Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday Links

I'm going to be M.I.A. for the next few days as I have some family stuff to attend to, but regular TRS coverage should resume at some point on Sunday. If anything big happens in the Burgh between now and then, this blog will be dark, so don't bother stopping by.

With that established, I thought I'd finish out February with a fresh batch of links, hot out of the oven.

-Thanks to Mondesi's House for this link to a Rob Rossi video clip suggesting the Pens should maybe trade Sid. Hopefully someone took the car keys away from Rob that night. I know he isn't the first, and won't be the last to suggest trading Sid for a load of players, but I can't possibly understand this logic. Sure it may have worked out well for Quebec when they dealt Eric Lindros all those years back, but teams have gotten much smarter and are now much more reluctant to trade top prospects, even if it is for a great player. Remember how great that Jagr deal turned out? How about the Joe Thornton trade? That wasn't as terrible, but it was still pretty bad. So congratulations, your plan is to deal Sid for 30 cents on the dollar, and if you are really lucky, you might get one solid NHL player and one borderline NHLer on your roster. Congrats, I'm sure Geno will love the fact that he is now the only player on the roster then with even mediocre offensive skills. I know Sid has areas where he needs to improve across the board and has had some growing pains this season, but consider a few things: 1) He's 21!!!!! Countless NHL players went on to lead very, very good careers that weren't even in the NHL at 21. He is still young and still has a lot of room to improve. People forget that. He is not a finished product, and if you treat him as such, you are an idiot. 2) The problems go one hell of a lot deeper than Sid. There are so many crappy players on this team it's mind-boggling. 3) The way the NHL is going it's far from a sure thing that the Pens would be able to lure anyone else with even somewhat similar offensive capabilities in free agency using the money saved if they deal Crosby. Please people, I understand the issues some have with Sid, but he is still so young and probably has had to grow up too fast for his own good. Try to keep these things in mind and not get completely and totally irrational when discussing Sid. Also, that Rob Rossi sure has some nice hair, doesn't he? (Giggling to myself). And on another side note, do not, I repeat DO NOT under any circumstance ever google image search "Rob Rossi." I was looking for a shot of him with that hair, and turns out there is what you would call an adult film star of the same name. Yeesh.

-I love the Pensblog. Those guys are the best and always stand up for the Burgh. Nothing better than a good jobbing. And Chris Cooley is a definite d-bag. They also have the funniest and most dedicated readers of any blog I've ever seen, as seen by these photoshops of potential new jobs for Michel Therrien. Word's can't even describe how funny this stuff is. I practically wet myself I was laughing so hard.

-Speaking of loving Pittsburgh blogs, the Pittsburgh Sports Blog Tourney over at Sean's Ramblings is marching onto the Elite 8. Strangely the Pitt Blather made it. I just assumed they only went as far as the Sweet 16. (Wincing at the fact that I effectively just pissed myself off with that joke.)

-Nothing says Spring Training like a sex scandal involving the identity theft of a fringe major leaguer. Who knew it was possible for the Pirates to have one of the most popular stories on Deadspin?

-3 Pirates make the Baseball America Top 100 prospect list. And they are exactly who you'd expect and in the order you'd expect. Also of note, not only is Matt Wieters ranked number 1 overall, of the 10 players picked after the infamous Danny Moskos, there are 7 in the top 100 (including Wieters) and even 3 in the Top 10 overall prospects. If you'll excuse for a minute, I'm off to write my 3,000th piece of hate mail to Dave Littlefield.

-Aaaaand I'm back. That was therapeutic. Anyway, I wanted to link to this article on blogging that I got from the superb Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke? It was a very interesting read, and pretty well represents the mentality of myself and a few other bloggers that I've talked to. Sex sells folks. That's all there is to.

-I know there are articles out there about Pitt's loss last night, but I can't bring myself to read them, so I'm not going to bother linking you to them as I have no idea what they say. In fact I avoided national sports all day. No SportsCenter, PTI nothing. I read a book this morning instead of my usual dose of SC.

-Jeff Saturday is apparently actively campaigning for a spot with the Steelers. Saturday is a 10 year vet, but is one of those savvy guys who can be very effective so long as he is healthy. I could definitely se him fitting in after a switch to guard.

-TRS Site Update Part I: I've decided to shelve the Pirate Player Profile feature. Instead of that, I'm going to put together a few big posts detailing what my statistical predictions are for the Pirates. I'm a definite stathead and like to make those types of predictions, but it wasn't that much fun to write those everyday, and I'm fairly certain that no one gave a damn about my thoughts on each individual player. I'm still a rookie blogger, you live and learn.

-TRS Site Update Part II: I'm also working on coming up with some kind of weekly gimmick for the site. That seems to be a reliable niche most of the successful blogs follow. I have an idea or two, and will try one of them out next week. Let me know if you have any thoughts yourself on any of this stuff.

-TRS Site Update Part III: I'd feel bad if I didn't give an extra plug to D.C. Pro Sports Report and Sports Jabber for the ridiculous amount of traffic sent my way over the last 24 hours since my latest Mock Draft was posted. I still can't believe the ridiculous popularity of these sites and the popularity of Mock Drafts in general, I'm definitely thrilled to see it though.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

NFL Mock Draft III

Being that the last draft I put together on here 18 days ago gave me about half the total traffic this site has ever seen (that's right, 5 people came by!) thanks to the kindness (and shocking popularity) of a few Mock Draft Databases, I figured I'd get that traffic pumping again with another mock draft. If you want to see what I've previously said about your teams in the past two mock drafts, check here for Part I and here for Part II. The conclusion of the combine this week also gives me enough new information to justify a new Mock. For some bizarre reason I really enjoy these things, and love to see any feedback I can get. I don't bother putting any trades in or anything like that and put very little stock in what the free agency rumors are, because there is no sense in playing that guessing game, it just makes things too complicated. So read on and by all means, let me know what you think.

1. Detroit- Matthew Stafford QB GeorgiaTurns out this is one of two first rounders that has now hit the trifecta, with 3 straight selections being the same player. Mainly this is because there just hasn't been much news on Stafford, except for the predictable tidbit that the Lions are very interested in him and devoted more resources to him at the combine than anyone else. Stafford didn't throw at the combine, but the other results were pretty predictable. Like I said last time, "Until I hear that the Lions aren’t looking at the QB position, I just can’t bring myself to slot anyone else into this spot." And that still holds true today.
Alternate Pick: Jason Smith OT Baylor
Mock Draft I: Matthew Stafford
Mock Draft II: Matthew Stafford

2. St. Louis- Jason Smith OT BaylorIt's only appropriate to give the Rams Jason Smith here, as they have previously been pegged with the other two potential top OT's in Eugene Monroe and Andre Smith. As many predicted though, Jason Smith has been the top workout warrior and the most tantalizing and intriguing prospect of the bunch. He is still a bit on the raw side considering he is a former tight end, but its also not as if it is his first year at the position either. By most accounts he projects to the left side better than any other lineman in this draft, and for now that, and some of the many questions surrounding the other Smith, propel Jason to the 2nd pick.
Alternate Pick: Eugene Monroe OT Virginia
Mock Draft I: Andre Smith OT Alabama

Mock Draft II: Eugene Monroe

3. Kansas City- Aaron Curry LB Wake ForestI think this will be one of the more intriguing and potentially draft-altering picks of the draft. There are a lot of ways the Chiefs could go with this pick, but after Curry's dynamite workout at the combine I think he remains the best bet here. Offensive line is certainly a need, and if one of the potential pass rushers, like Brian Orakpo or Everette Brown, have a monster workout or something they could also be a possibility here, as the Chiefs are in desperate need of some pass rushing. However, Curry may well be the most NFL-ready player in this draft, and linebacker has traditionally been one of the safest positions for 1st round picks. And there is also the chance they could go against the Patriot mentality and take Mark Sanchez or Matt Stafford if he happens to be available. Like I said, lots of intrigue here.
Alternate Pick: Eugene Monroe OT Virginia
Mock Draft I: Eugene Monroe
Mock Draft II: Aaron Curry

4. Seattle- B.J. Raji DT Boston CollegeFew players have rocketed up the draft boards more than Raji over the last two months. To me that is always something of a red flag when a guy moves up more after the actual football games are over than he did during the season. Still, the reports on Raji have been nothing short of glowing and perhaps he really was just a bit overlooked during the season at a position that is typically pretty hard to stand out at in college football. This is the first time I've not given the Seahawks Michael Crabtree, and while I certainly think he is still very much a possibility here, Raji's incredible rise coupled with Crabtree's injury and sudden shrinkage of 2 inches makes Raji the more likely option in my mind.
Alternate Pick: Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech
Mock Draft I: Michael Crabtree
Mock Draft II: Michael Crabtree

5. Cleveland- Malcolm Jenkins CB Ohio StateThe Browns have needs all over the board, especially on defense where they are in need of some personnel to fulfill their new 3-4 scheme. While guys like Everette Brown, Brian Orakpo and Aaron Maybin are definitely ideal 3-4 type outside 'backers, I also don't think they have jumped off the page enough yet to be considered top 5 material. Jenkins meanwhile is far and away the top corner in the draft and despite some concerns about his speed, I think he has the ability to be a very good corner, as opposed to a safety which some are suggesting. The Browns are in desperate need of a top-notch corner, and Jenkins also brings some local buzz to go with his prodigious talent.
Alternate Pick: Everette Brown DE/LB Florida State
Mock Draft I: Aaron Curry LB Wake Forest
Mock Draft II: Everette Brown

6. Cincinnati- Eugene Monroe OT VirginiaIt would be so perfect to fit them with the trouble-making Andre Smith, but at some point they have to wise up, right? Offensive Tackle may not necessarily be the Bengals biggest need, though it certainly is a need, but Monroe is way too good to pass up here. Seriously, though, don't rule out Smith. Certainly a lot of NFL teams have soured on him of late because of his idiocy at the combine and at Bama, but it only takes one. An ultra-athletic pass rusher like Everette Brown or Brian Orakpo is also a possibility here, though they would be employed as DE here, not as a 3/4 OLB.
Alternate Pick: Brian Orakpo DE Texas
Mock Draft I: Michael Oher OT Ole Miss
Mock Draft II: Andre Smith OT Alabama

7. Oakland- Michael Crabtree WR Texas TechUgh. Is there a dumber franchise in sports than the Raiders? Okay, sorry, is there a dumber franchise in sports besides the Clippers? I don't think so. That Nnamdi Asomugha contract was absurd. Tommy Kelly's deal was terrible, Javon Walker's deal was unfathomably terrible, they are ruining JaMarcus Russell's unbelievable talent, the list goes on and on. And now they could potentially be ignoring their massive holes all along the offensive line in a draft full of talented O-linemen in order to take a wide receiver. So predictable, yet so dumb. Good luck getting the ball downfield to Crabtree when Russell has 1 second of freedom in the pocket. Roger Goodell really needs to step in and take control of this franchise from Al Davis and force him to bring in a real personnel guy.
Alternate Pick: Andre Smith OT Alabama
Mock Draft I: Aaron Maybin DE/LB Penn State
Mock Draft II: Jason Smith OT Baylor

8. Jacksonville- Andre Smith OT AlabamaI think the Jags are pretty desperate for offensive line help, and would be willing to overlook Smith's very serious character red flags if he slips. However, it is still very early in this process, and Smith has become such a divisive character that I could see him going literally anywhere from a top 3 pick if one of those teams becomes enamored with him to a Randy Moss-like slide that sees him slip uncomfortably for no reason besides character concerns. For now, 8 seems about right even though most agree he physically is the most talented lineman in the draft. If he pans out, this is a steal and a half for the Jags, a team that needs that kind of a break to shore up a shaky unit.
Alternate Pick: Michael Oher OT Ole Miss
Mock Draft I: Michael Oher
Mock Draft II: B.J. Raji DT Boston College

9. Green Bay- Everette Brown OLB Florida StateThe Packers are switching to the 3-4 under guru Dom Capers and need to do a pretty fair amount to address this switch as their personnel doesn't match up that well. They figure to want to get their hands on B.J. Raji or Malcolm Jenkins, but as of now neither one is sitting here, nor are they even close to dropping. Instead they look at the pass rushing OLB position, for which there are 3 pretty similar candidates. Brown probably has the most upside, and many think he will be the best linebacker of the three, even if Orakpo might be the better defensive end.
Alternate Pick: Brian Orakpo DE/OLB Texas
Mock Draft I: Malcolm Jenkins CB Ohio State
Mock Draft II: Malcolm Jenkins

10. San Francisco- Mark Sanchez QB USCI strongly considered a ton of other options here, but the way this draft happened to play out, I can't see the Niners thinking it is a good idea to take a Jeremy Maclin, a Michael Oher, or a Brian Orakpo here. Sanchez is young and still pretty raw, so this situation actually makes a lot of sense for him in that Shaun Hill can hold the fort down for at least a season. Sanchez's upside is quite impressive, he had a very good workout at the combine by all accounts and it still wouldn't surprise me to hear his name being mentioned very seriously as a top 3 pick in the coming weeks. I also find it just about impossible to picture him falling out of the top 10, though I said the same about Brady Quinn 2 years ago.
Alternate Pick: Brian Orakpo DE/OLB Texas
Mock Draft I: Brian Orakpo
Mock Draft II: Mark Sanchez

11. Buffalo- Brian Orakpo DE/OLB Texas
The Bills got off to a great start this past season, but faded down the stretch for a number of reasons. I've seen a lot of Brandon Pettigrew talk here, but I don't think he is even remotely worthy of this pick, as he isn't a Kellen Winslow/ Vernon Davis type athlete. Orakpo meanwhile is a pro-ready stud who could easily go 6 picks higher and should contribute right off the bat.
Alternate Pick: Aaron Maybin DE/OLB Penn State
Mock Draft I: Everette Brown DE/OLB Florida State
Mock Draft II: Brian Orakpo

12. Denver- Brian Cushing LB Southern Cal
The Broncos are a team in the midst of their first philosophy change in over a decade after the dismissal of Mike Shanahan and the hiring of Josh McDaniel. Cushing is the second-best pure linebacker in the draft after Aaron Curry and is probably right about on par with the 3 tweeners. He had a very good workout and would be an immediate impact guy for the Broncos. Most think Denver has to go D in their draft, and Cushing makes the most sense. It will be worth a look, though, to seeif they consider investing in a running back high in the draft for the first time in recorded history. A Beanie Wells or Knowshon Moreno certainly would not be much of a reach here.
Alternate Pick: Chris Wells RB Ohio State
Mock Draft I: B.J. Raji DT Boston College
Mock Draft II: Aaron Maybin DE/LB Penn State

13. Washington- Aaron Maybin DE/LB Penn State
I originally thought that if Michael Oher was here, it would be the slam dunk of all slam dunks, and it still might be before all is said and done. However, I am changing things up this time. The Skins, despite the addition of Jason Taylor, still need a lot of help on defense, especially in the pass rushing department. Oher, meanwhile, seems to be a late first-rounder in some people's eyes (I'll believe that when I see it), and would be a definite reach here. Maybin, meanwhile, has the potential to go much higher if the right team likes him due to the murky status over who the best DE/LB 'tweener really is. Maybin's athleticism and versatility would give the Skins an impressive weapon to use, and if the Albert Haynesworth rumors are true, then the Skins are pretty serious about upgrading that D-Line.
Alternate Pick: Michael Oher OT Ole Miss
Mock Draft I: Michael Johnson DE Georgia Tech
Mock Draft II: Michael Oher

14. New Orleans- Vontae Davis CB Illinois
When the Saints turn comes up, the best defensive player on the board should immeidately be the player of choice, no matter what the position on that side of the ball. In this case, Davis slips a little bit, but a pass-rushing end, a tough middle linebacker or a sturdy lineman could all be the choice as well. Davis is an ultra-athletic player with very good speed. He is your prototypical defensive back workout warrior and by the time the draft rolls around, I wouldn't bat an eyelash if he had shot up the boards to higher than 14.
Alternate Pick: Rey Maualuga LB USC
Mock Draft I: Rey Maualuga
Mock Draft II: Vontae Davis

15. Houston- Robert Ayers DE Tennessee
Another one of your typical workout warriors, Ayers has been phenomenal in the post-season and is making NFL scouts salivate at the thought of him bursting off the D-Line and wreaking havoc in the opposing backfield. He could be especially dangerous in Houston opposite the amazing Super Mario Williams, who is constantly demanding double teams. The Texans could also look at shoring up the secondary or maybe even considering an offenisve talent like Beanie Wells or Jeremy Maclin who are still on the board in this case.
Alternate Pick: Tyson Jackson DE LSU
Mock Draft I: Vontae Davis CB Illinois
Mock Draft II: Brian Cushing

16. San Diego- Rey Maualuga LB Southern Cal
This is another one of those picks that has become popular on a lot of sites, and just seems to make too much sense not to happen. Maualuga flat out plays, and as long as his tweaked hamstring at the combine is determined to be just that and nothing more serious, I think the Chargers would love to add a player of his caliber to the middle of their defense, giving them a stay-at-home playmaker alongside Shawn Merriman, who goes all over the field in his duties. I think franchising Darren Sproles put to rest the first round running back talk, but they are a talented enough squad that they could just snag whoever the best player on the board is and try to find ways to plug that player in. In that case, a guy like Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin or Tyson Jackson could come into play.
Alternate Pick: Tyson Jackson DE LSU
Mock Draft I: James Laurinaitis LB Ohio State
Mock Draft II: Knowshon Moreno RB Georgia

17. New York Jets- Michael Oher OT Ole Miss
Oher takes a surprising slip to the Jets, but I think this is about where he belongs based on what I've read from many scouts who think he could be a big-time tumbler on draft day. OT may not be the biggest need on the Jets wish list, but I think he is the best option for them here. This is also a possible landing spot if Mark Sanchez has to suffer through the Aaron Rodgers Experience (a QB who slips from top pick to mid-to-late first round pick as everyone in New York watches in horror), an affliction which strikes roughly every other year.
Alternate Pick: D.J. Moore CB Vanderbilt
Mock Draft I: Tyson Jackson DE LSU
Mock Draft II: Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri

18. Chicago- Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri
If Maclin slips, I think the Bears will deploy Devin Hester to spring up to the podium to announce this pick because they'll want to get this guy in a Bears uni as fast as possible. Sure, Da Bears need an upgrade in numerous aspects of their defense, but Maclin is a difference making receiver who could easily go 10 spots higher. In fact, I'm not convinced he will definitively be behind Crabtree by the time the big day rolls around. His physical measurables are almost certainly better than the Texas Tech star's.
Alternate Pick: Eben Britton OT Arizona
Mock Draft I: Tyson Jackson DE LSU
Mock Draft II: Jeremy Maclin

19. Tampa Bay- D.J. Moore CB Vanderbilt
The Bucs are a tough team to read, at least in part because its difficult to gauge how Raheem Morris will want to guide the team in his first offseason in charge. I considered players like Beanie Wells and Peria Jerry, but in the end, the Bucs have a strong need in their secondary, and I think it is too soon after the Cadillac Williams misfire to expect another first round back, especially when there figure to be at least a few pretty solid ones available in Round 2. It also remains to be seen how high Jerry really grades out.
Alternate Pick: Chris "Beanie" Wells RB Ohio State
Mock Draft I: Knowshon Moreno RB Georgia
Mock Draft II: Peria Jerry DT Ole Miss

20. Detroit- Eben Britton OT Arizona

The Lions have needs all over the football field, but finding a way to at least add some talent to their offensive line is an absolute must, especially if they invest in a franchise QB like Stafford or Sanchez at the top of the draft. Britton is a notch below the top tier guys, but he is a solid talent and given the high demand for offensive linemen, expect him to go around here for someone like the Lions who are willing to reach for a player they like. This would also mirror the Falcons very successful plan of a season ago, and that worked out pretty well I'd say.
Alternate Pick: Clay Matthews LB USC
Mock Draft I: Eben Britton
Mock Draft II: Rey Maualuga LB USC
21. Philadelphia- Chris "Beanie" Wells RB Ohio State
Wells is a very, very talented running back, but this continues a recent trend of good backs who aren't quite franchise backs sliding in the draft. Still, there is no question in my mind that Philly would be a great spot for Wells. If he went too high he might be forced to carry the load, and I'm not convinced he'll ever be a 300 carry back. With the Eagles, though, he gets to complement Brian Westbrook for a couple seasons, hopefully staying healthy, while also extending Westbrook's career. He would be a nice weapon to add to Donovan McNabb's arsenal, for sure. Oddly, this is the third straight draft I've had Wells fall to the Eagles. A little strange, I know and certainly not planned.
Alternate Pick: William Beatty OL Connecticut
Mock Draft I: Chris "Beanie" Wells
Mock Draft II: Chris "Beanie" Wells

22. Minnesota- Alex Mack C California
Sorry to disappoint, Steeler fans, but Mack's stock is starting on the uptick these days. So much so that I am beginning to doubt that he'll be there when the times comes. I'm not sold that he goes this high, its just how things happen in this particular mock. The Vikings are sort of negotiating to bring back Matt Birk, but he has maybe one season left in the tank, and I don't even buy that. Mack can either back up Birk and learn the ropes from him or make a temporary switch to guard (something that many think he should do anyway) for the Vikes. Either way, he goes off the board way before our black and gold can even think about him.
Alternate Pick: Percy Harvin WR Florida
Mock Draft I: Mark Sanchez QB USC
Mock Draft II: Josh Freeman QB Kansas State

23. New England- Tyson Jackson DE LSU

Okay, this might have been an oversight on my part. Jackson is probably too good to slip this far and I definitely thought about giving him to more than one team before this slot. The problem is, Jackson isn't the game changer that many teams are looking for in the DE position. And he is probably better suited to a 3-4 than a 4-3. The Pats figure to absolutely gobble him up on the off-chance he lasts this far. Otherwise I think the Patsies could look at someone like Clay Matthews or maybe a versatile playmaker like Percy Harvin. Don't think that Bill Belicheck has any intention of missing out on this Wildcat/ Single Wing type stuff. I think Harvin could definitely fulfill that role, and I think Pat White could also wind up a Patriot before its all over, too.
Alternate Pick: Clay Matthews LB USC
Mock Draft I: Clay Matthews
Mock Draft II: Brian Cushing LB USC

24. Atlanta- Brandon Pettigrew TE Oklahoma State
Again, this is a pick that just makes an infinite amount of sense. I can't possibly imagine the Falcons passing on the ultimate security blanket for Matt Ryan. Pettigrew is going to slip from where many originally projected him because his combine numbers were nothing special. If anything they were a little disappointing. I'm not that surprised. He seems more like a Heath Miller type from what I saw of him rather than an Antonio Gates type. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with a Heath Miller, he's just not a gamebreaker. Other than that, he's wonderful to have.
Alternate Pick: Peria Jerry DT Ole Miss
Mock Draft I: Peria Jerry
Mock Draft II: Brandon Pettigrew

25. Miami- Alphonso Smith CB Wake Forest
The Fins, despite the playoff berth this past season, still have a number of needs to fill. Looking at their roster, this team really did do it with smoke and mirrors for much of last season. The biggest need appears to be the secondary as a whole. There, Alphonso Smith is a very good pick for the back of the first round. He is a bit undersized, but has great speed and superb cover skills. He might be the best total corner in the draft, and if he had Malcolm Jenkins' body he'd be fighting him for a spot in the top 5 picks.
Alternate Pick: Darrius Heyward-Bey WR Maryland
Mock Draft I: D.J. Moore CB Vanderbilt
Mock Draft II: D.J. Moore CB Vanderbilt

26. Baltimore- Clay Matthews LB USC
For now, I pretty much have to assume that Bart Scott is probably gone. They might just get Ray-Ray to renew, but I can't see Scott, too. In fact, I think they are both gone. In that case the linebacker position becomes a huge need, and that's where Clay Matthews comes in to play. The Birds may also look at acquiring some help for Joe Flacco, especially if all these receivers keep slipping down the draft board.
Alternate Pick: Percy Harvin WR Florida
Mock Draft I: Percy Harvin
Mock Draft II: James Laurinaitis LB Ohio State

27. Indianapolis- Darrius Heyward-Bey WR Maryland

Marvin Harrison is likely gonzo in Indy, and that leaves the Colts a little thin on the receiving depth chart. Sure, they have other needs, but the days of Peyton Manning being able to throw to literally anybody are long gone. Beefing up the defense is also a traditional area of interest for the Colts every draft day, but I think they need to add some weapons on the offense. With Heyward-Bey falling I don't think that the Colts can pass him up.
Alternate Pick: Peria Jerry DT Ole Miss
Mock Draft I: Sen'Drick Marks DT Auburn
Mock Draft II: Alphonso Smith CB wake Forest

28. Philadelphia- William Beatty OT Connecticut
However they do it, the Eagles almost certainly have to add some beef to the offensive tackle position. Adding Wells at 21 was a nice luxury pick, but at 28 reaching for Beatty, who is probably more like a second round talent, isn't a bad move at all.
Alternate Pick: Larry English LB Northern Illinois
Mock Draft I: Brandon Pettigrew TE Oklahoma State
Mock Draft II: Eben Britton OT Arizona

29. New York Giants- Percy Harvin WR Florida
The Boys in Blue, despite coming off a spectacular season, have a few big-time needs they'd love to address. The Plax Burress situation is still very much up in the air, but I fully expect him to never pull the Giants jersey on again. They could look at Hakeem Nicks or Harvin here or even Heyward-Bey if he falls, but they need to find a playmaker at some point in this draft. I'm not sure that Harvin is capable of an 80 catch season, but he is dangerous with the ball, probably more so than just about any other player in this draft, and that may be enough to get him a close inspection from the G-Men. They also could look to upgrade a few different spots on defense, especially at defensive end and middle linebacker.
Alternate Pick: James Laurinaitis LB Ohio State
Mock Draft I: Darrius Heyward-Bey WR Maryland
Mock Draft II: Clint Sintim LB Virginia

30. Tennessee- Peria Jerry DT Ole Miss
This pick is used with the strong belief that Albert Haynesworth is on his way out of Nashville. Jerry is a monster of a player and has a fair amount of upside to his game. He's not going to be viewed as a replacement for Haynesworth, as he isn't that type of impact player, but he is capable of taking quality snaps for a contending team like the Titans. Tennessee also could work to grab a passing game weapon for Kerry Collins.
Alternate Pick: Hakeem Nicks WR North Carolina
Mock Draft I: Darrius Heyward-Bey WR Maryland
Mock Draft II: Percy Harvin WR Florida

31. Arizona- Knowshon Moreno RB Georgia
LeSean McCoy is all sorts of pissed right now. The running backs fall and Zona snags themselves a top 20 talent. I personally think Moreno is at least the equal of Beanie Wells, but think Wells will go ahead of him. Moreno immediately steps into a big role for the Cards. I don't think its a given Arizona goes for a back, though, as many people do. They certainly need defensive help, and don't rule out Russ Grimm talking Whiz into more offensive line help, either.
Alternate Pick: Michael Johnson DE Georgia Tech
Mock Draft I: Duke Robinson G Oklahoma
Mock Draft II: LeSean McCoy RB Pitt

32. Pittsburgh- Duke Robinson OL Oklahoma
Many are of the belief that the Steelers take whoever the best OL on the board is. I'm not necessarily a fan of that belief, but I think in this case it is the direction they must go. It could be tough to pass on Hakeem Nicks, Percy Harvin and Darrius Heyward-Bey if any of them are there (only Nicks is in this case and I'm not big on him). It also could be interesting if they become enamored with one of the next level of corners, guys like Utah's Sean Smith. That said, I think Robinson is on the same plane as those guys, and that receiver or corner are more likely to still have a quality player available at the end of the second round than offensive line where teams often reach for players.
Alternate Pick: Sean Smith CB Utah
Mock Draft I: Alex Mack C California
Mock Draft II: Alex Mack C California

And that's a wrap folks. Thanks for stopping by, and though I doubt anybody read all of these 4,495 words, thanks for whatever interest you took in my Mock Draft. Please feel free to let me know any criticisms or thoughts you might have about this draft. We'll do this again in a couple weeks after the buzz of free agency has settled and some individual workouts have passed and the boards are shaken up again.

Pitt Gets Embarassed By The Friars

Well that sure was some run at number 1 wasn't it? Good lord Pitt.

In case you somehow missed it... well consider yourself very, very lucky. Watching this was so painful it made watching President Obama's hour long applause-fest feel like a Robin Williams comedy special by comparison.

I mean I know that the Big East is deep and all, but this is friggin' ridiculous. There's no way Pitt should lose to that team. And if they are that flummoxed by a 2-3 zone from the Friars, I mean what the hell is it gonna be like if we match up against an athletic top-ranked squad in the tourney who switches to zone because they know we have trouble with it? I don't even want to think about it.

DeJuan Blair was in foul trouble for breathing the wrong way on a few of the different Friars. These worthless damn refs, Jamie Luckie, J.D. Collins and Mike Kitts apparently thought this was a women's game they were calling such ticky tack bull shit fouls. What a joke. Just an abysmally awful job by that worthless crew and it was a miracle I didn't put my foot through my TV. It got so bad I went online and tried to figure out what Ed Hightower was doing that prevented him from reffing the game instead of these guys, who apparently were fresh out of reffing school or something.

Still, we shouldn't make these types of excuses. Providence had no business even being in that game enough for the refs to screw us over (sorry can't help myself). But Pitt played an awful, awful game themselves. DeJuan's constant yapping to the refs after foul calls sure as hell isn't helping his cause. He was whining like he was Jim Boeheim's illegitimate son. Hey, DeJuan, coaches can pull that kinda stuff off, but I've never once seen it help a player get a call. Just shut your mouth and let Jamie do the talking. You showing up the refs is only going to irritate these grudge-bearing SOB's and make them call more on you. Some day maybe he'll learn that.

In addition, Pitt's offensive play was pretty awful. Sam's shot was only so-so, and when DeJuan is out, we need bigger numbers from him. As usual, Levance's shot was cold, and he wasn't having much luck dishing the rock, either. Ashton Gibbs was absolute money, but the other bench guys like Brad Wanamakerand Gil Brown might as well not have made the trip to Providence, they were worthless. Okay I guess Wanny was okay, but he drives me batty sometimes and I'm still pretty irritable, but Gil Brown pulled another disappearing act. He does that more than Houdini.

I also wasn't a big fan of the constant emphasis on the 3's. Only Ashton Gibbs and maybe Jermaine Dixon should be given free reign to launch treys. And while Gibbs, as I said, was doing his best Jason Kapono impersonation going 4/6 on his 3's, Dixon took (and missed) just 1 attempt. The rest of the squad was just 3/12 including 1/4 from Sam I Am. It drives me batty that Sam has altered his game so much to include these long-range shots. I know he's still scoring almost exactly as much as he did last year, but it just doesn't feel as effective to me. I understand him trying to develop some range to his game, but this just isn't working out. He's so much more effective slashing to the hope and banging around inside, I can't fathom going away from that. Especially when you consider that this season he is matched up often against players who are smaller than the guys he dominated last year now that he is playing a lot of small forward. Post those guys up, use your ridiculous physicality to punish them.

Above all else, though, the turnovers just killed Pitt. Sam and DeJuan had a ridiculous 9 turnovers. Just not taking care of the ball. And on the opposite end the defensive prowess Pitt usually displays just wasn't there at all. Providence employed a committee scoring approach mostly with 5 guys in double digits. They also took care of the ball.

Clearly this Pitt team still has some work to do, and while every team has these weird, abberation games, this team was just a mess last night and with 3 games to go, we suddenly have accumulated more questions about this squad. Not what I wanted to see.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Breaking Down The Potential Rotation

Okay this whole previewing the Pirates thing player-by-player thing is starting to get to me a little bit. Its just too...slow for my tastes. But this is my first time doing this sort of thing on my blog, and I have every intention of seeing it through to the end, but at the same time I want to cheat a little bit with regard to one of the most hotly contended positions on the roster, the starting pitchers.

And, in case you haven't noticed, I'm a definite math nut and like to size things up based on odds and percentages and what not, so I figured I'd give a percentage chance for each of the 10 "contenders" that Joe Kerrigan designated as potential starter candidates, along with a bit of an anecdote about each player. I also through out an over/under for each starter for the number of starts they make with the Bucs. Let me know which way you'd wager.

Paul MaholmI've got to be honest, I did not see Maholm's breakout season coming last year, and I'm still not 100% sold that he is as good as his numbers indicate last year. I do think he's a definite very solid 3/4 starter, but when I watch him pitch I just don't see your typical ace material. But, hey, I'd love for him to keep proving me wrong.

There is absolutely no doubt though that Maholm is the Bucs ace for this season, will start every fifth day as long as his arm is healthy, and is as steady a pitcher as I can remember seeing wearing the black and gold.
Opening Day Rotation: 100%
Over/Under on season starts: 29.5

Ian Snell
If there is a player in this mix with ace-like potential (and I'm not sure that there is), it's most definitely Snell. He has a nasty demeanor to go with nasty stuff a solid, power arm and the ability to dominate when he's rolling. Unfortunately, Snell has yet to fully harness his abilities and his temperment, as evidenced by his incredibly disappointing 2008 season.

Snell figures to be given a lot of chances to right his ship given his extremely impressive upside. He also has become a workhorse with 3 straight 31+ start seasons. If he's healthy, he'll be out there.
Opening Day Rotation: 100%
Over/Under on season starts: 29.5

Zach Duke
I covered Duke just the other day in the previews, so I'm not going to spend much time rehashing him here. I just wanted to add that this percentage is on the organization's overall feeling about Duke, not my own personal. Reports are that he mostly has an opening day roster spot mostly sewn up. I'm not entirely sure I agree with this, but that's the rumor.
Opening Day Rotation: 95%
Over/Under on season starts: 25.5

Tom Gorzelanny
Gorzo is one of the more interesting cases on the roster. Its hard to get a good read on where the Pirates front office really stands on him. Certainly he had quite a promising 2007 season, but he was incredibly lackluster last season and new management has seen next to zero quality performance from Gorzo since they took over.
He is reportedly in better shape this spring, which is excellent to hear considering he had some issues with his conditioning(as you can see above). I mean, he was never in danger of becoming the next Jimmy Anderson, but it was something of a concern and a definite target on his back when he struggled last year. If Gorzo gets an opening day rotation spot, he could well end up putting 30 starts and close to 200 innings again. Or, he could disappoint in the spring games, end up in AAA early and not be able to crack a suddenly deeper Pirate staff for quite some time.
Opening Day Rotation: 70%
Over/Under on season starts: 20.5

Ross Ohlendorf
Given Ohlendorf's pedigree and his overall abilities I think the Pirates would very much like to slot Ohlendorf into the back of their rotation, and barring an absolute collapse or an impressive spring by McCutchen or Karstens or Gorzo or all of them, I think that odds are good they will give him at least a shot. Ohlendorf also gives the Pirates another potential power arm in the rotation, something to really consider when you figure there are probably two crafty lefty types with spots assured. Having a contrast like Ross would be a nice change of pace, similar to Ian Snell.
Opening Day Rotation:
Over/Under on season starts: 22.5

Jeff Karstens
Karstens made one hell of a debut in the Burgh last season, nearly throwing a perfect game in his second start after an almost-as-impressive performance in his first start. He came back to Earth a bit as the season wore on, but his surprising showing certainly had to catch the attention of the Pirates front office.

However, its more than likely that the red-hot debut was simply Karstens playing above his means in a league that didn't know what to expect from him. He doesn't have anything flashy in his repetoire, but definitely is a good depth guy to have and certainly deserves at least a shot at a rotation role. I'm not sure he'll get it, and he could be looking at a long relief role or a stint in Indy, but there's little question he figures to spend some time in Pittsburgh at some point.
Opening Day Rotation:
Over/Under on season starts: 14.5

Daniel McCutchen
McCutchen was yet another piece in the Xavier Nady trade that I think will end up looking like a bargain if even one of McCutchen and the previous two starters ends up turning into a solid piece in the rotation. I'm not yet sure that the other McCutchen is really ready for the show yet, as his AAA numbers after the trade were only mediocre.

Given how much major league rotations change over the course of a season, I fully expect we'll see Daniel in Pittsburgh at some point this season, but I think he'll need some seasoning first.
Opening Day Rotation: 15%
Over/Under on season starts: 8.5

Phil Dumatrait

Dumatrait was a big-time overachiever last season after being picked off the scrap heap from Cincinnati. However, his success was short-lived due to unfortunate injury. It's hard to get a bead on him this season, especially considering he was originally expected to be healthy for camp, then wasn't going to be, then was sorta healthy and could be a reliever but not a starter, and then finally was deemed to be a starter candidate. I'm not sure I buy it. I think Dumatrait is a nice depth piece to have, but he has taken a major tumble from where he was last summer before his injury on the organizational depth chart, and I think ends up as the long reliever on April 6.
Opening Day Rotation: 5%
Over/Under on season starts: 6.5

Jason Davis
There's basically no conceivable way he ends up in the Opening Day rotation barring some sort of plague or catastrophe. I suppose that, with another rash of injuries like the one that caused the Yoslan Herrera disaster of a year ago we could see him in the Burgh, but let's all just keep our fingers crossed that he spends the year toeing the rubber in Indy, or at most working as long man for the Pirates for a brief stint. Even that would be a little frightening.
Opening Day Rotation: 0%
Over/Under on season starts: 0.5

Jimmy Barthmaier

Barthmaier was basically thrown into this mix by Joe Kerrigan to give them an even 10 guys in their spring rotation. He'll be gone as soon as the schedule evens out and the other starters stretch their arms out enough that his services aren't needed. Similar to Davis, I don't want him anywhere near John Russell's starting lineup card.
Opening Day Rotation: 0%
Over/Under on season starts: 0.5

Player Profile 6: Sean Burnett

This is part 6 of roughly 38 that will cover the different players who I think could potentially make the Bucs' Opening Day Roster. I'll be examining what kind of season I expect from them at the major league level, some of the factors that are in play for them and even putting together a bit of a statistical projection to cap things off. Today we will be covering young, crooked-hat wearing, lefty reliever Sean Burnett. If you want to check out past editions, click here. Let's get to it:
Player: Sean Burnett
Position: Left-handed Reliever
Once upon a time, Sean Burnett was viewed as a legit, cream-of-the-crop type prospect for the Pirates, and even put together a solid call-up season at just 22 years old to get the hype going even more. But then, as seems to happen to anyone and everyone who pitches in the Pirates organization, he tore up his arm, requiring the dreaded TJ surgery. It was terrible to see and even led to him seemingly losing it as a starting pitcher. He struggled through AAA in 06 and 07 and when Dunce Littlefield was ousted after the 07 season, new management came in with a fresh idea for the young lefty who'd had continued consistency and health issues: Relief.

Burnett, in his first season in the role in 2008, took to the role pretty well considering his lack of experience with such situations. He put together 58 big-league appearances (to go along with 12 minor league appearances) and had a 4.76 ERA and a 1.606 WHIP in 56 2/3 Innings.

Now, I don't have to tell you those numbers aren't anything special. But if you watched Burnett at all it was pretty evident that the kid definitely has the stuff to stick as a solid middle reliever and should only get better as he becomes more acclimated to the relief roles. The WHIP definitely needs to come down big-time, and I think it will. Even if he is hit similarly to last year, a fair bet considering his only slightly above-average BABIP of .311, I think his walks come down. That was the biggest red flag I had with him last season, was the 34 free passes issued in just 56 2/3 innings. That's just way too many for a middle reliever who isn't going to blow anybody away with his stuff. Since the surgery it is pretty apparent looking at both his starting and relieving stats that Burnett has lost a bit of the control that once made him look like a solid prospect. Therefore, we need to hope new pitching coach Joe Kerrigan's aggressive attitude toward pitching and desire to go inside will have a positive effect on Burnett in this regard. I also remember thinking that often times Burnett would pick at batters last season, trying to catch the corners and too often missing. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, in fact when used effectively it can give the pitcher an edge. But Burnett's efforts at this probably hindered him more than it helped, and I think having a full season of experience as well as a new coach could help him make the adjustments to cut down on these types of mistakes.

One definite positive in my mind was the surprisingly high K/9 IP ratio. Burnett has never had a rep of being a guy who can strike a lot of people out, not even pre-surgery. But he had a very respectable 42 K's in his 56 2/3 IP last season. Those kind of numbers definitely give you some hope for this kid if that control comes around.

One other factor worth considering when trying to gauge Burnett's season is the role he'll play. He is a virtual lock to have an Opening Day job in my mind and figures to start as the number 2 lefty in the pen behind John Grabow and therefore serve in middle relief, pitching primarily between the 5th and 7th innings. However, it seems like there have been John Grabow trade rumors circulating since the moment the Pirates called the poor guy up in 2003. Obviously that's an exaggeration, but Grabow's solid relief work makes him a likely trade candidate considering that there is only so much value a terrible team can get out of a good reliever, so its been something of a miracle that Grabow has been here this long. However, given his relatively affordable contract for 2.3 million dollars and that he has arbitration coming one more time, I think this is the year, and if the Pirates don't get off to a good start, he could go pretty early in the season and Burnett would be a candidate numero uno to take Grabow's vacated spot as the top lefty. That would be a very interesting situation to see and it would also give us an idea of how the Pirates top brass truly views Burnett.
Predicted 2009 Stats: 67 G 69 IP 4.30 ERA 1.420 WHIP 44 K 2-4 Record 1 Save
Assuming Full Health, Chance of Being on the Opening Day Roster: 100%
On Deck: Ian Snell

Pitt Back on Top in the Polls

As was widely expected, our Pitt Panthers hoops team ascended back to the number 1 spot in the nation, their second stint at the top this season. This is the third week they have been voted number 1, which is something they'd never previously achieved in either the AP or the Coaches' poll prior to this year. Pretty amazing times to be a fan of Pitt hoops.

Also in the rankings, UConn, whom the Panthers knocked off last Monday at the Huskies home court, came in at number 2, followed by Oklahoma and North Carolina. I was a little surprised Memphis didn't leapfrog either UNC or Oklahoma given that they haven't lost since mid-December and 3 of the 4 teams in front of them lost.

What was also weird was that UConn had a vote in each poll and Oklahoma had 2 votes in the AP poll. I've got to assume the UConn press writer and Jim Calhoun are to blame for the Huskies getting a vote in each. As for Oklahoma getting two votes, I can't figure how you could get a second writer justify voting for them. Gotta be another Big 12 guy looking to prop up his conference right? What a joke. Whatever.

Also in the polls, the Big East lands 3 additional teams in the AP Top 10, giving them an amazing half the top 10. Louisville is at 6, Marquette at 8 and Nova at 10. Amazing. Unfortunately that was the end of the Big East squads in the top 25 even though I guarantee squads like Syracuse and West Virginia could knock off everyone in the last 10 spots in both polls. The records just hurt them too much I guess.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscars 09- TRS Style

The Oscars air tonight, in case you weren’t aware, and while I typically try to avoid straying too much from sports and Pittsburgh-related topics, I felt that this was a worthy exception. I'm a pretty big movie fan and wanted to weigh in with my thoughts on the year's best movies.

By my count, I watched 38 movies that came out in 2008, which I think is a pretty respectable number. Included in this are 4 of the 5 Best Picture Nominees, all 5 Best Actor Nominees, 4 of 5 Best Supporting Actor Nominees, strangely just 1 of the 5 Best Actress Nominees, and 4 of 5 Best Supporting Actress Nominees. Aside from the Best Actress Nominees I think that's pretty good.

So with that said, I'd be upset if I didn't make some predictions, along with adding who I think should win each award.
Best Picture:
Its no secret that Slumdog is the heavy favorite going into this race. I enjoyed the movie, I really did, and thought it was extremely well done and better than many past Best Picture winners (looking squarely at Crash). But at the same time, my favorite move of the year was Frost/Nixon. Hard to pinpoint one reason, besides Frank Langella, but I just thought the story was very well done and I liked seeing the depths of the Nixon character for a change.
Who I Think Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Who I Think Should Win: Frost/Nixon

Best Actor:

This is a loaded category here. Sean Penn was downright amazing in Milk, you couldn't help but feel this was about a lot more than wrestling for Mickey Rourke, and as I said, Langella's performance absorbed me. In many other years, I think any one of these three would have walked away with the Oscar. But not this year. I also was stunned by the impressive Richard Jenkins performance in The Visitor, though I loathed Benjamin Button and thought Brad Pitt was only okay and that Clint Eastwood should've taken his spot here. Personally, though, I am pulling for an upset with Frank Langella taking home the Gold Fella. I was just blown away by his work. Maybe its because I'm used to Sean Penn's amazing talents, but I was expecting that kind of performance from him and it might have diminished it a bit.
Who I Think Will Win: Sean Penn
Who I Think Should Win: Frank Langella

Best Actress:
As I mentioned, this one is hard for me, as I have only seen Meryl Streep in Doubt among the 5 contenders. Still, it seems likely that it is mostly a two-horse race between Streep and Winslet. Winslet figures to get the edge in my mind because she is quickly turning into the next Streep with this being her sixth nomination and yet no wins. Meryl has 2 W's in about a thousands nominations. I think Kate cuts in to her lead.
Who I Think Will Win: Kate Winslet
Who I Think Should Win: Meryl Streep

Best Supporting Actor:
I don't know that there has ever been a more sewn-up award. If Heath doesn't win this thing, I'm going to go insane. It was not only a great performance, but it was by one of the brightest young talents around. The guy deserves an Oscar and has deserved one for quite some time.
Who I Think Will Win: Heath Ledger
Who I Think Should Win: Heath Ledger

Best Supporting Actress:
For some reason everyone associates this with being an upset pick all the time. Maybe its just that too often they don't have a good read on what the Academy values in a secondary role. And rarely do I remember there being a heavy favorite for this award. Whatever the case, it is a wide open field again. This was a tough one for me, so let's rule them out one-by-one. First, I didn't see Vicky Cristina Barcelona, so I can't throw my support behind Penelope Cruz (though she probably is the favorite). I can't support anything involving Benjamin Button, so sorry Taraji Hanson, thoug you were solid. Marisa Tomei was good in the Wrestler but I never once thought it was an award-winning performance. So we're left with the two Doubt performances. I like Amy Adams a lot and think she's a good talent, but Viola Davis not only was better, she had the better role and the better scenes.
Who I Think Will Win: Viola Davis
Who I Think Should Win: Viola Davis

I don't bother with the rest of the predictions. They are more trouble than they are worth in all honesty, though I will say this: The Dark Knight is up for 8 Oscars, if it doesn't win at least 4 (including Heath's automatic W for Supporting Actor) I am going to be very upset. Let's be honest here, too. It should probably have 10 noms. It's ridiculous it didn't get Chris Nolan a Best Director nod and how does the best superhero movie with costumed people everywhere not at least get considered for Best Costume Design. Anyway, I don't see it winning Art Direction, but the other 7 it has at least a decent shot for. Cinematography should win, it should win at least one (and hopefully both) sound ones, it could win Visual Effects (though I wouldn't mind seeing the visually inspired Iron Man win one), and it will be in a dog fight with Button for Makeup. Still, I think the second highest grossing movie in US history deserve 4 Oscars. That's not too much to ask is it? Especially when only 1 is in the major category.

Here are my Power Rankings For the 38 Movies I saw this year. They are grouped of course, along with comments on a few.
The Best of the Best
1 Frost/ Nixon- Frank Langella is amazing in this.
2 Slumdog Millionaire- I was skeptical, but this came through.
3 The Dark Knight- Heath was great, but no one gives much love to Bale, Eckhart, and the Nolans. They put the movie over the top.
4 Milk- Sean Penn is the best.
5 The Wrestler- No one could have pulled this off but Mickey Rourke.
6 Gran Torino- Criminally ignored by the Oscars.

Very Memorable, But Not Quite Great
7 Forgetting Sarah Marshall- Very underrated. Hysterical movie.
8 Pineapple Express
9 Iron Man
10 Step Brothers
11 Tropic Thunder- Downey and Cruise made this movie 1000 times better than it should've been.
12 The Visitor- Richard Jenkins is the only reason this movie makes it here.
13 Zack and Miri Make A Porno

Kept Me Interested
14 Doubt
15 21
16 Hancock
17 The Hammer- One of the most under-the-radar movies of the year. Watch it if you get the chance
18 Role Models
19 Seven Pounds
20 Vantage Point

Would Have Been Better If They Were Less Hyped Up
21 Body Of Lies
22 Quantum of Solace- This Bond just didn't satisfy me for some reason.
23 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull- Blah.

Worthy of Matinee Price
24 Stop-Loss
25 The House Bunny- Tricked into seeing by my girlfriend. Turned out to be pretty funny.
26 The Incredible Hulk- I'm a comic book nerd so I liked this more than most.

Most Overrated Movie. Ever.
27 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button- Words cannot describe how much this movie disappointed me. Way too long and Brad Pitt did next to nothing. How was he better than Eastwood's Gran Torino guy?

Not Terrible But I Wanted More Out Of Them
28 The Rocker- Dwight Schrute was funny at least. Though he was naked a little too much.
29 Wanted
30 Valkyrie
31 Traitor- I thought this looked great, but it was an average flick.

The Movie That Gave Me A Headache
32 Cloverfield- Did they really need to make it hand-held camera the entire time? I understand what they are trying to do, but that was downright unwatchable in the theater.

The Trainwrecks

33 The X Files: I Want to Believe
34 Righteous Kill- I'm not ready for a world where a Pacino/ De Niro movie flops. I'm just not.
35 College
36 The Happening- Ironic name considering nothing happens.
37 Mirrors- Jack Bauer, please just stick to 24 things. Instead of this, why weren't you making the 24 movie? That's the real question here.

The Trainwrecks That Spilled Nuclear Waste Everywhere
38 88 Minutes- Can someone please stop Al Pacino from making movies?
39 Jumper- Absolutely dreadful. Anakin Skywalker and the OC Girl and for some reason Diane Lane and Samuel L all were useless to stop this thing from being an unmitigated, Detroit-Lions level disaster.

Busy Day In The Burgh

Sorry for the inexcusable lack of a post yesterday, but all sorts of stuff happening in the Burgh, in addition to the usual requirements of the college student's weekend (read: drinking heavily at the bar) made yesterday go by in a blur. So let's recap, in a sorta-chronological way what went down in the last 24 hours:

-The Penguins took the early shift, matching up with the hated Philadelphia Flyers. The game got off to its usual chippy start. The Pens were down 1-zip at the end of the first, but it was gonna take a lot more than that to win this game, so there was still plenty of hope. It was also good to see yet another Godard-Cote fight. Always a good old time there. The second period turned into a dandy, though, as the Pens threw up a 3 spot on the Cryers thanks to unanswered goals from Sid, Geno, and Russie. It was a hell of a period and you had to feel damn good. The Flower was looking good and the D was playing some solid puck. Maybe this Dan Bylsma is the right guy for the job after all.

In fashion typical of this Penguins season, though, this sucker was far from over. Ryan Whitney, who I think was victimized by some Body Snatchers and somehow his body ended up with the abilities of Josef Melichar, practically throws the puck into his own net when he tosses one to Mike Richards on the PK. The Flower gets pwned. The D craps the bed some more and after the Flyers get the game tied up at 4, the Kid has to go to work. Thanfully, Marty Biron momentarily loses his mind, tries to play a puck that comes into his own zone, for some dumb reason picks it up with his glove halfway out to the damn blue line even though Pascal and the Kid are charging and this would be a delay of game penalty. He then somehow only gets dumber, and instead of just taking a two-minute penalty he tosses the puck aside even though he's at least 20 feet from the goal and two Pens are in the zone. Dupuis pokes it to Sid who redirects it into an empty net. Sid goes bananas after scoring just to piss the Filthadelphia fans off a little more. I love it. 5-4 Pens. Ball game.

For the Pens this was a ha-yooge W. They are still 4 points out of 8th, but 8th is no longer the hot Florida Panthers or the tough Buffalo Sabres. Nope, its now the someone-needs-to-take-them-out-back-and-put-them-out-of-their-misery New York Rangers. I'm more worried about catching Carolina than New York. That team's a damn mess.

The Pens played again today in a game that literally just wrapped. We'll get to that in a bit.

-We had a nice little lull yesterday after the big Pens W until 7:00 when Pitt took on the DePaul Detroit Lions...I mean the DePaul Blue Demons. Hmm...let's see Pitt is 24-2, 11-2 in the Big East and number 4 in the country and playing at home in an arena that gives one of the biggest homecourt advantages in basketball. DePaul is 0-for-their-life in the Big East and probably couldn't beat some of the Pitt branch campus basketball teams right now. Needless to say, the expectations for a good game were quite low and they weren't even fulfilled.

DeJuan Blair was a one-man wrecking crew early. He had 50 rebounds in the first half. Maybe not, but it felt like it. The guy is an absolute beast, the best offensive rebounder I have ever seen in college hoops. The Grizzly Blair would play just 23 minutes in the game, putting up a disgusting 20-18 including an obscene 10 offensive boards. You know how many offensive boards the entire DePaul squad had? 4!?! What a mismatch.

This game got so out of hand they even let Gary McGhee play 13 minutes! Jamie emptied the bench at the end, getting minutes for interesting youngsters Ashton Gibbs and Nas Robinson and putting in Tim Frye, Sean Brown, and Ryan Tiesi in the game. This game was so lopsided I think Cassin Diggs could have even gotten in had he not, you know, bolted. The final score may only say a 19 point lead but Pitt could have won this by 50 had Jamie not called the dogs off in the first half. Pitt now travels to Providence for a Tuesday night game against a frisky Friars squad that shouldn't be slept on. But you're asking yourself after this game, where will the Panthers be ranked? 3 probably? Maybe they sneak up to 2? Well, the college hoops scene had a few surprises for us:

-The North Carolina Overrateds... I mean Tar Heels (man I'm having trouble with team nicknames today) took on the Maryland Terps in the Terps' home at the Comcast Center. UM may have some recent tradition but its only been a so-so year for Gary Williams and crew. Not last night it wasn't. Greivis Vasquez blew the doors off the Heels with a sick triple-double line of 35-11-10. And he's a swingman guard. Damn. DeJuan Blair would never allow an opposing guard to snag 11 boards. But Tyler Hansbrough is soft and wildly overrated and the Terps were clearly none too impressed by the Messiah's weak sauce 11-11 night. 11 points in 34 minutes in a game against an underdog on the road when your team needs you? What a stiff. Anyway this sucker goes to the OT and the Terps finish off the Heels 88-85 to slay one giant. What about the other, the Oklahoma Sooners?

-Blake Griffin got knocked silly early on by the Longhorns and you knew that was going to cause some serious issues for the Sooners. Turns out he had a concussion. I can't knock him for not playing through that, that's a toughie. Still the Sooners put up a good effort. Some dude named Willie Warren lays 27 on the Horns. I wasn't aware anyone else knew how to score for the Sooners, I thought it was just Blake. It wasn't enough though as AJ Abrams goes off for 23 points including some serious clutch-ness down the stretch. Longhorns take down the Sooners 73-68. You know what that means, folks. In almost all likelihood the Pitt Panthers will ascend back to the number 1 spot in the country come Monday afternoon. This will be the third week of the season that Pitt is at number 1, pretty amazing considering that it had never happened before in school history. Pretty exciting time to be a Pitt hoops fan.

-And then, there is the bad news. After a glorious day yesterday that left me feeling joyous and wonderful as I threw back a few Hoegaardens, this afternoon was not quite the same. I woke up only about an hour before the Pens game kicked off at 12:30. Perfect. Just enough time to grab a quick shower, call in my Pizza Steak Sub order to Uncle Sam's, trek through the snowy Oakland streets to pick it up and make it back to the apartment in time for the game. Unfortunately, that would be about as happy as I'd get.

Freaking Ovechkin buried one early for the Caps and whooped it up like a D-bag, like always. The Pens evened it up as the suddenly not-terrible Max Talbot tallied one, but the Caps took a 2-1 lead before the period wrapped. The second period would go downhill quickly. The Flower gave up 3 ugly goals in the second before being yanked for Matty Garon. Yikes. The Pens would get a weird goal from the Gonch, who has been very impressive since he returned. I didn't think Gonch would be able to come back so quickly and be so damned good, but he's already taken back his mantle of the top D-man on the squad.

Anyway, the Pens weren't able to get much accomplished in the third, although we did finally establish that, yes, Matty Garon is capable of making a save. He actually wasn't terrible and I could maybe see him getting a start in the next couple games, especially if Flower continues to be so underwhelming. All in all, not a bad couple day stretch, though if the Pens could have somehow managed to wrangle 3 points out of this weekend instead of just 2, that would have been nice. Still, the number 1 team in college hoops will soon call Pittsburgh home, and the Pens are at least keeping us interested and entertained with a more upbeat up-tempo hockey style.

Player Profile 5: Zach Duke

This is part 5 of roughly 38 that will cover the different players who I think could potentially make the Bucs' Opening Day Roster and what kind of season I expect from them at the major league level. Today we will be covering our first starting pitcher in this random process, Zach Duke. If you want to check out past editions, click here and enjoy. Let's get to it:
Player: Zach Duke
Position: Starting Pitcher
Once upon a time, Zach Duke was viewed as a downright dangerous young lefty and a future anchor of the rotation. That was back in 05 when he had that amazing 8-2 run in the first 14 starts of his big-league career. He also posted a 1.81 ERA and a WHIP of 1.205. It was a spectacular start and we thought we had ourselves a future ace.

Unfortunately it has been downhill ever since. Duke has been hit very, very hard the past three seasons. He gave up the most hits in the NL in 06 and the second most last season. What is encouraging is that, unlike numerous other young Pirate pitchers, Duke has shown the ability to be a workhorse, even if he too often gets hammered, at least he appears healthy and capable of throwing lots of innings and pitches.

Many still see significant upside in Duke. Obviously he is no longer viewed by most as having top-of-the-rotation type stuff. But if he just develop some consistency to his game it would be a big step toward righting his big-league career. It will be very interesting to see how Joe Kerrigan does with Duke this season. Kerrigan has had a lot of success as a pitching coach over his long career, but the enigmatic Duke figures to be a tough test even for someone like Kerrigan. I think this is a big year for Duke. If he continues to get hit more than just about anyone, its likely the Pirates will lose interest in keeping him around any longer given the increased salary.

However, what is encouraging is that for the last 3 years, Duke's BABIP (Opposing Hitters batting average on Balls Hit In Play) has been higher than average. Typically, I think a pitcher is expected to have a BABIP of around .300 or maybe a shade higher. The idea behind this stat is that pitchers typically have little control over their BABIP, so if a pitcher has a high BABIP it means his numbers (like ERA and WHIP) are probably worse than they should be, or if he has an especially low BABIP it means his other numbers should be better. Duke's has been .336, .374 (!), and .324 the last three seasons. Ideally, this would mean that Duke should be expected to regress back toward the expected mean one of these years, which could mean several less hits over the course of a season and then several less runs as well. However, its also unusual to see a pitcher with 3 straight seasons like that, so maybe it really is just that Duke is typically going to be an aberration because he tends to give up some very, very hard-hit balls.

Lastly it's been strange to see the decline in Duke's K numbers the past couple years. We knew he was never going to be Randy Johnson or anything, but as a rookie he had 6.17 K/9 IP and followed that up with a somewhat predictable decline to 4.89 K/9 IP. That's obviously a pretty damn low number, but it surprisingly has gone even further downhill since. It was an almost embarassing 3.44 K/9 IP in 07 and was just 4.23 K/9 IP last year. Those numbers are really, really low. Only one pitcher in the NL last year threw as many pitches as Duke and had a lower K/9 IP ratio. Although, that pitcher was Aaron Cook, who did have an excellent season, so I guess it isn't the end of the world to see such low numbers. Still, you'd prefer they were at least a touch higher.

Duke appears to have somehow been all but assured a spot somewhere in the Opening Day Rotation despite there being a supposed competition for all the spots except Paul Maholm's ace role. I'm not sure I'd have made that assurance, but he at least can eat innings for you if nothing else.

Predicted 2009 Stats: 28 GS 7-12 Record 168 IP 4.66 ERA 1.494 WHIP 83 K
Assuming Full Health, Chance of Being On The Opening Day Roster: 95%
Assuming Full Health, Chance of Being In The Opening Day Lineup: 0%
On Deck: Sean Burnett

Friday, February 20, 2009

Player Profile 4: Eric Hinske

We now move onto our fourth Pirate Pre-season Preview Player Profile, and today we will look at one of the Pirates’ numerous highly celebrated (just kidding) off-season acquisitions, Mr. Eric Hinske. If you want to take a look at the previous editions of the Quintuple P, click here. I also have previously posted about Hinske's chances of being the Opening Day Left Fielder and his competition, so check that out, too.
Player: Eric Hinske
Position: 1B/3B/LF/RF
Hinske will take over the role occupied last season by the almost unbelievably popular Dirty Doug Mientkiewicz. I doubt Hinske will match Dirty Doug’s popularity, and it’s probably 50/50 whether or not he’ll match his overall productivity at the plate, either. What Hinske does provide though is a power stroke that just might be the second best on the entire roster behind Ryan Doumit (sad, I know). I hope Adam LaRoche and maybe even Brandon Moss prove me wrong, but until LaRoche stops doing his impersonation of a corpse for the first 2 months of the season and Moss shows he can hit off that gimpy knee, I stand by my statement about Hinske. The drawback for him, though, is that he has had some issues with keeping even a mediocre batting average and strikes out a fair amount.

Because of the Pirates’ expected commitment to giving young Andy LaRoche plenty of chances at third base, Hinske’s primary position, and big brother Adam LaRoche’s mostly entrenched status at first base, Hinske’s secondary position, it figures if Eric is going to see playing time it will be mostly in the outfield. Left Field figures to be without question the top spot for him to get some at-bats and some starts. The opening day slot for this position is still open, and I feel that Hinske is the guy who SHOULD win the job given his credentials and his positives compared to Nyjer Morgan, his main competitor. I'm skeptical as to how that will actually play out, though. Hinske’s chances to roam left field this season, especially later in the season, will also be at least partially determined by how young Andrew McCutchen fares in AAA Indianapolis. Despite the status of the brothers LaRoche, I think Hinske definitely sees some at-bats at those spots, too, and those numbers could pile up if either experiences their trademark inconsistencies. The status of Brandon Moss’ surgically repaired knee will be worth keeping an eye on and I won’t be surprised to see him need some days off when the Pirates play several days in a row or day games after night games.

Predicted 2009 Stats: 325 AB .255 AB 14 HR .340 OBP .433 SLG 47 RBI 51 R 7 SB
Assuming Full Health, Chance of Being on the Opening Day Roster: 100%
Assuming Full Health, Chance of Being in the Opening Day Lineup: 45%
On Deck: Zach Duke

Thursday, February 19, 2009

News and Links

I've been in a posting mood the past couple days, so figured I'd put out a batch of links that I've been compiling to finish up a busy day.

First a few minor news tidbits going around the Burgh recently that haven't been brought up on TRS yet:-The Steelers slapped the Ol' Franchise Tag on Max Starks. This was a bit of a surprise to see, personally. After spending the 08 season under the transition tag, I find it a little hard to believe that they will allow Starks to spend the 2009 season also under a tag. I do think its a very smart move to tag him, as no other team will bother negotiating with him now and the Steelers will now have time to bang out a long-term deal with Mad Max. I think that is the end-result here. Starks earned it. He was very, very good this past season at left tackle. I'm not certain I trust him with a 6 or 7 year deal, but 3 or 4 years and the gaping holes at the other O-Line spots, I could live with that.

-For the first time in over 20 years, Pitt hoops has a McDonald's All-American coming to campus in the form of the superb recruit Dante Taylor. This is the link to the official Mickey D's All-American site, so you have to click to the Players page and listen to Dick Vitale more than once. I am truly sorry for that, but I wanted to give you the official page for your own privilege.

-Just watched the Pens pick up a W over the Canadiens. Very impressed by the work of the Gonch tonight. I can't say this emphatically enough: That was a HUGE win. The Pens are at 62 points and still in 10th and 4 points off of the final playoff spot, but two of the teams within striking distance are in an absolute free-fall. The Habs are just 5 points away and the Rangers are 6 points away. Both teams are playing worse puck than the Pens right now. We need to keep this momentum up and get a few wins in a row, though or its not going to matter how the other teams do. It was definitely good to see the Gonch already looking damned good out there. It went a lot deeper than just his game-winning goal. He's already playing better than any other D-man on the roster.

-During the post-game I just heard them report Darren Dreger had Ryan Whitney among his ten most likely trade candidates. I find it a bit hard to believe there is that much interest in him right now. There's no way you can rely on him much now given his inconsistencies and he is making quite a bit of money. Maybe a team looking ahead to the future makes the deal hoping for a return to form for Whitters next year, as the guy is undeniably talented and has looked a bit better to me the past few games.

-I also wanted to comment on the people piling on Whitney these days. Is he playing great hockey right now? Abso-freaking-lutely not. But it ain't anywhere near his fault this team is struggling. Nor is it all Satan's fault either, and I will never understand the Crosby criticisms. One guy who I think is playing dreadfully awful hockey right now, and that no one is mentioning for some bizarre reason, is Max Talbot. I don't know what the hell happened to him, but he's been bad all season, and I can't figure out why no one mentions this. He's supposed to be a scrappy, two-way forward who can add some offensive ability and kill penalties right? Well are you aware in 52 games this season he has just 14 points (7 Goals 7 Assists) and is a -13? I will admit his offensive game has turned around a bit lately, but that doesn't excuse that he was a non-entity on offense for the first 40 or so games of the season.
-Bob Smizik has an excellent post about his All-Time Pitt Teams. He lists 4 total squads, giving us his 20 best Pitt players. Obviously I have nowhere near the knowledge of Pitt basketball history that Smizik does, but I'd be upset if I didn't put in my two cents. So here are my All-Pitt first team and All-Pitt second team based only on the Pitt teams that I have watched (roughly 1996-Present)First Team
G Brandin Knight
G Vonteego Cummings
F Ricardo Greer
F Sam Young
F DeJuan Blair
Second Team
G Carl Krauser
G Levance Fields
F Jaron Brown
F Chevon Troutman
C Aaron Gray

-If you haven't checked it out, swing by Sean's Ramblings for his Pittsburgh Sports Blog Tournament and cast your vote. Yours truly is not a part of it as I've only been around a few months and still need to prove myself. Kind of like the NCAA Football teams that aren't allowed to make a bowl their first couple seasons in I-A or Football Bowl Series or whatever the hell it's called. It's a very cool idea by Sean and I look forward to seeing it play out. I'd say the Pensblog is probably the UNC-like heavyweight favorite and is probably my pick if I were to fill out a bracket. They are just too good. The Valparaiso of this tournament (the Sleeper) in my mind is either "Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke" (don't underestimate the inferiority complex of Pirate fans in this town and WHYGAVS is a great blog), or "Empty Netters". I hope voters go more with which blogs they truly like as opposed to which is the more well-known or higher-seeded. There were actually a few blogs on there I'd never heard of and was very, very pleasantly surprised when I went to check them out.

-Thanks to Raise the Jolly Roger for this one which combines two of my favorite things. Jamie Dixon visits the Pittsburgh Pirates in Spring Training while on a recruiting trip.

-This one is thanks to PSaMP. ESPN recently unveiled its Mt. Rushmore of Pennsylvania sports. I personally find this whole thing stupid and arbitrary. I'm not even sure how they could narrow it down to 4 and be convinced they have the right 4. But like PSaMP said, maybe its just to justify Rick Reilly's monster contract. It'd make more sense to have Mt. Rushmore by city. although that'd be tough. What do we think the Pittsburgh Mt. Rushmore might look like? PSaMP makes a decent point about differentiating between people from the area and people who played in the area. Of people who played in the area, I'd say the Mt. Rushmore is maybe: Mario Lemieux (Duh), Roberto Clemente, Joe Greene and Tony Dorsett. But I'd understand and could even make arguments for Willie Stargell, Terry Bradshaw, Hines Ward, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Mel Blount and Honus Wagner. I think that's about it though. I chose Dorsett because he had the double dip of being from the Burgh and playing in the Burgh. He seems like he meant an awful lot to people when he played at Pitt being the hometown boy. Any other thoughts out there?