TribLIVE
Blogs | Sports | News
Bucco Blog

« Font size »
Decrease | Reset |Increase

Monday Morning Mop-up Duty: sell tomorrow for today?

SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – While the Pirates avoided a sweep Sunday, the weekend was not how the club wanted to emerge from the break. And while one series is a small sample size, season-long issues continue to linger, namely hitting, or rather, not hitting, with runners in scoring position (2 for 27 this weekend).

 

The Pirates are not without flaws, and flaws will become more magnified in the second half if they are not addressed.

 

Considering the Pirates’ difficult remaining schedule – they have 23 games remaining against the best club (St. Louis) and third-best club (Cincinnati) in the NL – standing pat might not get this club into the postseason.

 

I don’t need to tell you that have suffered through 21 straight losing seasons what a playoff appearance would mean.

 

During this drought the Pirates have fallen to third in the pecking order among the city’s major sports teams. They have put at risk a generation of fans, damaging their brand and perception. A postseason run would mean an awful lot. Not just from a dollars, bottom-line standpoint, but in regaining public trust and confidence.

 

So that leads me to this question: with a good but imperfect team on the cusp of the special season how much of  tomorrow do you sell for today? That tomorrow also looks pretty bright with one of the best farm systems in baseball. But consider tomorrow offers no promises, particularly when AJ Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, Francisco Liriano, Jason Grilli and Russell Martin are not under contract in 2015.

 

Pirates GM Neal Huntington is trying to balance tomorrow and today as the trading deadline approaches.

 

“There are many examples of clubs that have pushed too hard for today at the expense of tomorrow,” Huntington said. “At the same time, today really means a lot. This is a club we believe in and we want to do what we can to help it take that next step. We want to reward this fan base, which has really been patient. It’s been a long time, and we’re definitely cognizant of that.”

 

***

“There are areas where we’re looking to improve, but it’s not a desperation where we’ve got to do whatever we have to do. We’ve got some guys who we believe are going to have stronger second halves offensively. We’ve got some guys in the system who can help us. It’s not a situation where we don’t have any weaknesses. We just don’t have a desperate weakness, in our minds.”

huntington

A man with decisions to make …

 

Huntington is not going to trade Jameson Taillon or Gregory Polanco for Alexei Ramirez.  I’m not suggesting the Pirates make a desperation move, but after watching the last few weeks unfold, it might be worth throwing in an extra B-level chip for an upgrade, for Hunter Pence, for Kendry Morales, or someone of that ilk. There are some areas in desperate need of help. And there could be  much to lose in being idle.

 

STARTING NINE

9Jeff Locke continued to demonstrate his 2013 is anything but a fluke, allowing one hit over six innings to improve to 9-2.

 

According to Baseball Info Solutions, Locke is essentially throwing the same three-pitch mix he was last season. But as he told me earlier this season he is throwing a high percentage of two-seam fastballs, something that is not being picked up on by PitchFx, apparently.

 

8. The other thing helping Locke is an elite Pirate defense that has been ultra efficient defensive thanks to an increase in shifts, Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen in the outfield and Russell Martin behind the plate. Pitching and defense are part of the same ecosystem.

 

7. Jason Grilli is not yet the victim of a Sports Illustraded cover jinx … yet.

 

6. Homer Bailey is good, sure. But 12 Ks?

 

The Pirates continue to strikeout way too often, especially in the context of  their lack of power. One way the Bucs could improve offensive production is to simply put the ball in play more often. Is that all ability? Or does the team require an approach change?

 

5. Jordy Mercer hasn’t walked since July 5 and he hasn’t homered since June 21st. The Pirates have an NL-worst OPS from right fielders but I also understand the interest in Ramirez. Mercer is a young player who is trying to figure it out on the fly, in a pennant race, in his first MLB season.

 

4. Maybe no one should every participate in the home run derby. The champ, Yoenis Cespedes, is down with a bum wrist, and Pedro Alvarez is 0-for-13 since his return.

 

3. Do teams over value prospects? A 10-year study of top 10 overall Baseball America prospects showed 53 percent of the pitchers earned bust status.

 

2. Starling Marte was ranked 31st in baseball in trade value according to Fangraphs (McCutchen was 4th). Does Marte crack the top 20 next year? The power is going to come, I think.

 

1. One thing to watch with Liriano: strike one.

 

He entered his start Friday with the second-best first-strike percentage of his career 56.3 but threw first-pitch strikes to just 9 of 21 batters.

 

STAT OF THE WEEK: You’re probably aware of this but since 2011 …

 

Pirates’ record before All-Star break: 151-117.

 

Pirates’ record after All-Star break: 57-95.

 

HE SAID IT:

“He’s a good guy to have in your corner,” former Rockies catcher Ben Petrick on Clint Hurdle. Joe Starkey wrote a terrific piece on the “angel” that found Hurdle.

 

NON-BASEBALL RECOMMENDATION:

 

Lake Como, Italy.  We spent much of our European trip in major cities but if I had to do it over again I’d make more time for the charming and more relaxed small towns, especially this ancient lake town in Alpine foothills near the Swiss border.

 

- TS

Comments

  1. SJB says:

    Tomorrow for today? Well, if you want to break it down in that simple a way, then I’d always trade tomorrow for today. Why? No one knows what tomorrow holds, but as far as the Pirates are concerned, they are amazingly being afforded yet another chance at the playoffs after last seasons collapse – that many thought they wouldn’t be able to recover from – and a chance like that that doesn’t come automatically for anyone, let alone a team that can’t simply go out and buy a championship and is fortunate based on their offensive stats to even be in the position they are.

    The Pirates are looking a gift horse in the mouth and if they simply stay the course and wait for tomorrow, who knows if that tomorrow will even get here. The tomorrow the Pirates have always been looking for is here now and they should act accordingly to take advantage of it. I’m not saying make a stupid trade, but if they can get the talent needed to help now, with maybe a year or two of control in addition, then trading a highly valued prospect or two, that may or may not be a part of the unknown future, can not be and shouldn’t be out of question. They simply don’t have that kind of luxury.

    For all anyone knows, Taillon and Polanco get here in a year or two and for the next 5 years, the Pirates don’t even finish about .500 with them and most of the players that are crucial to the team winning now, aren’t here to take advantage of them. Not saying losing would be because of Taillon and Polanco, but there are lots of things that have to go your way to reach the playoffs, and talent is only one of them. Right now, today; the Pirates are lucky enough to have things going their way but there are still holes that need to be filled to carry them further. They just don’t have the offense right now to compete in the playoffs when pitching can shut down even the best bats. They need to get another bat or two to give them a better chance.

  2. jds182 says:

    Go to Slovenia and Croatia. Not that crowded and Croatia isn’t on the Euro yet, it’s dirt cheap. I lived in northeast Italy ’06-’08, beautiful area.

  3. Leo Walter says:

    SJB : to get the offense you say the Pirates need to get to the playoffs,what do YOU suggest ? Re-making the starting 8 position players ? Or half of them ? And if so,who would YOU suggest they replace ? Tabata/Snider,Marte,Mercer,Alvarez and Jones/Sanchez ? Becuase that is EXACTLY what they would have to do ! Adding one better situational hitter would help,but it isn’t going to cure the flaws in those mentoned player’s hitting. And for all you know,bringing in 1,2 or 3 more players would not make things ” go their way ” either.So,think it over when you start talking about it.

  4. Nate83 says:

    Trading tomorrow for today last year would have had us playing the same amount of games last year. 162 games and nothing to show for it except a weaker minor league system. There is no way any trade last year gets us into the playoffs.

    The Dodgers traded for over 200 million in contracts and still missed the playoffs by a mile. Just as prospects don’t always work out very few trades that are “blockbuster” at the deadline work out. It is usually the simple trades like Cody Ross or Marco Scuturo that make the difference. For every C.C. Sabathia there are 9 Ryan Dempster, Zack Greinke, Cliff Lee, Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino……results.

    What they need is for the players that got them to this point in the season to keep doing what they are doing and add some pieces around those players to give Hurdle some options. They do not need to trade away the farm to add two wins to a team that should make the playoffs by 6 or 7 games if they just keep playing the same way.

  5. Leo Walter says:

    You said it better than I did Nate83.

  6. florida pirate says:

    The truth? The team has one decent hitter

  7. SJB says:

    Last year was last year and the Pirates are not the Dodgers so you can’t compare the two. Besides, the Dodgers spending $200 million that essentially changed the team too much has nothing to do with the Pirates trading a prospect for a key player to help this offense, and that also shouldn’t be considered “trading way the farm” unless they are really that shallow in the minors, but I always hear they aren’t so… No one’s asking the Pirates to trade out half the starting roster. Like I said, as long as the trade isn’t stupid (and giving up a high prospect doesn’t necessarily make it stupid depending on what you get back), then there shouldn’t be a problem getting better faster at a specific position rather than later at another. You mean if they give up Palanco the future is ruined? Pretty sad state of affairs then, and if that’s the case, they should not only put him in Fort Knox with body guards around him to boot…he’s just toooo valuable. ;)

    But seriously, I don’t know how you are going to keep the same players and add players worthy of even bothering to do so without either A:) spending dumb money (see your $200 million comment), or B:) trading a “possibly” good future player, for a “proven” good current player. As we know, the know the Pirates aren’t made of dumb money, so they have only one option if they plan on doing anything at all.

    There’s no guarantee adding a player will get them to the playoffs, but dumpster diving for fools gold with the Snider’s and Sanchez’s of the league again surely isn’t going to get them there either. I’ll go out on a limb and say adding a Rios or other will help them much more than another player who’ll finish his career as he started it…riding the bus between the bigs and AAA.

    I guarantee you this: the level of pitching that has gotten them to where there are so far, will not be there to the same degree in August – September and without the bats needed to make up for the extra couple of runs they will be giving up, they might as well do what you suggest and stay the course, add some has been’s and never will be’s, and wait for next season.

    Keep playing the same way? You mean by averaging 3 runs a game? In two months, if they keep doing that, they will more than likely be 6 or 7 games “out” of the last playoff spot, and remember, they still haven’t seen the Padres yet. ;) So, tell me what players you think are worth the Pirates getting without giving up the proverbial “farm”, and what do you think they can trade for them? Hard, huh?

  8. Chuck H says:

    Why would the Pirates want to make a trade when we have better players at Indy than a few on our bench. Why do we keep Inge? He has proved that he can’t hit ML pitching, and
    we waste a hitting possibility by using him. Alex Presley comes to mind as being much better hitter than either he or McHenry or Harrison. We seriously need some dependable
    hitters, at least, someone who can hit a fly ball to the outfield.

  9. SJB says:

    Upgrading RF or 1B would nice and very obvious. I never said blow up the team and start over. Where did that non-sense come from? Adding one bat to the lineup can have a great influence on the rest of the order and the psyche of the team overall. My point is with the idea that it’s absurd to trade away a top prospect for a “now” player, hence; Tomorrow for Today.

    I think quite clearly thank you. Sorry to anger everyone.

  10. Nate83 says:

    Below are a list of players I would like to see them go after in a trade. Most of these guys would not cost much in prospects and add a consistant bat to the line up. Aoki would cost a decent prospect. Alex Rios depending on the amount of payroll we take on or do not take on could cost some really good prospects.

    I do not under any circumstance think they should trade Glasnow, Kingham, Taillon or Polanco. I would even add Heredia and Handon to the list unless it’s for a player of Alexi Ramirez skill level. This is only my opinion and I’m sure other would disagree. That is why baseball is so much fun to talk about. So many more moving parts and decisions to be made then other sports.

    Kevin Frandsen of the Phillies
    Nate Schierholtz of the Cubs
    Aoki with the Brewers
    Chris Denorfia with the Padres
    Alex Rios with the White Sox

  11. Nate83 says:

    I think they would like to keep McHenry’s one option he has left for next year just in case of injury to Sanchez or Martin. If they send him down this year he has to be on the major league team next year. I don’t think losing the catcher depth next year is worth it to the Pirates to gain 1 game a week of Sanchez playing when they can call him up when rosters expand in 5-6 weeks. He would only play 5 games.

    I’m not sure why Presley is not up instead of Harrison. It makes no sense. DeJesus can’t come up because he isn’t on the 40 man and they are already having trouble figuring out who to take off the 40 man when and if trades are made. So we are stuck with Inge.

  12. Nate83 says:

    No anger from me SJB. I like the debate back and forth about using prospects as chips to improve the team now or hold them to possibly make the team better later. I think every team is in a different situation and uses their prospects differently. There is no right way. Teams have been sucessful doing it both ways.

  13. Leo Walter says:

    No anger from me either SBJ. It just gets a little tiresome seeing all of the fan comments about trading prospects that have a real future for run of the mill players in most cases that won’t help all that much. Nate 83 had some great suggestions on what could be done.

  14. likeabugonarug says:

    Presley can’t play the infield. Harrison is essentially replacing Walker, and can also “play” the outfield if necessary. And Jones can also move out to right. Their only other IF option is Inge. And I hope when Walker comes back that Inge is the one jettisoned. Don’t know that Harrison is that much better in batting, but I like his chances better than Inge.

    Plus, Presley has already had chances in the bigs. What makes you think he would get it now?

    I do agree with your Sanchez comment. It makes no sense to bring him up when he still needs the everyday playing work.

    For not playing much, the Fort did come through for us yesterday.

    Kevin

  15. NJ)7035 says:

    “7. Jason Grilli is not yet the victim of a Sports Illustraded cover jinx … yet.”

    You had to say it, huh?????

    Hopefully it is a short-term issue…..

  16. Mike412 says:

    Lake Como is not a town; it is a region. What town did you actually stay in? I was there in May and stayed in Bellagio, which was recommended by a restauranteur in Los Angeles. It was beautiful and I was lucky enough to be there before the large summer crowds. The major towns (none of which is very big) are Tremezzo, Varenna, Cernobbio, Menaggio and Bellagio. The train from Milan goes to Varenna and from there you can go by ferry or bus to the others. I now have checked it off my bucket list, but like you, I would love to go back.

Other blogs
Sports: Rob Rossi | Steel Mill | Chipped Ice | Bucco Blog | Sitting Ringside | Pitt Locker Room | Penn State Sports | H.S. Sports Insiders | Trailing Off
News: This Just In | Trib List
» Top TribLIVE.com Sports
» Top TribLIVE.com News
» Top TribLIVE.com Breaking News