7-24-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
Fans get tired of hearing that winning doesn’t matter. Writers and bloggers who actually support what the team is doing cringe every time they say or write it too believe it or not.
That’s because nobody really means it.
Winning always matters, even when the team trades players. Even when they play guys who have no business being in MLB or on this team. Winning matters to the players putting everything they have on the field, even if their collective skills don’t rise to the level of what achieves it very often.
Winning matters to the coaching staff if only because we shouldn’t forget almost all of them have at one point or another been athletes themselves, which should tell you something about their competitiveness.
So maybe saying winning doesn’t matter is a bit disingenuous to say the least.
It’s probably more accurate to say, of course they’d like to win, but development should be the most important aspect of every decision they make the rest of the way.
So when I make these suggestions, that’s the lens to view them through. These are things that might not help the team win, but could accelerate the development of the talent they do have, the talent that will likely return in 2023, because next year believe it or not, winning will start to matter in a much less subjective way, whether they’re ready for it to or not.
1. Avoid Creating Platoon Players
The Pirates have seemingly decided a few players are platoon guys only. Michael Chavis, and Diego Castillo come to mind. Some fans have suggested they do the same with Oneil Cruz. If you wind up with platoon players, that’s fine, but let’s not actively develop them.
Folks, if you’re developing talent, it seems to me a bit short sighted to set off deciding they simply shouldn’t play half the time. It may very well end up there of course, but let’s take Michael Chavis in particular. He’s clearly better against left handed pitching, probably always will be. His defense is limited only by his size, and he’s done well to even mask that. The lefties that he’s been sitting for like Yoshi and Josh VanMeter aren’t either part of the future here, nor are they mashing right handed pitching.
So, wouldn’t they get more from just letting Michael try to be an every day player? At the very least he provides superior defense right?
Maybe I change my mind if they bring up a Bligh Madris, but even then, all things being equal, in the early going, I’d really prefer not to create players with handicaps. Bligh can hit pitching from both sides, so why penalize him because Michael can only hit one?
All of this to say, if winning is at least in competition with development for what matters most, let’s see development. Let’s push guys to do what’s not easy, or uncomfortable. In 2023, I don’t want to guess about the abilities of guys like Chavis. Use this year to prove it out. If he’s just a platoon guy, fine, but lets see.
2. Speaking of Cruz
Oneil Cruz has struggled since his promotion at the plate, especially against left handed pitching.
I’ll not repeat myself from the first section but I’m glad to see them allowing him to keep trying against them regardless of result. He’s always hit them in the minors, so learning to hit them in the majors is simply the next step.
Nothing is more important than at bats when it comes to Cruz and his development. So why not put him in the leadoff spot? He’ll get more at bats there. His speed more than plays, maybe it’ll help him be a bit more selective, patient. If you’re someone who believes he has to be in a run producing spot, ok, but batting 7th or 8th sure isn’t that.
Since the National League adopted the DH, this stuff matters much less than it used to regardless of the winning question, so to me this is all about math. I simply want him having more at bats than he would batting anywhere else in the lineup.
Every day, the rest of the way. Against lefties, and righties. He’s shown an ability to improve his approach as he faces a pitcher multiple times, but batting where he is currently, he isn’t getting that opportunity all that much. 2 at bats against a starter when you hit in the 7 hole is about the top end and I’d rather see him get 3 a bit more often.
3. If They Won’t be Here, Don’t be Here
After the deadline passes, I’d imagine almost everyone thinks so will the hourglass sands run out on guys like Yoshi, and VanMeter.
I hope so, but just in case, it’s one of my points.
There is nothing to gain by playing players who simply won’t be part of this thing moving forward, so to me there has to at least be a chance of that in order to make sense of playing them.
Even if inferior.
For instance, let’s say Yoshi hits 4 bombs tomorrow. I’ll give you a minute to clear the tears from your eyes from laughing, ok, all clear?
I’d still rather see someone else. Madris, Mitchell, Chavis every day, really anyone who might actually be here. If they use Josh VanMeter, I might be even more frustrated because he actually has team control, and I simply WANT them to not see him as having a future here, but at least I can say it’s plausible even if it makes me puke in my mouth.
I’m picking on VanMeter, but routinely this team has given too much playing time to guys who most fans and unless I’m to consider the coaching staff braindead, knew and know aren’t going to be here.
This one could simply boil down to use your time wisely and for the record, I’d have started this kind of thing much earlier.
4. Allow Roles to Develop in the Bullpen
The Bucs have gotten more out of their pitching staff this year than most thought they would, me included. I thought the rotation was going to be worse, I thought the bullpen was frightening. Wil Crowe came out of nowhere, Tyler Beede was a pickup I was disinterested in from the moment he was picked up, but now is the time to start letting them settle in a bit.
If newly acquired Colin Holderman is to be a back end guy, lets see it, and yes, I know he’s been assigned to AAA, don’t worry, they’re just doing what’s easy until the deadline passes, he’ll be up.
If Wil Crowe is your 8th inning guy, lets see it regularly. We’ve seen it sporadically and I’d like it to become his role. I’d like even better if they could find a lefty to fit back there but I digress.
What I don’t like is one day Crowe is the 8th inning guy, next time out he’s coming in for the 6th and the team wants 2+ innings. Versatility is great, but for arms, sometimes that leads to inconsistency.
We forget that most of these guys have been starters, even guys who we never see play up here as starters probably were in college and the minors to a certain degree. Well, the mentality of delivering more than one inning comes with old habits. For Crowe it comes with ramping back on velocity, it comes with being worrisome about using his entire repertoire. The best of him is diminished, and I’d like to see decisions made to either allow him to fully transition to one or the other. I believe he can be effective either way, but training is key for both.
5. Get Kids Up Here, but Chill on the Constant Shuffle
I’m not going to pretend I know everyone who will be here, even if I know who I want. Point is, if you bring Tucapita Marcano back up here, leave him here. If they bring up Jack Suwinski, leave him here. It’s time to get eyes on kids and let them feel part of something without constantly wondering.
For instance, Bligh Madris had hit better up here than 90% of the players they called up in 2022, so sending him down for any reason really didn’t make much sense, it’ll make even less after the deadline.
Some of these moves aren’t going to help the record, but they might just help you enter 2023 with less questions.
If Marcano isn’t good enough to be one of this team’s bench bats next year, find out now. Scratch him off the list. Rodolfo Castro is just never going to turn out? Well, lets be sure and avoid wasting a valuable 40-man spot.
Answer questions. That’s what I want done the rest of the way, and in the process I don’t expect all of the answers to be eliminating someone from contention, sometimes I think it’ll be more about confirming room needs to be provided for the player next year.
Answering some of these questions is going to be counter to “putting your best players on the field” but it could help you do exactly that in 2023, and earlier than if you just continue to try to slow walk everyone.
Without dealing with the complete fish out of water looking statistics of players like Jack Suwinski or Diego Castillo, there is no double digit homerun totals, no knowledge that Diego is legitimately capable in the outfield, and infield. No understanding that Jack has a sense of the moment and ability to turn an at bat into an all out battle to get a pitch and deliver. No knowledge that the very ability Jack showed to do so is the very reason he was sent down, because if he can do that in a high leverage situation, there is little reason to accept him going 0-29 with 20+ strikeouts.
It’s time to see what we have in some of these guys, and again, I could and have argued this should have started much earlier for some other spots.
All I’m asking is follow the model you afforded these players and get answers for others. The less questions we enter 2023 with, the better.