Monday, May 07, 2007

Monday, May 7, 2007

-- Pirates coming undone.

-- Further thoughts on the Steeler draft.

-- Grab bag.


It's getting ugly for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

And everything that's been coming their way this past week has largely been of their own doing. They'd be able to get through April with a 12-12 record with one of the lowest batting averages in Major League Baseball and only a middling ERA, which has been gradually on the decline. The Pirates have given up an average of 6 earned runs per game in the month of May (3 of the 39 runs scored by Pirate opponents were unearned).

Worse, the Pirate WHIP (Walks/Hits per inning pitched) is tied for 23rd at 1.47 through May 7, and dead last in OBP (On-base Percentage) at .295 (the tops of those categories are 1.18 [Oakland] and .363 [Philadelphia], respectively).

That the Pirates are only 6.5 games back of the division lead with those statistics is nothing short of fortunate.

Ronny Paulino has been a liability defensively so far, and has not returned with his .300 average to offset some of his lapses on the field.

Adam LaRoche is finally batting in the triple digits, but the power he was to bring to the Pirates has been sorely absent.

Jason Bay has been on-again, off-again.

Jack Wilson is your best hitter for average as of this entry: .288

If this is the offense we can expect for the rest of the season, then the young pitching staff is going to have to live up to the greatest of expectations to keep Pittsburgh in the hunt.

I gave Jim Tracy a one-year pass as manager. Now he knows the players. Now he's had time to adapt. To teach fundamental baseball to the point where we should not be regularly talking about throwing to the wrong base, not dropping down to block a pitch in the dirt, poor execution of hit-and-runs, etc.

The margin for error for this team is slim, indeed. They got away with a lot. They were able to win some games by way of some good fortune. Right now, they don't look like they're any better now than they were last year as a team. Honestly, I'd rather see a team with last year's record playing good baseball (if that combination would somehow be possible), then a team playing pretty shaky baseball with a better record.

Finally, there's an article out there that many of the authors of Pirate-based blogs are jumping on.

Not me. Well, at least not enough to go out and declare it the best analytical Pirates piece written this year.

Read it for yourself and tell me what you think. I already mentioned the fundamentals portion, but where I think this story falls short is when it tries to link play of the fielders to this statistic:

The Pirates have recorded outs on 68.9 percent of all balls put in play, no matter the scorer's decision or even if they are home runs. No judgment involved. And that figure is fourth-lowest in the game.

From the games I've seen, this is more a factor of opposing hitters smoking balls past infielders. A dream infield would have difficulty catching up to many of these laser shots. This falls on the pitchers (refer to WHIP, which is tied for 5th worst in the league) far more than the offense. Oh, and since they don't filter out home runs surrendered (Bucs in the middle, surrendering 27), again, refer to the mound. I don't have the resources that DK has. I wonder what the percentage outs-to-balls-in-play ratio was then.

Thirty games gone. One hundred 32 to go. Roughly one-fifth into the season. Not quite. Jack Wilson committed 18 errors in 2006 during Operation Bulk-up. He changed that regimen this past offseason, and is on pace for 10 or 11 errors. Improvement is improvement, and shortstop is one of the busiest defensive positions in ball. Freddy Sanchez, maligned in said article for his lack of range, has also committed two errors so far, for a fielding percentage of .981 at his "new position". He is doing no better or worse than last year when he played most of his season at the Hot Corner. Jose Castillo had a fielding percentage of .975 for last season at second.

Of course, the thing about statistics is that you can skew them in any direction possible. So, by comparing these statistics to those of last year, I'd say the defense itself is not the problem. Defensive alignments may be something else. I don't see Pirate players shading too many lefties toward right field (i.e. Jack Wilson is almost never standing behind 2nd base with LaRoche playing the line and Sanchez playing in between against a Jim Edmonds-type.

I will think on this.

Bottom line: starting pitchers need to adapt to what opposing team's scouts are finding about them to stay a step ahead of the game. The offense needs to stop trying so hard to get an opposite field hit or to put one over the fence. We'll worry more about the defense when the first two issues start to come around.

T-minus 71 wins.

---Draft Redux---

The more I read on message boards and blogs and the like, the more I am finding that there are a lot of people who would say last year's wide receiver-heavy draft was better than this year's.

A major complaint: A punter taken in the 4th round. "You never take a punter in the 4th round. Ever."

Well, when losing field position battles virtually all season was a major problem, I think there's a strong argument for taking a guy whose greatest weakness might end up being out-kicking his coverage. But if he can angle one of his booming punts to approach the sideline inside the 10, we may have a true hero on the team (who will, of course, go largely unsung).

A jock on 105.9 FM, Grim (or perhaps, "Grimm"), said it best, "You're not going to fix all of your 8-and-8 team's problems in one draft."

An improvement on defense and special teams will help give the offense a slightly easier time. Next year, they'll probably end up looking at offensive linemen. I don't know if the Steelers looked ahead and said, "Hey, you know what? The 2008 class looks to be loaded with more O-lineman than here in '07. Let's stock up on defensive players." Again, I don't follow College ball enough to know who's who. Again, I invite those in the know to let me know if there are any seniors (or draft-eligable underclassmen) that people already have an eyeball on.

And did I ever mention that Randy Moss + Tom Brady = Uh oh?

Training Camp opens in 77 days...


I am complete mud when it comes to my sports-related predictions this year. My Stanley Cup champion pick (New Jersey) fell in a relatively easy 5 games to the same team that victimized the Penguins. NJ's defense was unable to trap the Senators' offense enough during the series, and Marty Brodeur looked human at times when he would normally look God-like.

Why was I pulling for the Devils? Well, I like defensive hockey, first off, and they are a franchise that epitomizes that. Secondly, I want Brodeur to eclipse Patrick Roy in as many records as possible, because I could not stand the former Hab/Nordique/Av.

Ah, well. At least, Detroit currently has a 2-0 lead against the Sharks after 1. If they hold on to win, at least one of my Stanley Cup Finalists will still be alive entering the next-to-last round...

Oh, back to my being mud: I thought Oscar de la Hoya would be Floyd Mayweather on Saturday. Decisively.

There was no ownership in that match, but Mayweather prevailed in a decision.

Being on pay-per-view, live from Las Vegas, I figured that there was a better chance of either fighter being knocked out in Round 1 or 2, than for the fight to go the distance and be decided by decision. I have to get out of this funk, or I'm going to be taken less seriously than I already am. Sheesh...


Sidney Crosby will probably win the Hart.

Roberto Luongo will probably win the Vezina.

Evgeni Malkin will probably win the Calder (but my gut is telling me that it'll be Jordan Staal, despite his low assists).


The folks at ThePensBlog love them some "Heroes". Of course, so do I. I am grateful to the modern-day technology that lets me record shows and view them online with limited commercial interruption. Why? Because I usually work Monday nights at WMBS, and have no TV access (and have to be paying attention to other stuff anyway). Worst of all, "Heroes", just HAD to run opposite of my other favorite TV show: "24".

I will grant that "24" this season has been more of a "shut your brain off and enjoy the ride." Nowhere nearly as cerebral as it's been. And "Heroes" is much fresher, and has fielded a team of writers who've been consistently good. And the heroines (and villainesses) are measurably hotter.

At left, Ali Larter of "Heroes". At right, Mary Lynn Rajskub of "24".
No contest.

So, I record "24" on the VCR and watch "Heroes" online. Otherwise, I would be depriving myself of the entertaining TV that I haven't had since the days of "The X-Files" and "Millennium" running back to back in the mid-90's.

Frank Black owned Friday prime time.

Incidently, Lance Henriksen just turned 67 on Saturday.

Oh, and don't confuse Frank Black of "Millennium" with Frank Black of "The Pixies".

The Original Debaser


Anonymous karri said... is a complicated post to comment on.

I agree with you that it is getting ugly with the Pirates...still trying to be optimistic..not yet ready to give up. (It was a very nice 15th inning against Chicago last night.)

Of course, your stats are amazing, but they are way over my head. I still think their pitching is key. I also read DK's article. Uh...The only thing I found interesting was the fact that Jonah Bayliss is now playing a sweet Fender Telecaster guitar in the clubhouse. (I wonder what color it is.)

Steelers Draft...again...over my head. I love to watch them play and cheer for them, but I don't have a clue what is needed to improve the team until I see how badly they are playing at a specific position.

Sorry about the Devils...really. I would've rather they won than Ottawa.

Now Heroes...oh yes...that is a show! Two more episodes. Can't wait for the DVD to come out.

5/09/2007 6:33 PM  
Anonymous nicole said...

Glad you're writing more, just wish I could understand the stats. (I'm with the brunette...too deep for me...maybe Redundant89, Mike, Tim, or someone else could comment on them.) (Probably not Tiff either) ;)

Steelers - too early - and the Alan Faneca situation is frustrting the hell out of me! They can't do this to him! Mike Tomlin is already pissing me off!

And, like thePensblog crew, I'm another Heroes fan. Watched it the whole season. Agree with you - Ali Larter is hotter than Mary Lynn Rajskub is. But my list of hotties includes....
1. Santiago Cabrera - oohhhhh
2. Sendhil Ramamurthy - yummy
3. Milo Ventimiglia - mmmmmm...aahh

5/12/2007 1:34 PM  
Anonymous nicole said...

Sorry...made a few mistakes earlier...

Meant to say Matt, not Mike. Haha - that's you. (Blonde that I am)

And I'm so angry over the Steelers situation that I misspelled frustrated...duh.

Well, whatever...lookin' forward to your next post to brighten my day. Keep writin', dude.

5/12/2007 6:08 PM  
Blogger Tiffany said...

Mike, the fact that the walks/hits per inning pitched is referred to as the Pirate WHIP is absolutely brilliant. ;-) And I was rooting for de la Hoya too, but what can you do? Also, add me to the long list of people in love with Heroes. It's one of the few shows I do watch.

By the way, blonde....your little comment is highly offensive! I understand the stats perfectly........ok, no I don't. (^_~) By the way, your list of hotties is totally in sync with mine....hehe.

5/13/2007 9:55 AM  
Anonymous emma aka redundant89 said...

Guys, you don't WANNA understand the stats! Hahah. Although I would point out that at least we're not dead last in runs scored--I think the Nats and Cards suck a little more at that than us, unbelievable as it may seem.

5/14/2007 7:26 PM  
Blogger Dutch said...


These women don't know anything about sports. Especially Nicole and her defense for Faneca. hehe

7/18/2007 12:29 AM  

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