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 Post subject: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Mon Jan 13, 2014 2:06 pm 
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Despite the consternation among fans at the Pirates' inactivity this off-season to improve the offense, I believe we could very possibly see improvement at at least 4 of the 8 positions on the field.

1. Left Field- This all hinges on Marte's health, but I believe he stands to have a better 2014. He definitely hasn't hit his ceiling yet. I'm curious to see what Jeff Branson can do for his 2 strike approach. He knows Marte pretty well.

2. Second Base- I have a real hunch that this will be Walker's career year. Health is a concern here, too, but he's a better offensive player than he has shown. I predict career highs in HRs and RBIs with a .350 OBP.

3. Shortstop- We will benefit from a full year of Jordy Mercer, not just 110 games.

4. Center Field- Believe it or not, I think McCutchen will have a better year this year than last. He'll hit at least .335 and wear out the right-center field gap instead of rolling over on a lot of pitches.

5. Third Base- I even think Pedro will be better this year from a OBP standpoint. I also think he will hit 40 HRs.


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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Mon Jan 13, 2014 7:29 pm 
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#1 - Kind of agree, but only somewhat. He simply has to get that K rate down before he can take that step forward ... he's averaging around 25% in the majors so far while only walking 4.4%. And then there's the scary fact that his OBP was boosted last year from getting hit by an uncanny amount of pitches (the second most in the league). His BABIP was also among the highest in the league, but that might not be too worrisome considering he legs out a lot of hits with his elite speed. All that being said, it wouldn't be shocking for me to see a little bit of regression simply because that's what the peripherals point to. Or, I also wouldn't be shocked if he hit significantly better and broke out either, because the raw talent is there as he continues to mature. It's basically a coin flip to me.

#2 - Disagree, just because I think Walker is what he is and has basically already reached his pedigree (if I'm wrong, excellent). Which isn't really a bad thing. People forget that he wasn't considered that great of a prospect anymore by the time he reached the majors. He simply never hit well enough in the minors and was jerked around a ton of positions. I've never been his biggest fan, but I'm quite pleased with the defensive strides he's made at 2B and basically being a lock for a .750-ish OPS. As far as talking about having a "career year", I think that will prove to be his rookie season.

#3 - Agree, it will be nice to have offensive SS production for the first time since one of Jack Wilson's good offensive years.

#4 - I'll say I'm neutral just because I don't think it would be fair for me to doubt the talent of a 5-tool, "sky is the limit" caliber player like McCutchen. But my hunch is to disagree just because it's an extremely lofty expectation to expect even a player of McCutchen's talent to hit .335+. McCutchen was actually better two years ago, but the media will likely spin it that last year was his best due to winning the MVP and the Pirates success story. So to be even better, can he repeat a 2012? I think it was almost assuredly an outlier year in regards to his power and getting a bit lucky with the peripherals.

#5 - Agree that the OBP will improve some. I don't think the 40 HR thing is a big deal because in today's post-steroid area, I think 36 HRs like Alvarez hit last year is basically equivalent to the 40 HR hitters we used to see. It's getting increasingly rarer to see players hit the 40 mark ... last year there were just two, a first ballot Hall of Famer (M. Cabrera) and a guy who just had one of those random Bautista-esque, defying reality monster years (Davis). But could Alvarez get there? Sure. The raw power is what it is.


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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Mon Jan 13, 2014 8:33 pm 
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I hear what you're saying about his K, HBP, and BB rates. That's kind of what I mean by his two-strike approach. The book on him was to go inside with two strikes last year, which was when he was often hit. A very high percentage of his HBP were with two strikes. As quick as his bat is, I think Branson will have him stay back a bit more, hopefully with better results.


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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 1:00 am 
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Good analysis, Doug. Reason No. 5 for hope for improvement 2014, compared to 2013:

Gregory Polanco. Look how patient he is against a veteran left-hander, Mark Buehrle, who generally tortures left-handers.



And then, his pop:



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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 10:12 am 
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I think the book is already out on Walker. And he's fine for what he is. He loses production because he can't hit worth a crap from the right side of the plate. I don't see any career year from him unless he solves that.

I think this very well should be the year Pedro has his huge season. He had two good power seasons the last two years, definitely worked his way out of the unfair "bust" status he was given. But now it's time to see if he can 1) Hit during the first two-three months of the season and 2) Get those walks up. After showing he's a 40 HR threat, I feel like pitchers should be respecting him more and pitching around him a bit. The walks should go up.

Oh god, those Polanco videos 8-) Get this young man to Pittsburgh ASAP. He honestly could be the true difference maker this season, especially since we have no idea what RF is going to look like. And Marte could hit a sophomore slump, too.


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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 1:27 pm 
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doug frobel wrote:
I hear what you're saying about his K, HBP, and BB rates. That's kind of what I mean by his two-strike approach. The book on him was to go inside with two strikes last year, which was when he was often hit. A very high percentage of his HBP were with two strikes. As quick as his bat is, I think Branson will have him stay back a bit more, hopefully with better results.


Not just high percentage. A near historically high percentage. 20 of his 24 HBPs were in 2 strike counts. 7 times it happened 0-2.
http://hiddenvigorish.com/2013/12/starl ... -the-team/


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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 1:52 pm 
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mjdouble wrote:
doug frobel wrote:
I hear what you're saying about his K, HBP, and BB rates. That's kind of what I mean by his two-strike approach. The book on him was to go inside with two strikes last year, which was when he was often hit. A very high percentage of his HBP were with two strikes. As quick as his bat is, I think Branson will have him stay back a bit more, hopefully with better results.


Not just high percentage. A near historically high percentage. 20 of his 24 HBPs were in 2 strike counts. 7 times it happened 0-2.
http://hiddenvigorish.com/2013/12/starl ... -the-team/


Boy, that ticks you off as a pitcher. At least you know it's not on purpose on an 0-2 count.


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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 3:45 pm 
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Bucfan wrote:
Good analysis, Doug. Reason No. 5 for hope for improvement 2014, compared to 2013:

Gregory Polanco. Look how patient he is against a veteran left-hander, Mark Buehrle, who generally tortures left-handers.



And then, his pop:



Okay, I think I just salivated on my keyboard...


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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 3:55 pm 
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The cheesiness of that celebratory, cheerful music in the Polanco HR video is just incomprehensible. It's like, the exact type of music that would play in an 80s family sitcom after a kid hits the game-winning HR in a little league game. I almost laughed out loud.


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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 4:00 pm 
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TheShark wrote:
The cheesiness of that celebratory, cheerful music in the Polanco HR video is just incomprehensible. It's like, the exact type of music that would play in an 80s family sitcom after a kid hits the game-winning HR in a little league game. I almost laughed out loud.


Ever watch any of those Dominican League Games? They actually have cheerleaders that dance on the dugouts.


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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 4:17 pm 
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mjdouble wrote:
TheShark wrote:
The cheesiness of that celebratory, cheerful music in the Polanco HR video is just incomprehensible. It's like, the exact type of music that would play in an 80s family sitcom after a kid hits the game-winning HR in a little league game. I almost laughed out loud.


Ever watch any of those Dominican League Games? They actually have cheerleaders that dance on the dugouts.


Image


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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 5:12 pm 
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Leway512 wrote:
I think the book is already out on Walker. And he's fine for what he is. He loses production because he can't hit worth a crap from the right side of the plate. I don't see any career year from him unless he solves that.

I think this very well should be the year Pedro has his huge season. He had two good power seasons the last two years, definitely worked his way out of the unfair "bust" status he was given. But now it's time to see if he can 1) Hit during the first two-three months of the season and 2) Get those walks up. After showing he's a 40 HR threat, I feel like pitchers should be respecting him more and pitching around him a bit. The walks should go up.

Oh god, those Polanco videos 8-) Get this young man to Pittsburgh ASAP. He honestly could be the true difference maker this season, especially since we have no idea what RF is going to look like. And Marte could hit a sophomore slump, too.


Here's another viewpoint:

http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/01/first-pitch-changing-my-view-on-neil-walker.html

We may get better production from second base for no other reason than they decide to go with a platoon at second with Jordy or someone. Let Neil hammer the crap out of righties. I really think he's due for a healthy year.


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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 6:04 pm 
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doug frobel wrote:


The P2 article, which is very good, basically just concludes that 2014 will be a make or break year for Walker re: being an extension candidate (which has been an interesting debate for a couple of years now as far as the whole "hometown discount" angle, etc). I agree that the BA will definitely go up after posting a career worst last year (unlucky w/ BABIP), the plate discipline will still be good, and that the fluky HBP total will obviously go down. So, as the article mentioned, it will likely be the power that suggests whether or not he takes a significant step forward or stays at his current peak as an average player (which is my prediction).

More platooning is obviously a good idea on paper, but then again Clint Hurdle allowed Gaby Sanchez to have 61% of his ABs be against RHP last year for no apparent reason. Plus, it's worth mentioning that since Mercer will be the starting SS next year, he will already be in the line-up against LHP anyway, so you'd essentially be swapping Walker for Barmes. Not a bad idea considering you'd be gaining the defense of Barmes while subtracting Walker's terrible bat, but it's simply hard for me to imagine seeing a line-up featuring both of them.


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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 6:40 pm 
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TheShark wrote:
doug frobel wrote:


The P2 article, which is very good, basically just concludes that 2014 will be a make or break year for Walker re: being an extension candidate (which has been an interesting debate for a couple of years now as far as the whole "hometown discount" angle, etc). I agree that the BA will definitely go up after posting a career worst last year (unlucky w/ BABIP), the plate discipline will still be good, and that the fluky HBP total will obviously go down. So, as the article mentioned, it will likely be the power that suggests whether or not he takes a significant step forward or stays at his current peak as an average player (which is my prediction).

More platooning is obviously a good idea on paper, but then again Clint Hurdle allowed Gaby Sanchez to have 61% of his ABs be against RHP last year for no apparent reason. Plus, it's worth mentioning that since Mercer will be the starting SS next year, he will already be in the line-up against LHP anyway, so you'd essentially be swapping Walker for Barmes. Not a bad idea considering you'd be gaining the defense of Barmes while subtracting Walker's terrible bat, but it's simply hard for me to imagine seeing a line-up featuring both of them.



People want the Pirates to platoon more but there just isn't huge incentives for this team to do it. They faced just 31 left handed starters last year. How many regular platoons can the team justify carrying with such little opportunities for your RH batters? People complain about Sanchez getting so many ABs against right handed pitching, but without those ABs he is a once a week player. Would he still perform as well against lefties with so little regular game action?

Highly unlikely that Walker adds power. According to the aging curves done by fangraph's, the research shows power peaks much earlier than previously thought. ISO peaks at age 25.


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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 6:43 pm 
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TheShark wrote:
More platooning is obviously a good idea on paper, but then again Clint Hurdle allowed Gaby Sanchez to have 61% of his ABs be against RHP last year for no apparent reason. Plus, it's worth mentioning that since Mercer will be the starting SS next year, he will already be in the line-up against LHP anyway, so you'd essentially be swapping Walker for Barmes. Not a bad idea considering you'd be gaining the defense of Barmes while subtracting Walker's terrible bat, but it's simply hard for me to imagine seeing a line-up featuring both of them.


Sanchez got those at bats against righties because Jones was in RF a lot and he was the only power threat to pinch hit.

I would not be surprised to see Barmes be Morton's personal SS next season.

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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 7:14 pm 
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nad69dan wrote:
Sanchez got those at bats against righties because Jones was in RF a lot and he was the only power threat to pinch hit.


Jones only started 25 games in RF last year (as opposed to 80 at 1B). Hurdle also simply started him over Jones at 1B even against righties at times in April due to the strong spring he had. I agree that he got more ABs due to injuries and the bench being so weak at times, but overall there isn't really any justifying him ending up with so many ABs against RHP ... it was clear that Hurdle was simply dismissing the splits a lot of the time.


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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 8:19 pm 
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We're not even to Spring Training yet! The pressure to start with Polanco in April will be all over Neil this spring. But he and they have been slow to make sure not to skip the necessary experience in AAA which he needs to be seasoned. My guess is that he won't come until June at the earliest, like our MVP did.

But I'm not so worried about RF. I think a healthy Tabata is more then just a place holder for him. If he starts strong, he'll make a very good 4th outfielder or improve his trade value.

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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 11:35 pm 
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Substitute2 wrote:
We're not even to Spring Training yet! The pressure to start with Polanco in April will be all over Neil this spring. But he and they have been slow to make sure not to skip the necessary experience in AAA which he needs to be seasoned. My guess is that he won't come until June at the earliest, like our MVP did.

But I'm not so worried about RF. I think a healthy Tabata is more then just a place holder for him. If he starts strong, he'll make a very good 4th outfielder or improve his trade value.


I wouldn't be surprised to see him have a strong spring like Marte did two years ago. Then people can get riled up and upset when he's sent back to AAA to start the season :) :) .


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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2014 10:47 pm 
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Bucfan wrote:
Good analysis, Doug. Reason No. 5 for hope for improvement 2014, compared to 2013:

I'd say that Polanco is going to be a beast, but that would be inaccurate. I think that is already IS a beast. I can't wait to see him in Pittsburgh.

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 Post subject: Re: 4 Reasons Why the Offense Might not Suck as Bad in 2014
PostPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2014 3:36 pm 
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TheShark wrote:
nad69dan wrote:
Sanchez got those at bats against righties because Jones was in RF a lot and he was the only power threat to pinch hit.


Jones only started 25 games in RF last year (as opposed to 80 at 1B). Hurdle also simply started him over Jones at 1B even against righties at times in April due to the strong spring he had. I agree that he got more ABs due to injuries and the bench being so weak at times, but overall there isn't really any justifying him ending up with so many ABs against RHP ... it was clear that Hurdle was simply dismissing the splits a lot of the time.


As a FYI . . . in April, Hurdle started Sanchez with a right hander starting on the mound in:
Game #1 - Cubs
Game #2 - Cubs
Game #25 - Cardinals (Snider out with left side soreness)
Game #26 - Brewers (Pirates lost; Tabata out due to sore hamstring; Snider out with left side soreness)
Game #27 - Brewers (Pirates lost; Tabata out due to sore hamstring; Snider out with left side soreness)

In all 5 games, Jones played RF.
In Games #1 and #2, Hurdle started Sanchez against a right handed pitcher when both Snider and Tabata were available
In Game #25, Sanchez started but Snider was out. Only other option at 1B was Inge.
In Games #26 and #27, Sanchez started with both Snider and Tabata out. No other realistic lineup option.

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