This one was broken up by a couple of rain delays, and I watched chunks of other games and did some work while waiting for this one to get started again, so my thoughts here are a bit scattered:
-P- Paul Maholm looked like plain old Paul today - nothing special. Sometimes, though, that's good enough, and he kept the Reds off the board for 5.1 innings. The bullpen has quietly been pretty good for the last several days, and they took over and shut down the Reds tonight after Maholm left.
-P- I think it's safe to say Jason Bay's slump is over - he hit his second homer of the year tonight, his average is up to .281, and his OBP is well over .400. I don't know if that means the old Jason Bay is back, but I'm encouraged.
-P- Is it just me, or is it somewhat incredible to think there was ever a job fight between Nate McLouth and Nyjer Morgan? Putting aside the numbers for a second - well, actually, let me say once more that they've always, clearly favored McLouth, and then put them aside - I watch the games and am amazed that any professional talent evaluator could've watched both of these guys and decided Morgan was better. McLouth is smooth in all phases of the game - he has a sweet swing, he runs the bases intelligently and athletically, and he gets great jumps on defense and catches balls that are hit near him. Today, Morgan tried to run down a ball in the outfield that appeared to bounce off his knee, then tried to compensate with a ridiculous off-balance throw that didn't even seem to have a target. Later in the game, he tried to steal second and got tagged out when he slid past the bag.
Neither of these were the worst offenses against baseball I've ever seen. They weren't even the worst offenses against baseball I've seen this week. But it is very hard to imagine McLouth doing those things. That's not how he operates.
Many have argued that Morgan has hidden reserves of upside because he spent his youth playing hockey rather than concentrating on baseball. I've always disagreed with that argument, since Morgan has had five years in the minors to hone his craft and has never made a great leap forward.
Given Morgan's age, nothing has happened this year to change my assessment, but I now also think that Morgan's play is a terrible indictment of the Pirates' minor league system under Dave Littlefield. Morgan is, by every account I've ever read, a nice person who wants to succeed, and yet everything he does on the baseball field seems improvised. He's a legitimately great athlete, and he's one of the fastest guys to play for the Pirates this decade, but he can't steal bases, he can't hit, he doesn't know that it's better to make a controlled throw from the outfield than an uncontrolled one, and he runs around in the outfield like a student driver on Beechwood Boulevard. Where was the coaching with this guy? Making it up as he went along may have worked for Morgan in the minors, but his coaches should have known it wouldn't work at the highest level. There's a reason Major Harris didn't make it in the NFL.
-P- Sometimes I feel bad about harping on the same guys over and over and over, but 0-for-3vas made another error today, and he also kept the Pirates from making another out - Ryan Doumit caught Brandon Phillips napping at second base and he stood up to throw for what should've been an easy out, but he couldn't throw because Rivas was nowhere near the bag. By the time Rivas figured out what was going on and got to second, Phillips had gotten back. Oh, and Rivas' line tonight? 0-for-3.
Every indication I've seen so far is that Rivas is exactly what his minor league stats the last two years suggested he was - a sub-replacement-level player. Neal Huntington should not have trouble finding someone better and it offends me that I have to continue watching this guy.
-P- Fun (or not-so-fun?) fact: Before tonight, the Pirates hadn't won a game while scoring two runs or less since the last game of the 2006 season.