Is Clint Hurdle a Poor Talent Evaluator?

By Jason Shetler

When Clint Hurdle was hired as the Pirates manager to replace John Russell prior to 2011, his press conference brought so much excitement to the fan base that it was like getting ready to open presents on Christmas. After all, fans had to listen to a manager who would have been perfect for a Sounds of the Ocean CD. But for as more upbeat as Clint Hurdle is compared to John Russell, is Hurdle any better of managing talent than Russell?

As far as Russell, the team he took over in 2008 had some talent on it, but when trades were being made that season and the following, it left Russell with not a lot of talent. Outside of Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones and Ryan Doumit (when healthy), what talent did he really have to work with? When you look at what Clint Hurdle has to work with this year, he seems to play guys who give you less than what others would. For example, Rod Barajas over Michael McKenry. Granted A.J. Burnett prefers having Barajas as his personal catcher, but McKenry should have been catching every other starter. McKenry’s offensive numbers are better and so is his defense. Clint Barmes keeps being put out there even though they have a better and younger option in Jordy Mercer. Yet whenever Barmes gets a day off, Hurdle decides to go with Josh Harrison who has never played much shortstop even in the minors and as a result, is a big liablity there. The latest now is not playing Starling Marte for whatever reason and instead going with Alex Presley who is nothing more than a fourth outfielder. If your not going to play Marte, at least put Travis Snider out there, who can give you another power bat in the lineup. I’m not saying that John Russell was the answer because he just couldn’t seem to motivate players with his demeanor, but Clint Hurdle has more talent to work with and just refuses to go with options that are essentially better. I just hope next season that Hurdle knows what kind of talent he has and uses the right players sooner rather than later.  






Pirates Re-Sign Kris Johnson

By Jason Shetler

The Pirates have made their first unofficial offseason move today by re-signing pitcher Kris Johnson to a minor league deal. This according to Baseball America’s minor league transactions. Johnson signed a minor league contract with the Bucs last offseason and did pretty well this season as organizational depth where he posted a 3.19 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP between Altoona and Indianapolis while pitching as a starter and a reliever. He’ll most likely pitch in the same capacity next year.

Pirates Shut Down Neil Walker

By Jason Shetler

According to Rob Biertempfel, Neil Walker has a herniated disc and will be shut down for the rest of the season. Here were his comments to Rob. “It’s frustrating (because) my goal was to get back and help this team as much as I could. I tried to play through it as much as I could. My goal is to help this team as much as I can. I’m sure I was raising eyebrows when I’d play one day and then not play again for a few days. It’s getting better, but rest is important.” Walker suffered the injury back on August 26th against the Brewers when it was originally diagnosed as lower back stiffness. He seemed fine when he returned to the lineup, but perhaps it just flared up into something worse. Walker ends the season with a .280 average, a .768 OPS, 14 home runs and 69 RBI’s in 472 at bats. 

Offseason Trade Idea: Package Garrett Jones and Joel Hanrahan

By Jason Shetler

As the Pirates prepare for the upcoming offseason, they will look to see what they can do to improve the team whether through free agency or trades. Looking at some of the free agents on the open market, there doesn’t appear to be too much out there or that’s out of the Pirates price range anyway. There really isn’t a whole lot in terms of other positions that the Pirates could fill in free agency. It might be best to make a big trade and try to get good pieces in return. One trade idea that I had in mind was trading Garrett Jones and Joel Hanrahan in a package deal, and I’m about to explain why I would consider making this move.

Jones is having himself a career year and his stock will probably never be higher than where it is right now. Hanrahan is having himself another solid year as the Pirates closer, so his stock is still high. Because the Pirates have options to turn to, it makes Jones a decent candidate to be dealt and Hanrahan has been involved in trade rumors since last offseason. By trading both of them together instead of just making separate deals for them, they obviously could get a really significant return like a starting pitcher who could bolster the rotation and have years of control over, along with a boat load of good prospects to really improve the farm system even more. As I mentioned, they now have options to turn to if Jones were to get traded. You could simply have Gaby Sanchez as the everyday first baseman since the numbers he’s put up since joining the Pirates are what he’s capable of and Travis Snider I think has what it takes to anchor the right field job on an everyday basis. As far as Hanrahan goes, he has been a solid fixture in the back end of the bullpen, but you can always replace closers and if their stock is high like Hanrahan’s and it’s going to give you a good return in a deal, you have to consider it. I do think this is a trade that could add even more to the farm system, but at the same time not really hurt the big league club either. 

Top 10 Most Underrated Pirates of All-Time

By Jason Shetler

Whenever we think about Pirates players throughout history we tend to think Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Honus Wagner, Barry Bonds and so forth, but I thought I would do a list of Pirates players who were good, but don’t get much recognition.

10. Richie Zisk – Zisk spent the first six years of his career with the Pirates where he hit .299 with an .842 OPS in 578 games. He batted over .300 in both 1973 and 1974.

9. Bill Robinson – The native of McKeesport, Robinson spent eight seasons with the Bucs from 1975 to 1982. He hit .276 to go along with a .790 OPS in 805 games. 

8. Bob Walk – The Pirates longtime color man spent 10 seasons with the Pirates from 1984 to 1993 where he posted a 3.83 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP in 1,303 innings pitched. When you think about the Pirates rotation in the early 90’s, you tend to think of Doug Drabek and John Smiley, but Walkie was a pretty significant part as well.

7. Bob Moose – The Murrysville native spent all 10 of his big league seasons with his hometown Pirates from 1967 to 1976. He compiled a 3.50 ERA along with a 1.30 WHIP in 1,303.2 innings pitched and helped lead the Pirates to the 1971 World Series.

6. Smoky Burgess – Burgess came to Pittsburgh in 1959 and played there until 1964. He batted .296 with a .798 OPS in 586 games and was a key piece to the Pirates World Series run in 1960. You could make an argument that he was the Pirates first good offensive hitting catcher.

5. Fred Clarke – Clarke spent 15 seasons for the Pirates from 1900 to 1915 and became the first ever player-manager in franchise history. Although people remember Clarke as being one of the better managers in Pirates history, some forget that he was also a good ballplayer as well. As a player, he hit .299 and had a .797 OPS in 1,479 games and finished runner-up twice for the NL batting title in 1897 and 1903. He was inducted into Cooperstown by the Old Timers Committee in 1945.

4. Frank Thomas – The Pirates version of Frank Thomas played eight seasons in Pittsburgh from 1951 to 1958 where he batted .275 with an .807 OPS in 925 games and was a three-time All-Star for the Bucs.

3. Wilbur Cooper – Cooper pitched 13 seasons for the Pirates from 1912 to 1924 and posted a 2.89 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 3,199 innings pitched. His 216 wins are the most in franchise history and he still remains the only Pirates pitcher to win at least 200 games.

2. Sam Leever – Leever like Cooper also pitched 13 seasons for the Pirates. From 1898 to 1910, he won 194 games while posting a 2.47 ERA with a 1.14 WHIP in 388 games pitched and had the NL’s lowest ERA in 1903.

1. Babe Adams – Charles “Babe” Adams spent 18 seasons for the Pirates from 1907 to 1926. He like Leever also won 194 games with the Bucs. He compiled a 2.76 ERA to go along with a 1.09 WHIP in 582 games pitched. Adams pitched on the Pirates two World Series winners in 1909 and 1925 and posted a combined 1.29 ERA in the postseason for them. 


















Frank Coonelly Says He Won’t Make Changes to Pirates Operations

By Jason Shetler


Pirates team president Frank Coonelly announced that GM Neal Huntington along with assistant GM’s Greg Smith and Kyle Stark won’t be going anywhere. Coonelly had this to say in the following statement: “For the second consecutive year, we put ourselves in an excellent position to meet our objective of winning our division but did not play nearly well enough during the last two months of the season to accomplish it. Our fans are understandably disappointed and frustrated, as is every individual in the organization.

As soon as we finish this season as well as we possibly can, we will turn our full and total attention to evaluating why were unable to finish the job and what we must do differently to take the next step to becoming a championship team. There will unquestionably be changes made to the way in which we operate as a result of this thorough critical self-evaluation, but we will not be making personnel changes at the very top of our baseball operations department. Neal, Kyle, Greg and Clint are dedicated and intelligent baseball men in whom I have great confidence.

Confidence in and support of Neal, Kyle and Greg should not be misunderstood with acceptance of another poor finish at the Major League level. We must understand why the quality of our execution and play deteriorated so markedly in August. Finishing was the focus from spring training but it certainly was not achieved.” 

I’m a little surprised Frank decided to come out with this statement as soon as he did, but I suppose he just wanted to put the issue to rest before the start of the offseason.”