Sunday, July 23, 2006

Jeopardy answer: What is "masochism"?

Question: Rooting for the Pirates an exercise in this quality.

Gonzalez, whom I once described as my favorite Pirate (I love that conquistador flair he displays on the mound when he has it all working for him), has been lousy this year; lousy but lucky, exactly like Mike Williams was before it all came apart on him. Unlike Williams, Gonzo strikes guys out and doesn't give up a lot of homers, but the walks are killing him, and today the walk to Amezega*, who was something like 1 for 23 batting righthanded so far this year, killed us.

In the first game of the series, Gonzo was awarded a save after loading the bases with one out and then wriggling out of trouble. The fact that he was awarded anything at all for that pitching performance demonstrates how misleading the "save" statistic is as an indicator of effective pitching. Matt Capps, our other untouchable in the bullpen, at least throws strikes. The trouble with throwing too many strikes, though, is that opponents sometimes hit them, as happened today. As everyone else in the Pirates blogosphere has been saying, including my angry and passionate son, a team in a state of ineptitude such as ours should not have any untouchables, particularly not relief pitchers.

Is Gonzo the new Rod Scurry? Nah, not that bad. Scurry was wild, but it was the uncontrollable and frequently uncatchable curve ball that was Scurry's undoing. Scurry was the last lefty reliever I can recall who was christened The Closer by a Pirates manager, with disastrous results. I distinctly remember at least two games blown by the Scurrdog when runners scored from third on game-ending wild pitches--distant echoes of Bob Moose resonating in the caverns at Three Rivers.

RIP, Scurrdog.

* I'm too lazy to look up the spelling of this, so if this is wrong, please blame it on the player, who has no business having a name like that.


Anonymous bucdaddy said...

You're right about the save rule. I was telling somebody in the office when I saw that box score, if you put more guys on base than you get outs you shouldn't get a save, no matter what else happens.

You're also right about Capps. Guys who throw strikes are going to get some of them hit from time to time.

But here's where we differ: Relievers might be a dime a dozen, but relievers who throw STRIKES -- well, that's another matter, isn't it? If guys like that are so easy to find, why have we had to put up with Williams/Mesa/Gonzo and all this ninth-inning adventure every game? Not to mention Ryan Vogelsong. Hey, just take some cheap guy and throw him out there! Anybody can do the job!

Look, against all odds, God has dropped this great gift in our laps, a 22-year-old, cheap kid who throws gas and throws strikes. We don't have to teach him to pitch, we don't have to wait forever for him to develop. He can pitch, now.

And you can't wait to deal this guy?

12:26 PM  
Blogger Billy said...

Look, against all odds, God has dropped this great gift in our laps, a 22-year-old, cheap kid who throws gas and throws strikes.

I believe that the Deity has demonstrated by now His utter indifference to the fortunes of the Pittsburgh Pirates. But theology is outside the scope of this blog.

If Capps is that good, he is wasted as a reliever and should be a starter. Starters throw more innings than relievers do, and you want your best pitchers to throw the most innings on your staff. I am not anxious to deal Capps and like him just fine, but if trading him gives me the opportunity to get a first baseman who may be able to contribute to the offense such that there are fewer games in which the final outcome hinges on the performance of the worst pitchers on my pitching staff, then yes, I would trade him.

Capps is no more of a sure thing than Shealy is, but batting ability is more stable and predictable than pitching ability, and a first baseman's offense contributes more to a team than a relief pitcher could ever contribute. So I'd rather take the risk on the first baseman than on the relief pitcher, because the risk is lower and the payoff is potentially higher.

We took that risk once in the past by trading Rincon for Giles, and that worked out pretty well.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Bones said...

Despite the neck size, Capps can't bat fifth.

Rod Scurry? Wow, thanks for the memories, Billy. Googling Rod Scurry turned up his freaky obit on an even freakier website "where every player is safe at home". A week before his death and right before losing consciousness forever, Scurrdog complained that "snakes were in his home, crawling on him and biting him." RIP indeed.

3:09 AM  
Anonymous Bones said...

BTW, the correct Jeopardy answer would be "what is masochism?". I'd also accept "what is self-flagellation?"

3:14 AM  
Blogger Billy said...

Thanks Bones--I fixed this!

6:53 AM  
Anonymous Greg Schuler said...

How quickly they forget former Pirate Alfredo Amezaga.

As for Capps starting - well they tried that in the South Atlantic League and the results were not good. Capps did not have the ability to go through a lineup more than once and was converted last season to a reliever full time. I doubt he could go back to being a starter in the MLB or without at least going back to AAA or AA to work on his secondary pitches.

To me, Capps shows that an organization can find serviceable relievers from within - and if they go bad or get expensive, the next guy gets a chance. Heck, the Pirates gave away several cheap and useable seasons from guys like Jeff Bennett, DJ Carrasco, Shawn Camp and Chris Spurling - none were anything more than fungible, but they provided cheap useful innings.

Look at the AAA staff - guys like Strickland and McLeary, for example, might be able to come up and be cheap and useful. If you can improve the team by trading Capps, you do it and don't even look back.

9:52 AM  

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