Sunday, January 31, 2010

Why the Pirates won't stink (as much) in 2010

With PirateFest this weekend, I began thinking about what the team this year would look like. My conclusion, as you can see in detail below, is that they just CAN’T be any worse than last year (I know, famous last words). But, this is the team moving forward. The Pirates need to have some of the young guys step up as they enter their ‘prime.’

A couple of other notes before moving on to the analysis:
*Thursday’s nights FCA meeting with Don Kelly and his wife Carrie went well. It’s neat to hear a person’s story of how they’ve had to work hard and persevere to achieve great things. Big thanks to Pittsburgh Area FCA Director Dennis Drennen for putting it all together.

*The big story at PirateFest this weekend was that Mario Lemieux (owner of the Penguins) made an offer to buy the Pirates. I don’t see it happening anytime soon as the current ownership and management have worked so hard the last two years establishing a foundation for the future. To sell right now would be a waste of all of their investment.

*I need more work at riding on my trainer. The rear end was not happy after only about half an hour. I ended up doing two hours, but didn’t do a good job of keeping my cadence up.

Here’s a position by position breakdown of the Battlin’ Bucs:

Left Field
2009 -Nyjer Morgan (.307 BA/.757 OPS/3 HR/39 RBI) good speed, little pop, and very replaceable.
2010 - Lastings Millege age-24. (.279/.696/4/21 in 65 games) He had a hand injury that he was recovering from last season, so he should be stronger this year.
Advantage: 2010

Center Field
2009 - Nate McClouth (.256/.788/20/70). May have peaked in the first half of 2008. Didn’t really miss him with Andrew McCutchen patrolling center field
2010 - Andrew McCutchen age-23 (.286/.836/12/54 in 108 games after getting called up)
Advantage: 2010 because Cutch happens

Right Field
2009 - To start the year, a combination of Brandon Moss (.236/.668/7/41) and Eric Hinske (.242/.780/8/25) and replaced by Garret Jones for the 2nd half of the year
2010 - Depending on how Jeff Clement looks at first base, either Garret Jones age-28 (.293/.932/21/44 in 82 games) or Ryan Church age-31
Advantage: 2010

Third Base
2009 - Andy LaRoche (.258/.731/12/64)
2010 - Andy LaRoche age-26
Advantage: 2010 just because of having a year under his belt at the major leagues

2009 - Jack Wilson (.255/.654/5/39) and lots of GREAT defense
2010 - Ronny Cedeno age-26 or maybe Bobby Crosby age-30
Advantage: Offensively 2010, Defensively 2009, overall 2009

Second Base
2009 - Freddy Sanchez (.293/.742/7/41) good defense, but some shoulder and knee injuries
2010 - Akinori Iwamura age-30 (.290/.745/1/22 while missing a good chunk of the year with a knee after getting taken out at 2B)
Advantage: Push, but leaning towards 2010 because Iwamura draws more walks and has more speed than Sanchez (so a better #2 hole hitter) and they play comparable defense.

First Base
2009 - Adam LaRoche (.277/.843/25/83) with his standard month-long slump thrown in
2010 - Jeff Clement age-26 or Garret Jones
Advantage: 2009 without question unless Jones ends up playing 1B and equals his season from last year

2009 - Ryan Doumit (.250/.714/10/38)
2010 - Ryan Doumit age-28 has to be healthier this year
Advantage: 2010

Starting Pitchers
Paul Maholm (8-9, 4.44 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 119 K)
Ian Snell (7-10, 4.44, 1.59, 89)
Zach Duke (11-16, 4.06, 1.31, 106)
Ross Ohlendorf (11-10, 3.92, 1.23, 109)
Jeff Karstens (4-6, 5.42, 1.48, 52)

2010: Maholm-27, Duke-26, Ohlendorf-27, Charlie Morton-26, Kevin Hart-27/Daniel McCutchen-27/Brad Lincoln-24
Advantage: 2010 - Just getting rid of the headcase Snell is a plus. Ohlendorf and Morton are a year older with Ohlendorf’s highlight being the striking out the side with 9 pitches. For Morton, if you take out that UGLY 10 runs in 1 IP against Jen Harrison’s Cubbies, his ERA was 3.66 and WHIP was 1.38. Also, the competition will keep the #5 spot a little better than last year until Brad Lincoln takes it over.

Advantage: 2010

2009: Burnett, Yates, Grabow, Chavez, Veal, Hansen, Capps
2010: Long man (Hart, McCutchen, Carrasco, …), Lopez, Meek, Hanrahan, Donnelly, Dotel
Advantage: 2010 mostly because it can’t be any worse than last year’s and they brought in more veteran guys to stabilize things here.

On top of this, add in that at AAA Indianapolis there are many prospects waiting that will probably get called up this summer: Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Brad Lincoln, Neal Walker, and Brandon Jones.
Not that I’m calling for a World Series appearance this year, but it just HAS to be better that last season. DOESN’T IT?

Let’s Go Bucs!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bring back the 50's, hoops, track, tri's, and FCA

Over the weekend, I looked at the forecast and saw that the overnight "low" on Sunday night/Monday morning was 50, but was going to plummet from there. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to run in shorts, I did my run before school on Monday OUTSIDE and IN SHORTS. Not a common occurence for January. It was great and I felt like I was flying (as opposed to all bundled up and tight the first thing in the morning on a COLD day).

I think I'm going to be able to survive this college basketball season because Arizona is coming around. It's all relative, but they beat conference "leader" Arizona State at their place last weekend. Arizona's tied for second place at 4-3 in the conference with 5 other teams and the leader is Cal at 5-2. The Wildcats are home against the NoCal schools this weekend (Stanford/Cal), so we'll see where they stand. They have been playing better of late. The crazy part is no Pac-10 teams are ranked and the USA Today Poll did not even have a Pac-10 team in the "others receiving votes." (PS - Penn State is still winless after a heartbreaking finish to a game against Wisconsin Sunday. Don't want to talk about it).

Over the weekend at the indoor track meet, we had some good performances. Our 400 guy hit the state qualifying standard and three jumpers and a couple of relays hit the district qualifying standard. No meet this weekend (meaning some quality training for me Saturday and Sunday), but then we head up to Geneva, Ohio next weekend to the indoor track called the GaREAT Sports Complex. This place is allegedly the greatest invention since sliced bread. I'll be sure to report back after going there this weekend. I'm just excited that there are two jumping pits, so the jumping will go a lot quicker.

On Sunday, there was a triathlon clinic here in the 'burgh sponsored by the Pittsburgh Triathlon club and it was standing room only (and not even enough room for that). Beth and Chad were two of the speakers. Beth shared her knowledge about nutrition and Chad talked about "winter" training. It was also fun because we had a chance to catch up with MB and Kim after.

Thursday night, I've got a neat opportunity coming up. Back at the start of the year, I was approached by a student about being the teacher sponsor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. It's been fun being the sponsor of the group and seeing the students organize and discuss their faith. Being that we're in a public school, I cannot promote my ideas about faith with the kids, but I support them in other ways like helping to plan times for meetings and keeping organized. We've had a solid 4-7 students come to our weekly-ish meetings.

This Thursday, the Pittsburgh FCA director was able to land a connection to our high school. His name is Don Kelly and he's an alumnus of Lebo and currently a major league baseball player. He was willing to come and speak to the local high school FCA groups before he heads out for spring training. He was on the Pirates opening day roster in 2007 and shared time between the Pirates and AAA. Last year he did the same thing with the Detroit Tigers and has signed a minor league contract with a major league camp invitation again this spring. I'll be really excited to hear what he has to say and what the kids get out of the talk. If there's a Q&A session, I'd want to ask him what Jim Leyland is really like (since he's a Pittsburgher and Leyland managed the Buccos back in the early 90's).

I'll be reporting back on this also in the near future....

Back to Facebook Scrabble. I've got a 7-letter word with no place to put it!!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Just because I haven't blogged in 10 days

Not much going on here, but I noticed I hadn't updated since a week ago Sunday.

Some random musings:

*Not sure what to do about this College Basketball team adoption program. No team has really jumped out (although Tennessee is still being considered). Arizona had a big win at Oregon over the weekend and sits at 3-3 in the Pac-10 (where ZERO teams are ranked!!!). Maybe U of A has a shot to make it in there? Who knows. I thing I do know is that Penn State is having a rough start to the Big Ten season...0-5!!! I'll see where things are after the Super Bowl and move on from there.

*Beth's on the DL with a rib muscle type thing. We're hoping it heals soon. I didn't know exactly what to do with myself on Saturday since she wasn't training. So, I went to the pool and did 2000 yds and then ran for 45 min. Sunday I did an hour-plus. I felt lost not having my weekend lane mate and running partner.

*I went to our high school's girl's basketball practice last Wednesday. It's a great workout, but so humbling. They are so good. I guess that's why they're #1 in the state and #11 nationally, according to the USA Today. From practice, I am reminded of two things. First, it's a hard transition to do all the lateral and backwards motions after doing just running since last March. Secondly, I'm not 20 anymore and stay sore from said movements for a good 2-3 days.

*I received an gift card from Christmas and ordered two CD's.

1. Unidos Permanecemos by Hillsong United. The Praise music group from Hillsong Church in Australia tours all over the world with their music and has a live concert that they did in South America IN SPANISH. I've always enjoyed Spanish and it stuck with me from high school. I thought it would be neat to hear praise music in Spanish and see how the words & meanings were the same and different.

2. The Live Set by Michael W. Smith. One of Christian music's staples of the 80's recorded a live concert back in 1986. It rocks and brought me back!!! Beth just rolled her eyes at the cheesy 80's music. Most of it is pretty lame, but there's a lot of energy with it being a live concert.

*Slowly but surely I'm transforming from an absolutely and terribly SLOW swimmer, to just a swimmer that moves at a snail's pace. I did a 20x100 workout where I was able to keep my 100's at 1:50-1:55. It's a big improvement to have the endurance to maintain that for more than two or three at that pace and to keep them under 2:00. That was my barrier for most of the past year. Although I still only swim 1-2 times per week, so not expecting much more of an improvement any time soon.

*How about Scott Brown's Senate win in Massachusetts? Who knew? We'll have to see how this affects the health care debate.

*Indoor track meets this Thursday (Pitt) and Saturday (Robert Morris). Triathlon clinic Sunday.

Should be a fun weekend!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Saturday Night, Frigid 5, College Hoops Apps...

Fun weekend in the Shutt household. Saturday we went down to the best bike shop in the world (Big Bang Bikes) and Beth got new cleats and a new trainer. This results in me getting her old trainer, meaning I now don't have an excuse to not ride the bike from October to May. This may or may not be a good thing...

This then led us over to Hoss's--my favorite cornucopia of eating out! Although, I did have to exercise some restraint since I was racing this morning. This was in the form of only getting one round of ice cream (with brownies and cookies mixed in) and only getting a small helping of peach pie without ice cream....all of this after a steak sandwich, french fries, salad, bread, jello,...but not quite as much as my Hoss's trip last summer up in Erie.

The reason we went over to Murrysville instead of closer to home for dinner was because we were going over to our church home away from home for the Saturday night service at Cornerstone Ministries in Export. We discovered this awesome upbeat service last winter and always make a point of going there when we have something going on Sunday (aka--usually a race). The topic was a very thought-provoking one--abortion. There was a guest speaker, Michael Clancy, who worked for the USA Today as a photographer and shot a photo of the youngest human ever--21 weeks after conception. The picture is a little graphic, so I'll let you choose if you want to go the site linked to his name and check it out. It was very moving.

Being raised in the church, I've always believed that abortion was wrong, but always had in the back of my head that I'm not a female and I don't know what it would be like to be in a bad situation (the baby may be sick, pregnant from a rape, etc). But, this was pretty moving evidence that the baby is functioning already 5 months into the pregnancy. Wow.

Okay, on to lighter topics, like the FREEZING TEMPERATURES for the race this morning. The alarm went off at 6am. I turned on the weather channel and it said ZERO DEGREES. Fortunately, there wasn't any wind, or else it could have been REALLY nasty. So, we go over to the race, do our warmup (my beard was full of icicles), stretch and strider, and get ready for the race. In addition to Beth, Chad, Ben, and Doug did the race, too.

My only thought going in to the race, was to not have a repeat performance of my last race (the Philly Marathon) where (A) I went out too hard and (B) My hamstrings tied up like pretzels. Although it was cold, I felt good with my layers and figured I'd see what I could do.

Mile 1 and 2 are rolling, but with a net downhill of 300 or so feet (which comes back later). Mile 3 has a little up and down, and is then flat. Mile 4 has more up than down and mile 5 ends with 3/4 of a mile where you go back up the 300 feet. Last year my splits were 6:24, 6:06, 6:12, 6:40, and 7:14!!! It's a big hill.

So, I went out in 5:52 with Chad and we were in 7-10th-ish position. I was a little worried about the pace, but just tried to relax and hang in the back of our mini pack. Mile 2 cruised in at 5:30 according to Chad (I missed the sign for the mile 2 split). Using that calculation, mile 3 was 5:46 and we were now 7th and 8th with me still lingering on the back of our group of four. Mile 4 was 6:12 and then we went up the hill in mile 5. I put it in a low gear and was able to pick off a guy on the hill and ended up 6th. It was pretty exciting. Chad came it just behind me. Beth was the 1st female, and Ben and Doug got 3rd place in their respective age groups. Good day all around. But, the best part was the pancakes afterwards!!!!

College Hoops Fandom Application
Finally, the nominations are flying in and I still need help deciding. Just to remind everyone that this is just a one year commitment as I fully expect the young rosters of Arizona, Penn State, and Davidson to be back in the running next year. Also, if one of my teams does end up in the running for a tourney slot, I'll probably be pulling for my team to get an at-large over yours. By the way, Arizona DID beat #22 Washington today.

The nominees so far and my thoughts:

1. Cornell - Gave Kansas a run this past week, smart kids, a good shot in the Ivy League
2. DePaul - Don't know much about them, but they're in the Big East and a lot of good teams are ahead of them there.
3. Purdue - Top in the Big Ten(+1), but I don't know if I can root for a team I've always referred to as Pur-don't
4. Duke - I've always respected Coach K, Beth's sister lives there, I know Maija and Ben went there, maybe...
5. Oregon - Don't know if I can root for another Pac 10 school after all these years with Arizona.
6. Tennesse - Big win against Kansas today. An SEC school, so it wouldn't interfere with any of my other affiliations. Bruce Pearl seems like a neat personality. But they do have some off-the-court issues. Hmmmmm....

Still accepting additional applications/nominations for new teams or critiques/justifications for presently nominated teams. Deadline is January 17 11:59 pm EST.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Snow, looking for a college basketball team, and running

Snow summarizes the past week in the 'burgh (and much of the country). We had our first snow day cancellation on Friday. Our first track meet Thursday night was cancelled too due to the roads. We'll try again this next Thursday and Saturday.

Now that college football is over and the Steelers aren't in the playoffs, it's time to turn my attention to college basketball. Unfortunately, my three teams are looking in worse shape than they were last year:

Arizona (7-8 overall, 1-2 in the Pac-10) - while I met Sean Miller and company in the airport in San Diego back in December, it hasn't seemed to motivate them. The most painful one was the 99-69 drubbing by BYU back on the 28th. I think Arizona's only hope this year to keep their tournament streak alive is to win the Pac-10 conference tourney because it seems like the entire league is a little weak. Maybe some of the younger guys (I don't even know any of their names yet) will step up by then and Sean Miller's defensive style will have sunk in more with the team. Although, I'm not holding my breath because a quote after last night's 78-76 loss to WSU was, "Our defense is terrible, and there is no easy solution. We are a team that has a cornerback who can't run and has (to defend) a receiver who runs by him." ...even resorting to football analogies uh-oh.

Penn State (8-7, 0-3 in Big 10) - The Lions aren't getting off to the quick conference start like last year. Taylor Battle's having another great year (18.1 ppg), but nobody else is stepping up to help him out. They have ZERO seniors on their team, so maybe next year will be the year they make it back to the tourney. Remember, they are coming off their big NIT Post-season tourney victory, so they can at least hang their hat on the fact that they were the 66th best team in the country last year.

Davidson (7-8, 2-1 in Southern Conference) - Losing the best player in school history (and a first round NBA pick) never helps a team. Davidson's hope is that their conference competition isn't that good and they can win the conference tourney. But, considering the College of Charleston (who beat them twice last year) has already upset North Carolina, I'm not too hopeful for this either. They've also got a young team with their top two scorers being freshmen.

So, I'm making my college basketball fandom available to be loaned out for the season. There is an application process and I need justification as to why I should follow the team. Essays should be 500 words or less and can be submitted via this blog, facebook, or email.

Finally, Beth and I (and other crazies in the area) are doing a 5 mile race up at North Park tomorrow morning. The temperature is going to be in the low teens with a single digit windchill. Brrr! I think the roads should be clearer than when we ran last year though.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My BCS Playoff Proposal, Year 2

Since it was easy to adapt from last year's proposal, I figured I'd throw my two cents in again about how college football needs a playoff.

Before getting to the proposal, a couple of observations from this year that show why there needs to be a playoff:

1. Boise State and TCU - who really cared who won last night in the Fiesta Bowl? I'm sure both of those teams still want to show that they belong with the big boys. Nobody (including Pac-10 Champ Oregon) beat Boise State this year. A playoff is the only way to compare the MWC and WAC to the big conferences--whether they're close or not.

2. New Year's Day is becoming irrelevant - personally, I was excited about the PSU-LSU matchup. But, other than that, what compelling games were on Jan 1? Who is really excited about a Tuesday Jan 5 Orange Bowl matchup of Georgia Tech and Iowa?

3. It just doesn't matter. PSU was criticized towards the end of the year about not beating a ranked team. Well, they beat LSU. But, what does it matter? It's not like they get a chance to move on to anything to further justify how good/mediocre they are. Florida and Cincinnati had coaching dramas that were more covered than the game itself.

I'm sure there are many more reasons (like the Texas-Texas Tech-Oklahoma issue from last year), but on to what the 2009 proposal would look like:

Some of the basics first:

*All regular season games for 'non-BCS' conferences would end by Nov 14

*On the weekend of Nov 21 would be the conference championships for the non-BCS conferences and the BCS conferences would finish their play.

*The weekend of Nov 28 would be the 'play-in' weekend where the top 4 non-BCS conference champions would host the lowest non-BCS conference champ and 3 BCS at large teams NOT in their conference championship game (based on BCS standings). This would reward the smaller schools and force the big boys who aren't in the conference championship game to actually go on the road to these non-BCS schools.

*The weekend of December 5 is the six conference championships and the eliminating the non-BCS champs and BCS at-larges down to two for a total of 8 teams.

*The weekend of December 12 would be the matchup of the 8 teams, matched up accordingly by seed like the NFL does for the 2nd round of the playoffs as a home game for seeds 1-4. For example, this year Alabama would play Georgia Tech because GT would be the lowest ranked team (from the BCS rankings) left. This would give the northern teams a chance at a cold game matchup against the southern teams.

*Two weeks later (and only 4 teams left), the two semi-finals as a double-header at some dome or at two different locations (like NFL conference championship Sunday)

*And, by New Year's, a championship game.

Some other thoughts:

*Throw Notre Dame in with the Big Ten to give them 12 teams and a 'championship.' This year, for example, ND wouldn't be in the championship. Rather the top two ranked teams in the BCS between ND and the Big Ten would play in that

*Since the Big East only has like 6 teams, they are forced to match up against the top-ranked BCS at-large team not in a conference championship. That gives the best at-large team (Virginia Tech this year) a bye week.

*Even though the Pac 10 only has 10 teams, just give them their own conference championship of the top two-ranked BCS Pac-10 teams to prevent East Coast Bias.

*How excited would Central Michigan be to host LSU? And, let the best team win.

So, that's about it. Feedback certainly welcome. Off to watch the riveting Georgia Tech-Iowa matchup......zzzzzzzzzzzz