Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pirates vs Tigers (Series Sixteen)

Mini-sweep of the Reds and now I’m flying high again. I keep harping on what the Bucs must improve on to make some strides compared to last season, well taking 5 of 6 from the division champs, all on the road was definitely two of those things. The Pirates have improved divisionally, save the damn Brewers, and obviously have improved by leaps and bounds on the road. Charlie Morton pitched his second complete game, this time a shutout and is looking to be the stopper this team hasn’t had in at least a decade. Pedro Alvarez broke his long RBI drought, and Andrew McCutchen looks to be back to his All Star caliber self.

The next monkey the Pirates need to get off their back is freaking Inter-League Play. Last season the Pirates were a pathetic 2- 13 in against AL opponents. In fact the only team they even beat from the AL last season were the Cleveland Indians, somehow managing to take two out of three from the Tribe. They were swept by the White Sox, the A’s, the Rangers, and their opponent in this series, the Detroit Tigers. If they win any games against the Tigers it will be a marked improvement over their record against them last season, and halfway to their total for the year. Those two facts are quite pathetic.

I wish I could say last year was just a blip, or the outlier, but it isn’t. In fact going back to 1997 the Pirates have (barely) had a winning record in Inter-League Play, accomplishing the feat in 2009 and 2001, both times with a slim 8-7 record. Every other season since it’s inception in 1997 has been a losing season. It’s really amazing to think about, although so is an 18 season losing streak. The Pirates are a pathetic 68- 123 against the AL since Inter-League play began.

The Tigers probable pitchers are Brad Penny, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello.

Brad Penny (32) RHP

Penny sure has bounced around a lot since his back to back All Star, 16 win seasons with the Dodgers. He has gone pretty rapidly from Cy Young candidate down to a guy who signed a one year, $3 million dollar deal with the Tigers. Penny signed on with the St. Louis Cardinals last season in hopes of resurrecting his career with famed pitching coach Dave Duncan. Things looked to be moving along pretty smoothly until May 21, 2010. This game featured a pretty weird series of events, Penny got his first career grandslam to give his team and 8-4 lead. He was then pulled the next inning after aggravating an oblique strain and would not pitch again for the rest of the season.

Penny has been pretty average thus far which isn’t too shocking for a 32 year old coming off basically a lost season due to injury. Penny is 4-3 in his nine starts with a 4.11 ERA. One big problem for Penny is that his strikeouts are way down. Penny has a career average of 6.2 SO/9, even logging 5.7 last season, but so far this year he has a really low 3.6. Still the guy has been a horse as of late, pitching 7+ innings in four of his last five games, including 8 innings of five hit shutout ball in his last outing against the Royals. Surprisingly he has only passed 100 pitches twice in that span, and all season. He threw 112 pitches in his loss against the Mariners on April 28th, and 110 in his last outing. Penny has nailed down three straight quality starts and it looks like his early season troubles (he gave up 20 earned runs over his first four games, lasting just 21.1 innings total) are behind him at this point.

Though he played for the Cardinals last season he was not able to get in a game against the Pirates before his season ended. Still, since most of his career was spent in the National League Penny has easily seen the Pirates more than the other two probable starters, and he has been pretty good.

Penny is 4-2 lifetime against the Pirates, posting a 4.09 ERA in 13 appearances (12 starts). The Pirates have actually hit him fairly well (.283/.342/.420) amassing 78 hits in 70.1 innings. Penny has 6 appearances (5 starts) in Pittsburgh, although one of them was six innings one run outing at good ole Three Rivers Stadium so it’s really irrelevant. Penny has never won at PNC Park, his one loss is his lone decision there and he has actually pitched pretty badly there over the course of his career. The Pirates have absolutely tattooed him at PNC hitting for a line of .371/.398/.584. In fact his numbers at PNC are his worst of any park he has pitched in multiple times. Of his five homers allowed, three came at PNC in just 20.2 innings. Even though just 28% of his total innings against the Buccos have come at PNC Park 42% of his total hits allowed and 50% of his earned runs have come at PNC.

Max Scherzer (26) RHP

Since coming to the Tigers last season Scherzer has been very good. Last season after being part of the trade that sent Edwin Jackson and and Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks, Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth to the Tigers and Curtis Granderson to the Yankees, Scherzer won twelve games and put up a 3.50 ERA in 31 games. This season Scherzer has been arguably the best pitcher in the American League. He currently sits at 6-0 with a 2.81 ERA in nine starts. Scherzer’s secondary numbers aren’t mind blowing, but he is getting it done. None of his numbers are better than his career average (with the obvious exclusion of his ERA and win %) and also are a bit worse than his numbers from last season. That said, six of his nine starts have been quality starts, and he has gone less than six innings just twice (both 5.0 innings). Scherzer has not allowed a run in three of his previous five starts going eight innings twice, seven innings once and 6.2 innings once. His other start was a 5.0 win against Toronto. One problem he has run into is the long ball, giving up at least one homer in four games, and four homers in his first game of the season. He has thrown 100+ pitches in all but two games so far this season, throwing 96 and 97 respectively in the two other games.

Scherzer has a 1-0 record in three appearances (two starts) lifetime against the Pirates. He has given up six runs on 15 hits in 14.2 innings. He has also struck out 15 batters, while walking six and hitting three. Two of his three appearances (one start) came at PNC Park where he, like Penny, has struggled. Scherzer has given up all six of his runs at PNC, and ten of his fifteen hits also came at PNC Park, as well as all three hit batters and all six of his walks.

Rick Porcello (22) RHP

Rick Porcello comes off a kind of down year after a pretty solid rookie season. He was able to win 10 games, his second year in a row with ten or more wins, but he did it with an ERA of 4.92, well below average. Porcello gave up a ton of hits last year (10.4 per nine), and appears to be on the same track this season (10.2 per nine). Porcello doesn’t really overwhelm guys, striking out 4.8./9 for his career, but he also doesn’t put a lot of guys on for free, just 2.4/9. Thus far he has definitely been better from an ERA standpoint but his WHIP is actually worse than it was last year, and his walks have increased slightly. Porcello has a quality start in four of his last five games, but went exactly 5.0 innings in the others. He got the win in his last outing, lasting just five but allowing only one earned in the Tigers 10-2 blowout of the Twins. He only threw 83 pitches, and had allowed just three hits up until that point, but he also threw 120 pitches in his previous start so I have to think that played a role in the decision to pull him after five.

Porcello had one lone appearance against the Pirates, a win at PNC Park on June 12, 2009. Porcello hurled seven innings of one run ball against the home team, giving up just six hits in the Tigers 3-1 win.


vs. Penny

vs. Scherzer

vs. Porcello

vs. Tigers

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 Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia, and Paul Maholm.

Jeff Karstens (28) RHP

Karstens as actually slated to pitch in the Reds series but, once again, due to rain his start was pushed back. Since becoming a starter he has pitched on four days rest on just three of his six starts. That’s the name of the game though for fifth starters, specifically swing-men like Karstens.

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 has just one career start against the Tigers. It came last season in Detroit, a game in which Karstens would throw an unusual seven innings allowing just two runs on just six hits, one of which was a homer. He struck out three and walked one.

Karstens has been fairly decent in his inter-League history, posting a 1-0 record in eight appearances (four starts). The long ball has hurt, three homers in 27.1 innings, and he has given up nearly a hit an inning (26), but his WHIP is actually very good (1.098), and his ERA sits at 3.62.

Kevin Correia (30) RHP

Correia is rapidly becoming nothing special. His record is down to 5-4 notching a decision in every start, and his ERA is starting to balloon, hitting a season high 3.97 after his last outing which saw him getting shelled by the Brewers. Correia needs to turn it around fast, or he’s going to turn into who we thought he was. Just three starts ago his ERA was 2.91, in just two starts it has ballooned by over a run a game.

Correia went just four innings against the Brew-Crew, giving up six runs on eight hits, and allowing two homers in the loss. Up until that point Correia had a perfect record on the road, but it appears he may have brought his PNC struggles with him on the road. Hopefully he left them there, at least for this start.

Correia has never faced the Tigers in his career and has a losing record in Inter-League play. Correia has 19 appearances, nine of them starts, against opponents from the other league, and he has a 2-4 record overall, with an ERA of 3.94. He has held IL batter to a decent line of .228/.298/.388, but he has given up seven homers over 61.2 total innings.

Paul Maholm (28) LHP

Maholm was pretty good yet again in his last outing. He did give up three runs in his 6.1 innings of work but he also struck out seven batters, while allowing just four hits. What that game will be most remembered for is Brandon Wood making the first out at third, and the squeeze with a slow footed Snyder, and bad bunting Maholm ending in disaster.

Maholm is doing his best to pitch his way out of the Burgh and, save Morton, has been the Pirates best pitcher. Maholm does still have an option for next year, so it isn’t out of the question that the Pirates bring him back if they don’t trade him.

Maholm continues to be a victim of this teams weak bats. He has gotten exactly 14 runs scored for him during his nine starts. Not too many pitchers are going to win a game with 1.55 runs scored for them a game, and that is why Maholm is 1-6 this season. His only win coming in his other start against the Nationals where the bats really broke out, giving him four runs in support, tops this season for Maholm.

Maholm didn’t get a decision in his one career start against the Tigers last season, pitching six innings of pretty unimpressive one run ball. He allowed eight hits, and walked more than he struck out (three walks to two Ks) in a game the Pirates would eventually lose 3-4.

Maholm has been pretty unimpressive overall in Inter-League play, going along with the Pirates trend of sucking out loud against AL opponents. Maholm has appeared in 15 IL games, starting them all. His record is 4-7, and his ERA is in line with that, at 4.97. In just 88.2 innings Maholm has allowed a whopping 99 hits, while stirking out just 49 and worse allowing 40 walks. AL lineups tend to be more dangerous and a BB/SO of just 1.23 is going to do you absolutely no favors and is a recipe for disaster.

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