OK, right field will not be split between Lastings Milledge and Ryan Doumit in 2011; it will be the domain of Matt Diaz and and Garrett Jones. Good or bad?
We thought we'd play with a couple of simple stats and see how RF past compares with RF future. First, on the offensive side:
Doumit, against righties: .282/11/35 with 277 AB in 2010, and
Milledge, against lefties: .320/4/17 with 125 AB in 2010
Doumit/Milledge 2010 platoon: .294/15/52 with 402 AB (.294/23/78 with 600 AB)
Jones, against righties: .262/15/59 with 378 AB in 2010, and
Diaz, against lefties: .318/5/15 with 121 AB in 2010
Jones/Diaz 2010 platoon: .265/20/74 with 499 AB (.265/24/88 with 600 AB)
As you can see, not much difference in the 2010 performances (the OBP's are offsetting; they average in the low-to-mid .330 range for both pairs); maybe a little more run production out of the new guys at the cost of a couple of hits from the old.
The Pirates are betting on two things; one, that Diaz returns to his southpaw slugging form (.335 lifetime against lefties), and that Jones regresses to his lifetime norm against righties (.292).
Doumit and Milledge both hit above their lifetime averages in 2010 against opposite throwers (Doumit .272 career vs RH; Milledge .289 career vs LH), so it would be realistic for the FO to feel that they maxed out on their potential.
So according to the Bucco mainframe, the RF duo of Diaz and Jones should outperform that of Doumit and Milledge at the plate next year. Bill James' 2011 projections, shown in Fangraphs, agree. So we'll see if the old adage about lies, dang lies, and statistics holds water or not.
In the field, expect a lot more consistency and a lot less Keystone Kop action. Jones had a -2.6 UZR/150 in right in 2010, and Diaz's corner OF at Atlanta was a 0.2 UZR/150. Lifetime, both are average OF'ers (Jones -0.2 UZR/150, Diaz 0.6).
Doumit and Milledge played butcher ball in RF last season; Dewey had a -40.4 UZR/150 and Milledge a -4.1. Both had good excuses of sorts, though.
Doumit was jerked around the field last year and stuck in right as an afterthought; his actual lifetime rating in right is 6.3 UZR/150, not the nightmarish performance he turned in during 2010. So his misadventures maybe a byproduct of the Pirate tendency to play guys out of position; then again, catching may finally be catching up to his wheels.
Milledge had a positive OF rating in left of 0.6 last year. Being tossed into right with no break-in period when Jose Tabata arrived backfired, as LM has no real fundamental base to ease him into the transition; he plays on pure instinct. Those instincts need sharpened by practice reps, and he didn't get enough to master PNC's short porch, where there's no room to make up for mistakes with speed.
Whether you use today's fielding metrics or the old school eyeball approach, Jones and Diaz don't project as toolsy, but they run their routes well and make the plays they should, which is more than Dewey and Milledge could do last year. The improvement in right may not be dramatic, but should be noticeable.
Hey, it has to be - the Pirates threw eight players (John Bowker, Ryan Church, Doumit, Jones, Milledge, Alex Presley, John Raynor, Delwyn Young) in front of Clemente Wall in 2010. Just getting it down to two guys is an improvement.
It's certainly far from a long term solution, but the OF'ers of the future - Starling Marte, Andrew Lambo, Gorkys Hernandez, Robbie Grossman - are still down the road. Diaz and Jones should be capable of holding the fort until one of them gets here.