Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pirates vs. Reds (Series Fifteen)

With today’s rainout against the Nationals the Pirates get a kind of day off before traveling. I’m not sure if the rotation will just be pushed back, but I would assume that is probably the case. This preview is going to focus on what happens if it is not pushed back though.

After last night’s debacle I am pretty close to off the Hurdle bandwagon. A squeeze play with Snyder and a guy that couldn’t get a bunt down prior is crazy, and you can blame Wood all you want, but he did what Hurdle is preaching, aggressive baserunning. This team is having big problems getting big innings, or really any runs, how Hurdle can justify just giving away outs is baffling to me.

The traveling just doesn’t stop for the Buccos. Now they are back in Cincinnati to face the Reds for another short, two game series. The Pirates were very successful last time out against the Reds, taking three of four games against the division rival in Cincinnati. You may remember that

the Pirates beat Bronson Arroyo last time out, but the more important fact that came out of that series was Bob Walk’s love and affection for Rosie Red.

The culmination of Walk’s on, and possibly off, camera courting finally occurred when Rosie made an appearance in the booth with Bob. Bob could hardly control himself though, the love in his eyes was unmatched, and rivaled any fire this Pirates team has shown since their .500 home stand.

Rosie Red is actually a second generation Reds mascot, filling the role her grandmother of the same name pioneered in the late 30’s and early 40’s. Rosie’s mom never managed to become a Reds mascot, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Bob Walk may have been introduced to her by Steve Blass, who I’m certain had a fling or two with Rosie Red back in both of their primes.

The Pirates only won six times against the Reds last season, dropping ten to the division champs. It’s pretty crazy to think that the Pirates are already halfway to their win total against the Reds in May.

The Reds probable pitchers are Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto.

Bronson Arroyo (34) RHP

Saturn Nuts just continues to have a really solid season for the Reds. He is 3-3 in his eight starts with a 3.78 ERA. If that ERA were to hold up for the season it would mark the second best ERA of his career. Arroyo has definitely given the Reds their monies worth, in fact his best years were with the Reds after he turned 31, so much for a pitchers prime.

Arroyo has given the Reds six or more innings in his last five games and seven out of his eight. His lone under six performance came on April 15 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Arroyo gave up five runs on nine hits, completing just 4.0 innings in his first loss of the season. The killer for Arroyo was the two homers he allowed. The first homer he allowed was a solo shot in the second by Garrett Jones, and the one that broke it open was a two run shot in the fourth by Neil Walker.

Arroyo has six quality starts up to this point. The only two non-quality starts were the aforementioned Pirates game and a May 1st loss to the Florida Marlins in which he gave up five runs over seven innings of work, including three homers.

If there has been one way to get to Arroyo this season it is certainly the longball. He is on track to beat his career high, serving up 1.4 HR/9 this season. His hits are also up a bit from his career (9.7/9 compared to 9.1/9) but he has kept the walks down and the K’s up so it has probably done a bit to cancel that out. You really don’t cancel out the homers though.

Arroyo still has a winning record (6-5) against his former club, and has been solid throughout his career (13 starts). His ERA is a very good 3.42, and he has allowed 75 hits in 81.2 innings, holding the Buccos to a career line of .244/.313/.341.

Johnny Cueto (25) RHP

The Pirates didn’t face Cueto the first time out because Cueto started the season on the 15 Day Disabled List with right triceps/biceps irritation. He made his first start on May 8th and didn’t miss a beat. In fact he hasn’t allowed an earned run in his first two games this season, pitching 6.0 and 7.2 innings and picking up the win in both. Oddly enough for not giving up an earned run this season he did give up a homer his last time out, but all three runs he allowed in that game came unearned.

Cueto comes off a very good year in 2010. He won twelve games, his second season winning more than ten games in a row and posted a solid 3.64 ERA. Cueto translated his solid numbers (.9 HR/9, 8.8 H/9, 2.7 BB/9) into a four year $27 million deal with the Reds.

He also ended up getting himself suspended for wildly kicking at players while pinned against the backstop in a bench cleaning brawl last season while facing the Cardinals. Is out of control actions injured two players, and the concussion he Jason LaRue endured at Cueto’s hands actually ended his career. Seems like seven games for ending someone’s career is more akin to NHL discipline, not MLB.

Cueto ended up getting five starts against the Buccos last year. Good news for him because he notched three wins and threw 33.0 innings against the hapless Pirates. Even though he gave up two homers, he allowed just four runs against the Pirates, good for a 1.09 ERA. His 15 hits and ten BB combined for a microscopic .758 WHIP, tops amongst any team he faced, even teams he faced just once.

Cueto is what best can be described as a Pirates killer. Case in point, over 13 career starts he has a 9-2 record. He has easily beaten the Pirates more than any other team, the next closest being the Cubs and Cardinals at 4 wins. His 79 IP is tops, as is his ridiculous 82 SO. Even though he has faced the Pirates more than any team the Pirates have the lowest OPS amongst all National League teams he has faced except the Arizona Diamondbacks. The slash line is pathetic overall. The Pirates have a line of just .215/.278/.356 against Cueto. I couldn’t think of a worse matchup short of Mike Hampton. Our only saving grace in this matchup is Andrew McCutchen. Cutch has hit Cueto very well, boasting a line of .273/.333/.682 with three homers against Cueto in 22 at bats.


vs. Arroyo

vs. Cueto

vs. Reds

Pedro Alvarez




Xavier Paul




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 James McDonald and Jeff Karstens.

James McDonald (26) RHP

McDonald’s quality start streak came to an end his last outing, at three. McDonald didn’t look very good the whole game and lasted just four innings against the evil Brewers. He did strikeout seven but it wouldn’t be enough, giving up five runs on six hits, including a homer. He also walked three batters. I’m uneasy about making a big assumption on Brewers stats because the Pirates are probably cursed, but it was still a poor outing in a series of poor outings.

McDonald picked up the loss in his first outing against the Reds this season, lasting just 4.1 innings while giving up seven runs (six earned) on nine hits (two homers). That would be the only game the Pirates would lose to the Reds.

That game would mark his first start against the Reds, though he did have three relief appearances and would leave him with a 1-1 record, and 6.48 ERA against the division rival. Both of his decisions came at Great American Ballpark, where he has a unreal 8.53 ERA and has given up eleven hits in just 6.1 innings. Both career homers he allowed have come at the Reds home field.

Jeff Karstens (28) RHP

Karstens continues to stake his claim to that fifth starter’s spot. He was actually pitching pretty well in Milwaukee, giving up two solo homers, but just five hits against the Brewers in 5.0 innings. His ERA stayed unchanged at 3.62 but he ended up getting the loss because the Pirates inept offense and bullpen gave up six more runs the rest of the way. That marks Karstens’ second loss in as many decisions, but his first decision in three games.

Karstens didn’t get the win in his first matchup with the Reds, and quite honestly didn’t deserve it. He lasted just 4.2 innings and gave up five runs (all earned) one eight hits. In fairness to Karstens though it was a pretty crappy situation. It was his first start of the season after pitching very well out of the bullpen and due to rain didn’t get to make his original first start against the Brewers. Therefore he went into the Reds game on eight days rest, which is entirely too much.

Karstens has made eight appearances against the Reds, five of them starts, but has yet to notch a victory against the Reds. He does have four losses though, and his ERA of 6.82 is not very promising. Reds batters have a .366/.410/.603 line overall against Karstens.

What’s worse is Karstens numbers at Great American Ballpark. While only one of his losses came there his ERA bumps up a bit to 6.92, and he has given up an absurd 21 hits in 13.0 innigns. If you though the overall line against Karstens was bad he is getting hit at a .382/.407/.618 line at Great American Ballpark.

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