Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pirates vs. Marlins Preview (Series Six)

It’s been 16 games so that’s roughly 10% of the season down. If you would have told me that the Pirates would have three starting pitchers with a sub-2.50 ERA, Jose Tabata would lead the team in homers, and the Buccos would be tied for most road wins in the league I would not have believed it.

The Buccos took three out of four from the Reds, having two pitchers (Morton and Correia) pitch complete games, but oddly give up ninth innings homers. With this series the Pirates are tied with every but the Astros for second, one game back from the Reds. The schedule stays very tough for the rest of the month, but theoretically should get a bit easier in May. If the Pirates get out of this month with a .500 record that has to be looked at as a big positive, regardless of what their record has been past years in April.

But no rest for the Buccos as they have to fly to Florida for yet another road series. Last year against the Marlins the Bucs were 2-6, but only a six run differential for the series. Nolasco and Johnson both got wins at PNC, while McDonald won the Pirates only home win against the Marlins, with Chan Ho Park picking up the win in Florida.

Tough draw for the Buccos as they get to face All-World Josh Johnson.

The Marlins probable pitchers are Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, and Chris Volstad.

Josh Johnson (27) RHP

Two time All-Star Josh Johnson will go first for the Marlins. Johnson is coming off his second consecutive All-Star appearance and a clear career year. Johnson’s W-L record doesn’t come close to telling the story. His eleven wins were third on the team but his ERA of 2.30 was second only to Felix Hernandez in all of MLB (first in the National League). Johnson placed fifth in NL Cy Young voting, due in large part to his low win totals, and a lack of innings pitched compared to the top four pitchers. This lack of innings was due to back pain. Johnson was the losing pitcher in Roy Halladay’s perfect game, a game in which the Marlins lost 1-0. Johnson was unreal when it came to keeping the ball in the park, giving up just seven homers in 183.2 innings.

As far as this year goes he is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA. He has gone 6+ innings in all three of his starts and his last start was a 7.1 inning shutout of Atlanta which saw them get one hit. He also struck out nine in that game. The only real “blemish” was that he threw 109 pitches to get through seven.

I previously mentioned that Johnson beat the Pirates last year, but what I omitted was that he dominated them, striking out six and walking none in eight innings. The Bucs were able to manage two runs, on two uncharacteristic solo homers against the Ace, but not much else, collecting seven hits on their way to a 3-2 loss.

He has only faced the Buccos one other time in his career, going seven innings and allowing two runs and just four hits to in Florida.

Ricky Nolasco (28) RHP

Ricky Nolasco is kind of odd to me. He has been in the league for six years, but every year it seems like everyone thinks he will really break out. That’s not to say he’s very bad, but when I think Ricky Nolasco I think a guy that could take that next step. As of now though he just hasn’t been very successful, outside of his 2008 season. Still he has posted 13+ wins in his last three seasons. Last year he won 14 games in just 26 starts with a mediocre 4.51 ERA. He gave up a lot of hits, and a large number of homers, but what he didn’t do was walk a lot. In fact one thing about Nolasco is that he consistently doesn’t put guys on for free.

He has been pretty good in his three starts this year. His only real hiccup was his last start against Houston in which he gave up five runs in five innings, including two homers. He has given up a homer or more in each game he’s pitched so far. His first two starts were great though, a combined 15.0 innings (seven and eight innings respectively), with two earned runs in each.

As for last year against the Pirates, we only saw him once. That was enough though. Nolasco picked up the win in his only appearance pitching six innings of shutout ball, while allowing just five hits and striking out nine.

The Pirates have seen a good bit of Nolasco, he has appeared in eight games and started six. He has a 3-3 record against the Buccos with a very solid ERA of 2.11. Even though he tends to give up the long ball the Pirates have never hit a homer off him and have struck out 38 times in 42.2 innings.

Chris Volstad (24) RHP

Chris Volstad will take the mound for the Marlins. This start was supposed to be Javier Vazquez, but due to the rain out of Saturday Volstad will go.

Volstad is a veteran at this point, at the ripe old age of 24. The righty came up in 2008 as a 21 year old and has started 75 games since. Volstad has had pretty mixed results, his first year being his best by far. In spite of his 4.58 ERA and his 1.70 SO/BB last year he was able to win 12 games. He doesn’t strike out a ton of batters and walks a decent amount. He also gives up over a hit an inning.

He has been bad this year though. His first start was a five inning 95 pitch affair in which he only gave up one run but allowed four hits and four walks to just one strikeout. Of his 95 pitches only 49 went for strikes. His second start was worse. He gave up five runs on eight hits and two walks in 82 pitches in 4.2 innings of work en route to earning the loss.

He wasn’t terribly impressive last season against the Pirates although he did get a win to match his one loss in his two starts. His loss came at PNC Park, a game which saw Volstad pitch five innings and give up both five hits and five runs, lasting just 62 pitches. His win on the other hand came in his last start of the season, which saw him give up two runs over six innings at Landshark Stadium.

His only other game against the Buccos came on July 3rd 2009. He only lasted three innings giving up four earned and an uncharacteristic two homers on his way to the loss.


vs. Johnson

vs. Nolasco

vs. Volstad

vs. Marlins

Pedro Alvarez





John Bowker





Ronny Cedeno





Matt Diaz





Ryan Doumit





Garrett Jones





Andrew McCutchen





Lyle Overbay





Steve Pearce





Josh Rodriguez





Chris Snyder





Jose Tabata





Neil Walker





The Pirates probable pitchers are Paul Maholm, Charlie Morton, and James McDonald.

Paul Maholm (28) LHP

Who would have thought going into this season that Paul Maholm would have a 2.33 ERA after three starts and have a record of 0-2? It’s been a pretty nice year for Maholm, thus far he has a career low in H/9 at 7.9, HR/9 at .5, BB/9 at 2.3, and WHIP at 1.138 (all excluding his six start year in 2005). He did have a bit of a hiccup in the early going his last time out, but really righted the ship and pitched a very strong seven innings of two run ball. In fact he only gave up four hits in a game that looked to be a disaster at first. His six strikeouts are his season high this year.

The Marlins hit Maholm well in his only appearance against them last year. Maholm would get the loss after giving up four runs in 5.2 innings on eight hits, including one homer at PNC Park. Those four runs would be enough for Florida as they went on to beat the Bucs 4-2.

Maholm is a lifetime 3-4 against the Marlins, getting a decision in every start. No non-division opponent has taken Maholm deep more than the Marlins (8). Not much difference between his home and road stats against the Marlins. Half his homers came in Florida, and so did nearly half his innings. Oddly even though his ERA is 4.34 and his record is 1-2 Marlins are only hitting him for a .194/.236/.373 line in Florida.

Charlie Morton (27) RHP

Charlie Morton continues his “electric start” against the Marlins. Morton has been on fire this season, his “electric stuff” translating into a 2-0 record with a grand ERA of just 1.64. Morton’s last outing was an absolute gem, as he went a complete game, losing the shutout on a solo shot in the ninth inning. It was also the first time this season he had more strikeouts than walks, a trend that he will need to continue if he is to have the success many of us know he can have. Some of his peripherals are pretty bad, but it’s early and a few good starts will bring them right in line.

Morton’s start against the Marlins last season was arguable one of his best starts of the year. Even though he got the loss he held the Marlins to two runs over six innings on just four hits. He only walked one batter and struck out a season high nine. In fact his nine strikeouts against the Marlins was more than any team not named the Cardinals. That includes teams that he has faced two and three times.

Even though he has faced the Marlins five times (2-2), this will be his first road start against them. He has a 4.00 ERA in his five starts, and has really kept their hitters in check. Marlins are batting to the tune of .170/.273/.330 against Morton lifetime, and Morton has allowed just 16 hits in his 27.0 innings.

James McDonald (26) RHP

James McDonald needs to right the ship, fast. He has been awful in the early going, and what many assumed to be a bright spot in the rotation has been arguably it’s weakest link. It’s time to put the Spring Training injuries past him and get it going. For the Pirates to be successful they can’t have guys like McDonald stinking it up so badly. His earned runs have increased three games in a row (2,5,6), his hits have increased three games in a row (4,6,9), his homers allowed has increased three games in a row (0,1,2), and his strikeouts have decreased three straight games (4,3,2). Obviously throwing 90 pitches in 4.1 innings is not going to get it done. I would have to assume Hurdle will have McDonald on a bit of a short leash, after he possibly left him in too long his last time out.

Hopefully the Marlins are the team to get him back on track. He pitched against the Marlins once last season getting the W at PNC Park after allowing just one run on three hits in seven solid innings of work. His only other appearance was out of the bullpen where he gave up one run in just .2 innings as a Dodger.

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