Saturday, August 06, 2011

#215: Panic Button

---SSL Broadcast #53---

The city of Pittsburgh should probably erect a safety net beneath the Roberto Clemente Bridge.

After a solid first half of the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates are hemorrhaging runs like it's their job this midsummer, and fans who allowed their hopes to be raised (against my advise) are lamenting a lost season.

In the midst of an eight-game losing streak (that has included a four-game sweep of the pitiful Chicago Cubs and a blowout loss to offensively-challenged San Diego), the Pirates have started to look very much like the squad that finished with 105 losses last year, rather than the one that was in first place just a few short weeks ago.

I have kept a little saying in my head, that others should have adopted months ago:

A 79-83 record is still a 22-game improvement.

At the beginning of the season, this would have met with near-unanimous approval. Now, it's not acceptable.

The thing about sports, and specifically statistics, is that things tend to return to a mean. The Pirates have had offensive problems all season, with a team batting average in just about all situations is in the bottom third. Pitching-wise, the team's earned run average is still better than the league average (top 10), but the hidden statistic (the WHIP) is in the bottom 10.

The WHIP, being the stronger future indicator most of the time, tells me that the Pirates are due to give up some more runs.

The only thing that can stave off losses that would result is if the team gets healthier (Alex Presley and newly-acquired first baseman Derrek Lee, in particular) and scores runs, winning some 8-7 contests.

Otherwise, a season win total in the mid-70s seems to be inevitable (which would still be a double-digit improvement).

The blessing in all of this is that the ownership has experienced some success this year and has seen how much more money they stand to make by putting a competitive team in PNC Park. Once late-season attendence drops back down to the norm, it'll be in their court whether they seriously pursue some legitimate free agents in the off-season (read: spend some money).

In today's show:

- Steelers sign another big piece of their defense, while others restructure contracts to make it possible.

- Penguins sign their first round pick from the 2011 NHL draft

- Pitt and West Virginia are expected to be the top two finishers in Big East football this year. Which order?



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