Here’s today’s chat transcript covering the Penguins’ moving Jarome Iginla again, the Pirates’ immaculate bullpen, the Steelers’ first draft signing, the latest Penn State controversy and … whether or not I get starstruck interviewing people.
>> The weekly chat will begin at noon, right here on this blog. Hope to have you.
>> Haven’t paid much attention to the baseball team, for obvious reasons. Haven’t even been able to see many of the games, other than video highlights on my iPhone. As a result, most of my thoughts are of the type that are fairly distant from the subject matter itself.
Which, once in a while, can be the healthiest kind.
So let me ask those who have been watching this: Are Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon even human?
What’s going on here?
Have you noticed, when you aren’t cheering through the 10 or 12 minutes needed to breeze through the eighth and ninth innings, what they’ve done numerically so far?
An excellent figure for weighing relief pitching, infinitely better than ERA, is WHIP, or Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched. Grilli’s is 0.74, Melancon’s 0.71. Those figures both rank in the top 10 in the majors for relievers with at least 15 appearances, a number I think is fair to this point in the year.
For some perspective, last year, the number of relievers who finished with a 0.75 WHIP or lower was exactly one: Craig Kimbrel of the Braves. Kimbrel was so extraordinary that he earned votes for Cy Young, including the fourth spot on my ballot. That doesn’t happen much for a reliever.
For further perspective, in 2003, the year Eric Gagne pretty much set the gold standard for a closer’s single-season performance, he had 55 saves and a 0.69 WHIP, the latter not far from either Grilli or Melancon right now.
Before this season, Grilli never posted a WHIP below 1.14. He got that with the Pirates last season at age 35. Before joining the Pirates in 2011, his career WHIP was 1.45, roughly double what it is now. Before joining the Pirates, his best strikeout-to-walk ratio in any season was 1.92. Last year, it was 4.09, and now it’s 7.00.
Melancon is 28, and he’s had only one year where he’s appeared in more than a quarter of his team’s games. That was in 2011 with the Astros, when he had a 1.22 WHIP, miles above his current figure. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was never higher in any season than 2.92. Right now, it’s 20.00.
I don’t even know what to do with these numbers. My brain can’t process them.
Maybe I should just stick to hockey.
>> Then again, maybe not …
This document was getting a few yuks around the Internet yesterday, an actual Dave Littlefield scouting report on Jason Giambi that projected Giambi as a ‘bat off the bench.’
To which I’ll simply reply with this: Wait until the Internet gets a hold of the Pirates’ current staff’s written assessment of then-amateur Mike Trout.
I’m guessing this will be the reaction …
>> Here’s all our Penguins coverage for the day. I took the day off, as I’ll do again today with the exception of the chat because it’s my daughter’s take-your-dad-to-school day.
Hope those kids don’t ask me to define reliever excellence.
>> The Wednesday column off Game 1 loves how cool and composed the Penguins look when they’re not chasing a bunch of children all over the rink.
Here’s our full coverage, led by beat man Rob Rossi, along with Josh Yohe and Kevin Gorman. And I should remind more often that our team also includes many talented people more behind the scenes, such as night editor Mike Palm for his design of that front page you see up there, as well as photographer Chris Horner for the great capture of Pascal Dupuis’ shorty.
It’s very much a team effort at the Trib, and we’re proud of that.
And here’s a sampling of some quick conversations I had in the Penguins’ room afterward, beginning with the player I felt was their best on this night: Chris Kunitz …
And Tomas Vokoun …
And old Iron Jaw himself …
Really fun night at Consol. And a good vibe in the room. I particularly liked this line from Dupuis: “We’re going to enjoy this. That’s one thing I don’t think we did against the Islanders, enjoy our victories enough.”
>> If you missed it, this was the TribLIVE Radio show podcast featuring the Penguins’ Brenden Morrow and Yohe. The opening rant on Canada going 20 years without a Cup was caught on video …
There will also be an opening rant on Canada’s neverending Cup drought, a visit from Trib hockey writer Josh Yohe and, of course, the local Twitter treasure @suckmeter offering the Suck of the Week.
To listen, just click on the link above. It’s free, easy, no signup. One click, and we’re on. If you’ve got an iPhone, iPad or Android, we’ve got the upgraded TribLIVE Radio app. Also free and easy and everything else.
>> The Trib will have all hands on deck for Game 1, as well as the full second round. The coverage opens this morning with — what else? — the Matt Cooke effect.
Here’s what some of the athletes had to say yesterday, including Cooke …
>> If you’re interested in the opposing perspective, there’s the biggest paper in Canada’s capital, the Ottawa Citizen, and the unfortunately far better known tabloid, the Ottawa Sun.
>> Meanwhile, another of the Sun chain in Ontario, produced this front page for today to illustrate the Maple Leafs blowing a three-goal lead in Game 7 in Boston …
Don’t get me wrong. The headline is fair and accurate. In fact, the Toronto Star, the more mainstream paper, also used ‘choked’ in its main headline.
But what gets you is that those headlines don’t come close to the vitriol that’ll spill over up there. Toronto’s as vicious a place as any in North America toward its own team. And yet they wonder why so few great players have chosen to play there for a very, very long time now despite unlimited cash to spend.
>> Stopped over at PNC Park yesterday and spent a little time with Travis Snider …
Also talked with a few other guys while there, and I can share a bit: Jose Tabata sounds highly encouraged by driving the ball to center-right. His smile is back, but I don’t think he’ll be pleased until right field is fully his job again. … Clint Barmes told me he’s still a little frustrated at lapses at his old lunging habits, but he also — correctly — pointed out, “I’m miles ahead of where I was at this time last year.” … Neil Walker’s back is doing great. No, that’s not what had him on the DL, but it’s a far more important issue in the longer term. … I asked Clint Hurdle if Jordy Mercer can ever be an everyday major-league defensive shortstop, and he wouldn’t answer it other than a we’ll-see. Asked it again, this time focusing based solely on what he’s seen to date, and he still wouldn’t answer it. Do with that what you will.
UPDATE 4:11 p.m.: Couple things from my time in the clubhouse this afternoon, highlighted by Jason Grilli hurriedly putting on his civvies and leaving PNC Park. I was right there by him, but this looked serious. Wasn’t about to interrupt. Clint Hurdle said there was nothing he could share at the moment and wasn’t sure if Grilli would be back tonight.
Here’s wishing Grilli well.
4:40: Video of my talk today with Snider about a bunch of things, including his status as an everyday/bench guy, the nature of his swing and more …
>> I don’t care how much this sounds like company-man talk, but our Rob Biertempfel had at least as good a weekend in New York as his subject matter. Much good stuff– real detailed, ask-questions-to-learn-more type of reporting — to be found with his byline.