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Monday Mop-Up Duty: A hiccup or a warning sign?

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SOUTH HILLS –  Remember when Miller Park was a house of horrors for the Pirates? (It wasn’t that long ago). Well,  it is again as the Pirates  head to Cincinnati today fresh off of being swept by the upstart Brewers, this after the Pirates won their first three series of the season.

I wouldn’t make too much of the series. The Brewers are hot, the Pirates weren’t at the top of their game, and it’s April 14th. But that got me to thinking: what can we take from early April and small samples? Should we then not be making too much of Pedro Alvarez’s new found plate discipline and opposite-field focus?  Are the Brewers really a force? What do we take from April? What do we dismiss?

There’s no doubting reactions to early-season performances are exaggerated because it’s the first meaningful baseball we’ve witnessed since October. There’s no doubting that it’s foolish to rush to judgments after 12 games. (Fantasy players this is a great time to buy low on Chris Davis, Edwin Encarnacion, and Prince Fielder).

Still, that doesn’t mean there is no meaning to what happens early in the season. What I try to draw from early-season happenings is not results, necessarily, but rather changes in process. I think the subjective scouting eye can be more important than data-driven analysis at this time of year because of the nature of small samples.

For example, is there a meaningful change in approach with a player or a team that could lead to big things? Does a pitcher have a new pitch a new delivery (Francisco Liriano last year) that is making an impact? I think that is worth exploring. I think such developments might be meaningful this time of year. That’s why I think what we’ve seen from Alvarez early this season, and some of the other Pirates’ hitters, matters. Is Yovani Gallardo learning to better pitch without velocity? Has he made an adjustment? That might matter.

I don’t think the Pirates’ are suddenly precluded from winning at Miller Park again even though that’s an easy narrative – but if the Brewers’ pitching stays healthy they’re going to be a tough out and a 90-winish team because their center-of-the-diamond talent rivals that of any team in the National League.

While it’s too early to panic off of results  it’s not too early to study what’s leading to them.

STARTING NINE THOUGHTS

9. Speaking of process over results in April, I expected Charlie Morton to take a step forward in 2014. I still believe he will, or at least provide a semblance of what he did last season. Morton had a rough week, allowing seven earned runs in 13 innings over two starts but I thought there was one encouraging sign Sunday: Morton threw his changeup.

8. Morton threw his split-changeup 11 times on Sunday. He generated two swings and misses with the pitch – Carlos Gomez in the seventh and Scooter Gennett in the fourth. No Brewer drew a walk or hit off the pitch. Progress? I think so. I believe that’s the most Morton has thrown the pitch in a start.

7. I still think Liriano is going to be a quality stater in 2014 and put together two consecutive above-average seasons in his career … but I also don’t think he’s repeating 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA. That’s a lot to ask. It’s a lot to ask the slider to be that historically good again and it’s a lot to expect the fastball command to be that consistent again. We’ll see.

6. Jordy Mercer was part of a really poor  defensive showing.

5. I had my doubts about Jose Abreu because so many scouting reports questioned his batspeed and Cuba is apparently a land of off-speed/junk-ball pitchers. But in a short sample we see that Abreu is a very strong man and might very well be another bargain from the island.

Baseball America had the Pirates as one of the top five fits for Abreu this offseason because of need and what some thought would be some more available dollars for GM Neal Huntington and company. As of today, Abreu would look pretty good in the No. 5 spot in the Pirates’ lineup. I’ve seen Abreu crush off-speed mistakes as he was expected to be able to do but I’ve also seen him square up 95 mph velocity. He looks very much like a strong, professional hitter and perhaps more agile around the bag than many expected.

4. Travis Snider with two home runs in the week that was. Just saying.

3. And Snider is also likely aware of what’s in the rear-view mirror. Gregory Polanco is abusing Triple-A pitching.

2. While I believe the primary reason the Pirates traded for Chris Stewart this offseason was for his elite pitch framing skills, Tony Sanchez‘s 2013 throwing issues might have also been in the front office’s thought process. Sanchez had a key throwing error Sunday that allowed two earned runs to score. It appeared Sanchez did not set his feet after blocking a Morton in-the-dirt-strikeout and the throw sailed  into right field. Sanchez has eased concerns about his bat. But is going to have to be more consistent in the throwing game to emerge as a possible starting catching option in 2015. This is something to watch with Russell Martin‘s impending free agency.

1. Thoughts around the NL Central ….

*I don’t think the Brewers are going to win a 110 games. That said, I would not be surprised at all if they are in the thick of things in the second half (provided they enjoy good health). I’m not sure they can weather much pitching attrition but Tyler Thornburg could be another rotation piece.

*Through two weeks my prediction of big things for Billy Hamilton? Sad trombone.

*Michael Wacha might soon be the ace of the Cardinals staff – and that’ saying a lot with Adam Wainwright‘s presence. Wacha is mixing in a cutter and a sharper  breaking ball early this season and the fastball that touches 97 mph and the wipeout changeup are still in play all come from a rare, exaggerated, over-the-top arm slot.

*Cubs? See you in 2016 but Kris Bryant already looks to have the hang of Double-A.

STAT OF THE WEEK: 11.4

Pedro Alvarez’s swinging strike rate entering Sunday  which is down five percentage points from his MLB-worst 16 percentage mark last season. I know it’s a small sample, I know it’s April, but that doesn’t mean what we’ve witnessed is not meaningful.

HE SAID IT

Andrew McCutchen on his grumpy ankle:

“It’s like when you wake up one day and it’s like, ‘Aw, my back is hurting,’ and then you wake up the next and your back’s not hurting. It’s just one of those things. It’s not going to hinder me at all. I’m going to do everything I normally do.”

It doesn’t sound like a big deal and McCutchen swiped a couple bags in Milwaukee.

NON-BASEBALL SUGGESTION OF THE WEEK

I assume many of you know of or about Mad Mex. If you do not, educate yourself.

- TS

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Comments

  1. Steelkings says:

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “”"”Baseball America had the Pirates was one of the top five fits for Abreu this offseason because of need and what many thought would be some more available dollars for GM Neal Huntington and company.”"”"
    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    AND THERE TRAVIS, THAT STATEMENT UP THERE, IS HOW THE LIPSTICK GETS PUT ON THE PIG!

    Read more: http://blog.triblive.com/bucco-blog/2014/04/11/fear-the-brewers/#ixzz2yrhczzkf

    THE MORE AVAILABLE DOLLARS EQUATION:

    2013 payroll———74,480,000
    Minus
    2014 Payroll——–71,708.000
    Equals
    MORE AVAILABLE DOLLARS FOR THE BILLIONAIRE! WHOO HOO HOO!

  2. Steelkings says:

    More on that for a moment.
    If the Pirates were to use only minor league players to fill the spots of players who are due to leave in free agency after this season, the Pirates could get the payroll down to under 25 million and keep the same basic offense on the field. Not gonna happen, because the PA would blow a gasket, but because the Pirates dont like to spend high discretionary dollars on free agents, I ask you what will be harder. Getting the Payroll under or over 60 million for 2015?

  3. NMR says:

    Great rundown, Travis. We could talk all day on these topics.

    -Generally speaking, you’re absolutely correct on process v. stats this early in the year, but I still disagree with you that much can be gained from two week samples. We know Travis Snider can put up 3-4 week stretches of quality Big League baseball. Done it before. The challenge is repeating the process over six months.

    Only thing worth taking seriously this early are definable changes in skill, IMO. Bryan Morris’ velocity, Charlie Morton’s changeup as examples.

    -Jordy Mercer is not a big league shortstop on a playoff team.

    -Tony Sanchez’s throwing worries are just beginning. Last season in over 100 innings caught, opposing teams attempted to steal six times. This season in just 35 innings, opposing team have already matched that number. Think about 2012 if you are dreaming of Tony Sanchez as next years starting catcher.

    -NL Central: “They are who we thought they’d be!”

    Brewers have talent with zero depth. See you in August.
    Cards are an exceptionally solid, if unspectacular ballclub.
    Reds have seen their better days come and go with their only hope resting on a kid who many saw getting the bat knocked out of his hands by quality AAA pitching.
    Cubs are gonna lead the freaking world in homeruns…in 2016.

  4. Some things I think I think . . . .

    ——The Pirates need a Clean-up hitter to protect McCutch. He is being pitched around. He has 11 walks in 12 games, and a number of his AB swings have come with 3 balls, with him even going outside the zone. Opposing teams/pitchers would rather face Pedro, even with a man on base. Sure Pedro has 5 HRs——3 of them singletons——but he has only 8 hits. Why face the Bucs’ best hitter when a chump hitter is behind him in the order?

    ——Liriano is throwing too much junk and not enough fastballs. It looks like he has no confidence in his fastball, and even when he does throw it he uses it as a tease outside the strike zone. With an ERA thus far (sure, only 3 starts) a whole run higher than last season, the reality of Liriano never having two good consecutive seasons in his career looms large.

    ——It’s only 1/12 of the season gone, but Jordy Mercer has to start hitting. The question always was during the offseason: will Mercer hit enough to compensate for his inferior glove. So far the inferior glove has been winning out.

    ——Bucs need a #5 hitter badly. Martin and Walker (sad to say) aren’t cutting it. Having a true Clean-up hitter and moving Alvarez to #5 would make Pirates a different, challenging offensive team.

    ——Buccos won last year with superior pitching. With AJ Burnett gone and Liriano not fulfilling the #1 Starter role, and with the two backend relievers being shaky and not demanding confidence———I’m turning blue from holding my breath every time Grilli comes into the game———the cornerstone of what made 2013 successful may be fading.

    ——As much as I really like Neil Walker, this is his last season as a Pirate if he doesn’t start producing with the bat. I absolutely HATE talking money and contracts, but he is making $6.3 million this year and arbitration will take him above $9 mill next season. NO way BMTIB pays him that amount to just drive in 60 runs. Start hitting or buy yourself some matching luggage for the Trading Deadline, Neil!

    ——Neil Walker being a Super Two back when and having his salary progress into rare air for the Pirates is another solid reason Gregory Polanco will not be brought up before the 1st week of June, so he does not become a Super Two. Money, not talent, is the true measuring stick for this Salvation Army Thrift BMTIB outfit.

    ——Nice to hear Bob Walk on yesterday’s radio broadcast give the Brewers credit for being the first National League team to employ the “drastic defensive shifts.”

    ——Travis Snyder is doing a nice job. He looks so much better without that excess weight.

    ——I’m not giving up on the Buccos. However, I think the question is still on the table on whether they will finish closer to the Cardinals or the Cubs in the standings. First Place was forfeited when team decided not to obtain a 1st Baseman who could be a threat in the batting order.

  5. NMR says:

    My goodness…

  6. cmat0829 says:

    Travis, really, really appreciate your blog posts, always informative and always provide a lot of fodder for opinions from us in the ‘cheap seats’….

    * Probably easy to forget, but the Brewers of 2013 also won 9 in a row, also in April, then proceeded to lose like 16 out of 21 games or something like that and settled into oblivion. That said, this Brewers team is a better one, if nothing else for having Braun back in the lineup. I think Segura settles into a solid player (and takes a step back offensively) and Gomez will not be able to contain himself enough to be a good leadoff hitter… and hard to overlook Overbay/Reynolds at 1B and Weeks/Gennett at 2B and Khris Davis in RF….. and the pitching depth is questionable at best. Plus, we do not know if this team has any payroll flexibility to add pieces when it counts. That said, the Brewers are who I thought they were, a definite contender and ahead of the Reds and Cubs, no doubt about it.

    * The Reds are predictably taking a step back. With all the talk about the Pirates and regression, seems to me most prognosticators really ignored regression on the Reds, especially starting pitching. They would love to trade Phillips away to any taker at this point, and I’m not sold on Frazier/Cozart, etc so they have many holes to fill.

    * Not sure I’m sold on Miller Field “House of Horrors” based on this weekend. There were no ‘freak’ plays or other ghastly occurrences…simply put, you won’t win many games, anywhere, scoring 5 runs in a series. To win in that bandbox of a stadium, the offense has to show up, and it most certainly did not.

    * Too early, 12 games in, to draw any conclusions about anything. Starting pitchers have had 2, at most 3, starts…. that said, I’m encouraged by Pedro’s approach at the plate; the bullpen arms; Volquez throwing strikes; Ishikawa not being noticeable for the wrong reasons…. I’m discouraged by Mercer’s slow start; Josh Harrison’s awful hacking as a PH; starting pitching being decent but not at same level as last year; Grilli and Melancon’s command. I’m not at all concerned about Cutch turning it on offensively, but I do not that he has not contributed much so far this year and the Bucs are 6-6.

  7. cmat0829 says:

    I’m really sick of this “The Pirates and Cheap Nutting are the ONLY team in MLB who holds back prospects due to Super Two status”…. there was a good article on MLBTradeRumors.com recently that listed all of the many prospects around MLB that teams are waiting on SuperTwo clearance for…. can you cite one or two examples of teams that are not ‘SalvationArmy Rejects” and who have called their prospects up regardless of SuperTwo status?

    It just doesn’t make sense to give up a FULL YEAR IN HIS PRIME of a TOP TALENT for 1 month of a ROOKIE SEASON… that value equation just doesn’t even come close to computing.

  8. Just off the top of my head for 2013, without further research:

    ——Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
    ——Jackie Bradley, Boston Red Sox
    ——Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays

    Two of those are on the so-called “cheap” teams.

  9. NMR says:

    Good stuff, buddy.

    -Plenty of prognosticators have been calling the Reds fall. Just that they’re the nerds “ruining baseball” and so nobody listens to them.

    -I think Ishikawa will get the benefit of a hot start, but it is becoming clearer every day that this is the same guy he always was. “Professional at bat” memes only take you so far.

  10. Brendan says:

    Wil Myers actually WAS held back for quite a while.

  11. NMR says:

    Wil Myers? You sure about that one?

    Google, man. Google.

  12. cmat0829 says:

    ok, so there are a handful of exceptions, as I’m sure there are, it means the Pirates are behaving like 97% of the rest of the teams or situations…. I’m ok with a difference of opinion on this… I tend to believe, like most front offices, that a month or so of a rookie is not worth burning a controllable season later on in his prime, but if others feel differently, so be it. I just don’t accept this as a proof point that Nutting is cheap and the Pirates are uniquely miserly. There are probably better examples of that argument….but all is fair in love, war and the blogosphere.

  13. cmat0829 says:

    Agree. I’m ready to turn the page on Ishikawa. He is not the reason, though, for the struggling offense so far, but he isn’t helping either, really. Just not clear with the FO plan is (and maybe they don’t have one, but given how anal NH is, he must have one)…. is it to call Lambo up here soon to see what he can do…. or is it to kill time til after the draft (as Rosenthal surmised) to sign Morales. I think one thing that is abundantly clear… the FO and CH have no faith in Gaby vs. RHPs…so that narrative has been already refuted and that plan is clearly not in the cards.

  14. Crematorium,

    No problem. I think the confusing thing to comprehend for many is that it is not about “Another season of control.”

    In Major League baseball a full season is considered 181 days. A player must be on the roster 172 of those 181 days for it to be considered a full season. Thusly, like with Wil Myers last season, he went to the Minors for 12 days, then sometime after that was brought to the Majors. So, Tampa Bay still has 6 full seasons of control starting this season, even though Myers came up early last season and won Rookie of the Year honors.

    The difference for Super Two status is $$$$$$$. The top 22 % of rookies, according to days in Majors, get to have arbitration, jumping their salary immensely from Major League minimum, after their SECOND season instead of normally after their 3rd. That puts their salary on a fast track, higher plain, like Neil Walker presently for the Pirates. Each subsequent year of arbitration, the contract negotiation begins at a higher starting point. Walker got over $2 million after his 2nd season, instead of the $500,000 minimum. Therefore, each of the last two years he has started higher and gotten a higher salary in arbitration or negotiation.

    Last season 126 days on the Major League roster got the players Super Two status. The projection for 2014 is 128 days. That’s why most good young players have a 2nd week in June projection date to be brought up.

    Polanco or any Minor Leaguer who has never been in the Majors could be brought up today, April 14, and not lose a controllable year. However, their salary would be on the fast track to Super Two. It’s all about money.

  15. Steelkings says:

    McCutchens pop up behind the plate down a run with runners at first and third wasnt a case where he was pitched around. However trying to tag up and trick your way into stealing home to TIE the game is a matter of offensive desperation.

    This Pirate team is way too fragile. Too many what if’s. Starting with: What if McCutchen doesn’t have anywhere near an MVP year?
    And what really sucks to me is that with 6 free agents and 8 players arbitration eligible at the end of the year, this is probably the best season to take a shot at the division there is. Because this team will likely be vastly different next season. I’m assuming Grote is right about Walker as an average season will cost the Pirates more than the 6 mil they are paying him. Especially when Alvarez is also due a salary bump through Arbitration. Gaby Sanchez, Melancon, Snider and Tony Watson are on that list. Rodriguez, Martin, Liriano, Barmes, Volquez and Grilli are free agents. A lot of guys are going to go bye bye. And the proof is in the pudding. Proven veterans are not on the way to replace them. They cost more than the Pirates are willing to spend. That’s just the reality.

    Everybody who roots for a professional sports team understands that its a business first and foremost. Fans have to hope that success comes with prosperity. And not that prosperity comes at the expense of success. Much as it does in Pittsburgh.

    http://www.mlbdepthcharts.com/pittsburgh-pirates-payroll/

  16. NMR says:

    I don’t think we know enough about the internal dynamics to say what the plan is at 1B

    Does Huntington tell Hurdle who to play? Hurdle may not have faith in Gaby vs. RHP, but I’d be very surprised if Huntington shared that view, or at least as strongly.

    I just cannot come up with a legitimate reason for any of them to prefere Ish over Gaby when Gaby hit righties even better than Ish did in Spring Training.

  17. NMR says:

    You are just plain wrong on Myers, Groat.

    Look it up. Educate yourself.

  18. Steelkings says:

    See what Lambo can do?…………What is the definition of insanity?

  19. T.S. says:

    It’s a nice thought, Travis, but Jose Abreu had zero, zilch, nada and not a chance of being in a Pirates uniform. Think Bob Nutting would outbid the White Sox 6 yr., 68 million contract? Then I got a closed steel mill I can sell you.

  20. NMR says:

    But you are correct that it is all about money.

    The question is whether or not it is smart to spend what could be over $10 million on a few months more of Gregory Polanco.

  21. NMR says:

    Steel, not sure how long you’ve been cursed with following Pirate message boards, but those who do have been told by people every year since 2011 that THIS IS THE YEAR to go for it because -INSERT REASON HERE- means the Pirates will be worse next year.

    You’re absolutely correct that they’ll be losing many important pieces, but they will also be losing many high salaries and have the best farm system in baseball to back it up.

    This may very well end up being the Pirates best shot. Hell, last year may very well have been the Pirates best shot. But theres just no way in heck we know it two weeks into the season.

  22. I truly hope the Bucs are not waiting to sign Morales after the draft. Bucs have enough infield defense problems!!

    Dejan has been selling Lambo at Indy. Ironically, his splits are not helpful to the Pirates right now.

    Lambo is 7/13 (.538) against lefties, with 2 doubles and 4 ribbies.
    Lambo is 4/17 (.235) against righties, with 1 double and 2 ribbies.

    No home runs. Not the splits and power Pirates need.
    I guess we just try to keep our heads above water until May 1 and see what shakes down.

  23. Steelkings says:

    NMR SAID
    “”"I don’t think we know enough about the internal dynamics to say what the plan is at 1B”"”
    _________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Sure we do. Its indifference! It doesn’t matter. So play the percentage. The PBC has (3) 8 hole hitters and (4) 7 hole hitters. They dont have a ligit 5 or 6. Certainly isnt a first baseman on a PBC roster here or abroad.

    Thats why the mere mention of Abreu this morning put me in a foul mood. Just knowing that we wont ever ever take a chance like that.

  24. NMR says:

    Hahaha, you guys kill me with this X-hole hitter balogna…

  25. Steelkings says:

    but they will also be losing many high salaries and have the best farm system in baseball to back it up.

    _______________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Boy, Ehhh, I dont even know what to say.

    I’ll start with….Is it still the best farm system if Polanco is here and Jamison is under the knife? Obviously Mercer will be the SS. Who will play 2nd? Is Tony Sanchez going to be the catcher?

    All Im saying is that sometimes its not hard to know when to take a shot.

  26. Steelkings says:

    I dont know why. Your a a sta-a-holic . Does the 8 hole guy suck because he sucks or is it because the Pitcher is behind him. Would alvarez benefit with a stick behind him? You betcha!

  27. NMR says:

    You’re seriously asking me to project rosters three, four, five years down the road?

  28. NMR says:

    Russell Martin is hitting .281/.351/.500 with 2 HR and 6 RBI behind Pedro.

    You guys can’t even get your outdated “old school” baseball cliches right.

  29. cmat0829 says:

    Thanks for the clarification… my opinion doesn’t change, I don’t think there is a good value equation to spend over $10M in a later season for 1 month of Polanco’s rookie season now. That doesn’t mean I give a pass to ownership not to spend that $10M, but to me it is better spent elsewhere, at that time. At least we all seem to be in agreement that you should not call a player up before April 14 and lose a year of control. That is progress as some continually clamor for young prospects to “make the team out of Spring Training” which makes no sense to me. But I think it is a good debate to have on the $$ aspect… for a team that will forever be constrained by available budget (until the system changes), it is too much to spend on a month or so of a rookie season, in my opinion.

  30. Nate83 says:

    I brought it up last week on the blog. Myers came up on June 17th. He is not a super 2.

  31. National Mart of Records,

    You always surprise me when you push that “every spot in the line-up is the same.” I’m sure you played ball at some time, right?

    Sure, every at bat is focused on squaring the ball. Yet the peripherals are not the same.

    Last season on the ball team I played on I batted 2nd, 4th, and 6th. When I batted 2nd, I was a table setter for the guys behind me. I at least tried to get the leadoff hitter over to 3rd if he got on ahead of me and I focused more on walks. When I batted 4th I swung more for extra bases and less for base hits, trying to score any guys on base, especially from 1st. Batting 6th, I knew the batters after me were weak and might not be able to score any further runs, so I really focused on jacking the ball and scoring any and all on the bases. I would take pitches to get an advantageous count, but swing from my heels like Cutch after I got 3 balls: a walk would mean I probably would die on the bases.

    If a batter is leading off an inning, all batting lineup positions are the same——you’re right. Yet the table is set for batting positions to call for different skills and focus during a game.

  32. Sorry. I thought you were telling Brendan Shanahan he was wrong.

    I looked it up and Wil Myers played only 88 games.

    My “off the top of my head, without further research” was wrong. First time!!! 2/3 though!

  33. cmat0829 says:

    Let’s go back to the blog, circa last June/July… me thinks the ratio was probably 9 to 1 on “GIVE LAMBO A CHANCE”… and I don’t think he has been given much of a chance as of yet. So not sure it is ‘insane’ to give Lambo a shot to see what he can do.

    But I can see where you might think that Lambo is not the answer (though Brandon Moss at 1B would look pretty nice right now and he was tarred and feathered out of town by most on this blog)…..

    I’m just ready to make a change.. Ishikawa is what he is, a ‘not embarrassing’ option at 1B but I hope Lambo is now at the stage where he wouldn’t be ‘embarrassing’ either, so worth two weeks of games to see if he can give us the upside he shows in the AAA ranks.

  34. NMR says:

    Great post, Groat.

    This is actually one of the places I differ from the standard saber-friendly school of thought. I actually do believe lineup construction is meaningful. Maybe not quite as much as you and others, but at the same time I have a really hard time accepting that its all random.

    I just object to the notion that any player hitting behind Cutch is going to FORCE the pitcher to throw him fat fastballs. Cutch is one of the top 2 or 3 hitters in the league. Makes no sense to me that any pitcher would rather serve up better pitches to him than anyone not named Stanton in the NL.

  35. cmat0829 says:

    I respond the same to each and every “take a shot” post on the blog…exactly what do you mean by “take a shot” circa 2014…..do you mean they should’ve offered and signed AJB for $16M? Do you want them to sign Drew or Morales? I get it on Jose Abreu, so perhaps you mean that one?

    I am disappointed so far on the 1B Plan, and also on the $$s sitting in the bank that could be spent on this roster…that said, my counter argument to the feeling that ‘prospects are just prospects, they can get hurt, they can suck when they get to MLB, etc.’ is that the NUMBER ONE resource the Pirates (and other teams not in the upper echelon of revenues) is a young, controllable great prospect….Having Marte / Cutch / Alvarez /Cole contributing on this team at their salary levels is the KEY to this team being able to compete for the postseason…. you will need the next generation of those to form the core of the next wave Polanco / Taillon/Kingham/Glasnow/Hansen/McGuire/Meadows/Bell, etc.

    To make the point: KC “went for it” to some extent last year, they traded Wil Myers for James Shields. Who would you rather have today, Myers or Shields? Did KC’s winning, non-playoffs season, pay off? Fact of the matter is, St Louis is in the driver’s seat in this division, I can’t think of any ‘realistic’ transaction that would have put the Pirates clearly ahead of St Louis, regardless of the payroll..

    But if by ‘go for it’ you mean the FO should spend the $14-20M that should be available this season on available free agents without trading away the top tier of prospects, I’m with you.

  36. NMR says:

    Takes a man to admit it, buddy. No harm, no foul. Next time we’ll dock your pay. ;)

  37. Andrew says:

    As usual good stuff Travis and some interesting discussion, I do not have much to add but I think if anyone is altered their opinions/projections of this team after 12 games you are doing it wrong, not that anyone here has, but I have seen some gross overreactions elsewhere.

    Indianapolis’s triple slash line .297/.383/.450, in the league that is 2nd/1st/1st, so either that have faced some bad pitching, or are an offensive juggernaut, probably a mixture of both and it is only 11 games. Now if this was hockey I would fully expect some commentators to be shouting for the bus to be packed and get these guys up here who want to hit. If Lambo performs well not much new has been learned, but I fully accept that he was sent to AAA for other reasons than a large sample of at bats was needed at the AAA level.

  38. cmat0829 says:

    Well, we can certainly project to a certain extent….. the outfield should be set…Marte/Cutch/Polanco. Alvarez will be at 3B the next 2 seasons. I’ll assume Walker will be at 2B (but agree he needs to produce more). After that, I’d say there are open questions at SS/1B and Catcher, no one can be assumed there. Mercer and T Sanchez will be given every chance but other options will be available. 1B is the glaring ongoing (and current) hole for this team and the spot most likely to be where the Bucs can spend their $$s (though not this year, the FAs sucked).

    As to pitching, Morton and Cole are locks. But they will need to fill 3 starter spots starting next season. One with a young starter (was to be Taillon but now can be Kingham or Stolmy or Cumpton or Locke)… they will need to sign 2 veterans to anchor the other spots (or make a splashy trade).

    On the bullpen I have no concern. Grilli can go, and for my money, so can Melancon. I’d close with Watson (with Morris and Wilson ready and in waiting) and fill the rest as they can every offseason. No way no how I spend any real $$ on a closer (see Johnson, Jim as the latest STUPID ASSININE example of a team doing this)…..

    The Bucs will need the bucks to get a legitimate top-end starting pitcher starting in 2015. They will need the bucks to get a legitimate 1B (maybe as soon as this trading deadline)…. it will be time for NH to do what so many have clamored for ..put all the eggs in one basket…spend one $20M contract on a horse of a pitcher instead of 4 $5M lottery tickets…..

  39. Does anyone else look at Edinson Volquez and see Ian Snell all over again? So much ability . . . . just waiting for him to give up that 7-run inning.

    So far the Pitcher Whisperer Searage has been successful for the first two starts. Let’s hope he keeps whispering!

    I wonder what the Pitcher Whisperer could have done with Snell?

    What was that name Jason Kendall called the previous pitching coach, the guy who kept changing pitchers’ deliveries?

  40. NMR says:

    Haha! Dave Kerwin!!!

  41. Nate83 says:

    He also had them pitch to batting dummies although with the lack of talent at the time offensively he could have just had the actual players stand in and accomplish the same thing.

  42. That wooden dummy that Joe Kerrigan used in the bullpen at Pirate City is still down there. I saw it this year.

    Although, bad as they were, I don’t think you would have wanted to have a live player standing in. I saw a pitcher (Perez?) break the head off, a la Major League and the Wild Thing. Pitchers hit it all the time.

    Maybe John Russell could have stood in.

  43. brendan says:

    It’s worth noting that Bradley won a job out of spring training and then proceeded to play very poorly–perhaps in part because he was rushed, having not played in AAA–and was promptly returned the minors.

    Fernandez was obviously terrific, but he’s something of an anomaly. Also the Marlins burned a year of service time. Maybe without him they only win 58 games rather than 62.

    Myers is probably the most appropriate comparison. He like Polanco a top hitting prospect. Although he’d already had 400+ AAA at bats prior to 2013. So you could argue there was even more of a case to be made that he should have been called up earlier.

  44. NMR says:

    As for Volquez, he went back-to-back starts with four walks or less three times last year. It’s April.

  45. NMR says:

    Sorry, TWO walks or less.

  46. Steelkings says:

    No, obviously! Im saying you can have a clue as to when to raise the risk. Next year Pirate fans will call the mass exodus a “replenishing through the minor league system” while the Red Sox, Yankees, dodgers ect…would call a rebuilding year.

  47. Steelkings says:

    Nobody said anything about trading prospects. Lets just say they resigned the guys they had last year on offense. Marlon Byrd 8 mil and Justin Morneau 5 mil. Thats 13 mil. Both for two years.

    Anyone who says that Gaby and Travis I are almost as good as Morneau, and tht Byrd isnt an uprade from (I got hit in the face with a flyball) Travis Snider and Tabby dont know baseball.

    I can here it now…” Well, last year was disappointing, and with season ticket sales and revenue down we can only do so much.”

    Money grab

  48. RobertoForever says:

    isnt George Springer being held back right now as well?

  49. RobertoForever says:

    Groat were you the one ridiculing Travis Sawchik for suggesting that Polanco could be up this year. And who suggested that Polanco earn it?

    Now the truly BMTIB is cheap and pinching pennies because he’s not here in April.

    Color me confused. That’s a big narrative shift. How can anyone keep track.

  50. Jim S. says:

    I’ve noticed that even the “years of control” are starting to get pretty expensive.

  51. Jim S. says:

    Steel:

    Signing Marlon Byrd would have been a huge mistake. Yes, I’m saying he is not that much better than Travis/Tabby for 2 months, if at all, and he certainly should not be better than Polanco after that. Plus, Byrd was not going to sign for one year. What were we going to do with him after June of this year?

    Justin Morneau had his chance here. He’s not the player he used to be. He might put up decent #’s in CO, but it is not as though a lot of mediocre hitters have not done that over the years.

  52. Jim S. says:

    Look, if the Pens can continue to put orange traffic cones on a line with the best player in the world, then the Bucs can use wooden dummies. Oh sorry, wrong blog.

  53. Jim S. says:

    And that could not have been easy for a guy that only threw 5 innings at a time, generally.

    It is extremely early, but I give you credit, NMR, for saying Edinson might not be a bad signing. I was way out on the ledge hating signing this guy. I know he has not proven much yet, but he has provided reason for some optimism.

  54. NMR says:

    Thanks, but I’m as excited about Volquez as I am worried about Liriano, Jim. Which is to say not much.

    Edinson has been what all the baseball people have said he was. Spotty fastball, plus offspeed, and stretches of inconsistancy. Encouraging to see him finding the plate more often, but I want to see it for a month before buying in.

  55. Leo Walter says:

    If you would have known Ian Snell’s real personality,you would not make that comparison.
    ” Difficult ” is kind adjective in his case. And,no,I see no comparison when it comes to ability either.

  56. Leo Walter says:

    Double plus (++) on Moreau Jim. Check out his OPS.

  57. Reading comprehension is your Friend.

    I am in no way proposing that Polanco be brought up sooner. I want Polanco to stay at AAA as long as possible, and “cook until he’s done!”

    Right now Travis Snyder is playing quite satisfactorily in right field. Even if eventually Polanco is a better player, what more could he bring that changes a game right now?

    Above in my comment I gave an additional reason why Polanco will NOT be brought up early.

 
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