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Tuesday, June 22 2021 @ 08:07 am UTC
Recent observations VI 8-13-05   

Every so often Iíll write a few pertinent ó or useless ó comments for the Front Page. It keeps me out of trouble. The sixth installment:

Quack Mac

Dejan Kovacevic reported:

Bay is 13 for 13 in stolen bases this season, and his streak of 14 ó including one at the end of last season ó is the longest active run in the majors. Two weeks ago, McClendon made Bay the only player on the team with a green light to steal when he wishes. Lawton had been the only player with that designation before being traded July 31.

During his time as a Pirate, Lawton provided much evidence demonstrating that he not only was a slow runner on the base paths, but that he was a poor base runner to boot. So, McClendon gives Lawton carte blanche to steal!

It must have been Lawtonís veteran magic....

Jack Wilsonís hard road

As Pirates fans know well at this point in the season, Jack Wilson is having a tough year at the plate. Heís currently located beneath his tenth percentile PECOTA projection. Thatís quite a drop off from Wilsonís very productive 2004 season. It also indicates a clear drop beneath his career hitting norm.

Like his 2004 season, Wilsonís 2005 season is now proving to be a possible outlier when we compare it to his first seasons in the majors.

Jack Wilsonís Career Statistics

23	2001	108	.223	.255	.295	   
24	2002	147	.252	.306	.332	   
25	2003	150	.256	.303	.353	   
26	2004	157	.308	.335	.459	   
27	2005	112	.235	.281	.345	   
	Totals	674	.260	.301	.365	 

Only Wilsonís rookie season compares with his 2005 season. This fact should give us pause because the Pirates rushed Wilson to the majors and he was clearly overmatched, His rookie season not only produces a downward drag on his career rate statistics, it also represents what should have been the low point of his early and mid career years. Because of the discrepancy between Wilsonís 2005 numbers and what we would expect from him given his career to date, the question surrounding Jack Wilson becomes: Does his 2004 or 2005 season, extreme as each one may be when compared to the rest of his career, reflect his Ďrealí skill level as a hitter?

My answer to this question should disappoint Wilsonís critics: I would say weíll not firmly and rationally answer it till a few more seasons pass. After all, not only has the 2005 season been an aberration for Jack Wilson, as the 2004 season might have been, it remains the case that he was near death because of an appendicitis not long after Christmas 2004. Consequently, we canít say with any degree of confidence what affect his recent illness has had on him and his production this season. Second, itís clear that we need to wait for Wilson to accumulate more plate appearances before we make a summary judgment about his hitting skills. Had his 2004 and 2005 seasons been much like his norm, we would not face this problem. But, they werenít. We are, then, confronting a small sample size problem with Jack Wilson. One year or even two years does not make up a career for a full-time starter like him. Therefore, we must patiently work with the data (Wilsonís career numbers) in order to avoid drawing a hasty generalization about his career (which we should assess in all three tenses). Third, we would also find it difficult to assert with any degree of confidence that Wilsonís poor plate discipline has finally caught up to him this season or whether his bat speed has decreased because heís declining as a hitter. Given Wilsonís age ó heís 27 ó he ought to be enjoying a peak season this year. Obviously, heís not. What we are looking for, then, is the reason or reasons that have caused him to hit less than his norm this season.

Of course, this kind of thinking means signing Wilson to an extension would be a very risky thing for the Pirates to do at this time. Yet, thatís not a problem which Littlefield must confront right now since Jack Wilson remains under contract for another year. In other words, the Pirates do have an opportunity to better determine whether Wilsonís 2005 season was an illness-related fluke and his 2004 season represented the refinement or maturation of his hitting skills. In short, for the moment, the Pirates are in a position to eliminate the risks they would incur by signing Wilson to another long-term deal.

Jack Wilsonís next contract not an issue that can and needs to be settled right now. The Pirates have more risk-reducing evidence to collect.

Zack Duke had a tough outing

Gee, who would have thunk it? Heís mortal.

Dukeís line from last nightís game: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 2 SO. Itís his walk total and his pitch count that reveal the source of Dukeís recent troubles: 92 pitches and 55 strikes thrown in four innings. Thatís an average of 23 pitches per inning and a strike per pitch rate of 60%. Dukeís capable of better ó and worse.

Addendum: Joe Rutter of the Tribune-Review has just reported that the Pirates are considering scaling back Dukeís workload this year. They are doing so because Duke is now approaching his career high in innings pitched and the Pirates do not want to risk injuring their young pitcher. Duke might have Sean Burnett and his injury to thank for this display of caution by the Pirates.

Driving down the cost of player acquisition

Baseball America has reported (here and here) that Major League Baseball intends to Ďrationalizeí itís minor league system and its June Draft. ĎThe most likely changes for 2006,í according to Baseball America, Ďwould be moving the draft back from the beginning of June to the end, and eliminating the Arizona and Gulf Coast leagues.í Clearly, they want to reduce their costs.

Itís not yet clear how extensive these changes will be and their probable effects on the various major league teams. Will it hurt or help an organization like the Pirates? Itís difficult to say right now. We can only pray that it would help given the sad state of the current Piratesí minor league system.


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