First Pitch: Pittsburgh Has Become a Prime Destination For Bounce Back Pitchers

On Saturday night, Edinson Volquez pitched a gem, throwing seven shutout innings with three hits, three walks, and six strikeouts. That lowered his season ERA to 3.15 in 185.2 innings. Today, Vance Worley threw eight shutout innings, giving up four hits, no walks and striking out five. His ERA was lowered to 2.93 in 104.1 innings. The recent success, combined with the season-long success raises a simple question:

Why should the Pirates ever pay market rate for starting pitchers?

The big outcry over the off-season was that the Pirates didn’t offer A.J. Burnett more than $12 M on a one year deal. Instead, they added Edinson Volquez, who has been much better than Burnett this season. They also made a minor trade during Spring Training to bring in Vance Worley, who also has performed better than Burnett. Combined, Volquez and Worley make less than $6 M, which is $10 M less than what Burnett is making this year.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the Pirates have found value on the starting pitching market. Burnett, himself, was one of the previous values. The Pirates added him from the Yankees, with New York picking up a lot of his salary, making Burnett a two-year, $13 M pitcher. The following off-season they signed Francisco Liriano to a two-year, $12.75 M deal, which was later restructured after an injury. Liriano ended up making $11.125 M, which includes a $6 M base salary this year, and $2 M in performance bonuses for games started. Considering the performances of Burnett and Liriano during their deals, the Pirates got a massive discount.

Volquez is the big one. Prior to the Burnett signing, you could point to stats that showed Burnett was one of the worst pitchers in baseball the previous seasons. You could do the same with Liriano. But with those pitchers, you also had something to point to, showing that the pitcher once put up good numbers. That wasn’t exactly the case with Volquez. He had a great year in 2008, but over the next five years he combined for a 4.94 ERA. Prior to the 2008 season, he had a 7.20 ERA in 80 innings. The best season outside of 2008 was a 4.14 ERA while pitching for San Diego. The idea that Volquez could repeat the ERA from that 2008 season was ridiculous.

Yet that’s what Volquez has done. He’s having a career year at the age of 30. Vance Worley is having a career year. A.J. Burnett had two career years. Francisco Liriano, for the first time, looked like an ace in back-to-back seasons.

The reason for this is due to Ray Searage and Jim Benedict for making the adjustments with these players, and the Pirates’ scouting department and the statistical department for identifying the players who could use an adjustment (Benedict overlaps here, since he spends some of his time scouting other pro teams). It also helps that the Pirates put a focus on pitch framing, defense behind the plate, defensive shifts to maximize efficiency, and play in a pitcher friendly park.

The combined process should now be a calling card. Pittsburgh should now be the prime destination for any pitcher wanting to turn his career around. The Pirates should be able to use this to their advantage, getting huge discounts on pitchers who could end up pitching like top starters, in exchange for that pitcher parlaying their performance into a bigger contract on the other side of the deal.

There is going to be a lot of demand for the Pirates to bring back Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez. The former will likely get a huge deal in free agency. The latter will probably see multiple years, and much more than the $5 M he received this year. I don’t think the Pirates should try to bring either player back. Instead, they should look for the next Liriano and the next Volquez. (Side note: doesn’t Justin Masterson just look like the poster boy for a Pirates’ reclamation project?)

Earlier today, Neal Huntington talked about how small market teams need to find value where other teams don’t. He talked about how they needed to pay guys for what they think they will do, and not for what they’ve done in the past. It seems the best way to get that value is to keep going with the reclamation projects. It is certainly working, and is a big reason why the Pirates are about to go to the post-season for the second year in a row.

Links and Notes

**Vance Worley Sensational in 1-0 Victory

**Morning Report: Expect the Hits to Keep Coming

  • Because mgmt has been freakishly lucky with a few dumpster finds, they will cite these examples as rationale to continue to do so. We’re probably going to see this alot in the future, including probably as catcher next year. If they were so smart in evaluating talent, why did JHay ride the bench for so many years, making practically the minimum?

    • Or perhaps they have a really good pitching coach who knows how to work wonders with reclaim action projects.
      Maybe Harrison is having a career year, but if he turns out to be consistently good, he’d certainly wouldn’t be the first surprise in MLB history.

  • My bounce back guy would be Colby Lewis, good K and BB rates, flyball guy that would be helped by PNC. He will cost almost nothing.

    • Good name, and you really can’t ever have too much pitching, but does Lewis comes with any upside? I can’t see it, and he’s had work done to his elbow AND shoulder.

      My guy is Brandon Morrow, assuming his option is declined.

      • I like Morrow too. Trying to think cheap since I’m holding out hope for a Martin extension, despite logic.

  • I would like to see them bring Volquez back. Yes, I like watching him pitch, but I also like his attitude and willingness to credit his defense ever chance he gets and every great play they make behind him.

  • IMO, the Pirates will make Martin a significant offer, even to the point of overspending on Martin, they might have big money to send his way, but they know they will be out bid and his agent is going to laugh at any extension the Pirate would try to make, he knows he can get that any time, he wants to see what the FA market will bring. Look at the Cuban and Japanese players that the Pirates have no chance at, put Martin in the same category.

    Could the Pirates have gotten Tanaka? granted more money than Martin, but same scenario.

    • Martin isn’t close to that category.

      • If we take catcher WAR at face value and place no value on pitch framing, Martin is approaching 10 WAR over the last two season. Cespedes is at 9 WAR over three season, Puig 9 WAR over two seasons, Abreu 5 WAR over one season, Tanaka sits at 3.2 WAR. So retrospectively Martin has had a similar impact.

        Now going forward I don’t think his projections will match Abreu or Puig, but I could easily see him getting Cespedes or Puig like total value in a free agent contract. Not going to get Tanaka like money but Tanaka shouldn’t have gotten that much, fairly desperate contract by New York.

        • “Look at the Cuban and Japanese players that the Pirates have no chance at, put Martin in the same category.”

          The Pirates could’ve easily afforded Cespedes and probably even Puig, since they were undervalued by the market.

    • Martin may be one of the most intelligent FAs of the last 5 years. He turned down a 3 year deal with PIT for a 2 year deal to boost his value and bank in after that. He then went out and accomplished that and has pushed his “im in the best shape of my life, i love to workout” idea well. The guy will take the most money possible or ill be shocked, and good for him for nailing his plan.

  • I’m also interested to see the impact of QO on the FA market. A team may be willing to overpay, but will they be willing to both significantly overpay AND part with the pick? That could work in Pirates favor. Getting Martin on a QO would be a good investment because they’d keep his peak performance without overpaying on the back end. But we know he’d never sign it. It could suppress his market just enough for the Bucs to get within reach on a multi year deal.

    • I think it is unlikely that anyone will accept a QO (in the two years QOs have existed, no MLB player has accepted one yet – not to say that won’t change, but it is unlikely (because, among other reasons, the player only has one week to decide on the QO and the good, older players want the security of multi-year deals, and the good QO players – those without question marks – have been getting those multi-year deals – that’s the market now)). But that doesn’t mean the Pirates shouldn’t offer QOs in order to get the draft picks. Even if your scenario doesn’t happen (where a player signs with the team who offered him a QO that the player rejected) – it hasn’t happened too many times in the last two years, as I recall – the Pirates still would get draft picks and the financial risk is minimal. From the financial risk perspective, the QOs probably won’t be accepted anyway, but if one or more QOs were accepted the Pirates would get very good players (with only a one year financial commitment) who could either play for them or bring back great returns in the trade market.

  • I’m also interested in what becomes of Martin. But I’m way more interested in what happens the rest of this season! None of us have any control over this, so let’s all sit back and enjoy the rest of this remarkable run.

    • Here here ! After two decades of losing ball, no one should complain about last season or this one. Enjoy it while we can.

  • I know every season is a separate beast, but the Bucs were budgeted for Burnett at $12 mil, Loney $7 mil and reportedly Johnson at $8. While some moves may have precluded others and the gap was filled in a few places (ie Volquez, Barmes, Marte extension, Davis, Frieri), it’s safe to say the FO committed roughly $15-20 in payroll which was not spent. Not to rehash last off season, but that money went somewhere. They were even willing to assume Price’s large contract (this year and next), so they money was obviously available as late as August.
    I just don’t get the nickel and diming over Martin when an extra year would probably make a deal happen (ie 4th vs. 3rd). The new collision rules plus a player who’s been forward thinking on training and conditioning could make him a viable and valuable player into his mid thirties even if the offense regresses as expected.

    • Like you, I’m convinced the money is there and the team has around $90 mill to work with. I’m also becoming more convinced that it’s not so much Nutting as the problem as it is Neal and his insistence on following his personal dogma regarding FAs and needing to have a positive outcome on every single year of a contract vs. the benefit of trying to win now.

      If I’m Martin’s agent, the one name that is going to be brought up every other sentence is Jorge Posada. Posada’s age 33-36 seasons by WAR: 4.4, 3.1, 4.3, 5.7.

    • Yep. between money coming off the books and money that was clearly approved by Nutting/Coonelly to spend, they’ll have the $ to get Martin.

      But you still shouldn’t just match ANY offer. You do want the player and contract to have positive or at the very least neutral value.

      if LA offers 4 yrs, 80 milion (which… WAR-wise… he’d arguably be worth. I don’t think it’ll reach that, but I could make an argument where he is worth that. plus it’s just hypothetical.), then i’d rather them buy some other fun stuff instead.

  • I’d be interested to see the number of reclamation projects that we’ve had that failed. Maybe folks like Erik Bedard or is he not considered a reclamation project. I’m sure I can dig up a few more if I go looking. It’s not to say the Pirates shouldn’t look for them, I’d just be interested in seeing that ones that didn’t go so well.

    • in their defense, Bedard’s FIP and xFIP were about 4, which would’ve been reasonable (in addition to the fact that he was coming off a year with ERA/FIP/xFIP all in the mid 3s.)

      But yeah. i wish Bedard would’ve worked out better. One of my favorite pitchers.

    • I don’t know if Bedard was a reclamation project as much as a player that came cheap because he was an injury risk. He started off well, then fell apart right after an injury in early May.

      • Maybe Jonathan Sanchez then? Just curious if there are scenarios out there that I’m not thinking of. Just trying to find the exception so I’ve got something to weigh the successes against. What might make one attempt succeed and one fail? I know every situation is different, but looking for some comparisons.

        • Sanchez and Ernesto Frieri are the two “big” ones, although both were so bad to begin with that I’d hardly call them failures.

          Baseball is hard. Even when things are supposed to make sense, sometimes they don’t. That’s obviously not the answer you’re looking for, but I’m not sure there’s an answer any more accurate.

        • You could probably include James McDonald if you’re just generally looking for players with talented arms that the Pirates were not able to turn into quality starters.

          • J-Mac doesnt fit the bill of a reclamation project since he was a throw in to a trade. He was a low risk-pure upside guy. Even with his implosion, he still gave the team quality starts that were totally unexpected.

    • After 20 losing season and now 2 winning ones, why should we focus on the glass is half empty? Let’s be grateful for the ones that have worked out and look forward to our homegrown guys and the future.

  • I am interested in finding out why everyone is so willing to let Liriano and Volquez go, when there is no way of knowing at this point what kindof contracts they will be offered. Each will end the season somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5 WAR. Using $5.5 million per WAR, which I believe is about where pitchers are compensated, would it not make sense to bring Liriano back at that price? If you are so willing to extend the QO, why not extend to 3-4 years at less than the QO? Volquez, maybe not so much, but you at least have to think hard about Liriano.

    The only think the front office’s philosophy has proven is that it can getthe Pirates to the postseason. In the postseason you need 2 top of the rotation pitchers, pitching like top of the rotation pitchers, in order to win. With the exception of one month last season, Cole has never looked like that, and nothing about Jameson Taillon so far in the minors would lead me to believe that he would be that. Kingham is a #2 at best, and Glasnow still walks too many batters for me to get overly excited about. That is not to say that none of them will be that level, but at this point, Liriano is there and we have no one else that is even close.

    I do find it amazing that we will have a postseason rotation that includes Volquez and Worley, I honestly can’t wrap my head around that, and Worley should probably get the Wild Card game just so we can have Liriano for 2 games in the NLDS. I am that confident that we will win the WC game that I don’t feel there is any need to pitch Liriano or Cole, and our only shot in the NLDS is having both of them for 2 games in that series.

    • If Liriano would take a 2 year deal, he’d be a great investment even at qualifying offer prices. Therefore, i hope they at least do the Q.O. It wouldn’t make much sense not to. Liriano could surely beat 1×15 in FA. 2×28? 3×40? 4×50? Therefore, there just isn’t a big chance he would accept it and he’s juuuust un-great enough where the draft pick compensation could really hurt his FA market and make him re-signable.

      But i’m just scared of what could happen if he commanded 4 or even 3 years.

  • At the very least, extend those QO’s. Get those picks.

  • The difficult decision with Justin Masterson will be figuring out if his sharp loss of velocity and command indicates a prime candidate to bounce back with mechanical adjustments, or prime candidate to miss 2015 with a serious arm injury.

  • Justin Masterson: My thoughts exactly Tim

  • maybe we are overlooking one major fact all of these pitching reclamation projects have one other thing in common right the catcher they have been working with these last 2 years MARTIN

    • AJ’s 1st bounceback was with Rod freakin’ Barajas, one of the worst defensive catchers in all of baseball.

  • Reclamation projects (RPs) are great — if they work — but are also fraught with risk. Moreover, when they work, as they have the past few years, they help get the team to the first round of the playoffs, but no further… yet. Then, the following year, one or more of the RPs move on and you start anew hoping you’ve found another. In short, I don’t know that you can build a champion (which is what we want, right???) banking on RPs to get you there. At some point, you will need a consistent No. 1 and 2 year in and year out. Finally, let’s not underestimate Russell Martin’s role in all this… I have a sinking feeling that with a lesser/younger catcher and leader, EV and VW, in particular, would have not fared nearly as we’ll this year. So, if RM goes, so, too, may our RP winning streak.

    • I think the hope is that Cole and Taillon are those consistent 1 and 2s.

      • Sure, but Cole is not quite there yet at least compared to other top teams’ 1s and 2s, and Taillon may not have any impact on the ML team in 2015. So, at best/earliest, that’s a dream 2016 scenario. Let’s not wait too long and push too close to the end of Cutch’s extension before settling and establishing the top of the rotation.

        • Taillon may be ready to pitch on day 1. He will spend half a year in AAA and then be up. You arent being logical with your rehab times if you think Taillon isnt ready until 2016.Both can be in the bigs and pitching next year.

          • He never said Taillon won’t be ready until 2016.

            He said Taillon MAY not have an IMPACT until 2016, which is not only logical but probable.

            • Bingo! Thanks NMR.

            • If Taillon pitches the second half of next year, he has an impact either positive or negative. Taillon is likely to see starts next year, so its not logical to think he would have no impact. Even a few September starts from him would have an impact.

          • No, I was suggesting that JT will not have a No. 1 or 2 impact until at least 2016… if ever. Let’s remember he hasn’t pitched a ML inning yet, let alone at a legit No. 1 or 2 level. Very few prospects have that kind of impact so fast.

            • Fair point, but him being a top level guy or not doesnt mean his stuff wont have an impact next year. He is likely to see at least some time in the bigs if healthy, and any starts he gets will have an impact. It may be bad, it may be “meh” but it will be impactful. He is likely to be ready to pitch in AAA to start the year, and i really cant see them giving him an entire year of AAA without at least a Sept. call up and a few starts.

    • I agree whole heartedly. . Right now we’re a good regular season team. If we’re going to take that next step the guys in our system (cole/jt/glasnow/kingham) will have to provide that 1-2 punch.. if they don’t then this might be as good as it gets.. which I love what we’re getting btw

  • I lump their reclamation projects into two categories… Luck bounceback based and scouting/mechanics based bouncebacks.

    Most of them fall under both categories, but with different degrees of each. Burnett, Hanrahan, Melancon, Liriano, Volquez all could expect considerable improvement in performance just from luck correction alone (as in… High ERA, low xFIP in the previous year).

    But then some of the pitchers had more than luck working for them. Searage Demon Magic and probably some Dan Fox is what made those bouncebacks even better. Burnett became a ground ball machine. Liriano had that extra month in spring training last year to work on stuff. Volquez had terrible spring results in order to really work on specific things in those starts. Worley’s success is almost completely based on mechanics improvements because he lost all his deception in 2013 and now got it back, as evidenced by all of his strikeouts with a backwards K.

    Masterson would be totally mechanics-based since his FIP and xFIP arent very good this year. It’d mostly be a “i bet Benedict and Searage can fix him” instead of a ERA – FIP special.

    He’s walking more than 1 guy per 9 innings more than his career. his BABIP against is almost 40 points higher this year than in his career. So i guess that’s kind of a 2014-was-bad-luck argument. Works for me.

    Definitely looks like an outlier year for an otherwise good pitcher.

    • xFIP,FIP,etc for 2014 Masterson are all similar to 2013 Volquez.

      However, he’s also had more recent and more consistent and more outstanding success, so i doubt 1 yr @ $5 mil gets it done. I’d throw 1-2 years of 8-10 million per at him as long as Searage and Co. see something that has a decent chance at being fixed.

      • Boy, consistent? Justin Masterson? That’s an awfully tough sell.

        • i was comparing him to Volquez though. Masterson’s definitely not consistent on the scale of all pitchers, but he’s consistent on the scale of Edinson Volquez.

          I guess saying “he’s had more good years and more good recent years and higher levels of goodness in those good years than Volquez” would’ve been a better statement.

        • So was Volquez 8 months ago.

          • Your point?

            • That clearly the Pirates dont use really simple methods like “man, he isnt consistent” in evaluating. None of the guys we have gone after were consistent. In fact, lack of consistency may be one thing the team looks for in a cheap but useable SP in FA. High GB rate and quality stuff with needed small tweaks to get him consistent.

    • The ironic thing with Volquez is that his FIP is over a run higher than his ERA.

      • Yep. But still! I would take 190 innings of 4.2 ERA ball for $5 mil!

        That’s exactly what i asked for when they signed him because that’s what I expected from a luck bounceback alone.

  • “The reason for this is due to Ray Searage and Jim Benedict for making the adjustments with these players”…as stated above.
    I think for this upcoming offseason extensions should look like something like this;
    1a: Ray Searage and Jim Benedict (do what it takes to keep them in the Burg)
    1b: Mr. Martin needs to stick around, the pitchers like having him around.

  • No, Justin Masterson does not look like a poster boy for Pirates reclamation. He looks like a fairly expensive mid-rotation guy with a knee problem.

    The Bucs do not have a single starter with a WAR over 1.6, a stat they share in MLB with only the Rockies (not known for producing high WAR pitchers). Yes, the strategy has worked for them overall this year to get into the playoffs. But until they win a playoff series, the philosophy has to be viewed as not being successful.

    • 2014

      Must respectfully disagree with your final assertion, but was very interested in your note about our starters’ WAR. I did not know that. Curious. Yet the Benedict / Searage team of pitch whisperers seem to find that curious zen place where all things work together.

      I think you’re being fairly arbitrary – and you have that right – with the “until they win a playoff series, the philosophy has to be viewed as not being successful.”

      I think it much more broad and fair to realize that this team – philosophy and all – is at this point a consistent contender, which is a platform from which to launch a sortie at a championship. We’ve gone toe to toe with the Cardinals and come away even. There’s a good chance of this team taking out anyone in a post-season series.

      The other thing, I think, that you have to consider when saying the philosophy is unsuccessful is this: What other philosophy works for the Pirates? I am far more interested in the big-boned pitchers that are coming out of nowhere all through our system and what the pitch whisperers can do for them.

      In counterpoint to your statement, my only fear is that the philosophy will catch on around the league!

      Good thoughtful post, though. Interesting WAR stat.

      -Wabbit
      “Finster! There you are you naughty baby. How many times have I told you NOT to PLAY wit’ da DOITY MONEY!”

      • Hard for me not to like any post that ends with a Bugs Bunny, Baby Face Finster reference. “Finster?, shaving at his age??”

      • Wabbit…we miss you in the “Asylum”. Where ya been?

        Elmer Foo

        • LY

          I lurk every day, using JAL’s links and I click over to P2 from there a lot. Seeing the back and forth and such and I’m keeping up.

          It is the middle of high school soccer season and my charges are really starting to play well and I’m ever so busy with both the high school soccer and acting as the VP of our local soccer club.

          This time of year is very tiring for me and by the time the snow flies, I’m going to disappear to the mountain nearby where I have a cozy little camp and I’m going to finish a book I’ve been stalling on for too long. Couple weeks of quiet with nothing to do but write and I’ll come back home with a finished novel to sell and re-integrate into the world again.

          Might be nice to have to postpone the sabbatical until after, say, the world series.

          -BB

    • I just wonder if the buccos pitching philosophy of pitching to defense is negatively impacting these war and fip categories for their pitchers.. we don’t have top of rotation guys who strike out 10+ a game, which I think impacts saber stats pretty negatively. . If our approach is to induce a higher ground ball rate then the norm.. turn a higher rate of those ground balls into outs.. and if we’re successful at it, sabermatrics normalizes out our entire philosophy doesn’t it? If so, then I’m not sure I agree with the approach of using war as the only determination of success

      • You’re on the right track, but that really only happens in extreme cases. None of the Pirate pitchers have proven they have the skill set to consistently pitch such that batted balls are converted into outs at an appreciably greater rate than average.

        The Pirates would rate just fine, even given their lack of strikeouts, if they also issued walks at an equally lower rate. That is the reason Pirate pitchers aren’t fairing well as judged by FIP, and therefor WAR.

        • All assuming we’re talking about fWAR.

          You also have to consider that WAR is a cumulative statistic. Only one Pirate starter has pitched at a full-season rate of innings. Liriano, Cole, and Morton would all have a chance at being 2 WAR pitchers this season if they had the innings.

        • My point about focusing on gb rates and defense vs k/bb rates was specifically made with regards to pirates pitching staff on fangraphs. I understand that war values are based on that ratio.. the pirates seem to go about developing a pitching staff that war values do a poor job of measuring success.. which if the industry is relying on these measures for quality pitching now, maybe it’s the new market inefficiency?? If so, it would explain why we seem to be ahead of everyone else in turning pitching careers around

    • Success is not that binary.

  • Liriano is going to get some serious coin from somebody. However, the demand for Volquez may not be so great the Pirates can’t offer him a good enough offer to stay. Especially if both Martin and Liriano leave for greener pastures as expected.

    • A great contribution from Liriano over the past two years, but his salary and the fact that the Pirates will have at least 3 MLB-ready arms at AAA, and with Tyler Glasnow probably at AA, a QO is the smartest thing to do. And No, I doubt that Russell Martin will want to leave Pittsburgh, and greener pastures does not always equate to more money.

    • It would be very unusual for the Pirates to bring Volquez back. He will get paid for his tiny ERA, but the Pirates would only be willing to pay for his mediocre xFIP.

      WAR-wise, FIP-wise, xFIP-wise, he is worth less than $5 mil. I love what he’s done and I was probably the biggest supporter of the signing when it happened, saying he was a good bet for 180 innings and a 4.0 ERA from the day of the signing. But i just don’t see them giving him a raise because it’d be overpaying to get regression instead of underpaying to get bounceback.

      • I agree with your overall point, but I don’t think the situation is quite as cut and dried as pure luck/regression.

        For one, nobody is paying Edinson Volquez as if he’s a true talent low-3 ERA guy. They’re just not. He’ll surely get some kind of raise, but I’d be surprised if any team trusted him for more than a two year contract around $8m per.

        But most of all, it wouldn’t surprise me if the team still sees more in him. And frankly, they may be right. I could buy into a narrative that Volquez really was still in more project mode than performance mode for most of the first half. Elite SP velocity with two above average secondary pitches SHOULD get you more K’s than he’s put up. If he’s able to get back into the 20%K range I think you’re looking at an easy #3.

        • I agree. He’s a fascinating pitcher, really.

          I do think that he COULD have a gear where he could throw up 3.5-3.75 ERAs with FIPs to match to make the ERA believable. But he’s running out of time to reach that level since he’s on the wrong side of 30. The stuff could tick down soon.

          But yeah. If they could get him for like 7 mil or something and… say… Brandon McCarthy is getting like 12 mil, then yeah i’d say sign me up for round 2 of Edinson.

          But if they could get McCarthy for 10 or Masterson for 8, i’d opt for them instead.

          • Fascinating is a great word for it. The baseball nut in me likes Volquez more than the Pirate fan in me.

      • I’m not convinced that Volquez is due for regression. In fact, i believe there is more room for improvement with Endy.

        Nevertheless, Pgh has pitching depth: Cole, Morton, Locke, Worley, Cumpton… that’s a decent rotation if they all stay healthy.

        #SignRuss

        • In some ways I agree.

          But i’m just pointing out the fact that the thing that gave many of us hope when they signed guys (ERA much higher than FIP) is the exact opposite of the situation with Edinson.

          It just wouldn’t follow that pattern is all. I’d be fine if they brought him back. I’d just be surprised if they didn’t find another bounceback candidate instead.

          P.S. #SignRuss

        • Volquez has the sixth largest ERA-FIP gap in baseball, his BABIP is 30 points below his career norm and his BABIP is 30 point lower with men on base. There is some skill in there, but Volquez isn’t in a class of pitchers who outperform FIP, and doesn’t have the track record of someone like Cueto, who has a deceptive fastball that is hard to square up and holds runners well.

          I love Volquez’s production even when he gets it in a somewhat maddening way, but it is a folly to think the Volquez is a true talent low 3.00 ERA.

          The Pirates deserve credit for finding an undervalued guy, getting him to throw his sinker for strikes, and letting their deep outfield positioning and shifting limit extra base hits. However credit the Pirates for the effect just not the entire magnitude.

          • In all fairness, Cueto is so ugly he is hard to look at anyway and just when the batter gets adjusted to it he does that crazy turn away wind up and then the batter realizes he is going to get a flash of ugly again. That’s where the deception comes from!

            • The Zane Smith effect.

              • I hate to put Zane in any conversation with “I’ll spike you while your down” Cueto. When he pulled that in that fight with the Cards I really would just like to sucker punch him if i ever met him.

        • i just dont know ow muc h a team will pay these days when a QO is made. noone wants to lose a top draft pick to siign a player just ask kyle lohse morales and drew

  • I don’t know who the equivalent of Searage & Benedict would be hitting “gurus” in the majors, but i say sign him, kidnap him, steal him no matter the cost.
    Over paying for coaches would cost a few paltry extra millions, but the benefits would be huge as seen on the pitching side.
    Have we found him already with the way our team has hit this year? Only 1 year SSS so i don’t know, but I’d still look outside the organization and make him an offer he can’t refuse.

    • I think the Pirates are in the Top 10 in Team hitting.

      • I think we’re top 3 in a lot of off. Categories except HRs. But just saying it’s Bransons 1st year so we can’t really know if he deserves credit or not

        • normally i would agree wit you but in tis case i would say he does. our plate discipline is like night and day from last year and 5 years prior.

      • When you take out pitchers Pirates and Dodgers are best hitting teams in all of baseball.

  • we could be doing the same with left handed sluggers! i know garret jones sure benefitted – he hit one in the water!!!! currently we’re fizzling with Snyder, Davis, Toro, and the jury is out on Lambo – – – each their own reclamation project at this point. Chase Headley would crush PNC!!

    • Snider is struggling? Funny, these stats I read show him as basically an 856 OPS guy in the 2nd half of the season. That right fielder we traded for down the stretch last year must have been a real bum, he only put up an 843 OPS for us.

  • This will be an unpopular opinion in many circles of Pirate fandom. Imagine if the team sheds the salaries of Liriano, Volquez, Wandy (HA), Davis and Martin and goes with a few reclamation projects at cheapish prices along with a mid level priced catcher to replace Martin. Payroll could be at 70 million and the fans would flip a few gaskets.

    • Is that something you’re looking forward to?

      When the Bucs were light years away from competing and before the draft rules changed, one could make an argument for Nutting investing in things other than MLB payroll, like the Dominican academy, big bonuses for draft picks, better scouts, etc. Now that money pretty much has to go back into the team, unless the FO is going to start paying Japanese posting fees or signing Cubans.

      That is not to say that because you can pay $90 mill in payroll that you should simply out of principal. In the Pirates case, there is simply no supportable argument to suggest that they wouldn’t be a better team spending that money than not. There are plenty of places where this team could stand to get better. They are only top 10 in WAR by position at five slots, one of them being that catcher you don’t want to pay. They don’t have a single pitcher in the top 90 by WAR (although it’s possible Worley just cracked that with yesterday’s performance).

      • You read stupid things from what i posted. I like Russ, want Russ, but dont give out money that isnt worth it. Pay for his future performance, not fond memories and his career year this year. This team cannot compete in FA, so spending money at market price there will make the team worse. Draft, develop and extend. Ill take Russ at 3 years and any price south of 18 million. 4+ years is a bad risk.

        • So if you’re OK with 3 years with a ceiling of $54 mill, then 4 years at $60 mill shouldn’t be a stretch. You can trade Martin in the 4th year if you structure it so that year is worth $10 mill or less.

          • My favorite argument. Yeah, it’ll be real easy to trade a mid 30s catcher. I get the logic behind “just trade him” but that is praying he isnt hurt or regressed to the point where his offense is below league average. If Martin is a .240 hitting 10 HR gut that plays 60-80 games a year, he isnt getting traded easily. Which is why the 4th year IS a stretch. He isnt likely to continue his career year type offense, and regression due to age makes him a very risky offensive catcher in 4 years and a guy that likely will see less games per year than he does now. I can easily see Russ being able to only play 70 games and be a slightly below average hitter in 4 years while making 10 million.

            • The question you have to ask is whether Martin is truly an above average catcher or not, as there will be a market for someone who can handle a staff and is good defensively, regardless of whether his offense declines. I think Martin makes that cut, easily. And there is certainly plenty of precedent for a mid-30s catcher being traded, either to a contender or to a young team needing veteran leadership for a young staff. The Yankees traded for Pudge (who was making $10 mill) at 36. Texas traded for Bengie Molina just before his 36th birthday.

              Catchers go down all the time. Unless he’s crippled, Martin will have value at age 36. I’d take the odds that it’s far less risky than you think. And $10 million in 2017/18 will be like $7.5-$8 mill in 2014. Not as big a barrier.

              • No, the question is if he WILL be an above average catcher in 4 years (assuming he gets that 4 year deal). Roughly 110 games played this year, so its really not that shocking to think he may only be able to play a healthy 70 games in 4 years. That seriously decreases his defensive value. 10-12 million for a part time league average catcher with below average defense is a big problem for a team with our finances. Martin will have value at 36, but itll be waaay below market value. You dont pay 7 million to a backup catcher who hits below average if you are the pirates. People are allowing current Russ to make them think 36 year old Russ wont be that big of a drain. He would be a backup C that isnt a great PH option that takes money away from getting depth/use out of another spot. Russell Martin is a high risk 4 year deal, particularly since the Cubs or Dodgers can give him 4 years at above market value and not care.

                • You’ve missed my entire point. I am saying offer 4, trade after 3. There will be buyers.

                  • So if he plays 80 games, has a BA of .240 and an OBP of .310 in that 3rd year, there will be buyers for a mid 30s part time catcher? Good luck with that. His offense, even at last years levels, means most of his value in 3 years is on defense. Playing less than 100 games takes a lot from that defensive value. You cannot act like its a sure thing in 3 years the trade value for Martin will be good. It could be “here is a AA prospect and you pay half his salary”. HUGE risk in the “just trade him before he isnt good” argument.

                    • I’m tired of this discussion. You’re assuming Martin will have no value and an accelerated physical breakdown is inevitable. I’m assuming the guy is in great shape due to cutting edge conditioning and am comparing him to some of the better catchers of the last decade and will perform as such, maintaining at least a 3-4+ WAR. This conversation is going nowhere.

                    • I never said he has no value, but that its nearly impossible to be a 3-4 WAR player if you hit average or below and play less than 100 games. He can be “healthy” and still only play 90 games as he only got to 110 this year. That cutting edge conditioning still got him only the DL this year and playing hurt at times. Love him, dont trust his body to play 100 games in 3 years since he barely got to that this year.

    • What constitutes a mid level priced catcher and who might that be?

    • Record attendance at PNC in ’14, and probably record revenue, as well. I don’t see anything that prevents Pgh from having a payroll in the $85mil. neighborhood next year.

      Sign Russ and find another SP reclamation project… there’s plenty of room on the payroll to get this done.

      • I think if it was about only 2015 payroll it would already be done.. 2018 & 2019 is the concern

      • Record attendance but with ticket prices that are near lowest in the league. They could have an 80 million payroll and likely are willing to do so, but Pirate fans have to come to terms with increased ticket prices if they want the team to continue to add payroll. We are spoiled with prices for a seat. The decent increase after last year made some lose their minds, and it wasnt drastic at all.

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