The Legend

The Legend

Friday, June 8, 2018

Email Exchange Turns into Fun Blog Post (20 Years of Crappy Pirates)

Over the course of the last couple of weeks I've been exchanging emails with a close friend of mine trying to determine what we think is the most egregious Pirates lineup over the past 20 years.  We set a few perimeters because we didn't want this to be a failed prospect list (300 ab's , 100 ip).  I've documented the Pirates failed draft picks on numerous occasions so I figured we would try something new.

The idea was to showcase a lineup of guys that were given way too long of a leash.  You have to take in account some context when doing this as well.  For the most part we avoided young players on bad teams.  Even if they are bad those are the guys you want to get a chance.  With that being said a few young guys made the list because they were so bad they had to be mentioned. 

C - Rod Barajas -
The Pirates collapsed hard in 2011 and came into 2012 with some glaring needs.  In desperate need of a backstop the Pirates signed aging journeyman Rod Barajas.  It was disappointing because the teams core was looking legit.  Sure enough it failed miserably and Barajas was replaced by another long time minor leaguer Michael Mckenry.  The Pirates would go on and have an even more soul crushing collapse to finish below .500.

This was a unanimous choice

1B - Randall Simon
First base has long been a black hole for the Pirates.  They've tried everything you can think of and literally nothing worked for the better part of 20 years.  The biggest disappointment of the 20 year span we examined would be Adam LaRoche. Expectations were very high and he could never meet them.  The weird thing with LaRoche is you could say he was our best and most disappointing player at that position.  For our project LaRoche was still too productive.

The Pirates have a laundry list of guys that most casual fans would say "I don't remember him being a Pirate."  My buddy's first draft came back with Daryle Ward.  While Daryle was truly inept I countered with Simon and Lyle Overbay.  Truth be told no wrong answer existed.  We agreed to eliminate Ward on the fact that he played outfield too.  Simon beat out Overbay because Randall had no track record or pedigree to really warrant playing.  Simon as a Pirate had 514 career at bats and a -1.7 WAR.

2B - Jose Castillo  - (Co Captain)

I say Co-Captain in the sense that he is one of the guys we knew had to be on the list.  Castillo is a player where the narrative never really matched the production on the field.  Announcers would always talk about his slick fielding and power bat.  Truth be told as defensive metrics started to become a thing he never really graded out that well.  While Castillo would showcase big power at times, he was so madly inconsistent that his bat was never close to being average.

The Pirates stuck with him over the course of a whopping 1765 at bats.  He accumulated -2.7 WAR during his tenure.  YIKES!

SS - Clint Barmes

We had some fun exchanges on this one.  My friend had chosen Pat Meares and I had Barmes.  It was truly a coin flip, but the narrative of Barmes was the deciding factor.  A lot of the reason Meares was bad can likely be attributed to injury shortened seasons.

My vote for Barmes was more for the fact that he was a weak link on some good Pirate teams and that he was resigned after his original two year deal was over in 2013.

3B - Andy Laroche (Co Captain)

A sure fire pick for each of us.  I told you that we tried not to penalize younger players but LaRoche was the main exception. First, he was centerpiece in the three team trade that sent Jason Bay to Boston and Manny Ramirez to LA.  Obviously it is not uncommon for prospect oriented returns to fail, but the Pirates had to hit hear and LaRoche was so bad.

The other bad thing is that the Pirates did everything in their power to give him opportunity to play and develop and he just couldn't produce.  Over the course of 1044 at bats he accumulated .6 WAR. Some secondary fallout occurred here as well.  In order to keep LaRoche at third the Pirates traded away Jose Bautista for a minor league catcher.

OF - Jeromy Burntiz

This one falls under the category of totally unnecessary signing which was a hallmark of GM Dave Littlefield. Obviously, Burnitz was an accomplished major leaguer having some productive years with Milwaukee.  By the time the Pirates signed him in 2006 he was 37 years and well past his prime. Burnitz only had 313 at bats as a Pirate, but was an easy addition to the list for producing at such a low level.

OF - Jose Tabata -

I'll keep this one short as I talk about Tabata all the time.  Tabata wasa a former Yankee prospect that was traded to the Pirates for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte.  It was quite the roller coaster ride from there.  He shot up the Pirate system and became a very productive young player.  So productive that the Pirates signed him to a long term extension to keep his prices stable. Surprising it went south drastically.  Hamstring injuries, and perceived lack of dedication put him in the doghouse.  He could never regain the hit tool and speed that made him such a drool worthy player.

OF - Lastings Milledge
We had a tough time coming up with the last outfielder.  So many names made sense here, but most fell into the category of guys the Pirates drafted and couldn't develop.  The others didn't hit our 300ab minimum.  We chose Milledge because of his prospect pedigree and the fact it was the type of trade fans had been wanting the Pirates make.  So his failure seemed even more disappointing than normal.  Fortunately the Pirates saved face a little as one of the throw ins in the deal with the Nationals was Joel Hanrahan who developed into a nice reliever for a few years.

SP - Jeff Locke (Co-Captain)
Here is a man that had 9 lives when surviving roster purges with the Pirates.  The guy was just destroyed in the local media to the point you almost felt sorry for him.  Long story short he pitched 644 innings for the Pirates, with the bulk of the working coming in all three playoff years.  He makes the list because you always had to wonder if they would have replaced him with someone just a hair better than one of those wildcard teams could had been a division winner.   I'm all for younger pitchers getting an opportunity, but his leash was just too long.

SP- Kevin Correia

Just a pitcher that wasn't any good that the Pirates decided to give too much opportunity.  A very confusing signing that never really made much sense.

SP - Jon Niese

 Very few innings with the Buccos but the narrative was too good to pass up.  The Pirates traded Neil Walker for Jon Niese.  Obviously, Walker was a fan favorite so it was going to take a lot for Niese to get in the good graces of the fanbase.  He was horrendous from day one.   What makes it even more damning is the fact that Pirates GM Neil Huntington gave a public interview saying how big of a mistake it was to trade Walker.  He said he was trying to get a MLB piece instead of prospects and it bit him in the ass.

SP - Ryan Vogelsong
Vogelsong is an easy guy to root for, but both of his Pirate tenures were bad.  Once thought of as a long term piece to the Pirates rotation in the early 2000's, he could just never get it going.  After about a 5 year stint of playing wherever he could overseas an opportunity arose with the Giants and he took advantage.  Eventually he would make his way back to the Pirates again in 2016 and he once again failed to put up numbers.

SP - Matt Morris (Write-in Candidate)
I put write in candidate because Morris didn't meet our innings pitched requirement.  What Morris had was bad results at a very hefty price tag.  The trade for Morris will go down as one of the more head scratching ones in Pirates recent history.  When the Pirates traded Rajai Davis for Morris they also inherited 10 million in salary.  All the warning signs were there that Morris was a shell of his former self.  Maybe it would have made some sense to take him on if the Giants were eating the salary, but for some reason the Pirates took it on too.  Of course Morris was eventually released the following season and Davis has had a very successful career as a fourth outfielder.  

RP - Jared Hughes and Daniel McCutchen. - 

Collectively these two had almost 500 innings and combined for - 1.7 WAR.  Metrics hate guys that can't miss bats and that sums up these two perfectly.  

So this was a fun project. It was fun taking a long standing email chain and adding some visuals.  It wasn't an exact science, but I felt we captured the soul of the project.  


  1. Oh my, I can only imagine what such an examination would produce for my Cubbies. A very interesting exercise!

  2. Oh this is very fun. Yanks would have a very interesting list...could build a team from the late 80s by itself.

  3. Hmmm... I think if I tried this with the Jays I'd just get the mid-late 90s... Though really there are some areas that are gaping voids..

    Man... I forgot that Bautista was traded for Robinzon Diaz..

  4. Cool post, as a Rockies fan, I remember Barmes might have been an All-Star if the league banned sliders.

  5. I vividly remember Jeromy Burnitz hitting a long homer with the Pirates in a game I saw at Wrigley in '06. The Bucs won something like 8-0 that day. Apparently that was the peak of his Pirates career.

  6. This is a really bad team. If they played the current Mets right now, they would probably only win 2-1.

    Have to think about this for the Mets. Jim Fregosi at 3B, obviously. Oliver Perez, Pete Falcone, and Mike Torrez come to mind off the top of my head for pitchers. Mike Bordick worked out terribly as an acquisition but wasn't there long enough. Jason Bay in the outfield, maybe.

  7. Ohhh! I gotta try this with the Brewers. Simon, of course, was the guy who smacked one of the racing sausages at Miller Park. A game I was at!

  8. Awesome post. I think this is a really good idea since I suspect most baseball players are closer to this than to being big stars.

  9. Very cool idea. Might need to do this for the A's. Seems like I always stumble across Daniel McCutchen and Jose Tabata when I'm sorting cards. As for Vogelsong... he was fun to watch when he was "on" in San Francisco.

  10. This is a fantastic idea for a post. I am stealing it!