AP story now making the rounds. Wow and good luck.
Happy New Year's Eve everyone.
I'm touring the blogs tonight, catching up all around, and I find this comical series of posts (click the links) by Jay Jaffe. The subject? His experience with the PG's Gene Collier, who calls Jaffe a "seamhead on crystal math." (Would such analysis soothe some meth addicts? I wonder.)
I'm amused that these guys can't get along, and I feel bad for Jaffe, who, in a perfect world, would have known better than to have expected better treatment from Collier.
Here's a tip for non-Pirate fans everywhere: stay away from the PG sports editorials. At the PG, read Dejan Kovacevic and Brian O'Neill. Their other beat writers are OK too, as are the beat writers at the Trib. And seek out John Perrotto's work at the Beaver County Times.
And for the record, I'm not choosing sides in the Collier-Jaffe debate. Why? I don't care much who's in and who's out of the Hall of Fame.
Make your own depth chart with this offseason game.
The Pirates, as a team, will make about 6050 PAs in 2006. Pitchers account for 300 of those, leaving 5750 for the position players. In 2005, the actual number was 5735; in 2004, 5743.
Study these pages. You will see, over the years, how few players manage 500 PAs. How many slide in around 350 PA. And, if you Diddle with the "select split" drop-down menu, you can see how each of the various positions accounts for 650-700 PAs.
In an Excel spreadsheet, measure the current 40-man roster. Put the players in the first column. Each position then gets its own column. Spread the PT across each row. Total it for players at the end of each row. Total for positions at the top of each column.
The goals are two-fold: do not allot an unrealistic amount of PT to any one player. And allot roughly the same amount of PT to each position.
Based on recent years, I suggest these totals for each position: c, 650; 1b, 700; 2b, 650; SS, 675; 3b, 675; lf, 700; cf, 700; rf, 700; misc (DH+PH), 300. You can adjust the numbers a bit, so long as the final total is 5750. If you're convinced the shortstop will bat eighth all year, you might adjust that number to 650 and add PT for C or 2b.
Like all projection systems, this one will produce results that look half-right, half-silly in the mid-season. But it also serves to give you a good idea of how much the team will rely on certain utility players. When I did this last year, for example, I was able to correctly predict that, though he was not an opening-day starter, Rob Mackowiak would have no problem getting 500 PAs on that team.
Back when I had tons of free time, I used to do this for all the teams as a way of finding roto sleepers. Have fun. I have my grid filled out, but it needs more thought I think. I'll publish my answers sometime next week.
To follow-up on a thoughtful comment charlie left in the comments to the previous post, I agree the Pirates need better OF depth at AAA.
My strategy right now would be to view Duffy and McLouth as the centerfielders of the future. I pick one - Duffy I suppose - and start him in Pittsburgh. I send the other to AAA to start every day and wait for the gimp-phone to ring. If Casey goes down and Wilson is needed at first, if Gerut can't go, if Duffy can't hit or maims himself crashing into a wall, etc., McLouth would be the guy to get the call. I'd move him right into an every day job.
This means the Pirates need someone who can play centerfield. The obvious answer, looking at the guys left on the market, is Preston Wilson. If the Bucs can sign him to a high-paying one-year gig, then they plug him in right field. Craig Wilson will play when Casey has an ache. Or, in the somewhat likely scenario that Duffy's first season as the starting centerfielder begins to resemble Tike Redman's first season as the same, then Preston slides into center and Wilson starts in right. Or, in the equally likely scenario that Preston gimps his knee sliding into second, then Craig takes over job and McLouth comes up to ride the pine.
One other thing. I wrote this in the comments, but not everyone reads them, so I will write it again. It regards the curiously sensitive subject of Craig Wilson.
Here it is: I do not believe everything I read in the papers. Just because management whispers disparaging remarks to folks who, they know, will print them, that does not mean they believe such things. The Pirates are taking Craig Wilson to arbitration, so there's no point in them singing his praises. And while they have good reason to be concerned about the rookies slated for CF next year, it makes sense to me that they would also have good reason not to express any shaky confidence about the young guys to the newspaper. Why be honest and tell the Trib that you are worried about Duffy's ability to hit major-league pitching, and thus want a plan B for CF (Encarnacion, Byrnes)? Why not blame the need for another OF on Craig Wilson? He's a good sport, and he's used to such abuse. He's been taking it for years. Why change that story when it's still handy? And, further, if the management can promote the notion that he's underappreciated in Pittsburgh, well that would seem, to me, to increase his profile as someone a team would do well to go get in trade. That's just so much more honey for catching flies. Any time someone is suckered into thinking he's just made a great deal, there has to be some kind of narrative that makes it seem plausible.
Just because some source said the Pirates would love to have Eric Byrnes and start him ahead of Craig Wilson, that does not mean - especially the night before another team signs him - that this was true. The last two and a half years, Craig Wilson has started every game and hit in the middle of the lineup when healthy. And all the while someone has been feeding the beat reporters disparaging quotes. Actions speak louder than words here.
We have to remember that GMs are part politicians, part poker players, and part used-car salesmen. Why should we take everything Littlefield says, or everything his assistants leak, at face value?
The Pirates need another outfielder, as I argued in the previous post, and if they want to blame that need on Craig Wilson, fine. It does not change the fact that they need another outfielder.
I understand the need to add a corner outfielder, and I'm not sure it's because upgrading that position will make the Pirates wild-card contenders.
The Pirates currently have a collection of unproven and unreliable players for center and right. Even if we love Craig Wilson and think the world of his ability as a hitter, it would not be prudent to expect more than 450 PAs from him. He has that injury thing. If we are going to say that about Sean Casey, it has to be said about Craig Wilson. I don't know much about his recent hand injuries, either. Are they Pat Mearesish? I don't know. Let's guess that he's fine, but likely to miss time with a back problem or another HBP dent, as usual. Or likely to slump very hard and need days off. So then a bright yet prudent forecast for Craiggers production is 450 PAs.
The Pirates will get about 2100 PAs from their outfielders in 2006 - about 700 per position. Jason Bay will soak up 650 in left. Center appears to be manned by Chris Duffy and Nate
Dykstra McLouth. What are they good for? I hesitate to expect more than 500 PAs from any player who has never finished a 500 PA big-league season. If we guess they both will hit well enough to earn 450 PAs, which seems very sunny and not prudent to me, then with Bay the Pirates have (650+900) or 1550 PAs budgeted.
Sean Casey looks good for 550 PAs at first. The Bucs will need an additional 150 from other guys. Let's continue with the positive vibrations and assume that Eldred continues to press for big-league PT. Give him 100, a one-month cup of Joe or two fill-in appearances the length of a short DL trip. Give Craig Wilson the other 50.
So Craig Wilson would have about 400 PAs worth of a productive Craigger season in right field. With the 1550 portioned to Bay and the two centerfielding youngsters, the Pirates now have 1950 PAs. That gives the Pirates 150 more for . . .
Jody Gerut. Given his injury troubles and nasty platoon splits, I think it would be too optimistic to forecast more than 250 PAs for him in 2005.
Now the outfield looks full up, until we remember that the Pirates will need a DH (about 25 PA) and many PH appearances (about 250 PA). Doumit can soak up some pinch-hitting duties, and Freddy Sanchez can play the Bobby Hill/Noonie role. So right now the Pirates do not urgently need outfielders off the bench; having a surplus of 100 is probably OK from that perspective.
But, unless the Pirates add an outfielder capable of contributing 450 quality PAs, they are banking on (a) Craig Wilson being healthy and productive, (b) Chris Duffy staying healthy and hitting well enough to keep a big-league job, (c) Nate McLouth staying healthy and hitting well enough to keep a big-league job, and (d) Jody Gerut being useful off the bench.
Is that prudent? Is it wise? Chris Duffy finished last year strong. Tike Redman was also coming off a strong second half when he began his first season as the starting centerfielder. Remember Tony Alvarez? J.J. Davis? Are we so sure that Duffy and McLouth are more sure to succeed?
Should the Pirates lose any one of those four players, or should any one of those four players flop, who do we have in the minors worth the call? Are we as high on Rajai Davis as we are on Jose Bautista?
The Pirates need to add someone worth throwing into the OF mix. Then let the players compete for playing time, and play the best ones. Since they want to see what they got in Duffy and McLouth, and since they don't want to prevent Wilson or Gerut from contributing if and when he's able, the need looks, to me, to be more about finding someone who fits. They don't need to find a Joe Randa of right field.
The right-field situation is not so much about Craig Wilson and the Pirates' faith in his ability to be healthy and hit ball hard. I've grown tired of seeing the issue framed that way exclusively. The spokespeople for the team may be more comfortable singling him out or whatever, but this is not just about Craig Wilson. It's also about Duffy, McLouth, Gerut, Rajai Davis, and the odds that the Pirates have 1200 quality plate appearances - that's two full-time players - in that group.
Nice hometown look at Ryan Doumit.
Before we criticize the Pirates for bringing in Randa and Casey and not "seeing what we got" in Sanchez and Eldred, remember that the Pirates will be "seeing what we got" at catcher and centerfield. And second base ... Jose Castillo has yet to complete a 450 PA season. And at closer, and in three-fifths of the starting rotation jobs. There will be plenty of youth served.
I like the Randa signing. One year is fine. We need Sanchez to back up Castillo and Wilson and now, Randa, who is not going to play all 162 games. And if Bautista is ready at the deadline, the Pirates can easily move Joe and get good prospects for him, too, just as the Reds did a few months ago.
The Pirates did not acquire the bat we need to make a big step forward, but going into 2005 we have some good lottery tickets. Ryan Doumit, a 25-year-old switch-hitter who raked in the minors, is one of them. The immediate future of the team will continue to rest on the immediate improvement of the youngest players.
Randa signs for one year and four million dollars. Huh. Will Randa hit second in front of Bay and Manny? On off days at home (while being spelled by Eldred and Freddie), shouldn't Casey and Randa work the crowd, shaking hands, handing out cheap baseball cards and wiffle balls, while being all-around nice guys?
Dejan Kovacevic talks some stuff over in this week's Q&A.
He also asks how we can interest the children in the Pirates. I've found baseball to be a pretty good hobby, so I share his selfless desire to raise our kids just exactly the way I was raised. Here are some suggestions that look beyond the most obvious solutions (WIN MORE GAMES, play more day games, hang the jolly roger in their bedroom, etc.)
1. Unsupervised play. When I was tot, all neighborhood children were unleashed and expelled from the home for several hours in the morning (before lunch) and many hours in the afternoon. Like Kovacevic, I also pretended to be Bruce Kison when I played wiffle ball. Children won't embarrass themselves so readily in front of adults. No one did this kind of role-playing in gym class. Nevermind that it's now a misdemeanor or felony offense to not supervise your children while they play wiffle ball in Drunk Joe's unused backyard. No child can properly learn the game of baseball without a heavy dose of freedom.
2. Cheap baseball cards. Around the late '80s, baseball cards lost most of their value for fan training. People started to regard them as investments, and card companies outdid one another making more and more expensive cards.
Fans raised on the baseball cards of the 1970s derived much greater value from them. They were not investments; they were toys. They were not cherished or encased in plastic; they were used and improved with magic marker. If I got mad at Greg Luzinski, I drew a funny moustache on him and felt good about it. Cards of my youth were not art-objects; they were flash cards. It's how I learned the names, faces, positions, and histories of all the players.
MLB should sponsor and distribute cheap cards to the children. They should be 25 cents a pack, and they should contain at least twelve cards. The Pirates should give away team sets to all fans under 16.
3. Better baseball toys. Too many of the promotional giveaways fall into the art-object / investment category. The Jack Wilson jack-in-the-box idea was brilliant. Future kid-oriented promotional freebies should also target the way children of various ages play. The Pirates should give away wiffle balls. And posable action figures would be a great improvement over bobbleheads.
Looks like the Steelers, unless they self-destruct
in the Motor City at home, will be headed for Cincinnati in week one of the playoffs.
If the Chargers beat the Denver Broncos Saturday in San Diego, it will clinch the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC for the Steelers, who play the Lions at Heinz Field. If Denver wins, the Steelers would have to beat or tie the Lions, or the Chiefs would have to lose or tie the Cincinnati Bengals in Kansas City Sunday.Ed Bouchette reporting here.
If the Steelers make the playoffs, their first game will come in Cincinnati unless the Bengals lose and the Patriots win.
One of these days, years and years from now, when I'm like 85, and the Browns have been whipping the Steelers on a regular basis, and the Browns are shutting out the Steelers in Pittsburgh, one thing I will NOT do is run onto the field in the fourth quarter to celebrate mine own assjackery.
... Hoagie brings the video. If you are at work, unless your co-workers like hearing the word "bitch," then you should turn the sound down before playing it.
The best thing about the Encarnacion courting is the ridiculous sum the Cardinals pledged to start him in right field. Like Byrnes, Encarnacion looked to me like a decent centerfield backup. Obviously you don't pay someone that much money to back up Chris Duffy. Since a team needs depth at that position, I still expect Littlefield to sign someone who can play center.
Sucks for us that Littlefield could not match Toronto's offer for Glaus. Here's wishing us a Manny New Year.
DK reports that the Bucs have made inquiries with Eric Byrnes' agent the last two days. I'd rather see Byrnes signed than Encarnacion. Byrnes should cost far less money. Juan made 4.4 million last year and is coming off his career year which still wasn't very good. But Rotoworld's take on this, that if Byrnes is signed, Craig "would likely be traded," scares me.
John Perrotto pours salt in our wounds reporting that DL wants Juan Encarnacion again. Nooooo! We went through this in spring training last year, but just to reiterate: Juan's sub-par power and poor on-base skills are exactly what we don't need and would likely ice that 14th straight losing season. Juan (career .268/.316/.440) wishes he could hit like Craig (career .268/.363/.488). Please don't do it, DL.
DK has the story on DL's view of the free agent pool:
"As far as the names right now, I don't see anyone who will fill our needs for a bigger bat in right field or third base," DL said. "But there are always possibilities as far as what we can do for our depth in the outfield, and we're always looking for another arm in the bullpen. As far as extra-type players, there are a few in that group".Beware, DL could have a field day with all them fourth outfielders and "extra-type players". Anyway, DK perpetuates the Eric Byrnes rumor. Byrnes has done well vs. LHPs, so might be useful in a bench role, provided he's dirt-cheap (which he should be, since he was putrid last year). As far as the suggestions made that Byrnes could be our new Wiggy, I'm just not seeing it. Byrnes throws himself all over the field and basepaths with reckless abandon, but even if he gained a lot of weight, I just can't picture him bowling anybody over like Wiggy.
It's time to unplug for some days. You should too, if you can. Bones, I don't know where he is. Or when he'll be back. Maybe soon, maybe not.
If you want me again look for me under the mistletoe. I'll be the guy adding rum to the kool-aid. Cheers and huzza.
Milt Dunnell's 1973 column on Clemente's death has been posted to celebrate Dunnell's 100th birthday.
TORONTO—This time, there can be no doubting the seriousness of Roberto Clemente's injuries. Roberto Clemente, one of the most talented baseball players of his time — and, until recent years, one of the most unappreciated of superstars — is dead.
Clemente, who spent most of his 18 years as a big leaguer defending himself against insinuations that he was a hypochondriac — that he was the type of athlete who would apply a cast to a hangnail — lost his life on a mission of mercy.
We forget that Clemente was not a "gamer" who lived in denial of pain and injury. Go read the whole article. Finoli & Ranier treat it briefly in their Encyclopedia, where they attribute Clemente's "hypochondria" to the culture of Latin baseball. Do the Latin players still struggle to understand why the North American white boys pride themselves on playing through injury? Is anyone writing today on the different cultures & their different interpretations of such significant aspects of the game?
And oh for the days when "the Pirates firmly believed they were . . . better than any other team in the world."
Headed to Mexico.
Ollie has pitched well while he's down there.
Perez has impressed in limited duty for Culiacan, posting a 1.50 earned run average and 15 strikeouts in 12 innings spread over four appearances.Go Tomato Growers.
"My numbers are good, but the best thing is my velocity," he said. "The last time I pitched in Pittsburgh, I was at 90 mph. Now, I'm at 94, 95. The slider's good, too. I feel very strong. I'm feeling great."
Ed Eagle explains why the brass are down on Craiggers and why Kip Wells has no trade value.
Strikeouts are your friend when they come with 850 OPS production. Are Littlefield and Tracy that irrational on the subject, or is this a cover for some other unmentionable concern with Craig Wilson?
Sean Casey has been two players: Sean Casey hurt and Sean Casey healthy. Unlike the cases of Dr. Jekyll or the Hulk, the difference in Casey is not immediately visible. At times, he has played hurt, and the Cincinnati fans did not know he was playing hurt. The good news is that Sean Casey has been a .400 OBP / .500-.600 SLG player when healthy. Surely this is just what the Pirates, and every other team in the league, need from their first baseman. The bad news is not just that Sean Casey has been a .340 OBP / .360 SLG when playing hurt. Also bad news is the fact that Casey is one of those “gamers” who might keep an injury secret and plays hurt until people notice the long slump and realize he must be playing hurt. If this is not the case, then his coaches in Cincinnati were utter morons who kept starting him for no good reason. Either way, it appears that his injuries were routinely hidden from the fans. That might be typical, but Pirate fans will want to keep a close eye on Casey’s health and performance.
1999 and 2000
My memories of Casey’s career and health history were incomplete and fuzzy, so I spent an hour in the library pouring through the old newspapers. Here’s what I’ve gathered. I’m sure this is an incomplete record in two ways. First, I probably missed stories. Second, I’m sure there have been health issues that went unreported. So take the following summary as a rough sketch.
As a top prospect, Casey broke out in 1999. He was good all year, but surprisingly powerful in the first half. In the second half of the season he was only good, but surprisingly durable: he played in 151 games, a career high. (Between 1995 and 1998, he never played more than 120 games in a pro season) On the whole, he was one of the league’s best in 1999.
He began 2000 as Sean Casey hurt, missing most of the first month with a broken thumb. When he returned to the field, he sucked, perhaps because he was still working his way back from the thumb injury. From June to September, however, he was Sean Casey healthy, and he hit as well as he did in 1999. He had the power. He hit ten home runs in September.
2001 and 2002
Casey went into the 2001 season as a career .311 hitter with a .502 slugging percentage built out of 96 doubles, 6 triples, and 52 home runs. But he played through a series of minor injuries. He fouled a pitch off his foot in April, he strained his back in May, he hurt his ankle in July, he tore a muscle in his calf in September. And that’s not even a thorough summary of the bumps and bruises. He played 145 games, had 40 doubles, 13 home runs, and .310 / .369 / .458 final numbers. While that is a pretty good season, especially for a down year, expectations were high, and Casey’s season was regarded by many as a disappointment.
Because he smiled all the time, was adored by Red beat writers such as Hal McCoy, and hit for a gaudy average, the Baseball Prospectus crew nailed Casey as “overrated.” The emergence of Adam Dunn fueled the smart-guy negativity on Casey. Only old-school jackasses, the argument ran, could overvalue Casey’s charisma and somewhat hollow batting average. In early 2002, Adam Dunn was, literally, a centerpiece in the performance-analysis war on old fartation; he was even the cover boy for the January 2002 Baseball Prospectus annual.
By 2002, Casey and his injuries were interacting consistently. First, he continued to be hurt often. Second, he continued to hit feebly when hurt. He could maintain the average, but he could not drive the ball for extra bases. Or, he could drive the ball for extra bases, but he could not leg out those doubles.
Third and, I think, more interesting, is the fact that he continued to conceal his injuries. Casey’s conversations with the Cincinnati media consistently displayed a macho attitude about playing through pain.
I admire guys with high pain thresholds. I’m one of them, myself; it is cool to impress the doctors with an ability to endure pain. And hey, the less pain you feel, the less pain you feel. No one wants much pain in life.
That said, I’m not one to admire ballplayers who hurt their team by playing hurt. That’s not tough. It’s selfish. Ballplayers should take themselves out of the game if their injury significantly impairs their ability to perform. It's ironic that Sean Casey would have a much better reputation among performance analysts were he to cry, squeal, and miss time like J.D. Drew. He's never going to be like that, but Casey would help his team by being at least a little more unwilling to play through pain.
Let the record show, however, that Adam Dunn played 158 games in 2002. Despite the perception that the Reds were choosing Casey over Dunn, Casey did not cut into Dunn's playing time. Had Casey sat out those two months, his playing time would have gone to some one of Russell Branyan, Reggie Taylor, Jose Guillen, or Ruben Mateo. None of those guys had great years. If Casey hurt was truly the best available option for a non-contending team, that's an indictment of his organization for failing to provide adequate reserves.
The Reds finished 2002 at 78-84 in a year that saw the Cardinals run away with the Central. On June 1, the Reds were 46-61 and twenty games back. There was no good reason for Casey to continue playing hurt, but he did so anyway.
After enduring a 1-for-22 slump to end a .133 July, Casey went on the 15-day DL with a sore shoulder. He came back in August for another four weeks. In September, they operated on his left shoulder. The surgeon found a torn labrum and a torn rotator cuff. They sewed him up, and the season went down as one in which Casey only hit .261 / .334 / .362 line in 120 games.
2003 and 2004
The following February, Hal McCoy lionized Casey in the Dayton Daily News for, basically, hiding the injury in 2002 and inflicting a suck-ass hitting performance on his teammates. “Because Casey smiles through the darkest of days without a whimper, few suspected anything,” McCoy wrote. You don’t have to be a hard-boiled fan to get sick on that spin. More disturbing for me, though, is the fact that (according to McCoy) Casey had “secretly” received a cortisone shot in the shoulder so he could continue to go out there, all gimpy, and more or less suck.
At the end of March, 2003, Casey looked healthy and very good at the plate. The Reds opened their new ballpark. FWIW, in an interesting and prescient remark, Will Carroll, in one of his Baseball Prospectus reports, cautioned his audience – on the advice of one his “smart readers” – not to expect the ballpark to help Casey’s power numbers. Many people guessed (correctly) then that GAB would be a hitter’s park whose short right-field porch would favor left-handed home run hitters, but Carroll wr0te then that “Casey’s power is mostly to the opposite field.” Casey would often explain himself as someone who “is a high-average guy, a guy who hits the balls in the gaps.” As I wrote about in a previous post, Casey did not thrive in the GAB.
His first month in 2003 was pretty good. He hit .323 / .391 / .495 in 110 PA. His May was awful; playing every day, he only managed a .257 / .305 / .321 line. At the end of the month, Reds fans were eager to trade him, and Hal McCoy offered another classic defense of Casey as a high-average good guy. “Most of all,” he wrote, Casey “hits home as one of the world's great human beings so who cares if he hits homers?”
Casey recovered with a decent June (.323 / .359 / .479 playing full-time). But he gimped his groin in mid-July and struggled with this the rest of the season. His August was particularly lame (.245 / .292 / .306). Will Carroll expressed some skepticism about the strength of his surgically-repaired shoulder, but he also predicted the groin problem would go away with extended – that is, offseason – rest. He finished 2003 with .291 / .350 / .408 numbers. His home run total – 14 – was down from his healthy days (he hit 20 in 2000 and 25 in 1999). But not so down as his doubles. After hitting 42, 33, and 40 the previous year, ripped-groin Casey only hobbled out 19 doubles in 2003. If the slow-footed Casey cannot leg out his doubles, he’s not going to slug .500 in 2006. He does not have speed to spare.
The healthy Sean Casey returned for April and May 2004. STATS wrote this about him: “Casey came to spring training . . . with added muscle, and the new strength was evident. He became quicker on inside pitches and was able to pull balls much more frequently for extra bases. At the same time, he retained his ability to take outside pitches to the opposite field with extra-base authority.” In April, and you might remember this – I know I do – he hit .414 / .458 / .667. In May, he hit .377 / .422 / .623. On June 1, Joe Sheehan, the dean of Baseball Prospectus, lamented that Casey would probably make the All-Star team for these “great eight weeks.”
Indeed, the down-with-Casey, up-with-Dunn crowd handled his stellar play with a frustration partly created by Dunn's struggle to hit for any average and re-gain full-time playing status. Like Casey, Dunn had been also been busty in 2003 (hitting .215 / .354 / 465), a year in which Dunn lost playing time to Casey and the suddenly-1000 OPS Jose Guillen. FWIW, Dunn played in 161 games in 2004, so the red-hot Casey was no threat to Dunn’s playing time. So perhaps it was just the memory of this high-average smiling good guy robbing PT from the free-swinging goon that motivated pundits like Sheehan to piss on Casey's hot start as flukish. While it was flukish in the sense that Casey had often been injured, it's not much of a fluke for a hitter like Casey to flirt with .400 for the first two months of a season. His emergence in 2004 was nothing like that of players like Melvin Mora or Brian Roberts. He had a history of playing at that level.
Casey then went .266 / .327 / 532 for the month of June, slowed by a hamstring strain and a calf strain. There’s an old baseball saying that doubles turn into homers which expresses the typical development, over time, of youthful doubles hitters into more sedentary home run hitters. Will this happen with Casey? He better plan on it, I think, for he has little speed to spare. 2004 showed some of this metamorphosis, as Casey’s power numbers for the first three months featured more home runs: he had 11 doubles and 3 homers in April, 8 and 6 in May, and 7 and 6 in June. On June 24, his numbers were .361 / .410 / .625. The Reds were eight-games over .500 and owners of the third-best record in the National League.
By the end of the month, Casey was in a walking boot. His injured calf did not heal despite sunny early reports of his imminent return. Casey wound up on the DL. When he came back, he was lousy. If he was not playing hurt, he was not playing well. In July he played most of the games and put up better but still lousy .234 / .338 / .375 numbers. If his injuries heal before these post-injury periods of swinging a wet noodle, then we can still say that Casey has trouble both playing with injury and playing after injury. Given that he speaks of his ability to play through pain, I'm guessing that he has consistently returned from injury before he was truly ready.
Come August, he was back to early-season form, hitting .349 / .400 / .594 in good health. He wore down in September and finished 2004 with .324 / .381 / .534 numbers in 625 PAs.
As a Pirate fan, I find this 2004 season encouraging. It’s clear that Casey will be a substantial injury risk for the Bucs, and it’s clear that Casey will probably play hurt and suck before anyone figures out he’s hurt. But it’s also still clear to me that he still has 900-1000 OPS upside. When he’s been healthy, he’s been very good.
This past season, Casey missed time at the end of spring training with some kind of leg problem. In gamer fashion, he told the Cincinnati Enquirer, "If this was the season, I'd wrap it up and play.” Let’s hope that the Pittsburgh reporters follow up such statements with questions such as, “Is it possible that you would be hurting the team and delaying full recovery by doing that?”
Perhaps because of this leg problem, he stumbled out of the gate, hitting only .276 / .323 / .356. By May he was on fire again, hitting .361 / .415 / .505. Toward the end of the month, he jammed his left shoulder in the field and missed a number of games. Casey apparently feared some terrible injury to his surgically-repaired shoulder. At this same time, you may remember, the Reds cut Danny Graves and Casey was widely quoted as “shocked,” teary-eyed, and somewhat unglued. Things were coming apart for Casey; I’m sure his memories of this part of the season are not pleasant.
An MRI revealed only a bruised rotator cuff, so he did the tough-guy thing and played hurt for all of June and July. Austin Kearns and Ryan Freel were out for most of these months, so Casey played in place of guys like Jason Romano. But the Reds were 18 games under .500 on July 1, so why not play Jason Romano and get your slugger back into form? Casey's June and July numbers were acceptable only for a middle infielder: .303 / .349 / .364 in June, .287 / .374 / .386 in July.
It appears from his stats – if they can tell the story - that his shoulder had recovered by early August. He was hitting the ball with authority then. If he had missed a few more weeks in June, would his shoulder have healed more quickly? As a Pirate fan, I’d much rather have one month of Craig Wilson and/or Brad Eldred if it means Casey will return to his 900-1000 OPS form at the end of their relief work.
In mid-August, before a game, Casey signed 200 promotional figurines for employees of the Reds organization. In his first at-bat, he felt something in his shoulder and removed himself from the game. At this point, Jerry Narron revealed to the media that Casey had played much of the season with pain in the shoulder. “He has not made an excuse about [his shoulder] and has played through it. At times it has felt good and at times he has struggled with it, and tonight he just couldn't go.” When did Jerry Narron find out that Casey’s shoulder hurt him? I’d be asking that question if I was a beat reporter who just learned that an obviously-slumping player was playing through injury.
Casey was godawful in September, hitting only .240 / .278 / .260 in the games before Humberto Cota dealt Casey the third concussion of his playing career. Casey was still woozy on September 24, when Jerry Narron confirmed that his season was finished.
There are a lot of reasons to like the Sean Casey acquisition that have nothing to do with his sunny disposition or willingness to sign 200 bobbleheads in the hours before a game.
The Pirates are pretty good defensively. Their young rotation has tremendous potential, and it’s not crazy talk to speculate on the odds that Mike Gonzalez might develop, as Jim Tracy likes to say, into an Eric Gagne-like closer.
The problem for the Pirates is offense. They are committed to Jack Wilson and Jose Castillo. Jack Wilson’s Michael Young impersonation ended abruptly with the start of the 2005 season. We don’t what we’ll get from him in 2006, his walk year. Jose Castillo’s development as a hitter does not appear to have him on the Chase Utley career path. The rookie catcher (Doumit) and centerfielder (Duffy) are unproven. The relatively inexperienced third baseman (Freddy Sanchez) is an equal enigma.
For the Bucs to improve significantly in 2006, they will need lots more offense, and they need offense from the corner positions to make up for the probable lack of offense up the middle. Teams with more than one player like Manny Ramirez are not teams that engage in salary dumps. And it makes no sense to overpay in high-upside rookies for a year or two of a Manny Ramirez-type player. The Pirates have the money to take on a high-payroll player, but you can’t buy what’s not for sale.
Sean Casey’s upside is as high as that of almost anyone. The odds that Casey will be healthy wire-to-wire may not be great, but that’s the kind of chance we have to be taking.
All the talk of Sean Casey being a proven mediocrity is just wrong, in my book. His career has been too uneven, and his injuries have been too common and played too obvious a role in the fluctuation of his slugging ability.
We don’t know what we’ll get with Sean Casey in 2006. Projecting the performance of a player like this is a nonsensical exercise. The track record suggests that if he’s healthy, he’ll be very good, and he’ll more than justify his salary. If he’s not healthy, he won’t be so good, but he may be good enough that Jim Tracy will not raise too many eyebrows by running him out their through what might look, on the surface, to be nothing more than a prolonged slump.
If Pirate fans can do anything to help, I think they can do two things. First, watch Casey's performance and question his health if he's slumpy. In almost every down month since 1999, Casey has been going on or coming off the DL. Or playing, as he did for all of 2003, with conspicuous nagging injuries. He's too good to just suck for no reason for a whole month.
Second, Pirate fans should not expect Sean Casey to play more than three-quarters of the games. We should ask each other, who is the back-up plan? The Pirates must have one, I think. If you can't rest Casey, you can't get the best from him. After reviewing Casey's history of health and preformance, I would strongly urge the organization to keep Craig Wilson for 2006. The Casey signing makes Craiggers even more essential. We need more than Jason Romano backing up Sean Casey.
We can expect great things from Casey without being irrational and merely excited. But we should also expect Littlefield to do a better job providing Jim Tracy with other options for the probably-inevitable period when Casey needs rehab time. Littlefield has always been about "flexibility," so I'd guess Tracy will be better off in that department than Boone and Narron were. But we shall see.
Littlefield frustrates the Brew Crew, who covet left-handed bullpen help.
When the Pirates lost out to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the bidding for free-agent third baseman Bill Mueller, the Brewers thought they might show some interest in Branyan. Instead, Pittsburgh has been talking to free agent Joe Randa, a Milwaukee native.
That's Tom Haudricourt reporting for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Online.
Russell the Muscle and Corey Patterson might be available as FAs come Dec. 20.
Do we really expect the Pirates to offer arbitration to all eligible players? During the season, I thought it looked like some of those guys were going to get cut. But times have changed, I guess. The Pirates have money to spend and no one worth spending it on.
Who backs up Chris Duffy next year? Nate McLouth? Are they both making the opening-day roster as of right now?
Or is it Stanford grad Jody Gerut? He once hit righties pretty well. How is his left shoulder? He and Sean Casey can start Torn Left Rotator Cuff club when they finally get together.
For MLB.com, Jim Molony reviews the more than 150 free agents who are still unsigned. He also notes the Bucs are interested in Reggie Sanders, who will command a multi-year deal.
Four free agent hitters drawing plenty of attention are Johnny Damon (with the Red Sox, Dodgers and Yankees believed to be the frontrunners), Nomar Garciaparra (Dodgers, Astros, Yankees, Indians), Jacque Jones (Rangers, Royals) and Reggie Sanders (Mariners, Pirates, Royals).
The list of outfielders who are still looking for homes includes Jeromy Burnitz, Jeff Conine, Juan Encarnacion, Juan Gonzalez, Preston Wilson, Rondell White, Sammy Sosa, Todd Hollandsworth, Terrence Long, Kenny Lofton, Marquis Grissom, Michael Tucker and Richard Hidalgo.
As for catchers, Bengie Molina is still available, as are Mike Piazza, Eddie Perez and Einar Diaz, to name a few.
Garciaparra certainly isn't the only veteran infielder still looking for work.
Frank Thomas, J.T. Snow, Rafael Palmeiro, Travis Lee, Tino Martinez, Bret Boone, Tony Graffanino, Jose Vizcaino, Dustan Mohr, Mark Bellhorn, Miguel Cairo, Alex Gonzalez, Royce Clayton, Chris Gomez, Wes Helms and Joe Randa are still on the board.
Pick your poison.
For 3B, Tony Graffanino, Joe Randa, and Mark Bellhorn look like the obvious picks, but all three are no better than Rob Mackowiak. Graffanino hits righties the best, but he's the worst third baseman of the group. Randa hits lefties OK, so acquiring him negates any usefulness Freddy Sanchez might have. He's not a good fit. Bellhorn doesn't hit much at all. Why sign a veteran for the Noonie role? The Bucs would do better to promote a younger player and see if he develops.
The outfielders are pretty non-exciting. Burnitz and Wilson, low-OBP sluggers, will not help much since we already have a cast of low-OBP players. Juan Encarnacion is just mediocre. Juan Gonzalez is a career 900 OPS hitter, so his upside is appealing. We're already betting on one high-upside-when-healthy player, though. He made 600K for one at-bat last year. I'm not sure what shape he's in now, but if he's good to go in March, I would take a chance on him. Rondell White is Matt Lawton with less OBP and more power. He looks good on paper only until you see him play the field. Sosa has been a useless gimp. Richard Hidalgo, only 30, reminds me of Craig Wilson. He had some kind of terrible wrist injury in 2005.
Off that last, I'd take a longer look at Gonzalez and Hidalgo, but I would not jump to sign either guy. The Pirates will have to look for a more sure thing through trade.
Derek Jacques works an extended lady-vomit metaphor in this notebook entry.
...my first impression of this piece was, "OK." Upon further review, however, instant replay clearly shows that the following paragraph is lazy or stupid:
But excitement is somewhat beside the point here. Littlefield apparently believes that his ballclub is at the stage where it needs to be supplemented with some veteran talent to rise to the next level. Based on recent research by Nate Silver, we’d have to disagree with that assessment, since the benefits of going from a 67 win team to a 77 win team aren’t likely to make a big difference to Pittsburgh’s bottom line.
First, excitement is never beside the point. All hail excitement!
Second, Littlefield has not made a lot of noise about veteran talent beyond the typical stuff. For example, on Roberto Hernandez:
"We like [closer] Mike Gonzalez a lot, but it doesn't hurt to have another option. Roberto is a veteran guy with a proven track record in late-inning situations."And have you heard anything about veteran talent taking us to the next level? Littlefield, from the same article:
"We've made some improvements but when you're coming off a 67-95 season you've got a long way to go," he said.
So Jacques has his platitudes mixed up. Littlefield has not been indicating that the acquisiton of veterans like Hernandez will take the team to the next level. Rather, he's been repeating the humble fact that the Bucs still probably suck even with the addition of veteran insurance policies like Hernandez.
Finally, why promote Silver's analysis of the 77-win vs. 67-win team and the bottom line? It just does not follow. To get to 87 wins, the team has to get to 77 wins first.
Maybe Littlefield is worried, first and foremost, about the bottom line. But it makes no sense to criticize the Bucs for trying to get better. A 77-team may be mediocre, but it beats a 67-win team. Perhaps Jacques meant to write that BP disagrees with his assessment that some veterans will help make the team more mediocre. As it stands, though, he argues that the Pirates should not even bother trying to improve marginally, since marginal improvements are not likely to improve the bottom line. And that's just dumb.
I've long been a proponent of the theory that only winning sells tickets. Search the archives; I've said that again and again and again since we started this blog in
2003 1903. The team has to get to mediocre before they can get to good.
So what do you think of him? Azibuck had a good rant in previous comments.
He's a .268 / .363 / .488 hitter in five seasons and 1750 PAs. He's 29 in 2006. Hits lefties much better than righties. Good OBP, but it's somewhat scary: he has a 162 walks in his career and 81 HBPs.
No doubt, right now, he's a big part of any chance the Pirates have in 2006. No doubt he'll play, probably a lot, for us. But are you comfortable depending on him for full-time duty in 2006? For 600 PAs?
I'm not. I don't know how you expect a player who leans into so many pitches to finish the season healthy. He managed 600 PAs in 2004, so maybe it can happen.
The main reason I'm not, however, is his freaky streakiness. For the first two months of 2004, he was all the best of Jim Thome. Then he followed that up with a 587 OPS in June. A bad Thome month - and he has had them - is like a 780 OPS. Craiggers' post-ASB numbers were .235 / .322 / .453. That's not bad, but that won't carry a team.
The killer for me was Wilson's performance last April. He hit .234 / .388 / .250 in what was one of the most disappointing months of Pirate baseball in the last so many disappointing years. He looked like the Tommy Maddox of clean-up hitters. More or less given command of the (weak) lineup, he wilted. He's not on Jason Bay's level.
When we sit around and talk about how the Pirates need another middle-of-the-order bat to compete next year, we're not forgetting about Craig Wilson. We'd be deluding ourselves, I think, if we regarded him as the overlooked answer to the clean-up spot.
And all the talk about Pirate fans not regarding Craiggers as a full-time player is so 2003. Even if we pencil him in as an everyday player, it would not be wise to regard him as a 650 PA everyday regular. He's not a good bet to play all 162 games; I don't think he has the track record to make that prediction sound.
He's a part of the middle of the lineup. Because of his platoon split, the likelihood of beanball injury, and the way he wore down in 2004, I say he's probably best regarded as a 400-450 PA part.
He's a valuable player, but his value is not so high that this team can afford to build everything around him. If the Bucs were stronger up the middle of the field, and if the Bucs had just acquired a 1000 OPS first baseman, then there wouldn't be so much urgency to find a 900 OPS, 650 PA player for 3B or RF. It's not Craig Wilson's fault, but his inadequacies are magnified by the general inadequacy of his teammates. He'd be more valuable on any team that could better afford to ride out his slumps and replace his convalescent time.
Wilson plays 1B and RF, two positions where it's more likely that the Pirates could find a better hitter. So all the talk about trading Craig Wilson to help fetch and make room for an upgrade makes sense to me.
Will we find that upgrade? Yes. As soon as the Red Sox trade Manny to us for Zach Duke.
There's no pleasing Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus. The guy hates the Bucs for some reason. I subscribe to the site and generally enjoy it, but they are weak on the Bucs. They've been infatuated with Craig Wilson, for example, for much too long. Can they say, Jack Cust? Erubiel Durazo? They have lousy taste in slugging prospects, and they can't get over it. I'm all about Craiggers slotted into a 450-PA time-share, but I'm not about to give him the keys to the clean-up spot.
And then there's Eldred. In his November 11 "AFL Report," Sheehan wrote:
Brad Eldred: He can't play. He's huge and he hits the balls he hits a long way, but he can't play. If the Pirates give Eldred at-bats ahead of Craig Wilson, they're making a mistake. Eldred's bat is just too slow, and he doesn't recognize pitches well enough to get away with a long swing.
Now today he writes, about the Sean Casey deal:
Dan O’Brien’s good decision is David Littlefield’s bad one, as the Pirate GM blocks a prospect, spends money and doesn’t improve his team by acquiring Sean Casey from the Reds.
Which is it? Can Eldred play? Is he a prospect? Or can he not play? Is he a non-prospect?
The rest of Sheehan's paragraph is cribbed from Bob Smizik.
My point is not so much that Sheehan's wrong or that Sheehan's a lousy writer or that Sheehan's curmudgeon act with the Bucs is stale, predictable, and unoriginal. My point is there's little consistency to the BP Pirates coverage. Why call Eldred a prospect this month after calling him a non-player last month? The only explanation is there is no explanation. It's knee-jerk and unprincipled.
Ed Bouchette reports that Staley will not dress again, most likely.
Of the guys they got, I like Parker the least. He reminds me of Amos Zereoue. Shifty Steeler third-down backs have a way of making a big splash and doing little with full-time work. I think he'd be more effective as a third-down back.
Jerome Bettis is great as a pinch-runner. He can't start -- well, not if you want to use him again a week later.
Staley's the one I'd like to see healthy and getting twenty touches a game. But he won't dress.
The question I have: why not Verron Haynes? He's never had a chance to be the feature back, and I think he'd come up big if they ever gave him most of the carries. Until Staley is ready, I'd like to see him as the primary ball-carrier, Parker as the third-down back, and Bettis as the pinch-runner.
Either DL has gotten into the funny water again, or this is a brilliant publicity stunt to raise fan support for signing Bill Mueller.
RB Jerome Bettis broke off a 39-yard run Sunday, his longest in three years, and he appeared to need oxygen afterward. "Well, I never had much gas," He said, after bullying his way to 101 yards, 100 in the second half. "My job is to get all the yards I can get and live to fight another day. ... There's a big difference between me and Willie Parker. He's the home-run guy. I'm the bunt guy -- get on base, manufacture a score."
In other news, the Steelers signed Ty Wigginton to the practice squad. They apparently like the plays Bones drew up for him.
I like this stuff. Black beers are the shit for me these days, and this Avery New World Porter is pretty good stuff. With Iron City bankrupt, you'd think some microbrew would go for the Steelers market with a special "Joey Porter."
Pirate fans already have Big League Brew, which can come with a nice Honus Wagner four-bottle carrier. It looks good on my bookshelf. I use such things as spacers since I'm always taking down and putting up the various books.
I just looked at this guys stats for a few minutes, and I want him. Look here.
First, he's a free agent. He won't cost us another pitcher. He may cost a lot of dough, but I'll set that question aside. The market is doing its thing.
One thing to like: .373 career OBP. Like Casey, he has Mark Grace-looking career numbers. Another thing to like: he hits righties. .302 / .378 / .451 last year. .315 / .394 / .490 2002 to 2004.
Thing is, we have this other guy who plays third who hits lefties pretty well.
Mueller, like Casey, is probably not going to manage 650 PAs in 2006. We need at least 650 PAs at each of the positions, maybe 700 at first base. Casey has averaged about 625 per year recently. Eldred or Wilson could easily make up the rest. If we sign Mueller, who has been more of a 450-550 PA guy, we know some of those lost at-bats could be thrown profitably to Freddy Sanchez. If he's a little gimpy and we are facing Eric Milton, he sits and Sanchez plays.
The thing I really want is a Manny Christmas. Like that will happen. The big knock on Mueller, for me, is not the low slugging percentage. It's not good but the high OBP makes up for much of what it lacks. The knock on Mueller is the possibility - looks strong considering his career numbers - that he manages only 450 PA while hobbling around with some kind of nagging injury. But we have Sanchez and we could mandate rest for a guy with such a gimpy track record. Tracy could keep him fresh and find time for Sanchez.
The more I think on it, the more I want him.
And unlike Bones, I like the Hernandez signing. Glad to have another Token Geezer on the staff. My first choice was Julio Franco, but Roberto will do.
For 41-year-old Roberto Hernandez's one year deal, DK reports. Apparently he's not been promised the closer's role but could step in should Gonzo falter. We outbid the Yanks' 2.5 million offer. Hernandez' career and last year's stats are better than I would've guessed, but this is an atrocious move at a brainsick price.
DK also reports that the Bucs have upped their offer to three years now to anemic but slick-fielding 3B Bill Mueller, who has not been traded to the Dodgers, contrary to the rumors a few days ago. Plus DL is actively pursuing the volatile but gifted Milton Bradley. After the Roberto signing and the J.T. Snow/Bill Mueller interest, I'd be thrilled if we signed Milton. Sure, he throws beer bottles back into the stands and fights the power, but he's young and can hit.
In other news from yesterday, the Bucs added Victor Santos in the Rule 5 draft. No Bucs were selected, so Boeve stays. To make room for Santos, we released Wiggy. I have mixed feelings about this, as I had a plan for Wiggy.
Chad Blackwell and Clayton Hamilton were named the PTBNL in the Redman and Bobby Hill trades respectively.
Turns out the Reds will only pay 1 million of Casey's contract.
Mesa signed with the Rockies for 2 million. With Joe, Tike, and Wiggy gone, who will be our new whipping boy?
DL's offers/interest this week in J.T. Snow, Bill Mueller, and especially Roberto Hernandez disturb me. That said, I love the Mack-o-wack for Marte deal. Rob can play six positions, but his .726 OPS had no business batting clean-up for the '05 Pirates. And we've got other versatile IFs.
In the last four years, LHP Marte has 259 IP, only 195 hits, a scary 119 BB, and an impressive 281 Ks. That makes for a 1.21 WHIP, and a K/IP of 1.1. Filthy. I'd gladly give Damaso the ball in the 9th or any other inning, or trade him or any of our other lefty relievers for a hitter.
Hopefully not one year too late. Story here.
...FWIW, Marte reminds me of Ricardo Rincon. He will probably be easier to trade than a utilityman. He makes the other left-handed relievers ... yeah, every one of them ... more expendable.
Mackowiak was a good story. Was he something of a McClendon loyalist? Not that there is any reason to think this would put him on the outs with the new manager; it's just that of all the players, I'd guess he was one of the ones who McClendon was most proud of. That was the impression I got. I'm curious to hear what the rest of you think.
His departure and the addition of yet another left-hander makes me think there will be more deals and signings soon.
Let's open the book of stats on this guy and get some facts about him. Because he's slow, I think I'd hit him behind Jason Bay, in the clean-up spot, unless Craig Wilson is all green, angry, and muscle-bound, ripping the ball like a healthy
Hulk Man Jim Thome. Which he was, once upon a time, for half a season. My uneducated guess, the night of the trade, was that a healthy Casey will be something like a .300 / .370 / .480 hitter for the Pirates. Do the numbers support that expectation? In this post, I will take myself to school and look through his numbers. Jump to the end if you just want the conclusion.
A quick look at his 2005 splits sent me to his game log. Why? His righty/lefty splits are somewhat lopsided: he got about 200 PA vs. lefties and 350 PA vs. righties. That's a LOT of lefties for a left-hander to face. Usually the number is closer to one at-bat against a lefty for every three against a righty.
I went down this road awhile, but it's a dead end. Casey has no platoon split. He hits lefties and righties equally well, so there's no reason to think his 2005 numbers are skewed by that unusual parade of left-handed pitching before his eyes. Moving along ...
Staring the 2002-2004 averages in the eye, I see that .480 looks unrealistic as a starting point. The average of his 2005 numbers and his 2002-2004 numbers, .444, is probably a better starting point.
There two factors I would consider first when translating this .444 into black and gold. First, the effect of his home park. And second, the relationship between his health and his power. Since his health is bound up with his age, the two things have to be considered together. It's not at all clear to me if we should expect better or worse from Casey, going forward, because of recovery from health problems and aging. That will have to be another post.
Let's start with that ballpark in southern Ohio. It's new so the stats are slim. And it has a reputation for being a hitter's park. I've always chalked that up to the lousy Reds' pitching staff--something that would not benefit Sean Casey's home power numbers.
ESPN now provides this Park Factor page. It shows that the park was top-10 for homers, average for hits, average for doubles, and insanely below average for triples (he's not slow! no one triples in that park!). The 2004 numbers were the same. In '04 and '05, PNC Park played below average for homers, above average for hits and doubles, and average for triples. The 2004 Bill James handbook measured Great American as below average for left-handed batting average and above average for left-handed home-run hitting. The same authority measured PNC Park, in 2002-2004, as above average for left-handed batting average and below average for left-handed home-run hitting. In 2004 alone, it played above average for left-handed hitters in batting average and home-run hitting. As we all know, PNC plays more or less like a neutral park with two exceptions--right-handers lose home runs to Jason Bay in left-center, and some (but not all) left-handers have an easy time homering to right field.
That look into park factors suggests that Casey, a career .305 hitter, will hit for an even better average at PNC Park. He was fifth in the NL in batting average in 2005. He should, again, compete for a batting title in PNC in 2006. Despite the short porch in right, he may not hit more home runs. Great American was already padding his home runs numbers to about the same degree we might expect from PNC.
Average plays a role in slugging percentage. If Casey gets more hits, his OBP and SLG stand to gain from that. How much? Let's say not much, but let's remember to add a few points to his OPS at the end.
Now that I've looked at the park effect in a general way, it makes sense to look at it in a specific way. In other words, how much did Sean Casey like hitting in Great American Ballpark? He surely spent many days wishing he was hitting off his own team's pitchers, but given the park's reputation as a launching pad, we'd guess he liked it, right?
Well, that would be wrong. In 2005, the Mayor hit .293 / .352 / .395 at home. And he hit .330 / .389 / .451 on the road. That's 750 OPS at home, 840 on the road. How was this guy a fan favorite?
His 2002-2004 splits are even more Cincinnati-hating. I like him more and more to learn that. He hit for a 900 OPS on the road and a 750 OPS at home. That's amazing. But, it stands to reason. If you lived in Cincinnati, wouldn't you hate it? That is one ugly lice- and interstate-infested city.
Sean Casey hit .341 / .397 / .504 outside of Cincinnati between 2002 and 2004. He hit .278 / .337 / .408 in Cincinnati. One of us! One of us! One of us!
The 900 OPS, preferably with 380+ OBP, is the threshold for me between good hitter and Damn Good Hitter. I especially get drooling when I see a high OPS that's 45% OBP. That's good stuff people.
Unfortunately, since the Reds are in our division, Sean Casey will play a lot of games in his 750 OPS shoes. Sixteen, I think. The good news is that we can expect to see more of Casey's road numbers.
We all expect to get something like the best of him here in Pittsburgh. After all, we all know he has murdered Pirate pitching. It's Pirate pitching, some will say, so his .378 / .459 / .581 numbers in PNC Park for 2002-2004 don't mean much. I say they're wrong. Our pitching has long been average; it's our hitting that has flat-out sucked the last five years.
Instead of playing 81 games in the GAB, Casey will play what, 16 games there. If we average his three-year to 2004 and 2005 numbers, we get 750 OPS at the GAB, 870 elsewhere. If we weight them as a Pirate, we get ((750*16)+(870*(162-16)))/162 or 858.
So I'm now expecting he'll manage an 860 OPS (I'll add a conservative two points for the good effect PNC will have on his batting average and the non-effect it will probably have on his home-run hitting [see above]).
If it's a typical Sean Casey OPS distribution - his career numbers are .305 / .371 / .462 - we're looking at something like .325 / .380 / .460 as a Pirate. I will take that and I will like that.
And that's without weighting PNC heavier than all the other road stadiums Casey visited as a Red. Let's not overstate his love of PNC; he's only played about sixty games here over the last four years and maybe they fell in unusually healthy places.
... Vlad uncovers this great Primer link for more park factors.
... And all hail Tom Veil making some of these same arguments in previous comment threads. If I had thicker skin, I'd read all them comment threads more carefully.
... And note our Official non-patented Honest Wagner KHALIFA projections consider age and health history, so this current projection is merely a working one.
John Perrotto for the Beaver County Times reports:
[On the Redman trade} "This gives us a chance to use the money in different areas, maybe pursue players on a different level now," Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said.
The Pirates have made a two-year offer to free-agent third baseman Bill Mueller worth a reported $7 million and could possibly increase it. They might also step up their pursuit of free agent Nomar Garciaparra to play third.
The Pirates' chances of trading for Washington first baseman/outfielder Brad Wilkerson and Texas outfielder Kevin Mench appeared to end Wednesday, though, as they were rebuffed in trade proposals.
The Pirates also have interest in Toronto outfielder Alex Rios, though they refuse to part with rookie lefty Paul Maholm. Rios, 24, hit .262 with 10 homers, 59 RBIs and 14 steals in 146 games last season.
I'd be stepping up those trade offers before I'm beefing up those offers to these free agents.
Dejan Kovacevic for the Post-Gazette reports:
Strong indications on the third day of Major League Baseball's winter meetings were that it would be on a reliever with experience in late innings, an area Littlefield reiterated was his top priority after first base.
Argh - my head hurts! That is sooooooo wrong.
Two relievers in whom the Pirates have shown a strong interest are Braden Looper and Roberto Hernandez, agent Randy Hendricks confirmed last night.
Looper, 31, had 28 saves in 36 opportunities last season as the New York Mets' closer and a 3.94 earned run average. He made $5.3 million and is seeking a two-year deal on a similar pay scale.
Hernandez, 41, was Looper's setup man and made 67 appearances while posting a 2.58 ERA. Because of his age, he surely would have to settle for one year.
Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Get your relievers as NRIs when you're last in the league scoring runs. Now is not the time to cool your pursuit of a middle-of-the-lineup hitter.
DK also has the Bucs looking at Craig Monroe and Trot Nixon. Both those guys sound like logical targets.
All hail Jonah Bayliss! Whoever that is.
Trade details here.
Seeing that the Pirates acted so quickly to shed that extra Sean Casey payroll, it looks to me like they are hoarding the additional $15M or so budgeted for 2006. Perhaps for some top-secret purpose? I can think of one thing only: Manny Christmas!
Pure conjecture, of course, but I'll get out to the store for more beer right about now.
Not so giddy this morning, but I still like the trade. Looking through his career numbers, I see he does not have the power we need, this is true. He's no wimp, though. The 44 doubles in 2004 jump out at me - Casey is not a burner on the bases.
He looks due for some rebound in 2006. He's hit real well at PNC Park. I like the guy. The 1999 season obviously made a strong impression on me. The intervening years were not as productive as I would have guessed.
The Bucs need a top-level talent in the middle of the lineup. Casey is not, or has not been, a top-level talent recently. Of the second-tier guys, though, he's one of the better choices.
I am not high on Brad Eldred's ability to do more than hit seventh. Maybe now we go after Russell the Muscle, wedge him into a time-share at third, and trade one or more of our no-power utility players. I'm not sure where we go from here. We're still looking at a team that needs more power.
The Bucs will spend about an additional $5M for Casey in 2006. That's not a lot of money for a veteran player of Casey's stature. I'd rather see the team put all the extra payroll into bringing us a Manny Christmas, but that's not going to happen. I am not moved by the harping that the Pirates could have done better or more for the money this off-season. And I seriously doubt we could have done more or better with Dave Williams as trade bait.
I still call it a good, even a great, deal. It looks better with lots of beer but so does everything.
All hail Sean Casey! I raise this Samuel Adams Black and Gold Lager to him. Nyar! If you don't have a beer in your hand, go get one. Root beer will do if you are under 21.
I'm a little giddy. Maybe it's the contrast to J.T. Snow rumors; maybe it's the Black Lager. Either way, I love the trade.
Pittsburgh has a new Mayor. You'll hear that a lot tomorrow. Welcome home, Sean Casey. This is a great move by David Littlefield. I will dedicate the next Black Lager to Dave. Good work, DL.
Casey is a great guy, as this kind of bio argues. They have loved this guy everywhere he has played. Not so much because he's a great guy who shakes hands and what not, but because he's a great player. He's been long capable of 900-1000 OPS seasons. There was a point at which he looked like a Hall of Famer. Had he stayed healthy his entire career, he'd be paid today like Bobby Abreu or Manny Ramirez. And yeah, this will be his walk year.
His power has come and gone with injuries, but even when injured, he's still been a useful high-OBP player. He hits left-handed, he wants to play in Pittsburgh, he plays first base: he's a good fit. I forget the exact details of his injuries. I've followed him, however, for fantasy sports reasons, and I don't remember his groin separating from the bone or his ankle protruding from his flesh. I'm pretty sure he'll be good to go for 2005. I'll look into all that stuff later in the week. I think he had a thumb problem one year and some shoulder surgery that he survived in good form.
I like the price. And that's a surprise: I'm ready to trade everbody so us keeping Ollie and Duke and Maholm, that's good news to me. Tomorrow we can trade them, with Kip Wells and Mark Redman and Josh Fogg, for Manny Ramirez.
One last thing. All hail Dave Williams. He'll be good for the Reds I'm sure. I'd far rather have him in my rotation than Eric Milton or Ramon Ortiz. Wouldn't you? Depending on your opinion of Aaron Harang, you might even regard Dave Williams as the new ace of their staff.
But no doubt our cup of left-handed soft-tossers runneth over. He'll help them more than he would help us. If I'm a Reds fan, I like the trade I think.
A reader sent me a copy of this Michael Lewis article on Coach Leach of Texas Tech. Lewis is the Moneyball author; Leach looks like this, if we are to believe Lewis's portrait.
Lewis strikes me as the kind of writer who is so good, he's bad. But I won't be a dick and belittle the piece. There are, however, great passages about pirates and Steeler football, so I think you'll enjoy it too. Here's a taste:
His 45-second pregame speech set a certain tempo, but he had one final thing to say:
"Your body is your sword. Swing your sword."
Each off-season, Leach picks something he is curious about and learns as much as he can about it: Geronimo, Daniel Boone, whales, chimpanzees, grizzly bears, Jackson Pollock. The list goes on, and if you can find the common thread, you are a step ahead of his football players. One year, he studied pirates. When he learned that a pirate ship was a functional democracy; that pirates disciplined themselves; that, loathed by others, they nevertheless found ways to work together, the pirate ship became a metaphor for his football team. Last year, after a loss to Texas A.&M. in overtime, Leach hauled the team into the conference room on Sunday morning and delivered a three-hour lecture on the history of pirates. Leach read from his favorite pirate history, "Under the Black Flag," by David Cordingly (the passages about homosexuality on pirate ships had been crossed out). The analogy to football held up for a few minutes, but after a bit, it was clear that Coach Leach was just . . . talking about pirates. The quarterback Cody Hodges says of his coach: "You learn not to ask questions. If you ask questions, it just goes on longer."
The Bucs have extended an offer to free-agent 3B Bill Mueller, who has narrowed his choice between the Bucs and Dodgers. Go west, old Bill, go west. Mueller's a fine player, but doesn't possess the middle-of-the-lineup power the Bucs need.
DK's got the story on Milton Bradley and Olmedo Saenz. Ouch (x2). No thanks. DK also mentions Overbay and Casey as two other players the Bucs have expressed interest in.
Ed Eagle serves it up. He discusses Lyle Overbay as a possible 1B acquisition. I like Lyle. My winter meeting dream sequence features the Bucs adding Troy Glaus, Wily Mo Pena, and Lyle Overbay.
Rob Rossi with the extended interview of Littlefield.
One of many interesting things in there is what I see as DL clarifying the whole not-in-the-A-market comment. Looks to me like he's saying the best players won't come to Pittsburgh, like the issue with acquiring a Manny is not money so much as Manny not wanting to play here on this team.
Steeler D looks ordinary again today. Sad.
Rob Rossi of the Tribune-Review says the mystery man is Nomar.
The Pirates probably wouldn't have to commit to a long-term deal to sign Garciaparra.
His willingness to switch positions could be taken as a sign he's seeking a short-term contract with a club to prove his worth over a couple of seasons before once again testing the free-agent market.
Hmmm. This is a guy with a big name and some serious & seriously recent injuries. He's no solution; he's just another longshot. We tried a gang of longshots in 2004 and 2005, and we saw what happened when some (Bay, Ollie, Duke) come through big-time.
"Right now, we're not in the A-grade market (for free agents)," Littlefield said. "One thing we always try hard to do is find some undervalued players. It's a risky way of doing business. It's not really the way you want to do business, but you always have to supplement."
D'oh! I understand what he's saying there, but the roster is overcrowded with "undervalued" players.
I'd still be looking for a sure thing who could step in and hit cleanup for the next two or three years. You have to score more runs than the other team if you want to win in this league. Signing Garciaparra won't take a lot of money or cost us any prospects. It merely clogs a roster spot that could have been used for a lesser-known longshot.
I'm used to Rowdy's tongue-in-cheek hyperbole, so I didn't think he seriously thought we could pursue Manny. But I don't agree with the general sentiment that we should mortgage the future for a slugger to help us approach .500 for the next two years. Rowdy might be right that players should never be expected to produce more than 2 years in advance. And yes, we have an excess of young pitching talent and should trade some of this for hitters. But given that the minors are largely devoid of position player talent, where will signing a Manny-type for the next couple years really get us?
Maybe it'd generate more money by having a mediocre rather than a league-worst team, and that money could be poured back into the payroll. I doubt that would happen under the current ownership. Maybe instead we should try to get cheaper younger guys like Ryan Church, Lastings Milledge, Wily Mo Pena, Austin Kearns, or Adam Dunn.
How do we trade for Manny Ramirez? Manny could be Manny in Pittsburgh. He was better in Cleveland than Boston.
He is owed $57M for the next three seasons. How much can we increase payroll for this year? I'd be reluctant to trade for someone with a long-term contract, but three years is not overlong by today's standards. Free agents like Manny can easily get three or many more. So this may be the only chance - through trade, mid-contract - to get a non-homegrown hitter of Manny's caliber in Pittsburgh. And note Jason Bay will probably be out of Pittsburgh before we grow our own Manny Ramirez. He is that good.
If the Pirates increase payroll by say $15M over the next three years, that's $45M. We take on that part of the contract and slide Boston whatever prospects they want for the remainder.
If the last four years of Jason Bay's pre-arb and arb-eligible years are worth $18M, five years of Zach Duke should more than compensate for the missing $12M. Maybe we give them Duke for Manny at $14M per year. My people can talk to your people and they can work out the little details.
Manny Ramirez would lay waste the NL Central pitching staffs.
Nice stuff on eBay this morning.
Of course, I'm not the seller of any of that stuff. And I can't afford that stuff either. I just like to "enjoy it in the store," as a friend's mother used to say.
Dejan is back.
The most interesting nugget I can share with you from the handful of conversations I have had in the past couple days is that the club has, at the very least, initiated contact with parties you would think would be way, way out of their standard price range, including free agents.
Bobby Abreu would look so sweet in the black and gold.
Three more scurvy RHPs signed to minor league contracts. 34, 29, and 38 years old, respectively. I guess you can never have too many age-inappropriate wily veterans in the minors. Anyway, welcome aboard, guys. Now grab a mop and swab the deck. Nyarrrrgh.
Huge game on Sunday. Despite last night, Stillers right now are 3.5 point favorites. Not too surprising, though, given our earlier 27-13 win in Cincy. My favorite quotes from that game:
"It was like they wanted a piece of us, and we came out to show them, hey, that's not necessarily a good thing to wish for." - Troy Polamalu
"You have to understand that we're the champions until proven otherwise.'' - Joey Porter
Cowher's sticking to the onside kick call. "The design of it was not to be feast or famine, which it was," Cowher said. "We didn't execute it. Unfortunately, they got the ball and went in and scored."
The success of an on-side kick depends upon the unpredictable vagaries of how a football will bounce (in this case on the turf). How can you execute something you really can't control? I didn't like this call (or the QB draw on 4th-and-4) but agree with Coach that the O-Line crumbled. Although I don't favor this explanation, I'll admit it's possible we just lost to a better team.
My experience following baseball lately has taught me that it is folly to bank long-term player contracts as evidence a team will still have the same great player three or four years from now. Short-term player decisions involve today, tomorrow, next week, the rest of a current season. Long-term player decisions should focus on no more than the next calendar two years. Pitchers are notoriously inconsistent, mainly because of the near-inevitability of injury. Most hitters are not much different.
The draft is an obvious exception. Strong, healthy franchises will do a lot of long-term planning in areas such as the draft, minor-league affiliation, marketing, etc. When dealing with major-league players, however, I don't see the logic with expecting much from anyone in the time frame that begins two calendar years from today or tomorrow.
I imagine that teams understand this, to some degree, and that they regard long-term contracts, as I do, as a way of deferring payment for the next two seasons. In other words, I see a five-year, $45 million dollar contract not as $45M for five years but as $22.5M for two years, to be paid out over five years. Anything the team gets beyond year two is gravy.
A team could wisely invest in a select class of players, and perhaps they could expect that one of every three long-term signings will maintain that high level for the duration of the contract. But who knows how to choose one recently-high-achieving player over another recently-high-achieving player?
I bring this up because a lot of the reporting on the Jason Bay signing confuses me. He played for the minimum. For two years, he excelled; he was a top player. The Pirates reward that by buying out his arbitration years at a rate that is close (if not under) what he would receive through the arbitration process should he continue to perform at this level. I don't think the odds are great that Jason Bay will continue to duplicate 2004 and 2005 year after year after year. That's really rare.
So I think the Bucs made him a rich man, and I think the signing was generous. Well, if not generous, certainly not skinflint. They probably would have saved money had they continued to renew him one year at a time.
But then they have to take their best player to arbitration year after year, which no one enjoys. There are other good reasons to give him a lot of money. The payroll has to go somewhere. The likelihood of salary inflation means that it could be a good investment to defer payment into years three and beyond. Also, if we regard Bay's deal as $18M for two (and not four) years, we have the Bucs paying him $9M per year for two years -- about what he would command, I think, were he a free agent. Better to spend the money on Bay than to spend it on a two-year deal for an older free agent. Plus, Bay brings the chance - looks good now, but who knows - of duplicating 2005 not only in '06 and '07, but also in '08 and '09.
It was a good move, for sure, but not for the reasons I most often read. The Bucs were in no danger of losing Bay. He was going to be their player for the next four years, contract or no contract. He's not a part of some long-term plan that's likely to work; he's more like Bobby Abreu for the next two years, with gravy years and deferred salary to boot.
All hail Jason Bay. I'm glad he's a Pirate. If we had two more hitters like him, we'd be a force in the NL Central.
Smith, Starks, and Farrior all should be back for Monday night's donnybrook. And finally a healthy backfield of Willie, Jerome, Duce, and Verron will be backing up Big Ben. Look for the Steelers to shockingly dominate and pistol-whip Peyton in a 34-20 laugher.
Back. Peyton is impressed (and scared):
"It's extremely impressive what he's been able to do as far as his record when he's been in there. You can tell the team has a ton of confidence when he's in there. His ability to make plays puts defenses in tough situations. For a young player to come in and win games like he has, certainly's been impressive."All hail Big Ben!
Who do you think is to blame for 13 consecutive losing seasons of Pirates baseball?
Rank in order: 1. ownership (McClatchy, Nutting Sr. and Jr., etc.) 2. Cam Bonifay 3. Dave Littlefield 4. the players
Rowdy often suggests the players are the most to blame, which I call "crazy talk".
I'll start the voting with 1-2-3-4. The McNutting's miserly ways effectively guarantee failure year in and year out. DL is not good, but Cam was much worse. The players are usually collectively overmatched, and thus, despite their noble efforts, bear relatively minimal blame for the team's final record.
Just kiddding. But Gordon Edes, Boston Globe, says it makes a lot of sense:
Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield, who worked under John W. Henry in Florida, didn't know last night whether the Sox had asked for permission to talk to him, and is pleased to have the job he has in Pittsburgh, but it makes too much sense for the Sox not to investigate whether the Maine native and UMass grad is available.
I wouldn't let him go. But I always hate to see turnover at the general manager position. So what do I know.
Bay on signing: "I think, first and foremost, it kind of lays a foundation. It's going to show other people that we're going toward something. It's like 'Hey, the Pirates are getting serious now. They're out there trying to win this'... I'm not saying that by signing me we're going to win, but I think that it's a sign that we're taking a step in the right direction."
A rare good day for Pirates fans. Bay signs for $18.25 million through 2009. Our best player gets "a $1 million signing bonus and salaries of $750,000 next year, $3.25 million in 2007, $5.75 million in 2008 and $7.5 million in 2009. His salary in the final year could also escalate by up to $750,000."
"I've had a tough time sleeping the last two nights and now that this day's actually here, it's a very emotional day for me and I'm extremely, extremely happy," a choked-up Bay said. All hail Jason Bay! All hail extreme, extreme happiness!
And on top of all that, the press conference made no mention of Benito Santiago or Julio Franco contracts. I can not tell if this is true or dream.