Hump Day Pirates Q&A

5-17-23 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

I asked that you all submit some questions that thought a bit beyond the obvious Henry Davis or Endy Rodriguez promotion predictions. It just felt like we have all talked it to death at this point and bluntly, the expectations for being the savior are getting out of control too.

Thankfully, you all came through big, so let’s do a big Q&A to get back on track after missing last week.

Here we GO!

Question 1

How many all stars as of right now do you see the Pirates potentially having this season? Mitch Keller and David Bednar feel like obvious selections and maybe Bryan Reynolds as well. – John (@JGor492)

Considering there is still some time to impress John, I’d say those three are a good place to start for sure. I wouldn’t rule out Colin Holderman, he’s been pretty sick in the back end of the bullpen and is racking up hold numbers to reflect that as well.

In a typical Pirates season, I’d probably tell you thinking 3 or 4 would be insane, but if I really think about it, it’s kinda hard to not see at least 3 based on what they’ve done.

I’d go deeper but honestly I don’t think there are more than those 4 to even consider.

Question 2

What’s the new standard for success at the end of this season? Felt like coming into ‘23 people were nervous to hope for 74 wins but many would argue .500 would be a “success” now after such a great April. is “success” this season even defined by the record? – Josh (@joshorris6)

I Friggin’ love this question Josh.

As many of you know, I predicted 74 wins this season, but I also hedged that by saying I thought they’d flirt with .500. During that first month I’m sure quite a few people changed or updated their predictions, but first of all, changing it is for the purposes of self importance, I couldn’t care less if I’m wrong.

I think .500 would be considered a success this season if only because I still see them pushing for it. That’s different than being in say July 15 games over. 12 games up on .500 at the beginning of May and thinking that changes everything would be like celebrating your 20 year wedding anniversary on your honeymoon because it was so awesome.

I’ll go back to my old ass original roadmap. 2023 they’ll flirt with .500, and 2024 they should have their sights set on nothing short of Wildcard and division contention, and .500 is a given in that equation.

I should also note here. Much of the success this season being driven by guys like Cutch and Santana, that’s nice to have, but not ideal either. I firmly believe the team will retain Cutch, but Santana is very likely to leave after this year.

That’s truly the only thing that shakes my confidence about 2024, they will have to fill some big shoes that stepped up this year and provided, arguably more than we should have expected (although it’s only May 17th still).

Question 3

On a recent pod, you and Jim said new MLB rules can change how the Pirates evaluate their own like Bae, Marcano, etc. Do you see the new rules perhaps changing what teams target — like speed/contact over power/launch angle — and is this something the Bucs can get ahead of? – Nick Cammuso (@npc210)

I do see it changing how teams evaluate, but I’d hope not scouts. Scouts are supposed to be evaluating all the tools anyway so in theory this information has always been there, it’s just that some of those “small ball” type skills have taken a value hit in MLB front offices.

I’m not sure the Pirates really have to change much here as they have drafted, signed, promoted and developed players like this even before the rules were a thing.

Nobody is ever going to devalue the home run, but I do think these rules will prevent guys from being locked out for having a frame that doesn’t translate, or being a slap hitter type. I’d also think speed is the new hotness. Speed on the bases, speed in the field, just flat speed.

The best way I can put it is, yes, but there are a ton of teams already built for the next decade that were constructed almost entirely with power and launch angle as the determining factors. It’s going to take time to work them through so I don’t see the league looking night and day in this regard for quite some time.

Even when it does, wouldn’t you still want Kyle Schwarber and his .220 batting average with 40 bombs over say Luis Arráez? I’m not sure in some ways this will ever fully change.

Teams will certainly have to learn to roster a balance though. Can’t just have 8 guys swinging out of their shoes, I mean, then you look like the Yankees in the playoffs.

Question 4

Do you think Jared Triolo is someone who can make an impact for this ball club in the near future with the absence of Cruz? – KJMPgh (@PghKjm)

Before I get into this a couple notes.

First, I gave Jared a shot at making it out of Spring, if only because I was worried about defense at SS way back there. Second, he just returned from the IL after having hamate bone surgery.

For those of you who don’t know, that’s kinda right in the meat of your hand, and typically what that does is sap power from a bat.

Triolo is a big guy with a big frame, you could call him up today and he’d be their best SS, 2nd best 3B, top 2B, best corner outfield defender and honestly if they let him try, I bet he’d kill it at first base and center field too. He’s no joke, that good.

All that said, he has 22 total Plate appearances in AAA. I think I’d wait a bit. They put him on the 40-man for a reason though and yes if they just want to stabilize the middle infield, he could play a key role.

When I say he’ll likely have some power sapped, the scary thing is, as huge as Jared is, he’s never hit many dingers to begin with. He’s a contact guy who steals bases and hits doubles. Obviously the team would hope those doubles translate to MLB homers a bit and that he fills out his frame, but this year, he’d be a glove call up with a semi hopeful eye toward offensive contribution.

If Middle infield remains an issue into Late June, yes, he could be and probably should be an option.

Question 5

Does the 180 change from Searage to Marin lead to potential catastrophic events? Meaning is their any data currently that shows a larger split of offspeed pitches leads to more arm issues? – Ao (@aso513)

Rumors and innuendo. That’s what there is for why so many pitchers are going down. The two main culprits are increased velocity and increased spin rate.

I don’t buy the velocity argument nearly as much. Velocity is up, but radar technology has come a LOOOOOOOONG way since the days of Nolan Ryan. Back when he was being clocked at 92 and people were in awe, the positioning and technology used in radar guns robbed pitchers of the eye popping figures.

Meaning, Ryan probably threw in the upper 90’s if he were measured in the same way today’s pitchers are measured.

Spin rates on the other hand, well that has some legs. Pitchers are putting a ton of spin on everything they throw now, including fastballs.

The human body is not built to throw overhand in the first place, so when you additionally ask it to allow your elbow to do inhuman activity at the same time, problems inevitably come up.

Some guys are kinda mutants, their tendons stretch while others snap. As of now, there is no real way to forecast it and in today’s game it’s become almost a right of passage.

Hey kid you just made the All Star Game, when did you have your Tommy John? I kid, but not by a lot.

I’m not a doctor, but I’ve seen trainers talk about guys needing to throw more, not less. I’ve also seen MLB and it’s prevailing wisdom say the opposite.

That’s a long way to go to say, Searage and Marin are simply coaching in the system with the tools they’re given. Trainers tell them what is “ok” or not “ok” and they go from there.

I’d also say, Searage wasn’t a proponent of this thinking, he was instructing to the organizational philosophy. So is Marin.

Question 6

Whether from pressure or fatigue, playing against the top 3 teams in the AL East revealed to us the Pirates have some inadequacies at the plate. What adaptations have we learned will be most effective against the AL East’s pitching and what can be carried over into our division? – 𝒫𝒾𝓇𝒶𝓉𝑒 𝒬𝓊𝑒𝑒𝓃 𝐵𝒶𝓃𝓈𝒽𝑒𝑒☠️👑💛⚾️ (@PGHPirateQueen)

Corbin Burnes, and Mitch Keller, might be the only two pitchers in the NL Central that I’d happily toss out against the AL East lineups.

I think what our biggest takeaway might be, Mitch can shut down anyone in any division if he’s at the top of his game, and most teams if he isn’t.

The pitching staffs in the AL East don’t do as much for me as the lineups. There are no breaks. Every team in that division can hit you in any inning, no matter where they are in their lineup. The inadequacies at the plate the Pirates experienced in that stretch had more to do with pressing than being completely overmatched. Sure, Shane McClanahan was lights out, but aside from that, the Pirates tried too hard to push the action and instead created mistakes.

Our division in comparison is a complete joke. Nobody’s offense can hold a candle to even the bottom team in that division. To compete in the NL Central, you need a top line starter or two and fleshed out with at least decent rotation mates. At the plate, you need to be patient in this division, because the lack of elite pitching typically means nibblers.

In fact, I blame their NL Central roots for how they played against the Rays, Jays and Orioles. That patience at the plate is destructive when you face a team that is going to fill the zone. Took them entirely too long to figure that aspect out.

That’s my “lesson”, take the bat off your shoulder and don’t let the other team set you up for failure every plate appearance.

As far as pitching against them goes, keep the ball down and hope none of them like golf.

Question 7

Is Hayes gonna hit better or is it what it is? This team can’t hit because they have two defensive stars starting who hit way below what is required for their positions (Hayes and Hedges). I guess it helps the pitching some. – Mark Graham (@grahammarke)

There are a ton of signs that Ke’Bryan Hayes is the unluckiest hitter in baseball. His Average exit velocity is 90th percentile. His Hard Hit Rate is 76th. His expected Batting Average is in the 80th percentile. He rarely strikes out (86th percentile) Doesn’t whiff (95th percentile) I mean all of this should add up to a productive player.

And yet, it hasn’t.

These things tend to even out and all those numbers are up over what he’s done in the past, well, except for the freak 2020 season where he looked like right handed Ted Williams.

I have to believe balls will start to fall for him, but we have 3 years of evidence that for whatever reason, they just don’t.

This is very much so what Hayes was in the minors so it’s hard to say he’s going to suddenly have everything start to fall or click now.

Final answer, he’s this plus. Meaning I think you’re seeing about as unlucky as a hitter can be, so I expect him to keep doing what he does and as some more fall he’ll be perceived as getting hot when in reality, his luck just changed a bit.

He and Hedges are hardly the reasons this offense is sputtering though. They both were doing the same things when the team was 20-9, they just have a lot more company now.

Question 8

Are the Pirates regretting not protecting Blake Sabol? I know rule 5 guys can be booms or busts, but his stats aren’t too bad (5 homers, 12 RBIs, 3 doubles, .777 ops, and .256 average). He’s an upgrade over Andujar, Palacios, and can be a play catcher and outfield. I know pirates have a influx of outfielders and catchers in their system (Davis, Rodriguez, CSN, Mitchell, and others). – Billy Tissue

Couple things here. First, the Pirates didn’t consider him a catcher, and in case you or others haven’t noticed, they kinda value the defensive side of the game. He was forced into action there last year due to Henry constantly taking balls off his hands.

Second, he’s always struck out a bit too much, even last year he had 55 walks and 129 strike outs. This season with the Giants, he has 97 plate appearances and has struck out 38 times while walking just 5.

Not something the Pirates like or tolerate.

Now, do they wish he hadn’t been taken? I’m sure they do. But I can’t sit here and say with that K rate he’d be up here. Would he be better to have on the bench than say Andujar or whoever? Probably, but I hardly think he’d be alone in that statement.

In only 20 games behind the dish for San Fran he has committed 5 errors and created -2 defensive runs saved.

So I ask you, is an outfielder/dh with those numbers worth being upset about losing? To me, not really, but you never like to lose talent and it can’t be argued he has more than some of the guys they kept protected over him.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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