The Pirate season came to a merciful end yesterday, with a 6-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates failed to get a series sweep the entire year, which marks the first time in baseball history, that a team went the season, failing to do so. We all know that this team was bad, despite what the shills in the broadcast booth say. Here are a few of things that the shills said in order to get you to believe, that there was something positive about the way the Pirates played baseball. The Pirates have improved their defense greatly. Well, if you improve from 30th, which is dead last, to 24th in the defensive efficiency stat, that is an improvement, but is that really significant. The Pirates are still in the bottom third, when it comes to fielding. They actually declined, from last years short season, when they were 15th. In the booth, they rave about Kevin Newman’s fielding. He is not that great a fielder. In all the comprehensive defensive stats, when it comes to shortstops, he is just in the middle of the pack. The idea, that the Pirates have major league players on their team, is another example of trying to hoodwink the fans. Let’s take a look at that claim from a statistical point of view, without the shill bias. There are statistics that give you an overview of a player’s value. Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is an overall value stat of a player. It includes all facets of a players game, which includes, batting, fielding, and baserunning, and the volume of playing time. A major league player should have a WAR of 2.0 to be considered a big league player and a contributor to the team. The other two stats that tell you if you are an average major league player is is ERA+ for starting pitchers and OPS+ for batters. This rates the overall performance of a pitcher and a batter with 100 being an average major league player. Being an average major league player means you are pretty damn good. Just ask the Pirates, who have very few. So who are these elite Pirates?
Starting at the top of course, is Bryan Reynolds, with a WAR of 6.0 and an OPS+ of 146. These are all star quality numbers. He is a good fielding center fielder but not an elite fielder, that the shills would have you believe. However, he is a top 20 major league player. . Next is Jacob Stallings with a WAR of 3.0. He is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, and is a solid contender for a gold glove. His OPS+ is 92 which is below league average, but his defense more than makes up for this. Some people feel, that he will be the next to go in the Pirate rebuild, but I hope that is not true. His value behind the plate will only magnify, by mentoring both the young pitching staff, and the young catchers that will be coming up. Next on the list, is Ke’Bryan Hayes with a WAR of 2.4. His defense at 3rd is second to none, and you have to hope that his hitting decline was due to the injured wrist, that never quite healed, which led to a very disappointing OPS+ of 89. Even with that defense, his hitting has to improve next year. The last major leaguer the Pirates have is relief pitcher David Bednar with a WAR of 2.1 and an ERA+ of 190. He was about as solid as a pitcher could be, coming out of the bullpen. His FIP was 2.69 and WHIP under 1. That is the end of the list. Now, as stated previously WAR is a volume stat, and there were some Pirates, who did perform at an above average major league level, but did not get enough playing time to get that high of a WAR number, or were just really bad in one area of the game, which caused them to have a WAR under 2. So who should, or could, be on the team next year and contribute to a successful season.
First, let’s get out of the way, the list, that if this regime is serious, should not be on the team next season, for various reasons: Cole Tucker, Kevin Newman, Colin Moran,(even if the NL goes to a DH), Michael Perez, Wilmer Difo, and Phillip Evans. I don’t know if anybody in the starting rotation, should be back, but somebody has to pitch. I suppose you have to give Mitch Keller, one more chance. The two late season acquisitions, Bryce Wilson and Dillon Peters, might be worth a second look. There is always hope, that J. T. Brubaker, might find his previous form. There were some young spot starters, that showed some potential, but everyone of them at some point, got rocked. In a nutshell, the starting rotation is just plain pathetic. In the bullpen, there were two, that did perform at an above average level, with a decent volume of work. Chris Stratton and Chasen Shreve each had ERA+ over the 100 mark at 116 and 132, respectively. Are there any other Pirates that deserve another look? Not many, but here is the list. Anthony Alford, because he did look better the second time around, compared to that awful way he started the season. He wound up with a .4 WAR and an OPS+ of 94. Compare that, with the shill’s favorite player, Kevin Newman’s WAR of .7 and an OPS+ of, are you ready, 56, ouch. Then there is Yoshi Tsutsugo, who as a Pirate had an OPS+ of 136, but he was a major liability in the field. If the NL goes to the DH, then he is a keeper. Even if they don’t, just put him at first base to replace the stoic Moran ,who is just horrible in the field. That just about rounds it out, so the Pirates have lots of places to fill.
I know, that most of what I am going to write in this paragraph is not going to happen, but some of it might, depending on what happens with the new collective bargaining agreement. I am not going into any details, but how rookies are perceived for their first year of service, and when free agent eligibility happens, could change the basic philosophy of major league teams. On opening day, the shortstop and second basemen for the Pirates should be named Cruz and Castro. Brian Reynolds should be flanked by at least one new outfielder, if not two. The starting rotation should have at least 2 new members and both should be 24 years or younger. Even if the results are not perfect, let’s hope we see an influx of new talent come up to the major league level, right at the start of the season. Let’s hope that this bodes well for the future, because it is essentially, here now. Hopefully, the Pirate fans will not have to endure another season like this, where the team plays just bad baseball, and never wins more than 3 games in a row. This great city deserves so much more.