Pirates Notebook: McPherson Makes A Lasting Impression

Kyle McPherson may have only thrown 20.1 innings in the Majors before taking the mound on Saturday night in Pittsburgh, but the 24-year-old looked nothing like a rookie against the National League Central best Cincinnati Reds.

Looking to make a lasting impression in his final start of the 2012 season, and to put himself into conversation for a spot in the Pirates rotation out of spring training next year, McPherson was impressive in just his third big league start with Pittsburgh, tossing six scoreless frames against a tough Reds lineup.

“It’s big,” McPherson said. “It’s definitely a huge step forward. I had some shaky starts, not getting through the fifth inning…I definitely got a boost of confidence from it. I’m looking forward to next year and hopefully turn some heads along the way.”

“I think there’s more there, but that’s the guy we’re talking about,” Manager Clint Hurdle said. “This is the guy that we’ve seen pitch downstairs. To pitch six complete up here after what he’s been through his first few starts, big step forward…He went six innings. He went through a Central Division Champions lineup. He’s got what you’re looking for. It’s just got to be added some sprinkled experience on with it. Tonight was a big step for him.”

McPherson worked himself into a jam to start the game, but was able to work himself out of it unscathed retiring the heart of Cincinnati’s lineup. Back-to-back singles from the Reds’ started the first frame, and a groundout from Joey Votto pushed both runners to second and third. But after getting a pop out to first base for the second out, McPherson got Jay Bruce to ground out to leave both runners stranded.

“He just came out there to slow the game a little bit and give me a little breather,” McPherson said of what pitching coach Ray Searage told McPherson after the jam in the first. “Just told me to continue to make some good pitches and you don’t have to be too fine with that guy in the box. Go out there and be me and keep attacking.”

McPherson went on to retire nine straight, which included three straight whiffs. The streak was snapped after Votto drew a leadoff walk to start the fourth. McPherson retired his next three straight, however, to leave him stranded and keep his scoreless outing intact.

McPherson didn’t allow another hit until two-outs in the fifth to pitcher Mike Leake, who doubled into the notch in left center field. McPherson’s fourth and final hit allowed in his third start of the season came in his final inning of work in the sixth. The out-out single from Votto was erased by an inning ending double play.

“I just tried to stay in there and do my job and fight for the team. Just go out there and attack every inning and go deep into the ballgame,” McPherson said. “I was establishing stuff early with the fastball, and the breaking ball was key for me tonight. Doing that, we were able to keep them off-balance and keep them in check.”

The rookie allowed just four hits over six frames with a walk and a career-high five strikeouts while throwing 94 pitches, 60 for strikes in his final outing on Saturday. McPherson finished his season in the Majors with a 2.73 ERA combined over his 26.2 innings (seven in relief) with seven strikeouts and 21 walks.

For what’s been a whirlwind season for McPherson, the right-hander proved at each level along the way this year that he has the talent to have success in the big leagues. After battling a right shoulder injury, which forced him to miss the first two months of the season and battle through rust in Double-A Altoona, McPherson needed just three starts at the Triple-A level before proving he was ready for the next step. McPherson allowed just two earned runs over those three starts (18.1 innings) while striking out 17 batters and limiting hitters to just a .172 clip.

“Quality pitches is always key for me,” McPherson said. “The ball tends to get up and get in the zone and that’s something I’ll continue to work on. But overall, after the injury and coming back, it was just focusing on the quality of each pitch.”

The season for the rookie was a challenge, but one that has ultimately made him a stronger pitcher.

“He pitched a very good ballgame,” Hurdle said. “Best outing for him in this trip. His fastball command improved. The curveball was in play. He used his changeup. He actually threw some nice two seam fastballs tonight and in some offensive counts…Very, very good job tonight. He’s got to feel good about himself after his performance.”


Marte Tightening Up Some Things

Starling Marte was out of the starting lineup against the Reds on Saturday after missing Friday as well. The rookie outfielder’s last start came on back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday when he went a combined 1-for-6 after missing four straight on the road.

“There’s a bunch of things that we’re working with, with Starling. Absolutely,” Hurdle said. “Base running, leads and breaks. Path, barrel to the ball, bunting — all three of those are probably at the top of the list. Just angles, paths, leads and breaks on the base.”

“He’s showed the defensive part of it. He can make it look easy. He made a throw at Citi Field the other day that took your breath away. He’s closed in on some balls that just make you go, [‘wow’]. When him and Andrew [McCutchen] are in left and center field, it’s like, ‘wow’. We cover a lot of ground on that side of the field…He’s still working to tighten some things up and improve things.”

On the season, Marte is hitting for a .250/.297/.408 line over 42 games in the Majors, and a .246 clip since coming off the disabled list with a right oblique injury. Marte has 10 stolen bases, five caught stealings over 152 at-bats. Six of those 10 have come in the month of September. The 23-year-old has the skill set that Hurdle believes makes it easier for him to improve in all those areas.

“A lot of it is confidence though,” Hurdle said. “A lot of it is the feel and the makeup that you see with different individuals up here that are even highly skilled. Base running, it’s a gambler’s mentality. It’s risk versus reward. And sometimes you get a player that puts more emphasis on the risk side than the reward side.”

“The skills obviously help because the kind of speed that he’s got is a game changing speed, but to make it productive and play out. We’ve seen some great jumps from him. We’ve seen some jumps that weren’t of the value that he can bring. Understating the difference in slide step and pickup. To make sure he’s watching some things and really focusing on something things. It’s all part of the experience factor that he’s got going on.”


McCutchen Walks Off to Snap Recent Skid; Not Watching Posey

Andrew McCutchen has had an impressive 2012 season, but sitting on an 0-for-15 skid, the outfielder showed up big for the Pirates with a swing of the bat. With one-out in the bottom of the ninth inning in a tied 1-1 game against Cincinnati, McCutchen launched a 2-2 pitch from reliever Jonathan Broxton for the Pirates third walk off home run this season.

“It definitely felt good,” McCutchen said. “I started feeling better through the course of the game. Just wasn’t getting anything to show for it. To get a hit in that fashion definitely felt good.”

“Beautiful,” Hurdle said. “He’s been playing. All year long, his at-bats he takes personal. He doesn’t give many away. There are some stretches that are challenging. To get in that count 2-2 to Broxton and just to pound that ball to right center field the way he did…he pounded that ball. Big swing. He’s got to feel good.”

McCutchen went 1-for-5 against the Reds. He trails Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants .334 to .329 for the National League batting title. Although a tight race, McCutchen said he’s not watching Posey’s box score.

“We can look at that at the end of the season,” McCutchen said.

“It’s not that his confidence ever wavers,” Hurdle said. “But I do think there’s sparks that happens from his game from time to time. This could definitely be an igniter for him.”


— The Pirates drew 38,623 fans at PNC Park on Saturday night for their 17th sellout of the season. The attendance passed the two million mark for the first time since the 2001 season (when the ballpark opened) and just the fourth time in team history.

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F Lang

These few starts by McPherson were so important for next year’s team. I think he could move all the way to 4th starter because i think Karstens has proven he needs his innings limited and he breaks down a lot. We are solid defensively and I love how he just comes in there and pounds the strikezone. He will be the rollmodel for all the other young arms going forward.

State College Steve

Lee, I believe it may be more about the young man than the people who developed him. Kyle has a great head on his shoulders, puts tons of work in, and gives it 100% all the time. I’ll give some credit but I believe most of it should be put on Kyle for pushing through 3 trips to State College, a long stint in WV and finally they see something to get him to Altoona and then the injury. Kudos to Kyle 🙂

Lee Young

Let’s see….when we ‘develop’ a guy its a testament to the young man. But, when we fail it is our fault?

I believe Tim touched on that mindset in his article about NH’s drafts.

Lee Young

Btw, it’s only one game, but might we have actually developed a ‘27th’ round draft pick?

Maybe our team DOES know what they’re doing? Maybe some guys ‘get it’ and some ‘don’t”?

Good job this year, Kristy. Very informative writing as always!


Pop quiz:
1) Who drafted him?
2) What round?
3) How long did it take for Kyle Stark/Neil Huntington’s development people to put their system in place?

1) Littlefield
2) 14th not 27th
3) At least a year if not more. It takes time to replace the people within a system the size of the minor league leagues.

McPherson was a product of a Littlefield draft, developed by the Littlefield holdovers and the beginning of Stark and is now showing he may be able to pitch in the majors.

BTW – what is his ceiling? Maybe a # 3 starter on a bad team, a #4 or #5 on a good team? That is what you want from the 14th round pick, but that isn’t a testament to skill as much as it may be luck.

Loved Dejan’s idea, hoping P2 or Fangraphs does it – break down all the successful systems to see what their level of success is. Then compare it to the Pirates draft position and money spent. I have a feeling that would get ugly in a hurry.

F Lang

I don’t know TP. From what I see there is some upside there. …and you just said he was a 14th rounder. Developing a 3rd or 4th starter from a 5th pick is doing pretty good, let alone a 14th rounder. If you have 1 ace and 4 guys that can go 13-10 with a 4.00 era you are in business.


I agree. My point was directed at the remark giving Stark and Neil more credit for this than they deserve. I think there is too much of “Look, I found one example that refutes the norm so the norm is wrong” type of thinking in defense of the BMTIB.

John Lease


Lee Young

TonyPena…I have a spreadsheet with Top 5 picks on it. Did you know that 33% of top 5 picks fail??

Btw, yes, you’re correct on the round Kyle was drafted. I was thinking of someone else.


That 33% sounds like it could be right. I would have thought more fail but I’ll take your word for it.

My point is we should be demanding to be above average – not simply average.

If I were Nutting:
1) Do the study Dejan suggested – let’s see how well we are really doing against the norm and the top 10%.
2) Break the bank and hire the very best out the top 10% – from top to bottom.
3) Get out of the way and let them do their job. Monitor their performance but don’t get involved any more then he has to.

Lee Young

Tony, I share your disappointment in this season. But, seriously, all NH can do is take the BEST player available.

In 2009, there WAS no best player available when we picked. 10 Mags, 10 different opinions at our slot. That’s why they tried the strategy they did. Unfortunately, it looks like even the highly rated HS pitchers sucked!!!!

I remember folks on the blog I was on going NUTS when we inked Quinton Miller. What a bust!


I’m past accepting excuses. This isn’t a job in the basement of an institution. It’s a high performance, highly competitive, win or lose job. Either it works or it doesn’t.

I’m not just disappointed in the win loss record. I’m disappointed in the way its happening and why. After 5 years there are no excuses.

Lee Young

sorry to hear that….probably why NH never said it would take just 5 years. Only the media and fans did.

James Vargo

I’d rather have multiple aces like the Nationals.

Lee Young

They had the head start of two of them, Detwiler and Zimmerman being drafted in 2007 on the first and second rounds. Who was our GM then? Who did he take? Oh yeah, Moskos and Welker.

I tend to think our season would’ve turned out a LITTLE better if we had had that kind of head start. We had NOTHING when it comes to pitching!



Mackowiak, Mike Gonzalez, Beimel, Bautista, McLouth, Snell, Duke, Rajai Davis and Nyjer Morgan were all late(r) round picks. It happens even to front offices who we all widely believe had no idea what they were doing. That NH might also have a late round pick who he helped develop into a decent major leaguer is:
1. Not all that surprising
2. Not an indication that he is doing a good job.

Tim Williams

A lot of those picks were made under Mickey White, who might have been the best draft scouting director the organization has had. He was replaced immediately by DL.


Most of them were drafted by Mickey – I believe everyone I listed except for Morgan was picked by him. I could be mistaken.

Tim Williams

The drafts under White were some of the best drafts the Pirates have had. Even some of the guys who were traded away (Chris Young) or didn’t sign (Stephen Drew, Jeremy Guthrie) were good picks. Probably DL’s worst move was getting rid of White and replacing him with Ed Creech.

Lee Young

According to Baseball Ref, he DID have a good run from 99-01.
He drafted Zach Duke, Ryan Doumit, Ian Snell, Nate McLouth, Chris Shelton, Sean Burnett, Jose Bautista and Chris Young within his three drafts.

Of course, outside of Jose B (we know HIS story), only Mclouth became an All Star. Doumit and Young (because of injuries) had some okay years, Snell had ONE year and Duke was well Duke. Burnett is a Loogy.

So…if he had had Mickey drafting for us, someone WE consider a good drafter, then would you rather have those aforementioned players or the promise of guys NH has drafted from 08-10?

Interesting debate.

Tim Williams

We also know the outcome of those drafts. We’re just now getting the true feel for those drafts about ten years after they happened. So it’s hard to compare those drafts, which are results, to the recent drafts, which are still largely based on projection.

Lee Young

He also drafted Jeff Keppinger on the 2001 3rd rd and Duffy on the 8th.

However, his 1st rd picks sucked. Bradley, Burnett and JVB. Now I know why they fired him…lol

Tim Williams

The first round picks seemed bad due to other factors.

Bradley was a top pitching prospect, but saw his career derailed due to injuries. A similar story with Burnett, although he’s turned in to a good reliever. That’s not exactly what you want from a high first round pick, but it’s better than nothing.

JVB was a great talent, but the questionable call there was making him a pitcher. He was considered one of the best hitting prospects in the draft.

Lee Young

Yep…but as the posters on blogs love to say “I don’t want excuses, I want ballplayers”.

For all we know Sanchez’ shattered jaw is why his batting has been a disappointment? If he hits .250 and is a solid defensive catcher for years, will he be a success?

NO way to predict injuries, etc. I remember Bradley well. He had a monster curve!

As for JVB, he was lights out in AAA. Never could translate it to MLB.

White had some great secondary drafts (2-50). What he got from those rounds was pretty good. If those first rounders hadn’t failed, we might not be counting 20 years of misery.

Lee Young

I’d LOVE to see White’s overall success rate.

I’d also like to see how he did per draft. Esp since we’re considering him as a draft expert….just as a comparison.

Lee Young

I’m with you on that!

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