With the Pirates' season out of the way, let's review our community projections from before the season.
Here's what we predicted for Joe Randa, the starting third baseman.
No one was really very far off, though, which begs the question - if every single one of us saw this coming, and if Randa's performance this year was bad enough to get him banished to the bench, then what in the world were the Pirates thinking?
Okay, that's not entirely fair. For one thing, nobody saw Freddy Sanchez coming. True, tons of Pirates fans expressed doubts about the signing of Randa, but for the most part, the basis of our objections was that Sanchez was pretty likely to be at least as good as Randa, not that Sanchez was manifestly better, much less NL-batting-champion better. When Randa was signed, I wrote:
Sanchez will be 28 next year. It could go either way, but I'd bet on him outperforming Randa in 2006. In my mind, that makes Randa unnecessary, at least as a starting third baseman.
Of course, Randa did turn out to be unnecessary, but the reason why was that Sanchez turned in one mother of a career year, playing great defense (he would have ranked fourth among all MLB third basemen in zone rating if he'd had enough playing time there to qualify), spraying doubles all over the place, and showing a remarkable ability to adjust and get hits on pitches most batters couldn't even touch.
Assuming Sanchez is still with the Pirates in spring training (a fairly safe assumption, I think), it'll be interesting to see the responses in his 2007 Community Projection here. As much as we all love Freddy, he did just have a fluky year - obviously, it'll be tough for him to hit .343 two years in a row - and he'll almost certainly come back to earth somewhat.
Still, Sanchez should hit more than enough next year to continue to be an asset, especially if he's playing second, and I'll continue to enjoy watching him. He plays with a lot of passion. Sanchez was only one of a handful of players who made the 2006 Bucs worth watching.
As for Randa, this may have been his last year. If he hadn't agreed to take $4 million to play for the Bucs this year, I'd almost feel sorry for him. He still isn't a terrible player, and he could help a contending club in the right situation - for example, Geoff Blum, a vastly inferior player, will be a starter for the Padres in the playoffs. Randa's greatest sin was having a terrible April - he posted a .589 OPS. Even that might have gone mostly unnoticed if fellow free agent money-barbecue Jeromy Burnitz hadn't burned the Pirates, too. Randa missed most of May and June. When he came back, Sanchez had taken his job, but Randa was a perfectly good role player the rest of the year. Happy trails, Joe.