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Jim Furtado
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Editor - Baseball Primer


Pirates Newsbeat

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Pirates look to address deficiencies, close gap on Cubs in 2017 | TribLIVE

A lot of good stuff in this one.

Last offseason Huntington lamented the starting pitching market “blew up.” The average starting pitcher signed last offseason earned $10.02 million per year, compared to $8.07 in the 2014-15 offseason — a 21.6 percent increase….
Not only are proven veteran pitchers becoming more expensive, but the market for reclamation-type pitchers also is becoming more competitive. More teams are identifying the same players as undervalued thanks to growth of front office staff and available data.

“It’s absolutely become more competitive, more challenging,” Huntington said. “When more teams evaluate the way you do the prices get driven up and resources become the advantage again.

“We continue to work to find ways to stay ahead of the curve.”
If more teams are targeting the same players, does the Pirates front office need to change its level of risk tolerance? In the past, the Pirates have preferred to spread risk — and their modest budget — over multiple smaller, shorter-term contracts.

“Is that (risk tolerance) line moving? It has,” Huntington said. “Because every significant contract we sign is a risk. When you look at Francisco Liriano at $13 million, when he performed well it is an affordable contract. But it’s the equivalent of $30-$40 million (per year) for the Dodgers. Percent of payroll is real. It’s not an excuse. When a contract is 13 percent of your payroll versus 4 percent, the level of risk tolerance is so very different …. How far do you stretch? It is a case-by-case situation.”
“We are a copy-cat industry,” Huntington said. “Ground ball pitchers have become more valued. We could be stubborn and stay the course and pay more than we ideally like. Or we can look in a different direction and find value in a different way. … It comes back to what may be successful for five years will probably not be for 10. There is a constant ebb and flow.”
Huntington said center fielder Andrew McCutchen’s MLB-worst -27 DRS mark “catches your attention.” But Huntington and Hurdle also said McCutchen was hurt at times by playing shallower while the staff was less able to execute.

“As this staff played out it didn’t match up to the same analytics off the mound (from 2015) that we were looking to (regarding) the defense,” Hurdle said. “We have some thoughts moving forward on how to adjust.”

Jim Furtado Posted: October 16, 2016 at 02:11 PM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: pirates

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Starting Nine: Modest proposals for Pirates offseason agenda | TribLIVE

Travis Sawchik proposes some fixes for the Pirates.

1. The following is a series of modest proposals for an offseason agenda for the Pirates. Where should the club focus? Pitching and defense. Those areas must be improved to shrink the gap in the NL Central.

2. Andrew McCutchen had his exit interview with manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington on Thursday. McCutchen was the last player to be interviewed. What to do with McCutchen? It is perhaps the first question the Pirates face this offseason. There is a good chance McCutchen’s bat will play above his 2016 level. McCutchen’s plate discipline has returned since his early August bench (13% walk rate, 12% strikeout rate, .912 OPS in September). But even if McCutchen were moved to left field, perhaps discussed behind closed doors Thursday, he would continue to be a defensive liability.

If McCutchen is not concealing an injury, perhaps he is losing athleticism. He is rated as the worst defender in the game this season according to defensive runs saved (-26 runs below average), and on the bases he has declined from taking the extra base 64 percent the time in 2013 to a career-worst 27 percent this season.

The Pirates need their highest-paid position player to be a complete player. It’s why the Pirates should explore the trade market for McCutchen’s bat.

Jim Furtado Posted: October 02, 2016 at 08:19 AM | 25 comment(s)
  Beats: pirates

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Pirates’ Pitching Magic Ran Out

I bet he can’t bend spoons either.

“I know there are some teams out there who think, ‘Well, you know, we have the best pitching coach in the world, so we’re going to take so-and-so and turn him into something really good,’” Alderson said. “You’ve got to be careful about that. If you get your person at the right price, looking to turn him into something better than what you’ve purchased, fine. But I think you’ve got to be real careful about saying, ‘We’re going to make him better because we know something that nobody else knows.’”

Jim Furtado Posted: September 15, 2016 at 02:48 PM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: pirates

Friday, September 09, 2016

Tyler Glasnow MLB Pipeline Pitcher of the Year |

He has a way to go.

One thing Glasnow wants to do is improve his walk rate and overall command. It was one of the few statistical categories that the big right-hander didn’t improve this season, as he walked 5.2 per nine in the Minors (up from 4.4 per nine in his career).

“I definitely have to work on the consistency,” Glasnow said. “I don’t want to lose any stuff, the stuff that got me those numbers. I think I need to be able to go out and do it every fifth day. There’s obviously going to be some ups and downs, but it has to be a little bit more consistent than it has been.”

Glasnow is well aware that the issues are largely physical. It can be more difficult for a pitcher his size to repeat his delivery, which can lead to the command problems he’s had at times throughout his career.

Jim Furtado Posted: September 09, 2016 at 06:21 PM | 3 comment(s)
  Beats: pirates, prospects, tyler glasnow

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Pirates notebook: Cole relieved after receiving diagnosis on ailing elbow | TribLIVE

Cole rejoined the Pirates on Tuesday after being examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. ElAttrache found inflammation — but no ligament damage, bone chips or bone spurs — and agreed with the Pirates doctors’ diagnosis.

“Any time you have elbow pain, a lot of things can be connected,” Cole said. “It could be from the shoulder, a lot of different things. That’s obviously a major concern. So, obviously, it’s a relief that (the ligament) is not involved.”

Jim Furtado Posted: August 31, 2016 at 08:47 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: gerrit cole, pirates

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Pirates’ Gerrit Cole will miss Monday start |

This isn’t good.

Gerrit Cole will not make his scheduled start Monday in Chicago in order to seek a second opinion on his right elbow, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington announced after Saturday’s 9-6 win over the Brewers.

Jim Furtado Posted: August 28, 2016 at 08:46 AM | 4 comment(s)
  Beats: gerrit cole, injuries, pirates

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pirates extend David Freese

The Pirates have announced that they’ve extended David Freese through 2018, with a club option for 2019. Via Jon Heyman, Freese will receive $11 million guaranteed, with the contract taking an unusual front-loaded structure—Freese gets $6.25 million next year, $4.25 million in 2018, and $6 million or a $500,000 buyout in 2019.

Freese is already 33 and is a complementary type rather than a star, so at first glance, it seems a bit odd that the Pirates would extend him. Their recent trade of Francisco Liriano suggested pretty strongly that a veteran contract gone wrong is a big deal for them, and they already have Francisco Cervelli, who’s still productive but who’s shown signs of wear this year, under contract through 2019. It might seem obvious that a player like Freese is worth $11 million, and maybe it is, but decline can come quickly for a player his age—John Jaso, whose role on the team going forward now looks less stable than ever, is proof of that.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 23, 2016 at 11:59 AM | 8 comment(s)
  Beats: david freese, pirates

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Jameson Taillon Beginning To Blossom Into A Star

“The catchers are smart,” Taillon said. “The catchers and Ray really game plan quite well. I’m keeping my head down. I don’t shake much, I just do what Ray says and throw whatever those guys put down.”

Jim Furtado Posted: August 13, 2016 at 08:45 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: jameson taillon, pirates

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Pirates GM Huntington details thinking behind trade deadline deals | TribLIVE

The Pirates were delayed in announcing the Liriano trade as they struggled to reach a player involved in the trade.

“Because of the delay with the Liriano announcement, we weren’t able to articulate ‘the why’ early in the process,” Huntington said. “Many people jumped to incorrect conclusions. Our primary motivation was to acquire Drew Hutchison. ... Instead, it came out that we moved two prospects to move Liriano’s contract. Now I can’t tell you that wasn’t a part of the motivation, but the primary motivation was to acquire a quality pitcher.”

“We understand even if we’d been the first voice heard, there would still be speculation that we were not being truthful, that we were not being forthright in what our motivation was. But because we were essentially the last voice heard, the perception was already built. ... Opinion becomes fact when it gets repeated enough.”

Huntington said the Pirates were motivated by events months earlier, when the club was surprised by the price for pitching last offseason.

“We recognize there is a scarcity in the affordable starting-pitching market,” Huntington said. “Mediocre pitching is getting paid a lot of money. As we look forward, whether it’s the trade market or free agent market, the challenge of acquiring quality, controllable, productive starting pitching ... is hard to do.”

Jim Furtado Posted: August 07, 2016 at 07:57 AM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: blue jays, drew hutchison, francisco liriano, pirates

Monday, August 01, 2016

Toronto Blue Jays acquire Francisco Liriano and two relievers to bolster pitching staff at trade deadline | National Post

They were busy.

Toronto general manager Ross Atkins acquired starting pitcher Francisco Liriano and a prospect from the Pittsburgh Pirates according to news reports. The Blue Jays are sending Drew Hutchison to the Pirates, reports say.
Also joining the Blue Jays is Scott Feldman, acquired from the Houston Astros for Guadalupe Chavez, an 18-year-old pitcher from Mexico.

Reliever Jesse Chavez, who had an up-and-down season after being acquired from Oakland in the offseason, was also traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Mike Bolsinger.

Mets, Pirates swap Antonio Bastardo for Jon Niese - MLB Daily Dish

An exchange of disappointments.

Jim Furtado Posted: August 01, 2016 at 05:59 PM | 19 comment(s)
  Beats: mets, pirates, trade deadline, trades

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Nationals trade for Mark Melancon from Pirates |

The trade deadline deals are finally happening.

The Nationals made acquiring bullpen help their top priority prior to Monday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline. They addressed that need Saturday afternoon, completing a trade for right-hander Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for left-handers Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn.

Jim Furtado Posted: July 31, 2016 at 07:14 AM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: mark melancon, nationals, pirates

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Tyler Glasnow erratic start ends with injury |

The team said the 22-year-old Glasnow was lifted because of right shoulder discomfort, but did not elaborate further, including Hurdle and Glasnow both declining to say what Glasnow’s status is other than “taking it day by day.”

Hurdle said Glasnow did not tell him his shoulder was bothering him; Glasnow said he did not attempt to talk Hurdle and Tomczyk into letting him stay in the game.

“Just visually, we looked at him moving his arm around—didn’t like how it looked and looked like it was uncomfortable,” Hurdle said. “So we went out at that time and talked to him and removed him.”

Jim Furtado Posted: July 24, 2016 at 09:06 AM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: injury, pirates, tyler glasnow

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Seeking help for the rotation, Pirates look inside the system and out | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

With Glasnow and Taillon and the options rumored to be out there, I can’t see the Pirates making a deal.

“A very good first half as a starter, and San Diego did a terrific job of turning that into a, some feel, top-20 prospect in the game,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “It reminds us that it’s a seller’s market and the acquisition costs are going to be steep.

“And it also reminds us that it’s really important to develop your own pitching.”

Jim Furtado Posted: July 19, 2016 at 11:25 AM | 4 comment(s)
  Beats: pirates

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pirates look to create, measure optimum performance | TribLIVE

It’s a blue light special.

Before every game, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle receives a number — an estimate of every player’s capacity to perform — from the strength and training staffs. The number is part of the decision-making process. The number is not a perfect guide, rather “a talking point,” Pirates head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk said.

Jim Furtado Posted: July 17, 2016 at 08:50 AM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: pirates

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Pirates call up prospect Tyler Glasnow |

At this point he has great stuff but only so-so command.

The club has not confirmed the news that Glasnow, Pittsburgh’s No. 1 prospect, is coming up from Triple-A Indianapolis. But a Pirates source confirmed that Glasnow is expected to start Thursday afternoon at Busch Stadium.

Jim Furtado Posted: July 06, 2016 at 03:29 PM | 3 comment(s)
  Beats: pirates, tyler glasnow

Chicago police investigate Pirates infielder in sexual assault claim - Chicago Tribune

“We have been made aware of the allegation that has been made against Jung Ho Kang,” Pirates President Frank Coonelly said in a statement in response to questions from the Tribune about the sexual assault investigation. “We take allegations of this type extremely seriously. Pursuant to the Joint MLB/MLBPA Policy on such matters, this matter is exclusively before the Commissioner’s Office at this time. We have and will continue to cooperate fully with the Commissioner’s Office. As a result of the ongoing police investigation, we cannot comment further at this time. We have also advised our staff and our players that they should not comment on the matter either. We all need to be respectful to the police investigation of a very serious allegation.”

Jim Furtado Posted: July 06, 2016 at 08:55 AM | 43 comment(s)
  Beats: jung ho kang, pirates

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Jameson Taillon put on the disabled list, Steven Brault to start Tuesday | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pirates put right-hander Jameson Taillon on the 15-day disabled list after their game Monday because of right shoulder fatigue, further thinning a rotation already suffering due to Gerrit Cole’s injury.

Taillon was scheduled to start today. To take his place, the Pirates will promote left-hander Steven Brault from Class AAA Indianapolis. Brault, 24, will make his major league debut.

Jim Furtado Posted: July 05, 2016 at 08:55 AM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: jameson taillon, pirates

Thursday, June 30, 2016

New ‘sub-max’ training technique aids Gerrit Cole’s rehabilitation from triceps injury | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Very strong praise.

Pitching coach Ray Searage already swears by the rehabilitation program. He called Tomczyk “a ... genius” for implementing it. The problem in typical rehab, Searage said, is pitchers rely on long toss, stretching out to 150 feet or more, and they can pick up bad habits that way.

Searage said sub-max was “an epiphany.” If Cole throws at 75 percent intensity from 90 feet, using the same delivery he would use on the mound, his mechanics stay sound — his release point isn’t altered by tilting back and throwing deep in long toss — and he’s not breaking down his arm.

“I’m telling you, I’m all in on this,” an animated Searage said Sunday. “You’re building up the volume at those increments, but not to the point where you’re breaking them down. ...

“I’m telling you, this is major. This is major. We could do this with the young kids that just came over from high school or college that want to impress everybody and throw the crap out of the ball. Have a guy back there saying, ‘Uh uh, back it off.’ “

Jim Furtado Posted: June 30, 2016 at 10:58 AM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: gerrit cole, injuries, pirates

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Andrew Mccutchen in the country of baseball.

It starts with a man walking to a park to watch a baseball game. He doesn’t know why, other than the park is near his house. He has no connection to anyone on either team. He’s there for the most basic of reasons: It’s something to do.

He figures this is where he belongs. He coaches a team that plays in this park, Peterson Park in Lakeland, Florida, and he feels fullest when he’s on a ballfield. And so here he is, sitting in the clamped air of a central Florida summer watching what he comes to learn is a Dixie Youth League All-Star game. The kids are unremarkable, except for a 12-year-old on the team from Fort Meade, a rural speck on the map about 25 miles up the road.

spanx for the memories Posted: June 29, 2016 at 01:32 AM | 3 comment(s)
  Beats: pirates

Monday, June 27, 2016

Bucco Blog | Monday Mop-Up Duty: the core collapsed, now can it rebound?

Pirates notes.

>>Chad Kuhl accounted well for himself in his debut against Clayton Kershaw. He was competitive. His fastball sat between 95-97 mph. He has a live arm. His secondary stuff lags behind his fastball and it’s in part why he didn’t put up monster strikeout numbers at the minor league level. He lived up to his Baseball Prospectus scouting report:
“Kuhl would have an above-average fastball just based on velocity (he sits in the low 90s), but what makes it a plus pitch is that there’s a tremendous amount of sink to it. He’s got the stuff to be a groundball machine, and the power of his fastball/sinker allows it to miss bats.

Kuhl also throws a slider and a change, and while those pitches lag behind the sinking fastball by a considerable margin, they’re both usable. The slider is another groundball pitch with late tilt, but doesn’t have depth and isn’t going to be a swing-and-miss offering at the big-league level. The change offers a bit of tumble, but it lacks firmness and there’s a slight difference in arm speed when throws it. They’re both competent pitches, but neither pitch would get an above-average grade, unless you’re a very lenient grader.

Kuhl’s command isn’t elite, but he’s generally in the strike zone, and he repeats his delivery well enough to suggest that the command and control should be big-league average as he matures physically and mentally.”

He looks like a big league arm, though not an impact one — unless the secondary stuff makes a jump.

Jim Furtado Posted: June 27, 2016 at 11:16 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: pirates

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Starting Nine: Should the Pirates consider trading face of the franchise McCutchen? | TribLIVE

They won’t get full value if they trade him now.

Jim Furtado Posted: June 26, 2016 at 08:43 AM | 9 comment(s)
  Beats: andrew mccutchen, pirates

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Liriano’s struggles continue in loss to Cardinals | TribLIVE

Liriano and the Pirates catchers aren’t doing too well.

The Pirates pushed back Liriano’s start to Saturday, in part to allow him extra time to work on fixing some mechanical issues with pitching coach Ray Searage. Liriano entered with an unsightly 5.25 ERA, which was actually third best among Pirates starters.

Searage said he saw progress from Liriano in bullpen work over the last week. He said the focus was slowing down his “front-side” energy — in essence, Liriano was getting too quick in his delivery, making his timing and release point “erratic.”

But he was still not all the way back in dominant form. Liriano was outpitched by Carlos Martinez, who limited the Pirates to one run and five hits in 8 1⁄3 innings. He threw 122 pitches, and most were of high quality. He hit 100 mph.

“I feel a lot better than last time,” Liriano said. “The (rhythm) is getting better. … I’m trying to stay calm, not trying to do too much.”

Jim Furtado Posted: June 12, 2016 at 08:53 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: francisco liriano, pirates

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Gerrit Cole exits game with “right triceps tightness”

Trainers told Cole that the worst time to evaluate injury is immediately after activity, so they will take a more extensive look at the injury Saturday.

Cole said this is not an injury he has experienced before. Although he felt fine the first two innings, he could tell something was off with his right arm in the third—it wasn’t responding like he wanted it to.

Apparently it finally dawned on MLB teams that the world was into the fact that “forearm tightness” means “impending Tommy John surgery,” and so they cleverly came up with a cunning new stratagem: Let’s call it triceps tightness! They’ll never suspect a thing!

More seriously though, the Pirates don’t seem to be going out of their way to put forth an optimistic front here. If Cole really is done until 2018, well… it was a fun run.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Pirates have pivoted away from pitching in recent draft selections | TribLIVE

Because of the epidemic of Tommy John surgeries in the professional game and the increased amount of pitching prospects with medical red flags — many believe the trends are tied to sport specialization and the showcase circuit — have the Pirates made a turn in philosophy?

Have they elected to reduce risk and target position players over pitchers with premium picks?

“It’s simply how the board has played out, the players we felt had the best potential impact to us,” Huntington said. “It just so happened (it’s been) position players recently, with pitching going prior to that. It’s not a lean one way or the other.

“We’re seeing more and more injuries with position players as well as pitchers. A lot has been made of pitchers, 14- and 15-year-olds that are having Tommy John, and ‘What is the shelf life of a Tommy John surgery?’ But there are an awful lot of position players that are coming through and getting beat up. High school position players that are beat up. College position players that are beat up. It’s not just pitching. … There are many more position players that are coming through with medicals that are getting your attention (than) in the past.”

Jim Furtado Posted: June 09, 2016 at 09:56 AM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: amateur draft, pirates

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