Monday, May 30, 2011

Pirates vs. Mets (Series Nineteen)

And with that the Pirates have won their seventh road series. That is pretty significant because over the past two seasons the Pirates have won just seven road series total! Not seven per year but seven combined! That is pathetic.

Doesn’t it seem odd how dejected Pirates fans are after not sweeping a road series? I’m guilty of this too, but we have been rooting for such a pathetic team but to be upset when we just win a road series seems a bit off to me. What the Pirates did in Chicago is great, and it’s what you expect your team to do on the road. Sure a sweep would have been nice, but I’ll take a series win, on the road, against a division opponent any day of the week.

The Pirates face yet another (surprise, surprise) team that pretty much manhandled them last year. The Pirates were a paltry 1-6 against the freaking Mets last season, getting outscored by an insane 22 runs. The Mets weren’t exactly a great team either, finishing fourth in their division ahead of only the hapless Nationals, and 18.0 games back from the division leader. Here is another opportunity for them to do two of those three little things I keep going on and on and on and on about, winning on the road and improving against an opponent they had trouble with from last year. If the Pirates can hold the fort against the opponents who they were decent against and improve against the team that really destroyed them last year they will find themselves in a pretty decent (not great) position by the end of the year. With the way they improved on the road, and in the division thus far it’s going to be hard not to see an improvement in the standings.

The Mets probable starters are Dillon Gee, R.A. Dickey, Chris Capuano, and Mike Pelfrey.

Dillon Gee (25) RHP

Dillon Gee is basically a rookie this season after spending just five games in the majors last season. In 33 innings last year he gave up eight earned runs on 25 hits en route to a 2-2 record. Surprisingly every one of his starts last season was a quality start. He spent the majority of his season at AAA Buffalo last year after a labrum injury cost him most of 2009. He won 13 games at AAA last year in 28 appearances, but really didn’t have impressive numbers. He gave up 9.7 hits per nine, 1.3 HR per nine, and had an ERA of 4.96. He did have some very impressive control numbers though, boasting a 4.02 SO/BB and only walking 2.3 batter per nine, both very good numbers. His strikeout numbers were higher than his average (9.2 compared to 7.9) but this isn’t a guy who has ever walked a whole lot of batters in the minors.

So far he has been pretty good. He was working out of the pen so he has nine appearances in between his six starts. He has just one quality start this season in which he gave up just two hits over 7.2 innings, but that hasn’t stopped him from compiling a 4-0 record. He is walking more guys at this level, and not striking many out so his SO/BB is just 1.61, a pretty bad number. He will definitely need to line that up more with his minor league numbers if he is going to find any sustained success at the big league level.

Gee faced the Pirates one time last year. He didn’t get a decision, but not for a lack of trying as he went six five hit innings of shutout ball. The only real blemish was the fact that he walked four batters, while striking out only three at Citi Field.

R.A. Dickey (36) RHP

Dickey is probably one of the oldest guys in the league that most people haven’t really heard of. That’s for good reason though because he isn’t very good. Dickey had a huge season last year, which catapulted him into a bit of fame, mostly from fantasy guys, but he is right back to where he started. Dickey was 11-9 last season with a 2.84 ERA. That marked one of only two seasons he had an ERA under 5.00 and the first time he ever had an ERA under 4.62.

So far this year the knuckleballer is having an okay go of it, although his record is just 2-5 over his eleven starts. He does have a 4.50 ERA, which is still under his career average of 4.68 but he is getting hit all over the place. He is giving up 10.8 H/9, 1.1 HR/9, and worst of all his SO/BB is just 1.67. Guys just aren’t swinging at his knuckler out of the zone, and torturing it when it is in the zone.

He has been nothing if not inconsistent. While he has four quality starts this season he has three starts that have gone less that six innings and has gotten the win in just two of his four quality starts.

The Pirates are looking for some revenge against Dickey after he threw a complete game against them at Citi Field. Dickey gave up just one run on five hits over his nine innings of work, although he struck out just four compared to three walks.

That would be his only career win against the Pirates, a team he has faced three times (two starts) in his career. Even though he threw nine innings in that game he has just 16.2 total innings against the Bucs, and even though he gave up just one run in that game he has given up six lifetime, so he hasn’t exactly dominated the Bucs outside of that one start, in fact he hasn’t been all that great in general against them. He does have a .900 WHIP when facing the Pirates but again, the CG inflates those stats a bit.

Chris Capuano (32) LHP

Chris Capuano is another member of this pretty rag tag, patchwork rotation that really has had one good season and has been thoroughly mediocre ever otherwise. That one remarkable season came in 2005 when he somehow managed to win 18 games for the Brewers with a 3.99 ERA. In spite of that he would never have that kind of success again. In fact even though he had a lower ERA last season the Brewers used him mainly as a reliever, giving him just nine starts in 24 appearances. He would put up a 4-4 record last season and the second lowest WHIP of his career, but a lot of that is because of being used in a limited bullpen role.

So far this season Capuano is 3-5 with a 4.94 ERA, being misused as a starter by the Mets. He has nine starts in eleven appearances so apparently the Mets think that he is capable of starting for some reason, despite the fact that across the board his numbers were better as a reliever last season.

Overall his numbers against the Pirates weren’t too great last year, although one of his wins came against the Buccos. He was just 1-0 in four appearances (two starts) but pitched just 9.1 total innings. The Pirates scored seven runs, belting ten hits, including two homers, against apparently the only Brewers pitcher that didn’t completely own the Pirates last year.

Capuano is familiar with the Bucs though, his fifteen appearances being tops against any team in the league. Thankfully he hasn’t been very good. He has a 3-6 record lifetime with a pathetic 6.46 ERA. He has thirteen starts in those sixteen games. He has given up a wonderful (depending on your prospective) 81 hits in 69.2 innings and has given up more homers (14) against the Pirates than against any other team. In fact he has given up more homers to the Pirates than he has given up in his inter-league career!

Mike Pelfrey (27) RHP

Pelfrey is having a pretty bad year, which seems to be par for the course as far as the Mets go this season. His last outing was a heartbreaker though. He went 7.2 innings, the fourth time he has gone seven or more innings this season but ended up getting the no decision in a game the Mets would end up losing 5-2. Pelfrey gave up just two runs on four hits against the divsion rivals but it would not be enough. Last night marked Pelfrey’s fourth quality start in the past five games, but his fifth on the season.

Pelfrey has been good in his last five starts, which is slowly turning his season around. He is 2-1 over that span with a 3.09 ERA, throwing 62% of his pitches for strikes and holding opposing batters to a .217 average. He started the first game of this span with an ERA of 7.39, and has chipped away at it,bringing it down to a still really high 5.00, but that is substantially better than his season high 15.63 earlier in the season.

Pelfrey finally had his breakout year for the Mets, it just seems like he is one of those guys who they are perpetually waiting for stardom from though. Last season he amassed 15 wins (9 losses) to go along with his really respectable 3.66 ERA. He struck out 113 batters last year, and while that is nothing overly impressive it was a career high for him, and his numbers almost identical to his other “breakout year” in 2008, in which he won 13 games and had an ERA of 3.72. Sadly between those years he posted a 5.03 ERA and the year prior he put up an ERA of 5.57. Is this year going to be another 5.00 + ERA for Pelfrey? History says that’s a pretty decent bet.

Pelfrey was very good against the Pirates last season, picking up wins in both of his starts and averaging 7.5 innings a game. Over his 15 IP Pelfrey allowed just three earned runs, good for an ERA of 1.80. He was better in his one PNC start last year, but not much. At Citi he went 7 IP, giving up two earned runs on just six hits. That tells you how good his PNC Park start went!

Pelfrey has a decision in each of his four career starts when it comes to the Bucs, posting a 3-1 record. His only career start against the Bucs at Citi was the one mentioned previously. Lifetime he has an ERA of 3.86, which means he did struggle prior to last year against the Bucs, and the Pirates line of .283/.355/.394 is actually surprisingly okay. In fact the Pirates OPS is right around average for Pelfrey, tied for 10th out of his 21 other opponents.


vs. Gee

vs. Dickey

vs. Capuano

vs. Pelfrey

vs. Mets

Pedro Alvarez






Xavier Paul






Ronny Cedeno






Matt Diaz






Ryan Doumit






Garrett Jones






Andrew McCutchen






Lyle Overbay






Steven Pearce






Brandon Wood






Chris Snyder






Jose Tabata






Neil Walker






Pedro Ciriaco






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

Charlie Morton (27) RHP

Morton brings his 5-2 record to Citi Field to take on his former division rival. Morton continues to just succeed, and even managed to lower his ERA ever so slightly in spite of his loss in his last outing against his former team. Morton is also slowly, putting some separation in his SO/BB. Something will have to give in that regard, either the SO/BB will improve or his overall numbers, and success, will start to taper off. Most people have been saying that same thing all year and it has yet to really happen but it’s rare indeed for someone to be on pace for close to 20 wins accomplish that with a SO/BB of 1.14. Like I said before the last outing I expect a bit of distance to be built up eventually because his BB numbers are a bit higher than usual and his SO numbers are lower. It will just take some getting used to after overhauling his delivery.

Morton will be pitching on the road now, where he has more wins, but worse numbers. Morton had one start last season against the Mets and it came at Citi Field. He lasted just five innings giving up two earned on five hits. His BB problem definitely showed it’s face though as he walked four compared to just one strike out. He didn’t pick up a decision and the Pirates would eventually lose the game 6-2.

He only has one other appearance against the Mets a two inning zero run effort as an Atlanta Brave.

James McDonald (26) RHP

James McDonald continues to drive me insane. He did last six innings, giving up just two runs and picking up his second straight quality start, but it took him 99 pitches to do it. He isn’t working efficiently at all and I never would have guessed he would be having less success than Jeff Karstens. Low and behold that is what is happening. He is another pitcher whose numbers should start to resemble normal, especially after dealing with injury problems that basically derailed his entire Spring Training. Usually I would look at two straight quality starts, and five in his last six games as a positive thing, but there is just something I get watching his starts that makes me feel uneasy. He gave up just six hits, not an atrocious number, and walked only one batter. He struck out six guys and threw 64 of his 99 pitches for strikes, but I just don’t feel comfortable yet.

McDonald wasn’t too swift against the Mets last year. He made four appearances (two starts) and lasted just 13.2 innings. The Mets plated eight “men” on 13 hits and got nine (!!!!!) free passes to just eight strikeouts. Surprisingly one of those games was a huge success, and it was the only one he pitched at Citi Field. He somehow threw 8 innings of five hit shutout ball, but ended up getting the no decision.

Lifetime he is 0-1 with a 4.41 ERA against the Mets, having appeared in six games, although four of those were relief appearances. His SO and BB numbers even up at 11, and he has given up 14 hits in 16.1 innings, both moderate improvements over last year. He has pitched an additional 2.2 innings at Citi Field in relief and has not given up a run. In fact the Phillies and Mets are the only two teams he has faced more than once that have yet to score a run against McDonald at home.

Kevin Correia (30) RHP

After Kevin Correia picked up his win against the Cubs he became the NL leader in wins. A pretty rare occurrence for a Pirates pitcher this late in May. Correia obviously leads the team in wins and has been just a steady, calm, pitcher for this club. He doesn’t seem to get razzled or frustrated, just a steady presence on the mound. His last outing was yet another road gem, putting up a goose egg in 7.1 innings of work. The Cubs had no answer for Correia collecting just four hits and two walks to drop Correia’s ERA down to 3.44 and give him yet another road win.

I went on about how I expect him to revert back to normal on the road and for his home numbers to improve a bit in my last preview and I still expect it. It’s just unsustainable and guys don’t usually completely reinvent themselves at 30. Correia is a good pitcher, but we’ve seen years like this before. That’s not to say he is definitely going to fall off a cliff because Jose Bautistas do happen, but I still think it’s a good idea to temper expectations, and a very good idea to listen to any offers other ball clubs might have.

Correia somehow got a win in his only start against the Mets last season but it certainly wasn’t because of anything he did. Correia lasted six innings but he also gave up six runs on seven hits on his way to the win. Wrap your mind around that. A pretty bad hitting team’s starting pitcher won a game at a pitchers paradise in which the starter gave up six runs. I hope KC bought those guys lunch the next day.

Correia has kind of mixed numbers against the Mets lifetime. He is 1-3 against the Mets in ten appearances (four starts). His only win came in that aforementioned abortion. So you’d think his ERA would be double digits? Nope including that 9.00 he put up in one of his four starts his ERA is actually a really good 2.94! That’s second best against any opponent he has faced multiple times. Lies, damn lies, and statistics I guess. He has given up four homers in his 33.2 innings of work, he has also given up 33 hits but his SO/BB is 3.00. So it’s a real hodgepodge of oddities against the Mets. Who knows what’s next? A complete game shutout in which he gives up seven walks and strikes out one? A three inning blowout in which he allows just one hit, a grandslam after hitting three straight batters? The stats really don’t tell much about his career against the Mets except that you can’t predict what he’s going to do against the Mets. Maybe that’s what they are supposed to tell us?

Paul Maholm (28) LHP

Allow me the opportunity to gush about Paul Maholm a little bit? He came out prepared to get no run support against the Cubs, throwing a complete game three hitter, all three hits played a bit less than optimally. What’s more is that Paul Maholm pitched seven perfect innings to get the complete game. Just a few bounces, or a few great defensive plays and Maholm achieves a perfect game. Maholm has been a horse, and a class act so far this season and he deserved to perform like that. He deserved the win. He deserved the ten runs of support he got. Most of all though, if he keeps pitching like this, he will deserve to have his $9 million option exercised.

If Maholm can start getting some wins to go with his really good pitching it will almost force the Pirates hand. And if he can have some success next year, maybe you don’t have to trade him. Maybe you can wait it out, offer the guy arbitration and get yourself a draft pick if he walks? I think the Pirates are at the point where they don’t have to be trading guys for the best available deal. They need to be trading guys for the best possible deal, or keeping them for their own benefit.

One thing that has been overlooked with Maholm is that he has been injured throughout the course of the last two seasons. Sure when healthy he hasn’t been a model of consistency but he is pitching healthy. The guy is a lefty and he is getting it done. He is also only 28 years old. The chances of finding a decent starting lefty next season for under $10 million (without a risky, multi-year deal are very slim). Maholm gives us a guy that’s been here, has pitched well before, and just as importantly is still pretty young.

People screamed for the Pirates to sign Jorge De La Rosa this past offseason for more than what Maholm would get next season. This in spite of De La Rosa’s age, injury history, and really lack of results. De La Rosa has NEVER had a season as good as Maholm’s 2008, and sure as hell not this year. In fact De La Rosa’s career ERA is 4.90! Maholm has had the better career despite his poor winning percentage. I think it’s time some of us (staring blankly in the mirror) start to prepare a nice sauce for our crow. Should it be eaten yet? No. Guys have good halfs all the time. Should we start preparing? You bet your ass we should.

Maholm was efficient and deadly in his last outing, which is his third career complete game shutout. Like I said earlier he seven of his innings were perfect and it shows in his pitch count of just 91 pitches. Generally complete game pitchers hover between 105ish and 120, not this time. I feel really good about Maholm’s arm after this game as opposed to guys who struggle after throwing a ton of pitches just to get the CG. That win puts Paul Maholm in 51st All Time in wins for a Pirate.

Maholm faced the Mets just once last season, a loss at Citi Field. Maholm actually got roughed up pretty good, lasting just 3.2 innings but giving up two runs on a whopping seven hits, striking out one while walking two.

Maholm has never won at Citi Field getting a loss in each start and giving up nine runs on seventeen hits over the course of 8.2 innings. Pretty pathetic for a starting pitcher actually.

Overall Maholm is 3-3 lifetime against the Mets, with an ERA of 4.60. He has allowed 56 hits in 45.0 innings, and his SO/BB is just 1.25. He is giving up a line of .315/.378/.382 over the course of his career against the Mets, although this Mets team isn’t quite the same as it has been.

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