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Piratves vs NL Central: Part 2

Fielding

I’m going to keep this simple and post just a few fielding stats for each team. I’m going to use the tradition Fielding percentage and two more advanced metric DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating per 150). Remember for the sake of this comparison I’m excluding the Astros since they won’t be in the division next season.

Reds: .985 F%, 32 DRS, 1.7 UZR/150

Cubs: .982 F%, -7 DRS, 1.0 UZR/150

Pirates: .982 F%, -25 DRS, -1.3 UZR/150

Brewers: .984 F%, 13 DRS, -1.3 UZR/150

Cardinals: .983 F%, 13 DRS, -3.7 UZR/150

Overview: I’m going to brief here because well one my knowledge of advanced fielding stats is limited and two I’m saving most of my defensive analysis for the position by position break down I’m going to do later on. Just looking at things from a team perspective it is easy to see that the Pirates defense was below average for the NL Central. Their fielding percentage is tied for last, their DRS is last by a fairly wide margin and their UZR/150 is tied with the Brewers for second worse in the division ahead of only the Cardnals. Putting all the information together one can make a pretty good case that the Pirates were the worst fielding team in the division. As I hinted to early I’ll take a look later on to see exactly where improvements are necessary but it should be obvious from just these basic numbers that upgrades are needed somewhere.

Pirates vs NL Central: Part 1

There isn’t going to be much to this but I thought I’d gave a brief synopsis of how the Pirates compared to the rest of the NL Central this year. Since the Astros are leaving I will exclude them and focus on the 4 hold overs. The first aspect I’m going to compare is offense. I will also look at field and pitching at later dates. I will also take a look at each position later on. I’m going to look at HR and ISO for power, OBP and K:BB ratio for plate discipline, SB% and BsR for base running and wRC+ and WAR for overall value.

Power

Brewers: 202 HR, .177 ISO

Reds: 172 HR, .159 ISO

Pirates: 170 HR, .152 ISO

Cardinals: 159 HR, .150 ISO

Cubs: 137 HR, .138 ISO

Plate Discipline

Cardinals: .338 OBP, 2.2 K:BB

Brewers: .325 OBP, 2.7 K:BB

Reds: .315 OBP, 2.6 K:BB

Pirates: .304 OBP, 3.0 K:BB

Cubs: .302 OBP, 2.8 K:BB

Base Running

Pirates: 9.2 BsR, 58% SB%

Reds: 5.3 BsR, 76% SB%

Cardinals: -1.2 BsR, 71% SB%

Brewers: -1.4 BsR, 80% SB%

Cubs: -2.2 BsR, 68% SB%

Overall

Cardinals: 107 wRC+, 34.8 WAR

Brewers: 106 wRC+, 34.8 WAR

Reds: 93 wRC+, 27.2 WAR

Pirates: 89 wRC+, 21.6 WAR

Cubs: 80 wRC+, 14.7 WAR

Overview: The above numbers tell us a few things but I will look at each category.

1) Power: The Pirates power numbers are right in line with the Cardinals and Reds for the middle of the division. When trying to size up where the Pirates need to improve next season being able to bring the power isn’t really one of those areas.

2) Plate Discipline: The Cubs were last in all but two categories one was  SB%, which I’ll discuss next, and the other K:BB ratio. The Pirates had the worst K:BB ratio of these 5 tams and were only slightly better than the Cubs in OBP. This is probably the Pirates biggest weakness and will need to be addressed in a big way.

3) Base Running: The Cubs are last in all but two categories and the Pirates are last in those two. As we all know the Pirates need a lot of work with their stolen base game, 58% is honestly horrible and unacceptable for a team with the speed of the Pirates. On the plus side, BsR a stat that measures everything base running related except for stolen bases rates the Pirates quite well showing that they nearly added an extra win to their total by how well they ran the bases.

4) Overall: I’m going to skip over WAR for now as that also accounts for defense. In wRC+ which is a good summary stat of offensive production the Pirates fall behind the Cardinals, Brewers and Reds. While it isn’t necessary to lead the division in this category coming in 4th is probably not going to allow you to compete to often. With improvements in plate discipline this will hopefully also improve.

Mystery Player

I’m going to cover a mystery player here today. A Pirates player who has receive a lot of grief this season, a lot of it deservingly so, but who has been overlooked and is thought to be performing far worse than he actually is. For the past couple of months this has been my argument about Clint Barmes but I have a new player to discuss today. This player since June 1st has hit for a line of .273/.364/.373/.737. Admittedly the slugging percentage leaves a lot to be desired and the sample size we are talking about here along with being fairly arbitrary is a small 189 PA. However that .364 number sticks out to me. The Pirates have very few players who are capable of psoting an OBP like that over a sustained amount of time. In fact I would argue it is only two. One of them is the face of the franchise and MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen and the other is the much maligned, despised, criticized and basically hated Jose Tabata.

Look I’m a Tabata advocate and I’ll freely admit there is a whole lot wrong with Tabata’s game. He appears to have lost a step even though I beleive how much he has lost has been greatly over exaggerated. He is not the best base runner, specifically base stealer but really this can be said about essentially every Pirate and hios defense this year at times was poor to say the least. I believe the base running/stealing is a coaching issue which will hopefully be addressed this offseason (but that is another discussion) and I beleive the defensive problmes he showed early in the season were a result of playing hurt or gingerly (ie his head had him convinced the injury was still there and going to act back up). Tabata has problems that require a lot of work to fix but one thing he can do and do rather well is get on base. Prior to this year Tabata had two seasons with an OBP over .340. This may not sound like much but the one thing the Pirates offense is really lacking are table setters, guys to get on in front of McCutchen, Jones, Alvarez and even Walker. Starling Marte and Travis Snider don’t fit this description and quite obviously neither does Clint Barmes.

For the last couple weeks (months really) I’ve been considering ways to improve this team and I cam up with a few (I’ll discuss later) but one of the first things that came into my head was that this team needed to be deeper. It needed an outfield with on base skills who could do a good job off the bench and who was good enough to hold down a starting position should an injury arise. My search led me to a few names but the one I liked the best was Reed Johnson. Upon digging a little deeper and realizing Johnson has been rather lucky the past 2 seasons with a high BABIP and after sitting down and giving it some critical thought I’ve determined that Tabata is more suited to the 2013 Pirates than Reed Johnson or an outfielder of that ilk.

Now should the Pirates decide to not move forward with an outfield of Marte-McCutchen-Snider with a little bit of Jones sprinkled in and pursue a higher level outfielder (a possible move I will discuss later on) the issue of cutting ties with Tabata (through a trade of course) becomes much less but as of now I expect the Pirates to keep that outfiled alignment and in the likely event they do I think the perfect 4th outfielder for that group is already with the team in Jose Tabata. He can spell Snider against lefties and help ease in Marte, meaning he should play about 3 days a week and in those days will be able to solidly fill the leadoff spot.

This has been getting a lot of views so I thought I’d repost it. Remember these numbers are a little dated but should still tell most of the story.

Battling Bucs

For those of us not to0 sold on the Pirates catching options for next season here is an early look at the free agent catchers this offseason. I’ve excluded McCann and Ruiz (options that will be picked up) and Napoli (not a full time catcher and very unlikely Pirates acquisition). The players marked with an * have options for next season and thus may not reach the free agent market. Stats are covering the last three seasons: 2010-now(9/2/2012).

Russell Martin: 30.7% CS, 91 wRC+, 6.3 WAR (2678.1 Inn, 1250 PA)
AJ Pierzynski: 23.3% CS, 97 wRC+, 6.0 WAR (2978.1 Inn, 1427 PA)
David Ross: 33.7% CS, 123 wRC+, 4.5 WAR (1015.1 Inn, 463 PA)
Yorvit Torrealba: 31.7% CS, 90 wRC+, 4.2 WAR (2055.2 Inn, 981 PA)
*Chris Iannetta: 27.4% CS, 102 wRC+, 4.2 WAR (1794.1 Inn, 819 PA)
Kelly Shoppach: 31.3% CS, 91 wRC+, 3.2 WAR (1465.1 Inn, 628 PA)

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Collapses But

For two consecutive seasons the Pirates have collapsed late in the year and in most instances this would usually be cause for some changes to the coaching staff and front office but the Pirate’s situation is a little different. Two consecutive collapses don’t happen to often without some change at the top but how often does change at the top happen when the group has exceeded expectations their first two seasons together? I’m going to guess that is also a low number. People tend for good reason to focus solely on the Pirates collapses these past two seasons but when you step back and look 72 wins and contention into August was much more than was expected in 2011 and 77+ wins and contention deep into September was much more than was expected in 2012.
Just as there is little doubt the Pirates have collapsed for two seasons there is also little doubt that the Pirates have also outperformed what they were expected to do. These two conflicting forces create a problem with trying to evaluate this group’s performance. There is definitely valid reasons to focus only on the late part of the season but really is it fair to evaluate a group that had 324 games on only 120 or so of those games? I really don’t think so. This is just a very odd situation. I’m trying to think of another team that can be described as having collapsed and exceeded expectations and I’m struggling to do that.

So the main point of this exercise is to determine if I am actually ok with the apparent retainment of the front office and coaching staff and even after thinking through it rationally I am not sure. I mean the collapses have been bad and someone should be fired for them but yet this group has done more than was expected of them for two straight seasons and is that something that any other organization would punish? I don’t think so.

Limbo Period

I find myself in an odd state here. I promised myself that no matter what I would not start into my offseason posts until the season ends but the way this season has ended only makes me want to think about the offseason more and more. I’ve written everything I care to write about the Pirates current play and with no minor league action going on topics right now are in short supply. So I guess what I’m saying is that for the next week or so you are likely to see a very quite Battling Bucs. I’ll still be around but posts will not becoming out too frequently.

The Beat Goes On

No surprise here another humiliating loss to one of the worse teams in baseball. I can’t stand it anymore but I also just can’t stop watching. I’m not numb to all this either every loss still stings and n the long run I know that is a good thing but right now it doesn’t feel like it. This past month and half has drained me and I really don’t know or why I continue to subject myself to this but its in my nature. Something needs to be changed this offseason and in time I’ll expand my thoughts on that exact subject but until then I’m just going to go sit in the corner, lick my wounds and continue to watch even though I know all it will bring me is more pain. October 3rd can’t get here soon enough.