First Pitch: Thursday Thoughts on Liriano, Martin, Wilson, Milwaukee, Sanchez

Thursday is podcast recording day. Today it was also “Go see Luis Heredia at Pirate City” day (article coming tomorrow), and “Ten Articles Will Go Up on the Site Today” day, and “Your friends want to go to trivia at 9 PM and the Pirates are already destroying the Brewers so you can watch on your phone on the way” day. So we’re doing the Thursday night “thoughts” article again.

**Two good starts from Francisco Liriano so far. What I liked about tonight’s start was that he wasn’t at his best early in the game, and still ended up with a dominating stat line. So far he’s pitching more like the 2010 version, and less like the 2011-12 version. If the Pirates get anything close to the 2010 version, and pair that with A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez, then they could contend this year.

**It’s not often that you can directly see how defense saves runs, but you saw it in the first inning. Russell Martin threw out a runner at second, and Andrew McCutchen robbed an easy double in center field with his great leaping catch. Without those plays, the Pirates are down at least 3-0, and it could have been worse. That would have resulted in a much different game.

Russell Martin could already be the best free agent signing Neal Huntington has made. Photo credit: David Hague

Russell Martin could already be the best major league free agent signing Neal Huntington has made. Photo credit: David Hague

**How great has Russell Martin been? Not just with the bat, but the defense has been outstanding. Before the game he and Michael McKenry each saw 24 stolen base attempts. McKenry threw out one runner. Martin threw out nine. The league average for caught stealing has been 28%, and Martin was at 38%. That was before throwing out one of two tonight.

**Throughout his minor league career, Justin Wilson had a trend. He would strike out a lot of batters, issue a lot of walks, and wouldn’t give up any hits. The result was that he had great overall numbers, and doubts about future success in the majors. So far it’s been the same story in the majors. After tonight he has a 1.46 ERA in 24.2 innings. He’s got an 8.8 K/9, a 4.7 BB/9, and only nine hits allowed. He’s due for some regression, since he’s got a .161 BABIP and an 83.3% strand rate. However, he’s still going to be putting up good numbers even after the regression. You wonder if Andy Oliver can do the same, since he has similar numbers in Triple-A this year.

**A lot of Milwaukee series’ (seri?) have gone this way over the last few years. One team dominates, taking three of four games, and finishing off the series with a crushing victory. It’s just that the Pirates have always been on the other side of this. And it always feels like this:

But the Pirates winning 3 of 4? Winning four games against Milwaukee by mid-May? (Note: they haven’t won more than five in a season since 2007, when they won six games.) Winning 4 of 7 on the season so far? Taking four of the last five? Is this real life? Is this going to be forever? I hope so.

**Never really did trivia at a bar before tonight. I finally found a place for all of my useless pop culture references. Who knew that knowing Lisa Turtle’s real name from Saved by the Bell would ever come in handy (Lark Voorhies, for those of you scoring at home). Also, the girl I’m dating won two beer chugging contests against a girl from another group, and our table got two free pitchers of beer as a result. Can you say keeper? Finally, if you know nothing about the show Friends, you might as well not play trivia at all. Or just eat and talk during the entire round devoted to Friends questions.

**Back to baseball, what is it about the Pirates that prospects never step up until a major league veteran has been signed? In 2010 it was Neil Walker stepping up at second base after Aki Iwamura was added. The last two years it has been Jordy Mercer at shortstop after Clint Barmes was added. This year it’s Tony Sanchez after Russell Martin was added. Sanchez is currently hitting for a .307 average and a .936 OPS on the season. If Martin ever goes down, Sanchez has earned a chance to be the primary starter.

**It’s been bad since Michael Scott left, but The Office really turned it around this season. That’s especially true in the most recent episodes. I’m looking forward to watching the final episode tomorrow after I finish the podcast. Mostly because I can stop avoiding Facebook and Twitter for spoilers. There needs to be a spoiler tag added to social networks, just like they have on IMDB. I don’t even feel comfortable posting spoilers about LOST, and that show has been over for a few years. Basically what I’m saying is if you rush to Facebook and post a spoiler right after watching a show, you’re kind of an asshole.

**Finally, Happy Birthday to our own Tom Bragg!

Links and Notes

**The 2013 Prospect Guide and the 2013 Annual are both available on the products page of the site. If you order them together, you’ll save $5.

**Tomorrow afternoon we’ll release episode four of the Pirates Prospects Podcast. Check out last week’s episode: P3 Episode 3: What To Do With Alvarez, Gomez, and Mercer; Casey Sadler Interview.

2013 Draft

**What Are the Odds the Pirates Draft a Future Major League Hitter?

**Keith Law Posts Mock Draft, New Name Associated With Pirates.

**Jonathan Mayo Posts Mock Draft, Peterson Mentioned Again.

**Draft Preview: Focusing In On Certain Players.

Prospects

**Prospect Notebook: When Should Taillon and Pimentel Be Promoted to Indianapolis?

**Minor Moves: Holmes Off DL, d’Arnaud Starts Rehab.

**Prospect Watch: Tony Sanchez Keeps Hitting, Gregory Polanco Homers.

**Minor League Schedule: Holmes Tries Again In West Virginia.

Pirates

**Injury Update: Morton, Karstens and McDonald.

**Snider Goes Swimming as Pirates Pound Brewers 7-1.

Tim Williams

Author: 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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  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    WAIT! You have time to date???!!! No wonder you’re only putting up 10 articles a day!!!

    Nose to the grindstone, man. Nose to the grindstone!!

    Foo

  • joe g.

    AJ, Wandy, Liriano, Locke, Karstens, JMac, Morton. There is potential here for one heck of a starting rotation.

    • NorCal Buc

      And we can add Cole and Irwin, and next spring Pimentel, and then Taillion later in the year

  • weltytowngang

    Hey, May 16th is mine BD also; for 74 times. Good article. Better than most. Thanks.

  • Kevin_Young

    Some 17 year old girl just made a spoiler blocker for Twitter that should be available soon. Just a heads up…

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I saw something about that. Good first step, but I don’t use Twitter on the web. I use an app, so it might be a while.

  • http://twitter.com/frsthypocrit frsthypocrit

    I read the same article Kevin did … this might help you out with those Twitter spoilers: http://www.motherjones.com/media/2013/05/meet-17-year-old-saving-you-game-thrones-twitter-spoilers

    Good to watch winning baseball. Even Clint Barmas seems to be hitting? I just worry about Pedro…

  • smurph

    The plural of series is series, just like deer/deer, fish/fish, moose/moose.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I think seri should catch on.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.j.stein.3 Jeremy J Stein

        is seri pronounced ‘sear”eye’?

  • leadoff

    I have always said that the catcher is 2nd most important player on the field and we have not had one since Kendall left. I still can’t see them keeping McHenry in the majors when they know that Sanchez is a much better catcher, even as a backup. Backup catchers are still supposed to play defense.
    Don’t necessarily believe that Wilson is due for regression, one must keep in mind that there is a lot maturing going on with these players and a guy like Wilson knows that down on the farm we are growing a lot of produce. It is possible that he will tire somewhere along the line, but I don’t consider that regression.
    I have been blogging the praises of Tony Sanchez for some time, can’t wait to he gets to the Burgh. He is another maturing player.
    Seems to me that trades have to be on the horizon.
    Don’t believe that Lirano is the key to the Pirates being contenders, they were in 1st place without him, they have enough depth and the ability to trade for a legit pitcher now if they have to.

    • leadoff

      “they were in 1st place without him”
      Meant to say they were contending without him.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.j.stein.3 Jeremy J Stein

        leadoff,

        You’re right that the Pirates were doing well without Liriano, however you have to admit that they were doing it pretty much without a solid rotation.
        With Lock settling in, it was him, A.J. and Wandy as the only starters doing well. JMac was shakey and is now on the DL. Jonathan Sanchez was a disaster. Irwin got hurt. and luckily Gomez has done surprisingly well.
        With Liriano in the rotation, now the Pirates have 4 starters pitching well plus Gomez doing surprisingly well.
        Hopefully Charlie Morton can return to 2011 form when he had reasonable numbers and will make a decent #5 starter.