The offensive profile of the 2010 Pittsburgh Pirates has its strengths and weaknesses, but it was mostly bad. Left field, catcher, shortstop, and especially first base were well below the league average at the plate.
The worst position by far was first base, where Bucs first basemen actually managed to put up a .648 OPS overall.
In this post, I'll just take a look at each position by posting a handy chart, and predict if we'll see an increase, decrease, or the same level of hitting there next season.
Here are the 2010 hitting lines for each defensive position:
Note: sOPS+ is relative to the league OPS for that position. An sOPS+ of 100 is average offense for that position. Over 100 is above average, below 100 is below average relative to that position.
There will be different results at some of the positions next season. With the talent in the majors now, I see five potentially improved offensive positions for 2011, and 3 that will stay mostly the same:
Same offense from 2010 to 2011: Catcher, Shortstop, Right Field. Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder, and Ronny Cedeno returning will lead to basically the same hitting from catcher and shortstop (.650-.660 OPS) as 2010. Right field will probably be a combination of Lastings, John Bowker, and possibly Doumit if Bowker can't hit. This mix-and-match looks like it will be mediocre again.
Slightly more offense in 2011: Second Base, Center Field, Left Field. Neil Walker will handle most of the 200 plate appearances given to Aki Iwamura last season. Walker will regress some, but a .775 OPS is still in the cards. Andrew McCutchen's July and August were hampered by a shoulder injury that he played through. With health, he could hit a lot more. Jose Tabata will patrol left field, and he is short on walks and power. Still, he can hit better than the .684 OPS from PIrates left fielders.
Huge improvement offensively in 2011: Third Base and First Base. The Andy LaRoche era is over, and the Pirates' best hitting prospect in over a decade will enter his second major-league season at third. An impressive power performance will flatten the 2010 OPS mark of .723.
Pirates first basemen were awful last season. They even had the worst raw OPS out of all defensive homes for the Bucs. The two main culprits are Jeff Clement and Garrett Jones. Clement hit .189/.230/.331, and he'll never get another serious major-league shot. Garrett took over in the second half and posted a .215/.266/.392.
I'm skeptical of the second-half Garrett line, because it looked like Jones was battling shoulder issues down the stretch. I had the same impression from McCutchen and Andy LaRoche last year. Given that Jones spent over eight seasons in the minors, he wouldn't be eager to remove himself from the lineup. Given the team can be secretive about injuries, who knows?
Injury is a possible explanation for Jones. But how much does it really matter whether Jones could rebound back to serviceable? The team could probably find a safer .775-800 OPS bat, rather than risking a repeat of 2010, by continuing to expose him in the starting lineup.
Even, say, .260/.340/.400 would be much better at first base than what was used last season.
Almost any pick-up at first base would be a huge improvement. That's something to consider.