Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Get to work, folks

This is quickly turning into one of the best reasons to visit the Trib's site.

Also, does anyone else feel like this could have been stolen from a Bob Smizik diary entry?

Dear Margerie,
Today I was thinking about the Pirates and their talented (or is he?) center fielder, Andrew McCutchen. While fans may be excited now, someday the franchise will have the difficult decision of whether or not to re-sign him. Management has historically overpaid for outfielders (Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Giles come to mind) and McCutchen could be the latest in this trend. Or the franchise could do something reasonable. Of course, they could also let him go and hope that another center fielder comes along. That would be my recommendation.
The stone still hasn't passed. Maybe it will tomorrow. Then again...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy pitchers and catchers, everyone!

FTC's annual Bucco preview will be coming your way at some point in the next week or two. We just have to get our hands on the head shots first. I'm know I'm going to miss calculating how much Tom Gorzelanny has melted in the last few offseasons, and that we're not going to have Paul Maholm's shapely jib to aww-shucks at anymore, but I have a feeling we'll make do.

In the meantime, today marks the beginning of the beginning of spring -- or the beginning of the end of winter, depending on whose side you're on. A.J. Burnett showed up in camp, immediately stole Daniel McCutchen's number, and started showing off his ink around the clubhouse. He's rearing to get started and anxious to lead the league in hit batsmen. Nate McLouth looks like he finally exhaled for the first time in three years, and we're probably less than a week away from the annual "Bill Mazeroski loves to be here, loves teaching Player X how to play second base" story.
In the meantime, let's geek out. YouTube user Hobojoethe34 has cornered a very niche market. He has filled the internet with videos featuring reasonably good imitations of various Pirates' batting stances, set to each player's walk-up music. Not only does he have the entire lineups for every season since 2009, but also this nice compilation of "Classic Pirates."

Just saying...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Making some sense of the AJ Burnett noise

There are two ways of looking at this trade. The wrong way, and our way.

The wrong way:

Neal Hussein Huntington was beating down Brian Cashman's door to get a guy who people once thought was good, but now everyone knows is bad. He should have just retained Paul Maholm, and not pulled this Dave Littlefield / Matt Morris shit. The Pirates need to play the game the right way.

The FTC way:

(All star) Kevin Correia was penciled into our starting rotation; the Pirates needed to find some warm body -- really ANY warm body-- to keep (all star) Kevin Correia out of the starting rotation. The price for a warm body in this market is about $4.5m - $6.5m, so when Brian Cashman offered to give us a warm body for $13m / 2 years, Neal Huntington really didn't have any reason not to take a chance on it.

The marginal player in this case, happens to be AJ Burnett. He's known for having a mid-90s fastball, a picturesque 12-6 curveball, and a track record of being a bust. The Blue Jays gave him his first big money, with a 3-year, $30m deal, which yielded 7.6 WAR for them. The Yankees followed that up by giving him $82m for 5 years, which has yielded 3.1 WAR for the first 3 years (the final two years, of course, are costing the Yankees $20m for 0 WAR).

So yeah. AJ Burnett has sort of produced what you'd expect from a marginal dude. It's not his fault that teams have paid him like he's something more than that. We're not doing that.

There isn't a lot to this story beyond the warm body narrative. Don't get excited, don't get disappointed. The guy might help us win a few games, he might stink and we'll end up eating some contract. Reasonable.

Some other things to consider:

-Burnett's home run / flyball rate was at 9.9% when pitching for the Yankees. League average is closer to 8%, so it's reasonable to think he ran into some bad luck pitching in the AL East. He might have an easier time keeping the ball in the park, here in Pittsburgh.

-Burnett's fastball averaged yearly speeds of 94.9mph, 95.1mph, and 94.3mph when he was with Toronto. In New York, it went down to 94.2mph, 93.2mph, and 92.7mph. Averaging a fastball in the low 90s is fine, especially when you can still peak out in the mid 90s; however, being 35 years old and losing velocity on an annual basis can result in a guy getting lit up. Not saying it's sure to happen, but keep an eye out for it.

-Paul Maholm is another guy in the proud tradition of warm bodies. We let him walk, and the Cubs paid him $4.5m for one year. This is a very reasonable deal for the Cubs. The only reason it wouldn't have been reasonable for us, is that we had already been paying him $6.5m for last year's service, and would have had to escalate that to $9.5m to keep him for this year. There's probably a little more boom-or-bust potential with Burnett than Maholm, but it's very marginal.

Again, this was a pretty logistical trade, folks. Nothing much to see here beyond that. Please feel free to be angry that ownership is a cheap pile of shit, and that MLB's CBA is a broken piece of shit. We absolutely encourage that. But as far as what Huntington is doing, there's no need to get angry at him.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Shut up, Ben

Shutdown Corner has a piece about how Ben Roethlisberger may be showing reservations about Todd Haley. Here's #7 in his own words:

It would probably be easy for him to do. I don't know if it would be easy for us to learn it.


We're so young on offense

Ben, you're going to be 30 in less than a goddamn month. Stop this young pup nonsense.

and the most-talented room in this whole building is probably wide receiver, no disrespect to anyone else.

Why would anyone be disrespected? The defense is housed across the street.

And they're also really young.

Heath Miller is 29. Hines Ward is 62. Jerricho Cotchery is 29. Mike Wallace will be 26, entering his fourth year. Emmanuel Sanders will be 25, and potentially dressed on some game days. Antonio Brown will be 24 and is the only guy who really qualifies as youthfully raw.

They're still the tip of the iceberg in this offense

That makes sense, if you allow that the offensive line and running backs are the part of the iceberg that is underwater.

and they did as well as they did last year.


And they're just getting to the point that 'OK, this makes sense to me.'

He's referring to his receivers' ability to decipher his punch drunk rambles.

That was my biggest talking point to Mike [Tomlin] and those guys -- I would hate to just throw everything out and start over because I feel it would set us back two or three years because these guys are just starting to get it.

We're just on the verge of making that 30-yard PA fade a reality, coach! Give us another year of running that play six times a game, every week-- we'll get it!


For fuck's sake here.

Larry Fitzgerald was 23 going on 24, entering his fourth year as a pro when Haley took over as OC of the Cardinals. Anquan Boldin was 26 and had just established himself as a legit producer when Haley entered the picture. I think it's reasonable to say that those guys weren't irreparably damaged by having their "development years" interrupted by a new system.

I'd go a step further and say that this nonsense is way more applicable to a young QB than a young receiver. No doubt there are plenty of shit franchises that have revolving doors for coordinators. It's because of that, that we're left to wonder how good the Alex Smith's of the world might have been, had they been born into stable systems.

But can the same really be said for wideouts? The New England Patriots lose their OC every off-season to a head coaching vacancy, and it changes nothing with their receivers (CORRECTION: Welker's drop was a direct result of Bill O'Brien's impending departure). Hines Ward has had FIVE different offensive coordinators in his career, has caught TD passes from NINE different passers, and is no worse for it (the fact that he's old is simply not due to this).

Listen, people, we're only going to say this twenty-five times:

The Arians' years were extremely mediocre.

Our WRs flourished statistically because they have raw talent at catching a football, and one out of eight times, the PA fade works.

Kurt Warner flourished statistically at age 37 because he had a system that was efficient. We're getting the guy who designed that shit. It's still pass-heavy, but it's higher percentage plays. It's more deliberate. It's about having a plan.

We like this.

Ben needs to shut up. This is going to be good for him.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Let's have some fun on a snowy Wednesday afternoon...

Crackling fire. Steaming hot chocolate. Spooning room for two on the old FTC couch...

No- not that kind of fun!

This kind of fun. Look for the poll on the lefthand sidebar. Then vote for charisma.

Albert Pujols. Jeff Francis. Alex Cora. The list of guys we're losing for lack of charisma is too damn long, and it's time management hears about it!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dear Sportswriters...

We know you want to write "Eli is better than Peyton" columns. We know you have no choice in the matter. It is your nature.

But we need you to understand that we're all very busy this time of year. If we don't respond with a snarky blog post immediately, don't think it's you. Keep trying and we'll get on it as soon as we can.

The FTC Editorial Board

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Super Bowl XLVI

It might be a really good game!

Honestly, we're having trouble getting excited about it. It's okay if you feel the same way.

It's also okay if you're a Giants or Patriots fan and want to be excited.* This is a free country.

*Obviously it's better that you're not a Giants or Patriots fan.