Monday, February 20, 2012

Just asking ...

If the Steelers had not signed Willie Colon to his five-year, $25 million extension before last season, would they be at risk of losing Mike Wallace today?  Does Colon's contract affect what the Steelers can do with Wallace?

Just asking.

A Shameless Plea for Votes in the Best Pittsburgh Sports Blog Tournament

Visit Sean's Ramblings and vote for Joey Porter's Pit Bulls!
Thanks to Sean at the always excellent Sean's Ramblings for alerting us that Joey Porter's Pit Bulls somehow got drafted as a candidate in the 4th annual Best Pittsburgh Sports Blog Tournament.  It is an honor, certainly, and very humbling. And very possibly humiliating.

With voting already underway today and continuing until 8 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday), we are here today to shamelessly shill for votes.  Not sure why, but that's what we're doing today.

As the humble No. 8 seed in the Kip Miller Division, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls are massive underdogs pitted (?) against the eminently worthy top-seeded Empty Netters blog.

So, there we are:  Your chance to vote is here -- you'll have to scroll down to the Kip Miller Division -- but we implore you to join the one other misguided soul who has already voted for Joey Porter's Pit Bulls ... so vote early and often!

Past Performance is No Guarantee of Future Results

A.J. Burnett in pinstripes
Which version of A.J. Burnett are the Pirates getting?
The pitcher whom the Yankees thought was good enough as recently as 2009 to give a five-year, $83 million contract?  Or the pitcher who, at best, was the eighth option in New York's projected five-man rotation entering this year's spring training? ... the pitcher who, over the past two seasons in New York, had a 5.20 ERA and lost 26 games for a team that finished 60 games over .500 in that span?
The Yankees couldn't wait to get rid of Burnett and paid $20 million of the $33 million remaining on his contract to do it.  Many Yankee fans also seem to be happy to see him leave the Bronx, judging by comments on various Yankee-related blogs ("Our long national nightmare is over!"),  or this one from  "By now, you’re aware that A.J. Burnett has been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates due to his extreme suckiness for marginal prospects and salary relief."
None of that deterred Neal Huntington, Pirates general manager, who likes to yak and blab about the team's "portfolio" of on-field talent, as if individual players are commodity items like natural gas, alumina futures and pork bellies.
Huntington should know, then, that the fine print at the bottom of 10K prospectuses (prospecti?) and other portfolio disclosure statements typically reads, "Past performance is no guarantee of future results."  Ya think?
Any idea what that tattoo means?  "Glad to be a Bucco"?
This caveat, which applies neatly to so many things in life, is apt for a 35-year-old pitcher who's lost his fastball and may be looking forward to a post-baseball life enhanced by his own "portfolio" of more than $100 million in career earnings.

It's fair to ask: Will Burnett go through the motions with the Pirates?  Or will he summon personal pride to perform to his best, even if that's not much at this point, just because he has something to prove? Does it matter?
Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Joey Porter's Pit Bulls expect Burnett will do his best -- but he appears to be past his prime. 

If the past two years indicate anything, his best days are behind him.  He surrenders a ton of walks, throws a lot of wild pitches and gives up a ton of gophers -- 31 home runs last year.  Thirty-one home runs!  Burnett's ERA is well north of 5.00.  Studious seam-heads like the guys at Pinstripe Alley, who really study the byzantine minutiae of baseball statistics, have been able to mine all kinds of other data that point to a general decline in Burnett's performance, from the velocity of his fastball to the number of wild pitches he throws to the location of the home runs he surrenders and where they are hit.  Here is Pinstripe Alley's Lord Duggan had to say ...

"These last two seasons, A.J. Burnett has been an unmitigated disaster.  Even if there were a way to line up the numbers to feel more hopeful about 377 innings of 5+ ERA, I wouldn't bother.  There's a problem here and there may not be a solution."

The solution for the Yankees, apparently, was to trade Burnett to the Pirates.

Our new leader at the top of the rotation.
Defenders of the trade will say Burnett's a top-of-the-rotation guy -- which tells all you need to know about the Pirates' rotation -- and that he will benefit from pitching in the National League Central (as opposed to the American League East), that he should be able to relax away from the glare of the New York media.  They say he will fare better in PNC Park, and that he's an innings-eater.

What good are innings pitched if they are bad innings?

Joey Porter's Pit Bulls don't trust the Yankees, and we trust the Pirates even less -- at least their "braintrust's" ability to make smart decisions involving on-field talent.

This trade doesn't look like any kind of a bargain.  People are saying things like, "Well, for $5 million $6.5 million a year for the next two years, it's worth it for the Pirates to take a shot at Burnett to see what he has left."

Last we looked, a $5 million $6.5 million salary is still a lot of money.  Worse, it seems Burnett is in fairly serious decline.  For some reason, his appeal at this point appears to be that he is an "innings-eater."   That's just great.  His ERA the past two years is something like 5.15 ... which means that for every nine innings he pitches, the Pirates had better score six runs. 

Sorry, but the Bucs just don't have that kind of bat production.  Couldn't they find a pitcher at the league minimum to give them a 5.15 ERA kind of pitching performance?  

Again, what good are a bunch of innings pitched if they are bad innings pitched?  

As noted on Big League Stew, at least Burnett's time in New York was "interesting," so it may be entertaining in Pittsburgh, as well.  Let's hope in a good way.

This deal reeks of Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington saying, "See? We told you we'd spend some money."

Past Performance is no indicator of future results -- except in the case of the Pirates' front office.  Oh, and since Neal Huntington loves to talk about his "portfolio," he should like the following graph showing the purported decline in Burnett's fastball over the past few years, at least according to Pinstripe Alley ... 

For what it's worth: A.J. Burnett's fastball velocity, according to Pinstripe Alley.