Comments on: First Pitch: 2013 Is the Make or Break Year for Huntington and Company Your best source for news on the Pittsburgh Pirates and their minor league system. Mon, 17 Nov 2014 17:50:00 +0000 hourly 1 By: Craig Biddle Wed, 10 Oct 2012 05:43:00 +0000 With all due respect to the military, no job in that organization below the rank of General is anywhere near as complex as that of a major league GM. Even Brian Cashman makes mistakes, he just has the financial resources to overcome them. The GM of a bottom-third revenue team like the Pirates has no such luxury, he has to perform to a near-impossible standard.

And what does his job entail?

Coordinating the drafting of about 40 players every year, who have played the game against inferior competition to what they will see in Rookie ball, and guessing which ones have the work ethic, character, and drive to develop into major leaguers.

Overseeing the development of said players, through about 5 levels of developmental leagues. This requires him to walk the tightrope between keeping the players challenged and giving them too much at one time. It also entails finding the right instructors and coaching personalities for a diverse group of young men, some of whom need a pat on the back and others a kick in the a**, with yet others requiring both at different times.

Attempting to plumb the depths of the trade market and free agency, to find missing pieces to fill out his major league roster, and then to get those pieces to agree to sign. Note that, at his budget level, he is basically required to forecast future performance of guys who have marginal big league skills.

Trying to decide how to allocate salary budget over the next four or five years to (a) keep the players who will produce throughout their contract years, and (b) avoid the fatal mistake of committing money to players who will, for one reason or another, cease to be productive.

Think you can do it? Hah!

As far as Huntingdon’s performance, I grade him as:

Draft B- / C+, with steady improvement.

Development A Regardless of who, how, or where the players currently in the minors have been acquired, the Pirates had 6 of the top 100 prospects in baseball going into last year. Five of them progressed (counting Grossman, who became the key piece in acquiring Wandy) and the 6th (Josh Bell) was injured for much of the year. Two more guys (Polanco and Hanson) had breakout years, and will surely join the holdover pitchers in the consensus top 100 list. Few organizations can claim to have had as good a year in player development.

Trades / Free Agency – C+ / B- Barajas and Barmes have been discussed to death. Bedard was also a failure, although for him it was apparently more a lack of wanting to be here. But there were successes, too. Jason Grilli and Kevin Correia have been solid for their entire tenures. Garrett Jones was an excellent low-budget FA signing. On the trade front: Joel Hanrahan – acquired for the forgettable Nyjer Morgan. Wandy and A.J. – their top two starters next year will have been acquired for a package of players the best of whom is likely to be Robbie Grossman. James McDonald – acquired for Octavio Dotel, Mike McKenry – acquired for a song. There have been bad trades, too, but the pieces above are enough to make up for a lot of errors. I also like acquiring Travis Snyder and Gaby Sanchez this summer, too – both are ML minimum types with some history of success.

Salary Management – A – our “worst” contract next year is likely to be Barmes, but it is only one more year. There is future money to lock up any or all of Walker, Marte, Cole, Taillon, McDonald, and more if they choose to. And the Cutch deal is looking fabulous. If he has another year like this one, they should volunteer to add one year at $20 million to the end of his current deal as a thank-you, and as an incentive to others.

So my grade for him is 13 of a possible 16 – I’d say that’s pretty good.

By: John Lease Sun, 30 Sep 2012 08:52:00 +0000 Actually, I read this sight because I love what Tim does covering the minor leagues. No one does it 1/10th as good. And I’ve been a Pirate fan forever. But I call it like I see it. It hasn’t been just this year when you talk about Pirates management. Neil Huntington has been arrogant, along with Coonelly. Completely dismissive about whatever criticism comes. I know that isn’t how great management works, I’ve worked long enough to know that. I’m not interested in an endless war of words, I’m too old for that. Unlike the many minions on both sides, I’m not some cutesy term, I’m John Lease. I don’t hide behind that, the picture of my twitter handle is me sitting on my sister’s back porch at her house in Hampton Township. I’m way too emotionally involved with the Pirates to be dispassionate. But I can look at them objectively enough, I believe, to have an opinion of worth. I’ve been right and wrong. Ask me sometime how I felt about Jimmy Anderson.

By: John Lease Sun, 30 Sep 2012 08:52:00 +0000 I really don’t have the same opinion on your first pitch articles. Read up on it sometime!

By: John Lease Sun, 30 Sep 2012 08:43:00 +0000 Really? I find it predictable that whatever bad news coming out from the joke of an organization that is the Pirates is defended. Also checking out what the OTHER defenders of the faith write makes sure of group conformity. Why do I comment immediately? I love the stupid Pirates. Love them. Loved them enough to go to Friday’s game. Loved them enough to be ENRAGED watching them go thru the motions to be no-hit by Homer Bailey. I’m SICK of the losing. Incremental process in the minor leagues doesn’t cut it with me. It’s past time for excuses, it’s time for results. Did you see the game Friday? In the 8th inning, Brandon Phillips was credited with a hit (if it changed since then I don’t know, just got back from Pittsburgh). It was a grounder that Alvarez should have gotten to, that Barmes got and made a leaping throw to Jones, which he missed trying to dig out. Had he caught it, Phillips would have been out, so how that is a hit is beyond me. The Pirates complete dis-interest in the game was palpable, right down to the manager. Once it looked like a no-hitter was happening, suddenly Hurdle starts putting in lefties? Tabata jogs it out twice, time to put in Snider?

I want real results from my team, not pie in the sky. I’ve had my fill of that. Excuse me if I am negative. The Pirates aren’t going to have a winning season, for the 20th year in a row. They went thru the most EPIC collapse in ML history (assuming one more loss) this season.

By: Tim Williams Fri, 28 Sep 2012 22:55:00 +0000 I totally agree. The thing is, this ranking is already weighing that. I think their upside could ultimately make them the top prospects in the system. A lot of that is based on the idea that they could continue improving their game from here. They’re ranked where they are because they’re largely unproven. There’s the important jump to AA, and the additional upside that isn’t guaranteed.

By: Paul Hartman Fri, 28 Sep 2012 21:39:00 +0000 Tim,

Can’t disagree with your thinking on Hanson and Polanco, given your seeing good things coming into this season. As you know however, it’s entirely possible for a player to have tools, look good, have a breakout season below AA ball, then struggle from there.
We’ve seen this under Bonifay, Littlefield and now Huntington. Unlike Littlefield, I’ll say this for Huntington and his two prospects – Hanson and Polanco – they have youth on their side and can blossom. Littlefield had so many older prospects playing against younger opponents during his rein and it often gave a deceptive picture of where his players really were.

By: Tim Williams Fri, 28 Sep 2012 19:44:00 +0000 I could care less about whatever grief I get from people, so that’s of no concern to me. I get amused by it for the most part. Maybe that’s “pompous”, but I’m totally fine with that. You can’t avoid negative reactions to your work or even to you.

In this case I was bringing up how it’s ironic that I’m being accused of knee jerk reactions, which are coming in the form of knee jerk reactions to my article. There’s no consideration that maybe I’m writing this because my reasons are valid, and not for hidden reasons like apologizing.

Ultimately I don’t care what anyone thinks. John disagrees with me on a lot. That’s fine. I’m not trying to change his mind or criticize him for thinking any different way. I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind about anything. You’re off base assuming that I’m trying to suggest anything about how much time the readers put in to their thoughts, or trying to criticize the way they view a subject. I don’t care what the readers think. I respect that everyone has an individual opinion, and I assume that they came to their opinion for valid reasons, just like I came to my opinion for valid reasons. I’m not going to get worked up because someone has a different opinion than I do.

I just continue to find it ironic and amusing that John (and a few other people) always have these same posts on my articles, accusing me of knee jerk reactions or apologizing (and you never see these comments on the negative articles). So I’m just pointing out the irony. John has made these comments in several articles over the last few weeks. That assumes he’s on the other side of each issue. So which one of us is having a “knee jerk” reaction if we are both on different sides of an issue every time? Personally I think it’s just that we have different opinions, and that’s all there is to it.

By: RandyLinville Fri, 28 Sep 2012 19:09:00 +0000 Tim – I think this type of reaction is one of the reasons you get so much grief from people, especially at the CIA board. I understand that you don’t enjoy having someone claim your position is knee jerk. But to then turn around and claim that John’s response to your post is a knee jerk is off base. Don’t you think that’s a bit pompous? I mean, the suggestion that John’s comments to your post are knee jerk implies that the only time he has spent ruminating on the topic is when he read your post. While you were taking your time in writing this article, isn’t it possible that John was talking this over with friends, bouncing it around on twitter, posting and reading opinions on message boards and/or reading what other bloggers/mainstream media had written (in addition to being formed over the five years that NH has been at the helm)? Isn’t it possible that his opinions – although different from yours – are formed from an equal or near equal amount of thought being given to them? I think he was off base in calling your post knee jerk. But you are also off base in turning the argument back around on him. I think it is arrogant to suggest that your readers don’t put some time into their analysis/opinions and I think this is partly why pockets of Pirate fans have such little respect for all the work and effort you put forth in covering the team.

By: azibuck Fri, 28 Sep 2012 15:48:00 +0000 >McKenry is better at blocking pitches than Barajas, based on their passed ball numbers.

This not an appropriate measure for blocking pitches. Missing a fastball just off the plate is passed ball. A better measure is how many wild pitches were charged to pitchers for whom they were catching. If one gives up a lot of WP, he’s not good at blocking pitches. And the truer measure than that is, WP/all pitches in the dirt.

By: Tim Williams Fri, 28 Sep 2012 14:08:00 +0000 I think it’s ironic that you chalk my writing up to knee jerk reactions and being an apologist. I wrote this article hours after the announcement. That gave me plenty of time to think it all over and get my thoughts in order on the subject, which is the opposite of “knee jerk”. And immediately after reading it, you quickly posted about it being a “full apology”.

So which one of us is making knee jerk reactions, and which one of us has the bias? Everything you say is negative. It’s predictable, to the point where I know what you’re going to say before I finish writing an article. I point out the negative and the positive. This article, which has both, is an example. I also take my time writing something, rather than rushing to write an article on a subject. This avoids knee jerk reactions, and allows me to think of things I wouldn’t have initially thought of. Yet you comment immediately on those articles, which is the definition of a knee jerk reaction.