Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pirates vs. Giants Preview (Series Eight)

Holy crap a series win at home! Paul Maholm throwing great and the bats at least showing up! A very good series for the 5,000 fans that were in attendance. If the Pirates can win another one maybe it will get the fans to the ballpark after the Pirates really crapped the bed in their first homestand. The Pirates record is currently 10-12, not much worse than the Giants record of 10-11.

The Pirates ended up 2-4 last season against the Giants with a run differential of -11. Matt Cain pitched in the Giants first loss, with Evan Meek picking up both the win and the blown save. Paul Maholm picked up the win in the second game, outpitching Todd Wellemeyer. Oddly enough Paul Maholm was the starter in the Pirates only two wins.

The Giants probable pitchers are Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and RYAN VOGELSONG. It’s uncertain whether Vogelsong or Lincecum will go for the Giants, but I’ve heard Vogelsong, and quite frankly I’m hoping for it. Since the Giants don’t update their probable pitchers I’m just going with what I’ve heard.

The Pirates really lucked out with their pitching match-ups against the defending champions. Cain is a stud, but Bumgarner is struggling big time, and Vogelsong just stinks.

Matt Cain (26) RHP

It always surprises me to think of just how young this rotation is. Matt Cain is just one of those guys who seems like he’s been around forever. Obviously that’s due to the fact that his first Major League action came six years ago at the age of 20. Cain had a very nice season last year. He had 13 wins, and despite his 11 losses he had a solid 3.14 ERA. He struck out a pretty good amount of guys (7.1 SO/9) and that number was consistent with his career numbers (7.4) and he really kept the walks down (2.5 BB/9). That led to a fantastic WHIP of just 1.084.

So far this season his numbers have been pretty consistent, until his last start. His first three starts went 6, 7, and 6 innings. He gave up a total of three earned over that span, and fourteen hits. His last starts however was pretty bad. He threw 100 pitches to get through just 4.2 innings, giving up more runs in that game than his first three combined (6). His nine hits equalled the total of the previous two game combined and he gave up one homer, something he did once in his first three games. He did get his strikeouts this time out though, putting down six batters.

Cain had a quality start in his only game against the Pirates last season. He earned a no decision at home, going six and giving up three with a pretty ho hum performance. He allowed five hits, and walked two while only striking out three.

He has had some tough luck facing the Pirates. The ERA is good overall (3.72) and at PNC (3.98) but his record is just 1-2 in seven starts. Oddly enough all of his decisions came at during his three starts in PNC. He is giving up a pretty high H/9 of just under 9 by his standards, but at the same time he has struck out 20 Buccos in his 20 PNC innings. He has 20 strikeouts in 20.1 innings at PNC Park and only 11 strikeouts in 25 innings at AT&T, his home ballpark.

Madison Bumgarner (21) LHP

Well well the Pirates get to face the apparently rare left handed starting pitcher. Bumgarner is coming off a very good rookie season in which he went 7-6 with a 3.00 ERA in 18 starts. Bumgarner gave up his fair share of hits, but walked just about no one so the WHIP stayed a bit lower than most guys who give up a lot of hits. He also struck out a good number of batters. He was good enough to make the postseason roster for the Giants and won the clinching game of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves. He was also used in the bullpen during the playoffs in a game against the Phillies in which he pitched two scoreless innings in the clinching game of the NLCS. During his lone world series start he pitched and eight inning gem. Shutting out the Rangers on just three hits. His ended the postseason with a 2-0 record, and an ERA of 2.18.

This year has been a horse of a different color though. Bumgarner has struggled big time. He has yet to collect a win this season and even worse has three losses in just four starts. He has been giving up hits galore, and walking guys at a very alarming rate. He only has 17.1 innings over four starts and has gone only 6+ innings once, a 6.2 inning effort in which he gave up four runs on eight hits en route to his only no decision of the season, a 6-5 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The former first rounder has never faced the Pirates, therefore he has never pitched at PNC Park. The only two Pirates batters he has faced are Chris Snyder (.000/.667/.000) and Matt Diaz (.333/.333/.333), so he will not be included in the chart below.

Ryan Vogelsong (33) RHP

The last time Pirates fans saw Mr. Vogelsong he was pitching in relief, badly, for the Buccos. Vogelsong hasn’t pitched in the majors until this season. His last stint with the Pirates ended in 2006 and he spent 2007 - 2010 in Japan playing for the Hanshin Tigers. In 2010 the Phillies and Angels both signed him to minor league deals but he was pretty unimpressive in their respective Triple A organizations in both a relief and starting role.

Most will remember that Vogelsong was actually acquired by the Pirates from the San Francisco Giants. The trade sent Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal to the Giants for Vogelsong and Armando Rios. While the trade was pretty bad, really pretty hideous, and Schmidt went on to have the best career out of the bunch I don’t think it was the worst trade this team has made, maybe not even Top Ten. Still it was another in a long line of bad trades the Pirates engineered when they should have been getting good returns on good pitchers. After the trade Vogelsong nearly immediately went on the DL after Tommy John Surgery and it’s really unclear if he was ever the same because he just never showed he was that good. This year the Giants signed him to a minor league deal with a Spring invite and he failed to break camp with the team. An injury to Barry Zito led to the Giants purchasing his contract, though he has only relieved up until this point.

Vogelsong comes into this game with a career record of just 10-22 over 33 starts. He has 122 big league appearances so his days as a starter were pretty limited. There is nothing really great about his career. His ERA is 5.77, he gives up over a hit and inning, gives up about a homer per 9 and his SO/BB is just 1.42. He has basically been worse than a journeyman he has been terrible. The Pirates usually makes these guys look great. He has yet to give up a run in his two appearances but his inning total is just 4.2 innings so lets chalk that up to sample size.

The Kutztown University Alum has never faced the Pirates although his career numbers at PNC, like most ballparks, are terrible. 5-12 in 52 appearances (18 starts) with a 6.27 ERA. He has given up 172 hits in just 149.1 innings. Only Lyle Overbay (.125/.273/.125), Ronny Cedeno (.000/.500/.000), and Chris Snyder (.500/.500/.500) have faced him, so he won’t be included in the chart either.


vs. Cain

vs. Giants

Pedro Alvarez



John Bowker



Ronny Cedeno



Matt Diaz



Ryan Doumit



Garrett Jones



Andrew McCutchen



Lyle Overbay



Steve Pearce



Brandon Wood



Chris Snyder



Jose Tabata



Neil Walker



The Pirates probable pitchers are Charlie Morton, James McDonald, and Jeff Karstens.

Charlie Morton (27) RHP

Well we knew it was going to eventually happen, and it did. Charlie Morton had his first bad start last time out against the Marlins. Some shaky defense, the arch-enemy of the extreme sinker-ball pitcher, and next thing you know four runs score on five hits. All with two outs. Morton gave up six runs overall, but there were some positives. He did throw his breaking stuff more instead of relying solely on the sinker, and his strikeout numbers (6) seem to show this. He still walked three, which is a pretty high number, but actually his second lowest of the four starts. His SO/BB of 2.00 last game was easily his best, but he gave up ten hits in just five innings.

If anything this is a great test to see if he has matured like many believe. A perfect situation to show us if he can deal with adversity, or if he’ll fold.

He’ll attempt to do it against a team that hit him pretty well in one start last season the Giants. San Fran hit him at a .333/.333/.792 slash line, scoring six runs in six innings on eight hits. Three of those eight hits left the yard.

Lifetime his numbers pretty quickly towards respectability. When 25% of your starts are that bad it kind of throws in a stick in the spokes in relation to the overall numbers with only four starts. Still to get down to a 3.96 ERA is pretty good. He is giving up just a shade under a hit an inning, and has allowed less runs in his other three games combined then his one bad game last season (5). Of the five homers he has allowed, three of them came in one game, and while he only struck out three in his terrible game he has a combined 17 in his other three, a rate almost triple that of his last outing. So there has been some success against the Giants.

James McDonald (26) RHP

If it’s me this start is make or break for James McDonald. You can not be somewhat in contention and just keep trotting him out there to get bombed. He is absolutely killing this rotation and the Pirates can’t afford to just keep dropping games in the hopes that McDonald will figure things out.

McDonald has not gotten any better as the season has worn on. His ERA escalated like this, 3.86, 5.56, 7.47, and finally his current 10.12. His innings pitched have gone from 6.2 to 4.1 finally to 3.0 in his last outing. Guys are just hitting his gopher balls everywhere, giving up two homers in each of his last two starts and a total of 25 hits in just 18.2 innings. McDonald is averaging 5.1 BF per inning. Way too many guys, and he is killing any rhythm the offense might achieve by being out there so long.

McDonald got beat up last year in his one start against the Giants, lasting 5.0 but giving up four runs on nine (!) hits including a homer. That was his only career start against the Giants, despite eight appearances. His career numbers are solid, but they come almost exclusively as a reliever. Still he has given up over a hit an inning taking out that bad start and in his nine innings of relief has allowed two earned runs and no homers.

Jeff Karstens (28) RHP

Jeff Karstens got things back on track last week, picking up his second win of the season, and first as a starter. Karstens, pitching on regular rest, was able to pitch a solid six innings. That’s basically all you can ask of Karstens. He gave up just two runs in his last start but gave up yet another homer. This is a problem with Karstens as he is a pretty heavy fly ball guy. He gave up six hits in his six innings and half of them were for extra bases, but the Nationals weren’t able to really make him pay for that. Still a pretty solid outing, and you can’t ask for a heck of a lot more from him given his role and history.

Karstens has only faced the Giants twice, and not at all last year. He has one start and an 0-1 record. His ERA of 9.00 isn’t very promising, but the sample size is certainly an issue. Tough to make a judgement on just 5.0 innings. His relief appearance was fine, two perfect innings in 2009, it was a 3.0 inning start in 2008 that killed him. Giving up eight runs (five earned) on six hits in just three innings will swing a small sample size extreme pretty easily.

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