Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Out-wise the Smize

Hello, Smizik.

I see you want us blogging again.  I see our little hiatus has upset you.  Why else would you bait us with this

Dejan Kovacevic weighs in with an excellent piece in the Post-Gazette today on the pros and cons of the Pirates signing Dominican Republic phenom Miguel Angel Sano, whose asking price is said to be about $4 million.

This is like David Brooks politely complimenting Mark Shields ideas on health care right before telling Jim Lehrer that the man is full of shit.  Pump fake, bitches!
As Kovacevic points out, there are plenty of reasons to pursue this young man and plenty to avoid him.
Three of each.  
But one fact overrides all others.
Is this you or him, speaking now, Bob?  
Sano is 16.
That is kind of the kicker.  Good or bad.  
In an era when the most sophisticated scouting by the National Football League cannot accurately predict the success of 22 and 23-year old men 
Why shit on just one sport when you can shit on two?  Also: why the NFL, Bob?  You live in Pittsburgh.  You're a sports writer in Pittsburgh.  Your team is the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Be happy about football.  Post-merger, it hasn't done a single thing to hurt you.
ALSO!  If you think about it, the NFL is really pretty good at projecting prospects. Let's go back a couple of years.  From the 2002 draft, 9 of the 32 first round selections went on to make the Pro-Bowl; in the 2003 draft, the number was 11; in 2004, the number was 14; 2005, the number was 7; 2006, the number was 7.  Will there always be a Tom Brady in the 6th round and a Ryan Leaf in the 1st?  Sure.  But generally, the high level of NCAA exposure, as well as the combine and "pro-day" system, lead teams to knowing what guys are worth.  
Weren't we talking about baseball?
and when the best talent evaluators in Major League Baseball miss way too often on college, 
Yes and no.  Sometimes there are misses in the amateur draft, but often times it has nothing to do with scouting and everything to do with money.  No one on Dave Littlefield's staff thought Daniel Moskos was the next Nolan Ryan.  They thought he was the piece of shit pitcher he is, and one who would sign for less.  (This afforded us the services of the real Nolan Ryan of our generation, Matt Morris.)
let along high-school age, players, it makes no sense -- none -- to spend millions on a sophomore in high school.
Part of the Moneyball school of thought is that spending good draft spots and a lot of money on high school phenoms is a patently bad business practice.  The competition at that level isn't intense enough, and the sample sizes aren't big enough for these prospects to prove anything.  I would mostly agree with this.  Except that Sano isn't coming out of a U.S. prep school, he's coming from the Dominican Republic.  Furthermore, we're not spending a "draft pick" on him, we're going after him in the international signing pool.  Yes, we're talking about a 16 year old kid getting $4,000,000, and that's a lot.  But I'd much rather be making this kind of splash, than playing chicken with Stephen Strasburg's agent, Scott Boras.  
Nobody knows who's going to be good, but it's obvious who's going to be bad.  We can either take a gamble on a prospect, or we can keep the good times rolling by being cheap bastards.
If, indeed, he is a sophomore.
Smize is referring to the age-verification problem with latin talent.  A lot of guys will fudge their D.O.B.'s to appear younger and more promising.  This had been a concern for the Pirates, but then we started doing bone marrow tests, which can narrow down a guy's age to within 12 months.  Sano is 16 or 17.  Of this, science tells us (see this Dejan article for more on that).
There are doubts about Sano’s age since he looks and plays so much older. Those doubts are justified because many players from Latin America have falsified their ages to get a better deal. Sophisticated tests have been run on Sano, but there remains doubt.
This is vintage Smizik.  "There are doubts that it's going to be sunny today.  Those doubts are justified because Pittsburgh is regularly cloudy, if not rainy.  The weather channel, local forecast, and observable data say it's a beautiful day out with 0% chance of rain.  ...But I have my doubts!"
As far as warning signs, no one need look any further than the Pirates inability to evaluate young talent in the recent past. 
That does it.  After this entry I'm going to go get plastered and come back with an iMovie video montage of all the prospects Neal Huntington's administration has scouted, signed, or traded for, and I'm going to set it to something like this.
C'mon, people!  This nonsense has to stop.  The overhaul of our front office was 100%.  The scouts, directors of player development, and coaches are all Huntington's.  His decisions have been the polar opposite of Littlefield's.  
Although they have been dealing with players 18 and older, they have been largely incorrect in their evaluations. Of the 16 first-round draft choices the Pirates have made since they took Jason Kendall in 1992, Paul Maholm has been the most and, arguably, only successful pick
Christ, that's awful.  Maybe you should fire the GM who was responsible for all that shitty scouting and get someone new.
Behind Maholm would be Kris Benson and then Sean Burnett. 
You mean Joel Hanrahan?
Of course, the jury is still out on some of the more recent picks but even among those only Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez look to have significant upside.
1) our amateur draft selections have crippled the team.
2) we shouldn't pursue someone in the international pool who might make us better.
Although the Pirates might be worse than other franchises in talent evaluation, they are not the only organization that has difficulty. It's just the nature of the business. Projecting young men as professionals is not a science and sometimes it's a guessing game.
3) no one knows anything, therefore don't do anything.
Since the draft began in 1965, 13 pitchers have been taken with the No. 1 overall choice. The most successful of the lot has been Andy Benes, with a career record of 155-139. Three others, Tim Belcher (146-140), Mike Moore (161-176) and Floyd Bannister (134-143), have had success. The others, like the Pirates Bryan Bullington, have been failures.
4) Miguel Sano will make a poor big league pitcher if we draft him number one overall in the U.S. amateur draft.
If talent evaluators can’t get the No. 1 pick, often college-age players, right, how can they be expected to expertly evaluate a 16 year old?
So much wrong with this line of reasoning.  
First of all, there's no guarantee of anything.  Fuck it, we don't know.  That doesn't mean we should sit on our hands and do nothing.
Secondly, you gave a list of American born and raised pitchers who were drafted high in the U.S. amateur talent draft.   Miguel Sano is neither a pitcher, nor is he part of the American amateur talent pool.  Both of these things are incredibly significant.  The reason it's such a crap shoot to commit to pitching prospects isn't because we can't project quality, it's because we can't project health.  It's so easy for a young pitcher to blow out his arm, and that has everything to do with why these guys weren't successful.  
Now let's talk about this domestic talent draft versus the international pool.  Imagine if the NHL draft only included Canadians and USAmericans.  That would mean that the talent available through the draft would drop off much fast, which would give more bargaining power to number 1 picks like Sidney Crosby.  It would also mean that a bum team drafting seventh would miss out on the marquee impact players, but could go on the international scouting circuit and sign an Alex Ovechkin or Evgeni Malkin for a ton of money.  Should they not go out an sign an international talent, just because they got a mediocre player in the domestic draft?  No fucking way.   Metaphor complete.
Signing Sano would be a major public-relations coup for the Pirates and a large step foward in the talent-rich Dominican.
Don't worry about whether or not he can play.  We're going to win the hearts and minds of everyone in Allegheny County and Santo Domingo.  
But to spend $4 million on a 16-year-old kid, well, that sounds like something the Pirates of Dave Littlefield would do.
I once read an editorial in the New York Post, written by former U.N. Ambassador, John Bolton, about how peace in Israel would be a far greater risk to U.S. security than the Iraq War had been.  That made me angry.  But not as angry as what Smizik just said.
Neal Huntington has a penchant for acquiring undervalued sleepers; both veterans and prospects.  None of his pick-ups are multimillion dollar deals.  
Dave Littlefield would go out every season and sign a couple bum free agents or trade for an overpaid veteran, few of them under the age of 30.  He'd give a guy anywhere from $1 million to $8 million for a year.  Almost all of them would either be cut in training camp, or traded midway through the season.  Here are a couple names:
Danny Kolb (age 32)
Tony Armas Jr. (age 29, $3 million)
Jeromy Burnitz (age 37, $6 million)
Sean Casey (age 31, $8.5 million)
Roberto Hernandez (age 41, $2.75 million)
Joe Randa (age 36, $4 million)
Cesar Izturis (age 27, $4+ million)
Matt Morris (age 32, $10+ million)
Matt Lawton (age 33, $7.75 million)
Benito Santiago (age 40, $2.15 million)
Raul Mondesi (age 33, $1.15 million)
Kenny Lofton (age 36, $1.025 million)
Reggie Sanders (age 35, $1 million)
This is what Littlefield would do.  This is not at all what Huntington is doing.  I can go on, but I think the point is obvious.  One guy flushed millions of dollars down the toilet, another guy wants to buy a bunch of scratch-n-win cards.  Both could lose out, but only one is in a position to win.
SpinMove has already written your paper a letter.  Please don't make him have to write a second one-- we're running out of FTC stationary.

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