Thanks again for your questions. Here's the second round of answers.
IsIt2015Yet?: Do you find Polanco’s treatment at the tail end of the year odd? He’s hyped as an uber-prospect, he struggles a bit, gets sent down, and then brought back up to see sparse at bats and next to no starts.
Not really. The Pirates needed to win games, and I can't fault Clint Hurdle for riding the hot hand to try to do that. Many rookies struggle in their first exposure to big-league pitching. If Polanco isn't starting every day by this time next year, then we'll have a problem, but for right now, I think it's fine.
Pedropower: Do you think Holdzkom's early success will continue for the rest of the season and into playoffs?
I'm not predicting that will happen, but I don't see why it can't, and it's going to be awesome if it does. I'm dying for the Pirates to keep winning and for Holdzkom to become the next K-Rod. He clearly has the stuff, and it looks like he now has the control as well.
By the way, Fangraphs has a good article about Holdzkom today, in case you missed it.
PDXPirate: What's it like being the leader of a baseball-related cult?
Good in that my followers bring me more hot dogs and beer than I can possibly consume, but bad in that every time there's a series in Milwaukee they bombard me with questions about whether this is the series where Miller Park is going to retract from its foundation and fly off into space.
Skyvolcanoes: Ike Davis, Travis Snider, Andrew Lambo -- what happens with these three guys in the offseason?
I think the Pirates will non-tender Davis -- like I said in the last Ask BD post, Pedro Alvarez's situation complicates Davis' future with the Bucs, and it doesn't make much sense for them to carry two lefty first basemen. Snider will be fairly cheap in arbitration next year, so my guess is that he'll be back. Lambo has options remaining, so the Pirates will probably have him start the year in Indianapolis yet again.
CAGGS: Is this the offseason where the front office goes "all in" and is a player for the top-tier free agent; not this year, but another; or never really going to happen?
What about next year is any different than this year? The 2015 NL Central doesn't figure to be any worse next year than this year -- the Reds don't have a great short-term future, but that should be balanced by the Cubs being better. The Pirates will likely lose talent this offseason, and the free agent market it probably also worse this winter than it was in 2013-14. So if the Pirates didn't seize the opportunity they had this year, then when will they? Maybe they will at some point, but predicting it will seems like a sucker's bet.
BattlingBucs: How are you at 3B? Any chance you can step in for Brent Morel?
I think we've seen recently what Morel is doing on the roster -- he's a very good defender. He's a wretched hitter and he doesn't play other positions, but he's a nifty guy to stash at Triple-A. And if it hadn't been for Alvarez's struggles this year, the Pirates wouldn't have had to use him at all.
BattlingBucs: Who has been the Pirates' least valuable player this year?
Wandy Rodriguez, who cost the Pirates $8.5 million while almost single-handedly ruining games early in the season.
BuccoFan21: Pitchers coming off a rough season or two have to start looking at Pittsburgh as a "go-to" destination. The defense, park, solid lineup, Searage, and successes of Liriano, Volquez, Burnett, and Melancon. Which free agent pitcher this year looks like the best candidate?
Off the top of my head, Brett Anderson and Justin Masterson both fit the Pirates' M.O. -- they're high ground-ball guys who aren't old and might not end up costing much. Anderson has a club option and an injury list longer than Atlas Shrugged, but he's been effective when healthy, and he's only 26. As some pointed out in the comments to the last thread, Brandon McCarthy would make sense as well, and he shouldn't be out of the Pirates' price range.
Lfhlaw: Hurdle needs one or two more solid arms in the bullpen. Name the additional one or two pitchers who should be added to the playoff roster should the Pirates go and the ones who should be off of it.
I hate to keep banging this drum, but if Holdzkom becomes a dominant reliever, the bullpen improves so dramatically that I wouldn't even worry about it anymore. His emergence also makes clear why the Pirates didn't trade for a reliever at the deadline. There's a big difference between having two shutdown relievers and having three, and if Holdzkom turns out to be a stud, then I feel comfortable with him, Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, John Axford, Jared Hughes and Justin Wilson. In any case, it's not as if the Pirates have a lot of choices at this point.