Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Category – HV Prophecies

Hidden Vigorish Prophecies for 2014: Season Outlook and Predictions

I had planned on writing up a very long and thorough post to preview the Pirates’ 2014 season. It was going to be full of sabermetric projections and all sorts of goodies for just about every player on the roster that I have not yet profiled. Unfortunately, I had a family emergency this weekend and didn’t have the time to get to it. But I still want to put some of my thoughts on the blog before the season starts. This will be a little scattered and not as thorough as I want, but it will be here for posterity.


Starting Rotation: I like rotation with the exception of Edinson Volquez. I think Volquez is going to be an utter failure. I think he’ll be cut before the all-star break. There a lot of amateur sabermetric hacks that point to Volquez’s 4.07 xFIP as reason to be hopeful that he can rebound. What they fail to mention is that Volquez often under pitches his xFIP. His career ERA is 0.58 higher than his career xFIP in 850 innings. That is no small sample. The lack of a proven innings eater in the rotation is worrisome, but the Pirates do have plenty of depth to cover for that. I expect Gerrit Cole to be one of the top 20 pitchers in the league. I think Charlie Morton is going to have the best year of his career. Francisco Liriano is likely to regress some, but I fully expect he will still be an asset in the rotation. Wandy Rodriguez is the wild card. If he can stay healthy and return to form this could be an excellent rotation. Wandy’s spring training performance was promising.
Bullpen: Last season the Pirates had one of the best bullpens in the league. Little has changed with that group of arms. Vin Mazzaro is out and Stolmy Pimentel is in. Bullpens are highly volatile from year to year. I do fear some regression is going to bite the Bucs’ bullpen this season. I’m also concerned that Jason Grilli might not regain the velocity or the effectiveness he lost after straining his elbow last July. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if manager Clint Hurdle has to turn to multiple closers. This is just a hunch, but by the end of the year I have a funny feeling that Tony Watson will be the guy being leaned on to finish games.
Outfield: Any group that has CF Andrew McCutchen is going to be good. Pair him with LF Starling Marte and you have one of the best in the league. The only question is RF, and when Gregory Polanco gets called up the Pirates’ outfield could be one of the best that baseball has seen in more than a decade. Until Polanco arrives Travis Snider and Jose Tabata will split time in RF. Both are often injured. Both have failed to live up to expectations. Both could still be key contributors. I think Travis Snider might be ready to take the leap forward. He seems like the more motivated player of the two.
Infield: Let’s get the dark spot of this team out of the way quickly. 1B is an obvious hole. Gaby Sanchez is a quality alternative against southpaws. The options against right-handed pitching is just bad. Travis Ishikawa is not a long term answer. He better get off to a hot start or he won’t be here long. I think the team will give Andrew Lambo another shot as soon as he strings together a good week of hitting at Indianapolis. Not that I think Lambo is much of an answer either. I expect him to flop too. GM Neal Huntington better be active at the trade deadline to fix this problem. The rest of the infield looks solid. Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker are both top 10 players at their positions. Both have had issues hitting against left-handed pitching. Last season they posted an OPS of under .600 against southpaws. I think they will improve those numbers a bit this year. They have to or they will end up losing playing time. Jordy Mercer could put up the best offensive season from a Pirates’ shortstop since Jack Wilson won the Silver Slugger award in 2004. The question with Mercer is can he play adequate defense at SS over a full season? I think he will be acceptable. He better be because this pitching staff knows how to roll ground balls.
Catchers: Catching is another strength for this team. Russell Martin is an elite defensive catcher and an excellent pitch framer. He earns his money just by what he does behind the dish, though he is no slouch in the batters’ box either. He is by far the Pirates’ most selective hitter. I do believe Martin may regress some this season. He is on the wrong side of 30 and has caught more than 1000 big league games. That tells you his career is on the backside of the mountain. Hopefully there is no cliff there yet. I hope Hurdle gives him more rest this season. I would limit him to 100 starts. Tony Sanchez is the backup for the time being while Chris Stewart recovers from a knee injury. Sanchez could play Stewart right off the roster.
Prediction: Record of 86-76. Second place in the NL Central behind the Cardinals. I have a bad feeling they are going to fall a game or two short of the final wild card spot.

Hidden Vigorish Prophecies for 2014: Charlie Morton

Charlie Morton‘s career thus far has been a series of fits and starts. It took him almost 4 years to find any kind of sustained success. A revamped delivery led to what appeared to be a breakthrough season in 2011. But then the dreaded UCL tear to the elbow and Tommy John Surgery in early 2012 followed. Give the Pirates some credit here. They refused to give up on the guy. Despite the injury they resigned Morton last offseason with the hopes he could rehab the injury and help the team by midseason. It worked out exactly as planned. Morton returned in June of 2013 and gave the Pirates’ rotation a lift that it desperately needed while A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez were on the shelf due to injuries. Morton was stellar in August and September. For the season he posted a 7-4 record in 20 starts with a very solid 3.26 ERA. The Pirates rewarded Morton in December with a 3 year contract extension worth $20 million.
Charlie Morton has evolved into an extreme ground ball pitcher over the last three seasons. He leads all starting pitchers in that time with a 59.6% ground ball rate. He has earned the nickname “Ground Chuck”. Charlie is a perfect fit to pitch in front of a Pirates defense that implements a lot of infield over shifts. So adept at generating ground balls is Morton that it even influences the makeup of the Pirates’ lineup on the days he starts. When Ground Chuck is on the hill SS Jordy Mercer tends to sit in favor of Clint Barmes, a superior defender but much lesser hitter.
There are two issues I’m concerned about with Charlie Morton. First is durability. The Pirates really could use an innings eater, but Morton does not appear to be that guy. Only once has he thrown more than 160 innings in a season. He doesn’t go deep into games either. In his career he has averaged just 89 pitches per start and has exceeded 100 pitches in only 22% of his outings. The second problem with Morton is his struggles against left-handed hitters. Lefties have mashed him to the tune of an .907 OPS over his career, though he did makes some strides in that department last year. Morton lacks an out pitch against lefties. He must pitch inside against to lefties to have any chance of backing them off of his sinker. Last year Morton led the league with 16 hit batters. 13 of those HBPs were against left-handed hitters, so it appears Morton has developed the willingness to attack the inner half of the plate that is needed for him to be successful against southpaw hitters.
Perhaps 2013 was the year Morton turned the corner. Maybe now we will see a more consistent Ground Chuck, one that can be respectable against lefties and pitch into the 7th inning more frequently. The Pirates are going to need that from Morton to get a return on their investment. If Morton pitches as well as he did last year the extension the Pirates gave him will end up being a great bargain.

Without further ado, here are the projected stats I am using as inputs for Wahoo’s on First Simple WAR Calculator For Pitchers to estimate the 2014 WAR for Charlie Morton:

Innings – 178
ERA/FIP/xFIP – 3.71
K/9 – 6.30
BB/9 – 3.00

Note: Using League ERA adjusted for Park Factors of 3.80

And the verdict for Charlie Morton’s 2014 WAR is… 2.7

Hidden Vigorish Prophecies For 2014: Gerrit Cole

The story of Gerrit Cole‘s 2013 rookie season was a tale of two pitchers. From his call up in June through the end of August, Cole was a reliable starting pitcher but failed to dominate hitters. Although he had trouble putting hitters away, the Pirates could count on Cole to go 6 innings and keep them in games. Cole basically pitched like a good number 4 starter. Most people are thrilled when a 22 year old rookie steps in and solidifies the back end of a rotation like Cole did during the summer months of 2013. But most rookie pitchers do not come with the expectations and pedigree of Gerrit Cole. Some fans and media expressed disappointment with his early results. Things changed quickly in September. An increased usage and refinement of his curveball, perhaps with a little help from A.J. Burnett, turned Cole into an ace. Did Burnett really make a big impact on Gerrit Cole? Cole seems to things so.

“I think my second day up here (A.J. Burnett) got a hold of me and started talking to me about it,” Cole said. “I don’t have quite as big of hands as he does I can’t really get around it as much as he can, but I try to copy (the knuckle-curve grip) as much as I can.”

Regardless of how it happened, the new weapon in Cole’s arsenal gave him a much needed lower velocity pitch to complement his repertoire of hard stuff. The results were devastating. Cole’s strikeout rate increased by a whopping 50% in September. He posted a 4-0 record and 1.69 ERA for the month to help lead the Pirates into the playoffs. He continued his dominance in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Cardinals. The young phenom had arrived.
2014 will bring all new challenges. Cole will enter the season as the Pirates’ undisputed staff ace. Those are lofty expectations for a pitcher that has made just 19 major league starts. I see very little reason to believe Cole won’t meet those expectations. His stuff is spectacular. He led all starting pitchers last year with an average fastball velocity of 95.6 mph. His off speed pitches are plus offerings. Cole is built to be a workhorse. He is solidly put together and has clean and efficient mechanics. There is no question in my mind that he could work 230+ innings a season year after year. The only reason I’m projecting a lighter workload in 2014 is because I believe the Pirates won’t ramp him up quite that high this early in his career. The concern is understandable. This is the most important pitcher that has come through the Pirates’ farm system in my life time. The team will want to protect their asset.
The one area where Cole will need to improve is getting settled earlier in games. First innings were rough for him in 2013. His first inning ERA was 5.68. That needs to get better. However, this isn’t an issue unique to Gerrit Cole. Many ace pitchers struggle in the first frame. Adam Wainwright, Justin Verlander, and Yu Darvish are all noted for their first inning struggles.
I believe Cole will continue to make solid strides and grow into his role as an ace in 2014. I think we are still a few years away from seeing Cole as a CY Young contender at the top of his game, but he is getting there. 2014 should be the first of several years that Cole will anchor the Pirates’ rotation.

Without further ado, here are the projected stats I am using as inputs for Wahoo’s on First Simple WAR Calculator For Pitchers to estimate the 2014 WAR for Gerrit Cole:

Innings – 196
ERA/FIP/xFIP – 3.21
K/9 – 8.25
BB/9 – 2.5

Note: Using League ERA adjusted for Park Factors of 3.80

And the verdict for Gerrit Cole 2014 WAR is… 4.4

Hidden Vigorish Prophecies For 2014: Neil Walker

The switch hitting Neil Walker has been one of the more consistent performers the Pirates have had in recent years. Over the past three seasons he has posted fWARs of 2.6 in 2011, 2.6 in 2012, and 2.7 in 2013. Not surprisingly the 2014 projection models for Walker vary little. ZiPS estimates Walker with a 2.9 WAR in 2014, while Steamer and Oliver have him pegged for 3.0 and 3.1.
With Neil Walker what you see is what you get. He is a solid player that does nothing exceptionally well, but has few holes in his game. His BB% and K% rates are better than league average and have been very stable from year to year. He has more power than a typical 2B, but not enough to fit in the heart of the order. His base running is average. His defense is average. Being average at so many things is what actually makes him an above average 2B. There just aren’t many second basemen with a well rounded set of skills, especially offensive skills. Matt Carpenter and Chase Utley were the only NL second basemen in 2013 that had a higher Weight Runs Created (wRC+) than Neil Walker. One of the few legitimate knocks on Walker is his increasing struggles to hit from the right side. His OPS against left handed pitchers has fallen in each of his four major league seasons. Last year he posted just a .518 OPS vs. southpaws. In 2013 those struggles finally began to cost him starts. Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison both excel against left handed pitching and are legitimate platoon options at second base.
Because Walker has a track record of steady performance he is one of the easiest players to project. I believe he will play slightly better than last season. His BABIP took a significant tumble in 2013. Last year he posted a .274 BABIP which is quite a bit lower than his .312 career BABIP. I expect that to rebound in 2014. However, I do suspect his power numbers will dip. Last year he posted a career best .167 ISO. Most hitters begin seeing big declines in ISO after age 28. The toughest thing to predict with Walker just might be how much he ends up playing. Will manager Clint Hurdle platoon him more in 2014? And can Walker stay healthy? He has a history of back troubles.
Without further ado, here are the final estimations I’m using as inputs for Wahoo’s on First WAR Calculator to estimate the 2014 WAR for Neil Walker:

AVG – .276
OBP – .343
SLG – .425
Plate Appearances – 585
Games – 140
Position – 2B
Defense – 4 (average)
Base Running – 3 (average)

And the verdict for Neil Walker 2014 WAR is… 3.2

Hidden Vigorish Prophecies for 2014: Gaby Sanchez

Gaby Sanchez will enter the 2014 season firmly entrenched as the right handed hitter in the Pirates first base platoon. This is the same role he has occupied since the Pirates acquired him in July of 2012 from the Miami Marlins. Sanchez is well suited for this rule. In his career he has mashed left handed pitchers to the tune of an .895 OPS. Last year Sanchez beat up on southpaws even more, posting an .987 OPS. But there is a reason Sanchez is a platoon player and not a full time 1B. As good as Gaby is against left handers, he is almost equally as bad against right handed pitching. His career OPS against righties is just .700. For a 1B that is downright terrible.
Unfortunately, Gaby Sanchez’s ability to hit left handed pitching is providing diminishing returns for the Pirates because they face so few left handed starting pitchers. Last year the Bucs faced a left handed starter just 31 times. That was by far the lowest total in the league. 79.1% of all the Pirates’ plate appearances in 2013 were against right handed pitching. The league wide average was 71.2%. Gaby is terrific in the short side of a platoon, but the Pirates have the shortest short side of a platoon of any team in the league. It is not about to get any better in 2014 either. Tony Cingrani, Travis Wood, and perhaps Jaime Garcia are the only left handed starters of note the Pirates will face in the division. This wouldn’t be so concerning if manager Clint Hurdle did a better job of shielding Sanchez from right handed pitchers, but Hurdle allowed Sanchez way too many ABs last year against righties. Without a proven hitter opposite of Sanchez in the 1B platoon, I expect he’ll face even more righties this season. Unless the Pirates can work out a deal for Ike Davis or Justin Smoak, it appears Andrew Lambo will get the opportunity to occupy the left handed 1B platoon role. If Lambo struggles, Plan B will probably consist of Gaby Sanchez playing every day. I do believe Gaby Sanchez is going to get a few more ABs against right handers in 2014. I also believe he won’t rake against southpaws quite as well as he did in 2013. I expect his platoon splits against lefties to line up more with his career averages. For these reasons I feel Sanchez will be less productive offensively in 2014.
Defensively Gaby Sanchez is normally quite good. However, last year his advanced metrics dipped considerably. For the first time in his career he had a negative Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). I’m not ready to call that a trend. I believe in 2014 he’ll return to being a slightly above average defender. Sanchez doesn’t offer much on the base paths. He has little speed but he does avoid TOOTBLANS. I rate him as a slightly below average base runner.

Without further ado, here are the final estimations I’m using as inputs for Wahoo’s on First WAR Calculator to estimate the 2014 WAR for Gaby Sanchez:

AVG – .251
OBP – .345
SLG – .409
Plate Appearances – 350
Games – 135
Position – 1B
Defense – 3 (slightly above average)
Base Running – 4 (slightly blow average)

And the verdict for Gaby Sanchez 2014 WAR is… 0.6

Hidden Vigorish Prophecies for 2014: Pedro Alvarez

Pedro Alvarez is a lightening rod for Pirate fans. From the very beginning of his career the expectations for Pedro were enormous. Not since Barry Bonds had the Pirates drafted a hitter with the pedigree of Pedro Alavrez when they selected him as the second overall pick of the 2008 draft. As a Scott Boras client Pedro was expected to command a large draft signing bonus. In previous years the Pirates had avoided drafting such players. Pedro was billed as the next great power hitter. Many believe Pedro is still destined to become that.

In some respects Pedro Alavarez has become an elite power hitter. At the very least he has shown elite power. Last year he tied Paul Goldschmidt for the NL lead with 36 home runs. This after clubbing 33 home runs in 2012. Unfortunately, Pedro has proven to do little else well at the plate. He doesn’t draw many walks and he strikes out a lot. But that only fuels the believe that he is on the verge of breaking out. He is just now entering his prime. Next season he will only be 27 years old.

The problem with this line of thinking is that Pedro is the type of hitter that typically peaks earlier than most hitters. Bill James dubbed this as “Old Player Skills”. James stated, “young players with old player’s skills…tend to peak early and fade away earlier than other players”. SaberBucs.com pointed this out by showing that Pedro’s ten most statistically comparable players did not have great age 27 seasons and typically began to decline soon afterwards.
I put less stock in comparables than Saber Bucs does, but there is still plenty of evidence to suggest Pedro doesn’t have much upside remaining. Fangraphs.com has done some great work in recent years on aging curves of various skills. Isolated Power (ISO) has been proven to peak much earlier than expected. If Pedro were to follow this aging curve we should expect his power will begin to diminish now.
What is Pedro without his power? His improvement in offensive productivity has been solely fueled by his power increase. His plate discipline has shown no improvements. He continues to strike out 30% of the time. Last year he posted just a 7.8% walk rate. That was the lowest rate of his career. He has increased the percentage of pitches outside the strike zone that he swings at every season in his career. This defies how most hitters age. Generally as hitters age plate discipline improves.
There are two reasons to be somewhat bullish on the potential for Pedro’s offensive productivity in 2014. His HR/FB rates have been exceptional the past two seasons. Last season 26.3% of the fly balls Pedro hit cleared the fences. Only Chris Davis had a higher HR/FB rate. Meanwhile the percentage of fly balls that Pedro has been hitting is steadily increasing. Last season his FB% was a career high 36.4%. Given Pedro’s high HR/FB rate, lifting more balls could mean quite a few more home runs. Chris Davis had a very similar HR/FB and K% to Pedro, yet Davis clubbed 17 more homers simply because he is an extreme fly ball hitter. Pedro won’t get his FB% up to the 45.7% that Chris Davis posted in 2013. But if Pedro can raise his FB% to 40% he very likely would break the 40 homer barrier. The second reason to be hopeful of a better Pedro is his playoff performance and September splits indicated there was a more patient hitter somewhere in that big body. During September he struck out just 21.4% of the time. That was the lowest K% for any month in his career. A small sample size for sure, but a positive sign nonetheless. For these reasons I think Pedro will out perform most of his offensive sabermetric projections, albeit only slightly. I do think this will be the best season of Pedro’s career. I just don’t think it will be that much better than his previous two seasons.

The rest of Pedro’s game should be relatively stable. He made great strides defensively in 2013. For the first time in his career he was on the plus side for Defensive Runs Saved. He still makes a ton of errors, but he makes up for that with some surprisingly good range. I rate him average defensively and I think that will continue to be true in 2014. The same could be said for his base running skills. He doesn’t have the wheels to swipe bags but the advanced metrics show he has actually evolved into a savvy base runner.

Without further ado, here are the final estimations I’m using as inputs for Wahoo’s on First WAR Calculator to estimate the 2014 WAR for Pedro Alvarez:

AVG – .247
OBP – .323
SLG – .484
Plate Appearances – 600
Games – 150
Position – 3B
Defense – 4 (average)
Base Running – 3 (average)

And the verdict for Pedro Alvarez 2014 WAR is… 3.9

Hidden Vigorish Prophecies for 2014: Starling Marte

Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle penciled Starling Marte into the lineup as the everyday left fielder and leadoff hitter from Day 1 of the 2013 season despite some rather vocal criticisms concerning his plate discipline. Marte has the type of speed and ability to make things happen on the base paths that teams covet in a leadoff hitter, but he also had K% and BB% rates throughout his minor league career that are downright terrible for the leadoff role. Marte turned out to be a tremendous asset to the Pirates in 2013. His 4.6 WAR was second highest on the team, and that was despite missing a month of the season with a sprained wrist. Only Andrew McCutchen was a more valuable player for the Pirates last season. Advanced defensive metrics showed Starling Marte to be the best LF in baseball. His 20.1 UZR/150 was tops among all qualified left fielders. On the base paths he did not disappoint. He posted the 7th highest total in the league for all players in Base Running Runs Above Avg (BsR).

You would think that the terrific season Starling Marte had in 2013 would have silenced his critics, but in some ways his play only caused the criticism to grow louder. Digging further into his stats you will see why. Marte had a solid .343 OBP. Two factors helped lift Marte’s OBP to an acceptable level for a leadoff hitter. First, when he did put the ball in play he was reaching base at a healthy clip. His .363 BABIP was 8th best in baseball among all qualified hitters. Secondly, he was getting hit with a lot of pitches. Marte had 24 HBPs in 2013 which was the second highest total in baseball. If not for all the HBPs his OBP would have been 30 points lower. Marte drew just one more BB than HBP last year.
Starling Marte’s critics will argue that his high BABIP and HBP totals makes him a regression candidate for 2014. They have a point concerning his hit by pitch totals. In a previous post I detailed how 83% of Marte’s HBPs came in two strike counts. That won’t continue. Pitchers are going to adjust. They will stop coming inside on Marte when they have him in a two strike hole. I believe his HBP totals will be cut in half in 2014. I disagree that his BABIP will fall significantly. Marte’s greatest asset is his legs. He gets down the line in a hurry. When Marte does put the ball in play he does so in a manner that complements his skills. 50.8% of the time he put the ball in play last season it was a ground ball, and a very healthy 9.9% of those ground balls went for infield hits. Other hitters have proven that BABIP can sometimes be stable. Shin-Soo Choo has a career .350 BABIP. Choo’s lowest career BABIP was still a robust .317. Austin Jackson has a .361 career BABIP and has posted four straight seasons of .333 or higher. Marte has higher ground ball rates than either of those hitters. Marte’s BABIP may fall a little, but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t at least .340. I do feel that unless Marte learns to take more walks his OBP is going to drop at least 15 points in 2014.
I expect the rest of Starling Marte’s game to be relatively stable. He potentially could add some power. If so it would likely come at the cost of an increase in fly balls hit. For a right handed hitter that plays half of his games in PNC Park that would not be a good thing, especially for a player with the wheels that Marte possesses. His defense will remain elite. As good as Marte was on the bases last year he could be even better if he was just a little more successful stealing bases. Last year his success rate was just 73%. That is basically league average. If Marte can stay healthy and get his success rate up to around 80% he could easily steal 60+ bases next season.

Without further ado, here are the final estimations I’m using as inputs for Wahoo’s on First WAR Calculator to estimate the 2014 WAR for Starling Marte:

OBP – .327
SLG – .448
Plate Appearances – 630
Games – 152
Position – LF
Defense – 1 (elite)
Base Running – 1 (elite)

And the verdict for Starling Marte 2014 WAR is… 4.7

Hidden Vigorish Prophecies for 2014: Jordy Mercer

2013 was a breakout year for Pirate SS Jordy Mercer. After a hot start to his age 26 season at AAA Indianapolis he earned a promotion to the majors in early May and never looked back. By mid-June Mercer had wrestled away the majority of the playing time at shortstop from Clint Barmes. It is safe to say that Jordy Mercer is now an established major league baseball player. For the first time in his career he is a lock to make the roster when the Pirates break from Spring Training. His role will be expanded in 2014. The Pirates did retain Barmes but they did so with the understanding he would have a lesser role. It is clear the Pirates intend to give Mercer the bulk of the playing time in 2014.

I don’t think people realize how good Jordy Mercer really was offensively in 2013. Only four other shortstops in team history had a greater wRC+ than the 113 that Mercer posted last season (minimum 350 plate appearances). Dick Groat did it once. Groat had a 116 wRC+ in 1960 and won the NL MVP that season. Jay Bell did it twice. The others were Hall of Famers Honus Wagner (14 times) and Arky Vaughan (10 times). That is some prestigious company. Mercer’s .772 OPS in 2013 ranked 8th among all shortstops in the league, just after Stephen Drew and before Jean Segura.

The question is can Jordy Mercer reproduce the same sort of offensive production in an expanded role in 2014? I’m skeptical. I think some regression is due. Mercer really padded his stats by destroying left handed pitching. In 89 plate appearances against southpaws Mercer posted a triple slash line of .410/.460/.692. That is a whopping 1.152 OPS against left handed pitching. Against right handed pitching he posted a modest .654 OPS. Nothing from Mercer’s minor league history suggests he can continue to dominate left handed pitching like that. His highest OPS in the minors vs. left handed pitching was in 2011 when splitting time between AA Altoona and AAA Indianapolis he posted a lefty/righty OPS split of .892/.710. The lefty/righty OPS splits for his entire minor league career is just .729/.673. Mercer really has two things working against him. The numbers he posted against left handed pitching last season are unsustainable while no evidence exists that he has a particularly high ceiling against right handed pitching. And the Pirates see an awful lot of right handed pitching. Last season they faced a league low 31 left handed starting pitchers. Because of this I’m predicting Mercer will regress to a triple slash line of .263/.318/.407

The good news for Pirate fans is that Jordy Mercer performed so good with the bat last season that he has some room for regression and can still be a productive SS. A .725 OPS isn’t terrible for a major league SS. That is right around middle of the pack offensive production. If Jordy Mercer can improve the other parts of his game he would still be a very valuable SS. Mercer was a below average defensive SS last season. His UZR/150 was just -9.4. Some improvement in this area of his game would compensate for some loss in offensive production. Mercer’s defensive deficiencies are one of the main reasons that Clint Barmes was retained. Barmes is a plus defender. Because the Pirates employ a ground ball heavy pitching staff, defensive play carries more significance. If Mercer continues to struggle defensively it will eat into some of his playing time, especially if his bat regresses. I do believe Mercer is a better defender than his 2013 advanced metrics showed. I think he will improve with the glove in 2014 and be close to a league average defensive shortstop.
Without further ado, here are the final estimations I’m using as inputs for Wahoo’s on First WAR Calculator to estimate the 2014 WAR for Jordy Mercer:

OBP – .318
SLG – .407
Plate Appearances – 510
Games – 130
Position – SS
Defense – 4 (league avg)
Base Running – 3 (league avg)

And the verdict for Jordy Mercer 2014 WAR is… 2.5

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