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SteelerNation is the BEST fanbase on the planet as far as I'm concerned. No other fanbase travels and supports their team better than SteelerNation, which is second to none, we are literally worldwide. We have taken over stadiums from Tampa to San Diego to London and we own Mexico. How many times have you gone on vacation and ran into another Steelers Fan (impossible not to) and talked like you've known each other for years? As good as most people in SteelerNation are, that I've come across, there are unfortunately a few bottom feeders among us.
recently, I came across a website that was Steelers related, called Steel-Balls so I thought I'd check it out.....
.....and the first thing I saw, ensured that I wouldn't read anything further on this site. This is a place, where evidently, the Jagoffs of our fanbase reside, to act as 8 year olds would, ripping on a woman of SteelerNation from her Steelers themed tattoos to the couch in the background of her photos. It's bad enough that this woman had to see herself get ridiculed and insulted, let alone anyone else. This fact bothered me to the point to where I have to rant about it in this article. What kind of site puts up a pointless blog article whose only intent is to insult, criticize and embarrass another fan for the way they show their pride for our Steelers? A site ran by someone who obviously has the mental capacity of the average Ravens fan. Why else would that pointless blog article not have been pulled by now?, as well as the idiotic comments that followed.
If you're looking for great sites for news and information on our Steelers, I would definitely avoid Steel-Balls and look to places like Pittsburgh Sports Forum, Steelernationlive.com, Rudy Reyes and Steeler Addicts among others, sites where you won't find the garbage that's on Steel-Balls (The Baltimore of Steelers related sites). I'm proud to be a lifetime member of SteelerNation, it's just a Shame that the people like those at Steel-Balls get to come along for the ride.
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Last season, the Pirates won 94 games and took the Cardinals to the brink of defeat, largely because the team took on the identity of starting pitcher AJ Burnett. They were brash and didn't care what anyone outside of the clubhouse thought or wrote, they just went out and proved everybody wrong. At the start of this season, minus AJ, that attitude seemed to be missing and the Buccos seemed to be adrift, but since May 9th, they seem to have found a new and different identity which has come from different individuals, like this year's sparkplug, Josh Harrison, the "little engine that could". The identity has gone from #STFD to sit back and watch what we do next.
While the starting rotation hasn't been as dominant this year, with Liriano, Morton and Cole getting off to slow starts, they have gotten consistent starts from guys like Brandon Cumpton, Jeff Locke and Vance Worley. The back end of the bullpen has struggled as well, blowing more saves this year than all of last season total, and with Jason Grilli now an Angel, Mark Melancon is the new closer. A 7th, 8th and 9th inning combo of Wilson, **** and Melancon should put the teeth back into the Shark Tank.
The new identity of this year's Pirates can be found on offense as I see it, and while it may not bring to mind the Lumber Company days, it's shaping up to be exciting nonetheless. You pretty much know what you're going to get out of Pedro and McCutchen, and it helps that Mercer and Marte appear to be coming around. Polanco has made them better since his arrival, but the most unexpected shot in the arm has been the guy who just won't go away, Josh Harrison. He has been electrifying with his performance and infectious attitude, and his performance has forced Clint Hurdle to find spots to get him in the lineup. He's been solid when filling in for an injured Neil Walker and Marte and gives Hurdle flexibility when guys need a day off. He is the Little Engine That Could, who has sparked the Buccos with his bat, his glove, and on the base paths (how about that Houdini act to escape that rundown). He has been the kind of player who may not win you a title, but one who you can't win one without.
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The last four games are of course an extreme but even when adjusting our mindset to correct for such it is clear there is something wrong with the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen. Something has to be done to try and fix the problem before it winds up costing the Pirates too many games. The primary focus of most has been on the individual pitchers and I'll get to that eventually but first I am going to start with the bullpen as a whole.
It is well known that the Pittsburgh Pirates lead the National League with 13 blown saves but what is less well known is that they also lead the National League with 84 save situations. What all of this means is the Pirates are successful (aka don't surrender the lead) in 84.5% of save situations which is the 5th best mark in the National League and slightly better than the 84.0% league average rate.
A few of other points of note in the average relief appearance a Pirates pitcher is asked to get 3.5 outs the highest rate in the NL and they are asked to throw 18 pitches per appearance the third highest rate in the league. Pirates bullpen pitchers are also entering these games in tighter situations than most other teams. With an average leverage index (a stat that measures how crucial a situation the pitcher is entering) of 1.139 the Pirates are putting their bullpen into more stressful situations than anyone in the NL save the St. Louis Cardinals.
Combine all this with the fact the Pirates bullpen has thrown the 4th most innings in the league (229 IP and only 3.2 behind the Mets for 1st) I think we can begin to see a problem. Far too often the Pirates are relying on their bullpen to pitch a lot of innings in what are very tight games. It is of course unavoidable to have the relief pitchers throw in these situations but the frequency in which the Pirates are doing so has to decrease in order to help take some stress off of the bullpen arms. Starters going deeper into games and the offense opening bigger leads would be two good places to start.
With all that being said the Pirates bullpen still has many other problems aside from their quantity and quality of workload. On the surface the 3.34 ERA for the bullpen looks solid enough coming in as the fifth best mark in the NL but once we look beyond that we begin to see some serious cracks. The pen's FIP ranks next to last in the league and its xFIP isn't much better ranking 12th. To top it all off they have also allowed the second... [Read More]
While it wasn't a home run on the first pitch, in his first MLB at bat, the way that Starling Marte announced his arrival to the Pirates, Gregory Polanco used his first MLB home run, in the last at bat of his fourth game, to announce his arrival to the big leagues. Polanco's two run laser turned out to be the game winner in the top of the 13th inning of a game in which the back end of the bullpen tried their best to give it away. The blast by El Coffee capped his first five hit game in the majors, and he did it in under five games. The last time that a player had a five hit game within the first five games of his MLB career, was in 1933, a rare feat for a rare talent. Polanco's arrival has been anticipated since spring training and his white hot start to AAA season at Indianapolis, and he is the third piece of what should be the best and fastest outfield in all baseball. In his first four games, Polanco has displayed a quick bat that uses the entire field, but until tonight, the most impressive thing I saw from him, was when he beat out a routine grounder to second for an infield single during spring training. Aside from the obvious five tool talent, what stands out about Polanco is his pure joy for the game and the chance to be in Pittsburgh. How many young players would have kept wearing that bubble gum bucket throughout the post game interview? Another gem from the rebuilt Pirates farm system has now arrived in Pittsburgh, which seems to now be a regular occurrence, and out of all of those who have arrived before him, Polanco just might be the best of them, and that includes the reigning National League MVP.
Everyone is quick to blame the Pirates struggles on something. The rotation stinks, the bullpen is awful, the bats aren't doing enough, etc but is any of this actually true. Is a certain aspect of this team really performing that much worse than what should have been expected of them? My initial reaction was yes but then I took a step back and while I did notice something it wasn't what some might expect.
Melancon's blown save has the most recent blame falling on the bullpen. The talk is now is that this is a subpar unit but the numbers really don't back that up. Below are the ERA/FIP for each of the Pirates 7 primary relievers thus far this season.
Watson, Melancon and Wilson are continuing to build off of last year and post great numbers. Melancon's performance is certainly a step back from last year but Melancon was barely human last year so no big surprise. The threesome is pitching very well. The rest of the bullpen hasn't been pitching as well but they all have been at least by their FIP posting somewhat lucky results. Gomez is what he is a solid dependable long man who is going to allow some runs. Pimentel is a young pitcher still in need of work who probably only made the team due to his lack of options but even so he has held his own. Hughes has done nice work as the 8th reliever. That leaves us with Morris who is once again posting decent numbers despite poor peripherals. More was expected of him but he really hasn't been bad.
Noticeably absent from the above list is Jason Grilli. The start of his 2014 season wasn't great but then again we are talking about a measly 8 innings some of which he presumably pitched while hurting. Yu can mention him with the disappointments but you can't pin a lot on him due to his sheer lack of innings pitched.
I'm going to list the 5 primary starters just like I did the bullpen arms but here I will include ERA/FIP/xFIP
Liriano and Cole haven't been quite the work horses the Pirates and fans had hoped they would be but that isn't to say they have pitched poorly either.... [Read More]