Friday, July 10, 2009

All-Star standby

As you may have heard, there's the possibility that our sole representative at the All-Star Game, Freddy Sanchez, won't be a Pirate long enough to actually represent us. I have no idea what MLB will do in this scenario, but it won't go unnoticed. They'll either have Steady Freddy go out on the field wearing a Pirates' hat as his one last salute to Allegheny county, or they'll fly a replacement Buc out to St. Louis at 3am in the morning, and Joe Buck will constantly remind the viewers that this guy is back at the hotel and pseudo-available should Charlie Manuel need him.

For the sake of this entry, let's assume MLB is so married to their policy of every team getting a representative on the roster, that they go with the second option. That means it's a time for deciding: who is that All-Star level replacement Buc (ASLRB)?

After Freddy, Adam LaRoche has been our most productive bat. However, considering that the NL is already taking four first basemen, I kind of doubt there's anything Adam L. can offer that they don't have.
Adam LaRoche- .259/.345/.464, OPS+ 118, 12 HR
Ryan Howard- .253/.332/.522, OPS+ 120, 21 HR
Prince Fielder- .312/.433/.615, OPS+ 175, 22 HR
Adrian Gonzalez- .256/.396/.539, OPS+159, 24 HR
Albert Pujols- .332/.458/.723, OPS+ 210, 31 HR

Yeah, sorry Adam.

I know we'd all love to see Andrew McCutchen's upside validated by a trip to the All-Star Game, but he's sinking like a stone all the way to the middle. What had been a high BAbip, low-ish walk rate, and limited power, is now a reasonable BAbip, low-ish walk rate, and limited power, good for .291/.346/.440. I've seen this kid play, I love him. He is going to be what we dreamed he would be. But right now, it's a stretch to say he's All-Star worthy. Also, he's only played 33 games.

Of the guys who have 250 PAs thus far, only Adam LaRoche and Sanchez have OPS+ above league average. So, what kind of pitching could we bring to the party?

Zach Duke has the best ERA of any of our starters, at 3.28. His 4.5 K/9 is pretty pathetic, and a BAbip of .280 can only contain that 1.22 WHIP for so long. Still, if Tim Wakefield is going to St. Louis with his 4.31 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and 11 Boston Red Sox wins, I feel like Duke wouldn't be an embarrassing choice. He's not dominant on the same level as some of the other guys who'll be there, and yeah, he has sort of gotten lucky thus far, but he's still not a Mark Redman.
Rocco DeMaro made this point in his mid-season review of the team, and I fully agree with it: there are no star players on the Pirates. Freddy is the closest we have to a star. McCutchen is a star in wait. Saying that Adam LaRoche and Zach Duke are two of our most productive players is indicative of our mediocrity.

That said, star power shouldn't be an immediate concern for this team. The days of importing someone who once was a star, or someone who never was but got paid like a star-- those days are over. Huntington is investing a lot in the development side of things because that's where actual rebuilding takes place. Not on the surface with one or two guys who are great but surrounded by bums.

I miss Jason Bay. I miss feeling like there's A guy who is legit. But how much more fun will it be when all of a sudden there are like four or five guys who are legit? That's coming.

Yours in Christ,

Johnny Q. Optimism

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