First Pitch: Why Do Bad Pirates Hitters Become All-Stars Elsewhere?

The Pirates have been frustrating lately. The offense has struggled, losing a lot of close games, and failing to come up with runs in situations where at least one run should be expected. What might be even more frustrating is looking around the league and seeing former Pirates having success at the plate, despite struggling in Pittsburgh similar to the way the Pirates are struggling right now. Consider these four players, who all play a position of need, all played for the Pirates in recent years, all struggled with the Pirates, and would all serve as huge upgrades this year with their current numbers on other teams.

Nate McLouth – He was absolutely horrible with the Pirates this year. He hit for a .140/.210/.175 line in 57 at-bats with the Pirates, and his defense wasn’t really making up for that. McLouth signed with the Orioles, and now it seems like every time you watch highlights, he’s making a difference for the team. He currently has a .279/.350/.418 line in 122 at-bats, and has made a few big plays on the field. A lot of the hitting is due to Camden Yards being hitter friendly, although PNC Park should have been hitter friendly to the left-handed hitter.

Brandon Moss - The Pirates added Moss as one of the four pieces in the Jason Bay trade. He was supposed to come in and fill one of the starting corner outfield spots, adding some power. In parts of three seasons with Pittsburgh, Moss combined for a .228/.295/.373 line in 569 at-bats. This year he joined the Oakland Athletics, and currently has a .262/.327/.568 line in 206 at-bats, with 18 homers. To put that AB/HR ratio in perspective, that’s a homer every 11.44 at-bats, or 48 homers in a 550 at-bat season. Moss is being used more as a platoon player, getting most of his time against right-handers. Still, his numbers are impressive when you consider he would be an upgrade over Garrett Jones, who has been one of the best hitters on the team this year.

Pedro Ciriaco - The shortstop has cooled a bit since his hot start, although he’s still hitting for a .300 average and a .720 OPS in 190 at-bats. Since going 3-for-5 with a homer on August 26th, Ciriaco is hitting for a .148/.164/.167 line in 54 at-bats. He could be coming back to Earth, which wouldn’t be a surprise, since he has a career .649 OPS in Triple-A and a career .656 OPS in the minors. In short, it was unlikely that he was a mid-.800 OPS hitter. However, if he settles in as a .700+ OPS guy in the majors, he could make the Pirates look foolish, especially since he hit for a .748 OPS in limited playing time last year. And by limited playing time, I mean they started Ronny Cedeno and benched Ciriaco, even though the team decided to move on from Cedeno in the off-season. Considering his minor league numbers, it’s unlikely that Ciriaco will continue with an OPS over .700. If he somehow does, it will raise the question of why the Pirates didn’t play him more often last September, when the games didn’t matter and when Cedeno was on his way out.

Ryan Ludwick - The Pirates traded for Ludwick last year to give the team a boost at the deadline. He hit for a .671 OPS in 112 at-bats, which was similar to his time in San Diego. This year he’s playing for the Reds, and has been a key part of their success. Ludwick is hitting for a .275/.345/.534 line in 393 at-bats. That’s not just because of Great American Ballpark. He’s hitting for an .858 OPS on the road. The Pirates were definitely right in letting Ludwick go. They would have been crazy bringing him back for over $7 M this year considering his stats last year. But somehow his bat has been revived, and $7 M looks like it would have been a fair price for this production.

In the discussion about whether Neal Huntington should be fired, one of the topics that is always brought up is that he can’t find hitting talent. I don’t like looking at the situation that way. It’s too black and white. I think there’s a much bigger topic to focus on. Why do all of these bad Pirates hitters go and realize their potential elsewhere? Huntington hasn’t found any long-term answers for the corner outfield spots yet. But one of the failed solutions was Brandon Moss. If Moss hit like this in Pittsburgh, the Jason Bay trade might not look like such a disaster.

Huntington added Ryan Ludwick at the deadline last year to be a starter. The team struggled for the final two months of the season, and Ludwick alone probably wouldn’t have prevented that, even with this year’s numbers. But then again, look at the impact Ludwick is having this year in Cincinnati. Is that what Huntington had in mind when he dealt for the outfielder?

The Pirates could use a corner outfielder this year with both Jose Tabata and Alex Presley struggling. Huntington addressed that issue coming in to the season, adding Nate McLouth for $1.75 M. The Pirates are paying all but a pro-rated portion of the league minimum of that salary while McLouth leads the Orioles in a playoff race that actually features contending teams winning.

As for Pedro Ciriaco, you just wonder why he was called up from Indianapolis about five thousand times, but only given 33 at-bats. I’m sure Jordy Mercer would like to know if there’s a way to avoid this fate.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about all of this is that there’s no answer. Why do players struggle with the Pirates, then do what the Pirates signed them to do with someone else? It happens too frequently to be a fluke. It’s happened with multiple hitting coaches, so either the Pirates have had a bad string of coaches, or that’s not the issue. In Ciriaco’s case it could be because they have a tendency to prefer veterans over young players, even if the veteran has no future with the club. But the other players were given plenty of playing time, so it’s not like all of these players were booted too soon. It could be the atmosphere of playing in Pittsburgh and the expectations in the clubhouse, but you’d think that would be different this year. It could be scouting and preparing for opposing pitchers. How many times over the years (including this year) have the Pirates made a no name pitcher look like Cy Young?

Whatever the case, this is possibly the most important question facing the Pirates. I’m less interested in a debate on whether Huntington can add hitters or not. We probably aren’t having that debate if the above players put up their current numbers while they were in Pittsburgh. I’m more concerned with why those hitters fail to live up to expectations in Pittsburgh, only to almost immediately do what was expected of them elsewhere. Unfortunately, there’s no apparent answer. It could be Huntington, the hitting coach, the scouting department, or the clubhouse atmosphere. And because there’s no standout answer, we’re left watching Jose Tabata hit for a .655 OPS, while that thought dances in the back of our minds that some day he could make his contract look like the massive value it was supposed to be. Only that will happen immediately after joining another team, after he struggles with the Pirates and leaves with little or no return.

Links and Notes

**Win a Free Pair of Pittsburgh Pirates Headphones From BiGR AUDIO.

**Pittsburgh Pirates Projected Super Two Players.

**2012 Pittsburgh Pirates Fall Instructional League Roster.

**West Virginia Power 2012 Season Recap: Top Prospects.

**West Virginia Power 2012 Season Recap: Hitters.

**West Virginia Power 2012 Season Recap: Pitchers.

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.

Share This Post On
  • F Lang

    Ludwick is perplexing…but we only had him a few months. He is streaky. We couldn’t wait forever for Moss. Every time we called him up he was awful. We gave up on Ciriaco too early. We gave up on him and then went out and got the guy from detroit…who obviously was not better. Ciriaco is a hacker and probably won’t be able to hit like this year in the future…but he has done nothing but play well in the majors…better than in the minors actually. With McLouth…another head scratcher…the guy I saw in March and April looked terrible. He looked like he lost 2 steps and his swing was bad. I guess he was just in a bad funk. I’m sure the Yankees are saying similar things about Burnett or Melky Cabrera (although there are other factors there) …we got Garrett Jones and McKenry that did nothing elsewhere. I don’t know about players going elsewhere and doing well is nearly as bad as guys coming here and doing poorly. Pittsburgh is where 30+ year old hitters go to die! Derek Bell, Mears, Randa, Burnitz, barmes, Barajas, Chris Freakin’ Stynes!…ahhh, the pain!

    • F Lang

      I am still rooting for Presley to be a solid 4th OF. He just needs a little more patience. I feel like he is almost there and can’t quite turn the corner. With his power and speed he only needs to hit .260-.270 and he can do a lot of damage. It also seems like he has been called out looking on an outside pitch that wasn’t a strike every other game this season…but that says more about him than the umpires. i felt like Garrett Jones got abused on the outside corner the last 2 years and he has definitely tightened that up to big results this year. I feel like something good could happen when Presley is up compared to Tabata…who i pray doesn’t hit into a DP.

      • whiteAngus

        its somewhat rare to have a 4th outfielder perform well on a yearly basis unless hes in a platoon situation. most 4th outfielders are 4th outfielders for a reason.

    • whiteAngus

      just one thing to add: Barmes was never signed to be a “hitter”. he has been stellar with the glove even though this has been his worst year with the stick.

      • F Lang

        Good point WA. Everyone knew Barmes power would decrease as a righty in PNC…my main gripe with Barmes is his terrible decline in plate discipline. So few walks, so many K’s. He throws away too many AB’s being ultra aggressive in the 8 hole. It takes a special guy to bat 8th in the NL. Jack Wilson was very good at it…Barmes is not. Still, Barmes has been on his career averages pretty much since June and he is signed for next year so I expect more of the same.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Hungerman/1426330393 Bob Hungerman

    As you indicate, Ciriaco’s hitting success is a fluke, as is (I think) McLouth’s, and actually, McLouth’s biggest success was in Pittsburgh, and never approached elsewhere. I think Moss just took longer than most to rise to the top, though he probably will never be more than a platoon player. Maybe Ludwick got in a funk trying to hit in San Diego, where not many hit well, and got out of it in hitter-friendly Cincinnati.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.sweeney.9 Kevin Sweeney

    I don’t see it as a completely black and white situation. There are several examples in which we have traded players who were prime performers for the pirates and then saw a dramatic decrease in performance afterwards. Jason Bay was a great OF with pop the years we had him and aside from one year with Boston has been horrid for the Mets. Same goes with Mcclouth and guys like jack wilson and reggie sanders(who actually had one of his most statistically successful years with the pirates). On the flip side of that Derrek Lee was horrendous for the Orioles last year and dominated the three months we had him.

  • RandyLinville

    First off, none of those guys have been all-stars elswhere. You are overstating how good they have been while downplaying the stream off awful hitters NH has brought in.

    Here is a list of players who got 100 or more at bats that NH brought in going back to 2008, what they did in Pittsburgh and then in the rest of their career

    Mientkiewicz – 103 OPS+ in 334 ABs with Pittsburgh; less than 50 at bats after
    Michaels – 81 OPS+ in 228 ABs; then 89 OPS+ in 477 with Houston
    Gomez – 76 OPS+ in 183 ABs; last stop
    Andy LaRoche – har har; 93 ABs with an 82 OPS+ and still active in the minors
    Moss – noted above
    Chavez – 116 ABs and 62 OPS; 159 ABs after leaving with 65 OPS
    R. Diaz – um, uh; last stop
    Young – 88 OPS+ in 545 at bats; last stop
    Milledge – 599 at bats with 94 OPS+; four more PAs in the Bigs; active overseas
    Jaramillo – 67 OPS+ in 336 at bats; still active in the minors
    Hinske – 99 OPS+ in 106 at bats; high 90s OPS in 700+ at bats after departing
    Iwamura – 54 OPS+ in 165 at bats; last stop

    Church – 49 OPS+ in 170; 49 at bats after leaving Pittsburgh
    Snyder – decent start to season in 2011 cut short by injuries; 200+ at bats with HOU in 2012 and a 75 OPS+
    Overbay – 352 at bats with an 82 OPS+; revived his career in ARI – could’ve been noted above
    Paul – 79 OPS+ in 232; doing a good job off the bench in Cincy in 2012
    M. Diaz – 76 OPS+ in 216; awful for at Atlanta over ~150 at bats
    Ludwick – noted above
    Lee – noted in the comments as someone who came here and did well

    Shortstops/utility guys
    Rivas – 206 ABs with a 54 OPS+; last stop
    Cruz – 43 OPS+ in 137 ABs; should’ve been mentioned above – a 111 OPS+ in greater than 200 ABs for LAD in 2012
    Vazquez – 66 OPS+ in 204 at bats; last stop
    Cedeno – also could’ve been mentioned above – 115 OPS+ for NYM in 2012
    Crosby – 63 in 156 at bats; 12 at bats aft leaving Pittsburgh

    Wood – 74 OPS+ in 236; last stop

    Excluding the guys who weren’t brought in to hit, I count 19 guys; of those 19 guys Moss, Hinske, Overbay, Ludwick and maybe Paul could be called a sucess post-Pittsburgh; If you toss in the utility guys you have Ciriaco who didn’t get much of a look (I didn’t count Craig Monroe, Jeff Salazar, John Bowker, etc. either), Cedeno and Cruz who appear to be hitting.

    So, if you don’t want to use a black/white statement that NH can’t identify hitting talent, then let’s use percentages. Let’s say his success rate (being generous by not counting the utility guys except to the benefit of NH) at identifying hitters is about one out of three with no guarantee that the success will come in Pittsburgh. There’s actually a greater chance that the players will be so bad for the Pirates that Pittsburgh will be their last stop. It happens far too frequently for that to be a fluke.

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

      “All-Stars” is a figurative term. It’s not saying they were All-Stars. Ludwick definitely has been playing like an All-Star. Moss has a home run ratio that amounts to 48 homers in a 550 at-bat season (not saying he could continue, just pointing out how good his power has been).

      There’s a really good reason a large percentage of the players you listed didn’t go on to have success after leaving the Pirates. Most of them were on their last stop, because that’s all the Pirates can attract in free agency. And that’s a problem I’ve had with their approach up until the last two years (when they started using younger players, rather than signing one year, aging veterans).

      I could have mentioned a lot of other players in the article. I just kept it to guys playing a big role on their teams this year. I’ve written a similar article in the past, mentioning Overbay. You could also mention Luis Cruz, Eric Hinske, Erik Kratz, and the biggest example of all: Jose Bautista. This isn’t just a problem with Huntington acquired players, and it’s not a new problem for the franchise.

      • RandyLinville

        Your logic remains very flawed. Check my list again and count how many of those guys came to Pittsburgh in trades versus free agency. Over half of the non-utility guys – Michaels (a conditional deal with CLE), Moss & LaRoche (Bay), Diaz (Bautista), Young (for minor leaguers), Milledge (Burnett & Morgan), Jaramillo (Paulino), Iwamura (Chavez), Snyder (Church, Crosby), Ludwick, Lee and I haven’t mentioned Tabata (Nady, Marte) and Clement (Wilson, Snell) because they remain on the roster, but aren’t performing or Argenis Diaz who didn’t get 100 at bats and is the only go from the Adam LaRoche trade to crack the bigs (hopefully Hunter Strickland will make it). So, yes, there is a very good reason why those players didn’t go on to have success after leaving the Pirates – it is because they are not very good players. Yet NH picked them in trades. They weren’t free agents. Had NH traded well, his reliance on free agents would be far less.

        Here’s how I read this argument:
        1. In five years NH has picked up three competent bats for the 2012 team and employed (to the tune of 300+ PAs) four of the 20 worst hitters in the NL on the 2012 team even though…
        2. He dismantled the entire roster over the course of two plus seasons. But he got so little in return that he has been forced to…
        3. Sign aging free agents the quality of which is poor because no one wants to play in Pittsburgh

        How is that not a failure? Or a 33% failure if you don’t want to go black and white? You can look at this and say it is a systemic issue in that even guys NH inherited went on to do good/better things like Bautista. But this isn’t a systemic issue where there is something in the water flowing down the Allegheny that makes good hitters go bad. As bad as DL was, he brought in several players who were good hitters, both in trades and as aging vets. His record, which is not stellar, is far superior to that of NH.

        You might not like it, but the Brown/Thrift/Doughty era is a fine comparison. Tough economic conditions for the team? Check. Last place talent to trade from? Check. No free agents want to come here to play? Check. The franchise is the laughingstock of baseball? Check. Back then, in five years, the team was transformed. In five years the expectations weren’t just high, but they were actually met. Guess how many free agents got even 20 at bats on the 1990 club? Two – Wally Backman and Dann Bilardello. That’s it. Know why? Because Brown/Thrift/Doughty did the job pretty well, though far from perfect.

        This isn’t a systemic issue. This isn’t an issue of having lacking decent trading chips. This is NH not recognizing hitting talent (or only recognizing it one-third of the time). This is Pittsburgh fandom staring into the face of mediocrity and calling it good.

        That you continue to defend his record on hitters is mystifying.

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

          This post has nothing to do with defending Huntington. It seems you have a one track mind there. This is bringing up the topic of players struggling with the Pirates, then going to other teams and immediately doing what the Pirates signed/traded for them to do.

          I think you’re looking for and trying to attack an argument that isn’t there.

      • F Lang

        Ludwick is a player who has proven over and over he is a real good player when he is in the middle of a good lineup. This isn’t uncommon for a guy to go to the Yanks or Cards and hit better. More fastballs, runners on base breeds better average and more production.

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

          I think that touches on part of the problem. A lot of the guys the Pirates bring in are expected to be the heart of the lineup, when they’re probably better suited to be a #6 hitter.

    • burgh_fan

      I think you also missed an obvious example of who could be listed above. Erik Kratz.

  • BlueBomber72

    Could it be not having an advance scout? The Pirates use video primarily to give their hitters a look at upcoming pitchers. Most major league teams have a scout at their upcoming opponents game creating a report on tendencies of the future opposing pitchers. CHEAP! CHEAP!

  • leadoff

    The Pirates as an organization are at fault for the poor hitting, Hurtle has to be blamed for not using all 25 players on his bench during the year and wondering why they wore down. Players that don’t get reps usually struggle unless they are vets that just pinch hit.
    As far as the actual hitting problems, there are several reasons why the Pirates have problems, especially young players.
    1. You tailor hitters for your ball park, been done for 100 years. The Pirates are trying to do that, but that is not easy for a small market team that can’t afford the same players that other teams can afford.
    2. The approach to hitting is very important, the Pirates have the right approach for a veteran team, but not for a young team.
    3. The young hitters should have been left alone, they can’t get into 0-2 and 1-2 counts then let the umpire strike them out instead of the pitcher.
    Guys like Presley and Marte can hit and will hit for someone else, Moss could hit and is hitting for someone else, the Pirate scouts were right about the guys Huntington picked up, just wrong about how they would perform in Pittsburgh.
    Ludwick has not hit much lately, he is falling in the fall, like he did
    in Pittsburgh and he was not a player that was built to hit in PNC, he
    is much better suited for the Reds park.

    • nickmid13

      Sorry to be a spelling nazi, but it’s Hurdle with a D, not a T. I have seen your other posts with the same spelling so I figured I would let you know.

      • leadoff

        Thanks, I have a one track mind when it comes to spelling and I guess a few other things.

  • john.alcorn

    The better question is how often does this happen to other teams? It clearly happens to us, there are plenty of examples of almost immediate improvement when leaving Pittsburgh. Is this a real issue or do other teams experience similar things when players leave?

    • RandyLinville

      I think this is a fairly common thing/non-issue. Off the top of my head, players who were given up on and/or traded by at least one team before becoming all-stars (as opposed to putting up a good season or half season). These are guys that put together multiple good/great seasons after being given a decently long look by other franchises. These are guys that their teams ran out of patience on or simply didn’t think enough of them to keep

      Paul Konerko
      David Ortiz
      Sammy Sosa
      Carlos Pena
      I’d put Andy Van Slyke in that category
      Jeff Kent
      Gary Sheffield
      Bret Boone
      Vinny Castilla
      Luis Gonzalez
      Jose Bautista, obviously

      There are probably more, that’s what I have quickly.

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

        A lot of the names in that list were from the steroid era.

        Also, trades are a totally different subject. Andy Van Slyke, for example, was traded as a piece for Tony Pena. The Cardinals traded for a very good player. It’s not like they gave up on AVS.

        • RandyLinville

          STL gave up on AVS. St. Louis gave his job to Jim Lindeman. Sure, they got a good player for him, but they also had also decided to go in another direction.

          Alright, keeping with your parameters, players with a 100 OPS+ or better season or half season before the steroids era who were
          1. released

          or

          2. Unprotected in the Rule 5 draft after spending time in the Majors

          or

          3. Allowed to walk as a free agent after failing to meet expectations.

          Ready go
          Kirk Gibson
          Mickey Tettleton
          Tony Phillips
          Terry Pendleton
          Brian Harper
          Andres Galarraga
          John Lowenstein
          Dion James
          Cory Snyder
          Candy Maldonado
          Shane Mack
          Sam Horn

          That list is far from complete (and encompasses less than a 10 year window) and since you say trades are completely different (which I don’t agree with, but I’ll play by your rules), I’m not including failed prospects who were traded and then had a couple of nice seasons (John Shelby) before their career wound down or flat out had great careers (Konerko as noted above).

          Players playing well in another locale after failing to meet expectations (Ludwick, Moss) or not getting any chance (Ciraco) and therefore being released or allowed to leave as a free agent happens often enough and to every team. So, what you perceive as a bigger issue (players leaving PIT and hitting well) than NH not properly identifying hitting talent is really not an issue at all and is certainly not limited to this team.

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

            Saying it has happened with other teams doesn’t really prove anything. Of course it happens with other teams. But it seems to happen more frequently to the Pirates.

            • RandyLinville

              Really? Off the top of my head there are three players jettisoned with no return from the Reds at some point in their career currently having a 100 OPS+ season in 2012 with at least 100 at bats – DeWayne Wise, David Ross and Laynce Nix. Throw in players the Reds had no use for and took little in return in trades and you add Jonny Gomes, Jeff Keppinger (Drew Sutton for Keppinger!), Chris Denorfia and Jerry Hairston. And, heck, maybe I’m missing someone.

              You might think it seems to happen more often than the Buccos. But I don’t believe that it does. This is a non-issue.

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

                DeWayne Wise has never had more than 170 at-bats in a season, and that 170 mark is this season. He left the Reds in 2007. Ross and Nix are doing what they did with Cincinnati. Same with a lot of the other guys you mentioned. None of these examples are like the Pirates, where a player looks like he doesn’t belong in the league with Pittsburgh, then looks great after joining another team.

                • Lee Young

                  I’m with Randy on this one.

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

                    On it being a non-issue?

                    • Lee Young

                      yes…I think it happens to every team. We just notice it more because we are struggling so much.

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

                      That could be possible. Although even if the Pirates weren’t struggling, I think we’d still notice it. Hard to miss five players being surprise stories on their respective teams, and all five players being let go for nothing by the Pirates in the last 2-3 years.

  • Lee Young

    Don’t forget that Moss was taken from the PHILLIE org where he didn’t do much.

    I, too, was scratching my head why they let Ciriaco go so cheaply. Could he hit any worse than Barmes?

    I read an article on Ludwick, where he DID say that Petco ruined his swing and it wasn’t until the offseason that he got it back, much to our chagrin.

    As for Nate, he was only hitting .244 in Norfolk. Who knew?

    .

    • F Lang

      Eric Kratz is another guy having a good year. We all saw it at Indy and elsewhere in the minors. Some players just need to be hot at the right time in the right situation to finally flourish. Most guys actually. So many real solid players in the minors don’t ever get ran out there the 1000 or so AB’s it takes to prove yourself. Unless you are a high pick big-bonus type you really don’t get multiple chances to figure it out…and sometimes bad franchises are less patient than good ones. For the most part I would say this fo for the Bucs has been pretty patient and it has paid off with Jones and Pedro.

      • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

        True. Kratz was someone with solid minor league numbers who never got a shot. Why the Pirates bailed on him after so few at bats, when we had zero catching depth, is beyond me.

        • Lee Young

          I liked Kratz, too.

    • Adam

      In the Philly org, Moss was only given 6 ML AB’s. In his full season at AAA, he hit .275 with 23 HR and 80 RBI’s. After his poor first season in 2009, he was only given 32 ML AB’s until the A’s called him up this year.

      • Lee Young

        The point was, that the Phils thought he was a AAAA player, too, or they would’ve hung on to him.

  • duckwoes

    The players , coaches and management will always downplay this, but the inveterate losing is a very real factor here. Call it a curse (the curse of Rod Scurry?) or whatever, this is to me a very real issue, and will continue to be until, and if, a winning season(s) occurs

    • Lee Young

      Why the curse of Rod Scurry? Cocaine ruined HIS career (and life, unfortunately).

      • duckwoes

        I say this because Scurry died in November of 1992, just weeks after the heartbreaking loss in Atlanta and, of course, the last winning season

  • dave

    I’m not a Huntington defender at all, but Nate was terrible for us and Atlanta. Moss was terrible for us and didn’t do well for Philadelphia last season. Moss’ K/BB ratio (17/73) make him a strong canidate to fall down to earth next season. Ciriaco is another guy whose K/BB Ratio doesn’t look good for his success. Ludwick is the one that is mind blowing. Also if you’re going to mention these guys why not mention guys like Jose Bautista?
    The reason the players fail when they either are promoted to Pittsburgh or do well once they leave Pittsburgh is the same reason players have been terrible in Pittsburgh during the entire streak. They either have solid talent that isn’t being worked with well (minor league coaching issues), or they don’t have true talent (GM/player issue). It doesn’t matter how much talent is in the farm system, if we’re paying the worst of the worst in terms of minor league coaches to train the players they won’t reach their peak potential until they’re ready to leave Pittsburgh or until they leave Pittsburgh.
    The Pirates offensive stragedy during the entire streak has been to be aggressive at the plate. That’s not only in the majors, but also at the minor league level. It’s a reason why you see a guy like Sterling Marte swing at a pitch that is clearly out of the strike zone. The young hitting talent won’t develop as well until the Pirates take a less aggressive plate approach and instill plate discipline in their farm system. Remember walks don’t go into slumps.

  • Adam

    This problem is not confined to position players. We seem to have a similar problem with pitchers: Loaiza, Lieber, Chris Young, Vogelsong, Arroyo – all had successful seasons after leaving the Pirates.

    Maybe the real issue is in how the Pirates handle their 40-man roster? Because the organization has had so little top flight talent in the system, they seem to hoard a ton of middling prospects. Quantity as opposed to quality. And eventually all of these players need a spot on the 40-man roster. So when players do not have success at the major league level after a year or two, they are jettisoned to make room for all these “prospects.” Even when some of those players, at least early in their careers, were considered to have potential. Look at our 40-man right now. How many of those guys have a realistic chance of being an above-average major leaguer?

    Take Brandon Moss as an example. Obviously the Pirates believed he had potential, or they wouldn’t have traded for him. Yes, he struggled in his full ML season with the PIrates. But after that he had 2 very good years in AAA. Finally the A’s gave him a shot to play regularly again, and he basically duplicates his AAA stats. The Pirates never gave him the time to develop. You can say the same for every player on that list.

    And don’t you see the same fate befalling Jeff Clement at the end of this season…..

    • Lee Young

      Nobody cried when Moss left. The Phils had him and thought he was AAAA material. Vogelsong went to Japan. Clement is rumored to be going to Japan.

      And, I bet if I went back far enough, I could cherry pick some pitchers such as Young (altho I’ll admit that was a bad trade, Arroyo, Leiber, etc who did better in other orgs than their original.

      • Adam

        Nobody cried when Moss left because everyone wrote him off after one bad season. And because of that one season, we ignored what he did in AAA the following year. Just like the Pirates will likely do with Clement after this season. At least the Phils have better players to replace Moss on their roster. The Pirates don’t, which is why I believe they need to show more patience.

  • beat ‘em Buccos!

    Just getting caught up on this merry go round. What a couple of days of posts and comments. You are the EIC and owner of this site, right? From my perspective, you lack some trustworthiness in your arguments.

    A blow by blow account from my perspective
    1. One writer claims Huntington should go.
    2. You counter argue against it with a point that such pitchfork carrying is like a knee jerk reaction to this years stretch run difficulties. I agree with you that the original post, for the most part, came from emotion not logic.
    3. Yet in your post you pointed to three good hitters Huntington had acquired and defended his ability to recognize hitting talent.
    4. The original poster and another guy who writes for your site riddled with bullets your arguments for Huntington’s eye for hitting talent to the point that you clearly have no leg to stand on.
    5. Rather than acknowledging that Huntington’s eye for hitting talent isn’t so strong, you write this post in which you both claim you don’t like black and white analysis and you attempt to shift the focus from his inability to recognize hitting talent by essentially saying ‘See, Neal Huntington can recognize hitting talent. But sometimes the hitters aren’t good in Pittsburgh. So, let’s make up a story that isn’t there – players who do well after they leave Pittsburgh is the REAL problem – to mask the actual stated and fully proven problem that Huntington’s past on acquiring bats is pretty bad.’
    6. The original blogger comments and concedes that, okay, if we count all the hitters (and he actually lists them all) Huntington dealt with who were good for the Pirates or elsewhere and we don’t want to go black and white, then the degree of success is 1/3.
    7. Rather than let that go, you claim that the majority of hitters NH brought in were stinky, aging vets because that is all he could get to come here.
    8. That argument is blasted out of the water as a large percentage of those hitters were actually brought in through trades.
    9. Rather than taking the time to acknowledge how off base you are, you shift the argument to ‘This post isn’t about his record in acquiring hitters’ even though the post you’ve written references that same argument from other posts. This post is clearly about that but only in the sense that you are trying to shift focus away from that.

    But it doesn’t stop there
    10. In response to another comment that wonders often does this happen to other teams, the original blogger – Randy – rattles off a dozen or so players who were let go or traded (essentially given up on) by their teams and then became stars elsewhere. The list included Andy Van Slyke
    11. You toss out the steroids defense, state trades shouldn’t count and then claim the Cardinals didn’t give up on Andy Van Slyke. Your comment about Van Slyke, out of all of your poorly backed up arguments, is the most egregious. Are you actually a Pirates fan? Do you have any knowledge of the history of the club? How can you call yourself a fan and not have at least a decent working knowledge of that time frame in the club’s history? I wouldn’t expect a random fan of the Atlanta Braves to know the details behind the Cardinals willingness to part with Van Slyke. But I would expect a guy who is the head honcho on a Pirates blog to know such details.
    12. Most people would give up and assume that you are never going to acknowledge how off base you are. But this guy Randy likes to run headlong into a brick wall. So, he pulls out guys who weren’t traded from the pre-steroid era who would fit the category.
    13. Your response is that it proves nothing. Nothing! Other than that, sure, it happens to other teams too. But it happens to Pittsburgh more often.
    14. Randy somehow still isn’t done. He has to have multiple concussions at this point. I mean, he’s running without a helmet and plunging head first into a brick wall over and over. Yet he comes right back and lists of a bunch of ex Reds that were released or traded for very little who are succeeding (and don’t forget that three former Reds are near the top of the HR leaders in the AL, but none of those guys meet your criteria.)
    14. You poo-poo this by stating one of the guys hasn’t had a chance in the majors before this year. Yet you have Pedro Ciriaco (and other people mention Erik Kratz) on your list. You also state the criteria is that the player had to look like he didn’t belong in the majors. Ludwick posted a 90 OPS+ in Pittsburgh last year. Does that mean Jose Tabata doesn’t belong in the majors?

    I will be curious to see how this plays out.

    Take a step back and read through all of this again. I think you will see that you are reaching very badly to try to defend Neal Huntington’s record on hitting. It is okay to admit you are wrong (it is not okay to have gaping holes in your knowledge of the history of the team). I think you’d find that people would honor an admission of being incorrect. Instead, you are losing a great deal of face by continuing to defend him on this point.

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

      This is entertaining. I’ll give you some time and respond to this.

      3. The original argument was that he doesn’t recognize hitting ability. That seems black and white to me. I pointed out hitters he did bring in. I also pointed out hitters he inherited, which means there’s positions where he doesn’t need to add a hitter. I don’t think the issue is his inability to recognize hitters. I think it’s more a strategy issue. Randy’s argument was based on Barmes, Barajas, Presley, and Tabata. With two of those positions, the Pirates don’t prioritize offense. The other two, the Pirates go for all-around players, rather than the traditional hitters. I discussed this with Wilbur in the comments yesterday, and if you read that, you can see that I don’t necessarily think it’s a good strategy.

      5. Point to me where I said “See, Neal Huntington can recognize hitting talent. But sometimes the hitters aren’t good in Pittsburgh.” I never did. I would recommend reading what is in front of you, rather than trying to look for some hidden meaning or motivation in what I write.

      As for the rest, this situation and all of the examples Randy came up with are different. As an example, Randy brought up players who were performing well, and continued to perform at those same levels after the team let them go. That’s clearly not a Brandon Moss type situation. And if you’re traded away for a good return, even if the club has a problem with you, they didn’t just give up on you and release you for nothing or a minor return (such as Van Slyke).

      It seems that your argument relies on two things. First is the assumption that I’m somehow trying to defend Neal Huntington. Second, Randy disagrees with me (mostly because he thinks I’m trying to defend Huntington), yet he’s pointing out examples that don’t really match up to the situation I brought up. I bring up a situation where a player doesn’t perform with the Pirates, then is released or let go for nothing and goes on and has success with another team. He brings up situations where players were traded for good returns, or players had some success with their team and continued that elsewhere, or players who really benefitted from the steroid era (Bret Boone, for example).

      I really don’t care that Randy (and it seems you too) have this opinion that this topic doesn’t matter. If you notice, all I said in the article was that it’s an important topic to discuss. So it’s impossible to “blast holes in my argument”, because I never made an argument. Now if you want to say “blast holes in the topic of discussion”, that would be more fitting. But again, Randy’s examples for the most part weren’t the same as the examples I brought up.

      We agree that this happens to other teams. But is there another team who released 4-5 non-performers in the last 2-3 years, only to see them all having success this year? Randy is pointing out examples where it has happened before, and in some of those examples, he’s not pointing out the same situation. I’m not saying this hasn’t happened before. I’m just wondering if this is a situation of concern for the Pirates. Does this happen to other teams? Nothing Randy brought up really provides an answer to that question, because again, he’s not looking at similar situations.

      • beat ‘em Buccos!

        I’m glad you found my comment entertaining. I find your lack of ability to waive a white flag when surrounded to be entertaining in a ‘can’t take my eyes off a train wreck’ kind of way.

        Above you wrote ‘Point to me where I said “See, Neal Huntington can recognize hitting talent. But sometimes the hitters aren’t good in Pittsburgh.” ‘

        Back in your initial defense of not firing Huntington, you wrote: ‘The next argument is usually that he is good at adding pitchers, but can’t add hitters. Take a look at the stats. The number one hitter on the team is Andrew McCutchen, who Huntington didn’t add. But look at the second and third best OPS numbers on the team. There’s Garrett Jones, who was signed as a minor league free agent, and retained even after posting a .720 and .753 OPS the last two years. Then there’s Pedro Alvarez, who was drafted second overall in 2008. And once again, there’s Michael McKenry, who was added for cash and has an .829 OPS (why isn’t he starting again?).’

        I believe this paragraph above is a defense of Huntington’s talent at finding bats. If you aren’t claiming he has capably filled the roster with an adequate level of hitting talent, then why wouldn’t your response be, ‘Yep, I agree, Huntington has not done a great job of putting together a good offense’ or something along those lines. You are either defending him as doing a good job or you are not acknowledging that he has done a poor job (or that he hasn’t done a good job for the most part if you don’t like to make a blanket statement). Either way, that paragraph reads like you are defending his ability to procure hitting talent.

        This whole post about hitters becoming all-stars is how sometimes the hitters that stink up PNC wind up with good numbers elsewhere. I’m not reading into something that isn’t here. I’m connecting the dots:

        You either defended (or didn’t critique to an appropriate level) Huntington’s job pulling in hitters in a previous post and then, while referencing that previous discussion on his ability to bring in bats, wrote this post where you point out that some guys that were bad here have been good elsewhere. So, you – by linking in the other post – have combined the two thoughts together: ‘Here’s more proof that Huntington does see hitting talent. But for some reason the hitters have success elsewhere.’

        That’s what I see without reading into anything. You’re continuing to defend Huntington’s poor record by pointing out that he’s found good hitters that for some unknown reason aren’t good in Pittsburgh. You can act like that’s not the case. Yet, you’ve left behind all the evidence like a mediocre criminal.

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

          To sum it up, I said something in one article, and for that reason you assume every other article I write talking about hitters is secretly a defense of Huntington? You know what happens when you assume.

          Did you notice in this article I said that this could be Huntington’s fault? If I’m defending Huntington, that’s a bad way to do it. Or maybe this has nothing to do with defending Huntington at all.

          • beat ‘em Buccos!

            To sum up, you (that’s right, you) linked this article to another one and are now claiming that the two articles are unrelated. You didn’t link it as an aside at the bottom of the article. You linked to it within the context of describing this ‘important topic to discuss’. But now you claim that they are unrelated. Yep, that makes 100% perfect sense. These two articles have absolutely nothing to do with one another. You just decided to link them together for fun.

            To top it off, you now claim that I’m the one making a you know what of myself. Nice. Thanks for insulting a visitor to the site. Much appreciated. Seriously, who goes out of their way to insult their readers right to their face?
            Portions of your article defending Huntington (I agree with most of it, but certainly defending his record on acquiring bats is way off), your resulting comments in that article, this article and the ensuing comments from you are all heaping buckets of fail. You combine that with your lack of knowledge about Andy Van Slyke and with insulting someone who is merely trying to have a civil discussion about baseball and the result is your credibility has taken an enormous gaping shot to the hull.

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

              Linking to an article isn’t a defense of anyone.

              • beat ‘em Buccos!

                Linking to an article does, though, by definition, link those two articles together. And one of those articles was a defense of Huntington.

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

                  It links them together, but it doesn’t link any arguments. You’re making that connection.

                  • RandyLinville

                    to beat ‘em Buccos! – i think ‘heaping buckets of fail’ is a bit much. I think you are being overly tough on Tim.

                    Tim, why did you link the two posts if you aren’t meaning for this post to be a variation on the same theme?

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

                      It’s the same theme in that it’s all talking about hitters. I’m currently writing a hitting article for tonight. I’ll probably reference these two articles, saying that we’ve been talking about hitting a lot this week. But other than the fact that it’s the same subject, there’s nothing deeper to read in to and no connection being drawn.