ShareThis Page
Pirates

Starting 9: Pirates rewarded for smart evaluations

| Saturday, May 30, 2015, 8:27 p.m.

Fear factor

1. The industry should start paying closer attention to Clay Davenport's statistical translations of how foreign professional league statistics translate to major league production. Consider the Davenport Translations for three recent foreign pro players to be the first, or one of the first, to migrate from their respective leagues to the majors. Here is a look at their Davenport Translation of OPS in their final foreign pro season followed by their OPS in the first MLB season:

Player Daven. Trans. MLB OPS

Yoenis Cespedes .827 .796

Jose Abreu 1.106 .964

Jung Ho Kang .856 .828 (Friday)

2. The translations speak to the fact perhaps the fear of the unknown is something for a front office to take advantage of. Cespedes and Abreu were two of the first professional hitters from Cuba to jump to the majors, and both are undervalued in their first contracts. Now Kang looks to be undervalued, signed to a four-year, $11 million deal as the first Korean Baseball Organization hitter in the majors.

3. Of course, traditional scouting played a role in the signing of Kang. The Pirates sent multiple scouts for multiple looks at Kang in South Korea, not only to see the bat and glove in person but also to get a feel for his personality. C.J. Nitkowski, who played against Kang in the KBO, told the New York Times that Kang has an “alpha male” personality. Kang has shown little fear to date. He gobbled up a one-hop grounder from Giancarlo Stanton on Wednesday, said earlier this season he wanted to face Aroldis Chapman and Thursday, in his first major league game televised in South Korea, launched a 450-foot homer in San Diego. Kang's story is perhaps a success story of blending traditional and analytical scouting.

Revising the 2011 draft

4. Speaking of smart player evaluation, perhaps there should be a greater appreciation of the process that led to Gerrit Cole being selected No. 1 overall in 2011.

5. Some sabermetric types liked Cole's UCLA teammate Trevor Bauer — selected third overall — to Cole because of his superior college production. But Greg Smith, who then ran the draft for the Pirates, believes baseball is a “big man's game” and preferred Cole. One evaluator told BaseballProspectus.com that prep pitching prospect Dylan Bundy was the top talent in the draft. Bundy since has had Tommy John surgery. The No. 2 overall pick, Danny Hultzen, had a significant shoulder injury. Some pegged prep outfielder Bubba Starling as the top athlete in the draft. Starling, the fifth overall pick, has struggled in the minors. And while Francisco Lindor might end up being an elite shortstop for Cleveland, he would not impact the 2015 season like Cole.

6. While the Pirates have made some mistakes in the draft, the club deserves credit for making the proper evaluation with the most important pick of the Neal Huntington Era. The Pirates cannot, or will not, pay free agent aces. They have to draft and develop them.

Cy Cole?

7. In Cole's first two seasons, the right-hander produced two so-so first halves and then authored two excellent second halves. The question this year was whether Cole could take the lessons from his first two years — how to better maintain his shoulder health (see: 2014 disabled list trip), how to incorporate velocity separation from his fastball (see: 2013 September strikeout surge with addition of curveball) — and put together a complete season? Cole has demonstrated better feel for his breaking pitches this season. “I feel I can command at least two pitches every time I go out, and that's been a separator,” Cole said. Health might be another separator as Cole has adopted a more disciplined shoulder strengthening regimen. His average fastball velocity is up a tick to 95.6 mph. “It's a managing-the-throttle thing,” Cole said. “It's understanding where you are in the season and what you have to do for the next start.”

8. According to Fielding Independent Pitching, there's been only one NL pitcher better than Cole (2.56) throughout the first two months of the season, and that's Jake Arrieta (2.39). Cole is averaging a career-best 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings and a career-low 1.9 walks per nine. The Pirates have just two Cy Young winners: Doug Drabek in 1990 and Vern Law in 1960. Maybe Cole will be the third.

Can't vote for A.J.

9. Fans cannot vote on All-Star pitchers, but it's interesting that A.J. Burnett never has been on an All-Star team. That might change in July.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me