Monday, June 14, 2010

The June Swoon is On

Bleak as the baseball landscape may appear, Pirates fans can look to Baltimore for consolation.

The Orioles are 29 games under .500. Yikes. The Bucs are "only" 17 games under .500 for the second-worst record in the majors.

Eight straight losses for the Pirates, with no end in sight. The June swoon is on, full-on, and they are careening through an all-out tailspin, freeffall, spiral, call it whatever you like.

Out of the five starters in the rotation, Paul Maholm -- who won't start again until next Friday -- gives the Pirates their best chance to win, so the next three games vs. the White Sox at PNC Park could be losses, easily. Rookie Brad Lincoln goes up against Freddy Garcia in the next game, and then presumably Ross Ohlendorf and Zach Duke will start the next two.

Too bad for Jeff Karstens, who pitched his best game of the season yesterday. Granted, Detroit manager Jim Leyland played his Sunday lineup of several backups, but Karstens deserves credit for pitching a very good game. Another wasted effort, though, as the offense fizzled. Again.

Riding the seven-game losing streak entering yesterday's game and with the off-day today, manager John Russell was desperate to win a game before returning to PNC Park for more interleague action vs. the White Sox and Indians.

Russell went with his best lineup of regular starters, including Ryan Doumit at catcher. In a telling indictment of this team's lack of hitting talent, four of the nine starters are batting .240 or below:
  • Ryan Church, RF, .186
  • Delwynn Young, DH, .233
  • Andy LaRoche, 3B, .236
  • Ronny Cedeno, SS, .240
Predictably, those four players went a combined oh-for-12 with one walk (drawn by Delwynn Young). Then, of course, we had Aki Iwamura lugging his .177 batting average off the bench in a futile pinch-hitting appearance.

The rotation is a concern, yes, but so is the bullpen. Brendan Donnelly's nearly useless, but of greater concern all of a sudden is the suddenly shaky Ocavio Dotel. He has struggled his last three appearances, including yesterday's blown save, last Sunday's loss to San Francisco and the near-loss a week ago Saturday when Lastings Milledge made that wondrous diving catch on the warning track to save the win over the Giants. That was the last win for the Pirates, by the way.

There is no end in sight. The only thing to do is to bring up Pedro Alvarez, but that's not going to solve the offense. There's too much deadweight: Milledge, Church, Awimura, LaRoche, Jaromillo, Crosby. That's a lot of inept offense doing nothing but taking up roster spots.

Bob Smizik examines the right-field dilemma of Lastings Milledge vs. Ryan Church. There's not much to choose from there, that's for sure.

There's also not much general manager Neal Huntington is likely to do at this point to bolster the rotation. There's nothing at Indianapolis, and management won't reach down to Altoona to call up Bryan Morris, Rudy Owens and/or Tim Alderson. Would they? No, of course not.

It's going to be a long rest of the season.


Brad said...

I would like to see Moskos promoted also. Probably won't happen since the front office treats these gut like little babies.

Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls said...

I'd like to see Moskos up here, too. And you're right: Management treats these guys like babies. It's ridiculous. "We wanna be sure they're ready. Wha. Wha. Wha."

Just one example how they baby these guys: Jose Tabata's up here for all of two games before John Russell sits him down so he doesn't have to face Justin Verlander.

If they're going to sit their best prospects every time a tough pitcher like Verlander comes along, well, it's no wonder they're winning barely a third of their games.

Hell, for that matter, they should promote Tony Sanchez ... at least to AA, if not AAA. Oh, hell, just bring him up to the parent club. What do we have to lose.

bzepp said...

For me, the big mystery of this season so far is what has happened to starting pitching. Last year it looked great; Kerrigan had seemingly worked magic with Duke and Ohlendorf, and even Morton did well for the most part. Now, Ohlendorf develops back issues in april, Duke seems to have regressed close to 2008, and Morton is as Morton does. Could Kerrigan's effectiveness diminish so quickly and so massively? The only answer I can think of is the hit our defense has taken with the loss of Perry Hill, and the implications for pitchers who aren't big on getting strikeouts. But it's very weird and unexpected.

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