I’m not quite sure why, but whenever I see James McDonald I instantly think of Florence Johnston from the Jeffersons.
Same damn person, no? James McDonald is what we in this business like to call a “House of Fire” in the first half of the Major League Baseball season last year.
Talk of the All Star game, Ace stuff, and then the moniker King James were bestowed on the young lad of 27 years.
A new Pirate era was on the arm of the man acquired for half a season of Octavio Dotel. But things didn’t work out quite so well, as Pirates fans know.
The second half of the season was as bad as the first half was good.
Those second half numbers were absolutely abysmal. Even more abysmal was the fact that Clint Hurdle stubbornly stuck by a man who had no business being in the rotation. It was more than confidence, McDonald was done.
There is one game above all that stands out in all of this. It was his 122 pitch complete game. In his five games after that start he posted an ERA of 5.22. His line against was .272/.362/.465. Even more important in that stretch was the fact that he threw over 100 pitches in each one of those games as well. That included throwing 109 in a 4.2 innings outing followed by 108 in a 5.0 inning game.
Clint Hurdle abused James McDonald last season. Clint Hurdle wore James McDonald down in a a game the Pirates had in hand just to get him a complete game. James McDonald threw 122 pitches in a game the Pirates won 9-1. Wrap your head around that. Clint Hurdle kept his ace in a game that was well in hand to throw the highest pitch count of his career just so he could boast a complete game.
That is the point in which a player’s coach starts to hurt his team.
The following that up with games in which McDonald would average over 20 pitches an inning is criminal. And I believe it directly led to the downfall of James McDonald last season.
McDonald has always had the stuff to be successful but you can’t abuse the guy. There is no point in milestones like complete games if it costs you a season.
Thankfully I think James McDonald bounces back. He probably won’t be the first half James McDonald, but he’ll be a very good number three pitcher for this team. Now we must hope that Clint Hurdle actually cares about his pitchers arms more than their psyches.
That Hurdle realizes it’s a marathon, not a sprint and maybe costing his pitcher a complete game in June is more important that costing him success from July on.
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