The Pirate Way is spreading, a podcast, and Glasnow the new Holdzkom?

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SOUTH HILLS – Like many industries, baseball is a copy-cat business. Find a best practice? Duplicate and/or improve upon it.

While all teams have access to the same raw data and data suppliers (Statcast, PITCHf/x, Baseball Info Solutions, etc), while all teams employ at least one quantitative analyst, one important area where the Pirates are pioneering is in integrating their data analysts with the clubhouse and creating important two-way input, an important culture of collaboration.

The Pirates were the first team to include a quantitative analyst on the road, giving Mike Fitzgerald his own locker in the clubhouse where he was to be a resource. Now the approach is being copied.

Continue reading The Pirate Way is spreading, a podcast, and Glasnow the new Holdzkom?

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Monday Mop-Up Duty: Pirates won the offseason (and had to). … Polanco breakout? … Buying at the deadline

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SOUTH HILLS –  Jung Ho Kang is starting to look like quite the find and quite the steal given the paltry $17 million committed to him over four years.

The Pirates deserve much credit from scouts on the ground in South Korea — the Pirates sent in multiple scouts for multiple looks – to the analytics staff that tried to translate his gaudy KBO production to MLB numbers (while there had never been a KBO position player to transition to the majors there had been many KBO hitters to go to Japan and many Japanese hitters to come to MLB. It’s believed that two degrees of separation is how the translation was accomplished), to Neal Huntington and ownership for pulling the trigger.

Kang leads the Pirates in pitches seen per plate appearances (4.1) and is second in on-base percentage (.363) and has been great and at a critical time since filling in for Josh Harrison, batting over .410 since July 6. Oh, he can handle third base and short, defensively.

Over his first 80 games, Kang produced two Wins Above Replacement. If you pro-rate that production over 160 games, Kang is a 4-win player, which is worth $20-some million per year on the open market. Not bad.

But was he even the best acquisition of the offseason? Continue reading Monday Mop-Up Duty: Pirates won the offseason (and had to). … Polanco breakout? … Buying at the deadline

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The day Ramirez left

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CAH-Ramirez-2-30

Twelve years ago, the Pirates lost another game (no surprise back then), yet there was a celebration in one corner of the home clubhouse.

I can still vividly remember Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton hugging and laughing after learning they had been traded to the Chicago Cubs. The announcement came moments after the Pirates were beaten 2-0 by the Houston Astros at PNC Park. And while the rest of their teammates looked on in stunned silence, Ramirez and Lofton acted like they had just won the lottery.

Which, in a way, they had. Continue reading The day Ramirez left

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Shuffle the deck to find hidden value

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SOUTH HILLS – I hate to be the one to tell you this if you don’t already know, but the trade deadline rarely nets a contender a player that truly makes a difference — a player that either really impacts a team’s chances of reaching the postseason or propels them deeper into the postseason (more on this later in the week).

The benefits of deadline acquisitions are often limited, and the cost can greatly out weigh them. See Addison Russell for Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel last season, or a month of Marlon Byrd in 2013 for the price of Dilson Herrera.

Yes, the Pirates are banged up and scuffling out of the break but it’s still their 25- and 40-man rosters that will largely determine their fortunes regardless of what Neal Huntington does or does not do at the deadline. So instead of focusing just on potential external answers, perhaps more conversation should be spent on finding more value within the current roster.

Continue reading Shuffle the deck to find hidden value

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Monday Mop-Up Duty: Hurdle growing frustrated with 1B? Gomez. And depth to be tested …

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MILWAUKEE –  Pedro Alvarez was taken off third base on Aug. 17 last season against the Washington Nationals after his 24th throwing error, the most since Fangraphs.com began tracking throwing errors in 2002. Perhaps Clint Hurdle has a 4.5-month patience threshold. Is his patience running out in regard to Alvaerz’s new home?

Hurdle folded his arms as he hardly offered a stirring defense of the 2008 No. 2 overall pick on Saturday.

Some selections from Hurdle’s answers in response to a sequence of questions regarding Pedro Alvarez:

Hurdle on need for upgrade: “I’m not going to bang the drum when I have a team full of players.”

Hurdle on patience with Alvarez: “I think we’ll evaluate (Alvarez) as we did last year. I don’t know what is going to happen two weeks down the road. Could it be different? It could be. Could it be the same? It could be.”

Hurdle on first base alternatives: “Before you go talking about changing things, you have to have an identifiable Option B.”

That last comment was particularly interesting. Continue reading Monday Mop-Up Duty: Hurdle growing frustrated with 1B? Gomez. And depth to be tested …

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Monday Mop-up Duty: is this magic sustainable? (trade deadline talk and more …)

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SOUTH HILLS – After the conclusion of another instant classic game Sunday night, after the Pirates closed the first half on a tear, my friend David Manel of BucsDugout.com and I had a post-game conversation that centered around this question: what, if anything, is fluky about this first half?

Did the way the Pirates march to a 53-35 mark contain too much good fortune?

Can it be sustained in the second half?

Can the Pirates win their first division title since 1992? Are they really the best team in baseball as the estimable Jonah Keri ranks them in his midseason stock report?

Continue reading Monday Mop-up Duty: is this magic sustainable? (trade deadline talk and more …)

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Is Polanco pivoting?

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Gregory Polanco is the great hope for the Pirates’ second half in regard to untapped run production.

With few sellers and many buyers in this trade market as the deadline approaches– and this will likely often be the case in the two wild card era unless the deadline is pushed back — it’s likely offensive improvement for the Pirates will have to come from within the current roster.

Moreover, even if the Pirates wanted to make a big splash, like when they bid for David Price last July, the Pirates have farm system depth but perhaps not the top assets of other organizations. Despite 11 of the top 15 Baseball America preseason prospects graduating to the majors this season, only two Pirates prospects – Tyler Glasnow (No. 7) and Josh Bell (No. 46) – made Baseball America’s midseason top 50 this week. The Pirates are highly unlikely to move Glasnow, and beyond him there are not many players that projected as future impact pieces.  Jameson Taillon has fallen out of the top 50 due to his back-to-back lost seasons. Continue reading Is Polanco pivoting?

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Injury bug bites into Pirates’ hidden advantage

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PNC PARK – One of the strengths of the Pirates this season, perhaps thee strength that has not received proper attention, is health. The Pirates’ training, strength, and coaching staffs have done an excellent job keeping players healthy and on the field … until today.

(It also helps that the vast majority of the roster is under 30 years of age).

Josh Harrison appeared in the clubhouse Monday with his left hand wrapped in a bulky amount of gauze. He injured his thumb on a slide and might require surgery. He is expected to be out 4-6 weeks.

Starling Marte had his upper body wrapped Monday after he left Sunday’s game with pain in his side.

Harrison is the first Pirate regular position player to land on the disabled list this season. The starting staff has been healthy outside of Charlie Morton beginning the season on the disabled list. A year after the Pirates had the fewest DL days in the sport, they entered Monday with the seventh-lowest number (Check out the totals here). And many of those days lost are tied up with spare parts like Andrew Lambo and Justin Sellers. It has been a critical, hidden edge.

Continue reading Injury bug bites into Pirates’ hidden advantage

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Monday Mop-Up Duty: Will (and when) Taillon be as good as new?

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The Pirates eventually need Jameson Taillon to be good.

The Pirates need No. 2 overall picks to be stars. We know they took Taillon over an emerging star in Manny Machado. And we’ve expressed the belief in this space before that clubs, more often than not, should lean toward position players with premium picks.

All that being said, there are some silver linings in the clouds hanging over a second straight lost season for Taillon. Continue reading Monday Mop-Up Duty: Will (and when) Taillon be as good as new?

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