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Stats Corner: Status quo in right field hurts Pirates' playoff chances

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By David Golebiewski
Saturday, May 3, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Pirates are fading fast in the NL Central standings, entering play Saturday 9 12 games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. Their odds of making the playoffs, per Fangraphs, have dwindled to 12 percent.

The right field tandem of Jose Tabata and Travis Snider — both barely slugging .300 and playing clunky defense — is a major reason for the Bucs' wretched start. Top prospect Gregory Polanco, meanwhile, is going Godzilla on the Triple-A International League (slugging .631) and possesses a center fielder's range and base-running prowess.

Promoting Polanco to the majors now would ultimately lead to bigger pay days during his arbitration-eligible seasons, and the 22-year-old has all of 122 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. But while the Pirates must consider Polanco's long-term cost and development, they must also confront a more pressing concern: every day he remains in the minors, their odds of returning to the postseason diminish.

The Pirates rank 12th in the majors in right field Wins Above Replacement, which measures a player's offensive, defensive, and base running value compared to a Triple-A-caliber talent. Only the Cardinals, Cubs and Mets have received less production from the position once manned by Roberto Clemente, Paul Waner and Dave Parker.

Not all right in right

Team WAR from RF

Cubs -0.9

Cardinals -0.8

Mets -0.4

Pirates -0.3

Diamondbacks -0.3

Tabata and Snider likely will remain drags on the Pirates' playoff hopes, according to the Oliver projection system on Fangraphs. Tabata is projected for 1.2 WAR during the rest of the season if he gets regular playing time, and Snider is forecast as replacement-level (zero WAR). Polanco? He's projected to add 4.2 WAR — if he gets the chance.

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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