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Eric Hinske and Corey Koskie

I just read the Post-Gazette's new Q+A and was surprised by the following sentence about potential Pirates trade targets Eric Hinske and Corey Koskie:

Both are solid defensively and left-handed at the plate, which could make them more attractive to the Pirates.

Koskie is known to be a very good third baseman, yes, but Hinske? He has a reputation for being terrible at third base - a big man with poor range. I did a bit of snooping around. Here's ESPN.com:

Once considered to be a ham-handed fielder, Hinske took huge steps towards becoming a solid if not Gold Glove-caliber defensive player. He led all American League third baseman [sic] in fielding percentage in 2004. That's not a complete surprise, since Hinske is a good athlete for a big man and now has three seasons of experience in the field.

Except for a few other mentions of his high 2004 fielding percentage, this was the only nice thing I could find someone saying about Hinske's defense.

Also, the numbers don't suggest that Hinske is a good fielder. Although Hinske apparently made few outright mistakes in 2004, his range factor per nine innings was still well below the league average, suggesting that he wasn't getting to very many balls. Hinske's zone rating, which measures performance based on balls hit to a player's area of the field, was the worst among all qualifying third basemen in 2004, far worse than, for example, Ty Wigginton's.

In 2005, the Blue Jays didn't let Hinske play third at all, even though Koskie was hurt much of the season. Instead, they let middle infielder Aaron Hill and known bungler Shea Hillenbrand play there.

In other words, Hinske would likely be very bad if moved back to third, a position he hasn't played in over a year and wasn't very good at in the first place. And if the Pirates can't use him as a third baseman, then he shouldn't have much value to them - the only other position he can play is first, and the Pirates already have Sean Casey to play there.  

Anyway, it isn't as if Hinske's bat is good enough that you'd want him in your lineup if his defense wasn't decent. The Post-Gazette characterizes Hinske and Koskie as similar offensive players, which they initially seem to be:

Hinske, Seasonal Averages:

579 AB, 19 HR, 66 BB, 13 SB, .258/.335/.430/.765

Koskie, Seasonal Averages:

558 AB, 20 HR, 76 BB, 12 SB, .277/.369/.455/.824

... But Koskie walks a little more, makes a little more contact and hits for a bit more power. Those three small differences add up to a big one. Koskie has been a plus offensive player over the course of his career; Hinske hasn't.

One might point out here that Hinske was better on offense than Koskie was in 2005. But Koskie was such a mess of injuries last year that I'm not sure what to make of his season. Before 2005, he was a very consistent player. I'm not sure whether 2005 represents a new level of performance, or whether he can be expected to rebound from his many injuries. (For what it's worth, the list of Koskie's 2005 injuries includes groin stiffness, neck stiffness, a strained muscle somewhere in the torso, sore ribs, a broken right thumb, and "ligament damage"). In addition to questions about his performance, there's also the obvious question of whether Koskie can stay healthy enough to play.

I don't know whether I'd want the Pirates to trade for Koskie. At best, he could be a nice offensive upgrade over Freddy Sanchez. But all kinds of things could go wrong. Koskie might just not be any good anymore, or he might be perpetually hurt. I don't have access to enough information about his injuries to know whether he'd be a good pickup or not, although I don't think the Pirates should be willing to part with a good prospect for him.

I do know this, though: I wouldn't want the Pirates to trade for Hinske. His defense at third would almost certainly not be good, and he hasn't hit much since his rookie season. He'd remind Pirates fans of Ty Wigginton.

Despite what Dejan Kovacevic and the Post-Gazette say, I doubt the Pirates will acquire either Hinske or Koskie, since they both strike out a ton. That's not the right reason. But it's probably the right result.