I had a topic planned for today, but there was so much going on as far as transactions and other events that I decided to hold off on that topic until later. It’s actually a topic that I have a feeling won’t expire, which will be funny/extremely frustrating if that turns out to be true after tomorrow’s game.

The Pirates made a lot of moves today. They acquired Wade LeBlanc from the Seattle Mariners for cash. They placed Chris Stewart on the disabled list and called up Jacob Stallings. They called up Zach Phillips and placed Elias Diaz on the 60-day disabled list. LeBlanc will eventually join the team in the majors as well. And the big move was that they placed Gerrit Cole on the 60-day DL, ending his season.

Most of the moves don’t have long-term impacts or concerns. The swap of Stewart and Stallings means that we’ll see a different backup catcher for the final three weeks, which really doesn’t matter considering how the team is doing right now. LeBlanc and Phillips might just be fillers for the end of the year, or this could be a trial period for them, as both would be under team control in 2017 if they turn out to be good relief options. That actually creates a bit of a roster crunch, as the Pirates have several left-handed relief options as it is, although you can never have too many.

The one move I don’t understand is placing Elias Diaz on the DL, which involves the process of calling him up, and giving him three extra weeks of service time. It’s not a huge deal, but it makes no sense when Josh Harrison is out for 4-6 weeks. The only reason you’d avoid placing Harrison on the DL is if you want him back for the playoffs, and that’s not a factor here. Or you hope the Pirates aren’t operating like it’s a factor. Maybe there are more moves to come, and Harrison will go to the 60-day DL in the future.

That brings us to Gerrit Cole. He was shut down with right elbow posterior inflammation. It was clear on Monday that Cole wasn’t healthy in his return from the disabled list. This is now the third time he’s been on the disabled list this season, and he hasn’t looked like the same pitcher as last year. This brings up two things.

One, you hope that this isn’t a long-term concern. Cole will now get the off-season to rest, with an extra month of rest on top of that. The hope would be that anything wrong with him will be fixed with the rest, and he’ll be ready to go at the start of next season, back to his normal self.

That brings me to the second point. There is a section of the Pirates’ fan base suggesting that this year’s performance is the real version of Gerrit Cole, that he’s not an ace, and actually criticizing him and taking it steps further. I had a conversation today about his mound antics, with criticism going towards his emotions on the mound when he gives up a big hit or run. I’ve seen other people criticizing this as well. That’s strange to me. Chad Kuhl fist pumps after making a big play, and it’s great. Gerrit Cole gets mad after giving up a run or a big hit, and somehow the same process of showing emotion that appropriately reflects how he should feel in the situation is a bad thing?

I don’t care about the term “ace”. That’s a term with no definition, and it usually means “He wins in every situation when I want him to win, which is every situation.” When you use a more clear term, like “top of the rotation starter”, then Cole objectively fits that category. Last year, out of 78 qualified pitchers, he ranked 7th in ERA, 3rd in FIP, and tied for 13th in xFIP. Out of 132 qualified starters from 2013-2015, Cole tied for 16th in ERA, was 12th in FIP, and 19th in xFIP.

So what is more likely here? That Cole was just lucky for those previous 463.1 innings where he was one of the top pitchers in baseball, and that this is the real version, and that the injuries played no impact on his numbers this year, and might even be made up as an excuse for his play (this is a real argument I’ve received many times)? Or that his 463.1 innings prior to this season were legit (because it’s a large sample size of two and a half years of pitching), and his much worse numbers in 2016 might not be the real deal, and might be related to the three trips to the disabled list he has taken?

One of those is just common sense and objective thinking of the situation. The other involves taking on a lot of conspiracy theory style thinking. And I have a feeling the people who are saying Cole isn’t an ace right now, and saying he’s much worse than that, are going to be the same people criticizing the Pirates for letting their ace walk in 2018 or 2019 or whenever he leaves.

Finally, I want to talk briefly about Ivan Nova. I haven’t seen the start from tonight, as of this writing. That’s actually what I’ll be watching as I go to bed. But it’s just another great outing where Nova is hardly walking anyone, getting a ton of ground balls, and this time he actually struck out the entire Phillies lineup. And without seeing the numbers or the start, I’m guessing he did this while relying on the sinker, curveball, and changeup, with very little four-seam usage, and no cutters.

If you haven’t read Alan Saunders’ article on Nova from today, it’s a must-read. This is the first I’ve seen where Nova and Ray Searage have discussed the mechanical changes he has made, which plays a big factor. There’s also the relationship with Francisco Cervelli, which Alan also writes about. I’ve seen people write about the move to the NL and the park factors, which do play a role. But there has been a clear change in the way Nova pitches, and in his mechanics, and I think Alan is the only one who has written about that (mostly because the change just happened in his last 4-5 starts).

Go check out the article. If you’re not a subscriber, this is just one of many pieces of information you can’t get anywhere else. It’s well worth a few dollars per month, and I don’t think you’ll regret giving us a shot, especially after reading Alan’s article and the details.

As for the rest of that coverage you can’t get elsewhere, today was my day off, since it was the first day after the minor league season ended. And by “day off”, I mean I only wrote three articles, edited one more, and posted some video. Basically, I skipped the game to watch Captain America: Civil War with some friends, only to now go back and watch the replay of that game. Tomorrow, it’s back to work, with the first game of instructs taking place in the afternoon. I’ll have a live report, and a lot of features coming from instructs at the end of the year. My priority in week one is to watch and talk with Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez, the two pitchers acquired in the Arquimedes Caminero trade.

**Pirates Acquire Wade LeBlanc, Cole and Stewart to 60-Day DL, Stallings Up. All of the transactions today.

**What Has Led to Ivan Nova’s Turnaround With the Pirates? Again, read this article by Alan Saunders. Very informative.

**VIDEO: Watch the Final Out and the Celebration For the Marauders’ Championship. Some additional coverage of the Bradenton Marauders’ championship, with video and interviews.

**Jordan Luplow Powering His Way Toward Prospect Status. Luplow had a strong second half, and hit for some nice power in a league that saps power. Recapping his season here.

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41 COMMENTS

  1. Regarding diaz going on the 60 day DL instead of Harrison, the only semi-logical thought i had is that with all their eggs in the diaz basket as the catcher of the future due to trading mcguire, maybe the team just wanted to give him extra money at the end of the year to show good faith when extension negotiations begin in a yaer or two.

  2. Season is over for the Bucs and they refuse to give Hanson a shot at second base. Why? I do not see that Frazier is better than him.
    Cole is a good pitcher that lacks command and his control is spotty. On this team he is a supposed ace but he is at best a 2. I think he will eventually fulfill his potential but that will be on another team after he is fixed by the Pirate coaches. Funny they can fix other team rejects but can not get Glasnow to throw strikes or develop a change, could not fix Locke or Liariano. Is this bull or what? All they seem to do is make rejects a fortune in free agency.
    Hurdle will not play the rookies but instead will play anyone who is in the majors regardless of quality or whether they will be on the team next year.
    I have to give a big shout out to Rodriguez this year. He hit much better than I thought he was capable of and plays many positions well.
    What is out with Kang and Chicago? Any news? Maybe he should go back to Korea and await the indictment, if any.
    Cutch broke my heart this year. Not sure what happened to him but his bat looks slow and his fielding took another step back. Maybe he will have a monster year, next year. One can only hope.
    Let me get this straight, the Pirates gave up, Walker, and Niese for Bastardo who they could have resigned. Actually they could have resigned Walker and let him leave after this year. Hope he recovers from his back surgery and has a great next year.
    Can we believe the hype about the Pirates Prospects after trading them and finding out they were just not as good as we were led to believe. I think Ramirez will hit in the majors and be a solid if not great player and I think McGuire will eventually hit but not for power.
    Hurdle tends to make pitching changes one batter to late than one batter to early.
    Had to trade Melacone and get something back in return. He would have walked and the Pirates would not have made him a qualifying offer.
    N.H. doomed this team to failure before the season started with his terrible pitching moves.
    Hate to say it but the team will just not spend internationally to restock the farm system. Cheap, Cheap.
    Too bad no one will read my rant as this is a late post.

  3. One of the great things abou baseball is all the numbers we get to analyze and argue about. Cole USED to be a top of the rotation starter. Nova was a fringe of the lineup low value 5th or 6th starter.

    Today they have pretty much reversed roles…

    I hope Cole recovers – and I would love to see the Pirates use some of that “financial flexibility” to sign Nova.

    But until we see otherwise the best predictor of how each will perform is how they have done RECENTLY – not how they did in prior seasons.

    • But you also have to ask “why” for the numbers. Cole has been on the DL three times this year now. Nova has made mechanical adjustments and a big change to the way he pitches. That explains each situation.

      • I noticed Cole before this latest DL stint looked more overhand arm slot. He is his best at a more 3/4 slot. Probably painful and that’s what we are seeing now, a injured pitcher trying to pitch thru the pain.

    • ” But until we see otherwise the best predictor of how each will perform is how they have done RECENTLY – not how they did in prior seasons.”

      That is demonstrably untrue. Your understanding of MLB statistics is somewhat less than the average fan’s understanding of nuclear physics.

  4. To me a true ace is someone who throws 3 or 4 complete games a year and goes deep into ball games, in addition to era and w/l, xfip. Ironically, Cole pitched his first complete game this year, a gem and your thinking that he has turned a corner, but it seemed to be downhill after that win. I agree that Cole’s emotion is great, but he needs to channel it better and not get so discouraged when things aren’t perfect.

  5. Regarding Cole or any other player, it’s not showing emotion that matters, it’s how you channel that emotion.
    Some will hit back harder when hit, like Frank Robinson who was most dangerous after a brushback pitch, while some will respond in such a fashion, wherein the distraction tends to overwhelm ones natural ability.
    I think the criticism with Cole is that he is the latter. That is, one who gets taken out of his game by the evolution of the game itself.

  6. I love Cole’s fire on the mound. I’ll take that in a SP just how I like how Jameo acts the same way weather he strikes someone out or gives up a long ball his demeanor doesn’t change. Each pitcher is different. I know that Cole had multiple opinions on his arm and I’m hoping rest will be the cure and it won’t be something that comes back to bother him right out of the gate next year.

  7. If you’re playing percentages this team most likely doesn’t project to qualify for 2017 WC. Major questions about the pitching. Both the rotation and bullpen.

    • Add to that the hitting and defense haven’t been so hot.

      It’s not out of the realm of possibility that next years version of the opening day roster could be in the range of $75M-$80M.

      • If they unload Cutch, Payroll under $80 million is more than possible. I’d say it’s very likely that the Pirates payroll is below $90 million under any circumstances next year. I also think they will hover around .500 too.

        • I stand corrected. Looking at the future contracts, I saw that next years payroll total was $57.4. I assumed (we all know what that means) that to be the total, but it is only the amount known to be budgeted by existing contracts. I admit to being too lazy to tote the numbers.

          Getting Cutch and Bastardo (who looks redundant for ’17) off the books would significantly reduce payroll by about $20M.

  8. So Tonight’s game: bell defense is improving while Frazier’s is just awful with the glove no matter where he plays.

  9. Tim: The Pirates of 2016 have lacked chemistry, their hitting has been very inconsistent, and the pitching has been a sore subject all year. Gerrit Cole is perceived as a $150 mil + long term contract candidate, and not a very good possibility for staying a Pirate after 2018. Hell, he could not even beat Jake Arrieta in the WC Game – you know the guy who was 22-6, 1.77 ERA and walked on water on a regular basis.

    A perfect match. Why not blame the guy who has been paid less than $2 mil but has returned right at $100 mil of WAR Value? 94 career starts, a 47 – 30 record, with a 3.23 career ERA. After having his best season in 2015 with 32 starts, a 19-10 record, 2.60 ERA, they low-balled him with a salary of $548,000 for 2016, and he made it clear what he thought of that. It was their right to do so, but he came into the season pissed.

    That’s Gerrit Cole, and he is not unlike a lot of pitchers who wear their hearts on their sleeves. He may see what many of us see – an organization that gave excuse after excuse for doing things on the cheap with SP’s and aging position placeholders for support because we were going to transition our young strong pitchers and players in June. BS

    • What team doesn’t “lowball” their pre-arb players? Cole is been getting paid exactly what every other team in the league would pay him. The only way that changes is if he signs a contract giving the team more years of control, but being a Boras client, that’s not going to happen.

  10. When does the 60 day DL expire in the off season? The Pirates have some juggling to do.

    Looks like the Org depth chart has been updated. Good job!

    The future payroll chart is a little behind, but with all the changes that’s very understandable. Judging by the minimum contract amounts, the free agents who will likely leave to be replaced by like salaried players, the possible non tenders and the arb eligible guys does it look like 2017 payroll will be well short of $100M?

  11. Got it. I misremember how it was that they exchanged roles. So that means that the Bucs end the season with None of their starting rotation in the same roles, No?

  12. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t The Bucs now about to finish the season with only one of the starting rotation with which they started the season. And that one is . . .Ryan Vogelsong? To recap, IIRC: Cole, injured; Liriano, ineffective, traded; Niese, ineffective, traded; Locke, ineffective, relegated to the bullpen and about to be non-tendered; Vogelsong, so-so, injured, back to so-so. Whew, that’s a whole lot of bad luck, or is it something else?

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