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If you follow me on Twitter (@BnGBlitz), then you know that Monday night myself and 2 fellow Pirates fans traveled from our homes in Western Maryland and Northern Virginia to see our Buccos face off against the Washington Nationals in our nation's capital. As a tried and true Pittsburgh fan, I am always a little weary heading into "enemy territory". Whether it was my trip to the Verizon Center this year to see the Penguins defeat the Washington Capitals, going to Camden Yards in Baltimore last year to see the Pirates gets smoked by the O's, or my first trip to "Nats Park" to see Andrew McCutchen and Company go against Bryce Harper's group. Why am I weary of this? Simple. You never know how the home fans are going to react to fans of the visiting team invading their home field advantage...and let me tell you that Pittsburgh fans are everywhere. I noticed on Twitter that the Nationals broadcast crew stated "Pittsburgh fans sure do travel well...", and they aren't incorrect. I spoke with several Pirates fans that had traveled to DC to see this series from the 'burgh, but the majority of the Pirates fans that I talked to were now living in the DC/MD/VA area after moving away from their roots in "Pittsburgh Country". Nonetheless, I figured I would document my trip...everything from the intelligence of Nats fans to me meeting the Pirates President, Bob Nutting.
- Maybe its something about a big city, but I am a very "open" Pittsburgh fan. I'm that guy that will say "Let Go Bucs!" to someone randomly walking down the street if they are wearing the colors. As we were driving through downtown DC I saw a young male (probably mid 20s) and a girl. The young man was wearing a Cutch t-shirt. I roll down the window and yell "LETS GO BUCS!" out the window. You would have thought I yelled "HE'S GOT A GUN!". The man nearly dropped to the ground leaving his girl friend hanging out to dry. Left me just shaking my head.
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I wrote this last Wednesday, but I feel like now is a good time to share it with you all:
Superstitions are rampant among athletes of every sport; even as a gymnast I had a certain routine when I lined up in the corner for a tumbling pattern. My feet had to be perfectly lined up with the white corners before I felt comfortable taking off down the floor. Some baseball players hop over the baselines when exiting the field, hockey players don't change their socks, and football stadiums play certain songs at certain times in games.
As a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, I was overjoyed yet also mortified to see Jason Grilli on the cover of the new Sports Illustrated. We've all heard of the Sports Illustrated curse, and I have to be somewhat concerned about the truth behind it. The SI curse is so well known that the magazine dedicated a 2002 cover to it, black cat included. In case you don't follow baseball, the Pirates haven't had a winning season in over 20 years. The past 3 years, they have entered the All Star break on fire, only to completely implode and collapse in the second half of the season.
This year, the Pirates have entered the All Star break one game back from the first place Cardinals in the NL Central. They’re 56-37 and looking to capitalize on their first half success. In the 2010 season, the Pirates only won 57 games ALL YEAR. This year we had 5 players named as All Stars, those 5 guys more than the Yankees and Red Sox had combined. We had Pedro Alvarez in the Home Run Derby and he just missed the cutoff to the 2nd round. Alvarez hit more HRs in the Derby than the last 4 Pirates players combined.
Jason Grilli has been lights out as the Pirates closer this season; he has ONE blown save. He’s earned the nicknames Grilled Cheese, the Big Cheese, and along with set up guy Mark Melancon, Mark and Cheese. Pirates fans have warmed up to Grilli quickly after notoriously being bitter about the trade of last year’s closer, Joel Hanrahan. Grilli dubbed the Pirates bullpen the “Shark Tank,” and had an actual shark tank brought into the clubhouse. He’s been the veteran leader of the amazing Bucco bullpen since the start of the season. So you see why this cover makes us nervous.
SI reported that they found jinxes affected roughly 37% of the featured cover athletes. Wikipedia lists about 100 instances of the... [Read More]
The concept of need is an ambiguous one. The Pittsburgh Pirates currently have the second best record in all of baseball so the idea that they need to do anything at the trade deadline is a bit of a misnomer. The Pirates could easily opt to do nothing and be perfectly fine. A team with big glaring weaknesses just doesn’t happen to fall into as many wins as the Pirates currently have through less than 4 months. Still even though this team may not need anything there are still some weaknesses which could be shored up as the trade deadline approaches.
One way I like to look at a team's weaknesses is by using a stat on baseball reference called sOPS+. This stat doesn't tell you anything you can't divine from watching the teams play but it gives some concrete backing to our correctly held beliefs. The stat is a measure of how well a team/position/player is performing relative to league average. One hundred represents league average, anything less than 100 is below league average and anything greater than 100 is above league average. Here is a breakdown by position for the Pirates.
C: 99 sOPS+
1B: 103 sOPS+
2B: 101 sOPS+
3B: 107 sOPS+
SS: 70 sOPS+
LF: 112 sOPS+
CF: 138 sOPS+
RF: 75 sOPS+
P: 39 sOPS+
PH: 84 sOPS+
Again these findings just reinforce what we already knew. The Pirates weak spots in the lineup are SS, RF, P and pinch hitters. They also have C, 1B and 2B which are roughly league average and could be improved upon but for now let's just focus on the positions in which the Pirates are considerably weak at. For the sake of this discussion we will exclude pitcher hitting as there isn't really a whole lot the Pirates can do about that from an external view point at least. I mean in theory you could go get better hitting pitchers but generally speaking a team does not acquire a pitcher just because he is good at hitting.
Before the injury to Walker, Jordy Mercer had assumed the starting shortstop role and was definitely providing an offensive boost. He currently has a 96 sOPS+ as a shortstop and a 99 sOPS+ overall. The upgrade from Barmes has been significant offensively at least. However there are some warning signs that he may not be what he appears to be. Mercer’s OPS against left handed pitching is a robust 1.025 but against the more common hand it is a pedestrian .629. That is worrisome especially when you... [Read More]
The Pirates Take On My Red Capped Step Children
If you go to a Little League game, and your kids are on one team, and your step kids are on another, you secretly root for your kids. You are nice and root for your step kids as well, but you want your kids to win. I find myself in a similar situation this week, as the Pirates and Nationals square off for a 4 game series here in DC. The Nationals are my step kids, but the Pirates are my kids. ... [Read More]
We went for a longtime without baseball here in Washington, over 30 years. The main reason for the ridiculous amount of time, Peter Angelos, majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles. Angelos did not want another team so close to his market. Many DC residents were, and many still are, Orioles fans. For years, the only way to go to a live game was to drive to Baltimore. Now I am not sure how familiar you are with driving in the DC area. Trust me, it's rarely a pleasure. A trek to Baltimore on a game day was a 2 hour haul, if you got lucky.
Then Major League Baseball wised up. They saw the huge potential for baseball in the heavily populated DC area. Between the two cities, there are plenty of fans to support two teams. MLB negotiated a deal with Angelos, grabbed the Montreal Expos out of their dying market, and brought them to Washington. It was great!! Baseball was finally back in the nations capital!! We all embraced the Nats. I love going to the games. And I do root for the Nats, unless they are playing my Bucs. When it comes to professional sports, I bleed back and gold.
This series will be a pitching based. The Nats are slumping and not hitting very well right now. And both the Nats and the Pirates have low team batting averages, .240 and .243 respectively. The clincher will be the Pirates league leading team ERA and strong bullpen. The Pirates strong pitching staff should make the difference and be enough to take 3 of these 4 games. I'll be tweeting (@wvutimmy) live from 2 of the games. First on Tuesday night as our rookie Garrett Cole takes apart the Nats. And then
By now, most Pirates fans have heard about Reds announcer Thom Brennaman's "this guy sucks..." quotes that were caught by the on air mic and then sent throughout cyber space for all of "Buc Nation" to hear. There has been a lot of talk about this already, and it happened just yesterday. Pittsburgh fans don't like to hear people talking bad about their teams...regardless of which team you are speaking of. Reds fans are backing their play by play on air personality saying that no one knows whom he was talking about. Right...it just happened to be that he said that immediately after Jeff Locke delivered a 4 pitch walk in the baseball game. Total coincidence I'm sure. No one has heard from Brennaman yet, but I'm sure you will see the written apology posted about how what he said wasn't meant in a derogatory fashion...blah blah blah. I tell people they suck all the time, and the say "Oh, well I didn't mean that you sucked...I just said that you sucked." Okay, enough ranting.
Now for the curveball...even as misguided as Thom Brennaman's actions were...I don't mind them at all. In fact, I kind of like them. Why? Its simple. Brennaman is a "homer" announcer. Every team has them, and I LOVE listening to the Pittsburgh play by play guys. Whether its Mike Lange for the Pens, Greg Brown for the Bucs, or Bill Hillgrove and Tunch for the Steelers there is something about the home team flavor that every true fan loves to hear. Its the reason why Steelers fans put the national broadcast on mute just to hear Hillgrove call the plays. Pittsburgh has its share of "homer" announcers, they just don't get caught saying things like "this guy sucks..." on the air. I can recall one Steelers game where Carson Palmer (then of the Bengals) dropped back and was intercepted by Lamarr Woodley. Woodley took the INT and skated into the endzone to Bill Hillgrove saying "Mr. Palmer we let you back into the game, but like you always do...you threw your chance away!" This line caught national attention on ESPN and ESPN Radio. To me, if you don't want to hear Hillgrove / Brown / or Lange calls...then why are you listening to them?
I could completely understand if someone like Jim Nantz, Joe Buck, or Doc Emerick were caught saying something like Brennaman on the air. ... [Read More]