Clint Barmes dives to stop a ball hit by the Padres' Rene Rivera.
By Bob Smizik Special to the Post-Gazette
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has mixed and matched his shortstops in such a manner this season that it's hard to know which of the two -- Clint Barmes or Jordy Mercer -- will start against right-handed pitching.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen talks about his team's series against the Reds. (Video by Matt Freed; 9/27/2013)
Barmes gets the start tonight against right-hander Homer Bailey, but it could be for offensive or defensive reasons. True, Mercer had been below the standard defensively in recent games, but he's also 1-for-10 with five strikeouts lifetime against Bailey. Barmes is 6-for-26 with four RBIs and only three whiffs while facing Bailey.
Neither offers much in the way of offense against right-handers. Mercer is batting .239 with a .621 OPS against them and Barmes .218 with a .574 OPS. With ground ball specialist Charlie Morton scheduled tomorrow, Barmes also figures to get the start.
There's no debating who starts against left-handers. Among players with more than 75 at bats against lefties, Mercer is first in the National League with .410 batting average and an 1.152 OPS. How good is that? His OPS is 112 points higher than Andrew McCutchen's, who's widely known as a lefty killer.
The Pirates are 1-2-3 in batting average against lefties, with Starling Marte (.402) and McCutchen (.392) following Mercer. Alas, the Reds will start no left-handed in this series or the wild-card playoff game Tuesday.
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If the MLB season ended today, it would be a great victory for parity. It would mean the bottom third in payroll would be more represented in the postseason than the top third.
Currently headed for the postseason from the bottom 10 teams in payroll are Cleveland (21), the Pirates (26), Oakland (27) and Tampa Bay (28) Teams from the top third are the Dodgers (2), Boston (4) and Detroit (5). From the middle third, St. Louis (11), Cincinnati (13) and Atlanta (19).
It's possible that Texas (8) could replace either Tampa Bay or Cleveland. The Rangers trail the Indians by one game and the Rays by two with three games to go.
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The two Cincinnati players who have had the greatest success against A.J. Burnett, who starts for the Pirates, are Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto. Phillips is 9-for-25 (.360) with a home run and Votto is 6-for-17 (.353). Two other top Cincinnati hitters have not done as well. Jay Bruce is 3-for-24 (.125) and Sin-Soo Choo is 5-for-25 (.200) with a home run. Light-hitting Cincinnati shortstop Zack Cozart is 7-for-22 (.318) with a home run against Burnett.
Russell Martin has two home runs in 13 at bats against Bailey. Garrett Jones, not starting, is 12-for-39 (.308) with two homers against Bailey.