Pirates Notebook: How sweep it is

For some reason I like these 7-4 wins much better than the 10-0 versions. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the Pirates treat opposing teams to a good blowout. However, when the Pirates win in blowout style, you get the feeling that part of that was due to the other team slumping on that particular day.

In a game like we saw today, there’s the feeling that the Pirates could be legit, with the ability to hang with teams not because the other team is having an off-day, but because the Pirates are just good enough to do so.

Today we saw Paul Maholm make a decent start, going six innings and allowing four runs. The Pirates had a 3-0 lead before Maholm allowed two runs. The Buccos increased their lead in the fifth with an Andy LaRoche double to make it 4-2.

Maholm struggled by allowing two runs with two outs in the sixth to make it 4-4. The Pirates bounced right back, thanks to a double by Delwyn Young (first hit as a Pirate), and an RBI single by Nyjer Morgan. Morgan added an insurance run by stealing third, and advancing to score on a wild throw by Ronny Paulino.

No matter how many times the Marlins tried to come back in this game (and really it was only two times) the Pirates managed to stay ahead, taking advantage of opportunities and proving to be the better team today. That type of effort is more encouraging than seeing a blowout that raises questions on whether the other team was on their game that day or not.

Who stole the April page from Adam LaRoche’s calendar?

Adam LaRoche, a career .182 hitter in his career during April coming in to the season, has looked like a totally different player this year, at least for April standards. After a four hit day today, LaRoche is hitting .304 with 3 homers and 10 RBIs in 56 at bats.

If LaRoche maintains this pace through the end of April, he will finish with 24 hits in 80 at bats, four homers, and 14 RBIs.

But extending that further, what if LaRoche continues his career numbers for the remaining of the season? In his career, LaRoche is a .289 hitter from May to the end of the season, with a homer every 19.59 at bats, and an RBI every 5.76 at bats.

So if LaRoche maintains his April pace over the final six games this month, and maintains his career totals from May to the end of the season, he will finish with a .291/31 HR/106 RBI season.

By comparison, there were only eight players in the majors in 2008 who put up more homers, RBIs, and a better average. Those players were Manny Ramirez, Albert Pujols, Ryan Ludwick, Miguel Cabrera, Mark Texieira, David Wright, Aubrey Huff, and Josh Hamilton. That’s good company for LaRoche to be in.

The MVP Tracker

Updates to the MVP tracker from today’s win:

-One point to LaRoche for his 4 for 5 day, which included three doubles.

-One point for Nyjer Morgan for the RBI single to give the Pirates a lead, and scoring an extra run with his base running.

-One point for Delwyn Young for the pinch hit double, and the go ahead run.

-One point for Andy LaRoche. 1 for 3 with two RBIs.

Other Stuff

-Andy LaRoche went from 0 for 16 on April 15th, to a .225 average after today’s game. LaRoche has a 7 game hitting streak since April 15th, and is hitting .375 during that stretch.

-Ian Snell makes his fourth start of the year Friday. Snell struggled in his first start of the year, but has allowed just two runs in 13 innings over his last two starts. I’ll be doing a post on Snell later this evening.

-A week ago I did a post on the importance of ground balls for pitchers. Since then I’ve been tracking three types of pitchers in the 2009 season. The types are:

Star Pitchers: Ground Ball ratio over 43%, K/9 over 6.0, K/BB over 2.0, and HR/9 under 1.00.

Star Pitchers without the ground balls: Basically what it says, which is the star pitcher qualifications, minus the ground ball ratios.

Star pitchers without the strikeouts: The same qualifications as the star pitchers, only they don’t have the high strikeout numbers.

Heading in to Wednesday’s games, the Pirates had the following pitchers qualifying as star pitchers:

Ross Ohlendorf (Star without strikeouts)
Zach Duke (Star without strikeouts)

Jeff Karstens is the only Pirates starter who doesn’t have a strong ground ball ratio this season. Maybe that stresses the importance of the Pirates keeping Jack Wilson beyond this season. With a rotation full of ground ball pitchers, the Pirates need Wilson’s defense at short.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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