Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bob Smizik's Newest Steaming Pile of Feces

Here you go.

This kind of post comes right in line with the point I've been hammering home recently, the talent we had before was not any good, which includes that 2008 team.

Will the 2010 team win more games that the 2008 team? God, I hope so. They only won 67 games that year, but like the past two years, they could have won more had they not made the Nady/Bay trades in July and then went 17-37 in the last two months of the season, but the 2008 team is the 2008 team... and they won just 67 teams. This 2010 team has yet to play a game, but we have a pretty good idea of how the roster will end up, and WHYGAVS recently took a look at how the projection systems see the Buccos playing out in the upcoming season, I agree with CHONE in that 74 wins would be a solid number. Needless to say, I don't see the 2010 Buccos being worse than a 68 win team. This team will have a better record than the 2008 team, I'll put my guarantee on it.

But wins and losses aren't the best way of measuring talent. I would think pedigree and projection would be one way to look at talent. Since Smizik used that 2008 team as an example of superior talent, let's look at how talented that team was as compared to this team. Position by position. Since there are only so many hours in a day that I can spend looking up Pirates statistics, I'll look at the position players first. Pitchers tomorrow. Note: I will be using the word talented a lot because that's the word Smizik used in his post, but I would much prefer "valuable".

Catcher: 2008 was Doumit's breakout year, when he was a beast at the plate and posted a 3.9 WAR season. I don't think Doumit will ever be that good again as that was probably his peak season at age 27. If Doumit stays healthy (huge if), he could easily put up a 2 WAR season (CHONE has him at 1.6, while the fans project him at 2.4). Either way, the 2008 Doumit was younger and better (not to mention cheaper), therefore more talented and valuable than the 2010 Doumit. Although I would take Jason Jaramillo ('10) over Joggin' Ronny Paulino ('08) any day as a backup, and considering the Pirates have an heir apparent in '09 first pick Tony Sanchez, the gap in total talent is not as far as it seems (I'll try and stick to the MLB rosters, but the gap in system depth is so startling from '08 to '10, that it is tough not to point out future cornerstones as well). ('08)

Fist Base: Despite Adam LaRoche's streaky tendencies, he was pretty consistent with the Pirates, all but for the 2008 season (mostly due to his defense that year). He was already 28 and only worth 1.6 WAR that season. Jeff Clement is a big question mark at first base, as it's not even a given that he holds down the position for the entire year. But I think he will, and I think he'll do a decent job at it, while showing why he was the 3rd overall pick in 2005. CHONE has him pegged at a 1.2 WAR season, not bad for a guy who has never had an extended big league look. Clement will be just 26 next season and probably hitting his peak, while he has a pedigree that LaRoche never had. I think this is kind of a push, although the Pirates in '10 have a backup plan in Garrett Jones. (Push)

Second Base: Freddy was pretty much replacement level in 2008, posting a .3 WAR value in an injury riddled season. He was talented enough to bounce back the next year with an average season, but he was already 30 and injury plagued by 2008 (he will never again be the player he was from 05-07). Despite Aki Iwamura's ACL injury this past season, he has never been prone to injury (although all it takes is one injury to start the domino effect). He's been pretty consistent in his time in the MLB (not to mention his consistency while in Japan), and is projected for a 2.2 WAR by CHONE/2.7 WAR by the fans. He will be 31, but I still think he is more talented now than Freddy was in '08, although that's debatable. ('10)

Third Base: No matter what your thoughts on Andy LaRoche are (I think this will be his breakout season at age 26), he will be better than Jose Bautista was in 2008 (not to mention the Andy LaRoche we got from the Dodgers in July of that year). Just don't even try and debate that. ('10)

Shortstop: Shortstop is the biggest remaining question for the Pirates in '10. Ronny Cedeno is not that good, and while Jack Wilson is no Honus Wagner with the bat, his glove makes him a very valuable SS. But even considering that, JW was worth just 1.5 WAR in '08 as 30-year old, while Cedeno is projected for a .9 WAR in '10 by CHONE and will be just 27 this season. Cedeno also has a pretty impressive track record in the minor leagues. I'm not saying he is better now than Wilson was in '08, I'm just saying there is a possibility he can put up a comparable WAR (although even I'm not optimistic, he doesn't have the plate patience, so it all depends on his glove). But I will say that Bobby Crosby in '10 will be more talented than Luis Rivas and Chris Gomez were in '08. ('08)

Left Field: Jason Bay was really good in '05/'06, but fell off mostly due to his fielding (injuries), which included his 2.9 WAR season in '08. Bay was already 29 by that time, but continues to show he can still hit, so he's got that going for him (although putting him in Citi won't help). Say what you want about Lastings Milledge, but he will be much better defensively in LF in '10 than Bay was in '08, but his bat is still a question mark (CHONE has him at just 0.7 WAR while the fans think 1.8 WAR). Can he hit for enough power and draw enough walks to make his OPS respectable for a LF? I'm optimistic, as he will be just 25 this upcoming season and has a tremendous pedigree as an amateur and in the minors. I'd still take Bay in '08 despite the injuries and the age, but don't be surprised if Milledge breaks out this year. It's closer than you think. Although that '08 team also had Nyjer Morgan on the roster who turned out be the best defensive outfielder in the game in '09... ('08)

Centerfield: McCutchen '10 > McLouth '08. Better pedigree, younger, more equipped to play center, just better. And that's not really a huge knock on McLouth, he was a 3.5 WAR player in '08 no thanks to his defense, but he was already 26. McCutchen put up a 3.4 WAR season in just 108 games this past season at age 22. CHONE has him at 3.4 WAR (so the values may be closer than we think) while the fans are more optimistic (4.7 WAR). I'm in between, say a 4 WAR at age 23, not too shabby. ('10)

Right Field: In just 89 games with the Pirates in 2008, Xavier Nady was a beast (putting up a .919 OPS), which helped him towards posting a 4 WAR season in '08. Unfortunately, he's been mediocre and injury plagued the rest of his career. He was also already 28, which probably put him at or right past his peak. But the same could be said for Garrett Jones the past season when he was 28 and put up a 2.6 WAR in a little over half a season. CHONE has him at just 1.8 WAR (the fans actually thought less, 1.6 WAR) for this upcoming season. So I guess we can safely say that Nady was better in '08 than Jones will be in '10. Although the Pirates did not have a top prospect in Jose Tabata (who they got from the Yankees in exchange for... Xavier Nady!) waiting in the wings back in '08. They also didn't have a guy like Ryan Church who could act as a backup plan just in case Jones flops. ('08)

So the way I look at it, the '08 team was more talented by a score of 4-3, with first base being a push. Considering the age comparisons and cost of the '10 team, it's closer than one would think (although cost has nothing to do with talent, just value). Even the clear '08 winners are much more closer than you would think, like Bay/Milledge and Wilson/Cedeno.

Either way, as I was writing this, I realized how futile the process was. Isn't it pathetic that I'm comparing the current team to a 67 win team from '08 just to prove a point? Especially considering that it looks like that '08 lineup was better than the current one? But then I looked at the '08 pitching performance and realized I had a long way to go in evaluating just how bad that '08 team was.

Pitchers tomorrow, and please allow yourself a full hour between a meal and reading the post, because it ain't pretty.

(Note: all statistics were taken from FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference, and I stole that photo from the PensBlog, who probably stole it from someone else, so who cares)

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