The Polanco Disease

Gregory Polanco is in the big leagues and it's really exposed some things about Pirate fans that less subjective viewers of the team have probably noticed.

Pirate fans are extremely, extremely over emotional and don't factor in logic and reason too often. I don't even think I need to talk about how ridiculous it was to think that the Pirates weren't doing the right thing holding Polanco down until they were actually sure they would miss the cut off for Super 2. Give me a break. It's been talked about enough and it's over now - so let's move on.

The main problem now is that since he's been called up everybody acts like he's a sure fire hall of famer. There's nothing wrong with getting a little bit over excited about a guy who's never seen a big league pitch yet, but comparing a guy to Barry Bonds before he's ever taken batting practice in a Major League Baseball field? It's one thing to say that stuff about someone like Bryce Harper who was highly coveted and covered since he was 15 years old - but Polanco doesn't fall into that category. Sure, he couldn't have gotten that kind of exposure since he wasn't raised in the USA - just look at his minor league numbers. He didn't play more than 60 games until 2012, and nobody even knew his name until at least then anyways.

In that 2012 season he hit .325/.388/.522 with 16 HR and 40 SB in 116 games. Fantastic numbers. That's when people started taking notice, however he was doing it in low-A West Virginia which doesn't get any real scouts too excited. Next up was 2013 where he played in A+, AA, and then 2 games in AAA. In A+ he hit .312/.364/.472 in 57 games which got him promoted to AA, where he actually struggled. He hit .263/.354/.407 in 68 games in Altoona and didn't give Pirate fans much of a reason to be anxious to see him in the big leagues coming into the 2013 season. It wasn't until spring training this year that people actually thought about Polanco wearing a Pirate uniform. He had a great spring and that's when this all started. A handful of more head in butt fans were calling for him to start the year with the Bucs, which was just ridiculous and brushed off mainly. Then the Pirates struggled for the first several weeks of the season and people became GM's again. They looked down to the AAA stats (his first year in AAA mind you) and saw Polanco having no problem with pitching down there - and he immediately became the solution to every problem they're precious professional sports team was having - which in turn became personal problem affecting their every day lives.

Polanco hit a ridiculous .347/.405/.540 in AAA and got his promotion right when he should have. Now he's almost expected to put up all-star level numbers despite being 22 years old and all new to this hyped up prospect thing.

Then Tim Williams broke some bad news that he was going to be promoted, which turned out no to be true, and people wanted to burn him at the stake. I googled that expression to make sure it was 'stake' and we weren't really burning people with cow meat. Williams let out an almost pathetic apology post where he said that he was so upset about reporting false news that he thought about quitting blogging (his full time job)?! What the hell?

It's silly. Despite it being silly, it's entertaining and it makes sports more interesting. Complaining about things on social media is stupid because if you wanted it to go away you could simply just stop looking at it - but at this point it's like a sore tooth that you can't stop sucking air into. I'm sure people have always been like this, but these days you can see it first hand, and it can get frustrating.

The point is, it's just a sport. Let Polanco develop, realize he's a human being and only one of 25 on this team, and stop letting sports affect your every day lives so much.

I'll try to post more angry thoughts about the Pirates as soon as I have some.

Thoughts on Gregory Polanco

I haven't posted on here in weeks, but this news about the Pirates offering Gregory Polanco a seven year deal was interesting enough to bring me back.

I'm certainly not the most well versed on baseball contracts and contract offers, but as far as I've paid attention I have never heard of a team offering a long term contract to a player that hasn't even made his major league debut yet. That's crazy to me. It's not that surprising considering what the team already did with Starling Marte earlier this year, he got a big contract with less than two years of service time under his belt, which isn't very common either - but they are really reaching down with Polanco.

Really to attempt to do this is a great idea in my eyes. Sure, he's an unproven player. You see big time prospects not live up to their potential all the time, so the Pirates are taking a calculated risk of spending a lot of money on a player they don't know is going to be anywhere near worth it. Obviously looking at the guy it would be tough for him not to be a very productive major league player, but you never know. The Pirates can save an insane amount of money by signing him now before his big league debut than waiting three years when the dude's an all-star right fielder and other teams are keeping an eye on him for when he gets closer to free agency. It's not like Polanco and his agent don't know that though - which is why they swiftly declined the offer (honestly Polanco would be pretty foolish to even think about signing a deal right now, in my opinion at least).

Just the fact that the Pirates are tryin to start conversations with Polanco is a good step for the organization in signing him eventually. That's a big vote of confidence on their part, which I'm sure players appreciate seeing. Any time you can make a player like your organization better you should do it, so even though the contract wasn't signed I think just the offer increases the chances of signing him in the future.

The other comments people are making is that they were frustrated with Neil Huntington stating that the decision to start Polanco in the minors had nothing to do with money, which is obviously complete bullshit. If Polanco would have accepted a contract extension he absolutely would have been the opening day starter in right field - but since the whole Super Two / arbitration thing that you hear so much about is still in affect, he's in Indy for at least a few more weeks. Fans get mad about that of course because they are impatient and want to see the best team on the field at all times, which is understandable, but I think people take it too far. If you think about it, even if Polanco is a 6 WAR player right now he still couldn't help the team all that much in two months. Say that whoever starts in right field results in a 0 WAR for two months and Polanco would be a 6 WAR player for those same two months (which isn't even the case - Snider, Harrison, and Tabata have certainly contributed positively in the WAR column). A 6 WAR difference over a third of the season is all of a 2 win difference, and that's the absolute extreme. It would be more like a one win difference, which is hardly worth risking losing Polanco a year earlier for - even if they are planning on extending him and not having to worry about it.

All that said, the news that the Pirates tried to extend him already is good news. They're trying to get him early and save money in the long term, which is undoubtably what the Pirates have to do to keep all their young talent. They simply don't have the funds to sign their big names when they hit free agency years, so they have to get them as early as possible. This even signifies to me that Polanco will be up sooner rather than later, which isn't surprising considering he's been the best hitter in AAA anywhere this year. You'll see him by the first week of June, and until then you can just deal with it because there's certainly a lot more wrong with this Pirates team than the production they're getting out of their right fielders. Alright I'll shut up for a couple more weeks now, thanks.

No, Game Length Isn’t Hurting Attendance

by: Patrick Reddick

“If the people don't want to come out to the ballpark, nobody's going to stop them.” - Yogi Berra

The Pirates and Cubs played a 16-inning game last week and few people who stayed until the end cared that it took almost six hours. Most would have stayed until the sun came up. But longer games are apparently the last thing some people want to see.

A “high-ranking executive” told Buster Olney on Monday he was so worried about games being too long that he proposed shortening them to seven innings. He backed the idea so strongly that he would not allow his name to be published in connection with it.

I would never support making games seven innings, but game length comes up every year, so maybe something does need to change. But before we get ahead of ourselves let’s actually look at the numbers: How long are games, really? And is attendance falling because of it?

The length record was set in 2000, when the average game was 178 minutes long. It dropped off after that, but according to the guys holding the stopwatches games have once again increased in length over the past decade. By a whopping ten minutes. Ten minutes, guys. That’s more than nine minutes! It does add up though, over a whole season that’s 27 hours that you could have spent doing whatever it is you do when you aren’t watching baseball… reading high quality baseball blogs perhaps.

Surely this 5% increase in game length has driven fans past their threshold for how much baseball they can consume, right? Eh.

The attendance has clearly been more chaotic over the past decade than the length of games, but it was higher last year than it was in 2004. The major drop was between two seasons in which there was virtually no change in game length. Besides, even if it were declining it would take a lot more than a few graphs to say that it was due to game length.

Younger fans may want shorter games, but if a 2-hour, 50-minute game is fine when a 2-hour, 57-minute game is too long, then the problem isn’t baseball.


4/9 Pirates Opinions and Comments

Did you guys know that Brad Lincoln plays for the Phillies now? Remember the trade the Pirates made in 2012 that sent Lincoln to Toronto for Travis Snider? Remember how mad all the idiot hosts on The Fan were about it (namely Paul Alexander, who no longer has a job in Pittsburgh sports)? Can we revisit that trade real quick?

So since the trade, Brad Lincoln has pitched 60.1 innings (58 of which were with the Blue Jays in 2012 and 2013) and he has allowed 35 earned runs in those innings. Lincoln has a 5.24 ERA since the trade. Mind you, he went from one of the worst hitting divisions in the league to the best, but needless to say he hasn't lived up to his closer potential that everyone was seeing when he was in Pittsburgh. On the other side of the deal, Snider hasn't helped the Pirates much either with a .228/.298/.327 triple slash line, so you can't say the Pirates necessarily got the best of the deal, but you'd rather have potential in an outfielder than in a bullpen pitcher after all. And nobody misses Paul Alexander's blabberings.

I haven't talked about the Jameson Taillon Tommy John surgery news on here yet. I have nothing to say, that news really bites.

The Pirates have looked very good early on. You can't hope for much better than a 5-2 record to open the year (you could have hoped for 6-1 or 7-0 I suppose, but we have the 3rd best guess which is a bronze medal right?). It was nice to see them win a game in which they didn't pitch well last night. You don't expect this club to score seven runs very often in a game, but it's always relieving to time those games well. Pedro Alvarez has hit the ball hard this year, Andrew McCutchen is getting out of his early slump, and they've gotten surprising performances from Travis Ishikawa and Edinson Volquez, can't ask for much more than than seven games in right? And it's always nice to win some games against division foes. Nobody expects the Cubs to be in the race at the end of the year, but every game against the Cardinals really counts, because you never know if that head-to-head record is going to be a determiner at the end of the year. A win in April could mean the difference between winning the division or having to play another one game wild card series. As of right now, the Cardinals have to have one more win than us to be in first place, so that's always nice.

Bucs started a long stretch of games last night with their win in Chicago, and they pick it back up tonight at 8:05 as Wandy Rodriguez faces Jason Hammel. The Pirates made Hammel look like a Cy Young contender last Thursday in a game they lost 3-2. I'm not a baseball genius, but I'm pretty sure Hammel isn't a Cy Young contender, so hopefully the Pirates can prove that to me tonight. After that it's a classic 2:20 game in Chicago then a flight to Milwaukee for a weekend series with the Brewers, who have also started hot with a 5-2 record and a rejuvenated Ryan Braun, who hit three home runs yesterday in Philadelphia (one off the aforementioned Brad Lincoln). So we can get back to cussing out Braun this weekend for how good and douchey he is. That'll be fun, right?

Gerrit Cole 4/4 Pitch FX

7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K
Pitch TypeVelocH-BreakV-BreakCountStrike%
4-Seam 95.8 -6.20 7.13 69 66.7%

Run expectancy table - when should the Pirates bunt?

I'm a big fan of the use of math when making decisions on what action to take during sports games. Baseball is far and away the best sport to do such things, which probably accounts for a lot of the reason that this here blog exists. One of my favorite elements of the use of math in baseball is when you can use the history of the game to determine run expectancy in given situations.

One of these interesting situations happened in the ninth inning of today's game. The Pirates were down by one run and Neil Walker led off the inning with a single. The Pirates needed just one run to stay in the game, so that's what they should have been aiming for.

According to math, the chances of scoring one run with no outs and a man on first are about 43.5% and you can expect .435 runs that inning. From there, the Pirates had a decision about what to tell the next batter to do. The two options are bunting the runner to second or swinging to try and do more than that and avoid recording an out. Let's say that Gaby Sanchez bunted Walker over successfully. That would change the situation to having a man on second base with one out. The chances of scoring a run in that situation is 41.4% and the expected number of runs for the inning is 0.69. So by bunting the runner over, the Pirates increased their expected runs for the inning, but actually decreased their chances of scoring Walker's run by 2.1%.

Charlie Morton 4/2 Pitch F/X

6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
Pitch TypeVelocH-BreakV-BreakCountStrike%
4-Seam 92.7 -7.81 6.15 12 75%
2-Seam 92.2 -9.512.483464.3%
Sinker93.8 -9.571.394367.4%

Cubs (0-2) vs. Pirates (2-0), Game 3


Jason Hamel (0-0, 0.00) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (0-0, 0.00)

Pirates lineup:
  1. Starling Marte, LF
  2. Travis Snider, RF
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  4. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
  5. Neil Walker, 2B
  6. Travis Ishikawa, 1B
  7. Tony Sanchez, C
  8. Jordy Mercer, SS
  9. Wandy Rodriguez, SP

Cubs (0-1) vs. Pirates (1-0), Game 2


Edwin Jackson (0-0, 0.00) vs. Charlie Morton (0-0, 0.00)

Pirates lineup:
  1. Starling Marte, LF
  2. Travis Snider, RF
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  4. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
  5. Russell Martin, C
  6. Neil Walker, 2B
  7. Travis Ishikawa, 1B
  8. Jordy Mercer, SS
  9. Charlie Morton, SP

The 2013 Part II Pirates Baseball Club

by Brandon Posa

As I waited anxiously for the pregame festivities to start on Opening Day Monday afternoon, something just felt a little bit off. The last time I sat in this beautiful ballpark was October 1, 2013 for the game of my life. That Wild Card game will forever live on in my memory as the day the Pirates corrected their course back into a winning franchise. The players, the chants, and the raised-Jolly Roger are moments that will never escape me. But now, about seven months after the Pirates secured their first postseason victory since 1992, something felt different. Sure, this was the beginning of a brand new season, one in which the organization and fans alike both have the same goal in securing our first National League pennant since 1979. But to me, this was one of the most unique scenarios a ball club has ever found themselves in: on paper this was a brand new season, but in the hearts of the players and fans, this was merely a continuation of the memorable 2013 season.

Opening Day was fantastic. We saw Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, and Clint Hurdle all honored by former esteemed Pirates of years past, and it was incredible. From Bonds to Leyland, and Groat to Jumpin' Jack Wilson, this was a great day for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The past was reconnecting with the present, and what more could you possibly ask for on a beautiful day for baseball? We saw starter Francisco Liriano look like he never missed a beat while throwing six shutout innings to go with ten strikeouts. The Shark Tank reactivated, with Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli, and Bryan Morris all combining to throw four shutout innings. And, in case you haven't heard, hometown hero Neil Walker sealed the day with a 10th inning walkoff home run over the Clemente Wall.

This wasn't a brand new team, filled with unfamiliar faces. This is virtually the same team looking to continue what they started last year.

This is a team that is full of young, high-ceiling potential that the city hasn't seen in years. This is a team that may have lost a few impact players, sure. But that clubhouse is ready to win and finish the job from last season. Everyone has said all the right things: "we've turned the page, 2013 was fun but it's 2014 now." My response to that is simple: these are still the 2013 Pirates, playing in 2014. There's nothing to analyze yet based off of statistics or player comparisons, but if you feel like I did on Monday, this team still exerts the magic of 2013. It looks like the pitching staff, albeit after one game, hasn't missed a beat since the end of 2013, and the offense will come around. There will be help, internally and externally, as the season moves forward. If we thought 2013 was exciting, just wait to see what's in store for 2013 Part II.

60 (Maybe) Surprising Player Projections from Deadspin from Baseball Prospectus

This is a reference post to a reference post - we're breaking serious ground here at - the post is Deadspin's which they took from Baseball Prospectus. It's 60 interesting projections made by BP. Check it out by clicking the image below.

Pittsburgh Pirates Preview (hype video by @_DrewBrown)

I'm a little late on this, but my boy @_DrewBrown made another one of his brilliant Pirates videos. You can check it out below. I'd also recommend checking out the rest of his videos cause the dude has serious skill. Also, follow him on twitter cause he's in high school and tweets about crap that happens in high school are hilarious. Videos below. Deuces.

Replays Won’t Be Perfect, But They’ll Teach Us Something

by: Patrick Reddick

They say money can’t buy happiness, but fans sure seemed glad on Monday that Major League Baseball spent $30 million on a new replay room this off-season. Whether that will last is another matter.

Both challenges at PNC Park on Opening Day went in the Pirates’ favor, but there are a few issues with the system that will come to center stage sooner or later. Some might lead to changes in subsequent years and depending on how things shake out, others could potentially legitimize people who think their hometown team is being shortchanged more often than not.

To Review or Not To Review?

As you may have heard, each team gets to challenge one play per game. If the play is overturned, you get another challenge. Also, from the 7th inning onward the umps can elect to review any play they want to, which will not be charged as a challenge to either team.

On Monday, Bryan Morris picked off Emilio Bonifacio at first base. The first base umpire, Bob Davidson, blew the call. Being that it was the 10th inning, the umps could have reviewed it themselves, but none of them seemed to consider the idea until Clint Hurdle came out to challenge it.

This raises a few questions. First, how close does a play have to be before the umps review it on their own? Had Hurdle stayed in the dugout would the umps have avoided the replay because they knew Hurdle had a challenge remaining? Or would they have been more likely to review the play if Hurdle had already used his challenges?

As it played out, the umps essentially forced Hurdle to use his challenge, rather than looking at it themselves. In this case he got another one, but had Hurdle blown a challenge earlier in the game he could have argued until he was red in the face (which we know he excels at) and the umps could have refused to review the play—even though the call was wrong.

The scenario is almost certain to happen: The call will be wrong, the manager will be out of challenges, he’ll argue, the umps will refuse to review, the call will stay wrong, and the umps will be blasted on the post-game show. The irony for the umps is that it almost has to be that way. If the umps just call up New York every time a manager comes out to argue, it would defeat the whole point of limiting challenges in the first place.

But it gets worse, because if you want to argue that managers should be more careful with when they use their challenge and they deserve what they get, even if the call was wrong, then what is the point of even having replay?

Replays Are Now Stats

When NFL refs blow a call, there are so many of them on the field that it can be difficult to say who should shoulder the blame. But in baseball, everyone watching knows that Davidson blew the call (not to pick on him, he certainly won’t be the last). Because we can become so specific, replays have become another stat.

At the end of the season, we will add up which ump had the most calls overturned. Is there some punishment that exists for that guy? That is, beyond the public embarrassment of knowing he’s the worst at his job. We shouldn’t judge too quickly though, as we won’t know for years if some umps are constantly good (or bad) year-after-year or if their quality fluctuates over time.

Like most people, I tend to accept that when you play over 1400 innings in a season, some calls will go your way and others won’t. But now we’ll have numbers to tell us which teams, or even players, had the most incorrect calls made against them. Depending how things shake out, replay statistics could show us that things do in fact even out over time and we were right all along. Then again, we might find that the umps are consistently favoring some teams over others. How do you stop that? More replays.

No matter what they end up telling us, the replays and the numbers they produce will be worth looking at more than once.

Home Opener post game thoughts

You're probably not going to find many game recaps on the site this season, because I've never really seen the point of that. Nobody relies on some blogger nerd to give them a recap of the game, if you want that there are much better alleys to go down. I'm also not on the type of schedule that allows me to pay attention to what the Pirates are doing every night, but it's Opening Day and that's always an exception.

I was at the game today sitting in section 314 and it was just a gorgeous day for baseball - probably the best weather I've seen for an Opening Day for as long as I can remember. Even better than that, the Pirates actually found a way to win the game this year, which they hadn't been able to do for the last three years.

I can't sit here and say how great Francisco Liriano looked, because I really couldn't see how his pitches were moving or how his location really was. Anyone who watches the game from section 314 and tells you they can tell how a pitcher's stuff is looking is a liar. The numbers are real though, six scoreless innings with ten strikeouts - right back into 2013 form it seems. I posted Liriano's pitch f/x here, which I'll try to do as often as I can. You can check that out, watch the highlights, and make your own opinions on how he really looked. One start is nothing to get too excited about, especially when that one start comes against the Cubs, but he couldn't have started his year off much better.

The rest of the bullpen got their job done as well. The Pirates got scoreless innings from Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, Bryan Morris, and Jason Grilli, Watson being the only one not to have to strand a runner. I was keeping an eye on the radar gun when Grill was on the hill, and the pitch f/x show that his fastball sat around 94-96 in his outing. He topped out at 95.9, according to Brooks Baseball. His average velocity in 2013 was 93.3, so it seems his fastball has just as much if not more zip on it this year than last year - which is always good to see from your aging closer. I don't think anybody had any worries about the bullpen coming into this season, and they showed us why today.

The offense was a bit rough. Before Neil Walker's walk off solo home run the team only collected five hits, all but one of which were singles. Two singles came from Travis Ishikawa who had a nice game with a couple slick defensive plays as well. Russell Martin and Andrew McCutchen added the other two singles and Starling Marte had a lead-off double and was then stranded. Pedro Alvarez hit one ball well, but right into a shift for a double play, and he struck out twice. One at bat came against a left-handed pitcher. For what I can see he didn't look all that bad in the box.

You can't take too much from one game, but it's always good to see your pitching staff get out on the right foot - especially with how much we depended on the staff last year to get the team through when their offense goes on their dry spells. It's always a confidence lift to win the first one and look good doing it. The offense is going to unpredictable like it always is, and probably won't finish anywhere near the top of the league in terms of raw numbers, but they showed last year that that's not necessarily a needed ingredient for success.

The big story before the game was the reception that Barry Bonds would receive from the fans. I took a video of the reception (with an iPhone 5S mind you, not the greatest sound quality) that you can check out below. There were some scattered boos and cheers - the reception was pretty neutral to my ears, but check it out for yourself.

Now we have the always hated day off after a very exciting day of baseball and the Pirates will be back in action Wednesday night when Charlie Morton faces Jason Hammel on dollar night at PNC Park. Tickets are ridiculously cheap as they always are for the season's second game, so I'd recommend checking that out. I'll be back with more tomorrow.

Francisco Liriano 3/31 Pitch F/X

6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K
Pitch TypeVelocH-BreakV-BreakCountStrike%
4-Seam 92.7 7.64 8.98 11 54.5%
2-Seam 93.0 9.905.643450.0%
Change86.7 10.144.702653.8%