The Coors Effect

July 27, 2010 6:19 PM

Thank God for the Pittsburgh Pirates

So the Rockies come home from a 2-9 road trip, having lost six games in a row, having just been swept by the Phillies.  They find themselves just three games over .500, eight games back in the West, four and a half back in the Wild Card.

Thank God for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Yes, the Rockies open an eight-game homestand tonight with the Pittsburgh Pirates, owners of the worst record in the National League at 34-64, hopelessly out of any race for the playoffs.  The Pirates are going nowhere, and they'd be sellers at the trade deadline if they had any players who anybody else wanted.

Okay, that's partially a lie.  The Pirates do have players that other teams want, but they're young players, not even arbitration-eligible yet, the building blocks for the next good Pirates team.  23-year-old CF Andrew McCutchen is a budding star, hitting .288/.363/.432 in his second season in the majors, with 21 steals in 27 attempts.  While he's not a great power hitter, he's a solid hitter for average, very fast, and a good defensive CF.  McCutchen is flanked by two other young outfielders: 25-year-old RF Lastings Milledge (.277/.341/.388), who's largely viewed as a disappointment, and 21-year-old LF Jose Tabata (.281/.347/.394), who's just getting his feet wet in the majors.

The infield is likewise young, with 29-year-old 1B Garrett Jones being the oldest player.  Jones has been a bit of a disappointment this season; after tearing up the league for 21 homers in half a season last year, he's dropped to 12 this year, and his ISO power has dropped from .274 to .152.  Slick-fielding SS Ronny Cedeno isn't much of an offensive threat (.255/.295/.381), and 2B Neil Walker (.301/.338/.443) and 3B Pedro Alvarez (.244/.309/.463) are still getting their feet wet.  Alvarez has the potential to be a really good player if he can cut down on his strikeouts (so far he's striking out 35 percent of the time.)  The point is, though, that while some of these guys could wind up being very good, there are no real proven veterans that the Pirates would want to shop around at the deadline.

With Ryan Doumit on the DL, catching duties will be manned by Jason Jaramillo (.149/.229/.216) and Erik Kratz (.296/.396/.550 at AAA Indianapolis.)

The Pirates' starting pitchers in this series will be Zach Duke (4-9, 5.22), Ross Ohlendorf (1-8, 4.39), and Jeff Karstens (2-6, 4.72.)  The records obviously reflect the fact that they pitch for the Pirates, but you can't really argue that any of the three are that good -- the ERAs aren't good, and their peripherals don't suggest that this is any sort of bad luck.  The bullpen, anchored by closer Octavio Dotel and all-star Evan Meek, along with D.J. Carrasco, Joel Hanrahan, and Javier Lopez -- is actually not that bad, though suffice to say the Pirates' offense and starters haven't been giving them a lot of leads to protect.

So, once again: Thank God for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The Rockies need a sweep in this series.  (Will they get it?  Well, not if they keep playing like they've been playing.  Even the Pirates could beat the Rockies team that's been showing up for the last week or so.)

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