The Mets have filed a protest to the league of a scoring decision from Saturday night’s game against the Pirates. Andrew McCutchen‘s liner to third base that hit off David Murphy‘s leg was ruled a double by the official scorer and two RBIs. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a link to the article that includes video of play under question.

I was sitting behind home plate when this play occurred, and I even tweeted that I was surprised the play was ruled a double. I also did not have the benefit of instant replay at the time. In my opinion, it probably should have been an error. Though I don’t think it’s anywhere near an obvious call.

Now I find this whole situation fascinating. Mainly because I’ve official scored games in the minor leagues and prospect leagues and have dealt with managers and OS’ throughout my career. I know the anger and pressure that can be directed toward official scorers from managers and players making it anything but an easy job.

With all that said, I can’t believe the Mets would challenge this decision to the league. From what it has to go through, where a “group” has to unanimously agree that the play was wrong to be overturned, I just have a hard time seeing this call changing. It’s a judgement call, and it wasn’t blatantly wrong.

Are the Mets that concerned about a couple of earned runs to R.A. Dickey‘s stat line? Really?

It just seems like it’s a waste of time on a play that wasn’t even that obvious to begin with. Not only would it change two runs from earned to unearned, the reversal would take a double and two RBIs away from McCutchen. McCutchen has more to lose in this situation than Dickey. Like all season, here’s hoping this is another situation that the Mets lose.

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Interleague play is suddenly upon us again. You can read my thoughts on the entire thing here. Like it or not though, it’s back for one series at least this weekend.

One of the matchups I actually look forward to is the Pirates-Tigers, which is slowly becoming an annual rematch of the classic 1909 World Series! Yes, that was the year that Honus Wagner bested Ty Cobb’s Tigers 4-games-to-3 for the Pirates first championship.

With the Tigers in town, I will be at PNC Park all weekend for the festivities. The Pirates already got a leg up in the series with a 10-1 victory Friday night thanks to Neil Walker’s two-run double and three-run home run to lead the way. Can Walker duplicate his efforts tonight during his bobblehead giveaway?

It’s official. Jose Bautista‘s 54-home run season last year was no fluke. His three home runs Sunday gives him 16 in less than two months, which is good for first in the majors. He’s doing it again. Actually, he’s only on pace to shatter that mark along with the single-season home run total by a cool eight bombs. Rational thinking would suggest that he won’t get there, but at this point I really cannot doubt this guy and the incredible run he’s been on over the past two years. Oh, plus he’s only hitting .368 this season.

Sure, as a lifelong Pirates fan, I could be bitter. Why? Because the Jose Bautista that played for the Pirates for parts of five seasons was nothing special. In 400 games over five seasons with Pittsburgh, Bautista hit just 43 HR with a slash line of .241/.329/.403. After struggling through another season in 2008, he was dealt to the Blue Jays on Aug. 21, 2008 for Robinzon Diaz. Yes, Robinzon with a Z. The change of scenery didn’t seem to help Bautista in the last month with Toronto or in 2009 where he still hit 13 HR with a .235 average…similar numbers to his years in Pittsburgh.

Then something seemed to just click, but it started before the 2010 season. I traced the date back to Sept. 7, 2009 when things all changed for Joey Bats and whatever change he made began paying off. From Sept. 7 to the end of the 2009 season, Bautista hit 10 home runs in 98 at-bats over his last 21 games to close out the season. This was after he only had three home runs on the year prior to Sept. 7.

Since then he has become the man, the myth and the legend in Toronto. He’s gone from the bottom of the order throw in to the premier hitter in the Blue Jays lineup and the guy opposing teams worry about and put a game plan together on how to pitch to him. He’s quickly becoming a household name. Just consider these ridiculous numbers:

Through his career until 2009 he hit 59 home runs total in 1,638 at-bats. A rate of one home run every 27.7 at-bats (nothing special). The past two seasons, he’s belted 70 home runs in 683 at-bats…a rate of just 9.75 at-bats per homer. That’s a dramatic difference. That’s Babe Ruth type home run numbers. Add in those last 21 games of 2009 when things started to click and he has 80 dingers in 781 at-bats or a rate of 9.76. Here’s the breakdown with his slash line added in…

Career until the end of 2009: HR every 27.7 AB w/ .238/.329/.400
WAR (Wins above replacement): -1.7

2010 and 2011 seasons: HR every 9.75 AB w/ .276/.402/.646
WAR: 11.1

What a ridiculous improvement. Teams and players alike fantasize about sluggers suddenly turning into this kind of legit power hitter. Look at the difference in the slash lines. His average went up about 40 points, his OBP skyrocketed 70+ points and his slugging percentage goes up about .250 in production. It’s absolutely remarkable.

Those lines tell me these are two completely different players. So what changed? It wasn’t playing time because he played full seasons in Pittsburgh with even one year of 600 plus plate appearances. It wasn’t a change of scenery because the old Jose Bautista showed up for at least a year in Toronto before he started launching the ball at an unreal rate.

Is it steroids? I’m sure there will always be people who wonder that his sudden power is because of the juice, but he plays in a league that now tests for steroids throughout the year. If he’s never been suspended for testing positive then you can’t use steroids as the easy answer for his turnaround.

I’m no scout, but he obviously made adjustments with new coaches in Toronto, he started pulling the ball more and he started gaining confidence, which can make any hitter dangerous. I honestly don’t think he would have ever been this new player if the Pirates had held onto him. He had his chances and didn’t take advantage of it. Plus, the Pirates just aren’t that lucky ever. Simply put to me, he just looks like a completely different ball player than when he was in Pittsburgh, and the Blue Jays are reaping the benefits.

I haven’t talked much about the Pirates yet this season on here and maybe that’s me being selfish and not wanting to jinx their decent start, but after the series that just concluded I can’t steer away from talking about it.

The 2011 Pirates team is a hard one to figure out. They opened the season at Wrigley Field with a come-from-behind win over the Cubs that featured Neil Walker‘s grand slam, only the second Pirates player to ever hit a grand slam on Opening Day joining Roberto Clemente. The Pirates held the lead the next game until a major collapse in the eighth inning by reliever Evan Meek as the Cubs evened the series. But just when you thought that was a game to derail this team already, they rallied in the rubber match for two runs off Carlos Marmol in the ninth inning to give them a road series win.

The Buccos then flew out to St. Louis and took two-of-three from the Cardinals. Huh? Yes, the Pirates opened the season with two road series wins. That would have been unheard of last season when they won just a total of four series on the road all year.

So the Pirates came to Pittsburgh for the home opener against the Rockies with all the promise and hype from their great start on the road. And they absolutely laid in an egg. It started with the very first pitch from Paul Maholm, which was promptly lined into center field for a base hit, and ended with the Rockies cruising to a 7-1 win that included a rookie pitcher (Esmil Rogers) mowing down the Pirates lineup. There was pretty much nothing the Pirates did right in their opener. They rebounded the next night to win in extra innings (14 to be exact) and then dropped the next two games to Colorado in close games.

After a day off and a rainout against Milwaukee, the Pirates and Brewers finally played a couple of games though the Bucs offense basically took two days off. The Pirates were shut out in game one by Marcum and then blanked by Randy Wolf in the last game of the series. In fact, their only run of the two games came in the ninth inning of the last game on a wild pitch. Absolutely brutal.

The Pirates were sitting at 5-7 with a weekend four-game series in Cincinnati looming, so naturally I had the “this season is over” feeling. But the Pirates instead come out and take three-out-of-four from the first place Reds, winning another road series and getting back to .500 at 8-8. The offense produced six, seven and nine runs in the wins while the pitching staff saw TWO complete games (one from Charlie Morton and Kevin Correia each). If you’ve been a Pirates fan over the years, I don’t have to tell you how rare it is to see their pitching toss two CGs in one series.

Then came this three-game series against the Fish in Florida. The Pirates offense forgot to show up in the first two. I can understand the first game, they were shut down by Josh Johnson. He dominates most teams in the NL. But they also kept the bats in the hotel the next night against Ricky Nolasco and didn’t score five runs until they were already down 9-1 in the series finale. They were easily swept out of Florida while being outscored 21-5, including two shutouts. It was just a horrendous series to watch.

Heading into the season, I thought the one area of the team that would be fun to watch would be the hitting. While the big question everyone was wondering would be if the pitching would hold up. Well, 19 games into the season the pitching hasn’t been bad at all. Like I said, two complete games already is just one stat that is mind-boggling as a Pirates fan. They had just one all of last season.

But the alarming thing for me has been the complete disappearance of the bats out of nowhere. Basically being shut out two straight games against the Brewers at home, followed up by another two shutouts the next week against Florida will not cut it at all. You just can’t do that twice in a month. They cannot have those power outages all year if they are to stay around .500 this season.

So they stand at 8-11 this weekend with a homestand against the Nationals and defending champs Giants. My viewpoint on this season is to see significant improvement from the young talented core of McCutchen, Tabata, Alvarez, Walker, Hanrahan, Meek, Morton, McDonald, etc. And at times this month, this team just looks like different from other recent years, but then suddenly the floor drops out and it begins to look like every other year too. I honestly don’t know what to expect next from this group. I just hope they avoid the canyon (the massive free fall losing streak they usually get themselves in) and hover around .500 for most of the season.

Matt Garza made his debut with the Chicago Cubs Sunday and of course with him and the Pirates involved, something pretty rare occurred.

Garza threw 7.0 innings with three runs allowed for a no-decision. Nothing too earth shattering there, but he also struck out 12 batters while giving up 12 hits (all singles) and walking zero. I thought the 12 and 12 line was pretty rare,  so I decided to dabble in the ol’ Baseball-Reference Play Index to search for any pitcher who struck out 12 or more batters in the same game where he gave up 12 or more hits. And just like I had assumed, it was pretty rare indeed as you can see from the chart below…

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR 2B 3B
1 Matt Garza 2011-04-03 CHC PIT L 4-5 GS-7 7.0 12 3 3 0 12 0 0 0
2 Curt Schilling 2001-04-25 ARI FLA W 10-7 GS-7 ,W 7.0 13 7 7 0 12 3 3 0
3 Todd Stottlemyre 1995-09-20 OAK CAL W 9-6 GS-9 ,W 8.1 12 3 3 0 12 1 3 0
4 Steve Carlton 1983-04-16 PHI ATL W 8-4 GS-8 ,W 8.0 12 4 4 4 12 0 3 0
5 Gaylord Perry 1982-04-20 SEA CAL W 6-4 GS-8 ,W 7.1 12 4 4 1 13 0 2 1
6 Bert Blyleven 1975-09-15 MIN CAL W 7-6 GS-10 10.0 12 6 5 3 12 0 2 2
7 Nolan Ryan 1973-09-23 CAL MIN W 15-7 CG 9 ,W 9.0 13 7 7 5 12 0 1 0
8 Bob Gibson 1970-08-12 STL SDP W 5-4 CG 14 ,W 14.0 13 4 4 2 13 1 3 0
9 Fergie Jenkins 1968-08-13 CHC STL W 10-3 CG 9 ,W 9.0 12 3 3 3 12 1 2 0
10 Blue Moon Odom 1968-07-29 OAK CHW L 2-7 GS-13 ,L 12.1 13 4 4 1 13 0 0 2
11 Juan Marichal 1965-08-04 SFG CIN W 4-3 CG 10 ,W 10.0 12 3 3 3 14 0 3 0
12 Camilo Pascual 1964-10-01 MIN KCA L 4-5 CG 12 ,L 12.0 12 5 1 3 14 1 2 1
13 Juan Marichal 1964-04-24 SFG CIN W 15-5 CG 9 ,W 9.0 13 5 5 3 13 1 1 0
14 Billy Pierce 1953-07-24 CHW PHA L 2-4 CG 12 ,L 12.0 12 4 4 1 12 1 1 0
15 Saul Rogovin 1952-09-14 CHW BOS W 4-3 GS-15 15.0 12 3 3 4 14 2 1 1
16 Marv Grissom 1952-09-13 CHW NYY L 5-6 GS-8 ,L 8.0 12 6 4 1 13 0 2 1
17 Bill Werle 1950-08-27 (1) PIT BSN L 3-7 12.0 12 7 6 4 13 4
18 Bobo Newsom 1944-05-21 (1) PHA CLE L 4-5 11.0 12 5 5 4 12 2 2 0
19 Bob Feller 1941-08-07 CLE DET L 3-4 13.0 13 4 2 11 13 0 0 0
20 Bobo Newsom 1939-07-22 (1) DET PHA L 2-4 9.0 16 4 4 3 12 1 1 0
21 Bill Hallahan 1932-05-11 STL BRO L 3-6 12.0 12 6 6 7 12 0 4 0
22 Red Ruffing 1927-09-05 (1) BOS NYY W 12-11 15.0 16 8 8 11 12 1
23 Dazzy Vance 1923-05-02 BRO NYG L 6-7 10.0 15 6 6 4 15 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/4/2011.

Not only is it an impressive list of pitchers, but Garza’s performance is only the 23rd game since 1919 with that kind of pitching line. It hasn’t happened since Curt Schilling did it in 2001. Viewing this list quickly, it’s easy to see that most of these games occurred back in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s which makes sense because starting pitchers went deeper into games no matter how many hits they surrendered. And wow, it sure is an impressive list with Schilling, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry, Bert Blyleven, Nolan Ryan, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal (twice), Fergie Jenkins and Bob Feller just to name a few. Whoa.

Like nine of the pitchers on this list, Garza left in line for the win, but a collapse by Carlos Marmol in the ninth inning gave the Pirates a victory. Also, the only three on the list to record no walks in these games were the last three: Garza, Schilling and Todd Stottlemyre.

The Baseball Reference blog also did a post off my comment about this today that you can find here that talks about all the hits off Garza were singles. Before Garza, Feller was the last one on the list above to have given up no extra-base hits.

Even more interesting is that after Garza exited the game, the Bucs added four more hits, all singles, to finish with 16 hits and 16 singles on the afternoon. I ran a search of teams that recorded 16 or more hits in a game where all the hits were singles. This has only occurred 58 times since 1919 and just three times since 1993. The last time was Aug. 31, 2004 when the Royals pounded out 17 singles in a 9-8 victory over the Tigers.

Three games into the 2011 season and you never know what you will see next!

Last week I made my way to sunny Florida for my fourth annual spring training trip. I first went down back in 2008 as my employer (at the time) sent me down, and I’ve been instantly hooked since. I mean, who doesn’t want to get out of the cold up north and see some early baseball with the sunshine? Unlike last year, there was no rain and thus no rainouts as I enjoyed nothing but perfect blue skies weather.

The first game I attended was March 18th’s tilt between the Tigers and Red Sox at the Sox home park in Fort Myers. This was the last year at their current facility as they are building a new complex next to my family’s condo in Fort Myers, which works out perfectly for me in the future.

 

Fort Myers

 

 

City of Palms Park

Besides a fire breaking out in the right field concessions (seriously), that was really all the fire power the Sox could get going even with all the big guns in the lineup. Dustin Pedroia homered in the first inning, but that was about it for Boston (we missed it too because we were moving slow after the major St. Patty’s Day hangover that morning). The Tigers rolled to an 8-3 victory behind some fireworks as Brennan Boesch, Ryan Raburn and Andy Dirks all went yard for Detroit. Nothing else real notable from this game other than the fact that I found it unbelievable that pitcher Brandon Duckworth was still making a go at pitching in the Majors when he came on the mound for the Sox in the ninth. He didn’t fare too well either, giving up two runs and a home run. My guess is you won’t be seeing him pitch in Fenway anytime soon.

 

 

See, there really was a fire in right field.

 

On the following day, my friends and I followed the Red Sox up I-75 through construction to see them take on my hometown Pirates in Bradenton at McKechnie Field.

 

McKechnie Field

 

 

Bradenton

Since 1887, baby!

The Red Sox struggled for the second day in a row as the Pirates put up a five-spot in the bottom of the fourth inning thanks to two RBIs each from Lyle Overbay and pitcher Kevin Correia, who was named the Pirates Opening Day starter this week. And just as the Sox were drawing close, John Bowker ripped a two-run homer in the seventh to give the Pirates the lead and eventually the win 7-5. Josh Beckett, who looks to rebound from last year’s troubles, was hit around by the Buccos allowing five runs in 4.2 innings though four of those runs were unearned as the Red Sox played sloppy defense with two errors.

 

The losing did not stop there for the Red Sox even though my short trip did. Boston has not won a game all of this week since I returned home from Florida, a streak that is at 10 games and dropped them to 12-19 this spring. I know it’s only spring training, but is it a sign of things to come from a team that is being picked as the favorite to win the World Series this year? We will find out soon enough.

At the end of the trip, it was another successful voyage to spring training. I miss it already. It did two things for me. It held me over to see some live baseball until Opening Day later this week, and it made me start planning my fifth trip down there for next March already.

Just a few days after attending the Indians-Red Sox game, I made the drive to Comerica Park in Detroit to see a rematch of the 1909 World Series between the Pirates and Tigers.

Old school jerseys for Tigers and Bucs

I went to two games (June 12 and June 13) and both were pretty much the same result. The Pirates blew late leads in both games and lost by one run in each game on their way to a three-game sweep at the hands of the Motor City boys. The June 12th game featured throwback jerseys as the teams honored their hometown teams from the Negro League. For some reason, I didn’t take pictures of this trip so I do not own the picture above. Anyway, Carlos Guillen ended the game Saturday night in the 10th inning with a walkoff home run.

On the final game of the series on Sunday afternoon, I still can’t believe Dotel pitched to Miguel Cabrera in the 8th inning of a 2-1 game with two outs. Cabrera predictably took Dotel deep for a three-run home run and that was that. Despite how much Pirates baseball I’ve seen in the past 17 years, sometimes I still can’t believe some of the decisions that are made. Unreal. I also witnessed a rare occurrence in that game as well that you can read here.