All hail Tom G., first win of the year. Pirates raise their record to 39-66 with their fourth win in five days.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Who knows why stuff is written, Pirates GM Dave Littlefield says, of the perception that he's too difficult to deal with. By the way: I hear that from executives around baseball a lot. What they say is that Littlefield asks for too much at the outset of negotiations -- say, the best possible prospects for second-tier or third-tier major-league talent -- and gives you no foundation from which to begin serious trade talks. But, hey, every GM has his own distinct style.
There is something of an echo chamber effect in the way trade rumors are circulated. One site can publish some totally bullshit, pulled-out-of-my-ass rumor and we find it circulating through the national media on equal footing with the work of more careful reporters from more reputable outlets. That is true. But this, what Olney just wrote, this is more or less what I expected to read in response to Dejan Kovacevic's report containing DL interview on the subject. We've been hearing tales of DL's juvenile trading abilities for years now.
I can wait until August 1 to pass a judgment on his work this month. He has an opportunity to do good for the franchise. And by "for the franchise," I mean, for the long-term winning prospects of the franchise. This is not at all the same thing as the long-term financial health of the ownership group.
Money wasted is money wasted; here's to hoping Littlefield gets no love for money saved. Let his work be evaluated solely on its ability to help the team win games now and next year. This isn't personal. This is about the franchise.
And as I just said, I think he has an opportunity to do good. He's human; he can learn from his mistakes.
For the team's sake, I hope he does well. I will be the first to cheer him if he does.
Dejan Kovacevic interviewed David Littlefield about his reputation as a negotiator. There is some other news in there too, particularly about Sean Casey.
The Bucs appear to have a bunch of players other teams are regarding as their second choice. Difficult negotiator or not, Littlefield must be waiting on other teams. There's no persuading the Yankees, for example, that Craig Wilson is just as good as Alfonso Soriano.
I believe it, you believe it, but those Yankees get all weird about it.
Friday, July 28, 2006
NTNgod of the Primer newsblog reports that the Brewers telecast announced that Milwaukee acquired David Bell.
Joe Randa is a better hitter, by a pretty good margin, than David Bell, and he's making less money this year. That said, whatever the Phillies got for Bell may be a good indication of what the Pirates might have had for Randa.
And it looks like Noonie rides again. He stands to inherit some extra PT from this Bell trade.
. . . Bell fetched a 22-yo A-ball pitcher, a real tall skinny guy who racks up strikeouts. No word there if Philadelphia is also paying some of Bell's ginormous contract.
For what it's worth, Sam Borden of the New York Daily News:
The Yanks are looking at lower-profile players such as Pittsburgh's Craig Wilson. They have liked Wilson for awhile but, as in their conversations with the Phillies, were stymied by Pirates GM Dave Littlefield's excessive requests for top talent in return. That has been a recurrent complaint about Littlefield among executives, according to a source.
Recently, however, the Pirates have shown some interest in righthander Steven White, who is 2-5 with a 4.86 ERA in nine starts for Triple-A Columbus. White, according to sources, is considered by many to be among the best pitching prospects the Yanks are willing to part with and Wilson could provide depth (he plays first base and the outfield); the Bombers wouldn't be averse to taking on reliever Roberto Hernandez, too.
John Sickels looked at the Yankees' prospects in late June. No White on that list.
From Mark Feinsand's report for MLB.com:
One Major League executive said that the Yankees have expressed interest in Pittsburgh's Roberto Hernandez and Craig Wilson, and that the Pirates continue to show interest in Steven White, a 6-foot-5 right-hander. White went 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 11 starts for Double-A Trenton this season before being promoted to Triple-A Columbus, where he is 2-5 with a 4.86 ERA in nine starts.
White pitched at Baylor, and he's 25 years old. In early 2005, Scout.com wrote this praising him as a top prospect. Baseball America liked him in winter 2004-2005, but not in the last offseason. The Pirates scouted White a few days ago and White did not impress. Replacement Level Yankees Weblog notes White's limited arsenal as a drawback in 2005.
It's a long way to Monday.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
In 2005, the Pirates announced the Matt Lawton for Jody Gerut deal right at the deadline -- around 4pm on Sunday, July 31. Bones was on it.
In 2004, the Pirates announced the long-rumored Ty Wigginton, Matt Peterson, and Jose Bautista for Kris Benson deal around 5pm on Friday, July 30. Bones was on it.
In 2003, the Pirates announced a bunch of trades through July, and they did a deal after the deadline, too.
July 8, 2003: Traded John Wasdin to the Toronto Blue Jays. Received Rich Thompson.
July 21, 2003: Traded Mike Williams and cash to the Philadelphia Phillies. Received Frank Brooks.
July 22, 2003: Traded Mike Gonzalez and Scott Sauerbeck to the Boston Red Sox. Received Brandon Lyon and Anastacio Martinez.
July 23, 2003: Traded Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, and cash to the Chicago Cubs. Received a player to be named later, Jose Hernandez, and Matt Bruback (minors). The Chicago Cubs sent Bobby Hill (August 15, 2003) to the Pittsburgh Pirates to complete the trade.
July 31, 2003: Traded Brandon Lyon, Jeff Suppan, and Anastacio Martinez to the Boston Red Sox. Received Mike Gonzalez, Freddy Sanchez, and cash.
August 17, 2003: Traded Randall Simon to the Chicago Cubs. Received Ray Sadler.
I think we all remember that month as the start of Littlefield's tenure. Thank you Baseball Reference.
I have a supply of candles to keep burning on the drinking table through Monday. The Pirates play the Giants at home on Sunday afternoon. There is no game on Monday and a night game at home on Tuesday. It's my guess that the Pirates make more or less the kind of trades we expect them to make on Monday afternoon.
No trades or even new trade rumors today. All quiet on the How-Will-the-Pirates-Stop-Sucking? front. Legos aside, lots of other Pirates-related bloggy goodness today. Charlie links to a Beyond the Box Score new defensive metric that finds Jose Castillo to be the worst defensive 2B in all of baseball. Deadspin reports on Van Slyke's inflammatory comments on Ozzie Guillen and Hillary Clinton. Billy has some nice commentary on how the Royals and new GM Dayton Moore are trading circles around complacent loser DL.
In the news, and continuing with the Royals-Pirates comparison, USA TODAY has a long, painful piece about the Bucs and Royals, beginning with Sean Casey running into the bathroom stall after Bream was incorrectly called safe by the temporarily blinded Randy Marsh, despite the fact that Spanky blocked Bream's leading leg and clearly tagged Bream's lead-filled ass out long before Bream's lead-filled trailing leg came anywhere near the plate. Sigh. We are so over that. Anyway, in other Pirates news, Matt Wein of CentreDaily.com comments on how the ownership and front office are "re-defining futility and slowly but surely killing baseball in Pittsburgh".
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
I don't pay for ESPN insider, so I can't read more than a few paragraphs of this Jerry Crasnick report. The thesis appears to be that Littlefield is scary:
Each July, you can count on baseball front-office people griping that some executives live in a parallel universe. This year Pittsburgh general manager Dave Littlefield, one of the game's few bona-fide sellers, is the focus of lots of carping for what colleagues perceive as unreasonable expectations.Yikes!
"It's one thing to aim high," said an executive whose club recently inquired about Pirates reliever Roberto Hernandez. "It's another to scare people out of the conversation."
"I don't know what our deal is, to be honest with you. There are so many different things you can say. Younger guys are playing. We have a younger pitching staff. Blah, blah, blah. But those are the same old excuses. Obviously, there has to be a definite change this offseason because it's been the same thing every year."
"Whether it's players leaving or players coming in, trades being made, we've got to do something different to put a different product on the field because we haven't been getting it done.
This from Paul Meyer's game report.
Looking at the box score, I would say that Burnitz looked well-rested tonight. Hats off to Jim Tracy for waking him up at just the right time.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
I missed this, so maybe you did too. Late last week Pat Lackey of "Where's Van Slyke" wrote this piece comparing Littlefield's trading history with that of the One Red Paper Clip guy.
It's a good piece. The Pirates should do much more trading than they do. They can't win all their trades, of course. But they can make friends and easier trading partners when they get a little less than they could have in a deal.
My point in the Shealy discussion builds on the observation that Littlefield has a history of pissing off the other GMs with his brusque overvaluation of his own players. In addition to this, he appears to only shop the players he wants to trade.
This is too clean to work. It offends. If the team wants to make trades, they have to deal from their strength. You must offer good players to get good players. If we have a surplus in one area - say, two good young third basemen, four good young relievers - those are the players that will best command what we need in return.
There have been studies tying wealth to church attendance. While I would not doubt that God loves his people and rewards them with material goods for attending church, the more practical explanation is the greater amount of barter and trade that church-going households enjoy. Church friend comes over and wires up my new chandelier for free; I give him my old lawnmower, which he repairs into good-as-new condition. We are both more wealthy for the exchange.
The secret to trading is not to leverage some gap in the relative maturity of playters. The strategy of signing old guys for July use as trade bait is a failure. The fact that old veterans are ready to play now, and young prospects are not ready to play now, does not mean that much to contending teams, no matter how desperate they are for the help. This is why Randa, Burnitz, and Casey have so little value.
The secret to trading is getting involved in a circle of people who agree to slosh the resources around. You grab and hold onto what you really need. Everyone is wealthier for it. I would not advocate deliberately losing trades. There is no good that can come from sucking up to other teams in the hopes that they will throw you a reward later. But I would advocate taking more chances. It's the only way to make more trades. The more fluid the flow of players, the more likely it is that the Pirates will be able to assemble the balance of talent they need to compete in this league.
Participating in a more free exchange of talent only stands to increase the wealth of the team. Since they can't afford to buy the players they need, they will have to work on trading for them. And the way to win at trading is to make lots of trades. And the way to make lots of trades is to offer good players in exchange for good players.
This might cause scandal to say, but if I'm the owner of the team I tell Littlefield to dangle Freddy Sanchez. If you are a bona fide professional electrician, you don't offer to paint a picture of your neighbor's wife in exchange for his lawnmower. You must deal from a position of strength to unlock the overstocked garage of that neighbor.
You want to contend and win? Eliminate your areas of weakness. You want one of those top prospects that plays a position of weakness? You offer a top player from your surplus. Of course that could be a PR disaster, dealing Freddy and moving Bautista to his natural position, all to acquire a true centerfield prospect, with maybe a longshot throw in. If the players you select bust, then you are embarrassed. But are you more embarrassed than you would be if, say, your team began the year with 30 wins and 60 losses? I would hope not.
John Perrotto stirs up a big bowl of rum, rainwater, cane sugar, and floating lemon slices. Drink up!
Paul Meyer spotted some suspicious-looking people at the ballpark last night.
The Minnesota Twins, looking for an infielder with a solid bat, had a scout at last night's game. The Chicago White Sox, Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers also had representatives in attendance who were doing something other than simply "coverage scouting" of the Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers.
What were they doing? Someone call Homeland Security.
I also have a little candle burning in my drinking room.
Monday, July 24, 2006
Funny account of that Bon Jovi concert by Scott Tady for the Beaver County Times.
With women in Polamalu and Roethlisberger jerseys standing on their chairs while their men waved Terrible Towels, you could have called the event Yinzerpalooza.
Before the music started, the celebration featured the official dedication of the long-desired fifth Super Bowl trophy, placed in steel column inside Heinz Field's Coca-Cola Great Hall.
Then multi-platinum selling hard-rockers Nickelback performed loudly, followed by the Steelers introductions and a video presentation of behind-the-scenes, post-Super Bowl celebrations by team members. Next up was Bon Jovi, fronted by full-haired singer Jon Bon Jovi, still setting the bar impossibly high for 40-something dads with three kids.
Conceding that Shealy's potential may be overhyped, I would regard the acquisition of him as a potential "big deal" (read the Q & A to get my context here). So I disagree there with DK. To me, such a deal would depart from the predictable, too-well-established losing strategies of the last few years. These losing strategies have gone unpunished, and they will continue to go unpunished. If this trading deadline comes and goes like the last few trading deadlines, I see no cause for hope. If Littlefield starts showing that he is willing to do things differently, I would be encouraged.
Trading a young player from a position of surplus, for a young player at a position of need, would be an innovation for Littlefield. Littlefield appears to "wheel and deal" with a chip on his shoulders, as though the rest of the league owes Pittsburgh some favors. If he thinks, once again, that he should get the kind of talent we need for the kind of players he wants to trade, he's going to be disappointed. And so will we.
The Pirates need more talent to compete in 2007. Period. Where does Littlefield expect to find that talent? It's not on our minor-league teams. It won't be in the second- and third-tier free agent pool. Where will he get that talent?
Dejan Kovacevic reports:
The primary pieces getting shopped are those eligible for free agency after this season, meaning outfielders Jeromy Burnitz and Craig Wilson, third baseman Joe Randa, first baseman Sean Casey, starter Kip Wells and reliever Roberto Hernandez.
Littlefield strongly suggested that he will not be parting with players the Pirates can keep for the long term.
"We've had some discussion about those kinds of trades. Could they be a possibility? Sure. But most likely, you wait until the offseason for those types of trades."
D'oh! Sounds like we wait for the real trades then. This team is doing so good as it is; I don't see why DL would feel any urgency to mess much with the current chemistry.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Writing behind the Baseball Prospectus pay wall:
The news move in the group is bringing up Shealy, but it might only be as a taster for teams interested in acquiring the young slugger. He wasn't having a monster season for the Sky Sox, hitting .284/.351/.568. As promising as that power looks, 20 walks in 249 PA is adequate at best, and if he's hitting .284 in one of the PCL's best hitters' parks, what should you expect from him at some other altitude? Add in that most of the damage was done against lefties--six of his 15 home runs, in less than a quarter of his PA--and that he's coming up on 27 (I'm using "young" a bit loosely today), and you've got somebody who isn't good enough to force Todd Helton out of town on his own, and who probably won't be much more than a quality platoon player for somebody else.
First, if this opinion is commonly held, you have to wonder why Shealy has attracted such attention from so many teams.
Second, no one knows what Shealy would do at the major-league level. He might take off, he might regress, he might play about as expected. His career path is hardly normal; he's been blocked at AAA, with nothing to prove, for some time. And his 2006 numbers may also be affected by the position switch they tried on him. Regardless, the Pirates, with their lack of slugging first-base prospects, need to take the chance on his upside more than other clubs need to take such chances.
If he's nothing more than a lefty masher who's average against righties, he could be paired with a left-handed first baseman, maybe a veteran, who starts against about half the righties. Such a plan should produce the needed 725 PAs of good run production needed from that position.
It does not have to be Shealy the Pirates acquire, and soon, but he fits the profile of the kind of player they should be acquiring ASAP. He fits the profile as well as any available player would fit it: no one will ever trade away a David Wright. The Pirates have to draft and develop their own obvious hitting superstars.
Alan Schwarz of the New York Times:
“[Starting pitchers are] the hardest thing to evaluate talent-wise,” said Schmidt, who has been traded in midseason twice, by Atlanta to Pittsburgh as a rookie in 1996, then to San Francisco in 2001. “A lot of us are late bloomers. A lot of us don’t have success until we’re in the right environment. A lot of times it takes getting released or traded to wake up and think about what’s in front of us. I found that extra gear that I didn’t know I had.”
Arroyo added: “Each individual situation is different. I got waived as a young, healthy pitcher who they probably didn’t think was going to pitch as well as they wanted him to. I think most other guys have something to do with injuries — guys can’t stay healthy. And every now and then you get a guy like Turnbow, who throws 100 miles an hour and very wild, and maybe he needs a certain pitching coach or a certain comfort zone.”
No pitcher frustrated more teams than Schilling — a self-described head case as a youngster — who was traded three times (by Boston, Baltimore and Houston) before he turned 26 and rounded into shape with the Phillies in the mid-1990’s.
Littlefield is often condemned for releasing Bronson Arroyo, but that was something that did not strike me, at the time, as completely crazy or foolish. He was not a good pitcher for us. Arroyo had 29 starts in three years as a Pirate. He had a 113:85 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and he gave up 217 hits in 187 innings. With the 85 walks, that puts his WHIP at what, above 1.60 as a Pirate.
Sometimes a player will only go so far in an organization. I read a study once about revenge as a motivating factor, I forget what or where it was, but it opened with the author's somewhat scary realization that a good portion of the population spend most of their lives directing their energy into a pursuit, a career, whatever, mainly to revenge themselves upon some doubter or jackass or other kind of hated person.
Lately DL has shown what I've regarded as maybe too much patience with some guys. Job security may be a better influence on some young starters than others. You'd hate to be cruel to players just in hopes of spurring them to better play, but it might be wise to look for new ways to motivate underperforming people.
Here's to hoping that the recent demotion helps Oliver Perez return to some useful shape or form.
Nick Cafardo wrote this master's thesis on the current trade market for the Boston Globe. It suggests that lots of things are happening. If Wily Mo Pena becomes available for a starting pitcher, I would think that our "small-market GM" would be inquiring. Not to say that this is DL:
One GM of a small-market NL team said, ``When you're a big-market team, you can trade a pitcher like Arroyo because you can always replace him. I'm not saying you snap your fingers and it happens, but you can deal or you can sign a guy, take on a bigger contract, whereas a small-market team like ours, if you have a reasonably priced starting pitcher, you hold on to him for as long as you can."
But it could be.
The Red Sox and other high-profile perennial contenders probably control the pace of trading more than the Pirates right now, so if you are truly jonesing to calculate the odds that certain players become Pirates, you might do well to study the news on other teams, making your best effort to separate the credible reports from the less confident and more speculative.
Ken Rosenthal is another daily if not hourly source, at this point in the season, for mind-altering trade rumors.
In an earlier thread, Jason5280 comments on this Denver Post report by Troy E. Renck. Dan O'Dowd will wait until the deadline to make his best deal for Shealy. Regardless of their position in the playoff race, provided that Helton has not suffered a career-threatening injury, the Rockies will surely trade Shealy if he can become a minor-league free agent at the end of the season. (Correct me if that's wrong....)
... that must be wrong. I have to not believe everything I read. Looked up the various stuff about the reserve clause. It's clear. If Shealy's on the Rockies' 40-man roster, he can't get minor-league free agency. From what I can find, Rule 5 says minor-league free agency is an option for players who have been with an organization for six years (not counting the draft year) and are not on the 40-man roster. 2002 was Shealy's first pro year, but this wouldn't count since it was the year he was drafted. He hasn't been with the organization that long, and the Rox should not have any trouble keeping him on the 40-man roster if needed.
What is the obsession with Matt Capps? There Rob Rossi reports that he is off-limits in trade talks. I don't understand how one young relief prospect could have some remarkably higher potential than another young relief prospect.
Matt Capps looks destined for greatness, yes, but c'mon, a great relief pitcher throws about 70 innings in 62 appearances.
Game logs could be used to measure the effect of rest on performance, if we knew for certain that players rested on days they did not play. The more I think on this, the more I think it's likely that rest will always remain an unknown factor to statistical analysis. One advantage young people have over old people is the ability to sleep. Guys in their early 20s can sleep twelve, fourteen hours a night, no problem. Guys closer to 40 find this harder to accomplish. A father, regardless of age, with a young one will be up many times in the night. Some people do not sleep well in hotel rooms. Others can, but they cannot resist the nightlife. Byung-Hyun Kim, when he came up as a 20-year-old, slept most every non-playing moment of the 2000 season. Other guys use their days off to kill large animals and carry them up stairs. Toward the end of the season, we know a large group of players are suffering from the sleep-affecting side effects of regular stimulant use. So it's likely that some players get more rest in the sixteen hours after a game than others get in the next forty-eight hours.
Someone could generate splits for various players, and that might suggest that they have done better or worse with more or less time off between at-bats, but we could not be sure that this was isolating fatigue as a variable.