CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 9: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws a pitch during the second inning of the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on April 9, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

Gerrit Cole starts again (and: the value of hot starts vs. slow ones)

We should be clear about something: the Pirates have played nine games. They’re 5-4 because they’ve lost four of their last five, but a 5-4 start isn’t a hot start or a cold start or anything at all other than a decent run through nine games (5-4 is actually on pace to win 90 games). […]

FORT MYERS, - MARCH 14: Ryan Vogelsong #14 of the Pittsburgh Pirates warms prior to the start of the Spring Training Game against the Boston Red Sox on March 14, 2016 at Jet Blue Park at Fenway South, Florida. The Pirates defeated the Red Sox 3-1. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

The Return of Ryan Vogelsong

Story time! Way back in the cold hinterlands of Pittsburgh Pirate history known as 2001, we Pirate fans had little we could do other than accept on faith that Dave Littlefield could not be any worse than the man he was replacing (Cam Bonifay) and that he was about to set the Pirates on a […]

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 12: Pitching coach Ray Searage #54 talks with pitcher Juan Nicasio #12 and Francisco Cervelli #29 during the second inning of the interleague game against the Detroit Tigers on April 12, 2016 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Juan Nicasio’s bad start (and the rotational depth problem)

After Juan Nicasio’s first start, which was obviously hugely positive, I ran a brief list of things that we couldn’t draw conclusions about after one start. They were: If he can really survive with two pitches (he only threw five changeups tonight), how he adjusts when hitters adjust, if he has lefty problems, how he holds up […]

Another afternoon game

The Pittsburgh/Detroit Afternoon Baseball Extraganza featuring Afternoon Baseball on Every Day Except the One Day When a Night Game Overlaps With the Penguins and Donald Trump rolls on this afternoon in Comerica Park. Juan Nicasio starts for the Pirates, looking to build on his strong first start of the season last week against the Cardinals. […]

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 11: Starling Marte #6 Andrew McCutchen #22 and Gregory Polanco #25 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrate a win over the Detroit Tigers on April 11, 2016 at Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan. The Pirates defeated the Tigers 7-4. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Game 7: Pirates 7 Tigers 4

Here’s a good way to erase the bad taste from a series loss to the Reds that included a lot of frustrating non-clutch hitting: seven runs on 17 hits without a homer that included a 6-for-15 performance with runners in scoring position. The Pirates absolutely hammered Justin Verlander this afternoon, touching him up for ten […]

Unexpected afternoon game Bat Signal: get your radios ready

For whatever reason, the Pirates and Tigers are playing three afternoon games in four days this week, so if listening to baseball on the radio/computer at work is your thing, then this is the next best thing to a series at Wrigley Field. The Tigers were snowed out last night, so Justin Verlander’s start is […]

CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 10: Devin Mesoraco #39 of the Cincinnati Reds tags out Josh Harrison #5 of the Pittsburgh Pirates at home plate to end the eight inning at Great American Ball Park on April 10, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Pittsburgh 2-1. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

Bad losses (in April) (and OBP) (and RISP) (and Gerrit Cole) (and maybe I should’ve blogged more on the weekend)

It is relatively easy to want to instinctively refer to certain baseball games as “bad” losses or “good” wins. This is a natural and understandable response, given that sometimes baseball teams lose games they probably should’ve won (like, for example, the Pirates yesterday) and sometimes the win games they probably should’ve lost, but I’m not […]

CINCINNATI, OHIO - APRIL 08: Starling Marte #6 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a grand slam in the eighth inning of the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on April 8, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Pirates defeated the Reds 6-5. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The first home run (and Gerrit Cole’s first start)

I was out last night for a friend’s birthday, which meant that I spent the night stealing glances at my phone, wondering if the Pirates were going to somehow score enough runs to erase the deficit that kept growing. There’s a little jolt of electricity that you get when you watch a game this way and […]

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 6:  John Jaso #28 of the Pittsburgh Pirates scores after a throwing error during the fifth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 6, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Game 3: Pirates 5 Cardinals 1

At any point in the early season, I try to keep two main goals in mind: try not to over-react to a small-sample size result, but to try and find things inside of those small sample sizes that might be meaningful going forwards. So, for example, Juan Nicasio’s line tonight was great, but it’s not […]

at McKechnie Field on March 6, 2016 in Bradenton, Florida.

Juan Nicasio debuts the day after a long day for the bullpen

In the immediate aftermath of last night’s walkoff win, I think I missed the most important part of the game in my recap; the way that the bullpen bailed Jon Niese (and the defense behind him) out of a subpar start is exactly how the Pirates plan on surviving several months of Niese + Locke + Nicasio […]

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 05:  Jordy Mercer #10 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates a walk off RBI single in the eleventh inning with Josh Harrison #5 during the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park on April 5, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Game 2: Pirates 6 Cardinals 5

In watching Sunday’s Opener against the Cardinals, I kind of felt like the Pirates were clicking along in mid-season form against a team playing their first game of the year on a cold Pittsburgh April afternoon. The Pirates very quickly reminded me tonight that drawing conclusions based on one game is dumb by doing some […]

Jon Niese makes his Pirate debut

After Francisco Liriano’s strikeout bonanza on Sunday, Jon Niese takes his first turn in the Pirate rotation this evening. I wrote a ton about Niese already today and so I’ll simply leave my general pre-game thoughts on him tonight to this: watch where he throws his fastball. Watch where he throws it to both righties […]

BRADENTON FL- MARCH 3: Starting pitcher Jonathon Niese #18 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching during the second inning of the Spring Training Game against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 3, 2016 at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Florida. The Blue Jays defeated the Pirates 10-8. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Jon Niese seems like a good fit for the Pirate Approach to Pitching

There was plenty of discussion (read: analysis, hot takes, etc.) when the Pirates swapped Neil Walker for Jon Niese over the winter, but there was one unmissable implication in the trade itself: the Pirates wanted Jon Niese. Sure, they wanted his contract (the two team options give them a lot of control over a potentially valuable […]

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 03:  Gregory Polanco #25 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates with Michael Morse #38 after scoring on an RBI double in the eighth inning during opening day against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park on April 3, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Pirates sign Gregory Polanco to five-year extension

If you were excited by Gregory Polanco’s season debut this afternoon (and I certainly was), then there’s even more good news tonight: the Pirates have signed Polanco to a five-year extension (that is, through is arbitration years) plus two team options. The deal could keep Polanco in black and gold through his 30th birthday, if […]

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 03:  Francisco Liriano #47 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during opening day against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park on April 3, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Game 1: Pirates 4 Cardinals 1

It’s a fool’s errand to read too much into anything that happens in any one baseball game and it’s absolute folly to do that on Opening Day, but it does feel to me like the Pirates won this baseball game over the Cardinals in the exact way that they’re hoping to win a lot of […]

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 05:  A general view of the home plate gate at PNC Park prior to the Opening Day game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies on April 5, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Opening Day 2016

The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next. – Ursula K. LeGuin Opening Day is a day of beginnings, and as such, there is very little place for a statistic like this one: Since 2013, only the St. Louis Cardinals have won more games than the Pittsburgh […]

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 27:  Cory Luebke #52 of the San Diego Padres pitches against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on April 27, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Pirates set their bullpen

With Opening Day hurtling towards us at an alarming speed, the Pirates have finalized their bullpen one day after giving Juan Nicasio the final rotation spot. The obvious spots are filled by the obvious pitchers (Melancon, Watson, Caminero), and with Jared Hughes on the disabled list, the final four spots will go to Neftali Feliz, Ryan […]

at McKechnie Field on March 6, 2016 in Bradenton, Florida.

Juan Nicasio makes the rotation (also: why Jeff Locke is the fifth starter)

If you operate every spring with the broad assumption that spring training stats don’t matter, you will both be mostly correct and prevent yourself from stressing out over roster decisions too much. There are some exceptions to that axiom, though. For example, if you pitch 15 shutout innings over five appearances (four starts), scatter ten […]

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 25:  Jung Ho Kang #27 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a portrait on February 25, 2016 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The two big questions about Jung Ho Kang

It’s hard to believe that a year ago, no one was sure if Jung Ho Kang was really going to deserve the roster spot that the Pirates announced that they were going to give him, despite a dismal spring training. In early April, Kang looked well out of his depth with the Pirates. He hit […]

BRADENTON, FL - MARCH 06:  Jordy Mercer #10 of the Pittsburgh Pirates fields a ground ball during the third inning of a spring training game against the Houston Astros at McKechnie Field on March 6, 2016 in Bradenton, Florida.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Jordy Mercer and infield carousel

I think that if you asked most Pirate fans which Pirate starter was most in danger of losing his job (or in need of being replaced), Jordy Mercer’s name would be the first to pop into a lot of minds. Somehow, though, the Pirates have pretty decent prospects at almost every position other than short […]