I left my apartment in San Diego right after the excellent Mark Redman trade, and the paranoid side of me now thinks that Dave Littlefield is determined to screw the Pirates up as quickly as possible while I'm away from the computer. First there was the horrible Roberto Hernandez signing, and now there are rumors of a three-year, eight-digit contract offer to Bill Mueller that goes beyond the realm of the merely bad and into the bizarre. Mueller isn't a bad player, but at this point, he's basically Freddy Sanchez plus a few walks and a couple homers - and that's before considering that the Pirates would be paying for Mueller's age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. He's a marginal upgrade right now and he's very likely to become a lot less than that by the end of the Pirates' contract offer. This is yet another terrible idea.
Dejan Kovacevic blames (or credits, depending on how you look at it) Jim Tracy with some of this - probably not the Mueller part, since Mueller strikes out more than Sanchez, but the Sean Casey and Roberto Hernandez parts. Kovacevic says that Tracy hates offensive strikeouts, people who stink at situational hitting and pitchers who don't throw with weird arm angles. All of these strike me as weird things to worry about, particularly the strikeouts thing, since the evidence that offensive strikeouts hardly matter practically does a tap dance and plays some boogie woogie on the piano for anyone who cares to pay attention. Four of the top ten run-scoring teams in baseball were also in the top ten in offensive strikeouts. Also, there's actually a slight positive correlation between strikeout rate and OPS. There is also, from the same article, "virtually no positive correlation" between run scoring and offensive strikeouts. In other words, it just doesn't matter. But that apparently won't stop Jim Tracy or whomever is running this team from trading and/or benching nearly every player who has a prayer of ever hitting the ball out of the park.
The Pirates' problems are so much bigger than situational hitting, or relievers' arm angles, or offensive strikeouts. If these sorts of things really are the rationales for the decisions they're currently making, the Bucs are in even worse shape than I thought. They need guys who can help the team score runs. All they've done this offseason to address that is to trade Rob Mackowiak and add a first baseman who makes contact but doesn't hit for power. That won't get things done, and Bill Mueller and Jim Tracy's Chris Duffy fetish aren't going to help, either. This team needs to be grabbed by the shoulders and shaken.
Also, I can't let this pass:
Jim Tracy needs to shut it. He has a career winning percentage of .527 despite only managing for one of baseball's highest-payroll teams. He averaged 85 wins per year and went to the playoffs once. That's not impressive; in fact, it's probably even downright suspect. You can argue however you want about his Dodger teams not spending their money well or being victims of injuries, and in some ways you might have a point - but there's certainly not any body of evidence here that suggests that Tracy would be justified in closing his mind to new approaches. Ugh.
To make you feel better, here's a new blog that's mostly about the Pirates.