NHL News and Weekend Wishes

I’ll admit that I haven’t watched any hockey since the Penguins were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs 16 days ago. After the strong finishes to each of the last two seasons it was just too painful to watch other teams continue to play for the Cup. After a bit of time off I was hoping that the Canadiens and Sharks would win the conference finals. No dice there either. Now I just hope that Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks can keep the Puppy Drowners Flyers Cupless since 1975 as I look on to next season.

The NHL made a lot of announcements today regarding next season’s schedule, the first being that the full schedule will be released on June 22. Highlights for this Penguins fan: The Winter Classic will be in Pittsburgh at Heinz field on New Year’s Day, and the hated Flyers will be in town to open up the new Consol Energy Center on October 7.

I hope everyone has a fun Memorial Day weekend. Please take a minute on Monday to think about the people who are currently putting themselves in harm’s way for our country.

He’s going big-time on us.

A quick offer of congratulations to Larry at Wezen-ball.com for having his Tater Trot Tracker mentioned on ESPN’s Around the Horn. I hope a lot of new people find his blog and his excellent writing.

New content arriving …sometime

Simply awe-inspiring.

I’ve been back in town for a few days now, but I’m still trying to get caught up with work and other things. If you’ve never seen the Grand Canyon, or only seen it in pictures, then you owe it to yourself to see it in person. Nothing else will do it justice.

I have an idea for a post that I’ll get up here as soon as I can flesh it out. At the very least I’ll have a wrap up after I go to the Pirates/Braves game on Sunday. Its the end of May and I haven’t been to a big league game yet! I have seen 3 college games and a AAA game though. Ahh, baseball…

Notes from Last Night

The Pirates got their eighth 1-run win last night, scratching out just enough runs against one of the best pitchers around, Roy Halladay. Most of the credit should go to Zach Duke, Evan Meek, Joel Hanrahan and Octavio Dotel who held the Phillies to one run.

Unfortunately I missed this game, instead going to see Ironman 2. My short review from twitter: Fun popcorn movie. Turn off your brain, ignore the plot holes and enjoy the ride.

Elsewhere:

In Atlanta, Bobby Cox was ejected from a game for the 155th time, extending his own all-time major league record. I hope he ends up with exactly 162, which would mean that for his 29 seasons managing he was essentially tossed out for an entire year. Alas, his current rate of 155/4385 means he’s only likely to be thrown out 4-5 more times. Time to pick up the pace Bobby!

From the always over-hyped NYY/BOS series: Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera blew the lead, Jonathan Papelbon came back from a terrible outing the day before to record a shaky save. I only care about this because I need Papelbon to rebuild some value in my AL only league.

Milwaukee: You got one good year out of Trevor Hoffman. Be happy with that.

Florida: Much has been written already about Hanley Ramirez’s lollygagging and subsequent benching. My favorite take come from Craig Calcaterra: “I have never won the “you can’t come out of your room until you apologize” game with my son. It’s way easier to be bad than it is to be good. I wish that weren’t true, but it is.”

I’ve always hoped in the back of my head that the Blue Jays’ third baseman would start a rally of people trying to effect change by staying in their automobiles for an extended period of time. This movement would of course be called the Edwin In-Car-Nation.

Programming note: I’m headed out to the Grand Canyon tomorrow for a long weekend. I don’t expect to post any new blogs while I’m gone, but I may post some pictures to twitter. You should be able to catch those on the left sidebar, or you can just follow me.

Weekend Wrapup, Odds and Ends

I had an awesome weekend.  First, I spent Friday night playing poker and hanging out with friends. Saturday evening we celebrated my Dad’s birthday with barbecue and baseball. Dad was happy to see Miami win, I was happy that Georgia Tech won the other two games of the series to move into second place in the ACC. Yes, I sang “Dead Skunk” with pride and the awesome girlfriend sang along with me. Sunday I made an impromptu trip to see some AAA ball. Nothing of note happened in the game and Braves’ top prospect 1B Freddie Freeman got the day off, but its still always great to sit out in the sun at a ballgame.

Following up on Friday’s post, Aki Iwamura now has a “sore hamstring.” He’s not expected to need to go on the DL, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him held out for a few days, then placed on the DL May 20 with Neil Walker being recalled. Delwyn Young is starting at 2B and batting leadoff tonight. Check my twitter account on the left, along with Extra Innings host Rocco DeMaro and Pittsburgh Lumber Co.’s Matt Bandi for a short discussion on lineup construction.

The Pirates came within 2 innings of sweeping the Cubs. They are currently 16-21 and in third place. The Cubs are a half game back in fourth, meaning that this season is the best shot I’ve had in years to win my annual bet with my friend Keith, noted Cubs fan and closet mime.

Batting practice

image

Live from GT/Miami.

What to do with Aki?

The Pittsburgh Pirates are 14-20 going into this afternoon’s game against the Cubs. This is not good. Their expected performance (based on the Pythagorean model) says they have actually over achieved to this point and should be 8-26. However you look at it, there are some major issues on this team.

One issue that has gotten major attention over the last week-plus is the profound struggles of second baseman Akinori Iwamura. The 31 year old had a major knee injury last year and is hitting just .169/.267/.246 for a .512 OPS. It doesn’t matter what team you’re on at any level, those numbers should and will send you to the bench.

Here is a rundown of the articles that have been written. There is some overlap in these, but I encourage you to follow the links and read each article:

May 4: Dejan Kovacevic at the Post-Gazette talked to Aki, who claims to be completely healthy.

May 10: Kipper at Pittsburgh Sports Tavern notices that Aki has gained some weight and brings up his BABIP (batting average on balls in play).

May 12: Fangraphs‘ R.J. Anderson brings up his increased groundball percentage.

May 13: MarkInDallas on Bucs Dugout counts down the days till he thinks Neil Walker will be called up to play second.

May 14: Pittsburgh Lumber Co.‘s Matt Bandi offers a very comprehensive look, which outlines many of the points in the other articles.

May 14: MLB.com‘s Jenifer Langosch has promised an article for later today with quotes from manager John Russell. I will link to it when it appears. UPDATE: Here’s Jen’s article. Huntington uses the small sample size defense, which still has validity after just a month of AB’s. Russell says there aren’t any other good options at 2B or leadoff on the roster. Jen points out that both of these answers ignore the bigger picture options of either promoting Neil Walker or moving Andy LaRoche to 2B in anticipation of Pedro Alvarez’s forthcoming ascension.

All of these are well written so there’s not much left for me to add. I was in favor or the trade for Aki when it happened. Any time you can trade your third or fourth best reliever for an everyday player is a no-brainer. His approach at the plate has been great – he works counts and draws walks. Very important skills for a top of the order hitter. But until Aki can start squaring up on the ball and driving it he just won’t effective. I hope he can snap out of it soon.

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