How NL Central teams are allocating resources in 2015

Using Roster Resource‘s projected 25-man rosters and Baseball-Reference‘s estimated salaries, here’s a quick look at how the NL Central teams will be spending their money in 2015…

nl central payroll allocation

A few notes:

– These amounts only consist of the projected 25-man rosters. So, for example, Jose Tabata‘s $4 million is not accounted for since he isn’t expected to make the big club.

– While he is likely to start on the disabled list, I did make an exception for Charlie Morton, so the Pirates’ rotation reflects his $8 million instead of league minimum pay for his likely replacement (Jeff Locke).

– Speaking of league minimum, it’s $507,500 this season, to be exact.

– For players whose arbitration cases are not yet settled, their salaries are from MLB Trade Rumors’ projection. While they won’t be 100% accurate, they shouldn’t be off by too much and won’t have a major impact on this.

– Projected rosters & salaries are as of late Thursday night (1/29) — already includes Neal Cottsdeal with the Brewers.

Anyway, here’s the projected total dollar amounts for each club…

Continue reading “How NL Central teams are allocating resources in 2015″

15 Questions for the Second Half — Answered

During the All-Star break, we had 15 questions for the upcoming Pirates’ second half. Here are the answers.

1. Can they avoid a second half slump?

This question was built around the premise that in each of the first three seasons under Clint Hurdle, the Bucs played better ball in the first half than the second:

2011: .522 / .347

2012: .565 / .403

2013: .602 / .551

Their .516 winning percentage first half winning percentage was the lowest of the Hurdle era, so it wasn’t too hard to buck this trend. They won 39 of 67 games, good for a .582 win % to avoid the second half decline.

And, just for fun, consider this from the old post:

[quote_simple]On the other hand — the Pirates have played 67 games since May 2nd, winning 39 of those. If they kept that pace over the next 67, they’d finish with 88 wins. Maybe enough to sneak into the Wild Card (the Giants, who currently hold the second WC spot, are on pace for 89 wins). But the Bucs will have to avoid any sort of second half slump.[/quote_simple]

They managed to keep that pace and land right on 88 wins — tied with SF in the Wild Card.

2. Can the pitching improve?


ERA: 3.76
FIP: 3.97
xFIP: 3.82
K/9: 7.25
BB/9: 3.04
GB%: 49.5%

ERA: 3.10
FIP: 3.55
xFIP: 3.55
K/9: 8.08
BB/9: 3.14
GB%: 52.1%

Absolutely, and it certainly helped for the playoff push. A healthy Francisco Liriano once again looked like an ace, Gerrit Cole turned in some solid starts upon returning, Edinson Volquez was unbelievable from an ERA standpoint, and the bullpen saw better results. They flipped the switch at just the right time to get the Bucs back to October.

3. Can the offense stay steady?

The Pirates had one of the most well-round offenses in the league with the success of Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, Russell Martin, Starling Marte, and Neil Walker. After so many years of dismal offensive outputs, this was refreshing. They were good as a unit in the first half (.256/.331/.388, 105 wRC+), then got even better in the second half (.264/.327/.428, 113 wRC+) — hit for slightly more average, kept a steady OBP, and got a big boost of power. Their 113 wRC+ post-All-Star break was second-best in the Majors behind the Dodgers (115). Give Jeff Branson a raise.

4. What’ll happen at the deadline?

Nothing! The Pirates stood pat at both the non-waiver July 31 deadline and the waiver August 31 deadline. This was a bit of a surprise, but Neal Huntington & Co. believed that “no move was the best move.”

In hindsight, this probably hurt them in the long run. Of course they didn’t match on a Jon Lester or David Price deal, but even adding a legit bullpen arm could have gone a long way. Looking at how the postseason is shaping up (Giants and Cardinals in the NLCS), the Pirates were pretty close.

5. What’s in store for the MVP?

Unfortunately for Cutch, a first career trip to the disabled list was in store. He was hit by 7 pitches, including the 95 mph retaliatory fastball to the back in Arizona.

He *only* hit .295/.393/.482 in the second half, though his struggles actually came before hitting the disabled list (8-for-48 slump entering August, possibly some proof that he may have been hurting before that HBP).

Although he probably wasn’t 100% upon returning, McCutchen returned to ridiculous form and hit .324/.409/.559 from mid-August through the end of the year.

Overall, it was his third consecutive season of hitting better than .300/.400/.500 — he’s the fifth Pirate to accomplish that, joining Honus Wagner, Paul Waner, Arky Vaughan, and Brian Giles.

McCutchen was even better at the plate than he was last year, making another MVP case:

cutch city

6. Can we get an El Toro breakout?

What’s the opposite of a breakout? He appeared in only 29 games after the All-Star break, committing five more errors and hitting just .208 with a .625 OPS. El Toro became even more of a defensive liability at third base, forcing the team to try him out over at first base. He played 37 innings over there before suffering a foot injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season.

7. How about some first base productivity?

Meh. Ike Davis continued to get on base at a decent clip and finally showed some power (.440 slugging in the second half), hitting a couple of memorable homers against the Cardinals in late August. Gaby Sanchez continued to do nothing, batting .239 with a .670 OPS and just two homers. Both are candidates to be non-tendered this winter, depending on how the organization feels about Alvarez at 1B (and a few other factors).

8. Which Francisco Liriano will show up?

The good version. He posted a 2.20 ERA in 86 second half innings, boasting a 9.8 K/9 rate. He surrendered more than two earned runs in only two of his 14 second half outings — a 7 ER outburst vs. Atlanta on August 19th, and a 3 ER performance vs. Cincy in his last start of the year. Will that be his last start in a Pirate uniform?

9. Can Gerrit Cole come back strong?

Yep. He struggled to work deep into ballgames upon returning, but only got better as we got deeper into September. His last three outings:

vs. Boston: 7 innings, 2 runs, 7 K, 0 BB
@ Atlanta: 7 innings, 2 runs, 8 K, 2 BB
@ Cincinnati: 7 innings, 1 run, 12 K, 0 BB

Wish he pitched the Wild Card game, but whatever.

10. Is that the real Jeff Locke?


First Half: 2.89 ERA, 2.95 FIP

Second Half: 4.66 ERA, 5.42 FIP

11. Can they beat the Central teams?

They were just 13-26 against the Cardinals, Brewers, and Reds in the first half. Here’s how they fared in the second:

vs. Cards: 2-4
vs. Brewers: 4-2
vs. Reds: 3-3

They had no trouble knocking the Brewers out of the race, but still couldn’t handle the Cardinals. That three-game sweep in STL in early September was a killer.

12. Will the Brewers turn it around after a miserable end to the first half?

LOL no. After winning 2 of their final 13 games heading into the All-Star break, the Brew Crew went 29-37 in the second half. They lost 22 of their final 31. Absolute choke job.

brewers playoff odds

13. How will the Cardinals fare without Yadier Molina?

They went 21-19 in Molina’s absence. But the Cardinals always find a way — they once again won the Central and are in the NLCS for the fourth consecutive year.

14. Can the Reds make some noise without a few of their key players?

Haha, no. The Reds were absolutely atrocious, going 25-42 after the All-Star break. Only the Diamondbacks had a worse record in that span.

15. Playoffs?!

Ah, yes. Even if it was only one game (and a terrible one at that)… hard to believe they made it back. It was painful to see it end so abruptly, but can’t take a playoff spot for granted after two decades of losing.

playoffs 100

Go Bucs

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty

Series Preview: Pirates @ Reds

Pirates vs Reds

Pittsburgh Pirates (87-72)


Cincinnati Reds (74-85)

Friday, September 26th – 7:10 pm
Saturday, September 27th – 1:05 pm
Sunday, September 28th – 1:10 pm

Great American Ballpark – Cincinnati, OH


Follow us on Twitter @ForbesToFederal.

Ah, the final (regular season!) series preview of 2014. This season has flown by, but for the second consecutive year, the Pirates will be playing in October. However, these last three games are still extremely meaningful. They’re just one game behind the Cardinals in the NL Central. The Cards are out in the desert to play the god awful D-backs this weekend, but yes, there is a chance the Pirates could win or tie for first place. If they can’t catch St. Louis, the Bucs will be playing for home field in the NL Wild Card game. They have a one game lead (and the tiebreaker) over the Giants, who are locked into the WC game next Wednesday. Focus on the Reds and the rest will take care of itself…

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Probable Pitchers

Friday – Vance Worley vs. Mike Leake

Saturday – Francisco Liriano vs. Alfredo Simon

Sunday – Gerrit Cole vs. Johnny Cueto

* Pirate probables could change based on postseason scenarios

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News, Notes, Storylines

– Pirates have won:

4 of last 5
9 of last 11
16 of last 20 (since STL sweep)
23 of last 33 (since 7-game losing streak)

– Reds are 8-14 in September. They’ve won just 23 of 64 games since the All-Star break.

– Since September 6th, Pirate starting pitchers are 14-2 with a 2.24 ERA.

Andrew McCutchen has reached safely in 17 of his last 25 at-bats. Not even fair. He’s hit .325 with a .976 OPS since returning from the disabled list. At Great American Ballpark this season, Cutch has 11 hits in 25 at-bats (eight of those going for extra-bases).

– Johnny Cueto will be going for his 20th win of the year on Sunday.

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Opponent Blogs

Red Reporter | Redleg Nation | Blog Red Machine

What they’re saying:

[quote_simple]”The Reds will end 2014 the same way they did in 2013: against the Pittsburgh Pirates. This time around there will be no big do-or-die game. There will be no hope of the Reds still playing baseball next week. It has been a long, painful, frustrating, and mostly full of disappointment 2014 season for the Cincinnati Reds, but it is finally just about to conclude. For some it will be a relief that the season is mercifully over, and others will be sad there will be no more Reds baseball this year.” – Redleg Nation[/quote_simple]

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Player to Watch

Josh Harrison. Who else? J-Hay returns to his hometown of Cincinnati, looking to win the National League batting title. He has a 13-game hitting streak going, and is in the batting race lead heading into the weekend:

1. Harrison .319
2. Justin Morneau .317
3. Andrew McCutchen .314
4. Buster Posey .310

Cutch is in there, too. Morneau and the Rockies are in LA this weekend to take on the Dodgers.

J-Hay has been the story of 2014. It’d be pretty awesome to see him win the batting race in front of his family and friends in Cincinnati.

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Prediction Time

Won’t catch the Cardinals, but Pirates secure home field for the Wild Card game with two wins this weekend. Make it happen.

Go Bucs

Series Preview: Pirates vs. Reds

Pirates vs Reds

Pittsburgh Pirates (69-64)


Cincinnati Reds (65-69)

Friday, August 29th – 7:05 pm
Saturday, August 30th – 4:05 pm
Sunday, August 31st – 1:35 pm

PNC Park – Pittsburgh, PA


Follow us on Twitter @ForbesToFederal.

29 games left. 4 games out of first. 2 out of a Wild Card spot. Every game is big.

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Probable Pitchers

Friday – Edinson Volquez vs. Mike Leake

Saturday – Vance Worley vs. Alfredo Simon

Sunday – Francisco Liriano vs. Johnny Cueto

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News, Notes, Storylines

– Pirates are just 4-9 against the Reds in 2014.

– Bucs’ starters have a 2.64 ERA over the last seven games, a big reason why the team has managed to win five in that span.

Andrew McCutchen has 60 career homers at PNC Park, one shy of tying Jason Bay for the stadium lead.

– Some important traffic info for Saturday… Basically, don’t park on the North Shore.

– Should be more big crowds this weekend… Bucs have 15 sellouts on the year to date.

– PNC promotions this weekend: Free Shirt on Friday; Gavin DeGraw concert on Saturday; Starling Marte jersey for kids on Sunday.

[divider type=””]

Opponent Blogs

Red Reporter | Redleg Nation | Blog Red Machine

What they’re saying:

[quote_simple]”From August 8 through August 22, the Cincinnati Reds were miserable, going 2-12. Their odds of playing in a post-season series stood at 0.1 percent.” – Redleg Nation, ‘Anatomy of a Collapse‘[/quote_simple]

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Player to Watch

Ike Davis. After riding the bench to make way for the Pedro Alvarez First Base Experiment, Ike pretty much won the past two games for the Bucs with his key home runs. Let’s see if he can get back in the lineup and keep his bat hot this weekend.

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Prediction Time

Took two of three vs. Milwaukee. Took two of three vs. St. Louis. And… they’ll do it again vs. Cincinnati. Big weekend heading into September. Make the most of it.

Go Bucs

7/7-7/13 Week Recap

Yuck.  Huge roadtrip for the Bucs this week – 4 in St. Louis and 3 in Cincinnati before heading into the All-Star break.  Not too many positives to talk about this week.


Adam Wainwright vs. Charlie Morton played out pretty much the way you would expect it; the two starters combined to throw 14 scoreless innings and neither factored into the decision.  Waino was his normal dominant self, but the Bucs actually had a few chances to get to him.  They left two men on in the 1st, then the first two batters reached in the 2nd, only for Jordy Mercer to ground into a double play.  Jordy left runners on second and third to end the 4th, and Starling Marte‘s two-out triple in the 5th meant nothing after Wainwright retired Cutch.

As good as Wainwright was, Chuck went out there and absolutely carved up the Cardinal lineup. He surrendered only one hit, and had the nasty curve working for 5 K’s.  He was lifted after 7 innings because his spot was due up with the bases loaded and two outs.  Gregory Polanco pinch-hit for him and struck out on 4 pitches.  Real tough call there.  Morton had thrown just 84 pitches so he easily could have pitched the 8th and probably into the 9th.  But in a scoreless game like that, especially with someone like Polanco on the bench, you have to try to get a run home.

The game remained 0-0 into the bottom of the 9th, when Matt Adams sent everyone home with a two-run walkoff bomb.  Of course.

The Pirates went 0-10 with runners in scoring position.  No way can you blame the loss on anyone/anything other than the bats.


Roughly 24 hours after Matt Adams walked off, Kolten Wong did the exact same thing.

Vance Worley got knocked around for the first time as a Pirate, giving up 4 runs on 9 hits in 5 innings.  Fortunately, Carlos Martinez had nearly an identical line, also giving up 4 runs.  A couple of two-run blasts, one by Pedro and one by Cutch, supplied the offense for the Bucs.

The game, once again, was tied heading into the bottom half of the 9th.  Ernesto Frieri retired the first two batters easily.  Wong worked a full count before sending the payoff pitch into the bullpen to walk off for the second straight night.

Clint Hurdle took a ton of heat for not using Mark Melancon in the tie game.  Again, it’s really a tough call.  St. Louis did have the bottom of the order due up, but Peralta, Taveras, and Wong aren’t exactly easy outs.  Probably should’ve used Melancon there, especially after not using him on Monday.


Brandon Cumpton really didn’t have anything on Wednesday night as the Cardinals rolled to a 5-2 win and moved into a tie for 1st place in the NL Central.  The two Pirate runs came on a Neil Walker solo homer and a Jordy Mercer RBI-single.


A four-game sweep seemed imminent after the way the first three games of the series went, but Edinson Volquez filled the role as the stopper, tossing a complete game.

The Bucs were able to go to work against Shelby Miller early, with Russell Martin driving in a run to make it 1-0 in the 1st.  Cutch chased home a run and Walker doubled home a couple in the 5th, which was Miller’s last inning.  4 runs came around to score in the 6th, which really put the game out of reach.  Russ went yard in the 9th to make the score 9-1, which was really the cherry on top.

Volquez was at the top of his game and was able to scatter 6 hits and 2 walks across his 9 innings of work.  Just what the Bucs needed after three atrocious losses.


It looked like finishing the St. Louis series with a win would translate into success in Cincy, and through 6 innings it did.  After a bunt single and Zack Cozart double that made it 1-0 Reds before an out was even recorded, Jeff Locke settled in and the offense gave him 5 runs to work with.  Cutch and Pedro both took Mat Latos deep.  Martin drove in a run to make it 5-1.  Latos lasted just 5.1 innings and only gave up 3 hits, but the Bucs made them count with a couple of homers.

Locke ran into some trouble in the 7th and was charged with two unearned runs because of Pedro’s throwing error that should have been the first out of the inning.  Tony Watson, who’d been lights out all season and really since 2012, came in for the 8th with the Pirates up 5-3.  After two quick outs, Devin Mesoraco took Watson deep to make it a one-run game.  Four straight singles followed, completing the bullpen implosion and putting the Reds on top.  Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the 9th.


Just like the first two games of the St. Louis series ended with the Cardinals hitting walkoff home runs, it looked like the first two games in Cincinnati would end with the Reds coming all the way back to win.  With the Bucs up 4-0, Charlie Morton gave up a two-run shot to Chris Heisey and three-run bomb to Todd Frazier before even recording an out.  With two swings of the bat, the game went from 4-0 to 5-4.  That remained the score until the 9th, when Cutch led off the inning by taking Jonathan Broxton deep for a game-tying homer to centerfield.

With the game now tied, Tony Watson came in and almost had a repeat of the night before.  He was able to strand two runners, but it looked like the bullpen would blow it again in the 10th.  Ernesto Frieri faced two batters and retired neither.  Justin Wilson came in to face Jay Bruce, who singled to right field.  Ramon Santiago tried to score, but Gregory Polanco was having none of it and gunned him down at the plate.  Wilson intentionally walked the next batter to set up the force at any base, and proceeded to strike out the next two batters.

Cutch’s heroics continued in the 11th, when he sent the first pitch he saw into the seats for the go-ahead homer.  Jeanmar Gomez retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning to even the series.  What a game.



Francisco Liriano made his first start since the night that Polanco debuted and looked to send the Bucs to the break with a win.  Kristopher Negron was having none of that, and put the Reds up 3-0 with his first career homer in the 2nd. Getting out of that hole would be tough against Johnny Cueto, who was able to make it hold up.  The Bucs got within a run, but Mesoraco doubled home a run to pad the lead a bit more.  Neil Walker led off the 6th with a solo shot to get that run right back, but Todd Frazier answered in the bottom of the inning with a two-run homer that barely got out and really put the game out of reach.  Chapman once again struck out the side in order to finish off the 6-3 win

Tough stretch heading into the All-Star break.  A couple close games that could have gone either way, which makes it even worse.  If there’s one positive to look at, it has to be the offense.  Cutch is still putting up MVP numbers and actually has better numbers than he did at last year’s ASG break.  Walker seems to have found his stroke again now that he’s healthy and is fitting into the cleanup spot well.  Pedro hit a couple of bombs this week, which is encouraging for the second half of the season. The bullpen clearly needs some work.  Plenty of names have been thrown around as potential trade targets, so we’ll have to see how that plays out with the trade deadline now about two weeks away. Here are the division and Wild Card standings as we head into the All-Star break:



Bucs are still very much in both races.  The Wild Card could get very complicated with all three divisions being so close.  The division is obviously the main goal, and the Pirates will have every opportunity to make up those 3.5 games.

 This week’s pic/GIF of the week is a Vine.  Check out Jordy Mercer going nuts after Cutch’s go-ahead homer on Saturday night:

Go Bucs