Glovin', Gappin', And Goners- Still Underwhelmed On Pirates Signing Lyle Overbay?


Lyle Overbay has three Spring Training homers, but more importantly a traditional slow starter is off to a scorching start.

When Lyle Overbay was signed

in the offseason by the Pittsburgh Pirates very few people were excited about it.  We think Neal Huntington and his team did some homework.  Joe Sheehan didn’t think so.  Sheehan went the batshitt crazy “conspiracy theorist” route as a result of the Overbay signing. 

I think the Pirates’ spate of signings this month, bringing in Lyle Overbay, Matt Diaz and Scott Olsen, is entirely about getting the payroll to some unstated minimum to keep the MLBPA off their backs. I have absolutely no proof of this, but the other possibility — that the Pirates think paying Lyle Overbay five million dollars to play baseball for them is a productive use of their time and money — is too ridiculous to consider. It can’t be about trying to win to get people energized, because Lyle Overbay doesn’t change your fortunes in that regard.

Overbay would be a bad signing for a good team desperate for a left-handed-hitting first baseman to complete their roster. Since turning 30, Overbay has hit .255/.344/.427 with about 15 homers a year and a 420/242 K/BB. He hasn’t hit more than .270 in that time. His strikeout rate and K/BB went kablooey last year, an awful sign for a middling 33-year-old. He has a good defensive reputation and the numbers match that. This signing is a near-perfect re-creation of the Doug Mientkiewicz signing from two years ago. Same type of player, same age, same likelihood of having any impact at all on the fortunes of this franchise.

I have no idea if Steven Pearce can play, but wouldn’t 2011 be a decent time to find out by giving him 500 at-bats? The Pirates appear to have given up on Ryan Doumit as a catcher. Play him at first base and see if he can hit enough to get back his trade value. Hell, leave the position open for when you finally realize that both Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez are playing out of position and you need to shuffle the infield. Do anything, but don’t sign Lyle Overbay. It’s not a sign you’re trying to win; it’s sign you don’t really know how.

Steve Pearce?  What’s the rush?  We aren’t convinced of his glove quite yet.  He can still do some work at the plate.  Love the hustle.  We trust Pearce makes the club.  But 500 at-bats in 2011?  No thanks.

Ryan Doumit at first base?  Now that suggestion makes Sheehan sound even more, well… nevermind. 

GLOVE, GAPS, GONERS

In yesterday’s fake game, Neil Walker stood on second.  Andrew McCutchen just worked a walk, dramatically tossed his bat, his leg pad, and trotted to first.

Nobody was out. 

Two Pirates were on base and the game between the Pirates and Red Sox was scoreless.  The 34-year old UNLV graduate worked a 2-1 count, squinted at Josh Beckett and drilled the right handers pitch into left centerfield at McKechnie Field for a two-run double.  

We trust it’s a sign of things to come and the thick grass in the PNC Park ‘North Side Notch’ gets well worn if Lyle Overbay has the bounce back year we expect.  

The Pirates first base production was very poor last year, Overbay can be a stop gap improvement.  He’s out to prove he is much more than that, but a bigger question is who will play where Willie once did in 2012?

In 2010, Lyle Overbay hit .171/.281/.329 in April for the Blue Jays.

Overbay is a clean guy. He takes care of his body. Prays. Probably reads the Bible too. I like that. This isn’t an Aki Iwamura type signing. Will Overbay be able to keep his hot Spring rolling for the Bucs once the season starts? Hell, we got no clue.  But if  we had to bet, we wouldn’t bet against it. 

It can’t be worse than his numbers early in 2010 with the Jays.  After his awful April, he hit just .243/.296/.430 in May.   His best two months were June when he hit .282/.378/.376 (but didn’t hit a homerun) and July with a gaudy .301/.369/.527 

All the Overbay haters say he is old, worn down, and costs too much money.  In Spring Training-those two dirty words–Overbay has been anything but.   He looked healthy to us.  Low key, but respected, and as far as costing too much money, that’s comical.  And the money isn’t ours anyway.

Despite a down year, Lyle Overbay hit twenty homers in 2010.  So after he was inked to black and yellow, our first natural thought was can this well mentored left hander reach the Allegheny?

But more importantly we wondered about Overbay playing in the AL East, and the fact that he surely faced some tough pitchers last season.  So we wanted to look deeper into the distance of these home runs.

So back to those homers…, the Pirates desperately need power in 2011.  Just how quickly Overbay can provide it can be the difference for this team.  So what pitchers gave up those bombs to Overbay and how far did he send them?  We break it down for you by month, and then list the pitcher who gave up the home run, and mix in some stats for you to enjoy.

The Lyle Overbay Home Runs from September 2010:

LHP Mark Hendrickson of the Orioles [5.26ERA/81ERA+]

RHP Wade Davis [4.07ERA/97ERA+] of the Rays Video of the estimated true distance 435 feet

RHP Colby Lewis of the Rangers [3.72ERA/116ERA+]

RHP Javier Vazquez of the Bronx Bombers [5.32ERA/80ERA+]

Overbay Home Runs in August 2010:

RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka Red Sox [4.69ERA/93ERA+]

LHP Jon Lester (2). Bomb at Fenway follow the path of the 392′ blast here. And the second 331′ homer here. Lester is a badass in many ways. [134ERA+]

Chad Quals. Angels

Overbay Home Runs in July 2010:

LHP Will Ohman, Orioles [3.00ERA/144ERA+] It went 393 feet.

RHP Jose Valverde, Tigers [3.00ERA/ 140ERA+] He got just enough of this one at Comerica Park. 362′

RHP Alex Burnett, Twins [5.29ERA/79ERA+] He got just enough of this one 398′

RHP Carl Pavano, Twins [3.75ERA/111ERA+] Another of Overbay’s homers to left field. This one was 364′

RHP Phil Hughes, Yankees [4.19ERA/102ERA+] A 433′ blast to center field at Yankee Stadium.

Overbay didn’t hit any homers in June

Overbay Home Runs in May

RHP Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles [3.83ERA/111ERA+]

RHP Chris Tillman, Orioles [5.87ERA/72ERA+] A blast that went 416 feet to dead center.

LHP Alberto Castillo, Orioles [10.13ERA/43ERA+]

RHP Jesse Crain, Twins [3.04ERA/137ERA+] Plenty of distance. 376′ bomb.

RHP Rich Harden, Rangers [5.58ERA/78ERA+]

Overbay Home Runs in April 2010:

LHP Scott Schoewneweis, Red Sox [7.90ERA/56ERA+] A 403 foot blast at Toronto

RHP Jeff Neiman, Rays [4.39ERA/90ERA+]

~~~~~~~~~~~~

According to hittrackeronline, two of the homeruns Overbay hit in 2010 were bombs–there was ‘no doubt about it.’   The interesting fact for me was, all but one of the homeruns that Overbay hit went 350 feet.

Overbay pulled ten of his blasts to right field. Six of the home runs were hit to left, more precisely three homers wen to left and three to left center. Two homers were hit to center field and two went into right center field seats.

Details on the memorable Daryle Ward blast into the Allegheny River are right here. We will estimate that Overbay’s blast in the video posted below would have been damn close, but not enough.

But how about this…since Overbay is a Christian man, maybe he would get a little help from the big guy upstairs with a “blessed breeze?”   We would love to see another shot in the river. Overbay can do it. Don’t miss it. When does real baseball start? God we can’t wait.

Finally, and perhaps more important than we realize is that the glove of Lyle Overbay will help tremendously for a shaky Pirates infield.   Everyone expects big things from Pedro Alvarez when he is at the plate.  But Pedro is out to prove he can be a solid third baseman.  Alvarez has a cannon and he knows that with Overbay at first, he can let it loose. 

Ronny Cedeno and Neil Walker are out to prove that Huntington was correct in paying the ‘big’ cash to Overbay.  In Spring Training both players were seen casually talking to Overbay.  He seems well liked.  Cedeno has a strong arm, but on occassion has been known to lack focus and be wild with his throws.  Overbay will help.

Neil Walker has an improved pivot and having the sure, left-handed glove of Overbay at first will also benefit Hometown’s confidence too.  An entire city will be watching Walker’s sophomore season, and every ounce of confidence can only help. 

Call us crazy, but Lyle Overbay has been impressive especially considering the options some people have theorized.

Boom. There you have it.

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  • JohnB

    Tom: Homeruns that splash are crowd pleasers, but if the addition of one glove in the infield boosts the confidence of the other three, then Lyle Overbay is a real bargain. Defense wins out over the long haul.
    “Blessed breeze”?! :)

    • http://rumbunter.com Tom Smith

      Bible thumpin blessed breeze…?

  • cocktailsfor2

    You are correct that there were – as still are – those who “pooh-poohed” the signing of Überbay. I wasn’t *overly* impressed myself, but certainly not of the “waste of money” camp. I’ve always thought he’s an average-to-slightly-above player, and if he can make the IF defense better (which is ostensibly the reason he was brought in, IMO), then he’s worth the $. I think Neal, being more of a SABR guy, looked at our shiite IF defense last year, and figured Überbay could help there.

    As far as Pearce, you and I will have to agree to mildly disagree. The fact that he’s got one option left pretty much assures his opening the season at Indy, but he’s getting to the age where we need to either poop or get off the pot with him, so he ~is~ being blocked as far as that goes.

    • JohnB

      “..so he is being blocked…” I almost blew my beer through my nose on that one!

  • cocktailsfor2

    I don’t understand what you’re saying, JohnB. Did I say something to amuse or anger you?

    If Pearce didn’t have an option left, he’d most likely be going North on the 25-man, or they’d try to pass him thru waivers, probably unsuccessfully. So, he ~is~ being “blocked,” but by the system, rather than a player.

    • JohnB

      When you said Pearce needs to “poop or get off the pot” and then added that he was “blocked” I thought you were making a play on words. BTW, I agree with you about Pearce. Maybe this is his time to make his mark.

    • cocktailsfor2

      @John:

      EGAD! I didn’t even see that & put two and two together…

      HA! ;-)

  • cocktailsfor2

    Tom –

    As if to underscore the point you make in this post, Nick Leyva is quoted in the P-G today:

    “Leyva quickly pointed to an offseason pick up as a reason for improvement anticipated to transcend from spring into the regular season.

    “Here’s the biggest reason we are better: Lyle Overbay,” Leyva said of the first baseman with a .995 fielding percentage. “Nothing against the guys who played the majority of the games at first base in the past, but this is a true first baseman over there who doesn’t get the recognition he should because he didn’t play in New York or somewhere like that.”