Pirates Notebook: Extend Jack Wilson

I was going to write a post about the value of Jack Wilson before tonight’s game. That was before the horrible swings in his strikeout with the bases loaded in the 6th, his failure to lay down a bunt with no outs and Nyjer Morgan at first base in the 9th, and his misplay in the 10th that would have been a double play, and almost cost the Pirates the game.

I thought about it, but decided that I’m not going to let one bad game impact my opinion. That opinion is that we need to extend Jack Wilson.

In reviewing all of the pitchers in the majors (for fantasy baseball purposes), I noticed that the Pirates starters all have something in common. Aside from Jeff Karstens, all of the Pirates starters are above average when it comes to ground ball rates this year. The major league average is usually 43 percent, with Ross Ohlendorf, Paul Maholm, Ian Snell, and Zach Duke all above that average.

So you’ve got a rotation full of ground ball heavy pitchers. What’s the most important thing you need? Good infield defense. That’s where Jack Wilson comes in.

Wilson may not be the best offensive shortstop, but he usually provides some solid defense. In the case of the Pirates, extra offense from the shortstop position would help, but a decrease in defense would off-set that extra production by hurting the pitching staff.

When we talk about extending Wilson, we’re talking about 2010 and beyond. In 2010 we can expect to see Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, and most likely Jose Tabata as well. The Pirates will see a boost in their offense with the addition of those three top prospects to their lineup. That makes the need for an offensive shortstop much smaller.

Of course, Wilson would have to take a substantial pay cut to return on an extension. Consider that Cesar Izturis recently signed a 2 year, $5 M deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Wilson is a .281 hitter the last three years, while Izturis is a .258 hitter over that stretch, and two years younger than Wilson. With the recent economy, I’d say the max value for Wilson right now is $3 M per year. We saw this winter that the demand was low, and I don’t think teams will be giving him Renteria money on the free agent market.

Considering the lack of shortstop depth in the minors, the extra offense we will see next year with McCutchen, Alvarez, and Tabata, and the starting rotation with the high ground ball ratio, I’d say the Pirates need to extend Wilson for two years, with an option for the third incase no one is ready from the minors at that point.

The MVP Tracker

Updates to the MVP tracker from tonight’s loss to the Padres:

-One negative point for Jack Wilson. Horrible game all around. But like I said, I’m not going to weigh this one game too heavily.

-One negative point for Delwyn Young for failing to bring in the go ahead run in the 6th with one out and Andy LaRoche on third.

-One negative point for Freddy Sanchez for the 0 for 5 performance. They needed Freddy tonight with McLouth out.

-One negative point for Matt Capps for allowing the winning run.

-One negative point for Nyjer Morgan getting picked off at first in the 9th. My rule is if you’re quick enough to beat out an infield chopper for a single, then you don’t need a huge risky lead.

Overall it wasn’t a horrible game. The bullpen looked great up until Capps in the 11th. Snell didn’t have his best stuff, walking five in five innings, but the Pirates were still in the game. Not to mention Snell was the whole offense while he was in the game.

Considering the Pirates were missing Doumit and McLouth, the offense wasn’t horrible either, although the two instances with Wilson really hurt, and ended up costing the Pirates the game tonight.

Other Stuff

-I wrote about how the Pirates are bad on the road against West Coast teams. Let’s hope that tonight’s game isn’t a sign of things to come this year.

-The Draft Prospects Tracker is updated. All six pitchers took the mound on Friday, with good starts from Andy Oliver and Mike Leake.

-The Pirates designated Dave Davidson for assignment when they acquired Delwyn Young. Davidson was claimed by the Florida Marlins on Friday.

-I’ll be out of town tomorrow and Sunday, so no updates until Sunday night.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Anonymous

    NOOOOO! Please don’t extend Jack Wilson! He’s old, his range is getting shorter, his defense was overrated to begin with, and hit can’t hit.