Hump Day Pittsburgh Pirates Q&A – Week 3

3-8-23 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Man, these things have been fun.

For the most part, and to your credit, these questions have been anything but boiler plate stuff. Really well thought out, and smart. Thanks to everyone, this feature is only as good as the questions you ask.

Let’s go. And if you sent a question that didn’t make it, chances are I already have it in next week’s draft.

Question 1

If you haven’t already discussed this, perhaps next week you can review what the collapsing revenue from the AT&T TV package will do to the Pirates contract extension negotiations with Reynolds. I believe the window may have closed on a big contract. Your thoughts would be appreciated. – Dale Merchant

Before I start, let me first give you some homework. Ethan Hullihen over at Pirates Prospects wrote what I consider to be one of the most comprehensive pieces on the RSN situation, and I mean nationally Dale, if you’ve asked it, it’s likely in there somewhere. I’ll warn you, it’s a READ, so grab a cup of joe and strap in.

That’s so you can get a handle on the entire situation should you want to. Now, if you just want my thoughts on how it would effect the Reynolds extension, or any expenditure for that matter, here we go.

I’ve been told the team expects “continuity” and I recently asked a beat reporter the question without leading him and he spit the same word back at me. What this means is the team expects to not feel this much. For one thing, the Pirates despite the Forbes report, only make a little over 45 million from their TV deal, and the likelihood they’ll get that again is pretty good. Probably not from another RSN, but they’ve been working on contingency plans for almost 18 months. Bottom line, if they don’t sign Reynolds, it’ll be because they didn’t get it done, and even if they try to pretend it’s because of this, I don’t believe it will be an accurate portrayal of their ability.

Question 2

What’s your thoughts so far on the spring training games with the pitching and new players? – Nicole Chewning

Hi Nicole, I kinda wrote a bunch of this in Monday’s 5 Pirates Thoughts so I’ll try to boil it down with some new stuff here. Overall, the new players have largely not impressed me, but they’re veterans, and old veterans, I also didn’t expect them to this early in Spring. Rich Hill looked great, but I honestly think he could roll out of bed and strike out the league MVP half the time.

The pitching overall, it’s so hard to really judge the starters, we’re just seeing them hit 3 innings now, and even that is if they keep pitch count under control. Brubaker looks good, Hill as I mentioned, Keller has looked decent at times, shaky at others, Roansy looks fine, but we’ll see how he has grown when he gets more time in. All in all, the fact we’re a couple weeks in and only have one notable injury is a win.

Question 3

How much of Suwinski’s struggles are due to the new batting stance and not being used to it yet? – Schappy (@Schapp19)

Jack worked with Andy Haines this off season to take this new approach. Now, a lefty will tend to open up their stance in an attempt to get a better look at what lefties are throwing, but by the time the ball gets there his lead leg is back where it always was and his swing mechanics look much the same. We’re still seeing him make good contact when he does make any, and he seems to have plenty of power still.

Point being, the stance isn’t robbing him of power. The strike out is still an issue, but no worst than last year so far. He also hasn’t faced a ton of lefties yet, which would be again the main purpose for changing the stance in the first place.

I think Suwinski’s struggles are because he doesn’t adjust with 2 strikes, but honestly I could cut and paste that for about 10 guys on the team. The new stance, it’s really more of a new starting point, the swing is what it was, plane, launch angle, really all of it. I’d blame the stance if he used to hit cover the outer third well and suddenly couldn’t.

I’ll also add in here, according to Jack, these were fairly minor changes, and he’s right. While it looks wildly different, it’s really more his setup. In his (and the coach’s mind) these were made to simplify some things for him, and for a chronic studier like Jack, that might not be a bad idea. We’ll see how it turns out.

Question 4

If Suwinski continues to scuffle this spring, who could/should be next man up to replace him in the lineup? – Michael – 412 Double Play Podcast 🏴‍☠️ (@412DoublePlay)

If Jack keeps struggling, could swaggerty or bae end up being the starting cf ?- Wilbert Matthews

What do you think is more likely to happen: The Pirates using Cutch and Suwinski as outfielders at the same time? Or on alternating days? – 𝒫𝒾𝓇𝒶𝓉𝑒 𝒬𝓊𝑒𝑒𝓃 𝐵𝒶𝓃𝓈𝒽𝑒𝑒☠️👑💛⚾️ (@PGHPirateQueen)

I’m sensing a Jack theme here. Tons of questions about him this week.

For one thing Michael, Queen & Wilbert, I think his bat has value, even if it winds up being a platoon. And that my friends is what I think they’d be forced into if it looks like he’s just going to continue to struggle against lefties. In that case, I think you could potentially see he and Cutch platoon which would slide Reynolds to center and Joe in left or right, whichever they’d like to do.

That said, the K’s aren’t just coming against lefties and that might force them to send him down. To me, he needs to get under 30% to stick and if he doesn’t, hey, take your pick. CSN, Mitchell, Swags, Young, could even go Tucupita, but the Pirates will have to at some point ask themselves, is 20-25 homeruns worth a K 30-35% of the time? Maybe it is for this version of the Pirates, but it certainly won’t be for a team that truly envisions taking playoff at bats.

Realistically though, the Pirates are focusing on Bae at 2B, and if they want him to be a CF option, my guess is he goes to AAA to focus on it. Swaggerty, well he might just sneak on this team anyway. The easiest thing to do would be to just revert to Reynolds, and I think that’s probably how they’d go at least until Swaggerty, Jack or Bae would prove they deserve starter at bats and win the position.

Question 5

Is there really anything to get out of spring training for the fans? I just can’t get interested. Good stats don’t matter….bad stats don’t matter. Game results don’t matter. I get slightly interested to see the kids that haven’t been seen beyond Indy, but that’s it. – Jim Bergreen (@jeb7524)

The short answer Jim is it’s entirely in the eye of the beholder. The longer answer is, well, stop looking at the stats and just watch/listen play by play, pitch by pitch. For instance, I learn more about where a hitter is by watching a 7 pitch at bat than I do seeing a first pitch homerun. I learn more seeing a pitcher struggle himself into trouble and fight his way out than a clean 1-2-3 on 8 pitches.

Watch the way the veterans interact with kids when they fail or succeed. All that being said Jim, I don’t like to watch preseason hockey or football for the same reasons you outlined. For me though, baseball is the most interesting because well, I’m following players at every level of this system all season long and if they didn’t need work I hardly want to see the vets at all.

If you aren’t interested, I get it, but by the 20th, we should see the rosters trimmed and more serious attempts to win games start. It still won’t matter, but at least you’ll be sure losing or winning matters to someone.

Question 6

Do you think stolen bases will be up this year since a pitcher can only throw over 3 times and the pitch clock? Runners could get a jump by watching the clock and if you’ve already drawn 3 throws it favors the base runner. How many bases could Omar Moreno have stolen with these rules in place? Hopefully the Pirates can take advantage of this. – Don Jacobson

Before I start here, lets be very clear about the rule. The pitcher can “disengage” 2 times without a penalty. This could be a throw, a step off, a fake throw, whatever. That 3rd throw has to result in an out or it’s a balk.

I’d agree it benefits the baserunner, but pitchers can mitigate this with some gamesmanship too. They can wait to come set, or they can get set and fire the ball right at 7-8 seconds, catchers can help try to keep runners close too by throwing to the bases. All that said, yes, I totally think we will see a resurgence of the stolen base in baseball. The MLB leader in stolen bases last year had 41, and I’d be shocked if that number didn’t hit 50-60 this season. Once replay is back for the regular season, a slow delivering pitcher is screwed. Take a guy like Oneil Cruz, he can run like a deer, choose to not pitch to him to avoid what he can do to you with the bat and you might as well put him on second base, if not third. Think about a guy like Ke’Bryan Hayes who had over 20 already. He’s become a good base stealer, now add all this in and he could easily get 30-35.

Oh yes my friend, I think we’ll see a TON of stolen bases.

Now why haven’t we seen a bunch early in Spring? I honestly think the injury risk plays in, and some of that gamesmanship I talked about. Teams aren’t going to want to give a preview of how they plan to defend it or attack it, and even that supposes they’ve formulated good plans as of yet.

The Yankees for instance abused the Pirates in their first matchup, but most of the guys you see running, well they played under this system already in the minors, so it’s easy to see why they can tell what’s coming.

Question 7

Drafting Crews make Reynolds a bit more expendable? As in, at some level Crews can take a vacated Reynolds OF spot? – Tom Robinson (@basketball2120)

This isn’t the NFL and this team just had the 1.1 pick a couple years ago with Henry Davis. He’s certainly not a lock to make it even this season to MLB. I can honestly say, no MLB teams, including the Pirates will make a Major League level decision based on a draft selection, even a 1.1.

I’d also say, as good as Crews looks, he’s hitting homeruns on 84 MPH fastballs mixed in with the few 90+ offerings he gets to face at that level. I don’t say that to imply he won’t be good, I say it to simply illustrate that the guy is going to have to play some minor league ball first.

Bryce Harper and Ken Griffey Jr. don’t happen all that often, and if a player goes to college, he probably wasn’t that level of talent to begin with. Again, could be a spectacular player, but you know the difference between those right out of high school to the league guys and a typical very good top of the board pick.

Crews isn’t one of those guys. Even if he was, I’d argue the opposite would be true, they have Reynolds for 3 years regardless at this point, so if you can drop a stud right next to him, you’d think they’d ride that train. Think about it, if they chose to skip all the manipulation shiz for this guy, you think they’d take away someone they need to make it matter?

Hope that covers it well, also, I’m not 100% it’ll be Crews, long way to go yet and that simple fact is evidence he isn’t one of those guys.

Question 8

Actual Q&A question. Does Chavez Young have a shot at cracking this roster? I know it’s spring I know it’s SSS. But he’s looked pretty good! – Nolan Grossman (@NolanGrossman)

Geez Nolan, I guess he could, but I’d say it sure would be hard for me to get there. He’s played decent defense but as you are by far not the only person to ask about him this week I have a theory. Chavez is hitting .188 this Spring, but his double and homerun were on televised games.

Now, I’m not saying you or anyone else is ignorant, but I do feel things you see are a lot more powerful than things you don’t. At 25 years old I’m not sure keeping pace with the other OF competitors is good enough. He’s also gotten more opportunity early because of his WBC inclusion than most of his competition.

Let’s be real here. Andrew McCutchen, Bryan Reynolds, Jack Suwinski and Connor Joe are almost all locks. So they have one spot available, I’d have a very hard time giving it to Chavez over say a Swaggerty who is also 25, a number one pick and having a nice Spring himself.

I can’t rule it out, and I like his speed and defense too, I just don’t see a path, barring injury to a couple guys.

Question 9

For Wednesday: for pitching and hitting Spring Training it’s ok to say “I’m trying my new stuff”, but for fielding, less so. Do you have any takeaways so for from the fielding aspect of ST? – Douglas Smith

First off my man Dougie Fresh here is down in Bradenton as we speak and he was planning to focus on defense this year before he even booked his accommodations. Here’s what I see so far.

The outfield is almost impossible to evaluate at least as it comes to the field tool. The wind and sun have just made every fly ball a potential error or double depending on who is keeping score. So when I watch them, I’m looking for things like, did they get to the ball? Did they make a good throwing decision after they got it? How strong did the throw look, even if the wind took it and shoved it 10 feet off line?

In the infield, First base is clearly improved. Literally Santana, Choi or Joe have all looked more at home there than anyone they had last season. There just isn’t much more to say. They’ve all made nice plays.

Second base is by far the most interesting. Castro has to me the best mix of range and arm, Bae and Marcano have better range but the arm isn’t as good. All 3 will need to show they can help cover SS and Bae looked awful in his shot at it.

Catchers have all been pretty decent looking.

Cruz has clearly worked on footwork, and he’s clearly working on making routine throws look, well, more routine. He’s had one throw really sail on him, and aside from that, I haven’t really even seen him challenge the first basemen to make a super challenging “save” over there.

You’re right Doug, good defense should always matter, and I get the impression it does to the players too. I see far more looks of disappointment on the faces of guys who make an error or poor decision than anyone who’s given up a screaming liner or struck out in 20 seconds.

Question 10

What is the routine for a starting pitcher beginning with day after their start up to the day of next start. Long toss? Bullpen? – Drew Caryll

Most guys will do minimal activity the day after a start, then they’ll start lifting the next day. Day 3 tends to be a bullpen, and they’ll work on something there a bit, or just get the motion of X number of pitches in. Day 4 is back to training a bit, and the last one is typically charting and game planning.

This stuff changes as guys evolve. Rich Hill for instance, he might simply not want to do a mid week full scale bullpen, and at his age, nobody is really going to question it, but if Roansy was to show up on Wednesday and say he thinks bullpens are useless, let’s just say he might be convinced otherwise.

Some guys bike 4 times a week, some guys feel all that cardio robs them of needed stamina in game.

As with most things baseball, everyone is different.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

One thought on “Hump Day Pittsburgh Pirates Q&A – Week 3

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