Today TruMedia Networks announced that they will be licensing their baseball analytics platform to the Pittsburgh Pirates. This agreement will provide the Pirates baseball operations department with access to TruMedia’s customizable analytics platform, including proprietary data visualization and integrated pitch by pitch video analysis.
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Entries in Pittsburgh Pirates (32)
The Pirates switched shortstops this offseason, declining Ronny Cedeno's one year, $3 million option and bringing in Clint Barmes on a two-year, $10.5 million deal. The move is curious. Barmes is four years older than Cedeno, more expensive and not necessarily a better player moving forward. His defense is well-regarded, however, and GM Neal Huntington considers Barmes in the "middle of the pack in terms of offensive production for a shortstop."
At first blush, that assessment of Barmes' offensive prowess seems reasonable, if somewhat generous. He batted .244 with a .312 on-base percentage and a .386 slugging percentage with Houston this past year, and his three-year line is .240/.300/.394. For comparison, shortstops have a collective .263/.317/.380 triple-slash over the past three seasons.
But here's the problem: Barmes posted those numbers in Coors Field (2009-10) and Minute Maid Park, both of which give a big boost to right-handed pull hitters. Both Coors and Minute Maid increase home runs by 17 percent for righty hitters and bolster extra-base hits overall, according to StatCorner. And nearly all of Barmes' power comes to the pull side:
Since '09, Barmes has a .722 slugging percentage on balls put in play to the pull side. He has slugged just .339 to the middle of the field, and .273 on the rare occasions that he goes the other way.
That pull-heavy approach produced passable offensive lines at Coors and Minute Maid, but PNC Park isn't nearly as cozy. With a near-390 foot left field fence and a 410 foot notch in left-center, PNC decreases home runs for righties by 27 percent. It's a miserable environment for righty power.
Once you make park adjustments to Barmes' offense, his bat has been 22 percent below average (78 wRC+). Only notorious out-makers Orlando Cabrera and Yuniesky Betancourt have worse adjusted lines among qualified shortstops over that period. As with the signing of catcher Rod Barajas, the Pirates added a hitter whose main offensive attribute -- pull power -- is mitigated by their home park. Cedeno is an out-maker of the highest degree, but the difference between him and Barmes might not be as big as you think.
Earlier this offseason, the Pirates declined options on both Chris Snyder ($6.75 million, $750K buyout) and Ryan Doumit (a combined $15.5 million for 2012-13, $500K buyout). Today, the Bucs brought in free agent backstop Rod Barajas on a one-year, $4 million deal with a 2013 club option worth $3.5 million. Believe it or not, that actually makes the former Dodger Pittsburgh's highest paid player at the moment.
The Pirates, 15th in the NL in slugging last season, likely value Barajas' pop. Barajas has slugged .424 over the past three seasons, compared to the .389 average for catchers over that time frame. He does most (OK, just about all) of his damage by turning on pitches thrown low and in:
As you might expect from that slugging on inside pitches, Barajas is a dead pull hitter:
Unfortunately, Barajas' offensive value is dragged down by his being one of the least disciplined hitters in the game. He has chased slightly over 39 percent of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone from 2009-2011, leaps and bounds above the 28 percent big league average. His OBP over the past three years is .275, compared to the .318 average for catchers. If it's anywhere near one of the four corners of the plate, Barajas is going fishin':
The move doesn't necessarily preclude Pittsburgh from offering Snyder (recovering from lower back surgery in June) a one-year, incentive-laden deal (Doumit and management don't seem inclined to negotiate a new deal), but Barajas is expected to be the Pirates' main catcher next season. Overall, it's pretty hard to get excited about a 36-year-old who has hit the DL in each of the past two years and has a career OBP in the .280s. Plus, Barajas' one strength -- his power -- may be mitigated in PNC Park, which decreases home run production for right-handed hitters by 27 percent compared to a neutral venue.
Pittsburgh figures to get what it paid for: a one win-type catcher who hopefully bridges the gap to prospect Tony Sanchez, the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft who's basically the anti-Barajas by possessing a good eye and little thump (.240/.341/.318 at Double-A Altoona this past year). Still, Sanchez isn't such a knockout prospect, and guys like high-OBP hitters like Chris Ianetta and Geovany Soto could be available. You have to wonder: why lock into mediocrity at such an early stage of the off-season?