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What to Make of Jason Grilli’s Poor Start

April 20th, 2014 at 8:24 PM
By Allan Smith

'Jason Grilli' photo (c) 2012, Keith Allison - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The Pittsburgh Pirates made a habit of dropping the first game of a four game set before sweeping the final three during the 2013 season. While they won the first game against Milwaukee, the Bucs dropped the final three, including the final two via blown saves by Pirates closer Jason Grilli.

Grilli, who now has blown more saves than he did in all of 2013, has looked off in the early going.

Sure, two of the blown saves came on home runs by one of the best players in the Major Leagues, Ryan Braun, but they were a product of poor location. Today, Grilli left a hanging breaking pitch over the heart of the plate, which Braun crushed into the left field stands.

Yet, Grilli's stuff looks to be just as good as it has been in years past. He is still reaching 94 with the fastball while dropping his sweeping curveball across the plate at 82.

After blowing a save against the Chicago Cubs the first week of the season, Grilli managed to toss four consecutive quality outings, each resulting in a save.

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Pittsburgh Pirates’ Potential Lineup Combinations After Acquisition of Ike Davis

April 19th, 2014 at 2:50 PM
By Allan Smith

'Ike Davis' photo (c) 2010, slgckgc - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Pittsburgh bolstered their lineup with the addition of New York Mets' first baseman Ike Davis, who was acquired via trade Friday evening for Minor League reliever Zack Thornton and a player to be named later.

With Davis now in the fold, here are some potential lineups the Bucs could use moving forward.

RHP

1. LF: Starling Marte

2. RF: Travis Snider/Jose Tabata

3. CF: Andrew McCutchen

4. 3B: Pedro Alvarez

5. 2B: Neil Walker

6. 1B: Ike Davis

7. C: Russell Martin

8. SS: Jordy Mercer

or

1. LF: Marte

2. 2B: Walker

3. CF: McCutchen

4. 3B: Alvarez

5. C: Martin

6. 1B: Davis

7. RF: Snider/Tabata

8. SS: Mercer

The second lineup seems like the more likely of the two to get the go from the start, as Clint Hurdle loves to get a lefty-righty flip going throughout the order. Unfortunately for Davis, the lineup doesn't provide him much protection out of the six spot.

LHP

1. LF: Marte

2. C: Martin

3. CF: McCutchen

4. 3B: Alvarez

5. 1B: Sanchez

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Pittsburgh Pirates Trade for New York Mets’ First Baseman Ike Davis

April 18th, 2014 at 8:55 PM
By Allan Smith

'Ike Davis' photo (c) 2010, slgckgc - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The Pittsburgh Pirates got their man.

Friday, the team made a long awaited trade for a left-handed first baseman, sending Minor League pitcher Zack Thornton and a player to be named later to the New York Mets for Ike Davis.

Davis, who hit 32 home runs and drove in 90 just two season ago, has struggled through injuries and inconsistency the past season-plus. His swing is tailored for PNC Park, however, a major factor in Pirates' General Manager Neal Huntington deciding to pull the trigger on the trade.

In his first year of arbitration eligibility, Davis was awarded a $3.5 million salary. He has started off 2014 by hitting .205/.326/.742 with one home run and five RBI.

Throughout his career, Davis has a .256/.357/.828 OPS against left handed pitching, hitting 56 home runs in the process over 1296 plate appearances. Combine those numbers with Gaby Sanchez's career .900 OPS against lefties, and the Pirates first base situation looks to be solved.

Thornton was originally selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 43rd round of the 2008 draft before going unsigned. The Oakland A's then took the pitcher in the 23rd round of the 2010 draft. He has been in the Pirates organization since last season, when he compiled a 2.63 ERA as a reliever between Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A.

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Comparing the Right Field Platoon of Jose Tabata and Travis Snider

April 18th, 2014 at 5:34 PM
By Allan Smith

'Jose Tabata' photo (c) 2012, Jon Dawson - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

With the eventual promotion of top prospect Gregory Polanco on the horizon, the time is now or never for Travis Snider and Jose Tabata.

The duo has started the year in a non-traditional right field platoon, with Snider receiving the majority of the early season at-bats. The two have posted similar numbers in the early going, with Snider hitting .226/.281/.677 with three home runs and six RBI in 57 plate appearances, whereas Tabata has hit .250/.323/.644 with two doubles and two RBI in 31 plate appearances.

While the numbers don't seem very encouraging, there have been a couple of bright spots, as the two men compete for who will likely stick around as the backup outfielder once Polanco arrives.

First, Snider's three home runs are tied for third best on the team. Snider took all of 2013 to hit a grand total of five. Surely, more than anything else, this is a sign he is fully over the lingering injuries that hampered him in his first year and a half with the Bucs. Over the course of a full season, Snider is hitting at a pace that would produce 30 home runs.

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Pittsburgh Pirates Have Hit Fourth Most Home Runs in MLB

April 17th, 2014 at 4:52 PM
By Allan Smith

'PNC Park' photo (c) 2006, Navin75 - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

While the Pittsburgh Pirates have gone on a small slide of late, dropping five of their last six and six of their past eight games, they remain near the top of the Major Leagues in one particularly attractive offensive category.

With the help of a five and six home run performance over the past week, the Pirates are tied for fourth in the big leagues when it comes to hitting the long ball, crushing 19 through the first 15 games. The team is tied for second with the Washington Nationals for home runs hit by a National League team.

Shockingly, this comes without the help of a single Andrew McCutchen home run.

Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez are both tied for second in all of baseball with a plethora of players who have also hit five home runs. Travis Snider has hit three, while Gaby Sanchez and Russell Martin have hit a pair each.

However, while the team has hit 19 home runs, Pirates batters have only knocked in a total of 55 runs, good for 19th in the big leagues.

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