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.