A brief look at an opponent we play this weekend.
Dates we play them: May 22-May 24 at home
Offense: A potential lineup: Nyjer Morgan-LF, Freddy Sanchez-2B, Nate McLouth-CF, Adam LaRoche-1B, Delwyn Young-DH, Brandon Moss-RF, Jason Jaramillo-C, Andy LaRoche-3B, Jack Wilson-SS
My lineup for NL teams playing at USCF are going to be a mixture of real lineups they've used and me guessing who they'll DH. Nyjer Morgan is fast and has posted a solid career OBP of .359. He has no power, and is only mediocre on the base paths despite his blinding speed. Freddy Sanchez is the result of one of the few good trades in recent Pirates' history, as the Bucs got him for Jeff Suppan. For a guy who was never supposed to be able to walk (he has a club foot and sever pigeon-toes, he sure can hit well. He does seem a little averse to drawing walks though, so a team with good defense could get him out easily. Good thing we have that. Nate McLouth was the senior circuit's breakout player last season, doing everything well except for defense (yet still snagging the Gold Glove). Nate should be good for a few more years. Notorious slow-starter Adam LaRoche is off to a good start for him. I'm happy we play Pittsburgh now, as he crushes the ball in the second half. We should also keep him away from scissors.
Delwyn Young at DH is a complete guess on my part. Delwyn came over from LA about a month ago. A utility man by trade, Young is off to what looks to be an unsustainably hot start as that .483 BABIP is almost certain to drop. Brandon Moss is one of the pieces the Pirates picked up in the Manny Ramirez trade. Moss has the pop to be a corner outfielder, but seriously needs to learn how to walk. A .313 career OBP won't keep you in the bigs too long, even in Pittsburgh. Jason Jaramillo and Robinzon (not a typo) Diaz will be splitting time behind the plate due to Ryan Doumit's trip to the DL. Jaramillo looks to be getting the bulk of the time, but that might not last for long. Andy LaRoche is what the Dodgers gave to the Pirates in the Manny trade. Andy is Adam's younger brother and has been hyped for as long as I can remember reading about prospects. He's off to a decent-enough start this season, posting an OPS+ of 100 so far, which he needed after looking completely lost at the plate last season. Here's hoping he figured it all out. Jack Wilson is one of the more famous Pirates, mostly because he has been around longer than the rest of the team. Captain Jack has only had two good seasons with his bat, but makes up for it with his stellar leather-working skills. Age is slowing him down and the Pirates may consider shipping him to a contender mid-season to help restock the farm.
Pitching: A potential rotation and closer: Paul Maholm-LHP, Ian Snell-RHP, Zach Duke-LHP, Ross Ohlendorf-RHP, Jeff Karstens-RHP, and Matt Capps-RHP.
Maholm is a solid pitcher. He doesn't strike too many guys out or throw the ball too hard. He's pretty much a poor man's Mark Buehrle. Ian Snell has been a bit of a disappointment. He pitched well in his first full season in 2006 and then pitched even better in 2007. He regressed last year and is fighting to get back to where he was. He strikes hitters out a great rate (7.63/9) but walks far too many (3.95/9). He also used to go by his wife's last name instead of Snell. That's weird. Zach Duke is pitching better than he ever has, as it looks like he may be shedding the label of disappointment as well. His BABIP is quite a bit lower this season than normal, but his K rate has jumped and he is getting more infield flyballs than ever so it may be sustainable. Either way, he should stick to his day job. The back-end of the rotation came in as Yankees castoffs. Ohlendorf went from key prospect to set-up man to goat to Pirate. He will not be as good as he has been all season. His BABIP has dropped incredibly, so don't buy it. Karstens came over in the same trade. He walks almost as many people as he strikes out, so he's got that going against him. Capps is the closer and has been one of the few consistent bright spots on the Pirates pitching staff. He has been very unlucjy this season, though he's already walked more guys so far this season than he did all last year.
Outlook: I feel like the Sox have done the complete opposite of what I've predicted in my outlook sections all season. I want to believe we will take this series, so using my new math skills, I say the Pirates take 2 of the 3 games.