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On Freddy Sanchez

In the Post-Gazette today, the Pirates organization argues about Freddy Sanchez.

"He's our Bill Mueller," shortstop Jack Wilson said, referring to Boston's contact-hitting third baseman. "Everyone says you've got to have power at third, but the Red Sox won the World Series with him because he's a guy who hits .300 and plays great defense. That's exactly what Freddy is. He'll hit .300 if he plays everyday, and he'll get you 10-15 home runs."

No, the Red Sox won with Mueller because they surrounded him with a ridiculously good offense and very good starting pitching. Mueller also had a lot more power than Sanchez.

Wilson's thinking is that most infields have two power bats and the Pirates still would have that with second baseman Jose Castillo -- who is seen by many as having the potential for 20-25 home runs -- and either Brad Eldred or Craig Wilson at first base.

That's such a strange sentence. Why do infields need two power bats? I'll bet Wilson also thinks a winning team needs a flamethrowing closer, a middle reliever with bad facial hair, a speedy centerfielder who leads off, a general manager who gives evasive answers to press questions, a hoarse peanut vendor, a first base coach with a paunch, a left fielder who grabs his crotch and spits every forty seconds, a scout who hates Voros McCracken's guts... and a skinny, gritty shortstop who can't hit to save his life.

Leaving aside the questions of whether Jose Castillo can really turn passive-voiced praise into results and whether Wilson is admitting that he himself isn't going to be a power bat - obviously, what the Pirates need to do is to win more games. The way to win more games isn't to play jigsaw with a bunch of half-baked ideas of what a winning team should look like, but to examine what you have and look for ways to improve on it.  

Sanchez' mini-emergence over the past week or so is interesting, because the Pirates' third base situation will be a tough test for the Pirates' front office this offseason.

Sanchez' OPS now stands at .721 for the season. There's enough positive evidence in his past performance to suggest that number represents a real level of ability, not just the afterglow of a hot streak. I haven't seen many numbers on his defense, but it looks fine and with his middle infield pedigree, I'm willing to believe it is indeed good.

The Pirates could stand to improve a lot at third base, but it actually won't be easy for the Pirates to find someone who can do better than a .721 OPS with good defense. This is not to say they shouldn't try to upgrade, just that if you're a Pirate fan, the front office's attempts should scare you. Remember, this is the same front office that thought that Randall Simon was a better idea than Craig Wilson - twice. There's a good chance Littlefield will try to acquire someone (like Mike Lowell, say) who isn't better than what they already have.

On the other hand, a .721 OPS and a $350,000 salary from a shortstop is a great thing to have, so if Dave Littlefield sleeps at a Holiday Inn Express some night, he might look to move Sanchez to a team that needs middle infield help, perhaps packaging him with a pitcher to get a real power-hitting third baseman. It'll be worth watching to see what Littlefield does with Sanchez this offseason.