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Bucs Dugout - All Posts

An unofficial Pittsburgh Pirates blog

Updated: 2017-10-20T19:03:58-04:00


How young are the playoff teams?



One thing that’s stuck out for me in watching the LCS games this year is just how bad the “proven veteran” hitters on the playoff teams have been. It’s been painful watching guys like Brian McCann and Chase Utley try to get the bat around against postseason fastballs . . . almost as painful as listening to the network broadcasters fawning over the same “proven veterans.”

So it occurred to me that the final four playoff teams, or at least their hitters, were very young. (Pitchers don’t have the same career arcs as hitters due to the role of injuries and the importance of command vs. pure stuff.) So I looked up the ages of these teams, based on weighted averages. Turns out they’re more or less average overall.

Cubs: 27.1 years (6th youngest in MLB)
Dodgers: 27.9 (9th)
MLB Average: 28.3
Yankees: 28.6, 18th
Astros: 28.8, 23rd

But wait . . . . Who’s actually producing for these teams? Since the average age is 28.3, I added up the fWAR totals for each team, based on players 28 or younger and players 29 and older:


28 or younger: 23.2 fWAR
29+: 3.1


28 or younger: 23.5
29+: 6.6


28 or younger: 20.2
29+: 7.7


28 or younger: 26.8
29+: 6.5

But maybe it’s just happenstance, seeing as how this is just four teams. Let’s look at the other four teams that reached the LDS:

Red Sox

28 or younger: 15.9
29+: 2.1


28 or younger: 15.7
29+: 11.9


28 or younger: 19.1
29+: 6.9


28 or younger: 5.1
29+: 13.7

So except for the D’backs, these teams are not winning with proven veterans. (And most of the D’backs 29+ total came from Paul Goldschmidt, J.D. Martinez and David Peralta, all of whom turned 30 late in the season, and A.J. Pollock, who’s 29.) Maybe this is a sign of the post-steroids era, where older players can’t maintain their performance chemically. (If there’s research on that point, feel free to chime in.) But it looks to me like, at least as far as scoring runs is concerned, baseball is a younger man’s game.

And what does this tell us about the Pirates? Here’s where their production came from:

28 and younger: 2.1 fWAR
29+: 9.5

The Pirates had baseball’s third-worst offense in 2017. If they’re looking to improve solely by relying on players having better years, they’ve got an uphill climb.

Playoff thread: Astros try to force game seven



Yankees @ Astros
8:00pm ET
Luis Severino vs. Justin Verlander

Playoff thread: Dodgers try again to finish off Cubs



Dodgers @ Cubs
8:00pm ET
Clayton Kershaw vs. Jose Quintana

The Cubs’ lefty starter forces the o - l - d , s - l - o - w, veteran bats of Chase Utley and Curtis Granderson out of the LA lineup. It’s been painful watching the Proven Veterans like these two, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran trying to hit in the LCS. And even more painful listening to Ron Darling idolizing them.

Report: Alex Cora to be named Red Sox manager



Check it out: something tangentially Pirates-related.

There are multiple reports indicating the Boston Red Sox will name Alex Cora their next manager after the conclusion of the American League Championship Series.

Joey Cora, the Pirates third-base coach, is Alex Cora’s brother. Alex Cora is considered a leading managerial candidate, likely to land somewhere, and wherever that is, even if it does not end up being Boston, it’s possible he’ll try and have his brother join his staff. Of course, it’s entirely plausible the brothers will not enter such an arrangement.

So the Pirates may or may not need a new third-base coach for everyone to complain about.

Alex Cora is currently serving as the Astros bench coach.

CC Sabathia reinvented himself before the Pirates could



If you’ve paid attention to CC Sabathia the last couple years, this might seem obvious, but the 37-year-old left-hander has probably pitched his way out of being a realistic free-agent target for the Pirates this upcoming offseason.

A quick glance at this winter’s free-agent class might show Sabathia as a likely candidate for the Pirates — an older pitcher looking at a shorter, smaller contract. But it seems Sabathia has beaten the Pirates to the punch, reinventing himself before he could even ask for Ray Searage’s help. Now he’s putting up a solid enough postseason for a Yankees team that could probably use his services next year. And even if it’s not the Yankees, Sabathia looks very much the type to get $15 million or so as a Dodgers-style luxury depth piece from a more monied, or at least willing, suitor than the Pirates.

Sabathia’s lowest era from 2013 to 2015 was 4.73. With diminished velocity, he added a cutter and threw it a lot more often starting in 2016, getting some of the weakest contact in the league, turning in a pretty good 3.91 ERA in Yankee Stadium and the American League East.

He kept up with the cutter, but also threw more sliders at the expense of straight fastballs in 2017, having similar success. That’s spilled over into a solid postseason that certainly won’t hurt his free-agent value.

The numbers $10 to $12 million are being thrown about. I’m bad at this sort of thing, but I might put that number a little higher, given Sabathia’s amenable to a one- or two-year contract (and, at 37, what else are you looking for?).

Even putting aside the Pirates’ *relative* strength and depth in starting pitching, it seems that price could likely put them out of the market for Sabathia. The Pirates have lost out on veteran rebounds like Rich Hill and Scott Kazmir because teams (or in those cases, a singular team) had more money to throw after some depth starters than the Pirates did with a more pressing need. Sabathia is the perfect type of pitcher for a role in a newer Dodgers-style eight-ish-man rotation, whether that’s with the Yankees or some other, likely higher-spending competitive team for 2018.

It was questionable whether the Pirates, frustratingly satisfied to take risks with pitching depth in recent years, were going to go after a starter this offseason anyway. Sabathia’s regular- and postseason performance has made him, once a good fit, much more unlikely to end up in Pittsburgh.

Playoff thread: Dodgers go for the sweep



Astros @ Yankees
5:00pm ET
Dallas Keuchel vs. Masahiro Tanaka

Dodgers @ Cubs
9:00pm ET
Alex Wood vs. Jake Arrieta

Quiz: Name the Pirates with 20+ saves in a season



There are 35 seasons represented here and 18 different relievers. If you can get 15 of them, that’s impressive.

The guy with the most appearances here won’t surprise you. One with the second most (in a tie) might a little.

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Playoff thread: Dodgers and Astros go for win #3



Astros @ Yankees
5:00pm ET
Lance McCullers vs. Sonny Gray

Dodgers @ Cubs
9:00pm ET
Yu Darvish vs. Kyle Hendricks