Monday, April 1, 2013

Notes After Opening Day

The 2013 season did not begin in an ideal fashion for the Pittsburgh Pirates, dropping the opener to the Cubs while offering little at the plate. Nonetheless, one defeat doesn’t mean that the Pirates are going to struggle, much like a win today wouldn’t have meant that the Bucs were going to be contenders. The Pirates have a shot at bouncing back on Wednesday night, with Wandy Rodriguez getting the start against Edwin Jackson. Drawing conclusions on how the season is likely to pan out would be nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction at this point; however there are some noteworthy items after today's game:

  • While Travis Snider did look lost at the plate when he struckout pinch hitting in the 8th, Clint Hurdle stating that “it’s either second or sixth for Jones” does sound like the Gaby Sanchez at first base and Garrett Jones in right field line-ups would be a common occurrence. Hurdle cited Sanchez’s spring training statistics as the reason why he was in the line-up, despite the poor career numbers against right handed pitching (.313 wOBA). The status of the platoons will likely be seen in the coming games, however the only reason for Jones to ever hit as low as sixth in the order would be if a left-hander was on the mound (but that’s when he should be benched in any case). 

  • I’m sure that I’m not the only one that was surprised to see the Garrett Jones hitting second due to his performance against right-handed pitching experiment continuing into the regular season, however Hurdle cited Jones’ OPS as the reason behind the decision – stating that he’s “trying to find the best combination to get men on base in front of Andrew [McCutchen, the No. 3 hitter], and stretch out the lineup, top to bottom”. Unfortunately, the on-base percentage part of Jones’ .888 OPS last season only amounted to a .332 OBP; meaning that Neil Walker would still be better suited for that role (.352 OBP) and a slugger like Jones being a better fit hitting behind a big on-base threat like Andrew McCutchen

  • Building bullpens has been one of Neal Huntington’s strengths and the Pirates bullpen has a shot at being very good again. Justin Wilson (1.1 innings, 2 Ks), Jared Hughes (1 inning, 1 K) and Pirates debutant Mark Melancon (1 inning, 2 Ks) were impressive in relief of a very strong A.J. Burnett start (who also picked up 10 strikeouts). 

The offense simply wasn’t there today, with the Pirates picking up 10 strikeouts. It wasn’t until Carlos Marmol attempted to close it out for the Cubs before the Bucs managed to score a runs. Still, it’s only one game and conclusions cannot be made at this point. There was not a lot to note from the line-up; McCutchen was the only player to pick up an extra base hit and reached base twice; Russell Martin may have gone 0-4 but he was the only starter to avoid striking out; and Starling Marte picked up a walk. The Pirates will have to be more patient at the plate, however, as after a 22 pitch first inning Jeff Samardzija only needed 88 pitches to get through the rest of his eight-inning outing – averaging at 12.5 pitches per inning.