First Pitch: It’s Time For Gaby Sanchez to Get Appreciated as a Good Platoon Player

I took a break from working on the 2015 Prospect Guide today to respond to a question about whether Allen Craig would be a good replacement for Gaby Sanchez as the right-handed half of the first base platoon. My response was that Sanchez has been better in his career against lefties than Craig. My first mistake was even entering a discussion about Gaby Sanchez and saying something other than “Gaby Sanchez is the worst player ever!”

Gaby Sanchez is a special topic among Pirates fans. His role is quite simple: he’s the platoon option at first base who goes up against left-handers. Therefore, he doesn’t need to be good against right-handers, as long as he can crush lefties. But the problem is that he’s viewed as a guy who is flat-out horrible, regardless of whether he does his job or not. And you never get more hate than when you defend Gaby Sanchez by pointing out the facts: he’s good against left-handers and that’s all that is expected of him.

This year, the anti-Sanchez group has something to work with. He’s coming off a year where he had a .746 OPS against lefties, along with a 111 wRC+ and a .328 wOBA. That’s not horrible. The league average against left-handers was a .706 OPS/98 wRC+/.313 wOBA. The league average for right-handers was .731/105/.322. Whether it’s the league as a whole, or all right-handers, Sanchez was above average.

The problem is that platoon players — especially the right-handed variety — get judged by their overall stat line. In this case, it was a .229/.293/.385 line. Part of that is because his numbers get dragged down by his results against right-handers. That’s unavoidable for any platoon player, although the Pirates probably could have found ways to avoid Sanchez seeing so many plate appearances against right-handers this year. Even in a normal year, his numbers would be lowered by the results against right-handers. But with his usual left-handed production, his overall numbers look closer to a league-average first baseman than a guy who shouldn’t be in the majors.

Like I said, it’s a little bit easier for the anti-Sanchez crowd to go against him when coming off a below-average season by his standards. But that doesn’t mean they need it to be easy. The same arguments against Sanchez following the 2014 season existed following the 2013 season. That was a season where he had a .987 OPS, a 180 wRC+, and a .428 wOBA against lefties. He did his job, and he did it well. Yet he was viewed as worthless, because it’s too much trouble to click on the “Splits” page on Baseball-Reference or FanGraphs, or in some cases, to look past the batting average and home run totals.

Looking at his career, Sanchez falls much closer to the 2013 numbers than 2014. He has a career .863 OPS against lefties, along with a 138 wRC+ and a .376 wOBA. Which means this now becomes an issue of whether you think Sanchez will bounce back, or is starting on the downside of his career at the age of 31, or is somehow fulfilling the “worthless” tag that many put on him, despite the fact that he actually has a very specific value.

Bounce back candidates present an interesting situation. Usually the chances an individual places on the player bouncing back depend heavily on that person’s opinion of the player before his down year. In this case, a lot of Pirates fans didn’t like Sanchez when he was good at his role. So the idea that those fans will be counting on him to bounce back to a role that they didn’t appreciate is slim. Pedro Alvarez and A.J. Burnett both had down years in 2014. I’m willing to bet that if you held a poll to see which player would bounce back in 2015, Sanchez would finish third of that group. You could probably expand the list to include more bounce back candidates, and Sanchez would end up low on the list. Yet there’s really no reason why Sanchez wouldn’t be the one to bounce back to his career norms.

Let’s look at those career numbers and put them in perspective. Sanchez has been in the league since 2008. In that time, he has 714 plate appearances against lefties. There have been 124 right-handed hitters with 700+ plate appearances against lefties since 2008. In that group, Sanchez ranks 24th in wRC+, 30th in wOBA, and 32nd in OPS. During the span of his career, he has been in the top 25% or better of all right-handed batters when it comes to hitting lefties.

If the Pirates are going to go with a platoon at first base again in 2015, then it would make all the sense in the world to go with Sanchez. Throughout his career, he’s been one of the better right-handed hitters against left-handers in the game. Even in a down year like 2014, he’s still above average. He’s not a good overall first baseman, but that’s not really his role to begin with. He’s great against lefties, and is coming off a down year. The only question is whether you think he’ll continue with his down year, or return to the career numbers going forward.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide

**Pirates Release Catcher Ramon Cabrera

**Winter Leagues: Sebastian Valle Reaches Base Five Times, Willy Garcia Continues Slump

**Pirates Trade Ike Davis to Oakland A’s

**Pirates Sign Catcher Sebastian Valle

**Pirates to Sign Radhames Liz to a Big League Deal

**Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell Named Among Top AFL Prospects

  • When the manager pinch hits for his left-handed first baseman with Sanchez in order to face a lefty, who the opposing manager removes from the game in favor of a righty seems like a little bit of stupidity to me. Why would any manager keep a lefty in for Sanchez? So, why waste a bat when everyone knows that the guy can’t hit righties.

    • Because if your Manager is smart, he bats a guy who mashes righties behind that LF 1B so that if the opposing manager really doesn’t want Gaby to face a LHP he has to then put in another RHP.

      You just burned three of the opposing team’s relievers in order to get one out, Gaby Sanchez.

  • Tim just knows what is good for business… Like Lukas said.. We knew this’d be a shit storm… I hate disagreeing w Tim , love using his points to support my own arguments … I don’t even buy he really believes this… We can’t lose sight of what a preimium offensive postion 1stbase represents… This split nonsense involving these sabermetric values are great for 2ndbase and catcher.. But I like my 1stbasemen to give me old fashion RBI , slugging and homeruns… #Gabyhitslikeabackupss

    • So many of these comments would be amazing satire if they weren’t sadly serious.

    • “I don’t even buy he really believes this”

      Why would I write something I don’t believe?

      • I hate not being able to align with your analysis… Even if I remove last season I just can’t accept Gaby as a legit 1st base option . I realize it is not on Gaby. He does do what he’s asked as you point out. The problem is philosophical… First base is a position , as addressed by Andrew McCutchen , that isn’t best served with a platoon. The discussion is nullified if Pedro can become even satisfactory vs lefties and Harrison has a similar offensive showing in ’15. The corners feel still feel like premium offensive positions.
        My apologies Tim , The devil is in the details. Point taken , Gaby is an efficient platoon split… I just hope the need ceases to exist.

  • This isn’t about being plus or minus Gaby, it’s about the article. The article, unfortunately, isn’t one of Tim’s best. This is a pretty one sided article focusing entirely on his career ability to hit lefties well enough to be included as a decent option for a platoon righty hitter. A good platoon player still has to NOT be a liability in the event he is used vs. the opposite side pitcher. A good platoon player should have a positive WAR as well seeing as most of his plate appearances should be against the type of pitcher he is used to play against. A good platoon option also has to take into account the VALUE of a player who has done what Gaby has done or is likely to do in the future, before you can say he is a good platoon option. This is something Tim has always done before when trying to say why it doesn’t make sense to keep a player, but completely leaves it out here when he’s trying to make the opposite point. Is what Gaby has done worth 2.7 Million per year? Is a replacement level player worth 2.7Million is the real question, and the answer is no. This article didn’t need to be written

    • I’d say the break even cost for value would be no greater than a 1 year, 1.5 million dollar contract. He has no position flexibility, and is a liability vs. righties. That roster spot needs to be filled with a player who can hit lefties well, but more importantly, add something else to the team, whether that be power, speed, plate discipline……Gaby brings very little in terms of overall value to the team.

      I would concur that having Tony sanchez play first and have him be a 3rd catcher at league min. would be a far better value. I’d still rather see Lambo get another shot and trade Pedro as I think he is toast. But that is just an opinion

      • Tony Sanchez has struck out 45% of the time against LHP in his short big league career and 29% of the time overall.

        He also can’t play first base, or catcher.

        Yeah, that’s great value.

  • Gaby is a good enough platoon option to pick up before ST, but is not someone we need to be carrying on the 40 man roster for just in case. He should not be a first option and with better options available we should not be so focused on carrying a platoon at first base. Platoons should never be a first option, they should be a fallback plan.

    I realize the front office is still trying to sell us on Pedro Alvarez, but I for one am done with him. In all honesty, I have never liked him, but now with him regressing at a rate similar to Rob Deer, Mike Pagliarulo and the like, it is time to either trade him and try to get any value from him that he might still have. I do not personally believe that it would be selling low, it would probably be selling high, since after this year I do not see him having any value.

    But back to Gaby, meh, whatever, if he is a decent platoon, good for him, nothing against him, I just don’t think carrying a platoon should be a priority.

  • Gaby blows. He barely hits any homers without steroids, and in 2014 hit more against righties than against lefties.

    He hit as many homers at Comerica, in ONE plate appearance, as he did at PNC in 124. For a team that is cost conscious, why spend that much money for a guy whom ‘replacement level’ is made for? If the Pirates cut him tomorrow, what other team would give him that kind of money? Cervelli has a hard time staying healthy. Let him or Sanchez be the platoon guy with Pedro, and maybe not playing catcher as much lets him get thru a season and the Pirates see if he’s worth anything. Gaby won’t be back in 2016. Keeping Sanchez around lets the Pirates be more flexible. Gaby can’t play anything other than first, and he’s not that good there, either.

  • Do the Wild Things still exist? Can the Pirates use that extra international money to sign some of the Bhutanese that have relocated to Carrick? Me and some of my friends were going to sign with the Pirates but Huntington was willing to do something stupid but not insane. If i hear Sanchez mashes lefthanders again ill jump off the Wilmerding bridge. HE SUCKS! Advanced Metrics suggest Bill Cosby is the big banger the Pirates need.

  • I hope if they keep Gaby it will be as primarily a PH. I prefer Alvarez be given the job as a regular. Sure, let Gaby play vs the real tough lefties, but not a strict platoon.

    The main reason is Pirates need to see if Alvarez will be the player they hoped he would become when they drafted him. I realize he probably won’t be what Ryan Howard was for Phillies 5 years ago, but then again he may.

  • Good article. I don’t mind Gaby but “good” is such a strong word.

  • The issue in my mind isn’t whether Gabby can hit lefties (for the most part he can). Its how easy is it for the opposing manager to force him to hit against RHs (or for that matter force the LH platoon player to hit against a LHs in critical situations). I think the bigger issue is our platoon players are not just bad against their side of the plate pitchers, they are awful. It seems to easy late in games to create match up difficulties when you have such extreme splits as our platoons seem to have. Guys like Gabby against RH and Davis or Jones against LHs have virtually no chance of success when an opposing manager makes a pitching change. Someone mentioned Craig, if you discount his injuries (and you can’t) the guy hit all types of pitching. Just bringing in a RH wasn’t going to force a PH or create a major mismatch with him at the plate. I would like to see a platoon player from the RH side that isn’t a complete mismatch against RHs. Gabby was suppose to be that guy but he has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt he can’t hit RHs

  • Arik Florimonte
    November 25, 2014 2:29 pm

    A lot of times people like to throw out statements like “You don’t like Gaby, oh yeah, who’s you’re alternative?” That is known as the TINA fallacy, i.e. we shouldn’t discuss it critically because There Is No Alternative.

    In a discussion, or debate like this, I think it’s enough to say that we can look at his numbers in the context of the league, what his salary is, whether we think he’ll decline or bounce back, and then argue we should/shouldn’t look for someone better. Just because someone doesn’t know the minor league systems of all 30 teams doesn’t mean there isn’t a better player out there. Should we look or not, that’s the question.

    Now, having said all that, let me throw a few names out there.
    CJ Cron would be a good fit at 1B. He might even be able to play there full time. He is not a FA.
    Michael Morse is a FA projected to make about 7 M. He is a year older than Gaby but has only had one stinker of a season, in 2013.
    Josh Satin is two years younger than Gaby and has hit LHP at .793 OPS in his career. Also not a FA.
    Nate Freiman of the A’s is 27 and has an OPS of .796 lifetime against LHP.
    Kevin Frandsen has hit LHP at .752 OPS for his career and his wOBP for the last 3 years is slightly better than Gaby’s. He’ll make $1M from the nationals this year.

    I’m not necessarily advocating for any of these guys specifically (aside from Cron), but pointing out that there are other possibilities to improve production from the RH side of the platoon.

  • I take this as that TIM got orders from “on high” that the Pirates aren’t going to do anything to fix 1st base ie, getting an actual ML first baseman. Sanchez and Pedro at 1st is unacceptable for a team that considers itself a contender for anything. How bout getting a real 1st baseman ? What an original idea !!!

  • Oh by the way this has nothing to do with hating anything Gaby does or is. He is just another in the long line of overvalued 1B we have seen in Pittsburgh since Sid Bream. Not his fault.

  • I think what is being forgotten here is the word- average. How many people do you think can play 1st base for a MLB team? if you say 40, that means 20 of the players are about the same, and there are 10 good ones and 10 bad ones. If you think 60, then it’s 30 are about the same and 15 are good and 15 are bad.
    We are jockeying around in the middle. Changing one middle guy for another is a crap shoot at best.

  • This is so ridiculous its almost funny. Sanchez does one thing, he bats RH and not that well at that. Yet we consider and devalue and under appreciate anything that Neil Walker does and even consider him a trade option or back to being a utility player. That is about as understated as anything I have ever heard from you Tim. And you are one of those who feel and state that Neil Walker is a commodity we can afford to move or lose. Maybe you need to go back to writing something others than for Pirates Prospects. There are times when I think and give credit to you for really getting it, and then you do this story. APPRECIATION????????? Neil Walker is to this clubhouse what McCutchen and Martin where? Is Sanchez? Neil Walker finishes in the top 10% in the Majors in defense and offense at 2b? Does Gabys defense make in a good defender to rate in the top 10% in baseball? Have you looked at Hanson’s growth as a player lately?

    • “And you are one of those who feel and state that Neil Walker is a commodity we can afford to move or lose.”

      The only thing I’ve said on Walker is that there is no need to extend him right now, because he’s under control for two more seasons and they’re not getting a discount on his FA years. Thus, no need to commit the money now.

      I don’t know where you’re getting the rest of your post. Utility player? Someone they can afford to lose (I’m assuming now)? Sanchez is somehow equal to Walker? Who are you actually arguing here? Because no one holds those beliefs.

    • I would like to know who devalues and under appreciates Neil Walker? I know he is not signed to a long term contract, but that does not make him undervalued or under appreciated. When Neil becomes a free agent he will be around 32, we as fans do not study player regression from age, but the Pirates do, Neil Walker will want his next contract to be extended years, not one or two, more like 5 or 6, like all good players these days that is the killer, (The 5 or 6). This is also the main reason you do not see the Pirates signing big name players, the Pirates simply can not tie up payroll for many years on a player that in most cases will regress, in most cases the Pirates will have the ability either to fill the spot from within with a quality player before the player leaves for free agency. The system the Pirates are building toward is to lose players via free agency or sign them when they have very little time or reload from the minor league system.

  • Or it could be time to get a real 1B!!! My god it’s every year that the Cards try to improve while the Pirates look for guys they can bounce back. I’m going to laugh when the Cards get Heyward and Lester while the Pirates bring back Volquez and Burnett!!! Keep defending settling for this and the front office will continue with the just happy to make the playoffs.

    • “Keep defending settling for this and the front office will continue with the just happy to make the playoffs.”

      I like that this argument has morphed from “They don’t care about winning at all” to “They’re just happy to make the playoffs.”

      One day it will probably be “They’re just happy to make the World Series once.” And hopefully one day “I guess they’re just satisfied with one World Series title.”

      They took a team that was one of the worst in baseball with one of the worst farm systems, and turned that into one of the best farm systems, and a MLB team that made the playoffs two years in a row, and doesn’t look to stop contending any time soon. Maybe, just maybe, they know what they’re doing?

      • I understand that it’s very early, but I can see Mr. Adamson’s point in a larger sense: the Cardinals realized that they had a black hole in right field, and they went out and were agressive in finding a solution. The Pirates got replacement value production from their first basemen last year, and the response to this point (and, again, I understand it is early in the offseason) appears to be hoping that the guys who were not very good last year are better this time around. I don’t blame anyone for being frustrated by that.

        • “The Pirates got replacement value production from their first basemen last year, and the response to this point (and, again, I understand it is early in the offseason) appears to be hoping that the guys who were not very good last year are better this time around.”

          Even with that replacement level value at first base, they had one of the best offenses in baseball. And the first basemen all had down years, relative to their careers. So what’s the risk in seeing if they bounce back, especially when the offense isn’t relying on first base?

          • Well, partly because the Pirates are trying to catch the Cardinals, who went from a situation where they were well below replacement value to well above. Jason Heyward was a six-win guy per B-R last year, whereas the Cardinal triumvirate in right field last year was a win and a half below replacement value. That’s a huge improvement, because the Cardinals decided they needed to be agressive. I don’t think the Pirates can afford to simply tread water and hope that will be good enough.

            • “Well, partly because the Pirates are trying to catch the Cardinals”

              What award do they win for that?

              • Umm… I kind of assume that if they win more than the Cardinals, they win the division? And don’t have to go through a one-game win-or-go-home? Isn’t that kind of a desirable thing?

                • One of my favorite stories from last season was Dave Dombrowski trading for David Price and then texting Billy Beane “You have 1 minute to acquire Chris Sale”. Just awesome theater, right? A macho man arms race that I don’t think I’ve ever seen topped.

                  And then, of course, their ball clubs went on to win exactly as many playoff games as the Pittsburgh Pirates. Combined.

                • Look, I obviously know your point, and you’re welcome to have it. I just think it’s foolish in today’s game to try and one-up individual teams.

                  • And as a rule, I’d agree that you cant get involved in an arms race, especially when you’re dealing with teams that may have financial wherewithal the Pirates do not. That said, the Cardinals were agressive when the situation called for them to be agressive. To this point–and again, I stress that I know how very early in the offseaons it is– the Pirates have been very passive, essentially just trying to mitigate their losses and hope that will be good enough–and I can understand how frustrating that is for folks.

              • You have to admit an “NL Central Champion” flag is better than an “NL Wild Card” flag. Plus you get to play at least two more games.

                • Absolutely!

                  But World Series flags are better, and in today’s MLB, winning the Division hasn’t proven to be a major advantage in doing that. I think the Pittsburgh Pirates should be doing what makes sense for their organization to get better. I don’t think “keeping up with the Joneses” is a good way to do that.

                  • I was just answering the question, “What awards do they get?”

                    I don’t know if anyone really has a formula for what wins a WS these days. Seems you just have to play well for a couple of weeks and you can get it done without a lot of power, without above average baserunning, without a stellar bullpen, without much more than one solid starter.

                    But the one common thread I have noticed over the past few years is that you do need solid fundamentals, defense and a savvy game manager. And while the Bucs had that in stretches last year, they could still use a lot of work on all three.

          • Arik Florimonte
            November 26, 2014 2:02 am

            Even with a very good offense last year, I would want them to try to improve upon it. That is true every year, but especially given that it was driven in large part by two guys having by FAR their best years — Martin and Harrison. And Alvarez remains a big question mark. So there is ample reason to look to your weakest position and try to upgrade it.

        • Arik Florimonte
          November 26, 2014 1:59 am

          “The Pirates got replacement value production from their first basemen last year” —

          Did they? Davis was at -0.4 and Gaby was at -0.4, and I don’t think Ishikawa or Alvarez brought them up to 0. Our platoon was a combined -0.8 and those two guys were set to make about $7M this year before Davis was let go.

      • Tim the Pirates are good right now. If not now then when? I wish someone would tell the Cards that they can just keep waiting for prospects to take over. The Cubs have a deep system too. Plus they will spend to fill their holes.

  • Sanchez would probably hit much better if he were traded to the Reds or Phillies, he has the same problem as a lot of hitters that come to PNC, tough to hit for power in PNC for power hitters, even tougher for average power hitters, Sanchez is a line drive hitter and goes to center and right center a lot, not many people hit for power in PNC when they do that. I agree with the people that say If he only hit against left handers his numbers would look a lot better.

  • Gabby is decent with the glove, and he had a few moments last year with the bat. He may also be a great teammate. But overall, he’s been a big disappointment since coming to Pittsburgh. He has never remotely approached his production earlier in his career with the Marlins.

    I just don’t understand why we would be content for this level of performance if he is going to be part of a first base platoon again. Overall, when he is in the lineup, our offense suffers – I think we can do better. With the likelihood that hitting production at catcher is likely to fall off the cliff in 2015, we cannot afford another season of lack of production at first base.

    I like the idea of seeing what a guy like Gattis would bring. He at least provides power – and could play some first and behind the plate. There may be other options as well, he is just the one that first comes to mind.

    • The major issue with this argument is that anyone who thought he was going to be the guy from the Marlins who was an all star was being stupid with their expectations. That may be his upside, but he was brought here to do what he has always done above average, hit LHP. Anyone not content with his level of performance is looking at his stat line and thinking “no way that makes our 1B platoon even average” when in reality we actually get really comparable value from that spot as most teams.

      If one more person says things like “he at least provides power” imma punch a baby. Why is power the most coveted traits in a 1Bmen? Its like a guy that has a great walk rate and is above average in a few areas that doesnt hit HRs is defective. This team has plenty of power, getting quality production out of 1B should matter more than “he has power”.

      • “Why is power the most coveted traits in a 1Bmen?”

        It has nothing to do with the position, it is because we have so little of it everywhere else in our lineup!!! And we have less now that Martin is gone.

        If Sanchez hit for a decent average or was a great glove at first, maybe lack of power would be acceptable. But, he doesn’t provide any of those things either. He is mediocre – at his very best.

        • Yeah, we have so little power. Just 20 with Pedro, 20 with Walker, 20 with Cutch, 10-15 with Marte. Oh where oh where will we ever find power with only 3 guys hitting 20 and a few hitting mid teens. We are so desperate.

          • Who are the “few hitting mid teens”?

            You named Marte, and I assume you would include Polanco?

            By the way, you kind of made my point…above you account for around 90-110 from the bulk of our lineup, and that is assuming Walker hits 20 again and that Alvarez gets his act together.

            • In a full year of play, Polanco projects to hit in the teens, Mercer is likely to be on the lower end of the teens, Harrison a good bet to get into that middle teen area of 12-15. Last year we were able, as a team, to hit 156 HRs that placed us 6th in MLB. So you are telling me losing Ike Davis (10) and Russell Martin (11) is going to decimate this team? You use Pedro as a reason we wont have power, but in his worst year he just hit 20 HRs without playing a full seasons.

              Even if i totally write off the 10 HRs Ike hit and say we make up half of Martins, the team can easily hit 130 HRs which places us middle of baseball. This team does not have to worry about HRs, particularly since STL is likely to have far less power than we do and still be the favorite for the division.

  • The problem with Gaby is that he faces too many RHP but that happens when you go with a platoon. For example, Hurdle pinch hits Gaby when a LHP pitcher comes into a game only to then have to stick with Gaby when the opposing manager replaces the LHP with a RHP. That may be the logic behind Cutch’s statement about platoons not working at 1B.

    A platoon can work, but it doesn’t work that well when there are such large splits–it makes it too easy for a team with a strong bullpen to gain match-up advantages. And that becomes a bigger issue when the platoon is at a “bat-first” position like 1B. It’s not appropriate to only focus on Gaby’s splits because it’s ignoring the reality that he’ll have a lot of AB’s against RHP.

    That said, I’m not opposed to keeping Gaby around because he seems to be close to Pedro and I could see him playing a valuable role as a mentor to Pedro as he learns to play 1B.

    • “A platoon can work, but it doesn’t work that well when there are such large splits…”

      Stop there and I think that’s an interesting thought worthy of discussion.

      The example you give in the first paragraph is a function of poor managing, not platoons. Platoons are intended to increase leverage, therefor their greatest impact is in high leverage situations. If used correctly, it would be very rare for the platoon spot in the order to come up twice in high leverage situations in one game. Hurdle brought the issue you give on himself by taking the starter out in the 6th and 7th innings, knowing full well that spot in the order will be coming up again.

    • I commented above about this issue citing Gaby’s .800+ OPS as a PHer and that his ABs vs. RH RPs after PHing were a problem. Had to go into the gamelogs to get the data, but sure enough, he was 1-22 in PAs when staying in the game after a PH PA. I didnt check how many of those “sub” PAs were vs. RH RP or how many were high leverage, but it’s probably in our collective memory that Gaby sucked late in games. These PAs dragged his avg. down 20 points. Once again, unless they were to have another LH 1B capability on the roster to sub the sub, this is likely to be a recurring problem with the way Hurdle uses platoons, whether it’s Gaby or another player.

  • First Base has morphed into the most needlessly debated aspect of the entire Pittsburgh Pirates organization, and it isn’t even close.

    A little perspective…

    2015 Pittsburgh Pirates Positional Projections, via FanGraphs:
    1B: 1.9 WAR
    C: 2.0 WAR
    SS: 2.0 WAR
    RF: 1.8 WAR

    Overall, only two National League clubs project to have a more valuable group of position players than the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    Deep breath, folks. First Base is not the problem it’s made out to be.

    • Yes it is. With more production out of firstbase, we might win a couple more games. That makes a huge difference.

      • How can that same argument not be made for every other position I noted?

        And if you’re asking for a couple more wins out of first base, you’re either asking for SIGNIFICANTLY more production or lucky sequencing. Only four clubs in all of baseball are projected to get more than two additional wins our of 1B.

      • So why pick 1B? With more production out of ANY spot we win more games. Looking at it as a comparison to other teams, us going out and spending a great deal more isnt likely to get enough of an upgrade that nets us more than 1 win, maybe 2. 1B has simply become a spot many teams dont have a guy that generates a ton of WAR at.

        • Because firstbase is the biggest hole the Pirates have. Are the Pirates going to replace Jordy Mercer? No. Are they going to replace Polanco and Snider, no. They already got Cervelli behind the dish. So, what is left to upgrade, firstbase.

          • My goodness…

            This is exactly what Tim is talking about above.

          • Who are the available upgrades at first base? Michael Morse? Any right handed power hitter is going to be more valuable where they don’t have to play 1/2 their games in PNC park.

            • Pedro is the first baseman. I’m talking about upgrading over Gaby, which shouldn’t be that hard. Allen Craig, Wil Middlebrooks, hell even Mark Reynolds is a better option.

              • A short-side platoon 1B isn’t going to give you two wins worth of value period, let alone two wins more than Gaby.

              • Here are there career numbers vs LHP


                Additionally are you aware of Craig’s 2014 performance. He had a Lis Franc injury at the end 2013, that type of injury ends career in football and basketball, I think it is a reasonable assumption that this injury might continually affect him.

                • Nice comparison, I didn’t know you could do that. But I re-filtered the stats from 2012-14. Taking away Gaby’s 2 freakish seasons in Miami definitely drops him under Craig. And no, I wasn’t fully aware of Craig’s injury, so I guess that does put a damper on things.

                  • I’m not enamored with Gaby Sanchez, and certainly think it is possible that he is declining past usefulness. I just don’t see any readily available better options, though they may exist, I just don’t want to see Alvarez go out there and flail at LHP.

                    Craig seems like the stereotypical college hitter that the Cardinals find in the draft, late debut age, several years of above average production, and then the Cardinals know the expiration date and trade them. Craig has a lot of guaranteed money for a bounce-back candidate.

                    • Andrew, see HR statistics cited above. Pedro is better than Gabby against LHP for hitting HR. I am not so concerned about OBP from the &th spot in the order.

            • Pedro Alvarez!
              Looking at HR / PA:
              For Pedro:
              LHP: 2 HR / 87 PA = .023
              RHP: 16 HR / 362 PA = .044
              For Gabby:
              LHP: 3 HR / 155 PA = .019
              RHP: 4 HR / 140 PA = .028
              Obviously Pedro dominates Gabby against both RHP and LHP for HR percentage. And power is the contribution that you’d like to see a 1B man make. So the Pirates will be better just playing Pedro full time, with occasional spells from Lambo or T. Sanchez to develop them, rather than keeping Gabby on the team as a platoon option.

              • There is no logical argument that can be made that Pedro Alvarez is a better hitter against LHP than Gaby Sanchez.

                • I just demonstrated that in 2014 Pedro was a better power hitter against LHP than Gabby. That’s raw data, which apparently contradicts your expectations to the point that you reject it. Now I never said Pedro was a better hitter for average against LHP. If you wanted a base hit you’d chose Gabby. But which is really more effective, a base hit or a home run? This is a very hard question to answer. But let’s invent our own stat for the sake of argument. Let’s add Runs Scored and RBI and divide the total by plate appearances. After all the over all objective is to score runs, whether by being on base yourself and being driven in or by driving in someone else.


                  Against LHP = .218

                  Against RHP = .229


                  Against LHP: = .221

                  Against RHP: = .229

                  From this approach one should conclude that there was essentially no difference in productivity between Pedro or Gabby last year, so you might as well play Pedro over Gabby since Pedro is more entertaining. Or if your inclined to be cheap you could say trade Pedro and play Gabby to save some money. But you shouldn’t think that you’ll improve overall team performance by running a platoon with Pedro and Gabby at 1B. There’s nothing to be gained by doing it.

                  • But which is really more effective, a base hit or a home run?

                    This isn’t a hard question to answer, linear weights were developed years ago and and are the currency behind all advanced run based stats.


                    There is not a need to create new numbers there are established stats that answer the questions you are asking and they all say the same thing.


                    • Andrew, you are always a wealth of statistical arcania, and I for one always look forward to a read your various references. Thanks for the effort. But I suspect there is something wrong with your Fangraphs work up from the second reference. Consider a comparison of the career MLB stats of Pedro and Gabby available from
                      Pedro: .235 / .307 / .435 / .742
                      Gabby: .254 / .332 / .413 / .744
                      This confirms what we all know, that Gabby is a better OBP man, while Pedro has more power. The results from you Fangraphs projection really seems to understate Pedro’s ability when compared to the MLB stats.

                      Now if you look at my ersatz stat: (Runs + RBI) / PA for the career stats for the two players from you get the following:
                      Pedro: 0.246
                      Gabby: 0.225
                      So a slight edge goes to Pedro, but not a large one, whereas the career OPS for the two is essentially the same. But I reassert my initial deduction that Pedro and Gabby are essentially the same contributor in total, and hence no need to pay for both of them. The Pirates should pick one of them and play them full time (my choice remains Pedro) and retain the bench spot for a player development option.

                      Also, I don’t agree with your position that it’s not necessary to think “outside the box” because “the wheel has already been invented, so don’t reinvent it.” Such an approach tens to stifle innovation, whether in science or in baseball. Applying such a philosophy thirty years ago would have killed modern baseball statistical theory in the cradle.

          • Hole based on what? If you look at actual production, we compare well with many other teams. There is no 1 clear cut obvious upgrade that is a great bet to do better than Gaby, just a ton of “i think”.

    • But plodding power hitters are the best players in the game and you cannot win without one.

      • I think that’s really what this comes down to. The romanticized notion of the big bopping cleanup hitter.

        • Well yes, those kind of players can be game changers, good and bad. Haven’t we seen that with Pedro over that last 3 years? HR’s are instant offense on the scoreboard, and for a team that relies on pitching and defense, that should be very important.

          • That’s fair.

            What I think Andrew and I were commenting on, possibly too flippantly, was the idea that the value a player like Alvarez brings with his dingers cannot be made up elsewhere on a team through the other phases of the game.

            • Your’s and Andrew’s idea works for small incremental changes away from the ideal equilibrium point, but not for large ones due to the concept of diminishing marginal utility. Could a lack of HR be made up for by increased OBP or team speed or a better pitcher? Yes to some extent. But it’s difficult for a team to win big with no power at all. At some point the effect of subtracting power can’t be made up for efficiently by adding somewhere else. In baseball and in many sports balance is essential. The Pirates have a number of players that can hit a moderate number of HR. But other than Pedro they haven’y anyone who can hit a lot. I’d rather see a 1B man who can mash it to compliment the rest of the players on the team.

      • Depends on how good they are. Could the Cards have won the Series that they did when they had Albert Pujols at 1B if Albert wasn’t there? Probably not.

    • Well, yes…but most of that prediction is based on what Pedro does, and his output is as reliable and predictable as that of Amanda Bynes.

      • Pedro is reliably and predictably mediocre in batting average and OBP. He has prodigious power. If he made more contact he’d be terrific. He’s at his best when he is ready to hit the first pitch. In fact, if he just eliminated the AB where he takes the first pitch for a strike, swings and misses at the second pitch and then gives away the AB he’d be a more than acceptable player. His problem is an awful mental approach at the plate.

    • What are the components of that figure?
      Pedro 1.9 WAR
      Ike 0.5 WAR (pre-trade)
      Gaby 0.3 WAR

      First, to get to a 1.9 positional WAR, it would appear the Fangraphs/Steamer is utilizing Pedro at 1b full time. So if one is buying into Fangraphs projections, then one is buying all-in on Pedro for 2015 and it would seem the team doesn’t need Gaby at all.

      For the record, I’m fine with that, if we bump up 2+ expected WAR in the rotation to make up the difference between Martin/Davis/Gaby and Cervelli/Pedro. If Tony can handle the mitt in winter leagues, give him the platoon role and put a couple million more into the pen.

    • Arik Florimonte
      November 25, 2014 1:54 pm

      I think you’re looking at those WAR numbers out of context. Go here:

      and scroll down to Wins Above Average by position. You see that the Bucs were near the bottom from 1B, 13th out of 15 teams. They were > 2 wins worse than St. Louis. 1B is the low hanging fruit, the place where there is the most room for improvement.

  • William Wallace
    November 25, 2014 8:53 am

    “I love Gabby Sanchez and I want all of you to love Gabby Sanchez” . Gale Sayers

  • – With the way the offseason is going I think Gaby is the best and good option for the platoon at 1b. I mean, it would be ideal to have a more versatile player there but I made a real exercise of trying to find one, but I couldn´t, considering price, defense and offensive production.

    – I guess the best option is Scott Van Slyke, not because of his last name, but because he rakes against LHP and can play 1B and OF. However we don´t what the cost would be in a trade, but I think is not worth the price of a platoon player.

    – I like Danny Valencia, but he only has a handful of games at 1b and also we don´t know what the price would be in a trade.

    – So, like Tim said, Gaby is a good option for his price. How Hurdles plays him is another story.

    – The key to the Pirates bench is to have a second good hitter, at least someone who can draw a walk. I like Alberto Callaspo, he is a switch hitter and always had solido OBP before this last season. So I am betting on a rebound year, plus he can play 3b and 2b. He is actually better as a right handed, so maybe he can spell Walker some AB at 2b against LHP.

    – A bench of Snider, Callaspo, Sanchez can contribute in offense and then leave Florimon as defensive and pinch runner, with Stewart as the backup catcher.

  • Does gabby have a passable 3b glove? Like in a pinch he could field the position.. I just think he sorta let up a bit after we traded for ike.. I’m not suggesting we run him out to 3b for 20 games.. we could use a backup 3b with a descent bat

  • If you look at his three years in Pittsburgh against lefties, is 2013 not the anomaly so far? 2012 and 2014 are nowhere near his 2013 season. 2011 and 2010 were closer in line with 2013, but that is becoming quite a while ago.

    • Best arbitrary end points argument ever.

      “If you discount the years Gaby hit left handers well, Gaby didn’t hit left handers well.”

      • BUT ITS TRUE! Speaking of which, if you take away Cutch’s last 3 years he really isnt all that special. From 2009-2011 he was no superstar. (sarcasm font needed)

        • “Adam LaRoche is a consistent middle of the order bat, except for three of the last five years when he wasn’t.” – Logic

      • My only point was trying to look at the entire picture. I don’t know that you can talk about bounce back with respect to 2014 by only looking at 2013 and ignoring 2012. Personally I would rather look at recent history. To me, that opens possibility of are the skills eroding? I know babip is often looked at and referenced on this site. Gaby’s babip was over .360 against lefties in 2013.
        And I am not a radical lunatic Gaby Sanchez hater. Honestly, I would rather see another alternative, but if not, so be it, I will still pull for the guy and hope I was wrong.

      • Arik Florimonte
        November 25, 2014 1:47 pm

        That’s the $2.7M question. Which is the outlier? 2012 or 2014 when he was bad against everyone, or 2013 when he crushed lefties? You could plot his OPS vs. lefties and you see a spike in 2013. Maybe that’s the norm, and for some reason he’s just been lying in wait all those other years. Guys sometimes do have a career year at 31, but betting on it is not smart.

        • There’s a reason guys much smarter than you and I come up with projections that take into account all information.

          • Arik Florimonte
            November 25, 2014 3:07 pm

            Most of the projection sites do a pretty good job, but there is no way they know whether Gaby is going to be positive or negative WAR next year. Steamer predicts +0.3. That’s hardly going out on a limb to predict a bounce-back. Is +0.3 WAR worth $2.7M? I would argue no, but other reasonable people may argue yes.

            $9M/ win is close to what teams pay for free agents. The major league average IIRC is about $5M/win. Obviously a point of WAR through Free Agency costs more than a point of WAR for someone under team control.

            • Isn’t this a bit of a circular argument?

              I agree that it’s completely reasonable for one to believe $2.7m is more than Gaby Sanchez is worth. But given what you yourself have said wins cost on the free agent market, one shouldn’t expect $2m to net much more than what Gaby would likely provide, right?

              If I’m taking on the sizable risk of pulling a guy with no big league experience out of AAA and expecting him to immediately step in and do Gaby’s job, I want to at least know that savings is going to something worthwhile.

  • I disagree with just writing off Gaby vs. RHP shortcomings (.619 OPS in ’13, .600 in ’14 over 336 plate appearances.) In the last 2 years, 5% of Gaby’s at bats have been against right handed pitching. Looking at McGahee and Diaz the years before doesn’t give a very different picture. For the short side platoon player, the platoon aspect is rarely more than half his job. He’s also a pinch hitter, a DH, a #2 firstbasemen and on many other teams, somone who can fill in elsewhere (a talent Gaby distinctly lacks.)

    The way I see it, a role like Gaby’s should be good for about 300+ plate appearances per year, with platoon splits ideally in his favor <50% of the time. If he's getting scales tipped in his favor that often, and still coming up with a ~700 OPS, that's a pretty poor outcome over a lot of at bats. Gaby's value to the team should be weighted by his platoon usage, yes, but that's not the same as saying only his platoon splits matter. I think the team can do better. It's the aggregate, man.

    • Some very good points here; Gaby’s role is a very limited one, and a guy who is strictly a first baseman who really shouldn’t get at bats against a righty is a tough sell when you have the short benches you have in the game today. If you had a DH in the NL, then maybe he’s got a bit more value, but the Pirates need to at least look around to see if they can find someone with a little more versatility to fill his spot.
      One aside as far as the question of whether Gaby is a bounce-back guy or a guy on the way out; if you look at his top-10 comps at B-R, they are guys who, by and large, didn’t age very well. That certainly doesn’t prove anything, but …

      • I’ve used the versatility argument before, it’s a good one. But I’m starting to wonder if it makes more sense in the abstract than with this actual team.

        Think about the basics:
        Gaby Sanchez is one man and he should be replacing one man when facing LHP. If Gaby Sanchez is in the game, it should be because he’s facing a LHP. If he’s doing that while not playing 1B, that means Pedro Alvarez IS facing a LHP, which is exactly what is meant NOT to happen by having Gaby Sanchez on the roster in the first place.

        Does increased versatility actually add any value to the team overall?

        • That’s certainly a fair point, and perhaps “versatility” was a poorly chosen word. That said, Sanchez’ uses are so limited–he doesn’t have any paricular defensive value, and he’s certainly no help to you against right handers–that I’m not sure it’s a good use of a roster spot.

          • All true, which seems to beg the question…is a 1B platoon, generally speaking, a good use of roster spots?

            • I think the answer is a firm maybe. I think its a lot tougher in the NL – shorter bench. You cant hide guys as easily – short side platoon guy will pinch hit a lot against RHP, will have late inning ABs against RHP, will be called on to fill DH in the odd interleague game, etc. Taking Gaby as an example: last year he had 148 plate appearances vs. left handed pitching. You would need to limit Gaby to no more than 98 plate appearances against RHP over an entire season to get him to 60% of plate appearances vs. LHP. I feel like that’s about the absolute best you could possibly do to optimize a short side platoon player in the NL, and that might be optimistic. In the last 4 years, none of the Garret/Ike platoon partners have ever gotten close to that percentage.

              Now, if Gaby was merely mediocre vs RHP it would be one thing, but his last 3 years OPS vs. RHP are .566/.619/.600. How do we feel about a 1B only player that, in a BEST CASE scenario, hits like Barmes 40% of the time? The versatility argument is mostly about adding more plate appearances to a better bat – if you get a decentish guy who can platoon and play a little third, for example, that turns Morel type ABs into short side platoon guy type of ABs, but if that versatility comes with a .600 OPS bat, it better also come with a gold glove and a premium position, or else its moot.

              Gaby is the “type” of player that makes sense, solid platoon partners are hard to find – the Mark Reynolds of Kelly Johnsons of the world are less than inspiring, so maybe you keep Gaby. Or maybe you try to bring in a Morse and get him 400 PAs or so? Or T. Sanchez? I don’t know. Tim’s right, Gaby is very good at hitting lefties – one of the better hitters in the league, but there’s a lot of hidden costs that go come with him too, in terms of roster and usage.

              • Really appreciate the conversation, guys. Lot of good thoughts.

                Let me add this line from TNBucs below, because I think it fits in with what we’re talking about: “A platoon can work, but it doesn’t work that well when there are such large splits…”

                Makes sense that the ideal platoon player would excel at hitting opposite handed hitters while still being marginally successfully hitting same handed pitchers and be able to play multiple positions such that they can add value outside of the platoon role.

                Seems like a tough task, but that’s quite a player to have.

                • What removing Gabby from the lineup accomplishes is opening up a “player development” spot on the 25 man roster. The advantage of this can be seen in JHAY. He was on the roster for a year Plus in a bench role, not contributing much, then last year he breaks out. Gabby has reached 100% of his upside. Two players that we don’t know what their upside is yet are Tony Sanchez and Lambo. I would rather see them make the team, and have the 1B AB split between Pedro, Lambo and T. Sanchez because it keeps T. Sanchez and Lambo on the team where they can adjust to MLB and maybe be available for a breakout year.

            • Well, given how short the benches are in today’s game, no–certainly not if you have two guys who can’t play anywhere else, like the club had with Ike and Gaby last year.

        • This is exactly why the increased versatility has to come from replacing 2 players with 1. The platoon removal is the need. In terms of versatility, we need someone whom is less of a disaster vs. righties, is asking for a .700 OPS that much to ask?

  • You can filter through all of Gabby’s stats to find some good ones, but the bottom line is, he is not a productive baseball player. Did you watch him play last year? He is not a threat at the plate whatsoever. He chases as many bad pitches as Pedro, looks at as many perfect pitches as Ike, and pops up to shortstop more than any other player I can remember watching. Helping Pedro learn firstbase is the only plus he brings to this team, but is that worth his $3mil (ish) salary? No. Make a deal for WIl Middlebrooks and have him take Gabby’s spot.

    • Wow is that a serious suggestion? Middlebrooks hit .170/.228/.226 against lefties last year

      • Middlebrooks has upside though. Something Gabby hasn’t had since he was popping PED’s at Miami.

        • What makes Middlebrooks have “upside”? He’s a career .237/.284/.411 hitter.

          • Maybe the fact that he’s only 25 years old, and actually possesses power. You really think Gaby is a better player than Middlebrooks? You need to get off baseball reference and actually watch a game.

        • Middlebrooks does have some upside but he has been on a horrendous decline the last 2 years…to the point his good 280 AB or so in 2012 could be called a fluke. Middlebrooks is also a project at 1B as he has played 2 games there ever. Middlebrooks looks a lot more like Andy Marte statistically in the majors and the minors than he does Gaby Sanchez. Sanchez has proven over 2000 MLB ABs that he is a Major Leaguer…and that he can hit lefties. When you are talking about underperforming over Gaby’s 260 AB we are talking a 10-12 game hot streak and last years stats are right where his career stats are. Which are slightly above average MLB platoon/bench corner bat. It’s not great but he is 31 and provides you a professional approach. Comparing his plate discipline and eye to Pedro is way off base because he has 2000 AB to prove he has patience and a sound approach. He does not strike out much at all for a guy that is a 50-60 XBH guy per 600 AB.

      • Doug…..I have to agree here. There is little upside here. Gabby isn’t going to suddenly hit even .250 vs righties and hit 12 homers……f that

    • Well it is good to see someone didnt disappoint Tim’s assumption that some arguments are going to get funny dumb. The first half was about 75% conjecture and “pops up to SS” which is hilarious. You put a cherry on it with a suggestion of a player to replace him that is younger, likely worse at what his job would be, and justify it with “HE CAN HIT DINGERS!”. If Gaby is trending downward, Middlebrooks is at the tail end of a trip down the Grand Canyon.

      • Isn’t ” he can hit dingers” the entire reason people want to play Pedro at 1st ? It surely isn’t because of his defensive prowess.

        • We don’t really know about Pedro’s defensive prowess at 1b yet, do we? His problem wasn’t ever fielding. It was throwing.

          • Exactly, we don’t know. Which is why a contending team shouldn’t take a chance at finding out. Get a proven player for the position. This isn’t a team where there are no expectations and trying a guy out is something you can get away with. This is a good team with a need and the resources to fill that need. Use them instead of bandaids and hope.

            • I can name a number of 1b who couldn’t play 3b, but I can’t name a single 3b who couldn’t play 1b. I don’t think there’s going to be any issue with Pedro’s fielding. He won’t have to make many throws.

        • But Pedro actually has had some extended success…even though his peaks and valleys are pretty unbearable.

          • his extended success was previous to the league figuring out he can’t hit righty changeups any better than lefty curveballs. Pedro is done.

            • I wish I could argue with you. Hopefully, he will make some adjustments.

              • You could easily argue by simply looking at how the league has actually pitched him and seeing no significant increase in changeups seen.

                You know, facts.

                • I was agreeing with you but some people are so argumentative that they argue with a nod of the head.

        • Pedro comes down to having very few other options and him likely having greater upside than Ike. Pedro, for all his faults, still provides okay offensive production. So does Ike, but Ike trends farther downward than Pedro.

  • I would be more impressed with him if he could hit home runs to left field in PNC Park . Simply put he doesn’t !

  • I’d still go with Tony Sanchez as the RH 1B platoon player giving the team a third catcher as well. I think he’s shown a more clutch bat in his short time with the team and he’s likely under control for what six years. It’s his time.
    Frankly I like Lambo better than Alvarez at first – as the lefty component of that platoon. I’d prefer Alvarez be traded as part of a package for another SP or as a component of a major trade package for an elite player… for example (Alvarez to Colorado along with Kingham, and Hanson and Mercer or Hanson for Tulo). If I can dream I’ll dream big.

    • 25 million for less than a hundred games. That’s a tremendous use of limited resources. Tulo is the definition of injury prone.

    • So, so much ugh…

    • Better get a very solid backup SS to go along with Tulo and his always injured self. Rather stick with the cost effective years of control Mercer than very expensive-gonna force us to watch Cutch and Cole walk in FA option of Tulo.

    • Never a player with Tulo salary shall occupy home dugout at PNC

    • Except for the last part where you started hallucinating, i’m on board. Tulo is made of duct tape and we can’t afford him regardless of whether or not colorado would take that offer

  • What was Hurdle thinking starting him at cleanup 22 times? THAT is a bad way to use a platoon, just plugging the other handed guy into the same spot in the order. His OPS was .596 there. And 60 PH (88 sub) appearances… probably many against a RH RP. His OPS was .643 there. I suppose my argument is not so much to support Gaby but that any RH 1B brought in to platoon is going to have the same challenges… more reason to get the everyday guy like Cutch says and have a RH 1B/OF emergency backup (or Barmes).

    • Correction (sort of). He had a .814 OPS as a PH in 60 PAs, so his 28 subsequent sub PAs must have dragged his OPS down. Once again though, probably faced some tough RH RPs.

    • Good starting 1st basemen with power are rarer than u think nowadays. Especially if u want a nonDH with at least average defense. ESPECIALLY if you want the hrs (power being so over valued today)
      I wish we had an everyday 1st baseman. But they r expensive.
      I wish Gaby was cheaper, younger and performs better.
      I wish there are better platoon options but I don’t see many out there that’ll come cheap through a trade. (Suggestions r welcome)
      So right now Gaby seems like the best option we got IMO.

      • Ryan Howard had better #s vs LHP last year than Gaby. With multiple reports out there that you can almost get Howard for free, maybe Neal should ask 🙂

  • Arik Florimonte
    November 25, 2014 1:33 am

    I am not your model Gaby “hater” you describe above. Until 2014 I was appreciative of his value as the minority half of a first base platoon. There are two main reasons why that is different now.
    1. He is now coming of two of three bad years. His OPS v. LHP was .729 in 2012, and .746 in 2014. Combined with the inevitable at-bats against RHP, he is more likely to end up below average than above. He’s on the wrong side of 30, more likely to decline than to improve.
    2. He is due for a sizeable raise. $2.7M, as predicted by the pirates prospects payroll tracker, is a lot to pay for someone you expect to play about 1/3 of the time.

    So when you say:
    “The only question is whether you think he’ll continue with his down year, or return to the career numbers going forward.”

    That is no longer the only question. The question is whether that 2.7M buys you better value elsewhere.

    • Arik Florimonte
      November 25, 2014 1:50 am

      Look at it another way. His career WAR is +3.0. +2.7 came in 2011 with the Marlins at age 27. Since then he’s managed -0.2 over 3 years. In his big year against lefties in 2013, he had the help of a career-high 14% walk rate (next best 11%) and career high 23% line drive rate (next best 20%). Maybe 2011 and the versus-LHP half of 2013 are the real Gaby, but evidence to the contrary is mounting, and expecting him to return to that form seems like a foolish gamble.

    • I agree with Tim’s article, but I was going to ask the question about what salary is too high for that production. I’ve gotta disagree with you Arik about $2.7m being too much, and the notion of it being too much for a player playing 1/3 of the time (though Gaby actually appeared in 76% of the Pirates games this past year, even if it was just for 1 AB or on defense and his 290 PA’s probably puts him closer at 1/2 time player, than 1/3).

      The thing is $2.7m isn’t going to buy you much more than what Sanchez gives you. Certainly won’t land a starting first baseman or even be a down payment on a starting pitcher.

      Secondly, it’s funny how differently we judge pitchers and position players. Sanchez appeared in nearly 40% more games than Melancon. Yet, most people would probably say that the $2.6m spent last year on Melancon was worth it, yet you’re saying that $2.7m is too much for someone who will play as little as Sanchez, which is way more than any pitcher that will play on the team (he played in almost twice as many innings as any Pirates pitcher last year!). We get caught up in this semantic argument about “part-time” or “platoon” players, but the reality of it is, every single pitcher on a team is “part-time” or a “platoon”.

      • Arik Florimonte
        November 25, 2014 2:34 am

        Well first, let me explain why it should be 1/3 and not 1/2. Because if he gets 290 PA again that means he’s playing WAY too much against RHP. Last year he got 290 PA but he started against RHP 22 times. He, frankly, sucks against RHP. So, if you use him correctly, he should only get 200-220 PA, which is 1/3 time.

        WRT pitchers vs. position players, your argument is IMO flawed. The amount Melancon played, he was a full-time reliever. He pitched the amount a typical relief pitcher pitchers. Position players and starting pitchers and relief pitchers should not be on the same scale. A 1/3 time reliever would be a someone who pitches in about 25 games.

        And beyond that Melancon was one of the best relievers in the league, so duh, of course he’s worth it. He contributed +2.4 WAR. Gaby cost the team -0.4. But you are correct in your implication, I probably wouldn’t mind them paying Gaby if he performed better; it’s not just the 1/3 time that bothers me, it’s the 1/3 time at replacement level that bothers me.

        Regarind that money, I wasn’t suggesting $2.7M buys you another 1B. I’m just saying that it could buy you better value elsewhere. For example, half an Edison Volquez project. Or a LHP reliever who’s a bounceback candidate. Or toward a Gerrit Cole extension. When your payroll is limited to less than half of Boston or New Yorks, you can’t waste a few million here, a few million there.

        It’s called “replacement level” for a reason. Gaby was a good risk to take when he came in, because his salary was low and his production against LHP was probably underappreciated. Now his salary is bigger and his production is worse.

        What I would like is for them to non-tender him but try to bring him back at a salary more commensurate with expected performance. Otherwise, Tony Sanchez can probably field and hit below replacement level, too, but for league minimum.

        • Enough of the tired New York – Boston false comparisons. The 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates should have a payroll around $90m. Ninety million dollars.

          The marginal cost of having Sanchez on the 2015 club will be about $2m, and that’s assuming the player filling his role would be doing it at league minimum.

        • I agree with the idea that Sanchez is possibly declining but the follow up question is what is the alternative?


          The goal is to build the best team not the most efficient team. Not to be crass but I really don’t know when catcher whose value was based on defensive became a viable offensive option at first base.

          The Pirates have better split and match-up data than just breaking it down by handness. Sanchez is a high ball hitter, I believe some of those starts against RHP were likely when the Pirates faced RHP who like to throw fastballs high in the zone, like Mike Friers.

          With the addition of the underwhelming Ike Davis, Hurdle ran a fairly strict platoon, as Davis has 35 PAs against LHP, 8% of his total plate appearance. And while Gaby sucks RHP, if it is a choice between that and Davis or Alvarez facing LHP, Sanchez is the better option.

          Quickly comparing Gaby to Tony, taking their career splits and regressing them, Tony would be projected to be a .300 wOBA hitter and Gaby .338 against LHP (when regressed Gaby’s 70 point wOBA gap becomes 32 points I’d
          argue that, that is too heavy but I use that number.) Over 140 PAs Gaby would be projected to provide 4 more runs than Tony.

          • You know, there are actually players out there that aren’t on the Pirates roster. Your acting like there no alternatives other than the ones in the ORG.

          • Just for information’s sake, are you using Tony’s MLB #s (146 PAs) for the regression or AAA?

            • His .297 wOBA regressed against 2200 PAs of league average split for RHHs.

              If you apply the regressed split to his currently projected .292 wOBA, you get .279 wOBA vs RHP, and .295 wOBA vs LHP for 2015.

          • The only good answer with a short bench is to remove platoon players and go with less exciting players whom can handle the bat vs. a lefty or a righty. It saves a roster spot that can be used otherwise, and that has a lot of value that Tim usually fails to discuss. Maybe it’s just hard to quantify the value of an extra roster spot, idk.

            I don’t think regressing Tony’s and Gaby’s stats using your method gives very accurate results

          • Thanks for the fangraph link- Look who is right above Gaby. Steve Pearce. Who would have ever thought? I’d actually be fine at this point trading Alvarez and non tendering sanchez, replacing with Steve Peace and Give Lambo the bench spot to play vs. righties part time and be a 4th outfielder and bench bat. Our overall team would be far better than it is now, and its realistic

            • I’m not sure Baltimore is going to part with Pearce considering Chris Davis is in the final year of his contract and wasn’t exactly good last year. Also Pearce isn’t going to repeat his 2014, had injuries troubles at the end of season, like usual, and his production suffered.

              If you have a LHH who cannot hit LHP I don’t think there is any better use of a roster spot that having someone who can actually hit LHP.

              All I did with Gaby and Tony’s number was copy the method layed out in The Book.


      • Maybe the answer is that the Pirates aren’t spending enough for the position.

        • At least they are making up for it by refusing to draft anyone highly ranked at that position either…..oh wait, that’s a bad thing

    • As it sits right now this team has 3holes to fill. SP, RP and UT INF. They have the payroll space to pay him and fill those 3 holes. Now if they are going to go out and sign Lester, then maybe you cut Gaby and add Tony to save 2m.

      • Trading Pedro, to potentially fill one of those holes and releasing Gaby. going out and getting a full time 1B is a way better answer to this puzzle

    • This is why Tim’s article was poorly written. For whatever reason, he just gave a very one sided view like he was intentionally trying to stir the pot. I’m not sure why he’d do that, but I know he’s a better writer than this, so that must have been his intention

  • I miss LaRoche.

    • Yeah, me too. I miss how he could literally care less regardless of what happened. Goes really well with Pedro’s lack of intensity. We may lose 100 games with both of those two just not giving a crap in the midst of a losing streak.

  • This thread may get fun to watch. Defending Gaby is about as well received as a guy wearing a Ravens jersey.

    • I agree, but this conversation has to indicate how little we have to talk about. We have hitched our wagon to Pedro Alvarez at 1B in 2015, and having Gaby Sanchez as a RH Platoon & an excellent RH defensive 1B will help Pedro in his defensive transition. And, in the game nowadays, you get nothing for less than $3 mil. Gaby is good glove, good clubhouse, good teammate, and I think he will be great for Alvarez.

      • lonleylibertarian
        November 25, 2014 8:53 am

        The glove part is were u you lost me. Gaby is better defensively than Ike or GI Jones – but that does not mean he is a good fielding first basemen – far from it.
        21st in DRS over the last 3 years with exactly 0….

        But since the Bucs did not break the bank to sign Martin I am fine with having him as a platoon OPTION going into spring training. Hoping they consider some others for that role though – Tony S for one. Or looking at the bottom of the dumpster for a truly good fielding right hand hitting first baseman – who might also be able to play a corner outfield spot now and then might be a good use of the analytics guys time.

        And hopefully he will be used better – plugging him into the cleanup slot was dumb – starting him against any RHP also. Those are situations where he has not zero value – but negative value.

        • This team lacks a cleanup hitter. It has been the biggest hole the past two seasons and will be that way for 2015.

          • Cutch is their cleanup hitter, they just haven’t realized it yet.

            • I like him in the 3 hole with Marte in the 5 spot. We need a left handed clean up hitter. Someone like Rizzo or Gonzalez. Maybe Polanco is that guy in a year or two.

    • We haven’t even made it to the Winter Meetings and Tim has already gone full-on heel with his “haters”, WWF style. I love it.

      Tomorrow’s First Pitch: Why The Jose Tabata Extension Was Still Good Value

      • “Why the AJ Burnett QO situation was handled well a year ago” just to mess with our heads.

    • I have given this some thought and may get
      lambasted for this, but why don’t we release Sanchez and sign Mark Reynolds? I know he strikes out a lot and has a poor average but he hit 22 home runs last year and he can competently play both First and Third. Might be a good option.

      • Because HRs are neato but dont really make for great overall value. You literally stated why its a problem. Ton of Ks, poor average. We already have Pedro, adding his twin doesnt increase the teams luck.

        • a K is no worse than a popup or doubleplay. I haven’t seen gaby light anyone’s pants on fire with his average either, so your argument really doesn’t hold much water

          • Yeah, nothing flawed about using the overall stat line on a platoon player to judge his value. A K can actually be a crap ton worse than placing the ball in play, or Pedro is just a fine and dandy option with 1 out and a runner on 3rd.

      • Actually… Joel, I hate Mark Reynolds, but he does add SOMETHING of value. He also runs pretty well. Power, running, decent defense, we almost have 3 tools there gentlemen, and having alvarez’s twin is fine it just means we have one complete player, kinda like if alvarez was a switch hitter. I think we’d take that.

        • Reynolds was a dumpster fire on defense his entire career until last season, for some odd reason. He doesn’t hit lefties well, but if he can actually play 3rd like he did last year I think he’d be a neat little bench piece.