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| Apr 05, 2015 - 8:50 PM
Tomorrow afternoon, the 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates season begins. Expectations haven't been this high for a baseball team in Pittsburgh since the 1992 season. 2 Straight visits to the Playoffs, a more experienced team.. these Pirates are expected to do more than the 2013 and 2014 teams.
That is exciting.
Going into a season with those types of expectations? We could only dream of that 5 years ago, now here we are on the eve of Opening Day and the excitement and hysteria for Pirates baseball is as high as it is for the Pens and near that of the Steelers.
Can't you feel the excitement?
The grass is getting greener, the air is smelling like spring, the temperatures are getting warmer and the crack of the ball off of baseball bats in ballparks nation wide are on their way professionally!
What of the Pirates? What are the keys for the Pirates this year to accomplish their goal of getting to the World Series? Winning the Division is the biggest need, so that they can avoid the 1 and done scenario, so how do they get there?
Without divulging into a bunch of stats and sabermetrics, since there's enough bloggers that have done that, I'll spare you the need to have a Math degree!
1. NO BAD MONTHS
The Pirates would have won the division if they'd have just played .500 ball in the month of April. They got off to such a bad start going 9-16 in April that they spent most of the season climbing out of that hole. 2 games back. 13-12 or 12-13, the Pirates win the division.
2. NO REGRESSION
The one thing that can happen in sports with players is that they can have that bad unexplained season. The Pirates need all of their players to meet or exceed expectations. Josh Harrison can't return to being a sub .250 hitter. A.J. Burnett can't repeat what he did in Philadelphia last season. Marte, Walker, McCutchen, Alvarez, Cole, & Polanco need to meet expectations.
The Central Division is extremely tight. St.Louis hasn't gotten worse. Milwaukee played well for 4 months in 2014, the Reds are contenders and the Cubs made a few nice offseason moves to add to a young and upcoming club. IT's not only a tight division, it's a very difficult division, one that the Pirates can't afford any player set backs if they expect to win it.
3. BEAT DIVISIONAL OPPONENTS
You see how I segued from #2 to #3? The... [Read More]
We have reached the end of the line it is now time for me to announce my picks for the All Time Pirates Near and Far teams. The selection process wasn't easy as quite a few good ball players missed the cuts and there were a few issues to handle. First let me remind everyone that I approached this as if I were assembling a team which means that the 25 players listed aren't necessarily the 25 best but rather the ones who I think best fit with the team. There was also the issue of pre-1900 players and what to do with them. The game back then was so different it makes it impossible to compare so I decided that to qualify a pre-1900 player had to be clearly ahead of the competition this standard resulted in 4 players making the team in all. Now without further ado below are my two teams.
1. Matty Alou, CF (L)
2. Orlando Merced, 1B (S)
3. Roberto Clemente, RF
4. Jason Bay, LF
5. Manny Sanguillen, C
6. Pedro Alvarez, 3B (L)
7. Rennie Stennett, 2B
8. Pop Smith, SS
Tony Pena, C
Frank Taveras, MI
Starling Marte, OF
Aramis Ramirez, 3B
Matt Stairs, 1B/OF (L)
Francisco Liriano (L)
Jose De Leon
Bob Steele (L)
LR: Al McBean
P: Oliver Perez (L)
MR: Damaso Marte (L)
SU: Ramon Hernandez (L)
SU: Salomon Torres
CL: Jose Mesa
25th Man: Russell Martin
A few quick notes:
1) Pop Smith is the lone pre-1900 player to make the team and did so because of a lack of other option
2) Aramis Ramirez received a spot mainly as a platoon mate and defensive substitution for Alvarez
3) Matt Stairs earned the last bench spot to give the team a left handed pinch hitting option
4) Jose Mesa receives the closer spot because he has the most experience closing out games
5) Oliver Perez won the wildcard pitcher spot because of his flashes of brilliance. With the wildcard spot on both teams I went with ceiling more than actual results
6) Martin's selection as the 25th man may seem odd but my vision is Sanguillen and Pena splitting time behind the plate with Sanguillen picking up some 1B starts meaning there is a need for a 3rd catcher since both will be playing at the same time. Lastly I wanted an extra emergency... [Read More]
Before I announce my teams I thought I'd do a post briefly summarizing who is in the running for each team to see if I get any feedback. I narrowed down the position players and pitchers on each team down to a list of 30 players* who I feel have the strongest case to make their respective team. This isn't the same as saying these players are the best due to positional scarcity and what not but it should provide a good starting point.
*Elmer Smith pulled off the amazing feat of qualifying as both a top 30 hitter and pitcher for the PA team so I'm actually going to list 31 pitchers for the PA team since Smith is actually more of a hitter.
C: Ed Ott, Joe Sugden, Billy Earle, Tun Berger
1B: Sid Bream, Bill Robinson, Willie Clark, Joe Harris
2B: Claude Ritchey, Neil Walker, Lou Bierbauer, Ed Abbaticchio, Tony Piet, Fred Dunlap
3B: Don Hoak, Frank Thomas, Joe Battin
SS: Honus Wagner, Dick Groat, Bones Ely, Frank Shugart
OF: Elmer Smith, Jim Russell, Frank Thomas, Clyde Barnhart, Bill Robinson, Bill Hinchman, Adam Comorosky, Jimmy Sebring, Tom McCreery, Roy Thomas, Moose McCormick
SP: Bob Moose*, Frank Killen, Ron Kline*, John Smiley, Mark Baldwin, Al Mamaux, Ad Gumbert, Patsy Flaherty, Rube Waddell, Jim Gardner, Marty O'Toole, Billy Rhines, Doc Medich, Mel Queen*, Elmer Smith, Harry Jordan, Billy Gumbert
SWM: Bob Purkey, Steve Swetonic, Don Schwall, Johnny Miljus, Bob Hall
LHRP: Bobby Shantz, Sam McDowell, Terry Mullholland, Joe Beimel
RHRP: Bruce Dal Canton, Nellie King, Stan Belinda, Mark Corey, Joel Johnston
* Also eligible for swingman (SWM) role.
C: Manny Sanguillen, Tony Pena, George Gibson, Russell Martin
1B: Orlando Merced, Matt Stairs, Fritz Mollwitz
2B: Rennie Stennett, Pop Smith, Jose Lind, Carlos Garcia
3B: Bill Kuehne, Pedro Alvarez, Aramis Ramirez, Jose Pagan, Jose Bautista
SS: Pop Smith, Bill Kuehne, Frank Taveras, Ronny Cedeno, Andre Rodgers, Rafael Belliard
OF: Roberto Clemente, Matty Alou, Jason Bay, Starling Marte, Orlando Merced, Patsy Donovan, Tom Brown, Manny Mota, Jose Tabata, Matt Stairs, Vic Davalillo
SP: Bert Blyleven, Francisco Cordova, Jose De Leon, Francisco Liriano, Esteban Loaiza, Oliver Perez, Bob Steele, Ed Bahr*, Pascual Perez, Jim McCormick, Luis Tiant, Edinson Volquez
... [Read More]
ATP Near and Far is a 10 part series dedicated to assembling two teams of All Time Pirates greats based upon their place of birth. The "near" team will consist of players born exclusively in the state of Pennsylvania and the "far" team will consist of players born outside of the 50 US states and the District of Columbia. Each roster will consist of 25 players the particulars of how the rosters will be assembled can be found in the introduction post here.
All Time Pirates Near and Far: Relief Pitchers
International: A staggering 72 relief pitchers find themselves eligible for the international team. Forty-five of them though have thrown fewer than 50 innings so I will quickly cover them before moving on to players with lengthier resumes.
With an inning or less pitched we have a pair of position players who got to try their luck on the mound in Abraham Nunez and Jocko Fields. Mario Mendoza with 2 career innings thrown for the Pirates joins that dup as a position player who got to pitch. Looking at some real pitchers we have Dave Davidson (2007, Canada) and Miguel Batista (1992, Dominican Republic) with 2 innings pitched apiece. Prior to the 2013 season Batista was the last active major league player who was part of a Pirates team that finished a season with a winning record. Ed Acosta (1970, Panama), Dave Pagan (1977, Canada), Alfonso Pulido (1983-84, Mexico), Juan Jimenez (1974, Dominican Republic) and Jose Contreras (2013, Cuba) are all pitchers who threw fewer than 5 innings during their time with the Pirates. Acosta is the only pitcher with fewer than 24 innings pitched to have recorded a save.
Moving the threshold up to 10 innings pitched we find another position player in Tom Brown. Joining him in this group are Pedro Ramos (1969, Cuba), (Henry) Irish McIlveen (1906, United Kingdom), Duaner Sanchez (2002-03, Dominican Republic), Hisanori Takahashi (2012, Japan) and Jose Ascanio (2009 & 2011, Venezuela). Ascanio some of you may recall was one of the pitchers acquired in the same trade that brought us Josh Harrison. As we inch up to the 20 inning mark we find Dennys Reyes (2003, Mexico), Ernesto Frieri (2014, Colombia), John Axford (2014, Canada), Jose Parra (2000, Dominican Republic), Willis Roberts (2004, Dominican Republic), Rosario Rodriguez... [Read More]
What MATTers: Panthers' Fate Likely Sealed to NIT, Could Benefit Young players, Seniors, Team
The Pitt Panthers men's basketball team concluded its season Saturday in crushing fashion, with a 66-52 loss to Florida State. The defeat also marked a three game losing streak to end the regular season. During the skid, Pitt also lost at Wake Forest on March 1, and to Miami (FL) earlier this week. Not only did the Panthers lose these games in heartbreaking fashion, their NCAA Tournament at-large hopes went up in flames. As a result, Pitt will have to earn the ACC's automatic bid by winning the conference tournament. Play begins this Wednesday, where the #10 seeded Panthers will be faced with an extremely daunting task of winning 4 games in 4 days. Seventh seeded NC State is up first. Next would loom a date with #2 seed Duke. If the Panthers could somehow get past the Blue Devils, a rematch with #3 Notre Dame or #6 Miami (FL) would be in the cards. In a possible championship showdown, Pitt could meet one of #1 Virginia, #4 Louisville or #5 North Carolina. The full bracket can be viewed below:
Less than two weeks ago Pitt was still in the discussion for an at-large berth. However, the defeat at Wake Forest, 69-66, severely dampened Pitt's chances. Losing to inferior opponents has really been an issue for the Panthers. Earlier in the year, Pitt fell at Hawai'i (RPI #170) , 74-72, and at Virginia Tech (RPI #232) in OT, 70-67. Couple these with a lack of wins versus “quality” opponents, and the Panthers can only blame themselves. Pitt was not opportunistic, given the quantity of games versus highly ranked opponents. Pitt was just 2-5 against ranked teams, including 0-5 away from Petersen Events Center. The lack of a “quality” road victory hurt Pitt's tournament resume. The selection committee greatly values wins away from home. Pitt finished with a 2-9 road record. The committee also evaluates the body of a team's work. The Panthers were inconsistent in 2014-2015. Rebounding, defense, and opponent field goal percentage were Pitt's weaknesses, which at times were seriously exposed. Coach Jamie Dixon has not been pleased with the effort this year, "We've come up short; it's been a combination of things. The defense is standing out, as well as today it was some offensive execution as well.” To reinforce Dixon's comments, Pitt... [Read More]