2005-06-07T02:52:47.146-04:00as Bucs Dugout. Please update your links, and see you there.
2005-05-17T18:02:52.773-04:00Here's a nice article by Studes on why the Pirates and Brewers have been playing so well recently.
2005-05-17T00:48:37.560-04:00What an unbelievably stupid, breathless, worthless piece of hackery this is.
2005-05-11T17:45:47.236-04:00The Pirates just acquired Mike Restovich from the Rockies for a player to be named later and cash. Presuming the PTBNL isn't a prospect and that amount of cash isn't much (in the last few months, Restovich has been DFA'ed by the Rockies and Devil Rays and waived by the Twins, though with the Pirates one never knows), this is a nice little trade. Restovich is just 26 and has an .806 career major league OPS, and he has always hit pretty well against minor league pitching, so there could be some upside here. Since Craig Wilson is hurt, Nate McLouth and Chris Duffy aren't ready, and the Pirates don't want to move Daryle Ward to the outfield, the Pirates have a corner outfield spot available. This is a nice opportunity to find out more about Restovich, who could be a dirt-cheap, league-average player the next few years if everything breaks right for him. He might grab some starts here and there in the outfield, then become a solid bench player if better players become available. This trade isn't any big deal, but that doesn't mean it couldn't turn out nicely.
2005-05-13T18:37:12.176-04:00Bob Smizik writes about Chris Young, Bronson Arroyo, Leo Nunez and Roberto Novoa. Theirs are stories that need to be told, but Smizik doesn't tell them very well.On Arroyo: "[The Pirates] gave Arroyo, who was a highly regarded prospect, ample opportunity and he never took advantage of it. In parts of three seasons with the Pirates, he was 9-14 and gave no hint of what was to come."In parts of three seasons with the Pirates, that's almost true, but it doesn't come close to telling the whole story.In 2000, when Arroyo was 23, he put up an 8-2 record and a 3.65 ERA in 88.2 innings at Class AAA Nashville. In spite of these superficially strong statistics, he had no business playing for the Pirates at that point - he only struck out 52 batters at Nashville, so his strikeout rate was quite low, an indication that he needed more time to develop. But he ended up pitching 71.2 innings for the Pirates that year anyway, and the results were predictable: he got bombed, putting up a 6.40 ERA.Arroyo split 2001 between Nashville and Pittsburgh. His ERA went up a bit at Nashville, but his strikeout and K/BB rates were much better, indicating improvement. In Pittsburgh, his strikeout rate was a bit lower than it had been in 2000, but his walk rate dropped too, and he lopped 1.3 runs off his ERA.Arroyo spent most of 2002 at Nashville, where he was downright good, posting 116 strikeouts, 28 walks and an ERA below 3. He didn't play much at Pittsburgh that year, but again, he knocked more than a run off the previous year's ERA when he did (although it was a small sample, and his strikeout and walk rates were about what they had been in 2000).Arroyo's record wasn't completely consistent, but the general trend was one of marked improvement. The reason why Arroyo may have looked like a failed prospect at the time was that he was called up well before he should have been. In reality, he was already a productive big league pitcher in the season before the Pirates let him go, and a 25 year-old who puts up the numbers Arroyo did at AAA in 2002 deserves a spot on a roster, especially the roster of a bad team. It is also worth pointing out that when the Pirates let him go, Arroyo was two years younger than Ryan Vogelsong is now, and Vogelsong continues to get chances with the Pirates even though his performance record is not as strong as Arroyo's was. Dave Littlefield really screwed up in letting Arroyo go.Elsewhere, Smizik rightly calls the Pirates out for losing Chris Young for the veteran Matt Herges, and for having so many former farmhands on other major league teams but failing to get anything from their own top draft picks. The Young move offers an unfortunate bit of history that the Pirates recently repeated. At the time of the trade, Young had posted great numbers at Class A Hickory, but his status as a prospect was widely doubted because he was old for his level and because he relied too much on a small number of pitches. Young's subsequent rise through the minors and success in the big leagues (in a small sample, I know) shows that There Is No Such Thing As Not A Pitching Prospect (TINSTANAPP). Just as you can't rely on a successful Class A pitcher to eventually help you in the big leagues, it's probably unwise to discount successful Class A starters on the basis of things they might improve later anyway, like secondary pitches and velocity. But that's exactly what the Pirates did with Leo Nunez, who, like Young, was mowing down hitters at Hickory but having trouble with secondary pitches when he was traded for a crappy veteran. The kicker, though, is that Nunez' stuff was probably better than Young's was at the time, and unlike Young, Nunez was not old for his league.Anyway, Smizik fails to mention the real reason why it was dumb to dump Arroyo, Young and Nunez: the Pirates were not contending when those players were lost. Any transaction a team makes must be judged from within the context of what that team is trying to achieve. Fo[...]
2005-05-10T01:10:01.483-04:00Brian O'Neill explains that defense was also a good reason why it was a good idea to drop Benito Santiago. This is a good column. I comment less on O'Neill's work than I used to, but that's mostly because there's less in them that I disagree with.
2005-05-09T01:18:57.130-04:00Sign the petition.
2005-05-08T18:23:56.210-04:00The Pirates have released Benito Santiago. Kudos to them for correcting their mistake, which was trading for him in the first place. When he was acquired, I complained that there was no need to trade a real prospect, Leo Nunez, for a catcher when the Pirates had several young catchers, and catchers who contribute at Santiago's level are fairly easy to find anyway.
2005-05-07T21:56:32.866-04:00One of the few comforts in rooting for a very bad baseball team is thinking about what's going on in the minor leagues. The guys the Pirates have down there mostly aren't very good either, but at least they're interesting. Let's take a look at how some of the Pirates' more intriguing farmhands are doing so far.
2005-05-01T05:20:50.720-04:00I have very little to say about this subject that I haven't said before, but this is really nice work.
2005-04-30T16:17:12.460-04:00Where have I been? Elsewhere. Writing music, going out, walking on the beach. Three of the Pirates' first several series this year were against the Cubs or Padres, two teams I get on television, so I watched several games. Jeez, it was tough - it was hard to watch knowing that if the other team got a lead, the Pirates were pretty much toast.
2005-04-13T20:34:19.996-04:00As much fun as it is to watch baseball again, now is actually a very difficult time to write about it. There are games going on, so one's usual ideas about how good or bad a player is can be defied by the player and his stat lines on a daily basis. At the same time, it's way too early to draw firm conclusions from the results on the field, so a player's 2004 stats are usually still much better indicators of his future value than anything he's already done in 2005. These situations can lead to some very bad writing.Case in point: this atypically insane editorial from the otherwise excellent John Perrotto.Perrotto points out that the Pirates used computer simulations to determine that Tike Redman should bat third. He then uses this as an excuse to take a cheap shot at "numbers" (which he does soften first, claiming that he sometimes finds advanced metrics helpful, but still):I believe baseball instincts are just as important as numbers.My instincts, supported by statistics, tell me Redman is not good enough to hit No. 3 on any major-league club. In fact, he isn't good enough to be in many teams' starting lineups.What Perrotto's instincts tell him is obviously true, but it's also true that nearly everyone who has ever been accused of being a 'number cruncher' or a 'stat geek' has bashed the Pirates' decision to bat Redman third.Then, he adds:Hopefully, there was a money-back guarantee [for the simulations], especially since the Pirates failed to score more than three runs in any of their first five games and a total of 19 in their first seven.Right, but Redman only batted third in two of those games! Apparently, though, Perrotto only said that to be nasty. He doesn't actually think that the Pirates' decision to bat Redman third is the only cause of their run-scoring problems, so he offers some of his own solutions. And here's where Perrotto's article really starts to get nuts.I would suggest some drastic personnel changes, the biggest would be benching shortstop Jack Wilson or using him as a trade bait.Well, that's drastic, alright. I fully agree that the Pirates should at least consider trading Wilson - they have a fair amount of talent at the middle infield positions, Wilson is coming off a career year, and he is signed to a reasonable contract. I'm less of a Wilson fan than many are, and I would be thrilled if the Pirates could get a blue-chip hitter or two for him. But benching him? That's crazy. He's still fairly young, he's coming off a very good year at the plate and his defense has improved to the point where he's quite an asset at shortstop. The Pirates are bad, yes, but that hasn't been Wilson's fault since 2003. Perrotto then suggests a number of other moves, none of which are terrible in isolation. But, when taken together, they create the following defense:C David Ross1B Daryle Ward2B Rob MackowiakSS Freddy Sanchez3B Ty WiggintonLF Craig WilsonCF Jason BayRF Matt LawtonThis would be among the worst defenses fielded by a major league team in the last decade. The Pirates would be well below average at first, second, third, and right, and average to below average at shortstop, left, and center. They'd probably only be decent at catcher. And without Jack Wilson in the lineup, this team might even be worse offensively.Perrotto is right that the Pirates' offense is inadequate. But sacrificing defense entirely doesn't even solve their problems on offense, and creates entirely new ones on defense. And benching one of the team's few good players out of impatience doesn't help the offense or the defense.[...]
2005-04-10T00:53:22.410-04:00Oliver Perez looked as bad as his box score tonight - he threw hard but had all kinds of trouble throwing strikes, getting into a number of 3-1 counts even in a number of plate appearances that didn't end with walks. He didn't throw his breaking ball that much, and except for a couple of knee-bucklers in the fourth inning, it didn't snap nearly as much as it did in his best outings in 2004. Perez's outing could have looked much worse than it did, since the Padres hit a number of balls very hard that ended up dying in the outfield - this happens a lot in Petco Park.
2005-04-10T00:51:04.743-04:00Here are some random thoughts on the first Pirates game of the year I was able to watch.
2006-01-31T20:13:56.350-05:00Trev has posted his predictions for the 2005 season. Just for fun, here are mine.
2005-04-07T17:00:32.040-04:00Jose Castillo to the DL. Here's what is going on here:
2005-04-09T01:43:03.010-04:00I've been watching the Red Sox - Yankees game on ESPN and they've been repeatedly running a banner at the bottom of the page saying that three Pirates minor leaguers have been punished for steroids. Great press, huh? I was immediately worried that one of them would be Brad Eldred or Nate McLouth or someone else who has potential, but no, it was Jon Nunnally, Brian Mallette, and Tom Evans.
2005-04-02T05:41:39.920-05:00I don't know whether to laugh or cry.If this is Lloyd McClendon's idea of an April Fools' Day joke, it's not very nice to Tike Redman. If it's not, this is the cockamamiest baseball idea of all time. The effect of this move will be to take plate appearances away from Jason Bay and Craig Wilson, the two best hitters on the team, and give them to Tike Redman, who's possibly the worst hitter on the team.Here's the Trib article. Here's the Post-Gazette writeup. I'm posting them both because of they offer an amazing array of half-baked explanations and bizarre reasonings.McClendon, from the PG:"But, if you want to talk about legitimate No. 3 hitters, we don't have one. We don't have Jim Edmonds. We make do with what we have, whether that's Tike or Bay or anybody else."'We don't have a legitimate No. 3 hitter, whatever that is, so it makes sense for me to put my most pointless hitter there'?From the Trib:"I like his contact, I like his average, I like his two-strike approach, and I like his speed atop the order," McClendon said. "If he's on base, that's going to allow the big boppers behind him to see a few more fastballs."If his "speed atop the order" is the issue, wouldn't it behoove McClendon to put Redman at, you know, the top of the order? That would be a stupid and unimaginative thing to do, but at least McClendon wouldn't be breaking new ground for stupid.From the PG:Part of McClendon's motivation, as he explained it, is to move high-average players to the top. That would be Lawton (.277 last season), Jack Wilson (.308) and Redman (.280). This way, he added, he could minimize his team's glaring shortage of players with a history of good on-base percentage.That's an interesting theory, in a Sean Connery / Celebrity Jeopardy sort of way. Hey, if Jose Castillo, a high average hitter in the minors, gets off to a hot start, expect to see him batting cleanup by May."We've got quite a few guys who have a lot of strikeouts, if you look at Craig, Mackowiak, Bay and Ward, and that's something we've got to be concerned about," he said. "We need to keep the ball in play, keep the runners moving. We've got to somehow score more runs."Oh, for...Look.Daryle Ward, Strikeout Concern, 2004: 45 K 293 AB AB/K: 6.51Matt Lawton, Professional Leadoff Hitter, 2004: 84 K 591 AB AB/K: 7.04Lawton's strikeout rate would look a bit better compared to Ward's if I'd factored in the two players' walk rates. But Ward's strikeout rate and Lawton's are similar. If strikeouts at the top of the lineup are the issue, why would McClendon want to lead off with a player whose strikeout rate is similar to that of another whom he considers part of the problem? I'm not arguing that Lawton shouldn't be the leadoff hitter, but that even given the ludicrous rationale offered, this decision makes no sense.Now let's consider the rationale itself. Are strikeouts the problem with this offense? Of course not. The value of a strikeout, by run expectancy, is only .01 more than that of any old out.So:Craig Wilson, 2004: 169 K x .01 = 1.69Tike Redman, 2004: 52 K x .01 = .521.69 - .52 = 1.17If baseball history is to be believed, the difference between the cost of Wilson's strikeouts and of Redman's was a little over a run in 2004. That's before considering everything else they did on offense. It isn't that strikeouts have no effect as compared to other outs - if there's a man on third and no outs, striking out is bad. Rather, it's that strikeouts have almost no effect as compared to other outs. For a team with the Pirates' deficiencies, offensive strikeouts should be far, far down their list of concerns. What about the [...]
2005-03-31T01:32:19.786-05:00...Or Chris Duffy is not their second best prospect. Which is it?
2005-03-30T23:35:06.366-05:00The Pirates have acquired David Ross from the Dodgers for David Ross for a bit of cash. This is a nice little move. The Pirates had nothing but prospects and question marks at catcher. It wouldn't help them to call up Ryan Doumit or Ronny Paulino to ride the bench if one of their question marks got injured, and if you have to depend on question marks, it's best to have as many as possible.
2005-03-26T18:01:11.946-05:00Zach Duke to Indianapolis.
2005-03-23T16:10:21.110-05:00Some of the rather ridiculous A's-hate going down in Dejan Kovacevic's new Q+A compels me to give the issue a lot more attention than it deserves.Kovacevic asks his readers to explain why the management techniques of the Florida Marlins don't get the praise that Oakland's do. He prints several responses and sums up his own position after the first one:...I disagree 180 degrees about the worth of championships. That is what all sports are about.Of course they are. The issue here is what role management has to play in championships won.More from Kovacevic:I am increasingly convinced that the Beane love affair is more about numbers than anything else. As I wrote above in the Q&A, I am not big on emphasizing statistics above all else. Seems to me there is an entire segment of the baseball-loving community that feels completely comfortable analyzing the game from a cubicle rather than getting out to the stands and watching it. I find such practice to be preposterous. The game is played by humans, not by matrix dots on your PS2 screen.Strawman alert! Honestly, what baseball fan doesn't watch baseball? And what does that have to do with Oakland GM Billy Beane, who played major league baseball? Watching baseball and trying to organize our observations about it (that's all statistics are, right?) are not mutually exclusive. Obviously. And then the readers weigh in. Hoo boy.But Oakland won more due to the Hudson-Mulder-Zito pitching trio than for any other reason. Beane didn't acquire those players.Uh, hello? Beane drafted Zito and Mulder and was involved in the A's front office when Hudson was drafted. It is certainly no surprise that there are readers submitting arguments with false premises, but why is Kovacevic publishing them? And why doesn't he at least correct them?Then, from a different reader:Theo Epstein worshipped at the Billy Beane shrine until a light bulb finally went off in his weasel brain (weasel because he twice pawned off damaged goods on Dave Littlefield in 2003, but that's a different discussion). Adding Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz strengthened two positions at which the Red Sox had been very weak defensively. Look what happened. It only took the Red Sox eight decades to figure out defense wins games.Oakland has had one of the best defensive teams in baseball the last two years running, and advanced methods of evaluating defense were discussed extensively in Moneyball. It is a ridiculous myth that Beane does not care about defense or that Beane has consistently lost in the playoffs because of poor defense. Beane's A's have fielded some less-than-elite defenses, sure - but they've also fielded some great ones. I'll stop repeating the cliche that "Moneyball is about exploiting market inefficiencies, not OBP" when the people who say otherwise actually read the book or, you know, pay attention to baseball.Kovacevic simply says "Argh" in response to a reader's question of what we would think of the 2003 Marlins if Josh Beckett and Dontrelle Willis had gone down with injuries that year. Methinks Kovacevic somehow lacks the ability to see shades of gray here. Kovacevic's position seems to be that if a GM's team wins a championship, he deserves all the credit, whereas if a team fails to win a championship, the GM must be at fault somehow. Why can't a team's performance be the result of both planning and luck?Obviously - obviously - lots of things that result in wins and losses for his team are out of a GM's control, as[...]
2005-03-21T15:28:32.256-05:00The Tampa Tribune reports that the Devil Rays are "dazed," confused and flummoxed by the recent retirements of Danny Bautista, Roberto Alomar and Marty Cordova. The retirements of these three below-average players should be a blessing in disguise and an opportunity for the Rays, who could give these players' at-bats to shortstops Jorge Cantu and B.J. Upton and outfielders Jonny Gomes and Joey Gathright, all of whom are better players than the ones they'll be replacing. It doesn't seem that the Rays want to do this, however. Here's a particularly stupefying sentence:
2005-03-20T06:05:21.760-05:00There's a lot of buzz about Pirate prospect Zach Duke right now. While I don't want to break up the party, I'd like to suggest that it wouldn't be wise for the Pirates to give Duke a rotation spot to start the year. Four of the five members of the Pirates' rotation will be Oliver Perez, Kip Wells, Mark Redman and Josh Fogg. That is certain. There are four pitchers in camp competing for the last spot: Albie Lopez, Ryan Vogelsong, Zach Duke and Dave Williams. Lopez is a worse option at this point than Rick Reed was last year, and that's saying a lot. He was a marginal pitcher when he was in his heyday, and he's been out of baseball for a year. As fifth starters go, he's a last resort. And, fortunately, the Pirates have no need for last resorts right now.Vogelsong was one of the worst starters in the majors last year, both from a statistical perspective and an I'm-gonna-throw-my-cup-through-the-TV perspective. This spring he has walked nearly as many as he has struck out. While it is often foolish to worry much about spring performances, Vogelsong's hardly inspires confidence. He was a scrub as a starter last year, and he'll probably always be one if he continues to start, no matter how many 95 MPH fastballs he throws. It would not surprise me if he became an effective reliever, however.That leaves Duke and Williams. Duke is entering his age-22 season, he was one of the best pitchers in the minors last year, and he has been excellent this spring. There are lots of good reasons to get excited about him. He has never pitched in AAA, however. Last year, Jose Castillo was impressive in spring training, so the Pirates promoted him to the majors even though he had never played at AAA. The Pirates' decision to do this was defensible - with Freddy Sanchez on the shelf, the Pirates' only other reasonable options at second were Abraham Nunez and Bobby Hill. If it were possible to create a second base platoon in which one player did all the fielding and another did all the hitting, Nunez and Hill would have been perfect. Unfortunately, Second Base DH is not a position, so neither player was an adequate solution. So the Pirates called up Castillo, who was, predictably, a mess with the bat. Castillo showed promise but little in the way of results, and now he'll go to arbitration one year earlier. The Duke-Williams situation is different from the Castillo-Nunez situation, in that Williams is actually a fairly good player. He had a downright excellent year at Nashville in 2004 and was effective in limited time with the Pirates. He was also a productive member of the Pirates in 2001 before he went down with a torn labrum, and it's worth pointing out that Williams' strikeout and walk numbers suggest that he is a much better pitcher now than he was then. He's not having a spectacular spring, but his ERA isn't astronomical and his K:BB ratio is solid.I'm as excited about Zach Duke as anyone - he's worthy of all the press he's getting. But the Pirates stand to lose a lot by calling him up now. He could pull a Castillo and be ineffective. And no matter what happens, he'll definitely chew up service time and become expensive more quickly. Even Dave Littlefield admits the Pirates aren't likely to contend this year. While the chances that Duke will become some sort of phenomenon and shut down the league are greater than the chances that Williams will, the Pirates will experience no long-term baseball b[...]