Results tagged ‘ Pittsburgh Pirates: The Road to Respect ’

No Erstad? Sanchez and Cubs? Plus, PR hits

Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington had a chance to add a quality player in Darin Erstad but for some reason passed on him at the same price Chris Gomez cost him.

Let’s see.. Erstad potential upside or Gomez downslide? Erstad’s glove or Gomez’s no-glove? Erstad’s left-hand bat or Gomez from the right side?

You say Gomez was needed to handle the hot corner in Bautista’s stead? Don’t we have Sanchez (+20 runs UZR at 3B 2005 – 2006) with a guy named Josh Wilson (+/- 0 runs UZR at 2B) able to take over at 2B? You think Gomez was needed to spell LaRoche? Erstad actually plays a very solid first base (+14 runs UZR in 2005 — +1 runs UZR 2006 and 2007).

No brainer.

This is exactly the type of deal a small-market team needs to make – a plus makeup player on the rebound wanting a one-year deal who understands he doesn’t have a full-time role. And he’s the kind of player who will rock the NLCD right-hand arms. 

I understand not signing a Lo Duca, I understand not getting involved in the Lamb sweepstakes, but I don’t understand signing a Gomez over an Erstad when we are dying for left hand bats and people who can cover the ball.

Oh, that’s right. I guess we should believe power sluggers Ryan Doumit and Chris Duffy will be available all year.

I swear I still feel the ghost of Dave Littlefield. Yeah, we might as well start Pearce in AAA too.. it only makes sense.

Only four days left for you to register and try and win a 2007 Neil Walker bobblehead. By registering at Bucco Blog’s Pittsburgh Pirates Discussion Forum before the stroke of midnight New Year’s eve, you are automatically entered.

Pirateball.com recaps the year saying:

"Pirates’ 2007 marked by inconsistency

"There were defensive lapses and offensive inconsistencies. A relatively young group of pitchers endured growing pains, though each of the rotation’s top three starters would finish the season with a new high in career innings set.

"The bullpen and bench struggled early, only to mesh as the season progressed and as roles and personnel changed… Twice the Pirates endured periods in which they dropped 13 of 15 games. And when it came to Interleague road games, the club reeled off just one win in nine games."

Yeah – it’s the players fault. They were "inconsistent," had too many "lapses" and "growing pains," and "struggled" often.

Are we supposed to believe from that article that the writer believes if the players hadn’t been "inconsistent" et al that they would have been a .500 team or something?

I mean, isn’t there a high correlation between "inconsistent" play and extended periods of low player payroll? Sure there is, and that high r value is called low morale.

You get what you pay for in this world.

I think the Cubs and Pirates need to work on a package deal with Freddy Sanchez and Josh Vitters as the main cards. Retrun the call Huntington.

My Hall of Fame card? Hey, since it’s the year of steroids, I’d vote for McGwire since he won’t get one anywhere else. Best bet? The Goose.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished below .500 for the first time in eight years last year. However, they saw the post-season in 6 of the previous 8 plus took home the World Series trophy two years ago. But that’s not enough for one Cardinals blogger who is now calling out the front office as liars and demanding change:

"For Cardinal fans, the promises that were made 3 years ago, last year and this year have turned out to be lies. A spade is a spade and until we get some proof that DeWitt, Johnny Mo or any other person employed by the team is willing to make the changes necessary to elevate this business above mediocrity, than we shouldn’t relent. After all, it’s a business. And us, the customers, have been lied to long enough."

Talk about spoiled rotten fans. Imagine this dude 14 years from now.

LoL

Reduni

I suppose we now know where Kevin McClatchy got the idea for the red uni’s last year.

Last year the Pirates front office went to sleep from Christmas until well into the new year. It was the first time in years the Pirates didn’t make a deal or sign a major or minor league free agent during the period.

Looks like we’re sleeping again this year.

I actually went back and counted how many fan emails I have received since Huntington took office that asked this question or a derivative of it:

"What are we doing?"

Sixty-three emails, with thirteen in the last four days.

The roster doesn’t compete on paper, they aren’t dealing for youth, and they continue to salary dump.

It’s sexy to think Bay will achieve a higher value if he mashes next year, but will he?

Bay will be in a contract year in 2009 so the the club that deals for him next winter isn’t going to pay anywhere near the value for him then he would command today coming off a bad year that is semi-explained with his knee problem. So why wait?

Sanchez is heading into declining years, has multiple health issues, and really isn’t a very good second baseman, so why keep him? And Nady and Wilson are coming off almost career years – we’ll never get more for them than we can now.

True – dealing all these guys means we end up with a replacement level roster that probably wins 50 games. But so what – at least we are getting the most of our value at the best possible time. Waiting does nothing but force us to eat declining values.. values that should be building our farm.

Isn’t that the plan? Shouldn’t that be the plan?

I said it once and I’ll say it again – I think Huntington has a deal or two already worked out and he won’t pull the trigger on them until mid to late January because they hope to get as many season ticket holders resigned before they make their moves knowing they are going to take a huge PR hit.

It’s all about the almighty dollar, baby.

Where oh’ where has the Pirates coverage gone, oh’ where oh’ where could the beat writers be? You can hear a pin drop..

Boy, talk about one dead city for Pirates coverage.

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NLCD Starters vs Bucs; Two Pittsburgh Pirates arrested

Since the National League Central Division teams have pretty much set their rotations for 2008 other than a late big deal or two, I thought it was time to take a quick look at how these pitchers have done against the Pirates franchise over their careers.

Obviously this isn’t perfect science, but it’s generally close.

First, the potential starters for each team I used herein are from each team’s MLB.com depth chart.

An asterisk by their names means that player’s stats were not used either because I expect them to be on the extended DL or I don’t have a career history against the Bucs worth talking about.

Here’s the potential starters:

HOU 44 Roy Oswalt STL 50 Adam Wainwright
51 Wandy Rodriguez 35 Joel Pineiro
41 Brandon Backe 23 Anthony Reyes
29 Woody Williams 48 Brad Thompson
52 Felipe Paulino  * 29 Chris Carpenter
MIL 15 Ben Sheets CHN 38 Carlos Zambrano
31 Dave Bush 30 Ted Lilly
46 Claudio Vargas 21 Jason Marquis
37 Jeff Suppan 53 Rich Hill
49 Yovani Gallardo 45 Sean Marshall
39 Chris Capuano 46 Ryan Dempster
12 Carlos Villanueva
* 43 Manny Parra CIN 39 Aaron Harang
61 Bronson Arroyo
31 Matt Belisle
* 34 Homer Bailey
* Edinson Volquez

Now let’s look at how each team’s potential starting staff has handled the Pirates over their career:

ERA career IP K/9 BB/9
Astros 3.23   332 7.4 2.1
Brewers 3.85   411 6.6 2.2
Cards 3.73     82 5.8 3.2
Cubs 4.55   372 6.8 3.5
Reds 3.93   188 7.3 1.8

Win% ERA
average 0.604 3.89

An average 3.89 ERA over 1,385 innings of work is pretty significant.

Here’s how we hit as a team against the NLCD starters last year:

BA OBP SLG OPS
Astros 0.242 0.297 0.404 0.701
Brewers 0.258 0.322 0.423 0.745
Cards 0.273 0.339 0.402 0.741
Cubs 0.246 0.320 0.378 0.699
Reds 0.274 0.318 0.444 0.763

When you consider the Pirates play 80 games against the division, starters generally throw 70% of the game, and earned runs are generally 90% of the Pirates run production, that would mean the Pirates are going to score 249 runs in the equivalent of 58 complete games using the 3.89 ERA.

Sounds good so far you say?

Add 15 interleague games where the Pirates average scoring 4.1 runs per game if they are lucky (62 R), 35 games against the teams out West averaging 4.3 runs per game (151 R), and that’s 108 games where we are expected to score a total of 462 runs.

Just to make it to 700 runs, we would need to score 4.4 runs per game on average for the remaining 54 games (30 of them against the NLED), or to make it to 724 runs like last year, we would need to score 4.9 per. 

I see the optimists are running.

The Pirates made it to 724 runs scored last year on a fluke – they just happened to play a lot of blow out games between August 1 and September 9th where they scored 8 or more runs in 40% of their games (16 of 40). Don’t count on that happening every year.

So when you hear someone telling you the Pirates scored 724 and they should be improved as a group in 2008, now you know better. They will be lucky to score 700, and that is with Bay’s expected improvement.

Fast stat:

The Pirates #3 hitter in 2007 scored just 80 runs in 665 at bats – third worst in baseball, had the second lowest OBP at .328 (.041 below the NL median), and had the lowest OPS in the game at .734.

Freddy Sanchez had 68% of those at bats. He racked up a .348 OBP which was .021 below the NL average and .778 OPS which was .083 below league average. Jason Bay had 14% with a .270 OBP and .625 OPS, and Adam LaRoche took it on the chin batting third 14% of the time with a .330 OBP and .778 OPS.

Ouch.

Hopefully Freddy Sanchez is healthy this year or Jason Bay picks up his game because the lack of OBP from the #3 hitter last year killed us.

Long-time pro scout Bill Clark penned a great article on Branch Rickey Wednesday you might want to read. You can follow that up with a little story on Clark’s work with the Pirates when he helped Isaiah "Fireball" Jackson get out of prison to pitch for the Bucs in the mid-sixties.

Good stuff.

Smoking gun.

Three days before one of the Pirate players called out Jim Colborn in John Perrotto’s column, the Pirates learned two of their minor leaguers were arrested at a DUI checkpoint in Sarasota – Kyle Bloom and Brandon Chavez.

Bloom_1

Click images to see full size.

Chavez

So much for the new wave culture rhetoric. Notice they were both driving vehicles heading back to Bradenton where they both live. And a cab costs, how much?

Two other Pirates’ pitchers – Cory Stewart and Jeff Miller – were arrested in 2005 charged with a host of crimes including pulic intoxication. Neither are in the game anymore.

The worst part about their getting busted? The police announced they would be setting up the roadblock in Sarasota in the Bradenton newspaper where they live.

Here’s a nice article on the Pirates new hitting coach, Don Long.

‘"To be a successful hitting coach, he went on, "you have to develop a rapport with (the players). And they have to trust what you’re telling them. That trust is important, whether you’re in the big leagues or in the rookie leagues. And if you develop that trust, then when it’s time to tell them what you see, I think they’ll listen."’

Cory Giger had a revealing piece on ex-Buc Mike Johnston in the Altoona Mirror.

‘‘Johnston appeared in 24 games as a reliever with the Pirates in 2004, going 0-3 with a 4.37 ERA, and has battled injuries off and on ever since. The hard-throwing lefty had surgery to repair a torn labrum in October of 2006, which marked the end of his tenure with the Bucs.

‘‘I got released the day I had surgery,’’ Johnston said. ‘‘I came out of surgery to a phone call from [assistant general manager] Doug Strange that I had been released. That’s not the best news coming out of surgery.

‘‘But it’s part of the game. I was part of the 40-man [roster], so they would have had to pay me a lot of money this year. They knew I wasn’t going to throw the whole year, so why take a financial hit when they’re pinching money anyway?’’

Luxury Tax vs actual spending and Dobrow

Marlin blog FishStripes read a few random posts at one of the Pirates’ blogs and the Post-Gazette and then said this about acquiring Jose Castillo:

"I have heard in the past that Castillo has an attitude problem." Additional reader comments said: "The Fish landed a real lump of coal in this guy.. this guy should be called Jose Mendoza with the way he performs."

Ok.. no SB Nation jokes. Where they got the "attitude" problem stuff is beyond me. Perhaps they need to do a site search here.

If anyone has any clue about Jose Castillo it is Mickey White who, last I heard, is still working for the Fish. Castillo signed as a teenager as an undrafted free agent in 1997 and White took over as scouting director here in 1998.

In any case, congrats to Castillo for catching a ride. May he finally get the chance he so rightfully deserves.

The average age of the Pirates 40-man roster on April 1, 2008, will be 27.4 years as it stands today. I assume that is the youngest 40-man for us in quite awhile.

Speaking of numbers, take a look at the widening spread between the Luxury Tax threshold and the Pirates spending on player salary since the 2002 Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed:

Notice the Pirates payroll trend falls from 2003 to 2008 at just under $1M per year while the Luxury Tax grows at $8M per year on average.

I estimated the Pirates 2008 payroll at $42M since that was the median of the previous five years. But as we all know, it could be $28M just as easily if more dumps were to take place. Plus, I graciously included opening day payrolls instead of the average salary for the year because as we all know, the Pirates dumped in 2003 so the gap is really much wider than what shows.

The idea behind the Luxury Tax (actually known as the Competitive Balance Tax) is to try and halt player salaries from growing too fast allowing smaller club’s the ability to stay in the game. Think of it as a salary cap because it penalizes the club’s who exceed it. 

What is interesting about all this is that the owners allowed a 6% growth in player salaries annually. So if you use their general thought, $40M in player payroll value in 2003 would be worth $53.5M in 2008… $50M in 2003, which is what Kevin McClatchy had seemingly promised Pittsburgh taxpayers with his PNC gift, would be worth $67M in 2008.

It is conceivable that by 2009 the Pirates could have a $20M payroll as they dump to rebuild which would be a $142M gap – 20% more than it is today.

Wow.

Now as we go forward we can answer the question – is it possible to rebuild and remain competitive at the same time?

Sure.. by trading the aging, expensive, and/or underperforming roster players like Morris, Sanchez, Wilson, and Nady, as well as players with value like Bay and Snell, for as many AA+ type impact prospects as possible to build around McCutchen. Then, with the roster at a bare minimum cost, sign as many impact stop gap players as possible on two to three year deals up to the $67M we should be spending while the franchise develops the youngsters.

But that’s a perfect world.. one we haven’t seen in Pittsburgh since Leyland days.

The McClatchy Company does a great job with newspapers but they certainly don’t seem to understand the Internet:

"The company has been increasing its online-ad sales force, and adding video and more-frequent news updates to its newspaper Web sites… This year, McClatchy joined a consortium of newspaper companies in a deal with Yahoo that some analysts believe could bring significantly more traffic and ad revenue to members’ Web sites." – Wall Street Journal 12/25/07

The public doesn’t want to have to play a video to see a newspaper article, fight off ads that take over your computer, or have to see a lot of flashy ad movement while trying to read the headlines.

Look at the St. Petersburg Times new look, for example. While they are not in the McClatchy portfolio, their website had been one of the best reads on the Internet and now holds the useless flag.

Two papers in the McClatchy brand are the Miami Herald and Bradenton Herald and they make you feel like you are flying in an airplane at 500 feet and 200 mph while looking out the window. If you don’t turn flash off, you risk seizures from the repetitive ad movement.

Newspapers need to go back to the basics online – provide quality coverage first. Hit me hard with coverage – tell me what’s happening and where – make me want to dig deeper.

Once that is achieved, use lead-in’s that force us to click to read each article we want to follow. The subsequent page should have their advertising in stationary format using color as the attractor, for example.

Until these big newspapers get back to the basics, I’ll stick with my news aggregator that removes the ads.

Maxmim Online’s Larry Dobrow penned a nice piece on the Bucs at CBSSports.com yesterday. It’s pretty funny.

"The Pirates careen into 2008 in much the same manner they’ve entered every season since Barry Bonds left for the West Coast 15 years ago: without a hope or a clue. The potential opening-day lineup, rotation, bullpen and defense are almost morbidly mediocre. The farm system is barren of impact players beyond CF Andrew McCutchen — who, if recent history repeats itself, will be rushed to the majors and then traded for Ryan Church. It’s bad, dude."

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.

So?

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?

Bah-humbug.

Bay’s days numbered and poor Santa

I posted some of this at Bucco Blog’s new Pittsburgh Pirates forum a day or two ago so if you have read the thread, you may already be ahead of the game.

For those that haven’t been around in a few days, the old forum is being shut down in favor of this new one that is very nice.

Be sure to register at the forum because I just turned on a "Member’s Only" area where the latest rumors will be posted as I get them and a few folks in the game will drop by and talk with us, some live.

Plus, that way you don’t have to wait for my midnight post to hear what’s going on. That particular forum is not viewable until you become a member.

Ok – so let’s move on.

Are Pittsburgh Pirates fans experiencing another war of the nerves like we saw in the winter of 2006-2007 between Dave Littlefield and John Schuerholz?

It’s starting to sound like that.

Word on the street is that there are at least three teams with a continuing interest and open communications with the Pirates about Jason Bay – the Mariners, Padres, and Indians. Unfortunately, at least two, and possibly all three clubs, want Ian Snell in the package as well.

Enter stage right, the war of the nerves.

Neal Huntington is having to deal with three veterans of the nerves game – Mark Shapiro, Bill Bavasi, and Kevin Towers. None of the three are backing away yet and in some cases, they are losing potential signing opportunities by playing this game. For instance, the Padres have said Mike Cameron was their fallback but it’s starting to look like he’s going to sign on elsewhere, but they did add the aging Edmonds just in case. The Indians would probably like to take offers on CC Sabathia but are watching teams filling their needs.

Now the trick to this game as we saw last winter is to not budge. So far Huntington hasn’t, at least not that I’ve heard. Perhaps he did talk too much with the Indians until Coonelly et al shut him down. I don’t know.

The first one to sneeze, loses. Here’s what I mean – let’s say one of the San Diego newspapers starts running noise shots. That’s where they say things like they are content with their roster, they don’t plan to make any other additions, they don’t need another starter and will work from farm depth, etc.

When the noise picks up, then they are getting tired of playing the waiting game. The same is true in Cleveland or Seattle. Now we’ve already seen a little bit of noise coming from the Mariners in that they just signed Carlos Silva and the newspapers are abuzz about Brandon Morrow talking the 5th rotation spot. But don’t count on that happening.

Yet, they seem to be wanting to get their house in order a bit quicker than the other two teams. Perhaps there is a bit more heat under Bravasi’s rear?

I’ve heard Huntington has a directive to deal Bay this winter as long as he doesn’t give him away so I assume all three teams have heard this rumor too. As for Snell, he projects as a #4 – #5 starter in the AL but he’s young and still under arb control, plus he misses bats. That’s worth a fortune in this game and Huntington is going to be able to justify getting a king’s ransom for him. Whether he is dealt or not depends on the suitors for Bay it seems.

So mark down January 20th on your calendar. That’s the drop-dead date I’ve put on my system for Bay leaving town. Somewhere between now and then we’re going to see the war of nerves start to heat up and we’ll start hearing a lot of noise which is still in the feeling up stage. And then watch the three masters go after Huntington.

We’ll quickly learn if Coonelly and Tanner are getting paid enough to babysit.

I haven’t a clue where all the traffic is coming from to this site but we’re getting hammered. And I mean hammered.

It’s Christmas people – all the GM’s are home having parties, roasting chestnuts, and have set their Blackberry’s to voice mail. I’m not saying a deal couldn’t get done right now but it isn’t likely.

A little holiday fun (clicking one of the buttons will halt the show):

Fan boiling point near? Hot stove, jobs, & roids

Over the last three weeks I’ve had some pretty heated discussions with several season ticket holders who have been around a long time. It started with one seat in one section more than a year ago and has grown to a dialogue involving several sections and many people.

To say some of them are frustrated is an understatement.

The curious part about most of these folks is that just five months ago many of them were still emailing asking me to be more positive and that I should put more faith in Robert Nutting.

Throw all that out the door.

The tone of the communication over the last couple of weeks has gone from "a little hope left in the tank" to one of total discouragement. They are not happy and are now turning angry. Imagine that – angry irate fans.

One ticket holder said he’s been a regular fixture for more than fifteen years and this is the first time he has not looked forward to watching the Pittsburgh Pirates play.

Now that’s sad.

And what’s even more amazing about most of these folks feelings is that the Pirates haven’t even dealt any of their PR treasures yet. By gosh, if they did let Bay, Snell, Sanchez, and Wilson all fly off the shelf, I bet they would struggle to sell 1M tickets.

The Pirates are going to take a hit on attendance this year – that only stands to reason. They know it and expect it I’m sure. But how much of a hit is anyone’s guess. I’m sure they don’t even know. The key will be in the walkup crowds.

More than one year ago I penned a post called "Willy Nutting?" where I questioned if the Nutting clan would allow a 15th consecutive losing season in Pittsburgh. As we now know, it didn’t even faze them and it’s starting to look like a 16th, 17th, and 18th on won’t faze them either.

So it seems the older, longer established fans are finally joining hands with the younger ones who have long known the difference between reality and illusion in Pittsburgh.

At least, it’s certainly starting to look that way.

Shhh.. don’t tell the Pirates you know all this stuff. According to UZR, Jose Bautista was the fourth worst third baseman in the game last year at -12 runs. In 2006 he was -10 runs.

The fourth best defender in the game last year at third? Aramis Ramirez at +6 runs – the guy ownership forced Littlefield to deal in 2003. You know, the guy all the fans called lazy.

Just so you know, Ramirez had the fifth best OPS in the game of those with 500 or more at bats at third, and Bautista was fourth worst.

Now, do you want to take a moment to think about dealing Mr. Ronny "lazy" Paulino?

Oh, and wonder pickups Josh Wilson and Chris Gomez? They have been in negative defensive numbers the last three years at all positions. What a deal.

Speaking of lazy deals, the Padres need a solid left fielder or they need a left-hand platoon bat with Hairston. They also need a 5th starter and reliever and would probably prefer southpaws in both spots.

Perhaps they would have an interest in McLouth, Grabow, and Maholm? Take your best shot at a return package if this ever came to be, but here’s a few guesses:

I think B to B+ 2B prospect Matt Antonelli is intriguing, a couple years off, and would have to be included in any deal, I’m not sold on Headley unless the Pirates pro scouts have given up on Walker or see his bat playing somewhere else (where would be a mystery to me), high school product, and lower level prospect Mat Latos is also intriguing, and right hand reliever Cla Meredith could certainly help the Pirates right now.

Josh Bard could be a short-term stopgap to help push Paulino. Bard’s limitations behind the dish are obvious, but he can still hit the ball. He would fit into a nice platoon role with Paulino over the next year or two as Paulino continues to grow. Perhaps we should/could also ship Doumit to the Pads as a backup to Barrett?

Meredith gives us a solid right hander in the pen for a few years, Antonelli can easily take over for Sanchez at second down the road, and Latos projects as a mid to back of the rotation power arm in three to four years.

But dealing Maholm would leave a hole in the rotation so I would see if Burnett could take the 5th starting spot. If not, I’d create a tandem rotation scheme with Bullington to keep their innings down and at least give them the year to see if they break, crumble, stay the course, or surprise me. Replacing Grabow wouldn’t be easy but one of the younger additions to the roster would have to step up.

You know the Padres would rather have Bay, Marte, and Maholm but I don’t see a deal there. Bay and Grabow easily deal, Bay and Marte easily deal, McLouth and Maholm deal, but Bay and Maholm starts to get a bit too much for what the Pads have available.

Just wild guesses based on the two team’s needs.

Ladies and gentleman, these three players continue to be a valuable part of the core nucleus of the Pirates rebuilding plan. Andrew McCutchen on the left, Brad Lincoln in the middle, and Shelby Ford on the right. This photo was taken in 2006 for Bucco Blog by the Dad’s master photographer, John Setzler.

Word back in Fort Meade is that Cutch saw Santa and asked for a .320 BA and 1.100 OPS next year.

The Curve and Spikes are looking for Interns if you live in the area and are in college. Also, the Curve announced the date for the Hot Stove Dinner and Benefit which includes their yearly Hot Stove auction. Get your tickets before they sell out.

And for those of you that loved the Pirates analyst opportunity posted here yesterday, but couldn’t quite fit the bill, the Indy Indians need an IT/Database Manager. However, you must be able to work up to 14 hours per day and 100 hours per week during peak periods.

Wow.. are there really "peak" periods in AAA that require paying triple-time? Be sure to get an hourly salary for that one! Whew.

The Indians are also looking for a groundskeeper intern. The job requires that you can run a snow plow at 10 mph during April games and are proficient in spray painting grass. Ok.. just kidding. They really do have a beautiful park.

Pete Incaviglia? Steroids? Well no wonder he raked a 1.023 OPS and went yard 23 times at New Orleans in 1998.

Geez. Who would have imagined.

Durbin missed? Oasis Hillbillies and a job opening

Chad Durbin.

The Post-Gazette scooped Chad Durbin signing with the Phillies and suggested the Pittsburgh Pirates finished second again in trying to sign a free agent.  But did the Pirates really even want Durbin?

Doubtful.

On paper, Durbin looked strong as a reliever – a 4.18 ERA over 28 innings, 1.29 WHIP, and a 2-0 record. As a starter, he was 6-7, had a 4.88 ERA, and a tad higher WHIP at 1.48.

But what you don’t see is the 26 bequested runners he had and the fact only 38% of them scored, so his ERA could have been higher. In other words, he was kind of lucky overall. You also don’t see that he tossed 2/3rd’s of his innings in the first half and then got rocked in the second (5.71 ERA in 42 IP and 18 appearances). Nor do you see his xERA of 5.35 for the season which is a good indicator of where he really was at in Detroit.

Fans think because he was in the AL he’ll do a lot better in the NL, and especially in the NLCD. Don’t be too sure in Durbin’s case. The reason I say that is that 44% of all the runs in the ALED were scored by two teams – the Indians and the Tigers – and there were only two very good pitching staffs – the Twins and the Indians.

For the most part, he was mauled by good hitting teams and he was able to sneak by clubs that typically don’t feature good scouting staffs or didn’t have good hitting clubs. Leyland got the best out of him.

All that being said, sure, Durbin might be better than some of the youngsters Huntington has picked up – no question about it. But at what cost? His K/9 hoovers around 5.5 so he isn’t going to come in and blow anybody away, his walk rate has been fairly high just like the kids, and he regressed badly in the second half. Is he even healthy?

I never liked the potential signing from the first day I heard the Pirates were talking to the Tigers before he was released. It just didn’t make sense for us – we’re rebuilding. Right? Let one of the kids step up if we don’t sign someone like a Vizciano. Even Chacon is a stretch.

I see Michael Barrett agreed to a $3.5M deal today avoiding arb. Sounds to me like he is on the move somewhere to be finishing business so quick. Let’s see if Huntington doesn’t make a move now.

How about the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s "research" article on the statistical analysis of player performance of those named in the Mitchell Report? They claim more than one-third of the ballplayers improved over their career averages the year after they obtained their roids.

Puh-lease. Is that new wave research, or what? If only one-third improved, then two-thirds didn’t. How diverse a population is that? I mean, how many of the ninety implicated would have improved over their career averages anyway?

For instance, take four 25-man rosters and tell me how many per roster are typically above their average in any given year. Twelve? That’s about 50% Nine? That’s 36%. See what I mean? So let’s toss that out the door as pretty much a worthless statement because they just proved those who used steroids hurt their stats the next year for the most part, not improved them.

The best read was when they said eight of the thirty-three all-stars named were selected "only in seasons after they reportedly began using performance-enhancing drugs." Huh? I’m not sure I understand why this is even mentioned because how many of them would have been selected anyway? Right – most of them. Plus, how random is that anyway?

I’m sure some of the players in the report benefited statistically and financially from using drugs. But by the report’s own admission, they didn’t even try to measure this group against others outside the group.

The things newspapers will allow to be published amazes me at times.

The Pirates posted a shameful job listing today:

"Senior Programmer/Analyst – Job Summary: This position is primarily responsible for the development and operation of a unified player management and scouting system. Works closely with the General Manager and Baseball Operations staff to define, develop, and implement a system that will support the Pirates player evaluation, selection and development efforts. The system will integrate multiple sources of information and video, both internal and external to the Pirates organization, into a single, centralized view of ballplayers. The incumbent is responsible for the full life-cycle of the player management and scouting system."

Why shameful?

Because sitting less than five miles away from the executive offices of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization is one of the most dynamic complex engineering centers in the world at Carnegie Mellon. It would seem they could build a model that would make Diamondview seem like a toy.

Or is this another case of the Pirates refusing to open their doors to locals?

In any case, I’m guessing Huntington didn’t jump in and upgrade the Lotus Notes garbage he inherited by buying into ScoutAdvisor. I suppose that wasn’t good enough. Maybe he has a friend with the Indians he wants to hire?

This organization sure is getting top heavy. I mean, here we are buying broken down Ford Falcons for the roster but we want to hire a Cadillac to run a computer.

We just keep getting smarter and smarter it seems.

But this is one smart teenager.

I checked in to see how John Setzler was doing and I see he has stepped up his photography some. Take a look at the Oasis Hillbillies float thing shot he captured at the Cat Square Christmas Parade. We miss ya John!

New Ownership, Buckley, and tidbits

I am proud to announce today that I have been hired as a consultant in the game and have sold Bucco Blog to Baseball Interactive Media (BIM), a privately held group in New York City with interests in Pittsburgh. The deal closed today and a press release will be sent out in the next week I’m told.

Over the winter a couple of media groups talked with me about purchasing Bucco Blog like Calkins Media, but BIM became aggressive late. 

You may have already noticed some subtle changes the last few days and what they have planned for Pirates fans at Bucco Blog is unprecedented. It’s an exciting time as this franchise moves forward.

The good news is that they want me to continue posting. My first love in the game is the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise so I’m happy to do just that. Plus, my consulting work is part-time so I still have availability, but my ears will hopefully be closer to the ground.

Thank you fans – your readership made all this possible.

A special note of thanks goes out to Mark Newman at MLB.com for putting up with my rants and helping me along the last two years, Pirates Media Director Jimmy Trdinich for spending at least a few minutes here and there, an unnamed member of the Pirates front office that called me out last year which opened my eyes, and most importantly to those in the field with their devotion, knowledge, and insight that helped me get the job and know how hard I work here to try and provide the fans with the best coverage of the team.

Let’s Go Bucs!

Boy, did I get hammered about my post on Troy Buckley. Those that wrote seem to feel he is a quality hire that can help move this franchise forward.

Perhaps he can.

But that’s not why I was down on the hire. It had nothing to do with Buckley as an individual and his successful college career, and everything to do with his near non-existent professional experience.

But before I go any further with this, I think there needs to be more research into the conditions of his hire. For instance, the Indians hired Dr. Andrews ASMI lab to do research in-year on their pitching staff. Dr. Glenn Fleisig, who is the labs research director, told Bucco Blog last year that:

"The focus of the institute continues to be research (testing theories, discovering answers, publishing results) and education (training programs for doctors, educational courses for doctors, physical therapists, athletic trainers, coaches, etc.). Thus, individual evaluations was never intended to be a primary focus of ASMI, but since 2002 we have grown the evaluation program as part of our mission to prevent injuries and educate."

So it is entirely possible the Pirates have hired the lab to work alongside of Buckley as the pitching rover like many teams are doing now. Buckley would feed his reports to the lab and they would in turn report back their recommendations. If true, at least that helps explain some of the reason for taking a chance on such an inexperienced rover.

As I said yesterday, there has to be more to this hire than we are hearing. Professional baseball teams don’t pluck a Division I pitching coach off the street and thrust him into such a position, no matter how good he is at the college level. The two arenas are completely different. He would ordinarily start as a pitching coach in the organization and then learn the professional game.

I’ll keep asking questions.

By the way, for those who have a love for pitch counts, injuries, and the like, Dr. Andrews will be presenting the latest information in a three-day event January 25-27 in Columbia, SC. The cost is $450 for most of us. Don’t be too surprised if you meet Buckley there.

Of note is that the lab will be releasing their preliminary study findings on lower WHIP’s, fewer disabled list days, reduction in organizational insurance costs, stronger ERA’s, and the relationship of biomechanical motion, fitness, anatomy, and pitch counts to injury risk. Of course, a lot more will be cover as well.

Fabulous stuff. Well worth the $450.

The Pirates continued their hiring wave by adding Brad Fischer, who was fired from the A’s, and ex-Buc Carlos Garcia who was fired by the Mariners and who will be the minor league infield rover.

Both of these guys are solid hires and seem to be more PR additions than anything because we have very little impact talent their credentials are needed for. Maybe Huntington plans to blow up the major league coaching staff during the season and they are around to move up? Just kidding.. I hope.

But at least Huntington showed he can hire somebody with a name, even if he is giving them the equivalent of "work some from home, earn $20k" type jobs.

The third rover added is Kimera Bartee as the outfield/baserunning rover. I can’t find much on him that makes any difference.

The Yankees fired David Szen today. He was their traveling secretary. I suppose we can guess where all the Hal Steinbrenner leaks were coming from now.

(edit 11:20 AM: a few readers and some close to the Yankees are letting me know Szen pled guilty to filing a false tax return for failing to disclose tips he had earned and may be facing prison time. Oh.. and some are saying Hal is tipping all on his own.)

Dave Littlefield caught a ride with the Cubs. Good for him. I suppose that saved the Pirates some money in 2008. The question to be asked is, what did the Pirates get from the Cubs in this deal, or were we just released of his salary? How many scouts do you know that make $1M per year?

Masumi Kuwata is signing a minor league deal again with the Pirates? Wow. With that media circus, good thing Andrew McCutchen will be starting off in Altoona.

Tractor pull tickets anyone?

Dejan’s December 18th Q&A had some strange utterings. Let’s look at a few:

• For the Pirates to be truly successful, as per the other models for teams in their revenue category, they simply have to follow the Arizona-Cleveland-Colorado models.

Riiighht. Or the Twins. Or the Tigers. Or the Angels. Or <put team name here>.

Come on. It is so sexy to think one club has to follow some other club, but the ones getting it done are creating models to be followed by others. Let’s face it, when a MLB team and the media that follow them say they need to "follow" someone else, then they aren’t planning on getting the job done. Correlation = .99999.

• The Pirates are not blowing up the major-league roster, probably in large part because of concerns such as yours. It is very clear that there is no local appetite for another rebuilding..

The Pirates aren’t blowing up the roster because nobody on the roster is wanted and, those that are either have health issues or Huntington wants too much in Dave Littlefield mode to every team but Cleveland.

Nearly every starting player has been mentioned in rumors so if the Pirates could blow up the roster, they would.

• I agree that money has been a big part of the downfall of the Pirates in the past decade and a half, but not for the same reasons you do, Steve. Rather, it was because they burned far too much of it on stopgap players while skimping on, of all things, scouting and developing. That qualifies as insanity for a low-spending team.

I wonder if Dejan knows the Pirates actually spent at or above the MLB average on player development through 2005, according to Dr. Andrew Zimbalist? Now for scouting, I don’t have numbers but I heard we are underpaying and I assume that means below league average.

Burning money on "stopgap" players and "skimping" on scouting didn’t hurt the Pirates. What hurt the Pirates was refusing to take this club to the next level by ownership who had a broke, mismanaged club and none of the owners would infuse any more cash. Now that we are making money hand over fist, we are starting a six-year rebuilding process so they can reap more profit.

Life is good for Pittsburgh Pirates owners.

It’s the owners greed Dejan.. not a few measly dollars missing in a department or two that hurt this club. Geez.

Hockey anyone?

What the Buckley? RC27 and rumor tidbits

It seems Larry Corrigan’s presence is starting to be felt with the Pirates naming Long Beach State assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Troy Buckley as their new pitching rover.

Buckley was drafted by the Twins when Corrigan was in Ryan’s front office and had scouted him during high school and college.

Well, those that weren’t laughing at Neal Huntington in the industry certainly are roaring now.

I don’t believe a college coach has ever been handed the responsibility of developing professional pitchers in the farm in the history of the game of baseball. If it has happened, I certainly can’t find it.

And what makes this hire all that more dubious is that Buckley wasn’t even a pitcher in his professional career. Yes, he tossed some innings, but only because his value as a minor league utility player was worthless and he had a live arm. But that didn’t work out either. So he went on to coaching.

First as the Expos hitting instructor in AAA and then he became their pitching coach in the short Gulf Coast League for a year. From 1998-2000 he was a hitting coach with Division I Santa Clara University, in 2001 hitting coach for Division I Long Beach State and has been their pitching coach ever since.

A Division I hire. Is this what we’ve become with Huntington? How brutal is that?

As a fan I don’t know what to say. Are the Pirates bringing back Gary Ruby as a consultant on the quiet because of last years problem he had? Is Huntington just not able to attract any professional pitching instructor to fill this role at all?

More importantly, why do we have a shocking lack of interest in a pitching rover’s role in the organization since Ruby left mid-year and now again with this administration?

There HAS to be more to this story than we are hearing or else Huntington has a lot more problems than any of us can even imagine.

This is an extremely poor hire, no disrespect to Mr. Buckley and his opportunity.

The generated RC27 (runs created per 27 outs) for the Pirates last year was 4.47. That means, we fielded nine players who together created an average of 4.47 runs per 27 outs.

The generated RC27 for each position is below:

RC27 Position
5.83 right
5.57 first
5.46 center
5.07 second
4.94 left
4.65 third
4.62 shortstop
4.27 catcher
-0.14 pitcher

This is important because, in order to win more games, you have to score more runs by increasing the team’s average RC27 output offensively or decrease the average RC27 allowed on defense. It’s that simple.

The two glaring holes in the graph above are left and third – both under 5 runs per game, and you can see why the team is concerned about their catching with just a combined 4.27 from their receivers.

The Pirates were said to be interested in Micheal Barrett and on paper neither his defense or offense will significantly upgrade the team. That’s where makeup issues and projectability come into play when two players are that close and only the Pirates pro scouts and front office can make those calls.

Johnny Estrada is another Ronny Paulino – an exact duplicate. There’s no win there. The Pirates would be better off dealing for a younger receiver with some upside.

Josh Wilson and Chris Gomez are upgrades over Matt Kata and Don Kelly, but are not upgrades to Bautista who should be on the pine in a utility role and Jose Castillo or Caesar Izturis. Here we went backwards but it should be said we shouldn’t see either of these two much anyway if we field a healthy team.

Morgan Ensberg is a solid upgrade to Bautista at third offensively and a trade off defensively. Unfortunately with Ensberg’s aging, and not knowing what he is asking, it’s hard to say whether he is worth a look or not because the Pirates would have to probably overpay to get him. Plus, even with him taking half the at bats with Bautista, that will net the Pirates about +1 win so they would have to pay him $4M or less for it to be worth it.

Inge isn’t an option at $19M unless the Tigers eat about half that, be my guess. He’s a better defender and his bat should translate well moving from the AL to the NLCD, but is he a +2 win guy over Bautista and a Gomez or Neil Walker? Not on my card he isn’t, at least not paying $6.3M per. At $4M he breaks us even.. is that worth it? Naw.

The Pirates are better off letting Walker break camp and just choke down his replacement level production for the year.

As for left, all we can do is hope Bay comes back into form and we’ll be fine there. I suspect he will. If he’s dealt, McLouth can cover for him and at least put up near 5 runs per game based on his productivity so far.

But our pitchers.. wow, do we need help or what? If they increased their overall productivity just 1 run per 27 outs, and we gained nothing else from the other 8 positions, that would be +2 wins.

And that’s possible – Morris has a decent bat and will be eating a lot more innings and if Bullington happens to break camp as the 5th starter he can make contact at least. But it’s painful to see Gorzelanny and Snell’s negative RC27 production because these two guys go the deepest in games.

This is a way the Pirates can sneak a couple more wins – by pushing batting practice on their pitching staff. Just make contact guys.

Rumors.

I heard the Estrada whispers but it doesn’t make any sense as I mentioned above.

I heard the Pads interest in Nady again, but Nady gets more than Barrett so what else is in the deal? Nothing I’m hearing. Probably more recycled stuff.

There’s more talk about Bay to two clubs but I think it’s recycled stuff again. I’ll try to run more info down.

And lastly, there is more talk about interest in Duffy again.. now a second team may inquire. I doubt he goes anywhere though.

Keep tuned in – I believe it’s going to get active sooner than you think.

Egg nog, bullpen management, and walks

Ok.. the egg nog parties are now over for the most part, shopping is pretty much out of the way, and now it’s time to make a deal or two. Let’s see how active the Pirates get this week. I’m guessing you’ll be surprised.

Stay tuned.

YOU MAKE THE CALL:

You are John Russell, it’s about 30+ days before early camp arrivals, and you have to decide now your strategy on managing the Pirates bullpen in 2008 so that instructional plans are written. Which approach do you take with your current roster: bullpen by committee or assigned roles?

Tick.. tock.. tick.. tock. Got your answer? Ok.. let’s move on.

Jim Tracy and Lloyd McClendon assigned roles when they had the depth/luxury to do so, so it’s only natural that Pirates fans would select that method. But Russell has unique challenges assigning roles with the biggest and most obvious being that he only has three relievers with any real service time and one of those is his closer with the other two being southpaws.

Succeeding as a role player requires strong management knowledge of the pitcher’s capabilities. Certainly it would be easier for Russell to know where to use Marte than where Evan Meek should/could be used, for instance.

So does that mean Russell is stuck having to use a bullpen by committee next year? Will Capps be used in the 7th to get two outs with two men in scoring position and the Bucs up a run, or will Sanchez be brought out to "see what he can do" as if we are developing minor league players at the major league level for the ninth year in a row?

It’s hard to tell what Huntington will ask Russell to do, but I assume it will be to try and assign specific sixth, seventh, and eighth inning roles during spring training and then to implement them from the halfway point on to see how they work out.

That’s right.. that’s not going to work very well with such a small sample size. But that’s the entire point of this post – nothing is going to work not knowing the younger players abilities over time. Plus, the younger players who do make the club will be traveling probably for the first time in their careers, will have to make friends with an entire new peer group, and they know every single pitch they throw will be evaluated from the GM to the clubhouse manager loading film.

Talk about a pressure cooker.

With any luck at all, Huntington will pick up at least one more polished right-hand reliever with some experience who can mentor the younger players much like Morris will be doing with the starters. That will only require us to carry three newbies in the pen assuming Burnett doesn’t get one of the jobs as a starter or long reliever and we carry 13 pitchers which we almost have to do.

Right again.. what happens when someone gets injured like Grabow, or traded like Marte? Well, we’ll be in rough shape unless Huntington brings up Bullington and puts him in the pen which, despite Huntington suggesting the other day he would do that, probably won’t happen. Or, we trade for another player.

These youngsters are going to have to get work so I expect we’ll see more of the same management scheme we saw last year with Tracy – if the game is close, Russell will pull everything out of the hat he can to to try and keep it close. If we are down three in the sixth in an away game, expect to see the youngsters.

But a bullpen by committee scheme very well might keep us in more games longer. That could especially be true if Russell uses the Jimmy Leyland approach yanking a pitcher out mid-at bat with two balls on the batter because he gets that sixth sense the batter is going to walk if he doesn’t. Plus, he can’t be scared to pile innings on Capps who, I believe, should have more of an expanded role than sitting around getting fat in the pen waiting to close a game every three or four days.

I bet I have received 100 emails in the last month asking why Dave Littlefield signed Matt Morris. The clear answer: he was in save-my-job-mode and I’m sure that had at least something to do with it.

When we made the trade I said I thought it was a good idea but a bad financial deal for a small market team. I’ve always liked the idea of Morris being added even though he wasn’t going to provide the Pirates with significantly more wins than a replacement level pitcher would.

Why?

Stability, experience, and knowledge. He’s the kind of guy the players will look up and listen to, even though his stuff isn’t that great anymore. The value of that development can’t be measured over what they would learn from a Jeff Andrews who had a couple of years throwing in the minors and then 20+ years coaching in the same environment. Plus, it was pretty obvious none of them were listening very hard to Jim Colborn.

No.. allocating $10M+ for Morris wasn’t a smart move for a team heading towards rebuilding. But I think his signing goes to show us how unstable the Pirates ownership and management were overall because it seems logical they would have never allowed it had they known they were going to blow up the roster. Obviously they were playing the game by the seat of their pants.

The Pirates better plan with the rest of the NLCD teams to find a way to shut down the Brewers early season run. Man they look good this year and could be on their way to a 95 win year. Don’t be too surprised.

Not since 2003 has the Pirates offense walked more times than our pitching staff has allowed walks. That could change in 2008 and, if it does, it could mean the difference from being a 92 loss team and an 88 loss team.. or even more.

Now.. we won’t gain +4 wins from getting issued walks, but it carries over to our defense as well. OBP is still king in this game and if you don’t give it up while grabbing all you can, you are more likely than not to steal a few more of those close ones.

There are a couple of very good articles in the August 2007 issue of SABR’s By The Numbers newsletter you might enjoy reading. Victor Wang wrote "How Much is a Top Prospect Worth" and Bill James penned "Future Expectations for Overperforming Teams." The issue is in PDF format.

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