Sorry for the absence of updates yesterday; I've had a really hectic travel schedule for the last week, and yesterday I was flying from San Diego back to Pittsburgh.
-P- The Post-Gazette on Adam LaRoche:
Consider that he made $5 million last season and, yet again, failed to perform to his peak capability -- or even close to it -- until June. On a contender, that might actually be a pretty neat trait to have. In Pittsburgh, it is virtually worthless, as the meaningful games tend to be over right at that point.
The Post-Gazette has written variations of this last sentence many times, and I don't particularly understand it. If LaRoche is likely to post an .850 OPS in any particular year, what difference does it make if he has, say, a .650 OPS in the first half and a 1.000 OPS in the second, or vice versa? If LaRoche needs to post a 1.000 OPS in the first half to help the Pirates hover around .500, and his collapse after that is predictable, then the Pirates aren't playing meaningful games in the first half. If what you'd like from LaRoche is for him to post a 1.000 OPS the whole season, fine, but that doesn't seem especially realistic to me.
That's a mouthful, but the point here is that until the Pirates get a whole lot better, they'll never play a meaningful game in the usual sense. It's true that more people watch the Pirates earlier in the season, when LaRoche is incredibly frustrating, but in pure baseball terms, it isn't terribly relevant how his .850 OPS is distributed over the course of the season.
It's true that hovering around .500 for an extra few weeks could make the Pirates' games appear more meaningful for a while, but the same is true of the effect of a good streak of play at any point. In 2006, the Pirates went 37-35 in the second half, then crowed about it all offseason. LaRoche can help the Pirates create that kind of second-half record as well as anyone, and then they can talk all winter about how much they're improving. The point is that, until the Pirates have more talent, these streaks of decent play are about creating illusions, not playing "meaningful" games.
-P- The Pirates dumped Denny Bautista rather than take him to arbitration, which shows that not even Neal Huntington wanted to go into 2009 with a 'pen that featured three control-challenged flamethrowers in Bautista, Tyler Yates, and Craig Hansen.
-P- Here's the non-tender list. Here are some names that jump out at me:
-Chuck James, Braves: James will miss most of next season with shoulder trouble, but he posted good numbers as a starter when healthy, and he isn't old. He might be worth signing to a cheap multiyear deal.
-Chris Capuano, Brewers: Another pretty good starter when healthy, but he missed all of last season with elbow problems.
-John Bale, Royals: He missed time with injuries last year, but he returned in September and pitched well. He can start or relieve, and he has a history of posting pretty good strikeout rates.
-Ty Wigginton, Astros: It's not often that a player can post an .876 OPS and still be non-tendered.
-Daniel Cabrera, Orioles: He's a terrible player, but he's an extreme example of the kind of pitcher Huntington likes: he has not just good but great stuff, and absolutely no clue where it's going.