Pirates Notebook: Jose being Jose

The Pittsburgh Pirates may have a losing record so far this season, but overall, it’s been a nice year for the future of the organization. That was especially evident tonight. Brad Lincoln made a very nice start in his debut at AAA. Pedro Alvarez hit his first homer at AA, carrying over the power we saw in Lynchburg. And in the majors, Andrew McCutchen continues living up to his top prospect hype.

I got to thinking about a few players in our system, and figured I would do some player comparisons over the next few days (because there’s nothing I love more than getting three days worth of posts done in one night, then rolling them out a day at a time). The first player I’ll look at is Jose Tabata.

Tabata was signed by the Yankees at the age of 15, and started his professional career at the age of 16. Along the way he drew comparisons to Manny Ramirez, which is something every Pirates fan wants to hear now that he’s in the system.

In 2008, Tabata drew the wrong Manny comparisons, being such a headcase that he fell from grace in the Yankees system, opening up the possibility for the Xavier Nady trade (his .248 average with the Yankees also helped). Tabata caught fire once he joined the Pirates, hitting for a .348/.402/.562 line in 89 at-bats. He struggled this season with a hamstring injury, causing him to miss some time, but is hitting .250/.355/.357 since returning.

When I was younger I used to buy baseball cards all the time. Recently I started collecting a 2009 Bowman set (I landed a Gift Ngoepe World Baseball Classic card). Tonight I decided to buy a box of packs of older cards, from the 80s and 90s. That led to two discoveries:

1. I got two packs of 1989 Topps with the chewing gum in the pack. The gum is slightly older than my brother. Yet for some reason I’m eventually going to try it, and it will probably taste exactly the same as it did in 1989.

2. In researching some of the cards I got, I came across this picture of a younger Manny Ramirez:

I was drawn back to the Jose Tabata/Manny Ramirez comparisons, especially this picture from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

The one thing that was always hard for me to picture was the 5’11” Tabata being a 40+ home run hitter like Manny Ramirez. That’s mostly because I can only picture Manny as the big, goofy, dreadlocked player he is right now. I forget that he was once just a 5’11”, skinny prospect with upside.

Looking at the card above, it would be hard to imagine that Manny would start hitting 30-45 homers a year just three years later. Manny was just 20 in that picture, playing in high A ball.

Tabata is currently 20 years old (turning 21 in August), and playing in AA ball. Looking at the picture above, especially focused on the arms, it’s clear that while Tabata is 5’11”, he has much more power potential than other 5’11” guys, like Andrew McCutchen for example.

Tabata hasn’t shown the minor league power that we saw from Manny. Manny had 13 homers in 291 at-bats in A+ ball, 17 homers in 344 at-bats at AA, and 17 homers in 145 at-bats at AAA. The good thing is that Tabata has shown flashes of being an elite player, like his 2008 time in Altoona. His career minor league line is .293/.363/.395. The average is solid, and the on-base percentage is also great. That goes up to .305/.375/.418 if you take out his 2008 with New York.

So far we’ve seen that Tabata can hit and get on base (he has a .307 average and a .377 OBP in our system). The only thing left is the power surge. He’s only 20 years old, and in no way is he finished developing. How nice would it be for the future of the Pirates if he comes anything close to Manny Ramirez?

The MVP Tracker

The MVP Tracker is updated through the 6/23 loss. Here are the big performers from tonight’s win:

1. Zach Duke: .131 WPA
2. Adam LaRoche: .111
3. Jason Jaramillo: .069
4. Jack Wilson: .064
5. Brandon Moss: .051

Prospect Watch

The Prospect Tracker is updated with tonight’s results:

-Brad Lincoln had a great first start for Indianapolis. Lincoln went 6.2 innings, with 2 hits, 1 run (scored after he left in the 7th), 4 Ks and 3 walks. Lincoln threw 99 pitches, 63 for strikes.

-Pedro Alvarez went 1 for 5 with his first homer at AA. Alvarez scored three runs, and had two strikeouts, giving him five in nine at bats so far for Altoona.

-Jose Tabata went 0 for 5 with a run and two strikeouts.

-Gorkys Hernandez went 0 for 2 with a strikeout. He left after the strikeout, which was a called third strike. He was removed by the manager for his actions after the strikeout. Not sure if that means he didn’t care, or he threw an excessive fit.

-Tony Sanchez went 1 for 4 with a walk, a double, and a run. This was the last game in State College for Sanchez. He will play his first game for West Virginia on Saturday.

Other Stuff

-The Pirates made a trade, acquiring first baseman Brian Myrow from the Chicago White Sox for a PTBNL or cash considerations. This move is most likely to fill the hole that Steve Pearce left at first base at AAA.

-John Perrotto posted yesterday that the Pirates were interested in Luis Ayala. Today he elaborates on that, saying the interest is only there if Minnesota picks up the bulk of the $700 K due to Ayala.

-Dejan Kovacevic reports that Ian Snell will make his next start. Also, Charlie Morton won’t make his next start, scheduled for Friday. Virgil Vasquez will most likely get the call from AAA, either to start, or to go to the bullpen while Jeff Karstens gets the start.

-I will be at the Lynchburg Hillcats game tomorrow, which is Chase D’Arnaud’s first start. I’m hoping Bryan Morris will be on the mound (it’s the first game of the second half, and six days since his last start, but no official word yet). Whoever is on the mound will probably be the same pitcher I see on Tuesday. I’ll be providing Twitter updates from the game.

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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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Alvarez Homers In Curve Win

  • http://twitter.com/pirateswfc Brian

    Even more egregiously to me, the Pirates are bunting into situations where the defense is defending the bunt.  How much must a player’s batting average increase in a situation where one or two infielders are charging toward the plate, one is holding the runner, and the second baseman is running to cover first? It’s absurd to bunt against that defense if there’s any other option.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Yeah. The defense knows they will bunt, which makes it more likely that the defense will capitalize on a mistake, like the one from Tabata tonight.

  • nickmid13

    And today they were bunting on someone who can’t even throw 80mph. In the first inning, if Tabata can’t hit the ball to the right side of the field against a softball pitcher who seems to pitch down and away, then I would seriously question why he’s in the Bigs.

    • Maz1960

      Did you watch the game? They didn’t hit to the right side of the field all game against Moyer.

      • nickmid13

        Yes, I did. What’s your point?

        • Maz1960

          How many times did Pirates right handed hitters – who were being pitched on the outer half of the plate with slow stuff – attempt to go opposite field and how many times did they weakly ground out to the left side of the infield?  It wasn’t only Tabata who failed to hit the ball where it was pitched against Moyer, it was Walker, McCutchen, Barajas, McGehee . . . only Barmes seemed to have a clue at the plate.  Time after time, grounder to third base, grounder to shortstop, fly to left field.  The Bucco hitters should have been denting the right field scoreboard against Moyer and should’ve taken notes with how some Cardinals approached hitting Bedard.  Absolutely pathetic effort by nearly every hitter in the lineup against Moyer.  So . . . do I blame Hurdle for not having a whole lot of confidence in these guys right now?  No way. He’s reacting to what he’s seeing on the field.

          • nickmid13

            I agree the effort was pathetic and that’s why I would blame both parties. Bunting in this scenario is basically giving an out away and decreasing your chances of a big inning (I’m aware we are talking about the offensively challenged Pirates). A major league hitter should know if he doesn’t get a pitch he can drive, he should be trying to hit the ball behind the runner to get him over to third. Hurdle should be reinforcing that idea to the hitters. It’s all about approach. By swinging away, you are going to increase your chances of getting a hit and producing more than 1 run.

  • Kevin_Creagh

    Midway down this epically long rant by Rany Jazayerli, he vents about Ned Yost doing the exact same thing — bunting from 2nd to 3rd with no outs.

    He practically has an anuerysm over it and I don’t blame him.  For an offensively challenged team, you don’t give away outs with the top of your order.  As you said Tim, if it’s the pitcher spot…sure, but not with Presley-Tabata-McCutchen.

    Dan Fox’s head must explode when he sees that.

    • Maz1960

      Seriously? RE tables simply show what could be expected from an average team. Offensively challenged teams will not produce in accordance with the table; they’ll score less. The notion that offensively challenged teams should wait for the 3 run HR is folly.

  • john.alcorn

    “You may think that bunting a runner over increases the chances of scoring a run.”

    That is somewhat incorrect Tim, depending on if the runner is on 1B or 2B. The chances of scoring 1 run is increased by bunting the runner to 3rd (.648 vs .609) last night’s situation, but the overall run expectancy (amount of runs) is decreased. Its a tradeoff. I agree with your opinion on the matter (the Bucs shouldn’t be giving away outs unless its a pitcher up or late game, 1 run situation), but its not so clear cut.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1307305 Matt Clements

    Great article Tim!  I’d like to see some sabremetric data on basestealing.  It seems like the Pirates are running themselves out of a lot of innings more often than not…

    • john.alcorn

      SB data is pretty straightforward (at least stealing 2B), depending on the study you need about a 72% success rate to add runs.

  • ecbucs

    I would rather them trying run and hit plays than bunt with number 2 hitter in lineup.  Try and use speed but don’t give up outs unless it is late in game and one run could win it.

    I think bunting is especially bad when trying to move a runner from second to third.  One of the plusses of bunting is to avoid a double play late in game.  The other factor is the Bucs have not even been successful at bunting this year.

  • dropkickmurphys

    The sacrifice bunt is baseball’s dumbest offensive move.  If you buy into the data in Tom Tango’s book, “The Book”, the sacrifice bunt (assuming it is successful) increases the likelihood of scoring one run about 3% (no outs with runner on first to one out with a runner on second). 

    Generally, 42% of all runners on first base with no outs, score.  About 45% of runners on second with one out score.  Now, those are averages and don’t account for the hitter’s (after the sac bunt) ability to put the ball in play successfully.  There is also another factor, the success of the sac bunt to move the runner over.  While I’m still looking up that data, I have to assume that when you factor in failed sac bunts, the likelihood of scoring, even one run, diminishes.

    At face value, and the pitcher being the only exception, it doesn’t make sense to give up 33% of an inning’s outs, to improve the team’s chance of scoring  by 3% under optimal circumstances.  The sac bunt, with position players in almost all cases, is bad baseball.

  • Maz1960

    Another advantage of bunting in the first inning is having Presley score from third on a ground out – which is exactly what happened. Can you explain why a RE chart which measures what can be expected from a hypothetical average scoring team has any application to the worst run scoring offense in all of baseball? To me, that’s like saying that teams from 1969 to 1992 scored 4.6 runs per game so we should just blindly believe that’s what the Pirates will score per night. As Bob Walk put it, when the line up ain’t hitting, you have to figure out how best to score runs. A RE chart simply isn’t a predictive tool.

  • ADman2B

    One thing that I don’t understand about your analysis is that you say “If Clint Barmes hits a
    leadoff double, and the pitcher comes up, bunt. Odds are the pitcher
    will record an out…” 

    If you think that if the odds are that the batter will record an out, then you are better of bunting, shouldn’t you always bunt in a possible bunt situation as no one hits over .500, meaning that odds are every player will record an out?

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