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Thursday Wakeup Call: A sensible playoff thought?

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, Lunatics …

>> The weekly chat will be today at noon, right here on the blog. As soon as you see that thread go up, entries can be submitted on the platform.

>> I took Wednesday off — at least the portion I didn’t spend sitting on a JFK runway — but will be back at it for Game 5 tonight. Much good hockey stuff in this morning’s Trib. It’s Joe Starkey’s day to column-ize, and he offers this sensible look at the Penguins’ current state. You also find on our Penguins page a bunch of good material from beat man Josh Yohe.

And here’s video of Dan Bylsma refusing to discuss lineups per team policy and … he did what?

>> Not that these things are always in the manager’s control, but I’ve always had mixed feelings about ace-on-ace matchups in baseball. They’re a blast to watch, but I wonder if teams aren’t tossing away a better chance at a W by having, say, an A.J. Burnett get narrowly outdueled by the Mariners’ brilliant Felix Hernandez. Those same seven strong innings from Burnett almost surely get you a W tonight in New York.

Not a criticism, I’ll repeat. Just a thought.

>> Max Starks tells our Mark Kaboly he believes he’s done with the Steelers. And somewhere Ben Roethlisberger crosses himself while wondering which of Mike Adams or Marcus Gilbert will keep him alive.

>> No need to knock for the chat room. Walk right in.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and more, including his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the top four columnists in the country -- highest circulation category -- by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the top three columnists in the country by the National Headliners Awards. For 2013, he was named top columnist in the state by the Keystone Awards and second-place by the Pennsylvania AP Managing Editors.

259 Comments

  1. Nothing more fun than sitting on a runway in cramped quarters with a bunch of people you don’t know. Hope the person next to you wasn’t the Shoe Salesman From Topeka.

    You missed a GREAT pitching duel. And another leadoff at-bat from Marte. Early and small sample, but one major problem from last year solved. Leadoff hitting. Last year on this date the Bucs were 13-16 and couldn’t hit a beach ball. Much better start against a tough schedule.

    OK Vokoun’s starting. Lord Stanley’s Playoffs have never been an easy gig. Hopefully we get through this series and can regroup. Some of the stuff I read in blogs blows my mind. I have to believe that some of it is written by folks that have never laced up a pair of cleats or skates. Yes Fleury sucked Tuesday, and Sunday and … in last years first round. That’s sports kids. Guys have bad streaks. He needs to sit tonight. But if the Pens are going to hoist the Cup, and if I’m putting my money on the line I think they can, The Flower is going to have not one, but a few great games.

    Have fun with it all, Lunnies. It’s sports, its real, anything can and will happen.

    Go Pens, Go Bucs and happy future travels to you DK. I’m hoping you fly first class because today would have sucked either way, but sitting in coach on a runway. Ouch!

    • Agreed….We hear too much about “hurt feelings” & the “psychological downsides” of benching players(James Mcdonald & Pedro come to mind). These are pro athletes and if their mind is that fragile, they have already failed……on the other hand in regards to the team itself, I think a “sense of urgency” is most needed. Not panic, but a definite sense of urgency would be welcome. It sounds like that may have happened in postgame lockerroom the other night. I think they can be too calm about these things sometimes when they say, “we just need to correct our mistakes” or “get to our game”. Well, like it or not, the Isles know that & are playing their best to force mistakes and keep Pens off their game………Urgency, not panic!!

      • Also, it’s not unheard of to put your #1 on the bench, and later in playoffs get strong play from him!!

  2. NMR… 113 plate appearances and 104 official at bats… 18 hits…. 38 Ks (36.5%)… 5 home runs (4 solo shots and a 2-run shot).

    Batting average with RISP: 6 for 41 (.146) with 15 Ks (36.6%)
    OPS w RISP: a whopping .437

    Batting average with any runner(s) on any base(s): 6 for 52 (.115) with 21 Ks (40.4%)
    OPS w any runner(s) on any base(s): .349

    Not quite near where he was last year in 113 at bats. These numbers go along with his 6 errors in 30 games… and his 27 errors last year.

    He’s got to get a lot better and really soon. A team cannot thrive with so little production from its third baseman…especially as one supposedly as talented as he may think he is. Talent plays… results matter. His results right now are of epic failing proportions. If he hit just .210, this team probably has 6 more runs scored. If he hit just .225 w RISP, the team probably has 10 more runs scored.

    This is a bit bigger of a problem than last year, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for him to snap out of it. His brain, eyes and body are totally out of sync. That’s on him. And he’s carrying that to the field (his 5 errors in last 21 games is most in MLB).

    • Soon? Is yesterday too soon? Don’t you worry, he’ll hit a solo HR or two and in the next week and everyone will forgive his uber-lame production. That to me is more bothersome than the players production. The forgiveness this city has for Pirates players who can’t produce in the light of a historically bad ball club. How does that happen? Beaten puppy syndrome? No wonder some players love playing in Pittsburgh. As long as you don’t suck too bad, you are king of turd mountain.

    • You’re forgetting your own argument, man.

      Nobody is arguing that Pedro hasn’t been horrible. That’s clear.

      You asked what do you do with him.

      You do exactly what you did last year. That’s my answer. You don’t have to like it.

      Let it go.

    • Potential is interesting.. Performance is everything.!!!

    • Nothing I have seen would lead me to believe he has an ego. A lot of top picks never pan out. He has been terrible but he was last year as well at the beginning of the year.

      I feel like Pedro could end up being 1 of 2 different types of playes. He could end up being like a handfull of players in MLB that have these giant up and down streaks. Players like Dunn, Mark Reynolds and LaRoach. There isn’t many of them because they are just terrrible when they are on bad streaks but they stick around because when they are hitting well they can carry a team for a couple of weeks and win games all by themselves.

      I also think he could never figure it out and last year was just a guys bat running into a couple dozen pitches before pitchers knew how to pitch to him. I think the Pirate owe it to themselves to figure out which guy he is. I think you sit him for a couple of games but I don’t believe it would be wise to completely give up on him and make him a spot starter. He needs 500 at bats this year to figure out what they have in him.

  3. Hopefully, you didnt have a “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” type of experience in NY, Dejan.

    Well, I guess we will see if coach Bylsma makes the correct adjustments. Starting Vokoun is a good first step. Eliminating the long passes is another, and getting Iginla on Sids RW is a third. I am not sure if Malkin needs benched, after all he has 8 points in the series, but he is also a -1 with those 8 points. And again, I say, play smart, play hard, eliminate the “cuteness”, and turnovers. If they dont, this series will be over. Cannot afford a loss in game 5.

    Shame about AJ yesterday. Great performance, only to get no support, and a loss. As good as he has been, he is only 3-3. If he had some more support, he could easily be 5-1.

    I think the decision to sign Whimper, and not Starks will prove to be a mistake this year. Whimper may be ok, but Starks has been the Steelers most consistent tackle the past few years. I wish Max well. Good guy.

    If I am around, I will swim into the chat today. ;)

    Hippo out.

    • Agree with pretty much everything you say, Hipposter my friend, especially about Max Starks. I’m thinking that will come around to bite them in the butt.

      • Hippster, to be clear, if Pens eliminate the long passes, and the NYI continue to take away the boards, then there is no other option but Carry the Puck Out (nagahappa with this D) or Short Pass (requires Fs to come back deep – ie different breakout).

        Starkey was remarkably confident for covering a team playing this bad. Props to him. More than I can do.

  4. If I can ……. My wife just have birth to
    Crosby John – 6 lbs 12 oz and 19 inches long!

  5. Since I usually do stay at a Holiday Inn Express, I’m going all in like a Vegas high roller on a winning high……

    As frustrated and disappointed that I’ve been through the first four games of this series, I still firmly believe the Penguins are the better team and no matter what obstacles present themselves, Sidney Crosby is going to will this team to a series victory. He hasn’t really performed at the level we’re accustomed to seeing outside of his game two return scoring two goals and after taking a shot to the throat in game four, he was a virtual ghost unless of course, you noticed Islanders center Frans Nielsen skating around trailing Crosby at his every move.

    Penguins Head Coach Dan Bylsma is not a believer in matching lines.

    If there was ever a time to shed those beliefs, now would be a good time to do it. Crosby missed a quarter of the season due to the broken jaw, he’s probably just now working himself into game-playing shape. Why not try to get Crosby out on the ice against the Isles John Tavares and make his line try to play defense?

    Dictating the action by matching forward lines has to happen in game five, not just for Crosby to flourish but also find ways to get Evgeni Malkin against better in-game situations than where he’s finding himself right now.

    The Penguins talked all offseason and training camp about how they learned their lessons from the Flyers series loss in the playoffs and wouldn’t allow teams to force them to lose their composure.

    That lack of discipline is evident in Malkin’s game right now, which can’t continue for the Penguins to win a Stanley Cup, let alone survive this series. Wouldn’t it be great if one of those veteran acquisitions to stood up and lead without the Captain’s C stitched to their jersey and got into Malkin’s head?

    Malkin isn’t the only franchise star having a rough go at the game mentally, one could say Marc-Andre Fleury is having himself a fourth straight disappointing playoff performance since winning the Cup.

    Fleury has posted save percentages of .891, .899, .834, and now this year’s .891, which is leading many to question if Fleury is crumbling under the intense expectations of a franchise that so many of us expected to have won at least one more Cup during this time frame due to the core of the team.

    Just as talk has started to bubble around the long-term viability of the Penguins retaining Malkin, same might be even more true of Fleury. Ray Shero and others might have tried to talk a good game about the acquisition of veteran netminder Tomas Vokoun last offseason as just another piece to the team, someone to help keep Fleury fresh and make him better but now going into game five, Vokoun is doing more than just being a mentor, he’s going to get his shot to take the crease and save the team.

    If Vokoun stars tonight in game five, Bylsma can’t possibly switch back to Fleury and if that happens, we just might… just might have seen the last of Fleury as the team’s franchise goaltender.

    It wouldn’t surprise in the least if the Penguins decide to trade Fleury in the offseason to address some depth problems up front at forward with so many key contributors about to reach free agency.

    Remember, Penguins made a surprising move by signing US college hockey goaltender Eric Hartzell as a free agent after his season ended. The Penguins might have enough confidence in this young goaltender to pare him up with Vokoun to actually move forward without Fleury.

    Maybe Vokoun wins game five and six, then Bylsma does the unthinkable by starting Fleury in game one of the next series and he plays better and leads the team to a Cup. Then maybe all that hand wringing was for naught but I don’t think that’s case.

    Which leads me to Bylsma and his coaching staff.

    I firmly believe Bylsma is a good coach but he’s stubborn and too much of a believer in his own philosophy that if the team plays his system without mistakes, they can’t lose.

    While on their way to winning a Cup, we saw him change the way the team attacked on the forecheck by having a third forward high in the offensive zone and had put in an aggressive penalty-killing system but since then, the team has struggled defensively in their own zone as he made changes to their puck retrieval and back-checking assignments the next season.

    In game four, I was constantly amazed at how poorly the team back-checked leaving players open, shift after shift. There was no better example of the team’s questionable effort than in game four when Root Sports color commentator Bob Errey yelled, “get back, get back” as the Isles went from a simple two-on-two rush to being threatened with a three-on-two as Malkin, James Neal and Jarome Iginla were far behind the play and not digging in to back-check.

    At the end of the day, NHL head coaches are hired and fired after a few seasons. Bylsma has had a tremendous amount of talent to win another Cup and if the team fails to right itself and spirals into another first round series exit, there’s going to be more than simple questions about his philosophy.

    We could see tremendous change this offseason but I believe in Crosby, I believe Vokoun is the right goaltender to change the momentum in this series, and I believe Bylsma is like a wounded animal cornered with no choice but to find a way to survive.

    I want to believe.

    • I too like matching lines on occasions. I have seen Crosby on ice against Tavares on couple occasions, and am recalling not just at end of PK’s, and don’t know if by design or just happenstance, but was in favor of it. Difficult for Isles (or any team) to get the puck away from Sid.

      On Fleury, cannot see them getting rid of him. He’s proven he can win the Stanley Cup. His cap number right now is manageable by goalie standards, particularly when seeing what others around the league are getting. That said, with him in particular, confidence is such a huge deal. Instead of thinking “aggressive” he has played so passive, and when he does that, he is never fundamentally sound, as witnessed by “pawing” for the puck on the Okposo behind-the-net flip instead of locking down the post, or sitting so unbelievably deep in the net on the rush for the Isles’ 6th goal the other night instead of getting on the proper angle and coming out to challenge, as we have often seen in his stellar play in shoot-outs. Anyone watching that 6th goal and how Fleury was positioned to play the puck probably had the same sinking feeling that I did that the Isles would score right there, and we all know that result. Fleury has been been playing to maintain and in a “don’t want to screw it up” mode and he needs to recapture his mojo if we are to win the Cup, but all of that’s for another day. We need Bylsma to go into his “Just Win One” plan of action, and take that approach every night from here on out.

      GO PENS!

      • I wish I could agree with you Dom, but I think we won’t see Fleury again until Vokoun loses, maybe not even then. And if he doesn’t find his n-tsack and start playing at a consistently high level, I agree that the Pens may try to move him in the off-season.

        Which wouldn’t be a bad thing necessarily. I’m not sure he can re-capture his mojo, the fan base, or most importantly his team’s confidence at this point. While he’s not totally to blame, or even the root cause of the problems IMO, there’s kind of too much toothpaste out of the tube at this point if you know what I mean.

        Maybe best for the kid to simply get a fresh start someplace else.

      • I have to say I find DB’s failure to match lines absolutely maddening. As a player myself, when the opponents have a particularly good line, and we have a couple of good checkers, failing to match them at every opp is just a fail IMO.

        My other sport is tennis, and as I’ve been coached (and as I have coached others) “When you find a matchup that is working for you, either to help you on offense, or stop them doing something they’re good at – BEAT IT TO DEATH until it stops working” In tennis terms that might mean simply serving to somebody’s backhand, even if your favortite play slices wide to their forehand. It’s not about what you WANT to do. It’s about what WORKS v your opponent’s relative strengths/weaknesses.

        To ignore that is just some awful mix of arrogance or stupidity or timidity or choking IMO. Total Fail.

        Scotty Bowman once described his WHOLE JOB as a coach in one sentence : “Getting the right guys on the ice” Matching lines is the way to do that.

        Sorry, that’s always been a peeve about Bylsma for me.

        • I understand what you mean. Really I do.

          But when you have the depth of talent Pittsburgh has you don’t match lines, you make them match your lines. If Pittsburgh can dictate what players the other team is sending out, then logically they are dictating to some extent what the other team is doing, and by extension how they are playing. At least thats the theory…

          Again. Just like last year when Malkin got shut down by some no name rookie…the Pens talent has no business getting bottled up by a lesser team. And it appears as if the Islanders are the ones dictating how the game is flowing.

          I mean…what do you do? give 3-4 minutes of Malkins line to Sutter? You just took the reigning MVP off the ice. I understand what you mean…really

          • Thanks Patrick….have to say I cannot agree.
            We have a checking line for a reason – to match up vs their best line, ie Tavares. Sutters line man handled Hume Game 1, but no other attempts to match took place that I saw.

            And no, you don’t take Malkin off the ice. You change your shift order to match how you want. Say Coutourier is on for PHL and he’s been making Geno insane. His line goes out, you put out Sutter s line and Genos line goes out one shift later is all.

            DBs unwillingness to do this is the essence of arrogance and stupidity.
            Neutralize Malkin for no reason.
            Let Tavares run wiLd for no reason.

            Create matchups to your advantage. ESP with Last Change at home.
            It’s called coaching.

    • Like Milo said to Sarah yesterday, does that come in audio book form?

      As official DK blog columnist, you did well. Even us non-puckheads (both of us) can enjoy it.

      A+

      :D

    • I would add only this: Hit Someone!

    • What network is carrying the mini series ?

  6. Well, I enjoyed watching AJ go against Felix yesterday. Didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to but was still fun — and a good view from Sec 115.

    AJ pitched well for the most part but giving up that run in the 4th due to poor control. I can see why McKenry doesn’t catch him that often. He had a tough go of it behind the plate. That DP he hit into in the 1st really hurt too.

  7. The Astros got their 10th win of the season yesterday.
    They beat the Angels…who have 11 wins so far.

    Sounded like a good game yesterday between AJ & Felix

  8. While I agree in theory with moving AJ, I’m not sure it sends the right message. It would look like Hurdle was raising the white flag, conceding he didn’t think they could beat King Felix.

    • If waiving the white flag yesterday only to pick up another win tonight was the difference between 81 and 82 wins – or in the bigger picture a playoff birth – do you really think anyone would look back complaining?

      I’m with Dejan on this one.

      • Isn’t it Burnett himself who wants the ball every five days because likes to maintain a consistent routine? That’s what the beat guys have reported, anyway.

        • Absolutely.

          That’s why this whole discussion is more theory than practice, but interesting nonetheless.

          Managers adjust lineups and bullpens constantly with the purpose of winning more games, yet the rotation is never handled that way.

          One could make the argument that if pitchers were willing to be flexible in their starts, the manager would have even more ability to maximize the chance of winning.

          • Would you carry 6 starters to allow for the adjustment of pitchers to pitch when you feel appropriate. Moving them a day back when it makes sense and using the 6th starter for long relief if he hasn’t pitched in a while.

            I personally believe you should just think your ace is better then their ace and go out and beat the other tean. You need to instill that confidence in your team.

            • “I personally believe you should just think your ace is better then their ace and go out and beat the other tean.”

              I think you’re missing the point.

              It’s not about which pitcher is better, it’s about whether or not your offense can score runs on the opposition. Wins are a TEAM stat.

              If a manager were to have enough guts to try this approach, I think it would have to be a fluid situation. I don’t think EVERY start should be matched up, but opportunity should be taken where an off day presents itself.

              Just seems silly to let this macho-man attitude get in the way of wins.

              • You are getting in the way of wins by essentially punting one away. If AJ wins yesterday we still have a chance to win the next game and be 2-0 over those 2 games. If you kind of forfeit one of the games you are giving yourself a more likely scenerio of 1-1.

                In this case there was no evidence that Seattle could score runs against AJ coming into the game.

              • I can accept that, Nate.

                But your logic is flawed if you’re only accounting for the best case scenario (2-0) and not the worst case (0-2).

                The potential matchup in the second game, assuming you go ace vs ace in the first, must be accounted for.

              • The logic is flawed on either side of the arguement. I guess it comes down to whether or not each of us thought they had a good chance to win yesterday.

                That is why baseball is an awesome sport. It’s been around for generations and still nobody can figure out what strategy is best. It has to be the most debated sport when it comes to questioning strategy.

    • Look at it this way…

      AJ Burnett has three losses on the season. In those three starts he’s given up 3, 1, and 2 runs respectively.

      The Pirates have scored just two runs combined in those games. The competition?

      Samardijza, Kershaw, and Hernandez.

      • Are we now considering Samardijza a better pitcher then AJ or the Cubs a better hitting team then the Pirates.

        Trust me I get what you are saying but good teams which the Pirates look like they may be do not allow the oppenant to dictate how they play. We have beaten some really good pitchers this year with pitchers other then AJ pitching. What if we score 4 off of Seattle yesterday and Locke went instead of AJ and gave up 5. It’s baseball you really don’t know what’s going to happen. The one thing you can do is get your best pitcher pitching as many times as possible. If there is an off day skip the 5th starter don’t use it as a chance to change the order your starters pitch.

        • I get the point about ” maybe this happens,” but I think NMR included that in his calculation by assuming you only win half of the games. The “good teams do this,” though, still strikes me as more macho than practical.

        • “Are we now considering Samardijza a better pitcher then AJ or the Cubs a better hitting team then the Pirates.”

          Nate, I believe your comparisons are still incorrect.

          It is not AJ vs Samardijza or Cub hitters vs. Pirate hitters.

          It is Pirate hitters vs Samardijza against Cub hitters vs. AJ.

          In the end, these are percentage moves, as is the case with everything in baseball. You can throw out all kinds of scenarios that may potentially work or not work. It boils down to the risk being worth the reward.

          • Although worded incorrectly that is what I was getting at in that particular instance. I like AJ’s chances against the Cubs offense better then Samrdijza against the Pirates offense.

            I say that knowing the Samridijza has pitched very well against the Pirates in the few games we played against them and that Samridijza also has a high ceiling. I’m just not ready to half raise the white flag against the likes of Samridijza or for that matter any pitcher. I say go into each game with the mentality we are going to raise the jolly roger.

  9. JAL’s Don’t Give Up On Us Baby Morning Links

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4i8hXNqNIU

    GENERAL DAILY UPDATED BASEBALL SITES

    1- MLB Transactions

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates
    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/pittsburgh_pirates/

    3 Go Buccos- Pirate News (from external sources)

    http://gobuccos.com/pittsburgh-pirate-news/

    4 Pittsburgh Pirates Stats

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AsjN0zO-DxI0dHVOMzdPYm9wUEJtdVJ0WWUzVWhFc2c#gid=0

    BLOGS and such

    5—Pirates Prospects

    First Pitch: Who Wants to Hit a Left-Hander?

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/05/first-pitch-who-wants-to-hit-a-left-hander.html

    Prospect Notebook: Lambo a Bright Spot in Altoona; Sadler Shows Promise

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/05/prospect-notebook-lambo-a-bright-spot-in-altoona-sadler-shows-promise.html

    Bell, Diaz Come Up Big For West Virginia

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/05/bell-diaz-come-up-big-for-west-virginia.html

    6 Bucs Dugout

    Felix Hernandez gets better of A.J. Burnett, Pirates

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/5/8/4313242/felix-hernandez-gets-better-of-a-j-burnett-pirates

    7 WHYGAVS

    Game 33: Mariners 2 Pirates 1

    http://www.whygavs.com/pittsburgh-pirates/april-2013/game-33-mariners-2-pirates-1.html

    8 The Green Weenie

    Bucs Fall To The King 2-1

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2013/05/bucs-fall-to-king-2-1.html

    9 Rumbunter

    A.J. Burnett Allows One Ball To Leave Infield, Pirates Lose

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/05/08/a-j-burnett-allows-one-ball-to-leave-infield-pirates-lose/

    Leave Pedro Alvarez Alone!

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/05/08/leave-pedro-alone/

    10 Raise the Jolly Roger

    Mariners 2 Pirates 1

    http://raisethejollyroger.com/2013/05/mariners-2-pirates-1/

  10. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    11 City of Champions

    Mariners split series with Pirates as Hernandez outduels Burnett

    http://cityofchampionssports.com/2013/05/08/mariners-split-series-with-pirates-as-hernandez-outduels-burnett/

    12 Rant Sports

    Andrew McCutchen Getting Back On Track For Pittsburgh Pirates

    http://www.rantsports.com/mlb/2013/05/08/andrew-mccutchen-getting-back-on-track-for-pittsburgh-pirates/

    13 Syracuse Post Standard

    Poliquin: Jason Grilli is now 13-for-13 in save situations (with an 0.64 ERA) for the Pirates

    http://www.syracuse.com/poliquin/index.ssf/2013/05/poliquin_jason_grilli_is_now_1.html

    14 The Week

    Should pitchers be required to wear helmets?

    http://theweek.com/article/index/243928/should-pitchers-be-required-to-wear-helmets

    15 Seattle Times

    Jesus Montero, Felix Hernandez lead Mariners past Pirates, 2-1

    http://seattletimes.com/html/mariners/2020945001_mariners09.html

    16 CBS Sports

    Pittsburgh at New York Game Preview

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/gametracker/preview/MLB_20130509_PIT@NYM

    17 Sweetspot

    Umpires help Indians beat Athletics

    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/35655/umpires-help-indians-beat-athletics

    18 PBC Site

    Burnett terrific in duel, but late homer sinks Pirates

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2013_05_08_seamlb_pitmlb_1&mode=recap_home&c_id=pit

    Bucs deriving strength from their schedule

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130508&content_id=46977520&vkey=news_pit&c_id=pit

    SPORTS WEBSITES

    19 Baseball Prospectus

    A Beat Writer Goes to the Ballpark

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=20510

    20 Fangraphs

    No-Trade Clauses And This Season’s Trade Deadline

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/no-trade-clauses-and-this-seasons-trade-deadline/

  11. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    AFC North Draft Tournament: Mingo vs. Jones

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/5/8/4312816/afc-north-nfl-draft-first-round-picks-browns-steelers

    One of four reasons that the Steelers are the Steelers

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/5/8/4309660/steelers-mean-joe-greene-history

    22 Steelers Depot

    - Ryan Clarke Thinks Steelers Held Off One Upmanship Attiyudes as Long as Possible

    http://www.steelersdepot.com/2013/05/ryan-clark-thinks-steelers-held-off-one-upmanship-attitudes-as-long-as-possible/

    Soccer(football) Will T

    23 Daily Telegraph

    David Moyes will replace Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester United manager on Thursday

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/manchester-united/10044158/David-Moyes-will-replace-Sir-Alex-Ferguson-as-Manchester-United-manager-on-Thursday.html

    24 World Soccer Daily

    World Soccer Daily: 10 stories you need to read, 8th May, 2013

    http://www.worldsoccer.com/247/world-soccer-daily-10-stories-you-need-to-read-8th-may-2013

    PENGUIN BLOGS and NHL Links

    25 Pensburgh

    Concern over panic is key for the Penguins right now.

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2013/5/8/4312404/concern-over-panic-is-key-for-the-penguins-right-now

    26 Edmonton Journal

    What has happened to Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury?

    http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2013/05/08/what-has-happened-to-pittsburgh-penguins-goalie-marc-andre-fleury/

  12. I think the Steelers will regret Max Starks moving on.

  13. Mark Kaboly said since Starks isn’t coming off an injury, that makes him a valuable commodity. If this is the case, then why hasn’t anyone

    • I cut my post short. I meant to say, Mark Kaboly said since Starks isn’t coming off an injury, that makes him a valuable commodity. If this is the case, then why hasn’t anyone signed him yet?

      • If you read the article, Dom, it said Max met with the Charges on Wednesday. He’s also saying other teams are interested. That might or might not be true. Time will tell.

        • Youre right I missed that. I don’t understand why the Steelers haven’t resigned him. I would certainly think we need one more OT who can possibly start. Starks would be a perfect fit for coming back.

    • He’ll get picked up eventually. No doubt by an AFC North team…or Arizona.

  14. The bad news: the Islanders have made this a 3 game series. Give them credit.

    The good news: the Pens despite playing poorly (to put it mildly) have the series at 2-2, home ice and most importantly can play much better. If they play smart and match Isles effort, they should win. They won game 3. Game 4 was close until the last brutal giveaway and goal. This with the Pens seemingly sleepskating through long stretches of each game.

    60 minutes of solid effort by Pens should win the game.

    As Eric states above, I want to believe.

    LET’S GO PENS!!!!

  15. Yeah, matching No. 1s v. No. 1s can take away a few wins for a pitcher/team. With the three losses Burnett’s had v. the cubs, dodgers and yesterday’s No. 1, he’s earned a few starts v. the back end of an opponent’s rotation… get him, and the team, some better opportunities to win.

  16. To counter Starkey’s opinion that the Pens are not in critical condition – yet:

    While technically correct, that has little to do with the reality of the situation. Can the Pens win two of the next three? Yes. Can you, or I hit the lottery, or get hit by lightning? Yes as well. But just because this isn’t the clinching game for either club, doesn’t mean it hasn’t reached a critical point, especially for the Pens. Like I said after the Tuesday night loss, one of the writers would bring out his water colors to paint a positive picture. Figures it would be Starkey, but I was certain DK would have put on the painters smock this time.

    Now, I’m not saying that the Pens odds of winning two of the next three games are as steep as winning the lottery, or getting hit by lighting, but the reality of the situation is the Isles are the better hockey team right now, while the Pens have shown no answers as to how to stop them, or have changed their own game to either match the Isles intensity, or to stop from making mistakes that cost them…and on top of that, they have been forced to go with their backup goalie. So how does this game not get any more critical?

    The Pens need to play tonight like it is very critical because a loss would put the proverbial nail in the coffin. This better be a Game 7, gut check kinda effort because we know the Islanders will coming with just that. A big; “We’re much better than you and this is why!” effort from the Pens tonight can swing momentum in a huge, series changing way, but whether or not they have the cajones to do it, remains to be seen.

  17. Not much left to say about the Pens. I firmly believe that the key to the rest of this season is reuniting Kunitz with Malkin and Neal. And they have to put themselves in a position to hit Tavares and Okposo, then do so with ferocity at every opportunity.

    Go Pens.

    • History has proven that Bylsma would rather lose with his wrong decisions than make a change that makes sense. Iginla will play uncomfortably on the Malkin line for the reminder of his stay, which could be as few as 3 more days. Here’s thinking that if Jarome knew what his predicament would have been, he would have gone to Boston. Disco could eff up a wet dream.

      • We’ll see tonight. The fact that they cancelled on ice practice yesterday does not bode well for this change.

        I wish DK would ask Bylsma directly why he refuses to make this change. While Sidney Crosby may prefer to have Kunitz, I can’t possibly see him making a huge issue of playing with Iginla.

        • I still don’t see Sid insisting on playing only with Kunitz and Dupuis. I don’t buy that.

          • Yeah it’s kinda difficult to see many sane players saying “I’ll only play with Kunitz! That Iginla guy sucks!”

            I can’t see either one not being open to the idea in the midst of a tight series that’s reached its crucible.

        • DK could ask it but DB would end up replying with his, “I will not be discussing the lineup or injuries.”

        • Other than Fluery, no changes seem forthcoming. I’m not as concerned with Iginlas position as everybody else. Malkins line has produced points even with Iggy on LW. Even if it didnt there are still three other lines, one of which is the highest scoring line in all of hockey. Sutter/morrow and Cooke have become a nonfactor. Same with JJ and Glass.

          The problem isnt one guy playing on the wrong side. Its 16-17 guys playing halfassed.

  18. My Pittsburgh Penguins Ice Hockey (as opposed to P.P. Street Hockey, Disco?) Doomsday prediction: if we lose tonight, we lose the series. Here’s why…

    -we’ve been getting outgunned and outplayed since 8 minutes into game 2. That hasn’t changed yet and won’t if we lose tonight.

    -Malkin has been a HUGE disappointment this season and playoffs. Not seeing that change in the next 2 games. Instead of picking up for Sid he’s put the Isles boot on our neck.

    -Bad goaltending. Bad goaltending. Bad goaltending. Not to put pressure on TV, but if he doesn’t come up with a gem tonight, we’re screwed. And he’ll have to. Our D isn’t going to get all their shitake in order in a day.

    -Our collective D has been downright bad. The only consistently steady one has been Murray and, unfortunately, he’s not flashy, quick or skilled enough to be a dominant 2-way force. Eaton, Martin, Niskannen and even Letang have been physically manhandled most of the series. Say what you want about positioning being the all-determining factor and lifting sticks. Not saying it isn’t important. But what good is it if you force a guy to the outside and then you get run over? Or when you force a guy out and go to make a play on the puck, he pushes you off and continues on his way? If you push a guy out from in front of the net, the need to lift his stick is null.

    -Where have Morrow, Iginla and Jokinen been? They don’t show up tonight, they’re not going to. The rest of the forwards have shown very little in the way of sound defense (i.e. no defensive aggression). If the defensive play doesn’t come to us, we don’t go looking for it.

    -The only really smart thing he’s done all series is sit Tyler Kennedy. Bylsma has consistently made bad choices and can’t reign in this team:

    1. Iginla off wing? What’s next, Crosby in goal? Neal back on right point on PP?

    2. Leaving Fleury in to give up 213 goals in 3 games? We’re switching to TV now?!

    3. Not even yelling at a player for the most juvenile penalty ever seen in NHL or pee-wee? If ever there was a time to yell at someone, that was it. If Geno can’t take the criticism, there’s a bigger problem. A good player always tries to learn. Sometimes you have to coach on the bench. Can’t do it all in the locker room.

    4. One time recently was there an effective forecheck on the PK. Now they may as well leave everyone on the bench until the Isles get to the blue line. (First PK in last game)

    5. Players make mistakes. Coaches should fix repetitive mistakes like half mile cross ice passes in neutral zone. Or just stand there and silently grimace while contemplating getting back to “our game”. Do. Something. Different.

    I still think we have every chance to win this series. But not if at least some of this doesn’t change tonight.

  19. My Thursday Morning, Red Hot Chili Peppers influenced, Pittsburgh Sporting thoughts….

    * 1st, let me say this. I love JAL’s links, but he’s missing out on the 90s music influence. 90s is the greatest era of music, followed closely in 2nd by the 80s.

    * I hope some enjoyed my p-b-p (on the game thread), and I also hope I didn’t infringe on anyone’s territory.

    * At some point, the baseball Gods will smile at us. Don’t ask me to tell you when though.

    * It’s an interesting point Dejan makes about moving your ace (to not face an ace). But, you can counter with the fact that it’s not a given that AJ would pitch the same game in a different ballpark against a different opponent (altho the Mets & Mariners seem to be about on the same level), so….

    * I think you throw guys out there every 5 days, regardless (irregardless is not a word) of who they’re facing. Starting pitchers are creatures of habit. Especially one’s that have been pitching in the bigs for a decade. Why mess with that?

    * My thoughts on the Pens/Isles so far is this: they’ve been thoroughly outplayed 5-on-5 for large stretches, yet, the series is tied coming home. Your telling me your not confident that this team can win 2 of 3 in this situation? Forget everything about what’s happened. Just look at the squads. I’ll take ours 8 days of the week. Yes, the Isles are hungry (and possibly sniff some blood), but we’re a large beast, and if we feel like fighting, this series ends in 6.

    * We’ll see what kind of fortitude this Pens team has tonight.

    * Dilemma: if Vokoun plays well tonight (in either a win or loss (let’s say Pens lose 1-0…IT’S JUST HYPOTHETICAL!), does he start game 6? Or do you go back to Fleury?

    * Mark this space…Max Starks will somehow be on the Steelers roster by then end of the season. They’ve been trying for years to part ways with Max (why? I have no idea. All the guy does is play pretty solidly. And usually ends up starting like 8-16 games!). And he won’t go away. I expect nothing different.

    * Have the Riverhounds scored yet?

    HAVE A GOOD DAY ALL

    • Come on, Nate. The Hounds have 3 goals in about 28 games. What’s not to be excited about?

      • Admittedly, I’ma bit of a soccer snob. I care not for the American version (MLS) and it’s subleagues.

        I’m a Gooner (Arsenal Supporter). I watch the Barclays Premier League (English top division).

        Only.

        (ok ok, I mix in some Spanish, German, and Italian leagues and the Uefa Champions league too)

    • Over the years have had music from all eras. There is only one song from the 90s that fits this weeks theme–Jasmine Guy, “Just Want to Hold You” 1991

    • 90′s is the greatest era of music, followed closely by the 80′s? You poor, poor boy. :-)

    • If Max Starks is smart he, and the Steelers come late to the party again, he tells them he has no RSVP so they’re not invited and they need to go home.

    • I’m new to this blog, but I had no problem with your P-B-P. I found it entertaining, especially since I was only following the game on my phone. It put context into what was going on.

      I’m not a big fan of moving your ace around to avoid or match-up with other pitchers. AJ would not have stood for being told they wanted to avoid having him face KF. AJ is old school, and when it is time for him to pitch he pitches.

      If Vokoun wins tonight, and I expect he will, you cannot go back to Fleury in Game 6. In fact, I don’t see how you can go back to Fleury before the next series unless Vokoun is unexpectedly horrible (seems unlikely). If Vokoun helps us get to the next series by playing well to close this one out, how do you even pull him in Rd. 2? That might be confusing to the rest of the team when they are starting to feel good about things.

      The larger question, IMO, is what do you do with your supposed “franchise goalie” after he plays well again in the regular season, only to implode in the playoffs once again? That, of course, assumes Fleury doesn’t get another shot and turns things around yet this playoff season. But, if he sits for the remainder of the playoffs, how is he still your franchise goalie going into next year? Few in Pittsburgh seem to want to face the reality that maybe he needs a change of scenery or something. The Penguins have huge stars in the primes of their careers, and you cannot squander that with shaky playoff goaltending year after year. I know Fleury has been a great playoff goalie early in his career, but his confidence seems to be gone now in big situations. He gives up way too many goals that no pro goalie should ever give up. It would not surprise me if Shero made a blockbuster off-season trade in which we parted ways with Fleury. Maybe we get a young guy to groom, along with organizational options at goalie.

      Max Starks is like flypaper, but maybe this time the stickiness has finally worn off.

    • 60′s, then the 90′s.

      The 80′s were a decrepit wasteland of absolute crap music. I can count the number of good bands/artist/musicians of the 80′s on one hand.

  20. Fine article in USA Today by the inimitable Kevin Allen about Ray Shero. Mr. Shero may be the only GM in sports, perhaps, that can be praised after dropping two clunkers in the first round of the playoffs against a demonstrably inferior club.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nhl/columnist/allen/2013/05/08/allen-penguins-tomas-vokoun-importance/2145717/

    I was disappointed to see the Red Wings drop last night’s game to the Mighty Ducks (no, Anaheim, I have not forgotten you started as a marketing agent for Disney). I have nothing but respect for the Red Wings and their long string of playoff appearances. They have traversed the waters of trap defense, free agency explosion, labor strife and salary cap with great aplomb. I hope they can take the series.

    I do not want a LA based team to win a fourth Cup in the last seven tries. Los Angeles already gets the money, pretty girls and fabulous illuminati. They don’t need to become the epicenter of the hockey world too.

  21. Haven’t watched many Bucco games yet, but I feel really bad for AJ Burnett. Seems like the guy has to pitch a CG shutout to get a W.

    • I don’t think you need to feel badly for AJ, Brad. He has a pretty good life, from what I can tell. Just kidding. I get your point. I agree with you that the run support has not been there every game for him this year. AJ seemed to get a ton of it last year. As a pitcher, that is how it is. Ask King Felix. The Mariners run support is so awful that this guy gives up 1 or 2 runs, and is only something like 103-78 for his career. The Bucs are a middle of the pack offensive club, and so they are likely going to win and lose a lot of close games. Unless a pitcher is very fortunate, he will not have a great W-L record in that situation. We just need AJ to keep giving us 7 innngs w/ 2 runs allowed, and that will be the least of our worries. AJ would still crank out close to 15 wins.

    • There’s a pitcher in NY that would love to trade spots with AJ right now.

  22. Could you ever imagine a hockey player being cleared to play by doctors 2 months ago and not giving it a try because “it doesn’t feel right” ?

    • Somewhere Paul Kariya, Mario Lemieux and Bobby Baun are shaking their heads.

    • Are we talking hockey here????

    • Milo: I would only say so in the case of a severe concussion. You can’t always see how a person feels, and even doctors think you are 100% when you are not. You have to be the one who decides when you are ready.

  23. “Crosby, Ovi, St. Louis up for Lindsay Award”

    I didn’t know a whole team could be nominated for that award.

  24. Appears from Pens morning skate that lines remain the same. Also, Eaton out, Despres in.

    If Pens lose this series without trying Iginla with Sid, Bylsma should be fired immediately. Inability or unwillingness to adjust is unacceptable. And I say that as a longtime fan of HCDB.

    • are you kidding me?? Grrrr! Iginla needs to go with Sid.

    • Adjustment at its finest. I’m waiting for the Rob Rossi article or tweeter denouncing all Pens fans who think HCDB is not doing so hot.

      • Jeebus, it’s not just positional (Iggy cannot play LW) it’s chemistry.
        And the chem with Kunitz Malkin is great.

        COACHING FAIL.

        • Kunitz had some pretty good chemistry with Crosby too.

          I think he’s just a player that understands both of them (or good players in general), and what areas of the ice to get himself into to allow them to create space for him.

        • Agreed on the FAIL.

        • I get a little tired of trying to find a comfort level for Geno. He has James Neal and Jarome Iginla for cryin out loud. Does Mario need to lace em up for Geno to be happy? Sorry but Geno needs to figure out how to make it work with a HoF, even if it is on his Off wing.

          Its robbing peter to pay paul. Someone has to play the off wing.

          Im not opposed to moving Kunitz all together. If they do, fine. But I get annoyed when eeverytime Geno has a bad game we try to build all the lines around him. Rather than moving everyone else around to make Geno comfortable, maybe Geno should just stop playing like shit.

    • People like to stick to whats made them successful.

      I don’t necessarily think that’s a fireable offense.

      Other factors to be considered tho.

      • And sometimes it’s on the players. They have to go out and execute. Dan Bylsma was a genius in Game 1, but a dope in 2-4? See how silly that sounds.

        The Isles have been outplaying us (for the most part). Pretty simple.

        There’s no line change or addition/subtraction to the lineup that can fix that.

        Our superstars (and regular stars) need to get it done.

        And I think they will.

        • I’m not even saying which side I take on this issue. Just throwing it out to strike up maybe a little discussion.

          I think we can all acknowledge Shero is a great GM. His positive moves far outweigh the negative ones year after year, it seems. But, is it possible for a GM to make too many trade deadline deals in one season? If a team is rolling along pretty well, do you need more than 1 key acquisition, even if you look logically at all the moves and say they seem to make the team stronger? Is it too difficult to add in several new players and egos w/o maybe disrupting the overall chemistry? I just wonder what people think about that.

        • A different scheme/plan/game then. Instead of long break out passes try carrying the puck up full speed and Murphy-dump it. Send forwards at full speed past 1-3-1. Majority of our D-zone TO’s are on passes. This lessens that problem, gives better chance of dump recovery and higher tendency for interference penalties.

          VERY tight up front 1-2-1-1 forecheck. Let’s stop giving them the blue line every time. Stop the speed before it starts instead of watching it blow right by.

          Start coaching on the bench. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen Bylsma get in a player’s face about anything in the last 4 years (and not even in a yelling derogatory way) I’d have 15 cents.

          Start addressing missed checks, bad positioning, passes and effort right away instead of after the fact. You’re right- Crosby, Malkin and Letang aren’t perfect, so stop treating them that way. Hold them accountable for stupid penalties and passes.

          Yes He WAS a genius in game 1 and a dope in game 2. He could’ve called a timeout after 8 minutes, nay, 5 minutes of us getting thrashed. He hasn’t stopped that bleeding in 2 games since. Fleury has been poor since game 1. He’s finally being pulled for game 5.

          These aren’t line fixes, just simple scheme and approach changes that could make a big difference. I know it’s on the players just as much, but in the end the coach needs to be better too.

          • Brad,

            I’m with you on the scheme change. I hate it when teams play the trap. It makes for boring hockey. As good as the Red Wings were playing it, I hated watching them play because they would put me to sleep. That being said, I think the Pens could do well running some sort of trap against the Isles. It has the potential to take away much of the speed they are generating through the neutral zone. Sure it would make the Penguins more boring to watch in this series, but I’ll take boring if they can get on to the next round.

            • Just to be clear, not sure if what I wrote translated from incoherent thought correctly :-), I mean more of an agressive trap at the offensive blueline. Hard to get momentum started with guys in your face before you get moving. Also, finish some freakin checks. Everyone. Not just Cooke, Adams and Dupuis (who both fall down after).

              I’d also like to see some more man on man D in our zone.

              But we’ll probably just focus on getting to our game instead.

        • Bit of a strawman.
          Nobody says DB was a genius in Game 1.
          Pens played well, and the NYI were bunnies in the headlights.

          Doesn’t matter how well you execute if the plan has been countered well.
          When your scheme beats theirs, you outplay them.
          That ain’t always the players.

          If the scheme was to have Doug Murray rush the puck, and he couldn’t would you say it’s on the players to execute?

          There are line-up changes that can help, ie get Iggy TF off LW.

          But moreover, the scheme has to change too.

          • The Isles winning just about every puck battle isn’t coaching.

            That’s will (or won’t in our case).

          • Actually as I recall on the tying goal by Tavares Geno was on the ice with Kunitz. And rather than go up the boards to Kunitz who was 8 feet away Geno tried to pass the puck through someones legs instead.

            Again, not to belabor the idea of moving Kunitz, which isn’t a bad idea at all, just making the point that it doesnt matter who is LW as long as Geno keeps making dumbass plays. I could go back to 1992 and bring back Kevin Stevens in his prime and it wouldnt matter. I could go kidnap Stamkos, but that wont stop Geno from reaching out like a clown shoes wearing idiot and grabbing the guy that just knocked him down.

    • if crosbys still in a funk though, aren’t you funking up both top lines then? I’d rather have one super terrific malkin line, then two should be but mediocre lines.

  25. Very interesting updates coming from the Pens morning skate today

    Offensive Lines:

    Dupuis – Crosby – Kunitz
    Neal – Malkin – Iginla
    Morrow – Sutter – Cooke
    Adams – Vitale – Kennedy
    Glass – Jokinen – Bennett
    (Jeffery)

    Defensive Pairs:

    Orpik – Martin
    Despres – Letang
    Murray – Niskanen
    Eaton – Engelland
    (Bortuzzo)

    Some really interesting stuff here. First of all, to many’s chagrin, Iginla stays with Malkin and Kunitz with Crosby. Don’t know what to say here. Just doesn’t make sense.

    Also interesting to see Vitale and Kennedy playing on that fourth line. As much as I hate seeing Jokinen being scratched, this change actually makes some sense to me. Vitale and Kennedy add some much needed speed to the lineup, and, it pains me to say this, Kennedy has proven in the past to play big in big games. He could be a difference maker. *ducks and covers from bring being thrown by Brad*

    Also interesting to see Despres taking Eaton’s spot, however, I’m ok with this. This matchup has been really tough for Eaton. The Islanders have too much speed and he has had a hard time keeping up. He has been a solid player since showing up, but this might be a much needed night off.

    Will be interesting to see what happens from here. LET’S GO PENS!

    • (Throwing hissing cat at Ice)

    • Also interesting from this lineup is that Neal and Iginla have switched wings on Malkin’s line. The plot thickens…

      • Gee, makes sense….Neal and Malkin thrive together offensively when Neal is on Malkin’s RW scoring 50 and 40 goals last year respectively with that combo, so move Neal to LW to make Iggy feel better. Cue the commercial guy that says “I follow you…”

      • I think you just typed it backwards. Because you have Dupuis and Kunitz switched as well.

        • Good call. My bad.

        • Just checked the Pens site again and they have the first two lines as:

          Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis
          Neal-Malkin-Iginla

          Maybe Neal is switching to the opposite wing.

          • DK just said Nealer played most of his NHL career on the left side. So, that begs the question, why the HE** did they put Iginla on Malkin’s left to begin with?????

            • Because Neal plays much better on the right wing. He has developed chemistry with Malkin on that time and because of some eye problem Neal has, he can see the puck coming in for a one timer better when he is playing on the right.

              That being said, Neal has played the left, Iginla hasn’t…

            • Because somebody has to play the LW. probably because both he and Malkin are left handed. Mlakin moves around the offensive zone so much anyways. he uses the offensive zone more than any else except for maybe Patrick Kane.

              Still Neal and Iginla makes sense. Almost so much so that one would conclude there has to be a reason why they havent been doing that all along? Dont know what it could be, but its logical to assume that this isnt the first time any of those guys have thought about it.

  26. Looks like Vitale & Kennedy – in.
    Glass & Jokinen – out.

    And I don’t know how Despres replacing Eaton makes them better defensively.

    • At least Bylsma’s remaining consistent in avoiding changes that make sense.

      • If Vitale does what he is supposed to do– get under THEIR skin, he might be helpful. TK? Meh…

        • They both add speed which should help match the Isles speed. Also, with Vitale going in, you have a good face-off guy replacing Jokinen. With both Glass and Jokinen sitting, Vitale will likely have to play on the PK as well.

          • Vitale and Kunitz – and maybe Crosby – will probably play more PK. I guess thinking about it more those changes aren’t too bad given he’s only messing with the 4th line which sees less than 10:00 of game time. Maybe it becomes an energy line. Despres I still can’t figure out….

          • Jokinens a possession guy though right? Hopefully Crosby does better on faceoffs this game than last.

    • I don’t want to say it seems like Bylsma is pulling the panic button but……it seems like Bylsma is pulling the panic button. Then again, maybe that is what it takes to refocus the team. Then again again, I’m not sure Glass and Jokinen were the real problems….

  27. Kind of sore today, had a wisdom tooth out yesterday — didn’t have them out when I was a kid and now old #16 came up with a cavity. When I think of the meals we’ve shared together, the long talks with friends, the songs we’ve sung — I’ll miss the little guy.

    About Ace vs Ace: Teams establish a rotation at the beginning of the season and then adjust it as circumstances dictate. Sometimes the Ace isn’t the first guy out of the gate (for example, so he can pitch the home opener) but usually he is. Usually the adjustments and the uneven way off-days go make the match-ups rarer as the season goes on — but although it may possibly (though I would need a lot of convincing) be wise to push the #1 guy back a spot so he doesn’t face the other guys’ number one — to me it reeks of either abject surrender (today we give up, our best guy isn’t as good as your best guy, but maybe our offense will work tomorrow) or unbearable arrogance (we think so little of your best guy that we’re giving our guy a day off) of the sort that gets posted on the opponents club house bulletin board and makes up them cone up swinging.

    Other than that I think the existing theory is sound — you give your best pitcher the most chances to start and your number five guy gets skipped the most for off days. Then, as the theory goes at least, you have bench players who can make spot starts when they have an advantage against a certain pitcher,

    When your guy gives up two hits and gets beat by a run while your offense gets seven and scores one less run — your glad it happened on a day when you got a tooth pulled; it doesn’t seem so bad in comparison.

    • “… to me it reeks of either abject surrender…”

      This seems to be a common theme. Can anyone explain to me how this ace vs ace situation is any different than many other managerial moves?

      A sacrifice bunt is literally, by definition, giving up. Same with an intentional walk.

      Bullpen and platoon matchups solely made on the basis of mitigating failure.

      Managers make moves based on statistical percentages that MAY increase the odds of winning by a few percentage points.

      Why should starting pitching be any different?

      • Are you saying they go by the book?, (sorry, couldn’t resist)

        I agree, however, that a lot of the defenses of the current way of doing things are (i) that’s the way things have been done, and (ii). Some kind of macho justification which may or may not be true in practice (e.g., gives confidence to the rest of the team.) Bottom line is the goal is to win as many games as you can.

        • Zactly, which is why you should pitch your ace against a non-ace and give your team a chance to win :)

          • Your giving your team a better chance to lose the game he isn’t pitching. You never ever, ever don’t put your best team on the field when they are healthy and ready to go. This promotes an attitude to your team that the team/pitcher they are going against is better. That’s not the message I would send my team.

        • Why you little…hahah…

          Couldn’t agree more with your paragraph.

          Even if the manager did this just once a month and it worked half the time, thats still three more wins.

          I’d be really surprised to see that any other type of conventional move a manager makes accounts for three extra wins a year.

      • Why should starting pitching be any different?

        Because there’s a difference between strategy and tactics.

        Bunts and intentional walks are in-game trades (an out for putting a runner in scoring position with better hitters coming up or putting a runner on base to set up a force play with weaker hitters coming up). So is selection of a pinch hitter and the reason teams carry so many relief pitchers is that they want to have in-game options.

        A starting pitcher is available only once every five days. What do you do when you move your starter back? Bring in number two with three days rest? Call in a spot starter and set the whole rotation back a day? When the game’s over do you re-set the rotation or give number one a 3-day rest? Do you obsess on who you’re playing next, a week from now — try to figure out the ultimate match-ups for the rest of the season? And if that sort of thing caught on, what’s to keep the other guys from juggling THEIR rotations.

        I’m glad you managed to get my word “either” into your quote. I also stated pretty clearly that it could also be perceived as a tremendous bout of overconfidence. It’s the abandonment of the norm that makes it seem to be like it could be either extreme — but not business as usual. Teams do make adjustments to their rotations during the season as schedules and circumstances dictate — Locke moving up in the rotation and then staying based on his recent performances is a good example — but it would be a stretch to adjust the rotation for a single match-up: UNTIL the playoffs. Then when everything is on the line and there’s no tomorrow, all of a sudden it makes sense — that’s when you see staring pitchers coming out of the bullpen, going on two and three days rest, and unfortunately (Dizzy Dean and Vern Law come to mind) sometimes they pay the price.

        • Now you have me confused. Is the problem with how it affects the rest of the rotation, or is it with the strategy in and of itself of moving the #1 guy to face someone other than the opposing team’s #1 guy?

          • Yes, because you ducked their ace, so instead of your ace vs their ace, it’s now their ace vs someone else in first game… So if a typical #1 is about as good as another typical #1 and a typical #2 is about as good as a typical #2 odds are you split the two games, but your ace will be a little tireder next time out.

            The only time it makes any sense to adjust like that is when winning that particular game is the paramount consideration — that’s why you see it is a valid strategy in the post-season or at the end of a very tight pennant race.

            • “So if a typical #1 is about as good as another typical #1 and a typical #2 is about as good as a typical #2…”

              This isn’t even close to being true, IMO.

              • So?

                How does that affect the notion that if you duck the other guy’s ace when your best pitcher is available you aren’t giving up your best chance to win?

                Your in bigger trouble if their #2 pitcher is better than your ace.

              • You’re still going off the assumption that every rotation cycles 1-5, in order, every time through.

                That’s just not the case.

                Off days make it such that SOMEBODY has to pitch out of the usual 5-day turn.

                Thus, Jeff Locke following AJ Burnett.

              • I don’t think I said that at all.

                I said that teams adjust their rotations as circumstances dictate. I very specifically used Locke as an example.

                What I am saying is that it doesn’t make sense to adjust the rotation to avoid a particular match-up because it is not infinitely adjustable. Starting pitchers need their rest and unless it’s a win-or-else situation it makes no sense to mess with the order.

                Circumstances that make sense are when there is off-day adjustments, roster changes, not bunching lefties, and, yes, overall performances of particular pitchers.

                But don’t you think that in general, is it all right to generalize here, it makes sense to set your rotation so your best pitcher gets the most starts?

              • Absolutely agree with your last paragraph, JH.

                Been saying that all along.

                When you think about it, the opportunity (ace vs ace) is usually rather rare in the first place.

                Pirates just have happened to get a tough draw early on.

        • “Because there’s a difference between strategy and tactics.”

          Oh, of course. How could I forget!

          Sheesh.

    • Hope you’re ok, JHadar, and that the pesky little thing you got rid of doesn’t cause you trouble now it’s gone :) Feel better.

  28. I’m not even saying which side I take on this issue. Just throwing it out to strike up maybe a little discussion.

    I think we can all acknowledge Shero is a great GM. His positive moves far outweigh the negative ones year after year, it seems. But, is it possible for a GM to make too many trade deadline deals in one season? If a team is rolling along pretty well, do you need more than 1 key acquisition, even if you look logically at all the moves and say they seem to make the team stronger? Is it too difficult to add in several new players and egos w/o maybe disrupting the overall chemistry? I just wonder what people think about that.

  29. Why are greeting cards so expensive in Canada ? The Mother’s Day card I paid $4.99 for goes for $6.49 in Canada. What’s up with that ?

  30. Couldn’t even watch hockey last night, was too depressed. Going to have to look up that “buckle up baby” penguins intro from the regular season to get myself psyched up to watch tonight.

    Interesting (weird?) conversation today. Just want to weigh in on the baseball ace v ace discussion. Is it similar at all in hockey to have back to back games and play our “ace” goalie against the better team? For example, we play the devils and the flyers in back to back games. Do you put Fleury in against a hot brodeur or do you save him for Philly? By the philosophy above, you would save Fleury for Philly because Brodeur can out-duel Fleury 70%(80%?) of the time?

  31. Sounds like Jokinen and Glass are out, Kennedy and Vitale are in.

    I don’t think this will do much other than adding a little more speed to the lineup but if we think this is the decision to change their ways, it won’t. Neither player was getting much ice time and the majority of the work ethic and stupidity plays were coming from the top two line forwards.

    Surprised Eaton is going to hit the press box in favor of Despres with the team changing goalies. I figured Bylsma would stick to the veterans on defense.

  32. Using the same 12 forwards expected to play tonight, the lines should be…

    1st: Dupuis – Crosby – Iginla
    2nd: Kunitz – Malkin – Neal
    3rd: Cooke – Sutter – Kennedy
    4th: Morrow – Vitale – Adams

    • Not going to happen based on morning skate. Iginla and Neal switched sides. No other moves among top 6.

  33. Just jumping on to say I really don’t like the lineup changes. I like TK and vitale as much as anyone but they’ve had too many d zone lapses in coverage for my liking! Considering the issues we need to correct inserting 2 high energy/speed guys sounds good in theory but i can see both of those guys being overwhelmed and caught out of position in the d-zone. And fleury should still be in…agree with Errey that play in front of fleury hasn’t been up to par.

    Jeffrey should be in for Glass with morrow on 4th line…would be ok inserting bennett for morrow as well considering plays morrow is struggling with along the boards getting the puck out of d zone.

  34. Did anyone else hear or read what Bylsma said after game 4? He said something along the lines that the pens backed off too much and should’ve been more aggressive?!?! Does he mean that occasionally playing the trap is out of the question? If he’s implying that he’ll be sticking with an aggressive 2 man forecheck the WHOLE GAME then we’ll be down 3-0 by the 2nd and fleury will be back in for vokoun.

    Is there a coaching award for most stubborn?

  35. Steelers announced today that they hired Mark Bruener as a college scout.

    I’m a sucker for those kind of stories.

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