Posted on: March 7, 2008 8:14 pm

An extrapolation on the CBS Bubble Watch

I recently read the CBS version of the bubble watch, (here) and I thought it was pretty well done.  Kudos to Brian De Los Sanntos for putting the whole thing together.  Based on what I saw there, I put together a "bottom up" elimination scheme, leaving behind the teams to make the field.  Since there are 5 teams from nontraditional powers worthy of autobids, if they win their conference tourneys each one would "add a slot" up to 20 of the 26 teams.  There are a bunch of games this weekend whose outcomes will narrow the field.

My first six out, to get the bubble teams down to 20, are as follows:

1. loser of Dayton - St. Joseph's.  The winner should be able to squeeze in with a good A 10 tournament run, but the loser is out.
2. Western Kentucky. After being swept by South Alabama and falling to third in the Sun Belt, they're done.
3. Southern Illinois. They blew their chance short of an MVC crown.
4. loser of Arizona-Oregon.  Arizona sports the number 1 SOS but if they lose to Oregon I don't see how they've done enough with it.  Oregon needs this game even more.
5. loser of Florida - Kentucky.  There might be room for both, but I doubt it.  Play-in game weeks ahead of schedule.
6. Syracuse or Villanova.  I don't think there's enough room in the BE tournament for two teams to put together the kinds of runs these teams each need.  They'd practically need to play for the title, and I don't see that happening.  If this weekend goes a certain way, they could face each other Wednesday night in the first round instead.

So, that would get it down to a group of 20 teams, assuming Butler, BYU, Drake, Memphis, and Xavier all cut down some nets.  But wait!  One by one they all lost their tournaments!  Oh no!  Then I think the following teams would be out:

7. Maryland or VT.  Much like the Big East tournament, the ACC only has room for one (at most) bubble-saving run.  I don't see two of the top seeds going down to these two teams.
8-12.  This is a near tie between, in no particular order:
Rhode Island.  Too many losses too fresh in the minds of the committee.
Whoever fared better out of Syracuse/Villanova.  Both of these teams need a good run, and it's possible even the better of the two doesn't cut it.
Arizona State. That loss to Oregon may have done them in if too many surprises happen in the conference tournaments.
UAB.  They'd better beat Memphis if they want in.
Ohio State.  Not impressed even after the win over Purdue.  Another team that had better surprise this weekend.

That gets us down to 15, actually 14 because it was hard to separate teams 8-12 on my list.  I would say that New Mexico and UNLV, in that order, had better avoid disappointments or they're in the next-most trouble.

So, the 15 in would then be: Massachusetts, Arkansas, West Virginia, Baylor, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Illinois State, Mississippi, winner of Dayton-St. Joseph's, Winner of Arizona-Oregon, winner of Florida-Kentucky, Virginia Tech (or Maryland, but my bet is on the Hokies), UNLV, New Mexico, and someone from that 8-12 mess above.

Now, that group doesn't necessarily have the best 15 resumes of the mess right now, but some of the teams with slightly better profiles at the moment will necessarily lose between now and Selection Sunday by virtue of head-to-head matchups.
Posted on: February 27, 2008 9:52 pm


As we've known all year, Big East wins don't come easy.  In a game that was a must-win for the Panthers, they managed to get it done.  It came down to the wire, though.  This just in: Ronald Ramon needs to start shooting well again.  When he clanks 'em (as he has been lately) Pitt struggles.  They are in general settling too much on ill-advised threes.

No time has it been more evident to me than now how tough it is to win games in the Big East.  Pitt this year suffered a home loss to the worst team in the league, a loss at Cincinnati who is now 13-14 overall, and a three-game losing streak to three ranked teams.  Only one of the ranked teams had an easy time with Pitt.  Tonight, Pitt struggled to keep ahead of  the Bearcats and could've easily lost to them for a second time.

The most frustrating thing is, four of the top five teams in the Big East could've fallen to Pitt easily, but only one did.  Pitt won against Georgetown, led by 7 at the half @Connecticut (and lost by seven but it only got that wide in the final 2 minutes), led by 11 late against Notre Dame (who then got absurdly hot in the final 6 or 8 minutes and won by 12), and got a bit hosed on their own court by Louisville (I don't complain about officiating that often, but this is one Pitt deserved).  Only Marquette beat Pitt convincingly, and kudos to them.  Tom Crean knows how to beat Pittsburgh.

I shouldn't complain much.  What it tells me is that after Cook and Fields got hurt (I know he's been back, but it isn't the same as having had him all season would be) it left Pitt as about the sixth best team in the league (1-4 against the top 5 says so to me).  They could easily climb back higher than that if they get used to playing this rotation again.  Then again, in a league this tough they could be destined for only 1 more win, an early out in the BE tourney, and an 8 or 9 seed in the NCAAs.  It's an interesting, but nerve-racking, season.
Posted on: February 22, 2008 7:02 am
Edited on: February 22, 2008 7:07 am

Pens, yinz!

OK, I can't stand the word "yinz," but I haven't been to Pittsburgh in too long.

Now to the topic at hand: I've been trying to get into hockey, and since I was at school in Pittsburgh for the previous five years I decided to follow the Penguins. It seems like I'm being a fair-weather fan, but I swear it had nothing to do with their success. My timing was just extremely lucky. Last year's winning sure made it easy to become an involved fan though, I won't dispute that.

This season, though, coincided with my moving on from the Pittsburgh area. Couple that with the Pen's moderate start and the NHL's terrible TV contracts, and it was hard to keep following at first. I still counted myself as a fan, just not a very good one. Then an amazing chain of events happened, albeit rooted in disappointing injuries. First Marc-Andre Fleury went down. But wait! Ty Conklin stepped in and protected the net like it was his child. Crosby and Malkin turned it on too, and all of a sudden the Pens bolted into first place in a VERY tough division.

Cue the next bad news: almost as soon as the Pens grabbed the division lead, wunderkid Sidney Crosby was sidelined with a broken leg. It looked like the Penguins were sure to fade, but if only they could play about even without him and keep their heads above water they could make another run when he got back. They looked a little shaky without him at first, being shut out in the game in which he was injured and then going 1-1-1 in the next 3. Evgeni Malkin stepped it up, though, and the Penguins' scoring didn't really suffer. In fact, since the injury (not counting the game in which he was hurt and played for a period) they are 9-4-2, notching 20 points (behind 49 goals) in 15 games. They're also 7-2-1 in their last 10, tied for 3rd-best in the NHL over that span. Only New Jersey and Dallas have better marks in that category. That's also been enough to keep them tied with the Devils for first place in the Atlantic.

Good teams respond well to injury. Great teams shrug them off sometimes and keep on succeeding. Which are the Penguins? It's hard to say thus far, but if they keep it up for another couple of weeks and get to the stretch at full health, watch out. The rest of the league should pay close attention to this team (as I'm sure they are). The way this team has plugged huge holes and rallied around their new (temporary?) leaders could be the greatest NHL story in years.
Posted on: February 17, 2008 10:13 am

Orioles best case scenario part 1

Part I: Overall results and standings

I am going to consolidate here my thoughts from a lot of threads on the Orioles board.  I will later break it down by infield, outfield, starters,  'pen, and bench.  I am cautiously optimistic about this rebuilding project, in that I don't think it will necessarily translate to a 100-loss season or two before we get good.

This year, I think best-case scenario the Orioles will go 76-86, or something like that.  10 games under is a reasonable goal for a group of young guys with somewhat limited veteran leadership.  I want to wait to evaluate things piece by piece until we know if Roberts is with us out of training camp, though.  There are several reasons why I think an improvement over last year is possible, and perhaps even likely.

1) The Orioles performed fairly well last year (until the 30-3 drubbing derailed things) for a team as injured as it was.  The thing is, there are a lot of qualifiers in that sentence.  That awful day wasn't so much the thing that set the losing streak in motion; more it was a sign of how tired that team was.  There were 6 starting pitchers (plus one from AAA who was poised to help out) who missed a month or more.  That put pressure on the 'pen to eat a ton of innings and removed the long men from the bullpen equation.  The bullpen itself was also not healthy, especially at the end of the year.  It wasn't just Chris Ray and Danys Baez, either.  They were hurt, and played with injury most of the season, but Williamson went down before the season ever started, Shuey never was able to return from injury, Sendy Rleal was on the DL long enough to get designated for assignment, Todd Williams disappeared from baseball, and the list goes on.  Despite all that before the 30-3 drubbing (which happened in late August, by the way) the Orioles were 3rd in the AL in staff ERA behind Boston and Oakland.

1a) What I mean by the above is that even though Bedard is gone, the rest of last year's pitching staff wasn't as bad as the numbers made it look.  Also, except for Bedard, I truly feel that most of the replacement players are better than those who left.  Jeremy Guthrie and Adam Loewen aren't quite the 1-2 punch that Bedard and either would be, but they're both very capable pitchers.  If this pitching staff says healthy, it should be at worst nearly as good and at best better than last year.

2) The offense may also improve, because some players who should produce had down years last year, and those we lost didn't have good years offensively either.  Ramon Hernandez, Jay Payton, Aubrey Huff, Jay Gibbons, and Melvin Mora ALL had years that were atypical of their career numbers.  I know they're all aging, but most, if not all, of them could easily improve over last year's numbers, especially Hernandez and Huff.  I don't think Gibbons is very good, but he is much better than last year shows.  The offense dealt with a lot of injuries too, and most of the guys who were ailing then are healthy now.  The new young guys will provide an extra spark.  Small ball should improve.  competition will beget some guys to have much better years than they would otherwise.

3) The team should be better defensively as well, because youth movements tend to be accompanied by excellent defense.

4) The Orioles lost over 30 1-run games last year, and hardly won any.  This says to me that even a slight improvement could pick up 10-15 games, and even if they're slightly worse talent-wise it doesn't mean they'll lose more games.  the number of heartbreakers last year was enormous.

There are counterarguments, of course, most notably that I'm comparing last year's team to this years and the personnel has undergone a major series of changes.  Another is that the Rays are improved over last year, while the Sox and Yanks are about the same.  The Orioles picked up a lot of wins over the Rays, and those should be more challenging this time around.  I'm not really saying the Orioles will improve this year in wins-losses, just that they can.  As the title of the thread says, Best Case Scenario.
Category: MLB
Posted on: February 16, 2008 9:20 am

Sigh, Marquette

I hate Marquette so much.  Not really, because they are well coached and a great program etc. etc.  Nothing seems to make us capable of beating them, though, no matter the circumstances.  I am so TIRED of losing to this team.  Ever since that sweet 16 with Dwayne Wade (such an impressive athlete and classy guy, but boy do I wish he'd played his college ball elsewhere).  In fact, Pitt hasn't won at Marquette since 1930.  Say what again?

OK, so everyone is panning Fields because he had a bad first game back.  Guess what, he JUST HAD A BROKEN FOOT.  He looked like he was fine in terms of health and shape, but he couldn't hold onto the ball or find his shot.  That will change.  Wouldn't anyone be rusty after a 12-game absence from the lineup?

Man does Pitt need to win.  The next to are @ ND and home vs. Louisville.  If they don't at least split they could be in serious trouble.  After that they have two tough road games at WVU and Syracuse, though there's a home contest with cincinnati first.  They close the regular season at home vs. DePaul.  I will be satisfied with 3 wins out of that slate, because it's so tough.  That would be a little disappointing, though, after we showed how good we can be in our first 11 games.
Posted on: February 14, 2008 6:57 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2008 6:58 pm

LeVance Fields!

Fields is back! Reportedly, anyway. This is huge for the Panthers, especially against a Marquette team that always seems to have our number. More importantly, they are one spot behind us in the Big East standings, and if we beat them it puts us in very good position to grab one of the coveted Big East tournament first-round byes. I mean, even with 4 conference losses we sit in 5th place, and the next three ahead of us have 3 losses.

Another thing about Friday's game is that it's the first half of a brutal road trip to Marquette and Notre Dame. As much as I want Pitt to be the team to break the Irish's home winning streak, if we win the front half of the trip there's not as much pressure to do so. In fact, it puts the pressure on ND because we'd have just beaten Marquette at home - a place where they were blown out. A win tomorrow night also gets us 20 again (well, if Houston Baptist counts). Even if the non-D I game doesn't count, with three home games left, 2 against Cincinnati and DePaul, something is wrong if we don't win another game.

Will Fields make the difference? I'm not sure, but he certainly will make everyone else better as they all get the chance to 1) return to their natural roles and 2) get a little bit of rest. I like seeing our young guys get minutes to help in the future, but Wanamaker and McGhee aren't really ready to contribute on a consistent basis.

Dating back to the start of last baseball season, my teams have taken some nasty injuries (I mean, seriously it's nuts, and I'm working on a complete list to throw up in another blog entry). Maybe now will begin some of the readjusting sports karma after such staggering losses.
Posted on: February 13, 2008 10:21 pm

Who will be the Orioles fifth starter?

It seems like 4 slots in Baltimore's rotation are pretty much locked up with the signing of Steve Trachsel to a minor league deal.  The question now has to become: who the heck will grab the last slot?  The O's are deep on pitching in the minors, especially after the two big offseason trades.  The thing is, none of those guys screams "I'm ready to start all season!"  So, I compiled a list of all pitchers on the 40-man Roster and the non-roster invitees who have started at least one game in the majors.  I looked at a few key stats to guage experience and readiness as well as performance in the majors.  My guy is Troy Patton, and here's why:

In terms of experience, after Adam Loewen, Jeremy Guthrie, Daniel Cabrera, and Steve Trachsel (who are certainly the favorites for rotation spots 1-4) the guy with the next most (well, more than some of the above) is Esteban Yan.  Yes, the long-time reliever has had more spot starts in his career than any of the O's young guns.  OK, so scratch him from the list-he's definitely no one's full-season starting pitcher.  Then there's Lance Cormier.  With 23 starts and 244 IP, he's logged a 5.98 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, and K/BB ratio of only 1.22.  More pitchers with control problems are NOT what the O's need.  Another newcomer is Matt Albers, but his numbers don't look much better than Cormier's.

Then there are five guys who have been noteworthy from inside the Orioles organization over the last couple of years:  Brian Burress, Garrett Olson, Hayden Penn, Jon Leicester, and Radhames Liz.  Burress did some good things for the team last year, but I think that 1) he doesn't have the durability to start all year, 2) his numbers weren't good enough to throw him in ahead of one of our hot young prospects, and 3) he'd serve the team better as a likely oft-needed long man.  Olson may or may not be ready, but he wasn't last year.  He pitched to nearly an 8 ERA and over a 2.1 WHIP.  Then there's Penn, who has been injury prone and largely ineffective when called up.  I'm talking 9.31 ERA ineffective.  Leicester is another guy who really is more suited to the bullpen.  I don't think he's in the O's plans to be cultivated as a starting pitcher.  Then there's Liz.  He looks like he has amazing stuff, but what I see from him is Daniel Cabrera 2.  He can zing it in there, at times he's untouchable, but he's wild and hasn't settled in.  I hear he is a very good pupil, though, and so for the future he's the guy this team wants to work on.  I think Patton could be ready NOW though, whereas Liz might benefit from half a season in the minors.

That leads me to Patton.  He's the only person on this list with under a 5 ERA (it's 3.55).  His SO/BB ratio is second to Yan at 2 even, and his WHIP is an impressive 1.11.  Now, he is also the least experienced, and those numbers are not as meaningful as they look because they're only through 2 starts and 12 2/3 innings of work.  That's a pretty solid 12 2/3 though.

I realize I have a somewhat weak case because first, prospects aren't all about their numbers in he bigs, second Patton has hardly any track record to go on.  I like digging into the numbers, though, and they tell me this Patton kid has potential.
Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or