In the name of parity, the scheduling trick baseball should borrow from the NFL … and more

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DETROIT – Perhaps the biggest element behind the NFL’s success is parity. Parity, which is perhaps at the core of baseball’s largest problems. The salary-cap and reverse-of-standings draft promote parity, as do shorter careers.

 

But the schedule does, too.

 

The schedule is not only shorter to give us the wacky products of small sample sizes, but the best teams are given more difficult schedules. It makes for both good television and the compression of standings.

Continue reading In the name of parity, the scheduling trick baseball should borrow from the NFL … and more

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I don’t believe what I just heard (and why that’s OK) … And a rule Major League Baseball should adopt

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DETROIT – The Pirates made a flurry of roster moves Monday as you are probably aware. Among the decisions was to keep Jose Contreras on the 25-man roster, and ship Bryan Morris back to Triple-A, to make room for Mike Zagurski.

 

Morris has options, Contreras does not. Earlier this year when addressing a similar situation, I believe it was with Jordy Mercer being sent back to Triple-A and John McDonald remaining on the roster, Pirate manager Clint Hurdle spoke about “asset allocation”

 

Hurdle indicated the Pirates are striving to keep as much depth and flexibility as possible. Indicating when one players has options and another does not, that will be a factor in the decision making. That’s logical … to an extent.

Continue reading I don’t believe what I just heard (and why that’s OK) … And a rule Major League Baseball should adopt

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Monday Morning mop-up duty (on Sunday): is Gerrit Cole bored?

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MILWAUKEE – I don’t get it.

 

Gerrit Cole is what they look like, as former Cleveland and Texas GM John Hart likes to say. He’s a 6-foot-4, 220-pound righty with a plus fastball, plus slider and plus changeup.

 

And yet he has posted below-average strikeout (6.5) and walk (4.3) rates to date. He was good but not unreal in High-A and Double-A. This is a trend going back to his college career, his production rarely measuring up to his stuff.

 

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The Locke Ness Monster and fear … and another monster: The Process

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MILWAUKEE –  MLB.com’s Tom Singer, who created the K-Rod moniker for Francisco Rodriguez, has dubbed the Pirates’ Locke Ness monster.

 

The shoe fits.

 

For starters, as Singer notes, we don’t know if either Jeff Locke (Ness) or the Loch Ness Monster are for real. We don’t know for sure if a 150-foot Cryptid resides in the depths of a lake in the Scottish highlands. And xFIP and all of his friends are pretty skeptical that Jeff Locke can maintain his performances to date.

Continue reading The Locke Ness Monster and fear … and another monster: The Process

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Meet ‘The Value Menu': the Pirates starting staff is the best bargain in baseball

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SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – So when Neal Huntington pulled up to baseball’s symbolic drive thru and ordered off of the discount pitcher menu this offseason, who knew he would be getting this return?

 

We’re inching close to June and throughout the first two months of the season I think you can argue the Pirates are enjoying the best values in baseball when it comes to starting pitching. (This is a story we might explore in greater detail in the print version.)

 

Entering today, the Pirates have the second best ERA (3.29) in Major League Baseball, trailing only division foe St. Louis. And they’ve done it at a minimal cost.

 

Continue reading Meet ‘The Value Menu': the Pirates starting staff is the best bargain in baseball

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Should the Pirates be buyers of impact talent? Taillon for Lee, would you do it?

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SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – Major League teams and parospect hounds have valued prospects more and more over the last two decades, particularly as the price of free agents have skyrocketed. Never has it been more imperative, especially for mid- and small-market teams. to build around cheap, productive, homegrown talent.

 

But have teams begun to overvalue prospects? To see a team trade a top 10 overall prospect like the Royals did, sending Wil Myers to acquire borderline ace James Shields, is extremely rare. There’s been only a handful of top 10 overall prospects to be traded over the last decade.

 

But if you examine this study , which I have cited here before, you wonder why more prospects are not flipped. You wonder if the Pirates really ought to consider being buyers, and not buyers in an insignificant way, like trading for a fifth-starter or middle reliever at the deadline, but in a big way.

Continue reading Should the Pirates be buyers of impact talent? Taillon for Lee, would you do it?

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Monday morning mop-up duty: Jeff Locke laughs in the face of FIP

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SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – The advanced numbers and the sabermetric community contend Pirates lefty Jeff Locke cannot sustain the performance he has authored to date.  After seven shutout innings against the Astros on Sunday, Locke has lowered his ERA to 2.73.

 

Locke continues to strike out too few batters and walk too many. He’s throwing the same three-pitch mix as in prior years – according to Fangraphs.com – and the same three-pitch percentages as he did last year when he struggled.

 

His ERA is a sterling 2.73 but FIP – a metric of fielding-independent run prevention – suggests his ERA should be 4.47. His FIP last year was 4.43. The advanced stats think he’s the same pitcher he was last year.

 

But I contend that he’s not.

 

Continue reading Monday morning mop-up duty: Jeff Locke laughs in the face of FIP

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What we can learn from ranking the Pirates … and is AJ Burnett striking out too many batters?

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PNC PARK  – On Thursday I did my best, and perhaps failed miserably, to rank the Pirates’ 25 most valuable assets.

Trade-value lists are interesting exercises. And engaging in a team-specific exercise offers something the popular league-wide lists do not: you are able to better identify an individual organization’s surpluses and weaknesses.

The Pirates have what I think are clearly defined surpluses and deficits when looking at Thursday’s list, even if you disagree with some of the rankings:

Continue reading What we can learn from ranking the Pirates … and is AJ Burnett striking out too many batters?

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The 25 most valuable Pirates

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SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – This is not a list tied only to 2013 value, rather, it’s all-encompassing value ranking. The list takes into account present skills, future projection, age, contract and club control. It’s essentially the trade value list ESPN’s Bill Simmons made famous.

 

It contains a wide range of players from current Pirates regulars to minor league players yet to play in Low-A ball, from ages 36 (Jason Grilli) to 18 (Luis Heredia). It’s a delicate balance between current and future production.

 

It becomes much harder to rank after the first tier, a tier that should have Pirates fans excited because those four blue-chip talents are under club control through 2018. And even that tier’s ranking was subject to internal debate here at South Hills Command Center. Enjoy!

 

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What’s happening to PNC Park?

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SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – When Andrew McCutchen barreled-up a Mike Fiers 2-2 fastball in the bottom of the 12th last night at PNC Park, he had little confidence it was going to clear the fence. After all, he had made solid contact with two pitches earlier in the game, fly balls that seemed to lose life and velocity in the cool air above the playing surface.

 

“I hit the crap out of those (first) two balls, and they went nowhere,” McCutchen said. “So, right off my bat, I didn’t know. I figured I would book it and try to get a triple out of it. I still didn’t know, even when it went out.”

 

McCutchen’s drive just did clear the right-center field fence for his fourth career walk-off home run, and a rare Pirates’ win over the Brewers.

 

Continue reading What’s happening to PNC Park?

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