Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Are the Pirates moneyballing?

Moneyball featuring Brad Pitt came out today on DVD.  I haven't bought my copy yet on bluray, but I did see the movie in the theatre.  I thought that the movie was really good for a mainstream audience and showed how tough the business side of sports can be especially when trying to compete against the Red Sox and Yankees in the American League.  Having the movie focus entirely on sabremetrics would have been a bore so I'm glad that they focused more on the thoughts and feelings that Billy Beane was going through during this transition. 

I bring this up because a lot of people bash the Pittsburgh Pirates.  I mean let's be honest, they've had 19 losing seasons after all.  This doesn't mean that they aren't trying to get better.  Signing free agents like Albert Pujols or CJ Wilson would cripple the team if they were to not perform above expectations.  A similiar situatin happened in Texas awhile ago when they signed Alex Rodriguez to that ridiculous contract.  Texas didn't make the World Series and the team went bankrupt.  Now Texas is doing good, but it was because they built a Championship caliber team through the draft and international signings.  They built a strong young core of players and have been piecing things together with veterans to fill the gaps. 

The Pirates also have a strong young core of players at the major league level in Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, and Jose Tabata.  The jury is still out on Pedro Alvarez.  Alex Presley looks like he will be above replacement level in the outfield and there's lots of talented pitching coming up in the next few years.  Unfortunately, I believe that some of the young core will be traded off by then.  Why?  Because they won't be competing for a championship and would like to remain under the payroll budget saving up money for when they are finally close and can go out and get a key free agent.

Now....getting back to the Moneyball movie.....

In the movie, Billy Beane expresses interest in Ricardo Rincon and says that he wanted to get him for $1 million.  Rincon was playing for Cleveland at the time, but he got there from being traded by the Pirates for Brian Giles.

Brian Giles, all domestic abuse cases aside, was a phenomenal player for the Pirates and broke out in a big way when he came to Pittsburgh.  He was an all star in 2000 & 2001.  He was the first player in club history to hit .300 with 30+HR and drive in more than 100 runs in back to back seasons.  He was sensational!!!!!

After playing 4 1/2 seasons with the Bucs, Giles was traded to his hometown San Diego Padres for Oliver Perez and Jason Bay along with a minor leaguer whose name escapes me. 

We all know the story of what happened to Jason Bay.  He went on to win the NL rookie of year in 2004.  He was an All-Star for the Pirates in 2005 and 2006.  Then he was involved in a blockbuster trade with the Red Sox sending Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers and the Pirates receiving 4 players that amounted to nothing (yet).  They included former 1st Round draft picks: Bryan Morris, Craig Hansen, Brandon Moss, and Andy Laroche.  I was a huge fan of Jason Bay while in Pittsburgh and still root for him with the Mets.  He's just a very classy hard working ball player.

Oliver Perez lead the NL in K/9 in 2004, the same year that Jason Bay broke out to win NL ROY.  Oliver's K/9 was an astonishing 10.97 and finished with a 2.98 ERA (tied with Roger Clemens that year).  He was a true ace pitcher, but got little run support (less than 2 runs per outing) and finished with a 12-10 record.  The next two seasons were not so kind and saw Perez begin to be hit hard as he posted an ERA around 6 for each season.  In 2006 he was sent to the Mets with pitcher Ramon Hernandez (a journeyman relief pitcher) for Xavier Nady.

Xavier Nady didn't do much of anything while in Pittsburgh, but he was viewed good enough along with reliever Damaso Marte to net Jeff Karstens, Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, AND Daniel McCutchen.  I've talked before about my love for the way Jose Tabata plays so I won't go into details again regarding that.  Daniel McCutchen is a very versatile pitcher and can be used to throw to one batter or do a spot start or pitch 6 innings in relief in needed.  He could be a future closer and demonstrated this year that he keeps getting better.  Jeff Karstens broke out in a big way last year as he mixed up all his off speed pitches to be in the top 10 in ERA.  Ross Ohlendorf, well.....he's been released because of two injury plagued seasons.

So I finish with this thought.  The Pirates have been playing to their market, but they have yet to get enough pieces in place to field a team that can be above .500.  I truly do think that GM Neal Huntington has done a sensational job building through the draft and just can't wait to see a team that is all homegrown take the field in 2013 and beyond. 

So to recap, 1 relief journeyman pitcher (Ricardo Rincon) helped net
4 All-Star appearances (2 by Brian Giles & 2 by Jason Bay)
a 2004 NL ROY(Jason Bay)
a 2004 Cy Young candidate (Oliver Perez)
a 2010 NL ROY candidate (Jose Tabata)
a 2011 top 10 ERA leader (Jeff Karstens)
the 3rd smartest professional sports player (Ross Ohlendorf)
more pieces for future trades

Now that I've talked waaaayyyy tooooo much, I will shut up and show off some cards that I haven't spot lighted yet of players all discussed in this post.  As a side note, I have finally updated my Jason Bay relics/auto hits.  I currently have 21 and hope to double that by the end of 2012.  I'm actually hoping to finish with 44 (his current Mets jersey number)

Brian Giles 2002 Leaf Statisical Standout BAT

2003 UD City All-Stars Mario Lemieux & Brian Giles JERSEY

 Jason Bay 2007 UD Black Lustrous 15/50 AUTO
 Jason Bay 2007 UD Black 31/75 AUTO, 4 JERSEY (one which is 2 color)
 2008 UD Generations Ralph Kiner BAT Jason Bay JERSEY
Jason Bay 2006 UD EPIC SWATCH JERSEY 15/50

 Adam & Andy Laroche 2009 Upper Deck SPX Winning Materials DUAL JERSEY

Brandon Moss 2008 & 2009 Topps Gold

Oliver Perez 2005 Upper Deck Origins ATUO

Xavier Nady 2007 UD Masterpieces Stroke of Genius AUTO

Jose Tabata 2011 Topps Next 60 AUTO

Daniel McCutchen 2010 Topps Triple Threads AUTO JERSEY 21/25


  1. Love the posts building my wantlists as well Huge Bucco fan living in California, PA!!!

  2. The minor leaguer in the Giles/Bay deal was P Cory Stewart. He made AAA in 2004-2005, but that was the end of his career.