Over the last few years, the Pittsburgh Pirates have gotten a lot of value on the pitching market. They added A.J. Burnett for two years, Francisco Liriano for two years, Edinson Volquez for a year, Vance Worley for the 2014 season plus four more years of control, and several other relievers for small costs.

The combined cost for Burnett, Liriano, Volquez, and Worley was just under $30 M. The four pitchers combined for 164 starts with the Pirates. If 32 starts is a full season, then the Pirates got 5.125 seasons out of those four pitchers. They combined for 1020 innings, which is an average of 6.22 innings per start. And the combined ERA of the group was 3.21.

That means the Pirates have been paying, on average, about $5.85 M for a full season of a 3.21 ERA and just over six innings per start. Based on the prices normally paid for that expected production, the Pirates have been getting a massive discount.

I did base that on ERA, and normally a better focus for pitchers should be xFIP. However, in this case I think ERA is more appropriate, as it considers all of the outside factors that are helping a pitcher. The Pirates get a huge boost from Ray Searage and Jim Benedict with all of their reclamation projects. But their pitchers also get a boost from a focus on advanced catching metrics behind the plate, advanced metrics with defensive shifts in the field, and their park factors.

I mentioned several times this season that the Pirates ended up being right about their choice of Edinson Volquez over A.J. Burnett. I cited the ERA, while noting that the xFIP numbers were the same most of the year. The argument from the other side of that debate was that Burnett could have had the same results if he was with the Pirates, benefitting from Russell Martin’s pitch framing, their defensive shifts, and the park factors.

Some of that is definitely correct. Burnett did not have a good pitch framer in Philadelphia, with Carlos Ruiz contributing -3 runs due to his framing. Meanwhile, Russell Martin contributed 19.3 runs of positive value on the season. You can imagine how Burnett’s ERA might have jumped higher, and how Volquez’s ERA would have dropped, had they switched catchers. As for the park factors and the defense, Burnett had a slightly lower BABIP this year than he did last year, showing that the defense didn’t hurt him. He also matched his career average in HR/FB, so the new park didn’t add many extra homers.

Overall, if you’re arguing that the Pirates could have brought back Burnett to have the same type of success as Volquez, then you’re probably right. Burnett would have done much better from an ERA standpoint if he benefitted from the Pirates’ catchers and defense. But here’s my question: why would you want to bring back Burnett?

This whole argument is based on the idea that a guy like Burnett would benefit from outside factors that any pitcher would benefit from. In this situation, the pitcher is the variable, and Russell Martin, PNC Park, and the defense are the constants. If you can get an ERA in the low 3.00 range from either Burnett or Volquez because of those constants, then why would you ever think about paying Burnett $16 M when you could get the same results from Volquez for $5 M?

And that brings us to this off-season. The Pirates need two starting pitchers to open the season. Their internal options are Gerrit Cole, Vance Worley, and Charlie Morton, and Morton might not be ready for the start of the season. Jeff Locke or Brandon Cumpton could cover for him until he is ready to return, but that still leaves the need for two additional starters (and before you note the prospects set to arrive by mid-season, remember that the Pirates used 12 different starters in 2013 and 8 in 2014).

There will be a call to go the comfortable route and spend big money to bring back Francisco Liriano. There will be a call to make a trade for an established pitcher, or to try and get another big name or big money guy. But why should the Pirates do that? They’ve shown an ability to find value with starting pitchers, and it’s not just dumb luck. It’s an established system that scouts for the best reclamation projects, uses great coaches and in-depth scouting history to get those pitchers back to their best form, and then uses advanced metrics behind the plate and on the field to maximize the results. The Pirates have established themselves as the place to go for reclamation projects. Why would they even want to spend money like other teams, when they’ve shown the ability to get value from starting pitchers?

Last year I looked at some of the potential reclamation projects, although the Pirates didn’t sign any of the ones I brought up. That said, most of those guys received around $8-11 M per year, while the Pirates got Volquez for $5 M. Obviously I don’t have the resources they have (although with enough Prospect Guide sales, maybe we can one day add a vast scouting department to the site). With that disclaimer, here are some of my thoughts on potential reclamation projects for the 2015 season. These don’t include potential trade targets, since I don’t know who is actually available at this point. I tried to avoid players who projected to receive big contracts.

Gavin Floyd – He has always been a guy whose name has been bigger than the results. That probably stems from his 3.84 ERA in 206 innings in 2008. Since then, he’s posted closer to league average numbers, followed by a few injuries that shortened his 2013 and 2014 seasons. The 2014 injury was a broken elbow, which wasn’t Tommy John related. He’s expected to be fine for Spring Training. Last year he put up a 2.65 ERA in 54.1 innings, along with a 3.47 xFIP. Floyd might not be a reclamation project, but he might come cheaper than normal due to health concerns over the fact that he pitched just 78.2 innings the last two seasons (not counting the 24 innings rehabbing in the minors). He’s 32 years old, so there’s no guarantee that he remains healthy after recovering from his currently injury. But he’s exactly the type of pitcher the Pirates go after, with a great ground ball rate (above 47% in four of the last five years), and good advanced metrics (3.47-3.73 xFIP range in five of the last six years).

Jason Hammel – He was on my list last year, and the Pirates were linked to him at one point in the off-season. I liked him better than Volquez going into the year. He ended up signing with the Cubs, putting up a 2.98 ERA and a 3.21 xFIP, then getting traded to the Athletics. There, he put up a 4.26 ERA and a 4.15 xFIP. Those results weren’t bad, although the perception that he was a horrible pitcher in the second half might prevent his value from soaring. He got $6 M for one year last year.

Colby Lewis – He’s coming off a year where he posted a 5.18 ERA and a 4.36 xFIP. The ERA might drive down his value, although the advanced metrics suggest he wasn’t that bad. He pitched 170 innings, which is the third time in the last five years that he has pitched 170+ innings (he missed some of 2012 and all of 2013 with an injury). Lewis had good numbers before his injury. His ratios were fine this year, and his velocity was normal. The Rangers are trying to re-sign him after he finished the season strong, so he might not even be an option as a free agent, much less a reclamation project.

Justin Masterson – He’s my pick for the top comeback player. Masterson posted a 5.88 ERA, but a 4.08 xFIP. That followed three seasons where he pitched 193+ innings per year, posting an ERA below 3.50 in two of those years. He fits every check mark of a Pirates’ reclamation project. He’s got one of the best ground ball ratios in baseball, at 58% the last two years. He strikes out a lot of batters, with an 8.1 K/9 in 2014. His main issues was his walk rate being elevated in 2014, at 4.8 BB/9. The main concern here is that his velocity dropped from 93.1 MPH in 2013 to 90.3 MPH in 2014 (and 89.6 MPH with the Cardinals). The numbers look good, but the velocity could point to an injury. If he is healthy, he’d be a great reclamation project, and a guy who could end up being an ace again.

Carlos Villanueva – He’s been a bit under-rated, despite posting some league average numbers the last few years, and better xFIP numbers. Last year he had a 4.64 ERA, but a 3.97 xFIP. That followed three years in a row where he had an ERA in the 4.04-4.16 range. He strikes out a good amount of people, with a career 7.8 K/9, and an 8.3 K/9 last year. He also doesn’t walk many people. Villanueva is coming off a two-year, $10 M deal. He wouldn’t be a bad signing as a guy who could start the year in the rotation, then finish the year in the bullpen after some of the prospects arrive.

Edinson Volquez – He’s already been a reclamation project, posting a 3.04 ERA in 192.2 innings this past year, along with a 4.20 xFIP. This is the opposite of the situations above. Volquez had fantastic numbers, but the advanced metrics suggest he won’t repeat that success. But what if there is more to Volquez that the advanced metrics aren’t showing? At the start of the month, I wrote about how Volquez has some of the best stuff in baseball. What if the Pirates could continue to refine his stuff, and turn him into a true top of the rotation guy, rather than someone who gets those numbers due to his defense and other factors? He got $5 M last year, and should be in line for more this year. If the price is $8-10 M per year, then that wouldn’t be bad if they believe that Searage and Benedict can take the next step and turn his top stuff into a top pitcher.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide

**2014 Recaps: The Fall and Rise of the 2014 Pirates Rotation

**Starling Marte and Russell Martin Named Gold Glove Finalists

**Tyler Glasnow Named MiLB.com Starting Pitcher of the Year

**Pirates Sign Right-Handed Pitcher Josh Stinson

**Josh Stinson Player Page

**AFL: Elias Diaz Reaches Base Three Times, Josh Bell Ejected

**Winter Leagues: A Couple Players See Time at Their Old Positions

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78 COMMENTS

  1. Two things. Someone else mentioned Stolmy. I think he’ll be given a shot to win a rotation spot. If he can’t win and keep a rotation spot, he is probably the new Jeanmar but with better stuff.

    Second, regarding winning a WS, this year further impresses the value of a true ace in the postseason. Bumgarner was 4-1 with a massive save in WS game 7. He won or saved 5 of the Giants’ 12 postseason wins. That is a HUGE influence. Last year, Jon Lester was 4-1 for 4 of Boston’s 11 postseason wins including beating Wainright twice in the WS. I believe to win a WS, a stud, ace may not be absolutely necessary, but sure does help.

  2. I too am a fan of EV, and I believe Pgh will sign him (2yr/$18). Cole/EVolquez/Morton/Locke/Worley/(Cumpton) is a respectable stable of horses… and if Pgh can find another successful reclamation project, this staff could surprise in ’15.

    Two other FA pitchers to throw into the mix…

    Eric Stults
    Jerome Williams

    Williams was under-the-radar until he found his groove in late summer, but still may be interesting/affordable (…assuming PHI doesn’t sign him). Stults would be cheaper, but not sure if he’s the sort of project Pgh is looking for… thoughts?

    Another wild idea – how about spot starting Justin Wilson for giggles? He’s matured a bit now and his bullpen role is unclear, so why not? I’d also love to see Watson get a chance to start, but is value as a reliever may be too high at this point…

  3. I would love to see Liriano back and I think the financial means are there to do it. In the end though the Pirates need better overall defense and a MUCH improved bullpen if they’re going to compete for a WS any time soon. Those two factors are just as important it seems to the likelihood of playoff success than just great starting pitching…there have only been a few dominant pitching performances thus far in the playoffs this year. I would like to see Liriano back and would like Hammels…but I think we really need to figure out a way to be better defensively and we desperately need a better bullpen.

    • I tend to agree with this. I have no idea what Liriano might ask for (or get), but if it were in the neighborhood of 3/$36, looking at the competition out there in that price range, Liriano certainly looks better than other options. As it is, I would hope Bucs at least QO him for this year – and that he accepts. This year is a critical year for having one or two solid pitchers to transition into the coming Kingham/Glasnow/Taillon era. And it might well be that one year of overpaying Liriano is the best solution for the 2015 to remain competitive.

  4. Tim,

    I wonder if you have looked at any of the fill in pitching this year as potential Pirate signees.

    http://www.mlbdailydish.com/2014/4/30/5668068/mlb-tommy-john-surgeries-complete-list-2014

    This should have been a good year to evaluate up and coming pitching talent with the amount of sub-ins that had to take place. A couple of names to keep in mind:

    Brad Hand (Miami) – Forced into starter role when Jose Fernandez went down and struggled a bit. 4.38 ERA in 111 innings.

    Cesar Ramos (Tampa Bay) – Matt Moore went down in the first month of the season and Tampa tried several different pitchers as their fifth starter (Eric Bedard, Jeremy Hellickson two that didn’t do so well). Ramos finished the season with a 3.70 ERA in 82 innings.

    Ervin Santana / Aaron Harang (Atlanta) – Both Mike Minor and Kris Medlen had injuries and the Braves didn’t miss a beat filling with these two – staff ERA 5th best in the majors despite missing two starters. Both fill in players pitched big innings (Harang – 204.1 INN, 3.57 ERA, Santana – 196 INN, 3.95 ERA).

    It seems the Atlanta Braves have the exact opposite problems than the Pirates – too much starting pitching.

  5. The Pirates should be able to resign one of Liriano or Volquez that would mean they need one pitcher, they will have Worley, Cole, Locke, Morton if he ready, if not Sadler, Pimentel or Cumpton could be options, usually in April you only need 4 starters. I don’t like Masterson at all, the Cards tried everything they could even having him pitch from the stretch to all hitters and nothing worked. Floyd, Villanueva or Kendrick look like players that would fit the fixumup plan.

  6. Masterson’s loss of velocity could very likely be due to his knee problem. In order for him to be an option the knee has to be OK.
    Another option could be Chad Billingsley. The Dodgers hold a $14 million dollar option that most likely would not be picked up. If his rehab goes well and he is ready to pitch in 2015 he could be a real buy low value.

  7. If LaRussa wants to dump some salary, cut ties with player brought in by the former regime, Trevor Cahill might be an interesting trade target. $12 million is a little steep for pitcher whose xFIP- hover around 100.

    But a solid ground ball pitcher, hurt by some freak injuries, and it appears the Diamondbacks took away his cutter, similar to McCarthy, and some nasty platoon splits followed. He had absurd splits with men on base this last season that are almost entirely BABIP related.

  8. Masterson’s stuff can be electric often but it appears as if he has no command of it. The Indians were smart in moving him imo and I don’t know if Masty’s the type of pitcher who can ultimately be “fixed.”

    • You could insert the names Liriano and Volquez into this post a few years ago and it would be the same post. Guys with great stuff but a lack of command that may come cheaper than they should.

      • Here’s the difference. You got one year of Volquez for $5 million and two years of Liriano for $12 million.

        It’s going to cost $12 million for one year of Masterson and because of his knee and other questions, he is a giant “if”.

        And yet you want to attack me for suggesting a trade or acquiring a better FA for a bit more? I honestly don’t get that.

        • How do you know its going to cost $12M? Purely speculative. Just like its speculative to think that Masterson is fully aware of the Pirates ability to rehabilitate pitchers with similar issues, so maybe he signs a 1 year deal at $8M (or 2/$20M with the second year some sort of option) and then re-tests the market after next season.

          The problem with your suggestion of “acquiring a better FA” pitcher is not AAV, but rather the length of the contract. Signing a better FA (i.e., Vargas who you mentioned as a comparable, who is actually fairly average with a 4.05 xFIP) can hurt the Pirates in the long-run when FA X doesn’t perform in the last 2-3 years of a deal as he did in the first 2-3 years.

          Which is the major difference with the Volquez, Liriano, and Masterson signings of the world. It’s all about limiting long-term risks for small-market teams.

          • Fangaphs covered the Vargas deal quite nicely, thank you.http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/royals-sign-jason-vargas/
            And I could live with one or two rotation slots like that.

            As to $12 million for Masterson, you’re right. Pure speculation I pulled out of my butt. Although my butt reads MLBTR daily among others sites that project 1-year of Masterson will cost that. You have a source for your $8 million wish?

        • Bucs.. I was all about masterson but I think I’m with you on hammels.. I can see a team reason their way into blaming last year on his knee and he was a beast the year before, then coughing up $12m for just one year.. hammels also loved the nl central

  9. Glad you listed Volquez. His stuff is really that good.

    You didn’t list Wandy on a minor league contract. I watched his last couple starts. His curve and command are excellent. Just needs a 90 mph fastball instead of an 86 mph one. Maybe a year off does the trick. 15-20 five to six innings starts aren’t very unbelievable.

  10. What are the odds of the Pirates thinking Stolmy could be an effective mid-rotation guy, at least for the first 2 months until help arrives from the minors? You pretty much need to write off the past year due to injuries and the way they used him. But before this year, I have to think they had pretty high hopes for him.

  11. -I am an EV fan. I hope they sign him for $ 8-10 mil per year. Two years sounds right.

    I also like Justin Masterson.

    • I’m a huge ev fan as well and agree about masterson.. would you sign masterson at $12m bucsws suggested he’d command? Might seem like a lot to pay

  12. In 2013, Jeanmar started eight games early in the season and pitched to a 2.80 ERA/4.15 xFIP. He had a low K rate (5.85) but a ground ball rate >50%.

    Can anyone shed some light on why the Pirates wouldn’t consider him for the 5th starter? His numbers as a starter look OK compared to some of the suggestions above.

    In looking at the list in this article, IMO the only guy who might be better than a #5 next year is Hammel. I would not trust Masterson due his his knee and lack of a third pitch – and he’s going to cost >$12 mill/year. I have to think Bucs can do better for that kind of money in the trade market.

    One guy I think would do well here is Jon Niese. He’s not a Doug Fister impact, and the Mets would prefer to deal Gee, but I think Bucs and Mets could find some ground for a deal that helps both clubs.

      • But he didn’t do that with the Pirates. He did this: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=gomezje01&year=2013&t=p

        As far as a .208 BABIP, wouldn’t it have made sense to allow him time to see if that regressed, and by how much?

        It just seems odd that Gomar was considered at least a spot starter last year – and handled that capably except for low number of innings per start – but he’s dropped out of the conversation. The guy is only 28 and is still cheap. If nothing else, it should’ve been possible to establish more value for him in order to trade him.

        I just think of that bad April and using Wandy and… well, you know.

        • He pitched 4.4 innings/start, with K%-BB% of 7.0% (that would put him last among Pirates starters this season), and faced 13 batters a 3rd time.

          This is the same argument that comes up with Vin Mazzaro, Gomez pitched a good 35 innings as a starter for a period with the Pirates, (Mazzaro 70 something as a reliever), their career numbers are indicative of what to expect going forward, and both are replacement level pitchers.

          I think we need some actual moves to happen, because if we are debating the merits of Gomez starting I think we have run out of topics.

          • SSS. I’m not saying Gomar is the answer to any questions. I’d simply like to know why he is no longer in the conversation. What was/is it about Gomar that made the FO think he was better suited for relief than starting? Because he’s not much of a reliever. And he could be at least a Correia as a starter – which means he’d have at least some value as a chip. But not as a reliever I don’t think.

    • Mets are looking for a shortstop and an OF bat. I would not trade Hanson for Niese, mainly because he seems fragile to me. Now if they would do Snider and another minor piece or two then I would have to listen.

  13. Other than Jason Hammel I want nothing to do with any of these guys. It’s time the Pirates realize they can win now and become real players in the offseason by pursuing proven, quality guys via free agency or trade. Too bad their FO won’t do that.

    • Marty? Have you not seen the results the last 2 seasons? Who should the Pirates have gotten instead of Francisco then? Would you have rather they paid out 15 or 20 million a season for a bigger name? Even though the results would have been worse? Oh, I suppose you would have rather they sign AJ last season for 16 instead of Edinson for 5? Even though the results would have been worse?
      What exactly are you saying? You would rather have the pirates spend more but be less successful? come on man. Please can we get some common sense? 2 years into this successful run and you want them to switch up and spend a bunch and hopefully put themselves back into another 20 year spiral of bad contracts and stupid moves? No thanks.

      • I believe what Marty is saying is that he wants the Pirates to win a pennant and make the WS. You, OTOH, seem to believe in a dogma that there is mutual exclusivity between pursuing a decent pitcher via trade or FA and winning. I assure you there isn’t.

        • OK. But it may be a hell of a lot smarter in the long run to win that pennant and whatnot while not crippling the franchise financially.

        • So abandon the policies that got you successful and go after higher priced FA that dont actually guarantee any more success come playoff time? Sounds logical to me. The prevailing idea seems to be if we go and get the “ace” and pay him the money itll take, it makes us more likely to win a WS or make a WS. In reality, it doesnt. KC has no ace (Shields comes crunch time is very average) and is magically in the WS.

          • Steve & Lukas – I continually find it amusing that the immediate response to the suggestion of any FA acquisition is use of phrases like “crippling the franchise financially” or “gutting the farm system”. Neither are true for the next couple of years if you don’t have Martin/Liriano. And it seems nobody wants to talk about trades unless they’re ridiculous (e.g. Bucs giving up garbage and getting diamonds).

            Nothing guarantees success come playoff time except playing flawlessly. Not Kershaw, not Miggy, not Trout. That’s not news. But when you have a top offense in place and need starting pitching – and more than one guy if you’re losing both Liriano and Volquez – it would be irresponsible to not consider other avenues besides simply reclamation projects.

            • I have two assumptions about acquiring an ‘ace’.. to get one threw trade will require a stud prospect for every year of service.. or we’ll be paying $20m a year for 5 years.. is there an ace out there that can be had for something much less than those two assumptions.. if so then great.. if not i’d prefer the 6 years of our prospects or not taking a huge risk of tommy john on 20% of our payroll..

                • Fisters an oddball case due to an idiotic gm in Detroit targeting a specific player.. every gm in baseball has said that the nats really got a steal and they’d have paid much more.. so you think we could get fister off the nats for jbell?

                  • I don’t know who Bucs would’ve had to give up for Fister. It’s a simple point that Neal got beat to the draw. I haven’t seen a creative/aggressive trade from him since 08/09. And yes, I’m discounting Ike as everyone saw that coming for months and the Bucs were only bidding against themselves.

                    • I wasn’t a fan of the ike pickup anyhow. Neal doesn’t seem to be great at trades.. but he didn’t miss out on fister.. the trade was built around the kid Detroit received from the nats.. fister wasn’t shopped.. Detroit wanted the roy kid specifically. . That’s why other gm’s weren’t happy cause had they known fister was available they’d have offered much more.. my point was just that was a lucky break for the nationals and fister is a bad transaction to set the market with..

                • Marty said something about going after proven, quality guys.

                  The Doug Fister trade aside, you’ll end up overpaying for slightly above replacement-level performance.

                • Plus if you’re talking about getting a pitcher that would make us ws contender it would have to be a front line pitcher/ace..

                  • That’s a fallacy. Vargas (or guys like Harang, McCarthy, Kennedy – none of whom are “aces”) alone might’ve provided the difference between a WC berth and a division title. When you’re ready to win but your #5 is a combination of Wandy/Locke/Cumpton, getting a guy who’s a couple wins better than replacement is a worthwhile investment.

                    To be fair to Cumpton, in hindsight, it’s possible he could’ve been that guy. He didn’t do poorly except the LAD game. Locke certainly wasn’t and isn’t that guy. Wandy should’ve taken the year off and Neal should’ve let him.

                    • The guys you listed pitch about the same level as the end goal of reclamation projects.. if you’re talking about going for it ws bound.. they’re not difference makers in the playoffs.. The buccos are missing their version of Madison bumgarner.. not hudson.. they’re already doing well enough to make it to the playoffs.. they just don’t have the pitching to win once they get there.. non of the guys you listed wouldn’t help..

                    • Sure, Bumgarner is winning. But as has been established above, Price, Lester, Shields, Kershaw… not winning. You can get maybe get 4-5 extra wins paying a fortune for an ace, or maybe get 2-3 wins paying more to improve the back end of the rotation. And this year, 2 wins would’ve won the division. And once you’re in a series that’s not a one-game winner-take-all… well, the Chris Tillmans, Bud Norrises, Ryan Vogelsongs and Jason Vargases have shown what they can do.

                    • You’re talking in cirles now partner. . Huntington is getting wins at far less a cost already with reclamation projects as already established by Volquez cost per.. so why pay market rate if all you care about is winning a couple of extra games in the regular season..

                    • rickster – it only seems like I’m talking in circles. Let’s consider a couple of things: first, pretty much everyone agrees that while Volquez exceeded expectations, the Bucs were also a bit lucky as he succeeded beyond what his peripherals suggested.

                      Second, how comfortable were you coming out of spring training with a rotation of Liriano, Cole, Morton, Wandy and Volquez? I was somewhat horrified. Especially when Volquez started stinking up the place his last two April starts into May and Wandy (10 HR in 26.2 IP) looked like the second coming of Jamie Moyer without the craft.

                      Going into 2015 you’ve got Cole and Worley. You probably have one rookie (Kingham?). You’ve got Locke, which is to say you’ve got a placeholder until Morton returns. You eventually get Morton who never, ever seems to win as many games as his electric stuff would seem to imply he should. And you’ve got whatever 2015 reclamation project everyone is pining for.

                      We’ve all just witnessed what a lousy April can do. Are we all really that absolutely confident that anyone mentioned as said reclamation project isn’t going to be Jonathan Sanchez?

                      Look at it this way, if the Bucs pay $8-$10 million (or maybe even more) for a #3/#4 type guy and he proves redundant if/when Mr. Reclamation, the rookie, Morton and yes, even Worley all succeed, then you trade that guy in July for something you do need.

                      Because as we all know, you can never have enough pitching 🙂

                    • I am actually confident we won’t get sanchez.. sanchez never bought into making adjustments and I think they can weed the attitude guys out now.. that being said.. three successful projects and three $8m guys performing at expectation won’t make the team much better then last year when they had liriano/Volquez/worley/cole.. so given you felt they won’t do enough to really contend, I’m not seeing any suggestions that would even replace liriano.. the suggestions so far were projects last year even.. josh johnson was an $8m guy they almost got as a reclamation. . Just seems you took issue with us who like reclamations then listed reclamation guys from last year as alternatives.. Hence the circle.. I was actually hoping to see actual alternatives that would make the rotation formidable come playoff time.. I don’t believe in cole as a dominant pitcher and coupled with taillons injury.. grrr.. seems like you read up on a lot and thought maybe you were seeing a potential move I was missing

                    • I just want to win the division and not have a WC game. After that, with few exceptions, IMO, it’s just who’s hot. I take my chances with whomever we throw out there.

                    • Ah.. there’s the reason for the winded debate.. the division means little to me.. lol.. i thought all along you were thinking ws.. ws is in your name after all 🙂 after watching kc. Maybe neal should spend $8m on a reliever

                    • But.. we both agree the rotation for 2015 isn’t going to win us anything as it stands.. I like the kennedy idea. . I’m now not a masterson fan.. even with kennedy there probably still is work to do, ya think?

                    • Most definitely. Honestly, I think my first preference is to keep Frankie. I’ve heard rumors they won’t QO him, so am very interested in what they think his value/market is.

            • I continually find it amusing that the immediate response to the suggestion of any FA acquisition is use of phrases like “crippling the franchise financially” or “gutting the farm system”.

              ______________________________________
              OK. So what do you think the cost of a good established pitcher is? Is there some dollar store full of them that I’m not aware of? Because good starting pitching is the rarest commodity in all of baseball. It’s always in demand and you have to pay through the nose for it. If you have to pay through the nose for an elite pitcher, you can bet you have to overpay for merely a good or serviceable one. And if you have to overpay for it and you need more than one of them… well, it won’t take long for the cost (either in dollars, years, or prospects) to swamp you.

              The Pirates have pursued FA and trade-target pitchers of a certain type and have done pretty well all things considered with them (Burnett, Volquez, Liriano). They did so because that’s the best chance at getting elite pitching performance without paying elite pitching prices– which aren’t reasonably affordable. Maybe they could afford someone you’re thinking of– by the way: how about some suggestions, since you’re so convinced that some good established pitcher is out there for the reasonable taking?– but the question should always be is it a smart move to spend this kinda money in this kinda way?

              • Of the FAs, I like Hammel. I’ve also said I like Jon Niese in a trade. There are others.

                I’m not suggesting Bucs go after Price, Lester, Sheilds. But last year I did suggest going after Jason Vargas. That worked out well for KC.

                • OK. What do any of these guys cost and would it be worth it? I say no if you’re trading or buying for what you expect to be their career norms: while quite respectable, their career norms are not worth a ton of money or any good prospects.

  14. Tim: Charlie Morton would be someone who I think can qualify as a Reclamation Project. A 1.3 WAR the past two years and I am positive the Pirates did not sign him long term based on those numbers. He has electric stuff and if he can deliver and stay healthy, the Pirates will be in great shape. He used to be a bargain, but his $8 mil salary for 2015 and another year of $8 mil in 2016 are indications that he needs to provide a lot more for this team over the next two years. We can be very competitive with Cole, Morton, Worley, Locke, and Cumpton while waiting to see what happens with Jameson Taillon and Nick Kingham.

    • I’d want at least one competent #3 type pitcher. I just don’t trust Locke+Cumpton for long stretches.
      But I’ve also been a Morton fan for a while. He’s the perfect fit for the Pirates current system.
      Too bad he gets hurt too often. Is it too early to give him the dreaded “injury prone” label yet?

      • Locke has shown that he is a league average pitcher. Why wouldn’t you trust him? Every staff could use a league average pitcher.

        • I know the #s say he’s a perfectly good #4-#5 starter and I expect a fip/era close to 4.00 again from him in 2015.

          But Locke is just a weird pitcher to me.
          Strong the 1st half, than broken the 2nd half. 2 straight years in a row. I just can’t figure it out. Hope he finally figures it all out.
          He’d be easier to understand if he was just consistently inconsistent through out the year lol.

          • Mike: Over the past two years, even with late season downturns, Jeff Locke has been a perfectly good #3, 4, or 5 SP with an overall record of 17-13 in 51 Starts, 298 IP, and an ERA of about 3.70. For that we pay him $500K. LHSP’s who average 25 starts a year and give an average of 6 innings per start – what would that be worth on the FA market? Charlie Morton over the same two years is 13-16 in 46 Starts, 273 IP, and an ERA of 3.55.

            Locke looks funky and only averages 90.4 on his fastest fastball. Therefore, he has to rely on pinpoint control/command which got a lot better in 2014 – in only 35 less innings pitched in 2014 he cut his number of Walks from 84 in 2013 to 40 in 2014. I was very impressed and surprised at watching some of his starts in 2014 where he was hitting 93 on the gun, which he never had before. Can he be trending at higher velocity and better command?

            • The Locke/Martin combination was 3rd in MLB in number of strikes called attributable to framing, to the tune of 7.4 runs saved. Without Martin, is Locke nearly as useful?

  15. Another point I want to make, from all those “constants” Tim mentioned there is going to be one huge difference.
    NO Russell Martin.
    Who ever it’s gonna be, he’ll have worse pitch framing, worse blocking, worse arm, and worse pitch calling (though this is debatable).
    hopefully a full year of the Polanco and our fast OF + better defense at 3rd without Pedro offsets this somewhat.

    BTW, looking at KC, should the FO’s focus on groundball pitchers change? Since clearly our OF defense is the star compared to our IN defense, shouldn’t the focus be more on flyball pitchers? just a thought

    • No way. Fly ball pitchers give up too many HR’s. The way the Pirates do things is working, no need to copy KC. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

      • it’s not that simple. to play devil’s advocate, fly ball pitchers give up less hits, just look at their avg babip. Probably not going to happen in the near future, but it does have its merits, especially since PNC is considered a HR suppressing stadium. (around 3rd in the league in fact.)
        http://www.parkfactors.com/PIT

        Park Factor
        -83
        92 R
        74 HR
        This means that in the years 2010-2013,
        PNC Park produced 92 runs for every 100 runs produced in the average
        MLB park, and 74 HRs for every 100 homers, for a mean Park Factor of 83.
        This is an extreme pitcher’s park.
        PNC Park, Pittsburgh
        A well-loved new ballpark, Pittsburgh’s PNC
        Park is a expansive natural-grass stadium with no roof in sight, leading
        to more than a few rainouts but also showcasing some of the prettiest
        day games in MLB today. The park, built by (who else?) HOK Sports
        Facilities Group, is often seen as their most successful project. A
        classic of ‘new retro’ design, the intimate wraparound seating and steep
        pitch means that even the highest seat is still only 88 feet from the
        field. The outfield wall rise

        • I think you have to look past average and counting the number of hits and consider that the league slugged .258 on ground balls this past season and .593 on fly balls.

          Pirates entire defense seems to constructed around limiting extra base hits, hence the ground ball heavy staff and deeply positioned out field.

        • Pirates philosophy isnt just about limiting HRs, but also extra base hits. Its about limiting hits that can do the most damage. Pitching inside and inducing groundballs limits those big hits. A team may get 3 straight ground ball hits, but playing the odds on that can work. That, and at this point itd change the entire pitching philosophy of the team which would take time to implement.

    • right Mike C. I think we have a very good pitch framer though. Statistically better than Martin. BUUUUT, Martin’s handling of the pitchers, his throwing, his blocking and toughness and of course his offense are not going to be replaced.
      These successful reclamation projects may be the more the result of Martin than many think. That being said, the true value of Martin then may be almost any amount that he wants. Why? Because you can get Solid Middle of the rotation numbers or even ACE numbers (Francisco) for well below what it sould cost. You can do this because you have Martin. So if the Pirates pay Martin a hefty salary they will save that amount by signing these type of pitchers to very cheap contracts.

      • The Pirates have had reclamation projects with pitchers since this FO started. The difference is Russel Martin. He came 2 yrs ago and everything fell in place for the pitching. Look at all the reclaimed pitchers they had before and what they did. Catching is truly a manager on the field. The Pirates should (might already) be teaching all their catchers the RM way of catching.

        • Correlation is not causation.

          And I think Burnett and Correia both had pretty big resurgences with someone else behind the plate.

      • Chris Stewart is as good at pitch framing, similar in blocking and with a career numbers type year very adequate thrower behind the plate. People act like any option that isnt Martin will be this crap option that doesnt handle the pitchers well and isnt “Martin tough”. The offensive downside of Stewart is clear, but Stewart is absolutely a decent defensive option. Just as “tough” (since that is the most subjective thing to use as a metric ever) along with just as used to handling the staff as Martin. Russell Martin’s defense can be replaced without losing a ton.

  16. THIS. this is why I say we don’t need to overspend for guys who’ll cost close to 20mil a year.
    One year is a fluke, two years might be luck, but three years in a row….
    Maybe there is some magic in our FO and coaches, but my one fear is this streak of success might not last forever.
    Hopefully we’ll see the new AJ/Liriano/Volquez 2.0 (or is it 4.0 now) in 2015.

  17. Can they please have a team option for an extra year, similar to Liriano’s contract? If they are going to turn someone’s career around they should have the reward of another year. It would have been nice if Volquez had a team friendly option for 2015.

  18. Thanks tim.. I like lewis & masty as well. . It might be worth mentioning that Cleveland had a terrible defense as well.. though yan gomes isn’t far behind martin defensively

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