The end of the year is typically a slow time for baseball news, although there have been a few interesting articles I’ve read over the last few days, providing some analysis either on the Pittsburgh Pirates, or on baseball in general. Here is a look at four of those links.
**Every off-season, there is a team, or multiple teams that end up being labeled as “off-season winners.” A few years ago it was the Toronto Blue Jays. Last year the Seattle Mariners were one of those teams. The theme is the same every year: a team has a busy off-season, and as a result, people dream about them leaping over the rest of the league and becoming contenders. Despite this phenomenon, when the season rolls around, you never really hear from those teams as sure-thing contenders.
Neil Paine at Five Thirty Eight wrote about this, saying that the hot stove season offers more sizzle than substance. A few of the interesting points and stats from the article:
- Since 2000-01, only about 14% of all WAR in any given MLB season were generated from hot stove acquisitions
- Last year those players generated 7.6% of all WAR in baseball. By comparison, players making their debut accounted for 5.4%.
- Paine says that, prior to 2014, you could have zeroed out the WAR each team received from its pickups, and the playoff picture would have remained the same.
Paine does mention some of the benefits, such as the fact that about 30% of MLB WAR in 2014 was generated by a player who had been acquired during the hot stove season in the previous five years. And obviously, none of this says that teams shouldn’t add in the off-season. The point here is that the awards we hand out for off-season movement don’t usually result in awards in-season.
**Buster Olney wrote about 11 in baseball who are at a career crossroad (ESPN Insider). There are players and managers included, and one of the players is Pedro Alvarez. Olney points out that the Pirates have some contingencies for Alvarez, with the addition of Corey Hart and the potential addition of Jung-Ho Kang. Olney says that Alvarez could return to his previous standing as one of the top power hitters with a big year, or the Pirates could move on with a poor year. You’d have to wonder if they’ll move on either way, since Alvarez is only under control through the 2016 season. If he has success in 2015, they’d be able to get some value for him in a trade, and that would be a lot easier to do if Josh Bell has a big 2015 season in the upper levels and is knocking on the door.
**Eno Sarris looks at Gerrit Cole from a fantasy perspective, wondering if he should be striking out more batters. Sarris does note that the Pirates prefer their pitchers to focus on a fastball heavy approach, low pitch counts, and ground balls. He compares Cole to Yordano Ventura, Carlos Carrasco, and Stephen Strasburg, and the results aren’t favorable when it comes to strikeouts. I’ll point out that Cole is only 24, so a lot of this article seems early. Sarris does note that Cole could improve, and I think that’s likely to happen. For example, Carrasco is 27, and just had his first big strikeout year in 2014. He also noted that Cole hasn’t avoided injuries, although that was mostly due to time missed in 2014, and a big reason for the extended time off was that he rushed back after the first injury.
**Grant Brisbee looked at the biggest holes for every National League team. The biggest hole for the Pirates might be surprising to those who think they still have needs. Brisbee says it’s the backup catcher, noting how Francisco Cervelli has been injury prone, and might not be able to catch a full season. He also notes that he’s mostly nitpicking, and that the Pirates are a deep team. That gives you some perspective of how the team looks outside of Pittsburgh.