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"Meticulously Fricasseed"

Thanks to the Stats Geek for mentioning Bucs Dugout in his column today.

If you'd like to read the post in which he's "meticulously fricasseed," click here.

As for the Geek's article this week, it's a list of things that need to go right for the Pirates to contend. It all looks fine to me (though I'd also probably add that Freddy Sanchez needs to have another season that's at least somewhat similar to his 2006). The trouble with the Geek's article, in my view, is that some of the individual elements in the list seem so unlikely that it's very difficult to imagine most of them working out, much less all of them. For example:

The Joses and Jack Wilson have to hit like the average middle infielder. Teams score the most runs by putting guys on base and hitting the long ball. Measure that with OPS (on-base average plus slugging average). The Pirates finished last in the NL in OPS in 2006 and, no coincidence, last in runs. Wilson's OPS was 51 points below the average NL shortstop, according to Baseball Prospectus. Jose Castillo's OPS was 76 points behind the average second baseman, and Jose Bautista three points below the average second baseman.
I suppose Jose Bautista could hit like an average middle infielder, but Wilson? The further we get from his career year in 2004, the more unlikely it seems. And if, as seems extremely likely, he has the same year he had in 2006, Bautista will not be able to pick up the slack. And Jose Castillo? Forget it.


Tony Armas Jr. throws 150 innings with an ERA at 5.00 or below. Better yet, some combination of, say, Armas, Shawn Chacon, Sean Burnett and Shane Youman has 30 or 40 starts like that among them. The Hardball Times says the collection of stiffs that was the Pirates' fifth starter last year posted a 6.30 ERA, and the major-league average for the No. 5 guy was 6.24. Deep staffs are rare. Most teams use 10 to 12 starters as injuries take their toll.
This one is very, very important. The Pirates are relying on a number of young starters, and young starters get hurt. It's very unlikely that all of them will get through the year without missing quite a bit of time. So the Tony Armas / B.P. Chacon / Sean Burnett / Marty McLeary / Shane Youman mishmash of pitchers will have to cover not only the fifth spot in rotation, but also fill-in time for other spots. Armas is probably the best of those pitchers, and he's thrown 150 or more innings in a season only once in the past four years. After that, B.P. is probably next in line for playing time, and we don't call him B.P. for nothing.

Yes, it's possible that the Pirates will contend, and obviously, the differences between what the Stats Geek is saying and what I'm saying are differences of degree, not kind. And if the Pirates do contend, I'll be as thrilled as anyone. But I do think we should keep our expectations in check here, and our chances of contending are theoretical at best. It's extremely rare that teams have a season in which everything goes right. And even if the Pirates did have everything go right, would they be able to win the division? 83 wins did the job last year; it probably won't this year. Last week, the Stats Geek didn't go too far overboard with his optimism, but he seemed to imply that the Bucs' chances of taking the division were better than 20-to-1. I still think they're much worse than that.