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Monday Mop-Up Duty: what can we learn from the Jose Bautista trade?

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PNC PARK – Jose Bautista returned over the weekend. You might know he once played in Pittsburgh. You might be aware that he was from a fringy everyday player with the Pirates who became a four-time All-Star with the Blue Jays, a player who has averaged 38 home runs per season since 2010. It will not go down as Neal Huntington’s finest moment but could anyone have foreseen what happened with Bautista? Unlikely. I think even the Blue Jays initially batted Bautista lead-off.

Still, we love to try to learn from history in this e-space and is there anything to be gleaned from Bautista’s trade to the Blue Jays?

Perhaps it’s this: the power of a changing of scenery is underrated and not properly appreciated. And since it’s difficult to quantify it probably is inherently undervalued. The opinion is not just mine it’s what a scout told me when discussing Ike Davis’ acquisition by the Pirates. I doubt there is a better example in the modern game than Bautista.

It’s extremely unlikely Jose Bautista becomes Jose Bautista with the Pirates. For starters, he would have never met Jays hitting coach Dwayne Murphy, who had Bautista develop the leg kick as a timing mechanism so he could more quickly get in a hitting position to attack the baseball. Bautista hit 10 homers in Sept. 2009. He hit 54 homers in 2010. And if it wasn’t for the trade, the wake-up call of being demoted then traded before roster expanded in 2008, perhaps Bautista would not have been as open to instruction.

Bautista noted the Blue Jays’ pull-heavy philosophy was an excellent match for his skill set.

“Different instruction from different coaches. Obviously after 2009, a year after I left here, my situation had gotten to the point where I was making too much money to be a back-up guy. It was either really take a pay cut or do something to change,” Bautista said. “I’m not saying that’s what did not allow me to develop here, because I really feel like I’m a coachable player, but I was more open to some of the suggestions because of that. Sometimes when you don’t see the results right away you abandon the plan. I didn’t have a choice in Toronto. It was either stick to it or get washed out.”

Bautista’s story is in part about a really smart, really talented hitter working hard, but it’s also about the right place at the right time.

Not every player is going to become Bautista with a new home. But new voices, new scenery can be impactful for players. Perhaps clubs are too patient with struggling players. Just look at A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano with the Pirates. Perhaps both parties – player and club – would be better served with quicker separations in certain cases. Perhaps Davis can fulfill  his potential out of New York, surrounded by new voices, new scenery and less media scrutiny. The Pirates are hoping that is the case.

jose-bautista-pirates-1-sept-2010

What could have been in  a Pittsburgh jersey? Probably not 

STARTING NINE THOUGHTS

9. Interesting to hear Clint Hurdle discuss Starling Marte’s long-term home in the lineup on Sunday. It sounded as if Hurdle does not see Marte as a long-term lead-off hitter. (Marte was again out of the lead-off spot batting fifth on Sunday)

“I know where I’ve liked him all along, I’m not going to share it with you,” Hurdle said.

Josh Harrison led off for a second straight game Sunday.

8. Speaking of lineup construction, Joey Votto told BucsDugout’s David Manel something interesting on his theory of lineup protection. Votto believes it’s more important to have lineup protection in front of, and not behind, a team’s best hitter. This makes sense as you’re less likely to pitch around a player with runners on base. It’s more reason to find some better table-setters to put ahead of Andrew McCutchen.

7. Neal Walker batted second again on Sunday and I think it’s nearly the ideal spot for Walker. Walker had three hits on Friday and night and scored twice on McCutchen RBI hits. McCutchen should be a 100-RBI performer.

6. Jeff Locke will start today’s game. Locke has demonstrated some skill growth since the second half of last season, but as his ability to miss bats has improved his performance has declined, which has perplexed Pirates’  management.

Said Huntington on Sunday: “That’s the one thing that is challenging about Jeff is that his indicators were stronger in the second half (of last season) than the first half but obviously the results were not. The breaking ball has continued to get stronger. He’s been 90-94 with the fastball. He’s been able to  move it around.”

Huntington said Lock has been 90-94 mph with his fastball and has showed an improved curveball with the change remaining a work in progress. Eventually Locke’s performance should match his true skillset. He’s not what he was in the first half of 2013 but he’s not a 5.04 ERA Triple-A pitcher either.

5.  Jordy Mercer said he is working through timing issues at the plate. What’s strange about his struggles is he is not pressing, he’s not swinging wildly at balls out of the zone, he’s simply not driving the ball. So perhaps his two-run seventh inning double on Friday was a much welcomed sight.

4. The BABIP gods might beginning to smile on the Pirates…. 17 hits on Saturday night.

3. If you’re wondering where Austin Meadows is, he is still dealing with a tight hamstring, and he’s yet to make is 2014 debut.

2. Beyond Polanco’s hot start, most of the Pirates’ top prospects are off to less-than-stellar starts, including Tyler Glasnow’s two-inning, seven-walk effort last week.

1. The Pirates can’t afford both for Edinson Volquez and Liriano to revert to their less-than-stellar forms in 2014.

HE SAID IT

Bautista is still bitter about his final days with the Pirates:

“It was a relief for me (to be traded) because I knew what the (Pirates’) outlook and perspective was about me here at that time … it was not a good outlook,” said Bautista, a 20th-round pick by the Pirates in 2000. “To send me down three weeks before rosters expanded (in 2008) it was a borderline low blow. Pretty much the message is sent by making that move.

“I did not have a future here. Going anywhere else would have been better than staying here.”

STAT OF THE WEEK: 38

Number of runners the Pirates left on base during a 30-hour, three-day period during Thursday’s doubleheader in Baltimore and in their first game back home on Friday.

NON-BASEBALL RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK:

The Fargo series on FX is worth a watch.

-TS

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Comments

  1. Nate83 says:

    Not to dismiss all the baseball stuff you did but Fargo is worth more then just a watch. It is must watch in our house. That and the Americans are the two current shows that we just don’t miss.

  2. bradthedad says:

    Love Walker at 2 spot and not just because his numbers are good right now.

  3. Steve Zmigrosky says:

    Evaluating Andy LaRouche to be a better player than Joey Bats was terrible! Jose was a better player than LaRouche before he started to have his home run success. Then trading him for Robinson Diaz really makes this look like one of worst trades in Pirate history.

  4. Nate83 says:

    Agree. I also like Marte in the 6th spot. If/when he can get on I think it will put pressure on the pitcher/defense and maybe get the bottom of the lineup some better pitches to hit.

  5. B says:

    “I did not have a future here. Going anywhere else would have been better than staying here”

    Hate to beat a dead horse here, but who is that really on? For 2 decades the Pirates had a near residency program for mediocrity to worse and Bautista was in line with that low bar. His level of play and commitment is what got him sent down. There was no “low blow”. No one told him to be less coachable for Pittsburgh than he became for Toronto. They must serve some mean humble pie up north, eh?

  6. cmat0829 says:

    Spot on. It is soooooo easy to criticize GMs and managers and most are very very slow to criticize the player. His performance for the Pirates was not worth a starting spot, and he was given a fair amount of opportunity. That said, I think this is one trade Neal would like to have back, as it wasn’t necessary and was obviously to make a statement in the ‘addition by subtraction’ mode… it was the first year of the new front office team and I think they wanted to set the bar higher and make a statement. Problem with that is we picked the wrong mediocre player to make the statement on.

    With his quote, that being demoted was a ‘low blow’, it would be nice, though not expected, for the player to admit responsibility as well for the demotion… something like ” You know what? I deserved to be sent down the way I was playing… I didn’t like it… it was a slap in the face… I still don’t like it. But I can’t say my play wasn’t the real issue and that I take accountability for”.

    But good for Bautista, he seems like a good guy and he has certainly revived his career, just in the nick of time.

  7. cmat0829 says:

    And this weekend’s series should serve as a resounding Exhibits A-Z that the issue, THE issue, with this Pirates team is the PITCHING. And specifically the STARTING PITCHING. Lots of kvetching about the offense, and there are weak spots…but unless Polanco can pitch every 5th day, this team is not going to go up in the standings when he arrives… There is still time… but each one of those starters has let the team down… each of them can pitch better. And each needs to do so, starting now.

  8. Nate83 says:

    “each of them can pitch better”. That is the key statement in your post. Every single one of the men on the starting staff have done it before and where expected to be better. You don’t go from a top 5 starting staff in the NL to 14th with just the subtraction of AJ. Just like the Brewers starters will come back down to earth the Pirates starters should have better days ahead of them.

  9. B says:

    this . . . peripherals are ok on offense even if runs aren’t there. stranding RISP will even out over the season, but the starting pitching has been a major letdown. Too many fly balls and walks across the board. No one is pitchign to their abilities except for Volquez, and he seems to be settling back to expecation in his last 2 starts.
    Bullpen hasn’t been very good either (Melancon and Watson are exceptions), but most of the games have been decided by the 5th inning (this weekend not withstanding).

  10. Steelkings says:

    I thought Ray Searage was the Pitching coach?

  11. Jim S. says:

    Seems like Bautista should have been thanking the Pirates for sending him to Toronto, where he went from also ran to mega star. He is a terrific hitter now, but I doubt it was going to happen in Pittsburgh quite like it did in Toronto after he mad the adjustments.

    I suppose the only thing really lost with Marte moving to 5/6 in the lineup is there is not much need for him to steal bases in his new spot. He has never developed that skill to the point where it was a consistently effective weapon, since he has never had a particularly high SB%. But, still he had 40+ last year.

    I agree that Walker is becoming an ideal #2. He is hitting with much more pop of late, and he has been steadily improving with strikeouts and walks the last couple of years. I still look for NW to have a big offensive year in ’14. The game winning double on Saturday in the downpour was great stuff to watch.

    The Bucs really need Locke to step up, as no one is giving them many great efforts as a starting pitcher. Liriano has been particularly disappointing so far.

  12. Nate83 says:

    ????

  13. Andrew says:

    To echo this point, looking at the strikeout to walks differential (K% – BB%) for the three starters the Pirates are relying upon.

    Pitcher: 2014 / 2013,

    Cole: 12.2% / 15.3%
    Liriano: 12.1% / 15.0%
    Morton: 6.8% / 9.9%

    League Average (NL Starters) 13% / 11.6%

  14. Adam says:

    Travis, not sure where you get your stats but the Pirates had 12 hits on Saturday night, not 17.

  15. michaelbro says:

    Mark my Words; Joey Bats will undoubtably be caught using PEDS at some point soon. Every player in MLB history that has had that dramatic of a jump in power numbers has been caught, with the exception of Bautista, Encarcion, and Chris Davis. And to me, the bigger factor is simply looking at his facial features from 10 years ago to now. When you start to see neandrathal features form on a face it’s a true sign of steroid use.

  16. John Lease says:

    Yes, by all means Neil H. should be commended for flushing away Jose Bautista for nothing. Some people can not admit error ever, and it isn’t just Neil H.

  17. Steelkings says:

    How can the Pirate starters possibly be flailing if Ray Searage is the pitching coach?

  18. Steelkings says:

    _______________________________________________________________
    Nate Said:
    I don’t mind glass half empty views but when your glass is completely empty why root for the team at all.
    ________________________________________________________________
    Andrew said:
    Nate to answer your last question, there isn’t a term in English but German has one; Schadenfreude, which means taking or finding joy in others misfortune.
    __________________________________________________________________
    Read more: http://blog.triblive.com/bucco-blog/2014/05/04/is-liriano-broken-again/#ixzz30w0QL6lC
    Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook
    __________________________________________________________________

    Steelkings Response:

    Yes there is Andrew. The English word is “frustration”. Glass half empty people wear there emotions on their sleeves. Glass half full brush the negative emotions off. There is kind of a cool business fact. No matter what your industry or business, if you sell toy trains or own a baseball team, if you find yourself surrounded by a lot of half empty type personality’s, your business has developed a high level of mistrust. That’s a business fact. Mistrust = negativity.
    When you consider this team for a moment and the huge “cup half empty” mindset. You have to understand that this was brought on by the management team. They developed this mistrust. Let me explain for a minute. I’m not talking about long term mistrust. I am directly referring to the short term. Over the long haul we have all come to understand what it means to be fans of a small market team with a low budget. But last year the Pirates turned a corner. Broke the string of futility. Fans ran to the ticket office. Revenues were up and yet salary stays low.
    I’ll put my finger on it. Point it right out. That moment this year when fans turned once again sour on the BMTIB. Fair or unfair it was the day AJ Burnett signed with the Phillys. Would it be fair to say that Pittsburgh Natives are tough minded people? I think that that statement is more than fair. The BMTIB had a chance to regain some of that trust, whether it would be prudent or not, by simply resigning AJ Burnett. Aj Burnett and the STFD moment with his Batman personality was revered by tough minded fans. Sure the Pirates could flail just as bad with him, but it seems kind of empty flailing without him. The loss of AJ may not be fair, because perhaps AJ wasn’t coming back no matter what. But thats the result of years of mistrust developed within the corporation.
    The last cool fact about Half empty / Half full. Those who develop mistrust are usually people who are described as cup half full people.

  19. Andrew says:

    Steel, we can wax on about the psychology of fans, which is not a bad idea because I really do not want to think much about Pirates’ baseball. Lack of success brings negativity, mistrust of ownership is an outlet to express this negativity. Winning cures many ills. I want the management of the teams I follow to make moves geared toward that end, not gaining trust.

    I accept that the fan base of a team as futile as the Pirates is filled with pessimists and has also attracted a fair number of masochists. That is perfectly fine, pessimism is the rational outcome of two decades of losing, but I’m still going to comment when that pessimism leads to statements that I disagree with, and are altogether illogical.

    Giving the qualifying offer would not created trust in the fan base, substituting Burnett’s starts for Volquez would have lead to 1 maybe 2 more actual wins at this point, the Pirates would be slightly less bad. If one wants to think that the mere presence of Burnett would have significantly altered the Pirates’ performance they are free to believe that. However that is an article of faith, and I hope teams are not making decisions based upon so called intangibles. The flailing at 13-19, or 14-18 would be just as empty.

    For the 2014 version of the Pirates, I think pessimism is the correct outlook, however that doesn’t mean all conclusions drawn from this outlook are correct.

    Completely agree on Searage, he needs to make a sacrifice to the god of strikeouts, because the Pirates could sure use some.

  20. Steelkings says:

    Go back to the blog entry’s in December around the winter meetings. we were talking, as well as the BMTIB about David Price, Looney, Lind, Moreland, and several other pitching prospects. earlier than that we were talking, as well as the BMTIB about retaining Byrd, Morneau and Burnett. But after all the build up what we got was…..

    Gone:
    Jones, Byrd, Morneau, Burnett and McKenry

    New:
    Stewart, Volquez

    Later: Davis

    The Fans generated more revenue and the BMTIB responded by, in a sense, trading the above five guys for the latter three.

    That my friends is a mistrust generator.

 
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