ERA is best amongst team he has appeared against at least 15 times and his 23.2 innings against the Pirates are tops against any major league team. Surprisingly some of his secondary numbers aren’t that good against the Pirates. He has 12 SO but 7 BB and his SO/9 is only 4.6 lowest amongst teams he’s seen 15+ times.

Chris Carpenter (36), RHP

And that brings us to the Ace v2.0. Three time All Star and former Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter. We all know the type of pitcher Carpenter can be, and last year was just another example. Carpenter posted a solid 3.22 ERA en route to a 16 win season, second only to Wainwright. Carpenter doesn’t seem to be slowing with age either, he led the Cardinals in starts last season and was second in strike outs.

His first outing this season was brilliant. A seven inning gem against the Padres in which he gave up two earned runs in seven full innings in 98 pitches. He gave up just two hits, both doubles, and struck out four. The Padres would go on to win the game in extra innings 5-3 after Ryan Franklin blew the save with two outs.

The Pirates only saw Carpenter twice, mercifully, in which they lost both games. One game saw Carpenter pitch seven strong, the next eight innings. Though Carpenter did not get the decision in either game his combined line looks like this 15 IP, 13 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 HR, 3 BB, 14 SO.

Carpenter has feasted on the Buccos, he has 11 wins in 15 appearances (second only to Cincinnati at 12 wins). His .917 win% against the Bucs is second amongst team he has faced ten times or more, and his 2.12 ERA is second amongst team he has started ten or more games against. In 110.1 IP against the Pirates his WHIP is an absurd .934, and the fact that he has only allowed five homers to the Pirates over all those innings is mind-blowing. The Pirates slash line against Carpenter? .202/.251/.277! That’s right the Pirates OPS against Carpenter is a paltry .527.


vs. Lohse

vs. McClellan

vs. Carpenter

vs. Cardinals

Pedro Alvarez





John Bowker





Ronny Cedeno





Matt Diaz





Ryan Doumit





Jason Jaramillo





Andrew McCutchen





Lyle Overbay





Steve Pearce





Josh Rodriguez





Chris Snyder





Jose Tabata





Neil Walker





The Pirates probable starters are Charlie Morton, James McDonald, and Kevin Correia.

Charlie Morton (27), RHP

Charlie Morton looks to turn things around after one of the more historically awful beginnings on record. Morton had a solid Spring in which he used his sinker a lot more, and it was extremely effective. He was able to post a grand 2.63 ERA but more importantly he struck out twice as many batter’s as he walked and gave up only 15 hits in 24 innings.

Considering his overall line last season Morton wasn’t too terrible against the Cardinals. He had two starts against them and posted a 4.50 ERA en route to a 1-0 record. In fact his two wins both came against division opponents, the other being the Cubs. He averaged 6 innings a start, while giving up 6 runs total. He only walked one batter, and struck out nine. He still gave up too many hits, 14 in 12 innings, but only one homer.

Oddly his career stats paint a different picture against the Cardinals. In five starts he is averaging just a little over 4 IP per game, and giving up 19 ER over 22 innings, good for a 7.77 lifetime ERA. He has walked a ton of batters over his career against the Cardinals and that takes his SO/BB down to a paltry 1.17. The really odd thing is that in his worst season on record he picked up the only win against this team in his 1-3 record against them.

James McDonald (26), RHP

James McDonald came over in the robbery that was the Octavio Dotel trade, in which the Pirates also received OF/1B prospect Andrew Lambo. He didn’t get much of a chance with the Dodgers last season, only one start and three appearances out of the pen, but he struggled in them. After the trade he did nothing if not impress instantly. In his first game he pitched six innings of shutout ball while mowing down eight Rockies in the Pirates 5-1 win. He also proceeded to go 7 and 8 shutout innings on 11/7-11/13 respectively, ending up with 20 shutout innings, the first Pirates pitcher to accomplish the feat since Zach Duke’s magical rookie season in 2005.

He also only had one start against the Cardinals last season, but it was a good one. Giving up just one run in six innings of work while fanning seven and walking just one.

JMac has four other appearances against the Cards and he has only given up two runs in them over the course of 4.1 innings. His ERA is great at 2.61 and his SO/9 is a solid 7.0.

Kevin Correia (30), RHP

The “Elder Statesman” of the rotation, the “Ace”, Kevin Correia comes off a very solid start, in much less than ideal conditions against the Cubs to take on the Cardinals for his first time as a Bucco. Last time out against the Cubs he put up the teams first quality start of the season, and got their first win. His 6 innings included a lot of very curious defense and one of the three runs given up in his time was unearned. He certainly didn’t dazzle, and the defense certainly didn’t help him out but he kept the ball on the ground and was fundamentally strong.

Correia did face the Cardinals twice last year, once as a starter and once out of the pen, and he somehow gave up zero runs while coming up with a Zach Dukian 1.696 WHIP. In 7.2 IP he allowed six hits and seven BB, not to mention one intentional walk. He did manage to strike out six batters but you never want to see your pitchers walking more guys than they strike out.

Correia is fairly familiar with the Red Birds having seen them eleven times in his career. In that span he is 1-2 with a 3.34 ERA with four starts and seven appearances in relief. The hits is concerning (38 in 35 innings), but he has managed to strike out 20 guys compared to 15 walks, still a poor number but better than walking more than you K.

No comments: