Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lookin' at Right Field

OK, who to put in right field? Here's a quick peek at the career production of the crew:

Right Field Career Splits
Tabata 332 .252 .335 100 988 .280 .342 100
Snider 229 .224 .273 78 1078 .248 .313 104
Presley 143 .244 .275 78 524 .267 .308 106
Jones 520 .193 .233 47 1847 .278 .344 115
Pie 181 .183 .244 54 870 .263 .309 110

If you're looking for an everyday guy, JT is the one, and easily, judging from his body of work. The brass know that; he's the only one of the five that has more at-bats (3:1) against same-side pitchers than opposite arm hurlers. But if you're looking to maximize the spot, by the numbers you'd platoon him and Jones.

That platoon would leave you with a situation where instead of looking just for an OF'er, the search could include another LH first baseman who can rake against RHP. That would broaden the search possibilities on the market, and would have the added benefit of requiring Gaby to take fewer swings against RHP (166 sOPS+ v LHP; 84 v RHP). But it doesn't solve the conundrum of finding RH power.

How big an issue that will be in the final 10 weeks of the season may depend on Cutch and Starling Marte. Over 2011-12, Cutch has shown himself to have 25 homer power, and if that holds true this season, he's due to lose another fifteen balls or so over the dog days. Marte is another story; he was a single digit homer guy until his last two years in the minors, and every year he seems to develop a little more fence power. Still, to expect much more than 15 HR from him is a stretch.

And there is the question of how well RH power plays in PNC Park anyway, where the alley leading to The Notch is where long flies go to die. Even with four more home games than away, the Pirates have hit 37 PNC homers compared to 50 at other parks.

So it will be interesting to see how the FO constructs the team for the stretch, given that JT fills a hole in the top of the order and the nature of the home field. A big RH stick between Pedro and Jones would balance the middle of the order, and RF is the logical place to put that stick, bumping JT to the fourth man. They could also continue the recent trend to slip Russell Martin/Neil Walker in the five hole and go for a RH bench guy who can occasionally pop a ball. Walker in particular is due for a big second half if he's to regress to past norms.

They need to upgrade the attack to better support the killer pitching. They're 25th out of 30 teams in scoring, and St. Louis has scored nearly 100 runs more than the Bucs. How successfully they do improve will tell the tale of the season - and RF is far from the only spot they could focus on.

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