An alternate 2009 – Part one

In December, I tried to show that keeping Jason Bay would not have made the Pirates a competitive team in 2009. Looking back, I don’t like the process I used in that analysis. For starters, I used each player’s 2008 production instead of a 2009 projection. I also didn’t project the whole roster. So let’s try it again. Now that the season has concluded, let’s see how the season would have transpired if management refused to rebuild.

Let’s pretend the Pirates held on to every veteran starter that was here in April 2008. From Xavier Nady to Nyjer Morgan, from Nate McLouth to John Grabow. If a trade did not remove a major piece from the major league roster (such as the Delwyn Young and Tyler Yates deals), I assumed that it still occurred. Using a spreadsheet created by Sky Kalkman, I estimated each player’s total plate appearances and Wins Above Replacement (WAR). For position players, I used wOBA from FanGraphs. Stolen bases and caught stealings are incorporated in this version of wOBA, so I assigned each player an average base running value. For fielding value, I calculated the mean of UZR/150 and John Dewan’s plus/minus system. I used tRA*0.92 (which puts tRA on the ERA scale) for pitchers. The results are below (full spreadsheet is located here). 

Player PA wOBA WAR Player IP tRA*0.92 WAR
Ryan Doumit 304 .306 0.6 Paul Maholm 194 3.91 3.3
Ronny Paulino 296 .334 1.3 Zach Duke 213 4.58 1.9
Raul Chavez 100 .277 0.0 Tom Gorzelanny 150 4.46 1.6
Adam LaRoche 629 .357 1.6 Ian Snell 145 5.33 0.2
Steve Pearce 30 .297 0.0 Ty Taubenheim 50 4.90 0.3
Eric Hinske 266 .344 0.6 Virgil Vazquez 44 5.13 0.1
Freddy Sanchez 489 .322 1.5 Brad Lincoln 75 6.19 -0.4
Delwyn Young 258 .316 -0.2 Donnie Veal 10 6.37 -0.1
Ramon Vazquez 459 .283 -1.1 Jason Davis 59 4.21 0.8
Jack Wilson 402 .286 1.4
Brian Bixler 100 .269 -0.2 Matt Capps 54 4.73 -0.2
Jose Bautista 500 .339 2.5 Sean Burnett 57 5.18 -0.4
Nyjer Morgan 316 .340 1.7 John Grabow 72 3.97 0.5
Nate McLouth 591 .356 2.1 Evan Meek 47 3.96 0.2
Andrew McCutchen 493 .361 2.2 Jesse Chavez 67 4.99 -0.3
Xavier Nady 29 .320 -0.1 Denny Bautista 13 4.03 0.0
Jason Bay 638 .396 3.3 Steven Jackson 43 4.33 0.1
  Donnie Veal 15 6.37 -0.1
  Chris Bootcheck 14 4.11 0.0
  Tyler Yates 12 6.46 -0.2
  Phil Dumatrait 13 8.38 -0.3
  Damaso Marte 13 4.92 -0.1
  REPLACEMENT 85 5.50 -0.9

A few explanations. For simplicity, I assumed that Young, Eric Hinske and Ramon Vazquez were the only pinch hitters used all season. For pitchers that did not actually pitch in the majors this year (such as Brad Lincoln), I used their projected FIP according to CHONE. I assigned a generic 5.50 ERA to the final 85 innings of relief pitching, assuming the Pirates would simply find some pitchers off the scrap heap.

Add everything together and we come up with 71.4 expected wins. That’s right. If the Pirates kept every one of their major league players, they would have been a 90-loss team. They would have had a 5.63% chance of lucking into 81 wins. The chance of reaching 91 wins (and potentially competing for the postseason)? 0.08%.

But what if the Pirates added a couple starting pitchers through free agency? Just raise the payroll a bit, and the wins will come. Sign Braden Looper and Jon Garland. Nope. Signing Looper and Garland actually drops the expected win total to 69.9 wins, with a 3.34% chance of reaching 81 wins and a 0.03% chance of notching 91 wins.

The Pirates were never going to compete with the players inherited by Neal Huntington. Dave Littlefield saw to that. With the majority of the offense preparing for free agency, a complete overhaul was necessary.

In Part Two, I will examine how aggressively the Pirates would have needed to be in free agency to compete in 2009.




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