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|
Now let’s look at how each team’s potential starting staff has handled the Pirates over their career:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Click images to see full size.
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?’’
How about Buster Olney’s report yesterday at ESPN?
According to Olney, the Padres are potentially interested in about 25% of the Pirates 40-man who have more than 100 innings pitched or 300 at bats under their belt.
Talk about cleaning house.. Morris, McLouth, Nady, and Bay are all mentioned. This is probably recycled stuff other than the Barrett part, but let’s take a look anyway and talk about 23 year old Chase Headley for a moment since he seems to be the star attraction in the fans minds.
Headley is a B to B+ AA prospect depending on who you talk to. That being said, he didn’t crack Baseball America’s top 100 prospects in 2007 which did include Brent Lillibridge who we all knew to be a borderline everyday player.
Part of the reason for that was because Headley had horrid home/away splits in advanced A at Lake Elsinore in the California League:
Home: 241 AB, .261/.368/.365 w/4 HR & 13 2B
Away: 241 AB, .328/.416/.510 w/8 HR & 20 2B
To put his 2006 in context for you, Lake Elsinore is a pitcher’s park in the easiest run scoring league in baseball, so you can see why the scouts worried about his power with little displayed at home.
In 2007, Headley put up monster numbers in the friendly Texas League: .330/.437/.580. He raked with a career high 20 home runs and 38 doubles in 434 AB. The year before, Alex Gordon (Royals – #2 Top 100 BA prospect), Hunter Pence (Astros – #38 BA prospect), and Brandon Wood (Angels – #8 BA prospect) did the same thing in that league. But so did Josh Bonifay, Kevin Mahar, and Ray Sadler.
Which group does Headley fit best in?
Scouts saw Headley raking against the grain that year with no less than a .932 OPS home or away. His higher doubles output wasn’t so surprising because only three of the eight Texas League parks suppress doubles and the other five are some of the easier parks in the minors to rake them in.
As for his higher home runs that year, the away parks in that league are mostly all well above average for hitting homers so it’s not so surprising he yanked 11 over the wall. But his output at home is being talked about because San Antonio is one of the harder places to go yard.
Now I didn’t breakdown the nine home runs he did hit at home to see who they were off or if they occurred in games with a 30 mph wind or anything, but I probably should have. My guess is that there is an explanation. And we’re only talking about nine homers with perhaps two being higher than expected.
Is that enough to move Headley from a B- or B to B+ to A- prospect grade? Not in my book, but it was in some other circles like with Sickels.
This is the kind of deal you have to trust your scouts on – as a fan I can’t begin to make that judgment call. The unfortunate part for the Pirates is, they seem to have very poor area scouts out West and virtually nobody in California that would have watched him in 2006. That leaves the call to Huntington and his peers in the game (which aren’t exactly snuggling up to him), Greg Smith and his peer group, and Larry Corrigan’s contacts.
Other potential facts we know are that multiple sources have said Headley doesn’t project out past 2009 or 2010 as a third baseman (lack of a corner bat and limited range filling out) and we know we moved Walker to third in our system. Walker is probably playable in the outfield defensively but his bat doesn’t play out there any better than Headley’s.
So, the guessing game starts if you believe in this deal.
Is Headley our future 3B in Huntington’s eyes when nobody I can find plays him there long-term? Or is he our future 1B in a Sean Casey doubles machine mold? If so, then does Huntington retard Walker’s third base development by shifting him to right field in 2008 and then back again in a few years? Hmm.. none of that makes any sense if it can be avoided.
Perhaps there is more to Walker’s injuries than we all know about, or dealing LaRoche is in Huntington’s future plans, or Headley or Walker will be turned around and dealt?
Lots of possibilities.. and honestly, very few easy answers.
Now the true key to any potential deal with Headley in it is: what is he really worth? Is he the doubles hitter everyone in the industry is telling me he is, or the power corner guy some of the media are playing him for?
Are the Pirates jumping in and taking him at too high a power value after a one-year, two/three more home runs than normal hot streak? It’s very possible considering he raked a .400+ batting average on balls in play all year, mostly early.
And what happened to him after his cup of coffee call up in June? He raked for a couple of weeks in July then cooled off like a cucumber hitting just .254 in 130 at bats with only 2 home runs and a total of 11 extra base hits. Potential red flag?
My take? Headley is not in the Gordon/Wood/Pence class of elite players and the Pirates shouldn’t deal for him thinking that way. He’s a great contact hitter which is nice to have around, but he has to play somewhere. If it’s third for now and first later on, is that what we want as a return for our big power guy in Bay – a doubles hitting corner?
Not on my card. Let the Padres keep him.
As I finished this I saw the Post-Gazette dropped a mid-day bomb on Olney’s report. Now, the Post-Gazette running out a team PR statement mid-day is about as unusual as it gets and, as you saw, earlier in my post I questioned how much of Olney’s report was recycled. My sources suggest they continue to have an open dialog but there’s nothing drawn up except, as I mentioned, possibly for Barrett.
Michael Barrett? Word on the street is that John Russell wants Paulino replaced – period, end of story. So Pirate fans can probably expect to see a new receiver behind the dish next year and Barrett is one guy who happens to be available.
This might get done.
But if it doesn’t, look for Huntington to find another receiver. I still don’t understand why we don’t go after Jeff Clement. His wrist injury in 2006 cut his value some and he’s blocked. Perhaps our non-existent West Coast scouts feel he isn’t playable behind the dish too long or the Mariners want someones first born for him? Who knows.
Non-tenders? Sure, Huntington will attempt to improve the roster anyway he can and picking up castoffs at their low point is one way to do that.
I expected the Pirates to be a lot more involved in trades and free agent signings this week than it has been. I also expected to start seeing minor league free agents signed, but so far nothing of consequence.
I mentioned the other day the Pirates would probably make a run after one of the three right-hand relievers left in the pool and it’s leaked that the Bucs are in on Luis Vizcaino.
That’s a no-brainer.. a must sign for the Pirates for 2007. I assume they will offer him a ridiculously high one-year to get him off the books asap and to force his productivity level higher being in a contract year. We really need his strand capability and innings.
(edit 12:20 PM – Dejan is saying Vizcaino signed with the Rockies. Wow.. that’s a shame, but understandable for him. I suppose that means Chacon will be back on our radar screen. Just a guess.)
Tejada to the Astros. Wow – will he rake in the smaller NLCD parks, or what? That’s a solid signing by the Astros even giving up Patton.
Yeah, yeah.. exciting stuff – the Pirates inked Gomez.
2006 – 2007 team record by runs scored. The graph below shows the MLB median winning percentage, number of games, and number of wins and losses when 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 runs are scored by a team in a game between 2006 and 2007. Below the MLB median is how the Pirates differentiated from the MLB median.
Of note was the number of games the Pirates won scoring just 3 runs – 4th best in baseball fueled by their 12-13 record in 2006. Now that was lady luck playing her hand. At the bottom you see the Pirates lost 12 more than the MLB median in 2-6 run games and we were off by 10 wins per year – that’s a ton. Food for thought.
MLB leaderboard in 2-6 runs scored games 2006 – 2007:
It’s time for the optimist post of the year where Bucco Blog provides you with our early player projections for 2008.
Now I don’t want to kid you – I extended these out as far as I could to try and see just what this team could be possible of, so this is the high end. But a realistic high end. Once the pitching rotations around the NL are set, I’ll come back with the final projections.
About the only unusual part to my projection is that I have McLouth in center 66% of the year, I have Pearce in AAA, and I have Doumit as the backup receiver and taking the rest of Nady’s 600 at bats in right.
You can view the entire spreadsheet at Google. Here is the basic foundation:
Yep.. I think Paulino has a chance to hit .300+ if in the seven or eight hole and I expect McLouth to start in center based on the current roster.
As I said, I went for the most productive run producing scenario I could find and made my projections from there.
It’s a 750 run scored team +/- 2% giving all I can to every single player and if health isn’t a problem. Do I honestly believe this is a 750 run team? No. More in the 700 range.
Pitching projections next week along with my top 10 prospects.
Everyone wants to know, what’s up with Gomez. Is he signed, or isn’t he? My guess is that Huntington wanted rosters filled from the meetings and Rule 5 before having to drop another player off the 40-man. Either that or he’s concerned about Gomez’s medicals.
Dropping Castillo for a Rule 5 was ridiculous to me. Dropping Duffy for Gomez would cause this fan to lose it.
The "old regime continues" theme is being played at Baseball America as they made their first projection for the 2008 draft. Author Byran Smith said:
"2. Pittsburgh Pirates: Tim Beckham, ss, Georgia HS
"I decided to go with Beckham here because, if the Pirates new scouting department is PR-savvy, they will not draft another pitcher next season. Pittsburgh fans were livid with the Daniel Moskos pick this year, and while Brian Matusz might be worth it, I’m guessing he’ll be priced out of Pittsburgh. Beckham isn’t second on my board, but he’ll stick at shortstop and offers “Face of the Organization” pipedreams that organizations value."
Great.. more pipedreams in a high school player up the middle who will be ready six or seven years from now. Does the PR department run our scouting department? This is the second major publication to throw slapstick humor at the new regime in the last week.
The Pirates better stick to their announcement they will take best available next year. Money shouldn’t be an issue.
"Jay Gibbons of the Baltimore Orioles and Jose Guillen of the Kansas City Royals each have received 15-day suspensions for violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program." – Commissioner’s Office today
— It’s possible the Yankees wanted Snell for their bullpen I heard today. That’s just nuts. But considering he’s a two-pitch pitcher, it very well might be true. Until he can get command of his secondary pitches, starting in the NL is probably his only bet.
Look for the Yankees to keep talking to Huntington on Marte and we’ll see if this doesn’t expand as has been speculated.
— McLouth here, McLouth there. Huntington will have to get blown away to deal Nate because he doesn’t have a suitable replacement from the left side. He’s more apt to be dealt in July if Duffy is back in the swing of things.
That is, IF Duffy is even around anymore the way Huntington keeps dropping talent off the roster for replacement level utilitymen and relievers.
This statement at pirateball.com bothered me:
"As is the case in a bidding war, the Pirates started discussions in Nashville by asking high, particularly asking high in terms of young prospects."
Neal Huntington doesn’t have the luxury of asking high. He has to ask for the right amount the first time. He desperately needs to build credibility and a couple of smaller deals that are win-win for both clubs is what he needs on his resume – in a hurry.
I mean, this is a club that is supposed to be rebuilding but it is looking more and more like they plan to stand pat because they can’t make a deal. That’s negative value on Huntington’s resume and will only hurt him in later deals.
Huntington went on to say:
"[If players] go out and they perform to their true expectations, to their abilities, their value should absolutely go up."
Right.. we’ve been waiting for that since 1996. McClendon got the most out of his roster than anyone – he did a great job with what he had.
Then the author threw in this gawdy tidbit:
"Furthermore, the decision to keep Bay, to this point at least, reflects the organization’s desire to not only build up talent for the future, but also to field a competitive team in the short term."
Thanks to everyone who emailed about the winter meetings coverage here. I’m humbled and only wish there was more to talk about.
If you are a current member of Bucco Blog’s discussion forum, be sure to read this post: email addy changes needed.
7,300 hits Wednesday on a blog with no comments – are you kidding me? Where’s my credentials Mr. Trdinich?
If the Pittsburgh Pirates had any doubts about how much hope Pirate fans have, these website stats will quickly dispel them. Since Bucco Blog is an affiliate site of the Pirates, they have access to my stats via MLB.com – they know these hits aren’t from one large source.. they are 95% random hits – Mom and pop Pirate fans.
Folks, that’s a total of 29,992 page views in three days from the sites. That’s almost as many page views as the Pirates sold tickets for the entire final three-game Brewers series last year.
At that rate, Bucco Blog would accumulate more than one-quarter of a million views in one month and nearly 3.5 million over a year which is dang close to rivaling Pittsburgh newspapers online sites, blows away the local TV station sites – times ten, and is more than double what the Pirates sell in tickets per year.
From a blog.. a blog on one of the losingest professional sports teams in history.
Ok.. it’s wheel and deal time – blog traffic is up. But it tends to show the Pirates they have the fans who want to believe.. they have the fans who are begging for a reasonably competitive product.. they have the support. Just look at the energy being expelled. My God.
A Pirates blog turning this type of traffic is ridiculous. A Yankees site, ok. A Red Sox site, I understand. Even the Rays now. But the Pirates?
We all need our heads examined.
Bill James had a wonderful article at Sports Illustrated wherein he talked about clutch hitting. James noted that over the years clutch hitting had been a myth of sorts because nobody could ever prove it existed. Yet, anyone who watched a baseball game could seemingly tell you when there was a clutch hit.
Because there are so many environmental variables to consider in clutch hitting, James decided to narrow his focus to just seven factors: 1. The score; 2. The runners on base; 3. The outs; 4. The inning; 5. The opposition; 6. The standings; and 7. The calendar.
James then weighted those factors and looked at the players. His conclusion was that it was easier to see who had better clutch tendencies than others, although he doesn’t come out and say he has a formula for identifying "clutch" hitting.
As stated in the article, it’s hardly perfect. But it’s a start, and he shows some examples in the article like David Ortiz, known as "Mr. Clutch" and Chipper Jones, who he said was nearly an exact match.
Now James didn’t publish his formula so we’re left guessing at this point what his factors are. He seems to see the number of runs batted in per opportunity as important because Ortiz had one rbi every 2.1 "clutch" at bats, according to James. But that leads me to wonder, would Ortiz have the same numbers over the years with Pittsburgh’s current lineup? Hmm..
Just for the dickens of it, I went back to Branch Rickey’s old clutch formula:
to see who Rickey might have considered clutch. Rickey was looking at team efficiency, but it should apply to players as well.
To keep it simple, this was my procedure: I looked at every batter who had at least 1,000 at bats the last three seasons and then grabbed the median "clutch" result of those players which ended up being .372. I did the same for players with between 100 and 999 at bats and the median was .359 for them.
I then subtracted the appropriate median from each player’s achieved clutch value and then added all their achieved clutch values to get a net three-year clutch value. I then multiplied their total at bats over the three years times that net clutch value to get the final result.
For instance, here is Jason Bay’s production over the MLB three-year "clutch" median for the last three years:
Where did that rank him? He was 80th of 176 players. That’s probably not a shock to you if you follow the Bucs.
Here’s the top 30 and bottom 30 of all players with more than 1,000 at bats last three:
|Top 30 Result||Bottom 30 Result|
|Jimmy Rollins||771.0||Ronnie Belliard||-123.2|
|Alfonso Soriano||559.8||Jorge Posada||-123.9|
|Jose Reyes||547.4||Jason Kendall||-127.0|
|Johnny Damon||465.9||Randy Winn||-130.7|
|Grady Sizemore||423.0||Freddy Sanchez||-137.9|
|Carlos Beltran||362.6||Lyle Overbay||-144.8|
|Alex Rodriguez||356.1||Mike Lowell||-148.9|
|Craig Biggio||325.9||Trot Nixon||-151.0|
|Tony Graffanino||323.3||Jason Varitek||-152.2|
|Craig Monroe||311.0||Paul Lo Duca||-171.5|
|Torii Hunter||285.6||Brian Giles||-174.1|
|Chase Utley||277.6||John Buck||-177.9|
|Rickie Weeks||277.0||Geoff Jenkins||-178.4|
|Alex Rios||273.6||Omar Vizquel||-191.7|
|Carl Crawford||272.6||Pat Burrell||-194.6|
|Corey Patterson||269.2||Joe Mauer||-204.0|
|Chone Figgins||264.8||Brad Hawpe||-211.9|
|Hanley Ramirez||258.2||Kevin Millar||-214.6|
|Edgar Renteria||253.6||Todd Helton||-218.7|
|Rafael Furcal||242.9||Jose Vidro||-222.4|
|Dan Uggla||240.4||Ramon Hernandez||-237.3|
|Andruw Jones||236.1||Victor Martinez||-269.1|
|Willy Taveras||229.5||Scott Hatteberg||-276.1|
|Kenny Lofton||216.9||Mike Piazza||-277.4|
|Gary Matthews Jr.||215.1||Mark Loretta||-285.1|
|Orlando Cabrera||204.0||Johnny Estrada||-315.6|
|Matt Holliday||203.4||Bengie Molina||-356.1|
|Curtis Granderson||193.5||Brad Ausmus||-404.4|
|Coco Crisp||192.4||Yadier Molina||-419.4|
|Brad Wilkerson||191.5||Brian Schneider||-488.0|
Look at Rollins – wow. Now look at Freddy Sanchez in the bottom 30. Yikes.
Ready for a shocker? Let’s look at the Pirates production last three (LaRoche and Nady’s results are only from their time with the Pirates):
Yikes.. the range metric boys ripped us apart on defense last year when you consider five of the bottom seven guys are all starters and were -37 runs or -7 wins.
Bay and Bautista we all knew about, Nady in right holds his own but is Craig Wilson’ish shagging flies, but Sanchez -6 at second and LaRoche only +4 at first? Hmm..
If the ball in play metric boys come in with the same type of numbers, you have to figure there’s no way Huntington can afford to deal Jack Wilson. But I suppose Huntington already made it clear he’s keeping Wilson by declining to pick up Izturis for next year today.
For those that want to know, Bixler in Indy was -12 and Paulino is projected at +2 next year.