The Top 5 Things I Noticed From the Pirates Season Opener

The Pirates opened their season in Cincinnati today with a 5-2 loss, allowing 3 runs to be scored in the 8th after having the game tied 2-2.  Tony Watson picks up the loss after a poor inning of relief after taking the mound for Francisco Liriano who lasted 7 innings and had 7 strikeouts.  Andrew McCutchen led the Pirates with 2 hits and 2 rbi’s which came on an 8th inning home run off of Reds reliever Kevin Gregg.  Aroldis Chapman was dominant in relief. The Pirates will resume the series on Wednesday with Gerrit Cole taking the mound.

 

The game was solid enough and the Pirates didn’t look outmatched, but there were a few things i noticed that give me pause.  There were also a few things I noticed that calmed a few of my preseason fears.  Put them together and what do you have?

 

The top 5 things I noticed from the season opener.

 

Jordy Mercer has the body language of a man who is going to lose his job in the next month or so —

I’m not claiming to have studied with Dr. Bill Simmons, but you can just see it in Mercer and it was the most noticeable item ofjordy the day for me.  Mercer looks as if he knows his time is up as the starter given Kang’s spring and he is overwhelmed by what it would take to hold Kang off.  I started noticing it when he almost got taken out by Starling Marte in the rain towards the beginning of the game.  He looked like he had no clue what was going on and more than that he didn’t recover.  He didn’t crack a joke, he didn’t yell, there was little communication.  He just looked at everyone as if he was an outsider looking in.

 

Mercer is a solid player and I hope he has a great season, but I feel as if he is a starter or bust kind of player.  As in if he gets the reps and at bats he could be a solid major league starting shortstop, but give some of those at bats to Kang and I don’t think Mercer becomes an elite bench player.  I think he becomes another teams shortstop.

 

Andrew Lambo earned my respect with his pinch hit at bat —

 

I’ll be honest.  I am biased.  It hurts me to watch Andrew Lambo.  He has AAAA player written all over him and I was slightly confused as to why the Pirates chose to break camp with him.  However in his pinch hit at bat he took Kevin Gregg for a ride and got him to throw double digit pitches.  He kept finding a way to get the foul tip and the one he got a hold of was only a little bit foul.  Sure, in the end, he was out.  Without his at bat though I find it unlikely Cutch gets his homer.  Gregg had shown all his cards in the first at bat.  Andrew Lambo will never be a starter for the Pirates, but if he can repeat tonight’s performance on a regular basis he will have a spot on the roster for the rest of the season.

 

Francisco Liriano is far from consistent but can still be dominant —

 

Liriano had a few moments where he looked a bit lost.  He seemed distracted by the rain.  It seemed to bother him that his shoes were so muddy.  They scored 2 on him during that stretch.  Then he got back into it.  Started regaining control of the goofy guy.  He went back to being a top of rotation pitcher.  Liriano can be lights out on any night, just as he can be mediocre at best at any time.  He has always seemed inconsistent to me and if he is our ace pitcher going into the playoffs it would be troubling.  However if he is our number one or two pitcher he can earn some postseason wins and help the Buccos make their way to the world series.

 

Billy Hamilton’s teeth —

billhamI hate to be mean but I would be a liar if I pretended that Billy Hamilton’s teeth weren’t among the top 5 things I noticed today.  I know it’s not his fault.  Its genetics.  Its, you know, something.  I don’t know man its just hard to look at him when he opens that mouth and I feel really bad for him.  Maybe that is why he is so fast.  He is simply trying to be a perma blur so no one gets a good look at those choppers.

 

Francisco+Cervelli+Moet+Chandon+Suite+Open+6oErf4mg219l

I am cool with Francisco Cervelli —

This one is pretty self-explanatory.  I am cool with Cervelli.  I was on the fence, but today he impressed me.  He is a solid catcher.  He can hit.  He knows his signs.  He seems cool to me.

2015 Pirates Preview — The Pedro Alvarez Question

There is perhaps no question mark as big as what will happen to Pirates third basemen turned first baseman Pedro Alvarez. The former number two overall pick all but lost the ability to throw the ball to first base last season complicating his career trajectory.  Alvarez has power, there is no doubt about it, but like many power hitters he also strikes out at an alarming pace.

Pedro Alvarez

Pedro Alvarez

While he may never become the superstar that was envisioned when he was drafted out of Vanderbilt it seemed for a while that Alvarez was on track to become a serviceable major league starter with the ability to hit 30 plus home runs a season. However he struggled to hit above .200 or a large part of last season and the addition of his sudden inability to field his position created a scenario in which he simply couldn’t be in the lineup. They eventually moved him to first to eliminate the throwing problem and the hitting picked up, but not enough.

During the winter meetings the Pirates seemed to have offered him to everybody for anything and while a few rumors emerged it seemed that no one was willing to give anything of value up for a year of Alvarez and that is the exact problem the Pirates face. Alvarez will demand big money next year and if some team is willing to give it to him then best of luck. The Pirates will almost immediately be priced out of the situation because they will not be willing to invest any more into Alvarez and his quirks.

Alvarez has also been fairly public about his desire to return to his home of New York City, meaning this first crack at free agency will be his first chance to go home and he will likely take it if the Mets or Yankees are willing to have him.

But let’s get real for a second…. Who is going to want Alvarez?

He seems to have Mark Reynolds written all over him.  Potential source of power, likely source of stress and heartbreak. It never came together for Alvarez for whatever reason, yet given his pedigree he will be given multiple chances. If the Pirates are smart, and I truly believe they are, they will let him go as soon as it is logical.

Best case scenario: Alvarez has a good start to the season and they package him with another player to make a midseason trade.

Worst case scenario: Alvarez fails at first, becomes a barely acceptable major leaguer and the Pirates lose him at the end of the season and get nothing in return for a player they invested the number two overall pick in.

Most likely scenario: Alvarez has a mediocre start and is traded for next to nothing. He goes on to have a disappointing career in the majors, yet sticks around for the next decade simply due to the fact he was once the second overall pick.

2014 National League Wild Card Game — Pirates vs. Giants

I watched a majority of this game at Shananigan’s in Windsor Terrace, drinking beers with three other dudes there to watch the game and hoping, just hoping that Bumgarner would cool off if only for an inning. This was one of those games that I will always remember because it is one of the few events in Pittsburgh sports history where I felt helpless, because I could see our team was helpless. They were being shut down by Madison Bumgarner and the Pirates had nothing they could do about it.

As the Pirates run at the championship continues 2014 is likely the last season where fans can just be happy to be in the playoffs. From here on out it’s championship time. If this administration is going to win a World Series it probably has to be in the next year or two. This game is kind of a mile marker on a highway of success that shows the exact point when expectations changed.

1991 NLCS Game 7 — Braves vs. Pirates

The Braves scored three runs in the first inning, partly on a Brian Hunter two-run home run, and never looked back. Twenty-game winner John Smiley made the start, fared poorly, was yanked after two-thirds of an inning and lost to John Smoltz, who shut out the Pirates. Although Bob Walk was masterful in middle relief, it was too little, too late, even though he pulled his groin trying to help his cause attempting to stretch a single into a double in the bottom of the seventh. The Braves won 4–0 and nabbed the pennant. After Atlanta had gone 26 2⁄3 innings without scoring, the Pirates themselves went the final 22 1⁄3 innings without scoring. That streak would reach 30 innings before José Lind snapped it with a home run in the eighth inning of Game 1 in the 1992 NLCS.

Avery won the Series MVP award. Pitching 16.1 innings, the Braves starter did not allow a run, giving up nine hits and walking four while striking out seventeen. Avery said, “It’s been the best time of my life.”