Friday, May 1, 2015

Alen Hanson vs. Dilson Herrera

Well, it is time to face the facts.  Dilson Herrera is better than Alen Hanson and it may not even be close.  Dilson Herrera has made the majors and is now going to be facing Pirate pitching. 

I always thought Herrera was better than Hanson.  When the trade was Hanson was on a higher minor league level and still playing short.  Now Herrera has past Hanson, although one could argue that the Mets need may have played a role and Hanson is not needed right now in Pittsburgh.  However, Herrera was hitting .370 in AAA and Hanson's OBP is not that high (.318).  Hanson has two errors already this year and there is little reason to think moving to second is going to make his defense acceptable.

The problem with Hanson has never been his ability.  I do think Herrera was underrated in that area ever since he put together a massive hitting streak in the DSL, but Hanson can hit.  The problem is mental and that is always worse than someone who has a more physical hole in his game.  I don't think Herrera has ever been sat down by his team.  Hanson has it happen quite a bit.  His error in the field were not a player trying to play short stop that did not have the tools, the errors were on the routine plays.  Baseball is mostly routine plays.  Baseball is doing the ordinary stuff really well.  Hanson seems prone to throwing fits, not running out ground balls, and not having his head in the game.

We lost that trade with the Mets.  Vic Black and Herrera are going to be key pieces in the Mets trip to the playoffs this year.  We got what we needed in the short term, but this is why I never like trading for short term rental players.

Looks like the Pirates just lost in 10.  Ugh.   

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Pirates Clearly have improved

Spring Training begins and there is real reason to hope this year.  The Pirates start this season with so much depth it is scary.  They didn't do a ton during the offseason, but every move was with great purpose. 
They have made the bench depth better.  Cory Hart is probably an upgrade over Ike Davis.  Sean Rodriguiz and Kang are both upgrades.  Pedro Alvarez is a bit of a question mark at first, but his raw power makes it a real possible upgrade at first over Gabby.  And while the Pirates may have stepped back a bit behind home plate, going to get Cervelli is still good enough.  Add to that the real reason to hope that Polanco is an upgrade in the outfield, and the Pirates look set in the field. 

But the pitching is great too.  Lirano, Cole, Morton, Worley, and Locke are back.  But adding AJ Burnett is huge.  The bullpen looks good with many new faces like Liz to help fill out the long relief.  It is a comforting thing.

But the real greatness is in all the people ready to come up and fill time.  Andrew Lambo is ready for first or outfield, and may beat out Tabata for the final bench spot.  Brandon Crumpton is ready to fill in the rotation.  Nick Kingham and Jameson Taillon will be ready by July or so.  You have Sadler who can go to the bullpen if needed.  Adrian Sampson might prove hard to ignore as well.  Lafromboise will probably be a lefty for the pen in the minors.  That is a lot of pitching depth. 

And I really did not even think about those who could break out to earn shots if needed like Jaff Decker, who is still on the 40 man. 

In short the Pirates look good at pitching both starting and bullpen.  They look great in the infield with the possible exception of first base where they have a lot of possible parts.  They are amazing in the outfield with spare parts.  This should be the year to move forward and start thinking division title.    

Friday, December 26, 2014

An offseason of dreams

The Pirates got in with the wild card again this past year.  Two years in a row of playoff baseball is something to be thankful about.  Yet, this offseason has set hopes of more playoffs into a new stratosphere.  This is the Pirate front office doing what you always hoped they would do.

First, they have kept real talent on the team and have in in the minors.  This has obviously been building for years, but during two playoff runs they have not traded away the future.  In addition to breaking camp this year with Gregory Polanco, the Pirates will have at Indianapolis Nick Kingham, Jameson Taillon, and then some to help if the rotation needs it.  They have stashed plenty of guys who can give bullpen aid for short stretches.  They have even managed to hold on to guys like Mel Rojas Jr., who could be an outfielder if we need it.  Amazing.

Second, they have resigned talent that is needed.  Yes, they had to let Russel Martin go.  They tried, and that is something.  But they did resign Fransico Lirano.  Pitching was going to be a problem, but getting Lirano stablizes the rotation quite a bit.  It keeps your ace, and is a proven commodity.  How long has it been since the Pirates resigned their ace in a free agent year?

Third, the Pirates made a splash in the free agent market.  They got Fransico Cervelli (via trade) to be their catcher.  Now that is not a big time fish, but it helps a need a great deal.  He is a starting quality catcher.  They also signed AJ Burnett.  Burnett came back to Pittsburgh for less.  This was a case of the Pirates not burning bridges and being a legitimate place to return to try and win a championship.  This is an upgrade for our 3rd starter, and brings a leader back into the clubhouse.  The Pirates also signed some bullpen help with Bastardo and Liz.  This helps replace one of the traded players for Cervelli, but also fills out a bullpen, which always needs something.  It is a sign of not being content with a pretty decent bullpen.  Don't even get me started on Sean Rogdriguiz and other moves to help the team.

Fourth, none of this even compares to winning the rights to sign  Jung-Ho.  Now he has not signed yet, but he probably will.  Winning the bidding means the Pirates are in it to win it.  They have never done something like this before.  They are taking a flyer on a middle infielder who may or may not have real pop, but does appear to be defensively sound, and can make contact.  Why not go for it?  Only teams that are serious about getting better do such things, and the Pirates have done it.  My excitement level is off the charts. 

In short the Pirates have acted like serious World Series contenders this offseason.  Perhaps this year we can win a division crown.  That would be the step forward that the Pirates need to take.  And this offseason is enough to help fans dream dreams that could really come true. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Winning the Right Way

The Pirates appear to be in line to make the playoffs after tonight's 1-0 win over the Braves.  After how bad the Pirates were early this season and their season long inability to sweep teams, I never thought they were going to make the playoffs.  Yet, the Pirates are going to do it.  And they did it without trading for anyone. 

The Tigers traded big as did the A's.  The Angels did it, and the traditional way of thinking is that you have to upgrade your team to make the stretch run.  The Pirates have upgraded without trades, but it is still an upgrade.  Well their was the one early season trade to rid them of Grilli, but that was arguably not a good trade.

The Pirates relied on their farm system to upgrade them rather than deplete the farm system for rental players as the Royals did last year.  The knew that Gregory Polanco was coming, but after an initial help, he really fell off the radar and was later demoted.  But his help was there for an important stretch.  They trusted Jeff Locke and Brandon Crumpton could get the job done in the rotation and they did just fine.  And let us not overlook the trade right before the season to acquire Vance Worley for cash.  Worley sat in AAA for the year and came ready to pitch, and he has done so. 

The masterful use of the waiver wire is what the Pirates excelled at this year.  When the Pirates had trouble with Alvarez, they were able to use the wire to grab Brent Morel.  Now that does not sound like much, but Morel could defend 3B and plugged the emergency back up role just fine while Harrison took over the hot corner.  When they needed to replace Barmes as the emergency back up short stop, they did that over the wire too.  No panic, just use the waiver wire to get what you need.  No need to trade for a SS or a 3B, just waiver wire.  Even better appears to be the use of the wire to pick up LaFrombose, a lefty specialist.  Now this was done near the end of the year, but could pay dividends in the playoffs.  He will be available to add to the team if extra left handers are needed. 

Now the real gem is of course Holdzkom.  Holdzkom was found by the scouts in independent ball, and is now a legitimate late innings pitcher.  Take tonight for example.  He pitched the 8th in a 1 run game during the stretch run for the playoffs.  There is little doubt that Holdzkom becomes the the 7th inning man for the playoffs.  And he will be back for the next year strengthening the bullpen, which was a clear weakness early in the season.  Holdzkom will simply take Stolmy Pimentel's place who the Pirates successfully hid all year on the roster.  Not often are playoff contenders able to hid guys who have no options left on the roster all year if they are not actually contributors.  

The Pirates nice stretch by the Pirates is proof that the trade deadline is a bit overrated.  Teams often ought to trust their roster and trust their farm system. 

If anything the contrast between the A's and the Pirates ought to be stark.  One made a blockbuster trade that moved a starting player and some minor leaguers for a front line starting pitcher for the rest of the season, and the Pirates absorbed criticism and stood pat.  The A's are limping down the stretch and have gone from the best team in the majors before the all star break to barely making the playoffs.  The Pirates went from third in their division and behind several teams to in the playoffs and challenging for the top wild card spot, and while they are going to come up a little short on the NL central title, they gave it a run.

This was an impressive display from the Pirates this year, especially their front office.   

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.

- 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.