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.