Found November 03, 2011 on isportsweb.com:

Read my review on the Top 5 Positives here.

#5  The run of contention until early August

Image credit timesunion

In the end, the 2011 Pirates weren’t much better than any of the previous 18 teams before them.  But they’ll be treated like they were during the offseason, and only minimal improvements will be made to a club that could be one of the worst in the league come 2012.

Plus, GM Neal Huntington parlayed 2011 into a complete overkill of a 4-year contract extension.  The only reason I’m not giving that it’s own place on the list is because it’s doubtful he even survives 50% of it.

#4  Losing Ryan Doumit and Paul Maholm for nothing

I h.a.t.e. the way this offseason has begun already.  Despite having few options in the rotation, and SP Paul Maholm posting a 3.66 ERA in 2011, the Pirates balked at the 29-year old lefty’s $9.75MM option for 2012.  Is that a lot of money for Paul Maholm?  Perhaps.  But he should get every bit of that and more on the open market.  The Pirates will be forced to sign a free agent SP that isn’t nearly as adequate, for at least half of the money.

But dropping 2 reasonable option years for C Ryan Doumit is infuriating.  Despite battling his constant nemesis of fluke injuries, Doumit hit .303 with an .830 OPS in 2011.  That was good for a 128 OPS+ among catchers.  Doumit’s 2 option years averaged $7.75 MM, which is exceptional for an above-average offensive backstop.

The Pirates lost 2 of the better Major Leaguers on the club for nothing, and it’s unlikely they’ll be able to find replaceable players to fill those roles in 2012.

#3  Missing Big Opportunities at the Trade Deadline

Image credit bleacherreport

Despite July 31, 2011 being one of the best sellers markets in recent history,  Huntington held tightly to Doumit, Maholm, and prized closer Joel Hanrahan, while only half-heartedly trying to upgrade the club with aging veterans Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick.  (In fairness to Lee, he did quite well when he wasn’t injured.)

It was a missed opportunity.  The Pirates dropped quickly in the standings, and the Pirates lost Maholm and Doumit for nothing as soon as the offseason began.  While Hanrahan could be moved in the next few months, it’s unlikely a team would overpay when they have 1) lots of time  2) a wider variety of trade partners  than were present in July, 2011.

Instead of having a handful of exciting prospects to pencil in over the next few seasons, the Pirates have Hanrahan…and not much else.

#2  Much Hyped Prospects Struggling

The current regime is hanging all of their hats on a supposedly “stockpiled” minor league system.  But in 2011, some of it was more “pile” than anything.  C Tony Sanchez made national headlines for the wrong reasons early in the season, Tweeting about some blown umpire calls that landed him in hot water with the organization.  His defense declined, he threw out less opposing base stealers, and he ended 2011 with an abysmal .658 OPS at AA Altoona.

SP Stetson Allie, the 2nd round steal of the 2010 draft, began his professional career with the thud of a 6.58 ERA at Short-Season Rookie League State College.  Despite a “B” grade from John Sickels after a strong 2010 season at AA Altoona, SP Rudy Owens’s AAA ERA balooned to 5.05, while his K/9 dropped by over 2.0.  And that was still lower than SP Zach Von Rosenberg’s 5.73 ERA at single-A West Virginia, while SP Bryan Morris- the last remnant of the failed Jason Bay trade- was finally moved to the bullpen for good, as was former SP Tim Alderson.

Not a good year overall, for an organization almost solely dependent on the minor leagues.  And now, the #1 biggest negative of the 2011 season is…

#1  Pedro. Alvarez. Bombs.

In the span of less than a season, Pedro Alvarez’s future projection dropped from elite-level 3B and perennial All-Star…to a complete question mark.  And a chubby one at that.  Nothing went right for the 2nd overall pick in 2008.  Despite the Pirates denying it, most fans thought Alvarez showed up to Spring Training fat and out of shape.  He quickly suffered what could’ve been a conditioning-related injury early in the season, missed far more time than expected, lingered on a minor league rehab assignment until his numbers started to decline there as well, then never got it going upon finally being recalled in August.

His 2011 statline?  An abomination.  .191 BA, .272 OBP, 4 HR, .561 OPS.

Prior to 2011, any future projection of a competitive Pirates team always involved Alvarez blossoming as a legit middle of the order bat.  Not anymore.  While 1 bad season may not damn a player- especially at the young age of 24- it’s raised all kinds of questions around 1 of 2 lineup “locks” the Pirates were supposed to have.

Thanks for reading.  Look for more updates throughout the offseason!

THE BACKYARD
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