Results tagged ‘ Pirates ’

4-20-12 PNC Park

The Pirates returned home to start a six game home stand.  Looking at this stretch of 6 games, I expected to put up big numbers.  First, all of the games except for Sunday would have 4:30 gate opening times, giving me more opportunities to snag baseballs.  Second, the Penguins had a win or go home playoff game, and since seemingly everyone is a Penguins fan, most Pittsburghers were likely to attend that game or watch it on tv.  Also, perennial top 3 mygameballs ballhawk Nick Pelescak will not be in attendance as he is attending a wedding out of the country.  So, more BP, decreased competition = more balls.  That wouldn’t be the case though.

Also, imagine the look on my face when I was driving to work Friday morning and checked the weather for this homestand.

What a rough break.  Hopefully the patterns chance.  I’m really looking forward to Monday and Tuesday…

Wait, they got worse, now Pittsburgh may get 6 inches of snow Monday.

So, today was important because it was likely the only BP I would get for the entire home stand.  There’s no BP Sundays usually, Monday’s game will get snowed/rained out, forcing a double header on Tuesday, which would eliminate BP, and Wednesday is a day game, so likely no BP.

Anyway, this is what happened for the first half hour:

And this:

And don’t forget this:

Nothing happened!  It was brutally slow.  Andrew McCutchen and Rod Barajas, the two best righties for BP homers must’ve hit in the first group before the gates opened.  I only had one chance for a home run, off the bat of Michael McKenry, but completely lost it in the sun and didn’t end up close to it.  If you come to BP at PNC Park, bring your shades.  I had glasses and they still didn’t help:

Bullpen coach Herbie Andrade must’ve felt bad for me, because he graciously threw me a ball as the Pirates ran off the field at the end of their BP at exactly 5:00.

I caught it here.

Then, there was a lull as the Cardinals didn’t start hitting until 5:15-5:20.  When they did, I used the glove trick in left field to snag ball #2.

When the rest of the park opened up, I headed over to center field and cleanly caught a Carlos Beltran home run on the fly here:

And a few minutes later caught another home run on the fly in the same row.  The only difference is that this time I had to jump to make the catch:

On a side note, most of the Cardinals pitchers were being complete a-holes.  I think they like playing the ‘heel,’ or bad guy.  Jaime Garcia for example, snagged a ball near the warning track and acted like he was going to toss it up.  He went back and forth pointing at two sections in center field to elicit noise so he could decide where to throw the ball.  After getting the crowd to be rather noisy he approvingly shook his head yes, then turned and fired the ball in towards the field.  On my way back over to left field, I heard one of the ushers mutter, “What a jerk!”

I spent the last 15 minutes of BP in left field.  Look how crowded it was at the very end of batting practice:

Anyway, we decided it was too hot for Olivia and left before the first pitch (78 degrees and sunny was the game time weather conditions).  We did come away with a few nice shirts though:

Here’s today’s baseballs:

2012 Stats:
Game: 4 Balls
Season: 44 Balls
Lifetime: 1,588 Balls

4-5-12 PNC Park. Opening Day

Opening Day brings a new hope for all 30 teams in Major League Baseball.  Every team starts fresh from scratch.  Everyone is tied for first place.

It’s the same with us ballhawks.  There’s a website, mygameballs.com, where everyone starts even at zero to begin the season.

Last year on Opening Day, I snagged 13 balls.  The season ticket holder time came in handy, as I snagged 8 balls by 11:30.  You can read about that day here.

However, Opening Day 2012 was completely different.  All of the ticket scanners were ready to go at 10:50 AM, a good sign.

Several people asked what time the gate opened and were told, “Eleven.”

However, the minutes ticked away, and 11:00 came and went.  No security guards ever showed to unlock the gates or check bags.  Eventually, some guy appeared and talked to the ticket scanners.  The message he delivered was that the gate would open at 11:30 AM.

The line to get in had already swelled and split in two directions at the bridge.

Someone in charge had decided that there would be no season ticket holder time today.  ALL GATES would open at 11:30 AM, so there would be a mass rush and the bleachers would fill up quickly.

I was really disappointed.  To make matters worse, there was a relative of Manny Sanguillen’s who was allowed in the park before everyone else, and he went straight to the left field bleachers, so any balls that were in there, would be long gong.

When the gates opened and I ran in, the Phillies were already in the process of hitting.  Noooo!

I ran up into the upper bleachers hoping that maybe there would be an Easter Egg hidden up there.  When I did, I noticed a long fly ball head toward the left field wall.  Fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak lined up to make the catch, but it fell short of the wall, hitting at the base of the wall and staying there.  I quickly ran down and looked.  The ball was directly below me.  I quickly used the glove trick and reeled in my first ball of the day to get on the board.  The whole glove trick took less than 10 seconds.  I lowered it over the ball and pulled it right up.  I was relieved because I knew that the day wouldn’t be completely ruined.  Whenever any of us are facing a shut out it creates unnecessary anxiety that makes the whole ballhawking experience much less enjoyable.

Anyhow, the left field bleachers filled up fast.  I only stayed there for the first group, and then headed over to right field, where it was drastically less crowded.  Even though the stadium had been opened for 20 minutes, I still looked for Easter Eggs, and I found one:

The ball was hit yesterday by Garrett Jones.  I made a mental note when I watched the ball hit the chain link fence, which basically killed all of the ball’s momentum.  I watched from left field as the ball softly disappeared out of sight – it had either fallen behind the fence or in a seat.  So, when I went to look, it was in the exact spot that I remembered.  Sometimes you’ve got to pay attention to every little detail during BP.

This was my view for most of BP, as I stayed in right field, and tried for toss ups from Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Kyle Kendrick.

I failed to get them to throw me anything, but managed to snag a Laynce Nix homer.  The ball was a mammoth fly, that I ran up and over a section to catch, but it was just beyond my reach.  Luckily, it landed in a seat and plopped calmly and slowly out the bottom of the seat, where I simply picked it up.

I made the snag here:

That was it for batting practice.  No where near as well as I did last year, but not bad given the circumstances.

After BP, I went and found my dad, who I attended this game with, and we went to Primanti brothers.  The line was pretty long, so while he stood in line, I went to go get a First Pitch program and also to check out the Budweiser Bow Tie Bar, a new area built behind section 101.

Here’s the entrance:

The bar:

Large fire pit warmers were located around the bar:

The bar has seven flat screen TVs:

And part of it faces the field:

Pretty nice.  It displaces the Root Sports station, which moved a section closer toward home plate:

After the quick visit to the Bow Tie Bar, we made our way to our seats to eat our Primanti Brothers sandwiches:

And watch the introductions:

I didn’t try ballhawking- I just stayed in my seat for most of the game.  I had a great view:

Near the end of the game, I ventured down to the main level to see Amy, who was working and this was the scene in left field:

Completely packed.  The cross aisle was completely filled.

In fact, this was the largest ever crowd to ever take in a game at PNC Park.  There were 39,585.

Lots of people came out to support their Buccos today.

Unfortunately, the Pirates laid an egg.  They scored 0 runs.  The first two batters, Alex Presley and Jose Tabata, had singles against Roy Halladay, and that was it.  No other batter got a hitter after those two.  Only two other batters reached base, by being hit by pitches.  The Phillies won 1-0, as the Pirates start the season 0-1.

The Pirates have the hardest schedule in baseball.  Look at their April and May schedule.  They don’t play a team that had a losing record in 2011 until they face the Astros in mid May.  All of the teams they play at the outset of the season were playoff teams or contenders last year.  We just can’t catch a break.

Anyway,
here are today’s three baseballs during the Phillies portion of BP:

2012 stats
Game: 3 balls
Season: 5 balls
Career: 1,549 balls

Tomorrow, I’ll be up and early for a road trip and my second Home Opener in as many days.

Pittsburgh Pirates Season Ticket Design

I got my Pirates season tickets in the mail today.

I love how every spring I get so pumped when I see this package.

When I got home Amy said that a package was waiting for me at the door.  She said she thought it was my season tickets.  She proceeded to say that she’s never seen me run so fast in her life.

I opened it up and laid out the contents.  Three season ticket books, with 81 tickets each, for a grand total of 243 tickets, as well as a few inserts:

The inserts I just discarded, as I was most interested as to what was inside the season ticket books.

There was the all important season ticket holders card, that allows me into batting practice before the general public:

Then I started leafing through the book.  The first page has season ticket holder and individual game pricing.  Most frustrating – additional tickets cost $9 each, rather than $5 like it has always been in the past.  (My season tickets cost $4.93 a ticket, I don’t see why extras shouldn’t cost the same amount.)

The next page features the Pirates schedule along with the Promotional Schedule.

The next pages outline the season ticket benefits along with the ticket exchange program.  The Pirates have one of the best ticket exchange program, allowing fans to exchange tickets to 71 of the 81 home games.

But anyhow, the most important part is the tickets themselves and the ticket design.  This year’s design features four Pirates players in color, while the background is in gray.

Andrew McCutchen was first:

Then Joel Hanrahan:

Neil Walker:

and Jose Tabata:

I’m still not sure if I like the tickets or not.  They seem rather dull.  I don’t know, I’d rate them as mediocre.  Maybe they’ll grow on me.

Here’s a close up of one of McCutchen’s tickets:

The package also contained a letter from president Frank Coonelly.

The letter reads:

Dear Erik,
While it has been a relatively mild winter here in Pittsburgh, even warmer weather and the 126th season of Pittsburgh Pirates baseball are both right around the corner.  The beginning of Spring Training games in sunny Bradenton Florida means that Opening Day at PNC Park is less than one month away.

We are extremely excited to begin the 2012 season.  Last season gave us all a taste of how electric PNC Park can be as we battled for the division lead through the end of July.  Our team learned valuable lessons last season and is determined to execute at a championship level for 162 games in 2012.  We are extremely happy that you will be part of the excitement and fun that together we will create at PNC Park in 2012.

Enclosed you will find your season tickets for the 2012 season, which is packed with great games and promotions.  The season starts off with a bang as we host our in state rivals and Eastern Division Champion Philadelphia Phillies for a three game set beginning on Opening Day, Thursday April 5.  The rest of the season features exciting matchups against our NL Central foes, including the defending World Series Champion St Louis Cardinlas and the Central Division Champion Milwaukee Brewers, and exciting interleague visits from the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and Minnesota Twins.  Plus, we also have some great promotions lined up, including an exciting Summer Concert Series featuring Boyz II Men, Daughtry, Styx, and Lifehouse.

On behalf of the entire Pirates organization, thank you for your dedication and support of Pirates baseball.  I look forward to seeing you on Thursday April 5 at 1:35 PM as we officially get the 2012 season started.

Sincerely,
Frank Coonelly
President
Pittsburgh Pirates

What do you all think of the ticket designs?

Are your team’s better?

By the way, I also blogged about the season ticket design in 2011 and 2009.  You can check out those entries by click the links on the corresponding year.

If you’re looking for the shirt I’m giving away, I’ll try and post it soon.

I’m busy playing with my daughter and watching the Buccos on MLBtv – and Matt Hague just went deep for the Buccos.

Opening Day is a month away!

2012 Pittsburgh Pirates Preview & Predictions

As many of you know, I am from Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Pirates are my team.  As such, I’ve decided to dedicate an entire blog entry to their 2012 preview, rather than lumping them in with a division preview. In case you missed my division previews, you can read my AL East Preview, AL Central Preview,  AL West  and NL Central preview by clicking on the links provided.

I’ve decided to post this preview now, on the eve of the Pirates first grapefruit league game – tomorrow vs Toronto.

The Pirates were in first place in late July last year before everything fell apart.  A blown call by Jerry Meals at the plate in the 19th inning of a game in Atlanta seemed to trigger a monumental collapse, as the Pirates finished the season with a 19-43 record.

The National League Central is a weaker division in 2012, having seen the departures of its two best hitters via free agency; Albert Pujols from the Cardinals to the Angels and Prince Fielder from the Brewers to the Tigers.

Let’s see what the Pirates have heading into the season.

The catching position was a bit of a mess last year for the Pirates.  They used EIGHT different catchers last year.  Michael McKenry received the most at bats, but struggled by and large, hitting .222.  Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder, Jason Jaramillo, Dusty Brown, Eric Fryer, Matt Pagnozzi, and Wyatt Torregas also saw time at catcher in 2011.

To add stability, general manager Neil Huntington added catcher Rod Barajas during the offseason.

Barajas has been a durable major league catcher throughout his career and brings power to the table.  His troublesome spot is hit batting average and on base percentage.  On the whole, this is an upgrade over what the Pirates had last year.

The backup catcher job will probably go to Michael McKenry,

although Jake Fox was also signed during the offseason to be a viable option if McKenry falters or is injured.

Fox has seen time in the majors before, playing most recently with the Orioles last year.  He is a career .237 hitter in the big leagues with 20 home runs in 489 at bats.  He’s got some power.  He has also had years in the minor leagues where he’s hit 21, 24, 25, and 31 home runs.  He’s got more pop, so I personally hope that he makes the team over McKenry, just from a batting practice perspective.  I’ve seen the guy hit in BP in Baltimore.  He does very well in BP.  He can also play first base.

Last year at first base, the Pirates had Derrek Lee for the last two months, who took over for an inept Lyle Overbay, who was ultimately released.  Lee broke his wrist and missed time, but did have a good month with the Pirates, hitting .337 with 7 homers in 101 at bats.  The Pirates wanted him back, but Lee snubbed the city of Pittsburgh and turned down the Pirates arbitration offer, hoping to play for a ‘better’ team or get more money.  He’s still currently unemployed, which should please many Pirates fans.

So without Lee, the Pirates are turning to plan B.  At first base this year, there will be a platoon situation with Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee.

Garrett Jones does very well against right handed pitching, but looks foolish against lefties, hitting just .147 against them in 2011.

When looking at the splits, McGehee, acquired by the Pirates for Jose Veras over the winter hit just .169 against lefties in 2011.  That defies convential wisdom, since he is a right handed batter.  In his career, he is a .261 hitter vs lefies, so hopefully ’11 was an aberration.

Both Jones and McGehee are coming off of down years.  McGehee hit .223 with 13 home runs last season.  In 2009 he hit .301 with 16 homers, and .285 with 23 homers and 104 RBIs in 2010.  He has reported to camp much lighter than last season, which could result in better athleticism and a better season.

Jones burst onto the scene in 2009 with 21 homers in 314 at bats and followed it up with another 21 homer season in 592 at bats in 2010.  Last year he lost his way a bit, hitting 16 in 423 at bats.  Hit batting average was also a career low .243.

My thoughts about this platoon?  I think it’s a slight upgrade over last year.  Overbay was just terrible for the first three months of the season.  If the Jones/McGehee tandem can hit .260/30/100 while they play the 1B position collectively – it’ll be huge.

Neil Walker had a breakout year for the Pirates in 2011.  He was one of the Pirates more consistent performers.

Third base was a major problem area for the Buccos last year.  Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates #1 draft pick, and #2 overall was a complete bust.  He looked completely lost at the plate and his season was a disaster.  He was hurt with a strained quad, and then was demoted to the minors.  The Pirates once envisioned Alvarez as a guy that could hit 30-40 homers by taking advantage of the short porch in right field at PNC Park.  Alvarez certainly has the power – I’ve seen him launch bomb after bomb over the right field wall in batting practice, but has had problems mentally and with conditioning.

Last season the Pirates relied on Josh Harrison to fill the void at third while Alvarez was out.  Harrison was a good replacement, but he is just that – a replacement level player.

During the offseason, the Pirates let Ronny Cedeno walk, disappointed that the shortstop never reached his full potential.  Cedeno was often distracted and not always focused on the game.  As a result, he often had lapses on both sides of the ball and often times found himself in the manager’s doghouse.

Huntington signed Clint Barmes to take Cedeno’s spot as the starting shortstop.  Barmes is a sound defender and an okay hitter.  He hit .244 last year with 12 homers – no where near his career high of 23 homers in 2009.  However, 12 actually was his second best home run season.  A lot of fans are expecting a lot of power from Barnes.  I would advise them not to be too optimistic.  If Barnes can give the Pirates .250 with 15 homers, we should all take it.   By the way, Cedeno hit 2 homers with a .249 average last year, so Barmes represents a slight upgrade.

In the outfield, the Pirates are set in left field with Alex Presley in left, Andrew McCutchen in center, and Jose Tabata in right.  The fourth outfielder position will go to Nate McLouth.  Last year, the Pirates had Ryan Ludwick/Jose Tabata/Alex Presley in left for most of the season, and a failed Garrett Jones/Matt Diaz platoon in right field.

Presley will bring top of the order speed to the Pirates.  He hit .298 last year and missed time with a thumb injury.

McCutchen is the face of the franchise.  Last year he hit just .259 with 23 homers – perhaps pressing a bit to jump start the anemic offense.  McCutchen has a new stance in 2011 – an open one – and hopes that it will help him stay on the ball better.

Jose Tabata was signed to a six year contract during the 2011 season despite playing just a year in the big leagues.  Many fans question his age – he is listed as 23 – and power – career high in the big leagues is 4 (in the minors his best HR year was 8).

Nate McLouth will receive plenty of at bats as the team’s fourth outfielder.  He was an All Star for the Pirates in 2008 before being traded away for Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez, and Jeff Locke (all of whom are still with the Pirates.)  McLouth was awful in Atlanta.  He hit .198 and .228 there with virtually no power.  Even seeing him in batting practice was painful.  It was like watching a high schooler hit.

The Pirates most important part of their team in regards to their success will be their starting pitching.  Last season, the Pirates were in first place or in contention for much of the first half because their starting pitching was over achieving.  The second half, the starting pitching crumbled, as did the Pirates season.

This year, the Pirates brought in AJ Burnett to be the ace.  They are paying him $13 million over 2 seasons.  Fans in Pittsburgh were excited.  It’s been a long time since we had a big name starting pitcher, even if Burnett had struggled a bit the last few seasons.  Burnett’s arrival was going to bump one of the Pirates pitchers from the rotation and create a competition for a rotation spot – likely between Kevin Correia and Jeff Karstens.  However, it never happened, as Burnett bunted a ball off of his face, breaking an oribital bone.

He’s now out for 8-12 weeks, and the Pirates don’t expect him back until June.  Terrible luck.

Without Burnett, the Pirates will look to another new starter in their rotation to help right the ship.  Erik Bedard was brought in via free agency to give the Pirates depth.  Bedard has had some success in his career, but is often injured.  He’s only pitched over 150 innings in his ten year career twice.  Last season he went a combined 5-9 with a 3.62 ERA and 125 K’s in 129 innings for the Mariners and Red Sox.  He brings the strikeout to a rotation that often pitched to contact last year.

James McDonald was acquired two years ago from the Dodgers for Octavio Dotel.  McDonald was 9-9 with a 4.21 ERA last year with 142 K’s for the Pirates last year.  He struggled at the outset of the season, but was one of the Pirates better starters late in the season.  I think he is the most likely to have a breakout season in 2012.

Charlie Morton was a complete surprise in 2011.  He was 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA in 2010.  Last year, he was ace-like.  He went 10-10 with a 3.83 ERA and induced ground ball after ground ball.  He became nicknamed ‘Ground Chuck.’  He LED the National League in home run ratio – allowing just 0.3 homers per nine innings.  Morton had hip surgery in the offseason, and is participating in Spring Training, but is a few days behind the other Pirates pitchers.  It stands to reason that he likely will open the season with the club, but may start out as the team’s fifth starter just as a precaution.

Jeff Karstens was another complete surprise last year.  Karstens bounced back and forth between the bullpen and rotation in 2009 and 2010, posting losing records and ERA’s of 5.42 and 4.92.  When an injury to Ross Ohlendorf gave him a chance last year, Karstens ran with it.  He never stopped.  He was the Pirates ace last season, often among the top 5 in the National League in Earned Run Average.  He finished up the season at 3.38.  It will be very interesting to see what Karstens does to follow up his breakout campaign.

Kevin Correia was an All Star in 2011, but the completely tanked.  He finished with a 4.79 ERA, but tanked it in the second half, becoming injured and posting a 7.23 ERA.  He also could not perform at PNC Park.  His ERA at home was 7.71 with a 2-8 record.  To me, if Burnett would’ve stayed healthy, he was most likely to be demoted from the rotation to a long relief role in the bullpen.  However, Correia gets a chance to prove that he belongs in April and May in 2012.

Brad Lincoln, the Pirates #1 pick in 2006 serves as insurance if a starter gets hurt.  He has a minor league option left and will likely begin the season in the minors.  I know hindsight is 20/20, but guess who was taken after Brad Lincoln in the draft?  Clayton Kershaw, Tim Linecum, Max Scherzer, Ian Kennedy, and Chris Perez.

The bullpen looks pretty set.  Joel Hanrahan will close games.

Evan Meek, returning from an injury in 2011, will likely be the set up man.  Meek’s injury hurt the team last year, as the team struggled to find someone to be successful in the set up role.

Chris Resop could serve as the 7th inning guy if he can be consistent.  Rounding out the bullpen would be Jason Grilli, Daniel McCutchen, and Tony Watson.  Daniel Moskos or Chris Leroux could also be in the mix.

The bullpen was very solid last year for the Bucs.  It looks to be the same in 2012.

So now it’s time for a prediction.

Taking into account the losses and using the stat WAR (wins above replacement):
Paul Maholm, Ronny Cedeno, Derrek Lee, Ryan Ludwick, Jose Veras, Xavier Paul, Matt Diaz and  Ryan Doumit are attributed with 6.6 wins.  Meaning that they were worth 6.7 wins more than a typical replacement player.  Maholm was most valuable with a WAR of 2.6.

The Pirates have 6 new players:
AJ Burnett, Erik Bedard, Rod Barajas, Casey McGehee, Nate McLouth, and Clint Barmes .  Those six are worth 7.1 wins.  Clint Barmes was most valuable at 2.9 WAR in 2011.  McGehee was -1.0.  Burnett was worth 1.1, although he had a down year.

On paper, the Pirates look like they should go 73-89, a one win improvement from 2012.

That’s not what you want to hear though.  That’s not what I want to hear.  So, I’m going to get away from the stats and project that Andrew McCutchen improves over a bit of a junior slump, and that Evan Meek returns to his dominant 2010 self, and that Pedro Alvarez finally breaks out.

My prediction is 81-81, which will bring an end to 19 seasons of losing, and mark the Pirates first winning season since 1992.

2012 Statistical Projections (from baseball yearbook.  Avg-HR-Rbi)
C Rod Barajas .233-21-63
1B Garrett Jones .247-18-66
2B Neil Walker .278-11-68
3B Pedro Alvarez .219-5-32 (Alvarez isn’t even a starter in the BY projections)
3B Casey McGehee .243-16-74
SS Clint Barmes .253-14-5
LF Alex Presley .291-9-43
CF Andrew McCutchen .262-20-77
RF Jose Tabata .278-5-32

SP Jeff Karstens 10-12, 3.77 ERA, 177 IP, 110 K
SP Charlie Morton 9-13, 4.57 ERA, 167 IP, 130 K
SP James McDonald 10-12, 4.14 ERA, 185 IP, 159 K
SP Erik Bedard 6-8, 3.35 ERA, 116 IP, 115 K
SP Kevin Correia 10-10, 5.01 ERA, 147 IP, 92 K
SP AJ Burnett 12-12, 5.19 ERA, 186 IP, 163 K
RP Joel Hanrahan 2.81 ERA, 35 saves, 67 IP, 74 K
RP Evan Meek 2.54 ERA, 3 saves, 64 IP, 55 K

The season basically rests on if Alvarez can finally perform or not.  No pressure Pedro.

What are your thoughts on how the Buccos will finish?  I think they’ll finish 4th.

There’s only 34 days until opening day, and 1 day (TOMORROW) until the first broadcasted game on MLB TV (Yankees vs Phillies). And, just 2 more days to win this LA Dodgers shirt.

Ryan Braun suspension revoked; Frank Coonelly arrested

The baseball world has been abuzz recently due to Ryan Braun’s suspension being repealed by an independent arbitrator.  In case you missed it, Braun tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and was facing a 50 game suspension.  His sample had ridiculously high levels of synthetic testosterone, a banned substance.  Braun and his lawyers argued successfully and won the first ever PED suspension appeal in MLB history.

The are two possible reasons for Braun’s positive test:
1)  Braun is a cheater and actually did take illegal substances
2)  Someone tried to frame Braun by tainting his sample and framing him.

Braun said he’d bet his life that it was #2.

The arbitrator agreed.  Because the collector took the sample on a Saturday and didn’t mail it to the lab until a Monday, it was argued that during the 48 hour that a third party tampered with his sample.  MLB disagreed because the seal on the sample wasn’t broken, making it thereby impossible that it was tampered with.

At any rate, Braun will be back in the NL Central in 2012 for the entire season, terrorizing pitchers.  Or will he?

Braun will face increased pressure to follow up his MVP season with a similar performance.  He has doubters all over the game right now.  If his performance trails off, everyone will assume that he cheated and got off – a la OJ Simpson.  Unfortunately for Braun, he no longer has Prince Fielder batting behind him, which helps him because pitchers may be more likely to pitch around him.  Also, Braun is going to be mercilessly tortured on the road.  Can you even imagine that insults that will be hurled at him in the left field bleachers.  Here’s some advice – if the Brewers are in town and you have children, don’t sit in left field.

Last season, Braun’s WAR – wins above replacement was a 7.7, so his suspension would’ve cost the Brewers about 3 wins – that’s a big margin for an NL Central that is going to be tightly contested between the Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds.

On another front, the Pirates organization was embarrassed when news that president Frank Coonelly was arrested on December 22nd for driving under the influence of alcohol.  His blood alcohol content was .16 – twice the legal limit.

The owner of the Pirates, Robert Nutting expressed extreme disappointment – but Coonelly isn’t likely to be disciplined.

To Mr. Coonelly’s credit, he did own up to his mistake and took all of the blame.  My problem with it is that he could’ve seriously injured someone else due to his lack in judgment.  It also doesn’t set a very good precedence for the president to be DUI, while young players would be disciplined for a similar infraction.

I’m hoping that Mr Coonelly learns his lesson and gives up drinking altogether.    I do not think he should be fired.

The main problem I have with his situation is that the Pirates kept it hush-hush for two months.

What are your thoughts on Frank Coonelly?  Should he be disciplined?

And,
What do you think about Ryan Braun winning his appeal?  Do you think he was guilty and got off on a technicality or that he was actually clean?  I’d be interested in hearing.

There’s only 41 days until opening day, 8 days until the first broadcasted game on MLB TV (Yankees vs Phillies), and 3 more days to win a Phillies shirt.

Also, 35 consecutive days of postings!  (Just made it today – putting this one up at 11:50pm)

Pirates/Yankees AJ Burnett Trade

Earlier today, the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired AJ Burnett from the New York Yankees for $13 million in cash and low level prospects Diego Moreno and Exicardo Cayones.  The Yankees will also cover the other $20 million that is owed to Burnett over the final two years of his current contract.

AJ’s best years may be behind him, but I like the move.  It was a good trade for both the Yankees and the Pirates.  There is no loser in this deal.  The trade allows the Yankees to go out and sign a DH with the money the Pirates are sending in the deal – likely Raul Ibanez, Johnny Damon, or Eric Chavez.  The Pirates deepen a rotation that flopped in the second half of the season last year.

The move gives the Pirates six legitimate starting pitchers in their rotation.

Here’s the Pirates rotation candidates along with their 2011 stats:
Charlie Morton 3.83 ERA, 29 GS, 171 IP, 110 K
James McDonald 4.21 ERA, 31 GS, 171 IP, 142 K
Jeff Karstens 3.38 ERA, 26 GS, 162 IP, 96 K
Kevin Correia 4.79 ERA, 26 GS, 154 IP, 77 K
Erik Bedard  3.62 ERA, 24 GS, 129 IP, 125 K
AJ Burnett 5.15 ERA, 32 GS, 190 IP, 173

So, who comes out of the rotation?  Charlie Morton may not be ready for opening day, as he is coming off of a hip injury.  Assuming he is ready, I think that Kevin Correia is the odd man out.  Correia was a surprising All Star for the Pirates in 2011, but his season drastically changed when he was awarded a spot on the All Star team.  In the first half, he was 11-7 with a 4.01 ERA, a WHIP of 1.28 and a opponents avg/slug of .270/.414.  In the second half, he was 1-4 with a 7.23 ERA, a WHIP of 1.74 and an opponents avg/slug of .338/.597.  He was shut down at the end of August with a strained oblique.  Because of Correia’s contract, I think he would probably fill the role of a long man in the bullpen and be the go to guy if a starter went down.

Will AJ Burnett be successful in Pittsburgh?  I think he will be.  First, he will be out of the spotlight and will be able to focus on pitching.  He also will be close to his home, a mansion in Monkton MD, which is 4.5 hours from Pittsburgh.

AJ chose Pittsburgh in part because of its proximity to his home – he even nixed a trade that would’ve sent him to the playoff likely Angels for Bobby Abreu because he didn’t want to play 100 games on the West Coast.

Secondly, AJ will face a much weaker offense division than in the AL East.  I looked into AJ’s career stats against the current players of each team in the NL Central:
Brewers vs AJ:  .252 BA, .325 OBP, .324 SLG, 1 HR, 111 AB
Cardinals vs AJ: .263 BA, .365 OBP, .343 SLG, 2 HR, 99 AB
Cubs vs AJ: .160 BA, .263 OBP, .230 SLG, 2 HR, 100 AB
Astros vs AJ: .375 BA, .474 OBP, .438 SLG, 0 HR, 16 AB
Reds vs AJ: .192 BA, .261 OBP, .269 SLG, 0 HR, 78 AB

Those are impressive stats.  Too bad Jason Michaels has owned AJ Burnett, or the Astros stats would be lower.  Since the Astros will be playing with minor league caliber players in 2012, I’m not too worried about how he fares against them.

Thirdly, AJ will pitch half of his games in PNC Park, which typically surrenders home runs at a pace near the bottom of baseball.  One reason is because of the Pirates offense, but another is that its a rather large field.

So, what did the Pirates give up?  Besides the cash, not much.  There’s Diego Moreno, a pitcher who throws 98 MPH, but was suspended from the Pirates minor league team for unprofessional conduct for making out with a fan during a game in the bullpen.

His career line in 5 minor league seasons is 11-9, 2.41 ERA, 116 G, 194 IP, 212 K.  When left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, he went ignored by the other 29 teams in the MLB.

The other prospect is Exicardo Cayones, who is basically a reincarnation of Rafael Belliard, except he plays the outfield.  He has no power whatsoever.

His career line in 3 minor league seasons is .272 avg, .372 obp, .380 slg, 1 HR in 558 plate appearances.  He would be more valuable if he were fast since he seems to be able to get on base, but he only has 14 career steals in 28 attempts in the minors.

Kudos to Neal Huntington for not giving in to the Yankees original request of AJ Burnett for Garrett Jones.

Great trade.

What’s everyone else think of this deal?

48 days until opening day, 1 day until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, and 2 days left to win this Dustin Pedroia T-Shirt.

Piratefest Day 1

Amy, Olivia and I headed down to the David L Lawrence Convention Center on Friday for the season ticket holder only portion of Piratefest.

The general public would have to wait until Saturday and Sunday to attend.  As an added perk, since I had paid for my three season tickets in full, I was granted early access at 4 PM, two and a half hours before the rest of the season ticket holders are allowed in.

Therefore, when 4PM came, we walked in, and the few season ticket holders that were paid in full flocked to the autograph lines and the clubhouse store to take advantage of their 40% off coupons.  It made the hall eerily empty.

By the way, Jeff Karstens was working scanning our tickets:

And Andrew McCutchen, James McDonald, and Neil Walker were working passing out the calendars to fans:

Our first stop was the Pirates Clubhouse store.

There I purchased a Pirates 2011 style BP hat for $14 with the VIP shopping coupon that was sent to me.  The second stop was the authenticated merchandise area.  There were lots of game used jerseys, balls, bats, line up cards, etc there.

Some of the merchandise was rather pricey.  An Andrew McCutchen game used road jersey?

$850.

I considered buying a Herbie Andrade game used jersey to hopefully get the guy to like me again after seeing me switch shirts to the visiting team, but $125 seemed too expensive.

I did end up buying some game used merchandise.  First, I bought a bag of four game used baseballs:

The balls were in a grab bag.  Each ball was game used and has an authentication sticker on it with a hologram.   I got a ball from Opening Day 2008 in Atlanta, a ball from the 2008 home opener, a ball from 2011 when Joel Hanrahan set a save record, and a Garrett Jones RBI base hit baseball from June 20 2011 vs Indians.  Pretty cool, they’ve got to be worth more than the $5 each that I paid.  At worst I was planning on peeling off the stickers and giving them away as decoy balls throughout the 2012 season.

Also, there were lineup cards from every game from the 2011 season.  They were all in chronological order, so I flipped through and bought one from the day Olivia was born.  She was actually born as the game was going on!

So, it will get framed and hang in her bedroom.  It was only $25 by the way, not too bad.

There was a large Christmas tree in the middle of the convention center, but besides that, there weren’t many Christmas decorations.  It was all black and gold everywhere.

We took advantage of the low crowds to head over to the MVP zone, which is a season ticket holder only area with short lines.  There we got autographs from:
Daniel McCutchen and Michael McKenry.

McCutchen recognized me and asked how many balls McKenry had thrown me.  I told him ‘none.’  I also told him he threw one to me in 2011, albeit by accident, as it was a random flip up into the stands in Cleveland.

There was Alex Presley and Kevin Correia:

and Clint Barmes, Jose Tabata and Chris Resop.  Joel Hanrahan was at the table too, but bailed about two minutes before I got up to the table.

We also stopped by the 2012 Promotional booth, where many of the give aways from the coming year are on display.  There was a wall of shirts from Free Shirt Fridays:

And a closer look at the 12 shirts that will be given away:
First is a plain looking white tee shirt that’s kind of boring, followed by a rather sharp black shirt.

There is a camo Pirates logo shirt and a generic gray shirt.

Two weird design shirts, one of silhouettes of Pirates players past and present, and another silhouette of Andrew McCutchen on a white shirt:

A gold Pirates shirt, which is great for ballhawking because it makes you stand out, and a gray shirt with the Pittsburgh skyline on it, as seen from PNC Park:

Two really weird shirts for rappers:

And a Roberto Clemente shirt along with a snazzy gold Pirates shirt to conclude the season:

Other items were a Pirate Parrot doll and Pirates bowls:

A Joel Hanrahan bobblehead and Neil Walker mom and kid jerseys:

A Pirates umbrella:

A Pirates floatation device, sunglasses, and hat:

A kids necklace, visor, cooler bag, and gym bag:

The promotions didn’t get me very excited.  It seemed to be the same old stuff except with a different design.  The Pirates gym bag and a couple of the shirts are the only promotions that I would be interested in actually keeping for myself.

Piratefest also features game shows that fans can participate in.  There was deal or no deal, which is so boring because its old and the prizes have been the same for years:

And Jeopardy, which was painful to watch,

mainly because the three contestants were idiots.

The kid on the left didn’t know Andrew McCutchen’s number.  I missed one question:  Bob Friend let the league in what category in 1955?  There was one other question I didn’t know:  What is the Minnesota Twins’ mascot?   Every other question I answered aloud to Amy correctly.

Before leaving at 6:40 pm, I played three games.  I ended up winning free tickets on two of them.  Not bad.

Piratefest is always something I look forward to every year, and its usually the same stuff every year, but it still breaks up the offseason a little bit and gets me looking forward to baseball again.

9-25-11 PNC Park

Today was my final game of the 2011 season at PNC Park.  I attended with Olivia and Amy, and unfortunately, there wasn’t any batting practice.

I was worried that I may get shut out because the Pirates players were to meet with fans at the gates, leaving me with just the Reds to get a ball off of.

At 11:30, when the main seating bowl opened, several Pirates were finishing some pre-game tossing before heading out to the gates to meet fans.

I was able to get Tony Watson’s attention as I stood about six rows deep and he fired me a strike for ball #1 when he was finished throwing.  Here he is a few seconds after tossing me a ball, walking towards some fans to sign autographs.

I’ve gotten a ball at all 78 games this season – thanks to Tony for extending that streak.

I then headed to the first base side and changed into my Reds gear as the Reds came out to stretch and throw.

When the Reds started throwing, I stood behind Matt Maloney and snagged two balls within a few minutes.

They were overthrows that I corralled here:

However, they were both given back to Maloney, as he needed them to warm up.  The first I tossed back, and the second I glove flipped to him.  He promised to give the ball back when he was done.

Even though I snagged two balls, it was the same ball on two different occasions, so I’m only going to count it as one ball.  I’ve seen lots of ballhawks count similar snags as two, even here at PNC Park, but that’s just padding your stats.  You can’t snag the same ball twice.  Period.  Even if you give it back and get it again.

Unfortunately, some teenager moved in and count another overthrow which took the ball that I was awaiting out of play.  It meant that my ball #2 was given away to someone else.  Oh well.  It goes down in my stats as a snag from Jeremy Horst, one of the least accurate long tossers in the league.

Horst, Maloney and Bill Bray were playing catch, so after Horst finished he left, and Maloney moved to the outfield side to throw at a distance of 60 feet to Bill Bray.

When he was done, he tossed me a ball as a thank you for giving back two baseballs to him.

Olivia was getting a little bit fussy, so we decided to leave before the game even started.  It’s been a long season, so rather than being at the ballpark until 4:30, we found some other stuff to do without 28,000 other people.

On the way out, these Pirates players were at the gate:

That’s Pedro Alvarez, Jared Hughes, Mark Strittmatter, Ray Searage, Jason Jaramillo, Ross Ohlendorf, and Jason Grilli from left to right.  We didn’t stop to talk or take pictures as there was a ridiculous line waiting to meet them.

Here are today’s baseballs: (only 2 pictured because one was given away)

Labels:

This will be my last game of the regular season.  As for playoff games, you may remember last year I attended a Division Series game in Cincinnati.   You’ll have to stay tuned to see if I attend any playoff games this year…

Statistics:
Game: 3 balls (3 thrown)
Season: 422 balls (175 hit, 95 thrown, 88 device, 57 found)
Games: 78 games
Average: 5.41 per game
Career: 1,544 balls
Attendance: 28,758

9-24-11 PNC Park

Today was the last night game of the year, and Steve Miller Band was playing a concert after the game, so there would be a sell-out crowd on hand tonight.  However, since there was some big cheerleading competition going on outside of PNC Park, there wasn’t a large crowd for most of batting practice.

I came into the game needing seven balls to get 418 and make my 2011 campaign a top 5 all time ballhawking season.  Sure, it isn’t any close to the 544 I snagged last year, but its a small consolation prize.

Things got off really slowly for me, and I only snagged one ball within the first half hour of batting practice.  That was a Pedro Alvarez opposite field home run that landed three rows back and took a giant hop into the upper bleachers, which I scrambled up the steps and grabbed.

My second ball of the day was glove tricked near the end of Pirates BP by the bullpen door.

Near the end of batting practice, things were going so poorly for me that I completely ditched left field and headed over into foul territory on the first base line as some Reds had come out to warm up.

There, I got who I think was Jared Burton to toss me ball #3 of the day after he finished his warm up tosses.

In the meantime, I noticed that Joey Votto was signing autographs near the dugout.  I never ever go for autographs – I got only one other one this year – Ryan Vogelsong – but I figured that this was a former MVP and that his autograph was worth something.  I got Votto to sign the sweet spot of a nice clean extra ball that I brought with me.

My fourth ball came a bit later as a pitcher airmailed Devin Mesoraco.  I picked it up and offered it back, by holding it up, but they already had a second ball and picked up immediately where they left off as if they never even lost the ball, so I put it away in my bookbag.

My fifth ball came from Edinson Volquez, sort of.  He caught the ball and rolled it towards the wall as if to get rid of it.  I walked over and reached far over the railing and grabbed it.  Then I held it up to see if Volquez or his teammates wanted it back.  They could’ve cared less, as they were talking.

At 5:30, I searched the right field wall for Easter Eggs and found one.

It was ball #6 of the day, and #417 of the season, tying Nick Pelescak’s 2010 mark.

I then returned to left field and got a toss up from Dave Sappelt.

He retrieved a ball from the wall and then tossed it up into the crowd.  I was in the second row, and it was right to me, just over the heads in the front row, much to the dismay of some 20 year old in the front row.

My 8th and final ball of the day was a clean catch of a Brandon Phillips home run ball.  I caught that one in the second row, and it caused some controversy with another fan.  The ball ticked off the fan in the McCutchen jersey’s glove and right into mine.  It sounded like a foul tip being caught by the catcher.

Well, he thought I robbed him, even though I was a row behind him, and he kept giving me sour looks throughout the rest of BP, and talking to his friends and gesturing in my direction.   Oh, and he’s not a little kid despite his tiny frame (its tough to tell from that pic)- he’s probably at least 20, and he already had a ball in his hand, so don’t feel bad.

In the meantime, batting practice had become too crowded to have much range.

I finished up with 8 baseballs, and then went back to spend the evening with my family.

Today’s baseballs:

Statistics:
Game: 8 balls (2 hit, 4 thrown, 1 device, 1 found)
Season: 419 balls (175 hit, 92 thrown, 88 device, 57 found)
Games: 77 games
Average: 5.44 per game
Career: 1,541 balls
Attendance: 37,388

9-13-11 PNC Park

There were two new bag checkers at the gate today and they made a huge fuss over the line.  First, they made us all back up 15 feet, and then the gate supervisor in white and yellow started getting sarcastic with Ian and Nick because they weren’t backed up an additional foot beyond his arbitrary line.

Anyhow, I got lucky and found three balls in left field today upon running in, and then quickly caught two home runs on the fly.  The first was running to my right here:

And the other home run was caught in the front row after I climbed over two bleachers here:

I looked up at the clock.  It was 5:01.  I have quickly snagged five balls within the first minute.  Surely I would reach double digits today.

After a few minutes of inactivity when a lefty was in the cage, I took a few minutes to write the numbers on those five balls before they got all confused.

With only myself, Ian Weir and Nick Pelescak actively competing for balls, and another low crowd, this were looking up.

However, I wouldn’t snag another ball for over an hour.

That’s how bad Cardinals BP was.

Since the Cardinals were so stingy with tossing up baseballs yesterday, when the Pirates left the field, I didn’t even bother changing into my Cardinals shirt.  I just threw on my Cardinals hat.

So, I made my way all over the place from 5:01-6:05 trying to snag balls.  Center Field, Right Field, Left Field.  I thought my streak of three games with at least 8 balls would be snapped.  However, in the last group, I made a clean catch of a Tony Cruz home run here:

The tracked down another one of his home runs under neath the Rotunda for ball #7.

Finally, in his last round of cuts, I made yet another clean catch of yet another Tony Cruz home run ball for ball #8.

After batting practice, Amy, Olivia and I made our way over to the All You Can Eat Seats.  I had never eaten there before, and since I was hungry I ate three hamburgers, a hot dog, and some popcorn before the game.

During the game we sat here:

But I didn’t come close to snagging anything else.

Here are today’s baseballs:

Oh, and after the game, my check engine light came on, putting in jeopardy my weekend trip unless I can find time to get it fixed between now and then.

Statistics:
Game: 8 balls (5 hit, 3 found)
Season: 398 balls (172 hit, 84 thrown, 87 device, 55 found)
Games: 73 games
Average: 5.45 per game
Career: 1,520 balls
Attendance: 16,544
Remaining games to reach goal of 413: 3 (maybe 4 if I do an away game this weekend)
Needed to reach goal: 15 (5.0 per game)

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