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Roundup: On Pearce and Paulino

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-P- (UPDATE: Naturally, this bit was written before Paulino's explosion today. I think he's just trying to make me mad.) You know, I'm not saying Raul Chavez -- who made two starts in a row earlier this weekend -- should stick with the Pirates after Ryan Doumit returns, but is it crazy that it actually occurred to me that Chavez might be a better backup for Doumit than Ronny Paulino is? Paulino is the better hitter, but he's spent the past year and a half going out of his way to not prove it.

Doumit is a hitting-oriented catcher and he isn't a great defender. Given that Paulino isn't hitting, it'd be nice if he played good defense so that his skills would complement Doumit's. Even the platoon arrangement between the two hasn't really worked out -- Paulino pelted lefties last year, but he's posting a .672 OPS against them this year. Doumit's OPS against lefties is .963. The real problem is that Paulino hasn't shown any discernible skill this year (although I guess his defense is somewhat improved). He's not hitting, he's not hitting lefties, he's not playing great defense, he's not really throwing runners out, and his vaunted ability to handle pitchers has resulted in a 5.67 ERA. (Which, true, has been skewed by catching Matt Morris a few times, but still.) If things don't improve, it may reach the point where permanently replacing him with a Chavez-type backup catcher isn't such a terrible idea. 

-P- A couple of minor league updates: Daniel Moskos now has 36 runs allowed in 50  innings. He only had one earned run yesterday against Wilmington, but he had four walks in five innings. That pick looks like more of a disaster with each passing start.

In happier news, Jamie Romak is now hitting .287/.360/.604 after going 2-for-2 with a homer and two walks yesterday. He has 32 strikeouts and 10 walks, so that still needs a bit of work, but he probably should still be sent to Altoona soon. As a guy who strikes out a lot, he may face a difficult test there. 

-P- SteveZ and EmmaOMG have already mentioned this Hardball Times interview with Neal Huntington. Most of it is what you'd expect, but there is one particularly interesting quote:

ML: There is much literature circling that says minor-leaguer Steve Pearce, at 25, is ready to contribute in the major leagues now. Is it a matter of delaying his arbitration clock or could it be the front office is waiting until the team has a better chance to contend?

NH: Steve Pearce had a tremendous season in 2007 and we believe he is one of our best prospects. He began last season in A-ball and progressed to finish the season in the major leagues. While we believe he has quality upside, he is not a finished product as a complete player. He certainly put up monster numbers, but the National League does not have a designated hitter. As a result a player needs to be adequate defensively to help a club with more than just his bat. The bat has the biggest impact but the reality is for Steve to fulfill his potential we have some work to do outside of the batter’s box. Steve has worked hard to improve his defensive abilities to allow him to play adequate defense in the outfield. 

I was one of the people generating this "literature" about Pearce, and the idea that Pearce's defense might be the issue never occurred to me. The reports on his first base defense in the minors have always been good, and after he was called up last year, he looked downright competent in right field even though he didn't have a lot of experience there. He's a good athlete, he didn't make mistakes, and he played intelligently. He looked better to me than Xavier Nady did, in fact. In that light, the "designated hitter" comment seems bizarrely, pointlessly harsh.

What's especially weird here is that Huntington had every opportunity to just say that he'd wanted Pearce to work out a couple things with his hitting. If he'd said that, the numbers would have made him look prophetic -- Pearce is hitting just .254/.306/.396 so far in Indianapolis. Oh well -- kudos to Huntington for being honest, I guess.