Can we please stop talking about this now?

Doug Mientkiewicz signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers.  I have never seen so much anxiety over a guy with a .753 OPS.

EDIT: This post is why WHYGAVS is legit. Pat sums up this disaster perfectly.

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Posted in Doug Mientkiewicz. Comments Off on Can we please stop talking about this now?

Winter meetings, day 2

It does not look like much happened in Vegas after I stopped paying attention last night, at least from a Pirates perspective. Mark Loretta signed with the Dodgers, so he is no longer on the team’s radar. It is still early out west, so it’s unlikely there will be any news for at least a few hours. I will be back a bit later to check in.

12:50 PM: This just in – Jack Wilson is a jokester.

5:55 PM: The market for Jack continues to dwindle, as the Dodgers seem to have lost interest.  But Dejan confirms that the Pirates are in contact with David Eckstein’s agent, which is an indication that the team still expects to move either Wilson or Freddy Sanchez.  Eckstein has always been overrated, is on the wrong side of 30, and would be a huge defensive downgrade at short.  But he still had an on-base percentage of .343 last season, so he may not be a bad replacement option if he can be signed to an inexpensive contract.

6:20 PM: According to Dejan and John Perrotto, the Braves are inquiring about some of the Pirates’ most valuable players.  They will have to blow Neal Huntington away with an offer for anything to come of this.

7:40 PM: Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that Neal Huntington will meet with Doug Mientkiewicz’s agent at some point during the winter meetings.  Mientkiewicz would be a nice player to have on the bench again next year, but it will be a while before he makes any decisions.  These are probably just preliminary discussions.

12:00 AM: Via the PG, here is the audio from Huntington’s meeting with the media.  One interesting comment he made is that teams are overvaluing young prospects in the current market.  We saw that at the trade deadline, as the Pirates struggled to find appropriate value for Jason Bay and Xavier Nady.  These are not good signs for a team hoping to rebuild.

A Solution to LaRoche’s Early Season Hitting Woes

This isn’t a solution in the sense of it will make Adam LaRoche hit better. I have no idea how to do that. Instead, this a suggested solution for how the Pirates can avoid early season non-productivity at first base.

LaRoche’s splits the last couple of years in March/April, per Baseball Reference:

2007 – .133/.255/.265 with three homers and 11 RBI in 98 PA

2008 – .174/.260/.244 with one homer and five RBI in 96 PA

Everyone who follows the team with any sort of depth is well aware of the above. What can be done to prevent that from happening again? My solution is a simple one – limit his at bats in the early going by replacing him with someone who has a shot at league average production.

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Four veterans file for free agency

Doug Mientkiewicz and Chris Gomez filed for free agency yesterday, the first day in which players were permitted to do so. Jason Michaels and Luis Rivas are also eligible for free agency, assuming the Pirates decline Michaels’ $2.6 million option.

Mientkiewicz is the only one of this group that I would like to see the team retain, as the other three are well below average offensively. Mientkiewicz, on the other hand, is useful off the bench because of his good on-base skills. But he seemed to grow disenchanted with the clubhouse late in the season, and I doubt he will be interested in returning. We may not see any of these players with the team next season.

EDIT: Michaels and Rivas are also free agents. The Pirates declined Michaels’ option.

Posted in Chris Gomez, Doug Mientkiewicz, Jason Michaels, Luis Rivas. Comments Off on Four veterans file for free agency

2009 Defense

I stumbled upon Chone Smith’s 2009 defensive projections today, so I thought I would take a look at how the Pirates stacked up. Here are the players I tentatively expect to make up the starting lineup, along with each one’s projections. COF stands for “corner outfield,” as there are no separate projections for left and right field.

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JVB, Belisario removed from 40-man

The Pirates continued cleaning up the 40-man roster today, removing some additional spare parts. John Van Benschoten and Ronald Belisario were sent to Triple-A Indianapolis in a move that was not surprising by any means. We have all witnessed JVB’s struggles the past few years, as his return from injuries has gone anything but smoothly. His future as a starter is bleak, and there is little reason to keep him on the roster with the increased pitching depth in the system. Belisario has lost some velocity after injuries, and is not really a prospect at this point.

This leaves four open spots on the 40-man roster, two of which will go to Tom Gorzelanny and Phil Dumatrait when they come off the 60-day DL. Doug Mientkiewicz, Jason Michaels, Chris Gomez and Luis Rivas will soon become free agents, creating four additional openings. The Pirates must add several minor leaguers to protect them from the Rule V draft.

Posted in Chris Gomez, Doug Mientkiewicz, Jason Michaels, John Van Benschoten, Luis Rivas, Phil Dumatrait, Tom Gorzelanny, Transactions. Comments Off on JVB, Belisario removed from 40-man

Pirates again lacked patience in 2008

In May, I took a look at the Pirates’ plate discipline in 2007 and 2008. In that small sample size, the team had slightly improved from the previous year. Now that the season is over, I figured it would be a good time to revisit this topic.
Here is an excerpt from my original post to get us started:

FanGraphs has some wonderful statistics that quantify a hitter’s plate discipline. Using O-Swing% (“the percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone”), we can determine whether certain players are fishing outside the strike zone on a regular basis. In 2005-2007, the average O-Swing% was around 23%. Let’s see how the Pirates are doing this year compared with 2007. (Note: pitchers are not included.)
To start, let’s take a look at the 2007 Pirates. Jose Castillo (35.11%), Matt Kata (35.11%), Freddy Sanchez (33.43%), and Xavier Nady (30.19%) were all major free-swingers. Castillo and Kata were sent packing after the season, but Sanchez and Nady returned to the starting lineup for 2008. Jack Wilson (26.24%) was slightly above average, while Ryan Doumit (24.96%), Cesar Izturis (24.50%), Adam LaRoche (23.36%), Chris Duffy (23.05%), Jason Bay (22.12%) and Ronny Paulino (21.54%) were all about average. Nate McLouth (18.95%), Josh Phelps (18.95%), Jose Bautista (17.85%) and Rajai Davis (16.82%) were the most disciplined Pirates. Overall, the 2007 Pirates swung at 24.58% (EDIT: My numbers were slightly off at that time. The correct O-Swing% in 2007 was 24.61%.) of pitches outside the strike zone, just slightly higher than average.

McLouth, Sanchez, LaRoche, Doumit, Bay, Nady, Bautista and Wilson received the most at-bats for the Pirates in 2008. Sanchez and Nady continued their wild swinging, staying very close to their 2007 numbers. Sanchez chased 33.33% pitches, while Nady swung at 30.47% balls outside the strike zone before being traded. Doumit (30.60%) also became a very impatient hitter in 2008. Wilson (26.94%) was very consistent with 2007, while LaRoche (22.55%) and Bay (20.65%) both improved slightly. McLouth’s patience regressed this year with increased playing time (21.87%), and Bautista also fell off from last season (21.19%). However, both remained slightly above average. New additions to the team’s bench received a moderate amount of playing time. Doug Mientkiewicz (17.15%) was the most patient player on the team, while Chris Gomez (23.35%) and Jason Michaels (23.71%) were right around league average. Luis Rivas (25.42%) was a bit aggressive off the bench.
Several younger players began receiving playing time after the trades of Bay and Nady. Andy LaRoche (25.30%), Brandon Moss (26.93%) and Steve Pearce (24.77%) displayed a bit below average patience. Nyjer Morgan, the oldest of the group, chased 27.65% of pitches outside the zone. One of the main reasons I remain optimistic about the futures of LaRoche and Moss is their history of patience in the minor leagues. These numbers will have to improve soon as they adjust to Major League pitching. The fact that Pearce was right in the same neighborhood in O-Swing% as these two is somewhat encouraging, as he seemed to swing at everything at times this year. In reality, he was much better in 2008 than he was in 2007 (29.27%), although both were very small sample sizes. I’m not convinced that Pearce can be a quality Major League hitter, but I think he has shown enough to get the same opportunities as Moss and LaRoche in 2009.
Overall, the Pirates chased 25.11% of pitches outside the strike zone in 2008. That number increased slightly from the team’s 24.61% in 2007. Accordingly, the Pirates were 27th in baseball in on-base percentage, and 26th in walks. It seems that the Pirates’ strong early-season focus on patience was mostly forgotten as the season progressed. Another likely reason was the increased playing time for younger hitters after the deadline deals, although the loss of the free-swinging Nady probably offset that line of reasoning a bit. Hopefully, as players like Andy LaRoche, Moss and Pearce mature at the plate, these numbers will become more respectable.
One other note. The Pirates Z-Swing% (“The percentage of pitches a batter swings at inside the strike zone”) dropped from 66.62% in 2007 to 63.16% in 2008. The 2005-2007 average was about 67%. I don’t think we can take as much from this statistic as we can from O-Swing%, as swinging at strikes is much more situational than swinging at balls. A batter should virtually never chase a pitch out of the strike zone, while there are many instances when swinging at a strike is the wrong decision. However, when examined along with the team’s O-Swing%, this may further indicate a lack of strike zone management.