How beneficial will the Pirates acquisition of Justin Morneau be as the MLB season rolls on? When I first heard of the trade, it sounded really good for the Pirates. I thought getting a former MVP, who’s having a decent year would really benefit them. Then, I took a look at the statistics of Pirates’ first baseman this year, and I am intrigued by the similarities in Morneau’s stats and the Pirates’ first basemen’s stats are.
Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez have been in a platoon split all year for the Pirates. Jones faces righties and Sanchez faces lefties. Combined, they have accounted for 20 home runs, 81 RBI’s and 65 runs scored while hitting .244. That does not sound great, but the counting stats (not batting average) are serviceable for a first baseman.
Enter Morneau. Morneau had been playing for the Twins and had been batting higher in the order. Playing for the Twins probably reduced his home run totals because of Target Fields pitcher-friendliness (3rd worse home run park for lefties), and his run and RBI totals were probably reduced because he was playing for a worse team. However, he was batting higher in the order than the Pirates’ first basemen, so I consider all of these factors a wash for RBI’s and run. It’s a wash because batting higher in the order gives you a better chance at RBI’s and runs. Home runs should be expected to be lower.
Morneau, so far this season (excluding last night), has batted .259 with 17 home runs, 74 RBI’s and 56 runs scored. The Pirates hitters have actually done better so far this year. More home runs, more RBI’s and more runs scored than Morneau.
The difference is that Morneau has batted 124 less times than the Pirates’ first basemen. They have been pretty similar on a per at bat basis. Morneau has hit home run every 29 at bats, while the Pirates’ first basemen have hit one every 31. It also took Morneau about 1 at bat less per each RBI and run scored than Jones and Sanchez combined.
I think that over a whole season, this could have made a HUGE difference for the Pirates. They would probably be leading the division by a couple extra games rather than be tied atop the standings as Labor Day rolls around (I say this like its a bad thing, but this is a huge deal for the Pirates. No winning seasons the past 20 years). I am just not so sure it will give them a huge edge during the stretch run. I think it will help, but we will see by how much. Also, I am not a believer that having postseason experience is a large part of postseason success, but I do think it helps. Morneau has only 7 games under his belt and 2 home runs, but the last time he was in the playoffs was 2006. Then again, the Pirates haven’t been there in 20 years so Morneau’s little experience could help out just enough during an October run. Ultimately, if the Pirates win a World Series with Morneau, they won’t care if he does provided a significant increase in production. If Alex Presely is able to revive his career in Minnesota, the Pirates may have wasted good talent on a poor upgrade