Monday, September 10, 2007


Wait 'Til Next Year will be quiet for at least the near future. I am joining Cory Humes and Randy Linville at Pittsburgh Lumber Co., a blog on the MVN network. I am excited to be working with two writers that I have great respect for, and honored to be part of a network that is growing so rapidly.

I have not yet decided on future plans for this site, but for now I will be focusing on this new endeavor. Thank you all for reading during the past year. See you at PLC.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Pirates fire Dave Littlefield

The Littlefield era is over in Pittsburgh - Peter Diana, Post-Gazette

I was sitting down to write about Bryan Bullington, Rick Ankiel, HGH and whatever else popped into my head as I was typing. Then, all of a sudden...Pirates fire GM Dave Littlefield. I was not expecting anything like this until at least the end of the season, so I nearly fell out of my office chair. Apparently, the move surprised Littlefield as well. Check out the Post-Gazette article for details.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Bryan Bullington returns

Bryan Bullington has waited a long time for today's game - Bill Gentry

As Pittsburgh bloggers and fans, we love to make light of the Pirates' failures. It is one of the things that keeps us going year after year. One popular topic is the unbelievable streak of injured first round draft picks over the past decade. I think we sometimes forget that we are joking about incidents that have severely altered the lives of young men.

Earlier in 2007, John Van Benschoten made his triumphant return to the Pirates. After battling injuries for years, he pitched in a Major League game for the first time since 2004. While the results were not great, it was nice to see him overcome such difficulties to return.

In less than two hours, another player will make his much-anticipated return from a major injury. Bryan Bullington made one appearance with the Pirates in 2005, allowing two runs in 1.1 innings. After missing all of 2006 due to shoulder surgery, Bullington will make his first Major League start at Busch Stadium today. To this point, his season has been encouraging for a player returning from a major arm injury.

No matter what happens in today's game, it will be a very special day for Bryan and his family. We should all be rooting hard for Bullington and Van Benschoten to find success in the future.

Note: Cory has written a much more detailed post about Bullington's story.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

LaRoche for Gonzalez - eight months later

Adam LaRoche has rescued his nightmarish season - AP Photo/Morry Gash

Dave Littlefield is not a good general manager. This is unfortunate for the city of Pittsburgh, as he has been the Pirates' general manager for over six years. Over that period, he has made bad decision after bad decision, keeping the team near the bottom of Major League Baseball's franchise hierarchy. Because of this, he is constantly blasted by local media and fans. However, in January, he did make a rare intelligent deal. Closer Mike Gonzalez and minor league shortstop Brent Lillibridge were sent to Atlanta for first baseman Adam LaRoche and minor league outfielder Jamie Romak.

As most people know, LaRoche started the season in a terrible slump. At the end of April, he was hitting just .133/.255/.265. As one might expect, the fan base was in an outrage. Gonzalez's ERA was 1.74, and it seemed that Littlefield had blown it again. But the season is 162 games long, and much has changed since April.

Gonzalaez was even better in May, but his success did not last long. By the end of the month, his season was over due to Tommy John surgery. It was known before the trade that Gonzalez was a high-risk acquisition. He missed time due to an arm injury in 2006, and his power style of pitching added to the concern. After his horrific April, LaRoche's numbers have steadily risen. Somewhat remarkably, he is currently hitting .267/.342/.455 with 20 home runs. Those are not quite the statistics we were hoping for in January, but they are not as far off as most feared four months ago. LaRoche has been much more valuable to the Pirates than Gonzalez has been to the Braves.

Many felt that the key to this transaction would be the performance of Brent Lillibridge. He was one of the top prospects in the Pirates' minor league system before the trade, and many knowledgeable Atlanta fans found it possible that he could find himself starting at second base for the Braves in 2007. Lillibridge started the season at Double-A Mississippi, and posted an unimpressive line of .275/.355/.387 in 204 at-bats. He was promoted to Triple-A Richmond, and hit marginally better, at .287/.331/.436 in 321 at-bats. It always hurts to lose a decent prospect, especially considering the sad state of the Pirates' minor league system, but Lillibridge's mediocre stats in 2007 have eased my anxiety. On the other hand, Romak has continued posting strange, Adam Dunn-like numbers. In 363 at-bats combined with Hickory and Lynchburg, both Single-A teams, he hit .256/.383/.496 with 20 home runs, 114 strikeouts and 64 walks. A .256 batting average at that level is far from encouraging, but the patience and power potential makes this 21 year old an intriguing prospect.

In the end, the Pirates got the left-handed power bat they were seeking and some much-needed minor league power. They lost a promising young reliever whose career is up in the air after a serious arm injury and a shortstop who will likely become an average Major League player. As the Pirates approach another losing season, as Dave Littlefield wastes his time trading for veteran past-their-prime pitchers, let us give him some credit for one of the few smart decisions he has made.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Fun with splits and small sample sizes

Freddy Sanchez circles the bases after hitting a grand slam on August 28 - AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Obviously, Freddy Sanchez has been hitting the cover off the ball recently. However, I did not realize just how productive he has actually been. Freddy has hit .353/.410/.602 since the All-Star break, good for the fifth best OPS in the National League over that period (minimum 150 PA). Knowing him to be a high average, low walk, low power style hitter, I was impressed when I saw those numbers. Looking at Sanchez’s second-half statistics, I found myself entering “small sample size mode.”

During the past offseason, I think we all became sick of the numbers “37-35.” Pirate management mentioned the team’s 2006 second-half record during virtually every interview between October and April, consistently neglecting to discuss the 30-60 record the team had before the break. Considering the Pirates, despite their recent surge, are only 20-29 since the break this season, management will need a new positive spin method for the upcoming offseason. I thought I would get a head start and help them out a bit. It is time to take the Pirates’ second half offensive numbers and extend them over 162 games.

Since the All-Star break, a hypothetical lineup (using Maholm hitting ninth) produced the following numbers:

Nate McLouth: .251/.342/.485
Jack Wilson: .312/.370/.464
Freddy Sanchez: .353/.410/.602
Adam LaRoche: .314/.372/.483
Jose Bautista: .261/.353/.470
Xavier Nady: .278/.336/.454
Jason Bay: .253/.322/.416
Ronny Paulino: .273/.322/.432
Paul Maholm: .208/.208/.250

Of course, nobody will mistake that lineup for the 1927 Yankees. But these statistics are much easier to stomach than the team’s overall numbers. In 49 games since the break, the Pirates have scored 253 runs. That pace would give the team 837 runs over 162 games. Entering the above hypothetical lineup into Baseball Musings’ lineup analysis tool, the Pirates would be expected to score 5.152 runs per game. Over 162 games, that would equal 834 runs.* In 2006, 834 runs scored would have left the Pirates tied for seventh in Major League Baseball. That is a respectable ranking.

So what does this all mean? It means that scoring 253 runs and allowing 265 runs after the All-Star break is only marginally more effective than scoring 367 and allowing 427 before it. But we can expect to hear quite a bit of Pirate management citing the “much improved offense” as a reason to expect success in 2008. Unless we are expecting Freddy Sanchez to consistently slug over .600, it will be just another hollow promise.

*This run total does not account for Josh Phelps’ 1.324 second-half OPS coming off the bench.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Pirates @ Brewers, Bats @ Indians

Zach Duke is back in Indianapolis tonight, where he excelled in 2005 - Bill Gentry

The Pirates have dropped their past three games, and are back in last place in the NL Central. With a 59-75 record, the Bucs must finish the season on a 22-6 run to reach .500. They will face the Brewers again tonight at 7:05 PM. With last night's victory, Milwaukee sits 1.5 games behind Chicago at 67-67. Shane Youman (5.59 ERA, 1.55 WHIP) throws for the Pirates, Dave Bush (4.96 ERA, 1.36 WHIP) for the Brewers. Tonight's game is radio only. (EDIT: I missed this in the PG this morning. Steve Pearce, Nyjer Morgan, and Juan Perez will join the Pirates tomorrow. Hopefully, Pearce and Morgan will receive regular at-bats over the final month of the season. It would be interesting to see what they can do against Major League pitching. But I am sure we will keep sending a gimpy Xavier Nady out there instead. Brilliant.)

The pitching matchup in Indianapolis tonight is a somewhat interesting one. Zach Duke goes for the Indians, making a rehab start. He will face former Pirate Victor Santos, who will be throwing for the Louisville Bats. At least, I think this is an interesting pitching matchup.