Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pirates 2012: A Periodic Assessment (Part 2 of 8)

Well, not much to cover here because I summed up my views at the quarter mark in my last piece, focusing on the need for a new GM. I gave Neal Huntington credit for pitching, but noted that the inexplicable lack of effort seriously to address the offensive side of the equation, combined with his abysmal record in that regard over almost five years now, means it's time for a more proven leader.

I guess I can see the argument, though, for letting things play out a little longer. The team is exactly where it was when I wrote the first of these eight assessments - two games under .500. But no one should be satisfied with that. With the pitching we have, it IS fair to ask, why aren't we taking the bull by the horns and asserting ourselves in the Central dvision? The goal of the game isn't mediocrity; it's winning, right? And with the pitching we have, why aren't we?

The answer is pretty simple -- without McCutchen, the team's batting average is just around the .210 mark. Thank goodness for McCutchen!

Now, it DOES appear that the team is showing some signs of life, however inconsistent (15 Ks against a pitcher with an ERA over 5 one day, score four off Johan Santana the next...). Since the last assessment, C Rob Barajas seems to be playing closer to expectations. Josh Harrison is making a play for a full time job through good fielding but also some solid hitting. Given that one of our biggest problems is our starting SS, that's got to be encouraging. Unfortunately, there's not much else to mention.

So ok, let's be the optimist. Let's see what Neal will do. Will it be...nothing, and wait for the internal options to come around? That to me is the most discouraging option. Will he trade some of our commodities for one, if not two bats, and if so, when? As soon as possible? Or at the deadline? The argument for the latter might be that we can get more for what we have. The argument for the former is that we help the team NOW and maybe stay in this thing.

We DO have commodities. I expect Bedard to be gone by season's end anyway and he is doing ok. Burnett is doing well and there could be some interest. Yes, we may have to give up some SP. But that's where we seem to have some intriguing "internal options" to consider and it may be a risk worth taking.

Our biggest commodity, though, is our closer, Joel Hanrahan. That'd be tough. I've gone back and forth on this one. In the end though, I feel like that's something we may just have to do. I think Pirates' front office is pondering the idea as well. He'd probably net us the best return, and I note that Hurdle is already hinting at (read: conditioning us for) moving Brad Lincoln into that role. So there's clearly some consideration.

I don't pretend to know what's realistic out there. I keep thinking Kendrys Morales, who is somewhat of the odd man out on the Angels, would be a good fit and possible attainable. There are others. But at the end of the day, I'd like to see something now rather than later. It's not a strategy to expect us to keep our head above water to the deadline, and then bring in some help. It's a hope, that's all.

This is Neal's moment. I stand behind my earlier post; but if we're going to give him to the end of the season, he's going to have to do something. The status quo will be difficult to sustain for an entire season; and it wouldn't get you much past .500 anyway, if that.

Let's see.

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