#115: Nibbling Spring Training Numbers
---Pirates' Record Misleading---The Pittsburgh Pirates are 8-4 in Spring Training, 9-4 if you count the game versus the Netherlands (which I do not).
They only had 13 wins in Spring Training 2008, 12 in '07, 15 in both '06 and '05, and 11 in '04. So, on pace to win 16 or more seems like it could be a promising thing.
There are a few people I've talked to who are kind of exciting about this season, completely buying into this, "Pirates are going to be the next Tampa Bay in a year or two" hype that the front office is trying to dish out to folks.
I am unconvinced.
They need a couple more productive drafts (and the jury's still out on this one), and there need to be a couple of previously-unnoticed players who elevate their games.
I was looking at the box scores of the games played heretofore (through the 15-14 loss to Boston).
Through the 12 games, guess how many total first-inning runs the Buccos have scored.
The answer: none.
If you count the game against the Netherlands (which I do not), they've scored two.
The first three innings are usually the Pirates projected starters versus those from the opposition (it's not always the case...at least not as certain as it is in football's preseason).
The Pirates have been outscored 27-11 (by my unofficial count) in the first three innings.
After five innings, that total closes a bit to 40-33, still in favor of the opposition - and by then, the starting pitchers have left the game and subs have already started coming in.
Starting from the sixth inning, however, the Pirates have whalloped their opponents 41-17.
The best-case scenario you can draw from the above numbers is that the Pirate minor leaguers might actually be coming on to a point where they will serve notice sooner rather than later as they develop. After all, they've been doing well against, essentially, the farm club players from other organizations.
The worst-case scenario is that some of these players who are shining in the extra innings are going to find themselves on the bench with the mothership, riding bench, and finding they're overmatched by the "pros" when they get the call.
The likely-case scenario is that the Pirates will at least recognize when those contributing players' work was done and send them down anyway, but will bring them up before year's end.
Do not get excited.
My early prediction, despite much "you're being to harsh" from members of the real and internet communities, is that the Pirates will go 59-103 this year.
I'll be more interested in the draft, and seeing how many people forget in a couple years that we should be approaching the realization of (yet another) five-year rebuilding plan, not preparing to start another one.
In the meantime, no one should be buying tickets to PNC Park or otherwise putting money in the ownership's pocket until a winner begins to emerge (that's pretty much the moral of any Pirates post on this blog until further notice).
#114: Random Notes
---Quickest of Hits---Steelers -
They are NFL Champions (I am not for the saying of "World Champions", though I have no doubt they could be the best CFL, NFL Europe, NFL Japan (?), whatever, team that is out there.
There is considerably less whining from the Arizona front, though there are some who are once again calling Pittsburgh's victory "Tainted". I don't think those are coming from 'zona fans, though. I think those are Cryboy fans or just Steeler-haters in general who can't stand that a bunch o' drunken rednecks and wanna-be yuppies can celebrate for a sixth time.
-- Also on the Stiller front:
Kendall Simmons released: Good. Darnell Stapleton is better. Partially because he's healthier, but also because he's better if they're both healthy. Simmons was a first-round bust that was allowed to hang on too long
Max Starks signed: Rock and a hard place. Not terrible to sign him, but to sign him to over $9 million? Kevin Colbert is reaping the whirlwind for his failure to draft a legitimate offensive lineman in X number of years. At least an ill-advised top-pick wide receiver 3 years ago paid dividends with the Championship-winning catch...
Chris Kemoeatu signed: Pretty bad. At least it's not quite the lucrative contract that Starks is.
Willie Colon made an offer: Awful. They should just cut their losses with that one.
Nate Washington to Tennessee: Fine. WRs are the most easy to get along without. See: Steelers 2005, without Plaxico Burress...winning Superbowl with Cedric Wilson, instead.
Notice how the Pens are winning withOUT Sidney Crosby? This proves to me that Sid is trying to do too much, and/or he doesn't believe he has a competent winger.
And they're winning withOUT Michael Therrien, too. In Ray Shero we trust. The trade for Gary Roberts a couple of years ago, and then Hossa and Dupuis and Gill last year...let there be no more doubt.
Still, the Pens are giving up more shots than they take. As of this entry -3.3 (pre Tampa Bay game). Not a winning formula once the playoffs hit.
Oh. San Jose is winning the Cup this year. Finally.
This team's fate lies SOLELY in the hands of the referees come tournament time. If the refs let the boys play, the Panthers will make the Final Four.
If the refs are foul-happy, they won't make it out of the Sweet Sixteen again. DeJuan Blair has to be able to play his game down low, on both sides, for the Panthers to be successful. That's it. When he's on the bench, only a complete collapse by the other team can prevent its own victory.
This is not a pre-gripe about refereeing. I'm saying if the refs are whistle happy on both sides.
I mean, losing to Villanova, I can take. Losing to Providence? Are you kidding?
Well, as long as Tyler Hansbrough graduates without winning, I'll be happy.
Don't get too happy about the Buccos' 5-1 start (6-1 if you count their 5-4 victory over the Netherlands today). A lot of their runs have come after most of the starters are out. The pitching has been ok so far...still a few too many walks.
But the offensive output will be the major concern this year. I think if the pitching comes back to where it was in 2007, and the hitting is about where it's expected, the Pirates can expect to win no more than 67 games this year.
(Although "Baseball Prospectus" apparently has them listed at 72 wins).
Keep the faith.
Just don't go to games. Watch on TV or listen to the radio.