30 Teams in 30 Days – Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have been one of the worst sports organizations of the last 20 years. Not only have they not made the postseason since 1992, that year also marks the last time they had a winning season (above .500). Not to mention the fact that they haven’t won a World Series in over 30 years. Let’s see how they did in 2011.
Pittsburgh Pirates
Record: 72-90
Finish: 4th in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jeff Karstens 9-9, 3.38 ERA, 96 SO                                                             Top Hitter: Andrew McCutchen .259 AVG, 23 HR, 89 RBI                                 Manager: Clint Hurdle                                                                                           Important Off-season Acquisitions: Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes, Jake Fox, Nick Evans, Jose Morales, Erik Bedard, Nate McLouth, Casey McGehee, Jo-Jo Reyes, Doug Staten, Brian Tallet, Juan Cruz, A.J Burnett                                            Important Off-season Losses: Ryan Doumit MIN, Chris Snyder HOU, Ronny Cedeno NYM, Paul Maholm CHC, Derrek Lee FA, Ryan Ludwick CIN, Xavier Paul WAS, Pedro Ciriaco BOS, Jason Jaramillo CHC, Ross Ohlendorf BOS, 

On July 19th, 2011, the Pirates were leading the NL Central with a record of 51-44, which made me (along with most of the MLB community) become a temporary Pirates fan. Unfortunately, the Pirates went on a 10-game skid from Jul 29-Aug 7, causing them to fall to 54-59, and put them 10 games back of the Brewers for the division, causing their temporarily large fan base to plummet. Neither their Offense nor their pitching was very good last year. They finished in the bottom 10 in the league in R, AVG, HR, Opponents Average and WHIP, along with a 17th place finish in ERA. Despite posting 72 Wins, these stats will come as no surprise if you watched them play last year, as during their hottest period (Jun 3-Jul 25), 17 of their 26 wins were by 2 runs or less (65.3%), meanwhile, during their coldest period (Jul 28-Sep 21), 24 of their 39 losses were by 3 runs or more (61.5%), meaning they were losing by a lot, and winning by a little. The team was expected to struggle, but hitting .244 as a team, along with having a team ERA of over 4.00 is completely unacceptable. The thing that bothers me the most is when people say it’s okay because the Pirates are young, their really not that young of a team, yes they have McCutchen, Walker and McDonald, but their the seventh oldest team in the Majors with an average age of 28.2 years old.

This season for the Pirates is unpredictable, and by that, I mean they’re either going to be a terrible team or just a really bad team. They made some interesting moves in the Offseason, ultimately, I think their Pitching will improve a bit and their hitting will get even worse. One of the moves I really enjoyed was the signing of Canadian pitcher, Erik Bedard, this guys always flown under the radar due to the fact that he played for small market teams (Baltimore, Seattle), not including the 8 games he played in Boston last year, Bedard hasn’t had an ERA over 4.00 for an entire season since his rookie year in 2004. When I first heard that the Pirates traded for Burnett, I thought it was a terrible move, but when I found out the Yankees were practically paying them for a pitcher who put up some decent numbers in the past, I changed my mind. However, when he bunted that ball into his face at Training Camp, sidelining him for 2-3 months, my mind was instantly changed back. The reason I think their pitching should be improved, is because I think Bedard is an improvement on Maholm (whom they released), I see great potential in young pitcher James McDonald and I think he’s going to have a terrific year, and their bullpen has been improved. The reason I believe their Offense will be worse, is despite additions like Barmes, Mcgehee, McLouth and Barajas, I believe the losses of Doumit, Snyder, Lee, Cedeno, Ludwick and Paul, outweigh them. I believe Mcgehee will have a good year, but I don’t think Barmes, McLouth or Barajas will please the Pirate faithful. I predict that this year will mark the 20th straight season that the Pirates will have gone without a winning season. Hopefully the next 20 years will be better for them.

Prediction
Record: 65- 97
Finish: 5th in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: James McDonald 12-10, 3.81 ERA, 158 SO
Top Hitter: Andrew McCutchen .269 AVG, 27 HR, 96 RBI
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-Vernon Smells (Kalib Tilley)

He’s Back……again

Sidney Crosby will be returning to the Penguins lineup on Thursday against the Rangers. What does this mean for the Penguins? What does this mean for Malkin? and most importantly, what does this mean for Crosby and his health? I’ll try to answer all of those questions for you, and more in this article.

First off, what does this mean for the Penguins? The Penguins are currently in 4th place in the Eastern Conference with 89 points, and are just 4 points back of the 1st place Rangers. Last time Crosby returned to the lineup, I was skeptical he would be able to produce right away, he proved me wrong by putting up 4 points in his return. With the team currently riding a 9 game winning streak it could mess up the chemistry the team has going, but even if it does, it will be worth it to have Crosby ready and in the lineup when it matters, playoff time.

Secondly, what does this mean for Malkin? It’s been no secret that Malkin is having an unbelievable year. Everyone always says Crosby is the best player in hockey right now, Malkin is either second or third on that list, as he leads the league with 84 points and is second in the league with 38 goals. It’s also been no secret that Malkin plays much better without Crosby in the lineup. To me, this is just due to less ice-time, of course having him be the #2 centre rather than the #1. If Malkin continues to play this way, I can’t see them reducing his ice time by very much, so that shouldn’t become a factor.

Lastly, how will this affect Crosby and his health? Last time, when Crosby was on his way to returning, he was cleared for contact on Oct. 13 and then didn’t play until Nov. 21. This time around, he will be making his return a bit more than a week after being cleared for contact. After waiting over a month last time, he still got hurt just 8 games in to his return. This time, however, they know what they’re dealing with, after the news that it may have just been a neck injury this whole time, if he’s been rehabbing his neck properly, and the Penguins and Crosby truly believe that he’s 100% healed, I don’t see a  problem with him returning to the lineup. However, they better be sure he’s 100%. It will be good for Crosby to make his return in a very important game, as the Penguins try to catch the Rangers for 1st in their division and in the East. It’s also good to get his legs moving before the playoffs, so that he’s ready.

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-Vernon Smells