First Pitch: Are the Pirates About to Repeat a Mistake From the 2006 Season?

As of right now, the Pittsburgh Pirates are going into the regular season with Travis Ishikawa as part of their first base platoon. There are still three days for this to change before Opening Day. The Pirates could also try to make a move after Opening Day, with minimal damage, depending on how many games they play with Ishikawa. But the fact that they’re planning on going with Ishikawa, even with the possibility of a change, gives a reminder to a bad period in recent Pirates’ history.

I can’t help but look at this move, as well as some of the other moves this off-season, and see shades of the 2006 Pirates. In 2006, the Pirates had Freddy Sanchez coming off a year where he hit for a .291 average and a .736 OPS in 453 at-bats as a rookie. Instead of giving Sanchez the starting third base job in 2006, the Pirates signed Joe Randa to a one year, $4 M deal. Randa was coming off a season where he had a .256 average and a .698 OPS in 223 at-bats. That wasn’t the only move the Pirates made to block young players. They signed Jeromy Burnitz, blocking Nate McLouth in similar fashion.

As far as mis-management, it’s hard to compare to the 2006 Pirates. That was a team that should have been rebuilding with young talent like Sanchez, McLouth, and Jose Bautista. Instead, they acquired Sean Casey, Joe Randa, and Jeromy Burnitz at the start of the year.

The 2014 Pirates are in a different situation. They’re not rebuilding. They’re coming off a year where they made the playoffs. They’ve got a strong young team, with a lot of guys still at the age where they can be expected to improve or maintain their current production levels. Clearly you can’t compare what Neal Huntington has done with what Dave Littlefield was doing. Huntington’s plan can be seen, even if you don’t agree with it or think that it will have the same success that it did last year. Littlefield didn’t really seem to have a plan.

But that doesn’t mean Huntington is flawless. And in looking at the Ishikawa situation, it seems like he’s making a “2006-level” mistake, at least from a player evaluation standpoint.

Travis Ishikawa shouldn’t be the answer at first base against right-handed pitching. Neither should Gaby Sanchez. Both have historically low numbers against right-handers, and neither player is at an age where you could expect those numbers to improve. The top option heading into camp for the job was Andrew Lambo, but he lost the job with a poor Spring performance. I don’t put much stock in Spring numbers, but I could see the reasoning behind the demotion of Lambo for reasons behind the numbers.

Even if Lambo did deserve to be demoted, that doesn’t explain why Ishikawa is the top option. Lambo’s struggles weren’t something that just appeared in the last week. They’ve been taking place all Spring. They were taking place when the Pirates optioned Chris McGuiness to the minors. If Lambo was a risk to go down, then why was McGuiness one of the early cuts, and given no chance at the job? He didn’t have the best Spring numbers either. However, these decisions shouldn’t be made on such a small sample size. There’s a bigger sample at play here, and that’s the career numbers of Ishikawa and Sanchez against right-handers.

When it comes to their performances against right-handers, Ishikawa and Sanchez are the equivalent of going with Joe Randa over Freddy Sanchez. You don’t trust the rookies, so you go with a veteran, even if that veteran gives no indication that he can be productive. Lambo and McGuiness aren’t necessarily Sanchez, since neither has the experience or the Major League success he had. But if the alternative is poor play against right-handers from Ishikawa and Sanchez, then the Pirates can only gain from giving the young players a chance.

It’s possible that the Pirates don’t go with Ishikawa, and instead make a trade. That said, I don’t see how they got to the point where the only alternative to a trade was putting Ishikawa in the platoon, or making Sanchez an everyday first baseman.

You might even be able to make a similar argument here for the Edinson Volquez signing. He has been struggling this Spring, right after the Pirates paid him $5 M to be in the rotation. I give the Pirates a pass to try and work their magic with Volquez, since Ray Searage and company have had success with a lot of pitchers in the past. But if this experiment doesn’t work, then it would be easy to look back and say that the Pirates should have gone with an internal option like Brandon Cumpton or Stolmy Pimentel, rather than trying a one-year reclamation project.

I don’t get too worked up over the fact that the Pirates have holes at first base and the number five spot in the rotation. Every team around baseball has holes on their roster, even the contenders. A big difference between myself and the people who do get worked up about these spots is that I would be fine with either Lambo or McGuiness getting a shot at first base. I also think that Searage has done enough in the last few years to have a shot with Volquez. But that’s just me speaking as someone who always watched pitching coaches like Dave Duncan or Leo Mazzone take guys off the street and turn them into good starters. You don’t get to that point by playing it safe. You get to that point by taking a shot on guys like Volquez, and turning them around. The Pirates could fail with this, and that would look bad, but they deserve the shot.

Where I probably agree with pretty much all Pirates fans is that Ishikawa makes no sense. Lambo or McGuiness might fail, but at least there’s some upside. Ishikawa could fail, but if he doesn’t, it’s not like the Pirates will see a lot of upside. If he plays up to his career numbers, then he’s got similar value to Garrett Jones in 2013. That production wasn’t good enough for the Pirates last year, leading them to make a trade for Justin Morneau, and Morneau wasn’t exactly good while he was in Pittsburgh. The Pirates didn’t think Ishikawa’s upside was good enough when they were contending last year and that production was coming from Jones. I don’t see why they’d think the same production from Ishikawa one year later would help them get back to the playoffs.

There are still a few days left. The Pirates could make a trade, avoiding a situation where Ishikawa is in the first base platoon. I think they need to make a trade. But this is a position they shouldn’t have been in, in the first place. For all that the Pirates have done right to get to this point, it’s concerning that they’d ignore a large sample of stats that say Ishikawa and Sanchez shouldn’t be playing against right-handed pitchers. Instead, they constantly talk about Sanchez as a guy who might turn that trend around at age 30, while putting themselves in position to have Ishikawa start against right-handers, despite the career struggles. And I can’t help but think of that decision to go with Joe Randa back in 2006 — a decision that flew in the face of the stats that said it was a bad move, and ended up briefly blocking a younger player who had more upside than Randa.

Links and Notes

**The 2014 Prospect Guide is in stock on the products page of the site. The book features profiles, scouting reports, and grades on every player in the minor league system, including our top 50 prospects. The Prospect Guide has been mentioned as a resource several times on the Pirates’ broadcast, and has been purchased as a source of reference by opposing MLB front office members, opposing scouts, and media members. If it’s a good resource for them, it’s a good resource for you. You can order your Prospect Guide on the products page of the site.

**Pirates Make Starling Marte Extension Official; Contract Details

**Jameson Taillon to Get a Second Opinion on His Elbow on Monday

**Pirates Option Brandon Cumpton to Indianapolis

**Pirates Reassign Kyle McPherson and Nevin Ashley

**Pirates Trade For Minor League Outfielder Keon Broxton

  • No need for such panic about Ishikawa at 1B to start the season. He won’t hurt the Pirates defensively and will provide the same offense as Jones / Morneau did, or a little better, as the Pirates made the Playoffs. Hopefully Lambo rediscovers his bat in AAA and we will see him in June, with Ishikawa DFA’d and , clearing waivers, returned to AAA simply because Lambo can provide more power. I think NH’s comments were clear that this is what the Pirates hope will happen. If Ishikawa seizes the opportunity and lights it up, keeping Lambo in AAA, so much the better. The quality of 1B trade candidates are simply marginal, not worth the Pirates giving up significant prospects for a couple of years of production, that hopefully Lambo will provide, before the arrival of Allie or Bell if either of those options work out. The Pirates need to be patient, not making panicked trades. It is also a good idea to reward people who have good Springs. I am not on board with the idea that Springs should be discounted because of a small sample of at bats. That’s like saying that a job interview should be discounted because it’s only a few hours long. When you interview for a job, stand up and deliver.

  • (Apologies if I’ve repeated something that was already stated in the comments.)

    To me, the fact that Ishikawa is platooning at first shows that the FO has faith in Lambo and is planning to give him a shot once he gets himself back together at AAA. He bombed in AZ and in ST and the 2014 Pirates can’t afford to let him bomb. He needs to go to AAA to regain his confidence.

    If the Pirates trade for someone else to play 1st, wouldn’t that player then block Lambo–especially with the resources that would be spent to get that player? He, not Lambo, would get the opportunities to win the job.

    I agree with the current move completely. I want to see Lambo get a chance to actually prove himself after getting his confidence back, I like what Sanchez has to offer vs. lefties, and I think that trading for another 1B will both block Lambo and cause at least one of these guys to get dumped for below market value.

  • Travis Persinger
    March 28, 2014 1:02 pm

    Hey guys….been following religiously for quite a while now…love seeing you guys comment on all things Pirates…even the glory days of 2006. I’ll never forget having seats down the first base line and seeing Burnitz in April manning right field…That was not the Burnitz that killed us for years in a Brewers uniform…lol.

    Glad to be part of the community!

  • I guess I don’t get too excited about 1B, since it seems like the Pirates never seem to have much of one over there from year to year (except Adam LaRoche, and even he wasn’t a perfect 1B). Perhaps I just resign myself to there being a question mark at first most years.

    Looking at the Opening Day 1B for the Pirates after Jeff King’s last opening day start in 1996:

    1997: Mark Johnson
    1998: Kevin Young
    1999: Kevin Young
    2000: Kevin Young
    2001: Kevin Young

    2002: Kevin Young
    2003: Randall Simon
    2004: Randall Simon
    2005: Daryle Ward
    2006: Sean Casey
    2007: Adam LaRoche
    2008: Adam LaRoche
    2009: Adam LaRoche
    2010: Jeff Clement
    2011: Lyle Overybay
    2012: Garrett Jones
    2013: Gaby Sanchez

    • Can we have Adam LaRoche back? I know he is a notoriously slow starter, but go and look at his career numbers, including his splits. Career .837 vs RHP, .729 vs LHP. And I’m sure Washington would love to move Zimmerman to 1B. Let’s get a deal done!

      This is a different culture now than when he played for us before. I’d welcome him back with open arms for sure!

    • Wow, Ishi looks like he fits right in on that distinguished list.

  • With Ishikawa at first starting the season, us fans realize that a move IS coming. No chance he sticks as a lefty 1B option.
    With Lambo starting the year there, we would worry that he would be given “every opportunity to work it out as we play our first 30 games vs the NL central. I did cartwheels when Lambo got sent down. Reassuring my faith in Huntington.

  • If counting on this first base combination would be blocking poprospects,what would have re-signing AJ Burnett have been ? And please don’t quote me last years numbers,I am very much aware of those. I also have seen him pitch twice this ST,and he looks like New York Yankee AJ again to me.

  • Everyone keeps saying NH should have been more aggressive. How do you know he wasn’t? He didn’t give up the farm for trumbo. He offered Loney more money than he ended up taking.

    • lonleylibertarian
      March 28, 2014 9:59 am

      But you are making the point – Loney is projected as a 10-12 HR guy – WAR of less than 2 – and this is who they targeted – a lot of folks on this site and elsewhere have been having an orgasm over Ike Davis – he is a 1.5 WAR guy – about 20 HR.

      What would be wrong at this point with trying to get really better – Trumbo has three years of 2.0+ WAR and is a legitimate threat to hit 40 HR – he strikes out a ton and is a stiff on defense – but he adds a right hand power bat to the lineup.

      Jose Abreu signed for the Sox at a relatively friendly price – Pirates did not even make a bid. He would be high risk – but potentially high reward. WAR projection in the 3 range would make his $10M a year a fair price – and settled the first base question for 5+ years if he works out.

      The Pirates HAVE the resources to do more – both in cash and in prospects – converting some of those assets into a better team for 2014 is what should have been the focus – instead we get a pitching reclamation project and a ton of garbage off of the bottom of the scrap heap.

      And please – no more of this small market crap – if Milwaukee can have a $100M payroll so can Pittsburgh

      • They gave up a lot to get Trumbo. I dunno if it would’ve been smart to outbid the Dbacks’ package.
        I’d rather them try to buy low on Davis than overpay for overvalued stats like being a threat to hit 40 HR. that 40 HR doesn’t make that 2+WAR any more valuable. 2+WAR is 2+WAR whether it comes with 200 HR or 4 HR. The difference is that the 4 HR guys is more likely to be undervalued.
        Why outbid the Skaggs+Eaton package when you can get Davis… someone who when combined with Gaby has the same WAR as Trumbo (who would play every day and drive Gaby’s WAR down unless they platooned him with pedro), has the same # years of control left, has put up the best season between the two of them, and can be had for a fraction of the cost in the trade? isn’t it better to buy low than to buy high?
        Trumbo’s a more sure thing. sure. But either way, isn’t it kind of silly to say people are “having an orgasm” over Davis, and then suggest someone who really isn’t all that much better? Trumbo’s a good player, but he’s overrated because of the long ball IMO. Just like how i think Alvarez is good, but overrated.

        • The fact that HRs are overrated aside, Lonely is saying Trumbo has 40 HR potential because of 34 HRs in 678 PAs, but Davis doesn’t have 40 HR potential despite 32 HRs in 100 less PAs?
          And yes, which of Taillon or Glasnow did you want to give up for Trumbo, ensuring that another team finds out it Lambo is legit? BTW, it would have taken a lot more than Glasnow.

      • For the record, I haven’t had an orgasm over Ike Davis, but I did have to call my doctor after an erection lasting longer than 4 hours.
        Trumbo? Maybe. But the defense sucks and we already have his hitting clone at 3B. I’m not sure you want 2 of them in the middle of the same lineup. Of course it depends on what they’d need to give up for him, but he could have been and OK option.
        Abreu? 70 million guaranteed for somebody that not only doesn’t have any MLB ABs, but no minor league ones either? The Bucs just can’t afford that kind high risk. Sure if he is a 3 WAR guy it justifies the signing. But that’s a pretty high expectation for a one dimensional guy. MLB 1B that didn’t have 3 WAR in 2013: Adrian Gonzalez, Loney, Allen Craig, Trumbo, Swisher, Fielder, Moss, Lind, Matt Adams, Rizzo. But Abreu’s gonna stroll right in and do it? OK.
        Yes the Pirates will have a $100 million payroll…after they raise ticket prices 50% and still draw 2.5 million attendence. Should we really strive to be like the Brewers, have 3 or 4 decent years at the playoffs and then face a decade of a barren system?

      • There you go…again.

        • lonleylibertarian
          March 28, 2014 2:38 pm

          Can’t help myself – just wish the desire to put a winning product on the field was a bit more obvious – if it is there – and I will assume it is.

          But I must admit I was struck by the Tigers move – and the general reaction to it. I got into a debate with a sabremetrics

          guy right after Cabrera was traded to the Tigers – he was predicting that would be a disaster – and the Tigers would be sorry.

          Signing a player who has meant so much to your team for an obscene amount of money is probably not logical – but it sure makes a statement to the fans who care.

          It looks like the owner basically said he wanted Miguel on his team for the rest of his life he is 84.

          Think that Nutting will do that with McCutchen in a couple of years when the team friendly extension is close to running out?

          As I have said before – I don’t own the team – Nutting does and he is free to do what he wants with the team and the revenue.

          Don’t try and tell me they have a great plan – this is a bunch of mid-level talent who had a nice run last year – one really good player – two or three pretty nice players and then a lot of pretty average guys or guys with serious weak spots [Pedro]

          Don’t tell me that they could have done nothing else – teams make trades all the time Free Agency is only one path to improving your team. If the asking price for Ike Davis is too high call the Redsox and ask for Mike Carp’s price or the Giants to see if they would trade Belt – and for what price.

          Don’t tell me how potentially risky it is to throw money at a guy like Abreu – I know that – but you don’t get rewards unless you take risks.

          I will continue to expect and hope for better – by what I am reading on this thread and elsewhere a lot of “fans” will be fine with a 80-85 win season so I guess I am in the minority in asking for more.

          • No I definitely don’t think Nutting will be 84 years old in a couple of years and making decisions his heirs have to pay for. Will he lock Cutch up when needed? I seriously doubt it. But why is the onus on the team to overpay for a lifetime contract? Why doesn’t the player settle for a discount to establish himself as an icon in the town, or at least settle for market value? And Miggy’s been there 6 years and won no titles. It took this past season for his service time with DET to surpass his time with FLA. Don’t pretend this is Jeter or something.

            As far as their plan, it’s to develop a good core of talent and supplement the rest of the team via trades and reasonable free agents. You may not believe in this plan or think they can execute it, but it’s worked out pretty well the last couple of years.

            I’m not telling you they couldn’t have done anything else. They could have traded Taillon in a second for Ike Davis or Trumbo or whoever else you might like at 1B. So we both agree (I assume) that’s ridiculous, yet you don’t trust NH to determine if what NYM and BOS are asking for is reasonable or not. From the NYM, we know names from other teasm, and they don’t appear very reasonable. BOS probably less so since we’d be buying high on Carp.

            “but you don’t get rewards unless you take risks.” – Very true, but they need to limit the risk, not ignore it. Acquiring Marte, Polanco, Melancon, Liriano, Martin, Grilli, Tabata, Locke, Morton, Burnett, Wandy, Pimentel all involved risk; they just also had a chance to cover that risk with their performance. Abreu much less so.

            • lonleylibertarian
              March 28, 2014 5:21 pm

              We must be living in alternate universes…

              Last year the Pirates get in to the playoffs via a play in game – by the skin of their teeth
              The TWO years before that saw EPIC second half collapses and continued the record losing streak to 20 seasons.

              So I am grading the last three years I am pretty much giving the team a C – maybe a C minus

              Detroit has appeared in one World Series and THREE ALCSs over the same year – that gets them a nice solid B in my book – and Cabrera played a HUGE roll in making that happen.

              Trout may be the best player – but right now I think the best HITTER resides in Detroit.

              And the team chose to reward him and thank him for that – gave him a bit more per season than Cano – you may think that is crazy money – he ranks 20th in age 30 career WAR for post WWII – pretty much makes him a sure thing for the HOF.

              Your core of players is not terribly impressive after Cutch – Marte – and perhaps a couple of others – pretty pedestrian actually – and pretty easy to replace.

              One unscientific measure of this is where they are being drafted in Fantasy.
              Walker – 18th – after the disaster that is Dan Uggla
              Mercer – 28th – After Chris Owings and FA Drew
              Gabby – 4oth – GI Jones is going 36th and Morneau 25th – Ike Davis 34, Loney 24
              Cole – 25th is the first Pirate starter selected
              Liriano 50th is the second – AJ BTW is going 52nd
              Wandy – 103 is third
              Morton – 126 is fourth

              Reds – 4 starters in the top 48 picks
              Cards – 4 Starters in the top 53…

              My point is – a LOT of people – including TIM at times – tend to over rate what the Pirates have – and are willing to settle for that. What that gets you is not the Tampa Bay Rays or the Oakland Athletics – but a 500 team which might have a hot streak one year and compete for a wild card.

              BTW – that same over rating thing seems to apply to possible addition – see they above for a “market” evaluation of Davis and Loney

              • I feel like the team is ahead of schedule and I don’t expect to be full throttle until next year anyway. Not sure why they have to go all in right now. Next year will be Cole, Taillon, Morton, Kingham, and maybe Glasnow. With a stud OF, Hanson up, and Pedro. I hope they re sign Martin. Trade Walker or make him the sub.
                The 1st base FA market scks next year too. I’d trade for a AA or AAA 1B prospect and ride Lambo for a year or two.

                • Couldn’t agree more about 2015 being more important than 2014 with regards to the Pirates advancing in the Playoffs, perhaps to the Series. The team needs to mature a bit more, gain some seasoning, before they can really compete. I think Walker will make a comeback this year though, don’t give up on him too soon.

              • If we’re living in alternate universes, let’s call yours fantasy land. Are you really using fantasy draft position as an evaluation system? Obviously typing the line “Walker – 18th – after the disaster that is Dan Uggla” didn’t set off enough alarms to stop you from writing anything else based on that system, but it was certainly enough for me to stop reading the rest of it.
                So the Tigers made a few ALCSs and a WS? Their division is so ridiculously weak, they probably could have won it without Miggy, so they have quite the advantage to set their rotation, rest their lineup, etc. for the playoff series. Meanwhile the Bucs are in a division with the best team in the NL, if not all of baseball, and another team that is evidently better than that team, according to your fantasy top 4 draft value system. And the fact that you think it’s important to insist that Miggy is the best HITTER in baseball shows your bias against the other 3/4 of the game (i.e. pitching, defense, base running). Last I checked most participants in the game call themselves ball players, not ball hitters, but if you want to build a team of all “hitters”, I’m sure they’ll have pretty stats and not win a lot of games. I’d rather go for the best players.
                As far as my core of players, glad to see you concede Cutch and Marte as above average. But it was you saying Abreu would be worth his contract if he gets 3 WAR. Walker has avg more than 3 WAR over the last 3 seasons, Perdo over 3 WAR the last 2 seasons, Polanco may be over 3 WAR the half season he plays this year, and he definitely will be every year starting next year. Mercer was 2 WAR in 60% of a season. You say he’s not good enough, but you really have no idea. Gaby isn’t going to blow anyone away as the 20% side of a platoon, so I’ll grant you that. But as a good defensive catcher with a nice bat, Tony Sanchez should be pretty good starting next year too. Just how many core players do you think should be above average to well above avg? And that’s not even mentioning the starting pitchers (Cole, Taillon, Glasnow, Kingham) which are the other strength of the team (besides the OF)

    • mysonisnamedafterRoberto
      March 28, 2014 10:51 am

      Great point about the aggressiveness of NH. I think we can see the thought process of NH.

      Best case scenario

      Don’t sign Burnett at 15 Million…
      get James Loney at 7 mill for the 1st base platoon and….
      Josh Johnson at 8 million to back fill A.J. spot.

      If that is the case, I love the thought process

      Back-up plan

      reclaim a pitcher off the scrap heap and hope a rookie can handle the platoon job.

  • Three choices at this point . Play Sanchez and hope like heck that he improves his numbers against right handers . Platoon Ishikawa and hope like heck his numbers improve against right handers . Trade for someone and hope like heck he can hit right handers .

  • I refuse to believe that Ishikawa will be on the roster for more than a few weeks.
    They knew they needed a few more wins this year. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have offered Burnett $12 million. They would’ve just let him walk without trying if they felt that confident about their playoff chances.
    Ishikawa… unless they see something that we don’t… isn’t the way to squeeze an extra couple wins out of the roster.

  • Lambo love affair.

  • BlueBomber72
    March 28, 2014 7:52 am

    I think there are still many trade options available. No need to rush. I feel confident the Pirates will make a move that makes sense for them. NH likes the slow play, so I’m sure he has offers out. Opening Day rosters are a work in progress no need to panic.

    Randa, Casey, and Burnitz? Now that was a bad offseason.

  • The F/O saw that Andrew Lambo was not ready for the bigs, in more ways than poor stats. His progress in the field ought to be noted, but he was lacking a complete game at the plate. Should he get his game together in Indy, I’m sure the F/O will call.

    To me, this is a pretty clear and simple scenerio.

  • People often mention Joe Randa in a negative way. In his defense I would note that he was very good (well, for the time) his first round as a Pirate. I was disappointed when they let him go, and was happy to see him come back. I assumed he would be a veteran backup at the position. That was the stage he was to in his career. I don’t know if it’s front office that decides those issues or the field manager, but the problem for him was he was no longer able to be the every day starter. He gets a bad rap when (at least as I see it) he was just misused. Field managers sometimes feel they need to go with the veteran. Add to that Freddy didn’t profile like the typical power hitting third baseman.

  • Tim: I disagreed with a lot of the references in the article and commented as much in a reply. ALam had a phenomenal 2013, but not much since. Let’s be supportive to him and keep our fingers crossed that his stroke returns and he gets more work at 1B defensively, but his hard times were not caused by Travis Ishikawa or any other person trying to earn a job in the majors.

    In recent years we have seen a 26/27 year old Chris Davis rise from the ashes of Texas to hit more than 80 HR’s the last 2 years for B’more, and a 29/30 year old Brandon Moss find his HR stroke in Oakland after failing in many other locations. Can it not happen with Travis Ishikawa? Instead of trying to push a trade at this level, how about some info about some other options like trying to find younger 1B candidates who will be in AA or Hi A in 2014 that could possibly help to shore up our depth at that position so that we do not have to depend on one guy. Two I like are Dan Vogelbach of the Cubs and Greg Bird of the Yankees. I also like Matt Skole of the Nats who is a AAA 3B/1B guy. All are lefty hitters and all are blocked in their progression to the majors.

    • I like that idea. Minus Vogelbach. Like Skole though. Watched him play a good bit in Hagerstown.

      • Even with a trade,those guys are at least 2 years away.

        • I know that. What mj and I are saying is, why not look for a 1B for further down the road as well, get some depth at the position. I know Skole is a couple years away, but we will still need a 1B then as well. I’d rather not put all my eggs in Allie’s basket.

    • mysonisnamedafterRoberto
      March 28, 2014 10:37 am

      Come on where there is smoke there is fire, or in Ishikawa situation no smoke or fire. Have you looked at what Davis did in AA
      and AAA before coming into the Majors. Here is his numbers.

      Davis in 4 season of AAA he hit .337 with a 1.006 OPS

      And here is Moss who all of his AAA was in the “IL” which is a more pitcher friendly league than the ‘PCL’ that most of Ishikawa’s experience in AAA is. Moss is a better comparison, but Moss came with scouts talking about that potential upside. There has never been that talk with Ishikawa.

      Moss in 5 season of AAA he hit .276 with a .852

      Now look at Ishikawa numbers……..

      Ishikawa in 4 season of AAA he hit .283 with a .888

      The best we can hope for with Ishikawa is him hitting in the .230 with a .400 SLG. With an organization that has built its only success on relying on youth, it is just a weird move. Also from what I saw of spring training, I didn’t see Lambo over matched. I saw him hit some solid balls right at fielders. I saw him try to adjust to what the pitcher was doing and go with the pitch to the left side of the field. It is not like he was striking out all the time. He was only pace to strikeout 100 times at 767 AB, since we are using spring training number and as a end all be all….

      • myson, I honestly don’t know what your point is with the Moss comparison. Moss broke out after a 28 year old stint in AAA (in the PCL), but there’s no way Ishi can after a similar stint at age 29? And Moss has over 2000 PAs at AAA, Ishi has less than 800, so I’d hope Moss’s numbers would be better, but they’re not?
        Anyway, I hope your right about Lambo looking decent even though the numbers were so awful. I read somewhere that he had a BABIP of like .085 or something ridiculous. That would mean he’ll pick up quickly at AAA and be back in the ‘burgh before the weather gets warm. Unless of course Ishi has broken out, all Moss like.

        • mysonisnamedafterRoberto
          March 28, 2014 1:55 pm

          I used Moss since he was brought up. Moss spent most of his time in AAA between 23 and 27, with 1800 in the ‘IL.’ But Moss was always thought to develop into a 20-30 HR hitter. That tags was never placed on Ishikawa. Ishikawa has been down this path before with the Giants. I hope he doesn’t repeat it, but based on advanced scouting and statistical history, I think we have a better shot of Clint Barmes hitting .300 this year.

          I would be curious to see his career Spring Training numbers. I wonder if he is one of those spring training bats that disappear, once the seasons starts?

      • You were watching a different Lambo than the one I saw in 3 ST games then. He never did anything more than hit a couple of flyballs and 2 hard bouncers last week when I was watching him.

  • This post seems to be a sequel from March 25th about Ishikawa. Comparing Ishikawa to Randa is way out of line here and is easy to dismiss. I agree NH & Co. should have been more aggressive on the free agent/trade market during the offseason, but as it stands now, I think a trade would be ill advised. Opposed to making a case for Ishikawa, as I commented on the March 25th post, I’d like to discuss potential trade candidates. Mike Carp had a nice season off the bench for Boston last year and yes he’s currently blocked from a starting job. Let’s not forget however that he also failed to the secure the starting 1B or LF job in Seattle, despite ample opportunity, due to performance or injury. Ultimately Carp was DFA’d by a team that absolutely couldn’t hit. Let’s also consider that plugging Carp into the Red Sox line up versus the Pirate’s line up are two completely different animals. Justin Smoak, in all likelihood, isn’t even available. Despite the M’s acquiring Corey Hart & Logan Morrison in the offseason, with their injury history, I have a feeling they’d like to hold onto Smoak for depth. Also, with Smoak’s quality defense, he’s much less likely to DH than Hart or LoMo. I think Seattle also still has faith in him and want to give him every opportunity to win the job for years to come. He certainly had something to do with Carp’s departure and they did give up Cliff Lee for him after all. Mitch Moreland could also be a trade possibility. But with the Rangers current scrambles to fill holes due to injury, and the Pirates inability to fill such holes vacated by the injuries to Profar & Soto, I just don’t see this happening. Of course, Moreland is another player who has had plenty of opportunity to secure a starting job but has ultimately disappointed. If Texas was high on Moreland I doubt Kinsler would be in Detroit & Prince Fielder would be playing in Arlington. I’m certain the three examples I’ve listed could not be obtained with marginal prospects. Pittsburgh should not and can not make a Wil Myers for James Shields type of deal for a 1B. At this point, I think NH is making the right choice with Sánchez/Ishikawa. If Lambo/McGuiness get hot in Indy, hopefully they can carry that momentum to the big club by June.

    • JW: I agree it is truly a reach to dredge up issues from 2006, but in your remarks about finding a 1B, some are truly fool’s gold. Instead, how long do you think the Padres will keep both Alonso and Medica? I think they favor Medica and Alonso could be available. Dealing with them is always a difficulty because they tend to overestimate their talent and will want to start a bidding war between the Pirates and Brewers. Instead, I have posted a few times about cutting a deal with Seattle to get switchhitter Nick Franklin who has been displaced at any infield position. What will it take? Well, the Mariners were listing their Rotation and got as far as #1 and #2 – the other 3 are all up in the air. Franklin, in his age 23 season, can play 2B, 3B, and SS. As such, I see the 6’1″ Franklin as a damn good candidate to play 1B as well with some work, and he tends to hit RH better than he hits LH. In 2013 he was brought up late to play 2B and managed to post 20 doubles and 12 HR’s in 370 AB’s. With Seager, Miller, and Cano, he is excess baggage to them, but very valuable in a trade, and the Pirates have an excess of 2 or 3 SP’s, and an excess of OF’s .

    • ++++ JWt ! Emphatically !

    • mysonisnamedafterRoberto
      March 28, 2014 9:48 am

      I agree with the comparison of Randa and Ishikawa. That is such an insult to Randa. At least he was an established MLB player. There is no data to indicates that Ishikawa, as best is GJ at his worst. It seems odd that the organization, NH and company, would deviate from the actions that have got them to 90 plus wins.

  • Wilbert Matthews
    March 28, 2014 5:09 am

    Mike Carp, this week please, keep him long term until a clear in house option presents itself.

    • I think we’d have to give the BoSox too much to get him. Otherwise it would’ve happened by now. So they’ve probably been asking for a higher end prospect or more.

  • I have to support Huntington on this move. He sent down Lambo because he wants Lambo to work on his stroke, to succeed as a hitter and thereby rebuild his confidence. Huntington said as much.

    If the Pirates were in the wrong about Lambo, it has long been obvious that they have less confidence in him than they had in Marte, Cole, etc. Perhaps they should trust Lambo less than some others. Yet, if they believe Lambo would be better served by playing in AAA than in the majors, then sending him down would be the better option.

    We should recall Tabata and Alvarez’s past struggles and the work they put in at Indianapolis to get back on track.

    • mysonisnamedafterRoberto
      March 28, 2014 9:56 am

      Alvarez is such a bad example. There was such much riding on Alvarez making to the majors and being part of the solution to the organization’s horrible past. Lambo is about a supplemental part of an established line-up. Also Alvarez was fast tracked through the minors and Lambo has extensive minor league experience. Now most of that is AA and below, but in comparing it to Alvarez it has to be factored in.

      • Alvarez is not a bad example. He was sent to the minors for the same reasons Huntington gave for sending Lambo down: To work on his game, to rebuild his confidence.

        • mysonisnamedafterRoberto
          March 28, 2014 2:55 pm

          The point with Alvarez he was mostly likely going to struggle in the Majors or end up back in the minors. He is an exceptional player, but just didn’t have the experience that he needed to be successful against professional pitchers at any level. Lambo has 3 times the minors ABs. The fact is Alvarez wasn’t all that impressive when he was in AAA for the second time. Not nearly as good as the first time through. I am not sure that time really helped him. I feel it may have slow down his development and frustrate him even more.
          He didn’t start 2012 that great. There was great concern the 1st quarter of the year around him. Going into June 16th his triple slash was .196/.262./407 and he hit 1 HR in the previous 35 games. He gained his confidence and worked out stroke in the majors. A road trip through Cleveland and Minnesota helped more than anything.

          And again, Tabata back to Indy in 2012, didn’t equal really show an impact in 2013. His best months were August and Sept. after spending the rest of the season in the Majors. I think he did have a handful of ABs in AAA during rehab last year, but going back to Indy in 2012 I feel didn’t lead to his success in 2013.

          • Lambo was sent down to work on his stroke and build his confidence. It’s irrelevant that Lambo has more MiL ABs than Alvarez had. He now has the same need Alvarez had a few years back. The intention in all three cases (Lambo, Alvarez, Tabata) was the same. That’s why the comparison is apt.

  • I get the point. But isn’t Ishikawa’s defense much better than Jones’? Doesn’t that make the 2013 comparison to Jones somewhat inaccurate?

    • I kinda liked the highlight double play the other day against the Twins where he caught the GB, threw down to 2B for the force and then got back to 1B to receive the throw-back. A comparison to GJ on defense is more than inaccurate. I think Ish’s career UZR/150 is above 13, which is excellent. His best defensive years were when he was a semi-regular for the Giants, but he is still sharp. IMO, he was a pleasant surprise this year in ST, and has provided enough to support a strong position in negotiations for NH. I wanted to keep Morneau simply for the defense – a lot of folks belittle the skills necessary to play 1B, but that is the guy who impacts the play of every other infielder, the Catcher and Pitcher, and is involved in 2/3 of the cutoffs for most teams.

    • I agree with most of the commenters in disagreeing with the premise of Tim’s article. 1) Lambo has had no success vs. Freddy had a solid rookie season under his belt; 2) Ishi is 30 years old and could improve on his prior numbers, or at least equal his best prior seasons – Randa was 36, Burnitz was 37; 3) McGuiness has done nothing in the minors or ML to deserve even a shot at the 1B job on OD.
      I’m a big Lambo fan and easily dismiss Winter ball and ST small samples. But I think they’re doing the right thing if they see him struggling with his approach, not just the results and some time in AAA would allow him to straighten things out. I’ll bet NH is wondering how he ended up in this situation and is working the phones pretty hard this last week. Even if he doesn’t make a trade, his comments about Lambo “catching his breath” or “taking a deep breath” basically scream that Lambo will be on a plane out of Indy in a matter of weeks if he regains his stroke.
      And everyone says Ishi will only put up Jones 2013 numbers and the Pirates can’t win with that. But they did win with Jones 2013 numbers and Morneau was even worse in his limited time. So even if Ishi puts up Jones 2013 numbers (with much better defense mind you), they can match last season’s results, which I recall were pretty good. And who knows, if Ishi and Lambo both flame out, maybe a midseason trade for a 1B that actually contributes something to the team. That would be an improvement over last season.
      And just to be clear, I’m pretty disgusted NH hasn’t made a trade to get a more viable option than Ishi here, but I don’t want him to make a panic move if other GMs are asking for too much. He can only operate in the market that is out there, and none of us know what that is.

      • I think we have discussed ad nauseum the availability of 1B Free Agents when Free Agency hit.

        — you can kind of see what teams were asking for when Pirates or other teams inquired about 1B.

        — What we are looking for is a platoon player. to have to trade for a platoon player and give up something of worth is…uneasy at best. Teams are going to want some kind of prospect.

        — I still hope Lambo finds his stroke in AAA, otherwise it may be until June when trade deadline hits, that we trade for a Full-time 1B. Now the funnier thing that could happen is that Gaby somehow discoveres his Rookie season stroke and starts to hit righties lol.

      • Stick: Freddy may not have started at 3B but he led the team in AB’s and played 151 games that year. Anyone who comes into a “cattle call” in ST for a position and hits 3 HR (two of which were in very clutch situations) and can even be better on D, is well worth the time to see what else he can do. Lambo needs to fight through it and come back – not in two weeks, but after he has established some consistency.