Thursday, July 17, 2008

2008 Midseason Review: the Murky

It's the All-Star Break, which I guess means it's time for me to do some kind of mid-season review, even though we're already well into the second half of the season. This year, I'm going to do three review posts and we'll call the "The Obvious" (or things from the first half that we all know), "The Obscure" (or things from the first half that I think I know and at least half of you will vehemently disagree with me on), and "The Murky" (or things that none of us know, but I will make a blind stab at figuring out). Today: The Obscure.

I slacked on this one yesterday because I was burnt out from the ridiculous All-Star Game liveblog that we ran at FanHouse until like 2 in the morning on Tuesday night. As is par for the course with the Pirates, the murky things are the most important.

Are the poor performances of Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny driven by poor health?
This is the big one. Watching the two of them pitch all year, I felt like Gorzo was the injured one and Snell was the one who was just pitching poorly. Then Snell went on the DL and Gorzo went to AAA, with Snell showing at least some sparks of hope after coming back. I still think it's worth noting that Gorzelanny's trip to AAA looks a lot more like a rehab stint than a demotion (he's made one start since being sent down on July 5th), but so long as the team plays it close to the vest, we're not going to know what's going on here. Neal Huntington's got his work cut out for him, but he's got a whole lot more work to do if no one can figure out what's wrong with Gorzo and Snell.

So ... this Neal Huntington guy ...
This deadline is huuuuge for him. He's certainly got to try to shop his pieces around, but he's also go to shed the reputation Dave Littlefield built for the Pirates by caving at noon on July 31st every year. If he trades Bay and Nady, people are going to be pissed. If he doesn't trade Bay and Nady, people are going to be pissed. We've watched him for almost a year now, and it's still impossible to know what kind of GM he's going to be. There have certainly been encouraging signs, but that's not enough. We'll know more in two weeks.

Why can't Adam LaRoche hit early in the season?
Too much golf? Not enough golf? Too much hunting? Not enough BP? Too much BP? Long, looping swing? My gut says that the answer lies in the last question there, but I'm no hitting coach. If someone can answer this, LaRoche suddenly goes from being a below average hitting first-baseman to an all-star caliber hitter. That's worthy of a Nobel Prize or something, in my book.

What mystical deity has Ryan Doumit been praying to in order to stay healthy?
Aw, crap. I jinxed him, didn't ?

Steve Pearce: flash in the pan or prospect?
He slugged .526 in June to give him an .844 OPS and things were looking up, but he's been down again in July despite a .319 average (only a .409 slugging percentage on the month, though in 22 ABs). It's not worth writing him off yet and I still think he deserves the first shot at the bigs in the event of an outfield trade, but it's discouraging to see a 25-year old hit like he
has in AAA.

How is the Pirates' offense scoring so many runs?
Last year: .263/.325/.411
This year: .262/.325/.416
Last year: 724 runs
This year: on pace to score 793