10-7-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
The Pirates finished the 2022 season with a record of 62-100. This immediately followed a 61-101 campaign, and if we prorated out what the 60 game sham season would have been, yup, another 100 losses or so.
The team management is really banking on your trust. Trust was already long since shattered in this city, some will tell you that started in 2016, some will tell you it goes all the way back to 1993, everyone will tell you, even the optimists, they simply don’t trust this owner and thereby management, will do what it takes to get the job done.
How could you really?
Listen, I’m the first one to tell people that the Pirates are disadvantaged by their market, but folks, I also routinely remind you other markets with very similar size find a way. Some don’t too, but that doesn’t really help does it?
Let’s talk about what went wrong in 2022, what needs to change for 2023, and what we should expect.
I’m going to start by giving them much more credit than they deserve here with this first one. They had to have expected to get at least a bit more from Roberto Perez before he wound up getting hurt. Now, you have to know I constantly warned this was a concern heading into the season, so again, I’m being kind putting this in the unexpected column.
This one injury decimated a large chunk of the plan this year for the pitching staff.
Now, I don’t expect any of you to shed a tear, after all, they certainly should have fortified the position further, but even if they had, they wanted more out of Perez than just a good receiver of the ball, they essentially wanted a coach on the field. A veteran leader to help guide the pitching staff and maybe even play dad to the locker room. We’ll get to this later, but all these are the exact reason you can expect the team to try to bring him back.
The Pirates were dealt another blow, and this too shouldn’t have been all that unexpected, Yoshi Tsutsugo was not nearly enough at first base. Here’s the really weird part of this signing, even if his bat had worked out, which was a long shot, he was never going to be a good first baseman. They did that knowing full well that at some point they’d be calling up their talented but incredibly erratic armed top prospect.
Again, unexpected is a stretch to a degree, but we can at least say, they couldn’t have possibly believed it would wind up this badly.
Ke’Bryan Hayes regression has to be on this list. Now, you can compare him to a bunch of other players and he’s clearly not the biggest issue, but they clearly didn’t sign him to that extension and expect him to be anything short of one of the team leaders. To his credit, he fought through a persistent back injury, still played at least statistically good defense, even while committing more errors than he’d himself like or accept.
They never had enough pitching from the beginning of the season they never had enough, but they can’t have expected Bryse Wilson to show up to Spring Training not ready to compete. I’m not here to tell you it was the difference between a Cy Young season and utter failure, but let’s just say, expecting him to eat some early season innings shouldn’t have been too much to ask.
Self Inflicted Wounds
This has the potential to be a gigantic section.
One of them we already mentioned, they set themselves up for failure at the catching position and first base but to elaborate a bit, we knew it would be, because even if they were ok these were two spots this organization simply had next to nobody ready to come up and fill. It’s one thing to continually point to the future, it’s another entirely to know it’s not coming soon and leave the MLB club devoid of nearly enough.
Pitching was no different, they have a bunch of pitchers coming but not many coming this year. They got incredibly lucky with health, but still didn’t have enough, mainly because they still moved Jose Quintana at the deadline, knowing full well their plan to piss around with Roansy Contreras would completely expose how short they were. In fact one of the worst parts that they set up early on was having next to no pitchers on the 40 man with options. This actually forced them into using Roansy out of the bullpen to start the season. Again, here’s a guy they already knew they were going to hold back and limit, and here they are forcing themselves into having little choice but to use him early on.
At the beginning of the season, they slow walked every starting pitcher and did so to the absolute destruction of the bullpen. We wouldn’t really see the results of this one until August, but never the less most of us saw them coming. Every team knows they have roughly 1,458 innings to cover in a given season, so entering a season knowing full well the math didn’t work, well, how could that be anything other than derelict of duty? That’s on Ben Cherington and folks, I know it’s easier to just complain about money but making sure you have enough, even bad pitchers, to cover that workload is on the GM, alone.
More than anything, they wasted a large portion of the season simply playing guys who didn’t matter. Players with no tangible future here even if they did work out, even more who had no chance to work out to go with them. Again, if you’re selling the future, play the future.
Far too much wasted time on Josh VanMeter, Jose Godoy, Kevin Padlo types. As I said earlier, it’s super easy to make this about money but honestly, that’s letting them off the hook too easy. These weren’t just cheap choices, these were intentional efforts to hold back their own prospects. You can argue it was to give them time to get ready, but man, that’s a stretch too. Some of you will want to add in the bullpen guys they picked up but that all points back to being woefully unprepared to face that innings count in the first place so I’ll not belabor the point. This is different from wasting time on someone like Cole Tucker for instance. That may be someone who was given too many shots, but he was this franchise’s number one pick at one point, so of course you want to feel you’ve given them every chance to make it. I fear we may have a similar conversation about Travis Swaggerty one day.
Delaying Their Own Progression
The Pirates spent so much time contradicting themselves in 2022 their actual plan became really hard to understand.
For instance, Jack Suwinski is called up from AA and stays even while struggling for months. Then he figures it out, starts hitting homeruns even though he still isn’t hitting for average, goes into a horrible slump and then, then they send him down. He does nothing to really show he’s figured anything out in AAA but is recalled only to see him really look no different.
Hey, he’s a kid, I expect inconsistency, I even expect failure at times. I also don’t mean to tell you it means he can’t or won’t improve. I actually think he has a very bright future. That’s not the point.
The point is, try to make sense of that next to how they handled someone like Travis Swaggerty.
What was the difference? Why was one, not a highly touted prospect, rocketed up to the Bigs and kept here, while the other was brought up for 9 at bats? Again, good for Jack, but it just doesn’t make a ton of sense. I could pick several players, Diego Castillo, Tucupita Marcano, hell even Josh VanMeter, I mean if you aren’t at least questioning how they make their decisions well, chances are you’re just not thinking much beyond the payroll.
When the success of this whole thing likely falls directly on that decision making, well, let’s just say there is a little bit more importance placed on whether this management team is you know, actually good at it.
It’s also time to stop intentionally manipulating service time. Don’t get me wrong here, those are the rules baseball has created, and yes small market teams need to do it, but they certainly don’t need to do it to the extreme they typically do.
For instance, if they want to keep a guy down for a couple weeks to get that extra year of control, it’s honestly hard to begrudge them, but shooting for Super 2 just to save a few bucks, well, that’s doing nothing more than hurting the cause of building this thing up. Now, this will naturally start to shift into something different just because it has to. See, it’s hard to manipulate when you legitimately don’t have a place for youngsters to break through until they force your hand.
In other words, next season if you want to wait 3 weeks to call up Endy, I guess I get it, but nobody is blocking him and if he looks anything like he did this year, don’t waste this season trying to squeeze nickels that won’t need spent for 4 years. Don’t hurt the 2023 team in an effort to have the 2028 team cost a bit less.
They have a few positions like that, you know, where it’ll still come up, but if they do add a starting pitcher that rotation could run for a minute. Point being, for players like Quinn Priester, Mike Burrows, Luis Ortiz, well, they could legitimately have a hard time getting the call up. I make this point because next year I really do think we’re going to see some of this play out, and I want the difference to be clear.
One is manipulation, the other is just the product of building a successful system and through attrition putting a team on the MLB field that is at the very least built with players you believe have more room to grow.
Point is, there are reasons to do this stuff, but in 2022, they didn’t need to do many of the things they did. Think of how much better this team is record wise if they only play Cruz like way back in June? Think of what not messing around with Roansy could have meant while they sat through a month of only having 4 starting pitchers. Imagine what this season could have looked like if they had brought up all these youngsters instead of wasting time on players they claimed off waivers or traded cash for.
Listen, it’s a long off season, I’m sure I’ll think of more, but next time I sit down, I think I’m going to try looking forward a bit more. Cause I’ll be really blunt here, money or no, this team stood firmly planted in their own way. I’m not saying they go .500 or anything silly like that if they just let these kids play though, I bet it’s easily better than it wound up.
Welcome to the off season.
4 thoughts on “Let’s Tell the Unfiltered Story of 2022”
Great article! I do believe BC still wanted a top three pick next year to continue to fortify the minors. I believe he has drafted better than his predecessor. If you look at this season through that prism, it is quite clear that it was about keeping wins down while getting some of the young guys up. I’m ok with that ONLY if it was acknowledged at some point by BC. I think he kind of did that at the halfway point of the season when he explained his plan was only in year 2 versus year 3 like the rest of us assumed. Regardless, it’s over. Next year will not be like this year but i don’t believe it will be a year where they spend heavily. I see that happening in 2024. Offseason, especially rule 5 navigation will be very interesting. I think there are certainly core pieces here. I can’t help but compare this teams build to the Cubs build in 2013-2015. Built position player through draft and acquisitions, same with pitchers. Then went and got Heyward, Fowler, Lester, and a few others to augment into winning group. The similarities so far are striking.
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Well written Gary! I thought you really addressed some hard core issues on the 2022 Pirates season. I really think there are some really talented young players who can help make the Pirates a contending team. My concern, too, was their being so hesitant or unwilling to bring up some of these younger players – Bae being a solid example because of this extra year they could maintain by keeping them down there while leaving guys like VanMeter and several others play but contributing nothing. Add to this too many cheap, “once were” veterans. But perhaps the biggest criticism I had all summer was Shelton’s (or maybe Cherington’s) insistence that the starting pitchers were not allowed to pitch more than about 5 innings, while the bullpen – as you mentioned- were indeed overworked, overworked with some relievers who contributed little. My hope, probably not in their plans though, is for the Pirates to increase their spending from 65 million to at least 100 million and obtain another starting pitcher or some other solid, active player to add to their roster but not just a cheap quality veteran. who can really add some solidarity to the line-up until several of these other youngsters can fill some key positions such as catcher or 1st base. It will really be interesting to see who the Pirates choose to trade or keep, especially at several of the infield positions since there are numerous players already competing for these spots. Will they keep Newman because of this over-abundance? Will Cruz continue to be a short stop even though he wants to play there, but his skill level is questionable? Will there be a specific position for Bae to play, or will he be constantly moved around? Are pitchers such as Brubaker or Wilson best suited for a starting role? Or as I suggested, would the Bucs spend some more money to obtain another qualified pitcher to help solidify the starting pitcher positions as several of the younger, more talented hurlers earning a starting spot? Another question I have which you really didn’t address involve several key positions – maintaining the present batting and/or pitching coach(es)? I would be anxious to learn what your thoughts might be in this area. Will Shelton maintain his managerial position if the Pirates get off to a slow spot next season? I’ve got a barrel of questions, too many to include with this “epistle.” However, I think we will all agree that this off-season will indeed be a time of extremely decisive action. I just hope Bob Nutting and all those collaborating will avoid being too cheap in reaching their decisions. Pirates fans deserve better, or PNC Park will face depleted attendance once again.
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Excellent comment, thank you
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The next piece I’m working on is called “But are these the right Coaches? Pirates Need Benchmarks”