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Holy !#[email protected] We Have A Lot Of Infielders!

infield slideshow

Graphic by Michael Bradley for TPOP

 

In my college statistics class we talked a good bit about Permutations and Combinations. I understood the concepts but would always mix up the names; Permutations are for lists (order matters) and combinations are for groups (order doesn ?t matter).

The Pirates current infield situation could almost border on a Statistics class question. This is a very new problem for the Pirates… and a very good “problem” to have. In this article I will go over the possible and probable infield combinations over the next year and two months (now until opening day 2017).

2015

1) Current lineup – As of August 10th

LHP – 1B Morse 2B Walker SS Kang 3B Ramirez
RHP – 1B Pedro 2B Walker SS Kang 3B Ramirez

With Mercer and Harrison out the lineup is pretty straightforward. Morse supplants Pedro against LHPs and the rest is the same. My Twitter buddy Pat Lackey and I have concurred that both our 1B are terrible defensively so you’ll see plenty of Sean “Serpico” Rodriguez. Kang is the team MVP both because of his performance and the injuries at the positions he plays.

2) Healthy Mercer Lineup (not healthy Harrison) – August

LHP – 1B Morse 2B Walker SS Mercer 3B Kang
RHP – 1B Pedro 2B Walker SS Kang 3B Ramirez

When Mercer returns to the lineup he upgrades the range at SS from Kang and brings a good bat against LHP. His bat is too poor against RHP to be the regular SS during the pennant race plus Kang’s defense has been acceptable at SS.

Also, while Kang could play 2B and replace Walker’s abysmal track record against LHP that might be a bad idea. Playing a new position midyear increases the odds of getting injured and would not be considered at this point.

3) Healthy Harrison (not healthy Mercer) – August

LHP – 1B Morse 2B Harrison SS Kang 3B Ramirez
RHP – 1B Pedro 2B Walker SS Kang 3B Harrison

While it would be tough to put Walker into a platoon at 2B, Harrison’s defense and baserunning need to get back into the lineup as soon as possible. Harrison’s .751 career OPS against LHP trumps Walker’s figure of .665 and the defense should be the same. Also having another LH pinch hitter off the bench will be a nice luxury.

4) Healthy Harrison and Mercer lineup – August and September

LHP – 1B Morse 2B Harrison SS Mercer 3B Kang
RHP – 1B Pedro 2B Walker SS Kang 3B Harrison

First, let’s assume Huntington can juggle rosters until the September 1st roster expansion as to not have to DFA anyone he wants to keep.

With the full portfolio in front of him Hurdle can almost platoon the whole infield. Morse and Mercer will get some starts against RHPs to stay fresh and Serpico will still relieve the 1B in the late innings.

5) Playoff lineup

LHP – 1B Morse 2B Harrison SS Mercer 3B Kang
RHP – 1B Pedro 2B Walker SS Kang 3B Harrison

The LHP lineup is probably the most relevant lineup in this whole article as it looks as the Pirates have a good chance of facing John Lester, Madison Baumgartner or Clayton Kershaw in the one game Wild Card game.

The LH starting pitcher also makes you entertain the thought of Harrison playing RF at PNC but Polanco’s last month has put that thought to rest.

2016

Possible Opening Day 2016 lineups

1B Pedro 2B Walker SS Mercer 3B Kang
1B Pedro 2B Walker SS Kang 3B Harrison
1B Walker 2B Harrison SS Mercer 3B Kang
1B Ishikawa 2B Harrison SS Mercer 3B Kang

What the Pirates do in the offseason with Pedro and to a lesser extent Walker will have large chain reaction that will be felt over several seasons. Pedro getting DFAed after this season is a real possibility. While I don’t consider his salary too much to bring back especially since he’d have a full season at 1B and be Boras client in a contract year, it could be used to bring back Melancon, find another Volquez or Burnett, etc. Walker learning the 1B is a possibility especially since he could still play 2B from time to time. Finally, I believe Ishikawa has another year of Arbitration if they’d want to him to be a cheap veteran option to hold the fort until…

Mid Season 2016 lineups

1B Bell 2B Harrison SS Mercer 3B Kang
1B Bell 2B Walker SS Kang 3B Harrison
1B Walker 2B Hanson SS Kang 3B Harrison

Josh Bell and Alen Hanson will be able to miss Super Two deadlines and the plethora of infield options here show that they won’t be brought up any earlier than that. Hanson is more ready than bell as he’ll have almost two years at AAA and is a plus defensive 2B with the ability to play the left side..if we didn’t have three other starters there. Hanson easily could be another Harrison.

Bell is a butcher at 1B and might realistically never “get it” since he’s never played infield in his 22 years.

It also seems that at this stage Mercer could strongly be the backup role due to better bats emerging.

2017

Opening Day 2017 lineups

1B Bell 2B Hanson SS Kang 3B Harrison
1B Walker 2B Hanson SS Kang 3B Harrison
1B Bell 2B Walker SS Kang 3B Harrison
1B Kang 2B Hanson SS Mercer 3B Harrison

Even though this is barely a year out it’s too much of a crap shoot to figure out. Most would argue that Walker is gone by now. I concur it’s a strong possibly but his desire to stay in Pittsburgh and the chance that Bell can’t play 1B at least open the door.

The top lineup of Bell, Hanson, Kang and Harrison (with Mercer on bench) could be a good cheap lineup which could buffer our rotation and OF that would be getting expensive.

 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

2021

2022

1B

Morse

Alvarez

Alvarez

Rodiguez

Walker**

Bell

Bell

Bell

Bell

Bell

Bell

Bell

2B

Walker

Walker

Harrison

Harrison

Harrison

Harrison

Harrison

Hanson*

Hanson*

Hanson*

Hanson*

Hanson*

Hanson*

Hanson*

3B

Ramirez

Kang

Kang

Kang

Kang

Kang

Harrison

Harrison

Harrison

Harrison

Harrison

SS

Mercer

Mercer

Mercer

Mercer

Kang

Kang

Kang

Kang

Kang

* Hanson could also play the left side of the infield but Mercer, Kang and Harrison will keep him at 2B for a while

** Walker at 2B is purely speculation but the options at 2B to start 2016 (Harrision, Hanson, Kang) outnumber the options at 1B that might be zero if Pedro is DFAed.

About Michael Bradley (41 Articles)
Michael is a Pirates contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. Michael is former submarine officer and Naval Academy grad. He now runs a small consulting firm and does veteran related job fairs. He is a SABR member and regularly attends Altoona Curve games to scout the Pirate prospects.
Contact: Twitter

2 Comments on Holy !#[email protected] We Have A Lot Of Infielders!

  1. Just a wild guess, but I have a feeling Morse will be the 2016 opening day starter at first.

    • Kevin Creagh // August 14, 2015 at 8:30 AM // Reply

      Not speaking for Mike, but my personal opinion is that the money received from the Dodgers in the Morse deal (I haven’t seen the figure released yet) will be sufficient enough for the Pirates to cut Morse in the offseason.

      They may figure that Tabata’s $4.5M in 2016 + $0.25M buyout + Morse payoff from Dodgers = close enough to Morse’s $8M in 2016

      Long shot guess for 1B (for me) is Korean 1B Park

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