Pirates Exploring How Karstens Fits in the Picture

After battling through several injuries this season — a right shoulder injury that sidelined him for nearly two months and a hip flexor injury twice — when Jeff Karstens finally got back healthy, his role with the club was moved into the bullpen. And that’s where the right-hander will finish the season as Manager Clint Hurdle’s final rotation to end the season had his name left out of it.

Karstens will be arbitration eligible for the third time this off-season. The Pirates and Karstens avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $3.1 M salary for the 2012 season. But heading into the off-season, Karstens’ health concerns are being evaluated by the organization. The slim 6′ 3″, 185 pound right-hander finished last season by tossing a career-high 162.1 innings.

“There’s been a lot of tall and lean pitchers that have thrown 250-plus innings over the course of history,” General Manager Neal Huntington said. “A lot of it’s genetics. [Pitching coach] Ray [Searage] does a great job of managing workloads. Clint does a great job of managing workloads. It’s hard to pain them with that broad of a brush to say, well, they’re tall and skinny so they’re injury prone where they’re not going to be able to carry down innings. There have been some guys that have been tall and skinny that have carried a lot of innings and stayed healthy. Most importantly, it’s about attacking each pitcher individually and how do we maximize what they bring to the table.”

“Jeff is a guy that gives you everything he has every time he takes the baseball. You love the mentality that Karstens brings. He’s a leader. He’s doing everything he can to get the most out of his abilities. Unfortunately at times, his body lets him down and it’s been various body parts. As of what we have to do with every player in the organization, we’ve got to do a thorough analysis and explore the fit on the team going forward, explore the role and how he fits in the big picture. Right now, it’s a bit early to talk about that publicly.”

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Also, if both Karstens and Hanrahan leave the club due to salary, that means going into 2013 this team will have the following players left from when NH dismantled the team:

Alderson, Pribanic and Strickland in the minors

Does anyone think NH got fair value when he turned over the roster? I would hope not. The poor job he did in making trades in 2008 and 2009 absolutely crippled this team over the last couple of years.


Karstens 2.3 WAR (baseball-reference.com) in 2011 is tied with Hanrahan’s 2011 season as the top mark among all the players NH got when he turned over the roster.

So, if the player with the best individual performance among those acquired in the roster shakeup can’t make the team, I think one of the three is true (and maybe more than one):
1. The roster shakeup didn’t result in much value
2. Nutting is cheap
3. NH has acquired so many other quality players since the roster shakeup that Karstens isn’t valuable anymore

Ian Rothermund

I loved the comment about tall and lean pitchers. Tall and lean could describe about every pitcher wrote 1986. There have always been those big, thick guy out there on the mound, but baseball players in general were lighter in the past. I think that lent itself to longevity more than a lot of these gym freaks that are around nowadays would let on. Also, I think the players in the past simply focussed more on general athletic endurance and calesthenics. It seems like most players now have an extra 10-15 pounds that they wouldn’t have had a generation ago.

Ian Rothermund

*before 1986


Huntington is all about shared risk. Arbitration would be the majority of the risk on the Pirates, DFA is the other extreme. How about a 2yr/$8M deal? He turns in two 3 WAR seasons and it would be a screaming deal but would kill you if he throws 100 innings in the two years.

Bob Hungerman

I think that when Karstens has been healthy and has pitched enough to get in the groove, he has often been the Pirates best and most consistent starter. He might need a special training program to avoid injuries. He also has to learn to let the team know when he is injured, and not try to pitch through it.

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