Sunday, August 31, 2014

Playoff Rosters

So the Pirates have to set their playoff roster before expanding it on September 1st.  The rules are a bit flexible, but lets run through this.

If you are on the 25 man active roster as of midnight August 31st then you are eligible for post season play.  This includes those on the DL, so Charlie Morton is eligible despite not being active.  Now in the big wrinkle anyone from the organization can be added to take the spot of a person the DL when playoff time comes.  So what does this mean for the Pirates playoff roster?

It means that people eligible for the playoffs include Brandon Crumpton and Brent Morel since they are currently on the 25 man roster.  This is why Andrew Lambo was brought up before September 1.  Lambo is now eligible for the playoffs as is Jose Tabata.  So the 25 men who took the field today are all eligible. 

Those who are not eligible of interest include Gregory Polanco and Jeff Locke along with Gerrit Cole who were optioned the other day in order to help bring up Morel and Lambo. 

Now the Pirates have two other players who remain eligible in Charlie Morton and Stolmy Pimentel.  Both of those guys are eligible for the playoffs. 

The Disabled List loophole it means that Cole or Locke or Polanco or anyone else in the organization could be used to take Morton or Pimentel's slot and be on a post season roster if that person is still on the DL come playoff time.  Currently with Morton sounding like he is not going to pitch again it means that one of these demoted players would be able to play in the playoffs.  And it would NOT have to be a pitcher that took Morton's place.  Of course if anyone else on the active 25 man roster gets sent to the DL and remains there during the playoffs the Pirates would be able to replace that person as well. 

Two other things worth noting are that if a player is acquired from other teams in September that person cannot play in the Divisional series and beyond.  Thus, trades are effectively over for the Pirates.  Also, for whatever reason, the one game wild card playoff does not follow this eligibility rule.  Anyone on roster at the end of the season is able to play in this game.  In a sense the one game playoff is considered more of a final regular season game than a post season game.  Anyone who is called up in September is eligible for that one game. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pirates Call Ups

The Pirates are two games back in the loss column (unless SF loses tonight) from the final wild card spot.  They just had a decent run of winning series against the Brewers and the Cardinals; however, the Pirates inability to sweep anyone is the reason I still think they miss the playoffs. 

But the September call ups are about to become a reality, so who will the Pirates call up to try and help the playoff push?  Here are my thoughts.

No Brainers:
- Stolmy Pimentel = His injury was a bit questionable and timed perfectly to be able to come up without having to make room on the 25 man roster.
- Charlie Morton = I am not sure if he will be healthy enough at the beginning of September, but when he is, he comes right back.
- Gregory Polanco  = Polanco went down to try and get right, but is still part of the outfield of the future, so expect him back.
- Tony Sanchez = Sanchez gives the Pirates 3 catchers which they did last year for the playoff push, so no reason to expect they will not do it again.  Sanchez on the roster allows Martin to pinch hit on days where he is resting without worry.  Also Sanchez moving up gives plenty of at bats to Diaz in AAA, which is what they want anyway.

Probable:
- Andrew Lambo = Lambo came up last year, and is hitting homers at a nice clip since coming back from the AAA DL.  Lambo gives a power option off the bench, and can play outfield or 1B giving added defensive flexibility.

I think so, but not postive:
- Casey Sadler = He has been up and down and could give a long inning relief option so that if the Pirates got blown out they did not have to waste a good pitcher.  He is in the starting rotation at Indy, so they may wait until Indy is done, but once they are, I think Casey comes back up.
- Michael Martinez = He is infield depth.  Again, I think they wait until Indy's season is over, but they have had him up before.  Why not?
- Bobby LaFromboise = a recent waiver claim.  He is a lefty with a funky delivery, and is pretty good against lefties.  Clint is not much on the one pitcher, one hitter philosophy, but maybe after September he would be willing to give it a shot.  LaFromboise is not part of Indy in any real way, so if he is going to come up, I would imagine it would be right away.

Probably not:
- Chris McGuiness = Too many choices at 1B with Pedro over there now and Lambo able to play there too.
- Brent Morel = The Pirates seem to prefer Martinez, and I don't think they carry people just to carry people.  In the pennant race, the Pirates seem to favor only bringing up players they may use.
- Mel Rojas = He did great after making the jump to AAA.  But Lambo and Polanco are both going to see outfield time or pinch hitting/running.  There is no need for a 6th outfielder.  He will play out the season in AAA and come back next year as a prospect and possible 4th outfielder.  A good year, but no call up.  Plus, I think they have to remove a guy and why bother for someone who is not going to play.

I just don't see the Pirates adding people to the 40 man in order to call them up.  That is bad news for Vin Mazzarro, but I don't think the Pirates are going to do it.  If they liked Mazzarro enough to think he could have helped their pen, they would have done it long before now.  Same goes for Andy Oliver.  I don't see a whole lot of call ups.  I am projecting 8, but would not be surprised of LaFromboise got left out.  I will be surprised if more than 8 come up. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Big Market Rebuilding: Theo Epstein is not brillant just rich

You can always count on Grantland to have some thought provoking articles.  The recent one about the way the Cubs are rebuilding is no different.  However, Mr. Jazayreli left out the most important point: this type of rebuilding is not possible for teams like the Pirates. 

The point of the article is that the Cubs are starting to find success by rebuilding counter to the MLB norm.  Instead of going for pitching because pitching wins championships. they have gone for hitting.  Those hitters are all panning out because they are a safer bet than pitchers (see Stetson Allie), and less injury prone (see Taillon).  The article does give a nod to the FIP stat and that the Cubs seem to be using to grab a pitcher here and there, but the Pirates seem to be doing a bit of that themselves.  The last paragraph makes the claim that if they sign a big name free agent pitcher they should be a pick to make the playoffs in 2015. 

But there is the rub.  The Cubs have money to sign a big name free agent pitcher in the offseason.  The Pirates do not.  To get the big name pitcher you have to over pay, and the Pirates do not have the budget to do that, the Cubs do.  The article admits at the end that an ace is going to be necessary to get to the playoffs and win in the playoffs.  The Cubs do not have to develop that ace because they can go and sign one or two.  So why not just load up on hitting?  Pitching is a free agent offer sheet away. 

The Pirates do not have that ability.  People do not sign in Pittsburgh unless their career is in ruins.  Burnett was acquired via trade because he failed miserably in New York.  Lirano was injury prone and inconsistent in Minnesota, so he signed with Pittsburgh.  Once AJ Burnett re-established himself as a good pitcher, he faked retirement to avoid the qualifying offer from the Pirates and signed back in a big market: Philly.  Will Lirano re-sign with the Pirates?  Probably not.  So the Pirates have to develop their own ace pitchers.  And that means having to draft several because, as was pointed out, some do not make it (see Zack Von Rosenburg). 

So the Cubs new way of rebuilding is not really genius new way to build a team as much as it is a big market team way of rebuilding.  And that is a point that should be made.   

Monday, August 11, 2014

Why it is too early to give up on Luis Heredia

There is no hiding it, Luis Heredia is having a bad year.  He entered tonight with more walks than strikeouts, and averaging giving up a hit an inning.  He did have a good night tonight as he went seven innings giving up no runs, three hits, two walks and getting five strikeouts.  It lowered his ERA to under 4.  Sadly the Power blew the game and Heredia will not get a win for his efforts.  Still it was one of his best outings of the year.

Heredia is only 20.  He is young for his level, and is eating innings despite his control problems this year.  He is averaging a little over 5 innings an outing.  There is something to be said for that.  Heredia is still a work in progress.  Last year he came into camp overweight.  This year he did not.  He started off the year on the DL, but is putting innings on his arm and looking healthy now.  A lot of his problems come from the Pirates trying to get an out pitch.  They switched him this year to a slurve, and it is not working.  They went from a curve to begin with to a slider now to a slurve.  They are playing with his arm slot, and this accounts for a lot of his problems.

Yet, Heredia still has a good fastball.  His change up is okay, and if they can settle in and let him develop a decent out pitch he can be a good pitcher.  His projection to be an ace is probably out the window; however, Heredia still has the potential to be an inning eater who can get your team wins.  A lot of this depends on developing that out pitch, but the Pirates system has some real success with pitchers, so there is real reason to hope.  Outings like tonight can be much more regular.

Heredia does not have to be added to the 40 man this year, but he will in 2015.  So, I do not think that Heredia can repeat A Ball.  Next year he has to start out at High A to see if he can handle the jump in competition.  Will Heredia work hard in the offseason again, and will he come back with that out pitch?  Important questions.  These last months of baseball are important.  Heredia is improving, and if that trend continues there is good reason to be bullish on Heredia.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Gage Hinsz and the 2014 draft

The Pirates did it.  They signed 11th round pick Gage Hinsz.  I was a little worried as they did not seem to have a lot left and an Oregon State commitment is not easily broken, but I am glad that they got him. 

That wraps up this years draft, and I like it.  I liked it earlier, but I think now Pirates fans need to readjust their thinking to see drafts like this as good.  This is an average draft, and we should like average.  It is called average for a reason, it happens regularly.  It is going to be harder and harder to get great drafts if the Pirates are going to insist on finishing above .500.  It is evident now that the Pirates were not trying to save money on Tucker, but that other teams also had him ranked in the middle of the first round.  And while you might could quibble about Connor Joe, or Jorge from Puerto Rico, every draft is going to have a few of those picks. 

The Pirates are consistently showing an ability to get a decent pick just outside the 10th round the way they draft.  They have shown a willingness to pay a tax, but not lose a draft pick.  They have clearly strengthened an already stocked farm system.  There may not be an Andrew McCutchen in this group, but there are a whole lot of Josh Harrisons. 

It is not a blow your mind great draft, but those should be rare.  It is not an awful draft either.  This is the average.  And it is an average the Pirates can live with.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Who to trade?

It is starting to look more and more like the Pirates are going to be buyers at the trading deadline rather than sellers.  I still think the playoffs is a long shot, and it would be better to be sellers, but it would not sit well with most of the fan base.

So the question becomes what prospects do we have to watch go away for this long shot hope?

I would start off by saying that Glasnow, Kingham, Meadows, McGuire, and Bell should all be off the table.  Kingham is ready for primetime, and could be a nice addition to the 2015 rotation, and the other guys are the foundation of the Pirates dynasty.  Taillon should be off the table too, but with his injury it is unlikely anyone would want to trade for him.

This means I would be willing to part with anyone else given the right return.  I would actually be ecstatic if we got a good player in return for Alen Hanson, but I have always been low him, much lower than most.  I would have done anything to keep Dilson Herrera last year and trade Hanson, but it is too late now.  Herrera hit over .300 in High A this year and has recently received his promotion to AA where he is hitting a cool .340.  Herrera may not have been able to stay at short, but neither can Hanson.  The fact that Herrera went in a trade makes me think that some of the other teams do not value Hanson as highly either.

Luis Heredia is someone who I would like to keep, but if he brings the right return, then he goes.   I still really like his potential remembering that he is not yet 20, but you can't just trade away people you don't think are going to be any good.  And so perhaps now is also the time to offer up Adrian Sampson.  He is having a break out season, and might bring back some interest.  A lot of our other young interesting pitchers are hurt (like Clay Holmes and Duke Welker), so not many other names pop out as good trade bait.  That is unless you count Casey Sadler and Brandon Crumpton.  Crumpton specifically has shown he can do this at the major league level, and it would stink to lose him, but he should not be off limits.  Maybe he brings back a piece.

I am not sure who would be a good trade piece as a hitter.  Elias Diaz, AA catcher, could be a possibility.  Maybe Mel Rojas too.  Both guys would probably need to be added to the 40 man this year, and trading them now might free up the crunch.  Gift Ngope has some potential with the bat, maybe he gets put in a deal.  Barrett Barnes is just coming back off injury, but he could be a young prospect worth shopping around.  The Pirates are fairly loaded in the outfield anyway.  Keon Broxton probably won't bring much, but maybe he could be packaged to bring back something.

If you could package Broxton, Sadler, and Hanson it might bring back a piece worth having.  But overall, I hope the Pirates do not go crazy.  The odds are long at this point, and the Pirates have not had great success in the trade deadline deal.  It is usually a bad deal for the buyers.  I would prefer staying the course and letting next year take its course.  I just think the Pirates are low in too many places (SS, 1B, starting pitching) for deadline deals to make a difference.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Problem with the Pirates

The Pirates are above .500 and that is a good thing.  But I still think they are in big trouble.  Let me point to one thing that I think is a real problem.  The Pirates cannot sweep anyone.  They fail over and over to put their foot on the throat of lesser teams and finish them off.  And this is not just about getting dominated by David Price and being unable to sweep one of the worst teams in baseball.  It happens over and over and over again.

In fact, by my count, the Pirates have only one sweep all year and that is against the Nationals.  They failed to do it against the Rays, the Blue Jays, the Reds, the Cubs, and many many more.  They just cannot sweep.  Why can be a bit of harder thing to figure out.  Is our pitching just not strong enough?  Is our bullpen too weak?  Do we lack timely hitting?  Who knows!

But I do think it has been enough time to say that the inability to sweep is a real problem.  We are not able to dominate lesser teams.  This was not a problem last year.  Playoff teams are able to sweep lesser teams.  Even with their 5th starter on the mound, they polish off the guys that are no good.

Ultimately that means I think the Pirates are about where they should be.  At .500.  I expect them to hover here for the rest of the season.  They are not going to be able to put distance between themselves and that number because they cannot sweep teams, and they are going to lose series to the better teams. This makes them a middle of the pack team.

All this to say that unless they can come up with a trade that addresses and fixes this problem, then I hope they are sellers at at the trade deadline.  I don't want to lose good prospects to continue to tread water.  And the fact that we are in the Wild Card race is more a commentary on how awful the National League is overall than a commentary on the Pirates being any good.