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.
WAR (fan graphs)
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Those three men were worth 0.7 wins last season. A player who would improve on that would be Michael Cuddyer
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
Tony Watson (L)
Joe Beimel (L)
Daniel McCutchen (R)
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)
George Sherril (L)
Javier Lopez (L)
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.
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.
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.