Series Preview: Pirates vs. Padres

The Bucs head out to the west coast, having lost two of three to the last-place Houston Astros. The Padres enter the series leading the National League Wild Card race, powered by the 1-2 punch of Jake Peavy and former Pirates prospect Chris Young (hey, Matt Herges is doing okay in Colorado.) Having just clinched a fifteenth consecutive losing season, Pittsburgh will assume its normal September position of welcome late season matchup/”spoiler.” Fun, huh?

Tale of the Tape

Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 66-83

Runs Scored/Allowed: 682/764

Pythagorean Record: 66-83

Defensive Efficiency: .682 (27th)

San Diego Padres

Record: 81-67

Runs Scored/Allowed: 663/594

Pythagorean Record: 82-66

Defensive Efficiency: .707 (6th)

Probable Starters

Monday

RHP John Van Benschoten (41 ERA+) vs. RHP Jack Cassel (90 ERA+)

Tuesday

LHP Tom Gorzelanny (129 ERA+) vs. RHP Greg Maddux (108 ERA+)

Wednesday

RHP Ian Snell (114 ERA+) vs. RHP Chris Young (152 ERA+)

Thursday

RHP Matt Morris (103 ERA+ with Giants; 72 ERA+ with Pirates) vs. RHP Brett Tomko (74 ERA+ with Dodgers; 257 ERA+ with Padres)

Series Notes

Pirates

- To say that John Van Benschoten has struggled with the Pirates would be a profound understatement. With a 10.86 ERA, 40 hits allowed and more walks (23) than strikeouts (19), JVB has conjured up memories of Ryan Vogelsong. Again playing out the string, the Pirates will give Van Benschoten a couple of starts in place of Tony Armas. These next few starts will be crucial for JVB, who faces a career crossroads at age 27. With a dubious injury history and diminished stuff (high-80’s fastball, less break on the slider), Van Benschoten needs to make a strong impression to remain in the team’s plans. A move to the bullpen seems possible.

- Steve Pearce has been fairly productive with the Bucs (.311/.367/.444) after tearing up the minors (a cumulative .333/.394/.622 line). The question is, where does Pearce fit in with the Pirates in 2008? Pearce is 24 and has athletic limitations. However, his bat has made him of interest going forward. Pearce is no star, but he could provide adequate production at first base or right field for the league minimum. Might Xavier Nady or Adam LaRoche be shopped this winter?

Padres

- Through cavernous Petco Park, the Padres have gained a serious financial advantage. Because of the expansive territory of the park, the Padres have been able to find competent pitching at a discount rate. Hurlers with mediocre fastballs that have other merits (good control, decent secondary pitches) have found success pitching for the Padres. In a market where lukewarm pitchers break the bank (hello, Matt Morris), the Padres have been able to rely more on the waiver wire and low-profile trades to fill out its pitching staff. Conversely, the Padres can also trade an overvalued arm while receiving several more of these types of pitchers in return. Righthander Scott Linebrink is the poster child for this strategy. Originally claimed off waivers from the Astros in 2003, Linebrink enjoyed a run as one of the more productive setup men in baseball from 2003-2005, before turning in an average 2006 season. In ’07, however, Petco shielded the decline in Linebrink’s strikeout rate and a gulf began to appear between his home/road splits, making the righty appear better than he truly was. Linebrink was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for several more good control/ordinary stuff prospects, including righthander Will Inman and lefty reliever Joe Thatcher.

- Acquired from the Cleveland Indians this past offseason in a mutually disastrous trade (Josh Barfield is hitting .246/.273/.326, benched in favor of Asdrubal Cabrera), Kevin Kouzmanoff has been a disappointment for the Padres. The organization viewed Kouzmanoff as a young power-hitting third baseman, but the “Crushin’ Russian” has flailed against righthanded pitching (.229/.301/.389) while playing a third base that would make Brooks Robinson cringe. To be fair, Kouzmanoff has been considerably better in the second half (.306/.353/.532). But, with prospect Chase Headley (.330/.437/.580 for AA San Antonio) forcing his way into the picture, Kouzmanoff is a candidate to be moved to left field.

Author: Matt Bandi

Matt has covered the Pirates at Wait ‘Til Next Year, Pittsburgh Lumber Co. and now Pirates Prospects. He served as Pirates team expert for Heater Magazine in 2009 and 2010 and has contributed to Graphical Player 2009, 2010 and 2011. Matt was also the editor of the 2011 and 2012 Pirates Prospects Annuals.

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  • http://mvn.com/mlb-pirates Cory Humes

    I went on the record last off-season saying I thought Kouz would be a good target for the Pirates … but I’m not sure if I still feel that way.
    Slow start, great second half — but is he any better than Bautista? Kouzmanoff has more upside, I guess.
    It’ll be interesting to see how a new GM treats Pearce — that is, if going into 2008 he has a contingency plan intact (keeping Nady) or hands Pearce right field (trading Nady). I suppose Doumit counts as a right fielder, too, but I’ve always been of the belief that he’s not an everyday player.
    I wouldn’t trade LaRoche, but again … that’s just me.

  • http://pittsburghpiratescove.blogspot.com/ David Golebiewski

    At this point, the Pirates probably don’t have Doumit in their plans. If he’s there, great, but he’s been injured so frequently that counting on any sort of contribution is unreasonable. I believe that Doumit could be an asset as a potent offensive catcher, but his bat is less interesting in right field and downright vanilla at first.