Prior to Wednesday’s 8-7 win over the Brewers, Pirates manager Derek Shelton and director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk, who spent more than a decade with the Dodgers, took a moment to recognize the life and legacy of the late Vin Scully. Here are Shelton and Tomczyk’s odes to Scully:
“For me personally, being 52 years old, that’s the voice of my childhood, because back then, we didn’t have games on TV every night. And it wasn’t just baseball. It was everything. I was asked earlier what’s the thing that stands out [as the] most iconic [moment], and for me, it’s [Joe] Montana to [Dwight] Clark.
“It’s just the voice of my childhood and last night, when they started to show it, it makes you reminisce. I was talking to [Pirates broadcaster Greg Brown] about it earlier. The only time I was able to meet him was at Dodger Stadium when I was a really young coach working for the Indians. Eric Wedge, who was the manager, and Carl Willis, who was the pitching coach, and I got on the elevator. We went down a floor and he got on. The doors opened and it was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s Vin Scully.’ To able to talk to him... he was an icon. Very sad day for baseball.”
“We lost an icon. That goes without saying. I had the distinct opportunity to spend a little bit of time with Vin Scully when I was with the Dodgers. If there were more Vin Scullys in this world, the world would be a better place. ... It’s a sad day in the world, a sad day in baseball.”
The story of Kevin Newman is a familiar one by now. Last season, by OPS, Newman was the worst qualified hitter in baseball. There was no sugarcoating that reality.
He made adjustments. Now, he’s seeing results.
This season, Newman is posting a 105 wRC+, an improvement from the league-worst 54 wRC+ he had last year. Throw in his solid defense and Newman is enjoying a bounceback season. The one area of Newman’s offensive game, in particular, that’s worth examining: Batting average against fastballs.
This season, Newman is hitting .295 with a .410 slugging percentage against pitches that qualify as fastballs. Last year, Newman hit just .216 with a .314 slugging percentage against fastballs. Against four-seams, in particular, Newman hit just .163 and posted a Run Value of -21, the worst in the entire league. This season, Newman has a far more respectable Run Value of 2 against four-seam fastballs. He attributes part of his success to his refined stance.
“I think the biggest factor of that is swing path,” Newman said. “That’s what I worked a lot on in the offseason. So, I think that I’m in the zone and through the zone more.”
“You can trace it back to Kevin really taking ownership of his career starting after last season,” said hitting coach Andy Haines. “It starts with Kevin stepping up. He’s made some tangible adjustments with his path and things. … He’s making improvements at the Major League level. It’s exciting to watch him and see him get some rewards for all the work he’s put in.”
Who threw the first no-hitter in Pirates history?
A.) Nick Maddox
B.) Wilbur Cooper
C.) Cliff Chambers
D.) Bob Moose
Several young Bucs have been dominating at the lower levels. Here's a look at their most impressive performances. (All numbers and streaks are through Wednesday.)
Triple-A Indianapolis: 2B Rodolfo Castro
On two separate occasions, Castro has gotten a taste of the big leagues. He’s trying to fight his way back up to the show, and his recent play might warrant some consideration. Castro has reached base in 12 consecutive games, hitting .333/.382/.549 with two home runs and three doubles during that stretch. In his last six games, in particular, Castro is 11-for-26 with as many doubles as strikeouts (three).
Double-A Altoona: RHP Tahnaj Thomas
Thomas has grand aspirations. In February at Pirate City, the Pirates' No. 23 prospect declared that he was going to be better than Jacob deGrom. Whether Thomas, who has almost exclusively been used as a reliever this season, reaches that height is pretty improbable, but the 23-year-old did just have one heck of a month. Thomas didn’t allow a single run in July across seven appearances. In 10 innings, Thomas struck out 13 batters to just one walk. Since June, Thomas owns a 1.54 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings.
High-A Greensboro: C/OF Endy Rodriguez
The original plan was to highlight another member of Greensboro, since I wrote about Rodriguez last week, but the 22-year-old’s dominance demands more attention. Rodriguez’s on-base streak is now up to 29 games. In his last 10 games, the Pirates' No. 5 prospect is hitting (please prepare yourself) .556/.652/1.194 with seven home runs, a .744 wOBA and 358 wRC+. Those numbers are the stuff of video games.
Single-A Bradenton: RHP Po-Yu Chen
Chen had his struggles in May and June, but the 20-year-old began to put things together this past month. In July, Chen posted a 2.39 ERA with 25 strikeouts to seven walks across 26 1/3 innings, easily his best calendar month of the season thus far. With seven shutout innings last week, Chen was named the Florida State League Pitcher of the Week.
FCL Pirates: SS Jesus Castillo
Castillo’s on-base streak, one that ended at 22 games, didn’t quite hit the level of Rodriguez, but the 19-year-old went on a blazing run of his own. Across those 22 games, Castillo slashed .400/.519/.446 with a 179 wRC+. The most impressive part of that stretch? He almost had double the amount of walks as strikeouts. Castillo showed off the speed as well with eight steals during that span.
Dominican Summer League: OF Ewry Espinal
You down with OBP? Espinal certainly is. In 38 games, Espinal is posting a borderline incomprehensible .510 (!) on-base percentage and a 32.0% (!) walk rate. How adept is Espinal at drawing walks? Well, he has 15 multi-walk games to five multi-hit games. That includes four occasions in which he has drawn three walks in one game. Think the 19-year-old has patience?
July 5, 2022: José Quintana throws five scoreless against Yankees
This section is typically reserved for throwback clips, but with José Quintana having just been dealt to the Cardinals, let's revisit one of the best starts of his Pirates tenure.
In front of an absolutely packed house, one that featured equal parts of Pirates and Yankees fans, Quintana threw five scoreless innings with seven strikeouts against a potent lineup that featured the likes of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
A.) Nick Maddox
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