Saturday, September 29, 2012

Homer Bailey No-Hits Pi...whatever

Last night one of the more magical things happened in baseball. A no-hitter. It was an exceptional game thrown both by Pirates starter A.J. Burnett and Cincinnati's Homer Bailey. How awesome was it? The game ended 1-0 and outside of the first inning there really wasn't anything going on. In today's game of baseball where people just want to see a home run this might have seemed boring but for people like me who love great pitched baseball games that are usually low scoring this was awesome.

The problem was that the Pirates were the ones that were on the wrong end of the no-hitter. The no-hitter for Bailey was the seventh of the season in the entire major leagues which is just one off a record. Bailey allowed only three base runners on the day and struck out ten. Actually you would have thought that Bailey would have struck out more times as ten is actually pretty good for them. (sigh)

Bailey was on. There are no two ways about it. If you don't have your stuff you aren't going to throw a no-hitter no matter how bad the other team is. He was really good but the Pirates lineup was really, really, bad.

The Pirates sent up only one player hitting over .280 last night and it was just brutal to watch Jordy Mercer and Alex Presley try to bat last night (among others) but it was all Bailey. He did throw 115 pitches but it didn't matter. The Pirates didn't have a single player that looked like they had a clue. The best chance they got came in the ninth inning when Pedro Alvarez and Travis Snider put some good wood on a couple of pitches but they were right at people.

This was also the 279th no-hitter in MLB history since 1875. Whoa.

The Pirates haven't been no-hit since 1971 when the Cardinals Bob Gibson and held the third long streak in between getting no-hit so that streak was obviously snapped. I know some people are all up in arms about this but this rarely happens to the Pirates and it is something that happens. It has actually happened a few times this season. Since 2009 Tampa Bay has been no-hit four times including twice in two months in 2010 so this isn't something that only happens to horrible teams.

If this had happened when the Pirates were 12 games over .500 or so this wouldn't be a huge deal. No-hitters happen and sometimes you just run into a buzz saw (they did). You move on to the next day. Only the Pirates weren't 12 game over, they were four games under (now five) and this loss clinched a non-winning season for the year.

As you know I am not a big believe that the Pirates had to break the "streak" and stuff like that but after being as many as 16 games over .500 on August 8th and now they are five games under going 13-34 since the time they were 16 games under. For some people breaking the streak is big and getting no-hit was more of an appropriate way to assure people that they wouldn't do that. It sucks. Being that good and then falling flat on your face for the second year in a row stings.

I haven't been able to watch much of the Pirates the past couple of weeks and that probably is a good thing. It is hard to watch. This season is almost over and well, who knows.

I will tip my hat to Bailey because no-hitters are truly awesome, but I wasn't rooting for it. The Pirates were bad and Bailey was good. Sigh.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pirates' Coonelly Will Bring Back Front Office. What Does It Mean?




In a move that caused a lot of a stir on the internets among fans and media members Pirates President Frank Coonelly said that the front office was going to return in 2013 despite the downfall the past two season. When I speak front office that would include general managers Neal Huntington and his two main assistants Kyle Stark and Greg Smith.

Yon can click here for Coonley's full response from Pirates MLB reporter Tom Singer.

Once this came out people were angry to the point that I saw some tweets that people wouldn't be going to any more games because of this. Personally I think that is WAY over the top but people have their opinions on the organization and they are entitled to those opinions whether they are rational or not.

Saying that I still am not really sure how I feel about the situation as a whole. On one hand I can see why people want to sort of "clean house" and get someone else in here in all facets of the system. The Pirates made some strides the past few years but they have had two significant collapses the past two years and while you might be able to justify the collapse in 2011, the 2012 version is just unacceptable.

Fans are not rational. I am a fan and a lot of the time when I see something I am not rational in the least bit. Fan is short for fanatic and that is how they treat the teams they cheer, for the most part. With how much the Pirates got the fans hopes up it was a really hard pill to swallow now that they are possibly going to finish under .500 after being as many as 16 games over .500 about six or seven weeks ago.

What we can't do is just pick and choose what the reasoning for the firing of any, or all, of the members of the front office. As I said before people are emotional and for the last 20 years this has been a losing team and some people finally snapped. The last 60 or so games for the Pirates have been just horrible to watch and to some, or all, of this will be the main reason people want them gone. I understand that but I am not really sure if I agree with that. I think Matt Bandi of Pirates Prospects put it best in a series of tweets a short while ago:







I think Matt really hit the heart of the problem here, from what I see. People are so focused on this season and the collapse that they want the front office gone at any cost. I think that things don't work like this but what if the Pirates started the season how they ended it and then came on strong to finish around six games out of the wild card? Would that bring the same outrage? That isn't a very strong argument for keeping guys on payroll because that wasn't the context of the season and if we know anything it's that context does mean something.

As Matt talked about in his tweets I think that is is perfectly fine to ask why these guys are still being employed by the Pirates because they haven't had the drafting success that goes beyond the first round. Prized second round pick Stetson Allie was signed as a pitcher and is now a hitter and as it was discussed by the guys over at Pirates Prospects the 2009 draft has given the Pirates next to nothing where ninth round pick Brock Holt has already played some major league games for the big club and Victor Black is probably the next in line as the comp pick but he is still in AA Altoona.

You can talk about the Navy SEALS training and memo that Kyle Stark sent out this season. It was pretty out there in terms of what this was expected to do for the young team down in Florida but I think it was blown a bit out of proportion. It was a three or four day thing after the season (in the off season) that probably went a little too much of the physical aspect but I really don't see anything wrong with a team building exercise from some outstanding military personal. I can see how people wouldn't like it as it was laid out and this adds to the thought that Stark is a little more "out there" than some would like.

The Pirates might not have any of the top end talent but the notion that they haven't done anything with the draft is a bit off base. I know people say that "well if they have top three picks every year then they should be good." Well then how do you explain how the Pirates have struggled with top picks in the past and failed before this front office group got into control?

The Pirates struggled with Pedro Alvarez but he turned it around this year to have a really nice season and even though he is still struggling with the strikeouts he hit 30 balls out of the ballpark. Then there is sticking with Garrett Jones and having him reward you with a 25 home run year and hitting probably above his capabilities. There is getting A.J. Burnett for nothing. There is the international draft picks that are sitting in Class A where multiple players are considered breakout. Alen Hanson is considered to possibly stick at short and be a plus-plus hitter and where Gregory Polanco is considered to be better. They got Luis Heredia on track when he couldn't even do a pushup when he came to the Pirates to have a 17 year old year where he was in State College (A-) posting a 2.71 ERA in 66.1 innings.

A lot of people have been questioning the farm system, but is it really that bad? Here is what Baseball America's Ben Badler had to say about it:







This is only one person's opinion but Ben does this for a living. He studies these players and he certainly sees something there and for the most part I agree with him. I know there is a huge backlash because the Pirates don't have anything in the system and these international prospects are young but to say that the Pirates aren't doing anything in the system seems a bit foolish.

Obviously the drafting hasn't been great and whether it is the development of the talent at different levels or the actual picks they made it seems to have rubbed the people the wrong way. While I don't think the Pirates have the best talent in the minor league system I still think they have some depth but it could always be better. I fall somewhere more in the middle of the drafting discussion but based on things like the 2009 draft class you have to think there are some problems but we are still waiting to see what some of their draft picks hold such as Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson, Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and others so it will be fun to watch next year when most, or all, of these guys will be mainstays in the major leagues to some degree.

Most are going have a problem with having no real impact talent at shortstop and catcher and still haven't been able to find the power hitting first baseman. Those are very logical reasons to question the drafting and development and identification of talent but I think that a lot of teams are still looking for the combination of that. I am sure that the Pirates wish they had made different decisions with their free agent signings in the past years but it does sting.

Now on the opposite side the biggest beef you should have with the front office is identifying talent at the major league level. There aren't too many people who can name multiple major league talents that have come from this crew and it really has been a glaring. Just looking at this year and you see the names of Clint Barmes, Rod Barjas, Nate McLouth and Erik Bedard and if you go back to 2011 you will cringe at the signing of Lyle Overbay and Matt Diaz. Lastings Milledge, Andy LaRoche, Aki Iwamura, Ryan Church and Bobby Crosby are all from prior years and you really didn't add much of anything to the team and hurt them in a huge way. This is my biggest beef of the front office and could probably be the main reason they should not be back for another year. While they have done a decent to good job of stocking the farm system they have failed, miserably, when it comes to getting the complimentary pieces to add to the major league team.

The trading block is probably where the Pirates hurt the most besides identifying talent and for the most part you can lump them into the same as we talked above. The Pirates got LaRoche in a trade and they have brought in some other players via trades such as Milledge and Casey McGehee and while I don't think this is strength they did a nice job this year to acquire talent. They got Travis Snider in exchange for a relief pitcher and they were able to get Gaby Sanchez for a defensively only player in Gorkys Hernandez. Sanchez has been quite good for the Pirates in limited action (.262/.347/.430) and if Snider can stay healthy he will be able to play every day in 2013 and beyond based on what we saw this season.

I am in no way saying that all trades were good because the Pirates went out and got a pretty old Wandy Rodriguez for a few prospects that were performing well and they have also been burned a few times but saying that this front office is terrible at this is probably taking it too far. James McDonald has had for Octavio Dotel and while McDonald hasn't had the best second half he has shown that he can be a number two or three starter which is nothing to sneeze at.

As I said before the collapse is a huge reason for people wanting everyone gone. I have made no secret that I want Clint Hurdle gone but I think it is pretty hard to peg a collapse on one person. A systematic failure of every person in the system was a part of this season and just making a scapegoat of one or two people might make you feel good now but that doesn't guarantee anything going forward. I still don't know how to qualify the collapse this season and I am not sure I ever will.

I know that I have been talking in circles here and I am pretty sure that I confused myself by reading over what I wrote but I do know that keeping the front office isn't as horrible as some may make it out to be. They definitely haven their shortcoming and maybe a little more than I let myself believe but I don't think they have been as horrible as most might want to believe. The Pirates are moving forward and even though they took a huge step back at the halfway point of the season (for the second year in a row) they were a better team this year and they exceeded my expectations as only a 72 win team this season. The context of the season can't be changed but I don't feel like I did in previous regimes and I still think this team can make some noise. Maybe as soon as next year.

The fact remains that as of today the front office is coming back and I think I am OK with that.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Steelers Game 3 Recap - Raiders 34, Steelers 31

When your offense scores at will and gives you multiple double digit second half leads then you don't lose those games. Well, you shouldn't lose those games. Maybe you lose games like that 2% of the time but it should be an oddity that the other team is going to win, especially when that other team is not very good at playing the game of football.

The Steelers went out and scored 31 points on the back of Ben Roethlisberger and the defense struggled. In a big way. It seems as if the only time the Steelers didn't score on a possession the Raiders took the ball and treated it like it was a 7-on-7 skelly drill where Carson Palmer could just pick and choose what he wanted to do. It was an embarrassing effort by the defense and a tough one to swallow if you are the Steelers.

I don't particularly have a lot of time on my hands as you can see I am not getting to a recap until Tuesday, but with some crazy thing going on in my life I really haven't had time for anything which is in large part why it has been fairly dark on here on all fronts.

Here are just some quick hits:

-Roethlisberger was just out of his mind good. He completed 36 of his 49 pass attempts for 384 yards and four touchdowns. He helped the team convert 8-of-14 third down attempts mostly due to his arm and any time this team needed a big play. Ben wasn't able to take the Steelers down on their last offensive possession with the game tied in the waining minutes of the fourth quarter but that was literally the only time he wasn't successful on the drive. He was nothing less than spectacular all day and I heard some people putting some blame on him. If you are doing that then just stop reading.

-You know what is nice to see? Heath Miller becoming a big time part of the passing offense. He isn't going to put up huge numbers but he is going to be majorly effective and make the other Steelers pass catchers even more dynamic. Miller had eight catches for 60 yards and two touchdowns and was targeted ten times. That was the first time Miller has had eight or more catches since an October 4th game against San Diego, in 2009.

-If you listened to Jerry Rice and thought Mike Wallace needed maybe half of the year to get into the groove then you probably don't want to hear this, but he was so wrong. Wallace look more than OK after seven catches for 123 yard and a score and now has a touchdown catch in every game and looks really good catching passes.

-The offensive line was good and bad. It was really two different ends of the spectrum and they did an outstanding job of protecting Roethlisberger as he was only sacked one time and hit twice total. The bad end was that they continued to do nothing with the running game no matter who was running the football. It has become painfully bad to watch the Steelers try to run the football and only rushed for 54 yards on 20 carries. I know this is a passing league but at some point someone on that line has to step up and create a hole.

-No idea what to even say about the defense. They picked off the first pass of the day from Carson Palmer but didn't record another turnover the rest of the game and recorded only one sack on the day. I know a lot of people are going to bash the secondary but when Palmer is allowed to sit back and go through three and four progressions and not have to worry about being touched then that is a huge problem. Someone has to eventually get there and make a play.

-I am not even sure what is really wrong with the defense. They are an older unit but there is plenty of youth out there also. The defense is missing James Harrison and Troy Polamalu so it needs to be seen how they will help. I do know that I would love to see Troy out there with Ryan Clark but hopefully they can get that back together. Ryan Mundy has been pretty bad this season and got juked out of his shoes on the Darren McFadden 64 yard touchdown run which is the longest run on the Steelers since the 2006 season.

-One thing I don't think many people are talking about is the turnovers that the Steelers committed. One of them didn't hurt when Antonio Brown fumbled going into the end zone as he was somehow able to recover it himself in a scrum but he fumbled in the open field later and wasn't so lucky. Brown's second fumble was while the Steelers were entering Oakland territory when they were up three and the result of that fumble lead to the tying field goal by the Raiders. Jon Dwyer also fumbled the football that resulted in the Raiders second touchdown. Just can't have that happen, especially Brown's second fumble which happened with just under 11 minutes left in the game.

-The Steelers held a massive 36:15-23:45 advantage in time of possession but what does that really mean? Sure it keeps the Raiders defense on the field but in the end the Steelers have held a huge TOP advantage in all three games and they are 1-2. When the defense comes on the field they have to get stops. Bottom line.

-It just seems like this is the preseason. Some things look good for a minute and the other things are terrible. The next game you expect things to level out and they just do a 180. Nothing really seems to be in sync overall (well, the offense looks damn good) and we haven't really seen a complete game left. I have no idea what to even think but I do know this isn't the end of the Steelers like a lot of the haters might say. They are exactly one game back of the Ravens and Bengals and they haven't played those teams yet. The NFL season is shorter so there isn't as much room for error but the Steelers are still in a good place.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Steelers Game 3 Preview - @ Oakland Raiders

The Steelers get to go to the West Coast, yay. They will get to play Carson Palmer and the Oakland Raiders on Sunday after the Raiders got absolutely worked by the Miami Dolphins last week.

The preview might be a little brief because I am pretty busy this week as you can tell by the brief intro here.

Let’s just get into the preview:


The stats:

Last Week:

Pittsburgh 27, NY Jets 10
Passing: Roethlisberger: 24-31, 275 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Dwyer: 12 car., 28 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: Brown: 7 rec., 79 yards, 0 TD

Miami 35, Oakland 13
Passing: Palmer: 24-48, 373 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: McFadden: 11 car., 22 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: Myers: 6 rec., 86 yards, 0 TD


Offense (rank in NFL)

Total Offense
Pittsburgh: 307.5 yards/game (25th)
Oakland: 358.5 yards/game (15th)

Passing
Pittsburgh: 237.0 yards/game (t18th)
Oakland: 324.5 yards/game (3rd)

Rushing
Pittsburgh: 73.5 yards/game (30th)
Oakland: 70.5 yards/game (31st)

Points
Pittsburgh: 23.0 points/game (t17th)
Oakland: 13.5 points/game (31st)


Defense

Total Defense
Pittsburgh: 276.5 yards/game (7th)
Oakland: 355.0 yards/game (15th)

Pass
Pittsburgh: 184.5 yards/game (5th)
Oakland: 207.5 yards/game (8th)

Rush
Pittsburgh: 92.0 yards/game (11th)
Oakland: 147.5 yards/game (29th)

Points
Pittsburgh: 20.5 points/game (9th)
Oakland: 28.5 points/game (24th)

All-Time Record vs. Oakland: 9-10 (3-3 Playoffs)

Last Five Meetings
November 21, 2010 - Pittsburgh 35, Oakland 3
December 6, 2009 - Oakland 27, Pittsburgh 24
October 29, 2006 - Oakland 20, Pittsburgh 13
September 12, 2004 - Pittsburgh 24, Oakland 21
December 7, 2003 - Pittsburgh 27, Oakland 7

Hit the jump for the rest of the preview


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pirates Game 149 Live Blog - vs. Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates - 4:05 p.m.
Mike Fiers (9-8, 3.23 ERA) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (11-13, 3.65 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (72-72)
1. Marte 7
2. Snider 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Walker 4
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barmes 6
8. Barajas 2
9. Rodriguez 1

Brewers (76-72)
1. Aoki 9
2. Weeks 4
3. Braun 7
4. Ramirez 5
5. Hart 3
6. Lucroy 2
7. Gomez 8
8. Segura 6
9. Fiers 1


Hit the jump for the live blog


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pirates Game 148 Live Blog - vs. Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05
Marco Estrada (3-6, 3.77 ERA) vs. Kyle McPherson (0-0, 1.54 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (74-73)
1. Holt 4
2. Marte 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Alvarez 5
6. McKenry 2
7. Snider 9
8. Barmes 6
9. McPherson 1

Brewers (75-72)
1. Aoki 9
2. Weeks 4
3. Braun 7
4. Ramirez 5
5. Lucroy 2
6. Green 3
7. Gomez 8
8. Segura 6
9. Estrada 1



Hit the jump for the live blog


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pirates Game 147 Recap - Brewers 6, Pirates 0

Getting the nerve to write recaps anymore has just been tough to do. It feels like there are three or four things that just continually keep happening and it is just really hard to try and put things into words on a nightly basis when things are going so painfully bad.

I would just chalk this up to being another series against a team that has owned the Pirates for the past couple of years but it has been much more than that. While in past games it might have been poor defensive play or really bad game management tonight it was the inability of the Pirates to once again to get a clutch hit or come close to throwing out a runner.

The Pirates twice loaded the bases and didn't bring home a single run and overall only managed to get three hits on the night. They didn't do a terrible job of getting runners on base but when they did they couldn't do anything.

The Brewers stole seven bases on the night. They were not thrown out one time. Not once. The Pirates have done an unimaginable bad job this year of holding and throwing out runners and it cost them the game tonight on the defensive side. Any time a Brewer got on first base it was a double. Every time they stole second they scored on a single. I know Clint Hurdle doesn't think it is a big deal that teams run at will on the Pirates but it is a big (huge) deal.

I know a lot of people are really down on the Pirates. I am too. This season has been really bad especially where the Pirates were over a month ago and how bad the other teams that are in the NL Wild Card hunt have been. That being said this season should not be looked at as a total sham. I am going to try and get up a post sometime soon on what we can take from this year and there are multiple things that are very good about this season. It is frustrating and makes you want to punch a hole through the wall but it hasn't been a total loss. I promise.

Pirates Game 147 Live Blog - vs. Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Yovani Gallardo (15-8, 3.72 ERA) vs. A.J. Burnett (15-7, 3.66 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (74-72)
1. Marte 7
2. Tabata 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Walker 4
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barmes 6
8. Barajas 2
9. Burnett 1

Brewers (74-72)
1. Aoki 9
2. Weeks 4
3. Braun 7
4. Ramirez 5
5. Lucroy 2
6. Ishikawa 3
7. Gomez 8
8. Segura 6
9. Gallardo 1



Hit the jump for the live blog


Pirates Game 146 Recap - Pirates 3, Cubs 0

The game was delayed over three hours. The Pirates were in Chicago and if over 100 people stayed at Wrigley Field for the game I would be shocked. Both teams combined for seven hits and three runs. The Pirates had five of those hits and luckily all three of the runs. Multiple wins in a series feels kinda weird.

I am not going to even lie to you, I went to bed after three and a half innings. I was dog tired and even though I live in the Central time zone I wasn't going to stay up for this. If the Pirates would have been playing decent baseball I would have but they haven't. They have been playing bad baseball and it wasn't worth it. Like I said if this would have got them in a share for the Wild Card spot I would have but it wasn't. I did, however, wake up at 1:20 a.m. and drug myself out of bed to see if the game was still on. It was with one out in the top of the ninth. I stayed it just so I could say "Raise it." Am I crazy? Yea, probably. Whatever.

The Pirates got all three runs in the third inning. Starling Marte tripled home a pair of runs then Jose Tabata drove him home with a long double to centerfield.

Kevin Correia was pretty good from what I saw through almost four innings and then what I saw on the box score. Seven innings of shutout baseball giving up only a pair of hits to Darwin Barney and six strikeouts.

I consider this a no hitter since Darwin Barney isn't a real person.

If you are reading this after the game then I have mad props for you. This team somehow is only 2.5 games out of the playoffs. Don't ask me how but this series with the Brewers starting in like five minutes is HUGE.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pirates Game 146 Live Blog - @ Chicago Cubs

Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs - Who Knows p.m.
Kevin Correia vs. Tim Wood

Lineups:

Pirates (73-72)
1. Marte 7
2. Tabata 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Sanchez 3
5. Alvarez 5
6. McKenry 2
7. Barmes 6
8. Holt 4
9. Correia 1

Cubs (58-88)
1.  DeJesus 9
2. Valbuena 5
3. Rizzo 3
4. Soriano 7
5. Castro 6
6. Castillo 2
7. Jackson 8
8. Barney 4
9. Wood 1



Hit the jump for the live blog


Steelers Game 2 Recap - Steelers 27, Jets 10

Early last week Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley said that the Steelers weren't going to start the season 0-2. Some people took that as a guarantee and figured it would be bulletin board material for the Jets. Some thought it was just Woodley being confident in his team to pull out the win. Whether it was the former or the latter he was right and the Steelers came out and dominated the New York Jets and now are one of, well almost all the teams, that are now 1-1. No falling sky. No funeral for the season. Just a solid win over a team that most people thought was really good. They weren't.

The game really didn't start of great for the Steelers as they gave up ten points to the Jets in their first two possessions and Mark Sanchez looked comfortable and was making plays. You had that feeling that this might be a long game that was going to frustrate you and give you ulcers but the Steelers turned it around and didn't give the Jets anything after that.

The Steelers offense settled for three on their first drive but after that it was all good. The Steelers took a 13-10 lead into the half and then scored a touchdown in each of the third and fourth quarters. Ballgame.

Thoughts:

-Ben Roethlisbger was on the top of his game for the Steelers. He finished the game completing 24-of-31 passes for 275 and a pair of touchdowns. He was on point all game and led the Steelers to converting 8-of-15 third downs and more importantly he took care of the football and didn't get banged up only getting hit three times all game. I will take that every day of the week. Last week against the Broncos I talked about how Ben checked down, a lot, and that was pretty reflective in his yards per attempt which if you know me know I think is one of the most important quarterback stats. This week he was much better, pushing the ball down the field when he had the chance and dumping it down when he needed to. He finished with a YPA of 8.9 and this was really just a surgical game by Roethlisberger. He won this football game for the Steelers. When a big play needed made he made it.

-I think that Roethlisberger was probably the MVP of the game yesterday but Ryan Clark made it really, really, close. Clark more than made up for not playing in Denver and did an outstanding job softening the blow of not having Troy Polamalu on the field. Clark led the team with eight tackles and a pass defended and laid the wood on numerous occasions. while Clark does go over the top looking for the big hit he did an outstanding job on the backend and also in the run game. Love to see it and I can't wait until he and Troy are on the same field together.

-Most of you that read and follow me know that I am a huge Ike Taylor fan. He is one of the most underrated corners in the league and isn't widely regarded as an elite corner because he can't catch the football. Well, Taylor didn't have a great performance to start the game as he gave up an early touchdown to the Jets Santonio Holmes but as the game went on Taylor got stronger and stronger. While it is true that Tone dropped a couple of balls Taylor was still in his hip pocket all night. Holmes was targeted 11 times (!) and only caught three passes so it wasn't like the TD was one of the only plays that Taylor saw. He had a lot of action and most of the time he won. I will take that.

-I talked in the preview that if the Steelers were going to win then they needed to get some pressure. The Steelers won and they really didn't get after Sanchez too much and it ended up working up just as well. A problem that started last year was that the Steelers weren't getting the splash plays and it is starting to look like it is going to be that way again this year, at least through two games. The Steelers created a turnover yesterday but that happened on special teams and they were only able to get Sanchez sacked twice and hit him only three times total. Not good enough going forward.

-Probably the one real negative you can take out of this game was that the running game just isn't there. The Steelers ran the ball 28 times for 66 yards which turns out to a pretty bad 2.4 yard per attempt average. That isn't going to cut it going forward and even though the passing game is the focal point you still need to be able to be competent running the football. I will give the team this, late in the game when the Steelers needed to put the game away they relied on a combination of Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman and punched a touchdown in that put the game out of reach. You love to see that but it would be ideal if the team could get some more of that. I think we will probably start to see a little more of the pass setting up the run going forward but I still think that the Steelers ran the ball enough to keep the Jets honest which is really all they need the ground game to do.

-The Steelers started it last week just they just dominated the time of possession again. They held a decisive advantage again at a ridiculous 36:36 - 23:24 clip and that included a drive that lasted 14 plays and covered 75 yards that took 10:13 of game. This came in the fourth quarter of a game where it was only a ten point lead. In the drive they rushed the ball eight times and just did whatever they wanted to a Jets team. Like I said it was only a ten point lead when the quarter started and the Steelers not only added on but they kill essentially the whole quarter on one drive. They didn't do that last year and they dominated TOP last week and again this week. I like that a lot.

-The Young Money crew just got after it yesterday. Antonio Brown caught seven passes for 79 yards while Mike Wallace caught a touchdown for the second week in a row with five catches for 75 yards. His touchdown catch was a thing of beauty in the third quarter of a one score game on third down. Emmanuel Sanders only made three catches on the day but was good early and when you can have him as your third wideout you are pretty lucky. Brown made some really tough catches and Wallace has shown some nice growth as more than just a deep threat. I think that people get too set on thinking that 100 yards is the definition of a good receiving day. That just isn't the case. Brown and Wallace were outstanding and neither really came close to 100 yards. They made big time catches when the Steelers needed big time catches and Ben has so many options when he looks down the field that there aren't enough balls to go around.

-Scary situation during the game when Lawrence Timmons went helmet to helmet with Sanchez. I know that I saw some people saying that it shouldn't have been a penalty but if you really think that then you need to take off the Black and Gold colored glasses and see it for what it was, an illegal play. The penalty call was more than correct and I would expect him to get a hefty fine. You can't do stuff like that and Timmons should have known better, especially on a quarterback. I know the game is fast and these things happen in a split second but it was the right call.

All in all a great win for the Steelers. The Jets weren't a very good team, I don't think, and Sanchez really made the defense look a lot better than it probably was but I will take wins however I can get them.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pirates Game Day 145 live Blog - @ Chicago Cubs

Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs - 2:20 p.m.
Jeff Locke (0-1, 4.11 ERA) vs. Chris Volstad (3-10, 5.99 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (73-71)
1. Marte 7
2. Walker 4
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 9
5. Sanchez 3
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barmes 6
8. Barajas 2
9. Locke 1

Cubs (57-88)
1. Mather 8
2. Barney 4
3. Rizzo 3
4. Soriano 7
5. Castro 6
6. Castillo 2
7. Sappelt 9
8. Valbuena 5
9. Volstad 1



Hit the jump for the live blog


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pirates Game Day 144 Live Blog - @ Chicago Cubs

Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs - 1:05 p.m.
Wandy Rodriguez (10-13, 3.72 ERA) vs. Jason Berken (0-0, 0.00 ERA)





Steelers Game Day 2 Preview - vs. New York Jets


The Steelers got off to a bad start last week and even though they didn't play a bad football game at the end of the night they are 0-1. On the other side things couldn't have gone better for the Jets and now they are 1-0. Two sides of the mirror and the Steelers are looking to get back even and get a big AFC win. Oh yea, they get to play against Tim Tebow too. Well, maybe.

There really isn't much else to say about this so lets just get into the preview:


The stats:


Last Week:

Denver 31, Pittsburgh 19
Passing: Roethlisberger: 22-40, 245 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Dwyer: 9 car., 43 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: Brown: 4 rec., 74 yards, 0 TD

New York 48, Buffalo 28
Passing: Sanchez: 19-27, 266 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Greene: 27 car., 94 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Hill: 5 rec., 89 yards, 2 TD


Offense (rank in NFL)

Total Offense
Pittsburgh: 284.0 yards/game (t23rd)
New York: 384.0 yards/game (11th)

Passing
Pittsburgh: 209.0 yards/game (23rd)
New York: 266.0 yards/game (t13th)

Rushing
Pittsburgh: 75.0 yards/game (24th)
New York: 118.0 yards/game (12th)

Points
Pittsburgh: 19.0 points/game (22nd)
New York: 48.0 points/game (1st)


Defense

Total Defense
Pittsburgh: 334.0 yards/game (15th)
New York: 390.0 yards/game (t24th)

Pass
Pittsburgh: 240.0 yards/game (14th)
New York: 195.0 yards/game (8th)

Rush
Pittsburgh: 94.0 yards/game (16th)
New York: 195.0 yards/game (32nd)

Points
Pittsburgh: 31.0 points/game (25th)
New York: 28.0 points/game (22nd)

All-Time Record vs. New York: 15-4 (2-0 Playoffs)

Last Five Meetings
January 23, 2011 - Pittsburgh 24, New York 19
December 19, 2010 - New York 22, Pittsburgh 17
November 18, 2007 - New York 19, Pittsburgh 16
January 15, 2005 - Pittsburgh 20, New York 17
December 12, 2004 - Pittsburgh 17, New York 6

Hit the jump for the rest of the preview


Friday, September 14, 2012

Pirates Game Day 143 Live Blog - @ Chicago Cubs

Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs - 2:20 p.m.
James McDonald (12-7, 3.93 ERA) vs. Chris Rusin (0-2, 5.73 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (72-70)
1. Holt 4
2. Marte 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 9
5. Sanchez 3
6. McKenry 2
7. Alvarez 5
8. Barmes 6
9. McDonald 1

Cubs (56-87)
1. DeJesus 9
2. Valbuena 5
3. Rizzo 3
4. Soriano 7
5. Castro 6
6. Clevenger 2
7. Jackson 8
8. Barney 4
9. Rusin 1


Hit the jump for the live blog


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pirates Game 139-142 Recap - Swept

Over the past couple of nights I have sat down after the game to put some thoughts down and each time I went to do that I came up with the same thing: I have said the same stuff every single night for the last two weeks. Honestly. Take a look at each of them and I bet 85% of the recaps are the same shit.

I am beyond frustrated with this team and it has got to a point where I don't even want to watch the games anymore. If it is not the Pirates being dreadfully bad with runners in scoring position it's them not scoring with the bases loaded and NO OUTS in extra innings and if it's not that it is Clint Hurdle doing the best possible job to lose this team ballgames.

The Pirates scored a total of seven runs in three games. The Pirates just aren't good at baseball right now. I wish I could tell you all how I really feel. I just have lost all hope in this team when I didn't really have a ton of hope to begin with.

The Pirates just aren't a talented team right now. Well, they weren't a really overly talented to begin with but they were getting by with home run and not being dumb. The Pirates are now on a cold streak and not hitting home runs and being dumb.

Tonight is the night that Clint Hurdle should be fired. Sixth inning and Alex Presley triples with one out. Clint Barmes is up and Hurdle puts on the squeeze. Not only does Hurdle put on the squeeze but he is so worried that his players have no idea what the f*ck is going on that Nick Leyva is whispering in Presley's ear after he gives the sign. Pitchout and Presley slides into a tag. Embarrassing. Just truly and utterly embarrassing.

I can't take this shit much longer. I really can't. The Pirates were 16 games over .500 and now they are just two games up. The Brewers and Phillies are going to surpass them in the standings and Hurdle still trots out Presley, Josh Harrison and Rod Barajas out all in the same lineup. I mean why try to put out your best lineup when you can fold before the game even starts?

Inexcusable. From the front office to the head coach to the player, just inexcusable.


EDIT - If you think the Pirates aren't trying or don't care then please stop reading anything about the Pirates because you are an idiot. Thanks.

Pirates Game Day 142 Live Blog - @ Cincinnati Reds

Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Reds - 7:10 p.m.
A.J. Burnett (15-6, 3.68 ERA) vs. Homer Bailey (10-9, 4.03 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (72-69)
1. Holt 4
2. Harrison 5
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 9
5. Sanchez 3
6. Presley 7
7. Barmes 6
8. Barajas 2
9. Burnett 1

Reds (86-57)
1. Phillips 4
2. Valdez 6
3. Votto 3
4. Ludwick 7
5. Bruce 9
6. Rolen 5
7. Heisey 8
8. Hanigan 2
9. Bailey 1



Hit the jump for the live blog


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pirates Game Day 141 Live Blog - @ Cincinnati Reds

Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Reds - 7:10 p.m.
Kevin Correia (10-8, 4.28 ERA) vs. Mike Leake (7-9, 4.73 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (72-68)
1. Holt 4
2. Presley 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Alvarez 5
6. Tabata 9
7. McKenry 2
8. Barmes 6
9. Correia 1

Reds (85-57)
1. Phillips 4
2. Stubbs 8
3. Votto 3
4. Ludwick 7
5. Bruce 9
6. Rolen 5
7. Navarro 2
8. Valdez 6
9. Leake 1




Hit the jump for the live blog



Monday, September 10, 2012

Steelers Game 1 Recap - Broncos 31, Steelers 19

The game last night was pretty hard for me to get my thoughts together for. First of all it was a late game and although I live in the central time zone that is still a pretty late night for me so after the game was over I just went to bed. I got up today and didn't even really think about the game and then started to listen to some sports talk radio today. Of course there are always those nut jobs that think the Steelers should release Ben Roethlisberger and people that think the season is over even though the Steelers started last season with a loss and then proceeded to go 12-3 in the next 15 games.

As I sit here and think about how I want to assess this game I really can't come up with the right way to talk about it. Sure, the defense did a really shitty job in the second half and had Peyton Manning pick them apart with little to no pressure at all but in light of all of that the Steelers had the football in the offense's hands with three minutes to go in the game and only down six. Sure, the Steelers didn't win the game as Roethlisberger threw a pick-six but the fact remains that the Steelers went on the road against a team that many consider a Super Bowl contender that just acquired future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and slugged it out for 60 minutes. Not everything went the Steelers way but if you think that this is a crushing loss then you don't really have the right perspective.

Last night was the first time that we truly got to see the Todd Haley offense. Basically we really didn't see a ton different in the offense. The Steelers actually opened up the game by doing a lot of run-run-pass on first second and third down and while last season people wanted to see less passing this season people seem to want to see more passing after a couple of series.

Things weren't ideal as the Steelers had to settle for two field goals and a touchdown in three trips to the red zone. The most interesting part of the first half was that the Steelers really seemed to be forcing the run and then when they got a first and goal from inside the five they passed three separate times and had to settle for a field goal. It was the story of the first half and in the end could have cost the Steelers the game that was much closer than the final score indicates.

The offense wasn't really all bad for the Steelers. Actually it was pretty good for the most part. The Steelers held a decisive advantage in time of possession and they were even in the turnover department so this really should have been much more of a Steelers win than it was but you can't dispute a 35:05-24:55 time of possession win but in the end they didn't get it done. The Steelers ran 71 total plays as to opposed to only 55 for the Broncos and the Steelers went on four separate drives of ten or more plays. Each of those lengthy possessions resulted in points and it is unfortunate that the Steelers weren't able to make the plays on defense when it counted.

The defense wasn't good at all but in the same breath it wasn't terrible. They were able to get to Manning early but couldn't get any kind of pressure after Manning went into the no huddle halfway through the second quarter and stuck with it the rest of the game. The no huddle left the Steelers defense vulnerable and confused and without an answer despite the fact that the Broncos only possessed the ball for 36 seconds in the entire third quarter yet outscored the Steelers 7-3. Not ideal guys, not ideal.

As I said before this isn't like the Steelers lost to the Browns or Rams, this was a very good team with an outstanding quarterback and a pretty great secondary. The Steelers hung and I said it last night that I feel better about the Steelers after the game than I did before the game.

Here are a few points about the game:

-Before I go any farther I think it needs to be said (although it shouldn't) that this was an outstanding game to watch as a fan and that the Broncos more than deserved to win this game. I know as a Steelers fan I typically always get into what the Steelers did wrong and what they need to improve on after losses and while I will do that here it also needs to be stated that the Broncos played a pretty damn good game. Manning was a lot better than I thought he would be after not playing in over a year and while the Broncos defense wasn't great they made the plays in crunch time. You gotta respect that. Manning is going to get a ton of the credit for this game, and he deserves a lot, but Tracy Porter might have been the player of the game for Denver. He was all over the field in that defensive backfield and did an outstanding job all game long. Props to the Broncos.

-Roethlisberger was good but not great. He was pretty much the same Ben that we have seen before where he was extending plays and converting a ridiculous number of third downs. The Steelers were consistently getting into second and third and long situations and Roethlisberger continued to make big plays down the field to Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. What was different about Ben was a testament to Haley and the new offense but there were many three step drops and quick hitting plays to gain yardage without Ben getting hit. You can see that by the fact that he finished the game with a YPA of 6.1 when that is normally around 8.0 or better so we will see if that trend continues. Roethlisberger has been known for his late game heroics but he was shut down again by Tracy Porter with a pick-6. Ben will be more than OK this year.

-The offensive line is just a mess. It always has been but in the first game the Steelers lost two of their offensive lineman and I hope the injuries aren't too bad. Marcus Gilbert and Ramon Foster were both out of the game early and forced the Steelers to use every member of the active roster on the first night including second round pick Mike Adams. Adams struggled in a pretty big way and while the Steelers had little or no depth before they have even less now. The running game suffered because of it as the Steelers only gained 75 yards on 26 carries and it just wasn't pretty.

-While the running game wasn't great I don't really think it was from a lack of talent from the Steelers running backs. The guy that really had people up in arms last night was Jonathan Dwyer. Dude just ran hard and ran angry and if he got tackled on first contact last night I would be shocked. A lot of second and third effort out there and he earned himself more than the nine carries that he got last night. Isaac Redman got 11 carries and looked pretty good running inside. There was a lot of things that went into the run game last night but I think the backs themselves are one of the last things to worry about.

-The defense just didn't do the job last night. The Steelers got after Manning early with a pair of sacks but only managed three QB hits and really where nowhere to be found later in the game. Larry Foote was easily the best defensive player on the field for the defense and if there was a weak link it was the pass rush. I might have said it 100 times already but the Steelers defense is predicated on getting pressure and when the defense can't get to the quarterback then it will be a long day. The secondary didn't help much at all as they really missed Ryan Clark but it just wasn't good at all. Troy wasn't himself and James Harrison was out so it wasn't ideal. I am not using those as excuses because you have to deal with the cards you are dealt but, man, it was tough to watch.

-Demaryius Thomas might be the new Steelers killer. After the Steelers scored to extend the lead in the third quarter it took the Broncos only two plays to score thanks to a Thomas 71 yard touchdown catch coming off a screen. I know a lot of people are going to be ragging on Ike Taylor because he was the corner on the play but it was an outstanding play call and pretty much perfect execution to make it happen.

-I talked about the injury bug with the offensive line earlier but for the most part I thought those guys did a really nice job in pass protection. When you look at the box score you are going to see that Roethlisberger was sacked five times but three of those came in the final drive where the Steelers were trying to pick up huge chunks of yards and Mike Adams decided he didn't want to play against Von Miller. But during the big chunk of the game the line gave Ben plenty of time and gave him "lanes" to scramble through to get the ball downfield. We have seen worse from the offensive line, much worse, so I take this as a positive.

All in all this wasn't the end of the season and overall I am not all that worried going forward. The Broncos are a really good team with Manning and this game came down to the final minutes. When you play a good team on the road all you want is a chance to win the game. The Steelers got that chance and just couldn't come through. Should be an exciting season.

Pirates Game Day 140 Live Blog - @ Cincinnati Reds

Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Reds - 7:10 p.m.
Wandy Rodriguez (10-13, 3.71 ERA) vs. Mat Latos (12-4, 3.69 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (72-67)
1. Holt 4
2. Presley 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Alvarez 5
6. Tabata 7
7. Barmes 6
8. Barajas 2
9. Rodriguez 1

Reds (84-57)
1. Phillips 4
2. Heisey 8
3. Votto 3
4. Ludwick 7
5. Bruce 9
6. Frazier 5
7. Navarro 2
8. Valdez 6
9. Latos 1



Hit the jump for the live blog



Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pirates Game 139 Recap - Cubs 4, Pirates 2

Just another embarrassing game in what turned out to be an embarrassing series in what was a bad home stand. The Pirates jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on an Andrew McCutchen home run but once again gave up that lead. I don't even know.

You could say that the Pirates mounted a comeback but the only other run they scored was via a balk after a leadoff triple. The Pirates did have first and second with no outs in the fifth inning as Jeff Locke recorded his first ever major league hit and Brock Holt reached on a swinging bunt but Starling Marte struck out after trying to bunt the first two pitches then flailed at the third strike. McCutchen just missed a middle-up pitch and then Garrett Jones lined out.

Don't ask me why Marte was bunting in that situation and don't get me started. Clint Hurdle needs to stop this bullshit. Now.

The Pirates had a chance in the ninth inning. Carlos Marmol was all kinda of awful to start, loading the bases with one out but he got Gaby Sanchez to strike out and Pedro Alvarez to fly out to left. Sweep city.

Locke wasn't bad at all in the game. He had really only two mistakes which were pitches that ended up in the seats for solo home runs and finished the day pitching six innings, giving up seven hits and striking out six, not walking a single batter. Locke doesn't miss a lot of bats but he did a pretty nice job of locating and more than did his job by giving the Pirates a chance to win this game.

The hitting was bad. All series, bad. The Pirates only had a .160 average in the series (15-for-94) and only had five extra base hits for the entire series. THE ENTIRE SERIES. The Cubs are a bad team. The Pirates are right in the mix for the playoffs. You can't get swept by the Cubs. Can't happen. You aren't going to win game when a majority of the offense is taking the day off and that is what's happening and guess what, the Pirates are losing. Shocking, I know.

Jason Grilli has been great all season but he has been pretty bad as of recent. Last night he gave up the game winning home run and today he did the same thing again. After the Pirates tied the game at two he came to pitch the eighth and gave up a leadoff single to Anthony Rizzo and then gave up a monster home run to Alfonso Soriano. No idea.

The Pirates get the Reds starting tomorrow. Who knows. The way things have gone I wouldn't be shocked if the Pirates swept the Reds.

Pirates Game Day 139 Live Blog - vs. Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates - 1:35 p.m.
Chris Rusin (0-2, 9.00 ERA) vs. Jeff Locke (0-1, 4.82 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (72-66)
1. Holt 4
2. Marte 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 9
5. Sanchez 3
6. Alvarez 5
7. McKenry 2
8. Barmes 6
9. Locke 1

Cubs (53-86)
1. Mather 8
2. Barney 4
3. Rizzo 3
4. Soriano 7
5. Castro 6
6. Vitters 5
7. Sappelt 9
8. Recker 2
9. Rusin 1



Hit the jump for the live blog



Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pirates Game 138 Recap - Cubs 4, Pirates 3

Just another brutal loss to a team that the Pirates shouldn't lose to. Sure the Cubs had Jeff Samardzija on the bump and he has been just outstanding all season but the Bucs got out to a 2-0 lead only to give it back. The Cubs held a 3-2 lead until Jeff Clement (!) drove home the tying run in the bottom of the seventh inning only to have the Cubs come back and score a two out run off Jason Grilli in the top half of the eighth inning. Not idea. The Pirates went down weakly in the eighth and ninth.

I remember around the All Star break when I was talking out loud on Twitter about what the Pirates win total would be at the end of the year and I said they could probably max out at 86 wins. A lot of people came back at me with how many times the team was playing the Brewers and Astros and Cubs as to why the Pirates might be able to get 95 wins. When I told them that just because they play those teams doesn't mean they are going to win those games and most people didn't buy it. This is why. The Cubs aren't that good, nor are the Astros or Brewers but they are still major league baseball teams and still capable of winning games. Couple that with the fact that the Pirates are coming back to Earth it really shows why 86 wins is probably the high end of the wins.

This game wasn't overly terrible as James McDonald wasn't horrible but it was a game that earlier in the year they were winning with a clutch hit and they just didn't get that tonight. Pedro Alvarez was the only guy who really came through offensively with a pair of doubles but when the bottom of your lineup contains Alex Presley in the six spot followed by Barmes and Barajas you are going to struggle.

For much of the year the Pirates have been a team that lives and dies by the home run. When they are hitting the ball out of the park they are a tough team to beat. Tonight was the fifth straight game where the Pirates haven't homered and previously they would have won a game with a blast or two but tonight they didn't get one and they lose. It isn't a great hitting team and is a terrible team at getting on base and when they aren't hitting the ball out of the ballpark they are going to have a tough time scoring runs.

For what it is worth I have no idea how Barajas is still in the lineup on a consistent basis. His line is down to .196/.269/.325 and he has been trotted out there for the third consecutive night. I have no idea why. He should be playing MAYBE once a week and any more of that is just a testament to how out of touch Clint Hurdle is and how embarrassingly bad it is that he sticks with veterans.

In the same breath I have no idea how Presley is in the lineup. You can't play him. He has been nothing short of terrible this season. I know you might call be bias but I have not been high on Presley even back to last season when I thought he should have been traded at the deadline but he just has horrible at bats. Having him in the six spot is really embarrassing.

I know this just seems like a rant on what is bad but at this point the Pirates are doing a lot of bad things. When Travis Snider comes back into the lineup I think it is a must that you move Starling Marte down in the lineup. While I like what Marte brings to the table he just isn't getting on base and having a lot of bad at bats to be hitting at the top of the lineup. It is a small sample size but Marte is only hitting .240/.278/.400 and that isn't going to cut it up top. We knew when he came up that he didn't have much plate discipline and that is really translating into his major league at bats. He can still improve on this but I just don't think he can cut it at the top of the lineup. Move him down to the six spot when Snider comes back and get some pressure off him.

Andrew McCutchen just continues to slide. It is tough to call out a guy who carried this team for the first half of the year but he went 0-for-3 tonight with three strikeouts and just hasn't look the same in the past two months. I keep hoping he is going to figure it out but it is getting harder to figure out as the games go by.

I wasn't really sold on the Pirates being a playoff team because I just thought the Cardinals and Dodgers were better teams but somehow they are still hanging in the wild card race. They have to turn it around soon. I keep trying to be optimistic but every game gets closer to there being no hope of the Pirates being in the playoffs. I know I have said this before but I really don't care about breaking the losing streak. I am not cheering for 82 wins because I am not a big believer in cheering for mediocrity, but that is just me. Would it be nice to win 82 games? Sure, but if the Pirates get 80 wins that doesn't mean this season was bad, because this season has been a pretty overwhelming success.

Pirates Game Day 138 Live Blog - vs. Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Jeff Samardzija (8-13, 3.91 ERA) vs. James McDonald (12-7, 3.90 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (72-65)
1. Holt 4
2. Marte 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Alvarez 5
6. Presley 9
7. Barmes 6
8. Barajas 2
9. McDonald 1

Cubs (52-86)
1. DeJesus 9
2. Valbuena 5
3. Rizzo 3
4. Soriano 7
5. Castro 6
6. Castillo 2
7. Barney 4
8. Samardzija 1
9. Campana 8



Hit the jump for the live blog



Steelers Game Day 1 Preview - @ Denver Broncos

The 2012 regular season is finally upon us and the Steelers are going to start the season in the same place where the 2011 season ended, Denver, Colorado. Last year it was a disappointing end to a really strange season and this year the Steelers are back and primed for another run at a division title and hopefully a Super Bowl run.

This primary focus of this game is obviously going to be the return to the playing field of Peyton Manning. Manning signed a monster deal to play with the Broncos and everyone is lapping up his first game since the 2010 season. Manning has played a lot of games against the Steelers and he knows the Steelers defense as well as the Steelers know how he runs the offense. The Broncos are going to be nothing like the team the Steelers played last season and it should be a circus like atmosphere in Denver.

The Steelers have their own new faces, although the biggest headliner isn't even going to be playing on the field. I am talking about new offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Haley came to the Steelers after falling out of favor in Kansas City last season and he will bring some fresh ideas from an offense that seems to have plateaued under former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

Enough of this, lets start with the preview.

Now for the stats:


2011 Meeting:

AFC Wild Card: Denver 29, Pittsburgh 23 (OT)

Passing
Pit: Roethlisberger: 22/14, 289 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Den: Tebow: 10/21, 316 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT

Rushing
Pit: Redman: 17 carries, 121 yards, 0 TD
Den: McGahee: 19 carries, 61 yards, 0 TD

Receiving
Pit: Sanders: 6 rec, 81 yards, 0 TD
Den: Thomas: 4 rec, 204 yards, 1 TD

All-Time Record vs. Denver: 10-17-1 (3-4 Playoffs)

Jan. 8, 2012 - Denver 29, Pittsburgh 23 (OT)
Nov. 9, 2009 - Pittsburgh 28, Denver 10
Oct. 21, 2007 - Denver 31, Pittsburgh 28
Nov 5, 2006 - Denver 31, Pittsburgh 20
Jan. 22, 2006 - Pittsburgh 34, Denver 17



Offense (rank in NFL)

Total Offense
Pittsburgh: 372.3 yards/game (12th)
Denver: 316.6 yards/game (23rd)

Passing
Pittsburgh: 253.4 yards/game (10th)
Denver: 152.1 yards/game (31st)

Rushing
Pittsburgh: 118.9 yards/game (14th)
Denver: 164.5 yards/game (1st)

Points
Pittsburgh: 20.3 points/game (t21st)
Denver: 19.3 points/game (25th)


Defense

Total Defense
Pittsburgh: 271.8 yards/game (1st)
Denver: 357.8 yards/game (20th)

Pass
Pittsburgh: 171.9 yards/game (1st)
Denver: 231.5 yards/game (18th)

Rush
Pittsburgh: 99.8 yards/game (8th)
Denver: 126.3 yards/game (22nd)

Points
Pittsburgh: 14.2 points/game (1st)
Denver: 24.4 points/game (24th)



Hit the jump for the rest of the preview


Friday, September 7, 2012

Pirates Game 137 Recap - Cubs 12, Pirates 2

To say that the Pirates put up an embarrassing performance tonight would be giving them too much credit. From Clint Hurdle starting Josh Harrison at shortstop for the sole reason of him being 2-for-5 off Cubs starter Travis Wood to the Pirates only recording one hit till the game was 12-0 Cubs to the defense committing five six seven errors on the night. This might be one of those nights where you say you can build a wall around it but I fear that the Pirates might have to build walls on top of walls for this one. Just embarrassing.

Maybe the only good thing that happened in this game is that Andrew McCutchen hit the ball really hard all night but has nothing to show for it. Didn't get a hit, all night. That is how bad the night was for the Pirates.

The errors were bad and it wasn't even like the pitchers could do much. A.J. Burnett didn't have his best stuff but when your left fielder is throwing the ball all over the place and not fielding it and you are giving teams four, five and sometimes six outs an inning there is only so much you can do.

The bats didn't show up against a pitcher who coming into tonight had a 6.33 ERA and was 0-8 in his last ten starts. A guy who had an opponent batting average of .279 in the past ten starts but limited the Pirates to only one hit.

I would talk about why Hurdle shouldn't be this manager past this year but then I would be just beating a dead horse. I don't know in what world he thinks playing Harrison at shortstop but he's wrong. If it's not the shitty in game managing it is continuing to play Barajas, Presley and Harrison when there are better options. Say all you want about how Clint Barmes hasn't played well this season, because he hasn't, but he has hit .268 since the first of August and you start Harrison because he is 2-for-5 lifetime off Wood. The biggest problem I have isn't that Harrison was playing but that the small sample size reference was used as the main reason. Hurlde is going to give good quotes and one liners but he is a shitty in game manager and someone needs to say it.

I'm done with this game.

Pirates Game Day 137 Live Blog - vs. Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Travis Wood (4-11, 4.64 ERA) vs. A.J. Burnett (15-5, 3.63 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (72-64)
1. Holt 4
2. Marte 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 9
5. Sanchez 3
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barajas 2
8. Harrison 6
9. Burnett 1

Cubs (51-86)
1. DeJesus 9
2. Valbuena 5
3. Rizzo 3
4. Soriano 7
5. Castro 6
6. Clevenger 2
7. Jackson 8
8. Barney 4
9. T. Wood 1



Hit the jump for the live blog



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pirates Game Day 136 Live Blog - vs. Houston Astros

Houston Astros at Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Fernando (0-2, 4.83 ERA) vs. Kevin Correia (9-8, 4.40 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (71-64)
1. Holt 4
2. Barmes 6
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 9
5. Sanchez 3
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barajas 2
8. Presley 7
9. Correia 1

Astros (42-94)
1. Altuve 4
2. Paredes 9
3. Wallace 3
4. JD Martinez 7
5. Bogusevic 8
6. Moore 5
7. Corporan 2
8. Greene 6
9. Abad 1


Hit the jump for the live blog



2012 NFL Predictions

Well, here we are ladies and gents. The NFL preseason is finally over and all the unnecessary injuries are already done and we are ready to strap it up for week one. By my count this will be the fourth season of writing for the Steelers and the first three were great with one of them finishing with a Super Bowl championship. The last three years I have done this preseason predictions and every single year I pick the Steelers to win so I guess I am 1-for-3, I will take that.

I want to preface this by saying that any of the records that I give for teams aren't going to be very scientific. I don't go through the schedule and say that team A defeats team B, this is more just me thinking out loud how many wins they may have so don't get all up in my grill if the wins and losses don't match up.

without further ado here is my 2012 NFL preview sure to go right wrong.

NFC

East - The NFC East is one of the best divisions in all of football. We can sit here and make fun of Eli Manning, the Cowboys and the Eagles but truth be told they are uber talented. Eli Manning is the difference in this division though. Whether you like to admit it or not he is elite and he has taken the Giants to two Super Bowl titles and will lead them to the NFC East crown. Last season the division was super close with the Giants having nine wins and the Eagles and Cowboys both having eight wins. I think it will be much of the same this year except the Cowboys will be able to outlast the Eagles. I see the Giants with ten wins and the Cowboys getting nine with with the Eagles also getting nine and missing out via a tiebreaker. The Redskins are going to be much of the same but it is going to be really exciting to watch RG3 play as he is a great athlete that also can throw the ball a little.

South - This division is really split in half in my opinion. It is the Saints and the Falcons and then there is a line and the Panther and the Bucs. I think the gap is closer than a lot think with the Saints and the Falcons and if Atlanta can come up with a way to win a big road game then they are in good shape but I just don't think they are there yet. The Saints have dealt with some tough situations over this past year and are going to have a ton of new faces but they are stacked with talent and while I don't see them winning 13 games like a year before I think that they can get to 11 wins and beat out the Falcons by one game for the division title. I think the Panthers are going to be better than most people think. They won seven games last year and they bring back some good talent on the offensive side of the ball. If they can figures out the defense a little bit they can have a chance to contend but I think 8-8 is pretty reasonable for them this year. Tampa is bad and might get three wins.

West - The West once again is an absolute mess with teams that just aren't very good. The 49ers probably have this wrapped up before the season even started because there just isn't enough competition to go around. The 49ers rely on a great defense and some game management to get by. They are not going to be 13 wins good this year but they might get close with 11 wins or maybe 12. A key is going to be if Frank Gore stays healthy which is never really a good thing to bet on because he is literally never healthy. The defense should be good but it will be amazingly hard for them to replicate what they did last season. The Cardinals finished second with an 8-8 record and to be honest if they get eight wins this year I would be shocked. They have nothing at quarterback and Beanie Wells might be their best weapon outside of Larry Fitzgerald. Maybe three or four wins for Arizona. Seattle should be right around where they were next year with eight wins, maybe nine, and St. Louis could really make a nice jump after only winning two game last year. St. Louis could surprise you with seven wins if Sam Bradford stays healthy.

North - The North is a really fun division to look at. While the Packers have basically run this division for the past couple of years I think they are going to come back to the field this year and Chicago is going to have a great chance to take the division. I know every year it seems like I get way too high on the Bears and they ultimately let me down but while I don't think they win the division this year I do think they beat ou the Lions for the second playoff spot out of the North. The Pack are still loaded with talent but the defense has a pretty hard time getting to the QB and the offense is looking a little beat up with injuries to Greg Jennings. They should get to 12 wins but I think the Bears are going to be right there with 11 wins to pounce on the Packers if they slip. I think the Lions are going to fall back a little bit. They have the talent but last year they were predicated on so many comebacks of double digits. You just can't expect that to continue and think you can make a living off it. They are a very emotional team which can work to their favor but it can also work against them as we say at points last season.

AFC

East - The East still runs through New England. Mainly because I don't think any teams got any better in that division and the Patriots are kind of in that same boat. The Patriots do what they do. They have a ton of talent and they have Tom Brady so you can pencil them in for 12 wins. The rest of the division is going to be a little different. I think the Bills are going to be a really solid team this year and will finish second in the division with nine wins. I think the defense is going to be really solid and if they can find a complimentary receiver to go along with Stevie Johnson then they can really push the Patriots a little bit. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller gives them a ton of athleticism on offense so it should be a fun team to watch. The Jets are just an absolute mess. Preseason doesn't mean anything but they went three games, three whole games without scoring a touchdown. Woof. Mark Sanchez isn't very good at the QB position and neither is Tim Tebow. Santonio Holmes is the only receiver on the team. Bart Scott is still Bart Scott which means he isn't very good. How an I supposed to know about the Dolphins if they don't know what they are all about? But hey, Hard Knocks, right?

South - The South isn't very good either. The Texans should run away with this division with around 11 wins but the division isn't very good which is what I generally think about the entire AFC as a whole. I am sort of a fan of the Texans as I love Matt Schaub and Arian Foster on offense and the defense is still going to be good despite the loss of Mario Williams who is now with the Buffalo Bills. Tennessee should be good enough to finish second in the division right around where they were last year with nine wins. I think Chris Johnson will be much, much better than he was a year ago and that will go a long way to balance the offense and let them win some football games. Indianapolis should be in decent shape, all things considered, with Andrew Luck at quarterback and will finish ahead of Jacksonville who is just a mess right now.

West - The West might not have the best teams but it is going to be a fun division to watch as it will most likely come down to the last couple of weeks. Last year Denver, San Diego and Oakland all finished 8-8 with Kansas City finishing 7-9 so literally every team had a chance to make the playoffs and I think this division will be better overall this year. A lot of people are talking about Denver with Peyton Manning. While Manning is going to instantly make this team better offensively I think their defense was overlooked last season. I do not think that the Broncos will win the division because I actually think San Diego will take the division if only by a tie breaker. I do think the Broncos will make the playoffs with nine wins and Oakland will actually be much improved. I know Carson Palmer is the butt of many jokes but he makes the offense work in Oakland and if Darren McFadden can stay healthy they will make it interesting. Kansas City just will not have enough on either side of the ball although they play in one of my favorite stadiums.

North - The AFC North. In my mind the best division in the league. I don't much care if you agree with me because that is my opinion and you can't change it. The division got a new look last year with the emergence of Cincinnati and should be a three team race again. While both the Ravens and Steelers are getting a little longer in the tooth I think they are still the cream of the crop in the division. The Bengals have a ton of young talent with some good tight ends and the duo of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green but I don't think it will quite be enough this year in part to the extensive injuries they had in the preseason. The Steelers and Ravens should split their season series which should bring it down to other division games for the AFC North title and likely first round bye. I have both the Steelers and Ravens getting ten wins with the Steelers taking home the title. I think the Bengals might get nine wins but if they only went 8-8 I would not be shocked either. The Browns still are going to sit at the bottom but I don't think they will be as bad as they were last year and might sneak in with five(ish) wins.


NFC Final Standings

New Orleans
San Francisco
Green Bay
New York Giants
Chicago
Dallas

NFC Champion: New Orleans

AFC Final Standings

New England
Pittsburgh
Houston
San Diego
Baltimore
Buffalo

AFC Champion: Pittsburgh

Super Bowl XLVII Winner: Pittsburgh

Yea, like I wasn't going to be a homer there.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pirates Game Day 135 Live Blog - vs. Houston Astros

Houston Astros vs. Pittsburgh Pirates - 7:05 p.m.
Jordan Lyles (3-10, 5.46 ERA) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (9-13, 3.86 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (70-64)
1. Holt 4
2. Snider 9
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 3
5. Alvarez 5
6. McKenry 2
7. Presley 7
8. Barmes 6
9. Rodriguez 1

Astros (42-93)
1. Altuve 4
2. Greene 6
3. Wallace 3
4. Maxwell 8
5. Castro 2
6. Downs 9
7. Paredes 7
8. Laird 5
9. Lyles 1



Hit the jump for the live blog



Monday, September 3, 2012

Pirates Game 134 Recap - Astros 5, Pirates 1

Well I am back after a really good weekend in Milwaukee. I was at the Brewers game on Saturday and Sunday and they were really hard to watch as the Pirates got swept and then all the Pirates did today was go out and mail one in against the Astros. It was bad, it was ugly, it wasn't what the doctor ordered and it sucked. Sometimes life sucks and this is one of those times as a Pirates fan.

Jeff Locke got the start today and actually pitched pretty well. His line wasn't all that good as he went only five innings and gave up five runs. He gave up seven hits and struck out six so that wasn't terrible and he was hurt by some tough luck. I thought it was a good start for Locke but the Pirates lost. Meh.

The offense was nowhere to be found outside of Garrett Jones. Jones had three of the Pirates five hits and continues to just play outstanding offensively as his line is up to .291/.328/.554 and is going to get a massive raise through arbitration this offseason. Outside of that Pedro Alvarez and Clint Barmes were the only others to have a hit. Bad times.

The bullpen was good again today as Kyle McPherson, Hisanori Takahashi and Jared Hughes combined to pitch four shutout innings where they only gave up three hits and struck out eight. Another outstanding job by the pen who looks like they got a little bit of their mojo back after struggling for a good time.

The big problem with the Pirates is that they can't put it all together. Today they got decent starting pitching and some great relief pitching but the offense was nowhere to be found. Yesterday they couldn't get a shutout half inning and the offense was hitting the ball all over the place. If they could get a full game together with all facets they they could get some wins but it's just not happening right now.

While things have been about as bad as it could be the Pirates are now 2.5 games back of the wild card. The collapse is upon us as the Pirates are only six games over .500 now and at a place where they need to get a couple of wins or it could get ugly. I am not ready to panic as I think the Pirates could not make the playoffs and the season would still be a wild success but how well the Pirates played up until the All Star break really brought some different expectations. I am not saying the Pirates are playing well or this isn't disappointing but there is still around a month left to the season and they are only 2.5 back. The collapse is starting and probably has been happening for a little while now but the story still isn't finished on the season.

Pirates Game Day 134 Live Blog - vs. Houston Astros

Houston Astros at Pittsburgh Pirates - 1:35 p.m.
Edgar Gonzalez (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Jeff Locke (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Lineups:

Pirates (70-63)
1. Holt 4
2. Snider 7
3. McCutchen 8
4. Jones 9
5. Sanchez 3
6. Alvarez 5
7. Barajas 2
8. Barmes 6
9. Locke 1

Astros (41-93)
1. Altuve 4
2. Greene 6
3. Wallace 3
4. Maxwell 7
5. Downs 9
6. Dominguez 5
7. Snyder 2
8. Barnes 8
9. Gonzalez 1

Hit the jump for the live blog



Saturday, September 1, 2012

Pirates Game Day 132 Live Blog - @ Milwaukee Brewers

Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee Brewers - 7:10 p.m.
A.J. Burnett (15-5, 3.67 ERA) vs. Marco Estrada (2-5, 4.02 ERA)

Pirates (70-61)

Brewers (63-68)




Hit the jump for the live blog