5 Under-The-Radar Contributors For Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013
5 Unsung Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates are a small market team, so they don’t have the budget to go out and spend top dollar on free agents. The Pirates have to build their team through the draft, international market and with wise trades.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington has taken a ton of criticism in his six seasons with the Bucs; some has been deserved, but the majority of it is unnecessary. I, for one, am a big Huntington fan. He obviously doesn’t have the resources, mainly financially, that other teams have. He also has to try and attract players to come to a team that hasn’t won in 20 years, something that can’t be an easy task.
A truly easy way to judge Huntington’s tenure with the Pirates is to go back a few seasons and look at the roster compared to this season’s roster. It was just a few seasons ago that the Pirates were starting Delwyn Young, Ryan Church and Akinora Iwamura. Another way to judge Huntington, obviously, is to look at the team’s records over the past few seasons. While they probably should have been a playoff team the past two seasons, it can’t be ignored that the Pirates were winning way more games early on in those seasons that they should have. Quite frankly, the 2011 and 2012 versions of the Pirates just weren’t talented enough to hang with the big boys. This season is different for the Bucs, because they have the talent this time. It is a very deep roster, from the superstar Andrew McCutchen all the way to the last bench spot.
Gaby Sanchez takes a lot of criticism from Pirates’ fans, but he really shouldn’t. It’s not his fault that he isn’t being used properly by Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. Sanchez should probably not see as many plate appearances against right-handed pitching as he has, but it’s hard to get enough appearances against southpaws to keep his timing. Against left-handed pitching, Sanchez mashes. In 95 plate appearances versus lefties, Sanchez has an incredible .312/.436/.558 and OPS of .995. His wRC+ of 180 is basically ridiculous and his walk percentage of 17.9 greatly surpasses his 11.6 strikeout percentage. To put it simply, Sanchez would probably be an MVP favorite if he didn’t have to face right-handed pitching.
Jordy Mercer spent some time in the minor leagues this season but has spent the majority of the season with the Pirates. He eventually took over the starting shortstop job, sending veteran Clint Barmes to the bench. Mercer doesn’t get a lot of attention, but he really should. Batting a lot of times in the second spot in the lineup, especially when Neil Walker was injured, Mercer has been a big part of the Pirates’ success. Lately, Mercer has been batting in the seventh spot in the lineup, making it an even deeper lineup than it had been. Mercer’s overall line of .273/.325/.399 isn’t great, but against lefties, he’s much better. Against southpaws, Mercer has a line of .389/.443/.648 with a wRC+ of 204 and a 1.091 OPS. He’s basically the greatest hitter of all time against lefties, except for it’s a small sample size.
Jeanmar Gomez is basically playing the role this season of the do-everything man. He has made eight starts and made 16 relief appearances. In 65.1 innings, Gomez has a 3.44 ERA and a 3.93 FIP. While he hasn’t been the second coming of Cy Young, he has eaten up a bunch of quality innings for the Pirates in 2013.
Much like Jeanmar Gomez, Vin Mazzaro has done much better this season than anyone could have expected based on his mediocre career prior to 2013. In 58 relief innings, Mazzaro has a 2.48 ERA and 3.49 FIP. Based on his low strikeout totals and his high strand rate he is due for some regression, but he won’t turn into a terrible reliever, just a more average one.
Jose Tabata has fallen out of favor with the majority of the Pirates’ fan base due to the impression of him being lazy. Last season wasn’t Tabata’s best, but he came into this season in better shape and with a better mindset. While his numbers still aren’t ideal, he has been a nice bat off the bench and in right field all season. His average isn’t great, but his ability to have good plate appearances and draw walks makes up for that with his .351 on-base percentage. His 9.5 walk percentage is actually one of the better percentages on the Pirates’ roster, and for someone who would ideally be the fourth outfielder, his .274/.351/.419 slash line is impressive.