Game 90: Pirates receiving a dose of their own medicine

The highlight in last night’s 2-1 Pirate loss was Pedro Alvarez‘s 440-foot homer, which conked off the batter’s eye in center field.

Well, the spotlight really wasn’t focused on Alvarez or anything pertinent to the game. Rather, Pirates announcers Greg Brown and Bob Walk stole the show with their absurd diatribe about David Wright‘s supposed snubbing of Alvarez for passing on him to partake in the homerun derby.

It would be cool to see a Pirate in the derby for the second straight year, and Pedro’s the exact guy I’d love to see as a representative, but c’mon, Brown and Walk. David Wright picked legitimate sluggers in Carlos Gonzalez and Bryce Harper, and he also rewarded a longtime friend in Michael Cuddyer for an outstanding season to date.

Brown and Walk took grievance with the Cuddyer selection because of his friendship with Wright, and they resented Harper’s inclusion because he has fewer homers than Pedro on the year. The issue with both of these complaints is that they’re ridiculous double-standards.

With Harper’s case it’s easy. He received the most votes from fans. On a nationwide scale, more people want to see the 20-year-old Harper than any Pirate, not just Alvarez. Walk and Brown griped that the fans are missing out on the show Alvarez puts on in daily batting practice, but Harper does bring a bit of his own legend to the event. It’s going to be a treat watching him hit, and the fans decided as much.

Now look at the video of the Alvarez homerun from last night (third linked phrase above). At the beginning, the ROOT Sports broadcast is displaying a tweet from Rays’ pitcher David Price, who was also consternated with Pedro’s exclusion from the festivities. Price went to Vanderbilt from 2005-2007; Alvarez was a Commodore in 2006-2008.

Wow. Imagine that — a guy wishes to see his friend in the homerun derby.

But since Price lacks the power to get his buddy — and New York native, which adds more fuel to Brown and Walk’s fire — to the show, the Pirates’ broadcasters have faith that a higher power will intervene and rectify the injustice.

Bud Selig, in their opinion, is going to step in and find a way to put Alvarez in the homerun derby.

Actually, in my opinion, Bud Selig is going a step further. Bud Selig is going to find a way to make Alvarez the only participant in the hyped, “meaningful” batting practice scene. That’s right, this year’s homerun derby will consist of only Pedro Alvarez clubbing 550-foot bombs to all nooks and sections of Citi Field. That’s the best and only way to give the fans what they really want.

My favorite part about the whole ordeal is that A’s outfielder Yoenis Cespedes was announced as the fourth player from the A.L. side for July 15th’s derby during the game.

This is the only thing I have to say to Brown and Walk. (Audio is from July 6, 2013 ROOT broadcast of Pirates vs. Cubs.)

OK, so Walkie says he’s not mad, bro. I understand there’s reason to be frustrated right now: the Pirates have lost four in a row, they’re now in second in the division, they’re 2-6 in July, they’re losing really tight games.

That last point is what I’d like to focus on for a few thoughts. After the Bucs lost in the first game of the series, 2-1, I wrote that they got “A’s’d” to death, meaning that they lost in a low-profile, tough-fought match to mostly unheralded players. That’s what the Athletics’ motus operandi has been and it’s why they legitimately deserved a book and movie about them. But the more I look at this downtrodden stretch, the more I realize that the Pirates are being Pirate-d — for lack of a better term, and note the capital-P.

In just eight July games — meaning it’s a tiny sample, but possibly relevant trend — their winning percentage is .250 and their pythagorean/expected winning percentage is .451. So, Pittsburgh is losing out on a win or two for the month, which doesn’t sound critical since it’s only an eight-game sample, but this could be the start of some due regression. (And in a tight playoff race, a game means a ton.)

In May the Bucs went 19-9, a .679 win percentage. Their pythag percentage worked out to .629, so they were a game or two better than they should have been. And that uptick in reality is largely due to insane run-prevention. They allowed just 2.71 runs per game — the fewest total (76) in baseball for the month by nine runs — while scoring 3.6 runs per game, the eighth-lowest offensive total in the majors.

In June, the Pirates were again around one or two wins better than their pythag says they should’ve been. Their runs-allowed mark “slipped” to third-best in the league (89 runs, 3.42/game), but the offense picked up the slack by moving to the middle of the pack in runs scored (14th in MLB; 111 runs, 4.3/game).

So July, to this limited point, has been a reversal in roles. Pittsburgh is averaging 2.9 runs a game and surrendering 3.5 runs per contest. Those are really similar numbers to those seen in May — just on the wrong ends for the Pirates. With three consecutive one-run Bucco losses, this trend feels amplified. But it’s certainly worth noting that regression and misfortune has hit for the time being.

Things don’t look so ominous that this is a guaranteed collapse for the third straight year; for one, those prior seasons have no affect on 2013. The only thing I’m doing is calling a little rain delay on the division title celebrations. It might turn out like last night’s delay for a storm that never came, but I’ve checked the radar and there’s some clouds that may or may not pass. I’m pointing out their existence, that’s all.

And speaking of rain, it seems the actual storm finally came. The game is going to be delayed, and should start around 9 p.m.

The Pirates have the national ESPN broadcast tonight, which is just baffling to me. I’m not even going to look up the last time it happened, if it ever even has, because it doesn’t matter. This is the team that deserves some spotlight, so I’m really hoping this one plays out.

Lineups:

Athletics (54-37)

1. Coco Crisp, CF

2. Jed Lowrie, SS

3. Josh Donaldson, 3B

4. Yoenis Cespedes, LF

5. Nate Freiman, 1B

6. Chris Young, RF

7. Derek Norris, C

8. Grant Green, 2B

9. Tommy Milone, P

Pirates (53-36)

1. Starling Marte, LF

2. Jose Tabata, RF

3. Andrew McCutchen, CF

4. Russell Martin, C

5. Pedro Alvarez, 3B

6. Gaby Sanchez, 1B

7. Jordy Mercer, 2B

8. Clint Barmes, SS

9. Francisco Liriano, P

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By tyle23r

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