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Archive for the tag “Pedro Alvarez”

Ten Facts You Need to Know about the First-Place Pirates

When I glanced at the N.L. standings this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Pittsburgh Pirates sat atop the N.L. Central division.  With the Orioles and the Mets also making legitimate runs towards a spot in the playoffs, this has truly been a surprising year in Major League baseball.

English: Pedro Alvarez of the Pittsburgh Pirat...

English: Pedro Alvarez of the Pittsburgh Pirates playing third base in his third MLB game. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then it occurred to me that I knew next to nothing about the actual players on this season’s Pirate roster.  Here are some things I learned today, which I decided to share with you.

1)  Third baseman Pedro Alvarez has 15 home runs and 48 RBI to go along with an OPS+ of 118.  Despite having been written off as a failed prospect by many after last seasons dismal first trip to Pittsburgh, Alvarez has a chance to become the first Pirate since Jason Bay in 2006 to top 30 home runs and 100 RBI in a season.

2)  Closer Joel Hanrahan, with 21 saves and a 1.09 WHIP, is on pace to come close to matching last season’s 40 saves and 1.04 WHIP.  His ERA+ this season, 152, is excellent, though not quite as amazing as last year’s Pedro Martinez-like mark of 203.

3)  Staff ace James McDonald, who won just nine of 31 starts last season, already has eight wins in sixteen starts this year.  Part of his success is because he’s been pitching deeper into games.  He’s on pace for his first 200-innings pitched year in his career.

4)  54-year old manager Clint Hurdle has been managing for ten seasons.  He managed the Rockies for eight seasons, leading them to the N.L. Pennant in 2007, and is now in his second year as the Pirates manager.

As a player, Hurdle was considered a major Phenom back in 1977 when he first came up with the Royals at age 19.  But in his 515 game Major League career, he posted a triple slash line of .259 / .341 / .403, with an OPS+ of 106.

PNC Park

PNC Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One has to wonder if Hurdle’s disappointing career has made him the perfect leader for a squad of players who clearly need to be patiently nurtured to succeed? So far, the answer seems to be in the affirmative.

5)  Despite the success of the Pirates to date, they still have the second-lowest average attendance (24,218) per game in the N.L. this year.  Only the Astros have drawn worse.  It would be nice to see the sports fans of Pittsburgh embrace the Pirates as much as they do their beloved Steelers.

Neil Walker

Neil Walker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

6)  Pirates second baseman, 26-year old Neil Walker, was actually born in Pittsburgh.  A remarkably consistent player, Walker posted a .992 fielding percentage last season, exactly the same as his current fielding percentage this year.  A switch-hitter, Walker is batting .275 this year along with a .338 on-base percentage.  His career numbers in those two categories are .279 and .338, respectively.

Hall of Fame infielder Bobby Wallace was also born in Pittsburgh (though he never played for the Pirates.)  His career batting average was .268 (to Walker’s .279) and his career on-base percentage was .332 (to Walker’s .338.)  His career OPS+ was 105 (to Walker’s 108.)  What am I getting at?  Nothing.  I just think those are some interesting facts.

7)  In addition to his .412 on-base percentage and .610 slugging average, All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen currently leads the N.L. with a .360 batting average.  With 16 homers and 14 steals, he is on-track for his first 30-30 season.  His OPS+ this year is a tremendous 181.  If McCutchen played his home games in New York or Boston, far more people would be aware that this 25-year old star is already one of the top ten players in the game.

Andrew McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

8)  PNC is one of the few ballparks in the country that lets you bring in outside food and water (no alcohol, of course.)  Retired Pirates catcher Manny Sanguillen sometimes signs autographs for fans waiting in line at his restaurant, Manny’s Barbecue.  There are 6,500 seats at PNC that cost just nine dollars.  With just 38,127 seats, PNC is the second smallest park in Major League baseball.

9)  G. Ogden Nutting is the patriarch of the clan that has majority ownership in the Pirates, and in the Ogden Newspaper chain.  He has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican politicians for many years.  The editorials in his newspapers often rail against the evils of socialism.  That’s all well and good — it’s his money and those are his newspapers — but it raises two pertinent questions:

Question 1 – If socialism is so awful, why, then, does Nutting accept millions of dollars in revenue sharing annually so that his “less-fortunate” small market franchise can compete with the wealthier franchises in New York and Boston?  Shouldn’t the invisible hand of the free market be allowed to determine winners and losers among the MLB franchises?

Question 2 – Does Nutting have a responsibility to the people of Pittsburgh in general, and Pirates fans in particular, to hold up his end of the bargain in creating and maintaining a competitive franchise, given that the City of Pittsburgh publicly financed his stadium to the tune of over $260 million dollars?  It’s nice that the Pirates are currently in first place, and they did sign Andrew McCutchen to a long-term deal several months ago, but are they really committed to building a successful franchise for the long-term?  Time will tell.

10)  The old man of the pitching staff, 35-year old A.J. Burnett, has averaged 8.2 strikeouts / 9 innings in his career.  He is one of just 36 pitchers in the history of baseball to average over 8 K’s per 9 innings pitched.  His record currently stands at 9-2, and his ERA is the lowest it’s been in five years.  He is on pace to tie his career high 18 wins with the Blue Jays in 2008.  Along with staff ace, James McDonald, this is the first time that the Pirates have a chance to have at least two starters reach at least 15 wins in the same season since 1991.

So there you have it, ten facts about the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates.

Fantasy Baseball Sleepers 2011: The Hitters

Colby Rasmus

Image via Wikipedia

Today and this Wednesday, I will be featuring a brief two-part series on Fantasy Baseball.

Today in Part 1, I will focus on the hitters.  On Wednesday, I will post an article on the pitchers.

The following players qualify as sleepers because I believe their actual value in 2011 will surpass their perceived value on Fantasy / Roto Draft Day.

 

 

Catcher – Mike Napoli – Recently traded from the Angels to the Blue Jays, and then on to the Rangers, Napoli will be playing in one of baseball’s best hitter’s parks.  Moreover, because he is likely to play as much 1B / DH as C, Napoli will receive fewer days off than most regular catchers.  Napoli is at an age when many catchers truly find their power-stroke.  And on Draft Day, he will be available in the later rounds.

 

First Base – Mitch Moreland – Two things I always keep in mind on Draft Day: 1) Draft the Ballpark and 2) Look for the players who will finally receive an opportunity.  Moreland, like Napoli, will be playing half his games in a great hitting environment, with good hitters around him.  On top of that, the first base job is his to lose this year, as Chris Davis seems to have played himself out of the competition.

 

Second Base – Gordon BeckhamBeckham suffered through a mostly miserable season last year for various reasons.  One underappreciated reason is likely his difficult transition to a new defensive position, second base.  People seem to underrate how difficult it can be for a young player to master a new position, especially in the middle infield.  Beckham is simply too talented to play anywhere near as poorly as he did last year.  Finally, the White Sox play in a friendly hitting environment, not to mention the other obvious advantage of facing Cleveland and Kansas City pitching staffsseveral times per year.

 

Third Base – Pedro Alvarez – This young Pirates slugger strikes out a lot, but he wields a very lethal bat.  There will be some growing pains again this year as he enters his first full season, but because he is a Pirate, he should slip down far enough in your draft to produce at least moderate value for you this year.  And, if you are in a keeper league, his future value may be enormous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shortstop – Yunel EscobarEscobar wore out his welcome in Atlanta despite his obvious defensive talent and hitting abilities.  Although at 28-years old he is not young enough to qualify as a prospect anymore, Toronto’s hitting environment, and a perhaps looser atmosphere in which to play, could very well provide the opportunity for Yunel to suddenly blossom.  Some in your league will be put off by his allegedly bad attitude.  Just remember that good attitudes don’t win Fantasy Championships, good statistics do.

 

Outfield – Justin Upton Upton experienced the proverbial sophomore slump last year.  But at age 23, this will be your last chance to get him at a discount.  Remember that he was the number #1 overall pick of the 2005 amateur draft.  Consider, too, that he has already slugged 60 career home runs to go along with his 84 doubles and 41 steals.  Also, he plays in a hitter-friendly ballpark.  Draft him as a #2 outfielder, and watch him produce like a #1 outfielder.

Outfield – Colby Rasmus – Manager Tony LaRussa just never seemed to warm up to Rasmus last year.  Whenever Rasmus got hot, LaRussa would find an excuse to play someone else in the outfield for a day or two, never allowing Rasmus to get into a rhythm and sustain it.  Rasmus scored 85 runs last year and swatted 23 home runs in just 464 at bats.  At age 24, he is just beginning to discover his real potential.  Only LaRussa stands in the way of Rasmus reaching stardom in the next year or two.

Outfield – Travis Snider – Finally displayed a modicum of his serious power potential last season, hitting twenty doubles and fourteen homers in what amounted to about half a seasons worth of playing time.  Snider turns 23-years old on February 2nd, so his development as a future star is right about where it should be.  A 25-home run, 35 double, 12 stolen base-seasons is within reach this year, with bigger numbers down the road as his plate discipline improves.

Designated Hitters – Since most leagues allow any position player to fill the role of DH, there just isn’t any reason to search for sleepers at this “position.”  But if you find yourself desperately trying to fill this hole, focus on available first basemen and outfielders.  Those are the positions where you will find the most available sleepers.

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