Can the Pirates Make up for A.J.’s Innings?

Link: Estimating Future Pirate Contract Extensions

“How will the Pirates replace the 191 innings and 209 strikeouts they got from A.J. Burnett last year?”

That warning question was asked well in advance of the day that Burnett signed a $16 million deal to pitch for the Phillies this year. It was asked even before he announced that he would pitch in 2014, rather than retire. In fact, the question started being asked at about 11:00 pm, Occtober 9, 2014, immediately after the Pirates lost the final game of the National League Divisional Series to the Cardinals.

How will the Pirates replace A.J.’s 191 innings and 209 strikeouts?

Well, those numbers are now down to 185 and 199.

On Opening Day of 2013, Francisco Liriano was on the disabled list. And he would remain there until May 11.

On Opening Day 2014, while A.J. Burnett was watching Cliff Lee start the Phillies first game, Francisco Liriano threw six shutout innings and struck out ten Chicago Cubs.

The A.J. innings and strikeouts count will come down further on Wednesday. That games starter, Charlie Morton, was still recovering from Tommy John surgery at this time last year. He didn’t make his first appearance with the Pirates until June 13.

Game 3 starter, Wandy Rodriguez, only pitched 62.2 innings last year. And Game 4 starter, Gerrit Cole, didn’t make his major league debut until June 11.

If those four starters can pitch like they did last year and stay healthy, they will go a long way toward making up for what the Pirates lost when Burnett signed with the Phillies.

But the Pirates don’t need Liriano (3.12 xFIP), Morton (3.69), Rodriguez (4.00), and Cole (3.14) to replace Burnett’s innings, strikeouts, and 2.92 xFIP.  And the Pirates don’t need fifth starter Edinson Volquez (4.07), sixth starter Jeff Locke (4.19), seventh starter Brandon Cumpton (3.40), and the bullpen to combine to make up for the innings, Ks, and xFIP that they lost when Burnett left.

The Pirates need to make up for the 4.0 Wins Above Replacement level that they lost when Burnett left. And they have a full 40-man roster that they can use to do that.

A Skinny Young Pirate

When he was skinny, he had a 6.8 WAR/600 Plate Appearances; second only to Honus Wagner‘s 7.5 – in the 132 year history of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club.

When he was skinny, he had a career 145 weighted Runs Created Plus, tied for fifth in Pirate history with Willie Stargell. Andrew McCutchen‘s career wRC+ is 139. Roberto Clemente‘s was 129.

Just how good was Barry Bonds as a Pittsburgh Pirate?  Link to the Rest of the Story

Predicting the Pirates

The SABERBUCS Projections for the Pittsburgh Pirates position players are listed below. Projections for the pitchers and the SABERBUCS prediction of the Pirate win total are posted at this LINK: How Many Games Will the Pirates Win in 2014

Position Player Projections

Plate Appearances   /    Batting Line   /   Runs Created

Andrew McCutchen:   PA:  650;   .290/.380/.489 — .869 OPS;   106 Runs Created

Pedro Alvarez:   PA:  587;   .239/.309/.454 — .763 OPS;   75 Runs Created

Neil Walker:  PA:  572;  .270/.343/.417 — .760 OPS;  74 Runs Created

Starling Marte:  PA:  587;  .256/.317/.410  –  .727 OPS;  70 Runs Created

Russell Martin:  PA:  492;  .247/.341/.409 — .750 OPS;  60 Runs Created

Jose Tabata:  PA:  451;  .283/.351/.422 — .773 OPS;  60 Runs Created

Andrew Lambo:  PA:  440;  .240/.295/.419 — .714 OPS;  51 Runs Created

Jordy Mercer:  PA:  400;  .265/.322/.400 — .722 OPS:  48 Runs Created

Gaby Sanchez:  PA:  320;  .256/.347/.402 — .749 OPS;  39 Runs Created

Travis Snider:  PA:  271;  .248/.317/.394 — .711 OPS;  31 Runs Created

Clint Barmes:  PA:  300;  .233/.282/.351 — .633 OPS:  28 Runs Created

The Pirates Magic Number is 1

The 86 wins I have predicted for the Pirates might be enough to get the team to the playoffs, but the odds would seem to be against it. So, after I made that projection I got even more curious about how the Pirates might improve their chances of reaching the postseason. And my immediate, logical landing place was first-base.

It has been said ad nauseam – and even enough to make one nauseous – both here and every-elsewhere, that the Pirates have a question mark at first-base. It has been said equally enough to make one nauseous – and even ad nauseam – that General Manager Neal Huntington is – or ought to be – looking to upgrade the position through trade or free agent acquisition.

Fans, followers, freelance bloggers, and other full-blown windbags just aren’t all that excited with the prospects of rookie Andrew Lambo or Quad-A star Travis Ishikawa manning the left-handed portion of the Pirates first-baseman platoon.

Therefore, I ask, “How much better would Kendrys Morales, Justin Smoak, Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, or Mitch Moreland make the Pirates?”

Read the Rest of the Story at this Link