Pirates will have ten televised Spring games

The Pirates will have a total of ten Spring Games, which will be televised on both ROOT Sports and MLB Network. Here are the televised games from each network.

ROOT Sports: March 10 vs Twins 1:05

                      March 21 vs Red Sox 1:05

                      March 24 vs Astros 1:05

                     March 26 vs Orioles 7:05

MLB Network: March 8 @ Phillies 1:05

                      March 9 @ Red Sox 7:05

                      March 20 @ Yankees 7:05

                     March 27 @ Phillies 1:05

                     April 1 @ Blue Jays 1:05

                     April 2 @ Phillies 7:05 (Citizens Bank Park)

So it looks as if ROOT Sports is going to televise all their games in Bradenton, while the games on MLB Network will have them being shown on the road. 

James McDonald to start Saturday’s Spring Opener

According to Rob Biertempfel, James McDonald will start Saturday’s Spring Opener against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin. The other scheduled pitchers are Brad Lincoln, Tony Watson, Daniel McCutchen, Chris Resop, Chris Leroux, Ryota Igarashi, and Juan Cruz. McDonald will throw two innings, while the others will each pitch an inning.

Kensing injured during live BP

According to Kristy Robinson, Logan Kensing left his live batting practice session earlier today with tightness in his lower right abdomen. The Pirates say they will update his condition within two weeks. Kensing was signed by the Bucs on a minor league deal back in January, and was considered to be a long shot to make the bullpen anyway.

Pirates willing to work out long-term extension with McCutchen

According to Rob Biertempfel, the Pirates are still willing to work out a long-term deal with Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen’s representatives are looking for a contract similar to the $51M that the Arizona Diamondbacks gave to Justin Upton in 2010. Reports are that the Pirates are about $10M below that amount. You’d like to see the Pirates sign him before next offseason when he becomes arbitration eligible for the first time.

Pirates center fielder with best defensive season using Range Factor

I did a post about which Pirate had the best defensive season according to FLD%. That was Bill Virdon’s 1958 season in which he had a .993 FLD%, which was 13 points higher than the lgFLD% of .980 that season. However, there is an advanced metric that takes putouts and assists and divides that by games played. This stat is known as Range Factor. Since center fielders have the higher Range Factor than corner outfielders, let’s find out which Pirates center fielder had the best defensive season using Range Factor.

Al Oliver (1972) 2.47

Tike Redman (2004) 2.54

Nate McLouth (2008) 2.66

Andrew McCutchen (2011) 2.81

Andy Van Slyke (1989) 2.93

Bill Virdon (1957) 2.95

Omar Moreno (1980) 3.10

Max Carey (1921) 3.21

Lloyd Waner (1932) 3.32

So according to Range Factor, Lloyd Waner’s 1932 season is considered the best defensive season in Pirates history. While Bill Virdon’s 1958 season was the best according to FLD%, his 1957 season was the fourth best in franchise history using Range Factor. So you could say that in both 1957 and 1958, regardless what stats you look at, Bill Virdon was one of the best defensive center fielders at that time.

Why the Pirates should sign their good players early

Last year the Pirates did something out of the ordinary and that was signing Jose Tabata to a long term extension, despite having just two years of service time. Here is a look at Tabata’s yearly salary of the deal courtesy of baseball-reference.com. 

2012: $750K

2013: $1M

2014: $3M

2015: $4M

2016: $4.5M

2017: $6.5M club option (250K buyout)

2018: $7.5M club option (250K buyout)

2019: $8.5M club option (250K buyout)

I like how the terms of this contract works for both sides. It keeps Tabata happy of course because now he’s making more than the minimum with only two years in, and from the Pirates standpoint, it’s not a ton of money and you never have to go to arbitration with Tabata. For the first five years , Tabata will earn $13.25M, very friendly salary. Then he’ll have the three club options, which will cover his free agent years. If Tabata becomes a solid to All-Star caliber player, the Pirates can exercise the option, and if they feel like he’s under performed as a Pirate, they can just decline the option and let him go as a free agent since the buyout is very cheap. The Tampa Bay Rays also did a similar deal with their pitching phenom Matt Moore, so perhaps the Pirates could do the same with Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole. It would of been nice to see them sign Andrew McCutchen that early. Now Cutch finds himself entering his fourth season in the league and he’s still making the minimum. Don’t be surprised if this starts to become a trend around baseball soon.

Grading the Pirates offseason moves

Since we are nearing the end of the offseason, I’m going to grade the Pirates most notable offseason moves. 

A.J. Burnett – Burnett was acquired by the Pirates last week from the New York Yankees in a rare nationally talked about trade involving the Bucs getting a big name pitcher. The Pirates were able to trade away two marginal type prospects in pitcher Diego Moreno and outfielder Exicardo Cayones. Burnett is owed $33M on his remaining deal, but the Pirates will only be on the hook for $13M of it. There’s also the possibility of him pitching well in Pittsburgh with the smaller market as compared to New York. His K/9 is still good for a 35-year-old. Grade: B+

Casey McGehee – The Pirates wanted to add some thump to their lineup and they were able to get that when they traded Jose Veras to Milwaukee for Casey McGehee. My feeling is whenever you trade a reliever for a bat that has power, it’s a nice deal to make especially if that player pans out. McGehee will platoon at first base this season with Garrett Jones, so he should be able to benefit from that, hopefully more than Matt Diaz anyway. Grade: B

Clint Barmes – Barmes signed a two year deal with the Pirates to be their shortstop. Barmes to me seems like a slight upgrade over Ronny Cedeno. Although his offensive numbers are average, he does have a better career OPS than Cedeno. Last year, he posted his best FLD% and advanced metrics suggest that he was a very strong defender at short. You have to wonder though why Barmes was given a two year deal when you’ve got Chase d’Arnaud looking to prove himself again and Jordy Mercer. Grade: C+

Erik Bedard – Bedard signed with Pirates on a one year deal back in December for $4M. Bedard has posted very good K/9 ratios for his career, and at one point was one of the better left-handed starters in the AL when he pitched for Baltimore. Unfortunately, he’s been quite injury prone for the most part, although he was able to stay relatively healthy last season. It’s definitely a classic “risk/reward” type signing. Grade: B-

Nate McLouth – McLouth returns to the Pirates, and this time it will be as a fourth outfielder. I actually like this signing. He still has good pop in the bat, good speed, is an above average defender who can play all three outfield spots if need be. A lot of people think that they should of just kept Xavier Paul, but the reality is McLouth gets on base more, is a better defender, and is more above replacement level than Paul if you go by WAR. Plus, not playing everyday is going to benefit McLouth, which will prevent him from having to face left-handers too often. Grade: B

Rod Barajas – Barajas signed a one year deal with the Bucs that also included an option for 2013. Barajas does have some pretty good power for a catcher, but at age 36, he is clearly on a decline. Unlike Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder, Barajas does a poor job of getting on base with a career OBP below .300. Defensively, he’s not as good as Snyder, but he is better than Doumit. Barajas is your classic “rent-a-player” sign with the Pirates not having any better internal options to go with. Grade: C-

The Pirates offseason focused on guys who they think will be upgrades compared to who their replacing, such as Clint Barmes over Ronny Cedeno, Casey McGehee/Garrett Jones over Matt Diaz/Jones, Erik Bedard over Paul Maholm, Nate McLouth over Xavier Paul, and Barajas over Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder. Then you had the element of surprise when they acquired A.J. Burnett to try to bolster their rotation. Pirates offseason grade: B-


Pirates sign Kris Harvey to minor league deal

According to Kevin Goldstein (via twitter), the Pirates have inked Kris Harvey to a minor league deal. Harvey was drafted by the Florida Marlins back in 2005 as an outfielder. In 2008, he made the transition from the outfield to the mound. Since becoming a pitcher, Harvey has posted a 4.57 ERA, a 1.39 WHIP, and a 7.1 K/9 in 118 appearances. He’ll pitch at either AA or AAA depending on spots being taken and seems like an organizational depth arm.

Breaking down the Bucs: Charlie Morton

Charlie Morton is entering his age 28 season this year. Morton was brought over by the Pirates from the Atlanta Braves in the Nate McLouth deal in June of 2009. Here are Morton’s stats from the last three seasons.

ERA (2009) 4.55  (2010) 7.57  (2011) 3.83

WHIP (2009) 1.46  (2010) 1.73  (2011) 1.53

K/9 (2009) 5.8  (2010) 6.7  (2011) 5.8

WAR (2009) 0.7  (2010) – 2.5  (2011) 2.4

Charlie Morton’s 2011 season was the best turnaround of any other pitcher that I can think of in recent memory. Let’s look past his 2009 and disastrous 2010 and focus on what he did in 2011. Charlie Morton made a pretty good transition in his first season as a sinkerball pitcher. Although his WHIP was still high at 1.53, it was his first time learning a new delivery. So I see his control being better moving forward. His 0.3 HR/9 was the best in the National League, while his groundball rate was at 58.5, good for third best in the NL. Morton’s OPS vs right-handed hitters was a very impressive .504, however his OPS vs left-handed hitters was at .806, so he hasn’t figured out the sinker to lefty bats just yet. If Charlie Morton can improve the control of his sinker, continue to pound right-handed bats inside with it, and get left-handed bats out more, he will definitely become one of the best sinkerball pitchers in baseball.





Breaking down the Bucs: Jeff Karstens

Jeff Karstens enters this season as a 29-year-old. Karstens was acquired by the Pirates from the New York Yankees about a week before the trade deadline in 2008. Here is what Karstens’ numbers have been the last four years.

ERA (2008) 4.03  (2009) 5.42  (2010) 4.92  (2011) 3.38

WHIP (2008) 1.34  (2009) 1.48  (2010) 1.41  (2011) 1.21

K/9 (2008) 4.0  (2009) 4.3  (2010) 5.3  (2011) 5.3

WAR (2008) – 0.1  (2009) – 0.5  (2010) 0.9  (2011) 3.0

Jeff Karstens had himself a surprising yet unbelievable season in 2011. His ERA, WHIP, and WAR were far and away the best of his big league career. His K/9 was above 5.0 again and it shows how much more of a pitcher he’s become rather then being a “thrower” when he first came over to the Pirates. Karstens of course isn’t a hard-thrower, but he is a flyball pitcher as evidence of his 1.3 HR/9 for his career which is a concern. It’s one thing to have a power pitcher give up long balls, but you really don’t want to see it from a finesse pitcher. The home runs he allowed last year seemed to be mainly solo homeruns which didn’t hurt his ERA. You just wonder if Karstens will have that same luck this year? I don’t see Karstens having an ERA in the low-mid three’s again, but I think if he can continue to throw strikes consistently and mix up his pitches well, he could still have a pretty good year.