Pens Playoffs Round Two 2017

By S. Samek

After dispatching Columbus in five games the Pittsburgh Penguins eagerly awaited the conclusion of The Washington Capitals and Toronto. Toronto made its first time in the playoffs in a while a short one, being overmatched by the President’s trophy winner in six games.

Cue the Déjà vu. Penguins and Capitals for the past two season meeting in round two of the NHL playoffs. Pittsburgh walking away with the series victory last season in addition to winning eight of nine playoff meetings between the two.

During the season, Washington took the season series 2-0-2 during their 55-win campaign.  Though the Pens earned 50 wins of their own in route to the runner up spot in the Metropolitan division.

The Stars are display in this one. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin ready to role for Pittsburgh against the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Jake Geuentzel stepped up against Columbus with five goals and is your playoff goal scoring leader. Malkin’s 11 points is tops in playoff points.

 

Though the possibly overlooked stars are the goaltenders. Marc-Andre Fleury is stepping up after the injury to Matt Murrary. Fleury contributed a 2.52 goals-against average and .933 save percentage against Columbus. Fleury’s has also led the Pens to an addition cup win and a finals appearance and is showing veteran leadership.

Washington has Brandon Holtby between the pipes. Holtby led the league in regular season wins with 42 and nine shutouts. He did this while contributing a .925 save percentage and 2.07 goals against average. All of these numbers put him in the top five statistically for regular season play.

 

Though the biggest question is can the Capitals break through and stop the trend of the Presidents trophy winner begin ousted. Can they fight back after last year’s series loss? Does the Penguin’s all-time series domination come into play. How much will the Penguin’s playoff experience and four cups matter against the Capitols?

I would say that experience should hold a small advantage, but not a big one. Anything can happen in the playoffs. Nashville told that to Chicago this season. Washington is a good team. You don’t put up the best regular season mark if you’re not a good team.  Give the Caps a small advantage there and for a 2-0 season series advantage.

This one is going seven games. Anything else should be a disappointment. Two talented teams that are playing in a faux Stanly Cup as the winner of this series is being a popular pick to win it all.

The only four times the Pittsburgh has hoisted the cup it went through Washington. Does this happen again. I think so Pens in seven games is my prediction.

 

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Save the Save

By S. Samek

The hot button statistical topic of Major League Baseball is the save. Just how important is the save. Is it worth saving your so called top relief pitcher for a situation that may never come.

Be hold a new strategy. Andrew Miller gets acquired by the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline. Miller was acquired to be the Indians shutdown man in the ninth inning closer. When did he enter the game, as early as the fifth inning during the Indians run to the end of October baseball. Then behold the debate on whether or not the closer, or at least the modern one is going to become extinct.

Miller’s role was that of the fireman. The old-school terms for relievers. That came in during a tough situation to put out the fire. Firemen pitched multiple innings with the tightest of leds. The save wasn’t even adopted by the MLB until 1969. The save then gave way to the relief man of the year award solely tabulated on save and win total.

 

Today the best arms are sent into the ninth innings with up to a three-run led for the all-important save. The starters go the six expected or maybe seven innings the turn it over to an 8th inning guy and the closer in the ninth.  It’s a bull pen of specialization rather than get in there and get the guy out no matter what the scenario.

Taking a look at the save requirements. According to the Major league baseball rule book, Saves:
Rule 10.20 in the Official Rule Book states:
Credit a pitcher with a save when he meets all three of the following conditions:
(1) He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his club; and
(2) He is not the winning pitcher; and
(3) He qualifies under one of the following conditions:
– (a) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning; or
– (b) He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, or at bat, or on deck (that is, the potential tying run is either already on base or is one of the first two batsmen he faces; or
– (c) He pitches effectively for at least three innings. No more than one save may be credited in each game.

 

Seems too easy right. Three run led saves require everyone due up in the inning to score if tied.  Though under conditions 3 b and c the save is much tougher, but still reasonable.

An alternative was given for the stat called the Goose egg. It is a harder save set up more in the old fireman style. A long explanation can be seen here.

Though the first part of the article is about how too many stats are ruining baseball. So why add another one. Why not just change the save requirements and call it a day? Why not just get rid of the save all together?

I advocate for the latter. It promotes the best pitcher pitching to get the outs rather than waiting and wasting your best pitcher on a chance that may never come.

Two I hate the fact that it is such a situational stat. The number of saves a pitcher gets changes based on the number of three and under run wins a team gets. So why are teams aiming to win by less, just for a stat. Granted the stat is a bit of an equalizer as an 80-win team and 50-win team can both have 30 plus save men in a season if the chips fall right. Though the save is exactly that based on how the chips fall. A hit can be all it takes to create, or bust a save. The situation may come 30 times a year or it may come 15. So is the 30 save man better than the 15 save man because of situations beyond each’s control.

If you want to simplify the game why not eliminate a worthless situational stat from the ranks. If that’s not possible maybe go the goose egg route and toughen up the requirements. Better yet let your starters pitch as much as they can and forget the bullpen. Saves need to die if baseball wants to move forward strategy wise.

 

Defense of Goofy Monikers

By S. Samek

I have made it a well-established fact that I am pro unique Minor League Baseball nicknames. While I do favor uniqueness, I do have some grounds when it comes to just being too over the top.  I came across an interesting article on the selection of Minor League names  and I took a look. According the article a test exists to see if a name is ridiculous. It’s based on the how it compares with the Toledo Mud Hens.

My take is that the Mud Hens is a middle of the road if not pedestrian nickname now a days. I would think that it’s a conservative logo that has become more commonly known thanks to the hit show Mash. It ranks right up there with the Durham Bulls as far as iconic minor league teams.

Most of the team names in the minors try to tell a story for the local community.  Others just name them after the major-league affiliate. While this was a tradition in the past the trend is dying. Thankfully this is happening. It really does show a lack of creativity if all your teams are named the Braves. Plus, what if you change affiliations after your PDC is up. Most agreements only last up to four years unless extended, or the team is purchased by the parent club. It seems like a lot of work to work on all new uniforms logos and branding if you’re just going to skip town after two years.

By giving each team a unique brand it stays with the town regardless of affiliations. Giving the town a sense of pride and ownership that it’s the communities team and not just a Major-League Clubs team. The unique names also stand out and give that definite sense of identity. It’s the one and only Blue Wahoo’s against how many other Panthers, Lions and other big cats.

Merchandising is the other big reason I support local unique nicknames. Again, I pick on the Braves system. Most of the teams have the same hat logo with just a letter change, so no real point to collecting them all if you’re not a fan of the Braves. Take that up against a team like The San Diego Padres and their cast of teams from Chihuahuas to Tin Caps and more. I want the goofy hats and unique ones more.  Of the top 25 teams in minor league baseball in merchandise sold in 2016 only three shared the name of a club in the majors.

Giving unique names the edge in moving merchandise and making money for the team.

Though yes sometime names go over the top. In my two most recent rebrand posts I crushed the awful change from New Orleans Zephyrs to Baby Cakes.  It was one example of a bad idea. Though this season also saw a well done rebrand in the form of Binghamton becoming the Rumble Ponies from the Mets.

 Of the 30 plus teams that make up Triple A I would say one name maybe two could be considered over the top. In Double A, I can see five teams getting knocked for crazy monikers. Six out of 60, one out of 10. A .100 batting average for off the wall names in the upper levels of the minors. I’m not totally buying into the it’s all over the top theory of the article in question. I think fun unique names not affiliated with the parent clubs when done right is most effective. It’s a trend that will and should continue.

 

 

Crashing The Party

Outfielder’s departure hurts teams chances for the postseason.

By S. Samek

The Pirates lost a huge player as Starling Marte was suspended for 80 games for violating MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

 As a result, Marte is gone for at least the next half of the season and will sit out the playoffs. This also prompted an interesting set of moves. Andrew McCutchen was moved back to centerfield after being moved to right. Then Jose Osuna was called up from Indianapolis to serve as outfield depth. Osuna is a definite call up worthy candidate after being one of the last cuts during the spring. Hit .404 with 5 homers.

Adam Frazier also should add depth in the outfield as a utility man as will Josh Harrison. Though it will be interesting to see if Josh Bell gets any time in the big-league outfield. Bell was a primary outfielder before being moved to first base. Bell primarily played right field during his times in the minors.

Though if the hole is in center field why not call up Austin Meadows. Meadows being the second-best prospect in the Pirates system should have the fast track to Pittsburgh. Simple answer is he isn’t quite ready yet. Meadows is only facing his first full season at Triple A. Meadows also isn’t dominating like a Tyler Glasnow was. Meadows started the season hitless in 11 at bat before a recent streak as improved his average to .162. Granted it is only a very small 10 games sample. Look for Meadows to improve and maybe knock on the door of Pittsburgh in June like Bell did last year should the need arise. Though the more likely case would be to see Meadows in Pittsburgh in September.

The transition will be tough for the Pirates. It will take McCutchen playing back to form, and consistent production from the rest of the starting lineup to keep this club in contention. Breakout seasons for Frazier and Bell would go a long way to minimize the damage of Marte’s departure.

Glasnow’s Fine

By S. Samek

Tyler Glasnow struggled in his first start of the year against the Reds. He then followed it up with a better start against the Cubs. Though while improvement was seen a lot of fans are calling for his demotion to the minors. According to this article The Pirates are giving Glasnow a chance and you should too here why.

First off is his top prospect status. Glasnow earned this with is dominating play in the minors. Try a 2.03 overall era, including a 1.87 era at Triple A Indianapolis last year. This domination has led him being graded as a 60 on the 20-80 scale. Glasnow’s fast ball is rated at a 70 and his Curveball a 60 giving him two pitches grating above average. http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2017?list=pit Glasnow as the stuff he just needs to show it.

Though in his second start against the Cubs he did show glimpses. He racked up seven strikeouts. He touched 95-96 on the radar gun. He got out of a couple jams. This is against a stacked Cubs lineup. Glasnow is capable of getting out major league hitters.

Now If you were going to replace Glasnow who would you do it with. If you’re thinking Drew Hutchinson try again. In two starts Hutchinson is sporting a 7.84 era against Toledo and Colorado Springs. Glasnow just faced the World Series champs.

Steve Brault could make a case to replace Glasnow. In three starts Brault has a 3.66 era and a 2.77 era overall in the minors. Brault is the ninth ranked pitcher in the Pirates system. Brault also has a sub 5.00 era in the majors. Though Brualt’s potential isn’t Glasnow’s. Brault grades out to 50s overall and with his fastball.

My other question to all the Glasnow detractors would be what else does he have to prove in the minors. His every level dominance shows he can pitch to beat the competition. It’s too easy. He’s never going to get any better if he doesn’t face major league caliber hitters. While his two starts weren’t, good there is lots of room for improvement. Plus, its only that two starts. Glasnow should have many more this season. These could very well be outliers statistically. Now I will agree that Glasnow needs work and time. Working with the Major-league staff should help a lot and see if his potential is true. I would say it is. He just needs to stay in the majors and build confidence.

 

Part 2 Top 30 MILB Systems by Nickname

By S. Samek

Part two of this post is here. Featuring ranks 14 -1.

14. Milwaukee Brewers.

One team lets down the whole system. Colorado Spring being the boring Sky Socks. Though strong names like the Shuckers, Mudcats and Timber Rattlers give this an over average set. Maybe trade Arizona for the Hillsboro Hops?

13. Cincinnati Reds.

The Red feature my favorite overall team name in The Pensacola Blue Wahoos. The Daytona Tortugas also adds to the plus column. Dragons, Bats and Mustangs are a bit on the common side, but not too bad.

12. Philadelphia Phillies

Ironpigs, with Crosscutters and Threshers form three solid choices for names. The Reading Fighting Phils, or sometimes frightens does not. Though Phily does have a strong brand of teams across all levels.

11. Los Angeles Dodgers.

No I don’t totally agree with naming your top affiliate the Dodgers. Outside of that the system sparks some of the best names. Tulsa boasts the drillers and Great Lakes the Loons. Ogden gets fierce with the Raptors and finally the Quakes from Rancho Cucamonga.

10. Colorado Rockies.

Strong from top to bottom is the system. Isotopes is a cool name as is the silly Yard Goats. Then throw in the Jethawks and Tourists for a great unique system of names.

9. Miami Marlins.

Off-season rebranding helped this ranking. The Jacksonville Suns became the Jumbo Shrimp and the New Orleans Zephyrs picked the Baby Cakes instead. Both are definitely local flare names that are goofy. Hammerheads, Grasshoppers and Muckdogs add more flare to the mix and make for a great mix of names in the organization.

8.Oakland A’s

Strong varity here too. You got the Sounds, Ports, Rockhounds, Snappers and Lake Monsters. Very nautical, but Oakland is by the bay.

7. Seattle Mariners.

Leading off is the majestic sounding Tacoma Rainers. Then you have the double-a Arkansas Travelers as a kind of odd, but intriguing name. Nuts is another goof local name as is, Lumber Kings and Aqua Sox.

6. Tampa Bay Rays.

The super iconic team from the movie Bull Durham starts this list out. Then a goofy food names in the Biscuits adds humor. After that is the Renegades, Hot Rods and Stone Crabs.

5. San Francisco Giants.

Another one of my personal top names in the Richmond Flying Squirrels led this pack. Volcanos, GreenJackets and River Cats provide the local flare and put the Giants in the top five.

4. New York Mets

Vegas has the 51’s named after area 51. Binghamton has an awesome logo named the Rumble Ponies.  Brooklyn has the Cyclones named after the coaster. Then the Fireflies add a bug to the mix. The names are just pure fun end of discussion.

3. Kansas City Royals

More fun names from the Chuckers and Blue Rocks to Storm Chasers and Naturals. Even the Lexington Legends with a sweet mustache log call Kanas City their parent club. Cheek them out for just pure fun.

2. Texas Rangers

The Round Rock Express enter the station first. After them it’s the Fresco RoughRiders and their fierce logo. Then you have the first of a kind Wood Ducks and more nautical theme in the Crawdads. Nice local southern mix of great logos.

1.      San Diego Padres.

The team know for the swinging Friar logo keeps it in the family. Triple a El Paso sports the Chihuahua name. It has been one of the best names sense its announcement. You can see why I like the name here.

 Then you have the historical local flare in both the San Antonio Missions and Fort Wayne Tincaps. Storm and Dust Devils are good names too and add some more of a varity. Making San Diego the best named affiliate system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penguins playoffs 2017 Round One

Pens and Blue Jackets open up first round.

By S Samek.

82 Games led up to this. It’s the NHL playoffs. In the first round, it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Columbus Blue Jackets. It’s a revenge matchup from 2014 when The Penguins dispatched Columbus in six games.

During the course of the year each team went 2-1-1 against each other. Though the Penguins used some better play in the last 21 games of the season to best Columbus after being tied at 86 points through 61 games. The Penguins produced a 12-6-3 record while Columbus went 11-8-2. Giving the Penguins the two seed and home ice in the first round. Worth noting is the Pens beat the Jackets 4-1 in Pittsburgh the last time these teams met on April 4th,2017.

Why the Pens lose. Defense and injuries. The loss of Kris Letang will hurt a lot.

 As will the rotating carousel of defenders the Penguins used this season.  This could put stress on the goaltenders and led to disaster.

Though the Goalies should be able to hold their own. Even if Matt Murray starts over Marc-Andre Fleury. Murray went 32-10-4 this season with a 2.41 goals against average and .923 save percentage, which was eighth best in the league.

 Fleury backed him up going 18-10-7 this season with a 3.02 gaa and .909 save percentage in 38 games with 34 starts.

Columbus also has a strong goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky went 41-17-5 with a 2.06 gaa and .931 save percentage, which was the league leader in save percentage and gaa.   Bobrovsky was also number two in the league win wins behind Braden Holtby and Cam Talbot.

Though NHL goal leader Sidney Crosby and his 44 tallies are shooting at him. As is Evgeni Malkin and his 33 goals and Phil Kessel and Connor Shery with 23 goals apiece. The Penguins offense is definitely enough to give any goalie nightmares even the best in the league.

I think experience will also play a role in this series. The Penguins are coming off a cup run. Columbus hasn’t made the playoffs sense 2014. The Pens have also made the playoffs 11 years in a row with two cup wins and another finals appearance. It’s just hard to beat the experience and winning tradition the Penguins have.

I think home ice for the Pens will help too. The last two times these teams played in Pittsburgh The Pens won. The trend for the season series is the home team winning, so if the trend stays its Pens 4-3. Both teams play well at home though with the Blue Jackets sporting a 28-12-1 mark at home, while Pittsburgh is 31-6-4. I would say that’s a home ice advantage for sure.

 

I would say that Columbus is on the upswing, and would win a playoff series if given a better match up. They finished third in a tough Metropolitan division. If the current system wasn’t in place they don’t have a harder first round matchup than they deserve. Though the weaker stretch run than the Pens have put them in the position to win from the lower seed. Though I wouldn’t count it as an upset if the Blue Jackets win.

They won’t however. I’m taking the Pens in six games to win the series. Offense and a solid two goalie system with experience in the playoffs paying off.