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PECOTA’s 2014 forecast for the Pirates? Mostly cloudy with a strong chance of regression

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CLARK BUILDING – Don’t shoot the messenger here, but Baseball Prospctus’s PECOTA forecasting system – the creation of former BP star Nate Silver – is pretty down on the 2o14 Pirates.

I think many believe the Pirates will likely face some regression challenges in 2014 — from sustaining the bullpen performance, to the possible loss of 191 mostly quality innings from AJ Burnett, to questions about whether Francisco Liriano can repeat his 2013.

 

But I think most of the public views the Pirates as fringe contenders as presently constructed, an 80-something win club that has a chance to contend for a wild card. The conservative Davenport projection had the Pirates finishing 83-79 and in 2nd place in the NL Central, two games back of the final wild card.

 

But Baseball Prospectus predicts a 21st losing season in 22 years.

 

PECOTA projects a 78-84, fourth-place finish … two games behind the Brewers, and 10 game back of the first-place Cardinals.

 

The biggest issues are PECOTA forecasts the Pirates remaining stagnant offensively, scoring the fifth-fewest runs in the National League (653), while regressing from 577 runs allowed in the NL in 2013 to projecting 681 runs allowed in 2014. PECOTA thinks the Pirates’ bullpen will be worse, it notices Burnett is gone, and Liriano hasn’t exactly been a model of consistency.

 

Now, this is a computer projection that might not think the Pirate staff’s groundball rate is sustainable – I think it is – and it might not understand the value of the Pirate’ 494 defensive shifts last season, which helped make its sum better than its collective parts. And PECOTA, like any forecast system, has been wrong plenty of times. (It would be interesting to know the Pirates own internal projections and how that has influenced offseason planning/execution).

 

We’ve seen PECOTA’s take and Clay Davenport’s projection, what is your 2014 projection as of Feb. 6?

- TS

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Comments

  1. Jim S. says:

    I think the Bucs, as currently constructed (meaning sans AJ), are about an 83/84 win team. With a few breaks, they could finish in the 87 win range and snag a WC. With a few more bad breaks than good ones, they could easily end up 79-83. Mainly, I see this team not pitching quite as well. I also see them not faring as well in 1/2 run games.

    I think they will hit better with RISP. But, I could actually see them slipping a bit with the bat, overall.

    * I could see Martin’s production slipping a bit, but maybe that can be avoided with a solid defensive #2 that can start more games this year.

    * I think production will be similar at 1b as of now, which means not all that good. I like Lambo to be a respectable hitter long term, but it is tough to jump in and get 500 ABs your first year and produce. Finding someone else to hit RHP here would help. Clint cannot be allowed to run Gaby out there vs. RHP at all this year.

    * I see Walker having a better offensive season. He did not catch a lot of breaks last year for how hard he often hit the ball. He is imroving his walk rate, and his power seems to be getting better. He needs to sit vs almost all LHP.

    * I don’t see Jordy hitting quite as well as last year, and I think we’ll get the same “no hit, strong glove” from Barmesy.

    * I see Pedro having a very similar year. I think he is what he is. And, that is pretty good. But, he’s not going to become a superstar.

    * I see Marte slipping a bit offensively. His BABIP seemed unsustainably high to me last year. But, maybe he is just a high BABIP guy because of his speed, and because he hits the ball hard. He doesn’t hit many of those routine, dinky infield grounders that Tabby specializes in. I hope Marte can cut down on the number of times he gets hit in the hands.

    * Cutch will remain Cutch. Great numbers from him – again.

    * Tabby / Decker / Snider / Lambo can hold down RF until Polanco arrives. Once he arrives, I think he will deliver sufficiently that we will at least have better offense than last year in RF.

    * Our bench is pretty anemic with the bat, overall. I am not a Harrison fan. I generally like guys who can deliver an OBP in excess of .300. None of them are offensive specialists.

  2. brendan says:

    I think that’s a pretty fair assessment. I’d generally tend to agree with it. To chime in on a couple of points:

    – It’s likely you’re right about Pedro, at least based on prior performance. You could make the argument that he perhaps turned a corner during the NLDS. But that seems like a stretch to me given that it’s a small sample, and he’s obviously a guy who’s been hot for stretches many times before.

    – The key with Walker will be health, given the injuries that have dogged him the past two seasons.

    – I think a step forward at the plate is possible for Marte. We’ll see. I’d not be surprised to see a bit more power from him. I would expect more consistency in the field and on the base paths. He was spectacular in both capacities, at times but made a few mental mistakes as well. I’d guess there will be fewer of those.

  3. Andrew says:

    Well if there is wisdom is crowds, I just noticed Fangraphs has there projected standing up, I think based on Steamer WAR.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/coolstandings.aspx

    They predict 84-78, (+27 Runs), battling the Giants and NL East runner up for the wildcard spots, and the Brewers with 78 wins and a game better than the Reds.

    I do not have a BP account so I cannot read the explanations, but how to the Pirates go from being above average (DRS) or average (UZR) defensively to the second worst in the NL.

  4. Nate83 says:

    I think they are 82-87 win team but can completely understand the PECOTA record. After the high water mark last year the team played around .500 ball. They did not sustain the record in 1 run games that they had over the first 90 games or so. I do think their bullpen and defense is good enough to be better in 1 run games then they where over the last 70 games. I think they are closer to the first half of the season then the second half of the season in that regard.

    It also seemed as if they would lose a bunch of games 2-1 or 3-1 or 1-0 and then win a couple games 7-2 or 8-1 in the second half. I could be wrong but it seemed like a lot of close loses and easy wins. Maybe if some of that run differential evens out it would lend itself to fewer losses.

  5. Travis Sawchik says:

    Yeah, the defensive decline is a head-scratcher. Does PECOTA not see shifts? I wonder how it evaluates out-of-zone plays.

  6. Travis Sawchik says:

    I’m guessing a large part of the regression is tied to opponent BABIP. The Pirates were 4th in baseball with a .285 opponent BABIP and I wonder if PECOTA is forecasting a rise to league-average (around .295-.300ish) and not taking into account shifts. But I’m not that familiar with the PECOTA formula for team forecasts.

  7. Nate83 says:

    Not only the shifts but Cutch and Marte are not getting any slower then last year. They cover a lot of space out there and make a lot of plays other outfields do not. That isn’t changing and might even get better when Polanco joins the fold. Ground ball rate also has to be considered as well as poor contact created because of various reasons including pitch framing. If the Pirate catchers are getting balls 2-3 inches out of the strike zone called strikes early in the game then it will cause the hitters to swing at balls they usually wouldn’t and not making as good of contact as they would have if waiting for their pitch.

  8. Jim S. says:

    Walker’s health is definitely key, Brandon.

    If Marte can improve a bit on the plate discipline, then his value goes from very high to ridiculous. I think PNC probably robs him of some HR, but I think you are right that there is more power waiting to be unleashed. FWIW, he hit 7 of 12 HR on the road last year, and 27 of 48 XBH, overall, on the road. He had 28 more ABs on the road.

  9. Jim S. says:

    I wonder if PECOTA thinks we were more lucky than good with turning BIP into outs last year. Maybe they don’t buy into our whiz bang analytics dept. Blasphemy!

  10. Jim S. says:

    Nate:

    From everything I have ever read, a team’s ability to win a high % of close games (1-2 run differential) fluctuates from season to season and really is not an indicator of how good or bad they are. When a team has a ridiculously high winning % in 1-run games over a full season, as the O’s did 2 years ago, it is almost always followed by a dramatic fall off the next year. Same thing for a very low %. Winning % in close games is good fortune or bad fortune, for the most part.

    For that reason, it has always been a pet peeve of mine when announcers like Hawk Harreson, for instance, look at a 1st place team’s record in 1-run games and, if that record is very good, they will pronounce, “Good teams win the close ones.” Actually, I don’t think that is the case. Usually, good teams have better than .500 records in close games simply because they are good teams, but in general they tend to have slightly lower win % in close games than they do in blowouts.

    It makes sense to me as I think about it. When a good team plays a bad one, which team is more likely to win a lopsided game? Probably the good team, right? That is simply because they are the much better team. If the bad team manages to keep the game close, I think the good team is playing with fire and stands a better chance of losing that type of game to a bad team. It is not very common for the bad team to blow out the good team.

    The best teams generally have the best run differentials, and the bad teams generally have the worst ones. So, I want the Pirates to be blowing teams out as often as possible because that is a great indicator that they are a good team. This doesn’t all play out the same way every season, but it is generally true.

  11. Jim S. says:

    All good points, Nate, and all part of the Bucs defensive philosophy. Way back when, in Philly, they used to say, “3/4 of the world is covered by water, and the other 1/4 is covered by Garry Maddox.”

    Maybe in Pittsburgh, they can start saying, “1/4 of the world is covered by land, and the other 3/4 is covered by Marte, Cutch and Polanco.”

  12. Nate83 says:

    I completely understand what you are saying but I have to believe a good bullpen has to contribute a little to this stat. I have no idea what the league average is for blown saves in a year but lets say it’s 12 for arguments sake. I can’t imagine having somebody like Mariano Rivera on your team for 15 years straight only blowing 3 or 4 games a year wouldn’t consistently win you more 1 or 2 run games then a the team that had 8 or 9 more blown saves.

  13. Jim S. says:

    Ralph Kiner died at 91 today. RIP.

  14. Nate83 says:

    We will be very fortunate to watch those 3 tremendous athletes patrol the outfield for at least 3 or 4 years together. Even if they are league average hitters they would give the team 7-9 WAR on defense alone. That production for a very low amount against payroll. It’s hard for any team to duplicate that production on the dollar. Hopefully it allows the Pirates to spend elsewhere to improve the team or have the luxury to slightly overpay for a player like they did for Martin.

    Even more then the young pitching I think that outfield is the number one reason the team can sustain winning for a while. In my mind if the young pitching progresses like expected this year will actually be our most unlikely year to compete over the next 5 years.

  15. Jeff King says:

    People who think that a guy like AJ wouldn’t or won’t be missed are sadly mistaken.
    The prediction above brings up a very valid point. Your relief pitching will only be as good as your starting pitching. You minus AJ and that’s 190 innings. You had better find someone to do it or your relievers will be taxed to death and fade. Count on it.

  16. Jim S. says:

    BTW, I posted some Kiner numbers on DK’s blog. The guy was a beast.

    Only had a 10 year career. I think a chronic bad back got him.

    Anyway, he made the most of those 10 years. He led the league with 23 HR as a rookie, and reeled off 7 straight HR titles to begin his career. Beginning with his 2nd year, he hit 40 plus HR for 5 straight seasons, including 2 seasons w over 50. He ONLY hit 37 and 35 the next 2 years after that.

    10 year totals: 369 HR, 1,015 RBI, 1,011 walks, 749 K’s.

    Career slash line: .279/.398/.548

    Career OPS+ of 149.

    He was a monster at the plate. $25 Million/yr today, probably.

    Branch Rickey could not wait to get rid of him.

  17. cmat0829 says:

    I guess I can’t get too motivated to react to number-crunching projections one way or the other. I think it was pointed out that these projections are often wrong, probably as much as just picking a record without using computers or sabrestats.

    Fact is last year at this time, the consensus of Pirate fans (and that was probably inflated over the general public) was that the team would have a win total in the high 70s, some lower, some higher, but nowhere near the projected playoff berth and big win total.

    I think to me it really all comes down to whether the Pirates can actually score runs at something approaching league average. What’s missing from all this overanalysis is just how bad the Pirates offense was last year with RISP and in scoring runs. If they can improve to the league average, they can stand a fair amount of pitching regression… and not so sure the pitching really can’t continue to be good.

    Put me down for 88 wins and a wildcard berth…. and perhaps the biggest factor in the record of the Pirates in 2014 (and any other contenders) is the MOVES or NONMOVES each makes at the trade deadline…and me thinks that isn’t even in any of these computer models at all.

  18. Jim S. says:

    They almost can’t avoid having a good team for the years those guys are together, given that we know they will have some very talented pitchers as well.

  19. Jim S. says:

    I’d have to look it up, Nate. That’s a good question. The Yankees avoided a lot of close games, too, during that time because they were so good. Did Mariano have a high number of saves in games they won by 3 runs? I don’t know. It’s a good angle on your part. Plus, he was only one piece of the bullpen. Other guys in the pen before him affected close games as well.

  20. NMR says:

    Just like last year. Oh wait…

  21. NMR says:

    They did score runs around league average last year,

  22. 21sthebest says:

    Cole, Liriano, and Morton should give us about 190 innings in 2014 that they didn’t give us in 2013.

  23. Matthew says:

    One person that can make a big difference this year is Mercer. I dont have the numbers in front of me, but my gut tells me he can become a Jay Bell type player. He has that clutch type hitting ability. And with our future potential lineup, seeing him bat 7th or 8th will only lengthen it. Also, with the number of shifts we use, we dont need him to have the epic glove we all want out of our ss. He has a great mentor in Barmes in that regard and we saw improvement throughout the year last year. He is only going to get better and has a workmanship like attitude that will help him achieve greater results.

  24. Jim S. says:

    Team training staff will begin pre-emptive arm tightening at the start of spring training; otherwise, they will be falling off again.

  25. Jim S. says:

    Yes, they did, especially when considering park factors.

    I think it is a myth that they were all defense and pitching last year. They actually hit better than people thought, and did not quite pitch as well as people thought.

    I remember looking this up late in the season, and they were near the top of the NL in road HR, and top 1/3 (unless I am mis-remembering) in road runs scored.

  26. Nate83 says:

    Very true. The offense wasn’t as bad as many perceive. The HR’s help offset some of the low OBP and bad RISP hitting. It can be argued that if you adjust for Park attributes the Pirates where the second best home run hitting team in the NL behind the Braves.

    There is room for improvement but this grand idea that many teams in the NL have solid hitting lineups 1-8 is false. Most have light hitting players in 1 or 2 spots in the line up or good major league players having down years. The Cards most likely will still have a player or two that hits below .250 and if Molina gets hurt for extended time the line up will have another hole. Bourjos is not a proven hitter yet and Peralta has batted below .255 in 3 of his last 5 years.

  27. NMR says:

    Everybody seems to understand that PNC Park helps Pirate pitchers. Not so many people seem to remember Pirate hitters aren’t so lucky.

  28. Nate83 says:

    Darn it Jim. You beat me to it.

  29. NMR says:

    You’re correct, Nate. It has been proven that teams with good bullpens consistently outperform their win projections based solely on runs scored for and against.

  30. NMR says:

    The funniest part about this PECOTA projection is that it is six games WORSE than what they projected LAST season.

    Meaning not only are they not considering organizational improvements such as defensive shifts and personal improvements from Martin, Liriano, Morton, Marte, Mercer, etc, but they’re actually saying all these guys and more will be significantly WORSE.

    Yeah, this one will be fun to look back on in eight months.

  31. brendan says:

    Which makes the interest in guys like Mark Trumbo, Nelson Cruz, etc from fans curious. The Pirates issue offensively wasn’t power–either in terms of HR or extra base hits. It was average and on base percentage.

  32. Nate83 says:

    I was very against anything involving Trumbo. Cruz I wouldn’t have minded for 1 year but his contract will quickly become bad if anybody signs him past 2 years in my opinion. For the Pirates needs neither player really fits. They are both names that don’t live up to the hype when you take a closer look at their overall numbers.

  33. Nate83 says:

    One person predicted more wins and we all thought that guy was crazy. Mr. Hurdle may indeed be a little crazy but his prediction wasn’t far off at all.

  34. Nate83 says:

    That is odd. As I stated on the last blog I feel better going into this year then I did last year even without AJ. Morton, Cole and Liriano have a lot to do with that. If PECOTA predicted 72 wins last year and then 78 this year it would make more sense but to have them lower at the beginning of this year is a little baffling.

    People forget none of those pitchers started last year and none of them would have been considered sure bets to give the Pirates above league average pitching. I’d be surprised if 2 of them don’t give the Pirates league average or better pitching this year.

  35. Jim S. says:

    Yup. Doesn’t fit the narrative that has been established.

  36. Jim S. says:

    True, brendan.

  37. Jim S. says:

    It’s pretty darn hard to predict. So many moving pieces. As the Pirates get a little better, how do you account for subtle differences in other teams accurately? There isn’t a finite amount of talent. It isn’t a zero sum gain. I suppose there are years where a team can improve, but still slip a bit relative to the league. It’s fun to predict, though.

  38. Jim S. says:

    I’m starting to think I need to look up the Yankees record in 1-run games during the Mariano Era and compare it to their record in all other games.

    But, I probably won’t. :-)

  39. Nate83 says:

    That is way the first think I look at when I see a first base option mentioned is their on base. I know 1B is usually a position you look for power but I’m more concerned with quality at bats for the Pirates in this case. That is why I’m not completely opposed to Ike Taylor for the right price because even if his average doesn’t recover he walks enough to keep his OBP up. He’s not my first choice but going with Lambo with no other contingency plan scares me. I’m excited to see what Lambo does if they go with him but he scares me.

  40. Nate83 says:

    Wow long day. That first sentence should have been “That is why the first thing”

  41. Andrew says:

    Yes, bringing right handed hitters whose games are dependent upon power to PNC Park is a bad decision.

  42. Andrew says:

    The Pirates were 29-23 last year in one run games, that is nothing absurd, 7th in the league, it is not 2012 Orioles 29-9. And while previous year’s record in one run games is not predictive next years it is straight gamblers fallacy to think that because the Pirates where above .500 in one runs games they will have to be below this year. I think the bullpen is key, but that not really profound because bullpens are volatile.

  43. Nate83 says:

    Thanks Andrew good information. It would be interesting to see how often teams with top 10 bullpens finish in top 10 in one run game records.

  44. Jim S. says:

    I believe this is the part where Travis chimes in with:

    “Unless Giancarlo Stanton is that right-handed hitter.”

    And, he’d probably be right. But, there would not be many other guys.

  45. Jim S. says:

    It has been a long day, Nate. But, Ike Taylor thanks you for believing he has a chance at a new career as a baseball player.

  46. Steelkings says:

    It would be nice to tell you that you are right but it seems that the Pirates hit .248 at home and .243 on the road

  47. Steelkings says:

    That was for NMR. For some reason my computer has a mind of its own and put it down here. My main fear is that it will one day, my computer will try to take over the world.

  48. Andrew says:

    NMR is that correct? I was looking for last year’s projection I found 79 wins, but I think that was before Liriano was officially signed.

    I like numbers and stats but I get the impression that much of Baseball Prospectus metrics were developed in complete ignorance of the concept of diminishing returns. It is understood that most player projections systems are marginal improvement over Marcel, which is as simple as they come. Buy hey they know more than me.

  49. Nate83 says:

    Wow that was worse then I thought. Ike Davis probably would be a better option then Ike Taylor.

  50. MorselPix says:

    PECOTA and others aren’t looking at the Pirates in isolation. If they predict more wins from, say, the Cubs, some of those W’s may come at the Bucs’ expense–even if we finish ahead of the Cubs in the standings.

  51. Bizrow says:

    Sometimes, most times, you take a step back

    Bucs will be fortunate to hit 500 again this season

  52. Jim S. says:

    HR allowed by Bucs pitching staff in 2013:

    37 at PNC
    64 on road
    101 total HR allowed

    HR hit by Bucs in 2013:

    69 at PNC
    92 on road
    161 total HR hit

    The Bucs were a very good HR hitting team last year, and they were very good at not allowing HR by their pitchers. They led the league in road HR hit, and their pitchers led the league with fewest HR allowed at home.

    Runs scored by Bucs in 2013:

    309 at PNC
    324 on the road

    Runs allowed by Bucs pitchers in 2013:

    267 at PNC
    310 on the road

    PNC is a pitchers’ park, and it greatly suppresses HR.

  53. Steelkings says:

    Starting Pitching:
    last year was as lucky as it gets. Without Liriano being as good as NO ONE expected him to be, the Pirates would not have finished where they did. Also consider Jeff Locke. He was good in one half and Bad in the other. That not only gave the Pirates some first half cushion, but his fall off was so dramatic it allowed the coaching staff to recognize it early enough to limit the damage. If Locke would have blended that season it would have had a much greater negative effect than it did.
    We should expect the same effort and Style from Liriano in ’14. I think teams will do a better job adjusting to his style and things won’t come as easily as it did. Charlie will be Charlie and the sample size is too small to leverage Cole one side or the other. I think more than an exhaustion issue with Locke is the fact that like Melancon, opponents kind of figured him out. Once they figured out that his breaking pitches were rarely strikes, the hard stuff became mediocre. Locke was beaten all over the ball park or walking people. With Wandy, Facts are facts. Rarely does arthritis in the elbow completely go away. And that’s with surgery, which Rodriguez did not have. I’ll be more surprised if Wandy is still pitching at the break than I was over Liriano doing what he did last year.

    Without AJ Burnett,(Or a left handed free agent that makes people mad when I mention him) I would expect this staff to be not quite what it was last season. Especially at the back of the order.

    Catching:
    Russell the Muscle is the best defensive catcher the Bucco’s have had in years. It very hard to forget though that he hit .226 and struck out 108 times. Its also hard not to forget that he is beginning his 10th season knee buckling season. Chris Stewart will fill in defensively without giving up much. But his offense makes Clint Barmes look like Ted Williams. We will yearn for the Fort when Stewart is at the plate.

    1st base:
    The biggest off season failure of them all may have been not giving Garrett Jones a new deal. After the season he had last year even arbitration would not have paid him much. He would have been easily better than what is on the table as of now, and likely better than what is out there to be had. Gaby will be Gaby. Let’s hope he is not put in a position to hit from both sides of the plate. One injury at that position to a left hander and you will be staring that monkey right in the face.

    2nd Base:
    Neil Walker gives the Pirates some stability at second base provided he stays healthy. Just think how unreliable he would be as a catcher. Someone saved his career by moving him to second base. Walker has unfortunately proven that as a switch hitter he cannot hit left handed pitching from the right handers batter’s box. Perhaps he should try and hit left handed pitching from the left handers batter’s box and see how that goes.

    3rd base:
    Pedro is becoming a better player. Yes he hit .180 against left handers, but something that low can really only go one way. He’s hit 30 dingers the last two years straight and will work to take the ball to the opposite field in the spring. We need to be a little patient here. Go back and look at Aromas Ramirez’s splits right before the Pirates gave up on him. Errr, Joey Bats anyone?

    Short Stop:
    I would love to see national league stats on league averages by line up order. Barmes is by far the better defensive SS on this team. He hit fairly well when he was in Colorado. He wasn’t hitting in the 8 spot there. I think its really difficult to hit there. All you see is breaking pitches with the pitchers spot behind you. If there are two out and a runner on you really won’t get something to drive. Let’s use Jordy Mercer as an example. He hit 352 when he hit in the 2 hole. .283 in the 7 hole and a whopping .218 in the 8 spot. So…If Jordy is taking Barmes spot in the 8 hole, how is that better?

    Left/Center Field:
    Marte will improve at the plate. I don’t need to say anything else.

    Right Field:
    The Buc’s need Tabata to beat Snyder out of that spot. If he does then the Pirates will have the NL best outfield even before Polanco gets there.

    Bull Pen:
    If Melancon cant figure out his slider he will continue to get lit up. If he can hit the zone occasionally with it, he will go back to being the best 8th inning guy in the NL. I will be watching Grilli closely this spring to see if the velocity comes back. If it doesn’t the Pirates will need to move him to the DL and move Wilson to the closer roll. Very scary situation at the back of the pen for the Pirates.

    Non Baseball suggestion of the day: A coat

  54. cmat0829 says:

    I think preseason projections, and predictions, are pretty much like tofu. By itself pretty much tasteless so it easily takes in the flavor of the rest of the ingredients. Meaning, pretty easy to spin the “analysis” optimistic or pessimistic based on one’s general view and tendencies.

    I tend to try to be realistic in most cases, and lean optimistic because it seems to keep me more sane to do so. Thus, when I read projections that tend to lean all negative (as in everything the Pirates did WELL last year are bound to fall apart and regress to a AAA level team), I will tend to just discount the whole thing. Same if I see entirely positive projections (like it is GREAT the Pirates didn’t sign a 1B because Lambo is just an opportunity to play away from being a perennial all star), I have to discount that.

    The best projection, or I should say most likely to really happen, is that there are definitely some areas the Pirates will do less well in 2014 (the back end of the bullpen the most obvious one), but there will no doubt be upsides as well. And surprises, both good and bad, that NO ONE will see coming.

    I guess the simplest way I see it is that (1) the Pirates, as currently constructed, ARE positioned to compete for a playoff spot in the NL (2) there are really no realistic moves they can or could have made that would have made them a SURE THING for a division title (3) they no doubt could and should make moves sometime this season to upgrade their pitching staff depth and 1B offensive production and experienced bench player for the stretch run. And the best thing is there IS TIME to do lots of things to make this team better.

    There are still some FA moves to be made… depending on where the chips fall, say Morales to Seattle or Texas, it could make a reasonable 1B move available to the Pirates (Smoak or Moreland)…

    The Pirates organization broke an embarrassing and unacceptable long string of losing last year. They have not yet made the moves they need to be as strong as they can be in 2014… but they also are very well-positioned with prospects for the next 5-7 years. I will be wholly disappointed if they don’t make moves for 2014, but realistically I can’t imagine there won’t be moves forthcoming, even if they are in June/July/August. But I am not ready to go back to the cheap analysis of Nutting is a miser, NH is an idiot, the Pirates are a laughingstock and not worthy of MLB. That isn’t even remotely true.

  55. Steelkings says:

    **** I think preseason projections, and predictions, are pretty much like tofu. By itself pretty much tasteless so it easily takes in the flavor of the rest of the ingredients. Meaning, pretty easy to spin the “analysis” optimistic or pessimistic based on one’s general view and tendencies.****

    I guess thats your way of saying I wasted my time. My apologies. I’m sorry you had to read an opinion on a blog.

    The Dodgers signed Maholm. I guess that ends that.

  56. Robert Graham says:

    The Pirates will exceed 2013 by about 4 games. The Pirates pitching , especially the bull pen will be one big reason we will be even stronger. I’m also thinking our offensive unit as a whole will see strong seasons by Walker, Mercer, Lambo and Marte. I think the Sanchez/??? platoon will be stronger also.

    The only statistic that counts….WINS.

    BEAT ‘EM BUCCOS

  57. The Gunner says:

    LA gave Maholm a 1 year deal for $1.5 million, that’s an amount even the BMTIB could live with.

    I have a feeling AJ will be signing with the Bucs this week.

  58. Robert Graham says:

    Jim S.,

    I can agree with what you said about Alvarez. He is what he is. However I can also see him possibly becoming more of a threat by perhaps putting in the 4 spot. I think he would see better pitches if the 1 2 3 batters improve more so than last year.

    I think you are wrong about Marte. I would not be surprised to see Marte improve tremendously over last year.

    BEAT ‘EM BUCCOS

  59. Jim S. says:

    I enjoyed reading it, Steel. We all know predictions are very inexact. That doesn’t mean I don’t like reading them and comparing my opinions vs those of others.

  60. Jim S. says:

    As options have been going away, and as the AJ saga has continued over the past few weeks, I was one of the people suggesting the Bucs take a flyer on Paul Maholm due to the vulnerability of Cincy and St L vs. LHP last year. If I had known all it was going to take was something more than $1.5 million and a ST invite, I definitely would have taken a shot if I were the Bucs. I don’t understand why a bunch of teams would not have kicked the tires on that one. I think he’s a more dependable #5 starter option than at least half the teams will have.

    Bronson Arroyo a guaranteed $23.5 million over 2 years + buyout? Good luck with that, AZ.

  61. Steelkings says:

    No Kidding Jim, On Arroyo. He may eat a lot of innings, but he really serves it up. I officially nick named him “Tee”

  62. Steelkings says:

    What really interested me about my opinion piece was the stuff on Barmes and Mercer. Both Barmes and Mercer were decent when the were not hitting in the eight hole. Yet both suck eggs when they did.

  63. Jim S. says:

    Brian Cashman: “We are hoping Tanaka can be a solid #3 starter.”

    Snicker.

  64. Jim S. says:

    I was reading about this signing yesterday. I think it was in Fangraphs. Anyway, the writer hated the deal for the money guaranteed and for the stadium he will be pitching in. He has gotten away w/o much of a fastball in GABP the last several years, but this guy thought he would struggle in AZ the next 2 seasons. I think there’s value to Bronson. I just don’t think there’s $23.5 million guaranteed value compared to $1.5 million for Maholm.

  65. Jim S. says:

    It is definitely different hitting in that #8 hole, Steel. You have to always put the team first and your personal stats 2nd. There are times when you won’t get anything to hit, and you have to suck it up and take 1st base. You definitely are not getting any decent fastballs very often.

    With Barmes, I just think his plate discipline is so bad he doesn’t always recognize when he might be getting pitched around in that 8 hole. I would like to see a chart on the pitches that guys swings at. I am helping coach my son’s 12U travel team, and we talk to the kids about hitting situations during every BP session. Things like expanding and contracting your strike zone depending on count. I get so frustrated watching Clint hit. On the few occasions he gets a 2-0 count, his pitch selection still doesn’t seem to change. He seems as likely to chase a ball 3 inches off the plate ahead in the count as he is behind in the count. Guys like Marte can still smoke the ball if it is off the plate but in a place they were expecting it. Guys like Barmes, who struggle to hit a center cut fastball, I would never want him swinging 2-0 unless the pitch was placed on a tee.

    But, he can pick it. As unorthodox as he looks in the field, the guy can play SS.

  66. cmat0829 says:

    LOL, my post wasn’t aimed at you or any specific projectioner… I was just offering my opinion that those that skew too negative or too positive based on the “metrics/statistics/probabilities” etc. are doing nothing more than what politicians do… SPIN the data based on their own biases.

    THis blog is great…and all opinions are most welcome…MY OPINION is that the Pirates in 2014 will regress in some areas, will PROGRESS in some areas, and are in position to compete for the playoffs…and further whether they will make a playoff run will not depend on what they HAVEN’T done through Feb 9th, but what they WILL OR WON’T due from Feb 9 – October.

    ………

    The DBacks are doing exactly what SOME, I repeat SOME, Pirates fans want their FO to do… spend money and make moves for the sake of doing so. I can really make NO reasonable statistical argument that Arroyo is better than any number of cheaper options the DBacks could’ve had… Maholm and Capuano, obviously, but even pitchers like Hammel. No doubt major league pitchers who eat innings have a certain value…but not that much. Kevin Towers, the AZ GM, is often lauded for his offseason moves, his aggressiveness…but I don’t see many rings on his fingers. Now, I am not lauding a “do nothing” offseason for the Pirates, in fact I’m disappointed, just pointing out that the opposite of ‘do nothing’ is ‘do anything’ and neither is a good approach.

    One last thought, the options for AJ if he truly wants to pitch in 2014 seem to be dwindling. Seems obvious that AJ has made his mind up that he will pitch in the NL (good choice, AJ)..and to pitch close to home….and the Phillies are not interested (at least publicly)…. is it then down to the Bucs and Nationals? I guess the Mets would be close enough, but can’t see AJ in NY nor can I see the Mets spend the $$…. and I’m sure Rizzo needs to save some money to bail out Scott Boras’ clients closer to Spring Training….

  67. Nate83 says:

    I would have taken Maholm’s for 1.5 million over Volquez for 5.0 million in a second. It takes two to dance and maybe Maholm’s has no interest in returning to Pittsburgh. Maholm’s is pretty consistent and I don’t think there is much danger in going into a season with him as your #5 starter. Maybe Volquez has slightly more upside but his chance of blowing up and being just horrible is much greater.

  68. NMR says:

    I think we need to be careful with how we talk about these contracts.

    The only way Paul Maholm gets paid $1.5m is if he’s completely worthless, at which point he won’t be a value at all. If he pitches as the Dodgers hope he will, he’ll make $6.5m which is fair for a back end starter.

    Volquez’s deal has more risk since the money is guaranteed, but one can argue that it also has more value potential given his higher ceiling and lower maximum salary.

  69. NMR says:

    Maholm also had elbow issues last September. We have to remember that we don’t get to see the medical reports on these guys. A heavily incentivized contract often points to injury risk.

    As for Arroyo, Vargas, etc, I don’t have anything good to say about those deals at all.

    Oh, and freaking Phil Hughes!

  70. NMR says:

    Just saw that my comment didn’t post.

    You’re right, Andrew. I was looking at a list of all NL Central PECOTA projections and got the Crads mixed up with the Pirates.

    At which point the Cardinals only getting projected to 84 wins is even more laughable than the Pirates prediction. There might not have been a deeper team in all of baseball than the Cardinals heading into last season.

  71. NMR says:

    Couldn’t agree more on Towers. Is there a GM in baseball that makes more trades without actually improving his team?

    And if Mike Rizzo gets both Doug Fister and AJ Burnett to fall into his lap this winter he’ll be the luckiest GM in baseball!

  72. Nate83 says:

    Thanks NMR. I didn’t see the details of the deal. The incentives definitely changes the way the deal should be looked at. I agree with everything you said after that.

  73. LeeFoo says:

    TRAVIS: You tweeted – “From Travis: “PECOTA projection for Andrew Lambo’s slash line: .231/.289/.406. Can understand why the Pirates have interest in Morales at “right price”

    Can you explain how they can come up with that off of his limited MLB experience?

  74. Dave says:

    With the 10-11 pitcher apparently not coming back how can the Bucs NOT win a couple of more games this coming season?

    The Bucs will have Cole from the start this coming season nd he will be stronger this year than last. I see Walker having an injury free season.

    The Bucs are back!!!

  75. Dave says:

    Where are you guys coming from?

    The guy was 10 1nd 11!!!

    It doesn’t matter how many Ks a guy has or how many innings a guy pitches!!!

    It only counts how many WINS a guy has.

    Goodbye AJ would be a blessing!!

  76. Dave says:

    Good post!!!

  77. Dave says:

    14 million bucks is much too much for a 10-11 pitcher!!!

  78. NMR says:

    @Foo

    By using minor league rates.

    “Triple slash line” stats – BA, OBP, SLG – are all simple equations. Batting average boils down to the amount of times one puts the ball in play resulting in a hit. High strikeout hitters put the ball in play a lower amount of time, thus they either must turn those balls in play into hits more often (high BABIP), or their average suffers. OBP simply add projected walk percentage to the batting average projected from strikeout rates and BABIP. SLG adds Isolated slugging percentage (total bases minus singles) to that projected batting average.

    Lambo strikes out a ton, so any projection is going to reflect that. Until he proves he can maintain high Major League BABIP, those are the kind of numbers one should expect.

  79. NMR says:

    No problem, buddy.

    This situation just strikes me as one where baseball bloggers think they’re inherently smarter than Major League GM’s while having no more information than what FanGraphs can provide.

    If you remember last winter, Shaun Marcum and John Lannan were both similarly called great bargains. Neither made it out of spring training.

  80. NMR says:

    And FWIW, I wanted both Marcum and Lannan. :)

  81. Steelkings says:

    “You are not going to go up there and try to pull and be successful,” Branson said.

    A key for the Pirates will be improving against off-speed pitches. The Pirates ranked last in baseball against change-ups and were 27th against curveballs in 2013, according to Fangraphs.com.

    “I do think part of our problem came from our desire to hit the fastball and jump on the fastball,” Hurdle said. “That three-run home run would jump in everyone’s mind.”

    Perhaps guys in baseball should just not talk. Branson say’s that little piece about hitting oppo, just after Snyder says what a wonderful job Branson has done with Pedro, who could not hit an off speed pitch the other way to save his life.

  82. Steelkings says:

    “You are not going to go up there and try to pull and be successful,” Branson said.

    That’s not true for everyone across the board. You need:

    1. A lead off guy who can run, draw walks and hit 250 or more
    2. You need a 2 hole guy who can control the bat.
    3, 4, 5. Need to look for pitches to drive because 2 and 3 run HR’s do win ball games.
    6, 7, 8. These are the guys who will make or break a ball club.

  83. LeeFoo says:

    SK….I felt the same way after reading that.

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