Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Analyzing the Neil Huntington Era- Part II

Well, it's time to look at Part II of my brakdown of the Neil Huntington era so far.  Today what we are going to look at is the draft. NH has been around for the last two MLB Drafts.  Before that, you know they story. The JVB's, Bryan Bullington and Chad Hermansen of the world was about all the organization had coming out of the draft.

NH has made a commitment to building through the draft.  In the two seasons, the Pirates have signed more draft picks and have spent almost as much money than any team in the game.  They realized the organization needed talent and that is the route NH & Cooneley have taken.

Now, there is more minor league talent then at any other time I can recall.  I especially have liked the approach they have taken to signing some of these guys.  Drafting the best players and buying college away from them has proven to be a success for the time being.  It's a much different approach from the Littlefield regime, which made a habit of drafting only signable players, no matter how bad they lacked talent.  Daniel Moskos instead of Matt Wieters, pretty much put the pressure on NH not to miss with his early picks.

Let's take a look back at NH's first draft, in 2008. Click Here to take a look at the complete draft.  Looking at his first overall selection as the GM of the Pirates, NH didn't shy away from Scott Boras client Pedro Alvarez, like had been done many times before. The negotiations with Alvarez literally lasted until the final second, but eventually Alvarez was signed and is on a fast track to PNC Park.

Look at the entire draft, but I will highlight just a couple of the top picks. Alvarez, naturally speaks for himself. He immediately became the teams top prospect. SS's Jordy Mercer and Chase D'Arnaud were taken in the 3rd and 4th rounds and both have upgraded the position. D'Arnaud is likely the SS of the future for the Bucs. Pitcher Justin Wilson was a 5th rd choice and OF Robbie Grossman was a sixth rd choice.  Grossman was set to go to college and NH added him to the system. If the threat of college wasn't there, he likely would have been a first round selection.  Another name, Calvin Anderson was selected in the 12th round. He has legit power and could be a big piece of the future.

One that got away in 08 was second round selection Tanner Scheppers, who wasn't signed and went back into the draft the following season.

Here is a breakdown of the 2009 draft.Click Here to take a look at all the selections.  One thing, is that the strategy was the same. Draft talented players and sign as many as possible.  Catcher Tony Sanchez was selected in the first round, 4th overall.  The pick was criticized throughout the nation, but juding from the fact that Sanchez signed quickly and got off to a fantastic start to his pro career, it looks like NH may have struck gold in the first round on back to back seasons.

One thing to note is that NH signed the teams top 14 picks, which is very impressive. Out of the top 14 signed, eight were pitchers.  Looking back, it looks as if NH is truly committed to his plan of building through the draft and re-shapping the organization. Drafts are so hard to judge for atleast three seasons, but so far, it looks as if NH is doing a much better job than his predecessor

Monday, December 21, 2009

Worst Team of the Decade

I've been on this wrapping up the decade kick recently, so here goes another one, since everyone seemed to enjoy the All-Decade team thread.  Here's my question.  Who was the worst franchise of the decade? The best franchise is much easier to decide- The Yankees win that. They played in four World Series, winning two. Eight division titles and nine post-season berths.  No other team belongs in the conversation.

Now for the intresting part, who was MLB's worst franchise? I have limited it down to five franchises: Baltimore, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Washington/Montreal and Cincinatti.  I will list some reasons why each should be considered the worst and why each should not (more than just overall record is considered). I will let you decide who wins.

First off is Baltimore
Why they are the worst
- losing record every season
- finished last place twice and next to last seven times
- As of 1999, the O's were second in MLB in attendence at 3.4 mil. 10 years later, they drew 1.9 mil last season

Why they aren't the worst
-The O's won 26 more games than bothe the Bucs and Royals
-O's fans got to watch Cal Ripken the first two seasons of the deacde.

Next is Cincinatti
Why they are the worst
-Nine losing seasons
-Five different managers

Why they aren't the worst
- Never finished in last place (thanks to being in same division as Buccos)
- Had one winning season
- Only three 90 loss seasons

Next is Pittsburgh
Why they are the worst
- Losing season every year
- Seven seasons of 90 plus losses
- Four managers
- Constant turnover in personnel to save money
- Complete lack of talent. They wouldn't have won even if they hadn't traded away their best players (Kendall, Ramirez, Bay, Benson,McLouth, Schmidt, Wilson, Sanchez etc.)
- Most famous hit during the decade came on a sausage (thank you Randall Simon)
-Only team to literally steal a base (Llyod McClendon)
- Incompeteant Management that made questionable moves
-They employed Dave Littlefield, enough said

Why they aren't
- Moved into best ballpark in America (Can't believe I went there.  So sad)
- In this particular discussion, they don't get credit for their previous seven losing seasons entering the decade
-Surprisingly, they don't have the majors worst record of the decade, but they are very close
-New management seems to have begun to add talent to the system

Kansas City Royals
Why they are the worst
- MLB worst 672-948, 12 games worse than the Bucs
- Averaged 95 losses per season
- A whopping four 100 loss seasons
- Finished in last 5 times.
- Lost 19 in a row at one point
- Also has incompetant management that makes questionable moves. For instance dealing a top prospect for Yuniesky Betancourt and his awful contract. Yuniesky Freakin Betancourt?

Why the aren't
- Had one winning season in 2003. They were in first place at the end of August.
-They have actually had some real talent. Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, etc.
- Cy Young Award winner Zach Grienke speaks for himself.

Finally, Washington/ Montreal/Puerto Rico
Why they are the worst
-Finished last place 6 times, more than anyone else.
-Finished with the worst record in baseball the last 2 seasons
-Began the deacde in Montreal
-Super marketing strategy by their former owner Jeffery Loria who wouldn't broadcast radio games in English and wouldn't broadcast any games on television, while they were the Expos.
- Only franchise that Bud Selig threatened to contract
- Had to be taken over and run by the league
- While still in Montreal, they played 21 home games in Puerto Rico, over 2000 miles away from their home, equalling over 100 road games
- Moved to Washington
- While there, finished last 4 out of 5 seasons
- GM Jim Bowden had to resign due to a federal investigation about skimming signing bonuses from Latin Players.
- Cut loose guys like Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips,Vlad Guerrero, etc.  Even their mascot was dismissed
- The one that seals the deal though could be that they misspelled their names wrong on their jerseys. No excuse

Why they aren't
-Had three winning seasons
- Avereaged only 91 losses, which compared to the others is good
- 39.5 games better than Kansas City
- Drafted the most coveted pitcher in recent memory- Steven Strausburg

So who's the worst?  In my opinion, I'm taking Baltimore and Cincinatti out of the conversation.  The other 3 could all be good choices.  The choice should be the Pirates, but I'm actually putting stock into what they've done in acquiring talent.

That leaves the team with the worst record in Kansas City and hands down the most disfunctional franchise in Washington.  The Royals and Pirates has lost and lost badly, but they don't have the disfunctionality that Washington has. Also being threatened with contraction is a selling point. Also when I watch the Royals and Pirates lose, their names are spelled correctly on their uniforms.

Therefore, the worst franchise of the decade is the Washington/Montreal/Puerto Rico- Nationals/Expos.  Congrats to them.  Let me know your opinions.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Pittsburgh Pirates All-Decade Team

Here goes a kind of fun topic to debate.  With all of the losing and bad baseball, the last deade here in Pittsburgh has pretty much been forgettable.  However, there have been some good players here in the Burgh, all have since been traded. I wanted to take a look at the All-Decade Team of the Bucs.  I decided this by not only stats, but how many seasons spent here this deacde.  Some of the positions were no brainers, but otheres were a challenge to come up with a decent name.  So here is the All-Decade team, feel free to dispute this.

Catcher- Jason Kendall (2000-04)- This was an easy one to pick.  The Piates all-time leader in games caught was one of the more popular Bucs of the last 10 seasons.  Kendall played five seasons in The Burgh and led MLB in games and innings caught from 2002-04.  He rarely struck out and while having no power at the plate was a solid contact hitter while in Pittsburgh.   Runner up- Ryan Doumit

First Base- Adam Laroche (2007-09)- I know this will be a very unpopular choice among everyone, but he wins the job.  This goes to show how very little talent we have had in the system.  I looked at everybody and as unpopular as he is, Laroches just put up better numbers than the whole list of guys that include: Kevin Young (his best seasons were in the late 90's  he has very lousy numbers this decade), Randall Simon, Craig Wilson, Brad Eldred and so on.  Laroche averaged .270/22/85 during his tenure in Pittsburgh.  Runner-up- Young

Second Base- Freddy Sanchez (2004-09)- After being acquired and starting out at third base for the Bucs, Sanchez found a home a the Pirates everyday second baseman.  This was another easy selection.  Sanchez made two all star appearances and brought home a batting title in 2006 when he hit .344.  Runner up- Jose Castillio

Third base- Aramis Ramirez (2000-03) Oh I'd love to kick Dave Littlefield's ass for just giving away Ramirez, but it is what it is and atleast Rammy wins a job on this team. Aramis had fantastic seasons in 01, hitting .300/34/112 and 03 when he hit .282/27/106.  He also got better as a third baseman every season.  It was fun to watch him grow as a Pirate.  Runner up- Jose Bautista

Shortstop- Jack Wilson (2001-09)- Another no braineer here.  While I was never the biggest Wilson supporter, the guy was an amazing defensive shortstop.  While he never could find consistency with the bat, Jack dazzled with the glove.  The only thing we could count on in the last decade were Pirates lossess and Jack Wilson would be shown on Web Gems almost weekly.- Runner Up-  I don't really have a name for this, but I guess we have to give it to Abraham Nunez who got some time in 2000 and stuck around for a while as Wilson's backup.

Outfield- Brian Giles (2000-03) Giles likely brings home Pirate player of the Decade also.  Homerun toals of 35,37 & 38 in 2000-03, while driving in 123, 95 & 103 in those seasons.  Giles was as consistent as any Bucco up until he got dealt.  His career hasn't been the same since he left (or since testing went into effect), but he was a good ball player while he was here.

Outfield- Jason Bay (2003-08)- Losing Giles brought us Jay Bay, who also put up some fine seasons in the Burgh. Bay became the first Bucco to win the Rookie of the Year in 2004 and hit over 21 HR and 84 RBI in all of his full seasons here.  His best two campaigns were in 2005, .306/32/101 and 2006 .286/35/109, both years he went to the all-star game.

Outfield-Nate McLouth (2005-09)- Wow, was this spot hard to find a deserving guy and I choose McLoth by default, because there really just isn't anyone else.  I actually almost chose McCutchen based on a hal;f of a season.  While I don't feel Nate has done enough to be a member of an all-decade team, his one big season in 2008, .276/26/94, trumps anything the rest of the list has done.  Runner Ups- Xavier Nady, Chris Duffy and Craig Wilson.

Starting Pitcher- Josh Fogg (2002-05) Boy this is sad.  If finding a third outfielder for this team wasn't hard enough,  try looking at the pitching numbers.  My original plan was to list five starters, but to hell with that.  The soft tossing Fogg wins this spot.  I'm telling you I looked at everyone's numbers from Kris Benson to Jason Schmidt to Ian Snell to Ollie Perez, to Zach Duke and unfortunatly Kip Wells.  Fogg's numbers have them beat.  No one has had more than one season of double digit wins except Fogg, who had three.  he was 12-12 in 2002, 10-9 in 03 and 11-10 in 04.  The era was kinda awful but no other pitcher has earned the right.  Runner up- Zach Duke.

Closer- Mike Williams (2000-02)- Difficult choice between Williams and Jose Smoke Mesa, but Williams wins.  Even though he was traded in the middle of his Bucco run and resigned, Williams posted seasons of 24 and 22 saves, but had a monster season in 02 of 46 saves.  There have been others along the way like Mike Fetters, Soloman Torres and Matt  Capps, but the nod goes to Williams.  Runner up- Mesa

Analyzing the Neil Huntington Era Part 1

Since it is a down time for the Pittsburgh Pirates after the Winter Meetings, knowing they won't be signing anyone of importance, I have decided to fill the time by looking at what Bucs GM Neil Huntington has accomplished throughout his tenure in Pittsburgh so far.

I know many of you have said I'm a Huntington apologist and am not critical enough of the job he has done, but I'm gonna break down everything and maybe either my mind will change or yours will, but I'm still at the point where I feel all the moves have been necessary and talent has been brought into the system.

Here is a rundown of what I will do.

Part 1- Huntington's Career.  basically his bio and where he came from
Part 2-  The Draft Picks - Looking at what NH has brought into the system through the draft
Part 3- The Signings -Looking at who NH has signed on the open market so far
Part 4- The Trades- Looking at and breaking down all of NH's trades so far

This part will be short.  Just giving you a quick background of where NH has come from until he took the Bucco's Gm job.  As far of his playing career, Nh was a second team D III All-American his senior season.  When he was hired, he became the fourth D III player hired as an MLB GM, following Josh Byrnes in Arizona, Bill Smith in Minnesota and Brian Cashman of the New York Yankees.  Those guys have had sucess, so there is no need to knock NH for playing at the D III level.

Upon breaking into baseball, the 40 year old Huntington is about to enter his 19th season in the game.  he broke in  with the Montreal Expos in 92 and soon became their Assistant Player Developement Director. He then joined the Cleveland Indians in 1998 as the Director of Player Developement.  he held this title for four seasons until he was promoted to Assistant General Manager in 2002. NH held that job until 2007 when he replaced Dave Littlefield as the General manager of your Pittsburgh Pirates.

As everyone knows by now, when NH got here, Littlefield pretty much left his a mess that needed cleaned up.  That is simply not a quick fix and many unpopular moves would need to be made.  I have had to opportunity to interview NH on a couple of occasions before and the man has a very good head for the game.  Hopefully his moves will pan out and he can get some money to play with or Huntington will eventually ffollow Littlefield out of Pittsburgh.

Feel free to express your opinions on NH the person.  We will look at the job he has done in the draft in Part II of this, which I will post in a few days.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pirates Finances in Question Again

Here was a great piece by Dejan in the PG

Leave your comments.  I will have more input on this when i get the time.  Likely tonight or tomorrow.  Also will be posting something fun for everyone to debate  The Bucco's All-Decade Team.  This was more challenging to come up with than I originally thought.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Winter Meetings Notebook Day 1

- Apparently there are four teams aquiring about Ryan Doumit.  The Blue Jays have long been a fan of his. I think Toronto would also be a good fit for Doumit because he seems to be more of a DH anyways and he just can't stay healthy behind the plate. Also the Giants and Marlins are rumored to be intrested.  I don't know the other team.  I know a Doumit deal would make many of you VERY happy.

- Speaking of the Giants, it seems that they are close to acquiring Dan Uggla, which after picking up Freddy Sanchez's $8 mil option, it would relegate Freddy to a bench player.  Good deal for the Pirates so far.

- Also heard some grumblings that some other general managers are very unhappy with the Pirates in particular.  Having to pay the club revenue sharing money and watch Bob Nutting continue to not spend it (atleast on the Pirates, Seven Springs may be all together another issue) has apparantly irked many other organizations.

- I saw that Baseball America had ranked the Bucs farm system 6th overall.  Huge improvement from two seasons ago.

- Intresting fact.  Since 1999, the Pirates have spent only $56.4 million dollars on free agents, by far the lowest total in the majors.  By contrast, the Yankees have spent $1.4 billion.  Almost every other team has spent in the hundreds of millions, leaaving the Bucs, once again way behind the curve.

- Florida is actively shopping closer Matt Lindstrom.  Not many teams need closers, but Texas and Tampa are involved in talks.  Would be smart for NH to try and sneak Matt Capps into the conversation before Lindstrom is dealt.

- People still saying the Bucs are talking to the Dodgers about Juan Pierre.  This won't and shouldn't get done.  Plus, Pierre makes $9 mil.  That would be over 30% of the tiny payroll.

- If we sign anyone early on at the Winter Meetings, I would think it would be Bobby Crosby since Adam Everett resigned with the Tigers.  Crosby fits the kind of player the Bucs are looking for- a bum.  Average glove and hasn't hit or stayed healthy since winning the AL Rookie of the year.  He is also a very poor OPS guy- below .625 the last 4 years.

-Bucs lost Luis Cruz on waivers to Milwaukee.  Damn, there goes the title this season.

-Bucs signed Vinnie Chulk to a minor league deal.  Don't abandon those championship parade plans just yet.

Winter Meetings to begin

Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings are set to begin today in Indianapolis.  What will the Bucs do? Nothing much, unless there is a utility infielder to sign as their major splash into the market.  I will keep my eye on some current trade rumors involving pitchers Matt Capps, Paul Maholm, Zach Duke and catcher Ryan Doumit.

NH needs to unload an arm to create a spot for Brad Lincoln sometime this season or even to create a roster spot for Daniel McCutchen who pitched decent enough to deserve a look in 2010.  I don't expect them to be active in free agency, unless Bud Selig is ordering them to spend some money.  names linked to the Bucs like Rich Ankiel, Hank Blalock and Justin Duchsherer just won't help.

Stick to the plan and get these young guys ready.  Paying god money to a guy HOPING he can rejuvinate a career that he never really had just doesn't make much sense.  Stay tuned.  I will have all your updates.

Sorry for not posting for a while.  I got tied down with work, but I'm back.  I can't wait for spring training.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NL Awards Predictions

Let me know who you guys think will win the NL Awards this season. Here are my picks

MVP- Albert Puljos. easy choice

Manager of the Year- Jim Tracy. Another easy choice

Rookie of the Year- Andrew McCutchen. he gets my vote because he is a stud and has numbers to back it up. Four other choices include: Chris Coughlin, Tommy Hanson, JA happ and Garrett Jones. Happ probably wins it though.

Cy Young- Adam Wainwright- Had a great year 19 wins 2.48 era and went 6+ innings in every start. other candidates are probably Chris Carpenter and Tim Lincecum

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pittsburgh Pirates Organizational Report- First base

Let's take a look at the first basemen from last season. We saw Adam Laroche struggle again and was finally dealt to Boston. He then resurfaced in the NL with the Braves and ended up having another decent season. Say what you want about the guy but the numbers were consistent year to year.

Pittsburgh Pirates
- Garrett Jones- "The Legend" got the call and took advantage of the opportunity. He hit .293 with 21Hr/44RBI in only 82 games. An OBP of .379 and slugging percentage of .567 also aren't bad numbers for his first go around. He also showed some speed, stealing 10 bags on 12 attempts. His defense was a little shaky but he should be moved to first permanently where he seemed more comfortable.

One concern was his inability to hit with runners on base. That has to improve for him to be a serious middle of the order threat. Having said that though, I feel the 28 year old is here to stay for a while. A very nice surprise to a team that needed someone to step up. 2009 Grade- B

-Steve Pearce- Well, he can't say he didn't get a look anymore. I don't think there is a hitter in the big leagues with less plate discipline than Pearce. he looks completely baffled most of the time. He hit only .206 with 4Hr. Where did the power go? He looks like the classic 4-A player at this point. His good defensively though so it may be worth keeping him as a bench player next season to spell Jones defensively. 2009 Grade- F+ (I'd like to give him a G)

-Jeff Clement- Good acquisition at the deadline. I was a big fan of his at USC. (Yeah i know, I'm one of the few that watch college baseball). He was the third overall pick in the country at one point and has a big power bat. In 27 games at Indy, he hit 7Hr/24 RBI, but only hit .225. he has a problem staying healthy, as he hurt his wrist, right before he would have gotten a September call up. (Sounds like Doumit)

He is the type of hitter that could do well at PNC Park. Problem is that he isn't great defensively and you can't have 2 below average defensive corner guys on the roster. Jones's emergence also creates a problem for Clement's future. He came up a catcher, but I don't think that is an option.

-Miles Durham- Played in 65 games at Lynchburg before getting a promotion to the Curve for the final 65 games. Combined he hit .285 with only 12 Hr/73RBI. Not a big power threat as he hit 18HR in 2008 but the report is he has a decent bat. He was a 22nd rd pick in 2006

-Jamie Romak- Once considered a decent prospect, Romak had an awful season. The other part of the Adam Laroche trade led all Pirates minor leaguers in HR & RBI in 2008, but took a huge step backwards this season, hitting only .191 with 8 Hr/38 RBI. Romak was actually demoted back to the Hillcats from Altoona in the middle of the season and was moved to right field

-Matt Hague- The Bucs ninth round pick in 2008, Hague progressed to Lynchburg in his second season of pro ball. He hit .293, 8HR/50 Rbi in his first season with the Hillcats. The Bucs like Hague a lot and like his bat. They feel the power will come around.

-Kyle Morgan- Hit .296 with 9/32 in 43 games. Stared the season with State College. He was a 36th rd selection in 2008

-Calvin Anderson- A lot more upside for the 6"7 2008 12th rd pick. He spent the whole season at WV and hit .274 12/64. The power slowed down towards the end of the season, but overall they seem happy with Anderson.

-Justin Byler- Back after missing the 2008 season with a broken arm, Byler hit .256 6/41. The 2005 36th round pick really isn't on the radar as a prospect.

-Aaron Baker- Same story for Baker. Didn't do much for the Spikes. .250 hitter that showed no power.

Organizational Depth is actually good at the position. Jones looks to be a keeper and I still think Clement could be the guy eventually. As long as it isn't Pearce then I'm happy. A lot of guys in A & AA worth keeping an eye on. no need to pursue a first baseman in the off season unless they can somehow add a huge bat. Jones can still play right. I have a better chance of hitting the powerball than that happening though.

What should next season look like. Simple. Jones starts 150 games at first. If not, i like the idea of Clement playing half the time at first while Jones is in right field. Similar to what they did with Jones and Pearce during the second half of the season. I actually think that may work. What will they do though? Likely continue the Steve Pearce experiment and shuffle Jones between first and right.

Overall Positional Grade - B

Monday, October 19, 2009

State of MLB- Some Things Will Never Change

First of all, as always, I am enjoying the hell out of the MLB Playoffs. One of my favorite times of the year. However, even though I have enjoyed the Yankees comebacks and watching the Red Sox get swept and watching the Dodgers bullpen, even i have to admit, that it will always be this way. Nine times out of 10, the top dogs will win. The top dogs are the ones who spend the money.

Here’s a list of 2009 team player payrolls: (Numbers are before the season started and don't include payroll additions and in the Pirates case, subtractions)
2009 payroll
New York Yankees
New York Mets
Chicago Cubs
Boston Red Sox
Detroit Tigers
Los Angeles Angels
Philadelphia Phillies
Houston Astros
Los Angeles Dodgers
Seattle Mariners
Atlanta Braves
Chicago White Sox
San Francisco Giants
Cleveland Indians
Toronto Blue Jays
Milwaukee Brewers
St. Louis Cardinals
Colorado Rockies
Cincinnati Reds
Arizona Diamondbacks
Kansas City Royals
Texas Rangers
Baltimore Orioles
Minnesota Twins
Tampa Bay Rays
Oakland Athletics
Washington Nationals
Pittsburgh Pirates
San Diego Padres
Florida Marlins

Baseball's final four is again made up of the rich teams. All four teams still playing are in the top 9 in payroll. Sure, occasionally a team like the Rays can go on an improbable run to the World Series every once in a while, but often the case the big dogs make it.

So what do fans of the Bucs, or the Reds, Marlins, Nationals, etc. hope for? Who should they model them self after? Billy Beane's Oakland A's? Sure they have made some good deals and have made some post-season runs, but last time I checked, they haven't won anything. The Twins? Here is a good model for small market teams. They keep running young arms up to the big leagues. The win by playing Ron Gardenhire ball. the have no problem simply plugging players in for those that they lose and they continue to produce.

Eventually, I could see some similarities between what the Bucs are trying to do and what the Twins have done for the last decade. The difference though between the Bucs (and other small market teams) and the Twins is that the Twins have guys like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. So no matter the young guys they have to play, they still have two studs in the middle of their lineup. Maybe the Bucs could eventually get to that point with McCutchen, Alvarez, Tabata, etc., but the key to the Twins success is sustaining the pipeline of young talent to the majors. They continue to develop young players.

The most likely scenario for a team like the Bucs is the one the Rays just went through. Stockpile a boatload of young talent and when they are ready, get them to the big leagues all together and hopefully let them learn how to win together. The advantage the Bucs would have over the Rays is that they aren't in the AL East. However, they are still in a division that spends money- Cubs, Cards, Stros.

I still believe, that it can happen, but even I understand how difficult it will be, given baseball's current economic state. What can Bud Selig do to fix things? Salary cap. Although, no way that will ever happen. Union wouldn't let it, and if I'm a team like the Yanks, I don't want a salary cap. I don't hate the fact the Yanks have five times the payroll as the Bucs. It's actually nice to see an owner put the money back into the on field product. Even though 200mil is ridiculous, Yankees fans can never say that their management is not doing everything possible to try and win. I'm not saying the Bucs have to go out and spend 200 mil, but facts are facts and the teams that spend the money necessary to put a real product on the field, generally have the best success.

The one thing I'm truly tired of though is Bud Selig's constant plea of parity in the game. What a crock of shit to feed the fans. Just because the Rays made it to the World Series last year doesn't mean there is parity in the game. Some teams still have zero chance of even competing next season. Some type of balance has to be met. I give Selig some credit. Revenue sharing has worked, but it is up to the teams to put the money back into the on field product. Now the Bucs needed an overhaul of their farm system so I will cut them a break this time around. Soon though, they are going to have to spend to compete. There is still no reason that the Brewers should have nearly double the payroll of the Pirates.

Even though there is reason to get excited about the young talent that is on the way, until the decide to compete with other teams economically, the Pirates are very unlikely to compete with them on the field.

Here is a good article by Joe Starkey to check out as well

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pittsburgh Pirates Organizational Depth- Catchers

Today a look at how the Bucs catchers performed this season and what lies ahead at the position.
Pittsburgh Pirates
-Ryan Doumit- Well he got hurt AGAIN. He proved he is a below average option defensively AGAIN. He never got into a groove offensively and that could be due to the wrist injury. Early on it looked as if he were becoming a leader, by the end of the season he was benched for a couple of games and JR just didn't know what to do with him or where to hit him. He struggled big time batting in the middle of the order, hitting only .250 with 10hr/38rbi. with an on base percentage at only.299 in 75 games played. The lack of power numbers are disturbing. 2009 grade- D
-Jason Jaramillo- Filled in nicely when Doumit was hurt. Solid backup option. Any offense he provides is a bonus. I thought he handled the staff pretty well for his first full season in the big leagues. He hit .252 with 3hr/26rbi in with an obp of .309. in 63 games played. Similar numbers to Doumit. 2009 grade- C
-Robinson Diaz- Showed some pop with the bat, splitting time between the big league club and Indianapolis. Not that bad defensively, despite what the scouting report says. he hit .279 with 1hr/19rbi and a .309 obp in 41 big league games. 2009 grade- C-
-Eric Kratz- Caught 93 games and hit .273 with 11hr. not really a prospect. Shared the job with journeyman Adam Melhuese and Diaz. Just bodies in the organization.
- Hector Gimenez, Milver Reyes, Migue Perez and Steven Lerud combined to catch all the games for the Curve. None hit for average or for power and none appear on any kind of radar except for Lerud, but he would have to improve the .240 average.
Kris Watts had a decent season with the bat, hitting .291, diving in 49. Not so much to be said for Joel Collins or Eric Fryer. Number 1 pick Tony Sanchez (pictured above) played four games for the Hillcats.
-After signing quick, Sanchez earned a quick promotion to the power where he made a quick impact. He hit .316 with 7hr/46rbi in 41games, with a nice obp of .415. Defensively he excelled and many say he is big league ready defensively. Andrew Walker and Josus Peley also caught for the Power but both struggled
Craig Perry and Miguel Mendez pretty much shared the catching duties for the Spikes, both hit under .200 for the season.
2010 Outlook
- I would like to see Doumit dealt, but I don't envision getting much of a return for him. Instead, I see Doumit getting one more look. It's a make or break season for him so hopefully he can stay healthy and find some consistency at the plate. They are fine with the backup catcher, so I really don't see them attempting to sign a catcher.
I expect Sanchez to progress quickly and see him with Altoona at some point this season, if not starting the season there. He is the only catcher in the system worth getting excited about. I don't expect him to see PNC Park though until at least 2001. There really isn't any other depth at the position though throughout the organization.
Organizational Grade- D

Saturday, October 10, 2009

2009 Pittsburgh Pirates Season wrap up

So I haven't had time to write about our beloved Buccos for about a month now for a variety of reasons. I have been very busy with work and the team did nothing exciting for me to write about the last month or so of the season. When I did get the time, I was very furious of how the Miguel Angel Sano situation played out that I couldn't put my words into a PG rated product. Here are a few random thoughts on the season.

- We weren't as bad as the 99 losses indicate. We did some good things this season and went through some streaks that show that this team should be able to compete in time. Flip the coin and we also looked awful at times. I think with the experience, the youngsters will continue to progress and hopefully by 2011 it will result in wins.

- We saw trade after trade after trade. I still stand by everyone of them. The organization is now deeper with talent than at any point in the past. There are a few more guys I think can still be dealt to improve the team, most notably Doumit, Capps and Duke. These guys aren't part of the future. Get something for them. it wasn't only the guys we dealt, but NH did a decent job of finding a gem in Garrett Jones and acquiring Delwyn Young for nothing. stick to the plan Neil, just hurry, please.

- I was very upset that NH didn't lock up Sano. Boy i hope this guy doesn't become a stud. It was a necessary statement to the fan base to lock this guy up. what's more upsetting is that we didn't get outbid by the big boys. The low budgeted Twins sneak in and steal him. No excuse.

_Young talent continues to show up. We saw McCutchen make an immediate impact. He is a stud. Jones looks to not be a flash in the pan. In addition, we saw some good things from Andy Laroche, Young, Ronny Cedeno, and pitchens Daniel McCutchen, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton, Jessie Chavez and Evan Meek. We do have some talent, what we need is an impact player or two.

-The guys in the minors that will be the future of the franchise are all performing well. Led by Pedro Alvarez, Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata, these guys are all performing. That has to be the best sign of all.

-The main problem is consistency. The young guys haven't maintained it. They can't play well on the road. They aren't disciplined enough to keep the same approach from at bat to at bat, but it will come. The vets that should be reliable just aren't. most of them are long gone, but some remain. It takes all 25 guys playing well all of the time to have sustained success in this league.

Just a few thoughts to get writing again. Check back in a couple of days for an organizational view and 2009 grades at each position. On Monday it will be the catchers and I know how much you guys like bashing Ryan Doumit.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What to do with John Russell?

It's at the point of the season where it's getting difficult for me to write about every game. It's frustrating seeing the same mistakes every night. Then again, if the cheap bastards at FSN would travel to LA and cover the games, it would be nice. Instead, I'm just gonna start touching on issues with the Bucco's, so expect a different post about every 2-3 days until the Winter Meetings begin.

I've been asked a lot lately about my opinions of John Russell. After NH said that Russell would be back for 2010, many fans have been in an uproar. I just don't see why. He was already signed anyways. it's not like NH offered him a new deal for a job well done. I still don't know what kind of manager JR really is. Talented players always make a manger look better than he is and bad players always make a manager look worse than he is. Exhibit A- Jim Tracy. With talented teams in LA & now Colorado, Tracy is the best thing since sliced bread. With a horrible Pirates team, Tracy couldn't be run out of town fast enough. fact is, good players win more games then good managers. That's not to say a good manager isn't important, but given the choice, I'd rather have great players. I never like a manager getting fired because of bad players.

On the topic of should he manage the Bucs next season? I say Who cares? Really. The Pirates won't compete next season, so i have no problem with JR being the transition manager for this team. What I mean by that, is JR will take his lumps with a young team next season and as the Pirates begin to become competitive, hopefully in 2011 or 2012, the team will make the transition to a more experienced manager with a track record. At least I would hope so. I don't think it makes much sense to make a change before 2011. In reality, Joe Torre won't win with this young group next season, so let a new manager begin a season later with a chance at hope.

JR has a record of 122-182 with the Pirates. It's not the bad record that bothers me as some of the stuff he says and does at time. One thing I'm tired of hearing is "We are going to start holding players accountable." Really? No your not. Accountable for what exactly? I haven't seen anyone held accountable for swinging at the first pitch all season and bouncing into double plays. I haven't seen Matt Capps or anyone else held accountable for lousy seasons. Other than a 2 game benching of Ryan Doumit, what has JR held anyone accountable for? The answer is nothing, so please quit feeding the public that line of crap.

This team has gotten a little better fundamentally over his 2 seasons, but have regressed mentally. In all sports, I always say that a team usually take on the personality of it's manager (or coach). In this case, the Bucs have zero personality. For 2011, I'd like them to bring in someone that's more of a leader. A guy that that a ball club would run through a wall for.

Now, that's not to say you have to get a fiery, crazy type of manager. Just a good leader. I disagree with people that need to see the manager on the field kicking and screaming at every close call. This is baseball, not football. For every fiery, Lou Pinella, Earl Weaver, Bobby Valentine and Bobby Cox, there is also a calm Joe Torre, Tony Larussa, Mike Scoscia, etc.. Fiery isn't always the answer. Exhibit B- Llyod McClendon. However, it's another thing all together to sit in the dugout while your players take the heat with the umpires. That's being lazy and that's the personality of the Pirates right now.

Is JR the guy to lead the Pirates? I say no, but I also don't see a problem with him at the helm next season. No good up and coming young manger would have any interest in this job. No qualified big league winner would have any interest in this job. The guy I've had my eye on for years now is Bobby Valentine. In 2011, NH should overpay for a Valentine type manager, but in the meantime, we can get used to JR falling asleep in the dugout.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Curse of Francisco Cabrera

Every time I see that picture, I want to throw up. That was the moment, where what I call, "The Curse of Francisco Cabrera," began. At that very moment, every thought of winning baseball in Pittsburgh went away. Who would have thought that after that very moment, we would be here talking about the Pittsburgh Pirates being the losingest franchise in sports history. Seventeen seasons in a row. It's sad, that a seventeen year old kid can drive to a game and buy a ticket to see a team play that has never had a winning season in his/her lifetime. NEVER

That damn, Francisco Cabrera. I've watched that game replayed on ESPN Classic about 20 times. Each time I watch, I keep thinking we're going to win this time. Guess what, we never do. Each time I say to myself, "This time Bonds is going to throw Sid Bream out." He never does.

About the streak, what's to say? It's been bad, but it doesn't effect me. I'm not even upset anymore. I will trade another year or two of losing, if it gets the ship righted. What's another couple years, we have suffered through 17 already. I will trade 18 or 19 years to be consistently a competitive team. We shouldn't have to, but that is where we are with this team..

Back to that damn Francisco Cabrera. If we win that game, would we still be here talking about 17 losing seasons in a row? I believe we would. We may have won the World Series in 92, but things probably would have played out the same. Bonds still would have signed with the Giants. We still would have bad ownership and we more than likely would have sent out bum after bum to play for us.

So who's to blame for the last 17 seasons. I'm not going into huge detail, because if I did, I would be authoring a book and I don't feel like writing all day. It's too easy to point the finger at the ownership groups, but I will, because they deserve it. From Kevin McClatchey to Bob Nutting, they deserve a big part of the blame. As positive as I am about the future, a big part of me still says we will never succeed under the current ownership group. What is sucess? It's not finishing .500 next season. It's not making a run at the Wild Card in two seasons. It's competing for the playoffs every season. I just don't know if the Nutting family will allow that to happen. He is the modern day Rachel Phelps from Major League. I will give him the benefit of the doubt for now, but I'm sure I'm just kidding myself.

Next, the bad General Managers. Not having good baseball people, making key baseball decisions has hurt this team. Anyone else want to point the finger at Dave Littlefield? It will take the team the better part of a decade to make up for some of Littlefield's awful mistakes.

Next let's look at the awful job the scouting department has done, along with the bad drafts. Not one positive draft in 17 seasons. The lack of young talent and bad draft after bad draft after bad draft has crippled this organization. Only recently has the organization taken the right approach to the draft. Why did it take 17 years to simply just draft talented baseball players. Why did it take 17 seasons to not draft with your pocket book in mind? Daniel Moskos instead of Matt Wieters anyone?

Finally, the bad contracts. The Pirates made a habit of giving aged out veterans one last big contact. Derek Bell, Pat Mears, Raul Mondesi, Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa, etc. (I'd list more, but I'd be here for a week). The few players they did have, they gave bad deals to as well. Giving Jason Kendall, a singles hitter, a deal worth 60 plus mil, just wasn't smart.

So, what have the Pirates given us in the last 17 seasons? Yeah, we got PNC Park, but try this one, 362 different players. Check out this list. It's great reading some of the bums of this list. It's a must read. http://www.post-gazette.com/downloads/buc_roster_Streak.pdf

Ah the names. let me know which are some of your favorites. By that I mean, which of these bums just make you laugh reading their names. Which of these guys had no business being in the big leagues? believe me there are a lot of them. Let me know what you think. I'm kinda partial to "Steamin" Trey Beamon, J.J. Davis, Will Pennyfeather and Andy Tomberlin. I could really go on all day here, so I will stop.

I also want to know some of your low points during the losing streak. One that sticks out in my mind was the Aramis Rameriz salary dump. Not so much the horrible trade, but Darren Lewis, who was acquired in the deal elected to retire rather than play for the Bucs. Another one was Mondesi, who the Bucs just let quit on them, yet to go sign with a contender 2 months later. Finally, there is good old Operation Shutdown. Enough said.

What else have we seen in 17 seasons? Three ownership groups, six managers and millions and millions of disgruntled Pirates fans. It's got to stop and I think it will eventually. I just want to see Huntington stay the course. Keep acquiring young talent, keep investing in the draft, and when the time is right, start to add to the good young core the Pirates have. At no time in 17 seasons have I had hope for this franchise, but I really do now. At no time in 17 season's, have i had any faith in Pirates managements decisions, I do now. At no point in 17 season's, have I been confident in what some of the players can do on the field, I am now. At no point in 17 seasons have I felt the ownership was interested in winning. I still don't.

Don't blame this group of young Pirates. They aren't the reason we hit 17 seasons in a row of futility. Look at this group as the bunch that will break The Curse of Francisco Cabrera. I can only hope.

For more good reading on the Bucs streak of futility, check out these tow links sent to me by Bill Gorby. Very good articles.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Pick the 2010 Opening Day Third Baseman

It's kind of nice to have some options to talk about at different positions going into next season. I will let you decide this one. Who should be the opening day third baseman next season? Will it be this years starter Andy Laroche, local product Neil Walker or last seasons first round draft pick Pedro Alvarez. I will make a case for each and let you decide. I'm curious what everyone thinks.

First, Laroche. No doubt, he has made huge strides from a season ago at this time, when he looked truly awful. he has become a very good defensive third baseman and he has shown glimpses of having a good bat. Laroche's average is down to .248, after flirting in the .280 range for a large part of the season. The power really isn't there either. Only 7HR and 46RBI (leading the team by the way. very sad). He doesn't strike out much (65), but doesn't walk enough either (43). His on base percentage needs to get better (.326), which drawing more walks will help. His slugging percentage is a rather low .371. Too low for playing a position associated with run production. Overall, he handles the bat pretty well though. I'm sure the numbers will get to a consistent .285, 20/75 type of player.

Second, we will look at Walker. He is the popular choice, being the local boy. He is starting to tear the cover off the ball at AAA Indy and surely will get a call up in September sometime. I won't get too into the minor league numbers, but he has his average up to .270 and has 15 HR/69 RBI, despite missing a big portion of the season. The scouting report defensively is that he can handle playing third base at the major league level. I don't know how many at bats he will take from Laroche in September, but I would like to get a look at him and if he does well, he has to be included in the conversation.

Finally, the can't miss Pedro Alvarez. He is the big middle of the order bat this team desperately needs. I've heard he won't come up and hit right away, but I disagree. If he is that talented, he will perform fine. Ryan Braun and Evan Longoria didn't miss a beat when they got their call ups and I don't feel Alvarez will either. He is hitting .330 at Altoona, despite rarely getting pitches to hit. Combined between West Virginia and Altoona he has over 30Hr and 100RBI in his first season of pro ball. He has a little work to do defensively, but I hear he will be fine.

So who will it be? My choice is the unpopular one. I think Laroche starts out the season as the third baseman. Pirates management will stick with him for another season to justify the Bay trade. He has made strides and I think he continues to grow as a ball player. However, I feel the final result is that he will end up only slightly better than brother Adam. If the power comes, he could turn out to be a decent ball player. I think Walker may begin next season as a bench guy and gets a chance to stick around. With Alvarez, I think they won't rush him and will start him at AAA, but by mid-June 2010 he will be hitting cleanup in PNC Park

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Zach Duke Shelled in Milwaukee

Well remember how much I praised the pitching during the last home stand. How much I said the pitching was responsible for 7 win out of the last 9 games. Forget it. Just the opposite held true in the first game of the road trip at Miller Park last night.

Zach Duke got pounded. Giving up 7 runs and 11 hits in only 3 innings of work. he gave up 7 hits and 5 runs in the first alone. By far, his shortest outing of the season. I have been waiting all season for the 07-08 version of Duke to re-emerge, and it did last night. The 07-08 Duke in which the league batted over .300 against him. What went wrong for Duke? Horrible location on all of his pitches. The Brewers are a good hitting team, especially in their ball park and Duke made it easy for them early.

Still though, the young Bucs kept fighting back, but just didn't have enough in the tank. The losing streak at Miller Park extends to 19. The Bucs looked good early though. Runners on second and third with no outs in the first and somehow don't score. Of course the rally was killed by No-Mitt, bouncing weakly into a double play. A Prince Fielder monster shot moments later had the Bucs down 3-0, instead of possibly up 3-0.

Hard to blame Tony Beasley for not sending McCutchen on Young's first inning double, with no outs. Ryan Braun played the ball well, but I still feel Cutch scores easy. Kudos to Ken Macha for managing the game to win, even early. Walking Andy Laroche intentionally to get to Doumit proved to be the big play in the game. If Doumit comes through, the Bucs probably win the game. Just goes to show how big moments in a game aren't saved for the 8th and 9th innings all the time.

Even though Duke gives up 5 in the first, if he limits the damage in the second and third innings, after the Bucs score the previous inning, it may have been a different game.

- Doumit was pulled from the game. He isn't hurt and wasn't sick the Bucs say. One can only hope he was close to being dealt. However the likely scenario was that he was pulled because he flat out sucks.

-Great job by the Bucs bullpen. In particular, Bootcheck, Jackson, Hanrahan and Bautista. One hit allowed through 5 innings of work.

-Boy is Cutch something to watch or what. I'm starting to run out of things to say about him.

-Did you see Luis Cruz get hit in the head by a line drive in BP? Hard to believe he was in the lineup. He looked a step slow and had to have a headache. Would have been a good opportunity for JR to get Bixler a start. Bixler came through with a pinch hit double though.

-Thumbs down to FSN Pittsburgh. Why do they have to drop the Bucs game and show the meaningless Steelers preseason game? The Steelers game is already on KDKA. I see why the casual fan doesn't get interested in this team when the Steelers are shoved down peoples throats.

-September call ups will be coming soon. We know that Alvarez and Daniel McCutchen won't be coming. i expect Neil Walker, who is tearing the cover off the ball finally to get a look, but where? I don't want him taking many at bats away from Laroche. Clement will get a look as well. Erick Hacker will likely get a start or 2. Other than that, not too many youngsters will be up. I would like to see Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata get a quick look. Some other arms will get the quick promotion as well. Nothing to get excited about though. probably a Virgil Vasquez type pitcher or 2.

-Here is where I want this rebuild to go. Did you see the Scott Kazmir deal to the Angels last night? The Rays unloaded Kazmir, who's velocity has been down & his 23 mil left on his deal, for 2 quality prospects and possibly a third. What do they do? They replace Kazmir with Wade Davis and aren't likely to miss a beat. The Rays keep loading up their system and keep filtering young studs through the major league club. That's where I want the Bucs to get to. Being able to deal a struggling star for a good return and have plenty of options to step in a do the job. Tampa is becoming a well oiled machine. Too bad they are in the AL East

- Gallardo (who we never hit) vs Hart tonight. Should be a great game since it's not on TV. Let's go Bucs

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bucs close out Homestand in Grand Fashion

After beginning the 9 game home stand 5-1, the Bucs welcomed the defending World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies into town. I for one was happy with the 5-1 start, but really wanted to see how the young Bucs would fare against a better team.
What I was treated to was 3 great games and 3 great finishes, 2 going our Bucco's way. What could possibly have been more exciting than Tuesday's finish. Matt Capps blows another. Andrew McCutchen's misplay in center. Three batters later it was all forgotten, after Cutch hit his first walk-off homer off Brad Lidge.

Wednesday, the Bucs bats were silenced by Cole Hamels through 8, but a Brandon Moss pinch hit 9th inning bomb sent the game to extras, only to see Ryan Howard launch one and spoil the Bucs comeback.

Finally, last night. Aside from Cutch's lead off homer, fellow rookie J.A. Happ silenced the Bucs bats once again. Only to see Ronny Cedeno go the other way with a pinch hit single, followed by Garrett Jones 2 out homer to center. Capps didn't blow this one and the crowd went crazy again. Three straight lively crowds. Many Phillies fans, but still, an exciting baseball environment. The Phillies and Pirates should be in the same division, but I will save that for a later post. No reason a cross state rival should come to town only once a season.

I really enjoy watching this bunch. They have an energy and enthusiasm about them that simply just hasn't been there in years. I love the emotion they have been showing. Part of the reason is they have been winning during this home stand, but another part is that they are realizing that it's now their team. They have started to realize that they are the Pirates of the future and are starting to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them. It's been fun to watch and I hope it continues. A couple added pieces and they can start to be competitive. They still need a run producer in the middle of the order. Not only for now, but to pair with Pedro Alvarez in the near future.

Why have they been playing well lately? It's certainly not entirely due to the fact that they seem like a fun bunch out there. They still have to get it done between the lines as well. First let's look at the starting pitching the last 3 games. Ross Ohlendorf, 6.1 ip, 5 h 2er 6k 3 bb in a 6-4 win. Paul Maholm, 7ip, 5h, 1er, 4k, 2bb in a 4-1 loss and last night Charlie Morton 6ip, 5 h, 2er, 6k, 4bb in a 3-2 win.

The trend is that every guy has put the team in position to win each night. I'd like to see Ohlendorf and Morton pitch into the seventh, but all three were effective enough to get wins. Even when it looked like Morton was going to struggle last night, he kept pitching his way out of trouble. It's a sign of a young guy growing up in the big leagues.

The bullpen for the most part was effective as well. Take out the Capps ninth on Tuesday and the tenth on Wednesday and the Bucs young relievers got some big outs. That's what they need to do. Jessie Chavez striking out Jason Werth in a tough spot on Tuesday was huge, as was the performance by Denny Bautista last night. Even Joel Hanrahan impressed me getting out of a 0 out 2nd & 3rd jam on Wednesday. The thing I want to see from both the starters and the pen the rest of the season is simple- consistency.

The bats were quiet for the most part during the whole Phillies series, but they battled. That's what I have been wanting to see. The pitching kept them in the games and they were able to get some timely, late hits. I'd like to see the approach for the guys stay the same. Keep thinking opposite field.

Home stand is over, time to head to Milwaukee, where the Bucs have lost 18 in a row. Time to keep ridding the franchise of the losing culture an go up there and win. This young team must learn to win on the road and I can't think of a better place than Miller Park.

- The defense impressed all home stand. Give Luis Cruz some credit filling in for Cedeno. The team didn't miss a beat in the field.

-Great job by the bench, Moss in particular. Moss, Cedeno and Bixler did good things off the bench. It's not just the fact that Moss had two pinch hits, including the homer. Give him credit for being a pro. It could be easy for this guy to be down on himself, losing a lot of playing time, but he went to the plate and did good things for the team.

-Andy Laroche has been a bit snake bitten of late. He's been hitting the ball hard, but no results. Keep the same approach Andy. They will start falling in.

-No-Mitt (doumit) is still driving me crazy behind the plate.

-Steve Pearce is becoming a nice first baseman defensively. The bat is coming around a bit, but I still don't see him playing everyday.

-One thought about Wednesday's loss. I would like to see JR play the numbers more, Pitch to Howard, who granted has been struggling against the Bucs. When it was happening, I was shocked he wasn't being walked to load the bases for Werth. Werth before the at bat was 1-11 in the series and a double play candidate. Just a thought.

- I also have not been disappointed in the play of Lastings Milledge. The homers will come, as we saw 2 this home stand. That has something to so with him batting 6th. I just always thought he was faster, but he has slowly gotten better in the outfield.
-Only disappointing part of the last series was the performance with runners in scoring position. A feeble 1-24, with the only hit being McCutchen's walk-off, Tuesday night.
-For all of you payroll guys out there. How about the Mets have more than twice the salary on the DL today (88 mil) than the Pirates total payroll (35mil ish).

-Zach Duke vs Manny Parra tonight. Let's Go Bucs.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bucco Notebook 8-25- Great Homestand

After a miserable road trip, the young Bucs returned to PNC Park for a six game home stand and played great baseball. Unfortunately, I didn't get to go to any games because I had a long brutal home stand of my own to work, but I did get to watch the games for the most part and liked what I saw. It was a shame that Homer Bailey shut us down yesterday, but it was a very good home stand, showing exactly what this team could potentially do.

Good pitching, timely hitting, some power, some speed. Who were those masked guys pretending to be our Buccos? Instead of breaking down the baseball like I always do, I want to comment about the best part of the home stand. No, it wasn't the 5 straight wins, but instead it was the 1979 throwback uniforms worn Friday and Saturday.
Boy, did they look sharp or what. Brought back memories of the good old days (i was 4 in 79) of Pirates baseball. I would like to see them wear one of the throwbacks for every Friday game next season. It was also great seeing the cast from 1979 at PNC Park.
This is going to be short, so I will pose a question to you and let you discuss it. A friend of mine actually brought this up while we were watching the end of the game Saturday. But, how much pride do you think these young Bucco's had putting on that uniform? Being such a young team (very few if any were even born in 1979), do you think they finally said "We want to wear this uniform with pride."
Do you think it's possible that during this weekend that they finally realized it is now their team and they said "we aren't complete losers like the bunch before us." Do you think they felt that they could start a winning tradition, like the guys that originally wore that 1979 uniform? Or do you think it was just another day at the ball park with another gimmick for them.
I know it's a stretch, but maybe it takes something like that for young guys. This group of Pirates and the group to follow have their own Pirates tradition to start writing. The winning hopefully will begin soon. It's hard to tell because while the Bucs play looked inspired, they were playing the dreadful Reds, who are in a lot worse shape than the Bucs.
I don't know, I just figured I'd write something other than the x's and o's for a change. maybe one day in about 30 years, we can got to a 2012 or 2013 throwback uniform night, for the same reason as this last gathering of greats- A World Series Championship

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Evaluating Prospects

Very interesting list on Baseball America. Top Prospects of All-Time. Check it out

Next Check out who ranks 1 & 2 on the Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet

First of all, I am big on rankings and evaluations of young players, but they must be taken with a grain of salt. Not all guys ranked high have gone on to become solid Major League Players, but more often than not, they do. I always say the biggest transition is from AA or AAA to the MLB. Some guys can handle it and some guys simply can not.

I have heard in the past that I have defended Neil Huntington too much. I am not necessarily a fan of his, but he has a job to do and he has stuck to the plan so far, which I commend. He had to blow this franchise up.

Why have we been losing for 17 seasons? It's a direct correlation to developing young talent. I will go all the way back to the last winning seasons in Pittsburgh. If you clicked on the first link above, you saw the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list for every season dating back to 1990. That season, the Bucs had 3 of the top 100. They dealt 2 of those (Moises Alou and Willie Greene) to acquire Zane Smith, which helped them win two Division titles.

Taking Alou and Greene off the list, it amazed me how truly sad we have been at drafting and developing young talent. I didn't even think we were this bad. If you didn't read the list:

90 Keith Richardson #73 (never pitched for Pirates)
91 Kurt Miller #24 (never Pitched for Pirates
Carlos Garcia # 62 (average major league 2B
Mike Zimmerman #90 (never amounted to anything)
92 Steve Cooke #52 (below average mlb pitcher)
Kevin Young #100 (average mlb player)
93 None
94 Midre Cummings #33 (career was a joke)
95 "Steamin" Trey Beamon #43 (don't think he had a career)
96 Jason Kendall #26 (has had a productive career)
Chad Hermanson #54 (The savior)
97 Kris Benson #8 (arm injuries derailed a potentially good career)
Jose Guillen #24 (never really met expectations, but a serviceable career)
Aramis Rameriz #26 (the best one we had that got away)
Abraham Nunez #65 (career utility player)
Jimmy Anderson #88 (2 time opening day starter. Boy did he suck)
98 Jeff Wallace #91 (no career)
99 Warren Morris #84 (one good year in the bigs)
00 JJ Davis #97 (BUM)
01 Bobby Bradley #20 (Arm Injuries, never made it)
JR House #21 (Left to play football)
02 John Van Benschoten #88 ( Could be the worst pitcher & draft pick ever)
03 None
04 Sean Burnett #64 (under achiever)
Jason Bay #74 (very good mlb ball player)
Bryan Bullington #97 (Could have had B.J. Upton. #1 Pick that never got a win for the Pirates)
05 Zach Duke #34 (becoming a solid MLB pitcher)
Neil Walker #81 ( finally starting to hit in the minors 4 years later. Probably no future)
06 Andrew McCutchen #50 (STUD)
Tom Gorzelanny #95 (average mlb pitcher at best)
07 Brad Lincoln #69 (future staff ace?)
08 Steve Pearce #89 (has no mlb future, bench role at best)

Now for purpose of this post, I only included the players for the first season they cracked the top 100. Some players have made the list multiple seasons. Do all guys pan out? Of course not. Do things happen along the way, like injuries? Of course they do. Do the rankings flat out miss on guys? Yes they do.

For this illustration however, take a look at the complete list and they tend to get it right most of the time. My list is primarily just to illustrate the pure lack of homegrown young talent in the Pirates system for the last 17 years. Folks, it's plain and simple why we can't win. We had to make the moves we did. We had to get talent in this system somehow.

We gave away Aramis Rameriz, but in 17 seasons, only Rameriz, Kendall, Duke, Bay and most recently McCutchen have had legit major league talent. That's 5 guys in 17 seasons and it's not acceptable. The two highest rated prospect on this list that the Bucs have ever had were Kris Benson in 1998 and McCutchen at #13 In 2007.

There is a correlation to winning with these list. Every team that has had many of these prospects have been legit winning organizations. Even look at the Tampa rays of 08, who in the 2 season prior had 24 names on that list. No reason the Bucs should have had 1 guy here and another one there. That's not doing your homework on young players and that's not how you win.

So Huntington had to blow up the team and in the last calender year, look at the potential talent he has added. On the 2008 top 100, there were 10 current Buccos represented. Only 4 were in the organization prior to Huntington's arrival: McCutchen, Lincoln, Pearce and Walker. The new 6 on the list include: Laroche, Tabata, Clement, Alderson, Hernandez and Milledge.

Now that list doesn't include guys who will be on the 2009 list like Alvarez, Sanchez, Owens, etc. Nor does it include any members of the last two drafts, in which the franchise has gone out and spent money on their future. that list will include another 10-15 young, future Pirates So it's almost impossible for me to argue that Huntington hasn't been taking the right approach to this organization.

Next click on the second link and read Baseball America's Prospect Hot Sheet, ranking the Mid-Season Prospects. Numbers 1 & 2 on the list are Tony Sanchez and Pedro Alvarez. Again, will all of the youngster become solid major leaguers? No, but it gives hope. Even if a third of them do, it's far more talent than we have had in 17 seasons, so it's impossible again to knock the approach.

Want a little more proof that Neil Huntington is doing the right thing? Would you rather watch Ross Ohlendorff, Charlie Morton and Kevin Hart pitch or last years solid rotation including Yoslan Herrara, John Van Benschoten, Matt Morris, etc. The facts are we are slowly getting better.

The final thing I am sick and tired of people telling me is that as soon as these guys get good, then Huntington will trade them. That's absurd to begin with. All of the guys dealt this year were unlikely to be back anyways. Huntington acquired guys with right he can control through 2015 and 2016 in most cases. Again, it shows that the guy seems to have a baseball head about him.

So if it sounds like I'm being a mark for Neil Huntington, so be it. The facts are that there is more talent in this organization than at any point in the last 17 seasons. Will the plan work? Only time will tell, but it's a good time to get excited about Pirates baseball. This thing could finally turn around in a couple of seasons.

- since I brought up Chad Hermansen, made me think of one of my favorite lines of all time. One scout said about Hermansen " Chad Hermansen can walk on water. He just can't hit."

- Steven Jackson been throwing well lately. Last 14 appearances, his era is under 2.00

-Matt Capps fastball had life to it on the home stand. Deal him now. While I'm at it, will anyone take Ryan Doumit

-Lastings Milledge is starting to play well once he got taken out of the 2 hole.

-I really like these group of guys, one challenge for Huntington is to find a power bat next season. I don't think Alvarez will be up and as much as I like Andy Laroche, I can't have him hitting cleanup next season. Although I think he has done fine there in his couple starts.

- Cedeno is nursing a hurt pinkie finger so I'd like to see Bixler play. He has no pressure on him now. Just see what he really is.

- Here is where young teams struggle. Consistent Offense production and winning on the road. We have seen both big time. We know about the struggles offensively, but look at the home and road splits. Home record is five games over .500 at 33-28. Road record is an atrocious 25 games under .500 at 18-43. Once they can learn to play near .500 away from PNC Park, they can start putting winning streaks together