Must-click link: how the Pirates got better

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A great story by Travis Sawchik at Triblive.com about the Pirates. Specifically, how they got better. More specifically, how it was largely a function of improving the defense. Not by merely getting good defensive players, but through strategy, research and hard work:

The Pirates experimented with a comprehensive defensive philosophy the past several seasons, but this was different.

• Position players had to change. They had to shift from areas of the field where they had been stationed their entire careers and trust the pitching staff’s ability to locate pitches.

• Pitchers had to change. The staff had to rely on a new primary pitch and trust the radical defensive alignments behind them.

• Old-school coaches had to change. Coaches trained in 20th century baseball orthodoxy had to trust 21st century concepts.

The club’s improvement would not come through adding Gold Glove-caliber fielders or pricey free agent pitchers but rather improving the sum of its defensive parts.

The plan has been a success.

Go read the article and check out the plan. It’s a great explanatory piece in and of itself and it’s a great example of how defense likely will never be reduced to a single or even a couple of overarching stats. So many moving parts. Watching the moving is pretty fantastic.

Kyle Schwarber has lost 17-20 pounds

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As is offseason tradition, the first of player-shape reports are trickling in. These usually use some variation of the phrase “best shape of [my/his] life.” This one, though, avoids that at least.

According to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber has lost 17-20 pounds so far this offseason. Schwarber said that he’s “already big and strong,” so “might as well try to get more explosive, faster.”

Though Schwarber knocked out 30 home runs this past season, his numbers were otherwise pedestrian. He hit .211/.315/.467 with 59 RBI and 67 runs scored in 486 plate appearances.

There has been some speculation that the Cubs will try to trade Schwarber to an American League team where he can be a DH. He’s a subpar defender, so making him a full-time DH makes a lot of sense. So far, though, the only team that has been linked to Schwarber this offseason has been the Red Sox.