I was going to do a nice question and answer post today until I came across one reader’s email where he said just eleven words:
"The Big Lie: the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Silent Lie: Pittsburgh media."
I’ve hammered Pittsburgh Pirates beat writers for two solid years here. You know it, they know it, and the Pittsburgh Pirates know it. I’m often told these guys have a job to do and I should just back off – they are doing the best they can.
One in particular – Dejan Kovacevic – might as well be paid by the Pittsburgh Pirates marketing department for the way he whitewashes the Pirates. I mean, look at just a few of his Q&A posts:
Q. I feel like the only thing the Pirates can do to bring someone in is to give them money, of which they have little.
A. To the credit of the Pirates’ new management..
Q. Dejan, should we read anything into the fact that the Pirates are coming up short on acquiring either free agents or trades? Does this indicate that Neal Huntington is just being patient or cautious..
A. The Pirates’ offer, from what I understand, was plenty competitive with..
Q. Isn’t the real issue simply whether or not he is attempting to sell high on his best players? The Pirates don’t have a lot of sell-high candidates right now.
Q. So, my question is: Can a team that is constantly building for the future ever win in the present? Doesn’t a team need to gather a handful of prospect and when they mature, build a team for the present around them?
A. To start, no phrase gets thrown around more inaccurately as it relates to the Pirates than the dreaded Five-Year Plan… The only Five-Year Plan was the one Kevin McClatchy and Cam Bonifay espoused in 1997. That was it.
Yes, it is possible to win while constantly turning over players into prospects…
Q. While it has been refreshing to see that the Pirates’ new management team actually seems to have plan..
Q. Is it therefore accurate to deduce that the new leadership thinks most of the team’s problems with fundamentals were at the major-league level in terms of demands on the players and in the GM’s office in terms of decision-making and talent evaluation?
A. My theory on this …
One, there genuinely were and are some good people at various levels of the Pirates’ system.. Two, yes, many of the Pirates’ problems, specifically related to fundamentals and motivation, likely were the fault of the major-league staff..
And these are just from the last week or so.
Talk about kissing someone’s rear to keep a job.
No matter how much you may love or hate Dejan Kovacevic and his beat reporting, you have to agree something smells rotten in Denmark in some of these exchanges.
I mean, seriously.. think critically folks, what Pirate fan on this planet:
— thinks the Pirates don’t have any money to spend?
— would call a similar offer made to Vizciano from the Pirates as the reigning NL champs a "competitive" offer?
— doesn’t know by now the current roster hasn’t a prayer of being competitive in any contest other than the amount of profits yielded by owners?
— believes the Pirates don’t have a lot of "sell-high" candidates (like Sanchez, Snell, Nady, Gorzy, Bautista, Wilson, McLouth, Morgan, LaRoche, etc) much less even care if players are sold "high" or sold at true market value?
— doesn’t believe "rebuilding, "financial flexibility" and "retooling" aren’t synonyms, whether called "five year plans" on paper or not?
— believes the current administration has any plan whatsoever since they have done absolutely nothing but shed payroll?
— believes the Pirates lack of fundamentals and motivation where the "fault" of the major league coaching staff. This is, perhaps, one of the lamest excuses I have ever witnessed a beat reporter make in the name of the franchise.
It’s propaganda folks. These types of articles simply perpetuate the Pirates brainwashing of the fans and you’re being taken for a ride because nobody thinks you know better. He’ll probably argue these are real questions. I’d argue back that he’s the one picking what is being displayed and talked about.
Think "Animal Farm" by George Orwell where the pig tries to delete a few characters from the minds of the other animals. These guys try to erase from your mind the fact the Pirates had more money guaranteed to them from MLB than they spent on player payroll before they opened their doors for business.
Or that the apple core has been rotten for so long, there isn’t a player in the game who wants to be associated with the stink of the core.
Demand accountability.. demand objectivity. Until the fans take these newspapers to task, Robert Nutting has no reason to change anything.
After all, the newspapers are telling you there are "reasons and/or excuses" why Nutting really isn’t a failure at all.
I hear you – those won’t make the Q&A. You’re right.
Last January I summarized the big five fantasy projection systems for the 2007 Pirates. Included on offense were eight probable starters in Duffy, Bautista, Nady, Bay, Wilson, Castillo, Sanchez, and Paulino. The five pitcher projections were Duke, Gorzelanny, Maholm, Snell, and Chacon.
Normalized Runs on offense were based on 4400 at bats (550 per player) and 875 innings (175 per) for the pitchers. The ’07 column is the final figures for these players and the ’06 column is there for a reference.
Let’s see how they did:
As you can see, Ron Shandler was the clear winner. PECOTA did pretty good on offense as well but then choked on pitching. Bill James nailed the Pirates pitchers pretty good but estimated way too much contact and plate discipline on offense. Still, I’ll give him second overall because it’s so hard to project pitching. ZIPS was very consistent throughout and was in a dead heat with James for second.
What threw off the Pirates hits per nine was, of course, Zack Duke’s insane 13.5 H/9 otherwise all of the systems would have been closer. But if you remember, Bucco Blog warned about Duke’s workload and we expected a downturn. The same is true for Gorzelanny in 2008.
And none of the systems accounted for the younger pitchers finding the plate better as we also suggested should happen based on Trippett’s great study. In fact, this came to pass and should be even better in 2008.
Shandler walks away with the prize this year. Marcel’s leg broke in the backstretch and didn’t finish.
Is this a joke?
"In an effort to continue infusing depth into the organization.." – Pirateball
I guess one person’s garbage is another person’s "depth."
So tell me, will the Pirates be the landing place for all the steroid users? I mean, we are best known for being the place to go to rejuvenate a career.
I say, let’s go get Clemens, Bonds, Tejada, Pettitte, and Gagne. At least we’ll sound like a MLB team for the first time in years.
There’s a great discussion going on at Bucco Blog’s new forum right now on what Freddy Sanchez’s real value is. Go get involved.
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.
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?
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."
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!
The Post-Gazette reported today that the Pirates actually backed away from the Indians in the Bay/Paulino trade for Shoppage, Gutierrez, and Lee or another pitcher. Evidently the Pirates brass shot down Huntington, at least that’s the assumption I’m taking knowing ole’ Neal got his job thanks to Shapiro.
That deal was short and it was a good call.
What the PG didn’t tell you is that Huntington had a deal lined up with the Padres for Bay but he asked for San Diego’s top three prospects, so says the word on the street today.
I assume those three would have included Headley and Antonelli and we’ll guess at the third as Latos or LeBlanc. That would have been two B to B+ prospects and a B- to B prospect (in my book).
That’s quite a haul for Bay knowing his risk, but about where it should be if we’re looking for someone’s first born. If I’m San Diego I’d run too and wait and see if he holds up early next year. Plus, I can always do a deal in May or June if I need the bat knowing it isn’t likely my players are going to regress in the leagues they will be in.
Retrosheet has made available the 2007 event files and I’m in seventh heaven. But before you start your SPSS up, be forewarned I have found a lot of errors in this years data files for the Pirates. A lot.
John Van Benshoten.
Last year he was awful. He allowed a .378 batting average on balls in play, recorded a ridiculous 6.7 walks per nine innings, and stranded just 53% of his runners. He might as well have pitched in little league with those stats.
Ryan Doumit caught 47% of his pitches, Paulino 39%, and Maldanado the rest.
When I examined each receivers work with JvB, I expected to find a majority of the walks issued and hits when Doumit was catching, but that wasn’t the case. It happened with Paulino. And believe it or not, 47% of all singles JvB gave up were with Paulino behind the dish and 30% of those were on no ball counts, which is very high.
Taking it one step further, 50% of the home runs allowed by JvB were with Paulino and both were on 0-0 counts, and an incredible 73% of JvB’s total bases allowed on first pitch balls put in play came with Paulino receiving. That’s nuts.
JvB threw more first pitch balls with Doumit – almost 2 to 1 over Paulino. But that’s my point – he was hammered on first pitches with Paulino as if opposing teams were sitting dead red on the first pitch. I’ll have to look into Paulino’s game management a bit closer with other pitchers to see if this was random or Paulino was just lazy calling JvB’s games.
A quick look of our pitchers shows me Sanchez did an incredible job overall. Before I go further with him, let me state the old "small sample warning" here – he pitched just 18 innings which really means nothing.
However, his stats don’t show how good he really was. Just 22% of his batters faced got a hit.. fourth lowest percentage on the team. He gave up too many line drives which hurt him but that’s just a matter of getting more time under his belt before those come down. We’ll have to see if he can continue this now that the league has some film on him.
And we’ll also have to see if he can find the plate better. Ughh.. 8 walks in 18 innings is nuts.
Now hold onto your stomach for this one – 4 of the top 11 pitchers who allowed the lowest number of hits per batters faced are now gone – Chacon (20%), Youman (25%), Armas (24%), and Torres (24%). Their replacements on the roster have all allowed well over 25%.. in some cases as high as 35%. That’s not good, but they are young, if that helps all you optimists.
JvB and Maholm were both at 26% – too high. The club median was 24.6% and even that is too high. Duke? 32.4%. Ouuuch.
Now it’s going to be interesting to see who gave up what with which receiver. It’s starting to look like Paulino had five favorite pitchers and then basically gave up the rest of the time. But that’s on quick look. If it holds true, then this will be the second year in a row Paulino had poor numbers with younger arms and it could explain why Russell wants him out of Dodge.
The question that will be begging for an answer would then be, was it Paulino’s fault or was he following Colborn’s game management advice? Perhaps I also need to look at what teams we gave all this up to as well (ie: San Diego, Arizona, etc).
Dejan said the Pirates dropped their "We Will" catastrophic slogan and are considering replacing it with the "Let’s Go Bucs!" vibe from earlier years.
That sounds like a good slogan idea to me.
In honor of that, here’s another fan profile:
Meet Jeff on the right. He and a friend ventured to a Pirates game at Safeco last June and watched the Pirates win the game 5-3, so he said in his email. I assume that was Gorzelanny’s game.
Jeff is from Portland, Oregon.. the brewery capital of the U.S., including the infamous Hair of the Dog Brewing Company.
Keep your pictures coming in for the players. The email link is on the right sidebar.
I’m caring for a very sick grandpa today and will be back in the saddle tomorrow. If I get time later I’ll post but there’s not much happening as I write this so check back Saturday.
I’m glad it’s over, names have been released, and the game can move forward. I have to tell you, I heard Bay’s name rumored everywhere over the last few months and I’m certainly glad he wasn’t a part of it. Kudos to the young man, as well as all the players in our system.
And kudos the the Pirates for agreeing to work with MLB on continuing drug education to the players. The fans are naive if they think coach’s coffee, marijuana, or other forms of drugs aren’t being used by some players.
As for the teams who have players identified, as fans we should let MLB and the players union decide their fate. Each club will make their own decisions but I doubt any of them are going to release any of the players named.
If nothing else, I hope this all leads to an independent testing agency – it’s the one thing that should be done. Obviously the report could have had hundreds of players if Mitchell been able to get everyone to testify, so MLB needs to move forward on their testing now.
Expect a lot of movement by the teams signing free agents, trades, etc over the next 10 days to take the edge off the Mitchell report best they can.
Add the Pirates to that mix.
Why not an Ian Snell package to the Mariners for Jeff Clement if Paulino is dead weight for Russell? How many times have I mentioned this? Ok.. too many. I’ll stop.
The Jays signed David Eckstein at $4.5 over 1 year.
Are you kidding me?
He’s at least a league average defender at short and, while his bat drags some, that still makes him a +1.5 win player over average which should have gotten him at least $6 – $7M.
Talk about a steal.
So where were the Pirates in all this? By snatching Eckstein they could have put Bautista on the pine by moving Sanchez to third and Eckstein to second AND had a true-blue MLB leadoff man. Or, better yet, they could have dealt Wilson which is what they really needed to do since he’s at his high point right now, contract notwithstanding.
That’s one Huntington badly missed.. much like Vizciano.
Oh wait – that’s right.. the new leadership doesn’t believe in moving players around like Sanchez because it "helps their bat" by staying put. Ok.. I’ll buy that theory.. some. But Sanchez is going to rake his singles no matter what position he plays, we desperately need OBP and a leadoff man, and Sanchez certainly isn’t a solid pivot man anyway. Plus we know Wilson’s days are numbered, so having Eckstein around to take over until 2009 or 2010 at two-thirds to half the cost just makes sense.
Rob Mackowiak signed a 1.5/1 deal with the Nats. Now here’s a guy who is a dead pull hitter from the left side of the plate with some pop in his bat, has a decent arm for right field and can play third or first, and a guy who is loved by Pirates fans, and Huntington passed him over for..
Chris Gomez – a singles hitter who has produced over MLB RC27 average just once in his 15 year career, who decided taking walks is something he won’t do six of his last seven years, and who isn’t that much better than Macko with a glove other than at short, or..
Josh Wilson who doesn’t even compare to either player.
Now who would you rather have on the roster? Macko and Eckstein at, say a lousy $7M, or Josh Wilson and Chris Gomez at $1.5M? Do you not think the $5.5M difference would have netted us at least +2 wins plus reinforce our ability to pull some thump off the bench and have players around if we do dump?
I certainly do.
Random thought off the top of my head..
Thompson or Morgan
Not too shabby for a no spending small-market club.
Just think, for a mere $6.95 you can purchase the FireNealHuntington.com or FireFrankCoonelly.com domain names AND get a free blog to boot at Domains Priced Right. But you better hurry because MLB is snatching up a few of the "fire" somebody domain names lately.
Estrada? Ensberg? Mench? Donnelly (are you kidding me.. surgery or not)? Cotts (with options? hello..)? Hendrickson? Parrish? The list goes on and on.
Neal Huntington is going to have a field day. I know I didn’t expect to see some of the names being mentioned and I suppose that’s why Xavier Nady or his agent cried to Dejan last week about the possibility of him being non-tendered. He should be worrying. Well, at least a little.
Look for Huntington to grab Estrada if gets a chance and the money is right plus add to the pen with some of the non-tenders. And sure, Ensberg’s glove is probably a tic better than Bautista’s but I’d much rather give Ensberg the 500 at bats is he isn’t overpriced. All day long.
Blue light specials. Go Neal go.
Tip of the hat to Baseball Digest for picking up for Jay-Dell Mah’s At The Plate prospects page where you can follow the compilation of the industry’s prospect rankings.
I’ve emailed a few of the limited partners of this club to ask them a few questions but so far nobody has answered. I didn’t expect any responses but I asked all the same. We’ll see.
Meet Neil Walker this Tuesday at Logan Valley Mall in Altoona from 6 – 8 PM.
Man, can you imagine the Reds with guys like Bedard in their stable? Whew.. let’s hope that deal doesn’t go down.
A backup copy of this site now available at http://buccoblog.com. Be sure to bookmark that site which is still in beta design stages. MLB intends to make changes to their offerings here this winter and nobody has a clue what they plan to offer us. If it turns out to be junk, which is highly doubtful, then we’ll be moving over to buccoblog.com.
Also notice at the top right hand corner of that blog is a link back to this site. That’s important because this site will always be up to date. I’m working on an automatic update script for the other site right now.
A lot of people have asked when Bucco Blog’s discussion forum will be open for new registrations. I plan to make some changes this coming weekend and will open the forum again starting Monday the 17th.