PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 31:  Neil Walker #18 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates after hitting a walk off solo home run in the tenth inning against the Chicago Cubs during Opening Day at PNC Park March 31, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Neil Walker < 500

Neil Walker is a perfect storm. He, perhaps first and foremost, a wonderful story. He was drafted out of high school by his hometown team as a catcher in 2004, but he wasn’t all that well suited to the position and injuries eventually forced him to third base. In 2007, he moved to third base. […]

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 18:  Pedro Alvarez #24 of the Pittsburgh Pirates plays first base in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves during the game at PNC Park on August 18, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Pedro Alvarez < 500

This is an unpopular opinion, but I think there’s a decent chance that Pedro Alvarez will be the exact first baseman the Pirates need him to be in 2015. This is buried well underneath the throwing problems, the position change, the power outage, and the foot injury, but in 2014, Pedro Alvarez finally did the […]

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13:  Francisco Cervelli #29 of the New York Yankees sits on the field after injuring himself running to first base against the Boston Red Sox  at Yankee Stadium on April 13, 2014 in the Bronx Borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Francisco Cervelli < 500

The problem with the question, “How do you replace Russell Martin?” is that it’s a trick question. If we define “Russell Martin” as a very strong defensive catcher with an emphasis on pitch-framing that has decent on-base abilities (at least as it comes to walk-percentage) and decent pop for the position, well, I think the Pirates […]

Fangraphs on Jung-ho Kang’s defense and the Pirates’ defensive strategies

The key passage from Miles Wray’s article:

But I’d like to propose that, at least when it comes to fielding, Kang and the Pirates are a wonderful fit for one another, defensively speaking.

I say this because Neal Huntington and his analytics team have been pulling off a wonderful trick for the last three years: in each season, the Pirates have put together an above-average defensive BABIP despite having a roster full of mostly-below-average defensive players.

I’d recommend checking the whole thing out because there are a lot of interesting thoughts, but yeah, I think that that’s the value of the Pirates’ shifting: hiding sub-par defenders that can hit (Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez in 2012 and 2013) inside of a functional defense that’s good at turning balls in play into outs. In that regard, the Pirates taking a risk on Kang makes a ton of sense, because they might be able to hide him at a premium defensive position better than other teams.

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 21:  Vance Worley #46 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers during the game at PNC Park on September 21, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Vance Worley < 500

Honestly, Vance Worley is one of the pitchers that I found the most interesting as last year wore on, and he’s probably going to get the shortest post in this whole series. The reason is that Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs more or less did my work for me here, with his post from late last […]

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 10:  Charlie Morton #50 of the Pittsburgh Pirates takes the mound against the San Diego Padres during the first inning of their game on August 10, 2014 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.   The Padres defeated the Pirates 8-2.  (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)

Charlie Morton < 500

I have probably written more words about Charlie Morton than any other Pirate pitcher of the last five years, and so I’m a little embarrassed to say that it’s probably easy enough to preview Morton’s 2015 season thusly: if he’s healthy, he’ll be fine, but it’s always hard to say if Charlie Morton will be […]

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 03:  Starting pitcher A.J. Burnett #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game One of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium on October 3, 2013 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

AJ Burnett < 500

If you eliminate all of the drama surrounding AJ Burnett’s departure from the Pirates last winter, we’re left with a few important facts. AJ Burnett is 38 years old, coming off of a relatively bad season in which he pitched with a sports hernia and saw his strikeouts go down with his velocity while his […]

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Francisco Liriano #47 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox during inter-league play at PNC Park on September 17, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Francisco Liriano <500

This shouldn’t be surprising, but I’m not a big fan of anecdotal analysis like, “Francisco Liriano is only good every other year.” It works nice as a descriptive device, but it doesn’t give us much actual understanding about Francisco Liriano. In Liriano’s case, the pattern doesn’t even hold true: Liriano was excellent in 2006, decent in 2008, […]

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the first inning against the San Diego Padres during the game on September 19, 2013 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

<500: Gerrit Cole

This is Gerrit Cole’s traditional box score in eleven starts spread out over two Septembers: 71 1/3 IP, 60 H, 23 R, 22 ER, 16 BB, 84 K, 3 HR Those numbers represent the ideal Gerrit Cole, the snarling bastard that can throw four pitches that look the same out of his hand, but can […]


Under 500 words

I have a problem during the off-season. I have a vanishing amount of time to blog in, and whenever I don’t write anything for a couple of days, I tend to try to make up for it by writing something gargantuan, which then exceeds the scope of what I can contain within the small amount […]

Bucs Dugout: the utility of making a good team great

Charlie’s latest post looks at the odd shape of this off-season and asks about something that I’ve been struggling with for the better part of the last year: Once you have a team good enough to make the playoffs, what’s the value in making them better than that?

Sam [Miller] also suggests another factor, though — teams have realized there’s a lot of value in just getting to the playoffs and letting the chips fall where they may. As you might have heard before, the playoffs are a lottery. A slightly weighted lottery, maybe, but a lottery nonetheless. Billy Beane famously said over a decade ago that his “**** doesn’t work in the playoffs,” and if we needed a reminder, there was Beane last summer acquiring Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija down the stretch and getting bounced in the Wild Card game, or the Tigers acquiring David Price and getting eliminated a round later.

Probably unsurprisingly, I go back and forth between this all the time. Lose the Wild Card Game at least in part because your third best starter is Edinson Volquez? Well then just being good isn’t good enough! But watch a decent Giant team and a mediocre Royal team play in the World Series? Well, then, dammit, getting to the playoffs is the only priority because anything can happen from there!

Honestly, every question about the Pirates at this point (unless you want to get way into the financial woods) is just a variation on this one. It’s pretty much all I think about over the off-season, and I still have no clue how to answer it.