Pirates Notebook: The offense comes alive

At around the seventh inning of Sunday’s game it was starting to feel like the Pirates couldn’t catch a break. They’d get runners at first and second with one out, only to get doubled up on a nice line drive catch. They’d get runners at the corners with two outs, only to see Brandon Moss thrown out after rounding first too far. At one point they had 11 hits and only one run in six innings. That’s almost impossible to pull off.

Then Eric Hinske hit his first homer in the eighth inning. The Pirates were still down by one run, but it was nice to see some offense at that point.

And that was followed by the ninth inning. With two outs, Jack Wilson blasted a homer in to the left field seats, tying the game. Nyjer Morgan followed up with a double, and Delwyn Young singled to bring in Nyjer for the go ahead run.

For a team that came in to this game with a 20 inning scoreless streak, any runs will do, but to get them in such a dramatic fashion was a nice touch. Although I’d rather see blowout victories. They’re less stressful.

To top it off, Matt Capps looked like his old self, shutting down the final three batters, all with strikeouts, for the save. The bullpen as a whole did well. Sean Burnett and Jesse Chavez got the Pirates out of a jam in the sixth, with runners at first and second and one out. Chavez worked a quick inning in the seventh, and John Grabow pitched a scoreless eighth inning to get the win.

The Pirates take on the Cubs tomorrow, and carry some nice momentum in to the series. The pitching was fantastic against the White Sox, and if the offense can come alive with Maholm, Snell, and Duke taking the mound in this series, the Pirates have a strong chance of winning this series, which would be a nice touch to this ten game road trip.

The MVP Tracker

I decided to change the format for the MVP Tracker. It’s not that I didn’t like the old results, but there were a few problems:

1. It was a basic ranking system. For example, Jack Wilson homering tonight would have gotten him a point. In past games I’ve also awarded points to good offensive performances, although without those performances, the Pirates would have still won, just the game would have been closer. Without Jack, the Pirates would have lost. So obviously Jack’s play means more in the long run.

2. Players didn’t get awarded for good performances in a loss (pitching staff), and players didn’t get bumped down for bad performances in a victory (Brandon Moss in April).

3. I’m not around to watch every minute of every game, so some of the rankings are based on what I read or see in recaps/highlights.

I’ve decided to use the “Win Probability Added” stats from FanGraphs for the rankings. In each game, FanGraphs tracks the “Win Expectancy” (WE) for each play. The WPA tracks the change in WE from the start of the play, to the end of the play.

For example, the Pirates had just a 3.8% chance of winning when Jack Wilson came to the plate. After Wilson’s homer, the Pirates had a 39.3% chance of winning. So Wilson improved the Pirates’ chances by 35.5%, giving him a .355 WPA for the game. That’s added to his season totals to get his overall WPA.

In short, the WPA tracks the value of every individual play to the team, and adds all of those up over the course of the season. I feel this is a much better ranking system than just giving a point for important plays and performances during the game.

The MVP Tracker will be updated the day after each game with the recent results, but I will recap the big changes each night in the Notebook. Check out FanGraphs for more information on the WPA stats.

Other Stuff

-The Draft Prospects Tracker is updated. All of the players are finished until the NCAA tournament, which begins next week.

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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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