Saturday, May 2, 2009

Some Saturday Stuff

-- Yah know, we're taking a look at this Pirate power outage thing and how fingers are getting pointed at Brandon Moss. We pulled out his stats from Baseball Reference, and guess what? Moss has never been a guy that showed anything but occasional thump with his bat.

In 320 MLB at-bats, he has 8 homers; that's one every 40 trips. Last year, his six taters averaged out to one every 25 at-bats. That's an OK number, but maybe it was an anomaly until his book got around to the National League staffs during the off-season.

In the minors, he hit 74 long balls in 2,524 at-bats, one every 34 at-bats. His best years were in 2005 & 2006 when he launched 16.

The verdict? Maybe the sample is too small at this point of his career to really know if he's gonna be a fair power guy. Then again, his background suggests that if you get 12-15 long balls out of him, that's a decent year.

Or, as Will Pellas suggests, his achy knee may be a long-term problem that will prevent him from reaching his potential. He sure doesn't look like he has the hop in the outfield that he did last season.

Time will tell, but with Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata due at PNC sooner rather than later, the clock is ticking on Moss.

-- We looked up Andy LaRoche's stats at Baseball Reference, too, and he's much more of an enigma. In MLB action, he's been up 382 times, with six salamis, one every 64 at-bats. And even with a decent start at the dish, his lifetime MLB batting average is still just .194, a full one hundred points lower than his farm average of .294.

He packed a punch in the minors, hitting 95 homers, one every 19 at-bats. He did even better at AAA Las Vegas, where he hit 33 homers in 502 at-bats, one dinger every 15 times up. The PCL is a notorious hitters league, but that's still pretty good production.

He has a longer leash than Moss, with Neil Walker (.197-3-12) off to another abysmal start at Indy and Pedro (.234-5-21) flashing some power but not much of an average at Lynchburg. But the clock is ticking on him, too, to prove that he's not more than a utility, or worse, a AAAA player.

-- With Craig Hansen and Bryan Morris on the DL and Moss and LaRoche underachieving, both the Bosox and Dodgers are big winners so far in the Jay Bay/Manny deal. We know the old adage of waiting three seasons to evaluate a trade, but...

-- We're also wondering a bit about about Freddy Sanchez's eye. It's apparently 100% at the dish, where he's back to wearing out the pitchers with a .333 average and deep at-bats. But we've seen him miss a couple balls in the field recently that the old Steady Freddy would have eaten up.

It could just be a bad week at the office, but it may be he's having trouble picking up a ball in play as well as he once did. We'll watch that over the course of the year.

-- John Perrotto has some Machavellian twists and turns involving the Pirates and Jack Wilson in his Pirates Report. He thinks they'll keep him for 2010, but not necessarily in the traditional manner.

-- The Pirate pitching continues to be amazing, giving up a league low 79 runs and 3.35 ERA (it was a NL high 5.10 in 2008). Oddly, among the top five NL teams in ERA, four have records ranging from 12-10 to 11-11; only the Cards (17-7), second with a 3.58 ERA, are piling up wins behind their strong arms.

A lot of the improvement is due to Joe Kerrigan and the staff preparing both physically and mentally for a game. But a huge part of the success belongs to fielding coaches Perry Hill & Gary Varsho.

The Pirate defensive efficiency rate - balls put into play that are turned into outs - was 68% last season, next to last; it's a league-leading 75% so far this year. Both the infield and outfield are playing catch and throw much better than they did last season.

A worrisome peripheral for the Pirates - they are dead last in strikeouts with 118, and still eleventh in walks with 91, though vastly improved in that area. The walks you can control; but weak K rates are traditionally a sign of trouble for a staff.

-- And finally, props to Beasley in the third base box and the Buc baserunning. Hey, they still make some boneheaded plays and are waved home on occasional suicide missions. But as a team, they're being more aggressive on the basepaths and taking chances when the game situation calls for them to roll the dice.

After all, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth, and now Brian Bixler, are the only guys on the team that can run worth a lick.

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