Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday, March 9, 2007

-- "Steeltown Sports: Live!" broadcast on Saturday evening

-- Pitt finally defeats a ranked team

-- Penguins' focus should remain below, than ahead

-- Pirates making accommodations for Eldred

-- Fox Sports Radio in the Tank

---Saturday's Broadcast---

"Steeltown Sports: Live!" airs Saturday at approximately 8PM on 590AM, WMBS in Uniontown. We'll be nestled between the PAC-10 tournament final and the Big East Tournament final.

Scheduled guests: Adam and Derek of the immensely popular ThePensBlog to talk at length about playoff pushes and arena deals and jobbers. If you can't tune in (out of range/don't own a radio), you can either listen to us over the internet by copying this link into your windows media player:

If you cannot do that, or, if the feed is disabled because of the copyrighted games WMBS will be piggy-backing throughout the day, I plan to post the audio here, sans commercials, as soon as I'm able.

Also, a teaser that I'll have another short show on Saturday, March 24th from noon until 12:30. Guest(s) to be determined, but expect it to be folks to sound off on the Pirates as it will probably be my last show before the season begins.

---Off the Snide---

Pitt finally beat a ranked team last night and prepares to take on yet another in just a short time. But listening to Bill Hillgrove and Dick Groat call the game last night, there is still a way for the blue and gold to go to make people take notice.

For much of the middle portion of the game, the Panthers seemed to commit turnovers and miss free throws the closer the game became. Turnovers have been the Panthers' M.O. during big games throughout the Jamie Dixon era. You're not going to be flawless, but those turnovers consistently happen when Pitt is poised to take command of a game. When your competition is going to be getting increasingly better, a better job of mental preparation is needed.

Statistically speaking the difference between last night's game vs. Marquette as compared to the other marquee Big East losses the Panthers have endured have everything to do with their own shooting percentages. Looking at the two previous Marquette losses, as well as the losses to Georgetown and Louisville, Pitt's opponent has shot between 44% and 48.1%. Defensively speaking, that's not exactly stellar, but you have an idea of what to expect. Last night, Marquette shot 46.6%, pretty much right in the middle.

In the four losses, Pitt shot 32.8% vs. Georgetown, 35.4% against Louisville (only 14.3 from beyond the arc), 42.8% when they hosted Marquette (the game that went to OT), and 37.9% last week at Marquette. In their victory last night, the Panthers shot 49.1%.

Pitt might also want to thank the fact that Marquette had to play the previous evening, and that some of Marquette's big guys got into some late foul trouble, while they largely stayed out of it.

Improvements need to be made defensively if there is to be a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, but greater adjustments are needed to get open looks to Ronald Ramon, who is quite diminuative compared to others on the hardwood, or good passes to the inside. Defenses can only guard so many things at once, so if they're going to give up the perimeter to make sure Aaron Gray doesn't contribute as strongly, Pitt has to recognize this quickly and take those long shots, and not wait for Gray to get open if the D isn't giving it to them. If they're playing man-to-man, quick pick and rolls will create the space to either drive to the hoop or bounce a pass underneath.

If Pitt shoots above 44% tonight, that should be enough to defeat Louisville.

(Georgetown shot almost 54% in their 2-point semi-final win over Notre Dame. Wow.)

---Be-Deviled Again---

The New Jersey Devils are the best-conditioned team in hockey. After watching them skate more than a couple times this season, and listening to Mike Lange describe some of the shifts Devils skaters were taking, I have no doubt that we'll be seeing New Jersey in the conference finals.

That said, the Pittsburgh Penguins have played the Devils tough in their last 3 meetings, strangely enough only winning the one of those games that took place on the road. They barely held on for a 5-4 victory that night. They played tough but took a 1-0 loss on the chin at the Mellon not long afterward. Last night, they rallied from two one-goal deficits to force overtime, only to be done in by Martin Brodeur on one end and Patrick Elias on the other end of a tense shootout.

Regardless, picking up that point last night was the most important thing. While they drop 8 points back of New Jersey, the mission should definitely be staying ahead of the rest of the pack. There is a bit of breathing room at the moment, but all it takes would be two games to change everything around and have the Penguins just barely hanging on.

They must play like they are the pursued, not the pursuer.

---Unconventional Uses---

Freddy Sanchez at 2nd.

Neil Walker at 3rd.

Brad Eldred in the outfield?

The Pirates started dabbling with moving their players around last year when they had about 10,000 people playing first base after the Sean Casey trade. Joe Randa had a couple of stints there, migrating from 3rd, Ryan Doumit, losing his starting catching job to Ronny Paulino, tried his hand at first, and even Xavier Nady, pretty much a career outfielder, saw plenty of time there.

Considering that the Pirates haven't had a winning season since Bush I was president, I'm all for trying new and different things. I blogged a couple weeks ago about why Sanchez, LaRoche and Bay should bat 2-3-4 instead of 3-4-5. While conventional baseball wisdom suggests that the hitter with the highest average should bat in the 3-spot, what good is it if the two guys in front of him can't get on? A team with some holes in their offense, and some questions marks in pitching need to consider thinking outside of the baseball book. Former manager Lloyd McClendon was infamous for matching righties against lefties regardless of how much worse overall the lefty was over the righty, etc. Sometimes, he looked better when he'd just have a "hunch" and play that. It didn't always work, either, but when baseball is played with such disparity in team's payrolls, thinking outside of the box is probably the best way to go.

Back to Eldred, I am not as concerned when outfielders come in to play first as I am when first basemen go into the outfield. Some years ago, circa 2001, I went to Wrigley Field to watch a Kris Benson/Kerry Wood pitching matchup in early spring. The Pirates corner outfielders were Craig Wilson in left and Kevin Young in right.

Early in the game, a ball was hit to right, and Young stood beneath it...holding his glove at his belt. He makes a breadbasket catch. After recovering from my mini-heart attack, I shout from my seat in the 3B/LF section of the Friendly Confines, "Kevin! Never! Do! That! Again!"

He did it again. And, quite expectedly, he dropped that one. Even Wilson dropped one. He caught one later, and the bleacher bums behind him gave him a sarcasticly loud ovation. Pirates lost 4-0.

While I don't think Eldred could be worse in the outfield than K.Y., I'd still be concerned about having him on the 25-man roster with the intention of using him out there. Unless, maybe the game was well out of reach at that point.

I'm not sure how fast Big Country can run, but if Jeromy Burnitz was trusted for a good portion of the year out there, Eldred might not be so bad after he gets some added practice time there.

---The Rating Game---

WDVE is, as always, the highest-rated radio station in the 'Burgh. KDKA is, as always, the highest-rated AM radio station in the 'Burgh, and 2nd overall to DVE.

My radio home, WMBS, is at the way bottom (or at least of the ones that show up on the charts). This doesn't phase me terribly much as I recognize the demographic and location to which the station appeals. Generally an older crowd, with programs such as "Senior Spotlight" and music from members of the Rat Pack, Patti Page, and the Four Aces, as well as programs of community interest to the Fayette County region, including local sports. I've had the opportunity to do more things here (music, production, sports, talk, remotes) in almost a year and a half than I would have at any of the stations toward the top without having to run coffee or lick boots. And my demo is sounding pretty good.

Possibly the most interesting factoids I've pulled from the most recent release of Arbitron's quarterly ratings, however, is the fall of WBGG, a.k.a., Fox Sports 970.

Over the past year and a half, the highest portion of the market share that Fox Sports Radio in Pittsburgh had grabbed was still half that of ESPN Radio 1250 (and one-ninth of DVE's). That portion was during the winter of last year, when the Steelers were doing that Superbowl thing. It's very likely that sports radio listenership in the area was at an overall increase.

Stan Savran was let go in June of '06. During the summer of '06 and for this winter so far, WBGG is tied at the bottom with good ol' WMBS radio. They went slightly upwards during the fall (again, Steeler season). Fox Sports Radio apparently, has 1/6th of the listenership of ESPN Radio, and, if I'm reading it right, 1/32nd of DVE's listenership.

The only reason this is remotely amazing to me is that I'm pretty sure 970's broadcast radius is greater than 1250's.

This leaves me wondering if Fox Sports Radio even bothered to conduct a survey of their listeners to determine how they'd react if they didn't have Stan Savran (and, of course, other programs to disguise their thinking). If I'm scratching my own head this much of this, I can only wonder at the state of the collective scalp of those who run Fox Sports 970.


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