Saturday, April 09, 2005

Game 5: Pirates at Padres

Here's a game thread for you, if you're around tonight during the game. It's Ollie at Woody Williams.

Not much to add

Not much blogging from me as I've been busy with work and, when I have time, preparations for a roto draft. Not much to say anyway. Much of what's out there is barely worth notice. It's irritating to read theories on the perpetual inferiority of the Pirates organization after the first two games of the season. Writers could save it for mid-season or, if they have balls, publish the week before the season. Waiting until the Bucs lose the first two in disappointing fashion strikes me as cowardly and dishonorable. Cowardly because it's opportunistic, in that I-told-you-so-kind-of-way. It also smacks of greater self-delusion than clearmindedness - as though the writer needed the two disappointments to get his wisdom out there. To me it comes across as proudly wagering against a football team after they have fumbled the opening kickoff, and doing so with a big speech about how you've been studying them for a long time and knew they'd fumble the opening kickoff.

I also find the piling-on to be dishonorable. The fans just endured two nasty disappointments - is that time to kick them in the 'nads with your crackpot pessimism, or your feebleminded application of theories from Ayn Rand? Is the pleasure of insult that irresistible?

There is an extremely high frequency, in today's written ephemeral journalism, of taunting. Taunting and outrage, taunting and outrage. Scathing attacks. It's all we know for debate, especially and ironically when the subject is trivial. I could go on with this, and apply it to a wide range of amateur and professional writing that, at times, infuriates me, but why bother? I would have to give up reading if I thought too much about it. And of course I can't pretend to be much above it myself.

So, whatever. Play ball.

Generally then I'm not paying much attention to anything but what happens on the field. I'd hate to see them fall more than four games back in April. That I admit. That's more or less what I'm looking at - can they finish the month at or near .500? I feel like those are pretty low expectations. So long as they hang close, I'm following the games and waiting to see what the record will be after nineteen or twenty-one games.

One other thing. I don't think the injuries do much to hurt the team - we have "flexibility" galore - except insofar as the team is now much more exposed to the damage another injury or two might do. Did that make sense? I'm not sure it did, but there it is.

Good news for Gorzelanny

In Kovacevic's noteboook.

All hail Josh Fogg

``We just couldn't figure Fogg out,'' Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. ``Our bats started coming alive the back end of the game. We couldn't get much going early.'

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

D'oh

Off to the west coast.

Game 2: Brewers at Pirates

Doug Davis, the starter for the men in wheat, is a soft-tossing left-hander who, at 28, had a career year in 2004 after struggling in the American League. He's what Dave Williams can aspire to be. Davis also brings the nutty facial hair. Look for some kind of edgy look this afternoon.

No Tike-a-mania today

Bay hits third on this getaway day. Wigginton hits left-handers a bit.

Bad news travels like wildfire

Great question at the end of Ed Eagle's weekly mailbag:

I think that the media has a big part in not allowing the Bucs to perform to the best of their abilities. I mean, when you've got "experts" always talking down the team's chances, the players may have a hard time believing in themselves. What do you think? -- Jacob W., DeFuniak Springs, Fla.

As much as players and coaches tend to deny that they read or listen to what is being said about them in the media, most of them can tell you who wrote or said what and when they wrote or said it. Players are only human, after all, and the bad press has to get old for these guys.

That being said, I highly doubt that these kinds of predictions negatively influence the confidence or performance of the players. As competitive athletes, it inspires them to prove their critics wrong.

When it all comes down to it, the predictions we media-types make don't mean a thing. The players will determine their fates as winners or losers on the diamond.

Here's my take on this. The negativity is pretty mind-numbing. Some of it is rational, wise, well-considered. But at least half of it is not. I doubt it affects the players much in April or May, but there's no doubt in my mind that it encourages the old second-half swoon.

Because the real worry, for me, is not the players. I worry about the fans. No one can be wheedled into the ballpark. Not at today's prices. My guess is that many fans give the Pirates a chance in April. The conventional wisdom is pretty much all bad: the players can't hit, the pitchers get hurt, the manager is a moron, the "real" owner is Emperor Palpatine. If the team's performance on the field conforms, a lot of potential fans will take (another) season off. There are other ways to spend your dough.

The whole losing thing can rapidly become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The players may not be affected by the bad press, but the fans surely are. And when the fans don't come to support a May team with a .450 winning percentage, then the bitterness sets in. Players notice how the house is packed in Houston but half-empty in Pittsburgh. They will say that this does not hurt their play, but it surely does hurt their play: when the house is packed and the fans are cheering like crazy and having a good time, that provides a real boost to the players. Or so they will tell us.

Of course crowd size matters. The Astros were selling tickets half-way through the 2004 season because the fans trusted they'd play better. Pretty much everyone loses interest in the Pirates come football season for the same reason. It's a chicken-and-egg thing: the Bucs won't win consistently until they sell out more consistently. The fans won't come to the park until the Bucs win consistently. Twelve years of losing has put them in this bind.

The Bucs talk about not having much room for error. I generally agree. It's April, the season is young, everyone wants the Pirates to do well. The season pretty much hinges on a strong start.

Perrotto on the Brewers

John Perrotto compares the Bucs and the Brewers. The long shadow of G. Ogden Nutting darkens the final paragraphs of the essay. I'd like to meet this guy some day. He's like the Emperor Palpatine of the franchise.

Tike not thrilled

Rob Biertempfel reports that Tike does not seem too thrilled with the attention. This supports my theory that the team is doing this, in part, to deliver an ultimatum to Tike. We need him right now, and not just in the second half of the season. If he can't hit well right now, we can't wait any longer for him.

Craiggers pissed

Joe Rutter reports. Well, good. I remember him being pretty pissed for the first half of 2004.

Torres

Dejan Kovacevic writes that we can expect to see a lot of Torres. I still would have brought him in before Rick White. Opening Day may be the closest thing to a playoff game the Pirates will see all year.

Tike-a-mania

Brian O'Neill, the PG stats geek, not down with Tike-a-mania.

Regardless of how much sense the lineup makes, from any perspective, the team has to recognize that most fans find it ridiculous. The Bucs thus put themselves in the same position the Red Sox were in when Epstein came on board and announced that they would have no closer. Good idea or no, if an unconventional idea does not work right away, it will become the story of the season.

The Bucs have to win this April if they want to keep selling tickets. And they have to win at home. Win when we visit the stadium and we will bring friends the next time we come. It's pretty simple.

Tike batting third doesn't matter so much because lineups don't matter so much. The point here is the public relations risk the team takes by adopting this lineup. Why tike take that risk?

I say give Tike, at most, ten starts batting third, maybe ten starts in the first fifteen games. If he's not hitting .330 and if the Bucs aren't .500, the move is going to look stupid. If you run him out there every day and he fails to hit .330 and the Bucs fail to win half their games, "Hit Tike Third" will be the dismissive summary of everything Littlefield and McClendon have done in Pittsburgh. So mix it up out of the gate. If your computer simulations tell you that it's a substantially better idea than batting Tike sixth or seventh, stick with it, but don't think you can win over more than half the fan base. If the team doesn't win, all the calculus in the word won't persuade us that it was a good idea in the first place.

Dejan Q & A

Ok, so you bring in White. Whatever. I still like Torres there. Show me that you are taking the game that seriously.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Managing expectations

A lot of funny stuff out there at the Pirates' expense. Surf around, you'll find it.

Sense of humor: good. Off day: also good.

I'll be back at it tomorrow. Enjoy the day.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Pirates lose

Some quick postgame thoughts, and I'm out of here.

First, I would have liked to see the game managed like it was a playoff game. These early games are that important. Rather than bring in Rick White, I bring in one of my top relievers and keep the game close. The team has tomorrow off; it's not like there was any need to save Torres or Gonzalez. And who gives a damn about saving them for the end of the season if the start of the season fails to make the end meaningful.

Second, the Tike-a-mania move didn't look good today. Why? Because we lost, and because Tike didn't have a big day. I respect the manager for going with an unconventional move. And I think it makes a little sense - it's not complete idiocy. All that said, the team lost. If Mac sticks with the Tike-a-mania lineup and the team continues to lose, that's not the good kind of perseverance.

Game 1: Brewers at Pirates

I had a dream. Last night, in my sleep, Daryle Ward hit a two-run homer to tie the game in the ninth. The Bucs entered the inning down four. The next hitter, some bench scrub that's not on the roster, some reserve middle infielder, hit a home run to left to win the game. It's not often that I watch baseball games in my sleep. In ye olden days, dreams were taken for prophecy; these days we regard them as a random behavior of a self-cleaning brain.

Whatever. If there is a lot of scoring in today's day game, I expect it will come in the later innings after the aces are out of the game.

...Ollie throwing strikes from the start. Beautiful day. I'm drinking a beer and watching the game. Use this thread if you want to talk about the game as it happens.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Pirates and Brewers

Enough hair-pulling about the possibility of winning 81 games. Time to focus on the Brewers. The Bucs get them five times in the next ten days, with four day games that may or may not be sunny and warm.

The Brewers should be better than last year. Will that Lyle Overbay start on a tear like he (and Craig Wilson) did last year? Is that J.J. Hardy a player? Will pitchers not named BS step up for them?

Quick comparison of the teams.

Catcher: Chad Moeller vs. Benito Santiago. Small edge Pittsburgh.
First base: Lyle Overbay vs. Craig Wilson. Evenish.
Second base: Junior Spivey vs. Jose Castillo. Small edge Spivey. For now. Long-term Castillo is clearly the better option.
Shortstop: J.J. Hardy vs. Jack Wilson: Wilson.
Third base: Branyan/Helms vs. Wigginton: Even? The more Helms plays, the better for us. Branyan scares me.
Left field: Carlos Lee vs. Jason Bay: Evenish. We need to see how Lee adjusts to the NL.
Center field: Brady Clark vs. Tike Redman: Even. Clark, like Spivey, has not had many seasons with 300 ABs.
Right field: Geoff Jenkins vs. Matt Lawton: About even. Both these guys have been pretty spotty. Jenkins has had two great years (2000 and 2003) but disappointed last year. Lawton was better last year. Both guys have been hurt a lot.
Bench: Our bench is better.
Rotation: Sheets vs. Ollie - tie; Davis vs. Wells - Wells; Santos vs. Redman - I dunno; Capuano vs. Fogg - I dunno; Glover vs. Williams - Hrm.
Bullpen: Ours is clearly better. Mesa over Bottalico, Gonzalez over Adams, Torres over Turnbow, etc.

The Bucs look better to me. They should win three of five here.

Strut time

Preseason stuff from Dejan.