Or maybe he just ran into the Braves at the right time. Plus: Yay Rich Hill, Yay Andrew McCutchen, yay Billy Hamilton.
The Tuesday Takeaway David Price’s first few games in a Red Sox uniform have been rather up-and-down—and after the distinct “down” of eight runs in less than four innings in his last start, Tuesday was a definite “up.” It didn’t look that way at first, as Price kicked off the game by giving up a run on three quick singles. But with the bases loaded, he struck out Drew Stubbs to end the inning, and from there, the Ks kept coming.
The Juan Nicasio bubble popped, for one day at least. Meanwhile, Noah Syndergaard keeps getting better, and the Red Sox blow another lead.
The Tuesday Takeaway
What was once a minor miracle is now something of a trope: The broken pitcher comes to Pittsburgh for one more chance and he is saved, his career revived. But strong as the narrative may seem, the reality is far from a guarantee—as Juan Nicasio reminded everyone Tuesday afternoon.
After a strong spring and an impressive first outing, Nicasio looked more like his old self yesterday. It started with a Justin Upton solo shot in the first (his debut home run as a Tiger, and a 451-foot one at that), and it didn’t get any better from there. Nicasio took 94 pitches to make it through an ugly three innings, giving up four runs and setting the Pirates up for an 8-2 loss to Detroit.
The newest Pittsburgh starter had a tremendous first start, but Ray Searage and the Pirates can't declare victory yet.
Juan Nicasio was the story of the Pirates’ spring, the latest (and maybe greatest!) reclamation project to come to Pittsburgh with his career hanging by a thread and immediately assert himself as a potential star. While the Ray Searage hype that encircles this team remains overblown, there’s nothing fake about the phenomenon that is Pittsburgh’s run prevention machine, and one cog in that machine is responsible for selecting, acquiring and rehabilitating pitchers who have considerable talent that the market has underestimated, or overlooked altogether. Nicasio, whom the Dodgers non-tendered this winter for roster-crunch reasons, is a perfect fit for the mold, and it’s no surprise that he thrived upon arrival.
Now that spring and its meaningless chatter has given way to the regular season, and now that we have one start (a whole start! Truly a rich cornucopia of information) of Nicasio to consider more seriously, let’s test the idea that something new is happening—that Nicasio is really a reinvented stud. All of this pitch data is drawn from the inimitable, invaluable Brooks Baseball.
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No, really: The Pirates' roster turnover won't change what they do.
The Pirates’ Opening Day lineup in 2015 had Pedro Alvarez at first, Neil Walker at second, Jordy Mercer at shortstop, and Josh Harrison at third. Two of those players, Alvarez and Walker, are gone, and Harrison will move to second base after starting there 67 times in his major-league career (57 last season). Only Mercer at short will be a holdover. Yet despite 75 percent positional turnover, there’ll be a constant: The Pirates infielders will shift a lot.
Anticipating the disasters that will befall this year's rotations.
Each of the past two seasons, Sam Miller or I have done this fun bit of analysis that looks at which teams would fare best if they had to resort to their sixth and seventh starters (2014, 2015). Obviously, every GM needs to fill out the top five slots in his rotation, but that’s just the bare minimum. Over the course of the season, nearly two-thirds of teams will have two starters injured at the same time, meaning fans will get acquainted with sixth, seventh, and possibly even eighth and ninth starters.
As spring training ramps up, injuries are inevitable. So it makes sense for teams to assess their options now, just in case something goes awry before the real games start.
The Pirates' pitching guru is a free agent next winter, while an AL East team wants to ship Andrew Cashner across the country.
Ray Searage wants to stay with Pirates beyond 2016
Next offseason’s free agent pitching market might pale in comparison to the bonanza that teams were treated to over the past couple of months, but the market for pitching coaches could feature a marquee name.
Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote Sunday about the value of the Bucs’ pitching coach, Ray Searage, who is widely regarded as one of the game’s best teachers, able to extract maximum value out of arms who come to the Steel City with middling reputations. General manager Neal Huntington is able to rummage through the bargain bin, confident that every pitcher he finds will exceed expectations because, as Cook put it, “Ray will make him better.” But Huntington is only guaranteed that comfort for one more year, because Searage’s contract expires at the end of the 2016 season.