How Can the Pirates Keep Trading OFs?
Last week, the Pirates traded away an All-Star outfielder, sending Nate McLouth to the Braves for a panoply of prospects, though none are viewed as sure-fire major leaguers. Amazingly, McLouth is the third starting outfielder the Pirates have sent away in the past season, each of which was among the team's offensive leaders when he was sent to another team.
That raises an obvious question: How can the Pirates keep doing it, without the bottom falling out?
To a certain degree, that's a loaded question, because one could argue that the Pirates haven't been able to avoid having the bottom fall out last year or this year. The significance is that the bottom was already falling out when trades for Jason Bay and Xavier Nady were made last year, while this year the team hasn't completely abandoned its season goals and pursuits.
At least that's the alleged reason why many have been scratching their heads over the trade of McLouth. Why trade your most reliable hitter while you're in a push to finish above .500 for the first time in memory? Why get rid of a guy you just extended in the offseason for a pu pu platter of prospects, most of them pitchers, when pitching is the strongest thing the Pirates have going for them?
It's a mysterious decision that has been met with some derision, but at least one Pirates blog makes some strong cases for why it still makes sense. According to Bucs Dugout, part of the reason trading away Bay and Nady hasn't held down the team is because of vastly improved team defense, despite losing a ton of offensive value in terms of the Baseball Prospectus stat VORP (value over replacement player) when compared to the players the Pirates received in return.
Here's how it all breaks down: Essentially, the Pirates lost the equivalent of 31.4 runs by trading Bay, Nady and McLouth (reliever Damaso Marte actually has a negative VORP because of his struggles in New York). That's not a cripplingly high number, though it's still quite significant for a team that doesn't score a lot of runs.
The difference that's made up for that lost productivity is an improved defense. The team's pitching is allowing fewer line drives and increasing the number of ground balls, all of which makes for easier infield defense. Bucs Dugout credits much of Pittsburgh's improved defense -- their fielding efficiency is up at .697 from .675 a year ago, a marginal increase that seems insignificant until you track the ramifications of each additional error and failed put out. Magnify that by the team's lack of offensive support, and it's clear why a better defense is such a key cornerstone to Pittsburgh's success.
So, my question is: Do you buy it? Can defense really help the Pirates make up for losing three offensive stars in 12 months, on an already anemic team?
June 8, 2009; 2:15 PM ET
Categories: Pirates | Tags: Braves, Jason Bay, Nate McLouth, Pirates, Xavier Nady, trade
Save & Share: Previous: The Wrap: AL
Next: Moment of Levity: The Big Picture
Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | June 8, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: outrbnksm | June 8, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Pensfans | June 9, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: adampschroeder | June 9, 2009 11:37 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.