The Pirates will use a four man outfield shift at times this year, as Adam Berry writes. I like the strategy, especially with Adam Frazier being the guy moving to the outfield. Frazier received strong defensive ratings at second base, largely for his range.
Berry points out that an extra outfielder would be good against a fly ball-hitting/strikeout-prone power bat. That ties in with what I feel the big advantage would be: Countering line drives.
The batting average on balls in play for a line drive last year was .678. By comparison, the BABIP for grounders was .236 and for fly balls was .118.
If you’re looking to reduce offense, it’s good to target line drives. With four outfielders, there are fewer opportunities for a line drive to drop in, or for a runner to take an extra base or two when the line drive does fall. Line drives typically result in the most damage, with an OPS over 1.500 around the league last year. Removing hits and limiting extra bases could provide a big impact on defense.
The Pirates are putting a lot of focus so far on defense. Their additions this offseason were almost primarily defense-first options, with Luke Maile behind the plate (removed today due to left hamstring tightness), Jarrod Dyson in center field, and Guillermo Heredia for the bench. They’re planning to incorporate analytics more often to get an edge, and this looks to be one of the first attempts.
We’ll see how it works out this year. The pitching staff can definitely use the help.
SONG OF THE DAY
RANDOM STUFF OF THE DAY
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
By John Dreker
There have been four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one transaction of note.
On this date in 1985, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed 35-year-old Rick Reuschel as a free agent. He had pitched well earlier in his career, but Reuschel was coming off of a 5.17 ERA in 92.1 innings with the Chicago Cubs in 1984. He missed all of 1982 with rotator cuff surgery and struggled through the 1983 season, spending most of the year in the minors. Reuschel turned things back around with the Pirates, going 14-8, 2.27 in 194 innings for a team that lost 104 games. He made another 89 starts for the Pirates before being traded late in the 1987 season to the San Francisco Giants. Reuschel won 214 games in his career.
Aaron Thompson, pitcher for the 2011 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Florida Marlins in 2005. Thompson was traded to the Nationals at the 2009 trade deadline in exchange for Nick Johnson. He was put on waivers following the 2010 season that he spent in Double-A Harrisburg. The Pirates picked him up in December 2010 off waivers and sent him to Double-A Altoona to start the season. He posted a 4-7, 5.16 record there in 28 games, 12 as a starter. He moved up to Triple-A, then got a call to the majors for his debut as a spot starter on August 24th. Thompson returned to Triple-A to end the minor league season, then made three more September appearances for the Pirates. He was allowed to leave via free agency in November and signed a contract with the Minnesota Twins. Thompson made a total of 48 appearances with the 2014-15 Twins to finish out his big league career.
Lil Stoner, pitcher for the 1930 Pirates. He played three seasons of minor league ball before making the 1922 Detroit Tigers team out of Spring Training. Stoner pitched poorly, posting a 7.04 ERA through 17 games and was sent to the minors to finish the season. In 1923, pitching for Fort Worth of the Texas League, he won 27 games and pitched 302 innings. He was with the Tigers again in 1924 and lasted through the 1929 season, switching between starting and relieving. He had double figure win totals in three seasons and compiled a 50-58 overall record while with Detroit. He signed with the Pirates for 1930 but after two weeks, having pitched just 5.2 innings in relief, he was sent back to the minors. Stoner pitched one more season in the majors with the 1931 Phillies before returning to the minors until 1932. He played semi-pro ball at the age of 40 in 1939 in his hometown of Enid, Oklahoma. His real name was Ulysses Simpson Grant Stoner and the nickname “Lil” came from his younger brother who couldn’t pronounce Ulysses as a kid.
Terry Turner, third baseman for the 1901 Pirates. He had a 17-year big league career that started with two games for the 1901 Pirates. He began his minor league career in 1900 as a 19-year-old. The Pirates picked him up in August, 1901 and gave him a brief trial. He had three hits in seven at bats, but Pittsburgh released him before the end of the year. Turner returned to the majors in 1904 with the Cleveland Indians, and before he left town, he would play a still-standing team record of 1,619 games. He played 15 seasons in Cleveland before finishing his career in 1919 with the Philadelphia Athletics. Terry was a career .253 hitter who finished with 699 runs scored and 1,499 hits. He hit just eight homers his entire career and only one his final 13 seasons, and that one was an inside-the-park home run.
Moose McCormick, outfielder for the 1904 Pirates. He hit .363 with 116 RBIs during his first season of pro ball in 1903, while playing for Jersey City of the Eastern League. Moose was signed by the Giants for the 1904 season and played there through early August when the Pirates acquired him in a three-team deal that saw them give up young right fielder Jimmy Sebring. McCormick finished the year in Pittsburgh, playing the corner outfield spots, where he hit .290 with 23 RBI’s in 66 games. In the off-season he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in a four-player deal. Before ever reporting to the Phillies, he retired from baseball for three seasons. He returned to the Phillies for 1908 and was shipped to the Giants after just 11 games. He played the entire 1909 season, then retired for two more years before returning for two final seasons for New York. In his five seasons in the majors, which spanned a 10-year period, he was a .285 hitter over 429 games.
Jack Easton, pitcher for the 1894 Pirates. He played three seasons in the minors prior to making his Major League debut with the Columbus Solons of the American Association in September, 1889. Easton went 15-14, 3.52 in 255.2 innings in 1890 with the Solons. He then had an 8-14, 4.59 record in 1891 pitching for two different teams. He won his only two decisions in 1892, but was cut early in the season. Jack returned to the minors after being released and then spent the entire 1893 season down on the farm before returning to the majors with the Pirates for the 1894 season. He pitched just three games with Pittsburgh, losing his only start. Easton pitched a total of 19.2 innings, in what would be his last time in the majors. He returned to the minors for three more years before retiring from baseball. According to Baseball-Reference’s similarity scores, the most similar pitcher all-time to Easton is Mike Dunne who came over from the Cardinals in the Tony Pena trade and went 13-6, 3.03 as a rookie for the Pirates in 1987.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.