Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Defending Chacon

If that headline doesn't get (negative) attention right away, nothing will.

It's at once logical and amazing what 14 consecutive losing seasons (ok, it's not offically 14 yet, but it's only a week or so away), an admittedly non-forward-thinking GM (or two, if you count Cam Bonifay) and a pinchpenny ownership structure can do for a fan's attitude.

Year after year, almost to a man, everyone thinks "ABC" trade was bad, "XYZ" trade was lousy, and "123" trade was worse than the previous two combined. There's definite truth to the stigma, but quite a bit of that is due to the Pirates being inevitably forced into the selling role. That is, trading players that will help the other team now, while fielding prospects that may help Pittsburgh later. Dave Littlefield often aiming too low or "firing" too late also hinders, but that's a subject for a different day.

Since the trade of Craig Wilson for Shawn Chacon, I've seen nothing but reviews of "I grade this an F-", or "This is the worst trade ever", or "I didn't think it was possible, but Littlefield actually made the team worse."

First, understand that I am not intending to paint Shawn Chacon as a Cy Young winner just waiting to bloom, which many people did when I gave that trade a "C-" last month. He hasn't gone beyond 5 innings in any of his 3 starts in a black and gold uniform, and he's walked 13 in 11.2 innings while giving up almost as many home runs (4) as posting a strikeout (6). His WHIP as a Pirate (2.14) almost makes folks scream in horror as they browse the stat sheet. Take out the shelling he took at Minute Maid Park on August 9, and his whip is "merely" (1.50).

However, it seems most look at that Houston start as what should expected on a regular basis, and that he's been playing with fire in all of his starts and is fortunate to only have been burned once.

I agree with that to an extent. What seems to be ignored is that he has had the ability to make those pitches to get groundball (or otherwise critical) outs. The statistical difference, career-wise, between Chacon and ex-Pirate Kip Wells, is more or less negligible. Hence, in the general shake-up, it wasn't the drastic step down so many vehemently preach. They are certainly correct when they say it did not improve the team to any measurable degree. It doesn't help tha Chacon is "damaged goods", what with a possible meniscus tear in his knee, but those same critics don't believe that a healthy knee is going to make a measurable difference. It's unfortunate that they only need one horrendous start to push the "I told you so" button.

I still consider Jim Colborn to be the X-factor in how Chacon performs in his remaining time with the Pirates. A valid point was made that Dodger teams under his tutelage have led (or been right up there) with the best team ERA during his tenure in Los Angeles simply because they played 81 games at spacious Dodger stadium, in addition to having lights-out closer Eric Gagne.

Home runs have not been the Pirates problem this year. In fact, prior to tonight's game, the Bucs have surrendered the 4th fewest HRs in the league with 122 (if you think that's amazing, consider that the Colorado Rockies have given up the fewest, period with 107...which was also mentioned tonight during the Pirates radio broadcast), so it's not a matter of coming to a ballpark whose dimensions are smaller; it's hits going through the middle, flares dropping in for hits, etc, that might have similarly affected Dodger teams. So, my decision on Jim Colborn's efficiency will have to wait until the next season is underway (if applicable) before I can decide if he's truly a part of the problem, or if it was a matter of banishing the shadow of former pitching coach Spin Williams.

For now, I'll take Chacon as easily as Wells, and he seems to be an improvement over Oliver Perez, despite his own wild tendencies.

And, just for fun, here's how our acquisitions, our cast-offs (and the one guy many fans wanted, but I was only so-so on) have been doing. These stats prior to start of today's games:


I should note that Oliver Perez's latest start in Norfolk resulted in 7 shutout innings with 2 walks and 11 strikeouts against the Charlotte Knights. Keep an eye on him to see if that's the beginning of his turnaround, or if it's one of those rare starts we saw this season that quickly snowballed back into unpredictability.



Anonymous KPatrick said...

to finish what I've started elsewhere... being Kip Wells is setting your bar pretty low. As you acknowledge at the top, without saying so, Chacon pretty much sucks, but is he better or worse than Kip Wells? That's like debating Royals vs. Pirates at this point. Still, you like to think some discernible improvement would have come from all that. Adding Shawn Chacon is like satire.

8/23/2006 11:55 PM  
Blogger Corey & Carson said...

Gotta admit, the Chacon pickup for Craig Wilson sucked

8/25/2006 8:34 PM  
Blogger Steeltown Mike said...

In 2 of 3 starts, while not good, he's been good enough.

What I find annoying is that Chacon's bus didn't even get to Pittsburgh before the entire fan base threw him under it.

Chance for redemption of sorts against the 'stros tomorrow.

8/26/2006 2:03 AM  

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