Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Overbay, Diaz - Upgrades?

OK, the Bucs have dumped Lastings Milledge and are, according to all reports, offering Ryan Doumit around the league as their blue-light special. Matt Diaz and Lyle Overbay are the new hires brought in to add some thump to the lineup.

As collateral damage to the right side remake, Garrett Jones now looks like he's gone from full-time first baseman to part-time right fielder, while Steve Pearce has lost his chance to be a platoon guy at first and is now fighting for a spot on the pine.

Hey, anyone who thinks their position is safe on a team that lost 105 games is delusional; some shakeup is demanded. The point of change, of course, is to improve the team, otherwise the baby is being tossed with the bath water. So does bringing aboard Diaz and Overbay and ditching Milledge and probably Doumit make the Pirates any better?

At first base, 33 year old Overbay brings a veteran presence; he's been in the league for a decade and started for the past seven. Offensively, both guys went through a tough 2010 season, and their final stats were pretty even.

Jones' line was .247/21/87 in 592 at-bats; Overbay's was .243/20/67 in 534 at-bats. Jones was looking at platooning this year, with a lifetime .282 average against righties but just .210 against southpaws.

Overbay, who reportedly cast his lot in the 'Burg because it was his best opportunity for full-time employment, has a career .279 average against righties and a more acceptable .259 average against lefties. But the clincher is in the field.

The ex-Jay has a rep as a strong defender and had a career UZR/150 of 0.2 with a 0.1 in 2010 (His rep is stronger than his numbers). The 29 year old Jones has a lifetime UZR/150 of -7.1 and earned an -8.4 last season. While the bats don't separate the pair by a lot, the gloves do and it shows in their WAR - Overbay is 1.5, Jones 0.1.

So first (and so the whole infield) is upgraded, certainly on defense and possibly at the dish, too, if Overbay regresses to his average stat line, although at his age, you have to be watchful. From what we've garnered, new skipper Clint Hurdle will platoon but prefers not to.

That's too bad; ideally, Overbay would get 400-450 at-bats against right-handed pitchers and Pearce would pick up the starts against lefties. Pearce is a Mendoza line stick against righties, but lights up lefties with a line of .304/.392/.557, and his career UZR/150 at first base is 6.5; it was 10 in 2010. We think he and Overbay would be a nice team at first, even with Pearce's tiny sample size. We'll see what the FO thinks.

As for Doumit, he has the stick to compete for first, but somehow a lifetime UZR/150 of -22.4 seems just a little too shaky. In fact, his rating at first in 2010 was -66. That pretty much rules him out. And as far as being a big bopper, his Isolated Power measure of .155 falls behind that of both Jones (.167) and Overbay (.189).

Long shot Andy Marte may provide a challenge Pearce; he's RH, plays the corner IF, and has some pop. Jeff Clement appears to be left shivering in the Pittsburgh cold; three LH first basemen are two too many.

In right, it looks like a straight platoon situation will play out. Diaz is a monster against southpaws, with a career .335/.373/.533 line, and Jones beats up righties to the tune of .282/.359/.495. Milledge doesn't hit RH'ers as well as Jones nor LH'ers as well as Diaz, and doesn't have the power of either one.

Doumit's bat isn't quite as good lifetime as Jones against RHP nor does it match Diaz's against lefties. The fielding? Well, let's hope they hit a lot balls that McCutch can run down. In 2010, Diaz had a UZR/150 of 0.2; Jones' was -3.5, Milledge's was -1.2 and Dewey's was -40.4. When Matt Diaz is your defensive upgrade...

John Bowker looks like the guy left standing in this game of musical chairs. His .219/5/21 line in 2010, his relative lack of on-field versatility (1B & RF) and being another left-handed bat limit his opportunities. Alex Presley, because of his glove and speed, has a better shot at landing the fifth OF spot if the Pirates don't sign a vet.

So are the Bucs improved? Judging by the WAR, after all the coming and goings, the Pirates are one game better. We think they'll have a little more pop in the lineup, and the infield should be helped by Overbay's glove. But there are no difference makers here.


WilliamJPellas said...

I'm a bit more optimistic than you are, Ron, about Overbay and (especially) Diaz. I hope Diaz will get more ABs than just what he'll pick up against southpaws when Jones sits. In the two seasons in which he had more than 300 at bats, he put up his best numbers. As a 300 to 400 AB guy I think he'd be very productive for us, and even if he's no great shakes defensively, he's still better--or at least more reliably mediocre--than Milledge was. All in all, Diaz is a definitely upgrade over Milledge even if neither one is a worldbeater.

As for Overbay, I would have greatly preferred a return engagement for Adam LaRoche, to be honest, frustrating though his usually nonexistent first half production is. At the end of the year, he can be counted on to make all the routine plays and to hit 25 HR with 80-plus RBI. That's not shabby, it's better than what Overbay is capable of, and he's a couple years younger, too.

But, Overbay it is. He'll help with his glove and clubhouse professionalism; let's hope he can post career average numbers. He should be motivated if he wants to continue his big league career past 2011, as he'll be playing for another contract. I agree with you that an Overbay-Pearce platoon would be an optimal use of the, er, "resources" we have on hand at the moment. Jones and Diaz in right ought to kill it, and hopefully Diaz can snag some additional ABs as the fourth OF and top pinch hitter.

We still don't have nearly enough pitching, especially starting pitching, but considering that none of these guys are true difference makers, I still think they are upgrades overall.

The one question I have is what the Pirates will do in the upcoming draft. If they're really going to draft Anthony Rendon, and if he really can make the bigs within a year of being picked, then obviously he'll be the 3B no later than 2013 and Alvarez moves across the diamond to first---a move than can't happen soon enough for me, as he is a leadfoot DH in the making if ever there was one. But if the team does not draft Rendon, it's a curious move to sign Overbay (or even LaRoche for that matter), as it keeps Alvarez at third for the long term. That can't be good for our team defense. Etc and so forth.

Ron Ieraci said...

We'll see, Wil. The FO got them both on the cheap after off years; I hope they both revert to their usual seasons.

As far as playing, Huntington has said that Overbay is full-time and Diaz a platoon guy; how long that lasts is a coin flip, given NH's usual reliability.

They'd be nuts to not get Rendon. I think Overbay is the bridge. But the brass still say Pedro's problem isn't his mitt but his Happy Meals. At least he's not Kung Fu Panda.