Pirates Trade Target: Bud Norris

Bud Norris

June 10, 2013

Nick Cafardo’s latest column features this interesting tidbit:

[quote_simple]”Bud Norris, RHP, Astros — Quickly moving into the No. 1 spot of pitchers who might be moved now that the draft is over and GMs can concentrate on such things. Norris is 5-5 with a 3.43 ERA on a lousy team. He’s a competitive guy who hates playing for a loser. One concern among talent evaluators is coming out of a noncompetitive situation into a competitive one. The Pirates, who were scouting the periphery of the pitching market, would now have to be interested in a guy who pitched in their division. Another former Astro, Wandy Rodriguez, has gone to the disabled list for the Pirates.”[/quote_simple]

For one, Cafardo doesn’t quite have his facts straight on Wandy Rodriguez – he’s not on the DL yet, although it is an option.

But more importantly, he’s linking the Pirates to 28-year-old right-hander Bud Norris.

Norris is a familiar name, as he’s pitched 10 times against the Bucs in his career. Since making his MLB debut in July of 2009, he’s posted a 4.31 ERA and 8.5 K/9. His full stats to date:

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2009 24 HOU NL 6 3 4.53 11 55.2 59 29 28 9 25 54 1.509 4.0 8.7 2.16
2010 25 HOU NL 9 10 4.92 27 153.2 151 94 84 18 77 158 1.484 4.5 9.3 2.05
2011 26 HOU NL 6 11 3.77 31 186.0 177 93 78 24 70 176 1.328 3.4 8.5 2.51
2012 27 HOU NL 7 13 4.65 29 168.1 165 90 87 23 66 165 1.372 3.5 8.8 2.50
2013 28 HOU AL 5 5 3.43 13 76.0 85 34 29 5 27 51 1.474 3.2 6.0 1.89
5 Yrs 33 42 4.31 111 639.2 637 340 306 79 265 604 1.410 3.7 8.5 2.28
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

His strikeout rates are a bit down this year (6.0 K/9, 1.89 K/BB) but he’s still been relatively effective for the 22-42 Astros.

He’s making $3 million this season, and his overall contract status is pretty intriguing. He won’t hit free agency until after the 2015 season, so there are a few years of control. Since Norris will be over 30 years old by the time he’s a free agent, the Astros – who are a few years away from contending – likely don’t see him as a huge part of their future plans.

Norris’ repertoire, via Brooks Baseball: “In 2013, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (93mph) and Slider (85mph), also mixing in a Change (86mph) and Sinker (93mph).” The ‘relied primarily’ is an interesting piece of that statement – in early May, Jayson Stark reported that one scout said Norris was “pretty much a two-pitch guy.” Also, Stark added that “quite a few teams think he profiles more as a bullpen weapon on a contender.”

A lot could change, but the Pirates have a pretty set rotation – assuming A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, and Francisco Liriano stay healthy/Jeff Locke keeps up the good work/Gerrit Cole holds his own and remains in the majors. Don’t forget Charlie Morton and James McDonald are on rehab assignments and could potentially fill in if necessary. Jeanmar Gomez – also injured – wasn’t bad in the rotation either. That gives the Bucs a plethora of options already, without even considering a trade for Norris or another starter.

Going back to the idea of using Norris as a reliever – it wouldn’t be a terrible idea. If he truly is heavily reliant on just two pitches, he could be more useful in the bullpen than the rotation. Flash back to Brad Lincoln, who was traded at the deadline in 2012. He relied on his fastball (60%) and curveball (32%) way more than his sinker (4%) and splitter (4%) – we highlighted this on June 13, 2012: “Two pitches not enough for Lincoln.” Ultimately, Lincoln was way more successful as a reliever than a starter. Facing just a few batters out of the bullpen can be done with two pitch types, but it’s not as effective to keep showing the same pitches to hitters for 5+ innings.

If the Pirates were to acquire Norris, they could stick him in the bullpen and create a solid righty trio along with Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon. Plus, they could move him back to the rotation in 2014 if there are any holes (Burnett & Rodriguez hit free agency, etc.)

We wouldn’t expect any big trades until the trade deadline approaches. Plenty could happen between now and then, and the Pirates may need some pitching help. If so, keep Bud Norris in mind.

Thoughts on acquiring Norris? Let us know.

UPDATE (7/18/13): According to Jeff Passan, the Pirates are one of several teams interested in Norris.

Revisiting the Wandy Rodriguez Trade

Back on Tuesday, July 24th, 2012, the Pirates made a splash by acquiring left-handed pitcher Wandy Rodriguez from the Houston Astros, in exchange for three minor leaguers: LHP Colton Cain, LHP Rudy Owens, and OF Robbie Grossman.

We remind you of this today on Wednesday, April 24th for two reasons:

1) Wandy Rodriguez is starting tonight against the Phillies.

2) Robbie Grossman has been recalled by the Astros.

Justin Maxwell fractured his hand, thus giving Grossman an opportunity in the big leagues. Grossman, who grew up in the Houston area, hit .324/.452/.353 in 19 games for Class AAA Oklahoma City. It sounds like Astros fans are excited about the 23-year-old outfielder; here’s what The Crawfish Boxes had to say:

[quote_simple]”I’ll just assume everyone reading this is sad Maxwell is hurt and on the DL, but is also thrilled that Grossman is freed. I don’t want to hear differently.”[/quote_simple]

In his MLB debut on Wednesday afternoon, he went 2 for 5 with two doubles and a run scored, as the ‘Stros won, 10-3.

Owens (0-3, 3.71 in AAA) and Cain (0-1, 11.57) are still down on the farm.

As for Wandy, he’s been pretty solid for the Pirates thus far. He was their most consistent starter down the stretch in 2012, and he’s looked good in three starts thus far in 2013 (despite missing some time with a left hamstring strain)…

Rk Date Opp Rslt Dec IP H R ER BB SO ERA
1 Apr 3 CHC W,3-0 W(1-0) 6.2 2 0 0 1 6 0.00
2 Apr 8 ARI W,5-3 2.1 2 2 1 0 0 1.00
3 Apr 19 ATL W,6-0 W(2-0) 7.0 1 0 0 0 5 0.56
16.0 5 2 1 1 11 0.56
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/24/2013.

Obviously, it’s easy to judge a trade down the line in hindsight after the players have settled in to their new homes. A few years from now, we’ll be able to say Pittsburgh or Houston won the trade because the performance of Rodriguez or Grossman/Owens/Cain prevailed in the long run.

But looking at the trade today, it’s hard to argue against Neal Huntington with this deal. The Bucs needed a durable starter for the second half, and Wandy provided just that, going 4-0 with a 2.81 ERA in his last seven outings. He produced six quality starts in that span, and held opponents to a .217 batting average. And assuming he stays healthy, Rodriguez could easily be the Pirates’ best and most consistent pitcher this season.

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Tonight’s lineups from Philadelphia…

Pirates   Phillies
Marte LF Rollins SS
Snider RF Utley 2B
McCutchen CF Young 3B
Jones 1B Howard 1B
Walker 2B Mayberry RF
Alvarez 3B Brown LF
Martin C Revere CF
McDonald SS Quintero C
Rodriguez P Halladay P

First pitch at 7:05. ROOT Sports and 93.7 the Fan have the game.

Go Bucs

Dissecting the Schedule: May

We’ll spend time this week breaking down the Pirates’ 2013 schedule, month by month.

Schedule May
(Click to enlarge)

Notes:

– The Pirates will spend a good amount of time at PNC Park in May; their 18 games at home will be the most of any month this season.

– A total of 11 afternoon games will played in May. These start times range from 12:35 to 4:05.

– One of those games, May 4th vs. Washington, will be televised on FOX.

– The club gets a taste of interleague play starting this month. The Mariners finally return to PNC for the first time since 2004, but only for a two-game set. The Houston Astros will come to Pittsburgh for the first time as an American League team. Finally, the “natural rival” Detroit Tigers will play a home-and-home against the Bucs at the end of May.

– The series vs. Houston is slated to be military appreciation weekend at the ballpark. The Pirates will once again rock their camouflage jerseys, which made an appearance last May. The weekend will start off with a camouflage free shirt on Friday, an A.J. Burnett camo jersey bobblehead on Saturday, and finish up on Sunday with kids 14 and under receiving an A.J. Burnett replica camo jersey.

– Most played opponent in May: the Milwaukee Brewers. The Bucs will see Ryan Braun and the Brew Crew on eight different occasions – four at PNC, four at Miller Park.

Tickets to any 2013 Pirates game can be purchased HERE.

Previous Editions:
April

Bucs beat Astros, snap losing streak

The Pirates took on the Astros, now members of the American League, this afternoon at McKechnie. Despite blowing a five-run lead, the offense picked up the pitchers and snapped the losing streak with an 8-6 win.

Kyle McPherson made the start and after pitching two scoreless innings, surrendered four runs in the third as the lead diminished from five runs to just one. Those five runs all came in the second for the Pirates, two of which were on an Astros throwing error.

Bryan Morris gave up the tying run in the fifth, officially blowing the 5-0 lead.  Neil Walker blooped a two-out single into CF to drive Cutch in for the go-ahead run, which made it a 6-5 game.  The next inning, Tony Sanchez tripled in a run and Josh Harrison drove in another for some insurance.  Brooks Brown pitched two innings and got the save, although he did surrender one run in the eighth.

Solid game for the offense after they’d been strapped for runs the last few days.  The three main candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation (Locke, McPherson, Sanchez) have all pitched pretty poorly lately, so we’ll see how that develops as spring rolls on.

Bucs take on the Phillies tomorrow, followed by an exhibition game with Team Spain on Tuesday.

Go Bucs

 

Pirates seek pinch-hitting improvement

Team management has a few decisions to make about the state of the Pirates’ bench before they travel north for the regular season. Regardless of who claims the final bench jobs, one area the Bucs need to improve upon in 2013 is pinch-hitting.

Their final 2012 pinch-hitting stats:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
as PH 135 268 227 22 40 6 0 2 24 32 65 .176 .284 .229 .513

Their .176 PH batting average was the second-lowest in the National League, only ahead of the Atlanta Braves.

Here’s how the rest of the NL Central fared when pinch-hitting…

Cincinnati:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
as PH 128 201 175 15 47 14 4 2 21 19 44 .269 .337 .429 .765

 

Chicago:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
as PH 139 273 250 27 61 13 0 6 35 16 71 .244 .300 .368 .668

 

Houston:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
as PH 140 260 231 23 56 12 1 6 26 26 76 .242 .323 .381 .704

 

Milwaukee:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
as PH 149 315 282 24 63 12 4 4 42 25 89 .223 .290 .337 .627

 

St. Louis:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
as PH 143 279 242 25 46 13 0 1 29 29 80 .190 .275 .256 .532

 

Notes:

– The Bucs actually drew the most pinch-hit walks in the division (32), but hit for the lowest average (.176) and OPS (.513), among other categories.

– The division champion Cincinnati Reds posted the highest PH batting average at .269 and OPS at .765.

– Pirates’ pinch-hitters had a ridiculously low slugging percentage (.229). They had the least amount of extra-base hits by far, with only one homer, six doubles, and no triples. St. Louis had the second lowest total of XBH, with one home run and 13 doubles.

– In general, the Cardinals were pretty weak in the pinch-hitting department, but they made up for it with one of the most potent lineups in the National League. The loss of Albert Pujols did not slow them down, as they hit .271/.338/.421 as a team. Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, and Jon Jay all hit higher than .300, while Carlos Beltran knocked 32 homers and drove in 97 runs.

– They are no longer in the division, but even the 55-win Houston Astros had more productive pinch-hitting than the Pirates in 2012.

Michael McKenry and Gaby Sanchez seem to be locks for the Pirates bench. McKenry shouldn’t see too many pinch-hit opportunities since you don’t want to waste your backup catcher in case the game goes into extra frames. Sanchez, however, should be a go-to option when a right-handed bat is needed, and he’ll often replace Garrett Jones at first base for defensive purposes.

Sanchez, 29, had a poor year in 2012 after a couple productive seasons in Miami. Dejan Kovacevic writes that Gaby is feeling like his old self again:

[quote_box author=”Gaby Sanchez” profession=”Pirates’ First Baseman”]“I’m healthy. I’m healthier than I’ve been in two years… All I was trying to do all year was get to the point where my knee wasn’t hurting. That was it. After the season, I was able to get back to my old routine, heavier squats, power lifting. I feel really good.” [/quote_box]

Although it doesn’t mean much, he has five hits in nine at-bats this spring, including two home runs. The Bucs will need Sanchez and others to step up with clutch, timely at-bats in pinch-hitting situations.