Thursday, May 19, 2011

First Pick in the Draft

It is nearing the time for the baseball draft. The team with the number one choice in 2011 is the Pirates. They have a chance to make a pick to improve their team. When I heard this I recalled many times over the last 18 years about how bad the Jays have been. I thought I would compare the Pirates and the Jays since 1992. Both teams have some connections to each other: like father and son, Doug and Kyle Drabek.

In 1992 the Jays and the Pirates ended the season with the same record, .593 a 96/66 record. The pitching staff for the Pirates was Randy Tomlin 14-9, Bob Walk 10-6, Tim Wakefield 8-1 and Doug Drabek 15-11, a 1990 CY Young winner. The Jays had “Black Jack” Morris 21-6, Jimmy Key 13-13, and Juan Guzman 10-5. The closer was Tom Henke at 34 saves and the set up men Duane Ward and David Wells. Pretty impressive! The Pirates lost to the Braves in seven games. This set up the Jays as they went on to beat the Braves for the WS championship.

Over the next twenty seasons the Jays added another World Series Championship. The Pirates did not. The Pirates have not had a winning season in that whole stretch. The Jays have, in fact, had 8 winning seasons since the WS but, of course, no further post season play.

Gone are the heady days of 1979 when football and baseball were coupled together with success in the steel town’s psyche (both won the championships). The Pirate pitching staff had Bert Blyleven 12-5, John Candelaria 14-9, Bruce Kison 13-7 and the famous side arm of Kent Tekulve, 31 saves. The bats were good too: Willie Stargell, Tim Foli, Bill Madlock, Omar Mareno and last but not least, Dave Parker.

As Will, Rick and everyone else have agreed, pitching beats hitting. The Pirates have not had more than maybe one pitcher in any given year that has had a winning record. The starting staffs have few if any complete games and have relied on the bullpen to pick up the pieces for wins of their own. This, combined with weak closers, has left the franchise in the sand lot of major league teams for twenty years.

2010 was the worst year in the last twenty for the Pirates. No starter again had a winning record. Even Garrett Jones with 21 home runs could not improve their dismal record of 57 and 105 for a .352 season. Some other recent worst team records are: the ’94 Padres 47/71, ’03 Tigers 43/119, and the ’96 Tigers, 53/109.

The Pirates have, in the last twenty years, finished dead last 9 times and finished 3rd only twice. The Jays on the other hand have eight seasons over .500 and 9 times have finished 3rd. I am still not happy with that, but it is better than I thought it would be.

In years past, the Pirate heavy hitters have been Don Slaught , Andy van Slyke, Kevin Young Jose Guillen, Jason Kendal and Brian Giles. All this lumber went for naught with pitching staffs that did not perform. Recently the most impressive bat has been Jason Bay when he was the franchise player hitting over 20 home runs in 2004-2008 with 35 in ’05 and ’06. A couple of newer players were with him on those teams; Jose Bautista (16 HR) and Rajai Davis, future Jays.

Another coincidence is that Bert Blyleven is inducted into the HOF along with the first Blue Jay, Roberto Alomar, and the architect of the grand design for the Jays, Pat Gillick.

This season the Jays have a similar problem to the Pirates, which is a weak rotation and heavy reliance on the bullpen. I have talked about this in a previous blog. The main difference is the heavy lumber that is saving the day. Bautista is leading the league in most areas. Maybe, Will, the 2011 Jays will be more like the Big Red Machine and make it with the bat. Ok, I’ll settle for a winning record for 2011. But next year...

A couple of big names have been in the first year draft: Stephen Strasburg and Joe Mauer to mention just two. The Pirates should go for pitching in the draft and maybe the best of this year’s class is Gerrit Cole. There are many good choices this year, however, you cannot win without pitching and the Pirate fans must be screaming for pitching after all this time. RRRRRR!


Rick Blechta said...

Wonder how the Pirates fans feel about losing Bautista? Although, if he'd stayed there, he might never have figured out the missing ingredient to his swing that Cito Gaston apparently saw and showed him. Seeing him having the past season-and-a-half he's enjoyed with the Jays must really rankle in Pittsburg.

Larry Toman said...

Even though I see the point of comparison with the Pirates, I would have liked a 20 year look at a team that has mirrored what the Jays have gone through. The Pirates are one of the most pathetic teams in ALL of pro sports.They barely register on anyone's radar, except in reference to their on-going and dismal failures.

Correction: the nickname "Black Jack" was for Jack McDowell of the ChiSox, not Jack Morris. Cheers!!

Rick Blechta said...

Larry Toman used to be a close friend of John "The Tomahawk" Trembath.


Larry Toman said...

Rick...lmao...blame it on my son's for keeping me up-to-date and always accurate.They are relentless, as they have to be at ABC Sports and ESPN.

John the Tomahawk Trembath said...

Your right Black Larry.I realized my mistake too late.You finally caught me. Thanks for pointing it out.:(
Rick, an astute comment. Bautista with great natural ability was helped here and allowed to make the adjustments and Bang!
The Pirates still have Overbay. He still can not hit but still delivers great defence. Could have used some last night. Encarnacion was awful. He should have been charged with 4 errors.
I felt that not being a Pirates fan would make me fee better. I do. I am very glad to not live in steel town.

Larry Toman said...

John, sorry if you thought I was too critical. What has been expected and demanded of Daniel and Chris is ridiculous, and they have responded in spades. If I want to continue to talk sports with them (as I do) I now know I'd better have my act together. Blame them for what I say.Cheers!!

Rick Blechta said...

Larry Toman tries to get back in the good books of John "The Tomahawk" Trembath...

Will he succeed? Stay tuned!