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Stats Geek on the Young Guys

Here's the Stats Geek with an excellent column on why and where the Bucs' young guys should play. The Pirates' decisions to demote David Ross and Bobby Hill are indeed promising; it doesn't matter that they're not bad, since they're not that good, either.

A wise person - actually, I don't remember who it was - once observed that for a bad team, some recent incarnation of the Brewers had a lot of pretty decent players. The '04 Brewers - who, remember, had just traded Richie Sexson for a number of spare parts and a couple of B-grade prospects - got fantastic seasons from Ben Sheets and Doug Davis, and serviceable ones from Dan Kolb, Mike Adams, Luis Vizcaino, Brooks Kieschnick (as a pitcher and a hitter!), Dave Burba, Jeff Bennett, Matt Wise, Chris Capuano, and Victor Santos. Matt Kinney, Wes Obermuller and Ben Hendrickson were bad but not disastrous.

Among the Brewers' hitters, Lyle Overbay was very good; Geoff Jenkins, Keith Ginter, Russ Branyan, Brady Clark, Junior Spivey and Ben Greive were fine; Scott Podsednik and Craig Counsell were just good enough to not stick out; and Bill Hall and Wes Helms were fairly bad. Only their catching tandem of Chad Moeller and Gary Bennett was awful.

Still, though, the Brewers scored just 3.94 runs per game, 14th in the National League, while allowing 4.7 runs per game, tenth in the league. They finished 67-94. Better performances from Moeller, Obermuller, Kinney and Gary Bennett would have helped, but the Brewers weren't undone by a lack of good players. Rather, they were undone because they lacked enough above average and great players.

Sheets and Davis were a capable 1-2 in the rotation for the Brewers, but they didn't have a solid #3 or #4 to fit behind them. Instead, they had lots of functional relievers and swingman types. On the hitting side, Overbay was 34th among big league hitters in VORP. The next best Brewer hitter by VORP was Ginter, who was 114th. If you don't have at least two of the 100 most productive hitters in baseball on your team, you're highly unlikely to score many runs, no matter how many decent players you have.

The 2005 Pirates are in a similar position. Amazingly, Jason Bay is seventh among major league hitters in VORP, but Matt Lawton is next, and he's all the way down at 81st. After that is Rob Mackowiak at #149. Again, the Pirates aren't scoring nearly enough. Humberto Cota, Daryle Ward, David Ross and Bobby Hill are nice players to have around if they're used properly, but they cannot be the basis of a good offense. The Pirates need to find out which, if any, of the young players they have can turn into Jason Bay, or whether they can somehow acquire another Jason Bay. Letting Brad Eldred hit every day, even if he accumulates strikeouts, is probably the best chance they've got. Ryan Doumit and Ian Snell need to be given steady roles, too, at least for a while.

The next week should give us a better sense of whether the decisions to demote Ross and Hill mark a change in philosophy for the Pirates, or whether it's business as usual. If Larry Bigbie is a Pirate this time next week, you'll know it was the latter.