Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

8-2-21 – By Gary Morgan

I’ve been busy, along with everyone else who is writing, talking or covering baseball this last week. People who do this stuff believe it or not spend a ton of time building up to the trade deadline. We’ve had Joe Boyd and Justin Verno telling you all about future values and building out fair packages as examples. Craig has been diving into the prospects returned to give you a fair look at what was returned in the way only he can. And I’ve tried to remain focused on the fact there is still an MLB team to cover while dipping my toe into evaluation as well.

It’s all hands on deck and sadly, Ben Cherington doesn’t call us before pulling a deal together to make sure you aren’t going to be at your Sister’s house for her birthday first.

The bottom line, this is a stressful time to cover a baseball team and I’m personally very happy it’s over.

1. There is No Reason to Hate Gregory Polanco

The vitriol with which Polanco is spoken quite honestly sickens me.

I get it, he hasn’t turned into the player people thought he would be. But lazy, stupid, wishing death on him, calling for someone to drill him in the head with a fastball.

C’mon, this is just gross.

You can not think he’s a good player, but this is not a bad man. He’s universally everyone’s friend, the first over the railing when something good happens to greet whoever did something special, even if that player is threatening his playing time.

I understand this is online culture now and he certainly isn’t above criticism, but I’d like to think we as a people could find a way to be above talking about a baseball player more harshly than Charles Manson. He’s not lazy, he’s not stupid, he’s just not a very good baseball player.

The thing is, most of my readers already know the difference so for 99% of you this will be a waste of words, but for that 1%, knock it off, and pray you find a way to be half the person Gregory Polanco is.

And I’ll tell you right now, he has no future on this team. This isn’t about defending the player, this is about defending the man. An honestly good man, one who would read some of the things you write about him and still greet you with a smile.

2. This Whole Keller Thing Doesn’t Make Sense

When you make a tough decision to send down someone you think has no MLB recourse to improve, one would think these steps would follow.

  1. Identify any mechanical issues
  2. Find any tipping that may be going on
  3. Formulate a plan, and deploy it

And here’s what we got instead.

  1. No mechanical issues, just a minor tweak from the stretch to a full windup
  2. Nothing identified as pitch tipping
  3. Throw your hands in the air, call him back up and see what happens

I’m confused.

His stats in AAA didn’t say he was ready. The reports from the coaches really didn’t speak to any changes or improvements.

So what happened here really? I doubt we’ll ever truly know. Maybe my 3rd point really is the whole story. If so, why not just wait and deal with this in the Spring?

Maybe he’s resistant to change. Maybe the team did in fact identify some things but Mitch, who continues to say he’s feeling great or even likes what he’s doing, just isn’t trying to hear it.

Did you ever read a scouting report and see the word “coachable”. It’s probably the last thing you care about, way below his raw power, or his hit tool, arm strength. Now I didn’t see any red flags on Mitch Keller’s but I certainly won’t rule out that this is exactly what we’re seeing.

Hey, if the team and Mitch aren’t going to be direct, it’s fair game to speculate.

3. Two Seasons of Evaluation, of Everyone?

If you want job security, be a coach of a team knowingly not putting top end talent on the field. How could you hold him or his staff accountable? Is he making bad choices in the lineup? Well, look at his choices. Is he making bad moves with the bullpen? Again, but look at his options.

As a fan you sit here and wait for a decision you can actually hang around Shelton’s neck. Why didn’t he pinch hit in the 4th with the bases loaded? What was he thinking bringing that guy in to protect a one run lead when he had these other options.

It’s not just Shelton. Look at Oscar Marin, the main criticism there is that nobody has really had a breakout. You give a coach like that a roster full of young pitchers and expect him to find something, but he too gets cover. Eckstein the same.

So I’m asking, right here, right now, at what point is t time to evaluate the coaches?

We certainly don’t have an answer, but I’ll tell you when it better not be. When the team does have all that talent, that is not the time to decide you’ve made an error.

A team like this can’t afford to waste a season with good players on a hunch that they were right, so here’s hoping someone is holding them to some standard.

4. Directly Back to the Waiver Wire

The Pirates today picked up Anthony Banda, a lefty who was DFAd by the New York Mets presumably for the bullpen.

Career 6.14 ERA and -0.9 WAR. I suspect this is part of the continued effort to get through this season. Arms, and unfortunately moves like these are less about discovering talent or finding a piece, they’re about finding someone who the team simply doesn’t have to concern themselves with who they think has a chance to throw some innings.

If he turns out to be more than that, great. If he doesn’t, completely expected. Look, I’ll tell you when there’s a difference. If they pick up a guy like Austin Davis, they think there is something there and hey, maybe you can unlock something and flip him for another shot at someone like Michael Chavis.

This isn’t that. To me there are options I’d rather see in AAA who could help, but in the greater scheme of things, so be it.

5. Maybe Michael Perez Isn’t Done Developing

First, I’m not going to sit here and try to tell you to look right past his .172 average. that’s not good, and every other number I show you wouldn’t make it good.

I will say, he’s taken a beating from the fan base this year and yes a few of us writers. OK it was me alight?

He’s appeared in all of 45 ballgames for the Pirates and in 146 at bats he has 7 homeruns.

Look, I already said I wasn’t going to blow you away with stats.

The Pirates just before the All Star break mentioned that Jacob Stallings had already surpassed his career high for games caught. They also noted something else that most of us ignored, Michael Perez was in a position where he was barely playing, and because he was the backup catcher, he was barely even getting pinch hits.

As we’ve seen his playing time increase, we’ve seen some of his defensive prowess start to show itself, and we’ve also seen his at bats start to look better.

Don’t believe me? Trust your eyes more? Me too if I’m honest. But how many players can you find who have a .172 batting average and a positive WAR 0.2?

It’s not important that Perez become a starting quality player, but a capable back up until the Pirates develop someone else isn’t too much to ask. Perhaps as we see the Bucs give him more opportunity, that’s exactly what Michael will become.

We spend a ton of time worrying about who will be the next star, but maybe we need to open ourselves to seeing guys develop into important roles like this too.

Next year Michael enters his first year of arbitration and he’ll assuredly not get much, but the rest of this season will help show if he’s worth even that.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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