First Pitch: The State of the Pirates Rotation

After Wandy Rodriguez was removed from the rotation last week, the question became “who is next?” The Pirates haven’t been getting good results from their rotation this season, or their bullpen for that matter. Coming into the season, they looked good at the top three spots in the rotation, with Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton leading the way.

Morton and Cole haven’t been bad, but they haven’t been great either. Cole has a 3.76 ERA and a 3.43 xFIP. Morton has a 3.29 ERA and a 4.23 xFIP. The biggest disappointment here has been Liriano, who has a 5.06 ERA, but a 3.58 xFIP that suggests he should be better going forward. Even if everyone pitches to their advanced metrics — which would see a big improvement from Liriano, an improvement for Cole, and a decline for Morton — the Pirates wouldn’t be seeing a number one starter from this group. Coming into the season, it looked like they could have two number one starters, with Liriano and Cole.

The question marks came at the back of the rotation. Wandy Rodriguez was coming back from an injury, and that didn’t go well. Edinson Volquez was the latest reclamation project, and that hasn’t been so bad. Volquez didn’t have the greatest start Tuesday night, with two runs on four hits and five walks in five innings. However, he showed some encouraging signs, striking out six, and consistently sitting in the mid-90s, touching 98.

Volquez isn’t at any risk of losing his job right away. He’s got a 4.30 ERA and a 4.24 xFIP. Those aren’t top of the rotation numbers at all, but they’re also not numbers you just throw away. That’s especially true when the guys who could replace Volquez aren’t expected to do much better than those numbers.

I don’t think Liriano is at any risk of losing his job either. The results have been bad this year, but he’s got enough upside that the Pirates will stick with him, rather than making the switch to one of the depth options.

The situation with Volquez and Liriano would have been interesting if the Pirates had Jameson Taillon in Triple-A right now, ready to make the jump to the majors. Taillon would have represented a potential impact arm, and a guy who could put up top of the rotation numbers by the end of the year. Instead, he went down with Tommy John surgery.

I said before the season that the Pirates have strong depth. They’ve lost a bit of that depth, but they’re still strong, and the results have been good. Prior to today’s game, the Opening Day pitching staff (rotation and bullpen) had combined for a 3.90 ERA this year. That would be good enough for 18th in the majors right now. The depth options from Triple-A had combined for a 3.54 ERA in 53.1 innings. That would rank 10th in the majors. So far, the collective group from Triple-A have performed better than the Opening Day staff.

As a collective group, the Pirates have the 16th best ERA and the 20th best xFIP in baseball. That’s a big change from the 2013 season, when they ranked third and third, respectively. It was that pitching that led the Pirates to the playoffs, despite a poor offense. I believe the Pirates are struggling this year because their pitching has been playing below expectations, and not because of the similar offensive problems that they saw last year.

The Pirates should get a boost from Brandon Cumpton over Wandy Rodriguez, but that’s not the only boost they’ll need. The biggest thing that the Pirates can get, going forward, is Francisco Liriano turning his season around. The advanced metrics say he should be better than this, but he needs to improve beyond those metrics. Gerrit Cole has been good, but he was better last year, and the Pirates need him pitching more like that version — especially the pitcher who looked like an ace by the end of the season. And it’s not a bad thing if Volquez keeps pitching at his current rate, but if he starts to struggle, the Pirates might have to turn to their depth.

Neal Huntington talked about that depth on Sunday, while also discussing the state of the rotation.

“We’ve got two guys in Triple-A, one that’s coming up tomorrow, that we feel very strongly about,” Huntington said on Sunday, referring to Brandon Cumpton and Jeff Locke. “We’ve got to get some guys back to what they’re capable of doing and that will make the rotation better. We’ve had some injuries, we’ve had some guys not perform and all of a sudden guys that we felt pretty good about. We move one out, we’ve lost one to injury. We’ve got an opportunity for guys to step up. It’s a really challenging game, that’s what makes this so beautiful is we see stuff, we’ve seen performance in the past. Right now it’s just not aligning, but we’re showing signs that we’re getting back to that.”

I thought the pitching was better than this prior to the season. I thought the Pirates had strong depth. That combination is why I felt A.J. Burnett was a luxury, and not a need. As it turns out, the Pirates do need pitching. I don’t know if the Pirates would be much better with Burnett right now, as he has a 3.51 ERA and a 4.08 xFIP. The WAR difference between Burnett and Volquez has been less than one full win. If Burnett was here now, he’d be just another pitcher who was underperforming his numbers from previous years, and the Pirates would still be struggling.

That’s the story of the 2014 rotation so far. A lot of disappointing performances, with no one really living up to expectations. The depth has been fine, outside of the injury to Taillon, which added another blow to the rotation. But the depth doesn’t matter if the entire rotation is underperforming. I still think this is a good pitching staff, capable of being led by Liriano and Cole. Unfortunately, the Pirates might have dug a hole too deep in the first third of the season. They pretty much need Cole and Liriano to start pitching like top of the rotation guys again, and they need that to happen right away.

Links and Notes

**Prospect Watch: Tyler Glasnow Strikes Out 12; Vance Worley Strikes Out 10. I included some notes on Glasnow’s start. Also, if Worley keeps pitching like this, he could turn into a very nice depth option for the rotation.

**Phil Irwin Claimed Off Waivers By the Rangers. Not good roster management here. It’s not a huge loss, but I don’t see why the Pirates had to DFA Irwin in the first place.

**Draft Prospect Watch: Scott Blewett Feeling Fine After Final High School Start. John Dreker talks with 2014 draft prospect Scott Blewett.

**Chris Dickerson leaves with hamstring injury

**Prospect Highlights: Double From Harold Ramirez, Homer From McGuiness

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.

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  • marty34156

    Agree on Liriano being key. If there’s any chance for the Pirates to get back into this, Frankie must be better. Much better. (Note: I think there’s zero chance they get back into it 77-84 tops this year.)

    • emjayinTN

      I agree on Liriano being Key, but not the only key. We put a lot of money out to extend Morton for 2 more years beyond 2014, and to me he needs to be a lot better also. His ERA is low, but his number of walks is up, and he has already hit 10 batters. When you give up almost a hit per IP, you have very little room for error when you also add another 0.5 runners per IP when you consider walks and hit batsmen. I think Cumpton can do well, Volquez has been inconsistent but decent, but the Pirates need a lot more from both Liriano and Morton. I appreciate everything we are getting from Gerrit Cole, who has less than a year in the majors, and Cumpton, Locke, and other young guys we are getting from AAA, but our experienced pitchers need to provide more leadership than they are currently giving this team. I do not expect Liriano to make it through 2014 without being traded, but Morton is a keeper and he needs to step up from being a perennial underdog, to being a leader in that Rotation.

  • JayBird

    I don’t think the hole is too deep, yet. Certainly, being 8 games out in the division — that might be. However, they’re still only 5 out in the Wild Card… and can pull something out if, as you say, they improve RIGHT NOW. Also, the injury to Stolmy hasn’t helped a whole lot, either.
    It’s also not helping that it seems the defense might have taken a step back with guys throwing the ball all over the field the past month or so.
    Offensively, I’d like to see Polanco called up June 1st into RF, J-Hay moved to 3rd, and El Toro taking a seat on the bench for awhile. Those 9 home runs are not worth what has to be among tops in the majors for leaving guys on-base. Maybe last year’s pitching numbers — with the personnel there — might be too much to ask to repeat. The norm on the top 3 (save Cole, with “young-upside” potential) might be what’s happening now. With that… the offense needs to improve, and we can’t afford Pedro hitting around the Mendoza line — and not driving in runs without hitting the ball over the wall — anymore.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andy.prough.3 Andy Prough

      Agreed. None of the teams ahead of the Pirates in the Wild Card look like they are making big moves anytime soon. And agreed that Pedro’s play may be a bigger problem than some of the pitching woes – although he had 2 hits to go along with his brain-fart throwing error yesterday. Pedro is actually batting .286 with a .842 OPS and three extra-base hits this week. Seems like moving out of the 5 spot agrees with him.

      • JayBird

        It’s perplexing. He really seemed to come around the 2nd half of last year… and, of course, was terrific in the post-season. Then the break… then spring training, and he wasn’t the same. Hopefully, he’s breaking out — although Colon made him look real bad Wednesday.

        • http://www.facebook.com/andy.prough.3 Andy Prough

          I kind of agree with the idea that moving him out of the 6-spot was a bad idea. Pedro seems to be a creature of habit to some degree – stick him in a spot in the lineup and don’t yank him around. Colon made everyone look bad – and almost our line drives were outs on Wednesday – a lot of bad luck is one thing I was seeing.

        • http://www.facebook.com/andy.prough.3 Andy Prough

          And there he goes and hits a home run in the 2nd off Dan Haren. Just when I’m ready to give up on Pedro, one swing of the bat and all is right in the world again.

          • JayBird

            Yep. That’s what he does.

      • Cato the Elder

        Pedro will be fine. His average is suffering due to an exceedingly bad BABIP .244 compared to a .293 career (.276 last year). Better yet He has improved his K% (22% down from a career 30%) and BB% (10.7% up from a career 9.2%) all while maintaining his GB/FB rates. His HR/FB rate also looks exceedingly unlucky. Right now he is at 15.5 down from last years 26.3 (to give you an idea, if he had that 26.3 HR/FB this year that would equate to 15 HRs instead of 9). Now his average flyball distance is down almost 10 ft. from last year, but he sports a healthy 302.95 average flyball distance. So long story short, you should fully expect Pedro’s BA and HR/FB to positively regress as the season goes forward – and if he can maintain his improved K and BB%s, then he could have a monster ROS.

    • lfhlaw

      While I like Pedro, I have to wonder whether he might eventually end up as a type of platoon player or not down the road. I know that his splits don’t look so good verses LH Pitchers and as he ages, he may still hit RHP well, but I can see LHP eventually dominating him. In 2013, He hit .249 vs RHP vs .180 vs LHP. This year so far, .225 vs RHP and .200 vs LHP. For his 3 yr avg via ESPN stats it is .190 LHP vs .242 RHP. I think his batting vs RHP is fine enough.

      Now we bag on Neil Walker for his hitting vs LHP and keep saying maybe he should give up on hitting from the Left side and overall he hits .250 vs LHP in a 3 yr average. If Pedro keeps hitting .200 vs LHP, should we as Sabermetric people really consider PH for Alvarez when a LHP is brought up to face him? Does the Power Potential outweight the Strikeout with a .200 BA? I think the only other stat that you could use is that it is a small sample size (SSS), but his avg for 3 years now is .200 Can you expect it to suddenly increase in his 3rd year and further on? Has anyone ever had an improvement in batting later on in years?

      I could see Pedro sitting vs a Tough Lefty Pitcher and letting Harrison play 3B, but Harrison is the Super-utility player. When Polanco comes up, Harrison WILL go back to the Bench and that’s a good place for him. IF someone gets hurt he can play, if we need a good Pinch hitter, he fits the bill.

  • Kozy21

    Is it just me or is Charlie Morton the unluckiest pitcher I’ve ever seen. He’ll have a bad inning where the infield makes 2 errors and he’ll give up 4 runs but 1 earned. He’ll go 7 and give up 1 or 2 runs and he’ll leave losing. That’s why won/loss record is so overrated. If he had any offensive support, he’d be at least 4-3 right now.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andy.prough.3 Andy Prough

      He also loses focus (or location) and pitches himself into a ton of trouble, and then battles fiercely to pull himself out. It’s not all just the defense behind Morton that’s the problem. If he could ever stop putting one or two men on base most innings, he’d have a much easier time of it.

      • leadoff

        The defense has been bad all year, but the pitching has not been able to overcome very much of the bad defense. Morton has mechanical inconsistencies that happen with just about every batter instead of once in a while, but his stuff is so good he overcomes a lot of it and he really never gets shelled, on a good offensive team, Morton might look like a very good pitcher. I don’t believe the Pirates have any more talent in the minors that would be better than what they have in the majors, the talent in the majors is just not performing to the level that they can perform.

        • Lee Young

          I believe Walker is one of the worst rated 2bman (-10 UZR)?

          Not sure about Alvarez, but Mercer and Barmes have been above average at SS.

          • leadoff

            I don’t use UZR for anything, I think the stat is full of holes. It would be a good stat if the players were robots. Walker makes the plays he should make, much like that statue we had playing SS in the 70’s know as Tim Foli. I still say Foli was the best statue that ever played SS.

            • http://www.facebook.com/andy.prough.3 Andy Prough

              Yeah, every time I see stats trotted out to show Neil is a below-average 2nd baseman, I see him turn around and make a remarkable play that almost no one in baseball is capable of. His whirling outfield put-out the other day was amazing. I think if he stays healthy, 2nd base will be low on our list of worries this year. 3rd base, SS, and throwing out runners by the catcher (especially against the Brewers, of course) seem to be much bigger issues.

            • JayBird

              Foli also looked great after that hole at SS prior to him by the name of Frank Taveras. He was fun to watch in the track squad at the top of the order he comprised with Omar Moreno. However, he was just awful in the field.
              I still laugh at a play I saw in Philly where a pop-fly he was trying to catch hit him in the bill of his cap, and the ball dropped. lol
              Foli knew where to play guys.

              • leadoff

                Foli was the perfect player for Tanner, all Tanner wanted was guys to make the plays they were supposed to make and Foli was one of the best at it. I wonder what kind of UZR Foli would have had, probably somewhere around -25.

            • Cato the Elder

              What do you use instead of UZR? It isn’t perfect, but it is the best we have.

              • Y2JGQ2

                Best based off of who’s opinion? Since when is 1 metric the best way to value a player even offensively? OPS sucks as a complete measure of a batters worth, just like UZR sucks to measure defense by itself. There is no silver bullet! People will have to continue to use their brain, calculate how well hitters hit in important situations, calculate RBI, runners left on base, batting average, strikeouts, walks, ability to situationally hit, etc. On defense use fielding percentage, UZR, AND DRS in order to draw your own conclusions, Quit letting statisticians TELL you when someone is good or bad at something

                • Cato the Elder

                  Nobody is telling me what to think, the statistician is telling me how they think. And the conclusion that I am drawing based on the methodology not the outcome. If you know how UZR is calculated, then it is obvious that UZR, while flawed, is vastly superior to feilding%. Feilding% essentially measures how many errors a player made divided put outs where an errors is a play that should have been made by the player as determined by 1 official scorer. UZR is calculated by scoring every single batted ball by a rubric which accounts for: trajectory, where on the field it lands, handeness of the batter, batter speed, base-runners, in-field and out field positioning. This score is measured by multiple trained observers at every game and consolidated into one number to mitigate individual observer error. Each batted ball is compared database of every batted ball over the past 6 years and the probability of a hit/out for this particular batted type is calculated. Then the individual fielders are given credits/debits based on the probability that their position would convert that hit into an out. So if a particular hit (let’s say a line drive in the gap) had a high probability of resulting in a hit, but it was converted into an out by the CF, that player would get credits (more than he would if he converted a routine fb into an out). Alternatively, if the routine flyball fell in for a hit, the player would be get debits. How many credits/debits is based on the probability score based on the 6 years worth of data.

                  http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-fangraphs-uzr-primer/

                  I get that it is not perfect. It is inelegant. It suffers from sample size problems, i.e. it takes a long time to get a number that one might consider reliable. Still, it should be clear that UZR is vastly superior to fielding%, let alone the eye tests of casual observers. Comparing UZR and DRS is in fact useful, but to say that one should also use fielding% is plain silly. It would as if I a metal rod that is 1 ft long. I measure myself with the metal rod: I am a little under 6 metal rods, or almost 6 ft tall. Then somebody gives me a ruler with inches. I measure myself with the ruler: I am 5 ft 11 inches tall. What could be added by remeasuring myself with the metal rod? The metal rod, while another tool, is obsolete once we have the ruler. There is no good reason to persist in using it to measure things. That is how I feel about fielding%.

              • keithconto

                Your eyes ??? The problem with Walker isn’t Walker, it’s Mercer. And pitch execution. Defense, especially for the INF is a team thing. You have to have the right group of skill sets in order for it to work. You also have to have pitchers hitting the spots that take advantage of the INF. Walkers fine when paired with a shortstop that has better range than Mercer. As it is Walker looks to be shading a little more up the middle this year. I might be wrong, but it seems to me that a lot of the balls that Walker isn’t getting to are to his left. That may be from playing more towards the middle to make up for Mercers lack of range. Mercer also has the problem of having Pedro next to him. who has practically no range.

                • Cato the Elder

                  I don’t know about you but my eyes are generally watching a television screen, which doesn’t view the whole field, making it nearly impossible to judge player range properly. Maybe you are a season ticket holder and attend every home game. Still you are only watching half of the games in person, the rest are on TV where it is nearly impossible to the important factors such as ball trajectory, range etc. But still, even if you went to every single Pirate game and watched it live and went out of your way to score/judge the relevant factors – ball trajectory, player range, player positioning, batter speed, etc, then guess what? – you might have a good handle on Walker, but you’d have a pretty poor conception of the quality of every other 2nd baseman in the league was. It would still be extraordinarily hard to compare.

                  This is the problem with the eye test. Are you watching every game in person? Are you taking meticulous notes on every single play? Of every game in the MLB? And then comparing those notes to 6 years worth of data in order to quantify what it is you saw? If you answered “no,” then that is why I trust UZR (given the requisite caveats) more than the eye test. Yours or mine. I

          • pittsburgh412

            Reason everyone is split on walkers defense and why hes hard to pin down is this.

            His Glove is very solid, hence his high fielding percentage and him making all the plays he should make. But his range is horrid, which makes his UZR total crap. So crappy range but good glove. whats that make him? i dunno i would say he is average maybe a touch below.

            • leadoff

              There are players in the hall of fame with no range, but very few that could not catch a ball. Since Walker can’t position himself anymore with the newer defensive philosophies and a coach calling the defensive positioning, the only thing that is fact is that Walker has a high fielding percentage. I’ll take that right now.

              • pittsburgh412

                i like walkers defense especially with the shifts. The shifts make his crappy range less detrimental

          • lonleylibertarian

            I know it is fashionable to trash Pedro for his defense – but I think the problem is broader – deeper. The entire team does not seem to be as efficient on defense or the base paths as it was last year – perhaps that comes with not winning – but I suspect that given the number of one run games the Bucs have played, a small improvement in just making the major league play could have a sizable impact.

            It seems every game has a play or two like the Cutch-Marte confusion that leads to a run – or a base running mistake that takes opportunities away.

    • lonleylibertarian

      You are obviously too young to remember one of my faves – Bob Friend – seemed like he could never catch a break – pitched a ton of innings each year and seemed like he could never catch a break – from 1955 to 1965 he averaged 258 innings a year and had a record of 155-156. He actually had a higher WAR in 1960 than Law – started an amazing 37 games.

      • leowalter

        Yes indeed lonely. Friend was a very good pitcher on some VERY bad teams,and was as unlucky as ayone I have seen since.

      • smurph

        That’s the key. Friend played on some terrible Pirates teams in the late 50s.

      • smurph

        Another unlucky pitcher was Jose DeLeon in the 1980s. He also played on some terrible Pirate teams. In 1983 he was 7-3 with 2 shutouts and finsihed 7th in ROY balloting. He pitched for the Pirates from 1983-86. I remember he had at least 6 or 7 games where he took a no-hitter into the 6th or 7th inning. I believe he lost every one of those games, and finished with a 17-38 record with the Pirates, including 2-19 in ’85. He would be unhittable for 5-6 innings. The Pirates would score no runs for him and then he would give up a couple of runs via the HR or walks or balks. He was 69-81 with the White Sox, Cards, Phillies the rest of his career.

  • piraddict

    Looking ahead to 2015, the Pirates need to be looking now for who will be this winter’s FA prize. Someone like a Tanaka, Darvish or even Ryu would fit the bill, which will be huge. The Pirates should dedicate virtually all of the money they are now paying Wandy, Liriano and Volquez and maybe even part of Martin’s salary to making the one big signing. The extra open rotation spot (#5) can be adequately filled from their depth, costing next to nothing.The rotation would then look like:
    #1 International FA to be named
    #2 Cole
    #3 Cumpton
    #4 Morton
    #5 One of the cast ( Sadler, Locke, Pimental, Wilson, Worley, Kingham, Taillon)

    • Travis Persinger

      You still don’t have a catcher…and then dont complain when there’s no money for looks at SS. Unless you still believe Tony Sanchez is an answer at catcher. Chris Stewart is a perfect backup catcher and probably one of the better ones in MLB right now with his +DEF. Most big market teams struggle with the 35-40 games from their AAA backup, there’s no way I can see Sanchez being the guy trotting out there the other 120ish some games.

      • piraddict

        Yes, I am more sanguine than many about Sanchez’s future. SS is a problem, got to be solved via trade I think.

  • mysonisnamedafterRoberto

    Morton start yesterday is a milestone. He is 25 games under .500 in his pitching career. It doesn’t help that 29% of his runs this year are unearned, but his career unearned run ratio is about 13% and he still isn’t a .under 500 pitcher. He doesn’t deserve the 1-4 record in May with his 2.41 ERA, but as Andy Prough pointed out he doesn’t pitch out of trouble. of his 35 runs given up this year, 21 have came in 7 innings of 7 different games.

    Cubs on the April 8th: gave up 5 runs: 3 runs in the 3rd. Single, Fly out, Single, HR. 3 earned.

    Brewers April 13th: gave up 4 runs: 2 in the 6th: Ground out, walk, double, K with a throwing error and two runs score.

    Brewers April 18th: gave up 5 runs: 3 in the 4th: Double, walk, Hit by Pitch, Fly out, Double, Single.

    Reds April 23rd: gave up 4 runs: 3 in 5th: Hit by Pitch, walk, single run, Stolen Bases throwing error catcher run score, walk, walk, G.O. run

    Baltimore May 1st: gave up 4 runs, 3 in the 5th: single, walk, SB, single run, single 2 runs, SB, K, I.W., and G.O.

    Cardinals May 11th: gave up 4 all in the 1st: Line out, Hit by Pitch, Error Pedro, single, single, Sacrifice fly, single, single, G.O.

    Yankees May 18th: gave up 4, 3 in the 1st: walk, single, H.B.P., single 2 runs, single run.

    Almost every inning he compounds the issue with a walk or Hit batsmen. Also the catcher haven’t helped him. SB and throwing errors form the catchers have lead to 3 direct runs and also impacted 3 other runs.

    He needs to find a way to minimize those innings. Tough’em up. I think when Hunington sign him he was thinking an average 3rd starter or strong 4th and if all the prospects panned out a great 5th toward the end of the contract. With the fact that only Cole was guaranteed to be in the rotation next year, it was the right move.

  • lonleylibertarian

    Sorry, I don’t think you can assume AJ would be the same pitcher in Bucco black and gold… Different park – he was very effective at PNC – era 2.37/4.22, xFIP 2.59/3.24 and did this matched up against the top of the oppositions rotation. Also, Martin is a much better catcher – which matters a lot to pitchers who depend on batters chasing low and away breaking balls.

    Front Office Hubris on two accounts have created this mess – 1. “We don’t need AJ” and 2. “Wandy is going to be fine”. Put AJ in the front of the rotation and delete Wandy and you have at least 3 more wins IMHO…

    • StevePegues

      So Tim can’t assume AJ would be the same pitcher, but you’re totally justified in assuming at least 3 more wins? OK…

      • lonleylibertarian

        Actually I was surprised that Tim – and others – did not assume that AJ would be the “same” pitcher he was last year – with a bit of age related regression. My criticism is based on two HUGE differences – one the “loss” of AJ’s PNC advantage – I actually made several comments last year on the need to tweak the Pirate rotation to get him the maximum number of PNC starts – the road-home difference was huge.

        The second is on the catching side – AJ’s preferred mode of pitching seems to be to get ahead in the count and then try and get a “chase” – have the batter flail at a pitch outside the zone – most often low and away and breaking. Martin is WAY MORE effective at catching this style than Carlos Ruiz – or anyone else the Phillies might trot out there.

        Ignoring these two considerations was – as I say – surprising…

        As for my projected three wins better – it is a bit of a WAHG – but I can’t believe that a rotation led by AJ would not be “better” than what the BMTIB trotted out there – we can argue about how much better – but I can’t imagine anyone thinking that it would have produced the same or worse results.

        • StevePegues

          Well, that certainly restates and expands on your position.

          It still doesn’t address the contradiction that Tim’s not ‘sposed to assume things, but it’s perfectly fine for you to do so. Dress it up however you like; it’s still a glaring contradiction. In my book, that’s not a fair way to criticize.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andy.prough.3 Andy Prough

      AJ’s WHIP and BB/9 are up substantially this year and SO/9 is substantially down. That can’t all be blamed on the stadium. Although I don’t doubt he would have been better than Volquez or Wandy to this point. But I have to agree with management – not worth $16 million to get a better performance than Volquez or Wandy.

      • lonleylibertarian

        Everyone keeps trying to price AJ at $16M – they offered $12 – and all that would have been needed was another $2.1 to get to the QO – which is where I would have stopped. My contention all along was – and is – if you were willing to roll the dice on Volquez for $5M – why not “roll the dice” on a guy who gave you two bargain years – and provided some leadership in doing so – in today’s BB and given the level of the Pirates spending I thought – and still think this would have been smart.

        • leadoff

          Probably because A.J. had about 30mil in his back pocket and he knew it, he also said his plans where to play for the Pirates. What he would have taken from the Pirates is only known by him and the Pirates, everything else is speculation.

          • lonleylibertarian

            NO – all the pirates needed to do was make the QO…

            Then either of the two things below would happen…

            1. He would accept and play for the Pirates for that price – $14.1M for one year. NOT a penny more – NOT $16M or more than a year

            2. He declines – IF signs with ANYONE else the Bucs get a valuable asset – a draft pick – and move on. The Phillies may or may not have offered the deal AJ signed – if they did the Bucs get a nice draft pick and move on.

            • leadoff

              A.J. could have cared less about the Pirates getting a draft pick, he would have taken the 30mil not the 14mil, whether the Phillies would have made a deal losing a draft pick is speculation.

            • impliedi

              You forgot #3:
              3. Pirates offer QO. Burnett decides to retire. Pirates get nothing.

        • piraddict

          Lonely, It was not a good idea to try to sign AJ in the first place. let alone make a QO. First of all, AJ dangled them on whether he would retire or not, deciding to play at the last minute. So they signed Volquez as a #5 as a defensive measure. Given that AJ got two years for $16MM the QO was below market value. If the Pirates make the QO and AJ declines looking for the larger contract it is unlikely that the Phillies make the $16MM offer and give up the #1 draft choice. So then AJ retires and the Pirates are in the same position as they are today. On the other hand if AJ accepts the QO then he assumes Wandy’s position, since they would have kept Volquez as long relief to start the season and probably DFA’d Gomez. When Wandy fails Volquez moves into the rotation. In that case Cumpton’s ascension is delayed. The real comparison of alternatives is AJ versus Cumpton. So far the 2014 statistics for AJ and Cumpton are:

          AJ: 3.51 ERA , 1.48 WHIP

          Cumpton: 3.38 ERA, 1.07 WHIP

          So you advocate paying $14.1 MM for an aging pitcher with inferior statistics to a 26 year old rising pitcher with better statistics being paid the minimum! You fail to consider opportunity costs in your evaluation, and since apparently you are an economist you ought to do so. The only way the Pirates benefit by making the QO is if the Phillies are crazy enough to sign him and give us the #1 compensation draft choice (which is very doubtful that they would do). But the risk of AJ accepting the QO and the Pirates forgoing Cumpton was way to high. Actually the Pirates should never have even made the $12MM offer. It shows they were too subject to “normalcy bias”, expecting AJ to continue to perform at the same level he had for his first year and a half with the Pirates w/o allowing for age related decline, which apparently you are subject to as well.

          • leowalter

            THAT is the best analysis of that situation as I have seen yet piraddict.

    • stickyweb

      Not sure if the ballpark or Martin would help too much. It’s tough to be effective when leading the league in walks, though Shelby Miller did pass AJ up with his awful start against the Yanks, so he’s got that going for him.
      And 3 more wins, really? The Bucs are 2-4 in Wandy’s 6 starts. It’s tough to assume AJ would be 5-1 in those starts, especially when he’s not as good as last year and the Bucs only won 14 of his 30 starts last year. Even with the benefit of hindsight your assumptions don’t look so good.

    • leowalter

      Uh….huh ?

  • bucnright

    It seems to me that cole has dropped his arm slot a bit this year thus making his breaking pitches sweep rather than drop and sweep which is making him more hittable but i think hes the most likely to be correct and happen the soonest but hes hardly been the problem. Lirianos stuff has looked good in his last half dozen starts just unable to command it throughout the game i dont think his to far off from doninating again well atleast i hope so. Morton has alot of jmac in him where most of his trouble is between his ears i think his biggest issue is not being able to find his rythm and hes trys to be why to fine with his pitches instead of lettin his pure stuff take care of itself idk how many times hell get a guy with 2 sttikes then end up trying to make a perfect pitch and end up walking the batter. Volquez i think will get his era in the high 3s n ive relly liked the things ive seen from cumpton really attacks the hitters just needs to keep the ball down in the later innings. The good thing is i feel like all of these problems are fixable however its alot less likely to be fixed if the defense continues to play lile this theres just no excuses for the way theyve fielded this year it brings back painful memories of prehudle days i hope they can pull through while
    theres still time to it would be big to be. 500 on this trip with the way the schedule is set up plis the arrival of polanco..lets go bucsssss!!

  • leadoff

    Look at the Yankee pitching staff, how good are they with all the injuries they have, but they still find ways to win. Pitching problems do not always translate into bad team performance. When the Pirates are playing well they overcome their problems and can beat anyone, when they are not, they do not overcome them, can’t get any simpler than that. Since everyone on this team takes their turn at screwing up, it is very difficult to hone in on an exact cure. Playing better baseball would be the place to start.
    Better moves over the winter is not good enough.
    Signing A.J. not good enough.
    Finding a first basemen not good enough.
    Bring Polanco up.
    You could fix all four of these problems and they would still be losing, at this point in time they keep coming up with different ways to lose.
    Alvarez is a big part of this team and he is playing terrible, in every way, yes he hits better down the lineup, but he leaves a hole at the 4 spot, a spot they though they had fixed and really don’t have anyone to fill it.
    The shifts that worked so well last year no longer are as affective.

    • leowalter

      Add Mercer to that Alvarez description. He has made some damaging errors that a high school kid would have made, I don’t care what his overall defensive numbers are. And the AB’s ? He looked better when he was in AA.

    • CalipariFan506

      IMO defense is the biggest issue for the Pirates. FIP is Fielders Independent Pitching. That’s great in a vacuum. In real life yoou’re still seeing fielders that are the same behind these guys. So the pitchers can continue to pitch the same way and they’ll still get “unlucky”.