Thursday, February 3, 2011

Disillusioned with Baseball America

This is a post that has been a few months in the making it seems. This time of year, many online prospecting sites start to rank the farm systems of the various teams in ML Baseball. I expected that the Pirates would be in the middle of the pack, around 14-16.

Unfortunately, Baseball America ranked them #19 and Keith Law ranked the Pirates #21. The first thing you might be thinking is "Who cares?" Well, the rankings do have some merit during trade talks as some front office folks on receiving sides may underrate the talent level of the Pirates and not find our guys desirous.

It also is just a matter of respect. I'm tired of the Pirates getting kicked around both locally and nationally. I'm tired of this stupid 18 year (and counting) losing streak hanging over this franchise like the Sword of Damacles. I'm tired of seeing comments on pages like Fangraphs and MLB Trade Rumors from other fans just degrading the Pirates over and over based on stereotypical knowledge that "the Pirates never do anything right."

The farm system and the methods taught on the farm have drastically improved under Huntington's watch. There is a system of deliberate promotions and fastball command for pitchers that does not allow for sexy stats. You would think that a national publication with many writers, such as Baseball America, would take these things into consideration.

The kicker for me was the release of the Pirates 11-31 prospects this week. It was a hodge-podge of terrible ideas and ranking methodologies. Guys with upside were left off in favor of low upside guys closer to the majors. The omissions (Cunningham, Holt, Quinton Miller) were as glaring as the inclusions (Aguero, Latimore at 21, Gorkys at 14).

It's the double standard that irks me. For years, Jim Callis has preached "you win with stars" and "I'd rather have 2-3 impact players than a bunch of depth guys". So now the Pirates procure Taillon, Allie, and Heredia within 2 months of each other and the Pirates now get the "they haven't proved anything" label tossed onto them. It's just frustration on my part more than anything.

I also feel that Baseball America's individual writers' biases are seeping into their work more often now, too. John Manuel, who will never pass up an opportunity to slam the Pirates, does the farm system analysis for the Yankees. In his personal Top 50 overall prospects, he put 4 Yankees in the Top 20 (Montero, Gary Sanchez, Bettances, Banuelos). I can see the first two, but Bettances has had injuries and 2010 was his first fully healthy and successful year. Banuelos is a 5-10" lefty who probably doesn't have the stamina necessary to stay a starter. Manuel also writes up the Twins and he habitually overrates the system in general and the players, specifically. Of course he put Aaron Hicks at #34 on his list, even though his production to this point does not warrant it.

I gave up reading Baseball Prospectus a few months ago, too. It started to turn into my college level Differential Equations math course with their never-ending quest to come up with the perfect formula for modelling a completely random game. Fangraphs can get too fanboy-ish and they stare at their own navel, so to speak, with their own internally produced stats. It's also like an echo chamber on that site where there is very little interesting opposing viewpoints.

So where do I turn now? Not sure. I'll probably go back to Baseball America, like a beaten wife going back because "it will be different this time". But I'll just be disappointed again.


  1. From now on, I shall be envisioning all the wags at BA wearing greasy, cigarette ash encrusted, wife-beaters, loudly demanding that you "go make me turkey pot pie!!" with an upraised backhand at the ready.

  2. I just had a pot pie last week for dinner....seriously.