When You Have Options, Excuses Die Quickly

4-2-23 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Look folks, we’re 2 games into a new season. I say this because the nature of fandom is to call for immediate changes every time a pitcher gives up a homerun or a hitter goes 0 for 4.

Not everyone of course, but in general it’s super easy to feel it’s time for a change, especially if that 0 for 4 looked like a Jomboy compilation of ghosted hitters or the pitcher laid a fatty on an 0-2 count.

Here’s the thing though, these typical quick reactions, well, when you have real options they tend to stop looking so crazy.

For instance, the Pirates can really only get away with being patient with Jack Suwinski so long. He has competition on the roster for playing time already, and the Pirates have a rookie named Travis Swaggerty who’s too old to really care about the Super 2 crap and looked great this Spring.

Jack having poor results isn’t that big of a deal at least not from one game. Jack having poor results and looking like a lost puppy at the plate well, he’s not going to keep getting opportunities doing that.

This isn’t 2021 anymore, hell, it’s not 2022 anymore either. The time for endless patience knowing any other options are probably inferior, not ready or flat out wouldn’t matter for more than the moment if they did out play the underperformer.

The pressure having options creates is an element that’s been missing since 2018 at least. In fact creating this pressure is exactly why the Pirates brought in so many veteran options. They could have easily just fielded another roster full of kids and let the record just be whatever it would be, but creating that environment of competition, that feeling that getting a shot is earned and keeping it is too, well, that doesn’t happen unless the opportunity is rather scarce.

So the spots where opportunity could come start to show themselves rather quickly.

Let’s play out a position as a good for instance of what I’m talking about, Second Base.

Right now, on the 26 man roster the Pirates have Ji Hwan Bae, and Rodolfo Castro. Castro can back up SS and 3B, and Bae can back up SS and CF. Bae has played in both games, one at second, one in CF, while Castro has only played one at 2B.

Defensively, Bae had one notable miscue at 2B, aside from that, pretty solid, in fact in CF he straight up looked good, making a strong throw to 3B to almost nab a runner and coming out of nowhere to nearly make a great diving catch. Castro looked fine at 2B, but the most important thing he does there is make Oneil Cruz comfortable.

Both are young, both have upside. Castro has more power, Bae has much better contact. Bae will struggle against a lefty with a really good slider but generally hits them well, Castro is far superior against lefties but struggles mightily against righties.

Sounds like a platoon right?

Well what if Bae takes CF straight up from Jack Suwinski? Then you have Castro holding down 2B and the conversation shifts. Now it’s not about those two competing as much as can they hold off Mark Mathias or Travis Swaggerty? Even at that, Castro’s ability to cover 3B makes him extremely hard to send down, unless the Pirates go back to exploring Connor Joe picking the position back up or Mathias who has limited experience over there.

People love to dumb this stuff down to statements like so and so deserves to be here. Or this guy is better than that guy. Those statements aren’t false, they just don’t go deep enough.

There’s also the simple fact that baseball is very poorly ingested in a game to game evaluation. You need real data to make informed decisions, especially when they’re permanent choices.

For instance, Chase De Jong looked pretty bad yesterday in his first outing. To send him down, he’d have to be DFA’d, and a very quick look at his stats for 2022, yes, he’d be picked up immediately. In other words, if you choose to look at one bad performance and give it more weight than his 71.2 innings pitched in 2022 where he posted a 2.64 ERA with a 1.144 WHIP, well, you better be right, cause he gone. That’s not to say his 2022 outweighs everything or it lasts all of 2023, but it does mean he gets a leash, and to get replaced, it has to be for someone who matters.

Everything they’ve done. All the talent they’ve brought in to the system, all the vets they’ve signed, all the options they’ve given themselves, it all boils down to these decisions. Make poor decisions and waste talent, make smart decisions and this team has every chance to improve as the season goes on and into next year too.

So much that is and has been wrong with the Pirates is about money, but right now, it’s about decision making. They can’t be afraid to make a change, but they also don’t want to be too rash and take the possibility of success off the table for a player they genuinely see as talented.

It’s really all about how long you let a guy try to get blood out of a rock before you realize it’s not coming. The team by there own construction have created fewer excuses for themselves, and a more pressure filled environment for them to live in.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

One thought on “When You Have Options, Excuses Die Quickly

  1. There is always opportunity through others’ injuries too, especially for pitchers. We have sadly seen several already. Not all opportunities are equal, of course, but just look at Reynolds’ first year.

    I would hope they have in mind the amount of time they’re looking to get each player. But the last few seasons have indicated a lack of urgency in that regard. I have concerns that they have already written off some guys they could’ve gotten a longer look at in 2022 or 2021 in some cases.

    Liked by 1 person

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