Monday, April 09, 2007

Monday, April 9, 2007

-- Penguins back in the playoffs.

-- Still not much offense, but Pirate arms aren't looking bad.

-- Second teams, whiners, plugs

---The Second Season Begins---

And the Penguins are finally a part of it for the first time in 6 years.

Despite winning 3 of the 4 games in the regular season against the Senators (including both games in Canada, eh?), the Penguins are the underdogs in the series. (where I've done most of my sports gambling in the past) has the Senators as just "better" than a 1-to-2 favorite in the series (-210), the Pens at +185.

For those unfamiliar with sports betting on a money line, it's based on $100 dollar wagers. For the Senators, you'd have to put down $210 to win $100 (with a Sens victory in the series, you would get your $210 plus the $100, so it's not like you lose $110). With the Penguins at +185, you'd put down $100 to win $185. That's just the ratio, of course, you can put down $20 on the Penguins to win $37 if you're a nickel-and-dimer.

The odds at Yahoo! have the Senators at -170 and the Pens at +150 (slightly better).

And I'm still overjoyed. Odds mean nothing. The Penguins just had a monster season. The season is mentioned in the same sentence as a certain underachieving squad from the 1992-1993 season. When that happens, you know anything can happen.

I don't think this will be the Penguins year to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup, but I certainly will be rooting for it (that whole "head vs. heart" thing).

The past couple of seasons has suggested that the first round is the most likely to see upsets based on a statistic I've been watching all season long: Shots-on-Goal Differential (SOGD). In the later rounds, the team with the better SOGD has been the successful club in advancing to and winning the Stanley Cup Finals.

A couple of posts on the message board at elucidate what I'm trying to determine.

First post from November.

Today's thoughts.

Regardless of Ottawa being almost 4 SOGs better per game than the Penguins during the regular season, and their season save percentage being higher, I think the Penguins will score a 7-game upset before succumbing to a rested Buffalo Sabres squad in a valiant 6.

And while I'll be disappointed at the time, I know that this season has already been highly successful. Arena deal. Turnaround season. Sweeping the Flyers. Art Ross Trophy. Probably Calder Trophy. Possible Hart Trophy.

Add some playoff success and some playoff failure and you've got yourself a team that will be listed as a legitimate Cup contender in 2007-2008.

And did yinz notice that there is a possibility (though not likely), that the Eastern Conference Semifinals could be an all-Atlantic Division party? (The Devils would take on the Islanders and the Pens would draw the Rangers in a best-of-seven rematch of each team's season finale).

Don't bank on it, though. The Sabres are -550. While I don't put much stock in odds, as previously mentioned, there's a reason they're trying to deter too much money going on the Sabres.

Let's get it on...

---Mixed Signals---

It must just be the cold weather now.

The Pirate bats were a bit cold in Houston due to some good pitching from the Astro starters. They were a bit frigid in Cincinnati because it was frigid. That must have been the case today against the Cardinals. And when they could get good wood on the ball, they were at-em balls. The bats didn't hold up so well, either. I counted 4 broken bats unofficially. I missed the first inning.

Did I miss much in the way of crowds going nuts for any particular players/personnel? Did Don Kelly get a screaming, standing ovation? If for no othe reason than for the crowd to make noise and warm themselves up? What about LaRoche? Freddy? Lanny?

Why didn't I see this? It was one or more of these:

1) I was taking advantage of the fact that my girlfriend works from home.

2) I was off giving the Angels heavenly foot massages.

3) I was getting home from an early morning inventory (that's my 2nd job besides radio).

So, please, fill me in.

Other observations:

Duke and Snell are exhibiting some consistency through their first couple of starts. Both went at least through the 6th inning in both starts and allowed 3 runs or fewer. Duke has only walked 1 in 2 starts, while Snell has issued 2 free passes. One of those was intentional. Both have pitched well enough to be 2-0 each. As it is, their combined record is 1-1. Next up to prove some consistency, Tom Gorzelanny.

Maholm and Armas did not have very good debuts. Armas' performance was more disburbing as he gave up 8 hits and 5 walks in just 4 innings. That won't do. Maholm's loss was more due to making two bad pitches. He got no run support, anyway. I think it's also important to note that neither of Maholm's two walks came back to haunt him.

Damaso Marte and John Wasdin are the weak links in the bullpen. I don't think I said anything earth-shattering there.

Having a 4-3 record with a team BA under .250 is a fortunate thing.

Tomorrow, Randy Keisler gets the start in favor of injured Chris Carpenter. That's a good thing, right? Keisler owns a 6.82 career ERA and 1.74 WHIP and hasn't started a game since 2005. Another good thing. Of course, against the Pirates, he has a 2.35 ERA in 7.2 innings.

Does anyone else agree that the top of the 1st inning may be the most important 3 outs Gorzelanny needs to get? The Bucs can ill-afford to give a spot starter any breathing room, especially early. As it is, they have a propensity to make rookie starters or otherwise no-name pitchers look like Cy Young candidates.

It's almost a must-win game.

Sad, isn't it?

---Enlightening the Clueless---

My mission in starting down the path of being a sports talk radio host and sports columnist was to be one who respects the opinions of others. To make people feel welcome in submitting their thoughts, feelings and analyses of happenings (or non-happenings) in the sports world while they continue to learn about the intricacies of whichever sport or sports they're interested in.

It's an uphill battle, of course. The top-rated sports talk radio personality in the 'Burgh thrives on insulting his listenership for whatever reason he can find. I'm not sure that even if there were an alternative that everyone were made aware of that they'd switch away from him.

At the risk of taking a step back, there are some things I've read on other blogs or in the comments that I've got to address, even if those folks don't visit this site.

1) At least one commenter in one blog said, essentially, that you can't have a 2nd team. Not only is this incorrect, it's very simple to do.

- Baseball. Chicago White Sox. I lived in the 'burbs of the Windy City for 6 years. The only team I "adopted" out there was the White Sox. I didn't mind the Blackhawks or the Bears. Not even the Bulls, now that they were without Michael Jordan. The Cubs...after meeting so many members of their fan disdain for Cubbie Blue actually grew. I rooted for the White Sox through their 2005 playoff run as if they were the Pirates, going so far as to listen to them on WMVP (AM 1000) that I could pick up in the evening so that I could hear the local announcers explode in joy. But when the Sox play the Bucs, I root for the Pirates to slaughter them (last year, there was no slaughtering, but at least there was one memorable win (thanks, Freddy).

- Hockey. Detroit Red Wings. Part of this affinity came from the Stanley Cup Finals when they played the Flyers. Seriously. Another was that they would regularly play my least favorite team in Hockeydom, the Colorado Avalanche on a regular basis. But, again, when the Pens and Wings would face off, the Wings were just as bad as the 'lanche.

- Football. None set. I like to jump on a team's bandwagon when they're on the rebound (i.e. last year's Saints, the 1997 Arizona Cardinals). Just as long as they're not the Raiders or Cowboys. I found myself rooting on the Colts and the Bears last year. This year, I won't be pulling for the Colts so much.

Having a 2nd team, even if that team changes from year to year, is perfectly fine. And it's likely to make you a greater fan of the game overall.

2) Another comment recently posted to a blog "anonymously", of course, said that the Steelers were handed XL.

Seriously. Learn the damn game.

a) Darrell Jackson's push off Chris Hope probably wasn't necessary to keep Hope from making a play on the ball, but the ref was right. There. It's going to look worse than what you saw on the TV when you're 3 feet from them. And the ref actually whiffed on throwing his flag before Hope even turned to plead for the flag.

b) Roethlisberger's TD. The ref came in to mark him down, running in with one arm upraised and the other pointing to the spot. Then the ref realizes he's pointing at the chalk line. The other arm goes up. Simple as that. The camera is also not exactly on the line. It's a little inside the goal line. If that camera is at the back of the endzone, it's going to look like he's a yard and a half short. if it's at the 10 yard line looking in, he's a yard and a half over. Moving the camera 2 inches toward the opposite end zone, that ball will graze the goal line. It's enough. Worth review, of course. Right call.

c) Sean Locklear ended up having his right hand clinging to Haggans' jersey on the "phantom" holding call. Conventional football wisdom has told us for years that you can get away with holding if your hands are inside. Just not when the rest of you is on the outside. Best picture of the hold. As for the offsides, that was close. Same thing with the Roethlisberger TD, the camera was not aligned with the hashmarks. Not to say that everything would have played out the same way, but at the very least, it's 1st and 10 again if the penalties offset. The ball is certainly not on the 1.

d) Hasselbeck's penalty for a chop-block. Bad call. It was called because one of the defenders coming up to escort Taylor on his INT return was also tripped up. Bad angle from the ref who threw the flag. Still, their field position doesn't rule out that they would have thrown the reverse-option pass.

These are the prime four complaints from the Seattle-faithful. Or those who claim to be "objective". Or those folks who were 3rd-string clappers on their high school football teams. The same folks who don't bring up non-calls on Big Ben getting blocked from behind during a key Seattle INT return. Nor Jeramy Stevens' fumble that was ruled incomplete. Or the fact that Darrell Jackson's penalty would have only given the 'Hawks 4 more points as they ended up scoring a field goal on that drive anyway. Or just the ineptitude of Seattle's 2-minute drill.

I understand what it is to be frustrated. Seattle held Pittsburgh without a first down until the 2nd quarter. A phenomenal defensive effort against a team who had been on fire early in playoff games in Indy and Denver.

If it makes people feel better to beat this dead horse (another Superbowl has come and gone, folks), I'd suggest they move to Oakland and join those who still think the Immaculate Reception pass touched Frenchy Fuqua first. Or, if you prefer, to Buffalo who still whine that the Music City Miracle wasn't a legitimate lateral.

=====end=====for now=====


If you haven't been there yet, for some reason, ThePensBlog is in playoff form, with photoshop expos that make my little "Quest Begins" graphic above look like a kindergartener's work.

One of Steeltown's Angels, Tiffany, has her own blog now. So far, so awesome. Go there now.

And, finally, I know from my weekly traffic report that more people than the Angels visit the page. I'm hoping you join in the commenting action on this blog. Suggestions, comments, questions, agreements, disagreements, anything. In the meantime, I'll just see it as being in a cyber-jacuzzi with three ladies.


Anonymous karri said...

Mike...a cyber-jacuzzi sounds interesting... ;)

BTW...when you discuss “you can’t have a second team,” I totally agree that this is nonsense and applaud your view that “Its likely to make you a greater fan of the game overall.” Growing up here didn’t stop me from enjoying other sports teams and players from other cities, not that I wasn’t loyal to the Penguins, Pirates, & Steelers.

Also, I saw the anonymous commenter make that statement about Superbowl XL handed to the Steelers on that blog. Oh please! Officiating in sports is subjective at best. What losing team is ever happy with the stripes. Having said that, I’ve heard not-so-bright people believe the conspiracy theory that Neil O’Donnell intentionally threw interceptions to Dallas players (whoever) because he was being paid off in Superbowl XXX.

Lastly, I want to thank you for the stats you did in the post you wrote at ‘burghsportsguys.
“from what I know, SOG itself is a single-game indicator, but I'm keeping my eye on the league averages on SOG and SOGA throughout the season” and also the post at
where you give the 2006-2007 season shots-on-goal differential. This will hopefully give me assistance, especially in the Western Conference, when I do my playoff brackets for ThePensblog. I’m hoping to win “A 1991 Penguins puck signed by the entire Pensblog Staff”. :-)

P.S. Are you doing the Game Day Chat on Wednesday? My friend goes on. Looks like fun.

4/10/2007 1:52 AM  
Blogger Tiffany said...

These playoff games are gonna make me us all sick, huh? At the same time, I can't wait for Wednesday to get here.

Now changing the subject’ve been a bit busy, haven't you Mike. "...being in a cyber-jacuzzi with three ladies”, what you said in reference to being my 1st commenter, & giving foot massages?? You must have been treating the other Angels ‘cause I certainly didn’t get one.

All joking aside, that was really sweet of you to have a link to my site. Too bad I have NO idea what I’m doing.....

4/10/2007 5:17 AM  
Anonymous nicole said...

"being in a cyber-jacuzzi with three ladies"

Hahaha Mike,
I see the other "angels" like that one too! I just hope your lady doesn't take it too personal. :)
Then again, she has you, why worry.

Sports talk - I'm trying to be a better educated sports help an awful lot! Please continue to write the way you'll make it big...I can feel it! You've helped me...and even have me commenting on your site with my name...something I don't do anywhere else because I usually feel under-informed. Thanks Mike!

4/10/2007 10:54 AM  
Anonymous karri said...

Mike...what a difference a day makes. Pens get crushed in Ottawa...Pirates now 4 & 5 with a .444 PCT…ahhhhhhhhhh! I know it’s a 7 game series for the Pens and that the Pirates have only played 9 games, but frustration does have a tendency to set in. I can only imagine how the teams must be feeling. It’s tough being just a fan with no control.

Well now that I have vented...I feel better.

I saw the shout-out you received from ThePensblog calling you the “Hardest-working man in the business.” That was nice to see.

I also listened again to the Greg Brown interview and as you put it your “ramblings”...haha. Listened a little more carefully this time and how you talked to Jim in Claysville. I heard you tell him how your show bridges a gap - shifting the gears without pushing the clutch down. Nice.

I do have a question/comment that maybe you can help me with…I watched the Pirates game on FSN on Tuesday...had a day off work. Anyway, I know the Pirates could’ve won it in the 9th had Jason Bay, with runners on first and second, thrown the flyball he caught in left field to second base instead of third. Both runners advanced. Next batter up got a single and both runners scored. Game tied…goes to the twelvth inning, St. Louis over.

When Jason Bay was catching that ball, Lanny Frattare starts to talk. (I wish I had paid better attention to who was in the booth with him.) I couldn’t tell if it was Greg Brown, Steve Blass, Bob Walk, or John Wehner. Just don’t know their voices that well. Whoever it was kinda goes nuts on Bay for quite a while. It was appalling. It did cost the Pirates the game I think, in addition to the fact that they left so many runners stranded. But this guy on TV was totally belittling Jason Bay on a telecast! I heard you talking to those callers on your podcast, and you showed them so much respect. I understand that it’s two different situations, but come on. I thought there could’ve been a little better way of reacting by a so-called professional. So Mike, how can I make my voice be heard by FSN? Who do I write, email, or call? Any suggestions? I don’t want to belittle the man on air by calling into a show; that would be hypocritical. However, I feel the need to do something.

P.S. Sorry for the lenghth of this comment. :)

4/12/2007 8:35 PM  
Blogger Steeltown Mike said...


I've never actually written or called FSN Pittsburgh. i guess that's a bit of a fib, I had to call Trenni Kusnierek last summer for my interview with her in July. I would suggest writing them an e-mail.

You can also e-mail me if you want to ask me something that might not relate to a blog entry or if you're afraid a reply might be too long.

And, of course, that's offered to you, or the other Angels, or anyone else who may be lurking on this blog.

The commentator was Bob Walk. I actually agreed with him. I thought he did beat the horse a little too long, but Bay and Wilson (his cut-off man) have been playing this game too long to make the mistake of at least not throwing to 2nd. Duncan may still make it to 2nd, but the play would have been the correct one.

Thanks for your continued support.

4/12/2007 10:40 PM  
Anonymous karri said...

Thanks so much Mike for answering me so quick and for letting me know it was Bob Walk...I wasn't sure. I agree with you it was a Bay mistake, but Walk was obnoxious.

I'll email FSN my comment and email you if I have another question/comment this long so that it doesn't clog the blog.

Btw, enjoying the jacuzzi?

4/13/2007 1:14 AM  

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