Some notes for a Saturday morning. Be sure to check out the draft article going up later today (might be up already by the time you’re reading this). The draft is less than four weeks away and now is the time when you start getting more mock drafts and prospect rankings, giving you a good idea of the talent available for the Pirates with their 22nd overall pick.
** Jameson Taillon likely only has 5-6 starts left in Triple-A, including this evening’s game. He leads the league in WHIP, he’s fifth in the league in ERA. He’s getting a decent amount of ground balls, he’s not walking anyone and he has reached that 100-pitch mark the Pirates like to see from pitchers before calling them up for regular starts. This evening he gets a chance to bounce back from a start in which he allowed three runs for the first time and didn’t have the command we have seen from him in every other start. He has left a lot of fastballs up in some games and didn’t have the best curve in other contests, but Monday’s game was the first time he didn’t have either pitch working well. That’s the type of stuff you want to get out of the way in Triple-A, though you also don’t mind seeing those games because it’s always important to watch how pitchers bounce back from those types of games.
Taillon will have an interesting mound opponent, one of the only two pitchers in the league who has a better ERA than him and isn’t wearing and Indianapolis uniform. Chad Green has a 1.22 ERA so far, while also striking out 36 batters in 37 innings. That’s an even higher strikeout rate than Taillon. Should be a good pitchers duel, and I plan on having a full recap and analysis of Taillon’s outing in the Prospect Watch.
** With his first inning single on Friday, Andrew McCutchen reached base for the 1800th time via hit, walk or HBP. He is the 18th Pirate to reach that mark. The top ten for that list consists of: Honus Wagner, Paul Waner, Roberto Clemente, Max Carey, Willie Stargell, Pie Traynor, Lloyd Waner, Arky Vaughan, Bill Mazeroski and Fred Clarke. If you’re counting at home, that’s ten Hall of Famers in the top ten. That single also tied him with Johnny Ray for 32nd most in team history with 744 each. Just an added fun fact, and it’s always good to get a Johnny Ray reference in there.
** Over the last three years, we did a series of articles outlining how the Pittsburgh Pirates have all of their minor league pitchers throwing inside, pointing out how that leads to a high number of hit batters. The goal isn’t to hit batters, rather that happens more often when pitchers working on fastball command are also working on throwing inside. This off-season, the Pirates lost Jim Benedict to the Marlins. He was one of those coaches preaching to the young pitchers to throw inside.
It apparently didn’t take him long to turn the Marlins into a minor league system that throws inside. All four of the Marlins affiliates lead their league in hit batters, and in a couple of those cases, it isn’t even close. The high totals could be from pitchers who normally didn’t throw inside before, trying to get used to the new way of pitching. I was able to confirm with one Marlins pitcher that they are being told to pitch inside more often. That shouldn’t be a surprise knowing how much the Pirates preached that to their young pitchers.
PIRATES GAME GRAPH
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 9-4 to the Cubs on Friday. Jeff Locke gets the start today against Jake Arrieta, so this should be a fun game. Locke has allowed three runs on four hits and two walks in each of his last two starts, going six innings last time and seven in the previous game. Arrieta has a 1.13 ERA and an 0.88 WHIP. He has allowed six earned runs total in seven starts. Arrieta shutout the Pirates for seven innings on May 3rd.
In the minors, Jameson Taillon makes his seventh start. He gave up three runs for the first time in his last start. He has gone seven innings in each of his last three games. Taillon ranks fifth in the International League with a 1.69 ERA, and his 0.78 WHIP is the best in the league.
Dario Agrazal makes his seventh start today for West Virginia. He has starts in which he has allowed four runs and five runs, but in his other four starts combined, he has given up one earned run. Alex McRae has had similar results, giving up 11 earned runs total in three of his starts, and just one earned run in his other four starts combined. He makes his eighth start for Bradenton.
MLB: Pittsburgh (18-16) @ Cubs (26-8) 2:20 PM
Probable starter: Jeff Locke (4.68 ERA, 19:22 BB/SO, 32.2 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (17-16) @ Scranton/WB (19-17) 4:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jameson Taillon (1.69 ERA, 4:32 BB/SO, 37.1 IP)
AA: Altoona (18-17) @ Richmond (10-24) 6:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: David Whitehead (7.40 ERA, 29:14 BB/SO, 24.1 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (16-18) @ Palm Beach (15-21) 5:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (3.09 ERA, 13:14 BB/SO, 35.0 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (18-15) @ Lakewood (13-20) 4:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Dario Agrazal (3.60 ERA, 3:17 BB/SO, 25.0 IP)
Here is the second of two home runs from Eric Wood on Thursday.
They didn’t post highlights of both homers, so here is a double by Wood from the previous day.
5/13: Kyle Lobstein optioned to Indianapolis. Pittsburgh Pirates recall Cole Figueroa.
5/12: Cesilio Pimentel activated from West Virginia disabled list. Julio Vivas assigned to Extended Spring Training.
5/9: Mel Rojas Jr. traded to the Atlanta Braves for cash considerations.
5/8: Cole Tucker added to West Virginia Power roster. Logan Ratledge assigned to Extended Spring Training.
5/7: Billy Roth added to West Virginia Power roster.
5/6: Jung-ho Kang activated from disabled list.
5/6: Mel Rojas Jr. assigned to Extended Spring Training.
5/5: Jason Rogers optioned to Indianapolis.
5/2: Jason Creasy placed on disabled list. Brandon Waddell promoted to Altoona
5/2: Tate Scioneaux promoted to Bradenton.
4/30: Jared Hughes activated from the disabled list. Rob Scahill sent to Indianapolis.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Only one former Pittsburgh Pirates player born on this date, and he played just one game. Drew Rader was a star pitcher at Syracuse, who would have been the first overall draft pick if there was an amateur draft back in 1921. Known at the time as the best college pitcher, the Pirates paid extra to get Rader into camp in 1921 and ended up only using him once. He pitched two shutout innings on July 18,1921, coming into the game late with Pittsburgh down 12-1 to the Giants. That was not just his only Major League game, he played just one minor league game in his pro career. I will point out that a pitcher named Rader with an unknown first name, pitched briefly during the 1925, 1926 and 1929 seasons in the low minors, so that may have been him.
Also born on this date, manager Horace Phillips, who took over the team in 1884 and stuck around until 1889, making him the first manager for the Pirates (then called Alleghenys) after they moved to the National League.
On this date in 1896, Jake Stenzel collects six hits, as the Pirates defeat the Boston Beaneaters by a 20-4 score. Pittsburgh had 27 hits in the game. Stenzel had two hits the day before and four hits the day after his big game, making him 12-for-15 over a three game stretch. He ended up with a .361 batting average that season, which is one point higher than his .360 average with the Pirates over five seasons. That average puts him as the top hitter in franchise history.
Stenzel is a great player from the past that is often overlooked due to his short career and how long ago he played, but he has done something no one else in baseball history has done. He has four seasons in which he hit at least .350, stole 50 bases, scored 100 runs and drove in 80 runs. No one else has reached those minimum standards four times in their career and he did it four years in a row (1894-97).
Two years before Stenzel’s big game, the Pirates and the Cubs (then called the Colts) met for the first time on May 14th. The two teams went another 45 years before they met again on this date. In that 1894 game, the Pirates (who went by the nickname Braves that season) won 6-3 behind the pitching of Ad Gumbert, who went 15-14 that season despite a 6.04 ERA. Pittsburgh scored four runs in the second inning after a dropped ball at second base would have resulted in an easy inning-ending double play.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.