TribLIVE
Blogs | Sports | News
Bucco Blog

February 20, 2015
by Travis Sawchik


11 comments so far - add yours!

Thinking outside the box comes to an end (And it’s about time)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

SOUTH HILLS – Big news today that I’d like to think the Trib played a small role in bringing about: Major League Baseball has announced new pace of play rules for 2015 (you can read them below) and the key change  is an idea we at South Hills Command Center have championed since May 11.

Baseball has a pace problem. We all know this. In 1963, there were 17 four-plus hour MLB games. In 2013, there was a record 94 four-plus hour games. Since PITCHf/x was was installed in MLB parks, the seconds between pitches has increased from 21.5 in 2007, to 23 last season.

I was curious last May about the pace issue, so I placed a stop watch on hitters during a Pirates-Cardinals game. Every time both batter’s feet left the box I started the timer, and when one foot returned I stopped the clock. I recorded all the times and came to this rather appalling finding: the Cardinal and Pirate batters combined to leave the batter’s box 190 times after pitches adding up a whopping 39 minutes and 51 seconds of loitering outside the box. (You can ready the story the here).  Continue Reading →

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

February 18, 2015
by Travis Sawchik


No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

The communication gap

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

SOUTH HILLS – Pitchers and catchers report today in Bradenton, Fla. and the full squad is due in on Feb. 24th, though a number of players have already arrived in camp. Each year, when the Pirates’ full squad migrates to the Gulf coast, Clint Hurdle calls a team meeting.

Last year the message was about battling complacency, with Hurdle having a highlight video made that interwove the Sid Bream slide with the drought-ending, postseason clinching play at Wrigley Field in 2013, when Russell Martin hung on to the ball, raised it triumphantly above his head, and Nate Schierholtz was called out at home plate.

Remember?

iconic2013

The iconic image of the Russell Martin Era

The video was to be the last time the Pirates basked in 2013 successes. But perhaps the most important such tone-setting team meeting, that led to that success, was called a year earlier, in February 2013, when Hurdle introduced quantitative analysts Dan Fox and Mike Fitzgerald, before the Pirates players and coaches in the Pirate City cafeteria. Hurdle asked that they be respected, trusted and listened to as valuable resources.  Continue Reading →

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

February 16, 2015
by Rob Biertempfel


3 comments so far - add yours!

Kang among early arrivals for spring training

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Jung Ho Kang pauses during batting practice Monday on Field 4 at Pirate City.

Jung Ho Kang pauses during batting practice Monday on Field 4 at Pirate City.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Jung Ho Kang reported to Pirate City last Wednesday, a full week before pitchers/catchers and two weeks before position players are required to be in camp. “I’ve worked out here (four) days so far,” Kang said through his interpreter, Jae Han. “I’m getting adjusted to everything. I like it so far.” Continue Reading →

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

February 16, 2015
by Travis Sawchik


7 comments so far - add yours!

Monday Mop-Up Duty: Baseball’s talent pool problem and what to do about it

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

SOUTH HILLS – In his first weeks on the job, new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has outlined a number of problem areas he would like to attack. But the most important one, I believe, is getting more young people — and a more diverse collection of young people — participating in baseball.

Perhaps baseball’s biggest problem is a socioeconomic one. Baseball, domestically, is turning into an upper-middle class game. The costs of travel teams, equipment, private instruction and showcase participation prices many families and athletes out of the sport. It’s an issue the industry is acutely aware of.

The financial gate to entry appears at the youth level and only becomes more restrictive at the college level. Unlike college football or basketball, the main feeder systems for the NFL and NBA, college baseball does not enjoy full scholarships. Instead, 11.7 scholarships are divided among a roster of 30 players. Partly as a result, college baseball is one of the least diverse sports in the country. The sport was 85.3 percent white in 2012. Continue Reading →

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

February 13, 2015
by Travis Sawchik


6 comments so far - add yours!

The case against shrinking the strike zone

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

SOUTH HILLS – There’s a number of reasons for baseball’s decline in offense, as run scoring contracted for an eighth consecutive year last season to 4.07 runs per team per game. That’s fewest runs per game since 1981.

There’s the proliferation of shifts, the increase in throwing velocity (which partially explains the deluge of strike outs), the fact that almost all new data and technology flowing into the sport has helped run prevention. (See: shifts, batter’s hot zones, etc.) But there’s something else interesting at work against hitters tied to new technology.

Jon Roegele of The Hardball Times found in studying PITCHf/x data that the strike zone is expanding. In comparing 2009 to 2014, the strike zone has expanded by 35 square inches for left-handed hitters, according to Rogele, and 46 square inches for right-handed hitters . Yahoo! baseball columnist Jeff Passan reported yesterday the study has drawn the interest of Major League Baseball. New commissioner Rob Manfred wants to add offense to the game and some estimates indicate the expanded strike zone is responsible for 30 percent of the run scoring erosion.

Continue Reading →

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

February 12, 2015
by Travis Sawchik


14 comments so far - add yours!

Mechanical engineering: Hall of Famers from the vault, and one analyst projects stardom for Kang

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

SOUTH HILLS – Jonah Keri has supplied us with a mid-winter treat as he went behind the scenes at MLB Productions recently and came away with some never-seen-before footage as you can view/read about in this fantastic Grantland.com article.

Keri reported about an interesting project that is underway. Wrote Keri: “The Major League Baseball Film and Video Archive’s contents date all the way back to 1905 and contain more than 200,000 hours of footage. During a recent trip to the MLB Productions headquarters in Secaucus, New Jersey, I watched as dozens of technicians worked on converting thousands of games into digital format.”

Keri found one particular gem (which you can view if you go to the link), a newly discovered two-minute video of Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson. You know, just three of baseball’s four original Hall of Famers. Continue Reading →

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

February 10, 2015
by Travis Sawchik


22 comments so far - add yours!

Can the Pirates’ pen be elite again?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

SOUTH HILLS – The one area where the Pirates could regress to the mean in a significant, positive, low-cost way in 2015 (progression to the mean?) is simply through a better bullpen performance.

Recall, one of the reasons the Pirates were so good in 2013 and out-performed their runs scored vs. runs allowed measure is the bullpen was unassailable until September. Of the first 77 leads the Pirates took into the eighth inning, 76 of those games resulted in wins.

Recall the nightmares of last season when the Pirates’ pen made nearly a 180-degree pivot and blew 24 saves, which was the third-worst in baseball. Remember Frieri? (The Pirates were actually on a much worse pace for blown saves until tightening up the ‘pen in September. The Pirates blew 15 saves in 2013).

Continue Reading →

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

February 9, 2015
by Travis Sawchik


22 comments so far - add yours!

Monday Mop-Up Duty: where the Pirates and Padres differ, windows, and spring training battles

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

SOUTH HILLS – If you eliminate climate, street tacos, and time zone, there’s actually quite a number of similarities between the Pirates and Padres.

Pittsburgh ranks 22nd in television market size, according to 2014-15 demographics compiled by  Nielsen, San Diego ranks 28th.

The Pirates play in a pitcher-friendly park and the Padres play in the most run-depressing environment in baseball.

Both teams have long title droughts, in fact, the Padres have never won. The Pirates were irrelevant for 20 years until back-to-back playoff berths. And the Padres have mostly been irrelevant until this offseason which they capped with the signing of James Shields today to a four-year, $75 million deal.

(The good news for the Pirates is Shields did not land in the division as the Cubs were thought to be interested).

Continue Reading →

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

February 6, 2015
by Travis Sawchik


7 comments so far - add yours!

At what price is Shields right for the Pirates? And ZiPs forecasts the 2015 Pirates

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

SOUTH HILLS – The last really good free agent pitcher available is of course James Shields. Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com reports he’s expected to sign by the end of the week. The Padres are reportedly the favorite.

Shields is not an ace. He’s a really good No. 2 starter who has evolved from relying less on a wiepout changeup and more on an effective cutter. It seems like he posts 220 innings every year and maybe that is the reason he’s still available. Shields turned 33 in December. He’s also thrown 1,910 innings in his career. That’s a lot of mileage. He wants a five-year deal but may have to settle for four (or less?). Still, that will take him at least through his Age 36 season.

Interesting side note I read last night: no free agent pitcher has ever received more than $50 million when signing after February 1. So what if Shields’ price really comes down from those $100 million expectations? At what point does he make sense for the Pirates who finished with the second lowest WAR among starting pitchers last year?

Continue Reading →

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

February 4, 2015
by Travis Sawchik


9 comments so far - add yours!

Time for MLB to expand? And beyond U.S. borders? (Also, thoughts on Lombardozzi)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

SOUTH HILLS –  In the modern era of baseball expansion, since 1961, we are in the longest period of Major League Baseball having not added a new a franchise. MLB has not added a new team since adding the Diamondbacks and Rays to the mix in 1998. So it’s been 17 years since a team was added. The previous longest gap was a 16-year expansion drought was ended with the additions of the Marlins and Rockies. (I’m not including the Expos’ relocation to Washington).

So is it time for MLB to expand?

When you think about MLB expansion you might immediately turn to familiar domestic cities mentioned like Charlotte , N.C. (which makes some sense with it being second largest banking center in the country and the Carolinas having strong passion for amateur baseball), Portland, Las Vegas and San Antonio. But new MLB commish Rob Manfred keeps saying interesting things in his first days on the job.

Continue Reading →

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
 
Other blogs
Sports: Rob Rossi | Steel Mill | Chipped Ice | Bucco Blog | iPreps | Pitt Locker Room | Penn State Sports
News: This Just In | Trib List | ICycle | Flow Back | Stories Behind Trib Stories  


» Top TribLIVE.com Sports » Top TribLIVE.com News » Top TribLIVE.com Breaking News