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Guess Post: Will the Real Nate McLouth Please Stand Up?

5 June 2009

The Pirates’ trade this week of Nate McLouth to the Braves for prospects Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke has garnered mixed reactions from the blogosphere and the analytical community. Here with a quick take is David Silverberg, friend of the site, poker shark, avid Strat-O-Matic enthusiast and owner of McLouth in the Brass League of Champions.


With the trade of OF Nate McLouth from PIT to ATL this week, there has been plenty of debate about exactly a) how good his bat is, b) what we can expect from him going forward, and c) did PIT get the right value for him.

One recent argument posited that his current value is inflated by his hot start to 2008, and that if we discount IBBs + those 2 months, his last 12 months (IBB-adjusted OPS = .774) represent the real Nate. I tend to disagree with that assessment.

Leaving the IBBs aside, since 2007, his sophomore year in the bigs, McLouth has posted 7 months of OPS of .870 or more, and 8 months of OPS substantially lower, mostly in the .620 – .820 range. Some of the hot months have been ridiculously hot, with McLouth looking like the second coming of Willie Mays, OPSing in the 1.100+ range.

It’s very easy to look at various time frames in McLouth’s career and come up with a .700 OPS guy or a .900 OPS guy. And in the end the answer should be, “he’s both.” He’s a streaky hitter with 25 HR and 40 doubles power and a decent batting eye, and when he is on his game he’s very dangerous. Given his stats the last 2+ years, I would project a prime-of-career OPS for Nate in the .820-.850 range. If one can agree and that his D is at least average and possibly above-average for a CF (a subject for debate as well), at 27 years old and with three very reasonable years remaining on his contract, I think we have to conclude he was the perfect fit for the Braves’ needs.

So, that brings up the last question – did PIT get the right value for him? He’s not expensive, he’s an average to above-average player at a premium position, and he was exactly what your trade partner was desperate to obtain. I would think such a player would net you at least one prospect who also has the potential of being above-average. If I’m a GM I have to hold out for a package that contains at least one such player. With three years remaining on his deal, why should I be pressed to move him otherwise? And though Gorkys Hernandez has some potential with the glove and has shown a decent hitting tools thus far in his minor league career, he has proved nothing at the ML level, and Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke are B-prospects.

In the end, the only reasonable conclusion is that PIT went for quantity over quality when they assessed the ROI in this deal, which I think was a very poor choice for a team with a new administration and a history of making that exact same choice on multiple previous occasions, with disastrous long-term results.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. thasportschick permalink
    5 June 2009 7:56 pm

    I watched Nate come up through the pirates minor leagues, particularly his time with Altoona, Double A. He was inconsistent then, but always played with heart and passion. Since then, he has matured, become more patient, but still has the same heart and passion.

    Every year the Pirates trade one of their hot young players in search for more minor league talent. This year is no different. I think the Braves got their missing piece in McLouth. We will wait to see how the Braves hot prospects work out in the Pirates organisation.

  2. bigjonempire permalink
    5 June 2009 9:24 pm

    Nice post. I agree that McClouth is almost the perfect acquisition for the Atlanta Braves. But I think you let the Pirates off a little lightly. Not only are the Pirates not getting enough of a return for a very good player in his prime, who is also signed cheaply. But they also proved to be poor evaluators. Huntington has claimed that this was an offer that he could not refuse. They also claimed that part of the benefit was putting the defensively superior McCutchen in center field. They could have put McCutchen into center field and used McClouth to fill the gaping hole in right field. The Pirates new management is almost as bad as the old management when it comes to team building. That’s about the worst thing I could say about them.

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