Baseball Notes: The Buccos

In this very special team review of the Pittsburgh Pirates I interview my good friend from Pittsburgh Marty, who weathered the hard years... all of them... to see the Bucs rise back to prominence. We take a look back at a year with an ominous pitching rotation and look forward to the promise of next year.

Pete:

What was your general feeling for this year? Did you have an ominous feeling about them all year because of the rotation or high hopes because of the lineup?

Marty:

Definitely ominous due to the rotation. I've always defended the front office but they had a terrible off-season. You can't always bank on Searage magic, and this year it ran out. (78-83 and one tie that doesn't seem to be recorded in the standings).

Pete:

I was going to say it's not all the front office's fault that they can't bring in free agents, that players don't act like it's at the top of their list to be a Pirate, but the Jon Niece deal is on them (4.91 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, and traded back to the Mets for much less than Neil Walker).

Marty:

They certainly could've re-signed Happ. (20-4 with the Blue Jays and a 3.18 ERA. Last year he had a 1.85 ERA in 11 second half starts with the Pirates).

Pete:

Would he have been as good in Pittsburgh this year as he was with the Jays?

Marty:

Well, it's impossible to say but his renaissance started here I don't see why that wouldn't continue.

Pete:

I think you're right, I think his ERA might have been lower at PNC if he pitched exactly the same because Toronto is so hitter friendly, but he probably wouldn't have been a 20 win pitcher anyways.

Marty:

Yeah. Also, when your super consistent MVP candidate falls off a cliff, it doesn't bode well for the season. (Andrew McCutchen, .256, 24 HRs, 79 RBI, 6 SB. His HR's were on target but his AVG dropped .036).

Pete:

Yeah, he has had nearly a month every season before this year when he was an over-.400 hitter.

Marty:

I think so long as they do something about the rotation they will bounce back. Unfortunately this is a terrible off-season for pitchers.

Pete:

It felt like a really backwards year for the hitters. Polanco was a power (ish) hitter and less of a base stealer (2015: 9 HR , 52 RBI, 27 SBs. 2016: 22 HR, 86 RBI, 17 SB in 65 fewer PA) and Marte was more of a base hitter and didn't have double digits in homers in a year the ball was especially lively (2015: 19 HR, 81 RBI, 30 SB. 2016: 9 HR, 46 RBI, 47 SB in 104 fewer PA).

Marty:

Yeah.

Pete:

Can the Pirates pitchers mature into filling their rotation from their system and contend?

Marty:

Well, Taillon looks legit (3.38 ERA in 18 starts) . Cole is Cole if he can stay healthy (3.88 ERA in 21 starts

Pete:

There are a few fringe guys that could be reliable... but you have to question Brault's decision making with his tattoo sleeve (4.86 in 8 games, 7 of which were starts).

Marty:

Glasnow looked out of his element, he needs to start in AAA to work on control (4.24 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 7 games, 4 were starta). I'm not convinced by Brault or Kuhl (4.20 ERA in 14 starts).

Pete:

My thought on Glasnow is that he doesn't look so out of his element like Robbie Ray was with the DBacks before this year, and Ray ended up 4th in the NL in K's this year (218 K's, 8-15, 4.90 ERA, 1.47 WHIP) . I think Glasnow has enough control to grow into being good, it depends on how long it takes to grow. Kuhl had a nice ERA but it didn't feel like he had a nice ERA when he was pitching. Is Ivan Nova a 1.09 WHIP pitcher?

Marty:

No, I don't think so (3.06 ERA in 11 starts with the Pirates, he had a 4.90 ERA in 21 games, 15 starts with the Yankees before being traded to Pittsburgh). And someone's gonna give him 50 mil for like 3 years because the FA crop is so terrible.

Pete

Can the Bucs lobby to get sign and trade into the MLB?

Marty:

God I wish.

Pete:

But they'll always have Drew Hutchinson...

Marty:

Ugh (5.56 ERA in 6 games, 1 start with the Pirates).

Pete:

That was like an NBA move to take him (former opening day starter) and dump Liriano (5.46 ERA, 6-11 with the Pirates before being traded to the Blue Jays and going 2.92 in 10 games, 8 starts).

Marty:

Heh (Liriano still has one year on his contract for more than $13.5 million). I mean there were some bright spots: Freese (13 HR , .270 AVG off the bench), SRod (18 HR, .270 AVG, as a super utility player), Taillon, Felipe Rivero (3.29 ERA in 28 relief appearances) should be closing (I hope). There's just such a gaping hole in the rotation I don't know how they're going to fill it.

Pete:

I was surprised to see Rivero's ERA was around 3.00. I felt like I saw him getting hit, but I might have just been seeing bad highlights.

What do they do with SRod?

Marty:

He's a useful player to have even if he doesn't hit as well as this year. His defensive versatility is like an extra bench spot (2016 had Sean Rodriguez playing 1B, 2B, 3B, RF, SS, LF, PH & CF. Yup, everywhere but pitcher, catcher and DH).

Pete:

Looking him up got me thinking that he might have had the best offensive year for them because of his limited AB's, but Marte is also up there (team leading .311 AVG and 2nd on the team .362 OBP) and Kang (.255 AVG, but 21 HR in 103 games) and Jaso (.268 after cooling from a hot start, but .353 OBP) couldn't keep their AVG's up. Who was the MVP, Frazier? hahaha (.301 AVG, in 45 games off the bench. He played LF, 2B, RF, PH, 3B, and CF).

Marty:

Probably Marte.

Pete:

Switching gears, I remember at PNC, the fans led the league in obscure jerseys of players that did nothing. Any favorites that come to mind for you?

Marty:

I once saw a Keith Osik jersey. Obscure garbage backup catcher. That was the best no doubt.

Pete:

My quick baseball reference search shows me 13 homers over his 10 year career, hahaha.

Marty:

Yup.

Pete:

I remember some middle relievers names on jerseys from 4 or 5 years prior that were so obscure I've since forgotten who they were. I hope that was a nice button up expensive jersey.

Marty:

I'd love to see a Dotel jersey (41 games with the Pirates in 2010, he had a 4.28 ERA, and 21 SV. He also played with the Dodgers and Rockies that same year). Someone needs to get an Octavio Dotel jersey from every team he played on. I think you'd have half the league (He played for the Mets, Astros, A's, Yankees, Royals, Braves, White Sox, Pirates, Dodgers, Rockies, Blue Jays, Cardinals, and Tigers over 15 seasons).

Pete:

I loved his time with the Pirates. He had the best intro when coming into the game. His music was just sirens blaring and his asymmetrical eyes on the scoreboard video screens.

Marty:

I remember you loved that. It was so damned goofy.

Pete:

Enough with that nonsense, I think the Bucs are 1 hitter away and that could just be a full year from Josh Bell (.273 AVG, .368 OBP, 3 HR, 8 2B in 45 games as a 23 year old) , and 1 real new established pitcher and just filling in some pitching gaps.

Marty:

I do think they'll bounce back.

Pete:

Oh yeah, almost forgot. We saw Pedro Alvarez debut in the majors and saw his whole Pirates run (131 HR over 6 seasons. 2012 and 2013 were his two best seasons where he was .244 AVG, 30 HR, 85 RBI and .233, 26 HR, 100 RBI, respectively). He was an odd player to see because he had a lot of potential, was a really good player at times, but was veeeeery inconsistent. Do you feel like we saw a whole player's career flash before us? (2016 was his first year with the Orioles, he had 376 AB, .249 AVG, 22 HR and 49 RBI, but played behind Chris Davis and AL HR king Mark Trumbo, 47 HR at DH).

Marty:

He got in his own head with the fielding thing (Errors at 3B from 2012 to 2014: 27, 27 & 25. Errors at 1B in 2015: 23). He has to be the streakiest player ever.

And so, Pirates fans wait until next year, avoiding the anxiety of a one game Wild Card play in, optimistic for the young players of next year to break out in 2017.

More team profiles here.

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