Friday, February 26, 2010


Hasheem Thabeet is heading to the NBDL. Before I go on, this is not the end of the world for the big fella, there's still plenty of time left for him to get on the right track.

But other than that, what a joke. I never liked this guy, he thought he was way better than he actually was. Dejuan Blair dominated him twice, and of course we all know how that ended up (second round). I just can't believe how dumb some NBA teams are. It's not even like Thabeet is that young, he's 23 years old (and don't give me the whole "but he didn't pick up a basketball until he was 17" shtick). Wow, just wow. I wish I could describe how happy this makes me (and if you feel sorry for the big fella, don't; he's probably already made more money than you will make in your lifetime).

I wish him the best, but not really.

Second Time Around

So after posting my morning (afternoon?) links, I realized that I wasn't giving the topics their due diligence at all. What a crap post that was (one of the best aspects of the English accent that I've stolen since watching EPL soccer: using crap as an adjective/adverb... try it out, it's fantastic). Unfortunately, this post will be mostly Pirates related, so for most of you, it will be crap too.

As I was making a fire tonight and using the PG as my starting paper, I realized there was a column on Pirates Spring Training by Gene Collier. I actually like Collier, he's a very good writer. And really that's what it comes down to nowadays when it comes to newspaper opinion columns.

The most informative stuff in sports news now comes from beat writers (in particular the blogs, which many newspapers have set up for their beat writers such as the PBC Blog and Empty Netters), so really, the opinion columns come down to their actual thoughts and the way they translate them. Ron Cook is terrible at both, but Collier actually interprets his thoughts in a way that makes the reader think. But he's not always on top of how things work in present day sports (especially baseball). There's nothing wrong with that, but when he does say things like the Pirates should have signed someone like Jim Thome (has played a total of 4 games at 1B since 2005; I don't care if Jeff Clement has never played first base, anybody would be better than Thome at first) or Hank Blalock (oh please, pretty please sign the oft-injured guy coming off the .277 OBP. Please!). His final suggestion isn't even that bad (Russell Branyan), but Branyan will be 34 next year.

And more importantly, why would we sign someone to block up the already crowded group of RF/1B we have. Clement, Jones, Moss, Pearce, and Tabata. Why the hell would we sign a question mark to take up the spot of another question mark? I would put money down right now that we will get more out of the 1B spot than Blalock, Thome, or Branyon will be able to put up this year. JS.

And now for the other piece of Pirates news that has been sweeping the area. Frank Coonelly said "this is the beginning of a dynasty"... I actually already commented on this a bit, but I just heard the interview he did with Ron Cook and some dude named Vinnie. Coonelly does come off as a jackass by calling up a network that has been in existence for just nine days and trying to defend himself.

But the key for me is that he is defending himself out in the open. Kevin McClatchy used to privately harass John Perrotto after he would write a negative column in the Beaver Times (Beaver F'n Times!) and Dave Littlefield was so generic and PR driven that he could turn shit into gold on a daily basis (something that the PG used to eat up with delight). To me, Nutting and Coonelly making grandiose and absurd statements (by the way, Coonelly did say "to me" at the end of his dynasty comment, which isn't a prediction, it's just his own heartfelt belief) is actually a breath of fresh air.

There's actually more important news like Joel Hanrahan's elbow being okay, Neil Walker's plunge into utility, BUCCOFans news roundup (including just another reason we should not draft Anthony Ranaudo), and WHYGAVS reasearched post about Zach Duke's endurance (spoiler alert: if Duke's curve-ball isn't good, he isn't good).

Unfortunately, I'm too spent to go into why these pieces of information are important. I was too busy fighting a useless battle against idiots who hold sway over yinzer nation.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday Dale Berra's

Since Thursday is such a tough day of the week to couple with a name, I'm going to start using Thursdays to bring up a great Pittsburgh sports figure of the past who may not fit into another day of the week.

Dale Berra is the son of former Yankee great and Geico spokesman, Yogi Berra. He played for our beloved Buccos from '77-'84 but never really amounted to much even though he was a high draft pick and had a solid pedigree.

What Dale was most known for was his father, his fantastic mustache (which led to the great PS blog Dale Berra's Stash), and of course, the Pittsburgh Drug Trials of 1985 (good year). I wish someone would write about the effect of cocaine on baseball in the 1980's with one of the longest chapters being about the PDT, maybe I'll do it... Either way, because Berra admitted to doing cocaine whilst playing, he was fined 10% of his salary for the '85 season (he was only making $447k, so it's not that much considering).

Somewhat related story; when I went to last year's game six of the Stanley Cup Finals at Mellon Arena, I had a kick-ass mustache (born from an ugly playoff beard I was growing) and would rock my '79 Buccos cap in honor of the last sports team to win a game seven going away. The usher at Mellon very appropriately said I looked exactly like Dale Berra. I'll take that as a compliment?

So last night was supposed to be this awesome sports night and turned out to be a total stinker. The US game was awesome, although to be honest, that was kind of during the day. The Canada/Russia game ended up just like game seven of last year's Caps/Pens series, a blowout with AO on the losing end and Sid skating onwards. What a ridiculous game though, it was like an all-star game in that every few minutes someone was lighting the lamp. What's even more absurd is the fact that Russia seemed like it had no idea how to play team defense. It also didn't help that the NHL's best player decided to shit the bed. Canada is looking pretty nice right now, and I would love to see a Canada/US rematch in the finals, although the Tall Guy has become a huge Slovakia fan in the past few days. We'll see.

Speaking of shitting the bed, Pitt got dominated last night in a fashion that was downright scary. I might as well just stop talking about Pitt basketball; every time I say something one way or the other, Pitt turns around and proves me wrong. Just as I said on Monday that "they seem to have it in them this year," they go and play a game like last night. I couldn't even watch the last 10 minutes, it was too frustrating; it's one thing to have a bad game and the other team to have a career night, but by that time, ND was beating them to every loose ball and clearly cared more. The main reasons for the outcome are right in the shooting categories; ND shot better from distance and got to the line more often. What's amazing is that Pitt had only 4 turnovers... and they lost by 15!

The Steelers have signed Casey Hampton to a three-year deal and slapped the franchise tag on Skippy Reed. Good deals on both accounts. The Hampton contract buys him out of what should be his only good years left (3 years is really not that long). I'm a little concerned with the amount of contracts the Steelers are handing out to veteran players like Harrison, Farrior, and now Hampton, but as long as it's not hamstringing them into letting good young talented players walk, then it really isn't that big of an issue (although I still think that Harrison contract was a big mistake). Good to have Skippy around, despite all the bad press, he's a better guy than most people realize. Plus he makes for a hell of a cheerleader at Pitt basketball games.

And then the one game I really wanted to watch last night but was unable to, ended up as the best of the night. The US came back from a goal down to beat El Salvador 2-1. Here's Soccernet's recap with player ratings. In particular, Ives Garcelep looks at Heath Pearce's performance at LB.

More later, but probably not. Gotta drive the Tall Guy to the airport

Why I'm a Pirates Fan

Pat over at WHYGAVS (words I've been using probably a little too often recently) has a fantastic post regarding the championship match up in the Pittsburgh Sports Blog Tournament. If you don't know, it's WHYGAVS going head to head against BucsDugout to take the crown away from the reigning champ, The PensBlog (go vote!).

It's just a random internet voting contest, but it really is unbelievable that the two final blogs are Pirates oriented. It's really easy to write off this franchise because of it's recent history (17 years) and current state, but I think this really demonstrates the passion for baseball not just in Pittsburgh, but for Pirates fans in general (yes, there are actually some Pirates fans out there who do not currently live in Pittsburgh).

The Pirates, after all, are the city's oldest sports franchise (by far) and have won five championships in their history. Some of the all-time greats have worn Pirate uniforms: Wagner, Clemente, Stargell, Bonds, Kiner, Waner, Traynor, and Mike Benjamin (just kidding about that last one). This is a storied franchise that has been around a lot longer than the past 17 years, and people do connect with that, young and old (no matter what Bob Smizik says).

But that's really besides the point. I remember listening to a podcast between Dave Dameshek and DJ Gallo in which they were discussing Pittsburgh sports. Gallo brought up the whole notion about being from Pittsburgh and the obligation towards supporting local franchises just because of birth place (I believe his actual words involved, "I mean, if the Pittsburgh Opera was just terrible, should I be following it and supporting it just because I do the same with everything else Pittsburgh?").

It was a legitimate question to ask. Life is short, and in these times, so is money. So you have to allocate your resources accordingly. Being a Pirates fan is an intense commitment; each game is about three hours long, and there's 162 games.

But besides my obvious support of the current direction of the club, my question to most is, what else are you going to do? If you're taking the time you might be watching a Buccos game and spending it more worthwhile (reading, socializing... God, there are so many more productive things to do than watch sports), I applaud you, and I just wish I had your same discipline and motivation.

But if you're like me, and your life is dependent on sports (particularly Pittsburgh sports), not only do I say God help you, but more importantly, what else are you going to do? Are you going to throw away your blood and heritage because of a bad run of management? Are you going to root for the Phillies, or even worse, the Indians?

This is a shitty argument, and when I was thinking out this post it seemed a lot more coherent and convincing. I mean, no one should invest anything based on the conclusion of, "Well, you got nothing else."

But if you're not going to listen to the logical arguments me and other Pirate bloggers (including BucsDugout and WHYGAVS) present about the current direction of the PBC, then really, this is my only other option.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday Walter Abercrombie's

Walter Abercrombie was another '80s running back pick in the first-round by the Steelers. This one ended up a little bit better than yesterday's. In six season with the 'Lers, Abercrombie accumulated 3343 yards on 842 carries (4.0 Y/A). His best season was in 1986, when he rushed 877 yards, unfortunately, just more than two years later, he was out of football due to knee injuries (SI cover curse?).

But unlike Tim Worley, Walt seems like a pretty stand up guy. He was a legend at Baylor University where he holds the school record for career rushing yards, and he actually still holds the NCAA record for rushing yards in his first contest (207 yards against #12 Texas A&M). Abercrombie went back to Baylor after his career to receive his Masters degree, and is now director of education and special projects for the American Football Coaches Association. Eat it Tim Worley.

So, as I expected, Canada beat Germany (there's a sentence I thought I would never utter in any form), and now plays Russia tonight in what has to be the IOC's nightmare (7:30). Oh yeah, and the US plays the Swiss at 3:00. The PensBlog has their take while if you're really jones'n Puck Daddy does their due diligence.

Pitt plays Notre Dame tonight (ESPN2/7), and the one athlete I cannot stand more than about anyone else in the NCAA will not be there. Luke Harangody will not play tonight, which should make the game a whole lot easier, but really it's never easy to play in that building with all of those pent-up celibate Catholic kids causing a ruckus. Hail to Pitt.

And if somehow you have two DVR's in your house, the US takes on El Salvador tonight (ESPN Classic/7). Here's a look at what this means to the US. I'm still flabbergasted that the US can't get it's matches shown on an HD channel in the run up to the World Cup. Yeah, no one is probably going to watch this game, but come on...

A link to links. Pat at WHYGAVS has a roundup of the latest news which includes the good kind about Joel Hanrahan's elbow. I just wish the Pirates ownership/FO would stop making such outlandish statements like Coonelly calling '10 the beginning of a "dynasty." Just stop. Even though I think the organization is heading in the right direction, you just can't say that. There is some talent that can sustain some sort of continual competition (McCutchen, Alvarez, LaRoche), but let's work on a winning season before we crown this team of anything. Oh yeah, go vote for WHYGAVS at the final four of the Pittsburgh Sports Blog Tourney.

UPDATE: Deadspin has a great season preview on the Astros and why we should enjoy them while we can. The article even mentions the Pirates toward the end as someone who gets it, although it's after the Reds. I have a huge bone to pick with the whole "the Reds are a sleeper" thing that is sweeping baseball.

They have two absolute studs that you can build around in Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, who were both drafted by previous management, and I have no problem with the Reds taking a shot at a wild-card berth this year. But their rotation is a mess (Cueto is good, but Volquez is probably gonna be out the entire year because of TJ surgery), they spent way too much money on a closer (paying Chad Cordero 4/$46 is pronk-surd), and guys like Scott Rolen and Brendan Phillips are past their prime. Plus Dusty Baker is a terrible field manager.

If Bruce and Votto each have 5 WAR seasons, they avoid injuries, and Aaron Harang/Bronson Arroyo pitch like it's 2005, then maybe they can challenge for a wild card spot, but I can't see them being any better than the Brewers, Cubs, or (definitely) Cards. The Reds have a better MLB roster than the Buccos do right now, but I would take the direction the Pirates are headed in because they're built for the long haul, while it looks like GM Walt Jocketty is trying to blow his wad for the next few seasons, which could work out, but could also blow up in their face and leave them in a huge hole for the next decade.

Um, why? When has bringing in an aging RB ever really helped? If it's on the cheap, and I'm talking really cheap, then yeah, go for it, but Tomlinson just doesn't have it anymore, plus I'm pretty sure the guy is a few bulbs short of a tanning bed.

For all those Al Micheals haters (and lovers) out there, here's a cool story from baseball's best writer Joe Posnanski. I am a little worried about Micheals hair color this Olympics; I don't know who he thinks he's fooling...

More LD love from the blue side of Mersey. Ives has some other quotes from Donovan and floats out the correlation of the MLS possible strike to the possibility of LD staying at Everton.

This is why everyone wants to eventually be a college professor, so they can demean some poor freshman schmuck.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday Tim Worley's

Tim Worley was the Steelers first-round pick in 1989, at 7th overall, and a fine example of why you shouldn't use that high of a pick on a RB. Worley showed promise his rookie year, starting 14 games and rushing for 770 yards on 195 carries. Unfortunately, that would be his best season as a professional, as his production declined in his sophomore season, he struggled through injuries in his third season, and then missed the entire '93 season because he failed two mandatory drug tests. The next season, Worley was traded to the Bears in mid-season for a fifth-round pick.

Before Worley was a Steeler, he was one of the most heralded players in Georgia football history, and was actually the highest ever drafted Georgia player before Garrison Hearst was picked in '93. In between trying to run his own global motivational speaking enterprise, Worley has had a few troubles with the law including an arrest in '08 in which the officers were forced to use a Taser to subdue the man. Don't Tase me, bro!

The Steelers are apparently close to putting the franchise tag on Casey Hampton, which I'm sure will seem like a slap in the face to the Big Snack. It seems that's the excuse all the franchise players are using, "It's a slap in the face." Yes, since being paid the average salary of the top five defensive linemen in the league is such a bummer. You got a problem, take it up with the union. Otherwise, this is a great move by the Steelers, it gives them time to find a replacement and it gets one more year out of Hampton, who really should not be signed to a long extension; guys like him do not age well.

BTSC has a look at what the mock drafts have us doing in the upcoming April draft. You can even vote on who you would most want us to pick. I'm kind of a fan of Rutgers OG Anthony Davis. Say what you want about the Steelers tackles, Max Starks and Willie Colon are not going anywhere. Although if one were to get injured...

The Pensblog has a look at what was Sunday Hockey in Vancouver, including that hit from Ovie on Jagr. As much as I can't stand AO, that's what separates him from almost any hockey superstar, ever. I hate him, but he's fun to watch.

Puck Daddy has a good look at what tonight's game will mean for Roberto Luongo. His playoff stats are pretty amazing considering his pedestrian record (another reason that record doesn't mean shit for Goalies and Baseball Pitchers). Although on, Scott Burnside makes a fairly compelling case for the Flower. Germany/Canada at 7:30 on some NBC affiliate (I could make a joke about how much NBC sucks, or Ice Dancing, but that's already been done).

The PPG has another not so interesting feature on one of the Pirates prospects, Jose Tabata. Meanwhile, Pat at WHYGAVS does the topic some service by addressing the reports about Tabata's age. I feel a little more secure, now.

BUCCOFans has a good rundown of how the draft prospects fared this past weekend. I just love the name, Deck McGuire. Meanwhile, the MLB Draft Blog at ESPN is up and running again (Insider only, sorry). It's a good outside source to follow leading up to the draft, and I found Keith Law's initial top 50 prospect ranking to be very interesting, including his not-so impressive ranking of Christian Colon at 28.

Matt Bandi over at PLCo, looks at Garrett Jones and asks the question everyone is wondering, is he for real? It's a bit of a somber conclusion, but you really can't argue with it. I say, enjoy it while it lasts, because "Hot Stick" Jones isn't getting any younger.

Titletahn has a podcast up discussing the apparent log-jam at the corner positions for the Pirates and title it as it is, one of them good problems. I do like the Mike Lowell/Andy LaRoche comparison.

Who likes Goals? Just do your self a favor and check out Ronaldo's free kick all the way down. Wow. And check out this beauty from American Fran Torres at the 7:45 mark of the clip. I especially like the announcer using his nickname at will; El Gringo. Torres is a guy who should be in South Africa with the US team and I'll be keeping a close eye on him in the warm up games before June.

Just another reason why German's rock.

Meet You in Hell

So I just finished Meet You in Hell, a book written by Les Standiford about Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick's relationship regarding the steel industry in the latter part of the 19th century. Standiford was born in Ohio, and reveals in the last parts of the book that his initial attraction to Carnegie came from his local library, which happened to be a Carnegie donation. But more importantly, Standiford has a background in fiction, so the book reads more like a story than a historical account. Which on one hand makes the book more readable, but on the other hand, isn't as thourough as a David McCullough work.

But it's a good read nonetheless, although it focuses more on certain events than their relationship as whole. Also, there's this prevalent idea throughout the book that the relationship between the two giants of industry is about to turn sour, and the author harps on it continually. But the real breakup doesn't occur until much later in the relationship. I guess the main theme throughout the book is the two's relationship, but the title of the book points to such a hatred and friction between the two that you expect it to be a tug-of-war between Frick and Carnegie. But in actuality, the two work quite well together for a majority of their lives.

The parts about their eventual schism, and the long part devoted to the Homestead riots are really interesting and well done. My final prognosis would be that it's a good primer into the history of Pittsburgh Industry. It's a tease into reading about the actual events and actual people. So if you don't want to hop into full biographies like Mellon (really long, but thorough and an interesting account of the cyclical process of the free market), Andrew Carnegie (also thick, but I've yet to read it), and Henry Clay Frick (which can also be used as a paper-weight, and I have not read either) or you don't won't to read a book like Homestead (which looks at the town where the tragic riot took place)... go ahead and read Standiford's book, because it should whet your appetite.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Monroe's

Whatever, Craig. Craig Monroe is best known in Pittsburgh for his 34 games with the Buccos last year, which included a memorable 2 HR game against the Braves in mid-April. It didn't fool me though, he was terrible during his time in a Pirate uniform. Although he did have some sweet facial hair that was so well kept that it looked like it was painted on. Some other fun facts about C-Mo: his mother's name is Marilyn Monroe and in December of 2004, he was arrested trying to steal a belt from a Florida department store. Cost of said belt: $29.99. Career salary: $12,880,000.00 (including the $750k he stole from the Pirates last year). Something doesn't add up.

The only reason I really bring up Monroe is that he played for one of the worst teams in recent history. The 2003 Detroit Tigers finished the season 43-119. That's crazy! And it wasn't even like they were completely unlucky; their Pythagorean W-L record was 49-113 (591 runs for/928 runs against). What a terrible team.

That was the second year of GM Dave Dombrowski reign, after he replaced Randy Smith, who is up there with Dave Littlefield as one of the worst MLB general managers in recent history. By 2006, Dombrowski had the Tigers winning 95 games and in the World Series. There are a lot of similarities between the two clubs; taking over a disastrous situation left by a former GM, Scouting Director Greg Smith calling the shots in the draft (Granderson, Verlander, Luke French, Joel Zumaya), and of course, the great Craig Monroe. I would like to take a closer look at the similarities between the two rebuilds (maybe for another day), but the only clear difference is that the Tigers have an owner who has shown that he will spend on ML payroll (Mike Ilitch), which can be a good thing (Miguel Cabrera) or a bad thing (Bonderman, D. Willis, Maglio Ordonez).

Let's get it out of the way first, I missed both games yesterday. My flight from Seattle to Chicago was during the Pitt game, which looked like a pretty crappy game (tough, defensive, poor shooting), and my layover was so long that I got to miss the USA/Canada game (just awesome all around and another reason I'm a little bummed Ryan Miller is in the Eastern Conference; only Nabokov has been better this year in the NHL). The worst part about it was the fact that they had us board the flight and then spend an hour on the tarmac in O'Hare, so I should have caught at least the beginning or the end of the game, but thanks to the great city of Chicago, I couldn't catch any of it.

I just found out that Roberto Luongo will be in net for Canada's first knockout game. There's been a lot of local talk about giving the Flower a chance. Most people around here are completely behind this, singing his Stanley Cup praises. I would love to see it happen, but it won't (and didn't). The Flower is kind of a lottery ticket, and I'm not exactly sure Canada is in the position to play that card (especially Mike Babcock, who seems very conservative in his moves so far). I would love for him to be wrong and Luongo to be terrible on Tuesday against the Germans, but I would also love to see a Canada/Russia match up in the quarters.

I'm excited for Pitt, they just seem to have it in them this year (although come tourney time, who knows). Despite the swoon in the middle of the season, Pitt didn't care and just kept on plugging away. I don't have much to say that hasn't already been said, but Gary McGhee has been the biggest surprise for me, he's just so solid right now. He's like the Rob Scuderi of Pitt Basketball this year. And how about Dante "The Myth" Taylor sending it in a few times in a row against Marquette? Good for him. And yes, I apologize to Trevon Woodall for calling him out before the WVU game, but hey, if he plays like that, I'll keep putting him down before every game. Hail to Pitt.

Tiger's apology was lame. 'Nuff said. If he's gonna market himself like he has over the past decade, he owes his customers a little more information than "I was wrong." Oh really, you paid people to help you come to that conclusion? God, I can't stand this guy. The only thing I somewhat respect is his decision not to come immediately back into golf, if he really thinks he has a problem, at least his priorities are in place. But if he's back by the Masters, you can forget I said that.

Before we get to Pirate links (I got a lot of them), the Steelers rounded out their coaching staff by hiring a new wide receiver coach in Scottie Montgomery. Great name, but he's just 31-years old, and he's a Duke alumni, so he's probably a bit of a doucher. Behind the Steel Curtain has been keeping up with the 'Lers this offseason pretty well, and they have plenty of good links and posts up if you need your fix.

Bucs Dugout has a lot of good posts and links up, I don't really want to go over all of them, but I think there's better ways to spend $30 million than Aroldis Chapman, and I hope he's a bust for the Reds (and I think he will be based on Cuban track records- especially pitchers). Also, Bob Smizik needs to stop with the "spend for spending's sake" routine; let's see Bob get out the DW-40 and open up his wallet just to prove he can. In no business in the world is spending just to prove you can a good idea, even an English Major knows that.

Joel Hanrahan's elbow is disappointing. Pat at WHYGAVS has a rundown of the injury and other guys who have gone through it. Hanrahan had a chance to really bump himself into that upper echelon of relievers this year, but it looks like he may be taking a step back rather than a step forward. This just shows how important it is to acquire and build depth.

I'm pretty excited for the Ed Wade era to continue in Houston. I think that Drayton McClane is the real problem in Houston, but having Wade around surely won't help, although if an Astro is looking for a punching bag...

A lot of talk has centered around John Russel's comments about Kevin Hart having the inside track for the fifth spot in the rotation. WHYGAVS looks at it as pitching coach's Joe Kerrigan's next project. I don't really mind this move, Hart has more upside and better stuff, plus his pitches induce ground balls (always a good thing), while McCutchen is more of a fly-ball pitcher (almost never a good thing). As long as the evaluators are impressed with Hart (which is what it sounds like), I have no problem with giving him the inside edge. Either way, it's one of those good problems.

On the prospect side, Baseball America has a podcast where they talk about last year's first round pick Tony Sanchez. I wasn't a big fan of the pick at the time, but he's winning me over little by little. He still needs to prove he can hit at higher levels (like AA), but in the podcast, the guys talk about how good his defense is. There still isn't a roundly accepted way to quantify catcher's defense, but if Sanchez ends up like Yadier Molina, I would be very happy. And then the PPG has a small feature on Pedro Alvarez and his eventual ascent to the Majors. People might be watching PA more than they'll be watching the Buccos (for me, it'll be about 50/50), but one thing's for sure, no matter how well Alvarez will hit in spring training, there is no way he should start the season in Pittsburgh.

And lastly (for now), there's the news that Neil Walker strapped on the catching equipment a few days ago. Walker is athletic enough to play anywhere on the diamond, and anything will help. I don't think he'll hit enough to force his way into a starting spot, so turning himself (willingly) into a super utility player can only do him good. The biggest thing for him is that he needs to become more patient at the plate. Walker showed good patience as a 21-year old at AA in 2007 (55 BB/86 K), but since then, he's been striking out more and walking less. If he can somehow get that patience back, he would be a much more attractive option as compared to Bobby Crosby, Delwyn Young, or Ramon Vasquez. No matter what, I'll be rooting for the guy.

The Harbaugh's are really lame. I'm pretty sure my buddy George got Hootie to play at his frat party at Vanderbilt a few years ago, so it really shouldn't be that tough to get him to play at a sold out Stanford game (although good luck getting the Blowfish to play as well, they split up a few years away). Way to shoot for the stars, Jim.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Olympics

I found this when I google imaged "Olympics". That has to be the coolest Olympic logo I've seen since Stephen Colbert teamed up with Shepard Fairey for this little beauty.

There's been a lot going on, so I'm just gonna ramble ferrabit.

The opening ceremonies would have been much cooler if I was still 18, and smoked a ton of weed. But unfortunately, I had to grow up, so it just didn't do it for me. The Canadian "stars" they brought out was like a flashback to a Lilith Fair from 1995, which included that Asian guy named k.d. lang. Also, Donald Sutherland made me wonder about the guy who plays Jack Bauer; Kiefer isn't even a hafey, he's completely Canadian! Actually, he was born in England and his full name is Kiefer William Fredrick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland. I feel duped.

How awesome is curling? So awesome that my buddy Trevor called me last night, ecstatic that he just joined the Columbus Curling Club. I've already found my calling... It's the perfect drinking/sporting activity, you don't even need a cooler, you just put your beer down on the ice. As for the actual event, besides America's choking skipper and then the following two wins, Honorary US Captain & Fantasy Football Frustrater Vernon Davis, and just watching the Danish Women's curling team... Curling rocks.

So, am I the only one who is more impressed by Shani Davis than Apolo Anton Ohno? Yeah, Ohno has won six medals (while going for seven tonight) and two golds, but one of those golds was because of a disqualification, and his first medal in this Olympics was given to him because a couple Koreans got greedy and took each other out. I don't know, it's impressive, don't get me wrong, but Shani Davis has won two golds in just two Olympics, along with a silver, and he still has another event to go (tonight).

I understand all the hype: Ohno wears a bandana, he's got a sweet flavor savor, he skates on a short track (much more exciting than Davis on the long track), he has this Earl/Tiger relationship with his father, he hangs out in a shack near the coast, and he's got an awesome name. But Davis has won an equal amount of Golds (which is where it's at for me), and has a much more compelling story. Son of a single mother, african-american, and he's one of the best speed-skaters in the world? That's easy.

As much as I like seeing Sid succeed at whatever he does, I don't want Mike Richards to win a gold. So I'm definitely pulling for the US tomorrow. As for Sid, I think it's a bit unfair that if Canada does not win the gold, then he will be to blame, despite the fact that he's one of the younger members on the team. That would be like blaming Jozy Altidore if the US doesn't make it out of the group stages in this summer's World Cup. But I guess that's what comes with being the Kid.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Everton 3 Man U 1

What a game. For those of you who were unable to get up at 7:30 a.m. (or 4:30 a.m. PCT) to watch Everton host defending champion Manchester United, you missed a hell of a game. For the second time in just ten days, Everton have come back from down a goal against an EPL giant, but this time, they added a little insurance with Jack Rodwell's goal in the 90th minute.

This game had so many angles: Former Devils Tim Howard and Louis Saha, former Toffee Wayne Rooney who is slowly turning himself into one of the best players in the world, Everton hadn't beat Man U in an EPL game in ages, and Everton missing both Tim Cahill and Fellaini...

I'll have highlights later, but in the meantime, Donovan played really well for the most part, except he "fluffed a sitter" with the ball at his feet only a few yards away from the goal. But he got the Gretzky assist on the second goal and was active the entire game. It was a performance that has mirrored most of his other games in a blue shirt, which is why he was named Everton's player of the month for January.

Also, I guess I can't hide my man-crush on Jack Rodwell (he's bare-chested in the picture above). He showed why he's such a world-class talent in his taking of the third goal. He also showed why Everton should hold onto him for as long as they can, and why he should never be stuck in the back just due to his size.

We'll see how the rest of the weekend plays out, but Everton now sit 8th in the table with 38 points, which leaves them five points back of a Europa spot, and just seven points out of a Champions League spot (one can dream).

Next up for EFC is the return leg to Sporting Lisbon in their Europa League campaign. The match is on Thursday at 3:05 p.m. EST and will be on some random channel on DirecTV. Everton won the first leg at Goodison this past Tuesday by a score of 2-1. Since Sporting got that away goal, Everton really need to buckle down in Portugal.


I know...

Worst Blogger Ever.

But I've been in Oregon with my Moms, and we were staying in a spot with zero internet access. Now I've spent all day in a car and am too tired to really put some effort into a good post. As they say, excuses are like assholes...

I'll have a post up tomorrow with plenty of links, I promise; Olympics, Buccos starting Spring Training, and Pitt beating Marquette. Not to mention Tiger's apology.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I know there's been a lot going on this weekend...

... Which included myself going to the Pitt/WVU marathon on Friday night.

But most people know what happened there.

What people don't know is that Brandon Dubinsky is not very smart. When Dubinsky was 19, he was playing for the Portland Winter Hawks. When Sid was 19, he won the Hart Trophy. Not bad for "a little baby."

Of course when I was 19, I was waking up at noon only to skip my GEO 101 class. So, take that for whatever it's worth.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Felix Fermin's

Felix "El Gato" Fermin played for the Pirates during their rebuilding years of of '87-'88. Those were some fairly non-descript years that bridged the cocaine Pirates of the mid-eighties to the team that would eventually win three straight division titles in '91-'93. Felix didn't play many games with the Pirates but did accumulate 903 games played in 10 seasons with the Bucs, Indians, Mariners, and Cubs. He was actually part of the trade that brought Omar Vizquel to the Indians in '94, although he did help the Mariners win their first division title in '95. Fermin was no Dick Groat; his career triple slash line was .259/.305/.303 in 3072 plate appearances. A guy like this just wouldn't be able to stick around for ten years anymore. I suspect he thanks his lucky stars that his career fell right before the dawn of the steroid era. But look at that mustache.

Pitt plays WVU tonight (ESPN/9 p.m.), not much else to say about this one. Jamie Dixon needs to come up with one hell of a game plan, because the Mountaineers are much more athletic than the Panthers. Pitt needs to control the boards (especially in their own end), Ashton Gibbs needs to shoot well, and Travon Woodall needs to not play.

The Pens play the Rangers at the Igloo tonight (FSNP, 7:30). As always, head to the Empty Netters blog to find any and all Pens news. Anonymous answered yesterday's trivia question correctly, but since I have no idea who Anonymous is (Ted Danson?), I can't give out the prize. Also Anonymous admitted he/she cheated, which is not cool.

On Bob Smizik's blog, he has an opinion piece written by a Shady Side resident that addresses the whole Nutting/Lemieux ownership thing. It's well written and brings up some important aspects of the LeBurkle ownership and the NHL, but again, I don't understand the unwarranted hate spewed at Nutting (actually, I understand it, but just don't agree with it).

Smizik also links to a really lame article about the Seattle Mariners and how they've gone from a 100-loss team to a division contender in less than two years. If Smizik had spent any effort at all, he could have found a much better and thorough summary of how the Mariners did this. To sum it up, they realized the deficiency in the market which was defense, and made some smart trades to capitalize on it. Plus they had guys on the roster already like Felix Hernandez and Ichiro. Could you imagine if previous management had not made the Erik Bedard trade?

Dale Berra's Stash has a good look at what it might take to lock Andrew McCutchen up with a long-term contract. If there is one player I think will age well, it's McCutchen. He's got the skill set and the body for it.

Here's a look at a new documentary about US Soccer fans. They're definitely a minority wherever they go, but they are passionate. One of the reasons I became such a fan of the national team (and not just a fan when the World Cup rolls around, but the kind of fan who gets up at 6 a.m. to watch the U-20 team play in China), is that it's the one sport in which the US is consistently the underdog.

Speaking of the US and the World Cup, Ives Garcelep has his latest look at who he thinks will be the 23 members to make the squad. We're still a long way off, and we have a few more games to get a look at some of these guys, but I really can't disagree with his list. As I've said, I have a soft spot for Kenny Cooper and think he would be a terrific addition off the bench, but he has to play his way onto the roster first.

I just found my favorite US Olympian.

Baseball Prospectus just came up with a new pitching metric named SIERA. If you're interested, here's Part I of the five part opening series (Warning: very confusing).

Everton 2 Chelsea 1

So I actually did get to the catch the game today. It took me about 40 minutes to dig my car out of its spot (where it's been hibernating since last Friday), but I made it down to Piper's Pub to catch the last 60+ minutes of the game (including Louis Saha's equalizer just as I got there). It wasn't all that exciting, as I already knew the final score, but anytime Everton beat a league leader is a rare occasion.

When I said earlier that Everton "thoroughly outplayed" Chelsea, that was not totally accurate, but I don't blame myself since that's how most of the reports laid it out. The game was fairly even, particularly between Everton's first and second goal (when the score was even at 1-1), but after the Toffees took the lead, Chelsea dominated for the last 15 minutes as they were pushing for a tie (and a point). Even though it was a nerve-racking last few minutes (well, not for me as I already knew the final score), Everton did a fine job of marking and communicating to ensure solid team defense.

Saha's second goal was pretty brilliant; after measuring a long ball perfectly, he chested the ball down with his back to the goal, turned, and fired a gnarly shot off the volley. Petr Cech was caught kind of flat-footed and probably should have done better with it, but it was still a thing of beauty from the Frenchman.

Donovan did indeed play quite well and it was probably his best game in a blue uniform (which is not to discount his performances against Arsenal, Man City, and Sunderland). Besides earning the PK and delivering the cross on the first goal, he rarely set a foot wrong and contributed to some other fairly good scoring chances. It was the type of performance that should make US fans happy with the World Cup just months away.

Here are the (quite extended) highlights.

I never like to see a player get injured, but the UK press should have quite a field day with the news that a (totally clean) challenge by Donovan on England's starting left-back Ashley Cole broke the Brit's ankle and will keep him out until the start of the World Cup. A lot of US fans were afraid that with Donovan going over to play in England, he might be targeted since the US faces England in their first World Cup Match, "They're gonna take out our best player!" Cole is far from the Three Lions' best player, but who would have thought the opposite might happen?

One final note, it was nice to see Jack Rodwell back on the pitch for Everton after a bit of time off with an injury. He's one of the most impressive youngsters (18) in the EPL, and I hope that Everton are able to hold on to him before he outplays the team (he will). He's a beast of a defensive player, and distributes the ball from the midfield better than any young player I've ever seen. There has been talk of moving him to central defense, a position he played while a youth (this has mostly been from teams thinking about making a move for him). I just don't understand why a team would do that; to me, it's like taking a gifted wide receiver in football and deciding to turn him into a tight end just because he has the body for it.

The Toffees are off until next Tuesday when they begin the knockout stages of the Europa Cup. They will play in home and away against Sporting Lisbon of the Portuguese Liga. I'll have more as we get closer. But if you have DirecTV, you get all of the Europa Cup games.

And then there's this cool look at keeping Donovan from an Everton blog.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday Thibault's

Jocelyn Thibault was the backup goalie for the Pens following the '94-95 lockout, playing 38 games in two seasons for the Penguins. Thibault was actually a fairly competent goalie for the Canadiens and Blackhawks after breaking into the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques as a 19-year old way back in 1993 (10th overall pick in the '93 Entry draft; that was the year the Senators drafted Alexander Daigle over Chris Pronger, they probably want that one back). By the time he got to the Penguins, he was kind of washed up, posting a .876 SV% in Crosby's first season and Eddie Olcyzk's last season. Thibault is now the goalie coach with the Colorado Avalanche, although I will forever remember him as a Nordique thanks to NHL '94. So if anybody has an extra $250 and wants to get me a nice St. Valentine's Day present, this would look pretty sweet on my chest.

Pens won last night. Recap here, here, here, and here. It certainly was not their best game, but a wins a win. Geno was everywhere last night, and I think we can safely say his scoring slump is long gone, although I'd still like to see him focus a bit more on the defensive end. Fleury was as solid as it gets despite his shakiness with the puck around the net.

The only two things I have to add are 1) after Dwayne Roloson (only white goalie ever named Dwayne?) went after Mike Rupp during a scrum in the second period, MAF was up at his own blue line ready to pull a Ron Hextall and drop the glove and blocker. That would have been one of my favorite Pittsburgh Sports Memories of all time and something I would bring up constantly, "Well, I got to see the Flower throw down against Dwayne Roloson once." (Apparently, MAF did throw down once while in Juniors) 2) On the post-game radio show with Bob Grove and the old 29er, a caller asked an interesting trivia question that stumped everyone, "The Pens had two players go to the Olympics in '06, who were they?" The easy one was Gonchar, but who was the other? I found out, but if anybody wants to venture a guess, post your answer in the comments section. Since nobody will do this, I'll post the answer tomorrow.

Everton thoroughly outplayed Chelsea at Goodison and won 2-1. The Toffees hadn't beat the Blues of London since 2000, so it's a pretty impressive win, especially considering Chelsea are atop the tables. I didn't get to catch the game (although I am going to try and make it to a bar with Setanta Sports by 2:45 to watch the game), but everybody is lauding this as Donovan's most impressive performance in an Everton jersey. He set up the first goal on a corner kick, drew a penalty that was not converted by Saha, and was a force up the right-hand side all night.

I was a bit down after the Liverpool game, and was surprised that Moyes wasn't a little harder on his club, instead chalking it up to a tough game and basically losing on a set piece. He was right, as it looks like it was just a bad game from a team in good form. And to make it all the better, Liverpool lost to Arsenal last night as well. COYB!

Not really much else going on. Pitt plays WVU on Friday at the Pete and will be looking for revenge after that embarrassing loss in Morgantown last week. The Steelers hired a new pro scouting coordinator.

The 92-93 Pens can open up the champagne, as the Canadiens beat the Caps last night to end their winning streak.

I got nothing else right now.

Pens 3 Isles 1

Guess where I was tonight? No big deal. Actually it wasn't my idea, the Tall Guy called me with the plan at about five o'clock. I thought it wasn't a bad notion; the snow would probably keep people inside, and so maybe there would be some cheap tickets out there.

Amazingly, there were no tickets available on StubHub and the only tickets available on TicketExchange were in the E and F sections at face value. So being the complete pessimist, I tried to talk my Dad out of it, while he, being the ultimate optimist and up for a challenge, talked me into going down to the arena at around 7 p.m.

He got out of the car near the Igloo as I parked, and he was able to find some tickets in the C section for about 50% of face value. The Tall Guy's all about the pursuit; if it were me, I would have folded like origami and gave the first guy I talked to face value.

Either way, I'm not really interested in talking about the game (yet). What intrigued me the most was just how expensive it is to see a professional sporting event in Pittsburgh. Actually, even a Pitt basketball game is pricey.

I have no real hard numbers, but I would think that 75% of Pittsburgh residents have been out-priced from Pens, Steelers, and Pitt basketball games (and that's probably very conservative). I'm not blaming those teams, it's simple economics: supply and demand.

I guess what I'm getting at is Pitt Football games and Pirates games. Now, it's no surprise that a market like Pittsburgh (that includes fans of Penn St. and WVU) can't sell out Pitt football games if they're not consistently in the top ten. And considering that the stadium is not on campus and therefore does not draw as many students as it should, it's really not that surprising that Heinz isn't packed for every Pitt game (especially those September games against the likes of Youngstown St.).

But what's not surprising is how the Pirates continue to draw enough fans to stay solvent (I know, I'm being excessive). For years, everybody has been using the "PNC is beautiful" excuse for why people go to the games. But I think the real reason (besides bobble-heads and fireworks), is that it is now the only affordable sporting event available to Western Pennsylvania residents.

I'm probably rambling and not really supporting my thoughts with any cold hard facts. But going down to Mellon Arena for a mid-February game against a middling opponent made me realize just how cheap it is to go to a Pirates game. It actually made me think of coming back to Pittsburgh after going to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Detroit this past year. The Tall Guy and I decided to head down to PNC Park during the middle of the Tigers/Pirates game. We got there in the fourth inning, bought the worst seats in the house (I paid since the Tall Guy picked up the SCF tickets... I think I paid less), we got a few Honus Wagner Statues (promo giveaway), had a few beers (cheapest beer per ounce in baseball), and got to see a Pittsburgh team beat down on a Detroit team for the second time in two nights.

For all of those people who have decided to boycott the Pirates and Bob Nutting, I would say it's a pity, because you're missing out on a lot of good cheap entertainment; which, unfortunately, just doesn't exist anymore.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wednesday Wallace's

You didn't really think I was going to go with Steelers rookie wideout and sensational talent Mike Wallace, did you? You should know by now. Jeff Wallace pitched parts of three seasons for the Bucs from the years of 1997-2000. He was acquired from the Royals in the Jeff King/Jay Bell deal, and looked fairly promising during the 1999 season, throwing 39 innings of 3.69 ERA ball. He was striking out more than a batter an inning, but unfortunately, he was also walking almost a batter an inning. These are the type of red flags that should have made his 2000 season not all that surprising. Wallace's ERA in '00 ballooned to 7.07 as he continued to walk batters at an amazing rate, while also letting up too many home runs to be a successful major league pitcher. Wallace was let go after the season and then pitched for the Devil Rays and Red Sox before retiring due to arm troubles. He is currently scaring teenagers into being good pitchers.

He was definitely part of the problem (pitching staff) for that '00 team, which would be the last Bucs' team to play at Three Rivers Stadium. That was a damn good offense featuring John Vander Wal, Brian Giles, Wil Cordero, and Jason Kendall. Unfortunately, that year's pitching staff was made up of Kris Benson and a bunch of schmucks (which included future WS hero Bronson Arroyo and Cy Young winner Jason Schmidt). That was probably a pretty terrible defense as well (Giles was in center field), and we all know what happens when you put a bad pitching staff with a bad defense; that team let up an amazing 888 runs, the worst in franchise history since 1930 (and 4th worst overall). Good times.

Pens play the Islanders tonight at the Igloo (7:30/FSNP). That is, if anybody shows up. As the PPG has dubbed it, "Stormageddon II" hit last night and has made means of transportation even worse than before. But the show must go on. The Islanders just broke a long losing streak, but I would never underestimate this team. It's not gonna be easy, but the Pens should win this one to put them back on track after a pretty rough weekend.

Good news for the Steelers in 2010, they were so terrible at third downs this past season, that they should regress to the mean, and be much better next year. At least that's what we're all hoping for.

If you missed my two posts comparing the talent on the '08 Pirates roster as compared to the roster one can imagine for the '10 edition, then obviously, you're not following the blog. Here's a look at the lineups, and the pitching staffs. Conveniently, Charlie at BucsDugout has a post on just how truly bad the minor league system was when Huntington took over in '08. All in all, just a much better organization as a whole in 2010 than it was in 2008. Unfortunately, Bob Smizik does not have the ability to edit in his own comments onto my post.

Pat at WHYGAVS has a good look at who should win the fifth rotation spot between Kevin Hart and Daniel McCutchen. The conclusion is spot on, Hart doesn't throw enough strikes, while McCutchen lets up too many bombs. Since McCutchen showed improvement with his struggle this past season in AAA, he's probably the better bet. Either way, one of those guys has to be better than Jeff Karstens in '09, or that cluster'f in '08.

BUCCOFans now has a player tracker for 2010 draft hopeful Bryce Harper. The site will be tracking other potential guys the Bucs may grab with the #2 overall pick in June's draft; Christian Colon, Anthony Ranaudo, and Drew Pomeranz. Their seasons have not started yet, but when they do, BUCCOFans will be keeping track of their progress.

More later...

This is pretty cool, the Champions League Final will be shown on FOX in the United States. This means it should be in HD as well. The game was moved to a Saturday just so people around the world would not have to skip work to watch it (or watch it streaming in their cubicles); May 22nd, 2:30 EST. I'm gonna have to say more people across the world will watch this than they did for the game this past Sunday.

This is pretty spot on.

'08 vs '10 Continued; Pitchers

Yesterday, I looked at the everyday players from the '08 team and compared them to the projected '10 everyday players. Today, I'll look at the pitching staffs.

Something was bothering me after I posted yesterday. I guess it's because I didn't really address the problem I had with Smizik's piece. The premise of Smizik's post was Pirates manager John Russell and his "outrageous" belief that this year's roster is the most talented he has ever had since he began in 2008. Let's forget that Smizik tries to bring economics into the mix for no reason whatsoever and focus on the meat of the post.

I clearly disagreed, so I looked at what that roster in 2008 looked like going into the season and how they performed. Then I compared that information to the current roster and how they are projected to do. I picked the '08 team, because that was the team Smizik pointed out in the comments section below his post (I cannot stand how he posts in bold on other people's comments; why not just make a separate comment yourself?).

Despite my initial reaction that the '10 everyday lineup was more talented than the '08 everyday lineup, my conclusion was the opposite. Clearly, it was the pitching (spoiler alert, it is!). But the more I thought about it, the more I believe that my assertion was correct. The '10 lineup is more talented. They may not be more valuable, but they are definitely more talented. That '08 lineup was filled with guys that had either reached or surpassed their peak, while the '10 lineup is filled with guys who have yet to reach their peak (with Doumit and Iwamura as the lone exceptions, and possibly G. Jones). The '10 lineup is much younger, which means it is far less proven than that '08 lineup, but also means that they have potential to be better. It certainly doesn't mean that they will be better, but given the pedigree of these guys there is reason to think they may be above average/all-star players (Clement, LaRoche, McCutchen, and Milledge have all been top prospects in baseball at some point in their career). Xavier Nady was a top pick, but the rest of the '08 lineup was filled with overachievers like McLouth, Bay, Wilson, Sanchez, and Adam LaRoche.

I could easily be churning bullshit just to support my argument, but I think pedigree, age, and minor league performance should be taken into account. In all of those categories, this 2010 lineup looks a lot more potent than before. And if these guys live up to that potential, it will only prove that this bunch is much more talented than any Bucco team in recent history (like, 17 years). Well, maybe I shouldn't go that far. Although looking back at those teams, the real problem has been pitching during the streak, which includes the 2008 staff, one of the worst in team history (6th to be exact).

Ace: I am using this term quite loosely, but for arguments sake, let's just look at Paul Maholm than as compared to now. 2008 was supposedly Maholm's breakout season when he had a 3.71 ERA, and then he took a step back in '09 with a 4.44 ERA, so obviously he's going to get worse, right? Actually, Maholm has gotten better every year since '06, posting a better FIP every year (I'm going to be using FIP a lot, so read up here, it's basically a run average that is based on K, BB, and HR- things that the pitcher is independently responsible for). In '08, Maholm was worth 2.8 WAR, and is projected to pretty much duplicate this past season with a 3.3 WAR season in '10. He will be just 28 in this upcoming season and there is no reason to see regression as he's been durable and he has a pedigree of improvement. I would actually rather have the '08 Maholm, because he would be younger and more valuable, but the'10 Maholm is more "talented" and will perform better than he did two years ago. '10

Second Starter: And this is where the gap widens. Let's stick with someone who will be on both teams. Zach Duke was not as bad as his 4.82 ERA played him out to be in '08, as he put up a 4.40 FIP over 185 IP, which calculated as a 2 WAR pitcher, but he improved this past year and should be better than a 2 WAR pitcher this upcoming season unless he falls apart (the fans have him projected for a 2.8 WAR season). The biggest difference between the two Dukes is the defense he has behind him, and this year's should be much better than that '08 defense, despite missing Jack Wilson. It remains to be seen, but having Milledge/McCutchen instead of Bay/McLouth in the outfield will turn a lot of hits into outs, and extra-base hits into singles. '10

Third Starter: I should have said this is really where the gap widens. Ian Snell was coming off a great '07 season and was rewarded with a nice fat contract. And then he went out and put up a 1.4 WAR season in '08, despite his 5.42 ERA (he suffered the most from that terrible outfield defense in '08, with a FIP of just 4.57). This was the start of a complete destruction to Snell's career and he is now Seattle's problem (although the Bucs are still paying his salary). Despite people's excitement for Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton is the better pitcher. Morton put up a 1.2 WAR this past season despite pitching only 97 innings. The fans are projecting Morton for a 2.5 WAR season, while others have some good things to say about him. I don't think it's that hard to see that Morton is more talented than Snell was in the '08 season. '10

Fourth/Fifth Starter: I'm lumping these guys together to show how lackluster the rest of the rotation was for the Pirates in '08. Tom Gorzelanny amazingly threw up a 6.35 FIP over 100 IP (good for -1.0 WAR!). And then everybody remembers Matt Morris, or, as I like to call him, Dave Littlefield's last F-U to Pirates fans. Morris made five starts, pitching 22.1 innings of 7.03 FIP baseball. On top of those two studs, we threw out guys like Phil Dumatrait (actually not terrible over 11 starts, just below average), Jeff Karstens (despite the Perfect Game, he started nine games with a 4.77 FIP), Jason Davis (I remember one good start out of four, 4.90 FIP), Ross Ohlendorf (not good at all when he came over in the Nady trade, 5.29 FIP in five starts)... This is where it gets interesting; John Van Benschoten (former first round DL bust, got five starts, managed an amazing 8.42 FIP... you have to be striking no one out, walking every other batter, and letting up a HR an inning to get that high of a FIP), Yoslan Herrera (five starts, an amazing 9.82 ERA despite just a 4.88 FIP... the defense must have been taking a cigarette break when he was on the mound), and then lastly, The Great Jimmy Barthmaier (three starts, 8.07 FIP, one hell of a name).

I really shouldn't have to say that Ross Ohlendorf, despite not pitching as well as his ERA in '09, will put up thirty starts (hopefully) that will be better than any thirty starts put together by these schleps. Ohlendorf was worth only 1.1 WAR this past season, while the fans have him at 2.1 WAR for this upcoming year -if he can keep the ball in the park, I think it's doable. And then we look at guys like Daniel McCutchen/Kevin Hart/Brad Lincoln... hell, even Virgil Vasquez will be better than what the Pirates threw out there every fifth day in '08.


Bullpen: This is tough, because Matt Capps was damn good in '08, and as was Damaso Marte. John Grabow had a solid ERA (2.84), but his FIP (4.54) showed him to be lucky (because God knows the Pirates were not playing good defense behind him). But other than that, the Bucs were giving way too many innings to guys like Tyler Yates (73.1 IP/4.24 FIP- actually that's not too bad, I think it was that he started the season so well, and then became the "Eraser" in the last few months), Franquelis Osoria (60.2 IP/5.04 FIP), Sean Burnett (56.2 IP/5.16 FIP), T.J. Beam (45.2 IP/5.23 FIP), and Denny Bautista (41.1 IP/5.09 FIP). And you know what that added up to? A league worst 4.78 FIP in 567.2 IP, worth a league low 4 WAR. That is abysmal.

Let me amend what I said at the beginning of this section: this is easy. There is no way the '10 bullpen will be that bad... it's just not possible. Please tell me it's not possible... Well, instead of making the argument, Matt Bandi did it for me over at Pittsburgh Lumber Co. He has this year's bullpen as being about middle of the pack, which isn't anything special, but it must be better than the garbage we tossed out there in 2008.


Done and done. Just based on the pitching staff, there is absolutely no way the '08 roster was more talented than the upcoming '10 roster (and we're not even sure how that lineup is going to shake out). So I'm gonna have to go with JR on this one Bob, which should make sense because I'm pretty excited for the talent on this year's team as well.

I don't really blame Smizik, he's not that smart, so he probably didn't look past the names on the lineup card in thinking that that '08 team was any good (McLouth, Bay, and Nady were the best offensive outfield in baseball at certain points in the season; too bad they were where singles go to become triples), but it doesn't excuse the fact that their defense was terrible, which combined with their horrid pitching staff, led to 884 runs against (that's a mark only bested by the 2000 Buccos in the past fifty years).

If the 2010 Buccos are not as talented as the 2008 team, we are in for a longer haul than I thought. I think I can now safely say that that won't be the case, and better days are to come.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bob Smizik's Newest Steaming Pile of Feces

Here you go.

This kind of post comes right in line with the point I've been hammering home recently, the talent we had before was not any good, which includes that 2008 team.

Will the 2010 team win more games that the 2008 team? God, I hope so. They only won 67 games that year, but like the past two years, they could have won more had they not made the Nady/Bay trades in July and then went 17-37 in the last two months of the season, but the 2008 team is the 2008 team... and they won just 67 teams. This 2010 team has yet to play a game, but we have a pretty good idea of how the roster will end up, and WHYGAVS recently took a look at how the projection systems see the Buccos playing out in the upcoming season, I agree with CHONE in that 74 wins would be a solid number. Needless to say, I don't see the 2010 Buccos being worse than a 68 win team. This team will have a better record than the 2008 team, I'll put my guarantee on it.

But wins and losses aren't the best way of measuring talent. I would think pedigree and projection would be one way to look at talent. Since Smizik used that 2008 team as an example of superior talent, let's look at how talented that team was as compared to this team. Position by position. Since there are only so many hours in a day that I can spend looking up Pirates statistics, I'll look at the position players first. Pitchers tomorrow. Note: I will be using the word talented a lot because that's the word Smizik used in his post, but I would much prefer "valuable".

Catcher: 2008 was Doumit's breakout year, when he was a beast at the plate and posted a 3.9 WAR season. I don't think Doumit will ever be that good again as that was probably his peak season at age 27. If Doumit stays healthy (huge if), he could easily put up a 2 WAR season (CHONE has him at 1.6, while the fans project him at 2.4). Either way, the 2008 Doumit was younger and better (not to mention cheaper), therefore more talented and valuable than the 2010 Doumit. Although I would take Jason Jaramillo ('10) over Joggin' Ronny Paulino ('08) any day as a backup, and considering the Pirates have an heir apparent in '09 first pick Tony Sanchez, the gap in total talent is not as far as it seems (I'll try and stick to the MLB rosters, but the gap in system depth is so startling from '08 to '10, that it is tough not to point out future cornerstones as well). ('08)

Fist Base: Despite Adam LaRoche's streaky tendencies, he was pretty consistent with the Pirates, all but for the 2008 season (mostly due to his defense that year). He was already 28 and only worth 1.6 WAR that season. Jeff Clement is a big question mark at first base, as it's not even a given that he holds down the position for the entire year. But I think he will, and I think he'll do a decent job at it, while showing why he was the 3rd overall pick in 2005. CHONE has him pegged at a 1.2 WAR season, not bad for a guy who has never had an extended big league look. Clement will be just 26 next season and probably hitting his peak, while he has a pedigree that LaRoche never had. I think this is kind of a push, although the Pirates in '10 have a backup plan in Garrett Jones. (Push)

Second Base: Freddy was pretty much replacement level in 2008, posting a .3 WAR value in an injury riddled season. He was talented enough to bounce back the next year with an average season, but he was already 30 and injury plagued by 2008 (he will never again be the player he was from 05-07). Despite Aki Iwamura's ACL injury this past season, he has never been prone to injury (although all it takes is one injury to start the domino effect). He's been pretty consistent in his time in the MLB (not to mention his consistency while in Japan), and is projected for a 2.2 WAR by CHONE/2.7 WAR by the fans. He will be 31, but I still think he is more talented now than Freddy was in '08, although that's debatable. ('10)

Third Base: No matter what your thoughts on Andy LaRoche are (I think this will be his breakout season at age 26), he will be better than Jose Bautista was in 2008 (not to mention the Andy LaRoche we got from the Dodgers in July of that year). Just don't even try and debate that. ('10)

Shortstop: Shortstop is the biggest remaining question for the Pirates in '10. Ronny Cedeno is not that good, and while Jack Wilson is no Honus Wagner with the bat, his glove makes him a very valuable SS. But even considering that, JW was worth just 1.5 WAR in '08 as 30-year old, while Cedeno is projected for a .9 WAR in '10 by CHONE and will be just 27 this season. Cedeno also has a pretty impressive track record in the minor leagues. I'm not saying he is better now than Wilson was in '08, I'm just saying there is a possibility he can put up a comparable WAR (although even I'm not optimistic, he doesn't have the plate patience, so it all depends on his glove). But I will say that Bobby Crosby in '10 will be more talented than Luis Rivas and Chris Gomez were in '08. ('08)

Left Field: Jason Bay was really good in '05/'06, but fell off mostly due to his fielding (injuries), which included his 2.9 WAR season in '08. Bay was already 29 by that time, but continues to show he can still hit, so he's got that going for him (although putting him in Citi won't help). Say what you want about Lastings Milledge, but he will be much better defensively in LF in '10 than Bay was in '08, but his bat is still a question mark (CHONE has him at just 0.7 WAR while the fans think 1.8 WAR). Can he hit for enough power and draw enough walks to make his OPS respectable for a LF? I'm optimistic, as he will be just 25 this upcoming season and has a tremendous pedigree as an amateur and in the minors. I'd still take Bay in '08 despite the injuries and the age, but don't be surprised if Milledge breaks out this year. It's closer than you think. Although that '08 team also had Nyjer Morgan on the roster who turned out be the best defensive outfielder in the game in '09... ('08)

Centerfield: McCutchen '10 > McLouth '08. Better pedigree, younger, more equipped to play center, just better. And that's not really a huge knock on McLouth, he was a 3.5 WAR player in '08 no thanks to his defense, but he was already 26. McCutchen put up a 3.4 WAR season in just 108 games this past season at age 22. CHONE has him at 3.4 WAR (so the values may be closer than we think) while the fans are more optimistic (4.7 WAR). I'm in between, say a 4 WAR at age 23, not too shabby. ('10)

Right Field: In just 89 games with the Pirates in 2008, Xavier Nady was a beast (putting up a .919 OPS), which helped him towards posting a 4 WAR season in '08. Unfortunately, he's been mediocre and injury plagued the rest of his career. He was also already 28, which probably put him at or right past his peak. But the same could be said for Garrett Jones the past season when he was 28 and put up a 2.6 WAR in a little over half a season. CHONE has him at just 1.8 WAR (the fans actually thought less, 1.6 WAR) for this upcoming season. So I guess we can safely say that Nady was better in '08 than Jones will be in '10. Although the Pirates did not have a top prospect in Jose Tabata (who they got from the Yankees in exchange for... Xavier Nady!) waiting in the wings back in '08. They also didn't have a guy like Ryan Church who could act as a backup plan just in case Jones flops. ('08)

So the way I look at it, the '08 team was more talented by a score of 4-3, with first base being a push. Considering the age comparisons and cost of the '10 team, it's closer than one would think (although cost has nothing to do with talent, just value). Even the clear '08 winners are much more closer than you would think, like Bay/Milledge and Wilson/Cedeno.

Either way, as I was writing this, I realized how futile the process was. Isn't it pathetic that I'm comparing the current team to a 67 win team from '08 just to prove a point? Especially considering that it looks like that '08 lineup was better than the current one? But then I looked at the '08 pitching performance and realized I had a long way to go in evaluating just how bad that '08 team was.

Pitchers tomorrow, and please allow yourself a full hour between a meal and reading the post, because it ain't pretty.

(Note: all statistics were taken from FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference, and I stole that photo from the PensBlog, who probably stole it from someone else, so who cares)

Tuesday Tomczak's

Did you know that Mike Tomczak won a Super Bowl in his rookie year with the Monsters of Midway, that he actually got to take a few snaps during that game (SB XX), and that he got to play air-guitar for the Shuffling Crew in their hit song, "The Super Bowl Shuffle." Yeah, neither did I.

All I remember was Tomczak's medicore quarterback play on those post-Neil O'Donnell teams. Tomczak actually started 15 games for the Steelers in 1996, leading us to a 10-5 record in his regular season starts. He started the Wild Card playoff game against the Colts at Three Rivers Stadium, and despite his woeful line (13-21, 176 Yds, 2 INT), the Steelers won 42-14 (another fine example of how awesome our running game/defense was back in those years). The Steelers got blown out the next week at Foxboro against Drew Bledsoe and the Pats to a final score of 28-3, a game I only remember for the fact that the entire stadium was cloaked in fog. Tomczak played a few more seasons for the Steelers (until age 37) and then retired into a life of commentary (including a stint on FSNP, if you remember) and sports management. Good for him, plus one of the top Google searches under his name is "Mike Tomczak Wife." So that has to be a good sign.

Pitt won last night, beating the vaunted Colonials of BoMoU. RMU stayed in the game for most of the first half by knocking down shots and forcing the Panthers into taking three-pointers, but Pitt pulled away in the second half. I'd like to say Ashton Gibbs is back, because he shot 4-10 from behind the three-point line, although he didn't attempt another shot inside the arc. But really, we should not be complaining when a guy gets 20 points on ten shots, no matter where they come from. Dante "The Myth" Taylor got some solid minutes and took advantage of them by doing exactly what he should have been doing the whole time, rebounding. Unfortunately he missed both shots he took, along with both freebies, and coughed the ball up twice as well... Baby steps?

I thought this Fanpost from BTSC summed up the current state of the NFL pretty well. It's a passing league, so Jerome doesn't really know what he's talking about. There's some other pretty good stuff over at BTSC, such as a congratulations to coach Lebeau on his HOF induction, and a continuation of their positional reviews.

Matt Bandi over at Pittsburgh Lumber Co. has just the post I'm looking for, a comprehensive look at the players who have been traded by the Bucs over the past 17 years, and how they have performed after they left. Just goes to show that the Pirates problem all along has been talent, not trades. Although that still doesn't excuse previous management at all. My main point is that if you are going to attack the Pirates, at least do it for the correct reasons (there are plenty, but providing the rest of the league with talent is not one of them). Also, Jay Bell... I'm gonna want to see a urine sample from your Diamondback years.

Soccernet has a good look at the US's biggest issue for the upcoming WC, striker depth. I still think that Charlie Davies will be back in time (miraculously) to play alongside Jozy up top, but behind that, I wouldn't mind seeing a safe target forward like Brian Ching (no Conner Casey, please), a speedy guy like Eddie Johnson or Robbie Findlay, and then, if he gets enough playing time from his club team (Plymouth Argyle, who play in the English Championship) in the run-up to the WC, Kenny Cooper. I've always liked Cooper, because he's an incredible combination of size and skill (a poor-man's Ibrahimovic, if you will), and he's got a canon of a shot from distance (something that is lacking from any current Yank). Also, the guy has scored 4 goals in just 10 appearances with the National team.

Also, SoccerByIves has a much more eloquent reaction to Jozy's first goal in the EPL than I did just a day ago, and he connects it to the striker's recent experience in Haiti (both of Jozy's parents are from Haiti).

CofC dropped another game, this time to rival The Citadel. Again, all that matters is the SoCon tournament, but it would be nice to see them handle a team like The Citadel (7-6 in conference), especially at home. The Cougars are still leading in the conference standings, but they have the same amount of losses as Wofford, which should make their match up with the Terriers on the 25th quite pivotal. This is probably the best CofC team they've had since I first went to the school, but they are too dependent on the three and don't get to the line nearly enough, which makes any game losable.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday Morning Snow

If you haven't heard, Pittsburgh got dumped on big time. It started snowing at around 3 p.m. on Friday, and didn't stop until early Saturday morning. By that time, it was like 1912 all over again. You couldn't get anywhere, nothing was open, and people were cross-country skiing in the streets (we get it, you're more outdoorsy than everybody else. Congrats, now get out of my way because you're gliding slower than I am walking).

It's Monday morning, some of the streets still aren't plowed, and I could not get my car out of it's spot (you can actually see it on the far side of the street in the above picture). It's been quite the sight the past few days, as the snow is still piled high but the weather had been gorgeous, which makes the combination all the better (that is before the snow turns into a combination of dirt and garbage). It's good to see people putting their deck chairs to use in the streets as parking space holders, if there's one good thing to come out of a blizzard, it's fold-up beach chairs seeing the light of day in February. One thing that really grinds my gears is some people's inability to shovel the sidewalk in front of their house; it would only take two minutes and it keeps pedestrians off the road. Although on the flip side of neighborly love is everybody's willingness to throw caution into the wind and risk throwing their back out in an effort to push a complete strangers stuck-in car. One thing I can not get over; if I was in high school, I would be pissed. The good snow storms always come on the weekends.

Before I go any further, congratulations to the Saints on winning the Super Bowl last night. I actually slept through the first half and only awoke as The Who was busting through "Who are You?" I did not see that TAINT coming from Peyton (but really, who did?), which unfortunately, kind of iced the game. Drew Brees and his kid was probably the most endearing shot of the night, much better than seeing Jim Caldwell stare blankly at the Lombardi trophy and continue to show zero emotion.

The Pens lost a thriller yesterday afternoon. I don't have much to say about this one, except that AO is ridiculous, he is the best player in hockey right now. All your hockey news can be found at Empty Netters, and the Pensblog had their reluctant recap. Tough weekend for the Pens, you gotta expect Ray Shero to make a move soon.

Soccernet has a nice little recap of Landon Donovan's performance in Saturday's Merseyside Derby. The really good news from this past weekend had to be Jozy Altidore scoring his first EPL goal. Jozy seems to have fallen prey to the unrealistic expectations of US soccer fans (Freddy Adu is a has-been despite the fact that he is still just twenty; although many fans would dispute that as well), but considering Jozy has been playing/starting consistently for an EPL side as a 20-year old, I think the kid has been doing a pretty good job. He's drawn more than a few penalties and Hull isn't exactly an offensive juggernaut, so it's no surprise he's not lighting up the scoreboard. Patience people, patience.

Now that the NFL season is over, BTSC has some dates for you to circle on the calender. And then there was this fan-post about Ben and why he is still better than Drew Brees. I love me some Big Ben, but evaluating a quarterback by their winning percentage is like doing the same with pitchers in baseball. You know who else has a say in the record of a football team, how about the defense, special teams, and everybody else on offense. Don't get me wrong, the QB is the most important player on offense, but even he can't be responsible for the quality of his team's defense. All you have to do is look at this past season, despite Ben having his best statistical season, he only won nine games. I just think that saying Brees is better than Roethlisberger is like saying CC Sabathia was a better pitcher this past season than Zack Grienke because he had more wins. Their both great quarterbacks, but I think it's pretty obvious that Brees is better right now (including this past season).

This kind of defines my life.