Pirates Offseason Notes 11/16/15

20 weeks until Opening Day…

Recent Stuff on the Blog

— Last week’s Offseason Notes
MLB Win Curve in the Expanded Wild Card Era
— Visualizing the Range of the Pirates’ Outfield in 2015
— Pages: Depth Chart / Payroll / Spray Charts / PITCHf/x

Rumor Mill

— Jon Heyman of CBS Sports had some rumors on the Pirates’ front last week, first mentioning that, unsurprisingly, Mark Melancon is being shopped. Heyman specifically says the Bucs’ closer is “out there for the taking.” The Pirates will look for value in return for their top reliever who enters his final year of team control and will command a salary upwards of $10 million through arbitration this winter. It wouldn’t be dissimilar (in terms of timing, payroll allocation, etc.) from the trade that brought Melancon to Pittsburgh and sent then-closer Joel Hanrahan to Boston.

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Visualizing the Range of the Pirates’ Outfield in 2015

One of my favorite posts last year was my first attempt at visualizing the range of the Pirates’ outfield. Thus, I wanted to take another crack at it for 2015.

Using the data that is fed into MLB Gameday (and easily made available through Jeff Zimmerman’s BaseballHeatMaps.com), we can easily grab some (x,y) batted ball coordinates. These locations are by no means perfect, and not as precise as what is produced by Baseball Info Solutions or made available to teams in the form of HITf/x or Statcast, but they’re good enough for our simple use.

It’s also a bit difficult to find exact play types or events, but with the at-bat descriptions, we can extract data points for phrases like “[batter] flies out to left fielder Starling Marte” or “lines out to center fielder Andrew McCutchen” or “out on a sacrifice fly to right fielder Gregory Polanco.” It’s even tougher to pinpoint every ball they didn’t snag within reach, so for now, we’ll only focus on balls that were converted into outs.

First up: Starling Marte, winner of the Fielding Bible, Gold Glove, and Wilson Defensive Player of the Year awards in left field.

Starling Marte Range

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MLB Win Curve in the Expanded Wild Card Era

Major League Baseball has now used a 10-team, two-Wild-Card postseason format for four years. Expanding the playoff field by two teams — one from each league — has obviously made it, in theory, “easier” to reach the postseason (even if you’re only there for one game).

With 120 team-seasons completed in the expanded Wild Card era (30 teams over four seasons), we can estimate a team’s playoff chances based on the number of games they won. This does not make predictions about the future, but rather just models what was observed in the past (with logistic regression, where the dependent variable is categorical — made playoffs = 1; did not make playoffs = 0).

This is known as the “win curve.”  While it can be taken further and broken down to find the marginal value of each additional win for a specific club, for right now I’m only concerned about this simple question: about how many wins does a team need to make the playoffs?

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Pirates Offseason Notes 11/9/15


21 weeks until Opening Day…

Recent Stuff on the Blog

— Last week’s Offseason Notes
Ranking the Free Agent Starting Pitchers
The Pirates & Tommy John Surgery
— Pages: Depth Chart / Payroll / Spray Charts / PITCHf/x

Byung-Ho Park Bidding

The big baseball news of the day revolves around Korean slugging first baseman Byung-Ho Park. A former teammate of Jung-Ho Kang with the Korean Baseball Organization’s Nexen Heroes, Park looked to follow in the current Pirate’s footsteps and make the jump to Major League Baseball this winter. With gaudy numbers in the hitter-friendly KBO (.343/.436/.714 with 53 HR in 2015), Park’s posting had been hyped for some time, and the Pirates were naturally connected by way of both Kang and their yearly revolving door at 1B. I didn’t want to get my hopes up for multiple reasons, mostly because the Korean posting system is a crapshoot (still a blind bid where the highest bidder gets to negotiate a contract with the player; no back-and-forth “bidding war”) and the Pirates have Josh Bell waiting in the wings for first base, most likely to be in Pittsburgh at some point in 2016.

Park’s bidding opened last week and ended on Friday. For whatever reason, the winning bidder was not to be announced until today (Monday), though it was reported that the winning bid was $12.85 million and teams slowly began to eliminate themselves through the media. By last night, only handful of teams had yet to be cut by process of elimination, including the tight-lipped Pirates.

Finally, former MLB/KBO pitcher C.J. Nitkowski dropped an early-morning Twitter bomb:

CJ Nitkowski Byung Ho Park Pirates

But… not so fast. It was too good to be true. Buster Olney shot down Nitkowski’s claim shortly after 8:00 am:

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Under the Knife: The Pirates & Tommy John Surgery

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Sadler is the latest Tommy John victim.

On Thursday, it was announced that Casey Sadler underwent Tommy John surgery in October to reconstruct the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. The 25-year-old righty threw his last pitch of 2015 in late June for Indianapolis, but failed to recover from the discomfort through the summer. Recovery from the October surgery will keep him off the mound for the entire 2016 season.

Some combination of velocity, mechanics, and general overuse of the arm has contributed to what has become an epidemic across baseball. The number of Tommy John surgeries has surged in recent years, and the Pirates are unfortunately well-aware of that.

Jon Roegele maintains a database of all documented Tommy John surgeries, dating back to when Dr. Frank Jobe first operated on Tommy John himself in September of 1974. (You can view the data here.)

Here are the organizations who have had the most players go under the knife in the past five seasons, 2011-2015:

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