FanPost

The Gang of Four

4-2 since the break, the Pirates have outscored opponents 50-26. It's only a few games, but there is finally a glimmer of hope. The four guys below are providing much of it. Lastings Milledge is included because of the tear he's been on since June and manager John Russell's decision to re-anoint him a starting outfielder.

Player

G

PA

AB

R

H

HR

RBI

BB

K

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

Jose Tabata

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Season

35

158

143

20

38

1

12

15

20

.266

.335

.364

.699

90

July

16

72

65

12

19

0

8

7

8

.292

.361

.385

.746

--

Neil

Walker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Season

42

182

169

23

53

3

19

9

35

.314

.346

.462

.808

117

July

14

62

57

7

20

0

7

3

13

.351

.387

.456

.843

--

Pedro Alvarez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Season

30

120

108

15

28

7

20

11

41

.259

.325

.509

.834

122

July

16

69

62

12

21

7

15

7

19

.339

.406

.742

1.148

--

Lastings Milledge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Season

80

304

274

29

78

3

30

26

48

.285

.351

.401

.752

104

July

12

45

43

9

15

2

6

2

4

.349

.378

.558

.936

--

June 1-Present

34

125

113

15

38

3

15

11

22

.336

.395

.522

.917

--

 

To state the obvious, if these guys put up full-season numbers similar to their numbers in July a lot of good things are going to happen. Here are my takes: Warning SSS alert.

--Jose Tabata. At age 21 Tabata is off to a great start. Throw in the nine stolen bases and reasonably good defense in left and he has exceeded everyone's expectations coming into the season. I didn't think he would or should come up this year. Wrong. He's clearly ready. The question is what kind of power he will develop.

--Neil Walker. Walker is 25 in September and regardless of the outcome, this was a crucial year for his career. I don't think even he would have written such a successful story line coming out of spring training. Yes, it's 25% of the season, 180 plate appearances, but wow. He has hit line drives all over the field and has been excellent defensively at second base, even before taking into account his inexperience. HIs athleticism gives him a chance to be an elite defender in my view.

The small negatives are his K/BB rate and his platoon split, but that may be a function of a hugely skewed babip from each side. Second base is clearly Walker's job now.

--Pedro Alvarez. On draft day if you were asked to draw Alvarez's career timeline going forward, this is exactly how you would have drawn it. Reach the majors in May/June 2010 after the requisite stops along the way. Hitting four home runs in two days conjures visions of forty bombs a year into Pedro's Porch. He's been discussed endlessly, so I don't have much to add. His defense is fine. He'll be serviceable at third for 3-5 years. If the Pirates develop a stud third baseman the move to first could come earlier.  He isn't going to hurt the team in the field in the interim. Pitch recognition and plate discipline seem to be improving before our eyes.

Seeing the early career struggles of uber-prospects like Matt Wieters and Justin Smoak should put up a big caution sign, but the rate of improvement since day one has been visible and dramatic. Early read: Exactly what we hoped.

--Lastings Milledge. Thrilledge. I'm officially on board. Milledge is 25 and like Walker, if not this year, his career may have started to pass him by. By no means is it a done deal, but he has been terrific of late. Home run totals are low, but his slugging percentage since June 1 (added to the chart) shows that he is definitely driving the ball. Defensively, moving to right makes life easier and his routes seem to have improved as well.

For the season he is right around his career numbers so it's important not to jump the gun based on the last six weeks, but he has performed better during this stretch than any other extended period of his career. As with Tabata, power is a concern and it will be interesting to see if he maintains his slugging percentage and if he hits ten homers on the season.

Overview: Going into the break on a six game skid with the bullpen, the season's lone bright spot to that point, blowing two of the leads didn't portend a great second half. Certainly nobody saw this offensive explosion coming.

First, at least now we no longer have to listen to the ridiculous quips about run differential and "if they continue on this pace......" If you get blown out a bunch of times early in the year, things get skewed. Throw in twenty more losses and the numbers are bad. But, it was virtually impossible that the "pace" was going to continue. Now it's a non-issue.

Second, the starting pitching is still a HUGE concern. Since the break the team is 4-2 and they've gotten one great start, three average starts and two disasters. They won both disasters. The bats aren't going to remain this hot.

Third, it still isn't about wins and losses, but it's more fun to win. It's all about the development of these guys. So far so good. Andrew McCutchen is a budding superstar. Garrett Jones continues to be fine. Catcher and shortstop are open positions going forward. Ronny Cedeno has a chance to keep the job, but I think he will have to have a very good during the second half to do so. Ryan Doumit is a huge question mark and now concussion issues bring his ability to stay behind the plate into play. (UPDATE: Doumit was placed on the DL tonight with a concussion.)

Fourth, the trade deadline is again going to be interesting. Paul Maholm, Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan are the only guys I think will bring a top flight return and I'm undecided whether we should trade any of them. Obviously it depends on what the team would get. Starting pitching and shortstop will be targeted. The concern in moving Maholm is the need to replace him. Next year, through free agency, it will be hard to find someone of equal value for his $5.75 million salary and one year option. He fits the plan now and his contract is an asset.

The organization is chalk full of young pitchers. The addition of Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie will mean it is officially loaded, with the caveat that most are a long way from the majors. Bryan Morris and Rudy Owens are closest to the bigs and they may not arrive until 2012. The good news: By 2012 "the pipline" that Neal Huntington has talked about should be in place. The bad news: Charlie Morton, Kevin Hart, Daniel McCutchen, Jose Ascanio and Donald Veal, among others, are going to have to come through if the team is not able to acquire pitching in a trade or through free agency. And it's important to remember when looking to sign free agent starters in the off-season, two years from now there may be a group of guys ready, with more on the way. Matching the team's needs with a player's wants may be more difficult than one might initially think.  The Pirates may not want to sign anyone to more than a two year deal, similar to Ray Shero's philosophy about role players with the Penguins.  That approach may substantially shrink the pool of players available.

All the team's other relievers will certainly be made available, but bringing most of them back next year is not a bad option. Again, it all depends on what is offered.

Hard to believe 34-60 could be this interesting.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the managing editor (Charlie) or SB Nation. FanPosts are written by Bucs Dugout readers.

SB Nation Featured Video
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Bucs Dugout

You must be a member of Bucs Dugout to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bucs Dugout. You should read them.

Join Bucs Dugout

You must be a member of Bucs Dugout to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bucs Dugout. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker