Submit your rebuilding roadmap; Duke

I’ve received quite a few fan essays on how the Pirates should rebuild and I posted Joseph’s below because his was so unique. Some of the essays are way out there, some are mainstream, and some are visionary.

What counts is that they are your thoughts.

So I’ve decided to create an Ebook containing all of the fan essays I’ve received by the end of December and present it to the Pirates.

So fire up your word processor and jot down your visions for the club before the end of the year and email them to me using the contact link on the right sidebar. The folks who submit an essay I use will receive a copy of the Ebook.

Good job everyone.

Trade Andrew McCutchen for Johan Santana if he’ll agree to a 7/168 deal? That’s one person’s vision, although Bob Nutting would have a coronary just thinking about the money.

Just think.. Santana, Gorzelanny, Snell, Perez .. oh wait, he’s gone. Geezz..

Word in the industry today is that the Pirates remain focused on signing Perry Hill as 1B coach but it’s going to take time, if they can make it happen at all.

The Pirates unveiled a tentative spring training schedule today which includes (drumroll from Bradenton please) night games with mosquitoes as big as a fly. Be sure to pack some Raid because they eat Off for breakfast.

Any dibs on who has to make the bus trip to Lakeland?

The City of Salinas, California, is holding their annual Parade of Lights parade Thursday and "Xavier Nandy, a Salinas High School graduate.. and a right fieldman for the Pittsburgh Pirates" is scheduled to be the honorary Grand Marshal.

Poor X. Now I wonder, will he be wearing the beige dress with flip-flops and white socks this year?

The parade’s theme? "One City, Many Cultures." How ironic.

I’m getting bombed with email from Dejan’s Q&A November 27th. I want to respond to one of his comments.

Dejan said:

"Look, it has been exhaustively documented that Jim Colborn altered his mechanics in the spring of 2006 and the statistics we have seen since then do not lie. Whatever was done clearly did not work."

False, by the Pirates admission, and false by Duke’s own admission. The only thing "exhaustively documented" on the subject is Dejan’s own writings.

Duke pitched well his first full season in 2006 despite having his delivery softened (what Dejan seemingly is calling mechanical changes, but it technically isn’t. Duke had a 4.78 xERA, .7 HR/9, and 71% strand rate). As of June 13th, he still had a Defense Independent Pitching Statistic (DIPS) just 0.31 off Snell and was below the MLB league average of 200 starters despite his ridiculous ERA.

To be blunt, Duke got killed from an inept defense. See this, and this and especially this report. A rookie receiver in Paulino, Wilson failing to glove a ton of balls in play in his zone, of all people Bautista and McLouth playing center, Sanchez trying to handle the hot corner with a limited arm, even Nady and Craig Wilson playing first base. It was a disaster in the making for a pitch-to-contact pitcher.

Now couple that with Duke using a brand new cutter trying to reduce his line drive rate to right hand batters, meaning a lot more ground balls that shot through the infield, and, well, you have a mess. When Duke tossed out the early cutter in favor of his two-seamer starting in June, and the Pirates finally settled on a defensive scheme, he became the boss again (3.65 ERA over 98 innings in the second half).

In 2007, Duke’s arm finally gave out from the new cutter he threw in 2006 and the +54 innings of organizational abuse he was forced to throw in 2006 (192 IP) from 2005 (138 IP) between Jeff Andrews in AAA and Spin Williams in Pittsburgh.

It was just too much.

Now comes along Andrews who says he’s going to resurrect Duke. What will change Duke is getting his heater back up to the 92 – 93 mph range he was at in 2005 and 2006 and that will probably come in 2008 from the rest he had on his elbow and shoulder last year. Not Andrews, and certainly not from any "reincarnated delivery" hocus-pocus. His confidence will come simply by having his body being healthy again.

If it is.

"The Pirates, with new GM Neal Huntington directing yet another rebuilding process, are discussing sending corner outfielder Xavier Nady (.278 batting average, 20 homers, 72 RBI in ’07) and center fielder Nate McLouth (.258, 13, 38, 22 steals) to San Diego for third base prospect Chase Headley (.330, 20, 78 for Double-A San Antonio)." – CBS Sportsline

The Padres need both a left and center fielder, but center more than anything. McLouth in center at Petco wouldn’t be too bad considering he would be running down fly balls all the time which he covers fairly well. It’s the gappers he’s cursed running routes on. And Nady gives them a corner OF they need and sends him home to the Pads, which I’m sure he’d enjoy.

Headley provides the Pirates with a potential league average defender at 3B down the road with an average, but accurate, arm, average range with slower feet, and average glove with soft hands who profiles to rake in the gaps with excellent plate discipline. For Huntington, he’s a culture change individual (educated and plus makeup guy).

The only problem is, Headley doesn’t project out too well as a third baseman, and it’s way too early to tell if that will change. Yes, I know he raked at San Antonio but that’s just it, it was San Antonio. Essentially, he’s a great contact hitter who will man third fine but lacks the projected power a club wants from a corner infielder. The Padres brought him up to showcase him last year which a club doesn’t do if they have long-term plans for a guy.

I’m not so sure this deal should get done. It sounds more like a salary dump than a chance to improve the club with Walker ready to come up as a near equal, if not better.

Why not go after Will Inman instead if he’s healthy?

I would be remiss in not mentioning Baseball America releases the Pirates top 10 prospect list online Wednesday.

John Perrotto wrote the list again this year and there are a few surprises, at least in my opinion. More on this when we unveil our prospect list next week.

Last week, the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service launched a free audio podcast to accompany Beyond Baseball: The Life of Roberto Clemente, a traveling and virtual exhibition honoring the life of baseball legend and humanitarian Roberto Clemente. The podcast, available in English and Spanish, features interviews with wife Vera Clemente, son Luis Clemente, biographer David Maraniss, and friend and teammate Manny Sanguillen. The podcast is available for download here.

Good stuff.

There’s a live video chat with Pirates GM Neal Huntington today at 1:30.