Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Month – April 2014

West Virginia Power Player of the Week: Cody Dickson

Left-handed starting pitcher Cody Dickson dominated the Lexington Legends on Saturday to earn the very first HiddenVigorish.com West Virginia Power Player of the Week Award. Dickson pitched 5 innings allowing just 3 hits and 0 walks while striking out 7 to earn the win. The Lexington Legends video feed of the game was carried on MILB.tv, so I got my first good look at Cody Dickson. I’m impressed. He has a very clean delivery and throws from a three quarter arm slot. His command on Saturday was very good. He mixed his pitches well, and got quite a few of his 7 Ks on breaking balls. Dickson is going to be real tough on left-handed hitters. He was the Pirates 4th round pick of the 2013 MLB Draft out of Sam Houston State. He has a real good chance to be a breakout pitching prospect for the Pirates this season. He is already one of the top five left-handed pitchers in the system. A few more outings like the one on Saturday against the Legends and Cody Dickson’s stock will skyrocket.

TWIBB Notes for the Week of 3-31-14 thru 4-6-14

Here are your This Week in Buccos Baseball Notes for 3/31/14 thru 4/6/14, the first week of the 2014 baseball season.

Weekly result: 4 wins and 2 Losses, 22 Runs Scores and 15 Runs Allowed

Hero of the week: Tony Sanchez. Tony Twitter had two huge hits this week. On Wednesday he delivered a walk off pinch hit single in the 16th inning vs the Cubs. On Sunday he launched an Adam Wainwright pitch that split the right center field gap for a double in the 7th inning that drove in the deciding run.

Zero of the week: Clint Barmes. Barmes hit into a “routine” 7-2-3 double play with the bases loaded and nobody out in the 13th inning of Wednesday night’s 4-3 win. It was just another typical Barmes at the plate moment that we’ve all been tortured by too many times over the past two years. And because it cost me at least an hour of sleep Barmes earns the first Zero of the week.

How do you spell relief? T-O-N-Y W-A-T-S-O-N. Here is Tony Watson‘s line for the week. 3.1 Innings – 0 Runs – 0 Hits – 6 Ks – 1 BB.

#HURDLED : Calling for a sac bunt while down by a run in the 9th inning with Gaby Sanchez in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Cubs was wrong on so many levels. Put aside for a second what your individual philosophy is on sac bunting and consider this: 1) Gaby Sanchez has not laid down a successful sacrifice bunt since 2011. 2) Playing for a tie the day after a 16 inning marathon game is cruel and unusual punishment. Managing like that will have the bullpen running on fumes by Memorial Day.

Cannonballs: Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez (2), Travis Ishikawa

The little things that matter: The Bucs rallied for three runs in the 6th inning of their 12-2 victory Friday night against the Cardinals. That offensive outburst likely doesn’t happen if Pedro Alvarez isn’t busting his tail to beat out a routine double play ball.

It must be Hidden Vigorish: You won’t ever see controlling Pedro on the base paths as any “keys of the game”. Alvarez averages one stolen base per season. He got his one stolen base of 2014 out of the way early by swiping a bag Friday night. It helped set up a run.

Stats that blow my mind: Can’t say that I saw it coming that Edinson Volquez would pitch 7.2 innings this week and give up only 1 Run and 1 Walk.

Records and Milestones: Tuesday’s 16 inning game against the Cubs clocked in at 5 hours and 55 minutes, making it the longest game ever played in Pittsburgh. The winning pitcher was Stolmy Pimentel. It was his first career MLB win.

He said what: Neil Walker after giving the Bucs a win on Opening Day with a walk off Home Run.

This one feels pretty special. This was a special day for this team and this organization. We’ve come a long way. The last 20 years have been a tough thing. To get to where we are now it is pretty amazing. … The excitement in the ballpark, the pregame ceremonies, Frankie (Liriano) going out there and pitching a great game, it kind of felt like a rollover from last year


Tweet of the week: Over 2000 people retweeted what Tony Sanchez had to say after he delivered a walk off game winning hit in the wee hours of Thursday morning to end the 16 inning marathon game with the Cubs.


Front Office Notes: Clint Hurdle and Neal Huntington were given well deserved three year contract extensions.

On The Farm: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Top prospect Jameson Taillon will undergo Tommy John Surgery and miss the entire 2014 season.

Highlight of the week: Walker’s Opening Day walk off blast


Origins of the West Virginia Power 2014 Roster

2014 marks the sixth season that the West Virginia Power have been an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Power opened the season on April 4th at the Lexington Legends with this roster: WV Power 2014 Opening Day Roster.
22 players are appearing with the Power for the first time, while 4 players are repeating the level. The roster is heavy with players drafted out of college. 13 of the 26 players on the WV roster were college players selected in the past two drafts. Let’s dissect the roster a little further.
Youngest Player: Reese McGuire – DOB: 03/02/1995
Oldest Player: Francisco Diaz – DOB: 03/21/1990
Top Prospect: Catcher Reese McGuire. McGuire is a consensus Top 100 Prospect among scouting services, and is considered among the best defensive catching prospects in all of baseball. He was the 14th overall pick in the 2013 draft. BaseballProspectus.com ranks him as the 59th best prospect.
Top Pitching Prospect: Luis Heredia. Heredia had huge expectations placed on him after receiving the highest international free agent signing bonus in the Pirates history back in 2010. He has fallen out off of many of the top 100 prospect lists which signifies there has been some disappointment in his progression thus far. That is probably a little unfair. He is still only 19 years old which makes him the youngest pitcher on the West Virginia roster. The reports are that he showed up to camp this Spring in much better shape than last season. That is a sign of mental maturation as much as it is physical maturation.
Others to watch: Cody Dickson is one of the better left-handed pitching prospects in the Pirates system. Many scouts have tabbed outfielders Harold Ramirez and Barrett Barnes as breakout candidates. Wyatt Mathisen is transitioning from catcher to third base this season after having his 2013 season curtailed by a shoulder injury.
Where they came from (pitchers):

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
High School Draftees 0 0 1 0 0 0
College Draftees 7 0 0 0 0 0
Int. Free Agent – Colombia 0 0 0 0 0 1
Int. Free Agent – Mexico 0 0 0 1 0 0
Int. Free Agent – D.R. 0 0 0 1 1 0
Int. Free Agent – Lithuania 0 0 0 0 1 0
MiLB Rule 5 Draftees (from Yankees) 1 0 0 0 0 0

Where they came from (position players):

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008
High School Draftees 1 1 1 0 0 0
College Draftees 4 2 0 0 0 0
Int. Free Agent – Colombia 0 0 1 0 0 1
Int. Free Agent – D.R. 0 0 1 0 0 0
MiLB Rule 5 Draftees (from Phillies) 0 0 1 0 0 0


From Power to Pirates

The West Virginia Power began their affiliation with the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to the 2009 season. They participate in the South Atlantic League (Sally League), which is a Class A full season minor league. This is an important stop in the career of a professional baseball player. West Virginia is the first stop in the Pirates’ farm system that plays a full season. I plan on following the Power closely this season and posting frequent reports on what is going on with the prospects in West Virginia. It is too daunting to follow and write about the entire farm system, so I’m choosing to focus on the Power because some of best talent in the organization such as Reese McGuire and Austin Meadows will be playing in West Virginia in 2014. I also live fairly close to several teams that play in the South Atlantic League. This will give me an opportunity to get a first hand look at these prospects.
To kick things off I thought it would be cool to look at the players that have made the jump from West Virginia to Pittsburgh thus far, and just how quickly it took them. Keep in mind the Power’s affiliation with the Pirates only dates back to 2009, so players like Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker pre-date that. Also, first round draft picks drafted out of college are often advanced enough to skip the Sally League and go straight to Class A+. This was the case with Pedro Alvarez and Gerrit Cole. I will be pinning this post to the site menu and updating it as more players make their major league debuts. Here is the list ranked in order by quickest to go from WV to Pittsburgh:

Power Debut Pirates Debut Days to the Majors
Brandon Cumpton 4/7/2011 6/15/2013 800
Chase d’Arnaud 4/9/2009 6/24/2011 806
Phil Irwin 4/8/2010 4/14/2013 1102
Starling Marte 6/26/2009 7/26/2012 1127
Vic Black 5/19/2010 7/25/2013 1166
Kyle McPherson 4/20/2009 8/20/2012 1218
Tony Sanchez 6/30/2009 6/23/2013 1454
Duke Welker 4/9/2009 6/23/2013 1536


There you have it. So far just eight West Virginia Power alums have made the jump to the Pirates, though one other player has made the jump to the majors. It took Robbie Grossman 1477 days to go from West Virginia to his debut with the Houston Astros. As for the Gregory Polanco watch, he would have to get called up by June 13, 2014 in order to beat Brandon Cumpton’s record for quickest jump from West Virginia to Pittsburgh.

Baseball Purists, PEDs, and Instant Replay

pur·ist noun ˈpyu̇r-ist\n: a person who has very strong ideas about what is correct or acceptable and who usually opposes changes to traditional methods and practices

If you are a baseball purist the 2014 season is going to shake your core beliefs. On the day that Barry Bonds returned to Pittsburgh to present Andrew McCutchen with the MVP trophy and Ryan Braun took the field to a standing ovation in Milwaukee, Major League Baseball also ushered in expanded instant replay. It is sort of ironic that the battleground in baseball purity took center stage in the city of Pittsburgh. Bonds has become a pariah due to his use of performance enhancing drugs, so much so that the greatest hitter in a generation could only muster 36% of the vote for the Hall of Fame on his first ballot this winter. Pirates’ fans took the first steps in forgiving Bonds for some of his transgressions, but he still has a long way to go before baseball purists will ever forgive him for sullying the game. Personally, I don’t like PEDs in baseball. I want the game to be clean. But I’m not willing to trash all of Bonds’ accomplishments because of PED use. I don’t hate Ryan Braun because he used PEDs. I hate him because he threw an average hard working joe under the bus. Oh, and I also hate him because he plays for the Brewers. But truth be told, if I were a Brewers fan in Milwaukee on Opening Day I would have cheered Braun too.
What should be a bigger travesty than PED use to baseball purists is the use of instant replay. The first instant replay challenge in baseball history took place in Pittsburgh in the 5th inning of Opening Day of the 2014 season when Cubs manager Rick Renteria appealed umpire Bob Davidson’s out call at first base after pitcher Jeff Samardzija bunted into a double play. History will show that Davidson’s call was upheld, and so begins a new era of baseball. I can’t believe I feel this way, but I hate instant replay. I’ve always thought that the injustice of a bad call should never be acceptable in this day and age of advanced video technology. But the more I think about instant replay the more I hate it. I appreciate all of the beautiful flaws that occur during a game. The imperfections of the game is what makes it so perfect. Some of the greatest mistakes in the history of the game are among the greatest moments in the game, and that includes umpiring mistakes. Is it a sports travesty that Don Denkinger blew a call in the 1985 World Series that helped the Royals defeat the Cardinals? Is it a sports travesty that Jim Joyce blew a call that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game? Of course it is, but subtracting these moments from history makes the game a little too perfect for my liking. The umps get the call right 99.8% of the time. I’m ok with the 0.2% of the time the umps get it wrong. Even if it means having to live with this call.


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