Can We Realistically Say the Pirates Won’t be Better in 2022?

3-16-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

I mean, I don’t see it.

Sure it could happen, everything that could go wrong certainly could occur.

Instead of improving from last year’s performance everyone could instead take a step back and guys who get their shot could all look like hot garbage. Mitch Keller could throw 100 MPH with no movement and still get lit up like a downtown Christmas tree. Bryan Reynolds could regress I suppose.

See, as you start listing off everything that could go wrong, you have to conversely think about everything that could go right, and the truth is, most of the time they’ll cancel each other out and what’s left is the balance of what talent and your depth got you.

That’s why I worry so much about positions of weakness like catcher, or bullpen, corner outfielder. Even if you like the first wave, you can’t like the depth there, at least not MLB experienced depth.

All that said, it’s hard for me to look at this year’s ballclub as currently constructed and think it seems worse than 2021 and it’s all about the late season graduation of so many prospects to step away status. Maybe I’m just fooling myself a bit here, it’s not like kids often come up and look like they can’t possibly be sent back down after all.

So the team lost Jacob Stallings, Adam Frazier, Colin Moran, Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault. Out of those players, Moran played in 99 total games and played to exactly 0.0 WAR, the very definition of a replacement level player. He’s been replaced effectively by Daniel Vogelbach and he too is right around a replacement level player. If healthy, he’s hit some homeruns in his career, but the average leaves quite a bit to be desired. He walks a lot, Colin didn’t but because he hit for higher average their OBA was similar. One makes it look like he’s running in tar paper and the other is overweight but somehow moves. So there’s one guy and that’s largely a wash.

Roberto Perez replaces Jacob Stallings who caught 112 games and won the gold glove. Jake has been a consistent hitter, around .250, a handful of homeruns, decent OBA, all adding up to a 3.0 WAR and he wasn’t going to be a free agent until 2025. Perez plated in 44 games, hit .149 and contributed -0.1 WAR to the cause. He’s had a better singular season than Jake, but that was 3 years ago. Hard to say this isn’t a step back and since they didn’t bother changing the backup, hard to say the position isn’t downgraded.

Adam Frazier split time obviously between Pittsburgh and San Diego, he played 155 games and posted a 4.0 WAR with a .305 batting average. Considering I can’t directly replace him on this roster I’ll say it this way. Take the WAR of Hoy Park, Michael Chavis, Cole Tucker, and Rodolfo Castro and you have -1.5 WAR. Ouch. Yup, hard to say that’s a step forward right?

Before we get to the pitching, I suppose we have to talk about another addition to this mix and that’s Yoshi Tsutsugo. Yoshi played in 81 games split between the Dodgers, Rays and Bucs to a tune of -0.6 WAR and while many will want to just focus on his time with Pittsburgh OK, he was better here. If it comforts you to say he’s trending the right way or even that he figured it out, that’s fine, I’m just going by what’s been, not telling you what is. Even adding him in it’s hard to imagine 1B or DH have the chops to have a 4 or 5 game turnaround in WAR.

Now the pitchers, Chad Kuhl and Steven Brault. Chad was a replacement level player last year with a mid 4’s ERA and Steven barely pitched. It’s hard to say who directly replaces them until we see the rotation but let’s assume Zach Thompson Jose Quintana and Bryse Wilson they add up to a+0.2 WAR and most of that is Thompson who himself is 0.9 WAR, Wilson 0.0 and Quintana -0.7. All in all, the rotation scores a net positive in my mind.

Now, I think that shows they haven’t jettisoned enough or brought in enough to say WAR alone dictates they will be better or worse.

If they have anything going for them it’s that these guys are predominantly young so they have room for improvement.

If you really want a reason for optimism this year record wise it really has to be based on the belief that by mid year some of the prospects will start filtering in and improving the club.

I guess what I’m saying is I don’t think the record improves a bunch, at least not right now but I think I feel pretty safe saying we’ll like the look of this club a lot more in September than we will in April or May.

Now for me, this is fun, I love this part where the reinforcements start trickling in and making their marks on the team. We saw it from a few last year, but aside from Castro none that had fans picturing something transformative until the last weekend of the season.

I know some really want the club to invest, and I can and have certainly made that argument as well, but if we finish 2022 thinking you’d like to see more of much of this group it might just wind up being a season we enjoy.

No official prediction today, I need to see this club come together first, but I can honestly say I think the pitching will be better and if they hit at all they’ll win a few more games. It’s also fair to remind yourself that the NL Central isn’t filled with world beaters.

Hey, either way, this is right where I thought they’d be in this process, so I’m not about to act shocked we’re here.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

One thought on “Can We Realistically Say the Pirates Won’t be Better in 2022?

  1. Yeah, that ending is the key: This is no surprise.

    Especially with a planned influx of prospects, that record number of players might not last a year. With varying degrees of possibility, some combination of the following should be gone sometime this year: Crowe, Howard, Keller, Quintana, Hembree, Hanhold, Underwood, Banda, Peters, Stratton, Medina, Fletcher, Tucker, Tsutsugo, Alford, Perez, Gamel, Chavis, Allen, Park, Newman, Oliva, Vogelbach, and yes, Reynolds, on the unlikely chance he’s traded. I’d say it’s easy to expect at least 10 of those to be gone for various reasons–and that’s just from the current active 40-man roster.

    Liked by 1 person

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