Ol' bud and collaborator Wil Pellas gave GW a call the other night, and we discussed the usual - can a team really be this bad? And can it be fixed?
Well, we came up a with a couple of quick patches (you're welcome, Mr. Huntington) that might help out before next's season's opening bell.
First, rearrange the infield. Hey, Zach Duke and Paul Maholm haven't been the sharpest tools in the pitching kit, but if lack of support was a baseball tort, they'd be getting their teammates paychecks.
Don't wait until a couple of seasons down the road to put Pedro at first; do it in 2011; no more Jeff Clement or John Bowker, please. Yah, yah, waste of an arm, we know, but if you can't catch the ball, a rifle doesn't do you much good. Steve Pearce can give him a blow against some lefties and be a defensive sub for the late innings. This will have a much-needed domino effect on the right side.
Neil Walker moves to third. He's done yeoman's work at second, especially considering he came to the big club with fewer than two dozen games at the position, but he's not very instinctive, has trouble digging out balls and his footwork isn't very graceful.
Put him at the hot corner, where he's comfortable and competent. We kinda like Pedro Ciriaco to take the second base spot internally; he's got some wheels, a good glove, and can probably hit .250 or so. If not, there are a zillion middle infield vets who pop up every year in the winter and can do the job; grab one.
And no, we're not tossing Garrett Jones out with the wash. Jones and Lastings Milledge show distinct righty/lefty splits with their strokes; they should be a decent platoon in right offensively, and no worse than in the field than the grab bag being trotted out there now by JR.
Catching? You're on your own there, front office. Chris Snyder isn't the answer, Dewey's concussions remove him from full-time consideration, JJ and Eric Kratz flopped with the twigs...pray that Tony Sanchez stays healthy and gets here by June 2012. There should be a Raul Chavez sort of player available on the market who can give you forty games without much drop off.
The most obvious hole in this rearrangement is that Milledge and Pearce aren't middle of the order hitters; lefties would see a definite Punch-and-Judy lineup. And we don't think keeping Dewey around will alleviate that problem; he's flat out terrible as a right handed hitter (.186, 2 HR's).
A right handed hitter with a little pop would help that, particularly as a first baseman/corner outfielder. But the pickings are slim with this year's free agent class and within the Pirate organization; that may be a shortcoming the team will have to live with. Take a peek at the waiver wire; Chad Huffman of the Yankees just popped up on the list.
As Wil notes about the musical chairs, "...it maximizes the assets we have on hand, as opposed to various free-agent, pipe-dream scenarios. I don't see how they can keep running Pedro out there at third. He's a first baseman, period.
Walker at third won't be an elite offensive player, but he'll be good enough, and his defense will be a significant upgrade. Meanwhile Pearce can at least sort-of hit lefties and he's a superior defensive 1B, and can spell both Pedro and Jones here and there."
This lineup does give the pitching a chance of seeing some plays made behind it, and puts both Pedro and Walker in what should be their long-term positions sooner rather than later. We think it's worth a try.