Tagged: Ryan Church

Neal Huntington’s Position Player Free Agents

This is something of a continuation of my previous post about Barmes and Barajas. Its been well documented that Huntington has been rather unsuccessful when it comes to free agent hitters but the question is why? I am going to take a look at Huntington’s main non-pitcher free agent signings over the last 5 years. For simplicity sake I am only going to focus on players who made the opening day roster and since with the exception of this year that number has always been two I am going to exclude Nate McLouth for this season and focus on Barmes and Barajas. Now remember these are only free agents, not trades or Rule V pickups.


Doug Mientkiewicz: .277/.374/.379 (103 OPS+), 1.0 WAR

Luis Rivas: .218/.267/.311 (54 OPS+), -0.8 WAR


Eric Hinske: .253/.373/.368 (99 OPS+), 0.4 WAR

Ramon Vazquez: .230/.335/.279 (66 OPS+), -0.5 WAR


Bobby Crosby: .224/.301/.295 (63 OPS+), -1.1 WAR

Ryan Church: .180/.240/.312 (49 OPS+), -0.6 WAR


Lyle Overbay: .227/.300/.349 (81 OPS+), -0.7 WAR

Matt Diaz: .259/.303/.324 (75 OPS+), -0.7 WAR


Rod Barajas: .148/.220/.204 (20 OPS+), -0.6 WAR

Clint Barmes: .173/.215/.333 (51 OPS+), -0.2 WAR

As you can see by those few numbers the results aren’t good. Doug Mientkiewicz wasn’t terrible and neither was Hinske (although he did see a power outage) but the rest were just plain awful. However you probably knew that. The real point here is to see what if anything these guys have in common, so lets start by looking at how each player performed in the three seasons before coming to Pittsburgh.

Doug Mientkiewicz: .266/.343/.416 (98 OPS+), 3.3 WAR

Luis Rivas: .257/.291/.406 (79 OPS+), -0.2 WAR

Eric Hinske: .245/.336/.457 (105 OPS+), 1.7 WAR

Ramon Vazquez: .255/.327/.390 (88 OPS+), -0.2 WAR

Bobby Crosby: .231/.290/.348 (72 OPS+), -0.9 WAR

Ryan Church: .274/.345/.432 (105 OPS+), 6.2 WAR

Lyle Overbay: .259/.352/.437 (110 OPS+), 7.2 WAR

Matt Diaz: .281/.342/.438 (107 OPS+), 1.0 WAR

Rod Barajas: .231/.275/.424 (86 OPS+), 2.5 WAR

Clint Barmes: .242/.303/.398 (81 OPS+), 5.8 WAR

As you can see there were a few players who performed poorly before the Pirates signed them but for the most part the players played well the 3 seasons before the Pirates signed them. So the problem isn’t the talent the of the players Huntington’s is signing so maybe the problem is these players are declining. So now lets look at the OPS+ the players had in their career before signing with Pittsburgh, the 3 years before, the year before and their season with Pittsburgh.

Doug Mientkiewicz: 100, 98, 106, 103

Luis Rivas: 80, 79, 151*, 54 (the 151 was only over 4 games)

Eric Hinske: 100, 105, 109, 99

Ramon Vazquez: 85, 88, 110, 66

Bobby Crosby: 81, 72, 72, 63

Ryan Church: 107, 105, 93, 49

Lyle Overbay: 111, 110, 105, 81

Matt Diaz: 111, 107, 99, 75

Rod Barajas: 80, 86, 97, 20

Clint Barmes: 78, 81, 93, 51

As you can see no one really stands out as a steep decliner. There are a few whose numbers go down for each group but none are significant. What is also plain to see is that the Mientkiewicz and Hinske are the only two players to give the Pirates anywhere near what they probably expected when signing them. Of course the problem with Hinske was a drop in power and that is evident by his slugging percentage, just take a look at it from 2008-2010 remember he was with the Pirates in 2009: .465, .368 (PIT), .512 (NYY), .456. The .368 really stands out as poor. I will also add that it would be unfair to expect anything from Rivas as he had only played 4 games in the two previous seasons combined and Crosby was a proven bench player whose numbers weren’t too far from his career norms. It is also a little early to pass judgement on Barajas and Barmes so from this point forward I will be looking at Vazquez, Church, Overbay and Diaz to see why they all underperformed.

First Theory: Batted Balls

Here are the players career rates:

Lyle Overbay: .314 BABIP, 21.7 LD%, 45.7 GB%, 32.5 FB%, 11.8% HR/FB

Matt Diaz: .345, 22.4%, 48.1%, 29.5%, 10.5%

Ryan Church: .319, 21.5%, 43.3%, 35.3%, 11.1%

Ramon Vazquez: .311, 23.8%, 47.3%, 28.9%, 5.1%

Now look at their Pirate career rates:

Lyle Overbay: .269 BABIP, 18.2 LD%, 46.5 GB%, 35.3 FB%, 8.2% HR/FB

Matt Diaz: .324, 19.7%, 55.5%, 24.9%, 0.0%

Ryan Church: .231, 18.5%, 39.5%, 41.9%, 5.8%

Ramon Vazquez: .291, 19.5%, 46.5%, 34.0%, 1.9%

The BABIPs of these players are all low but not extremely so in the case of Diaz and Vazquez. Each player also saw a drop in their LD% but again there isn’t a significant drop. Church and Vazquez actually had a lower ground ball percentage with the Pirates than they did in their career so its not that either. Overbay, Church and Vazquez actually saw an increase in their fly ball rate which would usually indicate improvement but not here. Obviously each player’s home run rate is down but I guess that could have something to do with PNC Park.

Second Theory: Non-BIP Balls

Career Rates:

Lyle Overbay: 11.3 BB%, 18.5 K%

Matt Diaz: 5.2%, 18.4%

Ryan Church: 8.8%, 21.6%

Ramon Vazquez: 9.7%, 18.6%

Pirates Career Rates:

Lyle Overbay: 9.2 BB%, 19.7 K%

Matt Diaz: 4.8%, 19.0%

Ryan Church: 6.6%, 25.1%

Ramon Vazquez: 13.0%, 19.7%

Again nothing conclusive. Diaz stayed about the same and Vazquez actually saw an increase in BB%.

When I started this experiment I was hoping to see some type of patter but at this point I can’t really find any theme. Overbay’s troubles seem to be due to a low BABIP and squaring up on fewer balls (low LD%). Diaz’s seem to be from a complete blackout of power and an increase in ground balls.Church’s seem to be almost all tied to his BABIP falling 88 points. As for Vazquez he seemed to have had a career year in 2008 which led to higher expectations for 2009 than what should have been expected.

So as you can see the Huntington has had some bad luck with a few players, reached on a few others and even over valued one after he had one strong season. He did manage to get at least adequate production out of 2 but that is not a good track record. Barmes and Barajas are off to slow starts this season, although Barmes is showing some signs of improvement, so if the trend continues this season some reevaluating of his plan will need to be done before any more players are brought in. There is not one area that he is overlooking it appears to be more likely just an error in judgement on the part of Huntington and his scouts. Bottom line is though, whatever the problem is it needs to be addressed and fixed as soon as possible.

Doug Mientkiewicz: .266/.343/.416 (98 OPS+), 3.3 WAR

Luis Rivas: .257/.291/.406 (79 OPS+), -0.2 WAR

Eric Hinske: .245/.336/.457 (105 OPS+), 1.7 WAR

Ramon Vazquez: .255/.327/.390 (88 OPS+), -0.2 WAR

Bobby Crosby: