2007 Pittsburgh Pirates
2007 Pittsburgh Pirates / Franchise: Pittsburgh Pirates / BR Team Page
Managed by Jim Tracy
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2007 Pittsburgh Pirates carried over hope from a competitive second-half in 2006. There were few major off-season moves, the most prominent being the acquisition of 1B Adam LaRoche for closer Mike Gonzalez and prospect Brent Lillibridge. The move drew mixed reviews from both sides as LaRoche was coming off a much better 2006 than his prior stats would indicate, whereas Gonzalez had a history of injuries and Lillibridge was old for his level. The general feeling in Pittsburgh was that Salomon Torres could step in as closer (as he had in September when Gonzalez was hurt), that Brian Bixler gave the organization enough depth at shortstop and that LaRoche had turned the corner; the deal also let the club move Xavier Nady from first base to right field to fill a hole there.
Unlike most recent years, Pittsburgh did not sign any over-the-hill veterans like Derek Bell, Raul Mondesi, Benito Santiago or Jeromy Burnitz. Instead, they picked up some low-risk players like Tony Armas Jr. as the 5th starter. Most of the emphasis would be placed on returning players like All-Stars Freddy Sanchez and Jason Bay, .300 hitter Ronny Paulino, Nady, Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, Torres, Tom Gorzelanny and Ian Snell. The club also hoped CF Chris Duffy could play like he had in the second half of 2006 rather than in the first half.
The hottest issue for debate in spring training was the battle between Jose Castillo and Jose Bautista for the final infield slot. The club decided to use Bautista at third given his better plate discipline while Castillo was to ride the bench after three years of starting. Sanchez moved to second, but missed almost all of spring training due to an ankle injury. Bay had had off-season surgery as well, giving the team additional concerns.
Opening Day Lineup
- Chris Duffy, CF
- Jack Wilson, SS
- Jason Bay, LF
- Adam LaRoche, 1B
- Ronny Paulino, C
- Xavier Nady, RF
- Jose Bautista, 3B
- Jose Castillo, 2B
- Zach Duke, P
Trailing 2-0 entering the 8th on Opening Day, the Pirates rallied. Nate McLouth hit a pinch-hit homer against Roy Oswalt. With two outs in the ninth, Nady went deep off of closer Brad Lidge to tie it. Then in the 10th, Bay hit a two-run homer for the win.
The next game, Wilson laid down a bunt hit with one out in the 8th, down 2-1. Bay walked and Paulino and Nady followed with hits for a 3-2 victory. Pittsburgh had become the second team in Major League Baseball history to win their first two games, both on the road, with rallies in which the team trailed entering the 8th.
Pittsburgh started the year with a 12-12 record in April, but there was significant concern over the team's poor offensive performance. LaRoche was hitting .133/.255/.265, Sanchez .224/.260/.284 and Paulino .216/.237/.311 at month's end.
The Bucs slipped after that okay start, going 19-31 in their next 50 games. One especially troubling area was how they kept getting shut down by ineffective pitchers, as Randy Keisler, Kyle Davies, Kameron Loe and Kip Wells all came in with poor pitching stats but excelled against the weak Pittsburgh bats. The most notable incident was on June 20, when Jeff Weaver came in with a 0-6, 10.97 record and .413 opponent average and threw a four-hit shutout against the team. Sanchez had recovered from his slow start, Ryan Doumit had a fine hot run after being called back up from AAA and Bautista was performing very well out of the leadoff slot after Duffy was bumped to second, but LaRoche, Paulino, Duffy and Jack Wilson were all hitting poorly. Additionally, Duke and Maholm had been rocked in several starts and Armas had been dropped to mop-up work after miserable results as a starter. Snell and Gorzelanny were holding the rotation together. Additionally, Torres has lost the closer's role to Matt Capps.
On June 30, there was a much-publicized walk-out planned during the second inning of a game. The protest did not meet expectations of organizers, as only about 1,000 fans of over 28,000 in attendance joined the walk-out.
Torres returned to the team without any run-ins, but problems ensued with Jack Wilson got into a shouting match with coach Jim Colborn. There were many rumors that Wilson would be traded but the trading deadline came and went; most teams did not want to pay his salary for his level of performance. The Tigers expressed the most interest but no deal was finalized when GM Dave Littlefield asked for Craig Monroe in addition to two prospects. Littlefield was heavily criticized by the fan base for trading Rajai Davis and a player to be named later for pitcher Matt Morris and picking up all of Morris's salary, immediately making him the highest-paid player on the team. This was especially true in the light of Littlefield passing on Matt Wieters in the draft due to financial concerns, yet the team found money for a pitcher who had not won in his prior 8 starts.
Pittsburgh's offense came to live in August despite injuries hampering their top two hitters prior to that month - Nady and Doumit. For most of the month, they led the major leagues in runs and homers. LaRoche came to life and Josh Phelps, Freddy Sanchez and Nate McLouth also had good months. The team scored 182 runs and hit 45 homers in August.
Starting on May 22, the team had at least one extra-base hit each game until September 9, setting a surprising record in the post-1920 era, better than the "Lumber Company" Pirates of the 1970s or the Waner brothers era Pirates of the 1920s.
In early September, Littlefield was fired as General Manager, following the exit earlier in the year of CEO Kevin McClatchy. This was part of an overhaul by new principal owner Bob Nutting, who said he demanded a culture of success.
The team did set yet another power-hitting franchise record when 8 players reached double digits in homers, one more than the 1964 Pirates and 1973 Pirates. Bay, LaRoche, McLouth, Sanchez, Paulino, Wilson, Nady and Bautista were the eight players.
Awards and Honors
- All-Star: Freddy Sanchez