Bucco Nation Q & A

By Jason Shetler

It’s been a few months since I last did a Bucco Nation Q & A on the blog, so I thought I’d bring it back. Here are some of your Pirates questions. 

Are we watching the last games with Neil Walker in a Pirates jersey? – John from Raleigh, NC

The decision to bring back Neil Walker for 2016 is going to be the most talked about subject this Pirates offseason. Walker is in his last year of arbitration, and could be projected to make close to $10 million. There’s the possibility of the Pirates moving him to another club that would be willing to take on that large salary. My guess is a Walker trade is likely, and that the Pirates would obtain or sign a rental second baseman until Alen Hanson arrives to Pittsburgh midseason.

Do you think the Pirates will get to Jake Arrieta on Wednesday? – Seth from Ellwood City, PA 

When the Pirates last faced Arrieta in the Sunday Night Game at Wrigley Field, they seemed to show a patient approach against him in an effort to work up his pitch count, but all they did was allow Arrieta to get ahead in the count quickly, and as a result, had a perfect game heading into the seventh. Perhaps their approach against him for the Wild Card Game should be the opposite in trying to be aggressive early in the count. If the Pirates can attack the fastball early, as well as lay off the secondary pitches, then I do think Arrieta could be defeated.

Should Pedro Alvarez start the Wild Card Game or are his frequent defensive errors too much of a risk? – Hope from Huntington, WV

This obviously is the biggest question heading into the Wild Card Game. Last week, Alvarez had a couple miscues in the series finale against the Colorado Rockies, but redeemed himself with a go-ahead three-run homer. As mentioned in Seth’s question, the Pirates need to be aggressive in the count early with Arrieta, and Alvarez more so than anyone. While his defense is a problem his bat does make the lineup better, which is why I think the Pirates should roll the dice with him on Wednesday.

Do you think the Pirates will re-sign J.A. Happ? – Rob from Pittsburgh, PA

When the Bucs acquired J.A. Happ at the trade deadline from Seattle, the hope was that he would pitch decent in A.J. Burnett’s absence. Happ has been absolutely stellar since joining the Pirates, and has given the rotation a much needed shot in the arm with the inconsistencies of Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke. With the way Happ has pitched, his value is going to increase quite a bit now on the free agent market. Last offseason, Francisco Liriano re-signed with the Pirates on a three-year deal worth $39 million, so money shouldn’t be an issue in re-signing Happ. As long as another team doesn’t offer more than a two year deal, then I think there’s a good chance he comes back to Pittsburgh.

What team in the AL would you not want the Pirates to face if they get to the World Series? – Kris from, Toronto, Ontario, CN

Not just saying this because you reside in beautiful Toronto, but it certainly would be the Blue Jays that would present a very difficult matchup for the Pirates if they met in the Fall Classic. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have put up strong numbers again while Josh Donaldson is having a monster season, and in my opinion is this year’s AL MVP. Then you add the on base and speed element of Ben Revere to an already potent lineup. The Pirates have had their struggles defensively this season, and the last thing they want is giving the Jays offense extra outs. From the pitching side, the Pirates would have to face the the most likely AL Cy Young winner in David Price, as well as Mark Buehrle, and the Bucs have struggled against lefties this year. While it would be challenging, the Pirates pitching gives them a chance to make it a lengthy series. It would definitely present an enjoyable World Series matchup

How Great was Gerrit Cole’s 2015 Regular Season?

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Jamie Sabau - Getty Images

p/c: Jamie Sabau – Getty Images

Heading into this season, there seemed to be a general consensus among all baseball publications that Gerrit Cole would be the Pirates breakout performer in 2015. That prediction could not have rang any more true. Cole finished the year with 19 wins, which were the most by a Pirates pitcher since John Smiley in 1991, and he also became the fourth pitcher in Pirates history to strikeout 200 batters in a season. So how great was Gerrit Cole’s 2015 campaign? – Here are the final numbers. 

2.60 ERA, 2.66 Fielding Independent Pitching, 149 ERA+, 1.09 WHIP, 5.5 WAR in 32 starts 

Let’s see where Cole’s stats rank compared to other Pirates pitchers since the Expansion Era in 1961. 


Bob Veale 2.05 (1968)

Steve Blass 2.12 (1968)

Vern Law 2.15 (1965)

Bob Friend 2.34 (1963)

John Candelaria 2.34 (1977)

Steve Blass 2.49 (1972)

Gerrit Cole 2.60 (2015)

Fielding Independent Pitching

Bob Veale 2.11 (1965)

Bob Veale 2.33 (1969)

Bob Veale 2.55 (1964)

Bob Friend 2.58 (1963)

Gerrit Cole 2.66 (2015)


John Candelaria 169 (1977)

Vern Law 163 (1965)

Gerrit Cole 149 (2015) 

Oliver Perez 143 (2004)

Bob Veale 141 (1968)

Wins Above Replacement

Bob Veale 8.0 (1965)

Bob Veale 6.5 (1964)

Bob Veale 6.0 (1969)

Bob Friend 5.7 (1963)

Gerrit Cole 5.5 (2015)

Strikeouts Per 9 Innings

Oliver Perez 11.0 (2004)

A.J. Burnett 9.9 (2013)

Francisco Liriano 9.9 (2015)

Bob Veale 9.3 (1965)

Gerrit Cole 8.7 (2015)


Vern Law 1.00 (1965)

Bob Friend 1.04 (1963)

Harvey Haddix 1.06 (1959)

John Candelaria 1.06 (1976)

Doug Drabek 1.06 (1990)

Doug Drabek 1.06 (1992)

John Candelaria 1.07 (1977)

John Smiley 1.09 (1989)

Gerrit Cole 1.09 (2015)

Cole’s numbers stack up really well compared to other Pirates pitcher seasons of the last 50 plus years. His ERA and WHIP are in the Top 10 while his Fielding Independent Pitching, K/9 and WAR are Top 5, and his ERA+ is the third best mark in that span. Looking at all those figures as a whole, it’s certainly not an exaggeration to say that Gerrit Cole’s 2015 season is now one of the most elite in franchise history. 

Two Pirates Prospects Listed in Baseball America’s Top 20 SAL Rankings

By Jason Shetler

Baseball America has released it’s list of the Top 20 prospects from the South Atlantic League. A pair of Pirates prospects made this list, which were Yeudy Garcia and Cole Tucker. 

Garcia was ranked in the Top 10 at #9. The 22-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic had one of the best breakout seasons in the Pirates system this year. In 124 innings pitched with the West Virginia Power, he posted a 2.10 ERA along with a 1.07 WHIP, an 8.1 K/9 and a .204 batting average against. Garcia was named the 2015 Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year. 

Tucker’s ranking on the list was at #15. The Pirates 2014 first round selection played in 73 games this season for the Power where he batted .293 with a .699 OPS and stole 25 bases. He was above average with the glove, as he posted a .953 fielding percentage. Tucker unfortunately had a shoulder injury late in the season, which resulted in having surgery on it the final week of August. He’s expected to miss most of the 2016 season. 

Three Pirates Prospects Ranked in Baseball America’s Top 20 FSL List

By Jason Shetler

Baseball America’s Ben Badler released his rankings of the Top 20 prospects in the Florida State League. The Pirates have three prospects on the list with Austin Meadows, Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez.

Meadows is ranked #3 on the list. The ninth overall choice in the 2013 MLB Draft was the Pirates second best prospect entering this year. Meadows played in 121 games for the Bradenton Marauders where he batted .307, which was third highest in the FSL. He also posted a .764 OPS and had 20 stolen bases.

McGuire just missed the Top 10, coming in at #11. The Pirates other first round selection in 2013 struggled offensively this year, hitting .254 with a .595 OPS in 98 games for the Marauders. Defensively, he threw out 25% of baserunners, which is around league average. While McGuire didn’t do much at the plate, he played this year as a 20-year-old, so he was facing more advanced pitchers who are two or three years older than him. His defense however is still regarded as one of the best in the minors.

Ramirez was right behind McGuire at #12. The 21-year-old outfielder from Colombia began the year in extended Spring Training, and joined the Marauders in late May. He left the Pirates in early July to represent Team Colombia in the Pan-American Games, which lasted two weeks. Ramirez played in only 80 games with Bradenton, but still put up solid numbers, as he hit .337 along with an .857 OPS and stole 22 bases.

It should be noted that former Pirates shortstop prospect JaCoby Jones was on the list at #20. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers a day before the trade deadline in the Joakim Soria deal.

Bucco Nation Poll Question

By Jason Shetler

Michael Morse Trade Looking Like a Steal for the Pirates

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Mike Ehrmann - Getty Images North America

p/c: Mike Ehrmann – Getty Images North America

If you were to put together a list of the most underrated offensive players in baseball over the last several years, Michael Morse would certainly be on there. During his four seasons with the Washington Nationals from 2009 to 2012, Morse posted an .857 OPS and a 130 OPS+. He was also a key contributor in leading the San Francisco Giants to their third World Series crown in five years last season, as he put up an .811 OPS, an OPS+ of 130 and a 2.2 oWAR. 

The solid numbers for Morse in 2014 earned him a two-year deal with the Miami Marlins worth $16 million this past offseason. He dealt with a finger injury in the first half, and wasn’t able to get anything going, as he posted just a .588 OPS. 

The Pirates were looking to add a bat at the trade deadline in an effort to improve the bench after getting minimal production from it in the first half, specifically with Corey Hart and Jose Tabata. Just a day before the deadline, Morse was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of a three team trade involving the Marlins and the Atlanta Braves. Pirates GM Neal Huntington would acquire Morse from the Dodgers at the deadline, and at the same time was able to rid himself of the Tabata contract. 

Since joining the Pirates, Morse has put up impressive numbers, posting a .420 on base percentage, an .878 OPS, and a 136 OPS+ in 39 games. Meanwhile, Tabata had just a .286 on base along with a .623 OPS for AAA Oklahoma City. He wasn’t even a September call up for the Dodgers, so the trade is looking like an absolute steal for the Bucs. It’ll be interesting to see what the Pirates decide to do this offseason as it pertains to Pedro Alvarez. Morse is under contract while Alvarez would appear to have good trade value offensively for American League teams looking for a DH. Whether or not the Pirates part ways with Alvarez in the offseason, Morse one way or another should be a valuable piece for them next season. 

Kevin Newman Ranks Seventh on Baseball America’s NYPL List

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Tammy Shriver - timeswv.com

p/c: Tammy Shriver – timeswv.com

On Friday, Ben Badler of Baseball America came out with a list of the Top 20 New York-Penn League prospects. Kevin Newman was ranked in the Top 10 at #7. Unlike the Gulf Coast League, the NYPL didn’t have too many impact performers. 

Newman was the Pirates first round selection in this year’s draft out of the University of Arizona. The 22-year-old shortstop struggled at the plate with the West Virginia Black Bears where he hit .226 along with a .620 OPS in 38 games played. Defensively, he handled himself very well, as he posted a .963 fielding percentage. Newman was promoted to the West Virginia Power in August and performed better there, batting .306 with an OPS of .743 in 23 games. He could begin next season with the Bradenton Marauders.