Years ago, Branch Rickey devised a formula he used in his attempt to put the Pirates back on the map. Unfortunately for Rickey, the Pirates lost 100 or more games the last three years he was with the club but his work was forever entrenched. Just three years after leaving, the team went past the .500 mark and two years later, won the 1960 World Series.
Rickey’s formula essentially showed him that the Pirates were putting men on base at a better than league average rate but they were being stranded well below league average rate. In other words, his team lacked clutch hitting.
One interesting part to Rickey’s thoughts to me for that time period was that he admitted the game had changed so much and that he had failed to recognize it over the years. Offense, he said, had become king of the game.. not pitching and defense.
Rickey’s type of revelation led to events over the years like analysis of the Moneyball Effect, to teams hiring sabermetric notables (Red Sox, Bill James; A’s, Gary Huckabay; Indians, Keith Woolner) or even a NASA biomathematician/scientist (Cards, Sig Mejdal). Lately, the new craze is younger GM’s.
Everybody wants an edge.
But no matter how many different twists have been put into the pot over the years, Rickey’s simple thoughts remain today.. offense minus defense = net placement. Simple yet logical, huh?
Let’s see how the NL did last using Rickey’s basic formula including the weighting of 54% offense and 46% pitching without plugging in defense. Instead, I’ll add Mitchel Lichtman’s (better known as MGL) UZR total runs as of July 2007 which is far from perfect but will give you an idea how the team’s defense was doing. Remember the formula now, offense – defense = net placement:
(reference note: XB power is extra base power; off (offense) *1.08 and P (pitching) *.92 adjusts for Rickey’s 54%/46% values; the higher the offensive and UZR numbers, the better; the lower the pitching numbers, the better. For those curious, the correlation between Rickey’s total and win % is .813.)
It’s pretty easy to see why the Rockies ended up in the World Series this way – OBP and defense carried them. It’s also easy to see why the Brewers are such an increasing threat in the division with their league leading clutch hitting and overall offense.
Now look at the Pirates.. the combined offensive and pitching production was more than 25% off the NL median, no thanks to the worst pitching in the league. That ‘ain’t gonna work, Rickey might suggest. Notice too they had near league average defense which obviously didn’t mean much, just as Rickey suggested.
True, the Pirates have some decent core pitching. True, they are a young group who we expect to see get better. But with only two quality pieces in Snell and Gorzelanny, it’s improbable the Pirates will ever gain any significant ground in the league waiting around for betterment. And toss all the OBP you want into the lineup, with the staff the Pirates have they will never outscore their opponents unless we spend $100M a few years in a row.
Let’s get serious.
It’s time to trade young arms for young bats. Keep Gorzelanny and build around him with the expectation of signing him to a long-term deal in a year or two, and deal the rest.
As for holding onto Bay, Nady, LaRoche, Wilson, Sanchez, et al? Why hold them? Deal them for the best prospect packages we can get to build around toolsy McCutchen for 2010 and on.
In other words, we have one impact starter and one toolsy center fielder.. now Huntington, deal our system/roster to fill in the pieces of the puzzle.
What are we waiting for? What can there possibly be to think about?
For those asking, my opinion is..
no.. Bay won’t get us Lincecum. The Giants would be nuts to take on two years of Bay for him.
no.. we have zero interest in Clement.
no.. Duffy won’t be starting in Indy. Why in the world would Huntington punish Duffy, who happens to be the 8th best CF defender in the game right now, for health problems? Unless, of course, he needs rehab. Nobody ever said if he had a torn rotator cuff or just some clean up.
I don’t know what is sorrier.. waiting for news about the Pirates, getting it, then realizing it’s either org PR or just way out in left field, or not having any news at all.
"Watch Morgan run! Watch Morgan slide! Oh.. ughhh.. he over ran the bag again.."
"Watch Morgan run! Watch Morgan dive! Oh.. ughhh.. he landed 10 feet short from the ball and Dunn is going for an inside the park home run!"
"I live for this?"