OK, today we look at the CHONE projections for the Bucco staff. One of the problems with projections, of course, is that they depend on a certain baseline of work for accurate results. The more innings under your belt, the better the projection.
Most of the bullpen has pitched long enough for a credible history, although Sean Burnett is still haunted from his line as a failed starter. But only half the starters have enough time in service to chart with any degree of accuracy.
So we're just taking a look at, first, what a normal season should be after last season's debacle, and second, a comparison of the pitchers on hand, especially the new and young arms.
LH Paul Maholm (175 innings, 9-10, 4.32 ERA)
LH Tom Gorzelanny (151 innings, 8-9, 4.41 ERA)
RH Ian Snell (174 innings, 9-10, 4.50 ERA)
RH Jeff Karstens (107 innings, 5-6, 4.54 ERA)
LH Zach Duke (164 innings, 8-10, 4.66 ERA)
RH Daniel McCutchen (120 innings, 6-8, 4.80 ERA)
LH Phil Dumatrait (57 innings, 3-4, 4.89 ERA)
RH Jimmy Barthmaier (117 innings, 5-8, 4.92 ERA)
LH Donnie Veal (123 innings, 5-9, 5.85 ERA - probably will work out of the pen)
So CHONE has the staff rebounding. Pitchers are notoriously difficult to slot; most have considerable swings in ERA, wins, and innings from year to year. But it does show the major weakness in the constitution of the Pirate pitching - everyone fits into the 3-4-5 end of the rotation, and no one rises to the top.
Snell, Gorzo, and Maholm are the three to watch. Snell has top of the order stuff, and the other two should fall in behind him. If two of the three come through, the staff should be competitive.
And they need to; CHONE only projects 40 wins or so out of the top five pitchers, and that makes for a long year. Last season, the starters only put together 34 wins, the same number Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly notched by themselves for the Cubs; the other half came from the overused and overexposed Pirate pen.
If they don't...well, McCutchen may have mid-order potential one day, and it's gonna be a long time until Brad Lincoln and Bryan Morris will be ready for the show. And that's about it for the foreseeable future.
And no, we didn't forget about Ross Ohlendorf. Sean Smith at CHONE has him as a bullpen guy. Maybe he knows something we don't...
RH Matt Capps (62 innings, 4-3, 3.48 ERA)
RH Juan Mateo (47 innings, 3-2, 3.83 ERA)
RH Ross Ohlendorf (64 innings, 4-3, 3.94 ERA)
LH John Grabow (66 innings, 4-3, 3.95 ERA)
RH T.J. Beam (64 innings, 4-3, 4.08 ERA)
RH Tyler Yates (64 innings, 4-3, 4.08 ERA)
RH Brian Slocum (48 innings, 3-3, 4.13 ERA)
RH Craig Hansen (65 innings, 4-4, 4.15 ERA)
RH Denny Bautista (66 innings, 4-4, 4.23 ERA)
RH Jesse Chavez (60 innings, 4-4, 4.24 ERA)
RH Chris Bootcheck (50 innings, 3-3, 4.32 ERA)
RH Evan Meek (52 innings, 3-3, 4.33 ERA)
LH Sean Burnett (61 innings, 3-4, 4.72 ERA)
LH Daniel Haigwood (47 innings, 2-3, 4.98 ERA - will probably start at Indy)
RH Romulo Sanchez (52 innings, 2-3, 5.19 ERA)
What's it tell us? Just what we've always known. The Bucs have always been fairly deep in the pen compared to the rotation, and seem to have forged a master mold of arms (not a lot of difference from Beam to Meek, according to CHONE) available as interchangeable parts as performance and injury require.
Mateo and Slocum are rated higher than we thought; they could be interesting guys to watch in Bradenton, although both are probably predestined to land at Indy.
The obvious concern is that without Damaso Marte, the team is noticeably short handed from the left side, especially if the suits find a taker for Grabow. Maybe Veal can pick up the slack, but that's a big if for a Rule 5 pick-up looking for a spot.
Just making the team would be a major accomplishment for him. And if he sticks, we see an Evan Meek template of sorts in the making - back to the minors in 2010 for a spell to work on becoming a starter, where his value to the team would skyrocket.
And speaking of making the team, what better way to segue into CHONE's look at the farm:
RH Yoslan Herrera (106 innings, 5-7, 5.18 ERA)
RH Derek Hankins (111 innings, 4-8, 5.59 ERA)
RH Michael Crotta (111 innings, 4-8, 5.68 ERA)
LH Corey Hamman (102 innings, 4-7, 5.74 ERA)
LH Anthony Watson (91 innings, 3-7, 6.13 ERA)
LH Brian Holliday (92 innings, 3-7, 6.13 ERA)
RH Brad Lincoln (51 innings, 2-4, 6.18 ERA - first season back from TJ surgery)
LH Daniel Moskos (72 innings, 2-6, 6.25 ERA - probably destined for bullpen)
RH Jared Hughes (103 innings, 3-8, 6.64 ERA)
RH Bryan Morris - not rated by CHONE.
Don't weep quite yet - all these guys are young. Littlefield didn't leave much in the system, and it shows. There's a huge gap in MLB ready arms in the organization, and that's why the team was blown up last season - to buy time for the future.
RH Jeff Sues (34 innings, 1-2, 5.03 ERA)
LH Dave Davidson (44 innings, 2-3, 5.32 ERA)
RH Matt McSwain (27 innings, 1-2, 5.53 - starts in minors)
RH Eric Krebs (30 innings, 1-2, 5.70 ERA - starts in minors)
RH Ronald Uviedo (26 innings, 1-2, 6.58 ERA)
As for this gang, all the AAA arms will have an audition in spring training, and if you're in the minors and used out of the bullpen for anything other than closing, well, that's not a great career path to be on. Sues and Uviedo, though, have the potential to reach PNC as contributing arms.
We knew the pitching was Pittsburgh's Achille's heel. The projections show it, and the fact that 14 of the 23 guys going to spring training this year are Huntington pick-ups confirms the tale.