Saturday, February 10, 2007

Freddy Sanchez - An Optimistic 2007

This is Part Three of an Optimistic Look at the 2007 Pittsburgh Pirates. Today’s section features Freddy Sanchez. Keep in mind that these are not my realistic predictions for these players. This is a best-case scenario, something for the hopeful fan to dream about as we approach the upcoming season.

Freddy Sanchez does something amazing, as usual.

This one will be fun. Freddy Sanchez, as we all know, had a career season in 2006. He went from a utility infielder in April, to an All-Star in July, to the NL batting champion in October, delivering crucial hits on what seemed like a nightly basis. He posted a line of .344/.378/.473, and also led the league with 53 doubles. He notched his 200th hit on the final day of the season.

Many see the statistics dropping dramatically for Sanchez in 2007. I personally do not expect it to happen, as he is a model of consistency. He has always put up solid numbers in the minor leagues and he did not use a hot stretch to inflate his impressive 2006 stats. Those stats are broken down by month below:

April: .333/.347/.542 .889 OPS
May: .360/.397/.509 .906 OPS
June: .380/.421/.540 .961 OPS
July: .301/.342/.408 .750 OPS
August: .355/.395/.473 .868 OPS
September/October: .327/.351/.402 .753 OPS

You might be able to see where the nickname Steady Freddy comes from. Until Sanchez “slumped” to a .301 average and .750 OPS in July, he was absolutely dominating the league. He quickly responded by hitting .355 with an OPS of .868 in August. Freddy owned left-handed pitchers, with an average of .442. He posted a .386 average with RISP, .421 with RISP and two outs, .364 with men on, and .400 with men on and two outs. I might be going overboard with the splits here, but I can’t get enough of the numbers that Sanchez put up in 2006.

Freddy enters 2007 as a regular for the first time in his career. He will not have to fight for playing time, and he has successfully shed the tag of utility infielder. For the first time, he will have the luxury of relaxing and doing what he does best: spraying line drives all over the outfield. He may still be moved all over the infield on defense, but that did not seem to have an effect on him at the plate in 2006 (I will not bore you with those splits, but I assure you that there is quite a bit of consistency in them). Expect Freddy Sanchez to continue to be a force in the Pirates’ lineup in 2007.

2007 Statistics: .351/.393/.495

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Jack Wilson - An Optimistic 2007

This is Part Two of an Optimistic Look at the 2007 Pittsburgh Pirates. Today’s section features Jack Wilson. Keep in mind that these are not my realistic predictions for these players. This is a best-case scenario, something for the hopeful fan to dream about as we approach the upcoming season.

Jack Wilson scores on an inside-the-park homerun on July 2, 2004

Jack Wilson had a breakout season in 2004, hitting .308/.335/.459. In the two seasons since, he has struggled with both injuries and an extreme lack of offensive production. In 2006, he put up another sub-.700 OPS while his excellent defense fell off to slightly above average. He attributed this to the extra weight he put on before the season in an effort to add more strength.

2007 will bring the return of the 2004 Jack Wilson. Jack’s biggest issue at the plate has always been confidence. He was confident in 2004 and hit just about everything because of it. He, along with many Pirates’ players, looks at the second half of 2006 and the addition of Adam LaRoche and truly believes that this team can play with the big boys in 2007. Any addition of confidence will dramatically help Jack Wilson produce at the plate. Don’t forget, this is a guy that had a career minor league line of .318/.375/.450 for an OPS of .825. He is capable of being a decent hitter.

As for Jack’s defense, expect to see it return to Gold Glove caliber this season. He is reportedly down to 185 pounds, or approximately 20 pounds lighter than he began 2006. This will improve his range and bring about the return of Jack Flash.

2007 Statistics: .302/.342/.435

Monday, February 05, 2007

Chris Duffy - An Optimistic 2007

This is Part One of an Optimistic Look at the 2007 Pittsburgh Pirates. Today’s section features Chris Duffy. Keep in mind that these are not my realistic predictions for these players. This is a best-case scenario, something for the hopeful fan to dream about as we approach the upcoming season.

After leaving his feet, Chris Duffy realizes that home plate is surrounded by barbed wire and shards of broken glass

Chris Duffy went for a wild ride in 2006. After a successful 2005 campaign which saw Duffy catch fire in Pittsburgh late in the season, he entered spring training with firm control of the center field job. But he limped out of the gate with a line of .194/.255/.276 before being demoted to AAA in May. He refused the demotion and went home to Arizona as questions arose about his commitment to the game. However, he returned in July and declared himself ready to play. Duffy quickly showed that his focus was back, hitting .349/.415/.509 in Indianapolis before returning to Pittsburgh on August 1. He started slowly but rebounded to go .315/.380/.413 with 20 stolen bases in 21 attempts in his final 45 games.

Chris Duffy has had an unusual Major League career thus far, one that can be broken into three pretty distinct segments. He was red-hot during the last few months of 2005, terrible at the beginning of 2006, and very solid upon his return later in the season. The question is which player is the real Duffy? Everyone knows that he has tremendous speed and he plays defense spectacularly enough to bring up Andy Van Slyke’s name in Pittsburgh. But what will he consistently do at the plate? Remove the first month and a half of 2006, and you have a player who has been very successful at the Major League level. There was clearly something wrong in Duffy’s head during that rough stretch, but he seemed to put it behind him after spending a couple months away from the game. Now he is ready to be a force at the top of the Pirates’ lineup. In 2007, expect to see the player that we saw at the end of 2006. Be ready for the Chris Duffy that consistently gets on base, steals bases, scores runs, and is a spark for a rejuvenated Pirates’ offense.

2007 Statistics: .329/.386/.438 - 58 SB, 6 CS

One year anniversary

Exactly one year ago to the hour, Jeff Reed was kicking off at Ford Field. A few hours later, the Steelers had one for the thumb. So pour a glass of champagne, light up a cigar, sit back and daydream about the greatest postseason run in NFL history.


Today's Pirates Roundtable is up, with questions on the 2007 use of Salomon Torres and a franchise player for the Pirates. Take a look.

Somehow Salomon Torres has already made 12 appearances in 2007. I'm not sure how, other than the fact that he's really durable.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Kolb, Sanchez sign with Pirates

The Pirates have signed free agent relief pitcher Dan Kolb to a minor league deal. He will make $1.25 million if he makes the team out of spring training and can earn up to $1.3 million in performance bonuses. This move adds depth to the bullpen, which will be somewhat young this season.
Dan Kolb reacts to signing with the Pirates

The Pirates also signed Freddy Sanchez to a one-year deal at $2.75 million, avoiding arbitration with the 2006 batting champ.

Freddy Sanchez celebrates his new contract

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Tony Armas Jr.

The Pirates have reportedly signed Tony Armas Jr. Financial terms have not been disclosed. He will likely be the Pirates' 5th starter in 2007.

Link via Bucs Dugout

UPDATE (02/03/2007, 12:45 AM): This
contract will be worth $3 million in 2007 with a mutual option for 2008 at $5 million. If either the Pirates or Armas do not agree to the option, the Bucs must pay a $500,000 buyout.

Also the Pirates have avoided arbitration with Adam LaRoche and John Grabow by signing them to one-year deals. This leaves only Freddy Sanchez and Jose Castillo as unsigned players eligible for arbitration. Dejan reports that the team is unlikely to get as far as arbitration for either.

Finally, Dejan is reporting that the Pirates have made a contract offer to relief pitcher Dan Kolb. Kolb was an All-Star closer in 2004 with the Brewers before failing as the Braves closer in 2005. He returned to the Brewers in 2006 and, after struggling early in the year, had a strong second half. The Pirates could add some experienced depth to the bullpen by signing Kolb. We all know how much DL loves bullpen depth.