Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable #4

Question #1:
Do you agree with the assertion made by Dave Littlefield during his pirates.com live chat that “good pitching is going to beat good hitting?”

Pat from WHYGAVS:
There’s probably no historical data that bears Littlefield’s statement out. Sometimes outstanding offenses beat great pitching and sometimes it’s the other way around. One person would point to the Braves beating the Indians in ’95, while another person would point to the ’04 Red Sox. It’s not that good hitting beats good pitching, it’s that good baseball players win championships. I know Littlefield is trying to build up this rotation for the future, but does anyone see one true ace among Gorzelanny, Snell, Duke, or Maholm? I see four pretty good upper middle rotation guys and that can be enough to win in this league, but not without an offense to back things up.

Jim from Sportsocracy:

I think a more accurate phrase would be, “flawless pitching is going to beat good hitting” of which the Pirates have neither. Obviously striking some semblance of balance is the key, but the Bucs seem to have no interest in doing so. Stockpiling a bunch of good, young arms is never a bad idea, but holding onto them until they’re neither good nor young anymore, especially when the team is in such dire need of help in other places is just stupid.
Nicolas from “82”:
Well, even though I can’t realistically or in good faith agree with anything that comes from that man’s mouth…I don’t think that statement is entirely true, but neither is the opposite. Having great pitching is nice, but not having great pitching can be compensated with a great defense as long as the pitching isn’t total crap. Having great pitching and/or average to above-average pitching and a great defense is nice, because that makes your offense more effective by making each hit/run more effective. When you only need 2 or 3 runs to win each game, it is a great burden off an offense and lets them play a lot looser. Then again, the opposite is true. When you know you have a lineup good enough to score at least 4 runs each game, your pitchers can worry less about perfection and more about not sucking. The ideal balance is far more important than being great on either end.
Andrew Zibuck/azibuck commentor from Bucs Dugout:
Yeah, I agree. Good pitching will beat good hitting… about half the time. Here’s a meaningful cliché–you can’t win if you don’t score. Any pitching performance is meaningless if you get shut out, so I disagree. I think great pitching can beat great hitting, in an extreme single-game context. If a good pitcher is “on,” he might be almost unhittable, even against quality hitters. Think Beckett vs. Yankees, 2003 WS game 6. But that’s not really “good pitching” as much as an exceptional performance by a good pitcher. This is a general opinion, but applies to the Pirates’ situation–I’d rather have one great pitcher and good hitting, than one great hitter and good pitching. If I could only have one or the other, I’d still take good hitting. With good hitting, if you’re losing 10-5 late in the game, you still have a chance because you know your team can score runs. If you don’t have good hitting, a two-run deficit is like death.
Matt from Wait ‘Til Next Year:
This statement by DL is vague and it is very difficult to measure its accuracy, at least with my limited knowledge of sabermetrics (maybe the folks over at Baseball Prospectus could take a stab at it). Going purely on my own general recollections of the game of baseball, I will make a decision based on nothing at all scientific. I would say that in a situation where the best pitcher and best hitter in the game are facing each other, the hitter is more likely to be 0-4 than 4-4. Whether or not this means that I agree with the cliche that Mr. Littlefield throws our way, I have no idea. However, I would agree with the point that I believe he was making, that a team like the Pirates must build their team primarily around talented starting pitching.
Tony from The Confluence:
Overall, in the grand scheme of things, yes I would agree that good pitching will beat good hitting over the long haul. However, and I know that Dave was gearing that answer towards his belief that he does not want to trade the four starters, he really needs to acknowledge that his offense is woefully mediocre, and that the Pirates do not have enough “good hitting” to even put up a fight with that “good pitching” around the league. Therefore, he needs to acknowledge that fact, and bite the bullet and trade away one of those starters, preferably Maholm. I think the upside to Duke, Snell, and Gorzelanny are going to eventually be higher than Maholm. However, in order to get the big left-handed bat that he’s after, he’s going to have to add a complementary player, i.e. Castilllo, to sweeten the deal. Until he does that, it’s not even going to take “good pitching,” it’s only going to take “decent pitching,” to beat the Pirates.
Steve from The Parrot:
Yes, but I think in Littlefield’s case he’s selling the Pirates’ obvious strength in pitching over weak offense and defense. If he had Ichiro, Albert Pujols, and A-Rod in his lineup and Shawn Chacon and Kip Wells in his rotation, he would spin the opposite way.
The Bucs strike out too much and aren’t known for their patience at the plate. The front office loves their free swingers, and until the team climbs into the middle or even upper third of offensive stats, he’ll continue to say things like that. I would say that patient hitting beats good pitching, because more walks would come of it and opposing starters’ pitch counts would rise, getting into their bullpen earlier in the game. It happens to the Pirates enough, doesn’t it?
Carson and Corey from We Should Be GM’s:
No, I do not agree with Littlefield’s comment. Good pitching will sometimes beat good hitting and vice versa. Which by my calculations equals .500 baseball, which is not winning or losing. The correct statement to make is “great pitching beats good hitting”, a la 2006 Tigers and Twins or the Braves of the 90’s. Now, the Pirates do have the opportunity to have a great staff and therefore will beat good hitting teams, but also having a good hitting team supporting your great pitching staff goes along way towards actually winning.
Randy from Buried Treasure:
I think in the Baseball Prospectus book “Baseball Between the Numbers” the guys there said that big bad offense is better. I actually forget exactly what their conclusion was–it’s been a while since I read it–but I’m pretty sure it was counter to the old belief of good pitching beating good hitting. The problem here isn’t that Littlefield believes this or says he believes this. The problem is that by making a statement like that, I assume that Littlefield believes that the Bucs pitching will dominate in 2007. I don’t quite believe that.
I took a quick look at unadjusted runs scored and unadjusted ERA going back the last five years for each playoff team. Of the 20 NL playoff teams, 10 of them were in the top 5 in the league in runs scored. 13 of the 20 playoff teams were in the top five in ERA. The splits were the exact same in the AL–10 of the 20 playoff teams were in the top five in runs scored and 13 were in the top five in ERA. I also looked at how many playoff teams were worse than average with respect to runs scored. Including the Padres who have an offensively oppressed home stadium, 7 of the 20 NL playoff teams were in the lower half of the league in runs scored compared to 2 of 20 in the lower half of ERA. In the AL it was again 7 teams that were in the lower half of the league in runs scored and three playoff bound teams were in the lower half of the league in ERA. On the average over the last five years, the typical NL playoff team has finished sixth in the league in runs scored and 4th in ERA.
My conclusion from this (and of course, all the data is unadjusted) is that if you have to have one or the other, take dominating pitching. But reality is this: you are a moron if you focus only on one.
Wilbur Miller from Pirate Player Profiles:
Hard to agree or disagree with a cliché. It has little meaning without a context. If the idea is that the Pirates can win even if they continue to field the NL’s worst lineup, then maybe Littlefield should expand the cliché a bit—“Good pitching + good hitting will absolutely beat the crap out of good pitching and rotten hitting.” It’s not like the Pirates are trying to win with good pitching and everybody else is trying to win with lousy pitching. Everybody else is trying to build a balanced team, which historically is what wins the vast majority of the time. It’s only Littlefield who thinks he can win without scoring runs.
Cory from A New Pirates Generation:
Bob Veale has it right: “Good pitching will beat good hitting any time, and vice versa.” You can’t fault Dave Littlefield for trying to rebuild the Pirates around an area of strength; you can blame him for not placing enough emphasis on the offensive aspect of the game. Only exceptional pitching will beat good hitting on a regular basis, and while our staff shows promise, it’s not of galactico status yet. Our solid pitching will keep us in ballgames, but we’ll need to hit to stay above water.
Defense, too, must be discussed. If DL wants the Pirates’ future to rest in the arms of Duke, Snell, Gorzo and Maholm, then he needs to put capable defenders behind them–not only to catch grounders, but to harbor confidence. Zach Duke will pitch much differently if he knows that Bill Mazeroski’s at second base instead of Jose Castillo. Balls in play need to be converted to outs–especially since only a few of our starters and relievers are built to be power pitchers. Until we have a couple of Gold Gloves and Cy Youngs, how about we add a bopper or two to the batting order? That way we can slug when our hurlers struggle. I’ll agree with the idea of building a team around a strong rotation, but I wouldn’t bank on a shutout every night.
Mondesi’s House:
That’s a great point. That’s also the reason the Pirates lose games 3-2 and 1-0…they put such little emphasis on offense that it’s almost an afterthought. Maybe in year 11 of his five-year plan, Littlefield might get the memo that you need good pitching AND good hitting to win.
You’re right…he won’t.
Question #2:
What could Jason Bay realistically fetch on the trade market?

Pat from WHYGAVS:
Oh, man. It’s hard to say because no one of his caliber has been traded on this market. If you compare his numbers to Soriano, he’s gotta be of comparable dollar value, plus he’s younger and signed cheaply through 2009. Someone would seriously pay through the nose for Bay if he was on the trade market. The Red Sox were asking for three top prospects for Manny. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable price to ask for Jason Bay.
Jim from Sportsocracy:
A lot of Bay’s value is wrapped up in your perception of the state of the Pirates right now. He has two 30-HR, 100-RBI seasons in a row under his belt, plays an excellent outfield, is relatively young (28), and only makes about $4.5 million a year. The problem with Bay is, he’s a wilting Susan under pressure…it seems like he seldom delivers in big situations and that may be somewhat unattractive to a lot of contending teams. And while he’d be a valuable addition to many franchises, he’s gold, wrapped in platinum, coated with titanium, and covered in sprinkles valuable to the Pirates, with their aforementioned lack of pop in the lineup.
With that in mind, if the Pirates could get two position players that would start immediately for them and at least one top-tier prospect, I think they should probably take a long look at the deal, but I doubt they would. My guess is Bay is operating at 100% capacity at this time, I sincerely doubt he’s about to break out with a 50-HR season or anything of the sort. He’ll likely produce steady numbers for the next 5-6 years, provided he stays healthy, but he’s not batting cleanup for any team besides the Pirates. If they had much chance of building a winner or even a contender right now, I’d have no problem keeping him. The fact of the matter is though, the Pirates need a lot more than they actually have. Getting a two-fer or three-fer for a guy like Bay could go a long way in getting the Bucs back in decent shape.
Nicolas from “82”:
He would fetch whatever you wanted, I would think. He is easily a top 10 OF in the majors and a top 5 LF. Assuming you don’t care so much about the defense. Then he drops to probably top 15/top 10. I think he could realistically fetch a couple high draft picks and at least one top 10 prospect from whichever team gets him.

Andrew Zibuck/azibuck commentor from Bucs Dugout:

Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Dan Norman, T.J. Matthews, Blake Stein, and Eric Ludwick.
Matt from Wait ‘Til Next Year:
Jason Bay could bring an enormous return in a trade, especially in a market like the one we are experiencing right now. This is a market that decided Alfonso Soriano deserved $136 million. Let’s compare Bay’s recent performance to that of Soriano. In 2006, Bay went .286/.396/.532, while Soriano put up .280/.325/.560. Beginning in 2003 when he spent the majority of the season at AAA, Bay has had an OPS over .900 every season at every level. Soriano’s .911 OPS in 2006 was his first season over .900 at any level. Soriano will be 31 in less than a month. Bay just recently turned 28. If Soriano is worth $136 million for what he can accomplish, how much is Bay worth? Well, he is owed less than 1/7 that over the next three years.
That kind of output/cost would be very attractive to another GM. Bay could very easily bring several 0-3 type players with upside in a trade. This is a trade that will not be made, as it is much too bold a move for Pirates management. But would it be beneficial to the team? I would think that it probably wouldn’t, mainly because of the fact that the roster is so desperate for offense. Trading one of your few run producers would be too damaging to the lineup. Plus, I’m sure we would just end up getting Ty Wigginton, Bobby Hill, and cash in return.
Tony from The Confluence:
I dread the thought of trading Jason Bay, and I really hope it never comes down to that, for instance in the last year of his contract. But, you never know, Jason may have had enough of the losing by that time, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility. But if it comes to the point of the Pirates realistically having to trade him, he could fetch some excellent returns. He has a unique blend of power, average, speed, and defensive ability, and that combination would most likely fetch a #1/2 starter, or a young slugger. However, there are a couple of things that can’t be forgotten. One, Dave Littlefield has absolutely no traction with GM’s around the league now, that has been widely reported for a few years now. Secondly, who knows what the Pirates’ financial situation will be by that point. You have to acknowledge that season ticket sales are going to start going down, now that the All-Star game is gone. So they might have to trade Bay eventually just as a cash dump.
Steve from The Parrot:
Bay could be traded for a starter and an offensive player at the major league level, and I would insist on an AAA level prospect as well. I can’t come up with a trading partner who has all three of those items at the moment. Teams that need a power-hitting corner outfielder (and I would leave Bay in left–I don’t think anyone fears his throwing arm) include the Nationals, Phillies, Indians, Athletics, Marlins, and Diamondbacks.
There’s absolutely no reason to trade Bay right now, though. I know some of the best Pirate minds out there have postulated that no one is untouchable on the roster, but Bay leads the club in almost all offensive statistics, is young, and signed a below market value contract. The Pirates are closer to putting together a decent team at this point than they are to fielding a disaster. (Dave Littlefield could screw it all up at any moment, but he hasn’t as of this writing.) In Bay’s contract year, it will be a different story and hopefully the team gets some value for him. I would rather see Jack Wilson go, but he won’t bring much and we would be stuck with Jose Castillo. And who would replace Bay’s bat in the lineup?
Carson and Corey from We Should Be GM’s:
When I first saw this question, I didn’t even want to entertain an answer, because the thought of the Pirates dealing Jason Bay brought flashbacks to the latter-day Expos. However, for sake of round table discussion, I will hypothesize a response. Because of Bay’s low salary and extraordinary talent and production, he could “fetch” a package of 3 MLB ready prospects or youngins. For example, Bay to the Yanks for Proctor, Melky, and Cano. Or the the Dodgers for Billingsley, Kemp, and Andy LaRoche, the third base prospect.
Randy from Buried Treasure:
Wow. Scary thought because I’m convinced if the Pirates were to trade him, they’d get taken. This would be on my top ten list of things I don’t like to think about along with being eaten alive by ants. I’d trade him to the Cubs for Jose Hernandez, Bobby Hill and Matt Bruback. Oh, wait. They’ve already traded a young stud for those three. Generally speaking, I think he’d be worth the three best prospects off the richest farm system in either league. Don’t know who those guys would be. In terms of young players already in the Majors, I think a package of Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson or Scott Olsen might be asking too much. If the Phillies offered Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins for Bay and a starting pitcher, I’d have to consider that. I need something less threatening to think about. Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski, Dave Parker. Ahh. That’s better. Francisco Cabrera. Ack…

Wilbur Miller from Pirate Player Profiles:

About what Giles did, only a little better because Bay is younger and not coming off a knee injury and a drop in power. Giles did, however, have a very affordable contract for a premium hitter. Anyway, Bay should fetch two top prospects and one other player. In the Giles trade, Bay—despite how he turned out—wasn’t quite considered a top prospect by most people and Perez was very risky, for good reason, unfortunately. Bay should get two guys who are a little more highly regarded or a little less risky, plus a decent-to-good prospect. I’m assuming Bay would be traded for prospects, because trading a top hitter his age who’s still well short of free agency for veteran talent would be insane.
Cory from A New Pirates Generation:
Three young guys that are big-league ready. Not prospects. Ready to play in 2007 or, at the latest, 2008. Prospects end up like Xavier Nady. If I trade Jason Bay, I want Jason Bay back–but a few years younger, and with a twin brother. Guys like Bay aren’t around–the only ones that immediately come to mind are Miguel Cabrera and Matt Holliday. You could, in theory, get a Marlins bounty for any of them–a three-for-one deal that returns R.O.Y. candidates. You risk giving up the long-term rights to a budding superstar for the even longer-term rights of multiple potential superstars. Is that a risk that the Pirates are willing to take? Probably not–but it seems to be working out well for Florida.
Mondesi’s House:
Realistically, he should fetch a few big league-ready players, plus a prospect or throw-in to nibble on. However, with Dave Littlefield at the wheel, I’d expect a package deal of a double-A reliever in the Ryan Vogelsong mold, a double-A second baseman in the Bobby Hill mold, and a triple-A outfielder in the Tike Redman mold. And cash, of course.

Author: PLCArchives

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