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Steel City Review

Now, if this was the guy leading the Pirates on to the field tonight for their game against the Washington Nationals, I'd be scared. But he's not. Roberto Clemente is "Mr. Pirate," and there aren't any replacements for that title on this team's roster.

That said, I'm still concerned. The Nationals rolled into Cincinnati a few weeks back and swept the Nats, and did it easily at that. The Pirates aren't as bad as the Reds, but they aren't very good either. They have a few starters who will be all-stars during their careers, but no one player that can carry the team on their back for a couple of weeks at a time, guys like our own Livan Hernandez and Nick Johnson.

The 2005 Pirates have a team ERA of 4.05, certainly competitive but not low enough to give you a chance to win every night. Offensively, Pittsburgh is batting .257, again, good enough to win, but not on a regular basis.

Pittsburgh's rank among the 16 National League Teams: (The Nats score is next to the Pirates in the parenthesis. Example: Hits:14(11) ..... 14 is the Pirates rank, 11 is the Nationals rank. Average:12 (9) ... Runs: 15 (14) ... Hits: 14 (11) ... Total Bases: 14 (15) ... Doubles: 8 (T8) ... Triples: 1(2) ... Homers:12 (5) ... Strikeouts: 8 (9) ... Stolen Bases:15(16) ... Double Plays: 14(15) ... Left on base: 4 (8) ... On base percentage: 14(10) ... Slugging percent:11 (15)

Pitching Total Wins:11 (2) ... ERA:7 (6) ... Complete games:10 (14) ... Shutouts:5 (9) ... Saves:4 (2) ... Hits allowed:3 (9) ... Homeruns allowed:5 (2) ... Hit batter:3 (7) ... Walks:15 (11) ... Strikeouts:14 (15)

1B]Daryle Ward .276 – 11 – 40 (.332 OBP - .505 SLG)
Projected 2005 Stats: .276-28-103
Ward is a left handed slugger with great power. Like many lefty power hitters, however, he’s too aggressive and tries to hit the ball 600 feet each at bat. He does hit in the clutch and drives in more than his share of runs. Defensively, he’s barely MLB adequate. He’ll never be an everyday player in the major leagues, though several teams will try during his career. However, there is nothing wrong with being a quality platoon player in the major leagues.

2B]Jose Castillo .265 – 3 – 20 (.309 OBP - .377 SLG)
Projected 2005 Stats: .265-10-64
2005 is Castillo’s second full year in the major leagues, and he has shown improvement in many areas. He’s more powerful, strikes out less, but doesn’t walk at all, as his .309 on base percentage attests. The future looks bright, and to be honest, he’s doing more than any healthy 2nd baseman the Nationals have in the fold.

SS]Jack Wilson .231 – 4 – 13 (.270 OBP - .360 SLG)
Projected 2005 Stats: .231-10-32
By the numbers alone, it’s hard to believe that this is the same guy who roamed short for the Pirates last year. In 2004, Wilson hit .308 with 11 homers and 59 RBI’s. This year … well, this year things aren’t “quite” the same. Can you say Cristian Guzman? Defensively, he is tremendous, with soft hands, wide range and a strong arm. He runs well and sprays the ball against both lefties and right-handers. However, he doesn’t walk nearly as much as he should, and his average seems below his talent level.

3B]Freddie Sanchez .289 – 0 – 11 (.347 OBP - .393 SLG)
Projected 2005 Stats: .289-0-32
Sanchez’s numbers are based on 150 at bats, so it’s not like he got called up two weeks ago. It’s not that he’s not a good player. It’s that he’s not a good third baseman. Sanchez is a contact hitter who never strikes out. He uses the gaps effectively and his instincts are worth .10 points on his batting average. Isn’t as selective as the Pirates would like, but that is a relatively minor flaw.
Without question, Sanchez is a stop-gap until they can find someone with power to play the corner position. For now, the Pirates have two 2nd baseman playing at the same time.

LF]Jason Bay .299 – 12 –33 (.384 OBP - .574 SLG)
Projected 2005 Stats: .299-29-80
Would you like to have Jason Bay as a member of the Nationals organization? You did. Omar Miniya, in one of his many BAD moves, traded Bay and another player to the Mets for a major league utility infielder who was released 5 months later. Oh brother. Bay is a disciplined hitter with solid power. Combines slightly above average speed with quality base running skills to become great on the base paths. He doesn’t do well when he is behind in the county, and curves and change pitches can make him look bad.

RF]Rob Mackowiak .309 – 6 – 34 (.400 OBP - .482 SLG)
Projected 2005 stats: 309-15-72
Mackowiak’s projected stats are not an aberration; lat year, he hit 17 homers and drove in 75 RBI’s. Mackowiak doesn’t walk enough, strikes out too much, yet his OBP remains in the .385 range for his career. He has decent speed but doesn’t steal, pointing to the fact that he isn’t the best base runner on the major leagues. He is a quality defensive player. Mackowiak isn’t the kind of player that a team wants to build around, but he’s certainly good enough to have on a team in a pennant race.

RF]Matt Lawton .265 – 7 – 27 (.367 OBP - .433 SLG)
Projected 2005 stats: .265-20-80
Matt Lawton has been a consistent producer since his days in Cleveland. He has speed and power, runs the bases well, and covers great range in the outfield, though his arm isn’t as strong as it was earlier in his career. Lawton is a hard-nosed guy who takes baseball seriously. He’s a fun player to watch.

C]Humberto Cota .254 – 4 – 18 (.309 OBP - .355 SLG)
Projected 2005 stats: .254-11-52
Cota is beginning to prove himself as a major league catcher. He will never hit like a Mike Piazza, or a Brian Schneider for that matter. But he will provide occasional pop, drive in some runs when you don’t expect it, and let the opposing team know that home plate his is office and you have to go through him to visit. He has a great arm though he isn’t throwing out a high percentage of base runners, but that will come with time. He’d be a great catcher on a power-laden team, but is a detriment on a weak team like the Pirates.

Pirates Overview:
Number of Superstars: 0
Number of Stars: 1 [Jason Bay]
Number of Quality Players 1 [Matt Lawton]
Number of Decent Players 4 [Mackowiak / Ward / Wilson / Castillo]
Number of Below Par Players:2 [Orta / Sanchez]

Not a single Pirates player could break into a healthy Nationals lineup with the exception of Jason Bay, who I would rather have than Brad Wilkerson. There are no budding superstars, no top-notch rookies. The Pirates are another small market, small payroll team trying as hard as they can, but with little success.
Go Nats.

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