Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bob Walk Q & A

WB2PB got the chance to sit down with former Pirates pitcher and TV commentator Bob Walk before the Pirates' Sunday game against the Phillies. Here are some of his comments from that interview.

On the acquisition of Derrek Lee:
"I think it's a good situation for us. He makes us a little bit better in the infield defensively. He's probably not the offensive firepower Derrek Lee of three, four, five years ago but he still has a decent bat. His numbers show that he's gotten a little bit better as the season has gone on after a slow start. I have my fingers crossed that he'll be able to help us going down the stretch. Right now we could use a little bit of help."

The starting pitching has come a long way from this season to last. Can you talk about some of the differences this year?
"We are leaking oil a bit at this point, but earlier in the year they were all doing fantastic. It is an individual thing to each pitcher but in a general statement, except for maholm and correia, the other guys are young and still progressing and hopefully their best years are yet to come. That might be something naturally that they've taken some strides forward and now maybe have to take a few more strides. In Morton's case, he got off to a great start changing the way he's pitching to more of a sinker ball pitcher but recently has struggled with his control. He goes out and gets ground balls and keeps his pitch count down for a couple of innings and then he won't know where the ball is going and have a 30-pitch inning with walks. That's the sort of stuff he needs to get rid of  but all the guys have taken really nice strides this year and I expect them to taken even more next year and (pitching coach) Ray (Searage) deserves a huge amount of credit. This didn't happen on anybody else's watch but his. He's done a fantastic job."

"Maholm and Correia are older, veteran guys with a track record and you can look back at. Normally when guys hit their 30s, they don't take a big spurt in production but occasionally it does and that's what happened to both of those guys. Maholm may not have the wins but the rest of his stats are outstanding and he's having his best year. He's had some runs in the past or some good half seasons or a good couple of months but he's never been able to put together a full season and it looks like this year he is going to accomplish that. Again, even though they are older guys, I'm sure Ray has had a positive effect on those guys as well."

Walk's thoughts on whether the players were looking for some help from the organization to make a move at the deadline:
"I think all year we've been looking for offense. We started talking that this is all about pitching but people come up and say 'you're playing a lot better this year,' and it's really not been about scoring more runs. It's been all about the pitching, so this offense has been there looking at us all year. It's been a little bit of a roller coaster with injuries and stuff but even when we've been clicking, it's not like we're out there beating the heck out of people. When the other team scores more than four runs, I think we've only won four games all year. We don't win very many ball games where the score gets up above five runs. That's been all year obviously and would likely continue on through into the second half unless we get some offense. I've been holding out that Pedro Alvarez comes up and plays like he did at the end of last season. If that happens, there is the answer. I think a Pedro Alvarez that we had in the month of September is better than anyone we can trade for right now. Last year, he has 26 RBI in the last month of the season. He really turned on the long-ball power and I'd love to see that continue. He got the two-run homer (on Saturday off Cliff Lee). That's the kind of Pedro Alvarez we need and would be a big help to us. As far as what is out there on the trading block, getting a big home run hitter, I don't think anyone thought that was going to happen. Bringing in Derrek Lee is a move that is going to make us a better team, but he's not really a gamechanger in the middle of that lineup, at least he hasn't been that way for a little while. Although liek I said, he's gotten a lot better as the season has gone along. He got off to a really slow start in Baltimore."

About the Pirates' minor league pitchers:
"You use those arms to go get bats. Arms are extremely difficult to find. You can't find pitching and pitching has made the difference on our team in wins and losses this year. That's the difference maker at this level. Look at what the Giants last year, it's pitching. Look at what the Giants are doing this year. It's pitching. They don't score any runs either like us. I think it's very wise to invest heavily in pitching in the minor leagues and then when you have that overabundance that you hopefull will get, you then use that to go out and get the bats you really want. I could see that happening when some of those younger minor league guys (Colton Cain, Jameson Taillon, Colten Brewer, Stetson Allie, Gerrit Cole) come up to the top if we are still in the same situation we are now, then perhaps we put a prospect package together and make a push for a real big bat if the time comes and we still need one."

On the fans' response in Pittsburgh and beyond to the team's 2011 success:
It's what we always predicted and hoped for that when the team started playing better, the fans would respond and it's been probably the biggest surprise to me. Even bigger than the way we are playing, the way the Pittsburgh fans have come out is amazing. And it's not just at the ballpark but around the city, in the suburbs. You go to the mall and half the people are wearing Pirate gear and even around some of the visiting ballparks we've gone around to. We are seeing more and more Pirates stuff. I think the people all over are jumping on the Pirates bandwagon. It's a good story, we're a young team that hasn't won in a while. We've got people rooting for us all over the place.

On the rough schedule ahead:
"I think (the media and fans) look at that more than the players do. Andrew McCutchen was asked that after the split in Atlanta. Something about that was a tough series and we could've won three out of four, now you go on to Philadelphia, he said was "it is what it is. Can't do anything about it. We've got to go play the games. And I'm pretty sure they all feel that way down there. It's go out and play the game every night and that is what Clint has been preaching. Not to look too far ahead. We as fans or in media have probably been a little guilty of talking about the future because that is what we are always preparing for. Saying things like 'Yeah, we are going to be good two years from now' The guys in the clubhouse aren't playing that game. All they are thinking about is today.  They aren't even thinking about (Saturday's loss). How is that going to change anything today?"

Walk on how coming to work every day is different with a winner on the field:
"It's been more fun but actually it's been more frustrating. I didn't think I'd be saying this but years past, there would be things that would happen and you'd just shrug your shoulders and say 'OK well we're 20 games out of first place, we've got to get better. We can't be doing that anymore.' Now, we kick away a game or something and you drive home at night mad. The next day you try and forget about it but there is a lot more at stake now than there was in past year and you get irritated at things like a bad call by an umpire. It gets under your skin but that's a good thing really. I was talking to Clint about how my attitude has changed this season watching the ball game and he said to me that there are different ways to judge success and because now things irritate you, that's because they matter. And that shows how far the team has come. It's much more successful than it's been in a long time."

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