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:

Continue reading “Pirates Offseason Notes 11/9/15”

Under the Knife: The Pirates & Tommy John Surgery

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:

Continue reading “Under the Knife: The Pirates & Tommy John Surgery”

Ranking the 2016 Free Agent Starting Pitchers


Major League Baseball free agency kicks off this weekend, as free agents can begin negotiating with teams at 12:01 am on Saturday. This winter, the Pirates are in the market for at least one starting pitcher: Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano will return to the rotation for sure; Charlie Morton (one more guaranteed season on his contract) and Jeff Locke (arbitration eligible) will presumably be given another shot … Tyler Glasnow will likely be held down in AAA until the middle of the summer … meanwhile, A.J. Burnett is retiring and J.A. Happ is a free agent. The Bucs have dipped into the free agent starter pool often in the past, and there should be options there this winter if they choose to go that route.

Our preliminary rankings for this year’s starting pitching class are below. I’ve broken them down into tiers, using the past three years of performance as a guide. As well as age, I specifically looked at innings pitched, K/9, BB/9, ERA,  and WAR (FanGraphs), weighting the more recent seasons more heavily (5/4/3 – a la the Marcel projections). I then calculated each pitcher’s percentile within each category and totaled them, finding some decent results.

This system has its pros and its cons. It was difficult for pitchers who, in particular seasons, pitched very little. It was more difficult for those who didn’t pitch at all. For that reason, I excluded Cliff Lee, Bronson Arroyo (still has a club option out-standing at the time of writing this), Brandon Beachy (also club option), Shaun Marcum, and Chad Billingsley. Lee (whose $27.5 million club option was declined by Philadelphia on Tuesday) hasn’t thrown a pitch since July of 2014, and at age 37, I have no idea where to put him (he’s probably retiring anyway). On the other hand, Marcum, Beachy, and Billingsley didn’t pitch at all in 2014 and sparingly in 2015, and I don’t think they’re worth worrying about right now. I also scratched Brandon Morrow, Sean O’Sullivan, and Rich Hill, who threw 120.2, 108.2, and 73 innings, respectively, in the last three years combined.

Precision was not my utmost intent (hence the tier-based method), and I made adjustments where I saw fit. Below the rankings, there’s an embedded Excel app where you can choose specific players and see their percentile ranks.

Final notes:
Clay Buchholz, R.A. Dickey, and Jaime Garcia have had their club options exercised.
Zack Greinke has officially opted out of his current contract with the Dodgers and is a free agent.
– The Royals did not exercise their end of Jeremy Guthrie‘s mutual option, so he is a free agent. 
– All the numbers I used can be found via FanGraphs, h/t MLB Trade Rumors.

Without further ado…

Tier 1

David Price (age 30)
Zack Greinke (32)
Jordan Zimmermann (30)
Johnny Cueto (30)

These four are undoubtedly the best pitchers available. They also won’t be coming to Pittsburgh.

Continue reading “Ranking the 2016 Free Agent Starting Pitchers”

Pirates Offseason Notes 11/2/15

Each Monday, we’ll provide a round-up of the Bucs’ offseason happenings. 22 weeks until Opening Day…

Roster/Personnel Moves

In case you missed it…

— The Pirates claimed right-handed reliever Jorge Rondon off waivers from the Orioles last week [press release]. Rondon, 27, has little MLB experience (1 inning with St. Louis in 2014; 14.1 innings with Baltimore in 2015). He’s been stuck in AAA since 2012, where he’s posted respectable numbers:

Jorge Rondon AAA Stats

Walks have been an issue for Rondon in the past, but he throws hard and gets ground balls. It appears he has no options remaining. With at least three openings in the bullpen, the Pirates will likely find multiple arms of this profile and see what fits (like they did with Arquimedes Caminero last year).

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Pirates’ Pace-of-Play Patterns in 2015

Major League Baseball’s pace-of-play initiatives were a major storyline heading into the 2015 season. In an effort to cut down on the league’s exceedingly long game times, batters were to keep at least one foot in the box (with a few exceptions) and new clocks were installed at all ballparks to limit the downtime between innings to 2 minutes and 25 seconds (or 2:45 for national TV games).

So, did it work? Per the Associated Press, the average game time for nine-inning games dropped by six minutes in 2015. The Pirates saw a similar improvement, shaving about five minutes off their average time from 2014:

Season Time/9 Innings
2011 2:55
2012 2:58
2013 3:00
2014 3:03
2015 2:58

(I’ve used time per nine innings here to adjust extra-inning games. So we’re essentially looking at minutes-per-inning, and multiplying it by 9.)

While it may not seem like much, those five minutes are considerable — over a 162-game season, we’re talking about saving roughly 810 minutes (or 13.5 hours of our lives!). Still, on a game-by-game basis, the typical ballgame is still right around three hours:


When you break down the Pirates’ average time by month, something interesting happens:

Month Time/9 Innings
April 2:52
May 2:50
June 2:53
July 3:03
August 3:03
Sept/Oct 3:03

Continue reading “Pirates’ Pace-of-Play Patterns in 2015”