The New York Times looks at Bay and Oakland's Bobby Crosby.
People are getting a little crazy in these final weeks of waiting.
Ed Eagle serves an interview with the GM.
This made me smile:
EE: There is now a concern among a lot of Pirates fans that I hear from that the team might be tempted to spend the additional money it has this year just for the sake of spending it all.This was the answer to that concern, from DL's response to an earlier question:
We still have some dollars to continue to try to improve the club for 2005 and certainly we'll have more freedom financially as we move forward in future years. But once Spring Training starts, that does not mean that you can't continue to improve the team. There are trades made during Spring Training. There are trades made during the season. Having some dollars available will give us the ability to be in that market. We haven't been a player in that market here in the recent past.
This fits with a few things I've been thinking this week. First, I don't think the Bucs will fall on their face out of the gate. Second, I think some other teams will. Third, why can't we use the extra money to part some quality player from a team that's rebuilding? Every season there's a race to the bottom with some teams. I'm sure there are a half-dozen teams out there who won't trade anyone right now, but, if they start the season winning 33% of their games, will then feel like they need to part with the older players, collect prospects, and go with the youth movement. We did the youth movement last year and we have some surplus youth. Being prepared to take about $5M in salary off another team's hands might be serendipity come late June or July. And that would make headlines, wouldn't it -- the Pirates acquiring someone near the deadline to help now and next year.
I'm all for new blogs. The more, the merrier. It's no coincidence, I think, that the teams with the most blogs also have the blogs with the most traffic. A rising tide lifts all boats. As more and more people break the mainstream news habit, watch the continued proliferation of sports blogs and podcasts (yes, podcasts!) .
I also expect we will continue to see a lot of turnover in the ranks of active blogs. There's not really any money in blogging. All the writing can be a headache. Some people never lose the gnawing fear that they have embarrassed themselves in some irreversible way. I wonder, for example, if this is a coherent paragraph.
But not for long. There's no way to tell if you are suited for it until you try. For some of us, it's as easy as getting out of bed. For others, it becomes a worry or a nightmare. If you are thinking about launching your own blog, I say do it. Just as there is always room for one more person on the bandwagon, so is there always room for one more blog. All hail blogs and bloggers.
So what other new blogs am I missing? And what blogs have recently deceased without my noticing? Use this thread to answer those questions if you like. You can also use the thread to pimp your own blog if you keep one. FWIW, I'll link to the ones that are narrowly focussed on baseball or maybe football. And I'll only link to ones that are more or less regularly updated. If it's brand new, I'll probably wait a month or two to see if keeps rolling. I don't update the blogroll often and I don't want it crowded with deadwood.
But who cares about links - there is also this invention, the bookmark, which we use to follow other blogs I discover as a plod around the internets. So let's hear about what you have to say.
One more thing. If you are a fantasy baseball or rotisserie baseball player (not sure what the difference is, but I know a lot of "roto" guys who think "fantasy" is an effeminate and lame term), check out this and this from yesterday's (or is it today's?) USAToday.
Hopefully all the revenue generated by fantasy baseball will be split evenly among the clubs, like the satellite radio deal, because that would be a boon for the Bucs.
On the other hand, baseball is seriously molesting the hen that lays the golden eggs if they aim to shut down "small-time" games. I'm in one league where half the players would quit before they would learn how to use a new site or (god forbid) a new scoring system. Actually all my leagues are like that. If they want to jack up the fees, fine, but shutting down games in hopes of consolidation will not be good for growing the fan base. It would be a bit like a politician saying he was no longer going to take money from fundraisers that failed to raise at least $1 million.
Yesterday John Perrotto reported that no trades will happen until mid-March, if at all, the way things look today. Also, both the A's and the D'Rays would want Zach Duke for Byrnes or Huff. I'd think about trading Duke for a healthy Kearns but not for Byrnes. Not sure what I'd do for Huff. Since I don't run the team, however, it's pretty certain that my opinion means about nothing. Enjoy the day.
That great comments thread on who is likely to improve versus who is likely to not improve inspires me to do my own survey.
Before I bust down the forty-man roster all fists-of-fury with the projections, I want to be clear about the meaning of my remarks. First, be it known that any baseball player can suddenly suck, overnight, just like that. It could be an injury, it could be Steve Blass disease, it could Rick Ankiel complex, it could D. Ward vs. the Buffet Table. Who knows. It can happen to anyone.
Second, I'll borrow some terminology from Nate Silver's PECOTA system. One of the best things about it, I think, is the Breakout - Improve - Collapse - Attrition breakdown. I regard the players this way. When I say Jose Castillo is a good breakout candidate, I'm not saying he will breakout. I don't know that. I'm saying he has as good a chance of breaking out as any other Buc. Castillo is not exempt from Be-it-known #1. He could be the second coming of Warren Morris. When I say that I think Ward is likely to improve, I don't mean he has no chance of Collapse or Attrition. He could suck more than ever. Or, a year from now, he could even be working the other side of the buffet table as a chef in the food-service industry (with his Jon Anand chef's hat). I make no guarantees. Even if Castillo only has, I'd guess, something like a 6% chance of being out of work six months from now, that's still a pretty likely - as in, wouldn't shock us in hindsight - scenario in the world of sport. We don't sit around kicking ourselves with questions like "What are the odds Jason Bay hits that home run?" after such 6-in-100 possibilities are realized. There is a tendency to regard what happened as though it were inevitable but that's never the case. Not in this gambler's mind at least. J.J. Davis could have played well last year. Oliver Perez could have continued to pitch only as well as he did in Spring Training. Shit happens man.
Third, more Buccos will improve than decline in 2005 because the team is young. That said, a lot of the downturn will be attributed, like Kip Wells's off year in 2004, to unexpected or unforeseeable injury. My projections - let's call them the KHALIFA (Kids Have A Lotta Improving Future Ahead) projections - do not account for injury or even factor in the slightest hunch I may or may not have that one of these guys will spend time on the DL.
With no further ado, here are the projections. Most players fall into one of five categories. There is "breakout" and then is "improve," which means more likely to improve than breakout. Much of that has to do with the suckiness of the 2004 performance. Rather than use "Collapse," which has traumatic connotatons, I'll use "Hold steady" and "Off year." "Attrition" means more likely to get cut from the team than likely to play enough to have an "off year." As I just said, in no sense does anyone's forecast rule out, guarantee, or even really predict any outcome. Rather the KHALIFA projections only suggest what I think is the most likely outcome. Never in my wildest dreams do I expect all of the most likely scenarios to be realized.
99 Bobby Bradley R/R 5-11 190 12/15/80
61 Sean Burnett L/L 5-11 190 09/17/82
27 Josh Fogg R/R 6-0 205 12/13/76
51 Mike Gonzalez R/L 6-2 200 05/23/78
39 John Grabow L/L 6-2 210 11/04/78
37 Mike Johnston L/L 6-2 225 03/30/79
46 Brian Meadows R/R 6-4 230 11/21/75
49 Jose Mesa R/R 6-3 235 05/22/66
62 Jeff Miller R/R 6-4 230 02/01/80
48 Oliver Perez L/L 6-2 200 08/15/81
43 Matt Peterson R/R 6-5 210 02/11/82
55 Mark Redman L/L 6-5 245 01/05/74
53 Ian Snell R/R 5-11 170 10/30/81
45 Cory Stewart L/L 6-4 210 11/14/79
16 Salomon Torres R/R 5-11 215 03/11/72
47 John Van Benschoten R/R 6-4 215 04/14/80
22 Ryan Vogelsong R/R 6-3 210 07/22/77
32 Kip Wells R/R 6-3 200 04/21/77
58 Dave Williams L/L 6-3 220 03/12/79
Breakout: Zach Duke, not mentioned, may be the only one worth considering here. Improve: Fogg, Gonzalez, Grabow, Torres, Wells, Redman, Vogelsong, Dave Williams. Steady: Fogg, Oliver Perez, Meadows. Off year: Don't see one coming. Attrition: Mesa. All the rest: I don't have much of a clue. Comment: Gonzalez is young and raw. Improvement seems likely, especially for a guy with his stuff. Grabow can only get better or get cut. I think better is more likely. Torres falls into this category because I think he'll keep his current level of effectiveness as he pitches more and more high-leverage innings. Kip Wells was an ace in 2003. I expect he's more likely to return to ace form than he is to just totally suck. Mark Redman had a crazy first year in the AL. Now he's back in the NL, I expect he'll be more like the guy he was in Florida. I'm still worried he'll put our defense to sleep but I see likely improvement over his 2004 numbers. Vogelsong reminds me of Brett Tomko. Just as Tomko stuck around and now turns in capable stretches, so do I think Vogelsong will stick around. He falls under the category of improve because his 2004 numbers make improvement almost certain if he avoids attrition. Dave Williams strikes me as someone who, like Josh Fogg, will get better with experience. He turns 26 next month. He's a kid and kids are more likely to get better than old men. Steady: Josh Fogg I have learned never to doubt. He was better in so many ways in the second half of 2004. Oliver Perez was so good in 2004, it seems unlikely he'll duplicate that in 2005. The idea of sophomore slump jumps out at you. Is he the next Dontrelle Willis? The answer is no, I think. For one, his stuff is just too amazingly good. And for another, last year wasn't his rookie season. I think he's likely to be too good for the words "off year" without necessarily duplicating 2004. Meadows is steady as they come. Attrition: The only guy who I think has a greater chance of getting cut for injury or sudden incompetence is Old Man Mesa. Because he's old. That said, who knows. I like the re-signing because I think it's smart to use the best relievers in the seventh and eighth innings. It's not smart to use an incompetent pitcher in any inning. He never looked incompetent to me in 2004, but I know he's an Old Man, so who knows. Hitters:
Catchers B/T Ht Wt DOB
11 Humberto Cota R/R 6-0 195 02/07/79
14 Ryan Doumit S/R 6-0 200 04/03/81
30 J.R. House R/R 6-0 210 11/11/79
56 Ronny Paulino R/R 6-3 230 04/21/81
34 Benito Santiago R/R 6-1 200 03/09/65
Infielders B/T Ht Wt DOB
50 Jose Bautista R/R 6-0 195 10/19/80
14 Jose Castillo R/R 6-1 200 03/19/81
35 Brad Eldred R/R 6-5 270 07/12/80
17 Bobby Hill S/R 5-9 175 04/03/78
12 Freddy Sanchez R/R 5-10 190 12/21/77
31 Daryle Ward L/L 6-1 240 06/27/75
19 Ty Wigginton R/R 6-0 225 10/11/77
2 Jack Wilson R/R 6-0 180 12/29/77
Outfielders B/T Ht Wt DOB
38 Jason Bay R/R 6-2 200 09/20/78
29 Rajai Davis S/R 5-11 190 10/19/80
26 Chris Duffy S/L 5-10 185 04/20/80
50 Matt Lawton L/R 5-10 190 11/03/71
3 Rob Mackowiak L/R 5-10 190 06/20/76
64 Nate McLouth L/R 5-11 185 10/28/81
5 Tike Redman L/L 5-11 175 03/10/77
36 Craig Wilson R/R 6-2 220 11/30/76
Breakout: Jose Castillo. Improve: Ward, Wigginton, Mackowiak, all the kids who won't make the 25-man roster at the end of March. Steady: Hill, Bay, Craiggers. Off year: Jack Wilson, Matt Lawton. Attrition: Santiago, Tike Redman. Comments: If the Bucs had sent Jose Castillo to AA last year, my guess is he would have smacked the ball around and maybe get promoted to AAA mid-year. And he'd be a top prospect in all the books and no one would say the Pirates have no hitting prospects in the minor leagues. And lots of people would be all like, Promote Jose Castillo! The Bucs should just plug Jose Castillo in at second and see what they got with him. Instead, they let him finish his development not at AA but in the majors, and now everyone says the team has no hitting prospects and Castillo is too slow and all that jazz. Improve: I'm a Daryle Ward fan. I know he only had one really good month. But if he's not permanently crippled from that injury that ended that month, I think he can get back to a high level. He was a top prospect all his life until (relatively) recently and he's from a baseball family. I'm a believer. Nothing else to say about him. Wigginton I think has a little bit more to show us. And the team appears committed to giving him that chance. He'll manage and improve somewhat on the 2004 season. That's my guess as to what is most likely to happen. Mackowiak will force his way into the lineup and be improved. He's put himself together one piece at a time. So a few pieces are missing. I don't doubt that he can't finish the job. He started with nothing and now he's like 75% big-league star. Him and Josh Fogg were like twins separated at birth or something. All the other kids I'm not mentioning here are likely to be better ballplayers this year. I have no clue what McLouth's numbers will be wherever he plays, but even if they aren't up to his 2004 numbers, I'll still guess he was just a better player playing in a much better environment. Stay the same: Bobby Hill. I think we know what he can do now. Jason Bay was steady Eddie in 2004. I see no reason to expect that to change. Craiggers still has some inconsistency problems. He's a lot like Wigginton. I wouldn't be shocked to see a career year in 2005 followed by a pretty quick decline. Off year: Jack Wilson is coming off appendectomy surgery and he's all scrawny. Not good. Plus, I do now think he had more than a fair share of luck in the first half of 2004. He'll still be good enough, but I doubt the 2005 numbers will be better than the 2004. That said, it could happen, just as Jason Bay could homer in his next at-bat. I worry about Matt Lawton's defense. Homies are going to boo his sorry rag-armed ass if the other team gets like back-to-back triples. He had a good year last year but I'm worried he won't like playing in Pittsburgh if/when the fans start booing his "girl throws" from left field. Not much to say about Old Man Santiago and Tike Redman that hasn't already been said.
On the whole, the KHALIFA projections are quite upbeat. I wouldn't say the team has dynasty written all over it, but it does look to me like this is a stronger team than the one we saw last year. They can win half their games. They can compete in the NL Central. This isn't a promise or a Joe Namath-like guarantee. But honestly, you just don't know enough about sports and the wacky wacky world we live in if you think the Pirates have zero chance of being a game or two out of first in late August.
Get your Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds voodoo dolls ready ... stock up on pins and needles ...
There's a bunch of comments in there I'd like to echo. DK is right about so many things. I tend to get criticism for being too upbeat or optimistic about the team. So if I can pass off some of my articles of Bucco belief onto DK, then maybe I can shore up the old credibility with the hard-boiled skeptics of the online community.
1. First, Jose Castillo has a ton of upside. Any evaluation of his 2004 season has to consider the context that he was brought up for his defense. And, the team used the season as a developmental year for him at the plate. They messed with his stance and made him, for example, stand on his head for the first pitch, stuff that he found uncomfortable. The numbers don't tell the whole story. He was not brought up with the idea that he was more or less ready at the plate.
I wouldn't be surprised if Castillo's 2005 season at the plate is much like his 2004 season. As I've said before, I see him as on the Jack Wilson career path. Jack floundered for two years before he broke out. There's no doubt, though, that he has a lot of potential. A 2005 breakout like Jack Wilson's 2004 breakout would not completely surprise me. If he doesn't leap forward this year, then I think, if he makes it through 2005 without doing, say, a Warren Morris impersonation, then he'll surely leap forward in 2006.
2. Freddy Sanchez is not All That. Here is what I wrote about him last April. Hurry up and trade him while he has some value as a prospect, I say.
3. The Aramis Ramirez trade is not something to pin on the current GM, and it's ancient history so far as the current management is concerned. Evaluations of whether or not the Pirates are on the right track should address more recent moves. The Pat Meares, Kevin Young, and Derek Bell signings are also pretty irrelevant.
More later, maybe ... little Rowdy Jr. just woke up and he has something to tell me in gibbers and squeaks.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Another team lacking a lot of upside. The Reds and Brewers are both improved teams, and the Pirates are now far worse than anyone else in the division. I don't expect Kip Wells, a viable second starter, to last long with the team, leaving them just with Oliver Perez. The offense will be quite poor, though I guess Craig Wilson is everything (and more?) that Mike Sweeney is at this point. The bullpen should be fine and the rest of the rotation good enough to present them from losing 100 games, but not 90.That's what Bryan says.
Joe Rutter reports the Pirates have asked for him.
As we know from this story, no one knows what the GMs have or have not discussed unless the GMs explicitly tell them so. And they don't often do this. Billy Beane has explained that there are only two people in the whole world who know what he's thinking or planning with trade scenarios, him and his assistant, and that we should regard all reports claiming knowledge that suggests otherwise with suspicion.
That said, this report from Rutter fits with this story of last week. And any Byrnes deal may be hung up for Mike Cameron reasons explained here. The fact that Oakland just signed him means little -- that had to happen, trade or no trade, at this point in the offseason. Since Byrnes's number was close to the number Oakland offered, it looks clear to me that there's not a lot of debate about his value. I doubt he signed for so much or so little that his trade value has changed from what it was in December.
I first entertained the idea of Byrnes here. Other people have advanced the idea, too. I believe there's a pretty long history of Byrnes-to-Pittsburgh speculation dating to at least the Kendall negotiations.
Great Q & A this week from Ed Eagle.
Eagle authored an interesting piece on the team for the new Sporting News fantasy baseball magazine. In my last post I went on a rant about the state of the Bucs according to the pundits. I wasn't inspired so much by the pieces that I linked before that rant - that would be a bit of an overreaction - but by the stuff I've read, here in there, in the various magazines and on the web. As a general rule of thumb, when I see any one of the dozen or so fantasy mags, I flip to the article on the Bucs and to the write-up of a player or two. I can tell pretty quickly what I'm probably going to think of the whole thing by what they have to say about the small corner of the big leagues that I actually know something about.
TSN, in that one mag at least, picks the Bucs to finish sixth in the NL Central. While I think this is a bit harsh and generally unoriginal, I recongize that the publications are more concerned with not being too wrong than they are with being right. The projections etc. just have to be plausibe. Then, if a team like the Pirates surprise, everyone can say, "Who saw this coming?" It would be better for the Bucs that way, too.
Anyway, in this week's Q & A, Eagle turns a corner himself and comes clean with the admission that he had assumed that hopelessness was the norm of the Bucco faithful until very recently.
I'm hopeful about 2005. I think the team has turned a corner and I think the payroll situation is not a one-way ticket to last place -- for reasons Eagle states very eloquently:
As much as many fans would love to see the Pirates make long-term commitments to their favorite young players, in many instances it would work against the team's chances of competing against clubs with higher payrolls. In fact, the Pirates essentially must have some of their top performers earning near the Major League minimum if they hope to build a playoff team with a payroll in the $40 million range.And ... we've got some guys who make close to the minimum and contribute in such a way that we can call them "top performers." There's value all over the current roster. And there's value in the mixture of more experienced players. Our bench and bullpen and back of the rotation, for example, will be stronger than most. (Pedro Astacio, who the Bucs looked at, just signed with another team to start--i.e. to be one of their top five pitchers.) As Joe M. writes:
With the core of young players who are tied to the team for at least two or three years and the mix of veterans, the Pirates have turned the corner and have a bright future in front of them this year, not just down the road. I just hope that enough people realize this before this bandwagon is full.All I'd say to that is this, there's always room on the bandwagon, Joe. And further, there is nooooooooo real danger of us filling up the one we have now anytime soon.
I'm not saying the Pirates are going to the playoffs this year. I don't know that. But I do think there chances are decent, or, how shall I say, at least average. There's cause for hope. I don't want to get cocky or boastful or taunt anybody, but I'd rather be a fan of the Bucs right now than a couple other NL Central clubs who have, I think, worse chances. The chance to have a good year is no guarantee, of course. The team could fall on its face and so forth and so on. But so far so good: that hasn't happened yet. 2005 still looks good to me.
The inimitable John Perrotto writes about Ben Grieve.
Grieve said the reputation [of not "being hungry"] is unjust.Speaking of body language, Bryan from Against the Grain commented, right after the signing, that Grieve checks his fly before every at-bat. I'm all about the Ben Grieve signing. It was smart, smart, smart I say.
"I think a lot of it is my body language," Grieve said. "I'm not the type of person who gets very excited or upset. I try to stay on an even keel."
Perrotto also reports what we were already guessing for ourselves ... Kearns is not on the block.
There were a couple of editorials over the weekend with the basic theme of "Pirates are losers." Will the season please start already? Anyway, here they are. Bruce Weber says no one in Pittsburgh cares about baseball once the Steelers begin play. We already knew that. Sam Ross Jr. says it will hard for the Bucs to win. Hey, it's hard for any team to win. John Mehno writes that it will be hard for the Bucs to win. I'm yawning as I write that. Tell me something we don't already know.
I honestly do think that simply pissing on the team - ripping the owner, the GM, the manager, the politicians who raided the public treasuries, Pirate-style, to fund the stadium - is the easiest thing in the world to write. It's not that I don't think there's some merit to those arguments. It's just that the good versions - the good essays with that theme - are few are far between. They are awash in a sea of bad essays, rants, bulletin board manifestos, etc., with that theme. It's the equivalent of writing "Paris Hilton is a skanky ho." Well, duh. I'll try to be patient as I follow that line of thought for the 1,000th time. If I get pissed off, though, I'll admit I was a jackass if you'll admit that you weren't being original.
That said, plain ripping on the team, while it is a big category of Bucco writing and speechifying, does not always include the plain dumping on the Pirates' chances. There's that whole genre of Pirate writing too. The "they don't really have a chance to win anything this year" genre. That's equally lazy and unoriginal, especially when payroll is cited as if it's all the evidence needed to win the case.
One could counter my line of rant there by saying, "Would you get upset if I wrote that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow? When I write the truth, how can you blame me, or criticize me for 'being unoriginal'"
My answer to that would be, "When is the last time you read, in the paper, that the sun was going to rise in the east tomorrow?" We don't write up the obvious. The point of writing is contributing to knowledge and thus spreading knowledge with the means of producing it. In other words, bring the fish and some tips on how to catch them.
If the Bucs aren't going to win anything this year, why is that? Give me editorials that say "Jason Bay is just another Jeff Conine and This is Why He'll Fail as a #3 Hitter." Or, "Jose Mesa will blow all of his saves and Mike Gonzalez will be a disaster." Or, "Kip Wells will never be healthy again." Tell me why the Pirates have no chance to win anything. "Pirate fans are sadly deluded if they believe Jose Castillo will improve as a hitter." Wrote those editorials. "The owner is a hypocrate, the GM is a jackass, the manager is a moron, and the team won't score any runs"--that doesn't cut it. It's invective masquerading as serious thought. I will ridicule it every time.
Dejan wrote that the payroll would be low. He also reports that Will Carroll wrote with new information about the measure of the team's ability to prevent pitching effectiveness. I'm not sure what that number means, but it's out there for your consideration.
Despair not, the Super Bowl is nearly past us and all eyes will turn to baseball soon.
JACK WILSON, Pittsburgh Pirates -- I like New England not only because of their team concept, they're just a classy organization. PATRIOTS, 28-21.
MIKE GONZALEZ, Pirates -- New England wins because of its overall consistency. PATRIOTS, 34-20.
CRAIG WILSON, Pirates -- New England's experience pays off in a high-scoring Super Bowl. PATRIOTS, 45-28.
ROB MACKOWIAK, Pirates -- New England usually always limits mistakes and they've been strong in the postseason. PATRIOTS, 32-21.
LLOYD MCCLENDON, Pirates' manager -- I'm going with an upset. I think Philly's coming in loose and well-prepared. Look for a shootout. EAGLES, 38-34.
TIKE REDMAN, Pirates -- Some people may be underestimating Philly's defense. I think they'll find a way to pull it off. EAGLES, 20-17.
DAVE LITTLEFIELD, Pirates' General Manager -- I'm really sold on New England and their overall team concept. Brady has been clutch in all the big games. PATRIOTS, 24-17.
ROWDY, Pirates blogger -- I'm with Tike and Joe. The Patriots aren't as good as everyone says. They are good, but they aren't in some higher league. This is the Super Bowl. It will be close. Eagles in a close one. Eagles 27, Patriots 26.
Have a better guess? Leave it here.