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Monday Mop-Up Duty: the risk and reward of Pitch-22


BRADENTON, Fla. – One strong impression for me early this spring after spending time both in the major league clubhouse and around the minor leaguers at Pirate City, is the Pirates have built up a small army of impressive young arms. I knew this reading and hearing about the arms, but seeing is believing. Everywhere you look, everywhere you turn, it seems there is a 6-foot-6 right-hander with a 95 mph fastball. And this is not an accident.

As I wrote about in Sunday’s Trib, under Neal Huntington the Pirates have employed a heavy-risk, considerable-reward strategy we like to call Pitch-22.

If you’re not familiar with the satirical novel Catch-22, the following is the key paragraph that gave Catch-22 its prominent place in the English lexicon:

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more (WWII bomber) missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.”

Every small-market faces its own Catch-22, or rather, a Pitch-22: small-market teams cannot afford pitching on the free-agent market and every team has to have pitching to win. But drafting and developing pitching comes with enormous risk. You’re in a tough spot if you try to develop your own pitching, and your in a tough spot if you focus draft assets elsewhere.

Consider the risks:

Three out of four top 100 pitching prospects fail to become at least average major league pitchers.

Consider the reward:

Oakland and Tampa’s path toward sustaining small-market success was through the home-grown arms of Barry Zito-Tim Hudson-Mark Mulder and David Price-Alex Cobb-James Shields-Matt Moore.

The Pirates went all in on pitching in the  2009-11 drafts.

Consider of their 30 top-10 selections from 2009-11, 22 were pitchers (and 17 were prep pitchers). They signed 18 of those arms to bonuses totaling $25.6 million. The Pirates paid their top six major league starting pitchers last season $26.5 million.

No team that I’m aware of has ever had a draft like 2010 when nine of the first 10 selections were pitchers.

No organization has made such a three-year commit to amateur pitching.

A prudent strategy? We’re about to find as Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham and Tyler Glansow, among others, are moving closer to the big leagues and what the Pirates hope is health and productivity.


9. Speaking of Taillon, he was assigned to major league camp today. It was going to happen eventually but it might have occurred this early because he is dealing with a blister. See you in June, Jameson, whether it be to replace an injured pitcher or an ineffective one (Edinson Volquez, anyone?)

8. Huntington told me last season he believes the Pirates can better the industry-wide standard for pitching attrition. How? He didn’t give details but the Pirates closely monitor work loads and have ramped up strength and conditioning efforts. There is also some data-based research done by Dan Fox and his crew.

Interesting quote from Kingham:

“Every two weeks we get a weight check,” Kingham said. “We track our sleep, our water intake, our hydration and everything. Every day you have to do it. We have a point system, and you try to get as many points as you can. We are pretty heavy on health in this organization.”

7.  As for the major league staff, Francisco Liriano is looking to put consecutive quality seasons back-to-back for the first time in his career. Liriano told me he has not many alterations, and is simply trying to repeat his mechanics that worked so well last year. This makes sense, of course. He did say he is going to try and become less off-speed dependent. He threw his slider on a whopping 36.4 percent of his pitches. That might not be good for elbow health as he approaches free agency. Liriano indicated he will be more fastball, more groundball focused in 2014.

Liriano’s fastball was between 90-93 mph on Saturday. It touched 94 mph twice, according to an NL scout, who noted Liriano usually builds his velocity slowly. His fastball averaged 93 mph last season.

6. Volquez was lit up by a strong Baltimore lineup on Sunday. He  had a swing-and-miss curve but his fastball command wasn’t great and he fell behind most hitters. His velocity was 91-94 mph. His fastball velocity has averaged 93.4 mph for his career but fell to 92.5 mph last season. It’s something to watch.

5. The Gerrit Cole curveball has appeared to reach its next step in maturity. If it’s as good this season as it was on the backfields last week, Cole might contend for a Cy Young top 5 finish in 2014. That’s the upside.

4. Gregory Polanco actually looked like a player who had not played above Double-A on Saturday vs. Tampa. He struck out twice, expanding his strike zone against Moore with out-of-zone swings. Overall, Polanco has controlled the strike zone well.

3.  It’s early (disclaimer on every statement this spring), but Andrew Lambo is not inspiring confidence. 

2. There’s a log jam of out-of-option relievers in camp. I thought the Pirates would make a deal from this surplus. Maybe they still will. I’d be surprised if Stolmy Pimentel doesn’t make the team. He’s touched 97 this spring.

1. In know it’s early, but I think Alvarez’s approach looks better. He entered Sunday with 4 Ks in 21 PAs. He doubled off lefty Mark Buehrle last week and he nearly took another lefty, Matt Moore, out of the park on Saturday. I think there’s more there for Alvarez. I say he has Chris Davis upside. Yeah, it’s unlikely he reaches it … but that’s the ceiling. Davis has incredibly effortless power to the opposite field. So does Alvarez. Alvarez should focus on left-center, imo.


Travis Snider‘s batting average. Don’t give up on Snider just yet. He was never healthy last year and he still has patience and power.


Liriano on his quest for consistency: “(This season) I want to throw more of my fastball, more of my two-seamer, so I can go deeper into the game,” Liriano said. “Hopefully I can get more ground balls than last year.

“I’m trying to be more consistent and stay healthy, and we’ll see what happens. I’ve been hurt a couple times, and that’s been a part of my ups and downs.”


Greg Smith on Pitch-22: “You look at the Stephen Strasburgs of the world, he was a college guy. We started thinking, ‘How do you get those guys before they become Strasburg?’  How does (Justin) Verlander become Verlander before he becomes draft eligible and goes No. 2 in the country?’ ”


*If you’re in Bradenton of if you plan on making the trip in the future, check out the Star Fish on 123rd west. Great seafood and a great location on the water. Blackened Mahi was just fine. (Find is courtesy Tim Williams).

*Also, I think I like Coldplay’s new Radiohead-like sound.

Yeah, I listen to Coldplay. So what? So does Joe Madden.

– TS



  1. MJS says:

    Have a couple of questions for you.

    Based on Volquez spring would the Pirates outright release him in June and eat the money or continue to trot him out there if results are bad with better options available?

    Of the 8 relievers out of options who is the most likely to be pawned for an upgrade offensively (everyone talkes Morris but he does have the most years of control left)?

    And last if they stay status quo at first base and based on the spring results is Chris McGuiness going to be given a shot if Lambo struggles continue in season and how long of a leash does Lambo have?

  2. JohninOshkosh says:

    Sooner or later, it all comes down to Radiohead.

  3. cmat0829 says:

    The questions were for Travis, but I’ll bite:

    Volquez: I think this FO has demonstrated that they will bite the bullet if need be. If Volquez pitches like Jonathan Sanchez I don’t think he even lasts past the first part of May… they won’t release him, more likely a disabled list, extended time in minor league rehab to try to work through the issues. But $5M is a lot different than $10M isn’t it. Would be a much more interesting dilemma had the Bucs signed either Josh Johnson at $8M per OR re-signed AJB at $12M and either of those pitchers struggled mightily…

    On the bullpen surplus, to me there are really three distinct steps to this process, in this order. ONE, you need to keep the best pitchers for 2014 performance, the bullpen is too important to this team to do otherwise. TWO, IF the competition is that close where you could go either way, you can look to see what value the pitchers have in the trade market (but to be clear, let’s not expect too much, these are middle relief type pitchers we are talking about…they are talented but let’s be reasonable)… and THREE, your best option may indeed be seeing if the surplus relievers can make it through waivers to go to AAA. There are bullpen starved teams out there, but they may not be comfortable going with someone they don’t know, especially that late in the spring.

    On 1B, I don’t see why any of the LH options, including Ishikawa, McGuinness and Lambo, don’t have an equal shot at claiming the job in spring training. I think the Bucs are intrigued by Lambo’s bat, but he has the play defense too, and defense is a premium for this organization. None of the options are awe-inspiring, so bringing in someone via trade remains the top option, IMHO.

    By the way, any chance Travis Snider can play some 1B?

  4. Travis Sawchik says:

    I’d say Volquez would be a candidate to move to the pen if he struggles … but it’s already pretty crowded there. The Pirates could eat his salary. But let’s not make too much of his spring. He might struggle again as he has every year since 2009 — but he is working on mechanical changes and has two quality off-speed pitches. There really is something to work with there. It’s a better lottery ticket than J. Sanchez, but not quite as good as Liriano, imo.

    As for the pen. I think Morris is a player the Pirates would rather part with than their two lefties or Pimentel. I wonder Grilli hadn’t been injured last season if the FO would have tried to sell high on another closer.

  5. Travis Sawchik says:

    Cmat, I’ve always thought Snider made sense as a 1b fit for this club. If you really think Polanco is ready in June .. then I thought it might be wise to move Snider to first base

  6. NMR says:

    “He might struggle again as he has every year since 2009…”

    This gets written over and over and I can’t tell if it is due to very high standards or lack of knowledge.

    Edinson Volquez is a year removed from 182 IP at a 4.14 ERA. That is not struggling, especially for a back end starter.

  7. NMR says:

    Thom Yorke just wept after reading that Coldplay comp.

  8. Andrew says:

    Excellent story on the Pirates drafting. The process of drafting projectable high school pitchers certainty seems like a well-thought out process, but sports are results based so hopefully this process yields dividends.

    On Lambo not inspiring confidence, has not the constant trade discussion surrounding the Pirates and a first baseman, some of it statements from the front office, shown the concern the organization has about Lambo’s ability?

    How much trade value do Morris, Mazzaro, Gomez, Pimentel, as individuals actually have?

  9. Nate83 says:

    Which Thom Yorke? The genius that was involved with Pablo Honey and OK Computer or the one who got to caught up in trying to out due himself.

  10. Nate83 says:

    I have to imagine Pimentel has the most but don’t see them trading him. If Volquez struggles before Taillon is ready or able to come up I think him and Pimentel just switch roles. Gomez I would think has the second most because of him still having a chance to be a starter. I’m still not sure Wilson isn’t the guy that gets moved because he has the best value and could get a player that helps immediately. Watson serves almost the same role and is more consistent will his command.

  11. cmat0829 says:

    Do we have any “comparables” to determine what value relief pitchers actually have in terms of trade value, not at the deadline? To me, expecting any players that can ‘help immediately’ is setting the bar too high, including with Wilson, though he is certainly very talented.

    The only move the Bucs had (and it was quashed by Grilli’s injury) was to deal Jason at his ‘sell high’ peak but that is a risky move for a team very dependent on its pen.

    It really looks to me like Morris is the odd man out….. pretty clear Hurdle trusts Mazarro more than Morris… Gomez and Pimentel, to me, are locks as they have the flexibility to eat up innings and spot start if need be… and Gomez has been outstanding, all the way back to April of last year.

    What value does Morris have in the trade market? little to none. Best bet is to try to get him through waivers and to Indy.

  12. NMR says:

    Oh no you didn’t!

  13. Nate83 says:

    I don’t think any of these guys make it through waivers. I think there are many teams out there that could make use of any of the guys that the Pirates may need to release out of their bullpen. I do believe Wilson along with something else could get someone like Carp/Smoak/Davis if any of those guys are not really going to have a big role on their current teams. Wilson has the upside of being a starter and also 4 years of control to the team that gets him. They got 4 guys for Hanrahan during the off season and he wasn’t cheap for the team getting him.

  14. Nate83 says:

    Oh I did!!! I’m not a big fan of much of anything they have done since OK Computer. Pablo Honey is still probably in my top 10 albums. I haven’t even bothered listening to anything they released in the last 10 years. Critical acclaim as being innovative is the worse things that can happen to a band in my opinion. They seem to keep trying to reinvent the wheel with every release instead of just doing what they do well.

  15. JohninOshkosh says:

    “OK Computer” is one of the great musical achievements of our time. Then, Yorke read the critics and their effusive praise, plus throw into the mix that he is a bit whacko, like many innovative people, and you have a band that has never truly fulfilled its promise.

    Coldplay has always been a nice band that hipsters will admit to liking, despite their mass appeal. I see no reason why they would want to become a poppier version of Radiohead.

  16. NMR says:


    I actually see the fact that the Pirates have not landed a first baseman a sign of confidence in Lambo and moreso, Gaby Sanchez. It’s not like every single was of these potential bats was unattainable.

    As for the reliever trade values, I cannot see any of these guys netting a starting quality bat. Gotta go up to at least Justin Wilson for that.

  17. cmat0829 says:

    Hanrahan was a proven closer… we cannot compare the projected return for Morris or Mazarro, who are in the running for odd men out, or even Wilson… I think you say it best that Wilson AND something else might get us Carp IF any of those guys won’t have a big role on their teams.

    All of that said, I keep Wilson, for the very reason that he has value to other teams, he has value to the Bucs… if we lose Morris than c’est la vie.

  18. NMR says:

    Interested to hear what makes you, personally, think Hurdle favors Mazarro over Morris. I came away with the opposite perception, considering Hurdle put Morris in the 8th inning role several times last year and never Mazarro (that I can remember, mind you).

  19. Nate83 says:

    Agree. I wouldn’t call myself a huge Coldplay fan but do like Parachute and A Rush of Blood. I’m not sure it’s a good idea for them to change whatever formula was working. Grammy’s and Gwyneth Paltrow is a pretty good starting point for anybody’s life and you shouldn’t mess with that.

  20. Nate83 says:

    It’s just personal opinion but I see Wilson as having the highest ceiling but also the lowest floor. The Pirates are lucky enough to have probably 2 of the 10 left handed set up men in the game. Wilson is valuable but he is much more valuable to another team lacking that option then to the Pirates who already have a second option along with Melancon. You have to give something up to get something. Wilson seems like a surplus that has value. Morris, Mazzaro, Gomez are good players but have very little value trade wise.

  21. NMR says:

    I’ll be honest, guys. I don’t “get” Radiohead. I’ve tried. And it just doesn’t click. I rarely tell people who are musically inclined, as it reflects poorly on me. Especially considering my affinity for the Phish.

    That being said, I know enough about their deal to find the thought of Thom Yorke losing his mind at the mention of a mere mortal band like Coldplay hilarious.

  22. Andrew says:

    On Lambo, that is certainly another way to interpret and probably a more sensible way. I am usually not big on reading into front office statements but it seems there has been a large volume of trade talk, but they could be my flawed perception.

    I have a hard time seeing any real trade value, maybe move one of them for some AAA depth somewhere, these are middle relievers, so they worst options of a volatile player type. Pimental could be another Wilson, lower MiLB walk and strikeout rates but same gap between, so I think he has more value but it’s a low starting point.

  23. Ghost says:

    I’ve been out of the loop. How has Lambo been below the grade?

    Coldplay ripped of Joe Satriani and then mocked the guy to boot.

  24. Travis Sawchik says:

    This was loose comp. Yes. But there was no typical Coldplay crescendo here combined with the spacey twist. I don’t know what this means. But it’s a new trick for and old dog

  25. Andrew says:

    I think what separates Hanrahan was he got strike outs and at a high rate, as good as Wilson and Watson where in 2013 their k/9 were slightly below average for relievers and they road .220 BABIPs. But then Jim Johnson, a low K reliever with homerun issues, was seen as a salary dump and the Orioles got Jemile Weeks who once produced a 1.5 WAR two season ago. So I have no idea.

  26. Ghost says:

    Andrew — your avatar…
    How could you?

  27. Travis Sawchik says:

    @Andrew. Thanks, man. I don’t that group of RPs could bring much of anything back in return. I think there is some intrigue among scouts regarding Pimentel

  28. Steelkings says:

    Its hard having a guy at first that is under 6 foot tall.

  29. NMR says:

    He’s like 2-20, so that probably has something to do with it. He’s sounded more than adequate in the field, for what its worth. Hasn’t missed a pick or commited an error yet.

  30. Steelkings says:

    Yeah but that was his 2nd best year of the 9 years he has been in the league. He had one very good year and a bunch at 4.4+ ERA. He has a career average of a 4.75 ERA

    The point being, NMR, the Pirates last year didn’t have a Pitcher that threw over 50 innings with an ERA over 3.6. So 4.14 is not good enough to be a back end starter here in Pittsburgh.

  31. Steelkings says:

    Lambo’s stats are meaningless. Last Spring Lambo hit .429. Still Didn’t play much. Russell Martin hit .149 last spring. (6 for 40) He played nearly everyday.

    Relax…..Its spring time

  32. NMR says:

    Come again with that last part?

  33. NMR says:

    He’s also only struck out three times, which is nice.

  34. Ghost says:

    Thanks. That he’s playing sound D at a new position and not striking out sounds pretty encouraging.

  35. Steelkings says:

    Simple…in 2010..sure……2014….No chance

  36. The Anna Maria Oyster Bar all-u-can-eat fish (afternoons & Mondays) is usually very good, but the broccoli and onion strings were cold tonight in Ellenton.

    I spoke with someone who talked with Taillon. He told me Taillon’s blister is minor and shouldn’t present a problem. Polanco looked better Sunday, breaking up the Red Sox “no-hitter” with yet another infield hit.

    Agree on the Snider props, he’s worth another look. He is short for first base, but so was Jeff Bagwell, as we all know.

  37. DJ says:

    Appreciate the Radiohead reference. I think Gwyneth even admitted it was her favorite group.

    A very smart woman.

  38. NMR says:

    I still have no idea what you’re saying.

  39. Jim S. says:

    If Volquez doesn’t cut it as a starter, I believe the Bucs would give him some time to prove he can contribute as a reliever before releasing him. They like the arm, and feel the ability is there. Because of that, I believe he gets multiple chances.

  40. Jim S. says:

    In a park where it is not all that difficult, even for a back end starter, to put up decent stats, NMR. His WHIP was still 1.45 in 2012. He led the league in walks.

    I do get your point that he should be compared to #5 starters, and it isn’t fair to compare him to AJ. But, I think that is what people are seeing him as – AJ’s replacement – because they lost a starter and added a starter.

  41. Jim S. says:

    Very little value for any of them, in my opinion, Andrew. 6th/7th inning RH relievers are a dime a dozen. I’m not saying they are not good pitchers. I just don’t see them bringing anything of value in return. I do think some teams would love to get their hands on Pimentel, but they would not pay much for him.

    Mazzaro scares me this year. His history is very spotty, even though he was ok last year. Doesn’t strike out many guys and generally gives up more hits than innings. I was amazed they got what they got from him last year, and I believe he will go back to previous norms this year.

  42. Jim S. says:

    So, the BABIP gods will come to his rescue soon! We have that to look forward to.

    Just kidding. It is encouraging if he can continue to put bat to ball. I really want him to succeed. But, I think he has quite a bit of pressure on him, and he has shown in the past that it takes awhile for things to sink in for him.

  43. Jim S. says:

    I was of the same opinion, NMR. Morris struggled last year, and it seemed as though CH trusted him more than the Vin Man. Maybe it was because more was expected of Morris.

  44. Jim S. says:

    It is not as easy as just switching roles, though, Nate. They have to find a way to keep innings built up for either Pimentel or Gomez if they think one of them replaces Volquez for a bunch of starts. If you pitch 1 inning at a time, or even 2 on occasion, for a few months, it is not so easy for most guys to throw 6 again. Gomez did a great job of that several times early last season. He pulled it off, as I recall, because he was throwing low pitch counts to polish off 5 innings. I believe CH has said that Gomez loses effectiveness at 65 or 70 pitches, even when he’s built up. We don’t know how Pimentel would respond to being a reliever for a month or more, then asked to become a starter all of a sudden.

  45. NMR says:

    Are you that comfortable comparing his performance as a reliever last year to his perforemance as a starter the rest of his career?

    Apples and oranges, no?

  46. Jim S. says:

    Yeah, some guys can get it done in shorter stints, for sure. Most relievers, even the good ones, are failed starters.

    But, he was mostly a reliever in 2012, and still got rocked pretty good. One thing he did last year was keep the walks and HR allowed down. That was good. But, without swing and miss stuff, I have no trust in this guy. Even though he outpitched Morris last year, I would rather have Morris (and Pimentel, and Gomez). I hope Vin has turned a corner, but I am unconvinced right now.

    And, yes, I know Morris and Gomez are not really high strikeout guys, either. They are all expendable to me. I really want to see Thornton get a shot. I’d like to see what’s there.

  47. NMR says:

    What is it about Morris that you like over Mazzaro?

  48. Jim S. says:

    To be clear, I’m not a huge Morris fan, either. I think he showed some promise in the minors, but he was disappointing in Pgh last year. Vin has been around in the majors for 4 or 5 years now, and last year was the first year he was any good. I would love to believe this is the new him, at 27-28. But, I just don’t believe it yet. He had some ugly years. Now, if it was just because he was a miscast starter then he might be ok. I want to see the strikeouts rise above 6/9 before I think he will be a solid reliever.

  49. Yep. Sanchez was like a $1 scratch off ticket. Liriano was a $5 scratch off. Volquez is more like $2 scratch off lottery ticket. Here is the thing with Liriano, and even Burnett. That extra time in extended Spring Training nursing non-thowing arm injuries really afforded them an opportunity to fix any mechanical issues they had. Volquez doesn’t have that extra time.

  50. NMR says:

    Nice. I only ask because 21 and I had a similar conversation a few weeks back and he talked me into Morris as the odd man out. Just figured I’d get your two pennies on the subject. Thanks!

  51. I know that Spring Training stats don’t mean much. However, some things today caught my eye and made me pause . . . .

    a/ Billy Hamilton is hitting .316 and the Reds are working with him overtime on bunting. If that kid can get on base at all, it will hurt the Pirates tremendously. He turns bunts and walks into triples. And his defense already improves the Reds over Choo when the Reds put gloves on

    b/ Nick Castellanos is hitting .385 for the Tigers. Because he is an above average fielder at 3B, he will make the Tigers better at two infield positions. Prince who?

    c/ Andrew Lambo is hitting .111. Spring stats don’t matter, but rolling over your wrists and grounding to 2nd 8 outta 10 times certainly doesn’t give me confidence. But, hey . . . . a 2-bouncer to 2nd is better than a K, right?!

  52. Andrew says:

    Castenallos is a top 30 prospect and the Tigers do not need much to beat Fielder’s production from last year, some average defense at the corners would be a huge improvement. This is why Texas still needs Moreland. With Smoak apparently penciled in at first, and Davis hurt get used to Lambo.

    And stuff like this:
    Fix: Hamilton last spring: 5-for-26, 9 Ks, 2 BBs Hamilton this spring: 6-for-19, 2 Ks, 5 BBs I know it’s ealry, but he’s been good.

    Means I might give up baseball until the end of the month.

  53. Jim S. says:

    More like “Get used to Gaby” I think, if Lambo doesn’t hit. I don’t think the leash will be very long for him. I think Gaby will get a lot of ABs vs. righty hitters if Lambo falters. I hope the last 2 years were a mirage for Gaby, if that happens.

  54. Andrew says:

    Get used to Gaby is probably more correct.

  55. NMR says:

    Although, reports have Grady Sizemore making the Sox 25-man. Do they have a roster spot for Carp if that happens?

  56. NMR says:

    Figure a 12-man staff, five infielders, two catchers and one DH, which leaves five outfield spots.

    Gomes-Nava platoon in LF, Jackie Bradley backed up by Sizemore in CF, and Victorino in RF, correct?

    Looks like Carp is the odd man out.

  57. Andrew says:

    Yeah but what his spring training triple slash line?

    A quick check of the Fangraphs depth charts has Carp has there 12th most valuable hitter, but there is no utility infielder listed ahead of him so I guess he would be the odd man out.

  58. Remember Gaby had a hot spring last season, and Clint Hurdle started the season with Gaby playing against both arms while Garrett Jones manned right field for the first 10-12 games.

    Gaby Sanchez’ below .100 batting average soon had Garrett Jones back at 1st Base against righthanders, leaving Jose Tabata and Travis Snider to excel in right field.

  59. “If it’s as good this season as it was on the backfields last week, Cole might contend for a Cy Young top 5 finish in 2014.”

    Travis, I enjoy your writing and your homework very much. I especially enjoy your enthusiasm for baseball.

    It’s just your outlandish “fan-like” statements like the one above about Cole that exercise me.
    This one can be filed next to: your late May comment “come see Brewers Center Fielder Carlos Gomez, a contender for league MVP,” and your diatribe about Travis Snider being a better Leadoff hitter than Starling Marte. A more legitimate question would always be: can Travis Snider hit even 8th?

    Do you honestly think Gerrit Cole is a better pitcher, or even prospect, than Clayton Kershaw, who did not finish in the Top 5 for Cy Young until his 4th season? There are quite a few good pitchers who have already excelled in the National League. Gerrit Cole is still a pup, with 19 big league starts. He only excelled for 4 weeks.

    Your perspective is normally so good. These over-the-top projections dilute your excellent homework.

  60. NMR says:

    Get over yourself, Groat.

    Travis could talk circles around you with his baseball knowledge, and it is downright insulting to question his professionalism.

  61. NMR says:

    I don’t know what his triple slash line is, but what I’m really waiting for is first-hand account from some old guy who has never worked a day in his life in the game of baseball.

  62. Steelkings says:

    Why is that? In fact, typically beat wriers want people to question them in order to sell newspapers. The more controversy you stir up, the better.

  63. Steelkings says:

    Whats wrong with a writer being a fan? How can you not be? If you are around the team everyday, the players and coaches almost become co-workers. It almost makes you part of the team. Gushing a little over a player would be easy. I would imagine the part that would be hard is to need to be critical of a player.

  64. National Mart of Records,

    I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that Travis was your son and you felt the need to be so protective.

    I was under the impression that Travis was a professional and opened this blog for comments both in agreement and disagreement. Apparently you as Blog Parent did not notice the positive comments I also extended to your Son.

    If you want, I could meet you during lunch out behind the school where the Big Boys smoke and we could rumble.

  65. Jim S. says:

    I’m reading from the bottom up this morning. So, this is the first post I’ve read on here since yesterday. You have me rolling, Groat. I can’t wait to scan up and find out what led to that.

  66. Jim S. says:

    I’m all for Carp being the odd man out in Boston.

  67. Nate83 says:

    Groat you ripped on him all last year for suggestion that Polanco could come up in June of this year. All indications are that this will happen.

    You don’t think Harvey would have finished in the top 5 last year. I’m not sure where Jose Fernandez finished but with a full season I’m sure he would have made top 5. It’s not unreasonable to say he might content for a top 5. The guy was one of the top 5 pitchers in the NL during his last 10 starts last year. It’s not likely but it’s not out of the question.

  68. NMR says:

    There’s a difference between disagreeing with someone and being a condescending a**.

    Grow up.

  69. Jim S. says:

    To me, Cole clearly has top of the league potential as a starter. And, once he got going last year, he quickly progressed toward realizing his potential. I expect him to continue to progress this year. Is he a Top 5 Cy Young candidate this year? I don’t think any of us know, as all young power pitcher progress differently. But, it’s definitely possible. I didn’t see Travis suggesting anything more than that.

    I also don’t see Groat’s push back as anything more than healthy debate. That’s what we do here.

  70. Nate83 says:

    I actually went back and checked and both Harvey and Fernandez finished in the top 5 last year in their first full years in the league and neither of them even finished the year so it’s definitely not unrealistic. A number of people consider Cole the Ace of the staff already. If you consider the Pirates a top 5 pitching team then why wouldn’t he be in contention for top 5 cy young. For what it is worth Gomez finished with a higher WAR then Cutch and was 9th in MVP voting. He actually had the highest WAR in the NL. I’m sure if his team was in any way competitive he would have been top 4.

    I lean towards agreeing with NMR on this one. It is more then a healthy debate. Many of us have overstepped the line sometimes and become condescending so it happens but it is with another blogger. It’s not a healthy debate when you are not only disagreeing with the comment but telling someone how to do their job.

  71. Andrew says:

    Interesting discussion here, is this what happens when there is an off day in spring training.

  72. Jim S. says:

    Fair enough. I can’t speak to anyone else’s intent other than to offer my take.

  73. National Mart of Records,

    “Grow up.” So now you’re my wife as well as being Travis’ Dad. You get around! One big happy family.

    It’s my lunch period and I’m out here where the Big Boys smoke. Where are you?

  74. Wide Receiver Nate,

    Polanco has 68 games played at AA (.263 batting average) and 9 ABs at AAA. NINE!

    It seems to me “all these indications” that Polanco will be up in June are either media bred or blog led. You have not heard either Clint Hurdle or any member of BMTIB say——even imply——that Polanco will be up in June.

    Wait . . . before you congratulate or criticize anyone. That’s what I consistently repeated to Travis. Give Polanco time to mature. Starling Marte won a batting title in AA before his advancement.

    If Polanco FORCES his way up to the big club———Great! Just don’t anoint him.

  75. If anyone considers Gerrit Cole the Ace of the Pirate staff, they don’t know what an Ace is.

    Just being the #1 pitcher in the rotation does not make a pitcher an Ace.

  76. JohninOshkosh says:

    I know this is Pirates unrelated, but I watched some of the Mets/Cardinals game yesterday.

    First, the Mets have a horrible line up. That team is going to strike out in massive numbers and commit a ton of errors.

    Secondly, I wasn’t that impressed with the Cardinals line up. I’m still scratching my head that they are coming off a pennant winning season. I just think a lot of things have to fall into place for them to take the division. Caveat, I perennially underestimate the Cardinals. Caveat 2: I also understand that things have to fall into place for almost every team.

    Less concerned about the Pirates chances. They can hang with anyone in that division.

  77. I find it quite interesting that so many here go out of their way to insist on discounting Spring Training hits, averages, runs given up, yet when Travis says that “backfield curveballs” in Spring Training might qualify Gerrit Cole for Top 5 Cy Young status, no one even bats an eye or questions it.

    I do. That’s all.

  78. Nate83 says:

    That’s the problem Groat nobody not me not Travis has anointed him. Anybody saying it is possible last year doesn’t mean they think it is likely. Going into this year it is very likely. I’ve heard a number of prospect analyst that project his major league debut to be in May or June of this year. You called it crazy for Travis to say that last year even though he never said it would happen but just mentioned it was possible. I never had an issue with you disagreeing with him but you worded it as he isn’t doing his job correctly by saying things like that and you have done the same with this Cole comment.

    You will never hear any GM mention when they plan on bringing a prospect up. There is nothing to gain from it except egg on the face if he doesn’t come up at that time.

  79. NMR says:

    And that directly shows your ignorance.

    Go ask any of the Pirate coaches what they care more about in Spring. Stats, or stuff?

  80. Travis Sawchik says:

    Gerrit Cole was a borderline Top 5 NL starter in Sept/Oct … His offspeed stuff continues to improve … So why wouldn’t his upside to be that of a top 5 starter in NL? This is former No. 1 overall pick we’re talking about … that’s what his potential should be. I’m not sure what the chances of him reaching it are, but that’s the ceiling. Special arm, special pedigree, gaining some polish.

  81. Jim S. says:

    I don’t think Travis said “backfield curveballs” in Spring Training might qualify him for Top 5 consideration in the NL, Groat. What he did say, in effect, was that Cole was pitching at a borderline Top 5 status at the end of last season. I find it hard to argue with that. The kid was pretty dominating at the end of the season in my mind. He also said that Cole is working on improving his off-speed stuff and that, in effect, if he improves in that area this year, he could be in the Cy Young running in the NL. I would ask what is outlandish or “fan-like” about those statements?

    Travis didn’t make any guarantees. You are right that it might never happen for Cole. Until he actually does ascend to that level, there is always a good chance he will never get there. But, I don’t think it is crazy to speculate that he could get there quickly with more refinement. If you lined up all the 24 and under pitchers in MLB, and told all the GMs to start choosing them one by one, I don’t think it would take long for Cole to be chosen.

  82. Jim S. says:

    I watched a couple of innings yesterday as well, Osh, and made a few comments on DK’s blog. We know the Cardinals have a bunch of professional hitters, and we know they have some great arms all the way through the rotation. And, of course, they have baseball royalty in Yadi Molina. The Cards announcer on yesterday’s broadcast reminded us that Yadi “makes everyone on the team a better defender just by his presence.” He must have some presence is all I can say.

    I made the observation that they might just have a few issues in the field to offset some of their great hitting and pitching. To me, Holliday is close to as big a butcher in LF as you will find in MLB right now. Craig is better in right, but he is not exactly what I would call “fleet.” Slow OF, in my mind, cost teams runs. If Borjous gets over his leg ailments, we know he can chase down balls better than John Jay or just about any CF. But, can he cover enough ground to make up for the slow-footedness of the RF and LF? And, can he hit consistently?

    In the infield, I saw Peralta mishandle a pretty easy chopper over the mound. That really doesn’t tell us much about him, since it was just one play. But, I have my doubts as to how well he can field the postion. I think his hitting will make him a worthwhile player, though. Carpenter has moved over to 3rd. He is not, as far as I can tell, considered anything more than average defensively. I don’t think Matt “Patch” Adams is reminding anyone of Keith Hernandez defensively. Colton Wong is a rookie whose bat I really like long terms, but I don’t know how to predict his defense just yet.

    I still see the Cards hitting enough and pitching enough to win 90+ games, possibly 95, and winning the division. But, I don’t think they are quite the perfect team I keep hearing about. As soon as I hear the term “Cardinals Way” from a media type (and I hear it a lot from the national pundits), I know there will be no objectivity coming forward about the Cardinals from that guy.

    I still seem them as the class of the division, though. And, possibly the class of the NL. I hope they are reading all the press clippings about how they do everything better and smarter than all the other teams. Maybe that will go to their heads.

  83. Jim S. says:

    You two need to shake … over a ceremonial Lucky Strike behind the school. :-)

  84. Steelkings says:

    i think those around here are bred to be eternal optimists. We NEED Cole to excel. Just like we need McCutchen to back up his accomplishments from last year. We need to believe that Ray Searage is the best and only great pitching coach around. Dude 20 years will do that to ya.

  85. Direct quote from Travis: “The Gerrit Cole curveball has appeared to reach its next step in maturity. If it’s as good this season as it was on the backfields last week, Cole might contend for a Cy Young top 5 finish in 2014.”

  86. Steelkings says:

    Its like this Mr. Grote,

    First we had the Frank Liriano love fest. Then we had the Uncle Charlie love fest. Dude, Its just Coles turn in the rotation?

  87. Jim S. says:

    My apologies, Groat. I did not catch the quote you referenced above.

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