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Monday Morning Mop-up duty: I hear there’s a somewhat important series this week …

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SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – So I’m new around here, but as I understand it this might be the most important series in, oh, about 20 years or so at the confluence of the Three Rivers.

 

The Pirates did what they needed to on their 10-game road trip: they split. Now they have five games in four days against the first-place Cardinals. They have a chance to take over the division lead entering August. That’s big time.

 

I’m curious, as I’m sure you are, how the Pirates handle this.

 

Clint Hurdle noted before Sunday’s games that there’s not enough focus on the human element in baseball these days, it’s too stats driven, too analytical. And even being a person who likes messing around the numbers, I agree. There remains a significant portion of the game that is psychologically driven, that can’t be measured – at least not measured yet. Not everything is in the book.

 

And we’ll learn something that can’t be measured to date about these Pirates this week: are they ready for high-stakes baseball?

 

Sure, Russell Martin has been there, A.J. Burnett and a few others. But most of the Pirates have not played much meaningful baseball. Not like this.

 

Will A.J. Burnett and the Pirates quiet the Cardinals? The Pirates need a big start from their veteran on Tuesday.

 

Are the Pirates for real? The pitching staff is. The defense is. The offense, not so much. But one thing that can threaten all the success to date is the internal psychological regression, a late-season skid when players begin putting too much pressure on themselves, start doing too much, start feeling the pressure squeeze. This series will have a postseason-feel to it. The Cardinals have played in plenty of big games over the last decade. The Pirates have not. How will they respond? It’s going to be fascinating to watch.

 

STARTING NINE

9. I still think more meaningful than any trade the Pirates can make is simply getting several bats to hit at their career-average levels. That’s why I think one of the more encouraging things I saw during the Miami series was the way Neil Walker squared up the ball. Walker hit balls on the screws five times on Saturday night , and make some loud contact in the Washington series.

 

Walker said he’s staying within himself, and he’s healthy. Yes, you know that right field and first base have been production voids, but the Pirates are also 13th in the NL in OPS at second bae.

 

8. Some good news entering the series? The Pirates are going to miss Shelby Miller, who is their most talented arm.

 

7. So you want to be the Cardinals? Well, draft really well. As we examined earlier this year, no team has drafted better than the Cardinals in baseball. Just think Matt Carpenter, Trevor Rosenthal and Matt Adams were all drafted after the 20th round in the 2009 draft. Oh, the Cardinals also got Miller and Lance Lynn in the top three rounds of those drafts.

 

The draft, that’s where consistent performance begins and ends for mid- to small-market clubs. The Pirates have taken a better approach to the draft in recent years, spending  more, and finding some steals like Justin Wilson and Tyler Glasnow. But they haven’t been the Cardinals. No one has.

 

6. Jose Fernandez is a very special arm. I wouldn’t read too much into Sunday’s loss, and the 13Ks, because not many major league clubs would have had success against the 20-year-old Cuban defector.

 

Consider this first inning sequence to Jose Tabata: 99 mph fastball, 99 mph fastball, 99 mph fastball.

 

Then consider this fifth inning sequence to Tabata: five straight Whiffle-ball like curves.

 

Yeah, that’s fair.

 

5. The Cardinals have a much deeper and more consistent lineup than the Pirates. That’s the biggest thing working against the Pirates. But the biggest thing working in their favor is this: defense. The Pirates rank first in baseball in defensive efficiency, which is quite simply, turning batted balls into outs.

 

The Cardinals rank 19th. The Pirates have speed in the outfield and lead baseball in use of infield shifts.

 

4. Russell Martin is nearly as valuable to the Pirates as Yadier Molina is to the Cardinals. Martin doubled and stole a base Sunday. I think the knee is OK.

 

3. With Travis Snider allegedly suffering through left big toe pain, Jose Tabata has become the Pirates’ mostly every day left fielder, I suppose, unless Garrett Jones moves out there to platoon. Or unless a trade is made. Our own Rob Biertempfel reports that the Pirates are interested in Hunter Pence, but I’m not even sure Pence is an impact guy. I wonder if the Pirates missed an opportunity with Alfonso Soriano, that seemed to be a great deal for the Yankees. There just aren’t many impact bats out there.

 

2. I’m wondering if the Pirates offered their entire Altoona Curve roster for Giancarlo Stanton after that series. What a talent.

 

1. Lost in the shadow of Fernandez’s awesome performance Sunday is how good, Gerrit Cole was: Seven innings, six baserunners, career-best eight strikeouts. His slider was awesome. He threw it  a season-high 22 times. Combine the slider with the fastball and you’re seeing why Cole will eventually rack up the strikeouts and why he’s still a evolving pitcher.

Who would you rather have over the next decade? Cole or Fernandez. I’ll take Fernandez over any pitcher in baseball. Really. But Cole is in the top 10 of U25 arms.

 

MODEST PROPOSAL:  Start Luis Heredia in Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader.

 

Just kidding.

 

For real now, move Andrew McCutchen up to No. 2 in the batting order. Hurdle has been in search of ways to jumpstart his offense and there’s been some studies that show the most efficient use of your best hitter is to place him in the No.2 spot in the batting order. It maximizes plate appearances while also allowing for some RBI opportunities….and how about putting the Pirates’ two fastest players back-to-back in the lineup and utilizing their speed more often?

 

REGRESSION MATCH-UP THAT MIGHT ONLY INTEREST ME:

Allen Craig is batting .485 with runners in scoring position.

 

Jeff Locke’s MLB best percentage of base runners stranded (83.2 percent). They meet Wednesday.

 

Hurdle said Locke’s heartbeat slows down with runners on base, he’s able to really execute pitches and focus. Sabermaticians say Locke is in for a market correction. Of course, the sabermaticians have been saying that for a while now.

 

Maybe Craig and Locke both have magic powers we can’t measure. I don’t know.

 

What I do know is this, something pointed out by @BurghFan99 on Twitter: the Pirates don’t have the market cornered on regression. The Cardinals have an incredible RISP average.

 

STAT OF THE WEEK THAT:

The Pirates couldn’t have hoped for a better debut from first-round pick Austin Meadows.

 

In his first 17 pro games he’s .292 with two homers and a .956 OPS.

 

HE SAID IT

 

“I’ve seen it before. I’ve seen Dwight Gooden.”

-  Hurdle on Jose Fernandez

 

NON-BASEBALL RECOMMENDATION:

Nice job by the folks in control of sound prior to Sunday’s game in Miami: this was played during pregame. I applaud.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0jqPvpn3sY

 

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Comments

  1. Nate83 says:

    Meadows had been impressive but not as impressive as Reese Mcguire. He has looked really good defensively as well throwing runners out both stealing and picking them off cheating off of first or second. Sounds like he has a really good head on his shoulders as well from stuff I have read. Doesn’t even realize how good he is. Very non assuming and hard working.

    As far as the St. Louis series goes I think we have taken for granted how good our pitching staff is. It is an advantage over everyone we play. We now have a staff ERA that is 1/3 of a run better then anybody else in baseball. I don’t see any reason why the Pirates couldn’t take 3 or 4 of these games and win some of those as 3-2 or 2-1 type games. The Diamondbacks and Giants are examples of teams that have won it all with just enough offense and great pitching and defense. It can be done.

  2. Chuck H says:

    In this series with the Cardinals, the pitchers will have to be almost perfect, since we don’t have a run scoring lineup to take the pressure off them. If they give up one run, it may be
    enough for a loss. Many fans, including myself, have been asking management to acquire
    one or two players who can hit better than what we have on our bench. Tabata has been worthless as a hitter lately, and Marte has been striking out more than Sir Whiffs-a-lot at
    his worst. Just improve our hitting with RISP and we have a shot to go into first place.
    Otherwise, we could fall behind Cincinnati in the standings. It doesn’t look like the powers
    that be are looking for any hitting additions, so will have to go with what we have and hope for a miracle. GO, BUCS!!!

  3. NorthPirateFan says:

    “They have a chance to take over the division lead entering August.”

    Well sure in theory they have a chance, but let’s not kid ourselves shall we, those chances are slim and none.

    Sure while some people like Dejan Kovacevic has gone over to the dark side as evidenced by his “glove” piece, either abandoning his understanding of Sabremetrics in order to become another media cheerleader or perhaps fallen on railroad spike that damaged the logical portions of his brain, an objective analysis shows the numbers don’t bode well for this team.

    Legitimate contenders do not rank 24 -27 in run production in the majors and their 61-42 record is not the sustainable by product of a +49 run differential but rather a temporary aberration resulting from what has been a fairly soft schedule to this point.
    Go to ESPN and look at their team vs team grid and see how many of their wins have come against teams with .500 or better records …

    Unfortunately for them the schedule is a lot less friendly through out the next ten week and those 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 wins they’ve been earning against the lesser teams are going to start turning into losses of the same scores… assuming there isn’t a significant upgrade to the offense soon.

  4. NorthPirateFan says:

    I see a very good reason they can’t take 3 out of 4 in this series, their offense is a laughing stocks and it’s being run by a manager who wouldn’t have the foggiest idea how to put a lineup together even if he had better players.

    Even if one were to accept your premise that the Diamondbacks and Giants won with “just enough offense” 24-27 which is where the Pirates have been throughout the season is not enough offense. Those teams combined league average offense with their pitching and the Pirates aren’t even in the neighborhood of league average.

  5. T.S. says:

    Travis, Soriano was NEVER going to agree to a trade to the Pirates. He’s mentioned as much several times.

  6. NorthPirateFan says:

    Not only has Marte been striking out like mad it continues to be maddening that Hurdle can so easily recognize the platoon split in some players but be completely blind to the obvious limitations that Marte has against RHP and continues to bat him leadoff to the detriment of the team.

    On any legitimate contender a line of .308 OBP .405 SLG .713 OPS from a left fielder would earn a player a spot on the bench against right handers but not with Clint Hurdle, oh not he keep playing him and batting him lead off where he can do the most damage to the rest of the effort.

  7. Keith says:

    Pence may not be an “impact bat,” but at this point it won’t take much to get him and he won’t cost too much. Is this team better with Pence? Duh! Today the bench is a bunch of RH hitters with .200 averages. Move Tabata to the bench and Snider returns and there are two legit bench bats. Bring Russ Canzler up and now we’re talking.

  8. Tyler says:

    “Jose Tabata has become the Pirates’ mostly every day left fielder”

    he plays right, not left.

  9. NorthPirateFan says:

    The problem with Pence, as well as many other potential targets of the Pirates that have been mentioned the past season is that he is more of what the Pirates already have, light hitting right handed hitters who are/will be hampered by the dimensions of PNC Park.

    What this team need is a left handed hitter who walks to send Marte and his .713 OPS to the bench when right handed pitcher are on the mound and manager who is smart enough to do that as well as give Snider his at bats in right against the same pitchers rather than giving them to Tabata.

  10. Nate83 says:

    But somehow they are only 1.5 games behind the Cardinals and have actually played better against teams like the Braves, Cardinals, Reds, Tigers…. then they have against below average teams. It’s amazing how this laughing stock team lucked their way to 19 games above .500.

  11. BostonsCommon says:

    That’s exactly what I was thinking. He was a 10 and 5 guy, and for the Yanks to only be on the hook for $5M next year, after giving up a no-name high A relief pitcher…. Soriano must have completely handcuffed Theo and said, “Nueva York por favor, or I’m not going anywhere”.

  12. Chuck H says:

    To:NorthPirateFan,
    My blog was written especially to Pirate Ownership and Management, that unless they want to be in third place behind Cincinnati and St. Louis, they have to spend some money to
    improve the Pirates offense to the point where they will have the potential to get a hit
    with RISP. Right now, they are pathetic in that category, and I suspect that the starting
    pitchers are getting tired of being hung out to dry when just a couple of extra runs for them
    would be enough to take the pressure off them. That was my point to make for the Bucs’
    management. Get some HITTERS!!!

  13. Nate83 says:

    I think you need to look at their schedule again. They do play the Cardinals a lot but other then that the schedule is not that tough. They have series against the Rangers, Reds and Arizona and then everything else is against teams that are not that good. Below is what they have left. If you look at their offense it actually scored a fair amount of runs during the 10 game road trip scoring 41 runs in those 10 games. Some players like Walker and Jones showed signs of coming around during that stretch. I’m not so sure it’s as doom and gloom as you are suggesting.

    St. Louis 14
    Cubs 7
    San Diego 7
    Brewers 6
    Colorodo 6
    Reds 6
    Giants 4
    Rangers 3
    Miami 3
    Arizona 3

  14. BostonsCommon says:

    It’s not going to take Clemente to upgrade the position in RF. We’re talking about a combined OPS of .650. Only the 35-69 Houston Astros are worse in RF. What I’m saying is that I don’t care if it’s Pence or Rios or Schierholtz or any of the names that have been thrown out there, even Tabata and his .702 OPS is going to be better than what the Pirates have been getting.
    .
    And what the Pirates been getting is a .609 OPS from Snider and .702 from Tabata, which I think they finally realized. As a result, Snider and his toe have been sent to the DL, and might soon be DFAd.
    .
    Tabata is an upgrade, but not the solution. Your basically looking for anyone who can play acceptable defense in RF everyday, and put up an OPS higher than Tabata so you can move him to the bench. MLB average OPS in RF is .757, so it should be that hard to significantly improve that position.

  15. NorthPirateFan says:

    And luck is exactly what it is. Contrary to your assertion, while the Pirates have take a few series from better teams the fact remains that of their 61 wins to date a mere 21 have come against teams with winning records and they’ve only got a winning record against 4 of those:

    2-1 vs Arizona
    3-4 vs Altanta
    7-6 vs Cincinnati
    2-4 vs L.A.
    3-2 vs Saint Louis
    3-0 vs Detroit
    1-2 vs Oakland

    They’ve played many more sub .500 teams thus far and fattened their record against them.

    As the season progress the opposite will be true and if the trends hold the Pirates will be a lot closer to .500 at season’s end than most people would be willing to accept at this point.

    And for the record, the Pirates and Cards are playing 5 games in the next 4 days.

  16. BostonsCommon says:

    It’s pretty interesting when you see it like this. Take care of the division and you’re probably going to win it, and stay out of the play-in game. And it starts tonight… Incredible to see that many games left against the Cards.

  17. NorthPirateFan says:

    RF is not where the upgrade is needed. Measuring production by position is pointless since as in the example of RF a multitude of player, Snider, Tabata Jones, Presley, Martin and Harrison have all gotten time there. How exactly can we judge Sniders’ potential production when only 196 of 222 ab have come as a starter and instead of getting the playing time against right handers as his platoon/profile would dictate Tabata was getting when Jones wasn’t … recall the beginning of the season when Hurdle was bound and determined that Sanchez would be the everyday first baseman even as he was cratering against right handed hitting.

    If Hurdle would simply use a straight platoon in RF with Snider and Tabata and at 1B with Jones and Sanchez they’d probably get the production they need.

    It’s LF that is the problem where the team is so enamored with Marte’s speed that they keep starting him, and letting him hit leadoff, in 75% of the games with RHP on the mound where he sports a dismal .713 OPS and .308 OBP

    He’s the problem that needs to be addressed and they need another left handed bat to do it.

  18. BostonsCommon says:

    I’ve mad the argument before also:
    .
    RF is the most important upgrade the Pirates can make. Think about how bad they currently are in RF, and compare that to the Cards (1st in MLB with .890 OPS in RF) and Reds (5th in MLB with .825 OPS in RF). You can go to battle against Jay Bruce and Carlos Beltran and counter with Tabata. Especially when a third of the remaining games on the schedule are against the Reds and Cards..
    .
    I really can’t believe they have waited this long to upgrade this when it so glaringly calls for it.

  19. BostonsCommon says:

    You can only play the teams on the schedule. Don’t penalize the Pirates for having beat bad teams. That’s what they’re supposed to do. With a third of the remaining games against the Reds and Cards, they will have an opportunity to prove you right… or wrong. Should be fun to watch.

  20. Nate83 says:

    Oh no they are only 21-19 against really good teams. The sky is falling. As I pointed out below they have 33 games against teams below .500 the rest of the way and 26 against teams above .500. So your point the the schedule is somehow incredibly difficult is a non-factor. After this 5 game series they will have 33 of 54 games against below .500 teams.
    .
    Why don’t you try a novel concept and root for the team in this series. It almost seems as if you want them to lose to prove a point.

  21. BostonsCommon says:

    I can agree that there’s definitely room for Marte to improve, but how is he a bigger issue than the black hole in RF? The fact that “Snider, Tabata Jones, Presley, Martin and Harrison have all gotten time there” shows exactly how pathetic the team is at that position. No one can perform at an acceptable level there, save for maybe Jones. And you can’t platoon him at two positions.
    .
    Even if they did what you want, and straight platooned Tabata and Snider, its not going to work because because the just aren’t good enough.
    .
    The bottom line is that in in over 1,300+ career PAs, Tabata sports a .709 OPS (.717 vs LHP .706 vs RHP).
    .
    In 1,300+ career PAs, Snider has a .701 OPS (.716 vs RHP .630 vs LHP). Snider has even had over 80% of his career ABs against RHP, and his numbers are still horrible.
    .
    To call these guys below average MLB right fielders would probably be a compliment. They just aren’t very good, and the Pirates really need to upgrade.

  22. BostonsCommon says:

    *Can’t go to battle

  23. BostonsCommon says:

    Snider and Tabata are basically the same below average RF. It doesn’t matter who takes the ABs if they’re still going to a bad player.

  24. NMR says:

    How bout taking a peek over to the left side of that Reds outfield where they’re hitting a combined .692 OPS compared to the Pirates .687 in RF?

  25. NMR says:

    Can they go to battle?

  26. Travis Sawchik says:

    Yeah, meant right

  27. likeabugonarug says:

    Maybe this team is good enough. Maybe this team believes in themselves. As bad as their offense is, they do keep winning. And that is the ONLY important stat.

    The theory usually is to have an above .500 record against the really good teams, and beat up on those lesser teams. Kinda like what they are doing now. If the Bucs do that the rest of the season, I for one won’t be complaining. And most likely that gets us into the playoffs. At worst, it ends the streak.

    Kevin

  28. Zico says:

    I can’t help but take one small thing out of this entire article.

    You say Shelby Miller is the Cards most talented arm. Did Adam Wainwright get traded?

    Otherwise, nice read.

  29. BostonsCommon says:

    That’s a good point, and if this were a reds blog I would probably be arguing that they should be looking to fill the that whole in their lineup, especially since they’re looking up at two teams instead of one.
    .
    I guess the point is just that the situation in RF is not difficult to figure out. They should upgrade RF. I’m certainly not saying they can’t win if they don’t, because they have all year. But the situation just screams for upgrade. Two months is over 200 ABs. To the right player that could be 10 HRs, which is more than Tabata and snider have contributed all season.

  30. Brendan says:

    Marte is pretty easily among top ten players in baseball with respect to defense and base running. So even if he’s struggling at the plate he’s still really valuable.

    I’d not disagree that his approach at the plate isn’t ideal for a lead off hitter, that said the Pirates don’t really have an ideal candidate on their 25 man roster right now, but I’d still be inclined to pencil him elsewhere.

  31. Brendan says:

    Who would you like to see them acquire?

  32. Brendan says:

    It should be noted that Joe Maddon batted Evan Longoria second this evening.

  33. Thundercrack says:

    ‘With Travis Snider allegedly suffering through left big toe pain,’

    Interesting choice of words.
    Are you implying that they put Snider on the convenience list?

  34. NorthPirateFan says:

    Marte is a terrible base runner and has done considerable damage to the offense because of his over the top aggressiveness.

    His stolen base rate, while better than last year is still below the 75-80% rate that has been proven to be level need for the benefit of the bases stolen to overcome the harm done by caught stealings and that number doesn’t count the times he’s been doubled off because he was running, picked off or thrown out trying to stretch a hit out.

    Yes he’s fast and everyone gets excited when he does leg out those triples or steal a base but for someone who does as poor a job of getting base as Marte does he’s far to aggressive and wreckless and needs to quit finding new ways to erase himself when he does manage to reach base.

  35. NorthPirateFan says:

    There’s no way at this point to judge what Snider is as since arriving he simply hasn’t gotten the consistent at bats he should have to show his ability.

    If he’d been used as the left handed part of the RF platoon as was expected he’d have 350 plate appearances by now, more if he’d been hitting in the leadoff spot as he should have been, but instead of being given the chance to win the starting job as Hurdle claimed, Tabata got far to many of the starts against RHP.

    Snider is in very nearly the exact same spot that Garrett Jones was in when Clint Hurdle became the manager, not getting the playing time he should of because of some imagined deficiency, and like him it will probably take an injury to one of the right handed hitters Hurdle inexplicably favors in order to force the issue and get him the regular playing time.

    Or perhaps he’ll have to leave like Brandon Moss and go to an organization that knows how to use players properly. I’m sure teh A’s will could find a spot for Travis Snider to flourish even if the Pirates and Clint Hurdle.

    Really, Pirates fans should take a quick look around the majors at the number recently departed former players who weren’t good enough to get regular playing time on this team but are on contenders as part of productive platoons.

  36. Leo Walter says:

    Travis,I really enjoy your blog. I would like to say though that while I am not nearly as negative about the Pirates’ chances of getting to the playoffs as North Side Fan, I have to totally agree that leaving Marte’ in the leadoff spot is the biggest problem the Pirates’ offense has. I watched him play through his Eastern League experience,and while he did get a little better,he has the eact same problems today with approach and plate discipile problems that he had when he first came to Altoona. I suspect that he isn’t going to change much going forward either. He needs to removed from that leadoff spot permanently and dropped down where his style of hitting plays much better.

  37. NorthPirateFan says:

    It’s a bigger issue for several reasons. First I’d argue the “black hole” in RF exists only because it was created by Clint Hurdle’s continuing mismanagement of the lineups, a problem that existed and was documented thoroughly all the way back to his days in Colorado.

    In any given year 75-80% of the pitches thrown in majors will be thrown by a right handed pitcher, therefore a right handed with a platoon deficiency against right pitching is going to be a bigger problem than a left handed hitter with the reverse split.

    Look at Marte’s splits and it’s obvious, in 80% of his plate appearances he’s an unproductive .700 OPS hitting and since he’s essentially starting every game, that’s 80% of the production the Pirates are getting out of left field.

    As for Tabata, I couldn’t agree more he’s a disaster and shouldn’t even be on the major league roster of any team thinking it’s a contender.

    As for Snider, some hitters, most hitters, just can’t get traction when they’re only getting sport starts and pinch hit appearances as Snider has to this point in his career so while he has a lot of plate appearances, he’s never been given more than 250 in any one season so I’m more inclined to believe that given his age and hitting profile were he to actually get 500+ as a regular starter as the left handed part of an platoon he’d exceed the production of not only Tabata but Marte as well, just as Garrett Jones did when injury force the Pirates to give him playing time in the same role.

    Given what we’ve seen of Hurdle and the front office to this point though it seems unlikely Snider will ever get the playing time as they not only don’t seem to understand platoons and how to use them, they don’t even understand the needs of the team’s offense as exampled by the constant trade chatter centered around hitter that are essentially more of the same light hitting right handers that already litter their roster and are crippling the offense.

  38. NMR says:

    Little bit of a problem with that baserunning logic, Brendan.
    .
    They don’t let you attempt to steal second unless you can get on first.

  39. NorthPirateFan says:

    The Reds LF problem will likely be resolved when Ryan Ludwick is activated, he’s on a rehab assignment right now, like wise the Pirates’ RF problem could be addressed without having to make a trade but by simply using the players they have available to them in their system properly … something they’ve not done this season.

    Clint Hurdle single handidly created the RF problem when he decided at the outset of the season that instead of keeping Clint Robinson to platoon with Gabby Sanchez at first so Jones could be used in a platoon in RF, he would make Sanchez the everyday first baseman come hell or high water.

    When that effort cratered Jones was forced to return to a platoon at first because the player they needed to fix Hurdle’s blunder was snatched off waivers from them and it’s been a throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-if-anything-sticks fiasco in RF ever since.

    Even if they really feel the need to go outside the organization to upgrade the offense the cheapest and easiest solution would be to the same one they failed to execute last season and that is to pick up any one of several mid to late 20 year old fist basemen toiling in the minors to platoon with Sanchez and move Jones back to RF where he belongs.

    Heck, it would probably be more egg to wipe of their faces than they have the courage to, Robinson could probably be reacquired for next to nothing.

  40. NorthPirateFan says:

    I’m not philosophically opposed to them spending money and trading to upgrade the offense, but the simple fact is the market looks to be pretty shallow and there doesn’t seem to be a lot available. So before the team goes squandering a lot of money and talent on marginal upgrades or even lateral moves which is what most of the name being bandied about would be … see Hunter Pence, they should first try applying some common sense practices to what they already have and try to squeeze as much offense out of what they have.

    There certainly isn’t a juggernaut offense hiding on the Pirates roster but the offense is under performing due to some truly stupid things being done by the manager, change those first and see what the results look like before making wholesale changes.

    Some of those stupid things are:quit starting right handed hitters with huge platoon deficits against RHP, chiefly Gaby Sanchez, Tabata and Marte and maybe give Alvarez a few extra nights off when there’s a tough LHP starting.

    Quit wasting roster space on offensive sink holes simply because of contracts that need to be justified, Barmes and Tabata again. Those are now sunk cost Neal, you’re eating them no matter what so replace those millstones and move on.

    Quit fooling yourself into believing that there’s value to having a switch hitter in the lineup when he clearly can’t hit from one of the sides of the plate. Neil Walker hits RHP very well and that’s about 75-80% of the at bats he’ll see over the course of the season so have him hit from that side all the time and he’ll almost certainly do better against even LHP than he does from the right side of the plate.

    Quit putting players with no command of the strike zone or plate discipline and the resultant poor on base percentages at the top of the order. Again Marte, even they can’t bring themselves to find a platoon mate for him for god sake bat him near the bottom of the order especially against RHP … his 15 walks, 87 strike out and terrible on base percentage in those situations is just sucking the life out of the offense.

    And last but not least, quit, I mean give up completely all the notions of small ball. Bunting, stealing, swinging at every pitch just for the sake of putting the ball in play constantly … even if when it “works” the results are small. Take a walk once in a while for goodness sake and give the guys hitting behind you a chance to move you ahead before you find another way to take yourself off the bases and hand the opposition outs for no reason.

    Do all of these things and a few more and the Pirate offense might just inch closer to being league average.

  41. NMR says:

    You’re right. Robinson could be acquired for next to nothing.

    Because he’s an awful baseball player.

  42. Brendan says:

    Well, Fangraphs would disagree. They rank him as the fifth most valuable baserunner in baseball:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=y&type=8&season=2013&month=0&season1=2013&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=20,d

    Now you’re free to question that ranking of course. But it’s worth considering that Marte at least MIGHT be very valuable on the basepaths.

    This isn’t too say he doesn’t have things he needs to work/improve on, specifically his approach at the plate.

  43. Brendan says:

    He still provides that value when on base and while he might not be on base as much as he might be with a better approach at the plate.

    I wouldn’t have a problem resting him against tough RH on occasion over the course of the last two months of the season, particularly if the Pirates have more OF depth in a few days.

    I do think it’s important to not lose sight of the fact that even when he’s in a slump at the plate–as he has been of late–he’s still a valuable player thanks to his defense and to at least factor that into the equation.

  44. NorthPirateFan says:

    I find Fangraph’s WAR rating to be highly suspect simply by virtue of the fact that you can find so many players who’ve put up virtually identical seasons over several and their WAR rating is all over the map from year to year.

    Look no further than McCutchen’s 2009 through 2011 seasons and try to figure our how he ranges from 3.4 to 5.8 in the same system. And you can see that same inconsistency player after player. It’s also often terribly out of sync with other more established measures such as RC/27

    I like new ways of evaluating players but honestly, any method that trying to say 2013 Starling Marte is more valuable than 2009 or 2010 Andrew McCutchen is obviously flawed.

  45. Brendan says:

    I don’t regard WAR as the finite word on a player’s value, but an estimate of their total worth (defense, baserunning, and hitting).

    Glancing at Cutch’s Fangraph’s WAR from 2009-2011 it looks like the general reasons for variance were.

    1. In 2009 he only played 108 games. Since WAR is cumulative stat, he’d have registered a WAR closer to his 2011 season had he continued at that pace.

    2. Cutch’s defensive ranking in 2010 was terrible and in 2011 it was slightly positive so while his offensive contributions were similar that’s the reason for the difference I think

    I certainly wouldn’t suggest that you should look at Marte’s base running ranking via Fangraphs and conclude solely based on that he’s a great/valuable baserunner. I would however suggest in cases like that if the metrics don’t match up with what you think you’re seeing it’s worth taking a closer look.

  46. Brendan says:

    Additionally I’d submit that while you’d like to see Marte improve his CS% somewhat you also have to account for the value provides when he turns a single into a double, or a double into a triple. As well the occasions when he goes from first third or second to home on a single, etc. Not mention the instances in which he’s forced a bad throw that’s resulted in error. And so on and so forth.

 
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