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Peace talks today in Cincinnati? … The Pirates defense’s sum is better than its part … And could the Pirates have nine top 100 prospects entering 2014?

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A MARRIOTT IN NORTHERN KENTUCKY NEAR THE CINCINNATI AIRPORT – In eight games between the Pirates and Reds this season there have been 16 hit batsmen, and that doesn’t include brush-backs, and heart-beat increasing experiences like Neil Walker’s Monday.

 

Ten Reds’ batters have been hit, including Shin-Shoo Choo six times.

 

Six Pirates’ batters have been hit.  And Walker’s life flashed before his eyes.

 

Where does it end?

 

Does it end after Charlie Morton, professionally hit Choo in the calf with his first Tuesday? Do we have to fly Henry Kissinger in to the Great American Ball Park today to broker a peace deal before someone breaks a hand or worse?

 

kissinger

No word on if Kissinger will be at the Great American Ball Park tonight

 

I asked Clint Hurdle after last night’s game does it end after the Pirates hit two Reds last night, though only Choo was hit with intention, I believe. Hurdle answered with a non-answer, which sort of leaves the situation in a state of not peace but, rather, a cease-fire.

 

“You throw out a term ‘bean-ball,’ I don’t go there,” Hurdle said. “It’s competitive baseball. When two teams are focused on winning and are not going to blink … you push the envelope a lot of areas, not just pitching but in breaking up double plays, a lot of areas.”

 

In other words, the ball is in Cincinnati’s court. The Reds have the choice to put the beanball war (BTW, I hate the term ‘beanball’) on hold or let it escalate. But since senses are “heightened” as Walker put it even a mistake pitch could give us another round of hit batters.

 

Hurdle said he does not think about “retaliation,” he’s concerned with “protecting players.”

 

Hurdle said Aroldis Chapman usually misses away to righties when he’s pitching up in the strike zone. Like vs. Walker, Chapman missed twice up-and-in to the Indians’ Nick Swisher who was also batting right-handed and had words for Chapman earlier this month.

 

Hurdle also indicated there was intent when Mike Leake hit Andrew McCutchen in the back with a fastball in an 0-2 fourth inning Monday.

 

“What I try to do is pay attention to what I see,” Hurdle said of intent. “I saw Leake throw 101 pitches and I saw one of them get away. I saw him follow the glove and dot the glove all day long.”

 

McCutchen said Leake indicated it was not intentional.

 

“(Leake) actually nodded at me when I got to first base,” McCutchen said. “It was kind of like ‘my bad.’”

 

Look, I get players have to police themselves. I get that this is what comes with a good rivalry. It’s good drama for the fans and players. I get that you have to protect players and Morton was well within his moral authority. But 16 hit batters in the last eight games? One near broken wrist for Brandon Phillips, once close call for Walker? With this frequency of hit batters and intent eventually a player is going to pay a price in the form of a DL stint. In that sense, but clubs are wise to let the firing cease.

 

THE PIRATES DEFENSE’S SUM IS BETTER THAN ITS PARTS 

 

As Baseball Prospectus noted yesterday the Pirates are leading baseball in opponent batting average in balls in play (.271) and defensive efficiency (.729)  which is essentially the same thing as BABIP, tracking the balls in play that are recorded into outs.

 

Don’t get me wrong, the Pirates’ have some fine defensive players.

 

Andrew McCutchen can run down seemingly anything in center field. Starling Marte – who had a great diving grab on Monday – is a center fielder playing left fielder. I’ve written about the obvious value (throwing out runners) and the hidden value (pitch framing, sequence) that Russell Martin possesses.

 

But I don’t think there’s a single player who is going to win a gold glove in the infield.

 

What the Pirates have done this year is three-fold:

 

*The Pirates now fully embraced defensive shifting, which I believe has had a major impact.

 

*Martin has helped the staff increase its strikeout rate by .5  as BP noted, and perhaps he has helped induce more weak contact.

 

*And I think there is real growth from the Pirates’ staff. I don’t think BABIP is simply a luck stat, I think it speaks to missing barrels. For instance Jeff Locke has thrown more two-seam fastballs this season creating more movement, missing more barrels.

 

Whatever the case, 70 games into the season, the Pirates have the best defense in baseball according to the numbers.

 

COULD THE PIRATES HAVE NINE TOP 100 PROSPECTS ENTERING 2014?

 

Baseball America updated the Pirates’ top 10 list on Tuesday and it’s the richest the top 10 the club has enjoyed in some time, even without Cole. In fact it might be the club’s richest collection of talent since the advent of prospect rankings at least since the Ramirez-Benson-Hermanson class.

 

1. Jameson Taillon RHP

2. Gregory Polanco  OF

3. Austin Meadows OF

4. Josh Bell OF

5. Tyler Glasnow RHP

6. Reese McGuire C

7. Alen Hanson SS/2B

8. Nick Kingham RHP

9. Luis Heredia RHP

10. Tony Sanchez  C

 

Players like Glasnow and Kingham have elevated their stocks. Luis Heredia was a top 100 prospect entering the season and has done little diminish his projection and he is ranked ninth. Heredia has top-of-the-rotation upside … so could the Pirates enter 2014 with nine top 100 prospects?

 

Nine would be very rare air. The Royals had nine in the Baseball America top 100 entering 2011 when everyone was placing their farm system in a historical context.

 

Could the Pirates reach that number?

 

Probably not. Talking to John Manuel over at BA, McGuire and Kingham are on the fringe of the top 100, most likely and Heredia is out since he has not even pitched yet this year.

 

Still, five to seven in the top 100 is a very strong system.

 

Interesting. Very interesting.

 

- TS

(@Sawchik_Trib)

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Comments

  1. PhillyPirate says:

    That is a crazy collection of talent in the minor league system. For all of the flack Huntington has taken, he has done a remarkable job with the minor league system.

  2. Corey says:

    Ten, if Cole is sent back down soon.

  3. Clemson Travis,
    .
    “… so could the Pirates enter 2014 with nine top 100 prospects?”
    .
    I enjoy your enthusiasm but I would suggest you take off the Pirate-colored glasses.
    .
    I’m supposed to be the fan; you are supposed to be the journalist.
    .
    I guess no other Major League teams drafted anyone a couple weeks ago.

  4. Travis Sawchik says:

    It’s probably not going to be nine … probably 5-7 … but that’s still above average.

    When the preseason No. 78 prospect ranks ninth on a top 10 list – and nothing has changed in his projection to my knowledge – that’s interesting.

  5. Travis Sawchik says:

    I’m not as high on Josh Bell as Baseball America. I think Alen Hanson is ranked a slot or two too high, but it’s a deep and talented top 10. Very good work by Rene Gayo’s team, and breakout years from Glasnow and Kingham are big

  6. NMR says:

    To be fair, Groat, aren’t you forgetting about the prospects like Cole who graduate to the majors?
    .
    Sure, other teams will have other players move in. But they’ll also have others move out.
    .
    Travis’ argument was both logical and factual.

  7. Keith says:

    There is no chance Cole is getting sent back down this year.

  8. Rob Weller says:

    What happened to Heredia? Why has he not pitched this year?

  9. Brendan says:

    I don’t think Travis is watching enthusiastic, just pointing out that it’s possible, but as he goes on to note, unlikely.

    That the Pirates stable of prospects has improved is worth reporting and a helpful update I would imagine to fans who don’t follow that closely.

  10. Chico says:

    Travis,

    Wondering why you aren’t as high on Josh Bell as others? He is having a pretty nice season at Low A after basically missing a year of baseball.

    Hopefully pitchers for the Bucs and the Reds wise up and this silliness is over. I fugured Morton was good for two HBP, intentional or not. I would hate to lose Cutch for an extended period due to getting hit in the hand.

    But I would love to see the day the Reds make Chapman a starting pitcher. Let that punk get in the box with a bat in his hand. I would guess he would have a nice OBP for a pitcher after his first 20 PA’s.

  11. 21sthebest says:

    Agree Brendan. Travis just threw that out as something for us to chew on. I think it’s a legitimate question.

  12. Brendan says:

    He was in extended spring training. Was just added to WV roster, first start imminent.

  13. NorthPirateFan says:

    Baseball America’s prospect rankings are as ridiculous and meaningless this season as they are any other. Ranking a prospect in an organization before he’s even seen a single pitch as a professional is silly. Their approach seems to be – throw as many players onto the list as possible see which ones ultimately make it than pat ourselves on the back for picking them and pretend the others never existed.

  14. Brendan says:

    Debuts on Sunday.

 
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