2008 NL East Preview

February 25, 2008

Decided to just post all of these at BuccoBlog. Hope you enjoy.

Eating My Words, and Never Happier

February 3, 2008

This from my NFC Wild Card predicions:

I learned two things watching the G-Men lose 38-35 to the Pats last Saturday:A. This team really, really wants to winandB. Eli Manning is not a big game quarterback, and he will choke with the game on the line. 

Well I was half right? Thanks for making me eat my own words Eli. Appreciate it. The Pats lost, this Yinzer is happy. Congratulations New York.

Big News for this Yinzer

January 16, 2008

Hey big news for all of my devoted readers. I recently discovered an opening at Bucco Blog, the official blog site of the Pittsburgh Pirates, so I sent them some stuff and they enjoyed it, so I’m officially a contributing writer at the site. This does mean that the majority of my Pirates related stuff is going to find its way over there, as I don’t believe I’m aloud to double post articles due to copyright laws and such. That said, I’ll be sure to let you know on here when I have something posted at Bucco Blog.

Just to clarify, I am not listed as Jake on the site. The main writer, Jolie Jake, is listed as Jake, and therefore it made little sense for me to try to use that name. All of my articles will be posted under Seiner. You can find my first post in the News and Opinion category. It’s simply a re-post of my Clemens steroids article.

NFC Wild Card Predictions

January 5, 2008

Redskins at Seahawks

There is one stat, and one stat alone that stands out to me in this game, and I give The Sports Guy Bill Simmons all the credit in the world for finding it. Over the past three seasons, Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck is 21-3 when starting at Qwest Field. The only quarterbacks to overcome the Twelfth Man – Seattle’s notoriously loud fans — the last three seasons: Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, and Alex Smith. Granted, Alex Smith is pretty much terrible at this stage of his career, but at this point I’d take any the three aforementioned quarterbacks over 36 year old career back-up Todd Collins, despite his recent good play.

For Washington, the key is going to be getting an early lead for two reasons. One, it will hopefully quiet some of the Qwest Field faithful, who take more pride in causing more false starts than any fans in America. Secondly, it will give them the opportunity to get RB Clinton Portis and their ground game moving. If they control the clock and don’t turn the ball over, they might be able to come away from Qwest victorious and set up an intriguing re-match with the Cowboys in the divisional round.

Seattle’s key to this game is just the opposite – don’t let the ‘Skins take control early. The Twelfth Man is the runner up for MVP on this team, right behind Hasselbeck, and come playoff time, it wouldn’t be a wise decision to bet against the ‘Hawks at Qwest, regardless of the opponent. Expect Hasselbeck to hook up with WR’s D.J. Hackett and Deion Branch all day long, and don’t be surprised when Collins throws multiple picks in his first playoff start.

Prediction: Seahawks 31-18

Giants at Buccaneers

It’s always risky (if not stupid) to bet on a young QB on the road in the playoffs, and in picking Eli Manning and the Giants to win this game that is exactly what I’m doing. Call it a cardinal sin of sports betting, but I just think the Giants will be too much for the Bucs in this one, despite Tampa’s home-field advantage.

For the Bucs, it’s going to be key that they shut down RB Brandon Jacobs and the Giants running attack. When you force Eli Manning to beat you with his arm, you risk letting him hit Plaxico Burress deep down field once or twice for big plays, but you’re also almost guaranteed to force multiple turnovers. The Pats proved it last weekend – if there are guys in Eli’s face, he will make mistakes. Shut down Jacobs and get to Manning quickly, and the whole team with self-implode, starting with the quarterback.

The Giants, on the other hand, need to make sure that this game is not in Eli’s hands with 2 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan need to be in QB Jeff Garcia’s face all day long, and if they can force multiple turnovers that way, the Giants should come away victorious.

I have a feeling this is going to be a messy game, featuring a plethora of turnovers. My guess, the G-Men and their superhuman pass rush wreak too much havoc against a very average Tampa offense, while the Giants ground game is enough to bail out a couple ugly Eli Manning interceptions.

I learned two things watching the G-Men lose 38-35 loss to the Pats last Saturday:

A. This team really, really wants to win


B. Eli Manning is not a big game quarterback, and he will choke with the game on the line.

Look for the Giants to overcome lesson B this week in Tampa, but don’t expect my pick to be so kind next week against either Dallas or Green Bay.

Prediction: Giants 24-10

Back at the Keyboard: AFC Wild Card Predictions

January 2, 2008

I would like to open this post by apologizing to all my faithful readers for my lack of posts during the last couple weeks. Being back in the ‘Burgh for break has been fun, but unfortunately my catching up with old friends has distracted me from my journalistic responsibilities to you, the people. Consider it a New Year’s resolution to not leave you in the dark like this again

That said, here’s an AFC Wild Card round preview to help me make amends:

Jaguars at Steelers

Being from Pittsburgh, it simply isn’t in my blood to pick against the Steelers. I just can’t bring myself to do it. That said, I may never be less confident in a pick for the rest of my life. Honestly, I’d have more faith in a Steelers victory over the Pats right now than I have in this pick. The Jaguars are for real, and the Steelers are on the verge of turning their late season slide into a collapse to the bottom of the Grand Canyon

For the Steelers, there are two major keys to this game. The first is finding a way to slow down the smash-mouth running duo of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. Taylor in particular has been on a tear of late, with five 100+ yard performances in his last 5 starts, including 147 yards against the Steelers in a 29-22 victory week 15. If Dick LeBeau’s defense can slow down the Jags ground game, it’ll force QB David Garrard to beat the Steelers with his arm. Garrard has done a good job of controlling the ball, and his efficiency and consistency is what has turned this team from a decent team to a championship contender, but in the end, he doesn’t have the talent or the targets to beat the Steelers by himself.

On the other side of the ball, it’s going to be critical that the Steelers offensive line pulls itself together and plays at least decent. With Max Starks now out for the rest of the year, the Pittsburgh o-line is officially decimated, especially if Marvell Smith misses Saturday as is expected. If they can somehow manage to create some holes for Najeh Davenport, and give Ben Roethlisberger adequate time to find some open receivers, the Steelers should be able to move the ball and control the clock to the point where they should win easily. If the Steelers are going to win, Santonio Holmes and Heath Miller are each going to need to bring down a TD pass as the offense succeeds for the first time in a while from the red zone

For the Jags, the only key is to keep doing what they’ve been doing for the last third of the season. Garrard has been amazingly consistent and poised, and if they continue to find success on the ground while playing stout, hardnosed defense, they are nearly unbeatable

Fully realizing that this year’s Colts team is better than the Colts team that won the Super Bowl last year, I’m still very tempted to name the Jags as the second best team in the NFL right now. They are that good, and there’s a reason that I am very shaky about making this pick

In the end, the Black and Gold still prevail.

Prediction: Steelers 27-24
(Yes, that is my journalistic integrity that just flew out the window

Titans at Chargers

There isn’t a whole lot of hope here for the Tennessee faithful. The Chargers are playing good football right now, and while Tennessee did a good job of fighting their way into the playoffs, they only really grabbed the 6th seed because the not-so-clutch Cleveland Browns choked in week 16 (I for one couldn’t be happier).

For the Titans to have any chance, every player on the defensive side of the ball is going to have to have a career day, starting with DE Albert Haynesworth. Haynesworth and the rest of the Titans pass rush needs to be in Philip Rivers’s face all day long, forcing the Chargers to be one-dimensional. Then it’s just about finding a way to slow down LaDainian Tomlinson, which isn’t as hard as advertised if you can jam the line of scrimmage and take away his talents as a receiving back. If he’s forced to run into a log-jam of defenders, he’ll still make good things happen, but it won’t be enough to out-produce what the Titans will put together when they have the ball

My suggestion to the Chargers is the same as the one I offered to the Jags above: play your game, and the game is yours. The Chargers are a superior team on both sides of the ball, and barring another classy San Diego playoff collapse, the Chargers could make some noise deep into this post-season. Don’t get too excited though Bolt’s fans, this team isn’t about to go into Foxboro and walk away with a victory, although winning in Indy isn’t entirely un-plausible

Prediction: Chargers 38-13

NFC predictions will hopefully come later in the week

Random Ramblings Pt. 2

December 18, 2007

So I don’t have anything in particular to mention in today’s post, so I’ll just give you some interesting links and a few tidbits of knowledge that I’ve got crammed into my slightly undersized head…

  • A must read from Rob Neyer of ESPN.com. Rob came across an interesting article regarding HGH use. Turns out it might not be so helpful after all, at least if you want to believe the college professor/scientist he quotes.
  • Brian Roberts has told the Associated Press that he did in fact try steroids in 2003, but said it was just a one-time deal, and that his moral values (morals in sports????) stopped him from trying the juice again. Question for my faithful readers…Since Roberts was the one name that everyone used to question the integrity of the Mitchell Report (this means you Peter Gammons), has the report gained a little credibility now?
  • A-Rod and agent Scott Boras are no longer talking. It’s been a pretty lousy off-season for Boras, despite A-Rod getting his big contract. Teams have been sick of his negotiating habits for a while now, and looks like players may be catching up.
  • Huntington seems dead-set on finding somebody to compete with Paulino for time behind the plate.
  • I remember seeing numbers somewhere that showed Paulino was a good game caller. I can’t remember where I saw those, but I did manage to find some revealing stats about Paulino’s work with John Van Benschoten this past summer.
  • Some criticism directed at the Pirates front office about the hiring of Troy Buckley as the organizations rover pitching instructor. Some interesting stats and what not at the bottom of that article as well.
  • Another good ‘roid article from Rob Neyer that I figured I’d put in here. Raises some questions about how Hall of Fame voters should view the last 15-20 years in baseball history.
  • For all my Penn State buddies from back home, sounds like you guys might be seeing more than Nittany Lion football at Beaver Stadium in the next couple of years. Definitely something I’d like to see.
  • And finally, some much-deserved props for some Penguins rookies who have been all but carrying the team for the past couple weeks. Without Tyler Kennedy’s offensive production and Kris Letang’s clutch shoot-out abilities, the Pens would be in some serious trouble at this point.

That should give you plenty to chew on for a few hours. Depending on flight schedules and potential blizzards in Boston, I could be stuck in the dorm for a good 3-4 days straight, so there is potential for some serious post-age in the near future.

I leave you with some disheartening news from Mr. College Basketball himself. Looks as though Dicky V might have “awesome baby’d” one too many times. All the best to you Dicky V. We’ll all be eagerly awaiting your courtside return.

Mitchell Report

December 13, 2007

The Mitchell Report has officially been released. Reportedly 5-7 percent of Major Leaguers were juicing in 2003, the report said, and numerous big names have been released. I’ll start with former Pirates on the list, as this is a Pittsburgh based blog and there are a few ex-Bucco’s on the list:

  • Josias Manzinillo – We’ll start with probably my favorite name on this list, just because Josias is easily the most entertaining terrible ball-player I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. The dude was a nut, and I loved every minute of it. Josias is first accused of having used performance-enhancing substances in 1994 while he was with the Mets, and supposedly was he one of Kirk Radomski’s most consistent customers. Odds are, Josias was juicing through his entire career, including his time in Pittsburgh.
  • Kevin Young – This was an intriguing name from my standpoint. One of the main reasons the Pirates move to PNC Park wasn’t coupled by a resurrection of the franchise was Young’s sudden drop in production after the signing of a long-term deal. When I first saw this name, I assumed that Young had juiced before making the big bucks, then decided to back-off. However, the report says Young first inquired about performance enhancing drugs in 2001 in an attempt to resurrect his career. Looks like Young’s early success really was just a fluke.
  • Denny Neagle – Neagle approached Radomski in 2000 inquiring about H.G.H., and according to Radomski, Neagle was already familiar with the drug. Odds are, Neagle was juicing for at least some of his time with the Buccos from 1992-1996.
  • Ron Villone – Evidently he got on the juice on Neagle’s recommendation. Villone only spent one year in Pittsburgh, and despite probably being juiced up, he won just four games and posted a 5.81 ERA…thanks Ron.
  • Jason Christiansen – Proof that juicing doesn’t make you a good ballplayer.
  • Benito Santiago – The guy played for like, 40 years. You knew he had to be getting some kind of help.

And now to the big boys:

  • Barry Bonds – Bonds’s name is mentioned, but we’re not really told anything we don’t know. To be honest, the evidence against Bonds is weaker than I may have thought though. See page 128 of the report for more. I provided a link to the report at the beginning of the article.
  • Roger Clemens – Guilty. I have more to say on Clemens’s use, expect a separate post in the next day or two devoted solely to Clemens.
  • Andy Petitte – Also guilty, although his use appears to have been strictly for rehabilitation purposes.
  • Paul Lo Duca – Lo Duca is an interesting case. When the Dodgers entered trade discussions with the Marlins in 2003, Lo Duca’s production was down, evidentally because he had gotten of the ‘roids. The following is from notes by Dodgers personnel discussing Lo Duca:

“Steroids aren’t being used anymore on him. Big part of this. Might have some value to trade . . . Florida might have interest. . . Got off the steroids . . . Took away a lot of hard line drives. . . Can get comparable value back would consider trading. . . . If you do trade him, will get back on the stuff and try to show you he can have a good year. That’s his makeup. Comes to play. Last year of contract, playing for 05.”

  • Eric Gagne – The name that really jumped out at me from this report. This guy was more dominant when he was at his best than any closer we’ve ever seen…and he was juicing. Lo Duca was the middleman between Gagne and Radomski, apparently placing his orders for him. There is undeniable evidence that Gagne juiced while in LA, including postage from a shipment marked for Gagne from Radomski post-marked on August 7, 2004 (my birthday, by the way, not that that actually matters). Also, it appears that Red Sox GM Theo Epstein knew that Gagne was a juicer when he brought him to Boston this summer. Said scout Mark Depiano about Gagne in response to Epstein’s questioning about the closer’s past:

“Some digging on Gagne and steroids IS the issue. Has had a checkered medical past throughout career including minor leagues. Lacks the poise and commitment to stay healthy, maintain body and re invent self. What made him a tenacious closer was the max effort plus stuff . . . Mentality without the plus weapons and without steroid help probably creates a large risk in bounce back durability and ability to throw average while allowing the change- up to play as it once did . . . Personally, durability (or lack of) will follow Gagne . .”

  • Kevin Brown – Also recommended by Lo Duca while in LA, Brown evidently approached Radomski after DL stints in 2001. Brown was smart enough to send cash and not use checks, although there are labels from packages sent by Radomski to Brown.
  • John Rocker – lmao…all I have to say here.
  • Mo Vaughn – *see John Rocker response
  • Glenallen Hill – *see Rocker and Vaughn responses
  • Miguel Tejada – Is anybody really surprised by this one? He was tight with the Giambi brothers and the self-appointed steroid godfather Jose Canseco, and he has also been accused by Raphael Palmeiro. It does make us wonder if there was any truth to Palmeiro’s claim that he only juiced in ’05 on Tejada’s recommendation, believing it to be Vitamin B-12. I’m still pretty sure Palmeiro used throughout his career though.

Other names as note: Larry Bigbie, David Segui, Brian Roberts, Jack Cust, Todd Hundley, Rondell White, Chuck Knoblauch, Greg Zaun, David Justice, Mike Stanton, Jerry Hairston Jr., Fernando Vina (interestingly hasn’t appeared on ESPN since the report was released, even though every analyst and their mother has already given their opinion)

Random Ramblings

December 12, 2007
  • Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is officially out 6-8 weeks with a high ankle sprain. It’s a big loss for the Pens, as Fleury had just turned his season around, winning four starts in a row after an amazingly inconsistent November.
    • The Pens will also be without center Maxime Talbot for approximately a month with an almost identical injury.
  • Steelers have lost DE Aaron Smith for the year. Any chance Pittsburgh had of competing with the Colts or Pats in the playoffs just died.
  • The Orioles have agreed to send shortstop Miguel Tejada to the Astros in exchange for five players, including outfielder Luke Scott, Michael Costanzo, who hit an impressive 27 home runs in Double-A Reading before being traded to the ‘Stro’s as part of the Brad Lidge deal, and three young fringe major league pitchers.

    Tejada brings a big name to Houston, but he also brings a $14 million contract that is probably a little hefty for his declining production.Most notably, from 2006 to 2007, his OPS saw a major decline, falling from .877 to .799. Every major statistical measurement of Tejada’s performance, with the exception of batting average and on-base percentage, was significantly below his career averages, and his 18 home runs were the least he’d hit since he slugged 11 home runs in 365 at bats in 1998, his second season in Oakland.

    The one thing that really scares coaches about Tejada is his defense. Tejada has slowed with age, and his play at short has begun to reflect that. The O’s had been talking about moving Tejada to third base, and the Astro’s might ask Miguel to do that at some point, maybe as soon as this season. It isn’t as though Ty Wigginton is the answer for them at the hot corner.

    As I peek at Tejada’s career stats, there is something very impressive that I feel to need to take note of — between 1999 and 2006, Tejada missed just five games, including appearances in every game of each season between 2001 and 2006. You don’t see too many guys in today’s game who are both willing and able to do that.

  • The Mitchell Report, said to contain over 50 names of known steroid users, is slated to be released at a press conference in New York tomorrow. Not a whole lot to comment on about that at this point, but expect a lengthy post from me tomorrow, especially if Roger Clemens’s name appears on the report, as I suspect it will.

A Little Inside Scoop

December 6, 2007

I would like to take advantage of recent Damaso Marte trade rumors to post a suggestion to the Pirates, based on some inside knowledge I have of the Yankees’ farm system.

Any trade the Pirates make with the Yankees needs to include Scott Patterson. Patterson grew up about five minutes from my house in Pittsburgh, and this past spring I had the opportunity to catch a couple of his bullpen sessions. He has a low-90’s fastball with good, sharp sink to it, along with a plus splitter and a curveball that both break late and sharp. I’d say his stuff would be a little above average on for a major league pitcher, but what defines him is his control.

I kid you not when I say that every pitch he threw was exactly where I put the glove, and according to those who have seen him work in live game action, his accuracy almost never waivers, even in tight, pressure-packed situations.

Patterson made 43 appearances for the AA Trenton Thunder in 2007, accumulating a minute 1.09 ERA and an even tinier .81 WHIP. Most impressive: he struck out 91 guys — in just 74.1 innings. That’s a K/9 of 11.02.

The only downside to Scotty P. is that he’s already 28-years old, which is probably the reason the Yanks seem to have been hesitant to make him a priority in their farm system. Fortunately for the Buccos, this means he could come pretty cheap, possibly as a near toss in on any deal the Bucs and Yanks do agree to.

I realize I have the tendency to be a bit bias in situations like these, but I would bet everything I own that Patterson could be a successful pitcher in a middle relief spot.

Marlins Deal Cabrera, Willis to Detroit

December 6, 2007

Dontrelle Willis
Dontrelle Willis and his trademark leg kick will head to Detroit looking to return to 2005 form, when Willis won 22 games while posting a microscopic 2.63 ERA

The Florida Marlins, baseballs perennial fire-salers, have agreed to send 24-year old stud Miguel Cabrera and 25-year old fan favorite Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers in exchange for a plethora of talent. We can all agree that there isn’t a prospect alive that we wouldn’t send for Cabrera, but many believe that Willis could be a major bust.

Although many in the baseball world are pointing to Willis’s quickly declining numbers (note the yearly increase in ERA, WHIP, and HR along with decreases in W, CG, SHO, IP, and SO since 2005), I think there is reason to believe that we may see at least a brief resurgence in Dontrelle’s career.

It’s no secret that Dontrelle’s early success was tied to his funky delivery, which confused a lot of hitters. Scouts claim that the high leg kick and inconsistent arm slot were effectively deceptive early in his career, helping him post Cy Young-like numbers despite having just above average stuff. However, scouts are saying now that National League hitters have seen him for five years, they have figured him out, thus the declining numbers. Also, mechanical issues are making Dontrelle’s control and his stuff fairly inconsistent, although I doubt his stuff has gotten that much worse since ’05.

Moving to the American League might be an okay move for Willis, at least for a while. With catcher Ivan Rodriguez calling the game for him, Willis could very well make a strong comeback this year while American League hitters try to figure him out. Granted, hitters have scouting reports built already, which means it won’t take five years for guys to get around his deceptive delivery, but there is reason to believe Willis could be successful, especially with a monstrous line-up behind him.

As for the Fish, there’s reason to be excited about the crop of players that have been brought in. Cameron Maybin is an absolute stud talent-wise, and has the potential to be a top-notch, five-tool player in the near future. The real gem of this trade, however, is 6-foot-6 pitcher Andrew Miller. Though still decidedly raw, Miller has the potential to be a top of the rotation guy. His mid-90’s, ¾ fastball comes with a heavy sink, allowing him to induce an abundance of ground balls. He needs work on establishing some secondary stuff, but as ESPN’s Eric Karabell says, he might already be a better value pitcher than Willis.