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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: The myth of lineup protection


Brief and to the Point …

>> The Friday column raises 11 points about the Penguins’ No. 11. It’s no given that Jordan Staal will still be here next season, but neither is it set that he’ll be gone.

>> I enjoy baseball’s deeper statistical analysis. Unlike some of its subscribers, though, I don’t treat it like religion, nor “Moneyball” to be the Bible. One word the stats guys love to toss around is “objective” to describe their approach, but most often it’s anything but. Their view is the only one that counts, and everyone else is less than “intellectual.”

Drives me nuts.

But again, I find merits in a lot of what gets raised. One fascinating point raised by sabermetricians over the years, fortified a lot by studying Albert Pujols and various cleanup men in St. Louis, is the concept of protection within a lineup. The stats show that protection means almost nothing. The people within the game talk about it as imperative.

Andrew McCutchen is tremendously good. He’s batting .349 with his two home runs last night raising that total to five. And he’s done this within the context of one of the worst lineups of our lifetime, usually with somebody batting 150-200 points lower right behind him in the order.

Now, some of this has to do with opposing managers being stupid and pitching to McCutchen when they don’t need to. Maybe it galls them to pitch around a Pirate. But it also tells you that, in most cases, a good hitter will make sure he sees good pitches to hit just by having good at-bats.

>> Sometime today, the Pirates will promote a designated hitter from a Class AAA affiliate that’s been shut out in its past three games, with one total run in the past five games.

The scripts write themselves.

>> The Pirates will make interleague history tonight and have the pitchers bat for themselves.

>> It’s not just that the Kings are now 11-1 in the playoffs. It’s not that they rubbed out the West’s top two seeds in the Canucks and Blues. It’s not even that they’re a No. 8 seed that barely qualified for the playoffs.

It’s the how.

You watch L.A. right now, and they’re just playing hockey. There’s the discipline and toughness you’d expect from a Darryl Sutter team, but there’s also an aggressive system and an emphasis on taking advantage of a good amount of skill. If all you saw last night was Dustin Brown springing Anze Kopitar for that sweet breakaway goal, you’d know they’re not shy about stretching the rink. In all, they’ve outscored opponents, 37-17.

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt having the best goalie in the world: Jonathan Quick.

>> This is great. The Mets’ manager, Terry Collins, pokes fun at John Tortorella’s antics.

>> The early — and heavy — favorite for comeback of the year in the city of Pittsburgh.

>> Here is yesterday’s chat transcript.

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