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| Oct 14, 2013 - 9:56 AM
The 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates season is officially over which means it's time to turn our heads towards Free Agency and the future as November looms. The Pirates have a variety of needs.. 1B, RF along with needing to extend Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker. If anyone felt that GM Neal Huntington had his work cut out for him at the Trade Deadline in 2013 to put the Pirates over the top, this Offseason is going to be 10 times more difficult.
Despite there being needs in other areas, the one area of need that fans seem to be ignoring is Starting Pitching.
A.J. Burnett is a Free Agent and Neal Huntington has to replace roughly 191-202 Innings per season to go along with an outstanding FIP, xFIP and ERA that A.J Burnett has produced. At 37, Burnett is way past his prime years and he could fall off a cliff at any point but his production still needs replaced.
So, who do the Pirates replace A.J Burnett with?
The Pirates won't get Burnett's production in Free Agency cheaply and it is questionable whether the Pirates even need a long term solution that they'd have to sign to confidently replace A.J. Butnett's production. Gerrit Cole is their heir apparent ace. Francisco Liriano still is in his prime. Charlie Morton bounced back well despite not throwing all his pitches he used to pre-Tommy Johns. Jeff Locke came into his own before wearing down late and pitchers like Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow are getting closer to their MLB debuts. The Pirates have long term solutions. What they lack is a short term solution until Taillon and Glasnow are ready. A short term solution while Cole further develops into that Ace.
A.J. Burnett is that short term solution.
Yes, Burnett had a bad game in Game 1 of the NLDS. He's not been strong in St.Louis in general. Give the guy a pass. Doug Drabek pitched 2 crummy games against the Braves in the 1992 NLDS that left people wondering why Bob Walk wasn't pitched in Game 7.
Burnett shouldn't be victimized for 1 bad game like ******bag, 3rd-rate "journalists" like Bob Smizik have attempted to do.. (People who know me are waiting for a Bob Smizik rant now!). A.J. Burnett has been more of an MVP to this team than many people realize. He brought in a culture of attitude, swagger, cockiness and desire to win that wasn't here before. Clint Hurdle couldn't bring that. Andrew McCutchen lacks that type of personality.
... [Read More]
What a year it was along the banks of the Allegheny for the Pittsburgh Pirates and everybody who ventured down to PNC Park this season to watch them. Coming off two straight seasons that ended in collapses leaving the Pirates below the .500 mark, the Pirates were making progress that set the stage for what they accomplished this season. In the previous three seasons, the Pirates had 57, 72 and 79 wins and entering 2013 there was a strong feeling the losing streak would end, but they would have to overcome a 1-5 start were very little went right. It didn't take long for the Pirates to get over that 1-5 start and after a 6-0 win over Atlanta on April 19th, the Pirates were 8-8 and would never fall below .500 again on their way to a 94 win season and their first post season appearance since 1992.
The years between 1992 and this season were frustrating and each year that passed was exceedingly painful, as ownership continued digging the hole of ineptitude deeper and deeper, subjecting us fans to an increasingly worse product on the field, the lone exception being the team that played way above it's head in 1997 before finishing with 79 wins. The turning point finally came when Bob Nutting replaced Kevin McClatchey as the owner and hired Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington to run the baseball operations. By this time, however, the franchise was in shambles with very little talent in the minor league system and a major league roster that even though it had some talent, it was nowhere near being contenders, but yet a certain segment of the fanbase expected the Pirates to become contenders overnight, while the rest of us knew it was going to take some time to build this franchise the right way.
What Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington had to work with wasn't much, but they had two good building blocks in Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker. Their first draft pick to start the rebuilding process was Pedro Alvarez, in a 2008 draft class that also included Jordy Mercer in the third round and Justin Wilson in the fifth round. They signed Dominican Players and free agents like Starling Marte, Francisco Liriano and Russell Martin. They traded for the likes of Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton and Mr. #STFD himself, A.J.... [Read More]
I put together the following breakdown of the Pirates roster as we head into the offseason to prepare for what I'm hoping is another great season in 2014. It is rather simple but I figure it provides a good starting point for an offseason discussion.
Under Contract: Wandy Rodriguez*, Russell Martin, Andrew McCutchen, Jason Grilli, Jose Tabata, Francisco Liriano
Arbitration Eligible: Garrett Jones*, Neil Walker, Charlie Morton*, Gaby Sanchez, Pedro Alvarez*, Mark Melancon*, Michael McKenry*, Travis Snider*, Vin Mazzaro*, Felix Pie*
League Min Players with Options: Tony Watson, Jared Hughes, Josh Harrison, Starling Marte, Jeff Locke, Justin Wilson, Jordy Mercer, Phil Irwin, Gerrit Cole, Kris Johnson, Andrew Lambo, Tony Sanchez, Chase d'Arnaud, Brandon Cumpton, Ryan Reid
League Min Players without Options: Jeanmar Gomez, Bryan Morris, Kyle McPherson*, Stolmy Pimentel, Andrew Oliver, Jerry Sands
Free Agents: A.J. Burnett, Justin Morneau, John Buck, Clint Barmes, Jeff Karstens, Marlon Byrd, Kyle Farnsworth
Notable Players Eligible for Rule V Draft: Gregory Polanco, Alen Hanson*, Carlos Paulino, Gift Ngoepe, Casey Sadler, David Bromberg*, Zack Dodson, Zach Thornton, Justin Howard, Stetson Allie, Erik Cordier*, Ivan De Jesus*, Mel Rojas, Adalberto Santos, Joely Rodriguez
Likely Positions of Need: 1B, SS, RF, SP
1. Wandy Rodriguez has a player option he is likely to exercise
2. Jones, Morton, Melancon, Snider, Mazzaro and Pie are all arbitration eligible and are out of options
3. Pedro Alvarez has a player option he is likely to decline and head to arbitration.
4. Michael McKenry is a likely Super 2 player meaning he should be arbitration eligible
5. The Pirates will likely seek a 4th option for McPherson
6. Alen Hanson may or may not be Rule V eligible
7. Bromberg, Cordier and De Jesus in addition to being Rule V eligible are minor league free agents
| Oct 10, 2013 - 8:39 AM
The first Pittsburgh Pirates Post Season has come to an end and the ride couldn't have been anymore enjoyable. The city of Pittsburgh erased the National Media's belief that this isn't a baseball town by shocking every National analyst out there with the amazing crowd display at PNC Park. The fans erased the abuse the city received in the early 1990's when it couldn't sell out Three Rivers Stadium.
The city of Pittsburgh came alive for baseball, and it was an amazing sight and feeling.
In 1992, the fans new that an era was coming to a close. Baseball's economics started change, where money became more prominent and the ability to hold onto players for their entire careers by virtue of choice was eroding. We saw Bobby Bonilla and John Smiley leave for big (in the case of Bonilla - Huge) contracts and after 1992, we knew Barry Bonds and Doug Drabek would be leaving too.
An era was ending.
We all knee the end was near and it made that Playoff loss in 1992 all that more bitter and difficult to handle. A great era and team seemed to be wasted by 3 tough playoff losses where one can argue that the Pirates should've at least 2 of them. Nothing will erase that memory until the Pirates get into the World Series and exercise those demons but after Sid Bream was safe at Home Plate, that hope was realistically gone.
Wednesday night the Pirates lost to the St.Louis Cardinals. It was a difficult loss. Up 2-1 in the series and only needing 1 win to advance, the Pirates were in charge. Unfortunately the bats decided to slump when they were needed most and the Pirates were eliminated. It was difficult to bear, disappointing to see and feel. It was bitter to watch the Cardinals celebrate..
.. But it wasn't Heart Breaking.
It wasn't Heart Breaking because unlike in 1992 when an era was coming to an end, in 2013 an era has just begun. This is as exciting a time for baseball in Pittsburgh as there has been since the 1970's.
Why not the 1990's?
The 1990's were very short term. By the time Pirates became good, Bonds, Bonilla, Smiley and Drabek were ready to cash out for big pay days. In the 1970's, you had an entire era of players in their primes, draft picks coming into their own early like John Candeleria. It was long term. This 2013 Pirates are long term.
Andrew McCutchen is locked up long term. Gerrit Cole has years of control. Neil Walker... [Read More]
| Oct 10, 2013 - 3:09 AM
One key difference in the Pirates success this season was manager Clint Hurdle's willingness to implement sabermetrics into his game strategy. For instance, for most of the second half of the season, Neil Walker didn't start often against left handed pitchers because statistics showed Walker struggled mightily when he batted right handed against them. Even defensively, the Pirates improved drastically by implementing alignment shifts based on opposing players tendencies to hit to specific areas of the field.
In the NLDS, however, Hurdle failed to adjust the lineup at all despite statistics that supported change. For instance, Starling Marte and Neil Walker were a combined 1-38 for the NLDS and posted a batting average of .026 at the top of the Pirates lineup. Neil Walker failed to collect a single hit in the series.
Reserve outfielder Jose Tabata had a career .375 batting average against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright coming into the series. Albeit a small sample size, utility infielder Jordy Mercer was 2-3 with a HR (and added another pinch hit in game 5) in his career vs Wainwright. Despite the success, neither player was given an opportunity to ignite the Pirates punchless offense.
Pedro Alvarez was the Pirates best hitter in the post season. He batted .300 with 3 HR and 6 RBI with a slugging % of .800. Alvarez was slated in the 6th spot of the lineup as Justin Morneau remained a fixture in the cleanup role, even though he failed to produce an RBI in 6 post season games. Morneau technically didn't deserve to be rooted in the 4th spot as he only produced 3 RBI in 25 regular season games with the Pirates.
Furthermore, Hurdle announced before game 5 that Pirates ace Francisco Liriano was available to be used in a relief role. Hurdle pulled Gerrit Cole after throwing 5 innings (75 pitches) and allowing 2 runs. Rather than inserting his best pitcher (Liriano) in the winner-take-all game, he threw a blend of 5 relievers who gave up 4 runs and put the game out of reach.
It was a great season and the Pirates rekindled their relationship with the fan base, but the team will need better in-game managerial decisions to advance further in the coming seasons. Hats off to a fun season, but it feels like they could still be playing into mid October.