Monday, April 7, 2014

Off to a Good start and Prospect Updates

The Pirates are off to a good start.  We have to win series against the Cardinals, especially at home.  And it was nice to have it done with Gerrit Cole and Volquez.  We are going to need great pitching from those two to get another trip to the Playoffs.

Our prospects are not doing all that well.  Okay the ones on the field are good, but we have a lot of injuries.  Taillon is out for the year with Tommy John, and now Harold Ramirez and Barrett Barnes are on the DL.   So are several others and a few are just coming off like Phil Irwin.

I never gave a prospect ranking, but it is not too different from Pirates Prospects list with one major exception.  I don't have Alen Hanson in the Top 10.  His defense is not good enough for short, and that lowers his value.  Plus, they are not trying him at other spots yet and that has me worried.  Is he good enough for 2B on defense.  He does not have enough power for 3B.  So, just bump everyone up a notch on that list and slot Hanson at 12.  Although I put Taillon above Polanco.  I probably would have Heredia a little higher too.  I value pitching a lot.  And with that said, I would probably not have Joely Rodriguez in the top 20, and I worry about JaCoby Jones as well.  I have Brandon Crumpton on the list instead of Joely.  And probably Phil Irwin rather than JaCoby.  Also, Wyatt Mathison should be on that list.  Since Stolmey made the team, you can bump everyone up a spot and slot Wyatt at 19 and Irwin at 20.  I am not concerned about Mathison moving to third.  He was an athlete that played middle infield in high school.  He can play the position, and his injury does not worry me too much.  If JaCoby is on the list for athleticism, shouldn't Mathison get some athletic love too?  I like him as a top prospect.

Also my dark horse is John Kuchino from Ohio State.  I like him.  He has done pretty well, and is

Monday, March 31, 2014

Welcome Back Baseball!

It is everyone's favorite day: Opening Day. 

Don't give me any of that opening night mumbo jumbo, I want opening day.  And we got it today.  The Pirates win.  And we did it just like we did last year: strong pitching, great bullpen, and no offense. 

Lirano was fabulous with 10 K's.  The Bullpen was great with another dominating look from Grilli and company with last year's not-so-good Brian Morris raking in the win. 

And the bats, well what can you say?  It usually takes some time to heat up.  Marte and McCutchen both got hits.  Two from our new 1B platoon.  And the big blast from Neil Walker.  More power from Neil would be a welcome thing this year.  Alvarez had multiple strikeouts on the down side.  He did hit the ball hard once, but right at the short stop who was playing straight up the middle. 

The only real take away is that we are 1-0 and just beat the Cubs ace.  Day off tomorrow, and so the bullpen should be back to full strength for game 2. 

Enjoy the baseball day.  It is much easier to do so after a win.

Friday, January 17, 2014

No to Salary Caps and Floors


Baseball is one of my favorite guilty pleasures.  I love almost everything about it.  But about this time of year everyone piles on the “Baseball needs to change” bandwagon and rips America’s Pastime.  It is my theory that you can tell whether you are a liberal or a conservative based upon how you view Major League Baseball, but that is for another day.  I will defend the Hall of Fame voting in my next post, but I want to defend the lack of a Salary Cap in MLB.  It is one of the last hold outs for capitalism in American sports, and people are always trying to take it away.  
Tim Williams is one of my favorite Pittsburgh Pirate writers, and a fan of the Sabermetric system, so I enjoy his posts.  He has written a thought provoking post on the need for a salary cap and the problem with having such Income Inequality in baseball.  I am going to have to disagree.
Let me say, I do think MLB has made some rules to try and ensure the Red Sox and the Yankees always make the postseason such as the limit on draft spending and the taking away a draft pick for top free agents.  Those things need to be changed, but income inequality is not a big problem in baseball.  Let’s examine Tim’s arguments.  
Tim sites the lack of high priced free agent signings by teams with less than $90 M in TV revenue.  And as a Pirate fan, we never get big named free agents.  But the question is should we even want them?  Look again at Tim’s list, and now lets compare actual win-loss results.  
The 2012 signings of Josh Hamilton and Zack Grienke had vastly different results.  The Angels finished below .500 and missed the playoffs.  The Dodgers won their division with 92 wins, a good total.  However, that win total was less than the Pirates (94) and less than the Cardinals (97) who are both Low Revenue teams of about 30 M.  The record was also lower than other small market teams Oakland (96), and tied with Cleveland and Tampa Bay.  All of these teams made the playoffs just like the Dodgers.
The 2011 signings are similar.  The Angels appear on the list again, and while this time they finished over .500, they missed the playoffs.  This does make the below .500 finish this past year look even worse.  The Marlins signed Jose Reyes despite being a Low Revenue Team and they finished dead last in their division.  The Tigers signed Prince Fielder and won their division with 88 wins.  It should be noted that the Cardinals are the team that lost Albert Puljos to the Angels and they made the playoffs without him two years in a row.
The 2010 signings also offered no clear advantage.  The Red Sox made a big signing, but it helped them to a 90 win season.  However, it was not good enough to make the playoffs.  The next year they were worst in the division, and this past year they did win it all, but Carl Crawford was no longer a Red Sock making his deal with them look like a failure.  The Phillies had the best record in baseball and over 100 wins thanks to their big signing, but the Nationals had a below .500 record.  St. Louis made the playoff this year too, as did Arizona and Milwaukee.  
So while it is true Low Market Teams have trouble signing big name/high priced free agents, it is far from clear that these players help.  And perhaps the contracts hurt as we are seeing with the Angels who now have two huge contracts with no playoffs to show for it.   
Tim’s other argument is the “success” of other sports that have salary caps, floors, and 50/50 revenue sharing.  He uses the NFL and their amazing TV ratings compared to baseball.  The problem with this is the ratings have no proven relation to teams and salary.  The sad fact is that NFL is popular because it is easier for the modern man to watch than baseball.  It is one of those back and forth sports, and it has short bursts of action and ultimately a clock that ends the game.  This is perfect for the world today that has problem of paying attention, committing to long term anything, and wants to do as little thinking as possible.  And the other dirty secret is gambling.  The NFL is wildly popular because so much money is riding on every game.  The amount of money bet on an NFL game dwarfs what it would be even on World Series games.  The NFL actively promotes this relationship, which is why they have injury reports out a day or two before kick off.  It is about betting money.  
Perhaps Tim should have looked at other sports with salary caps.  The NBA does not do that kind of TV rating, and we can not really say that every NBA team has a chance to win.  Anyone here a Bobcat fan?  My point exactly.  The NHL has a hard cap, and they cannot even get on TV.  Their teams all have a chance to win, but no one cares.  Why?  Because the success of the sport has little to nothing to do with the salary cap system.
An easy argument can be made that the single most successful and consistent franchise over the past decade is the St. Louis Cardinals, a Low Revenue Team.  This goes to prove the point, a salary floor and cap are not needed.  One needs to have good management making good decisions and your team can win and win often regardless of revenue.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pirates offseason - 40 Man Guess


The 40 Man Roster issue is going to be a large topic of discussion.  One can hope that the Pirates do not make any Rule 5 Picks this year as we appear to be past that point in the development.  I would think that they Pirates will go into the Winter Meetings with a full complement on the 40 Man that includes a few people they might can jettison when they sign a free agent they like. 

 

Here is my guess at the 40 Man.

Pitchers:

AJ Burnett – unless he is angry about Cole getting the Game 5 start, he is going to be resigned.

Gerrit Cole

Brandon Crumpton – has options left and showed he might could be a fifth starter

Jeanamar Gomez – too good to let walk away, but could be dumped if someone great signed.

Jason Grilli

Phil Irwin – has potential and could easily convert to bullpen

Kris Johnson – he is a lefty that will ultimately be a bullpen guy.  Again if better comes, no big deal.

Fransico Lirano

Jeff Locke

Vin Mazzaro – I do think he gets tendered an offer.  Cheap bet, and he did well this year.

Kyle McPhearson – hard thrower.  Pirates have loved him for some time.  Keeper.

Mark Melancon

Bryan Morris – probably, oh well

Charlie Morton

Stolmey Pimentel

Ryan Reid – I think he pitched well enough to be kept.  Has options so AAA bullpen depth. 

Wandy Rodriguiz – the choice to pick up the option is his and he gets good money.  He’ll do it.

Tony Watson

Justin Wilson

 

Position Players:

Russell Martin

Tony Sanchez

Michael McHenry – I think they bring him back for catching depth.  If not they may sign someone.

Pedro Alvarez

Josh Harrison

Jordy Mercer

Neil Walker

Gaby Sanchez – I think they tender him an offer.  Power bat and few options at first.

Andrew Lambo

Starling Marte

Andrew McCutchen

Jose Tabata

 

This gives us 31 people, and has us saying good bye to Jeff Karstens, Garret Jones, and Clint Barmes among others. 

Of course there will be additions to the roster.  We have 10 spots.  Let us just assume one will be reserved for a left handed first baseman from the free agent market and another for a bullpen pitcher, giving us 7 spots to fill.

 

Gregory Polanco - no brainer

Mel Rojas Jr. – too early to give up on a guy who just had his best year and at the AA level.

Gift Ngope – he gets one more year to try and hit.  His glove is great, and could be taken in Rule 5.

Joely Rodriguiz – the Pirates like hard throwing guys, and he is left handed.

Stetson Allie – again might just be for pride reasons, but he showed amazing power.

Justin Howard – his bat is decent and we have a real problem at 1B.  Easily replaceable on this list.

Adalberto Santos – super utility guy who can easily be taken in Rule 5.  Protection.

Casey Sadler – he could go in a Rule 5, but he would be a dump candidate upon signings.

 

There are some interesting possibilities.  For example, they could let McHenry go avoiding arbitration, and instead add Carlos Paulino to the roster.  Paulino is a defensive rock, but not so good on the offense.  If this spot is just for AAA and emergencies, then it is a risk you might could take, however, if you want Sanchez to get some more swings making him the AAA catcher, then this spot is a major league back up position, and Paulino is not your guy. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

What a season!

That was a great run for the Pirates.  Bring on next season.  Right now.  I am ready. 
The Pirates broke the streak, made the playoffs, eliminated the Reds (which got Dusty Baker fired), and took the Cards to the limit.

I am a believer in Clint Hurdle now.  I thought he made good decisions during the playoff rounds.  Even in Game 5, I think starting Cole was the right thing to do (although Burnett may want to sign elsewhere now, but for winning it was the best bet).  Even though I am not a Justin Wilson fan, I think bringing him in was the right move.  He got the first two lefties, and was probably instructed to pitch around Molina, which is not a bad idea.  You had another lefty-lefty match up, but it just did not work out. 

The big questions now are what to do about next year.  It seems fairly obvious that the big offseason free agent moves will be directed at First Base, and the Pirates always sign someone for the bullpen. 

Most of the team will be back, and that is a good thing.  Lirano, Morton, Cole, and Locke are back with Wandy Rodriguiz having a player option that I bet he picks up since it is for a lot of money and the Pirates are contenders.  Burnett is thinking about retiring, but has hinted he would like to come back to Pittsburg, and I think you sign him.  Don't forget that Crumpton is ready in Triple A and mid season Jameson Taillon might be too, but keeping him down until September may not be a bad thing.  Kyle McPherson and Phil Irwin will be coming back from injuries, but won't take all year to get ready.  In fact, Irwin might could start the year in the bullpen.  Stolmy is ready and could be bullpen material as well.  A lot of decisions there.  As for the rest of the bullpen Grilli is locked in, so no closer issues.

The rest of the team will be back with the exception of Marlon Byrd, Justin Morneau, Garrett Jones, Clint Barmes, and perhaps Gaby Sanchez.  I think you let everyone but Sanchez go.  You resign Sanchez and see if you can get a guy on the free agent market to be the everyday guy.  Mercer already took Barmes's spot at short so no problem there.  And frankly Tabata and Snyder can go back to platooning to cover for Byrd, who will probably require real money to re-sign.  Use that money for Burnett who is going to need it.  Tabata showed flashes of being good again, and don't forget Jerry Sands will probably still be on the 40 man as will Lambo.  Gregory Polanco might make his way onto the team by mid-season.  His Arizona Fall League performance will be important.  Alex Dickerson just hit a career high in doubles and homers in AA too.  So, he will be in Triple A just in case. 

It will be an interesting off season.  One that I will be counting every second.  Come again soon baseball!!!!

Until then I hope Jim Leyland gets another title.  The man deserves it.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Playoffs!!!

The Pirates beat the Reds!!!!!!!

In fact, it appears now that the Pirates cost Dusty Baker his job.  Baker is a good coach at getting his players to stay focused all year.  But much like The Braves of the 90's, Baker cannot coach in single game situations.  The Pirates helped expose that as they lit into Cueto.  Even their outs were crushed.  But Dusty stuck with Cueto until the game was well out of reach.

Although in an act of cosmic karma, the Pirates were destroyed by the Cards in the opener.  It was more than just a bad 3rd inning.  AJ did not have his stuff.  No strikeouts in the first couple of innings, but a walk and a couple of hits.  A double play got him out of the second, but nothing could get him out of the 3rd.

Still, I have not been this excited about Pirate baseball in years.  I think the series as a whole looks good for the Pirates.  Lirano should have the edge when he pitches, and he will start at home.  I like Cole and Morton as having slight edges.  We have to make sure we are not in a bad position when Wainright comes up a again.  I like AJ, and he won't be this bad again, but that match up favors the Cards.

It is good to be a part of Buctober again.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cards keep us in it, but it is all about the Reds

As the year winds down, it is almost impossible for the Pirates not to make the playoffs.  And I do have to pinch myself when I say that.  However, our bats have deserted us a bit at the end of this year and it cost us against San Diego.  We lost two winnable games and dropped out of first.  The good news is we found the bats today and St. Louis finally lost a close game to the Rockies.  We are a game out and that is doable.

However, the Reds are all that matter.  The Pirates need to get that first round bye or avoid the play in game, however you want to look at it.  But thanks to this series it is more in the hands of the Cards than us.  What the Pirates have to do is avoid dropping below the Reds so they can host that playoff game.  We have a head to head series coming up and it is very important.  VERY IMPORTANT.  All eyes will be watching one of the last real races in the majors.

I do think a word needs to be said about Gerrit Cole.  These last few weeks he has been everything you dreamed he would be when he was drafted.  He pitched us out of the slump that finally got the winning record.  He pitched great the next outing too.  And today he set a career high with 12 K's, breaking another slump of 3 games.  Cole may be the ace now.  He is pitching like it.  This is great news for the future of the Pirates.

So too is the news about Fall Ball.  Jameson Taillon will be pitching for the Scorpions (I think that is who we are associated with).  Taillon did well at Triple A and if he can do will in a very hitter friendly environment, he is not long for the minors next year.  I am just as excited about Phil Irwin going out to Arizona.  Irwin has been a winner at every level and made it to the majors this year only to get hurt.  This means he is back and ready to pitch.  Getting him a few innings is what he needs.  He will be on the outside looking in next year thanks to this injury, but I do believe Irwin has the ability to be a 5th starter in the majors, and a good one.  It is good to see him back.