Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable #12

Question #1:
How many appearances should Salomon Torres make in 2007? Should he only be used as a closer?

Matt from Wait ‘Til Next Year:

The Pirates need to make sure that Salomon Torres stays among the league leaders in appearances in 2007. There are two reasons for this. First of all, Torres’ biggest asset is his durability. It seems as if he could pitch every day without a break, and often times he does. Taking away a large portion of his innings by using Torres strictly in traditional closer situations would put a large strain on the Pirates’ bullpen, which will include several young, inexperienced players in 2007.
Also, Torres is much more effective when he is used often, which is typical for sinkerball pitchers. The sinker has more break on it when thrown with a tired arm. Torres has a history of starting slowly and improving as the season progresses. Pirates’ management has stated that they will try to get him some extra work during spring training in an effort to wear his arm down more quickly and avoid the slow start, but that is not enough. Jim Tracy must be willing to use Torres more than just in the ninth inning when the Pirates lead by three runs or less. He shouldn’t hesitate to use him for multiple innings either.
Randy from Pittsburgh Lumber Co.:
I’ll answer the second question first: I think Torres should be the closer to open the season. As long as he doesn’t badly falter, he should be the closer all season. So, if he is the closer all season, then I see him making 60 to 70 appearances, depending on how many close situations the Bucs are in late in games. If Tracy goes to a closer by committee or if Torres fails as the closer, I’d say 80 appearances wouldn’t be unheard of. It’ll be interesting to see how his arm bounces back after so many appearances in 2006.
Pat from WHYGAVS:
The problem with cutting down on Torres’ appearances is that he really has pitched better in the second half of the past couple seasons (last year especially). I’d much rather see him used like a ’70s closer than the way the Pirates have used Gonzo and Mesa in recent years. I think Tracy knows this, though, and Eric Gagne pitched 82 and 1/3 innings in three straight years as a closer for Tracy, so we may not have as much to worry about as people think.
Steve from The Parrot:
Based on last year’s experience, Torres should certainly start the season as the closer, but it’s a wait-and-see to determine if he keeps that role. If Torres falters (he walked 0.31 batters an inning in 2006, Matt Capps only walked 0.09 per frame) and Capps is striking out batters like he was in 2006 (56 in 80 2/3 IP), the switch would have to be made. I think Torres is definitely the better of the two pitchers, and hopefully he won’t suffer from the overuse he went through last year–94 appearances! That’s nuts, and don’t give me that he gets better the more he pitches. He’s lucky he didn’t wreck his arm. Sixty to seventy games in 2007 would be a nice number for Torres to participate in. The Bucs need to spread the work around in the bullpen a bit more.
Dave from Bucs Trade Winds:
I would say 80-85 games should be just about right. Torres has averaged 85 games over the last three years, and keeping him close to that will keep him effective. In my mind, a true closer is the shutdown guy who ends a game, whether ahead or behind, giving his team the chance to win. Tracy was very selective with Gonzo last season, something he should try to do the exact opposite of with Torres.
The signing of Kolb will allow Tracy to use Torres in any circumstance he feels the need to bring him into, as Kolb gives Tracy another option to close games. If Torres is used as a two-inning closer but struggles, Kolb is still there to fall back on. Torres should always be the first option: pitch him until his arm falls off.
GM-Carson from We Should Be GM’s:
Salomon Torres should be used when he’s needed, which means not only in save situation. If it’s a tie game in the eighth or ninth, he should be in there. I do expect more save opportunities this season, as the Pirates will score more runs leading to situations for saves to win games. The Pirates bullpen has a lot of potential, so Torres doesn’t need to shoulder the load, but to use him solely in save situations is silly in my opinion.
Question #2:
If you were building a new team from scratch and had to pick one Pirate not named McCutchen as your franchise player, who would it be, and why?

Matt from Wait ‘Til Next Year:
This question was very difficult for me to answer, and I became pretty depressed while trying to come up with a response. Other than McCutchen, the Pirates do not have a can’t-miss prospect in the minor leagues. The only Major League players that could carry a franchise are already peaking and may begin declining within a few years (Bay, Sanchez, LaRoche, etc.). I toyed with the idea of choosing Jose Bautista, as he is still young with some upside. But there is no way I could justify building a franchise around him, as he is likely to end up as only a good utility player in the end. So I will go with Jason Bay by default. I am confident that he can remain productive for several years, as he is athletic and possesses a diverse set of skills. I wish there was a younger player I could have chosen, though.
GM-Carson from We Should Be GM’s:
Zach Duke. He has experienced success and failure at the major-league level now, all by the age of 23. He is a left-handed starter that has something special. I fully believe he will harness his ability this season and go on to win 15-17 games and become a legit staff ace. His minor-league stats are wonderful, and his first dip into the majors in ’05 was amazing. He had his ups and downs, and now it’s time to expierence the ups for the long haul.
Pat from WHYGAVS:
This is a tough question. It’s hard to make a pitcher a franchise player since they only pitch every five days so I guess it has to be Jason Bay, though he’s a bit old for that distinction at this point. This is still only his 28-year-old season and he’s been in the top ten in OPS+ in either league the past two seasons, so there’s not really anything wrong with him as a franchise player at all. It’s kind of sad that there’s not really anyone younger in the system to consider (besides the off-limits McCutchen), but such is life as a Pirate fan, I suppose.
Randy from Pittsburgh Lumber Co.:
I don’t like to think of a world without Andrew McCutchen. It’s a toss up between Neil Walker and Brad Lincoln and Rajai Davis. My pick would be Walker because he has more experience in the minors. Just kidding about Rajai Davis.
Dave from Bucs Trade Winds:
There are so many ways to go with this one. If McCutchen changed his name to Snell, could we pick him then? My gut choice would be to take Lincoln, but I can’t build my franchise around a pitcher. My next thought would be either Sanchez, LaRoche or Bay. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the three.
I would have to say Bay starts my franchise because he has done it for multiple years where Sanchez and LaRoche have yet to prove themselves over multiple years. I also believe I could get multiple prospects by trading Bay to further build the franchise. However my final answer is Andrew Snell, if the name change is allowed.
Steve from The Parrot:
Jack Wilson. Just kidding–Jason Bay, of course! The rest of the team (yes, including Freddy S.) cannot hold a candle to Bay. The only thing the left fielder gives away is age, at 28. His OPS over the past three seasons has been .908, .961 and .928. He gets on base 40 percent of the time and knocks in 90-ish runs a year. Bay is a proven player, and while McCutchen has tons of promise, he hasn’t made the majors yet.

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Leading Off

  • Cory Humes

    Since I didn’t write this week, I figure I’ll leave a comment with my answers. Put me down for 80+ for Torres (throwing just about every second day), someone who’s not Torres as closer by August, and Jason Bay (although I’d try to trade Bay for someone else’s franchise player).

  • Nicolas

    Some interesting numbers on Torres…
    *In his three years as a reliever, he has gone through a total of 1153 PA’s. He has given up 19 HR’s, all of which have come in the first 15 pitches. Hitters have a .248 avg against him in his first 30 pitches, and a .313 avg after that (though it speaks to his abilities that only 62 of the 1153 PA’s have gone past 30 pitches).
    So perhaps he should be on a specific pitch count above anything else?

  • Nicolas

    Though…”roughed up past 30 pitches” sounds a lot like “roughed up after his first time through the lineup”. Maybe multiple innings = bad unless he’s really hopping.

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