Tag Archive | "Nl Central"

Pittsburgh_Pirates

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Deadline Deals: Pittsburgh Pirates Edition

Posted on 31 July 2012 by Chris Caylor

For the second straight year, the Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves in the thick of the NL Central race. In 2011, the acquisitions of Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick turned out to be rentals that did nothing to help their disastrous second half. Pirates GM Neal Huntington has been busy again this past week, making four different trades. How did he fare this time around?

1) Wandy Rodriguez for three minor leaguers – It might seem like a big price for a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but Houston kicked in a fair amount of cash in order to obtain better quality prospects. The Pirates are waist-deep in pitching prospects. While you can make a case that the Pirates did not need Rodriguez, they didn’t surrender any of those top prospects to get him. As a bonus, acquiring Rodriguez means that other pitching-needy teams (Braves, Cardinals, D-Backs) don’t get him either. The Pirates’ rotation may not be overpowering, but it’s plenty sturdy.
2) Travis Snider for Brad Lincoln – It might seem like Snider has been around for 10 years, but he’s only 24, and two seasons removed from hitting 14 home runs in about a half-season worth of at-bats for the Toronto Blue Jays. He has consistently mashed in the minors, including in Triple-A this season: 13 HR, 56 RBI, 1.021 OPS for Las Vegas. With Edgar Encarnacion and Adam Lind in place, Snider is left without a regular place to play. The Pirates are a perfect landing spot for him. While it may be asking too much to jump right in and offer lineup protection for Andrew McCutchen, Snider has solid run-producer potential. The fact that Snider isn’t just a two-month rental shows that GM Neal Huntington has his eye on the future as well as 2012. In Lincoln, the Pirates are losing a useful bullpen arm who has seen huge jumps in his K/9 and K/BB ratios. Lincoln, 27, could be enjoying a breakout season, but it also seems reasonable to expect a correction in his numbers moving to the AL East.
3) Gaby Sanchez and Kyle Kaminska for Gorkys Hernandez and a competitive balance draft pick – In 2010-11, Sanchez compiled 38 HR, 163 RBI and 144 runs scored. Not spectacular numbers, but certainly useful. In 2012, Sanchez bottomed out, tallying an awful .556 OPS before being sent down. At age 28, Sanchez obviously no longer qualifies as a prospect, but if he can regain his prior form, he will provide an upgrade at first. At worst, he should be a decent part-timer (.298/.390./.488 against lefties). The Marlins get the Pirates’ competitive-balance draft pick, which will be the 33rd overall next year, per Jim Callis of Baseball America. Hernandez and Kaminska are thrown-ins, essentially.
4) Chad Qualls for Casey McGehee – Qualls, a veteran of several pennant races, presumably replaces Lincoln in the Bucco bullpen. McGehee had been a part-time player – and not a very productive one at that (88 OPS+) – before the Snider/Sanchez deals, so he was entirely expendable. Compared to Lincoln, Qualls is a downgrade, but the Pirates are hoping to get Juan Cruz back in August to help take up the slack from Lincoln’s trade.

After the deals, let’s take a peek at the Pirates’ lineup and rotation:

C – Rod Barajas
1B – Gaby Sanchez/Garrett Jones
2B – Neil Walker
SS – Clint Barmes
3B – Pedro Alvarez
LF – Starling Marte/Travis Snider
CF – Andrew McCutchen
RF – Travis Snider/Garrett Jones

Rotation – James McDonald, A.J. Burnett, Erik Bedard, Wandy Rodriguez, Jeff Karstens

The only thing Huntington has not yet addressed is the gaping black hole at shortstop. How Clint Barmes still has an every day job in the majors defies reason. Stephen Drew or Marco Scutaro would have been perfect fits, both offensively and defensively (then again, Jose Lind might represent an improvement over Barmes at the plate).

In all, though, the Buccos’ dealings should prove more productive, not only the rest of this season but into 2013 and beyond. Whether it’s enough to catch the Reds and continue to hold off the Cardinals remains to be seen; however, it seems clear that the Pirates are on the verge of snapping their 20-year run of sub-.500 finishes.

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Prediction: The Pirates will finish .500 or better in 2012

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Prediction: The Pirates will finish .500 or better in 2012

Posted on 11 April 2012 by Graham Womack

In this space last week, I wrote that I wasn’t buying the steadfast hype this offseason for the Washington Nationals. I wrote that in the densely-packed National League East, the Nationals would be hard-pressed to reign supreme over the Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, and Philadelphia Phillies. I wrote that if the Nationals played in the NL Central, like the Pittsburgh Pirates, I might project them to win 90 games. Accordingly, it’s time for another prediction.

It’s been 20 years since the Pirates last had a winning season. In the two decades since Francisco Cabrera dumped a bloop single in front of Barry Bonds that sent the Braves to the World Series, Pittsburgh fans have gotten to know a special kind of futility. They’ve had at least 90 losses ten times. Not once in 20 years have they scored 800 runs, though they’ve allowed that many eight times. And Pittsburgh has more or less served as an assembly line for sending talented young players to other teams.

Few teams in baseball history have stayed this bad for this long. The Boston Red Sox had a similar run after Babe Ruth left town. The Philadelphia Phillies had one winning season between 1918 and 1948. But eventually, those teams made it out of their ruts, and this year, I see the Pirates doing likewise. In 2012, I predict the Pirates will finish .500 or better.

It has to happen at some point, right? I see a few reasons why this could be the year. First, the Pirates have assembled a solid, young core. Their pitching staff, while nondescript, managed a 4.04 staff ERA last season and will have A.J. Burnett this year. On offense, Pittsburgh has Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez, and others. Alvarez is a power-hitting third baseman who struggled last year but is still young and comes highly touted. If Tabata can stay healthy, he looks like a potential .300 hitter. And Walker could be among the best second basemen in the National League if he builds on his 2.5 WAR, 12 home runs, and 83 RBI from 2011.

The Pirates also showed they may have learned from their past, giving a six-year, $51 million extension to budding superstar Andrew McCutchen who, after three seasons, looks a lot like a young Barry Bonds. As it was with Bonds, McCutchen’s an All Star outfielder with speed and power, and like Bonds, he posted a 123 OPS+ over his first three seasons. Unlike Bonds, McCutchen may not be going anywhere through his prime years. It’ll be interesting to see if the Pirates continue to build around him.

All of this is moot, though, save for the most important fact here: The Pirates play in the NL Central, baseball’s most dysfunctional division, the Sarajevo of the MLB. It certainly looks to have all the order this year of a post-Soviet kleptocracy. Consider: The Cardinals and Brewers have gone forward without  Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, respectively. The Reds have much of a team in tact that won 91 games in 2010, but never underestimate Dusty Baker’s potential to create chaos. And as for the Cubs and the Astros, they might not even have a winning season in Triple-A.

So mark my words, good things should be happening in Pittsburgh this year, and for what’s it worth, at least one positive already has occurred. The Pirates kicked their season off taking two of three at home against the Phillies.

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Keeping The Experts Honest

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Keeping The Experts Honest

Posted on 05 April 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Predictions Are Dumb

Baseball’s spring training never lacks for unsolicited and solicited prognostications from nearly every baseball “expert” on the planet.  Some writers spend hours and hours carefully constructing logical arguments to support every possible angle they might cover in a debate.  The rest probably spend about 15 minutes slapping some names together based on ideas they have exchanged with colleagues, friends, family, and their neighbor’s best friend’s urologist.  I’m completely unconcerned with the method utilized to conceive of a person’s playoff predictions, but I find myself extremely interested in keeping track of who actually turns out to be right.  There has yet to be an organized method of aggregating experts’ playoff picks that helps facilitate a November review to pass judgment upon the experts themselves.

Until now.

This post will start with a minimal number of experts listed along with the picks the experts have gone on record as making.  If you, the reader, will kindly apprise me of additional “experts” along with a link to their picks, then the post will be updated to reflect new additions as they are submitted.

“Expert” Predictions:

MLB Trade Rumors – Tim Dierkes => AL East – Yankees, AL Central – Tigers, AL West – Angels, AL WC1 – Rays, AL WC2 – Rangers, ALCS – Tigers over Rays, NL East – Phillies, NL Central – Brewers, NL West – Giants, NL WC1 – Diamondbacks, NL WC2 – Marlins, NLCS – Phillies over Brewers, WS – Phillies over Tigers, AL MVP – Albert Pujols, NL MVP – Justin Upton, AL ROY – Yu Darvish, NL ROY – Trevor Bauer, AL CY – David Price, NL CY – Zach Greinke

MLB Trade Rumors – Mike Axisa => AL East – Yankees, AL Central – Tigers, AL West – Rangers, AL WC1 – Angels, AL WC2 – Rays, ALCS – Yankees over Rangers, NL East – Phillies, NL Central – Brewers, NL West – Diamondbacks, NL WC1 – Cardinals, NL WC2 – Dodgers, NLCS – Brewers over Cardinals, WS – Yankees over Brewers, AL MVP – Miguel Cabrera, NL MVP – Justin Upton, AL ROY – Jesus Montero, NL ROY – Devin Mesoraco, AL CY – David Price, NL CY – Stephen Strasburg

MLB Trade Rumors – Mark Polishuk => AL East – Yankees, AL Central – Tigers, AL West – Angels, AL WC1 – Rays, AL WC2 – Rangers, ALCS – Yankees over Angels, NL East – Phillies, NL Central – Brewers, NL West – Rockies, NL WC1 – Reds, NL WC2 – Cardinals, NLCS – Reds over Rockies, WS – Yankees over Reds, AL MVP – Jose Bautista, NL MVP – Troy Tulowitzki, AL ROY – Yu Darvish, NL ROY – Zach Cozart, AL CY – Felix Hernandez, NL CY – Clayton Kershaw

MLB Trade Rumors – Ben Nicholson-Smith => AL East – Yankees, AL Central – Tigers, AL West – Rangers, AL WC1 – Angels, AL WC2 – Rays, ALCS – Yankees over Rangers, NL East – Phillies, NL Central – Cardinals, NL West – Diamondbacks, NL WC1 – Marlins, NL WC2 – Reds, NLCS – Phillies over Marlins, WS – Yankees over Phillies, AL MVP – Evan Longoria, NL MVP – Justin Upton, AL ROY – Yu Darvish, NL ROY – Devin Mesoraco, AL CY – Felix Hernandez, NL CY – Roy Halladay

MLB Trade Rumors – Steve Adams => AL East – Rays, AL Central – Tigers, AL West – Angels, AL WC1 – Yankees, AL WC2 – Rangers, ALCS – Angels over Rays, NL East – Phillies, NL Central – Reds, NL West – Diamondbacks, NL WC1 – Nationals, NL WC2 – Marlins, NLCS – Phillies over Reds, WS – Angels over Phillies, AL MVP – Albert Pujols, NL MVP – Joey Votto, AL ROY – Matt Moore, NL ROY – Yonder Alonso, AL CY – Felix Hernandez, NL CY – Cliff Lee

Click here for the official MLBTR picks.

Not enough “expertise” there?  Then head over to ESPN where they are one idiot short of half-a-hundred.  Yes, ESPN had 49 different people provide picks.  I’m fine with some of the actual baseball people making picks, but do we really need to hear from the key dolly grip, the 2nd assistant sound guy, and the intern who brings sandwiches to John Kruk every 15 minutes?

Apparently so.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though.  Wear a helmet, and then click here.

Glutton for punishment?  Check out what the folks at YahooSports have to say.

Aside from the fact that predictions are monumental wastes of time, very few people really care enough to go back and check the predictions several months later.  The issue is not simply that people forget but that so many writers create plausible excuses for why they were wrong.  The farcical, almost-comedic attempts to cover their tracks deserve some kind of award.  Forget that.  All of it.

Almost all of the “experts” pick from a small pool of no more than 8 teams in each league to make the playoffs.  Anybody who does go off and make a crazy pick like say….the Astros gets absolutely mocked shamelessly.  Predictions are just meant to be fun.  Do not take them too seriously……unless I happen to be right.  If that happens, then feel free to congratulate me all you like.

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DOs and DONTs: Cincinnati Reds

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DOs and DONTs: Cincinnati Reds

Posted on 21 February 2012 by Mark Sherrard

With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder moving out of the NL and, more importantly, out of the NL Central, the Reds look to take advantage of a weakened division.  With the addition of Mat Latos, a healthy Scott Rolen and one of the top Rookie of the Year Candidates in Devin Mesoraco, the Reds have the look of a contender, not only for the division, but also for the World Series.

Here’s a look at the DO’s and DON’Ts as they pertain to the Reds roster this season.

DO take Joey Votto in the first round.  With a career slash line of .313/.405/.550, an average of 30 homeruns the last 3 seasons and triple digit RBI’s and Runs the last two years, he is the kind of player to build a fantasy team around.  His consistency will help you in head-to-head leagues and his sheer volume of stats will help you in rotisserie leagues.

DON’T expect much from Scott Rolen.  He’s going on 37 years old, has a history of shoulder issues and hit only .242/.282/.397 last year.  Sure, he could have one more good season left in him, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

DO take a chance on Zack Cozart.   He has some pop and some speed and probably won’t hurt your average.  He is in line to be the Reds starting shortstop this season and could surprise.

DON’T overdraft Devin Mesoraco.  Yes, he is one of the top prospects in the game, but Dusty Baker is a bit rookie adverse and may have Mesoraco split time with Ryan Hanigan or even start the year in the minors.  Mesoraco is still the Reds catcher of the future, the question is whether Baker considers that future to be now.

DO pay close attention to the left field spring battle between Chris Heisey and Ryan Ludwick.  Heisey hit 18 homeruns in just 279 at bats last year, but had an ugly 78/19 K/BB ratio.  Ludwick has struggled the last couple years, but that could partly be due to playing in the cavernous Petco Park.  Ludwick hit .281/.343/.484 in 281 at bats with the Cardinals in 2010 before being traded to the Padres and should benefit from the change in scenery.

DON’T expect a high batting average from Drew Stubbs.  He struck out 205 times in 604 at bats (33%) last year and has struck out 422 times in 1298 career at bats (32.5%).  He can provide you with 15-20 homeruns and 30-40 stolen bases, but his strikeout totals concern me.

DO draft Mat Latos in the early rounds.  Sure he is leaving the friendly confines of Petco Park, where he has posted a career 3.11 ERA, but his 3.57 ERA on the road in not bad and his peripheral stats are pretty similar.  Bottom line, he is not going to lose much from the move and with a better lineup behind him, he should win a lot more games.

DON’T forget about Johnny Cueto.  He has improved his ERA and whip each year, including a 2.31 ERA and 1.09 whip last year, before missing the end of the season with a lat injury.  He is expected to be fully healthy to start the season and, while he may not post an ERA under 3.00 again this year, he should still be one of the top 10 pitchers in the NL.

DO keep an eye on Aroldis Chapman.  He is being stretched out this year to compete for a rotation spot and will likely battle Mike Leake and Jeff Francis for the last spot in the rotation.  He still has an overpowering fastball that can reach triple digits, but I’m not sure how it will translate to a starting role.

DON’T sleep on Homer Bailey.  The Reds former top prospect struggled in his first two seasons in the majors, but has shown some improvement the last few years.  His walk rate in particular has dropped from 4.1 in 2009, to 3.3 in 2010 to 2.3 in 2011 and he could be ready for a breakout.

DO draft Ryan Madson as your primary closer.  After years of serving as Brad Lidge‘s caddy, Madson finally got the chance to serve as the Phillies closer for the majority of 2011 and posted 32 saves while only allowing 2 blown saves.  He is a pretty safe bet to save 35-40 games in 2012.

Finally, DON’T forget about Jay Bruce or Brandon Phillips.  Neither of them are stars, but both can provide you with good production.  Phillips’ stolen base numbers have declined each of the last 3 years, but he can still hit around 20 homers with 10-15 stolen bases.  Not bad for a second baseman.  Bruce hit 32 homers and drove in 97 last year.  He won’t hit for a high average, but its hard to find many guys with his power in the post-PED era.

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team pirates

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DOs And DONTs: Pittsburgh Pirates

Posted on 18 February 2012 by Mark Sherrard

The Pirates surprised a lot of people by starting the 2011 season with a 56-50 record and contending for the NL Central crown.  However, a 16-40 finish ended any hopes of finishing above .500 for the first time in 19 seasons.

As a result, the Pirates have once again shaken up their roster, with only Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker the main holdovers from last season’s starting lineup.  Here’s a look at the DOs and DON’Ts as it relates to the Pirates revamped roster:

  • DO draft Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker.  Both are solid contributors at their respective positions.  McCutchen put together the first of what may be several 20/20 season last year, finishing with 23 homeruns and stolen bases.  While Walker hit 12 homeruns, drove in 83 and scored 76.  Not bad for a second baseman.  However, despite their abilities to help your fantasy team…
  • DON’T overdraft McCutchen or Walker.  McCutchen might be worth taking in the 4th or 5th round in mixed leagues and Walker should go in the teens.
  • DO draft Alex Presley as your 3rd or 4th outfielder.  He has some speed and some pop and could go for 15 homeruns and 20 stolen bases.  He also has the ability to hit for average and, at the top of the Pirates order, he should score some runs.
  • DON’T expect a return to his 2010 form from Casey McGehee.  While I don’t think he’ll be as bad as he was in 2011, when he hit .223/.280/.346, I also think his .285/.337/.464 season in 2010 was probably his career year.  The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
  • I DO like Jose Tabata, even though he has yet to display any of the power that was expected of him.  He is another outfielder who will not hurt your batting average and can give you 15-20 stolen bases.
  • I DON’T like anyone else in the Pirates starting lineup.  Garrett Jones (1B), Clint Barmes (SS) and Rod Barajas (C) do not do much for me and should be considered utility/bench players in NL only leagues and injury replacements, at best, in mixed leagues.
  • DO expect better things from James McDonald.  After a rough first half of 2011, when he posted a 4.42 ERA while walking 4.5 per 9 IP, he turned things around in the second half, posting a 3.93 ERA and only walking 3.6 per 9 IP.  If he can continue to make improvements with his command, he is a potential breakout candidate.
  • DON’T expect a repeat from Jeff Karstens.  Karstens surprised a lot of people by going 7-4 with a 2.55 ERA in the first half of 2011.  But with a hit rate around 24% and a strand rate of 87%, smart owners knew to sell high on him and he proved them right by finishing with a second half ERA of 4.66.  Expect more of the same in 2011 as, frankly, he just isn’t that good.
  • DO take Joel Hanrahan as your primary closer.  As far as closers go, he is about as solid as they come.  He had 40 saves last year to go with a 1.83 ERA.  While his ERA for 2012 might not be that low, he should still be able to rack up a good number of saves, as the Pirates do not have an explosive offense and thus will likely be involved in a lot of close games.
  • DON’T expect more than 140 innings out of Erik Bedard (and that might even be a bit generous).  Bedard has been hit with injuries each of the last 3 seasons, with his high water mark for innings pitched being 129 from last year.  While he has been pretty good, while healthy, he is not the kind of guy to build a staff around, i.e. make sure you have a backup plan for when, not if, he gets hurt.
  • DO avoid the other Pirates starters.  Neither Charlie Morton nor Kevin Correia is going to help your team much and should only be considered in deep NL only leagues.
  • DON’T forget about Pedro Alvarez.  After a horrible year in 2011, the former 2nd overall pick in the 2008 draft is trying to regain his confidence and that of the team.  The Pirates acquired Casey McGehee to give themselves another option at third, but Alvarez still has a ton of upside and the Pirates are hoping that he stakes his claim to the third base job this spring.

Finally, DO take a close look at recent addition A.J. Burnett. Although he hasn’t fared well the last couple years in the AL, he makes his return to the “weaker” NL, where he posted a 3.73 ERA in 7 seasons. He should improve over last year’s 5.15 ERA, if only because he will be facing a pitcher at least once a game.

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