Colborn rejection unwarranted & Paulino

Several readers emailed me about John Perrotto’s article Sunday on Neal Huntington calling Jeff Andrews telling him he had been hired.  In that article Perroto said:

"The Pirates finished 14th in the 16-team National League in earned run average last season, just .02 from last place. That confounded many executives and scouts, who felt the Pirates staff greatly underachieved under former pitching coach Jim Colborn."

Time to think critically folks.

The National League median team ERA was 4.43 last year, according to ESPN. And 74% of the innings tossed by Pirate pitchers were thrown by our core ten pitchers who racked up a below league average 4.24 ERA (would have been 7th best in the NL). Those ten pitchers were: Capps, Duke, Gorzelanny, Marte, Snell, Chacon, Maholm, Torres, Grabow, and Youman.

The remaining fifteen pitchers in 2007 tossed 371 innings and had a 6.94 ERA. Those 15 include: Morris, Osoria, Sanchez, Bullington, Wasdin, McLeary, Armas, Kuwata, Bayliss, Kolb, Sharpless, Davidson, Perez, Rogers, and Van Benschoten. Essentially that’s 11 rookies, 3 washed up veterans, and Morris.

Now here’s where all you optimists can start spreading the cheer.

The main core group of 10 pitchers had a 4.31 ERA with the Pirates in 2006, so this group actually improved under Colborn. Plus, it’s even more dramatic if you remove Duke from both 2006 and 2007 since he was hurt last year. The remaining nine had a 4.11 ERA (would have been third best staff in the NL) and had improved from a 4.26 ERA in 2006.

That’s a rock solid 3.5% improvement.

Now if scouts and executives in the game are "confounded" and think Pirate pitching "underachieved" with Colborn, they need their heads examined because a 3.5% core group improvement year-to-year is platinum on a .417 winning percentage team (average of the two years).

And that doesn’t even speak volumes about Colborn’s actual success when you consider the core’s age, Youman has been released as unwanted, Grabow and Maholm were pitching hurt part of the year, Chacon had to be used in wrong roles, and young receivers were behind the dish in Doumit, Maldonado, and Paulino.

By gosh, Colborn should have been given the keys to the City for halting a sure 100 loss season.

Unfortunately, Perroto’s article also quoted a player as saying:

"We definitely need a good dose of Colby detox,” said one Pirates pitcher."

That player needs their head examined. Ok, so Colborn was head strong. Ok, so he didn’t get along with all the young bucks. Ok, so he didn’t like losing.

It’s sad to see a player talk about Colborn now that he’s gone for a couple of reasons. One, Huntington’s desire for a "culture change" obviously doesn’t mean much to that individual since he talked poo about another person in the game to the media. And two, we have to assume it was Zach Duke doing the talking because Perrotto also said:

"Many of the Pirates pitchers lost confidence in Colborn, who always seemed to either be tinkering with their mechanics or changing their approach to pitch selection."

That’s unfortunate for Duke if it was him because he was a victim of organizational mismanagement. Just like Kris Benson was, Ryan Vogelsong, Oliver Perez, and several others over the years.

For instance, I started to see red flags on Duke during spring training of 2006, saw more red flags in May 2006, saw him become a nibbler mid-year 2006 probably after his arm started to give way, even more red flags again in August 2006, and then warned everyone after the season both Duke and Maholm were headed for disaster in 2007.

And it all started with the Pirates desire to push Duke during spring training 2006 coupled with his added pitch count workload.

The same thing happened to Oliver Perez in 2005. Remember Dave Littlefield telling us Perez didn’t work out over the winter of 2004 to 2005 and it was his fault for not following up with him?

February 27th Perez threw off the mound first time for one minute bullpen session.. between 2/28 and 3/11 he pitched two batting practice sessions.. one a 20 pitch and one a 40 pitch.. then he hit the mound in ST games..

3/11 – 4R, 3H, 0 K, 0 BB, 1 IP – 26 P
3/20 – 3R, 3H, 3K, 2BB, 4 IP – 65 P
3/25 – 1 R, 3H, 5K, 0 BB, 5 IP – 97 P
3/30 – 0 R, 0 H, 6K, 5 BB, 4 IP – 77 P

Then, thru 4/10 a 0-2 record, 8 walks, 11 hits and 11 earned runs allowed in just nine innings of work.. thru 5/11 a 1-4 record, 37 IP, 10 HR, 25 BB, 29 K, 33 R, 46 Hits for an 8.03 ERA and a 1.92 WHIP. Batters had a .998 OPS against him.

Over the next year and one-half before Littlefield finally dealt him, Perez labored to throw 179 innings and had a 6.18 ERA including stupidity like 106 pitches in 3.2 innings April 30th, 2006. Obviously, Perez was already history in Littlefield’s mind.

But that March 25, 2005 game at the Trop was more than 90 degrees on the field and it was the game that broke his arm, as a couple of starts later he started to feel it. And it showed.

Shane Youman? Jeff Andrews pushed him over 40 pitches in one inning last year at Indy them had him return the next inning. Now he’s gone.

Now I bring all this up because the Pirates have already said they intend to push our pitchers in spring training this year hoping to get better early results from Maholm and Duke. But they better just back off unless they send them to Puerto Rico to play winter ball.

Now, if you want to blame Colborn for the Pirates problems, then you go right ahead and do that. But the real problem extended through the entire organization from Dave Littlefield to his pro scouts, from the bullpen coach to the player development team, from the coaches to the rovers. Everyone in that front office and down was guilty of destroying numerous arms over the years.

Including Brad Lincoln.

Unfortunately, many of the abusers remain in the organization today.

Lastly, Perrotto also chimed in with this tidbit that has been echoed by numerous media outlets as well as the Pirates:

"While many Pirates players underachieved last season, it was catcher Ronny Paulino who led the way."

I’m sorry, but I don’t agree. Does he step in the bucket hitting? Yes. Does he run like a mass of jello down to first? Yes. Does he look scared to handle plays at the plate? Yes. Does he look lazy on the field? Yes. Did he only throw out 27%? Yes.


He was a receiver in his sophomore year and history tells us receivers regress the hardest in sophomore years. Folks, it’s not easy being promoted during a year when your club is hosting the All-Star game, having to learn a whole new staff, new routines, traveling, new peers, etc.. much less come back and do it again the next year.

Say what you want, feel what you want, but Paulino is being blamed for way too much. Sure, he cost us games. So did Gorzy.. so did Snell.. so did Tracy. I’m not anywhere as unhappy with Paulino as a lot of fans are, or the club for that matter. And all this stressing accountability then throwing Paulino’s name out there is asinine when you consider the roster we have and their projected win/loss capability.

You want to talk about accountability? Start talking Robert Nutting. But I say leave Paulino alone.. he had the fourth best FPCT of all full-time receivers and that includes receiving the fifteen garbage pitchers we had. Paulino’s doing fine for the non-impact receiver he is. Actually, he’s doing better than I expected and I was his biggest critic in 2006.

You think the Pirates are actually going to replace him?