Poll Question: What is the biggest problem facing this team? Answer #1: Bench (12%) Answer #2: Bullpen (59%) Answer #3: Injuries (29%)
Bill Brink: Thanks for the questions and keep them coming. Here we go...
Guest: What are the chances of Lambo coming up? This bench is simply weak if Snider is in lineup.
Bill Brink: The chances of Lambo coming up are almost nil. Hurdle, asked about it this weekend, said he would not play Lambo over Snider, Polanco or Marte, and certainly not over McCutchen when he comes back. He doesn't want Lambo up for an occasional bench at-bat, especially because he can't play short, second or third, which is where the Pirates are having trouble right now.
Daburgh: If Pedro some how works out at first base is Ike on the trade block or good as gone after the season is over?
Bill Brink: It depends on whether or not the Pirates think they can solve Alvarez's throwing issues. He's more valuable at third base, but if he can hit 30 homers they need him on the field. If they think Alvarez's days at third base are over, one of them will go.
Brent: Where does Travis Snider fit into the plans for the rest of the season with the return of Andrew McCutchen?
Bill Brink: I have to imagine they'll find at-bats for him because of how good he's been. Perhaps he spells Polanco here and there. Polanco has been OK but not exceptional since his first month, though he is still the far superior player, but the team needs production right now.
Brent: Who's better at first base vs. righties: Pedro Alvarez or Ike Davis?
Bill Brink: Let's take look at the numbers ...
Bill Brink: Alvarez this season: .245/.329/.421. Career: .247/.320/.469
Davis this season: .253/.373/.402. Career: .255/.360/.458
It comes down to the desire for OBP vs. the desire for power. Alvarez has more power potential than Davis but Davis will reach base more.
Daburgh: As much as I like Jay Hay seems SS is not a position for him 3b, 2b, and OF he's pretty good, do you concur?
Bill Brink: Yes, short is his worst position. Hard to knock the guy who plays everywhere, but he is better suited to third, second or a corner OF.
Matt: Injuries aside, what does Michael Martinez and Jayson Nix playing for the Pirates at a major league level say about the state of the organization at this point?
Bill Brink: It says their options as defensive replacements in the infield provide almost nothing at the plate, and while their top prospects are pitchers, catchers and outfielders, they don't have much in the way of infielders and certainly none close.
erryg: Do you believe that NH's unwillingness to overpay players is at all influenced by the contracts signed with McCutcheon and Marte? Could NH be concerned that those two players would be resentful if he began to sign players to contracts in excess of what those two players are being paid?
Bill Brink: No, that has nothing to do with it.
PhillyJake: I get why Nix and Martinez are on the team. But why was Morel brought up for three days over Lambo?
Bill Brink: Because Morel can play third base and Lambo cannot. Morel will probably go down today when McCutchen is activated.
Daburgh: Huges is the only guy in the bullpen I have any confidence in, can we win with that group back there or just have to hope to out score everyone the rest of the way?
Bill Brink: This has been a bad stretch for what remains a good bullpen. Watson and Melancon won't blow many games like that, especially not in a row. Hughes is terrific and Wilson's stuff still plays. The issues is getting outs and not allowing a two-run deficit, from which they can come back, turn into six runs.
Matt: Regarding Vance Worley in the rotation, how many poor starts does it take for his replacement by Charlie Morton upon his return from the DL?
Bill Brink: Morton is on the DL for another 13 days, including today, so at least a couple more, if that is the case.
PhillyJake: Prognosis on Mercer?
Bill Brink: Seems to be moving forward. He's hitting, but took fielding practice yesterday without throwing.
Jim in VT: How long can the Bucs continue to carry two middle IF on the bench who hve utterly no offensive value?
Bill Brink: Until Walker's back is all the way ... um ... back, Hurdle feels that is the prudent way to go about it. When you have two middle infielders hurt, the replacement options who can play those positions aren't always pretty.
RJ: Bill, in 2011 and 2012 the Pirates had collapses of historical proportions in terms of games fallen in the standings in a certain amount of time. While this year may not set records in that regard, could this season be the most disappointing collapse because the expectations coming in and how hard this team battled to get back in contention? Thank you.
Bill Brink: Depending on your expectations, possibly, but everyone's expectations are different. Their additions consisted of Edinson Volquez, Ike Davis, John Axford and Ernesto Frieri, Cole, McCutchen and Walker have been hurt and Taillon missed the whole season, yet they're two out of the wild card.
Bugchug: Good afternoon Bill. Can you honestly tell me the Pirates have no better infield options in their minors than Nix & Martinez? What about Henson? Or D'anuard? Is there anyone down there that is an option?
Bill Brink: I can honestly tell you that this is the case. Hanson got himself benched at Altoona twice this year for lack of effort and has struggled on defense. D'Arnaud has played mostly outfield for Indy this year and his defense was never a great infield defender.
PhillyJake: I get the move to 1B for Pedro. But why is he playing over Ike, while Ike is hot right now ?
Bill Brink: Plan to ask Hurdle about this, but my thought right now is, Alvarez has shown the ability to go on tears when getting consistent at-bats and carry the team and this team could use a tear right now. Davis will get on base but is not providing extra-base hits, so Alvarez's ceiling is higher.
But, you make a good point. Davis is hitting well right now, and how much do you lose defensively by playing someone who has literally never played the position since before he enrolled at Vanderbilt in 2005?
JAL: Worley threw 5 good innings last night so what was wrong with him in the first and should it be a big concern?
Bill Brink: He and Hurdle both said he was not getting tilt on his pitches -- that is, vertical movement. The balls were moving horizontally and staying flat. When he created the tilt, after the first, he was good, but by then it was too late.
JAL: When Cutch returns will Snider be primarily a bench player or will they give him some starts in right?
Bill Brink: I think they might give him some starts in right. Polanco is the superior player, so you don't want to bench the more talented guy, but you also need production right this second, so they might find spots for Snider.
Mike In Downtown: How likely is it that Morton is done for the year?
Bill Brink: Not likely. The timing of his DL stint was quite perfectly timed with Cole's return, even to the point where Cole was on the same schedule, so I wouldn't be too concerned about Morton's hip. Hurdle did say Morton had been pitching through it for a couple months. Morton was getting it looked at and hasn't been around for two days for us to ask him about it.
Doug: How do you rate Pedro's performance at first last night? Will we continue to see him over there against righties or is it Ike's job?
Bill Brink: He looked OK. One thing about Pedro, he's very intelligent, so he'll pick up the cutoffs, bunt coverage and holding the runner, all that stuff, right away. He's also a very hard worker, possibly second-hardest on the team behind McCutchen, so he'll put in the time on the physical side of things. I'm not a scout, but I think he can play there with time.
Sean: This team is just so frustrating. I'm only 20 years old but being a pitt and pirate fan make me feel like I am 60. The stress they put on my is unbearable! I just don't understand why they didn't trade for any bats. You have any reason why they did no trades at the deadline??
Bill Brink: I have the reasons I've heard from the Pirates and other sources around baseball: The market for big-time trade acquisitions required major league players in return, rather than prospects. The Pirates have the prospects to give, but they wouldn't want to trade, say, Marte for Lester because they strengthen one area while weakening another.
Drew: Is Neal Huntington capable of being a GM for a contender?
Bill Brink: He was last year, and acquired Byrd and Morneau to help with the playoff push (I know Morneau did nothing, but you can't predict that at the time of acquisition).
Guest: The Pirates have a lot of options at first base, but none of them is terribly promising for the future. With Snider finally showing signs of being the guy the Pirates always liked, is he a possible 1b for next year and beyond?
Bill Brink: I don't think so. He has never played there professionally.
Sam: How big of an impact is Gerrit Cole going to have for the Pirates down the stretch?
Bill Brink: Big. When healthy, he's a horse, and he's back to full health now.
Guest: Hello. Hidden ball trick - great play or bush league? What say you?
Bill Brink: If you can pull it off, it's great.
JAL: Morel, Martinez, Nix-- who goes down when McCutchen is activated
Bill Brink: Have to think Morel. Martinez and Nix have more flexibility on defense.
PhillyJake: Or move Josh to 3B and put Martinez in at SS ?
PhillyJake: Don't Nix and Martinez play 3B?
Bill Brink: Any way you slice it, you're talking about the bats of Brent Morel, Jayson Nix or Michael Martinez in the lineup and that is a concern.
Richie Zisk: Wouldn't the Pirates be better off with Pedro at third and their platoon players at first versus the light-hitting Morel at third?
Bill Brink: No, because he cannot be trusted to make routine plays. Hurdle won't put him there until he trusts him, which will take some time.
Guest: When Cutch comes back tonight, who is getting sent down? When will we see Barmes back in Pittsburgh? What are the chances of the Pirates making another waiver claim/trade for a reliever?
Bill Brink: Probably Brent Morel. Barmes won't be back until rosters expand in September, his rehab just got moved to Indy. I could see another claim, but it's not a sure thing.
Matt: Axford as setup man -- is that the thinking if he stays hot?
Bill Brink: No, Tony Watson will keep that role. But Axford has pitched very well in three appearances since joining the Pirates, so I could see him getting more chances in leverage situations.
Sam: Considering the way that Russel Martin is playing this year do the Pirates resign him or start Tony Sanchez every day next year?
Bill Brink: They'll try, for sure, but he will be expensive after the season he is having.
Daburgh: What do you think the Pirates long term plan is for Stolmy going forward they pretty much rule 5 him this years.
Bill Brink: They continue to talk about him being a starter in the future, so they might try to stretch him out this winter and see how that goes. They've got some holes in their rotation with Liriano and Volquez as free agents.
Bill Brink: Lightning round. Go.
Doug: I have an other answer for what is the biggest problem facing the pirates. Right now the pen is in the lead. I agree with these results but I think a bigger concern is the pirates inability to hit with runners in scoring positions. Your thoughts??
Bill Brink: They're right around middle of the pack in MLB in AVG and some of the advanced metrics. Not great, but not a huge disadvantage either.
Daburgh: What if any of the Pirates free agents do you see them resigning.
Bill Brink: Volquez looks likely. Martin and Liriano are longer shots.
LeftyLou: Is it just me or is it crazy that with the worst bullpen, starting pitching, fielding, 1B play, managing and luck that the Bucs are within 2 games of a playoff spot with a month and change to go?
Bill Brink: Pretty crazy, and courtesy a good stretch from late May to mid-July.
Nico: Any chance the pirates make any other trades?
Bill Brink: There's a chance, but depends on who's out there. No clear-cut candidates.
Bill Brink: That's it for today, thanks for the great questions. Paul Zeise is your man at the ballpark tonight.