A few weeks ago I wrote an article about how Chris Stewart would be the best option for the Pittsburgh Pirates at catcher if Russell Martin leaves as a free agent. The idea that Martin will leave seems likely. He’s reportedly looking for a five-year deal at $75-80 M, which is close to Brian McCann money (5 years, $85 M). I’m not even sure if Brian McCann deserved Brian McCann money.

If that is the price (and it might be with the Cubs and Dodgers in the mix), then that would put Martin in a price range that the Pirates shouldn’t be paying. A big reason for that is the fact that Martin should be expected to go on the decline at some point during his deal. Under a four-year deal, you could probably expect one of those years to lead to poor production or even a missed year. I think you could expect two poor years under a five-year deal, since Martin would be in his age 35/36 seasons at the end of such a deal. I’d pay for age 35 if it means you’d be getting ages 32-34, but age 36 at a high rate is too much.

But what happens to the Pirates in the short-term, where they’d be seeing a big decline overall at the catcher position. Stewart looks like the best of a bad bunch, but he’s a clear downgrade from Martin. But what if the Pirates didn’t try to replace Martin? What if they tried to re-create Martin in the aggregate (much like the Oakland Athletics and Jason Giambi in Moneyball)? I decided to take that approach, and while it probably isn’t perfect, here is what I came up with.

The Defense

I’m going to start here, because that’s where the Pirates are probably going to be starting if they end up searching for another catcher. I’m not sure if they’ll find a better starting option out there than Chris Stewart. That seems like a crazy thing to say, but it just reflects the lack of available options on the open market. The trade market provides hope that there could be a better option out there, but the reality is that teams just don’t trade two-way catching options. The Pirates are going to have to choose between offense only (someone like Evan Gattis) or defense only, and they’ve already got that option internally with Stewart. They’ve shown the preference for defense, so if you are hoping that they’ll pursue Gattis, it doesn’t fit their approach.

I’m going to go with the idea of Chris Stewart as a starter, with the Pirates adding a defensive backup who is good at pitch framing (David Ross would be a cheap option, although he hasn’t been connected to them, and isn’t even a guarantee to return next year). Here is how Stewart compares to Martin.

Pitch Framing

I’m starting with this because this started the idea of re-creating Martin. I looked at the numbers a few weeks ago when I realized how good Stewart was at pitch framing. According to the Baseball Prospectus figures, Stewart has been worth 16.4 runs per 7000 framing chances over the last two years. Martin has been worth 14.6 runs per 7000 chances in that same timeframe. Stewart has the edge here, with about a two run advantage over Martin.

Caught Stealing

This is an area where Martin is clearly better than Stewart. According to FanGraphs, Martin has been worth 15 stolen base runs (rSB) over the last two years as a starter. When Stewart was a starter in 2013, he was worth 2 rSB. You could estimate that Martin has an advantage of six runs per season over Stewart.

Blocking

I don’t know why, but both catchers struggled in 2014 with blocking. Maybe this was due to their injuries, but the numbers for each player ended up below their 2013 totals, and below their career numbers. So let’s backtrack to 2013, when they were both starters. Baseball Prospectus had Stewart worth 2.2 runs per 7000 chances, and Martin was worth 5.7 runs. FanGraphs had a closer comparison, with Stewart at 2.7 RPP (catcher blocked pitches in runs) versus 4.5 for Martin. One figure has Martin worth 3.5 more runs than Stewart. The other figure has the number at 1.8 runs. We’ll split it and put the figure at three runs in Martin’s favor.

Total Defensive Value

Looking at the above three factors, Martin has an advantage of seven runs per season over Stewart. That’s a little bit more than half a win. I don’t want to say that catcher defense is just framing, caught stealing, and blocking. So here are some other factors to consider.

FanGraphs lists Martin as being worth an average of about 19 defensive runs above average over the last two years. Meanwhile, Stewart was worth 4.9 defensive runs above average in 2014 as a backup, and 11.9 as a starter. Martin was worth an average of 14 DRS over the last two years. Stewart has been inconsistent, but has been worth an average of 4 DRS over the last four seasons, spending three of those in a backup role. These two metrics already include things like caught stealing, and the FanGraphs figure includes blocking runs. So we can’t just add those figures in with the above categories, since we’d be counting some stats twice. The overall numbers have Martin at 7-10 runs better than Stewart defensively.

One theory here is that they rate very similar in any other categories (fielding plays, bunt runs saved, etc). The caught stealing/blocking numbers above had Martin with a nine run advantage over Stewart. The pitch framing gives Stewart two runs back. I don’t think we’re going to get an exact figure here, but I’d estimate Martin’s defense is worth 0.5 to 1 full win over Stewart’s defense, with both getting regular starting time.

The Offense

Here is where things get a little more tricky. Martin is coming off a career year offensively, and I don’t think anyone expects him to repeat those numbers. The same thing can be said for Stewart. Both catchers saw their numbers inflated due to high BABIP figures that probably won’t be sustained going forward. If we’re considering Martin the catcher for the Pirates in 2015, I don’t think anyone will be expecting his 2014 offensive numbers. The same goes for Stewart. So with each player, I looked at their 2011-2013 numbers, which were a lot closer to their career numbers than the 2014 totals.

There is one issue here, and that’s the expected decline in Martin’s offense. He’s most likely going to drop from an .830 OPS in 2014 to an OPS that is closer to his previous three years (.715). As a result, the Pirates as a whole will be looking to replace that offense. But for the purposes of this article, I’m not considering the drop off for Martin, because:

1. They’d have that drop off even if Martin returned. Therefore, it has no impact on the comparison between the two catching options.

2. I don’t think the impact really hurts them. The Pirates had a .734 OPS in 2014 with Martin, making them a top 10 offense. They would have still been a top 10 offense with the 2011-13 version of Martin, posting a team .723 OPS. So it’s not like they need Martin to have a career year to have a good offense.

This also assumes everyone else performs to their 2014 totals. I’ll get to that in a bit, but for now I’m just keeping this as close to a direct comparison as possible.

Russell Martin vs Chris Stewart

As you can expect, the difference between Martin and Stewart is massively in Martin’s favor. I took their 2011-13 figures, then gave them both 460 plate appearances with those numbers. The OPS figures for Martin from 2011-13 were .715, while Stewart was at .583. Clearly there needed to be an upgrade at another position to make up for the lost offense from Martin to Stewart.

First Base

The easiest position to upgrade would be first base. I wrote a few weeks ago about how the Pirates’ first base position in 2014 was a very expensive replacement-level player. Their first basemen combined for a .700 OPS in 725 plate appearances.

Meanwhile, Adam LaRoche posted an .817 OPS in 586 plate appearances last year, and those figures were close to his three-year average and career numbers, so I just went with his 2014 totals to make it simple. He’s the best free agent on the market that I think the Pirates could realistically sign (not to mention the best hitting first base options profile more as American League first base/DH options).

Since the Pirates had 725 plate appearances from the first base position last year, I ran LaRoche’s 2014 numbers, along with 139 plate appearances of a .700 OPS, figuring that when LaRoche wasn’t playing, he would be replaced by a league-minimum player. That set up the following comparison:

2011-13 Russell Martin at 460 PA

2014 Pirates First Basemen at 725 PA

VS

2011-13 Chris Stewart at 460 PA

2014 Adam LaRoche at 586 PA

2014 Pirates First Basemen at 139 PA

The result was that the Stewart/LaRoche side won with a combined .711 OPS versus a .706 OPS for Martin and the 2014 Pirates first basemen. In terms of runs created, the Stewart/LaRoche side had an advantage of 3.6 runs.

The Total Comparison

Going back to the defensive comparisons, I had Martin with an advantage of anywhere from five to ten runs over Stewart. This would help even that out, giving Martin an overall advantage of around 2-6 runs, or anywhere from 0.2 WAR to 0.6 WAR. You can make up that difference by upgrading a bench or bullpen spot. Therefore, I’d say that the Pirates could go with Chris Stewart as a starting catcher, with a Stewart-like catcher backing him up. However, they’d need a really good first baseman in order to make up for the offensive drop-off from Martin to Stewart, and then maybe a small upgrade on the bench or in the bullpen to add some extra value.

Going forward, Chris Stewart can’t replace Russell Martin. But Chris Stewart plus Adam LaRoche’s 2014 production could replace Martin plus the 2014 Pirates first basemen.

Thoughts and Disclaimers

**I went with a three-year average for Martin and Stewart, but didn’t do the same for LaRoche. Part of this is due to what I mentioned, that his career numbers (.811 OPS) and three-year average (.804) were close to the 2014 numbers (.817). A bigger reason is that I was more interested in the numbers. LaRoche isn’t necessarily the only option for the Pirates to get those figures. They could go with a platoon of Pedro Alvarez and Gaby Sanchez, and hope both players bounce back from their 2014 slumps (and 51% of you voted that option for the 2015 first base position last week). I was more focused on the target (.817 OPS) than which specific player got those numbers.

**I didn’t focus much on who would be replacing Stewart as the backup catcher, because I’m assuming it would be someone exactly like Stewart. Thus, a wash.

**From a financial standpoint, the Pirates would probably be paying $15 M in 2015 to Martin, and about $8 M to Alvarez/Sanchez. Stewart would be a wash, since he’s in both scenarios. That means the alternative scenario would have $1 M for a defensive backup catcher, plus $10 M for LaRoche, or $8 M for Alvarez/Sanchez. This leads to about $12-14 M remaining that could go towards the rotation, which would really upgrade the rest of the team. Assuming Ike Davis is traded in this scenario, the Martin payroll would be just under $77 M, and the Stewart/LaRoche payroll (assuming Alvarez and Sanchez are also gone) would be just under $65 M. Either way, there would be plenty of room for the Pirates to load up on pitching. They could also afford to keep Alvarez around as an expensive bench option/backup plan at first and third base in the LaRoche scenario.

**There are factors here which are impossible to measure at this point, especially with catchers. You’ve got the way a catcher calls a game, and the way he interacts with his pitching staff and influences them during the games with mound visits and pacing. It’s possible that these could tip the defensive scales even more in Martin’s favor, leading to the need for more offense to make up for that. It’s possible that Stewart is just as good as Martin in these areas. Right now we just don’t have the information to quantify these factors. The Pirates would be in a better position to quantify this, but any outside analysis would have to leave this out.

**The big issue would be the rest of the team. There are always questions about who will improve and who will regress. In this case, will Josh Harrison repeat his breakout season? Will Gregory Polanco adjust to the majors and provide an upgrade in right field versus the production in 2014? Will Jordy Mercer play like the second half version or the first half version? Will the first base options step up if the Pirates keep them around?

This was the most difficult part to consider for the offensive side of things. I used the 2014 first base figures, basically taking an approach that all else would be equal on the team, and that the Pirates would have to upgrade their worst position to make up for the loss of Martin. In reality, they could be better, with other positions seeing upgrades (Polanco). Or they could be worse, with the first base upgrade being negated by a decline at another position (third base with Harrison). I’m using Polanco and Harrison as examples, rather than making predictions.

The best way to do this would be to look at the expectations for everyone on the team, then compare that with Martin and without Martin. But in reality, there are way too many variables involved with that sort of approach. And since I don’t think anyone would argue with my conclusion of “You need to upgrade the offense at first base to make up for the loss of Martin”, then I’m going to avoid that extreme approach in a free article, and get back to working on the 2015 Prospect Guide, so that I might continue being able to provide free content on the site.

**I have no regrets for that shameless plug I just threw out. Also, I’m keeping the nightly link below to pre-order the Prospect Guide, despite said shameless plug. You should definitely buy it if you enjoy reading about the Pirates’ prospects, anything involving baseball in general, or books that help make it possible for this site to cover the farm system each year.

TL;DR

Russell Martin is better than Chris Stewart, but Chris Stewart and Adam LaRoche are slightly better than Russell Martin and Ike Davis/Gaby Sanchez. Although that’s based on the things we know about catcher defense, and there is still plenty we don’t know that could change this analysis.

Links and Notes

**Pre-Order the 2015 Prospect Guide

**Pirates Acquire Right-Handed Pitcher Rob Scahill From the Rockies

**Pirates Will Acquire a Catcher if Russell Martin Signs Elsewhere

**AFL: Two Hits For Josh Bell In Scottsdale Loss

**Winter League: Willy Garcia Homers, Continues Hot Streak

**Cardinals Sign Dean Anna to a Major League Deal

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71 COMMENTS

  1. Great idea, just not so sure about the actual analysis which somehow concludes that:

    “Going forward, Chris Stewart can’t replace Russell Martin. But Chris Stewart plus Adam LaRoche’s 2014 production could replace Martin plus the 2014 Pirates first basemen.”

    Russell Martin was a 5-win player in 2014. You’re not replacing that with Chris Stewart and Adam LaRoche without extreme performances, likely from both.

    There’s an outside shot, using actual statistical projections, that 2015 Russell Martin could potentially be roughly the same as 2015 Chris Stewart/Adam LaRoche, but the 2015 Stewart/LaRoche combo also doesn’t project to be any better than the 2015 Stewart/Alvarez/Davis combination.

    • I agree that Stewart and LaRoche probably won’t quite be enough, but it at least gets the conversation started that there is life after Martin. and that 30 million spent on X, Y, and Z can result in a team just as good as 30 mil on Martin and Liriano.

      Just checked out LaRoche’s steamer projections and man they don’t like him all that much. Sheesh.

      Might just rather them go nuts and go with Stewart, Ike or Pedro (my preference is barely Ike), and just load the hell out of that rotation with Lester and Anderson or something goofy like that.

      Or improve another position (my preference would be to try to get Headley) and get two bounceback pitchers or maybe even get McCarthy.

      Regardless of if LaRoche is actually the best way to replace Martin’s offense, the Pirates should be great again next year as long as they do spend a little cash somewhere. And i believe they will!

      • LaRoche will be 36 and has been worth less than a win above replacement in three of his last five seasons. Yeah, Steamer is gonna be bearish on that projection. I honestly don’t see the draw in committing that kind of money over two guaranteed years to a player who likely won’t bring league-average value.

        The rotation and bullpen are clearly where the 2015 Pirates can replace 2014 Russ Martin. Unless they can get a RH platoon bat at 1B around league min, simply going with Davis/Alvarez and investing the rest in pitching probably works out better value-wise.

  2. I saw Alex Avila on MLBTR’s potential non-tender list. A lot of questions about him – he gets beat up a lot, seems to take an absurd about of foul tips to the mask, concussion issues. But generally good defense, although not in all the same categories as Martin. Possible that moving a couple inches closer to the plate would help him take less abuse. Better bat than Stewart, certainly. Made $4.4 mil last year. Turns 28. Perhaps available on a 1-2 year deal like Martin was, for mostly the same reasons.

    • Good suggestion IF he is non-tendered. There are other options out there besides Stew, Sanchez and pray for rain. Geovany Soto is another guy who definitely is out there to be had. He hasn’t been healthy for a looming time but when he is 100% he is a solid two way catcher. and only 31 I think. Could be a good Martin, 2 year contract reclaimation type sighing, only I would think at far less money. If he can convince them he is healthy now, they might have to go $6M/2 years for him. A good bet if Stewart is your best option, and one of the kids should be ready by then.

  3. Going with the Moneyball theme, how about turning Lunchbox Hero into the next Scott Hattieberg? He looked like he turned the corner with the bat in the 2nd half of last season, and if he can do it over a full season in “15, it will provide the offense they lose by switching Stewart for Martin. Of course, that means Polanco needs to fill Snider’s shoes in RF, too.
    By taking this path, they could jettison Davis and Pedro and have a substantial amount of money to secure quality SP instead of the leftovers they’ve acquired in past years.
    Not sure I love this idea, but it may be a viable option.

    • Considering they’re almost certainly not rostering Ike Davis already, also getting rid of Pedro in lieu of Travis Snider is, at most, a $3m gain. Is that really worth it? $3m doesn’t buy you much in terms of free agent starting pitchers.

  4. I am all for Steweart being our starter if we cannot retain Martin. He’s a better defender than he showed last year. More reps as a starter will show that. Elias Diaz reminds me a lot of Yadi Molina. I think he darn near Major League ready as a defender. I think his bat will start slow much like Molina’s did but will develop into a serviceable hitter. We may be able to stick him in there come 2nd half of 2015.

  5. Here’s my lineup for 2015:
    Against RHP:
    RF – Polanco / Snyder
    3B – J-Hay
    CF – Cutch
    2B – Walker
    LF – Marte
    C – T. Sanchez
    1B – Alvarez
    SS – Mercer
    P

    Against LHP :
    3B: J-Hay
    SS: Mercer
    CF: Cutch
    LF – Marte

    2B – Walker
    RF: Polanco / Snyder
    1B: Alvarez / T. Sanchez
    C: Stewart
    P

    Starting Pitching:
    Lester ( 4yrs @ 25MM/yr , trade after 2 years )
    Cole
    Liriano ( 3 yrs @ 12MM/yr )
    Worley
    Locke/Morton

    I am not certain on who should emerge from Spring as the starter in RF, Polanco or Snyder. Time will tell. Alvarez should see the lion’s share of starts at 1B, with only occasional breaks against strong LHP by T. Sanchez.The Pirates should cut ties with Davis and G. Sanchez. Elias Diaz would arrive late in the 2015 season at C if ready.

    The above leads to a 25 man salary of about $ 77MM and a 40 Man Salary of about $85MM to start the year, very doable for the Pirates.

    • RF is polanco’s. They will not impede his development by sitting him on the bench. This kid is the real deal. He may have to struggle through it but they will stick with him

      • If Polanco is not ready to start in RF for the Pirates then he would be at AAA until he’s ready to start. backing up RF would be either Tabata or Lambo. My preference is that Polanco is ready to go. But rushing him isn’t a good idea (remember Alvarez).

    • It’s funny. They really truly could make a play for Lester if they wanted to. They have a good enough team to justify it and a low enough payroll (if martin leaves) to do it.

  6. This Laroche talk makes me sick. Why would you not want Pedro’s 30 plus Hr and 100 RBI in the lineup. Regardless of average or strikeouts. If we had him at 1st all year putting up the power numbers he did in 2012 and 2013 this team wins the central by a long shot. That would require a healthy season I know but but as long as this guy is under contract he should be at 1st base. he can’t be at third because of his throwing,not because of his glove. He’s very very good with his glove. Pedro could be an above average defender at 1st base if he wants to be. Stick him 5th or 6th in the order and let him bash 30 homers and move all the speed this team possesses around the bases. case closed

      • I can get behind and support this. Pedro will have his slumps, but with some practice i’d love to see how he would be in the field at first come April.

      • The legend of Pedro “bashing” the Cards is from 2012 when his OPS was 1.290. He had a .545 OPS vs StL in 2013 and an .845 (a little more than you’d expect from a 1b) in 2014, but hardly “bashing”.

        It’s possible Pedro is the answer, but he should be more aggressive earlier in the count instead of taking pitches. Once he’s got a 2nd strike on him, regardless of count, he’s truly awful.

        • I think the 2013 playoff performance counts too, lol.

          Anyway, I could not agree more, LaRoche is a worse option that Pedro. Pedro plays 1B and spend money on getting 2 SP to compliment Cole, Locke, Worley. Then trade for a blocked C with a good glove.

    • The concern may be that Pedro took a big step backwards with the bat this year power-wise. His ISO dropped 65 points from 2013, taking him from an elite (top 5%) power source to merely above average (top 30%). If that’s the Pedro you get, and not the 2012-2013 Pedro, he’s not a 30 HR guy anymore. And considering he doesn’t do anything else particularly well (high K, low AVG, middling walk rate, poor baserunner) and is a platoon liability, you can maybe understand the desire to explore other options.

  7. Excellent write up, a very good illustration that the loss of Martin can be negated. However I’m not sure I agree with the principal actors, I think it is questionable for Stewart to be given an everyday role, and cannot get over my aversion to LaRoche, and that paying for 35-37 year old seasons of a player doesn’t seem sound. I think the near equivalent 1B production can be obtained for a smaller cost.

    • Yeah…everytime i hear the name LaRoche i cringe to this day. I know his overall numbers were better then my memory of him (sometimes baseball fans are a little irrational, lol), but I have absolutely no desire to see him in a Bucco uniform. I would much rather see Pedro / Gaby / Neil Walker / Lambo / unknown trade target / even Ike Davis still there over Adam LaRoche

    • Absolutely, Andrew.

      Barring performances far beyond expectations, Chris Stewart and Adam LaRoche would be lucky to come within a win of Martin. First base is not the position to make up that kind of value.

  8. Harrison, or someone else, playing third all year and no Pedro will create more runs saved as well. The time to move Walker to first is now. I know there are a few of us here beating that drum. Walker’s bat is playing up to a corner infielder now and moving from second should keep him on the field longer. Imagine if he could just be league average defensively at first and we bring in a decent middle infielder til Hanson is ready. I also remember discussing a few years ago about trading for Ethier and moving him to first base. Dodgers are ready to make that move and he could be a buy/trade low/high upside player.

    • Have you taken a look at Ethier’s performance since you last discussed that trade idea? Dreadful. .691 OPS, and that’s with 87% of his PA coming with the platoon advantage.

      As for “high upside,” he’s been trending down for years, and will be 33 shortly after Opening Day. Maybe he gets a dead cat bounce back to Ike Davis territory (.720 – .740), but it would be foolish to expect more than that going forward.

      And whatever money the Dodgers would kick in to relieve their OF logjam, Ethier’s still under contract through 2017, with a vesting option for 2018. That’s a long commitment, while Lambo, Allie, Osuna and Bell are still developing.

  9. Great write up tim.. much appreciated and looking forward to the prospect guide.. my preference at catcher is to acquire a young catcher thru trade and go with him and stewart.. I liked conger but he is gone so maybe Vasquez if his defense grades high.. I just wonder if this is the last year defensive value of catchers will be cheap.. if we could obtain one and possibly flip him for a starter next year when the market fully appreciates catcher defense that would be great, assuming diaz is ready. . I’m convinced now though that stewart at catcher is a legitimate option. . I must severely overate tonymontana cause I’ve been looking forward to his opportunity in the bigs.. doesn’t look like it’s happening

  10. I watched Stewart make weak throws into shallow right center way to often. I watched passed balls & a guy who really struggled to hit the ball out of the infield. I really don’t want to see him as a starter. He looked like Barajas on D & Barnes hitting. That’s a horrific combination. Make a trade or just go with Sanchez until the kid is ready

  11. I think the chances of Stewart even putting up a 590 OPS if he gets 350 or more plate appearances is at best 50-50. He didn’t homer last year, only had 5 doubles. I could see teams adjusting to this and not worry about his power and take away his ability to get on base at any good rate at all. Sure you can expect/hope that the offense is made up elsewhere but to put together a good team you want to have better all around performance behind the plate than Stewart can bring. He is ok on a once a week basis but anything more is asking for trouble.

    • “Sure you can expect/hope that the offense is made up elsewhere but to put together a good team you want to have better all around performance behind the plate than Stewart can bring.”

      Ideally, yes. But such a catcher doesn’t exist as a possibility for the Pirates this off-season if Martin signs elsewhere.

        • I’m just saying that going with Stewart at this point of the off season is risky and is settling for overall mediocrity at a position. When Martin leaves there should be just as much effort to improve catching as there is to improve pitching (assuming Liriano and Volquez don’t come back).

          • Huntington isn’t known for slacking.. still, regardless how hard he works if a two way catcher isn’t available we won’t acquire one.. people will come out in droves complaining that enough wasn’t done

      • The idea that there are no catchers available for the Pirates to acquire this off season is laughable.

        For the purposes of Tim’s analysis, possibly, but you are able to trade players in Major League Baseball. If the Pittsburgh Pirates want a better catcher than Chris Stewart in 2015, they can absolutely get one.

    • I don’t think the Yankees can blame anything on Stewart. For years they’ve been adding horrible contracts, and totally disregarding young talent. They had 85 wins last year with Stewart as their catcher, and 84 this year with McCann. That has nothing to do with either catcher. It points to a bigger overall problem that can’t be blamed on Stewart in 2013.

    • Stewart hit .211/.293/.272 in 350 PAs with New York, the Pirates let Clint Barmes have almost 500 PAs in 2012 hitting .229/.272/.321, and another 350 in 2013 when he was worse. If the Pirates truly value defense and Stewart can handle the workload this proposed idea doesn’t seem that far fetched.

  12. Great article. I was looking dreamily at Christian Vasquez of the Sox as an ideal low hit Molina In Training but you make the point that Stewart might be just that. Despite a horrid bat managers have arrived Stew for years. Unlike Vasquez unfortunately. It doesn’t appear Stew will ever be an on base factor.

  13. Tim: I have said enough about the Catching position and still remain supportive of giving Elias Diaz a chance for 2015. I know some of you younger guys were not even intense about the Pirates when Adam LaRoche was the regular first baseman of the Pirates in 2007, 2008, and half of 2009. We brought him in with a lot of promise as a middle-of-the-order hitter. What we got was a guy who struggled terribly in April and May both years; the team’s season was over by the time June began, and then he would pad his stats when the games were meaningless. For instance, in 2007 he hit .222 in Apr and May highlighted by a .133 average in April; in 2008 he hit .220 in Apr and May highlighted by a .174 average in April. He came from Atlanta angry that he was traded from a contender to the Pirates, therefore his attitude was less than expected, and the Pirates were thrilled to unload him to Boston in 2009.

    Neil Walker/Pedro Alvarez to First Base.

      • Yeah but a supremely frustrating OPS. plus he is a lot older. I don’t want him to be the next Jeremy Burnitz. Alvarez to 1b full time. Trade Ike.

        • I’m right handed and in high school my fastball topped out at like 82, but if I pitched to Pedro left handed he’d still whiff. He can not be there everyday.

      • And a wRC+ of 109, .809 OPS from a first basemen isn’t very good when league average is .770-.760. Ike Davis had 107 wRC+ last season, and he is a non-tendered candidate.

    • You mentioned Laroche padded his stats after the season was over. The seasons for the Pirates in those years were over in March. Laroche has proven himself clutch for a number of teams. It was impossible to prove himself to the Bucs because there never were clutch moments.

  14. In terms of Stewart vs. an external option, how much weight would you put into the fact that he has experience catching this pitching staff? I feel like that is an important thing to factor in, and something I haven’t heard mentioned much

  15. Tim,

    Not sure this changes things in your evaluation, but I think the Pirates faced the fewest left handed starting pitchers last year of all MLB teams.

    Starting left handed pitchers in the NL Central last year:
    Cubs (1) – Travis Wood
    Reds – None
    Cardinals – None
    Brewers – None
    Pirates (2) – Liriano, Locke (3 if you count the couple of Wandy starts)

    Will this change much over the offseason? For instance Cubs / Cardinals could be in the market for Jon Lester. How does this affect your offensive projections for Martin versus LaRoche?

    In 2012-2014 LaRoche had an .848 OPS versus righties and a .683 OPS versus lefties. During the same time frame Martin had a .748 OPS versus lefties and a .746 OPS versus righties.

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