Can the Pirates Do it Again?

Midnight struck for baseball’s Cinderella last night, as Adam Wainwright‘s curveball played the part of the wicked stepmother. Actually, I don’t know the Cinderella story well enough to know if that sentence makes sense, so let’s move on from this tortured analogy after just one sentence. The Pirates lost last night, and the season that put the city back on the map as a baseball town is now over. So now, there’s one question hanging over the franchise: was this was a one year aberration or was this was the emergence a new force to be reckoned with in the NL Central?

From one perspective, it’s impossible to answer this question right now. We have no idea what the 2014 Pirates will actually look like after an off-season of roster shuffling. They could pony up their entire farm system to land both David Price and Giancarlo Stanton, and then, yeah, they’re obviously a contender next year. Or they might decide to play it safe, wait for the next wave of prospects to hit Pittsburgh, and take a step backwards in a consolidation year. There’s no way to know what the 2014 Pirates are going to do without knowing who is going to be playing for them.

But, we know some of the players that are almost certainly going to be on the team, and we know some things about how the 2013 Pirates won 94 games, so we can look at how much of what they did this year could reasonably be expected to carry over to 2014. So let’s do that.

Let’s start with the position players. As a group, the Pirates non-pitchers posted a wRC+ of 106, 10th best in baseball, so despite not looking that great against St. Louis, Pittsburgh’s offense was pretty good this year. Andrew McCutchen was a monster, but more importantly, they didn’t really give too many plate appearances to total nothings. Of their top 10 hitters in PAs, only Garrett Jones (97 wRC+) and Clint Barmes (52 wRC+) were below average hitters this season, and both of them gave way to above average hitters — or at least, hitters who performed above the league average in 2013 — as the year went on.

They basically surrounded McCutchen with a bunch of decent hitters, and that made the offense work even as there was only one serious offensive threat. Well, that probably undersells Starling Marte a bit, who posted a 121 wRC+ and was a fantastic baserunner, so they got a lot of value out of their two athletic center fielders, and then everyone else was solid enough. But the good news is that the core players who made up the Pirates offense are expected to retain most of their offensive value in 2014.

You may or may not have noticed that we’ve snuck 2014 Steamer Projections onto the site already. They’re not completely perfect — players who ended the year on the DL are projected for 1 at-bat, sometimes — and should be considered in beta for now, but they’re still useful guides for what we can expect from players next year. And so, let’s take a look at the wOBA projections for the core Pirates hitters for 2014, compared to what they did in 2013.

Name PA 2013 wOBA 2014 wOBA
Andrew McCutchen 674 0.393 0.388
Pedro Alvarez 614 0.330 0.336
Starling Marte 566 0.344 0.333
Neil Walker 551 0.333 0.342
Russell Martin 506 0.315 0.311
Garrett Jones 440 0.309 0.334
Jordy Mercer 365 0.333 0.308
Jose Tabata 341 0.340 0.326
Clint Barmes 330 0.244 0.273
Gaby Sanchez 320 0.338 0.330

There’s a lot of similar numbers in that table. Steamer thinks Andrew McCutchen is going to be nearly as awesome next year as he was this year. It thinks Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez are going to be even better, at least at the plate. Starling Marte, still a force. Russell Martin, still a good hitter for a catcher. Jordy Mercer gets worse, but a .308 wOBA from a shortstop isn’t awful, and if they don’t bring in an improvement, he’ll likely get a greater proportion of the PAs that went to Clint Barmes’ impression of a pitcher. There’s just nothing here that says that the Pirates primary offensive players are in for a huge regression.

And, the news is actually even better than that, because the Pirates are very likely to go get themselves a new first baseman this winter, and it won’t be terribly hard to upgrade over what Jones/Sanchez/Morneau provided at the position this year. Maybe they get in the Jose Abreu bidding war. Maybe they pluck Ike Davis or Lucas Duda away from the Mets. Odds are good they won’t stick with the status quo, though, so there’s a pretty substantial potential upgrade to be made at first base.

So, yeah, the Pirates offense doesn’t look like it’s headed for a crash. And if they make a huge splash and land a big time hitter who can play first base or right field, it could be even better next year. This should be encouraging for the Pirates.

The run prevention is a slightly less optimistic story. Separating out pitching from defense isn’t easy, especially for a team that shifts as often as the Pirates do, so rather than look at FIP/UZR, let’s just look at it in total and focus on runs allowed, while acknowledging up from that this is going to give Pirates pitchers credit for things that were actually Pirates defense. And we’ll include FIP-based WAR for reference. Here’s how the top 10 Pirates pitchers broke down:

Name RA9-WAR WAR
Francisco Liriano 3.8 3.1
A.J. Burnett 2.7 4.0
Mark Melancon 2.6 2.5
Gerrit Cole 2.3 2.3
Jeff Locke 2.3 1.1
Justin Wilson 2.1 0.5
Tony Watson 1.7 0.5
Charlie Morton 1.3 1.3
Vin Mazzaro 1.2 0.4
Jason Grilli 1.1 1.5

The top two starters were well above average, and then they got solid performances from a mix of back-end starters before Gerrit Cole gave them another frontline performance in the second half of the season. But, really, focus on those bullpen numbers. They had five relievers post +1 RA9-WAR, with Melancon and Wilson over +2. The Pirates bullpen, as a group, posted +8.9 RA9-WAR, ranking #4 in baseball, and then they were even better in important situations, as they ranked #1 in bullpen WPA.

With all due respect to the Pirates abilities to find undervalued relief arms, this isn’t happening again. The 2012 Orioles pulled this trick off with a bunch of great relief seasons out of nowhere, then were a disaster in close games in 2013. This is the kind of thing that has huge season-to-season variance, and counting on Melancon, Wilson, Watson, Grilli, and Mazzaro to be a devastating core of relievers again in 2014 will likely lead to disappointment. Steamer projects over one run ERA regressions from Melancon and Wilson and almost one run regression from Watson and Mazzaro. It doesn’t hate these guys, but they’re more useful than other worldly. The Pirates bullpen is going to be worse next year, and it’s going to cost them a handful of wins that they got this season.

So, really, the run prevention is going to come down to two factors: how much of Gerrit Cole’s late season dominance is a precursor of things to come, and whether they can either retain Burnett or replace him with a similarly valuable veteran starter. If they keep Burnett, or fill his spot with a high quality starter, and then Cole steps in to throw a full season worth of All-Star performance, this rotation should still be pretty good. They’ve got a good enough defense to turn mediocre arms into useful back-end starters, and they can find another Jeff Locke or Charlie Morton to soak up innings, but with a less effective bullpen, they’re going to need their top three starters to be quite excellent again.

And that is far from a guarantee. Francisco Liriano’s career has been a roller coaster of unexpected performances, both good and bad. Burnett just had one of the best seasons of his career at age-37, and while he’s said he wants to return, he was reportedly unhappy with getting bypassed for the Game 5 start yesterday, so his return is not inevitable, and even if he does come back, he has to be expected to get worse. And while Cole looks excellent, he’s still a young arm with 130 big league innings, so he has to be considered a wild card.

This rotation could be very good, especially if they make a smart bet on another buy low free agent to give them 200 good innings. It could also be a disaster, and the Pirates run prevention could go from among the best in the league to among the worst. There is a wide range of possible outcomes here, especially with the large expected bullpen regression.

I know that’s an unsatisfying conclusion, as I just used 1,400 words to write that the Pirates could be good or bad or anything in between. There’s just too many variables to make any kind of real projection at this point. However, I think we can say with some confidence that the Pirates have the core of a good team in place. Their offense is solid, their defense should still be good, and there is talent on the pitching staff. This doesn’t look like a team that wildly outperformed their talent level, except for in the bullpen, and some of that bullpen dominance could be ascribed to the Pirates never ending use of shifts.

I don’t think the Pirates are going away. With a good off-season and some solid acquisitions, they look like they could very easily be a contender again in 2014. 94 wins might be a stretch unless they really go for it and make a big splash, but the pieces for a contending team are in place. Pirates fans should savor 2013 as a special season, but they should also see it as the first step towards long term success. This team looks like it’s got a shot to be good for a while. They can’t rest on their laurels, and they need to make some real improvements to offset the coming regression on the pitching staff, but those improvements are possible. The 2014 Pirates have a chance to do this again.




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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


70 Responses to “Can the Pirates Do it Again?”

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  1. Kevin Towers says:

    The Pirates need to add some more grit as well!

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  2. Jordy says:

    No mention of the impending additions from AAA next summer?

    Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco will have a significant impact for the 2014 Pirates (discounting the possibility of injury).

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Steamer projected Polanco for a .270 wOBA next year, and a 4.23 ERA for Taillon. It’s great to be excited about their future. It’s less great to be planning on them being actual contributors to a winning team in the short term.

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      • Leo Walter says:

        Like planning on Cole contributing was this season Dave ? Taillon is a 3 mph less likeness of Cole in 2012,while Polanco is a big improvement over any one but Byrd the Bucs ran out to right field this past season. Particularly in the leadoff spot.

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        • Dave Cameron says:

          Gerrit Cole being good for half a season is not evidence that you should plan on every pitching prospect being good for half a season.

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        • Leo Walter says:

          That wasn’t my point.

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        • Eric Feczko says:

          @Leo:

          The pirates got lucky with Cole’s performance. He was rushed to the majors because of injuries to the starting pitching staff. While it worked out great for the Pirates, I don’t think they planned on three simultaneous DL trips for their starters.

          I’m not sure what point you are trying to make then. I assume that you are pointing out two factors: (1) that Tallion in 2013 pitched similar to Cole in 2012, and will therefore play a contributing role next year, (2) Polanco will take over at the leadoff spot and increase the offensive production of this team.

          Dave’s point is that the bullpen may be a weakness for this staff next year, and if so, could derail this team from becoming a contender. Similarly, Burnett and Liriano may perform poorly relative to this year, which could also derail the team. Counting on Tallion or Polanco to offset the loss of two starters and a reliever is asking for a bit much.

          There’s no question that Tallion has the upside of an ace, but its unlikely (though possible) that he will pitch 130+ innings with a sub 3.0 FIP in the majors next year, when he has never done so to this date. Even if he does, it won’t make the team contend without a successful bullpen and/or quality 1/2 starters.

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        • szielinski says:

          Gerrit Cole being good for half a season is not evidence that you should plan on every pitching prospect being good for half a season.

          Cole’s 2013 MLB performance does support the claim that some pitching prospects will produce much baseball value for at least one-half a season.

          Taillon is a good bet to be one of those pitchers. McPherson, Kingham are riskier bets.

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        • Jason says:

          Taillon is an excellent bet to be one of those pitchers. Doing it in 2014 is a somewhat less probable bet.

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      • Bill says:

        I think Dave is trying to say “don’t count on it.” He’s not saying it won’t happen, but you can’t rely on it as a sure thing to build your team around. One part of assembling a good baseball team is all about making a bunch of bets on upside and figure if they’re good bets, enough of them will turn out in your favor to outweigh the one’s that don’t.

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        • Leo Walter says:

          Uhh…I probably have been watching baseball at least 40 OR 50 years longer than either you or Dave. So don’t talk to me like I am 14 years old and just left the Federal Street screening party.

          -49 Vote -1 Vote +1

        • TerryMc says:

          Obvious troll is obvious

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        • Jason B says:

          Also Leo would like you young whipper-snappers to kindly get off his lawn, post-haste.

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        • wobatus says:

          Leo obviously isn’t trolling. Dave didn’t mention 2 likely call-ups at all, whatever their steamer projections are (and Polanco wasn’t great in AA last year, but Snider was awful). Taillon is Sickels’ #12 prospect post-season, Polanco 21. Deserve at least a mention in a story about the Pirates chances next year, even if just as trade bait. They got a nice partial season from Byrd costing them prospects not quite as highly thought of as Taillon, Polanco, Hanson and Glasnow. Dave mentions possibly getting Ike Davis or Lucas Duda, who are miniscule steamer projection upgrades over Jones.

          The responses to both the initial poster and then Leo glossed over the obvious point. They have very highly thought of prospects, some of whom may contribute in 2014, any of whom could be used to get players who will.

          Dave hits the highlights and makes cogent points about the relievers, starters and position players. A brief note on the system and especially its nearest players wouldn’t have hurt.

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        • Chone Gutierrez says:

          What can one count on?

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        • Jason B says:

          Death and taxes?

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        • chuckb says:

          I don’t get the “Federal Street screening party reference” but that’s probably because Leo has been watching baseball for 40 or 50 years longer than me.

          It must be some sort of 1920’s or 1930’s baseball reference since I’ve been watching baseball since the 1970’s.

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        • Billy says:

          Leo (I forgot my y at the end of my name in that comment), I apologize if I sounded as though I was talking down to you. I merely was saying that counting on prospects (except maybe position players hitting .400 in AAA or something) as sure things is perhaps too risky. The pirates should absolutely consider them as part of their plans, and perhaps Dave should have touched on that, but to rely on them for more than a win or two may not be the best way to build a team.

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      • Jordy says:

        FWIW I think Taillon is going to be better than Cole. Could end up eating crow on that one, but his CB is absolutely filthy.

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      • Youthful Enthusiast says:

        I see these two as similar to Marte and Cole before they were called up. How do the projection compare between them?

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        • szielinski says:

          Observers hedged their bets on Cole because of his below-expected MiLB performance. “He has the ceiling of an ace, but….”

          I do not recall anyone predicting Marte would be as good as he was during his first full season.

          Polanco currently rates higher than Marte ever did. Taillon rates lower than Cole.

          Neither Cole nor Taillon dominated the minors as their talent suggested they would.

          Polanco’s plate discipline is better than Marte’s. There is less swing and miss in Polanco’s game than Marte’s. Polanco is lefthanded, which is always a plus. His arm is likely less powerful than Marte’s. But Marte has a cannon for a throwing arm. So, Polanco, according to reports, has a smaller cannon than Marte. Both are fast. Both are natural centerfielders.

          Polanco is likely to become a better hitter than Marte. This would make him a better overall player, especially if his power develops as expected (about 20 HR per year).

          Taillon needs to keep the ball low in the zone. He also needs to improve his changeup.

          We’ve seen what Cole can do.

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        • wobatus says:

          Marte’s overall results in AA were a little better, despite the low walk rate, but he was a year older at the level. It’s hard to tell who will hit the ground running in the majors, valid point, so Polanco may not set the wrold on fire at first. But he is quite highly thought of, and the improvement in his walk rate and k rate in AA, albeit half a season, was very encouraging. 1:1 bb:k is better than Marte did.

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    • Leo Walter says:

      Only Cardinal’s and Red’s orginizations are permitted significant contributions from their prospects.

      -27 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jason says:

        You seem to have an inferiority complex.

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      • rusty says:

        Indeed, Steamer projects a significant -0.4 WAR from Billy Hamilton next year.

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      • Visitor says:

        Please tell me they are also the only “orginizations” permitted to pluralize using apostrophes.

        Especially since you wrote three other plural words in that sentence and didn’t use apostrophes in any of them.

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        • wobatus says:

          Couldn’t you use the apostrophe and say it’s possessive, the organization belonging to the Reds? And why not just leave it be?

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        • Wobatus says:

          You’d obviously need to put the apostrophe in a different place, after as in “the Reds’ organization.”

          Now get off my eco-friendly moss-covered yard.

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      • chuckb says:

        Steamer projects 0.0 WAR from Taillon next year.

        For Taveras? The same. Spare us your phony indignation.

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        • Wobatus says:

          Taveras’s preliminary steamer projection is based on 1 plate appearance. Leo’s responses are somewhat non-sequitors, but presumably any article on the 2014 Cardinals chances will mention the possibility of a healthy Taveras manning an outfield spot, whatever his projections.

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    • BMarkham says:

      I’m a cardinals fan, and I agree with the pirates fan. No you can’t count on prospects to do well, but you didn’t even mention them in the article and that seems like a pretty big omission. And I disagree with the Pirates getting lucky with Cole, it’s not like he’s been BABIPing his way to success Locke style, he’s making a lot of good major league hitters swing and miss. And steamer projections are awesome, but obviously there’s a huge range of possibilities with prospects. Not even mentioning their close to ML ready prospects is a complete oversight. Quoting their projections like they’re set in stone is silly.

      Ignoring close to MLB ready prospects is the same oversight people made about the Cardinals, who’s 2013 is the year of the rookie. Of course no one could have predicted the success of the Cardinals this year based on Miller, Rosenthal, Wacha, Adams, Siegrist, Maness, and Martinez but not even considering their possible impact was a mistake too.

      The biggest reason to doubt the Pirates to me is the difference between their actual record and their Pythagorean record. The Reds had a better run differential and a worse record. But they have a young team and a decent farm. Plus the excitement from the fan base this year could raise their budget. Between us, the Reds, I look to forward to what will be a competitive NL Central for a long time. I much preferred the all year close race between us, the Pirates, and Reds compared to say, the Braves running away with the division this year. If I was a Braves fan I probably would have barely watched any games down the stretch.

      +17 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • BMarkham says:

        should say Between us, the Reds, the Pirates, and the rebuilding Cubs…

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      • wobatus says:

        I should have read ahead. Exactly.

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      • Andrew says:

        As long as we are reasoning from Pythagorean record it might be worth noting that the Cardinals outperformed their 3rd order winning percentage by a greater margin than the Pirates did.

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        • Manifest says:

          Good call.

          Let’s also note that both the Reds and Cards spent >50% more money on payroll than the Bucs did. Frank Coonelly has repeatedly said that payroll would go up only after attendance. But that when it did it could go up significantly. Well, not only did the fans fill PNC Park through September, but tack on six more games of revenue and the additional season ticket subscriptions for next year that playoff baseball enivitably leads to.

          The Pirates got more bang for their buck than either of their chief rivals. If they close the gap in spending somehwhat that could make a big difference.

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  3. IZZY2112 says:

    Another note on the Steamer Projections; some of the defensive metrics appear to be off, especially for catchers. Posey, Mauer, Ellis, Perez, etc are projected to set career highs in Fld, which doesn’t seem like a reasonable projection. Also, guys like Mauer and Posey are projected for higher WAR than seems reasonable; I wonder whether Steamer projects them to play 100% of their games at Catcher. Also, this was true before this year as well, but a lot of the pitcher projections seem questionable. I refuse to except the Kershaw projection for a 3.02 ERA and a 3.8 WAR, behind a ton of inferior pitchers. A lot of the IP and PA totals are off as well, beyond the guys who ended 2013 on the DL. Yankees starters are projected for 240 IP each for instance.

    Just wondering whether these are issues that you’re aware of.

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  4. Dionysus says:

    Speaking of the Pirates and first base, wouldn’t James Loney be a possible play for them? He did hit decently this season for the Rays and while that is likely to regress a bit, his excellent defense would fit well into the Pirates “All Groundballs, All The Time” strategy.

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    • Pirates Hurdles says:

      They likely need a power bat at 1B to compensate for starting Tabata/Lambo in RF to open the season.

      There isn’t much new here really, the offense looks solid, the defense plays up due to approach, the SP should be good (particularly if Wandy is OK and AJ resigns), and the pen will be worse. The main focus has to be on upgrading the offense that loses Byrd with a decent slugging 1B and hoping for bigger things from Marte and Polanco. Of course predicting the future is a fools errand even when armed with great statistical models.

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      • Manifest says:

        I really don’t think that the Pirates “need” power at first base. WAR is WAR. And a contribution is a contribution. A 4.0 WAR achieved through power isn’t any more helpful than a 4.0 WAR achieved through OBP and defense.

        The Pirates simply need to find a contributor to play first base.

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      • Utah Dave says:

        Is Rodriguez going to be physically able to pitch any more? I also wonder if AJ will be back because (a) they didn’t let him start Game 5 and (b) his price will be beyond the Pirates wallet.

        I have also wondered about Loney at 1B. I just can’t see the Pirates going out and dropping a bunch of money on a free for either 1B or RF.

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  5. jerome atrick says:

    waste of a read. why write an article that doesn’t tell us anything new?

    -31 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • bdhudson says:

      I’m glad you had already taken the time to memorize Clint Barmes’ 2014 wOBA projection. Please, o great sage, enlighten me to the rest of your brilliance.

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    • Jason B says:

      Go ahead and try your hand at it, big shot. You will let us know when it’s ready won’t you?

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    • Tom B says:

      Let’s save you some more time.

      The team that scores more runs usually wins the game.

      There, now you don’t have to waste any time reading about baseball, or sports in general.

      Just think about how much more time you’ll have to leave worthless comments on articles you don’t have to read!

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    • steex says:

      Waste of a read. Why write a comment that doesn’t tell us anything new or amuse me?

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  6. Kevin Towers says:

    Guys – don’t worry about Jerome. I’ll let my starting pitcher deal with him the proper way.

    +8 Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Bob says:

    How much does Steamer weigh in past injuries? It has Morton as slightly less valuable in 2014, despite his missing the first third of 2013 recovering from TJ surgery. How do they see him getting worse the further he gets from it?

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    • szielinski says:

      Morton’s track record is not too good. A projection system would take that into account. It wouldn’t notice that Morton changed his arm slot before his elbow exploded and that the change made him a much better pitcher. Morton’s improvements after the arm slot change were immediately obscured by his faltering elbow. All things being equal, Morton should pitch as well next year as he pitched this year.

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  8. Hurtlockertwo says:

    A few things can change the whole outcome markedly. Look at the Giants, essentially the same team didn’t even get to .500 this year.

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  9. GTinNYC says:

    This is kind of insinuated by the bullpen discussion, but the Pirates also outperformed their Pythag record by 6 games. That’s also wildy variable from year to year, so it’s likely that all regressions you mentioned are from an 88-90 win true talent level, which means it’ll be that much harder to repeat their success.

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  10. Jack Z says:

    The Mariners are next.

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  11. szielinski says:

    I would prefer a building-from-within strategy coupled with the kind of trades and signings which brought Burnett and Rodriquez as well as Liriano and Martin to the Pirates. The Pirates seldom succeed when pursuing position player FAs.

    Polanco is the RF of the future. Perhaps one of Lambo and Dickerson will become an acceptable firstbaseman. Davis or Duda are not inspiring alternatives.

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  12. Bay Area Bucco says:

    You forgot about Wandy Rodriguez. He was eating up innings and pitching pretty well until he got hurt. If he comes back next year and they have Burnett/replacement veteran, the rotations looks like this:

    1. Liriano
    2. Cole
    3. Rodriguez
    4. Burnett/Burnett replacement
    5. Morton

    Not a bad rotation to have, it plays into the Pirates defense well, and people like Jeff Karstens and Jameson Taillon are waiting in the wings if other guys get injured.

    I think the biggest concerns are upgrades at 1st and RF. Polanco is the RF of the future, but if they can get a guy who can play at the beginning of the year and then maybe transition to a PH role once/if Polanco gets called up, things project pretty well. Or they could Giancarlo Stanton.

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    • Leo Walter says:

      BAB : I think others here who know the Pirates well would probably agree that you might have seen the last of Jeff Karstens on the bump for the Bucs.He is definitely a non-factor.

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  13. Table says:

    Why are Yankee pitchers projected for so many games/innings?

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  14. Gyre says:

    Hmm, looks like you skipped the meat of the three previous seasons and just read the endings. Pirates have been coming up for awhile now and I agree, there is no sign of it ending. I suppose I should point out that the Pirates nearly closed this series out while at home.

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    • Jason B says:

      Nearly closed the series out…so? So too did the A’s and Braves. The Orioles, Yankees, and Royals nearly made the postseason, too.

      But…in the end, they didn’t.

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    • chuckb says:

      Yeah, I’m sure Dave didn’t notice the Pirates’ record the last 3 years. He’s been dozing away as the Pirates have steamrolled through baseball.

      Even so, what the hell does that have to do with 2014 anyway? The fact that they nearly won the series against the Cardinals is wholly, 100% irrelevant to what’s likely to happen next year.

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  15. wobatus says:

    I can see why Burnett doesn’t like the shift. He’s the only one who has an ra/9 WAR significantly worse than his FIP WAR. Most of the rest seemed to benefit. Bit of a career issue for him but this year it’s pretty stark.

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  16. Tim says:

    With all due respect to the Pirates abilities to find undervalued relief arms, this isn’t happening again.

    I get very frustrated when you assert like this. In reality there’s at least a 5% chance it happens again, even if the best bullpen in the league is randomly assigned among teams that are trying. That’s way too often to go around saying it won’t happen.

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    • Jason B says:

      The super-duper obvious connotation is that it’s not likely to happen again. I don’t think Dave was suggesting there’s a 0.0000000000000000000000000% chance of the Pirates getting excellent bullpen work again next year. Just that regression is MUCH more likely to strike than not.

      Super-duper obviously.

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      • chuckb says:

        I’m pretty sure Tim knew this, just as most of us here knew it as well. He just wanted validation from Dave that it might happen.

        It’s possible, Tim, that the Pirates will get the exact same — or even better — performance from their bullpen next year. It’s just extremely unlikely. Happy?

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  17. J Michael says:

    I like This
    1b Jones – Gaby
    2b Walker – Andino
    SS Mercer – De Jesus
    3b Alvarez – Harrison
    LF Marte
    CF McCutchen
    RF Polanco – Lambo
    C Martin – T Sanchez
    P Liriano
    P Burnett
    P Cole
    P Taillon
    P Morton
    P Wandy
    P Locke
    P K Johnson
    P J Gomez
    P B Cumpton
    P V Mazzaro
    P J Hughes
    P R Reid
    P J Wilson
    P T Watson
    P K Farnsworth
    P M Melancon
    P J Grilli

    We are one of the best deep talent in MLB.

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  18. AJ says:

    It’s very imperative that the Pirates get a RF/1B bat whether it’s Abreu, a Free Agent (Morales or Napoli), or even acquire one (Trumbo, Stanton, Goldschmidt).

    I like Polanco. He could be the next Starling Marte but also I think Polanco is a good trade chip to acquire that bat for 3+ seasons long enough before Austin Meadows takes over at RF. Even if we somehow get Abreu I would still trade Polanco for a quality RF bat. He is a couple years away from doing something productive. Same goes with Alen Hanson as we will see a Mercer-Walker combo for a few seasons to come.

    As far as pitching goes I would give Burnett a qualifying offer. He can either take the offer or retire since I doubt teams are brave enough to offer a 37 yr old a multiyear deal considering Burnett would rather be close to his family on the Eastern side. Dave you indeed forgot to mention Wandy. He will accept the player option. Hopefully he will be fresh enough to pitch a decent season next year and then shoot for his last multiyear deal. Cole has proven to be a stud as the last month of the season indicated. FA signing nonwithstanding he will be next year’s Opening Day Starter. Cole, a good Liriano, Burnett (or his replacement), Wandy, and Morton would be a quality rotation. Locke crashed enough last summer that I wouldn’t guarantee him a spot at the moment but he can be the 1st started called up from Indianapolis along with Brandon Cumpton, a healthy Phil Irwin, or Jameson Taillon this summer.

    I would like to see what teams would offer in return for lefties Tony Watson or Justin Wilson. Sell high on the two. Get a quality reliever from Free Agency. That would make a good 7-8-9 back end despite Melancon’s collapse and Grilli losing a few miles off his fastball.

    Pirates are a 90 win team but they should go for it this offseason. They have a score to settle with the Cardinals.

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