Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Paul Lebowitz's 2010 Baseball Guide

My book is available immediately via the I-Universe website and should be up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble within days. The link is here if you absolutely, positively cannot wait----Link----and I can totally understand either way.

  • Excerpt from the book:

For anyone teetering on whether or not to make the investment, I'm printing an excerpt. The most innocuous team for whom to do this is a team whose future could be predicted by a learning disabled monkey.

Of course, I'm referring to....the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The following is how the book is formatted for every team. It's the template. It's what it is. It's how I write.

Take it or leave it.

But hopefully take it.

Those that read me regularly pretty much know what's coming.

Everyone else had better duck.

Pittsburgh Pirates

2009 Record: 62-99; Sixth Place, National League Central

2009 Recap:

There are some teams for whom the statement: “Oh, they had their normal year” would be a good thing like the Angels, Yankees and Marlins. For others? Not so much.

The Pirates did what the Pirates always do. Before the season, they signed several lower echelon free agents they didn’t need; waited until mid-season, made incomprehensible trades; and lost 99 games, finishing in their familiar surrounding----last place. Being a part of the Pirates organization is like a repeat offender who bounces in and out of jail and has grown so accustomed to the regimented life of being an inmate that he prefers it to the outside world. At least the club and their remaining fans know what to expect.


2B/3B Akinori Iwamura was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays.
RHP Octavio Dotel signed a 1-year contract with club option.
OF Ryan Church signed a 1-year contract.
RHP Brendan Donnelly signed a 1-year contract.
INF Bobby Crosby signed a 1-year contract.
LHP Javier Lopez signed a 1-year contract.
LHP Justin Thomas was claimed off waivers from the Seattle Mariners.
RHP Chris Jakubauskas was claimed off waivers from the Seattle Mariners.
LHP Wil Ledezma signed a minor league contract.
RHP Vinnie Chulk signed a minor league contract.
OF John Raynor was claimed off waivers from the Florida Marlins.
LHP Jack Taschner signed a minor league contract.
LHP Neal Cotts signed a minor league contract.
RHP D.J. Carrasco signed a minor league contract.
OF Brandon Jones was claimed off waivers from the Atlanta Braves.


RHP Matt Capps was non-tendered.
RHP Jesse Chavez was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays.
INF Brian Bixler was traded to the Cleveland Indians.
SS Luis Cruz was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers.

2010 PROJECTED LINEUP: C-Ryan Doumit; 1B-Jeff Clement; 2B-Akinori Iwamura; 3B-Andy LaRoche; SS-Ronny Cedeno; LF-Lastings Milledge; CF-Andrew McCutchen; RF-Garrett Jones

2010 PROJECTED STARTING ROTATION: Zach Duke; Paul Maholm; Ross Ohlendorf; Charlie Morton; Kevin Hart

2010 PROJECTED BULLPEN: Octavio Dotel; Brendan Donnelly; Joel Hanrahan; Evan Meek; Javier Lopez; D.J. Carrasco; Chris Jakubauskas

2010 BENCH: C-Jason Jaramillo; INF-Bobby Crosby; INF-Ramon Vazquez; OF-Ryan Church; OF-Brandon Moss; 2B-Delwyn Young; OF-Steve Pearce

2010 EXTRA PITCHERS/PROSPECTS: Jose Ascanio; Ramon Aguerro; Brad Lincoln; Daniel McCutchen; Bryan Morris; Ronald Uviedo; Donald Veal; Michael Dubee; Rudy Owens

2010 EVERYDAY PROSPECTS: Pedro Alvarez; Argenis Diaz; Jose Tabata




The Pirates complaints of being unable to compete because of financial constraints are falling on deaf ears more and more frequently. The way teams like the Marlins find a way to win under a budget is bad enough; but what makes the Pirates such calamity is that there seems to be no viable plan in place aside from signing journeymen; trading stars; constantly being on the rebuild; and repeating the process on an annual basis with no improvement.

No one knows who’s running things in Pittsburgh.

Is it team president Frank Coonelly?

Coonelly came out of the commissioner’s office----where he was a Vice President and General Counsel for labor relations----to take over the Pirates. With the Pirates, he seems more intent on making sure his innovations while working in baseball’s “braintrust” are implemented whether they’re going to make the Pirates any better or not. The slotting system for the draft; the whining about revenue sharing; the idea that teams without money can’t compete----all are feeding into the Coonelly plan; but it’s not helping the Pirates.

I found it hilarious that baseball stepped in with the Marlins and forced an agreement that they’d spend more money on payroll when they’ve proven that they can win without spending a load of money on payroll; yet the Pirates are allowed to be an entity of self-sabotaging stupidity and destruction with no end in sight to the carnage.

What about the Pirates?

Why are they allowed to occupy a place in Major League Baseball with this history of embarrassment and ineptitude whose list of baseball-related sins are growing longer and longer?

GM Neal Huntington has an impressive pedigree after having worked for the Cleveland Indians under Mark Shapiro, but it’s hard to know how much power he has with the Pirates or whether he knows what he’s doing.

Was it his idea to trade for Akinori Iwamura? To sign Brendan Donnelly and Octavio Dotel to beef up a bullpen that, quite frankly, wasn’t all that bad last year? When they needed starting pitching and bats?

The trades made at mid-season last year defy explanation. Their lightning strike trade of Nate McLouth looked to me like the Braves called with an offer and said take it or leave it and the Pirates panicked and grabbed it before even letting the rest of baseball know that McLouth was available. They did what the Pirates always do: they traded any and all marketable veterans----Freddy Sanchez; Jack Wilson; Ian Snell----for the “future”.

When that future is going to become the present is anyone’s guess.

Things got worse this off-season as they non-tendered the useful and tradeable closer Matt Capps.


I’m not even going to speculate a reason because I might get caught in whatever bizarro world in which the Pirates function and not be able to get back. Suffice it to say the following----it’s the Pirates----and leave it there.

Some questions are better left unanswered.

For the greater good.

John Russell is in a no-win situation as manager. But looking on the bright side, he’s also in a no-lose situation.

Much like the disastrous years endured by the Orioles from 1997 until Andy MacPhail took over, there was always owner Peter Angelos and the rampant dysfunction that defined the Orioles in the intervening years to explain away anyone who got fired. The organization was such a mess that blaming the manager alone was impossible.
Such is the case now with the Pirates.

No one could win with that team and their rampant and neverending cluelessness.

Is Russell a good manager?

Who knows?

He was a respected catcher when he played; he had success as a minor league manager; but he’s done some things with the Pirates that have made no sense at all such as yanking Zach Duke from the game in September 28th in which he was dominating against the Dodgers. Duke allowed one run (in the bottom of the ninth) and with two outs, Russell pulled him...with an 11-1 lead...after he’d thrown 103 pitches...and allowed 4 hits.

The proffered reason was that Russell wanted Duke to receive the cheers from the crowd on the way off the field....from the reported attendance of 16,696.


Even if the attendance figure was accurate, how many people do you think were still in the stands for an 11-1 game between the Pirates and Dodgers?

You can feel free to shake your head, because that’s all I can do as well.

Again, explaining anything anyone involved with the Pirates does is tempting sanity.


Zach Duke had a comeback 2009 after being terrible for the better part of three years after a big splash in 2005 when overenthusiasm anointed him as the next big time lefty.

From 2006 to 2008, Duke was awful and borderline non-competitive; and it had nothing to do with pitching for the Pirates. He was just plain bad. But in 2009, he pitched well despite a 11-16 record. In looking at his individual game performances, he should’ve won 20 games last season.

Believe it.

Duke’s a contract pitcher with a stiff motion, but if he was on a better team, his results would be that of a good, mid-rotation starter. Duke is earning $4.2 million this year; is arbitration eligible after this season; and will be a free agent after 2011. Given the Pirates history, he might be available at mid-season and a trade would be the best possible thing to happen for Zach Duke.

Lefty Paul Maholm went 8-9 in 31 starts in 2009. He gives up a lot of hits (221 in 194 innings), but not many homers (14). He throws strikes and could also be a solid mid-rotation starter for a good team. He’s owed over $10 million through 2011; he could be moved.

Ross Ohlendorf had a good year in his first as a full-time starter. In 176 innings, Ohlendorf allowed 165 hits; and only 53 walks. He’s a contact pitcher with a good sinking fastball and slider. Moving him into the rotation was a great idea and he could be an innings-eating winner.

Charlie Morton is a former Braves prospect who came over in the trade of Nate McLouth. Morton reminds me of Carl Pavano (when he was with the Marlins) in bodytype and stuff. Morton pitched serviceably for the Pirates in 18 starts despite a 5-9 record and 4.55 ERA. He allowed 102 hits in 97 innings and control is a problem for him with 40 walks; but he only allowed 7 homers. The 26-year-old has been a winner in the minors.

Kevin Hart was acquired from the Cubs at mid-season. Hart was bad after joining the Pirates with a 1-8 record in 10 starts. His ancillary numbers were worse. A 6.92 ERA: 74 hits allowed in 53 innings; and 26 walks are his legacy from 2009. He has to pitch better in 2009 because he can’t pitch much worse.


Octavio Dotel chose the Pirates because they were one of the few teams that was going to give him the chance to close. Like the proverbial tree falling in the woods, does a team need a closer if there are barely any games to close? We’re going to find out with the Pirates.
Dotel is coming off two useful years with the White Sox. He allows a lot of homers, but still racks up more than a strikeout an inning. He’s prone to the home run ball and has never been able to handle closing without letting the pressure of the job get to him. He signed a 1-year, $3.5 million contract and could be trade bait as the season moves along.

Brendan Donnelly made it back to the big leagues with the Marlins and, after a few years in which he looked like he was shot; he got some big outs late in the season. Donnelly struck out 25 in 25 innings for the Marlins, and had a 1.78 ERA. He parlayed that brief spurt into a 1-year, $1.25 million contract with the Pirates. Why the Pirates need to be spending all that money on a veteran, journeyman reliever is beyond me.

Joel Hanrahan would’ve been a better option at closer than Dotel: A) because he’s better; and B) because he’s younger and could grow into the job with the young Pirates as they ostensibly try to “rebuild”. That point was made moot when Hanrahan began having elbow pain. He’s going to miss the start of the regular season and as of this writing there’s not timetable for his return.

Evan Meek is a 26-year-old righty who pitched well in 41 games last season. Meek only allowed 34 hits in 47 innings; struck out 42 and allowed 2 homers.

Lefty Javier Lopez has a quirky motion and was terrible last season for the Red Sox. He’s been successful against lefties in his career because of his slingshot motion and lefty specialists tend to have fluctuating performances. The 32-year-old could regain his effectiveness with the Pirates.

D.J. Carrasco was a surprise non-tender for the White Sox after having a good year in 2009. The 33-year-old righty had a 3.76 ERA in 49 games; and allowed 103 hits in 93 innings. He was effective last season and is a positive, low-cost pickup for the Pirates.

Chris Jakubauskas is a longtime minor league journeyman who made it to the big leagues with the Mariners last season at age 30. He allowed 15 homers in 93 innings, but he’s been a successful starter in the minors and should be a decent middle reliever/spot starter for the Pirates.


Ryan Doumit missed a chunk of the 2009 season with a wrist injury, but when he’s healthy, he’s an underrated catcher. The switch-hitter has some pop in his bat (15 homers in 2008); hits for average and gets on base. He doesn’t strike out much and has good extra base power. Doumit’s about average defensively behind the plate. He’s guaranteed slightly over $8.6 million through 2011 and might be traded at mid-season in another Pirates purge.

Jeff Clement is a lefty swinging former top Mariners catching prospect who was acquired in the trade of Jack Wilson and Ian Snell last season. Clement is now 26; he showed some power/on base ability in the minors, but didn’t hit at all in 2008 with the Mariners (.227 average in 224 plate appearances) and it remains to be seen if he can hit big league pitching.

The Pirates avidly pursued Akinori Iwamura to play second base for them.

No. I don’t know why.

Iwamura is a good player; he can run; hits some doubles; plays good defense----but why do the Pirates need him?

He’s making $4.25 million this year and, while he’s a cog in a machine for a good team, the Pirates have no use for him. That they chased him so aggressively makes me wonder what it is the expect him to do for them? Unless they wanted another veteran piece to trade at mid-season (and this possibility is eliminated because it would imply an actual strategy), then they didn’t need him and they certainly didn’t have to give up a good arm like Jesse Chavez to get him.

Andy LaRoche showed flashes of the potential that made him a top Dodgers prosepct. LaRoche got off to a horrid start, but in 590 plate appearances, LaRoche had 29 doubles; 5 triples; and 12 homers. He batted .258 and had a .330 on base percentage and only struck out 84 times. His fielding at third base was quite good as well. LaRoche put up big power numbers in the minors and now, at age 26, he’s beginning to fulfill his promise.

Ronny Cedeno was acquired from the Mariners at mid-season in 2009. Cedeno can’t really hit; isn’t a good fielder; doesn’t steal bases and I don’t know why anyone would want him on their roster at all, let alone as their starting shortstop.

Lastings Milledge was acquired from the Nationals last season. Milledge is with his third organization. He showed some flashes of his All Star ability after joining the Pirates as he batted .291 in 58 games. He’s still only 25 and if he’s given a chance to play every day, I still believe he can be a 15-20 homer man with 20+ stolen bases.

Now we get to Andrew McCutchen.

If there’s a light in the collapsed mine shaft that is the Pittsburgh Pirates organization from top-to-bottom, it’s Andrew McCutchen.

He’s isn’t going to be a star; he isn’t going to be a superstar; he’s going to be a potential MVP, mega-star.

I know this not by seeing him hit; not by seeing him play defense; not by seeing him throw. I know this by seeing him run. Andrew McCutchen might be the fastest baseball player I’ve even seen in my entire life and he cut the bases perfectly as he didn’t even look like he was touching the ground. It was a thing of beauty the first time I saw him run out a triple. Right there and then, I said, “that’s it; mega-star”.

McCutchen is still raw; he still needs to learn how to use his speed defensively; and to steal bases. But the ball explodes off his bat; he has a good eye now and it’s only going to get better. He’s going to be a 25 homer man; with 20 doubles and 20 triples along with 50 stolen bases.

If anyone wants to cling to some small shred of the Pirates shipwreck, it’s Andrew McCutchen----future mega-star.

Garrett Jones came out of nowhere to hit 21 homers and post a .372 on base percentage in 358 plate appearances. Jones, 28, had been minor league filler with only 84 plate appearances in the big leagues (in 2007 with the Twins) to his credit before coming to the Pirates organization before last season. He’d always put up 20+ homers in the minors, but never got a chance to play in the big leagues. Jones spent five years in Triple A!

The lefty swinging Jones got his chance and took advantage of it. We’ll see if it was a lightning flash that will strike and quickly disappear or if he’s the real deal. With the power numbers he’s put up in the minors, I suspect it’s real.


Jason Jaramillo played regularly with Doumit injured and the 27-year-old switch-hitter batted .259 in 224 plate appearances with 14 doubles and 3 homers. He’s average defensively and has never hit much in the minors. He’s a backup.

Bobby Crosby was signed to a 1-year contract and will probably find himself playing shortstop regularly shortly after the season starts not because he deserves it, but because Cedeno is so heinous. Crosby never hit for average in his years with the Athletics; nor did he get on base; but he had some power. In the years since winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2004, Crosby’s been horrible. He can’t hit.

Ramon Vazquez was one of 2008’s inexplicable veteran acquisitions. Vazquez is a journeyman who somehow parlayed his career year with the Rangers in 2008 into a 2-year contract with the Pirates. He reverted to normal in 2009 as he batted .230 in 239 plate appearances. They’re paying him $2 million this year, and he could be traded to a contender at mid-season.

Ryan Church was released by the Braves after he proved exactly what I said about him when the Mets traded him for Jeff Francoeur----as a player, he doesn’t live up to his statistical parts. It took Bobby Cox a month to realize this and to bench him. Church always looks like a better player than he actually is. He vapes out on the field; strikes out too much and simply isn’t that good. He can hit an occasional homer; has a great arm in the outfield and might have use for a contender late in the season. He signed a 1-year, $1.5 million contract with the Pirates and will be trade bait at mid-season.

Brandon Moss is a journeyman outfielder who got a chance to play regularly in 2009 and didn’t take advantage of it. He batted .236 with a .304 on base; 7 homers and 41 RBI. He’s a fifth outfielder.

Delwyn Young is a 27-year-old outfielder, second baseman who put up big offensive numbers in the minors with a high average, on base and 18 home run power. He’s never gotten a chance to play every day in the big leagues and the Pirates would be better suited to have a long look at Young than to play Iwamura at second base.

Steven Pearce is a 27-year old outfielder who batted .206 in 186 at bats in 2009. He’s put up power/on base numbers in the minors and might have use as a bat off the bench.


What are the Pirates doing?

Is there a plan in place aside from trading veterans at mid-season and putting forth the idea that they’re building for some future that’s never going to come? Why is it that the league steps in with a club that has no need for it like the Marlins, but the Pirates are allowed to go on their merry way as the rudderless leech on the rest of baseball that the once-proud franchise has become?

This club isn’t run with the intent of making it competitive; it’s run as an agenda for the club president Frank Coonelly to push the ideas he formulated while working in the commissioner’s office. There’s no reason for anything they do other than to reach an end that is floating and elusive. Even when they have some talent that has use, they still find a way to botch it as they did with the insane decision to not tender a contract to their erstwhile closer, Capps.

There are some good players on this roster such as McCutchen, LaRoche and Doumit, but does anyone believe that these players are going to be part of any Pirates revival? Is such a thing possible while they’re under the auspices of the circus that populates their front office?

Expect another bad start; another series of veterans traded away for “prospects” and the argument that they couldn’t be much worse with youngsters than with the departing veterans, so why not make the moves?

This organization is a disaster. The fans of Pittsburgh are apathetic and disgusted with the 17 consecutive losing years. Why should they invest their time, their money and most importantly, their emotions into a club that neither cares about them nor wants to make an honest effort toward winning? The club will make their perfunctory deals, sign the likes of Dotel, Donnelly and Church and try to make it appear as if they’re doing something when in reality, they’re doing absolutely nothing. Until they bring in competent management that has an interest in winning and improving, that won’t change.

If baseball wants to step in with an organization, they should leave the Marlins alone and focus their attention on the Pirates. Maybe after this year and another season of over 90 losses, they’ll say enough’s enough.

I wouldn’t hold my breath.



She-Fan said...

Your knowledge is breathtaking, Prince. To have that much detail about the Pittsburgh Pirates is a thing of beauty. I can't wait to read your book to see what you have to say about the Royals. :)

Jeff said...

BOO YEAH! Time to play the title track to Slim Thug's "THE BOSS OF ALL BOSSES" album.

Believe that!