Sorry for the lack of posts in the last week plus; I was eating and drinking my way through San Diego for a conference with 15,000 other chemistry nerds and then had a quick stop in Joshua Tree (which was pretty awesome) on the drive back. Now that I’m back on a regular schedule, posts should be more regular again. If you have complaints, yell at me on Twitter about it.
It seems that I’ve missed a lot in the past week with the Buccos, apparently. Juan Nicasio is lighting everyone up, Jeff Locke’s rotation spot is up for grabs, Andrew McCutchen might bat second, John Jaso is awesome, and most importantly, Opening Day is only 11 days away.
I was already in the process of writing a post about Nicasio before my short hiatus and that post is still forthcoming, but the gist of it is going to be that I hope the Pirates keep Nicasio in a relief role, despite this Spring Training success. If that’s the case, it means that Jeff Locke and Ryan Vogelsong are pitching well enough to be starters, which is something the Pirates are a bit thin on right now. Or at least this would mean Locke and Vogelsong are pitching well enough to get through a few innings and give Nicasio the chance to extend the game. Although if Nicasio does slot in as a starter and continues to pitch this well, the rotation is suddenly a lot scarier. Regardless, some more detail on that front will be coming from me very soon.
I’ll focus here on lineup optimization, because that’s something I’m weirdly into. I like the idea of McCutchen batting second a lot. Give him more at-bats. Give the guys behind him more protection, as protection comes from the front. Put Jaso in front of Cutch, and now we’re really talking. Additionally, I think there’s a pretty good chance that Starling Marte is going to be on another level this year, so it might be wise to slot him into the third spot in the lineup (has everyone noticed he’s only struck out once so far in spring training? Spring Training/small-sample-size caveats aside, that’s solid stuff). There isn’t really a traditional power hitter to put fourth, but so what? Give the spot to Kang, who can just rip gap shots to bring home the guys in front of him; the home run power isn’t necessarily needed if the guys in front of him get on base.
The most important thing (and the thing that I’m the least in-tune with, given that I’m not in the clubhouse) is that all of the hitters feel comfortable hitting in their given slot. While the numbers may indicate that a specific order is the optimization of the overall skillset of the team, the players aren’t automatons. Hitting is as much about feeling in a groove as it is being good (assuming you’re reasonably competent to begin with), so having the players on-board with these changes is important. Luckily, advanced stats are at the point where the value of players extends far beyond their number of RBIs and runs, so hopefully everyone can move past this and realize that hitting is just hitting and each player can be comfortable at any spot in the lineup and their value stil realized.
One final note is that the Pirates decided to table the discussion to bat the pitcher eighth until next offseason. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go for it next year, but that’s something we’ll have to wait and see what happens. No matter what, though, the front office nerds seems to have things figured out and keep going to extra lengths to try to squeeze every last ounce of rum out of this crew. Hopefully that leads to hits, runs, and wins come April.