Quick Notes

Thanks to everyone who voted for me in the haiku contest over at The Platoon Advantage. I ended up winning the contest. Unfortunately my local Dick’s doesn’t carry any Pirate gear so I’ll probably get some new shoes.

Pedro Alvarez has been called up. Hopefully he keeps hitting like he did in Indy and is the lift this offense needs.

The Bucs start a four game set in Atlanta tonight. By no coincidence at all, I’ll be in attendance for all four games. The pitching matchups are brutal, so escaping with a split would be just fine.

Game 1: McDonald vs Hudson
Game 2: Karstens vs Hanson
Game 3: Maholm vs Jurrjens
Game 4: Correia vs Lowe

Rain is in the forecast tonight, so let’s hope this one gets in without too much delay. Follow my twitter feed for pics and thoughts as they come.

Thursday Trade Tree – Dick Groat

This week we’ll look at the 1960 NL MVP, shortstop Dick Groat.

Maz‘s double play partner from 1956-62, Groat was tradable because of Gene Alley’s presence. Unfortunately, they didn’t get much in return aside from two decent seasons from Don Cardwell .

To any new readers I picked up last week, Hello! Feel free to leave ideas for future trade trees in the comments or over on twitter.

UPDATE 4:25pm: Baseball Think Factory author Mike Emeigh contributed the following which details the environment surrounding the Dick Groat trade far better than I could.

It’s not exactly the case that Groat was tradeable because of Gene
Alley’s presence.  At the end of 1962, Alley was just 21 and  had played
just 36 games above A-ball, and while he’d hit well in the lower levels
he didn’t show much in his AAA trial at the end of the season.

In 1962, the Pirates had the oldest team in the National League. The
starting lineup had five regulars over the age of 30 and another (Dick
Stuart) who was 29. Groat was 31, and there were concerns all over the
place that he was an “old” 31 – that he was fast losing range at SS as
well as what little extra-base power he had. The rotation included
30-somethings Bob Friend, Vern Law, Harvey Haddix, and Tom Sturdivant
(along with the younger Al McBean and Earl Francis). Even though the
Bucs had won 93 games in 1962, Joe L. Brown believed that the team
needed to get younger. Furthermore, as an old Branch Rickey disciple, he
felt that it was better to trade a player a year too early rather than a
year too late.

The Bucs went out that offseason and made three big deals, all of which
were intended to clear space for younger players:

1. The Groat trade. Cardwell was relatively young and being counted on
for big things, but at the time the key to this trade for Pittsburgh was
Julio Gotay, a 24-YO shortstop who had shown some promise in his first
full year in the bigs in 1962, enough so that Branch Rickey (then
consulting for the Cardinals) recommended against making the deal. The
Bucs also had Dick Schofield, then only 27, who inherited the major
league job.  Gotay opened 1963 with the Bucs, but played little and was
sent down in May (that was during the era when teams could carry extra
players on the roster for the first month). Alley by then had grabbed
hold of the shortstop position for Columbus, continuing to flash the
power potential he’d shown in the low minors and in Arizona during the
1962-1963 offseason, so Gotay wound up playing second for the Jets. On
May 25, Gotay suffered a serious knee injury in a game against Syracuse
when Chiefs’ catcher Jackie Moore slammed into him on a double-play
pivot. He didn’t get back into the lineup until August, and clearly
wasn’t 100% even then – at one point Larry Shepard, managing Columbus,
was quoted in the Sporting News as saying he would never have agreed to
activate Gotay if he’d known that he was still in that bad of a shape.
By the end of 1963, Alley had passed Gotay in the Pirates’ pecking
order. Gotay made the team once again out of spring training in 1964 but
again played little, and when Cardwell and McBean were hurt and Don
Schwall struggled in the early going, he was outrighted to Columbus to
make room for Steve Blass. That spelled the end of Gotay’s career with
the Pirates.

2. The Dick Stuart trade. The Bucs traded Stuart and Jack Lamabe, a
pitcher who had done well out of the Bucs’ bullpen in 1962 as a rookie,
for Schwall and Jim Pagliaroni. This was, again, about getting younger
in the lineup. Stuart WAS expendable thanks to the emergence of Donn
Clendenon, and the Pirates want to get the aging Smoky Burgess out of
the regular lineup.

3. The Don Hoak trade. Hoak was sent to Philadelphia in exchange for
Pancho Herrera and Ted Savage. This one was intended to clear a spot for
20-YO Bob Bailey, who had torched the International in 1962 for 28 HRs
and a .941 OPS. Herrera never played a game in Pittsburgh, and Savage
had a horrible year in 1963, spent all of 1964 at Columbus where he
still didn’t hit, and wound up being traded in another forgettable deal
in which the Pirates sent Savage and Francis to the Cardinals for two
nonentities.

At the beginning of 1963, the Pirates’ rotation was Francis (who started
on Opening Day), Friend, Cardwell, McBean, and Schwall. Only Friend was
over the age of 30.  The starters in the infield were Clendenon,
Mazeroski, Schofield, and Bailey; the outfield was Skinner, Virdon, and
Clemente, with Pagliaroni catching. By May, the 31-YO Skinner would be
gone, traded for Jerry Lynch, and with 23-YO rookie WIllie Stargell
getting much of the playing time in left, Virdon was the only over-30
regular. The Pirates were still a relatively old team (a lot of these
guys weren’t especially young, and Friend, Law, and Roy Face were still
getting a lot of innings), but they were much closer to the league norm
in 1963 than they were in 1962.

So the bigger picture here is that the Pirates had an old team, with
some younger guys who looked like they were ready for full-time roles,
and Brown decided that the time was ripe to make a pre-emptive strike.
What happened afterward was a combination of injuries and unrealistic
expectations for some guys (notably Bailey, who probably would have had
a better career anywhere but Forbes Field, but probably also Schofield
and Gotay as well).

Trade talk

I’ll start with the bottom line: I don’t expect the Pirates to make a major move.

To celebrate the Pirates being alone in first place this morning, I tuned in to some Pittsburgh sports radio. The topic: What would you give up for Carlos Beltran? I know the radio game, I know the hosts was trying to get people to listen and call in, but seriously?

There will be acquisition(s), but not the big name rental type. They won’t trade anyone off of the major league roster, they’ll trade B-level prospects and take on salary. The only exception to this I could see happening is if they can get a power bat who’ll be part of the team for the next few years, similar to the Penguins trade for James Neal this past season.

They’ll add a reliever who can strike people out, another catcher if Doumit/Snyder have setbacks, and the best RH bat they can get for value. Not money value; they have money to spend. Talent going back will be the key to any deal.

Thursday Trade Tree – The Whole Team

Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects wrote a great article last week (Part 1 & Part 2) about how the Pirates have fared in trades over the recent years, breaking each one down by reaction then, reaction now and final verdict. Unfortunately, someone in the comments took this as a chance to dump on Neal Huntington, saying he “was trading littlefield assets for players so you really can’t give him full credit.” I say hogwash. Anyone who takes a GM job starts with nothing else except for someone else’s players. How many players on the current team did Huntington acquire? How many are Littlefield’s? Is there anyone from even before that? To find out I made my largest graphic to date, including all players who have played for the team this season and any ancillary minor leaguers. I think its fairly explanatory but I’m curious what your take is.  (As always, click to embiggen)

OK, lots to take in there. A quick breakdown:

There are 51 players at the bottom of the chart who are currently in the organization.
Signed as free agents: Neal Huntington 9, Dave Littlefield 0, Cam Bonifay, 0, predecessors, 0.
Draft picks: Neal Huntington 2, Dave Littlefield 9, Cam Bonifay, 2, predecessors, 0.
Rule 5 picks: Neal Huntington 2, Dave Littlefield 0, Cam Bonifay, 0, predecessors, 0.
Selected off waivers: Neal Huntington 5, Dave Littlefield 0, Cam Bonifay, 0, predecessors, 0.
Acquired in trades by: Neal Huntington 25, Dave Littlefield 0, Cam Bonifay, 0, predecessors, 0.

There is some cross over in the numbers that causes players to be double counted at times. The bottom line is that this is now Neal Huntington’s team and organization. He has acquired 40 of the 51 players listed, for a winning team that is one game out of first place at the All-Star break. Up to this point, I would label him as a success.

Vote For Me

My friends Bill and The Common Man ran a baseball haiku contest over the weekend at The Platoon Advantage and they selected my entry as a finalist. They are giving away a gift card to Dick’s so I’d appreciate your vote, but if not me then vote for one of the Pirates haiku’s that made the cut.

Thursday Trade Tree – Bill Madlock

In honor of the Pirates’ first time in 2nd place in who knows how long, a trade tree that spans from their last World Series winning team to their last division winning team. Two-time Pirates All-Star and batting champion, Bill Madlock. (click to embiggen)

Mad Dog’s rate stats during his seven seasons with the Pirates (.297/.357/.428) reminds me of Freddy Sanchez (.301/.338/.424 in six seasons).

Cecil Espy makes it three weeks in a row that that I’ve made a tree that had the Pirates reacquiring a player that had lost in the rule 5 draft. Maybe its not as rare as I thought.

Al Holland was also featured in the Milt May Trade Tree. This is an earlier stint with the Pirates that I hadn’t noticed before.

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