Morning Report: Altoona’s Best Hitters Enjoy the Road Games

The Altoona Curve have four players in their lineup right now hitting over .300, and all four represented the Curve in the All-Star game. Max Moroff, Josh Bell, Adam Frazier and Dan Gamache are all having strong seasons and you might be surprised how they are doing it.

Starting with second baseman Max Moroff, who is having a breakout season. His problem in the past seemed to be too much patience at the plate. It was to the point he had no problem watching six pitches go by and living with the results, which I saw multiple times in 2013. Moroff needed to cut down on the strikeouts, while still being able to take walks, which meant if he got a good pitch, he needed to put it in play, instead of waiting for another good pitch. Basically, be aggressive in the strike zone, but still keep the good eye at the plate.

Moroff is the only one of this group that is hitting above-average at home, but he is still doing better on the road, with a home OPS of .778, versus .837 on the road. That’s not a huge difference like the others as you will see, but he is doing that with a higher batting average at home(.323 vs .313), which means the road has been better for his power numbers.

Gamache has been playing all around the infield, but for this group, he is the third baseman. This season has been solid for him after a very slow start that saw his average below .100 in early May. Gamache has an .815 OPS this year, but he has something in common with Moroff. He has played 31 games at home and 31 on the road, so that is great for comparison sake. Gamache has a .287/.340/.394 slash line at home, which aren’t bad numbers, but for him to have an .815 OPS, that means he has been doing a lot better in those other 31 games. On the road, Gamache has a .345/.376/.509 slash line.

Adam Frazier has been playing more shortstop since Gift Ngoepe got promoted to Indianapolis. He’s short on plate appearances to qualify for league leaders, but if he had enough he would be running away with the batting title. Frazier has a .362 average and an .887 OPS that is driven by the high average. When you look at his splits though, you wonder just how he is doing so well with a .300/.364/.378 slash line in Altoona. It’s because his road numbers are off the charts good, as he’s hitting .429/.473/.571 on the road.

Rounding out the infield with the top prospect, we have Josh Bell still learning how to play first base, but not letting it affect his hitting, at least on the road. If you’ve only seen Bell play at home, you really haven’t seen much of a hitter this year. He has a .261/.348/.368 slash line in Altoona. The groupies that follow the Curve on the road have seen him put on a show, batting .356/.408/.486 in 43 games.

So finding out that the road has been much kinder to all four infielders, it’s a great sign that Bell and Moroff rank 10th and 11th in the league in OPS and Gamache and Frazier would both be ranked higher than them if they qualified for league leaders. You figure, if they are succeeding on the road and putting up average/decent numbers at home, then it’s good to see them right up there with the players that aren’t playing half their games in Altoona. So the only bad part for these players the rest of the season seems to be that they have 24 road games left and still have to play 27 games at home.

Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by 2.5 games in the division to the Cardinals. They have a 5.5 game lead for the top wild card spot.

Indianapolis is 4-6 in their last ten games. They have a two game lead in their division.

Altoona is 6-4 in their last ten games and they are one game behind first place with Bowie.

Bradenton and West Virginia did not win their first half title. Their second half records are included below in the schedule.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates start a three-game series in Milwaukee tonight. Charlie Morton will be on the mound for the Pirates, making his tenth start of the season. Back on June 10th, he threw 7.1 shutout innings against the Brewers. The Brewers will counter with Mike Fiers, who allowed five runs over five innings versus the Pirates back on April 10th.

In the minors, all eight teams are in action, including a doubleheader for Altoona. Adrian Sampson will get the start for Indianapolis. He’s going to try to build off seven shutout innings his last time out. In his three starts prior to that, he allowed 15 earned runs over 17.1 innings. In his last game, Luis Heredia allowed a career-high nine earned runs. He has two strikeouts or less in seven of his 11 starts this season. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (53-35) @ Brewers (38-52) 8:10 PM
Probable starter: Charlie Morton (4.15 ERA, 16:30 BB/SO, 52.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (53-39) @ Toledo (40-52) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Adrian Sampson (3.88 ERA, 25:84 BB/SO, 106.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (49-41) @ Richmond (45-44) 5:35 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (2.88 ERA, 30:65 BB/SO, 99.2 IP) and TBD

High-A: Bradenton (45-46, 13-8 second half) @vs Lakeland (39-50) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Heredia (5.89 ERA, 18:22 BB/SO, 47.1 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (51-39, 14-7 second half) vs Lexington (41-47) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Austin Coley (3.83 ERA, 13:76 BB/SO, 91.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (10-15) vs State College (13-12) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Dario Agrazal Jr. (2.77 ERA, 5:13 BB/SO, 26.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (8-12) vs Bluefield (8-14) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD

GCL: Pirates (13-8) vs Tigers (10-10) 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (16-25) vs Red Sox2 (29-12) 10:30 AM (season preview)

Highlights

Here is a video of Morgantown dressed in some strange uniform from last week. With Altoona and Indianapolis on their All-Star break this week, the highlights are very light and this is what you get.

Recent Transactions

7/17: Pirates sign Jake Thompson. Assigned to Indianapolis.

7/17: Pirates recall Jaff Decker.

7/17: Oderman Rocha assigned to Bradenton. Junior Lopez assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/16: Hunter Morris placed on Indianapolis disabled list. Jose Tabata placed on temporary inactive list.

7/15:  Pirates sign Ryan Nagle. Assigned to Morgantown.

7/15: Pirates sign Brandon Waddell and James Marvel. Waddell assigned to Morgantown.

7/15: Luis Paula sent to Morgantown.

7/13: Wilfredo Boscan sent to Indianapolis.

7/13: Seth McGarry assigned to Morgantown.

7/13: Omar Basulto assigned to GCL. Mike Wallace transferred from GCL to Bristol.

7/12: Wilfredo Boscan recalled. Steve Lombardozzi optioned to Indianapolis.

7/10: Pirates sign Ike Schlabach and assign him to GCL.

7/10: Pirates sign Tate Scioneaux and assign him to Morgantown.

7/10: Jesus Paredes promoted to Morgantown. Oderman Rocha sent to GCL.

7/9: Pirates sign Sherton Apostel.

7/9: Mike Wallace sent from Bristol to GCL.

7/7: Clay Holmes added to Bradenton roster. Harold Ramirez placed on temporary inactive list.

7/7: Trace Tam Sing added to West Virginia roster. Tito Polo placed on temporary inactive list.

7/6: Josh Harrison placed on disabled list. Travis Ishikawa added to active roster.

7/6: Justin Seller assigned to GCL on rehab.

7/5: Pirates claim Travis Ishikawa on waivers.

7/4: Pirates sign five international players.

7/3: Pirates sign Kevin Sanchez and Samuel Inoa.

7/3: Pirates trade Clayton Richard to Chicago Cubs for cash considerations.

This Date in Pirates History

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note and a recap of a very long game. We start with the players, most recent first. They are, Brian Rogers, who pitched for the 2006-07 Pirates, outfielder Jerry Lynch, who had two stints with the team. He was around from 1954 until 1956, then again from 1963 until 1966. He hit .263 with 45 homers in 544 games for the Pirates. Also two pitchers from the 19th century, Chummy Gray(1899) and Jim Handiboe, who pitched for the franchise in 1886, the year before they moved from the American Association to the National League.

On this date in 1998, the Pirates traded pitcher Esteban Loaiza to the Texas Rangers for pitcher Todd Van Poppel and second baseman Warren Morris. This deal looked great short-term, as Morris finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1999, but he quickly dropped off and was released just three years later. Van Poppel pitched poorly for the Pirates, while Loaiza eventually became an All-Star pitcher, though that was after his time with Texas ended.

On this date in 1914, the Pirates and Giants played 21 innings at Forbes Field. The Pirates ended up losing 3-1 with starter Babe Adams getting the loss and Giants’ starter Rube Marquard picking up the win. That’s right, a 21 inning game and only two pitchers were used. You can read a full recap from this game in the link above.

  • I still say it’s the roller coaster being a distraction. : )

  • Altoona has been known to be a terrible hitters park right? Still, very interesting splits.

    • It’s either been raining or 95% humidity in South Central PA for basically the last three months; you wonder how much that’s killing the power numbers.

      • Physics says that, given other conditions such as temperature and pressure being equal, the same initial impulse from the bat will hit the ball farther in higher humidity because water molecules are lighter than either nitrogen or oxygen molecules they displace, and since the coefficient of drag is roughly independent of the Reynolds number for a hit baseball the drag force on the ball varies proportionately with the air density.

        On the other hand the higher humidity make suck the energy out of the players so they don’t swing as hard. And rain will definitely impede the flight of the ball.

    • It is fairly well known to be a bad park for hitters, quantifying it is hard, there are a lot of minor league park factors floating around but they most appear to be one year numbers, you multi-year to have a better understanding.

      http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/minors/season-preview/2013/2614870.html

      This suggest about a 5% decline in overall offense, while killing power.

      Minor League Central, (I think these are one year numbers), has home run factors of 92, 83, 89, 79 for last four seasons. Which is comparable to the home run park factors for PNC.

  • We could use Jerry Lynch’s bat off the bench! 🙂

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