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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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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Clinched: How the 2015 Pirates made it back to Buctober

It’s official: with a victory over the Rockies on Wednesday night, the Pirates have sealed their third consecutive playoff berth. Yes, it’s the third year in a row that the Bucs have clinched on September 23rd. Turning into the best day of the year.

Further, it’s now the third time that the Pirates have appeared in the postseason three years in a row:

Pirates Consecutive Playoff Appearances
(The playoff format expanded to two rounds in 1969… Three rounds in 1994… And expanded Wild Card in 2012.)

In 2013, the feeling was pure joy; finally, the playoffs were back in Pittsburgh. Last year, it was almost relief; the Pirates hovered around .500 for more of the season than we would have liked (they were only three games over on September 3rd), but a late run proved that the previous season wasn’t exactly a fluke. This team had what it took to be among the league’s best.

This season, though, the feeling is a little different. They expected to be here. They’re not celebrating as much yet, at least not publicly all-out. Chasing the Cardinals all year has, once again, been unsatisfying, and the thought of another do-or-die Wild Card game is not exactly flattering. This team, despite having the second best record in all of Major League Baseball, has spent exactly zero days in first place. That’s just too bad: they could finish with or near triple-digit wins to be the best Bucco club since at least the early 1990s.

Still, many teams would love to be in the Bucs’ position right now. It’s an awesome accomplishment. Regardless of what happens next month, this has been another great year for the team. Let’s take a look at how they got here.

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Andrew McCutchen’s Loss of the Line Drive

andrew mccutchen 2015

Andrew McCutchen is not himself right now — there’s no other way to put it. He says he’s fine. The team says he’s fine. He’s not fine: he’s batting .188/.279/.292 and has been a below replacement level player through the first month of the season.

The offense as a whole has struggled early on, but it’s still obvious how much of the team’s production runs through #22. They’ve scored two or fewer runs in 14 of their 27 contests, wasting plenty of good pitching performances and quickly falling to eight games out of first place.

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