One Night Only: What the Bucs?

I don’t know what it is about envelopes, but ever since my earliest days, I’ve been pushing the hell out of them.

That trend continues today, as this electronic space serves to preview not just one game, but an entire flipping series.

Is it crazy? Yes. Is it possible? Just wait and see.

St. Louis at Pittsburgh | Friday, May 07 | 7:05 pm ET
St. Louis at Pittsburgh | Saturday, May 08 | 7:05 pm ET
St. Louis at Pittsburgh | Sunday, May 09 | 1:35 pm ET

Starting Pitchers
The careful reader will note that the following pitchers are all Cardinals. This has everything to do with the fact that the Pirate pitching staff is largely underwhelming, and — with regard to the present series, at least — of little concern to the baseballing enthusiast.

The careful reader will also note that the following pitchers are all really flipping good.

Friday: Chris Carpenter
38.0 IP, 9.24 K/9, 3.08 BB/9, .244 BABIP, 49.5% GB, 16.1% HR/FB, 3.32 xFIP
Projected FIP: 3.23 (FAN) 3.18 (CHONE) 3.53 (ZiPS)

Saturday: Jaime Garcia
32.0 IP, 6.47 K/9, 3.66 BB/9, .220 BABIP, 65.1% GB, 0.0% HR/FB, 3.72 xFIP
Projected FIP: N/A (FAN) 4.69 (CHONE) 4.59 (ZiPS)

Sunday: Adam Wainwright
46.0 IP, 7.04 K/9, 1.96 BB/9, .236 BABIP, 50.0% GB, 2.6% HR/FB, 3.51 xFIP
Projected FIP: 3.31 (FAN) 3.40 (CHONE) 3.16 (ZiPS)

On The Pirates Offense
Wednesday night, at an unspecified Portland-area watering hole, I found myself watching the Chicago/Pittsburgh contest at PNC Park. As I tuned in, the game was just entering the bottom of third, and, almost without pause, I was treated to these four at-bats in succession (play-by-play courtesy of FanGraphs play log):

Andy LaRoche doubled to left (Grounder).
Andrew McCutchen doubled to left (Fliner (Liner)). Andy LaRoche scored.
Garrett Jones doubled to right (Fliner (Liner)). Andrew McCutchen scored.

Ryan Doumit lined out to third (Liner).

LaRoche’s hit was — technically, I guess — a grounder, but it was well struck and right down the third base line: a no-doubt double, in other words. McCutchen’s double was to left-center, almost netted him a triple, and looked exactly like this. Jones’s double was even more forcefully struck, this time down the right field line (as you can see right here). Finally, though it didn’t get him aboard, Ryan Doumit’s liner to Aramis Ramirez was hit a ton, too.

It was a striking sequence, this. All four Pirates absolutely sqaured up balls against a pitcher who, despite some minor struggles in his return from injury, is generally recognized as one of the National League’s more capable specimens.

Thus it was, under the influence of this hitting display, that I noted the score of last night’s game between Chicago and Pittsburgh: 11-1 in favor of the home team. Randy Wells entered Thursday night’s game ranked eighth out of 115 qualified Major League pitchers with an xFIP of 3.19. After the first inning, he sported a decidedly higher mark.

If you tuned in late, here’s what you missed in the bottom of said inning (most of which you can watch here):

Akinori Iwamura walked.
Andy LaRoche walked. Akinori Iwamura advanced to 2B.
Andrew McCutchen singled to left (Grounder). Akinori Iwamura scored. Andy LaRoche advanced to 2B.
Garrett Jones singled to left (Fliner (Liner)). Andy LaRoche scored. Andrew McCutchen advanced to 2B.
Ryan Doumit doubled to right (Fliner (Liner)). Andrew McCutchen scored. Garrett Jones advanced to 3B.

Ryan Church struck out swinging.
Lastings Milledge doubled to left (Fliner (Liner)). Garrett Jones scored. Ryan Doumit scored.
Ronny Cedeno flied out to left (Fly).
Brian Burres grounded out to second (Grounder).

Pittsburgh’s win expectancy at beginning of the inning was 54.8%. By the end of it, that number had climbed to 89.7%. Nor did it drop below 89.0% at any point afterwards, as you can see by this invincible graph:

That’s a pretty good way to win a baseball game.

Very clearly, the Pirates aren’t the top of the offensive heap. In fact, they’re 25th in park-adjusted runs scored compared to average, with a mark of -15.8. But there are some signs of life here that oughtn’t be ignored. Second baseman Aki Iwamura has posted a slash line of only .202/.303/.298 — but with a BABIP (.233) over a hundred points below his career mark. Normalize his batted-ball figure, and he’s wOBA-ing around .365 or so. Garret Jones has also been a victim of batted-ball luck (.250 BABIP), but has managed to post a 119 wRC+, anyway. Andy LaRoche appears to be delivering on his early promise, showing the same plate discipline as always, but with an elevated line-drive rate that could be the product of physical maturity. Ryan Doumit is on pace for another above-average offensive season from the catcher spot. And Andrew McCutchen — well Andrew McCutchen is actually just good.

Even Jeff Clement, Lastings Milledge, Steve Pearce: none of them are world-beaters, but each affordable and all with the pedigree to suggest something like upside.

If I Had My Druthers
• Andy LaRoche would finally climb out of the shadow of his older brother, Arizona first baseman Adam.
• Bobby Crosby would finally climb out of the shadow of his older brother, American comedian Bill.

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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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Great work, Carson. Here’s to you gettin’ them druthers.

Gettin’ Them Druthers (Tha Durrty Durrty Sabr Remix) ft. C-Dub Cistuli sounds like an especially danceable dope joint.