FORT MYERS, Fla. – One issue facing the Pirates entering 2014 is a number of NL contenders have become stronger. The Braves have reached an agreement with Ervin Santana. The Nationals added Doug Fister and are due for an overall bounceback, I think. The Cardinals addressed their black hole at short and overall defense. The Giants added Tim Hudson, etc., etc. The Pirates have done relatively little as is well documented.
But there is one offseason happening that apparently did help the Pirate: the schedule makers.
The Pirates enjoy an easier schedule than 60 percent of the other National League teams, according to Fangraphs’ SOS projection. Yes, even with the Pirates playing the AL East in inter-league this year, their schedule is easier than all but six other NL teams.
Hey, every win counts with where the Pirates are projected to be on the win curve.
The bad news is the NL clubs with easier projected schedules include the Cardinals, Braves and Dodgers. I suspect all three win their division.
Here’s another thing about the 2014 schedule and why the Pirates might want to consider bolstering their roster – particularly at 1b – as quick as possible: The Pirates’ first 25 games are against NL Central opponents. Get off to a slow start and there’s already digging to do come May. Sixteeen of those games are against the Reds and Cardinals.
SNIDER THE GUY IN RIGHT?
Travis Snider gets another start in right field today and it’s seeming more and more like he’s the favorite to open the season in right field. I still think Snider is better than what he’s shown to date in large part because he dealt with a toe injury last season that hindered his balance and weight transfer. He has some patience and power and opened last season as the starting field field.
Over 510 minor league games, Snider posted a .383 OBP – and a .412 OBP in 190 career games at Triple-A. I think he can be better than his MLB OBP of .304 to date. I suspect Snider opens the year receiving the lion’s share of at bats in right with Jose Tabata spelling him against lefties. And, hey, the Pirates did offer him arbitration.
I sense Snider has been pretty focused this spring. He knows Gregory Polanco is on his way.
(Even though Snider would be short and unconventional for first base, I wonder if he floated the idea of trying to play there this offseason? I guess I’ll have to ask.)
SPEAKING OF 1B …
I wonder if there could be some movement in the trade market as clubs begin trimming rosters. We know about the Pirates’ log jam of middle relievers, might Tabata have some value?