Jack Wilson: Top 17 defensive plays of 2009

Jack Wilson

Jack Wilson - raisethejollyroger.com

I just stumbled upon this top ten list of Scott Rolen defensive plays at The Blue Jay Hunter. I immediately decided to make one for Jack Wilson. I spend much of my time pointing out that the former Pirates that Neal Huntington has traded were mostly overrated by Pirate fans. I think that often overshadows just how much I enjoyed watching these guys play. Probably the biggest treat of the past decade of Pirate baseball has been watching Jack Wilson play shortstop.

I started out looking to make a top ten list of all plays available on MLB.com, but there were just too many to choose from. I ended up with Jack’s 2009 top 17 defensive plays in a Pirate uniform. Enjoy.

17. 4/12/2009 – Triple play.

16. 5/14/2009 – This is the type of play that will never make a Web Gems segment. Jack simply does everything right to turn an Albert Pujols chopper into a double play.

15. 4/21/2009 – Just a simple diving stop to take a hit away from Dan Uggla. Ho hum.

14. 7/27/2009 – Diving stop deep in the hole and a strong throw from his knees.

13. 7/19/2009 – Jack has a real knack for finding the ball. Here he reacts quickly to a deflected comebacker to get an out.

12. 7/4/2009 – Jack slides to his right, backhands and fires to first in one motion. Very quick release.

11. 7/20/2009 – Just another 6-3 in shallow left field.

10. 6/6/2009 – See number 11.

9. 6/8/2009 – Another great play on a deflected comebacker.

8. 7/6/2009 – Jack runs down a flare in shallow center.

7. 5/29/2009 – Jack’s range makes this play look simple.

6. 5/16/2009 – Diving stop in shallow center.

5. 5/18/2009 – Another great play deep in the hole.

4. 7/7/2009 – Jack takes a hit away from Miguel Tejada.

3. 5/31/2009 – A sure single becomes a double play.

2. 4/12/2009 – We will miss seeing Jack and Freddy doing this.

1. 7/11/2009 – It’s a shame that this game is remembered for the Matt Capps ninth inning meltdown, because this ridiculous play by Jack should have been the story. After making a great play to run down the pop-up, he immediately looks for more and doubles up Jimmy Rollins. This is the reason Jack has been the Pirates’ shortstop for so many years.

BONUS: 5/27/2006 – Jack’s great play in the Pirates’ 18-inning victory over Houston.


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Schumakers PH Dinger Keys Card Comeback, Sweep

Matt Capps entered early – with one out in the 8th – and promptly lost the game. He allowed a pinch hit homer to the first batter he faced – Skip Schumaker – as St. Louis scored five runs in the 8th to win 7-3 and sweep the series.

Zach Duke had pitched effectively for the first 7-1/3 inning. After hitting for himself in the bottom of the 7th, Duke was pulled one out and one on in the 8th. After Capps gave up the go ahead dinger, he plunked Albert Pujols and was ejected from the game. Pujols was visibly angry and in some pain as the result of taking one off his torso. Jesse Chavez relieved and threw some gas on the fire as St. Louis scored three more times.

The Pirates collected seven hits in the 2nd and 3rd innings combined to take a 3-0 lead off of Joel Pineiro. The big blow was a two run homer from Steve Pearce in the second. But Pineiro settled in and pitched seven innings. The Pirates would get just two more hits off him after the third – both by Ramon Vazquez.

The Pirates put two on with no one out in the 8th off the St. Louis bullpen, but could not draw closer.

Duke went 7-1/3 and gave up two earned runs to get the no decision. Capps was the loser. Pineiro won and Kyle McClellan retired the final five hitters for a long save.

The Good

Duke was good again. One of these games, he’ll get some run support.

Vazquez, Lastings Milledge and Delwyn Young each had two hits.

In the 4th Jason Jaramillo’s snap throw to first picked off Bengie Molina to end the inning.

The Bad

The bullpen.

The Pirates drew no walks.

The defense faltered. Each of St. Louis first two runs came on errant pick off attempts. Duke tossed one into left in the fourth inning. That allowed Julio Lugo to move to third and he scored on a sac fly. In the 7th, Duke picked off Matt Holliday, who broke for second. But Pearce’s throw went into left field. Holliday went to third as a very weak throw from Milledge – and I was surprised at how bad a throw it was – was late. He also scored on a sacrifice fly.

Bucs hit into three double plays.

The Rest

Tony LaRussa will pick a spot to retaliate against the Pirates for Pujols getting plunked. The Cards are back in town in early September. The question is who does he hit? Andrew McCutchen is liable to steal. Garrett Jones isn’t a big enough name. That would leave either Ryan Doumit or Lastings Milledge.

Pineiro came into the game with a 5.66 ERA against Pittsburgh. He picked up his 10th win of the season. This is the first time he hit double digits in wins since 2003.

Bizarre jersey of the weekend winner was a teenage guy wearing a ketchup Jeff Andrews jersey. Didn’t see that one coming at all. I figured that he must’ve won it as part of some promotional give away. I can’t imagine someone buying it. On the St. Louis side, someone had a Fernando Tatis jersey. I also saw someone wearing a Pat Neshek jersey t-shirt. But that doesn’t count because the Tigers weren’t in town. Plus he hasn’t pitched in over a year.

On the discount rack in the clubhouse store were an array of Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson and Adam LaRoche jersey t-shirts. Also some Zach Duke ketchup jersey tees. If the very poorly run Pirates marketing department would make jersey tees for the 1970s era Pirates (and even some guys from the 1980s), there would be another benefit, as my brother noted: they’d never have to discount the shirts as the result of a trade.  

I’m often critical of the Pirates marketing department, but I have to praise them for the free spin on the prize wheel promo. It isn’t too often that teams give something away for free. It’d be a good deal if it cost $1. But out of the four spins between my brother and I over the weekend, we collected two bobble heads and a hat (plus a coupon for discount tickets, which I pitched).

A new casino opened in Pittsburgh at noon. Attendance was 24,000 – not too shabby.


Farewell to Jack and Freddy

I am excited about the future of the Pirates. After yesterday’s flurry of deals, the team has traded away virtually every starting position player from 18 months ago. In return, management has gathered a boatload of minor league talent, which bodes well for the years ahead. I am champing at the bit to start looking at the potential 2011 and 2012 teams. But I feel that I must put that off for today.

Objective analysis is my goal in writing about the Pirates. I use numbers as much as possible, and I try to leave out any personal bias. But I am still a fan. And despite how much I liked yesterday’s trades, two of my favorite players just departed in less than 24 hours. I think it is important to take a look back, and I will do that now in a disjointed, rambling post.

I was in high school when Jack Wilson joined the Pirates in 2001, and he instantly became my favorite Pirate. This was likely due to the similarities between his style of play and my own. Just like Jack, I was a defensive-oriented infielder with a weak bat, and I loved to throw my body in front of any baseball that had the audacity to try to reach the outfield. We also shared a youthful enthusiasm for the game of baseball. As Jack developed into a top defensive shortstop, it was easy to root for him.

The 2004 season was very enjoyable, as Jack had a career year at the plate. However, I was dejected when he followed that with a sub par season in 2005. I recall really feeling for him as his frustration clearly expanded throughout the season. But there were numerous fond memories created during those years. On July 2, 2004, I planned to attend a doubleheader against the Brewers at PNC Park. (Unfortunately, an offer for double pay enticed me to trash those plans and head in to work that night.) Among numerous other highlights from the twin bill, Jack delivered an inside-the-park home run. He also made a fabulous defensive play that might be my all-time favorite during his tenure in Pittsburgh. With the bases loaded and nobody out, a Brewer flared one directly over Jack’s head. Jack sprinted back and made a lunging catch, taking a sure single and multiple runs away from Milwaukee. Of all the amazing things he has done with the glove over the years, that is the one that sticks out the most in my head. The next year, as he endured a disastrous season, Jack electrified PNC Park with a grand slam against the Mets. This capped a fantastic couple of games in Pittsburgh, two of the best I have ever attended.

There is one play that exemplifies Freddy Sanchez in my mind. Early in his Pirate career, Freddy was at short with two outs in the ninth inning of a close game in which the Pirates were leading. A broken-bat groundball was hit his way, giving the Bucs a chance to end the game. Unfortunately, the head of the bat was bounding along right next to the baseball. Freddy calmly fielded the ball and threw on to first to secure the victory. He never flinched as the hurtling shard of wood slammed into him, simultaneous to the baseball striking leather. He would miss a few games due to the wound that was inflicted by the bat. Freddy created plenty of great memories during his time with the Bucs. The All-Star Game at PNC Park. The walk-off home run against the White Sox. The walk-off single against the Cubs. I think there was another game-winning hit against the Marlins. (And there are likely other walk-off victories I am forgetting.) The batting championship in 2006. The final day of that season, when Freddy calmly singled in his first two at-bats to secure the title. But nothing compares to the time he fielded a simple groundout and threw across the diamond, despite the danger of a baseball bat careening through the air.

The Pirates are a healthier organization than they were a day ago. The talent level continues to grow, and success is inching closer. But Jack and Freddy will be severely missed, both on and off the field. Good luck to them both.

Giants Sweep Series, Shutout Pirates, Trade for Sanchez

The Giants won, allowed no runs and then traded for Freddy Sanchez. It was a whirlwind. The only thing good that can come of it is if Tim Alderson, the AA pitcher the Pirates got in the one-for-one swap turns out to be a dandy.

Matt Cain tossed nine scoreless innings. But the Giants were unable to push a run across against his All-Star replacement, Zach Duke. Cain allowed three singles and two walks. Duke went seven and gave up six singles while walking just one.

In the 9th, Eugenio Velez singled and later scored on a single from Randy Winn. That came off of Matt Capps and made a winner of Brian Wilson, who tossed a scoreless 10th inning.

Having traded Jack Wilson and Ian Snell earlier in the day, the Pirates return to Pittsburgh looking like a much different ball club than when they left.

The Good

I like the 2009 version of Zach Duke.

The Bad

I can’t stop talking about the offense.

The Rest

Farewell, Jack and Freddy. Their jerseys and jersey t-shirts are sure to be discounted when I’m in Pittsburgh in a couple of weeks to see a couple of games.

Cain came into the game with a 4.65 career ERA against Pittsburgh. That represented the worst career ERA for him versus any opponent against whom he had thrown at least 30 innings.


Pirates trade Wilson, Snell to Seattle; Sanchez next to go?

Via Dejan. Jeff Clement, Ronny Cedeno, Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin and Nathan Adcock coming back, with Cedeno joining the Pirates immediately. I am at work now; hope to have more reaction to the deal later tonight.

UPDATE (5:35 PM): This is a very nice haul for the Pirates.  Cedeno is just a temporary middle infield replacement.  He is unlikely to be a very valuable piece for the Pirates, and was probably just a throw-in on this deal.  Clement, on the other hand, has a legitimate bat that would be very valuable if he can stick behind the plate.  That bat is less impressive if he is forced to move to first.  Clement could prove to be a cheaper, younger clone of Ryan Doumit, allowing the Pirates to deal Doumit for more talent.  The three minor league pitchers are all decent prospects, further improving the pitching depth in the lower levels of the system.  This is an excellent return for two months (plus an option) of an aging, average shortstop and a live arm with makeup concerns.  I never expected the Pirates to get so much in return for these two players.

Keep an eye on the PBC Blog (if it doesn’t explode) and the Twitter feed for the rest of the evening.  It looks like we could be close to a Freddy Sanchez trade to the Giants, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see other deals go down before the end of the day.

Posted in Freddy Sanchez, Ian Snell, Jack Wilson. Comments Off on Pirates trade Wilson, Snell to Seattle; Sanchez next to go?

Bucs Comeback and Take Series from Milwaukee

Paul Maholm didn’t have it today. Good news is that Jeff Suppan didn’t either. Neither started pitched five innings. Suppan went 3-1/3 and gave up five runs on four homers and three singles. Maholm went 4-2/3 and gave up seven runs, leaving the game with the Pirates behind.

It was an exciting fifth inning. Milwaukee trailed 5-2. But Ryan Braun hit a bases loaded double, scoring all three and then scored on a homer by Casey McGehee. After Bill Hall singled, Maholm was pulled for Joel Hanarahan who got the final out of the inning. The Pirates pulled even in their half off of Seth McClung. Delwyn Young walked and consecutive two out doubles from Andy LaRoche and Ramon Vazquez plated two runs.

It stayed that way until the 9th when Brandon Moss hit a walk off tater off Mitch Stetter with one gone. That made a winner out of Matt Capps, who pitched a scoreless ninth despite putting two runners on.

The Good

A win.

Winning a series.

Scoring 9 runs.

Garrett Jones hit a homer and had two doubles.

Ryan Doumit homered twice and drove in three.

The Bad

Maholm getting hammered.

The Rest

As Matt noted Andy LaRoche was traded. No surprise. Let’s see what Steve Pearce can do.

In the previous 31 games, the Pirates scored 9 runs or more just once (back on 6/24 vs. Cleveland). 13 hits was the most since that same game back on 6/24.

Last time the Bucs hit five round trippers in one game was 7/12/08. Damage was done then by Jason Michaels, Nate McLouth, Adam LaRoche and Jason Bay (2). None of them is still a Bucco. Last time anyone on the current roster was involved in a five or more homer game was 8/22/07 when both Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson went deep against Colorado.

This was the fourth time in 2009 that Maholm allowed six or more earned runs. He did that just three times in all of 2008.

This was Jones’ third career three hit game and his second in July.

Doumit homered twice in a game for the first time since 6/10/08 when he connected twice off of Tim Redding of the Nationals. Doumit came into the game hitting just .216 in his career against Milwaukee. He hadn’t homered against the Brewers since doing it in consecutive games on 7/4/07 and 7/5/07.

Braun has more career RBI against Pittsburgh than against any other club.



Are Sanchez and Wilson overpaid?



There seems to be some sentiment among fans that Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson are overpaid relative to their production. This may be true for a team in the Pirates situation, as a rebuilding club may not necessarily need to spend several million dollars on two middle infielders in their thirties. But if we are simply discussing their value in free agency, both players will easily earn their 2010 options. Via FanGraphs, each player’s yearly value in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is below. Also included is what that performance would be worth in free agency, as well the player’s actual salary for that season.


Freddy Sanchez


Team               WAR          Dollars         Salary
Total * – – – 14.4 $56.50 $7.90
2002 Red Sox 0 $0.00
2003 Red Sox -0.1 ($0.10)
2004 Pirates -0.3 ($0.90) $0.30
2005 Pirates 3.2 $10.90 $0.30
2006 Pirates 4.8 $17.70 $0.30
2007 Pirates 3.8 $15.60 $2.80
2008 Pirates 0.4 $1.80 $4.20
2009 Pirates 2.6 $11.60 $6.10
2005 – 2008 Yearly Average 3.05


Jack Wilson


Team                WAR            Dollars            Salary
Total * – – – 14.9 $54.00 $22.50
2002 Pirates 0.3 $0.90 $0.20
2003 Pirates 1.1 $3.10 $0.30
2004 Pirates 4.3 $13.20 $1.90
2005 Pirates 2.5 $8.40 $3.30
2006 Pirates 0.7 $2.60 $4.80
2007 Pirates 2.6 $10.80 $5.40
2008 Pirates 1.6 $7.10 $6.70
2009 Pirates 1.8 $8.00 $7.25
2005 – 2008 Yearly Average 1.85


As you can see, Freddy averaged over three wins per season in 2005 – 2009. That includes his injury plagued 2008 season, which I think we can call an anomaly at this point. This season, he is on his way to being at least a four-win player, worth somewhere in the range of $16-18 million per season in free agency. Even if we are conservative, allowing for the poor economic conditions and some decline in Freddy’s performance due to age, he is still easily worth his $8 million option in 2010.

Jack’s situation is not as straightforward. In 2005 – 2008, he was worth just under two wins per season. If he continues that trend next season, he would be worth just a bit less than the $8.4 million option that he is due to receive. However, he is currently in the midst of what could be a career year, as he is on pace for about a three-win season. Paying him $8.4 million is not a stretch by any means.

Again, I am not advocating that the Pirates pick up each player’s 2010 option if no contract extension or trade can be finalized. I just don’t think it is farfetched to believe that both could receive similar money on the open market. Bob Smizik thinks Wilson is crazy for passing up the Pirates’ offer of $8 million over two years. I expect he could easily manage that in free agency. And Sanchez is definitely worth more than the $10 million he was offered over two years.

The Pirates have clearly decided that they are not willing to pay market value for one or both of these players. With both Freddy and Jack expressing interest in staying for a few more years, the team made them offers at discounted rates. If the duo wants to remain teammates in Pittsburgh for a few more years, they will have to accept a reduced salary. But the claim that they cannot exceed these offers in free agency is simply wrong.



Cot’s Baseball Contracts