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June 4, 2009

Prospectus Today

A New Age of Reason?

by Joe Sheehan

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In the first major trade of the season, the Braves attempted to address their desperate outfield situation by swapping three prospects to the Pirates in exchange for nominal center fielder Nate McLouth. The deal is a lot more interesting than that, not least because what you're about to read here and what at least one other BP analyst says will be fairly divergent. Any time you can get that kind of disagreement, you have an interesting deal.

The Braves' end of the deal is simple: they get a major league outfielder. McLouth doesn't have to repeat his peak season of 2008 to help the Braves. He doesn't even have to play as well as he has so far this season (.256/.349/.470, with seven steals in as many attempts), although I'm sure they'd like to see some happy medium between the two. Braves outfielders have been so mind-alteringly bad that McLouth could go into a slump and still be outplaying all three starters. Garret Anderson, Jordan Schafer-demoted this week-and Jeff Francoeur have combined to be 12 runs below replacement level, and all three have come in below that pathetic standard. With his indifferent defense and his lack of speed, Anderson has been one of the worst players in the league.

The key part of the trade for the Braves is in who loses the playing time. If McLouth takes Gregor Blanco's place in center field, then much of the gain in acquiring him is washed away. Upgrading from Schafer to Blanco this week was a necessary change for a team desperately in need of some OBP. Blanco had a .366 mark last season thanks to a high walk rate, and if that number may be hard to reach again, a .270/.340/.350 line is achievable. Blanco should stay in the lineup now, with McLouth getting Anderson's playing time. That would give the Braves two major league outfielders, where a week ago they had none. Benching or demoting Blanco as a result of this deal would turn it into, if not a wash, a much less attractive trade.

At 27, McLouth has retained more of his 2008 value than I expected he would, upping his walk rate, continuing to steal bases, and retaining some of the power spike he experienced a year ago. Taken together, his 2007-09 seasons are pretty stable, and the idea that 2008 was a peak is as much about playing time and arc—it was his first season as a full-time player, and he got off to a huge start—as it was about value. I like the comparison of McLouth to Rusty Greer, who walked more and hit more singles, but had less power and speed. Greer was also a corner outfielder stretched in center field, one whose defensive performance lagged behind his reputation due to a penchant for making highlight-reel catches. Like McLouth, Greer got his first full-time run at 26, and was a good player for a number of seasons before his body gave out at about 32 years old. I could see McLouth having that kind of career arc, which is a little more generous of an opinion than the one that I had of him two months ago. There's still a sense that he's a very good fourth outfielder who is a marginal starter, but even as I type that, I wonder if the concept is dead. How many "good fourth outfielders" exist any longer? The players I tag with that label all seem to end up starting; Shane Victorino, Gary Matthews Jr., Eric Byrnes all come to mind.

Bringing it back to the trade, I see the Pirates as having done all right in it. They traded a player at or near the peak of his value, whose useful career would not extend into their next run of success, for quantity. Gorkys Hernandez is hitting an empty .316 at Double-A with a high strikeout rate, which isn't much to get excited about. For the Pirates, though, he becomes a rated prospect who could be a fair regular in a corner, at low cost, for a few seasons. To put it another way, he could be their next Nate McLouth. Neither Charlie Morton nor Jeff Locke is an impact prospect; both, however, continue to add to the Pirates' depth, similar to how they added bodies in the Xavier Nady and Jason Bay deals a year ago. Talent accumulation is a reasonable goal for this organization right now, and this trade addresses that.

The most interesting thing to me about this trade is what it says about the industry's evaluation of defense. The trade works because Nate McLouth was correctly valued, and that value takes into account that he's not a good defensive center fielder. The Pirates, who would have as good a read on McLouth's actual value as any team given that not only do they see him every day, but they employ Dan Fox as an analyst, took back a package that clearly did not value McLouth as a "Gold Glove" center fielder. If that deal were out there, if there were a team thinking of McLouth as a defensive stalwart, surely the return on him would have been better.

This strikes me as a turning point, the first time we've seen what amounts to a rejection of the conclusion of Gold Glove voters relative to the objective performance record. The industry has voted on Nate McLouth, and it's saying that his defense is closer to the numbers, and therefore worthy of three OK prospects in a deal, rather than closer to his reputation and worth more. A true +20 center fielder—one who's truly Gold Glove-caliber in the field—with McLouth's bat would be a steal for this package; no one involved sees him as such.

The trade is a good one for both teams. The Braves upgrade a black hole, while the Pirates trade a player at or near the peak of his value for more building blocks. The real conclusion, though, is that the trade is a win for the industry. It signals an embrace of rational approaches to player evaluation that would have been hard to foresee 15 years ago.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

Related Content:  Trade,  The Who,  Nate McLouth

72 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Dr. Dave

Looks like about the first half of paragraph 2 got sent to the bit bucket...

Jun 04, 2009 09:59 AM
rating: 1
 
statefan21

Thank you, for the Braves article.

Jun 04, 2009 10:12 AM
rating: 0
 
Matthew Avery

The real test for the Braves administration will come when we see who is being sent down to make room for McLouth. As Joe says, if it's Blanco, the deal is less good. At least it is until Schafer re-learns how to hit and takes over CF for good. If it means Frenchy gets demoted or Anderson DFAed, then it's a sizable upgrade.

Between demoting Schafer, dumping Glavine, acquiring McLouth, and promoting Hanson, the Braves have become a significantly better team in the past 3 days.

Jun 04, 2009 10:14 AM
rating: 0
 
RahulN

I think you are overrating Blanco a bit...he didn't hit much last year (.251/.366/.309) and didn't hit much in AAA this year (.242/.335/.300). Sure he takes a walk, but Schafer was doing that as well. He plays solid defense, but nothing spectacular. With the Braves lineup right now, I'd almost rather have Anderson and the possibility of a .270/.320/.420 line the rest of the way, instead of Blanco, even if his defense isn't good at all.

I just think that its a fairly big upgrade for the Braves regardless of whether McLouth replaces Blanco or Anderson

Jun 04, 2009 10:25 AM
rating: 0
 
Matthew Avery

Blanco at CF and McLouth in a corner is so much better defensively than McLouth/Anderson it's not even funny. And the "possibility of a .270/.320/.420 line" 1) isn't better than Blanco's line from last ear and 2) won't come close to making up the difference in defense.

Garrett Anderson hasn't hit for power and hasn't taken walks for basically the whole year. He's sucked long enough. Let's at least give Blanco a chance to suck for a while, if only for variety.

Jun 04, 2009 12:54 PM
rating: 3
 
Richard Bergstrom

Henry Blanco was one of Atlanta's catchers for awhile compiling an OPS of around .560 over two years and 372 AB.

They've used up their quota of Blanco-sucking.

Jun 04, 2009 12:58 PM
rating: 0
 
abcjr2

I am voting with the other unnamed BP analyst on this one.

276/356/497 last season with 76 extra base hits. Signed for ages 27-28-29 at $5.5M per year which is well under market. Gold Glove, whether you agree with the voters or not.

Seems like an awfully meager return to the Pirates for what they gave up.

Jun 04, 2009 10:29 AM
rating: 0
 
Dan W.

I don't understand "Gold Glove, whether you agree with the voters or not." Do you think they actually awarded him a golden glove that is going to magically improve his defense this year?

Jun 04, 2009 11:18 AM
rating: 6
 
stevman17

I analyzed this statement for a while too. I came to the conclusion that he is trying to say that even though we all know that GG was bogus, that it still carries some value in a trade. Maybe he is right. How many tickets will advertising about "Our new GG center fielder!" sell?

Jun 04, 2009 22:40 PM
rating: 1
 
evo34

I believe he is basically saying that defensive stats are still rather imperfect, so a subjective evaluation of defense should actually carry at least a little weight -- just like a scouting report has value in supplementing a statistical profile.

All I would say is that if I was forced to bet on which player had the better "true" defense [assume that could magically be determined after the fact]: A) a CF with a 94 Rate and a recent Gold Glove, or B) a CF with a 94 Rate and no Gold Glove votes, I would bet on A.

Jun 04, 2009 23:29 PM
rating: 1
 
abcjr2

Exactly what I meant but stated better.

Jun 05, 2009 17:44 PM
rating: 0
 
slackerjake

I'm a Pirates fan and not in love with the deal, but I'll give Huntington the benefit of the doubt.

Also, people keep positing that McLouth's value would increase at the deadline. Why? It's a weird year in baseball given the economics, so who knows how that will affect moves at the deadline. Also, where might the Pirates get a better deal? If you assume the trade wouldn't be within the division and you exclude teams from the NL West who won't be in the race, that gives you the AL and the NL East. I know we are very far away from the deadline, and lots could happen between now and then to affect the dynamics of divisional races, but perhaps the Pirates played out possible trading scenarios with potential trading partners, and this was the best deal. Where else might they go and who could they get? Phillies, Mets? Red Sox, Yankees, Jays, Rays? The AL Central? Angels, Rangers?

It just might be that this trade now was likely to be the best they could get.

Jun 04, 2009 20:30 PM
rating: 2
 
sunpar

I don't see McLouth playing LF for the Braves. For one, Garrett Anderson has been terrible, but some of that is the slump he was mired in to begin the season. He's up to a 775 OPS over the last month and has hit a couple homer runs.

Meanwhile Gregor Blanco had a .259 EQA last year and his defense in CF is basically a wash with McLouth's. Decent, but nothing to write home about.

Early slump aside, the question is: would the Braves really think Nate McLouth's defense in LF is worth the difference in batting between Blanco and Anderson (who has a .238 EqA this year, but was around .275 the last two, and is hitting better lately).

Ideally, they'd let Francoeur find a new home, play Blanco in Center, McLouth in RF, Anderson/Diaz platoon in LF. More likely, they would just play McLouth in CF and let Francoeur continue to try to hack his way back into relevancy.

Jun 04, 2009 10:30 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

A breakdown of the Pirates' outfield defense from our good friend John Perrotto along with discussion of the shift they use...

http://www.tribune-democrat.com/prosports/local_story_155001701.html

Jun 04, 2009 10:30 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

On and on that note, I wonder if Dan Fox's Hit Tracker tool plays into how the Pirates are shifting their outfield defense...

Jun 04, 2009 10:35 AM
rating: 0
 
Dan

I really don't see the logic of the trade on the Pirates side. Both pitching prospects are pretty ho-hum, and with McCutchen in center is there ANY chance Gorkys Hernandez's bat can hold down a corner OF spot? Plus McLouth is signed to a pretty affordable deal.

Jun 04, 2009 10:35 AM
rating: 1
 
bobbygrace

Thank you for saying what I've been thinking about the "fourth outfielder" concept for some time. Players of McLouth's ilk prove to be capable, valuable starters for Major League teams not in the megabudget category.

Also, I wonder about the extent to which "the industry has voted" in this deal. Is it clear that McLouth was shopped aggressively before settling for a trio of players I see as middling at best? Another rich pennant contender in the NL East, and at one in the NL Central, could use an upgrade in the outfield almost as much as the Braves could have done.

Jun 04, 2009 10:36 AM
rating: 0
 
DavidK44

Pointing to one trade and saying it's the "turning point" flies in the face of everything that's been written on this site about sample size, no?

If a player had a horrible half-season, then had one good game, you wouldn't sit here and say "this is the turning point"? Joe, you're the one who always (and correctly) points us to how stupid looking at just April stats are?

Maybe you're right, in that this trade will signal the dawning of an era where defensive is evaluated by metrics as opposed to gold gloves and highlight reels. But you need more than one trade to make such a claim.

Jun 04, 2009 10:38 AM
rating: 9
 
stately

Furthermore, even if the Pirates and Braves are smart enough to know what McLouth is actually worth--a shaky assumption itself--then it is, in fact, completely illogical to trade him at that value when there are teams out there who think he is worth more. In an "age of reason" teams would do what was in their best interest, right?

Jun 04, 2009 11:28 AM
rating: 1
 
sunpar

Sheehan is saying that this is the best deal the Pirates could get for McLouth, and since it appears to be close in value to his "actual" value rather than the public perception of his value, the market is very efficient.

An efficient market therefore means that this is the "age of reason" where there aren't teams willing to overpay for a player of McLouth's caliber just because he made the all-star team and won a gold glove last year.

I think there's some merit to that argument, though it's easy to take it too far.

Jun 04, 2009 11:37 AM
rating: 5
 
stately

The argument makes sense, but the premise is wrong. How many people believe this is the best deal they could get for McLouth?

Jun 04, 2009 11:43 AM
rating: -1
 
Patrick Ferrington

Uhm - the Pirates do? How many other people's opinion matters? If this is a shift to the age of reason this will look like a bad trade for a couple of years because no one see's a shift until after it happened. You would still be evaluating trades based on the old paradigm not the new one.

So IF this is a shift it will look like a bad trade until the paradigm has obviously shifted - then it could be reevaluated.

Jun 04, 2009 12:45 PM
rating: 1
 
evo34

I agree. This trade does not show anything about how the industry values players. It merely suggests that a single team -- the Pirates -- is placing much more value on defensive metrics (for better or for worse) than the average team is. The "industry" has not expressed its opinion in any way on the trade.

As a side note, based on a big ol' sample size of two, it appears as if the Pirates may be valuing groundball pitchers more than average.

Finally, Sheehan's thought that, "For the Pirates, though, [Hernandez] becomes a rated prospect who could be a fair regular in a corner, at low cost, for a few seasons," strikes me as pretty absurd. Why would they pay up for premium CF def., and then stick the guy on a corner? Furthermore, Hernandez could not look like more of a slap hitter than he has thus far in his career. If he does start for the Pirates in the next couple of years, it will almost certainly be at CF.

Jun 04, 2009 22:10 PM
rating: 3
 
Clonod

McLouth's Eqa the past three seasons: .296, .304, .299. ML average for CF this year is .267.

One reason for this is his baserunning. He's stolen 64 bases and been caught 5 times in his career.

Sure, he's stretched at CF, but he's good enough to stick and his bat (and baserunning) more than makes up for it.

He's not a star, but I don't see a star in the package the Braves gave up, either.

So, yeah, all in all, I'd agree that this is a good all around trade.


Jun 04, 2009 10:51 AM
rating: 1
 
pepper

Boy do I disagree...An ever improving Pirates club, that was one or two bats away from being competitive in their division, traded one of their best players and got back minor league roster-filler with the potential to become slightly better than replacement value major league roster-filler.

PECOTA has McCutcheon as an 850+ OPS guy through 2013. That's a major league outfielder. I agree he's no gold glover in center, but he'd be swell in left or right. If McCutcheon is anywhere near ready, the outfield of McClouth McCutcheon and Morgan puts 3 first class defensive players behind the their young pitching staff. That combo also has way more offensive potential between now and 2013 than an outfield with Gorkys Hernandez or the overrated Brandon Moss (current OPS .749)--who is the definition of a perfect 4th outfielder (And would be a way better 4th outfielder than say, Gorkys Hernandez, f'rinstance). Plus, if Moss DOES develop, they've got 4 first rate big league outfielders.

If I was a Pirates fan, I'd be apoplectic.

Jun 04, 2009 10:52 AM
rating: 2
 
sunpar

Morton can join the pitching staff tomorrow, and Gorkys has weak power, but great speed and the possibility of becoming a top-flight defensive CF. McLouth is only an average CF despite the Gold Glove, though you'll miss his power.

Next year you could trot out an OF of Gorkys/McCutcheon(at a corner OF spot)/Morgan that'll be even better defensively than this year's OF.

Morton is 25, but lighting up AAA and showed flashes of talent last year when called up. Anything you get out of Locke will not be realized for a couple years at least.

Jun 04, 2009 11:09 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Also rememember Jose Tabatha's in the long picture somewhere too.

McLouth is good, but he is replaceable and risks future years of being a type of player with little power/speed and little ability to play center by the end of his contract. You just don't pay that kind of money for a corner outfielder who won't have the bat to hold that position.

Jun 04, 2009 11:39 AM
rating: -2
 
antoine6

"You just don't pay that kind of money"

What kind of money? 2 million this year, 4.5 million next year, and 6 million in 2011 is what McLouth is owed. He'll be 29 in 2011. What evidence is there he won't still have power and speed at age 29?

Look, I think McLouth is probably overrated (he's a lesser version of Jayson Werth), but at that price, you are more than getting your money's worth, either as a great offensive CF with crappy defense, or as a slightly above league-average corner OF. I don't get how you could think he's gonna age so badly in 2 years in his twenties to not be worth 6.5 million at his most expensive.

Jun 04, 2009 12:27 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

Jayson Werth is a telling example. He was a part-time player with the Dodgers and didn't really break out until recently. A lesser version of Jayson Werth might be on the bench a few years from now.

Assume the Pirates keep McLouth. It'd be a bad sign (though a sign of how the Pirates operated before the recent ownership change) if he's starting in the Pirates outfield a few years from now. Sure, he's better than replacement value, but does that mean you want to throw 4.5 million next year and 6 million in 2011 to that kind of player?

He just won a Gold Glove last year and just came off a good month, It appears there is little reason for McClutchen to spend more time in Triple-A. There are indicators that he might regress offensively (since last season was unexpected) and that he is not in in actuality a great (though serviceable) defensive player. The Pirates are finally cobbling together a young pitching staff and might improve in the upcoming years. Why not trade him while his value is at its highest and use that money for some other facet of the organization or to sign the next big draft pick?

However, I could be pessimistic in how I project McLouth. If you think McLouth will be a star on the next Pirates contending team, then yes, keep him. But I am unconvinced he will get much better and he could potentially get much worse. With that belief in mind, flip him for prospects/other trade chits and use the money on a superstar who will be on the next Pirates contending team.

Jun 04, 2009 12:40 PM
rating: 0
 
antoine6

By no means am I saying they shouldn't trade him ever. It makes sense to turn him into assets they can contend with. I just think as a franchise it may have made more sense to wait for a stronger deal, and till they were closer to contention.

I simply don't think this is a very good haul for a guy signed to a very reasonable contract considering his age and projected production. He's not going to fall off a cliff offensively in his peak years (these are his 27-29 years), and you're paying a total of 15 million over the next 3 years for a guy who according to Fangraphs was worth 16 million alone last season. That's a good deal even if he only produces the next 2 and a half years at 75% of what he did last year. I find it very hard to believe they'll get the same value out of the guys they traded for. I will be surprised if any of those guys are contributors to a contending Pirates team.

Jun 04, 2009 13:00 PM
rating: 2
 
evo34

"Sure, he's better than replacement value, but does that mean you want to throw 4.5 million next year and 6 million in 2011 to that kind of player?"

Yes, it does. Apparently, you haven't been following player salaries very closely. There is no one on this comment board besides you who would argue that McLouth's current contract has negative value.

Jun 04, 2009 23:34 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

I didn't say negative value. I said he is at his peak value right now, and there is a very good chance he goes downhill in value as his contract gets more expensive and the chance his performance declines. His top ten PECOTA comparables include Higginson, Gerut, Nixon and Dykstra who each had short career peaks. McLouth is already at 27, has had one average year (2007 with a .810 OPS) and one good year (2008 with a .853 OPS). Each year, including his career year last year, his BP player comments profile him as a fourth outfielder.

We can't really project what a properly valued contract will be one or two years from now. When Peavy signed his contract, it was thought of as a great deal and now it's more viewed as an albatross. Established, albiet older major leaguers who were productive over the last few years haven't been able to sign major league contracts (Lofton, Edmonds, Durham, Pedro Martinez). Even if you look at the "premium" outfielders available over this offseason, Bobby Abreu got 5 million for 1 year, and Burrell/Dunn/Ibanez were all just around 8 million. Granted, all four are worse defensively than McLouth, but they are superior hitters as well. Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre could've been picked up for pennies on the dollar as well. Even Josh Willingham who is a better offensive player than McLouth and is just a year older than Willingham could've been acquired via a trade could've been picked up cheaply via trade by anyone who wanted him. The point is that McLouth has some value, but he's also replaceable.

Who knows what 4.5 million could buy in 2010 and 6 million could buy in 2011? McLouth has some value but he is also replaceable. Meanwhile the Pirates colud use that money on future draft picks, international signings or towards long-term contracts for rookies they perceive as superstars in the Alvarez mold.

Thus, I lean towards selling while his value is high before #1 his value drops from injury or ineffectiveness or #2 the trade value to acquire prospects is even more expensive. I also think it's a good idea to sell high when there are prospects who could be better offensively and defensively nipping at his heels and that he may end up being too old by the time the Pirates build a perennial contender. Willingham did not net much of a return for the Marlins so perhaps this was the best package of prospects that the Pirates could get for McLouth.

Just to reiterate so that you don't misunderstand me. McLouth has value, but he is replaceable. His contract looks cheap right now but the money might be better spent by the Pirates in 2010 and 2011. He has some offensive punch but he loses overall value if he shifts to a corner and various defensive metrics suggest that, though far from a bad defensive centerfielder, he's not a great one either and would have to switch positions as he ages. His value is at its peak so I think the Pirates were wise to trade him since I doubt he would hold up well as a starter by the time the Pirates have a championship team. Finally, there are prospects who can be better than him on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

To quote Branch Rickey, "I would rather trade a player a year too early than a year too late."

Do you really think McLouth will get better than he was last year? If he is forced to move off of center field, do you think his production would be enough to justify starting for a contending team? Do you think he is irreplaceable?

Jun 05, 2009 00:12 AM
rating: -3
 
evo34

Value = expected relative player performance divided by expected player cost over the life of a contract. Not too hard to understand.

"Who knows what 4.5 million could buy in 2010 and 6 million could buy in 2011?"

Let's see...how about less than half of an Aaron Rowand contract ($12M/yr)? Read up on MORP if you need more examples.


Jun 05, 2009 11:26 AM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

It's the "relative" parts of the value that we are differing on. It's instructive that you cite Aaron Rowand who is a player who has some of the same strengths and weaknesses as McLouth. Rowand was traded by the White Sox after his age 27 season and at that time of his career, his OPS wobbled between .692 and .905. Rowand was also thought of as a below average centerfielder and a fouth outfielder type.

Jun 06, 2009 01:44 AM
rating: -1
 
eighteen

Agreed. The Pirates traded away a popular player, and one of the few reasons Pirates fans have for coming out to the park, for a guy who might be a ML-average OF someday (the other 2 guys don't count - accumulating talent of that ilk is no virtue).

The Pirates could and should have gotten way more. I hope one of the Steinbrenners brings this up at the next owners' meeting when the Pirates ask for more revenue sharing.

Jun 04, 2009 11:15 AM
rating: -1
 
Clonod

I think that's underrating Locke quite a bit. Scouts see him as a potential #2. He hasn't put it together yet, and maybe never will, but he's not without value as a prospect.

Jun 04, 2009 11:31 AM
rating: 0
 
stately

This trade only makes sense to me if Hernandez and Morton have more value than we think. Gorkys is 21 and getting on base at better than .360 in AA. Morton has impressed people before. But for an affordable outfielder at peak value? Meh. The Pirates must have a secret love for one of these prospects, because there's got to be a team out there willing to give up more for McLouth.

But really, in the end, this trade breaks a rule that I think all GMs should follow: don't trade for Braves prospects. Somehow that organization always knows which of their seemingly decent minor leaguers aren't actually any good. Maybe they've got Dionne Warwick on contract. And this trade sure displays her Value Over Replacement Psychic.

Jun 04, 2009 11:11 AM
rating: 3
 
stately

P.S. Dear site administrator, have you noticed that the first two lines of every comment are indented a single space? Not very bothersome, to say the most, but a little odd.

Jun 04, 2009 11:17 AM
rating: 0
 
John Geer
(44)

I think that's how they keep replies to particular posts together...

I would be surprised if the Braves are finished dealing. Francoeur will be the next to go.

Jun 04, 2009 11:37 AM
rating: 0
 
sunpar

Didn't hurt Texas to break that rule =/

Jun 04, 2009 11:22 AM
rating: 1
 
stately

Yet. Let's keep and eye on Feliz and Andrus for a little while. I think Salty and Harrison have already shown themselves to be properly undervalued by the Braves organization.

Jun 04, 2009 11:35 AM
rating: 0
 
sunpar

I'm not so sure about Harrison. That leaves 3 players who thus far look like good players.

Jun 04, 2009 11:45 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Their player evaluation skills (and their front office in general) has been a bit out-of-whack in recent years. Look at the acquisitions of Hudson, Hampton and Oritz. Trading away LaRoche on the theory that rookie 1B (Scott Thurman or something) could take over, etc.

Maybe I'm still miffed on Glavine. Why sign him if you don't think he can contribute? Why say his numbers at A ball don't matter about his skill level if you're the ones who assigned him to A ball for rehab?

Jun 04, 2009 12:02 PM
rating: 0
 
Matthew Avery

How can you possibly criticize the Hudson deal?

And as for Hampton, he pitched well for the (painfully short) time he was healthy. Before he went on his 3+ year hiatus, he was an effective pitcher. No problem in scouting there.

I do agree that the Glavine thing was handled very poorly.

Jun 04, 2009 13:19 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Sorry Hudson was a bad example, even if he has been dinged up last year and this year.

Hampton, though, was not a good deal. He had two marginaly effective years (though never broke 200 IP) but he was being paid as a superstar at that time. Even if part of his salary was being eaten up by Colorado (and as I remember, Florida too), just the idea of him being around forced the Braves to fiddle with their roster incase he got healthy.

Jun 04, 2009 16:41 PM
rating: 0
 
gluckschmerz

Here you have it: Life as a baseball fan here in Pittsburgh.

Perhaps the Pirates just needed to dump payroll (even if it is a *mere* $15 million or so) to allow them financial resources for the upcoming draft.

Some cities have to "Wait 'til next year..."

Here in Pittsburgh it seems like we have to "Wait 'til....well, just keep on waiting". *sigh*

Jun 04, 2009 12:10 PM
rating: 0
 
Ameer

Joe, I get what you're saying here, but I disagree with both your opinion of Mclouth and with your conclusion.

Mclouth will likely obp ~.360 and slg .480 for the next three seasons (this is PECOTA'S projection, not mine). His platoon split is not particularly severe (and he has actually reversed that split so far this season). The NL average ops for right fielders in 2008 was .803 and for left fielders it was .788. Mclouth will likely be significantly better than both these marks. Additionally, he is a high-percentage base stealer and in his career has been replacement-level defensively at both corners. How is this a fourth outfielder? How many NL teams would love this production from either corner? You have called him a fourth outfielder before, and I don't get it. I would love to hear your argument for describing him as such, and you might just able to convince me. But please back it up.

For this reason, I don't think this was two teams making a smart trade and valuing their players properly. I think it was one team pulling the trigger too early and dumping its best offensive player who was coming off an admittedly career season and was also signed to a manageable contract. I'm not saying the Pirates should have gotten a Jason Heyward-level prospect here, but I do think they should have at least gotten a little more upside. Hernandez doesn't have much of a place with the organization if McCutcheon is around (do you really think his bat will ever be good enough to play in a corner?), Morton isn't going to be more than a marginal 5th starter, and Locke, while having upside, is a huge question mark.

Jun 04, 2009 12:14 PM
rating: 7
 
Richard Bergstrom

Francouer's in right field for now, so that means McLouth would play left field which has a bit higher of an offensive threshhold than a .803 OPS.

Jun 04, 2009 13:00 PM
rating: 0
 
Ameer

But .803 was the average ops in left field last year. I realize the threshold should be higher, but someone above noted that Mclouth's eqa's have been around .300 in his career. How is this not good enough for left field?

Jun 04, 2009 19:10 PM
rating: 1
 
Ameer

Sorry, it was .788 for left fielders.

Jun 04, 2009 19:16 PM
rating: 0
 
achase

completely agreed. ridiculous article on two fronts. one, the idea that McLouth is a 4th OFer is absurd. two, the idea that Gregor Blanco -- based on a small sample size good OBP (and nothing else) stretch should be the starting CFer is ridiculous. Blanco's .242/.335/.300 line in AAA this year is fully in line with his career, and along with his so-so defense the guy is no more than...well, no more than a 4th OFer, at best.

Jun 04, 2009 16:53 PM
rating: 1
 
Amos

What about saving money for amateur player acquisitions? Lots of people have reported that the Pirates might go cheap in the draft to sign Sano. This suddenly frees up a lot of money that could go into signing higher-upside players than Hernandez, Locke, and Morton. Shouldn't we be considering that angle?

Jun 04, 2009 12:16 PM
rating: 2
 
Ameer

I hadn't considered that. As a payroll move, I get it. Talent-wise, I don't.

Jun 04, 2009 12:22 PM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

Bashing Gold Glove as a metric is more important here at BP than bashing teams that are continually rebuilding on the cheap. Acceptance of the path taken by San Diego, Pittsburgh, and to a lesser extent, Oakland, should be the real outrage.

Pittsburgh has been going through a host of OF to find their CF in the past few years. Now that the find him and sign him to an incredibaly reasonable contract (even better on the age / dollar curve than Bay), they get rid of him to start the process all over again - by the author's own admission "To put it another way, he could be their next Nate McLouth."

Cleveland was successful in the 90s locking up players before they became free agents. Pitttsburgh obviously has decleared, with this trade, that they can't even field a trade to that standard. And Oakland was getting rid of players even as the approached ARBITRATION let alone FREE AGENCY.

Isn't it time for these franchises to find new ownership rather than continuing the charade? That should be your real outrage Joe - not demeaning a player that worked very hard for every achievement he's garnered because you think he got one you think he didn't deserve.

Jun 04, 2009 12:26 PM
rating: 2
 
stately

Translator?

Jun 04, 2009 12:32 PM
rating: -2
 
Richard Bergstrom
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

It was a lot of gibberish(sbnirish?) to me too.

Jun 04, 2009 12:41 PM
rating: -5
 
thehotcorner

translation: 'dont hate the player, hate the game'

Jun 04, 2009 13:31 PM
rating: 0
 
mdupske

Bashing Gold Gloves as a metric should be done because it comes down to voting, not statistics. Who won the 1999 AL first base Gold Glove? Rafael Palmeiro who played 28 games at first. Sure he won in 1997 and 1998 and had roughly the same averages but surely the voters could have given it to someone who played, say, 140-150 games. Why did Yadier Molina not win the Gold Glove in 2007? Because Russell Martin HIT better than Molina. If McLouth doesn't have a hot hitting start in 2008 does he still win the Gold Glove? I don't recall anyone saying he was a defensive whiz before last season.

Jun 04, 2009 21:19 PM
rating: 1
 
twoniner

What is more likely?

1- The entire baseball community suddenly reached the correct measurement of a player's defensive worth.. and correctly judged the players trade value based on his defensive worth.

Or

2- The Pirates just traded for lesser prospects than what another organization could have gotten for McClouth.




Jun 04, 2009 13:32 PM
rating: 7
 
Ameer

I think this sums it up nicely.

Jun 04, 2009 14:07 PM
rating: 0
 
evo34

I'd say neither one is likely.

Jun 05, 2009 13:48 PM
rating: -1
 
DWrek5

Conflict resolution refers to this as "Win Win Win".
- Michael Scott

Jun 04, 2009 16:11 PM
rating: 1
 
sbnirish77

OK ... Here's the translation

Joe would have you believe that the Pirates all of a sudden got as smart as he is because they just recognized some fielding metric that says Nate McLouth is a piece of crap ...

when in fact the Pirates are just making the same stupid moves they have for the last 17 years ...

"They traded a player at or near the peak of his value, whose useful career would not extend into their next run of success ..."

NEXT RUN OF SUCCESS ... you have got to be kidding ... there will be no next run of success just as there hasn't been one in the last 17 years ...

Jun 04, 2009 20:49 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

One could argue they did just that. They suddenly did get smart and just recognized some fielding metric by hiring Dan Fox.

Jun 04, 2009 21:17 PM
rating: 0
 
gluckschmerz

"Next run of success" only applies to the Pens and the Steelers.

Jun 05, 2009 08:01 AM
rating: 0
 
evo34

One aspect of the trade that surprised me a little bit is that the Pirates are losing a lefthanded hitter for a righthanded hitter. According to BBHQ, PNC Park has a -28% LHB HR 3-yr. park factor, vs. a nearly-flat RHB HR factor. McLouth shows a +40-point career home/road SLG pct. differential, which is pretty decent-sized, given the overall SLG suppression of PNC. Turner Field has actually reduced LHB HR by 15% and has boosted RHB HR by 7%. Obviously, you don't build your team solely on handedness park factors, but it does seem like McLouth would have a bit more raw value in Pittsburgh.

Jun 04, 2009 23:52 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

This year he's got a .902 OPS at home .716 OPS away.
Last year .859 at home vs .846 away.
In 2007, .844 at home and .772 away.
In 2006, .697 at home and .661 away

The main dip in his performance so far in 2009 is hitting just .176 away but his HR rate is stable whether he's home or away.

Overall for three complete seasons, from 2006 to 2008, he has a .823 OPS at home and a .781 OPS away. He also has a platoon split of a .822 OPS vs RHP and only a .739 OPS vs LHP.

But his overall HR/AB rate for those three years is equal whether he's home (23 HR in 606 AB) or away (23 HR in 590 AB). He is hitting home runs at a higher rate this year (8 in 168 AB).

However, the main cause of his OPS spike at home over that three year period (2006-2008) is an increased rate of doubles (47 at home versus 38 away) and triples (8 at home versus 1 away). So, until this year, the increased home OPS performance can be attributed to more doubles and triples at home, not home runs. This year, the main difference in his OPS is his low road batting average.

Jun 05, 2009 00:31 AM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Er, this year, he's hitting home runs at a higher rate (9 HR in 168 AB).

Jun 05, 2009 00:32 AM
rating: 0
 
evo34

An "equal" or "stable" home/road HR rate split for a Pirates hitter does not mean he is showing no HR park effect, since an average Pirates player would be expected to hit more HR on the road than at home. A player who has equal raw home/road HR rates in such a park is showing some degree of HR outperformance at home.

Jun 05, 2009 11:06 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

You're talking about a 15% supression in home run rate... so bassically you are saying that if PNC had a neutral effect on home run rate, then McLouth would've hit 26 HR over those 606 AB instead of 23. But the difference between 23 HR and 26 HR is well within the variance possible with a sample size of the equivalent of a season's worth of at bats.

I guess I can discuss this even more, but I'm not sure if it's worth writing another page long comment to respond to a two sentence critique that doesn't address other aspects of the comment I've written. In the end, you think McLouth is very valuable and I think he has value but he is replaceable.

Jun 06, 2009 01:51 AM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

If Hernandez is not better than McLouth in two years, this deal is a big loser for Pit.

I sympathize with Pirate fans- what's the sense in continually reloading when you never shoot?

Jun 08, 2009 10:48 AM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

"what's the sense in continually reloading when you never shoot?"

Best line I've read here in a long time ...

Jun 09, 2009 09:39 AM
rating: 0
 
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