Friday, August 06, 2010

McDonald's In Pittsburgh: They're Lovin' It

Nice to see JMac go out there and nail his debut performance for the Pirates, pitching six innings of shutout ball against the Rockies and amassing 8 Ks in earning his fist victory of the year.

Before the game, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was excited, and JMac was pumped:

James McDonald will make his first start for the Pirates today, five days removed from being acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Octavio Dotel trade.

He will do so with a three-pitch repertoire -- fastball up to 95 mph, curveball and changeup -- plus a slider in progress. He also will do so with a 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame that is lankier than that of most starters. Neither of those fits the prototype, but ...

"We like James' three-pitch mix with a chance to develop his slider," general manager Neal Huntington said. "His fastball has average to above-average velocity with downhill plane. His curveball has shown sharpness to the break. He has shown feel for his changeup with solid deception. He has shown the ability to throw all three pitches for strikes. The slider has flashed quality at times and, at other times, has been more of a slurve."

As for the frame ...

"There is no single body type for starting pitchers. We like James' athleticism, his height, how his arm works and his pitch repertoire to give him a chance to become a major league starting pitcher."

McDonald, a 25-year-old right-hander, has gone 26-23 with a 3.40 in 93 minor league appearances, including 79 starts. In 53 appearances with the Dodgers, only five of them starts, he went 5-6 with a 4.11 ERA, with a good strikeout rate of 63 in 76 2/3 innings, but an unsightly 40 walks and .262 opponents' batting average.

He was the Dodgers' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2007 and '08, and he pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings in the National League Championship series in the latter year after a September recall. He opened 2009 in the major-league rotation but an 8.78 ERA through four starts landed him in the bullpen.

"My confidence was down at the beginning of last year, but I came back and did really well," McDonald said. "Confidence is the one thing nobody can take from you."

And check out what the paper had to say afterward:

It was difficult to discern what was most impressive about James McDonald's debut.

Eight strikeouts in six sizzling, scoreless innings?

Four strikeouts to open the game?

Six strikeouts of the first seven batters?

No, try this instead: McDonald's performance was so captivating that the crowd of 17,131 at the Pirates' 5-1 clobbering of the Colorado Rockies Thursday night at PNC Park was doing, in unison, the two-strike clap in unified anticipation of the third strike.

It is heard all across Major League Baseball, but not for a starter on Pittsburgh soil since ... what, Oliver Perez's early days?

I don't know if I've heard this two-strike clap at Dodger Stadium. I'll have to listen more carefully once Garret Anderson comes to the plate again.

Congratulations, JMac!

photo: John Heller / Post-Gazette


Alex Cora said...

I always liked J-mac and his Kershaw like curve. Maybe a change of scenery will help him develop more. Good luck J-mac!

Dusto_Magnifico said...


DunkHawk said...

I love James McDonald, and I am happy that he is with an organization that will (hopefully) give him more of a chance.

I hate Ned Colletti.

Josh S. said...


Jason said...

I'm calling it now: to avoid arbitration after the 2012 season the Pirates will sign McDonald to a 3 year, $17.25 million contract with a team controlled option on a 4th year for $9.85 million. They will then try to trade him in years 2 and 3 of the contract due to his high-4 ERA and inability to stay healthy. They will then trade him for a AA-level arm and B-level shortstop prospect right before the 2014 non-waiver trade deadline.

I lived in Pittsburgh for too long.

Steve Sax said...

@Jason: Get ott! Yinz guys are too nebby.

Jason said...

@Sax - Nice, I haven't heard the word nebby used for a while. Plus 'run the sweeper', gumband and dahntahn. Or even seen a lawn chair used to save a parking space.

Infuriating my Seattle neighbors with Steelers taunts has been fun though.

rbnlaw said...

For the record, I predicted his success with the Pie Rats.