Sunday, October 23, 2011

Helping the Pirates Reach .500 and Beyond

The Pirates as you all know have been terrible for a long time, 19 years to be specific. This season the baseball world thought this was going to change. The Pirates were good at the beginning of this season, not just .500 good but playoff contending good. They were leading the division for a while and even were buyers at the deadline. And of course being the Pirates their success didn’t last as they finished 72-90. This post I am going suggest changes that the Pirates could make in order to be contenders in 2012.
In order for the Pirates to be contenders in 2012 they need to get roughly 90 wins. So to reach that total the Pirates need to get 18 more wins. To generate those 18 extra wins they need to get player who will provide another 18 WAR. The Pirates are going to need to make many changes to improve.
The first area to improve upon is catcher. Here’s a breakdown of the catchers used in 2011.

Player
Games
Slash Stats
WAR (fan graphs)
Ryan Doumit
77
.303/.353/.477
1.8
Chris Snyder
34
.271/.376/.396
0.7
Michael McKenry
58
.222/.276/.322
0.1

So the Pirates catchers generated 2.6 WAR last season. I propose that the Pirates trade for Nick Hundley and sign Jose Molina. Here’s a look at what those two did last season.

Hundley
82
.288/.347/.477
3.3
Molina
55
.281/.342/.415
1.3

 Hundley and Molina combined to be worth 4.6 WAR last season. So already the Pirates have improved by 2 wins.  (Record now 74-88)
The Pirates do not have a starting first baseman going into 2012. Last season, Lyle Overbay began the year as their first baseman, but was replaced when Derek Lee was acquired at the deadline; Garrett Jones also played a large role at 1B. Here’s a look at their production in 2011.

Player
Innings
Slash Stats
WAR
Overbay
828
.227/.300/.349
-0.8
Jones
260
.243/.321/.433
0.9
Lee
238
.337/.398/.584
0.9

The Pirates first baseman generated 1 WAR last season.
The best way to improve on that would be go out and sign Price Fielder; however that’s unlikely, Carlos Pena however would be cheaper and would still represent an upgrade.

Pena
1258.1
.225/.357/.462
2.6

With Pena the Pirates would generate 1.6 additional wins. (Record now 75.6-86.4)
The Pirates have a solid middle infield tandem in Neil Walker (3.0 WAR), and Ronny Cedeno (1.4 WAR). Walker is a good player, he has a decent bat (.273/.334/.408 in 2011) and a below average glove (-3.2 UZR in 2011). Cedeno has no bat (career line of .249/.286/.353) but his glove at short (5.9 UZR in 2011) is why I want him in the lineup. I believe that both these players at least will be worth what they were last season.
Third base is a position that really hurt the Pirates last season. The Pirates used three players for a significant time at 3B last season.

Pedro Alvarez
549
.191/.272/.288
-0.8
Brandon Wood
377
.220/.277/.347
0.3
Josh Harrison
363
.272/.281/.374
0.9

The Pirates third basemen combined to be worth only 0.4 wins.  This were the Pirates should make a splash and go after the big name free agent. I feel they should make run at Aramis Ramirez.

Ramirez
1241.1
.306/.361/.510
3.6

 With Ramirez the Pirates would get an extra 3.2 wins. (Record now 78.8-83.2)
Much like third base right field was another area of concern for the Pirates.  The Pirates again had three players play significant time in right field in 2011.

Garret Jones
659
.243/.321/.433
0.9
Matt Diaz
276
.259/.303/.324
-0.1
Xavier Paul
273
.254/.293/.349
-0.1

Those three men were worth 0.7 wins last season. A player who would improve on that would be Michael Cuddyer

Cuddyer
639.1
.284/.346/.458
3.1

With the addition of Cuddyer the Pirates would gain another 2.4 wins. (Record 81.2-80.8 at the .500 mark)
The Pirates are set in the center field with Andrew McCutchen (5.7 WAR) and Jose Tabata (1.0 WAR). McCutchen is one of the best young center fielders in the game and his WAR reflects that. His WAR has increased every year he has been in the bigs so next season I will expect that to continue. He has average increase 1.1 WAR a season. Let’s assume he will do that (which really isn’t asking a lot as he is only 26). So that will increase the Pirates record to 82.3-79.7. Tabata only played in 91 games last season and he is only 23. So an increase in WAR is realistic to expect. Tabata had 2.1 WAR in 2010 so I feel that if he stays healthy and plays in something like 140 games he should get around 2.8 WAR. That will improve the Pirates record to 84.1-77.9.
By only making 4 changes I have improved the Pirates by 12.1 wins. Now to reach that 90 win plateau the pitchers need to improve by just 5.9 wins.  
I will begin with the bullpen

Pitcher
Innings
ERA
WAR
Tony Watson (L)
41
3.95
-0.4
Joe Beimel (L)
25.1
5.33
-0.7
Daniel McCutchen (R)
84.2
3.72
-0.3

Those three combined to be 1.1 win below a replacement level player last season. Even the Pirates get players who are simply replacement level then they will improve by 1 win. Here are three pitchers who are free agents and would represent an upgrade.

Todd Coffey (R)
59.2
3.62
0.5
George Sherril  (L)
36
3.00
0.5
Javier Lopez (L)
53
2.72
0.7

 These three pitchers combined for a 1.7 WAR. These pitchers because they are replacing players who combined to have -1.1 WAR, they give Pittsburgh another 2.8 wins. (Record 86.9-75.1)
The last area that needs improving is the starting rotation. Since we are at 86.9 wins we only need to improve the rotation by 3.1 WAR.
Here’s a look at the two pitchers that need to be replaced.

Ross Ohlendorf
38.2
4.82
-0.6
Kevin Correia
153.0
8.15
0.0

These two pitchers as you can see combined to have -0.6 WAR last season. Here are two pitchers who will provide similar innings but will be provide more WAR.

Dontrelle Willis
75.2
5.00
0.8
Bruce Chen
155.0
3.77
1.7

These two pitchers combined to be worth 2.5 wins last season.  These two pitchers will provide the Pirates with an additional 3.1 wins, exactly the amount that was needed.
Those 3.1 wins push the Pirates record to 90-70, which should be enough to make the playoffs in 2012. I made 10 changes to the Pirates roster. Yes that is a lot and the price would be high, but the extra revenue the Pirates made from being in contention would be enough to offset the cost of the players.
Comments are appreciated, let know how I’m doing and what I can improve on. Thanks. You can follow me on twitter @PaulBerthelot and you can like Ol Ball Game on twitter just search Ol Ball Game.

17 comments:

  1. First all your suggestions make to much sense for the Pirates to ever consider doing it. Then if you add in the additional payroll it would take to do all those things and you can just consider it a pipe dream.

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  2. This is way too brilliant for the Pirates management to actually use realistically. Great analysis of the players mentioned. I hope they can make some sort of splash during the winter meetings and arrange a type of trade that can propel them toward the .500 mark.

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  3. I agree Anthony I would love to see the Pirates actually make a splash this season, I really just want to see them contending again, their such a historic franchise, I hate seeing them do so bad year after year.

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  4. What would the payroll actually be?

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  5. These stats don't mean much to me...but watching Texas and St. Louis play in the World Series reveals that the Bucco's are a long, long, long way from being a big-boy baseball club.

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  6. The actual payroll would be tough to figure out just becasue I really dont know what each player will demand on the market, but if i had to guess it would probally be around $100mil either way its well out of the Pirates budget.

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  7. Hey Old Joe, how awesome was that game last night? Oh Man what a game, im so pumped for game 7, but yah the Bucs are a long way away

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  8. I think the Pirates are committed to Presley in LF so I would like to see his WAR. They also are committed to Alvarez at 3B, at least for the first couple months to see how he is doing. Too much potential to be cast aside as he it is hoped will be the power hitter they need. I don't like the bullpen additions suggested.

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  9. This scenerio was how to make the Pirates good this year, I understand that to build a team you need to have prospects and have them develop, as for Presley he had a 1.2 WAR last season, the only reason I used Tabata here was he played in 91 games compared to Presley's 52

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  10. They will never sign ARAM because they feel they have so much invested in Alvarez. I'm hoping Pedro eventually pans out like ARAM did.

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  11. Hey Paul...Are you enjoying this series as much as I am? 8th inning and it looks like the Cards have it in the bag. What a story...

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  12. The entire pitching staff was only +7.0 WAR (+2.1 from Maholm). A true #1 SP is worth +5-8 alone, hence the need for a couple of our minor league studs to pan out as 2 of them eventually being #1 caliber would immediately add 10-12 wins alone. Correja is going nowhere and pretty sure Ohlendorf/Lincoln should not be expected to replace Maholm, plus we need to guard against regression/injuries so... I think it's imperative that at least 1 free agent SP is signed, none of these may be possible, but Buerhle (+3.4), Vazquez (+3.2), or Kuroda (+2.4) would seem the best candidates to replace and exceed Maholm.

    I agree that Presley and Alvarez will get their shots and that C and 1B also need fixed. This is why the one position player that I absolutely want (but not likely to leave MIN) is Michael Cuddyear who has the ability to play 3B, 1B, or RF/LF. His versatility would be key to backstopping either young guy and/or enabling Garrett Jones (who should be given a shot at 1B if Lee or Pena can't be signed) to sit vs LHP.

    At catcher, a platoon of Ramon Hernandez and Jaramillo/McHenry is probably the best that we can hope for.

    Net, net - even with one of the SP's mentioned, Hernandez, Cuddyear, and Presley/Alvarez proving to be the real deals, this team is not much more than a 0.500 ball club next year.

    IMO, 90+ wins only becomes a possibility when something close to the above scenario happens and the SP becomes excellent. This means 2 top end starters, either internally developed or acquired externally. Externally is unlikely, but it would be nice to have 4 stud OF's (Presley,McCutchen,Tabata, Marte) in 1-2 years and use one of them to acquire a piece of the puzzle. Tony Sanchez turning into a +3.0-5.0 player would also go a long ways to 90+ wins.

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  13. Great article Bob, but the truth is nothing will change. Huntington and his staff are amongst the worst talent evaluators in the game today. No offense, no power, little speed, no starting pitching, an owner who doesnt reallycare equal diasaster. expect 90-100 losses in 2012.

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  14. This is all completely silly. Signing an aging Aramis Ramirez and benching a future All Star in Pedro Alvarez? You're assuming that WAR numbers are exactly 100% accurate. And you're assuming that each of those players you want to acquire replicates their 2011 numbers next year. Sorry, but that's just absurd. This is a case of someone putting stats over common sense.

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  15. Im getting the feeling you guys are missing my point here, this was a post about how to win this season, obvioulsy if i was a GM i would not follow this, i would play Alvarez and other prospects.

    How bout them Cardinals!!!! Awesome job by the whole team.

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  16. Look at the Rays vs the Pirates - the main difference (and how the Pirates contend some day) is they have James Shields and David Price, with a combined +9.0-10.0 WAR, at the top of the rotation and 4 position players above +3.0 WAR vs. the Pirates only having Cutch.

    So, we're talking 2 top of the rotation starters (vs. our current zero) and Neil Walker being our 5th best positional player not our 2nd so...

    3 of the following positions need to seriously get better RF, LF, 3B, 1B, C - in addition to 2 front end starters, we've got a long ways to go unfortunately

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