Pirates Notebook: Perfect timing for the McLouth trade

I’m finding myself liking the McLouth trade more and more since the deal has been made. My biggest complaint on the deal was that the package we received in return wasn’t enough. Nate’s value should have been high, as he has a gold glove, and hit .276 with 26 homers from the center field position last year, which looks great. Only Carlos Beltran and Josh Hamilton hit for a higher average and more homers from the center field position last year.

Then I considered two things. First, I read the following from Buster Olney:

There was concern within the Pirates’ organization about McLouth’s range and his ability to throw from the outfield, and they moved McLouth partly because they determined that, as an asset, he might have begun to lose value as other teams assessed his diminishing defense.

Despite the fact that Nate won a gold glove last year, there have been a lot of complaints on his defense. First of all, there’s the fact that McLouth rated 56th out of 63 qualifying outfielders last year in the Ultimate Zone Rating stat, found here at FanGraphs, which is considered by a lot of people to be the premier defensive stat.

This year McLouth ranks 40th out of 69 qualifying outfielders in the same stat category. We also started to see teams lose respect for McLouth’s defense, with an increase in players running on McLouth, including a few players tagging from first on fly balls. It’s safe to say that word was getting out about McLouth’s poor defensive skills.

However, there is the fact that McLouth put up great stats last year. That’s only great stats for a center fielder though. One argument was that the Pirates should have gotten rid of Brandon Moss (ranked as the 7th best defensive outfielder this year), and moved McLouth over to a corner outfield spot, making room for McCutchen. The problem with this is that now McLouth’s stats go from great in the center field spot, to average in a corner outfield spot. McLouth isn’t a 35-40 home run hitter, and he’s not a .300 hitter either. It’s fine posting a .276 average and 26 homers from center field, but it’s a downgrade in a corner spot.

Last year McLouth would have ranked 28th in batting average amongst qualifying corner outfielders (compared to 7th amongst center fielders), and 11th amongst corner outfielders in home runs (compared to 4th amongst center fielders). The home runs look alright, but there were 17 other corner outfielders who had 20-25 home runs, and I don’t think the fact that McLouth had 26 would separate him from that pack.

My original opinion was that the Pirates could have waited on McLouth, tried to get Jason Heyward, and the same offer would most likely be on the table a month from now. I’m starting to get the feeling that the opposite is true. A month from now McLouth’s defense would have been further exposed, and the value of his 2008 Gold Glove would be further diminished.

Also, at the moment McLouth is hitting for a .251 average. It’s most likely assumed that this will rebound closer to .280, but if McLouth is still hitting .250 a month from now, do you think the Braves have just as much faith in him?

After further review I’m in favor of the timing of the McLouth trade, as it seems like we sold him when his value was at it’s highest. As for the return, we assume Atlanta looks at McLouth as a great center fielder who is a legit Gold Glove winner, but the possibility exists that they saw the content that we covered in this post, which makes sense that they wouldn’t be willing to give up Tommy Hanson or Jason Heyward.

Jaramillo vs Diaz

On Monday I posted the CERA chart, comparing the Pirates’ starting pitchers ERAs by catchers. The focus is mostly on Jason Jaramillo and Robinzon Diaz. Since Monday the Pirates have played five games. The updated chart is as follows:

Not much of a change. Diaz didn’t play in a single game. Jaramillo raised his ERA with the starters slightly. Zach Duke had a strong start on Tuesday, allowing one run on seven innings. We can see by the chart above that Duke has been good this year no matter who the catcher is.

As for the other starters:

-Ross Ohlendorf allowed five runs over 4.1 innings.
-Jeff Karstens allowed six runs over 5.2 innings.
-Paul Maholm allowed four runs over 7 innings.
-Ian Snell allowed three runs over 6 innings.

I plan on adding this chart to the features sidebar, and updating it after every game. That change will come next week after the draft, along with some other changes, listed below.

The MVP Tracker

The MVP Tracker is updated through the 6/6 victory. Here are the results from today’s loss:

1. Adam LaRoche: -.288 WPA
2. Steven Jackson: -.171
3. Andy LaRoche: -.156
4. Brandon Moss: -.099
5. Jesse Chavez: -.080

The Draft, and New Additions to the Site

Tuesday is the MLB Draft at 6 PM EST (don’t forget to join us for the live blog). Since there are no more college games until the draft comes along, the Draft Prospects Tracker has had it’s final update of the season. Dustin Ackley homered in UNC’s victory, his 22nd of the year, to wrap things up.

If the Pirates ended up selecting someone on the Tracker, like Ackley (which would be awesome), I will continue posting that player’s stats until the college season is over for said player. However, it won’t be posted in the Draft Prospects Tracker area. Instead it will be posted in a new area to be launched Tuesday: The Pirates Prospect Tracker. Riveting, huh?

Slowly, but surely, I will add Pirates prospects to the Tracker, with more emphasis on “slowly” at first. The goal is to have the following information on one chart:

-Total Stats for 2009
-Historical Yearly Stats
-Game Logs
-Monthly Splits
-League Splits (if a prospect plays in more than one league, ex: AA and AAA)
-Home/Away splits

I’ll start with the top guys in the system on Tuesday: Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Brad Lincoln. Depending on how difficult the process is, I will have more than just those players on the launch (or possibly even earlier than Tuesday). Ideally I’d like to start with the following players:

-Pedro Alvarez
-Jose Tabata
-Brad Lincoln
-Gorkys Hernandez
-Bryan Morris
-Jeff Locke
-Brian Friday
-Jordy Mercer
-Matt Hague
-Robbie Grossman

Feel free to suggest a player and I’ll add him to the list, depending on the player’s chances of making an impact one day with the Pirates (and by impact, I mean the potential to be a starter in the rotation, or a starting position player).

Enjoy this story? Pirates Prospects will be switching to a subscription site on 4/13, so that we can continue bringing you the best Pirates coverage there is. For a very small monthly price, you can continue getting articles like this, along with coverage from every minor league city. Get more information here, and subscribe today!

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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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