Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pirates 2013: Likely Scenarios

I emailed Pat almost two months ago and told him that there would be something new on Doubt About It on Easter Sunday. Yes, there is some unintentional symbolism there, but it more had to do with the events of April 1st. March 31st was more or less a strict deadline to get this on the record.

Let me back up just a bit. If you've been here before, then you know Doubt About It was a Pittsburgh sports blog written by four friends. We felt that we had some ideas on things people may like to read regarding our favorite teams and the time to write about them. Both the ideas and time started to run out after a while. So for the past 3 years it has sat dormant. Then a couple of months ago I started thinking about the upcoming Pirates season. I have a very difficult time being objective when judging the Pirates and sports teams in general. At the same time, Alex, a former co-worker, got me thinking about statistical modeling. Putting two and two together, I figured my Pirates prediction for the upcoming year would be a lot better if I could remove myself from it as much as possible. Hence the totally unoriginal idea of using statistical projections to forecast the Pirates season.

I don't expect this to be any better than any other projection systems out there, but hopefully it shows a relatively simple way of going about it. I am hoping this is more a bit more transparent than other projections, starting with showing the probability of each scenario instead of just predicting a single number of wins for the entire season. Dave Cameron makes a good case for this here.

The loose goal for this was to forecast the Pirates season, giving what I thought was an appropriate amount of uncertainty and presented in clean and transparent manner. From there, I am hoping to do the same for the other teams in the division (entire MLB seems a bit daunting at this point). I'm posting it online instead of just emailing it to my friends because maybe someone has an idea, critique, or a comment that can help in some way for a future post. Or maybe this is the last post for another three years. We'll see.

The model uses the pythagorean expectation formula with the pythagenpat modified exponent ($n$) to predict the win percentage, $W\%$:


\begin{equation} W\% = \frac{R^{n}}{R^{n}+RA^{n}} \end{equation} \begin{equation} n = (\frac{R+RA}{G})^{0.287} \end{equation}
where $R$ is runs scored, $RA$ is runs against and $G$ is games. In the sake of time and space, equations and fleshed out explanation of their use will be added later. To get runs scored, the wRC stat created by Tangotiger is useful. It takes the wOBA for each player and converts that into a number of runs created based on plate appearances and league average wOBA. Add up each player's contribution and you have total runs scored for the team for year. The projected wOBA for each player was taken from an average of the projection published at Fangraphs: Bill James, Steamer, Oliver, and ZiPS. These projections were used because they were on each player's page and for no other reason. Runs against is a bit trickier, mostly because the ability to accurately gauge defensive ability is under developed relative to pitching and hitting. I decided to trust in those same projections for the pitchers. You'll notice both projected stats are appearance based, so plate appearances and innings pitched also had to be projected. While the projection systems give these values, were either adjusted or ignored for certain players in order to retain an accurate value for team plate appearances and innings pitched. Final numbers for hitters and pitchers are given below:

NamePAwOBADev. NameERAIPDev.
Andrew McCutchen6730.36950.1 A.J. Burnett3.983193.00.1
Pedro Alvarez6000.331750.15 Wandy Rodriguez3.773192.50.1
Neil Walker6500.33250.1 James McDonald3.993161.40.15
Garrett Jones5000.330750.1 Jeff Karstens3.97116.80.1
Clint Barmes4800.279250.15 Francisco Liriano3.908114.90.15
Jose Tabata4200.3160.2 Gerritt Cole4.19381.40.15
Russell Martin4840.317250.1 Chris Leroux3.95369.00.15
Starling Marte5900.330.15 Jared Hughes3.84865.70.15
Travis Snider4800.3320.15 Mark Melancon3.46560.00.15
Michael McKenry1620.302750.1 Jeff Locke4.17559.50.15
Brandon Inge1820.2890.1 Tony Watson3.41856.30.1
Jordy Mercer1200.2883333330.15 Jason Grilli3.2256.00.1
Gaby Sanchez4000.325750.2 Charlie Morton4.3851.50.15
Pitchers3590.1250.15 Jonathon Sanchez4.59850.00.15
     Bryan Morris3.6625.00.15
     Kyle McPherson4.11337.10.15
     Justin Wilson4.42333.00.15
     Jeanmar Gomez4.54825.00.15

Again, the above values are averages of other projections from Fangraphs - the accuracy of this model is first and foremost dependent on those numbers. For the projection, a player dependent standard deviation of 10-20% was used to randomize the above statistics following a gaussian distribution. An explanation for the numbers used will be added later. The total unearned runs (UER) was assumed to scale with ER, based on a regression between these two stats over the past three years. The correlation was weak ($R^2 = 0.137$), but it served as a quick and easy way to obtain UER. The wOBA, ERAs, and corresponding RS, RA, UER and wins were calculated for each player and the entire team, respectively. This was repeated 100,000 times, giving the following distribution


The mean value was 82.56 wins with the 95% confidence interval between 67.92 and 95.79 wins. More importantly, the model predicts the Pirates will finish 0.500 or better 61.25% of the time. The O/U gambling line for the Pirates that I've seen in is 77.5, which the model predicts the Pirates will be over 75.6% of the time.

The model clearly assumes quite a bit. Not only can the projected statistics be questioned, but the number of IP/PA, and deviation for each player can also be criticized. The model is bullish compared to PECOTA or to very similar analysis done by David Manel. This will have to do for now. An explanation for the variation statistic used and overview of the assumptions made will be given later.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

And So it Goes...

When exactly this blog died is hard to say. We know when it started though: drinking in a dugout one breezy late May night, with the 'Stache rounding the bases doing the hobbled Kirk Gibson routine while belting out the legendary home run call. We'd seen him do this a million times, but that didn't stop us from laughing.

Like all sports fans, we had tons of routines like this. Still do, actually - I'll always laugh when the 'Stache calls me in his Dave Wannstedt yinzer-etto, pretending I'm a blue-chip recruit and wanting me to come play "Big East football for the Panthers". We felt that we had enough sports-driven comedic energy lying around to start a Pittsburgh sports blog.

And so we did. We were funny, we were unorganized, we had fun. And now we're done.

What follows is the final commentaries from the writers of Doubt About It.

____________________________________________________


PAT

For anyone looking to start a blog, a few words of advice after having done this for a while:

1) Don't start a blog just to link to other blogs. Bring something original to the table. "Link Dump" is probably the most overused phrase on the internet.

2) Bring research. When blogs are at their best, they bring unique research to the table. Anyone can have an opinion. It's about how you back it up. We were at our best when Sam was making complicated graphs, IWTFTB was digging way down on the farm system for stats, and I was looking at Tom Barasso's Game-Clinching-Scenario GAA.

3) Don't mass e-mail stuff you've written to every single blog on your contact list. If you want to try and build up your readership, send a personalized email to the blog's editor. Mass e-mails begging for links make you look pathetic.

4) Blog because you love the sport/the team. Ad money, traffic meters, prestige...you're better off sticking your head in an oven. It'll be more productive.

We didn't always do these things, but we tried (I think). What we did do well is fill roles on the site. I had the longer feature stuff (that no one read), the 'Stache captured the voice of Steelers Nation, I Want To Fight Tom Brady was the wildcard, and Sam pretty much did it all. I realize quite well that it means very little in the larger scheme of things (what with wars going on, friends being laid off left and right...), but it was so good to know that the 'Stache would be there at the beginning of the week with the Stache Report and at the end of the week with a game preview; to know that IWTFTB could take a slow week (or month) and fire up a controversy; to know that Sam would be there to fix design problems, handle all inquiries about the site, respond to reader email, edit HTML, write and edit posts, and pretty much keep this blog breathing. Whatever he says in his own farewell, don't believe him. Sam drove this site. I've worked on innumerable projects with him, and his approach is always the same: complete investment, insatiable attention to detail, and an addiction having fun. Our e-mail exchanges from the summer of 2007 will never be deleted.

What else won't I forget about any time soon? Running into Jeff Reed at a bar and the unmentionable Hines Ward story from that night. The Stache telling Kendall Simmons that he looks like Rick Ross. Sitting at Sam's with the 'Stache until God knows what time after Game 6. There's all the behind the scenes stuff too - Sam ripping someone in the comments at 5am whilst hammered in NYC, being facebook friended by Pensblog Charlie and having him tell me about my ex-girlfriends (how Sam managed to keep from me that he is Pensblog Charlie I will never know), getting the call that our mysterious fourth writer had not only made a claim that he could beat up Tom Brady, but that he managed to get it linked on Deadspin (Will Leitch, I will never forgive you) and that our site was under siege.

We saw a Cup run, a Steelers playoff season, and another Pirates losing season. We also saw the world of blogging grow exponentially - this point really can't be overstated. We mistakenly thought we had "made it" in some sense when only a month into our existence, we were already getting tons of emails asking us to promote a new Pittsburgh sports blog or add someone to the blogroll. What we didnt realize was the unfathomable frequency that such blogs were coming into existence. So in addition to being thankful for a great few years in Pittsburgh sports, I think we're equally grateful to have been active in such an interesting time for online writing.

Notice how I keep using "we"? It's impossible for me to do otherwise. The reason this was so much damn fun was cause of the other three guys involved, not to mention all the readers and bloggers we met along the way. If there is any justice in this world, Seth somehow weasles his way into Smizik's spot. As for the ThePensblog...I mean, it's virtually impossible at this point to remember what the Penguins fan base looked like before they came along. The absence of Mike Lange on TV left a huge void for bizarre sayings/inside jokes/originality. I think the Pensblog filled it to a blissfully inappropriate degree.

Let the record show that I won the only season-long picks table, that IWTFTB and Sam's sleeper picks are in the hunt for the playoffs this year, that the 'Stache defeated Mel Kiper, and that my final tally on articles written is something like 689 Penguins articles, 20 Steelers articles, and a brief mention of Freddy Sanchez somewhere. Let it also show that there is no official reason that this is all ending. Infer what you will. Just know that it sucked for us to see the site unused these past few months and that it hurts even more to shut it down. But who would have imagined back in the dugout that we could even create something worth missing?

__________________________________________________________

I WANT TO FIGHT TOM BRADY

If DoubtAboutIt is going out, I'm going out hating, bitching, and telling Tom Brady that I want to fight him. Just the way I envisioned it.

I came to this blog world wanting to hold Pittsburgh sports accountable, athletes to ownership. Most importantly --- the Pirates, their front office, and of course the Nutting family. The latter being my main intention. Many of you probably don't even remember me as "In Search of Nutting's Chest", before my blog name became "I Want to Fight Tom Brady" in a change of heart...before I lured thousands upon thousand of readers to our blog with one silly post about a proposed boxing match with Tom Brady....

Surprisingly enough, my last words don't even squawk at the Pirate's organization. More than anything, I want to make one last wish on behalf of Jack Wilson. One day Jack, I hope you compete for a World Series ring... I keep my fingers crossed, wish you all the best, whether it's in Pittsburgh or New York----you deserve a chance.

For my complaints, lets talk Steelers football. Not sure how I went from hating on the Pirates to hating on the Steelers, but I'm here. So, we have 1) Ben Roethlisberger, 2) Bruce Arians, 3)Mike Tomlin.

Ben...you're full of yourself, you're complacent, you think you exemplify everything Pittsburgh stands for, but you DON'T. Stop acting like you're hurt every time you throw an INT, step into that blitzing linebacker for once, make the tough throw. It's a hard nosed city, remember that. Don't make god hit you with another car. Keep your head below the clouds...

Arians...you're dumb. Have you ever considered analyzing your play calling? Maybe correcting your mistakes? Ben has carried this team to it's current record and I don't think you deserve a spot on next years team. You should be coaching WRs this time next year...

Tomlin...you scare me. You can motivate, you can connect with your players, but I just don't think you have the coaching IQ. You let Bruce Arians continue to call the offensive plays. That's enough for me right there... I'm still trying to figure out why you went for that TD against the Cowboys. I get that you're close to the goal line, but you needed two scores. This isn't Madden '09 or some online sports betting game...sometimes you have to make the logical decision, you can't coach like you're a player on the field.

Anyway, go Penguins, go Steelers, pray to the lord that the Pirates make the playoffs in the next 50 years.

_________________________________________________


DAVE WANNSTACHE

Wow… I’m surprised I remembered my Blogger user name and password.

Anyways, as everyone has probably realized, Doubt About It has come to an end. What Pat said about two months ago was true… we used this blog as a way to communicate with each other, but now that we’re all in such close proximity and talk on a daily basis, it just didn’t have the same cache.

Truth be told, this blog lasted longer than I ever dreamed. When we originally hatched the plan and it ultimately came to fruition, I thought it would last a couple months… maybe. But the months wore on, and we all kept churning out good material, and before I knew it we were approaching our one-year anniversary.

Now, if you look back you’ll see that the majority of my posts revolved around the Steelers. It’s no secret to anyone, including my fellow bloggers, that I live and die with this team. I love the Pirates, I enjoy the Pens, but the Steelers have and will always be my #1 team. I can truly say that writing each Stache Report was an enjoyable experience. After bad losses, they were sort of cathartic and gave me an avenue to vent… I suspect it was the same for you, the readers, considering how many more comments there were after losses than wins. I definitely enjoyed writing about the rest of the NFL as well, whether it was my unbelievably bad NFL preseason previews or weekly picks against the spread, or my surprisingly accurate NFL Draft projection (which, once again, I am required to mention that I indeed out-projected the great Mel Kiper). And when I felt the need to go the humor route, I always had fun with the Ask the GM: Dave Littlefield posts.

At this time, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a quick shout-out to each of my fellow bloggers:

Sam: The glue that held it all together. Without him, this site would not have got off the ground and lasted as long as it did. And that’s the truth. Great job, Sam.

Pat: An amazingly great writer. His posts had the ability to captivate you and make you really think. You combine that with his knowledge of all things Pirates, Penguins, and Steelers, and you have the total package.

IWTFTB: When we needed to lighten the mood at Doubt About It, he always answered the call. If he ever actually does fight Tom Brady, we will re-open the blog and have Harold Lederman give you live round-by-round scoring.

Also, a quick shout-out to the commenters. Without you, this blog would mean nothing to us. It was your comments and readership that drove us to create new material and keep you guys coming back for more. It truly has been a pleasure.

Well, I guess that’s all. Once again, thanks to everyone out there who took the time to read our little blog. I enjoyed writing for it. Take care.. It’s been fun.

___________________________________


SAM

Top 3 Articles That I wrote:
1.Big Ben Video Game
-Somehow the game got buggy after a few months of being online. I had a “I Want to Fight Tom Brady” game coming down the line, but it never was finished due to time constraints and the potential of a lawsuit.
2.When Would you Want to Be Born?
-No one read this thing, and it probably is stupid, but I put too much work in to it.
3.We Will Find a New Campaign.
-My favorite from the early days.

Top 3 Articles by the other guys:
Pat: Coutning Down the Best Lines in "Against the Odds"
Created the legend of Earl Mann and brought together a community of people who had no idea that others like them existed.
IWTFTB: I Want To Fight Tom Brady
Created the greatest comment storm in the history of the site. There's nothing better than pissing of Patriots' fans
The 'Stache: Can the 'stache Out Project Mel Kiper?
I still can't believe this didn't get more attention. The 'stache not only out-projected Mel Kiper, but every single talking head in the country. How much money does Kiper get payed a year?

First, I want to apologize to anyone who checked this site over the past couple months. We should’ve addressed this a long time ago. I’m the type of guy who still can’t understand why my dad sold his 1983 Mazda, which smelled like rotting bananas, 13 years ago. I have a tough time letting go.

I won’t go too in depth on my reasons for not posting, but it revolves around a combination of lack of new material and a realization that taking an hour or two (at least) every day writing things or following the latest blog war was not going to be beneficial to my actual job. Mostly the latter. Growing up sucks.

Anyway, I really liked how Will Leitch left Deadspin with the “Screw it, I don’t need to hold back anymore” approach. So I thought I would finish up with some "exciting" behind the scenes tidbits.

- The Pittsburgh blogosphere needs more guys like Tec, Cotter, and The Pensblog Staff. These guys would be posting regardless of if anyone was actually reading. They’re accessible and go out of their way to connect to their readers and their fellow bloggers. I'm sure I'm forgetting others, but these guys made the blogging community fun.

- The emails back and forth between my fellow bloggers were as fun to read and write as the actual posts. Especially at the beginning, there was an air of “Hey, we can make it big!” drive that made each email seem so important.

-I can’t stand Mondesi’s House. Don’t get me wrong, Don is a great guy and helped us get our start. He is also one of the hardest working bloggers out there who has another “real” job. But the articles are self-serving and the purpose of the site seems just as driven by money and fame rather than the for the love of the game (rhyme unintended). Remember when he interviewed Art Rooney Jr.?

“For me, I've been lucky enough to have several memorable occasions that have helped put this site "on the map" to some degree.”

Your blog was built on drunk athlete photos and top 10 lists. None of them memorable.

“As you may know, I bleed black and gold. It's quite a serious condition, although it's fairly common in our area. I love anything and everything involving Pittsburgh sports. It fuels my passion for this site, a passion that increases exponentially when realizing how many like-minded followers of these same teams can share in my words.”

That entire paragraph was so over the top, so self-serving, cliche-filled that I had to take a breather before I could continue the first time I read the article.

“I've had the pleasure to meet a number of sports legends in my young life. Mario Lemieux. Dan Marino. Bill Mazeroski. Joe Montana. All up-close-and-personal.”

Name dropping? Really?

“He then added that he was close friends with a professor named Richard Easton - the very same man whose encouragement during his challenging composition course helped inspire the writer you see today.”

What was this article about again?

This was the worst offender, but almost every major piece, especially the Deadspin season previews, started with “Remember how awesome it was the last time I did this? Well, it was so awesome that I decided to do it again. “ Its remarkable his Steelers’ season preview this year wasn’t a top 250 list in honor of Pittsburgh’s 250th birthday.

-In the same way Lamar Woodley is that perfect hybrid LB/DE, Dejan Kovacevic at the PG is the ideal blogger/journalist. The guy works tremendously hard, uses his access in the right way, and may be the best writer at the paper. Who knows what’s going to happen to the Post-Gazette, but a key component to their survival should be finding and retaining versatile writers like Dejan.

-Ditto for Seth at Empty Netters.

-If you ever start a blog, take it slow. At the beginning no one is reading, anyway. There was a time we were posting three times a day. This blog could’ve survived another 3 or 4 months if we would’ve just spread it out more.

We started this as a way to keep in touch with each other, and although we never made it into the blogger big leagues, it was easily one of the most enjoyable and addicting things I’ve ever encountered. There’s a certain rush associated with that first link on Deadspin, when you see your sitemeter stats go nuts, getting called out by an astute commenter, or hearing how much a reader enjoyed a piece. There are definitely things I would have done differently, and maybe a few years down the line we’ll try a restart. Who knows.

I want to end with a few cheesy words for my fellow bloggers. Lord knows they’re the only ones reading at this point.

To I Want to Fight Tom Brady (formerly known as Pirate in Search of Nutting’s Chest): Whenever you wrote an article it always seemed to stir up the crazies, and in blogging that’s a valuable talent to have. The Tom Brady article will live in infamy. My only regret is that the fight never actually happened.

To the ‘Stache: You were the heart and sole of our Steelers blogging, out kipper-ing Mel Kiper, and generally dropping knowledge on us week in week out. You kept this blog afloat last fall and as long as you could these past couple months.

To Pat: You brought credibility to the blog with writing that was worthy of a much more prominent platform. Honestly, you carried this thing. The emails over the summer of ’07 often made my day. Hopefully our travails in setting this thing up will be useful in your next critically acclaimed blog, Run Off.

So I guess that’s it. Thanks again for reading.


__________________________________________________


And so it goes. It hasn't been fun - it's been hysterical, and it's fitting that in these last words, Pat rambled on, the 'Stache got right to the point, IWTFTB ripped on people, and Sam was the only one who stuck to the predetermined format of picking favorite posts. All of our loose ends are tied up (though we'd love to know who Wieters was...like, seriously, tell us, so we can sleep at night... doubtaboutit@gmail.com ). Thanks to the friends who supported us, the readers who gave us help/gave us crap, and the bloggers/journalists/writers who helped the site grow. It's impossible to sum up this blog into one final sentence. A video we've used before almost seems more appropriate...

Don't do it...

Don't do it...

'Stache will kill you...

Don't do it...

Just say goodbye...

Goodbye

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Update

By Monday we will have a statement regarding the site. Promise.

See you then.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm Not Sayin, I'm Just Sayin'...

Nothing will completely erase the pain from last June. Seeing a team skate with the Stanley Cup on your home ice hurts.

No one will be able to keep the Red Wings down for very long this season. That is a stellar team with a cast of role players whose abilities cover the entire range of hockey skill. When the Penguins made it 5-4 tonight, they shook it off like it was no big deal and made it 6-4.

But...

However...

And yet...

I can't even begin the this paragraph in any appropriate way. I'm trying to stifle such conflicting emotions. It's a regular season game, chill. Then how come the DAI writers were shouting throughout the third period like it was Game 5 all over again? There is no such thing as a statement game in November. Umm, that's not what you said last year. Chris Osgood is atrocious, was exposed as a fraud tonight, and his slow-as-molasses shift across the crease made on the final shot of the game only illustrates how beatable this team is. Chris Osgood is atrocious, was exposed as a fraud tonight, and his slow-as-molasses shift across the crease made on the final shot of the game only illustrates how beatable this team is.

Chris Osgood, thank you for diving like a soccer goalie/doing some sort of strange salsa dance on the last play of the game. Thank you for being old, slow, and apparently unable to make a simple shift across the crease when Jordan Staal makes a 2-1 pass about 40 feet from the net.

Jordan Staal, thank you for reminding everyone that you are 20 and that you are capable of freakish things, freakish in this case being defined as "events ranging from mind-numbing scoring droughts to third-period hat tricks aginst the NHL's best team".

Commenters at Abel to Yzerman, thank you for these. I cherish them. Page 9-11 are particularly wonderful.

Thank you to both teams for both providing the NHL's best game of the season.

Thank you to Joe Louis Arena for providing another great Penguins victory.

Wow, what a night. It's only the regular season. It's only November. We might lose every single game from here on out.

But remember the Thanksgiving Game from last Year.

I'm not sayin, I'm just sayin...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Because Brittle Bones Asked for a Post

You know, I really do kinda feel bad for John McCain. Barack Obama practically trademarked Hope, Change, and verbs like Can in this past election. There wasn't much else for Maverick John to run with. Yes We Can became the country's rallying cry. Those three words may have changed the election. Was there anything John could have done to counteract the steamroller that was the Yes We Can campaign? Perhaps his own three words galvanize the American people?



I sure as hell would have voted for a Ducks Fly Together campaign slogan.

Because I have nothing else to add, I salute everyone who has bet against The Tennessee Volunteers this year. It's been a thrill ride that I will not soon forget. I actually had serious conversations with IWTFTB earlier this week about if we could find a money-line for 27 point underdog Wyoming. I have never been more confident about anything in my life than Wyoming beating Tennessee yesterday. The networks had "Upset Alerts" about it all day, but mark my words readers, that was no upset. That was a cash grab.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Last Dance II

For all the McCain supporters:



The 1-minute mark is gold.

Friday, October 31, 2008

And Only How Many Games Have Been Played?

The Pens suck. We aren't making the playoffs. We should definitely pull the trigger on that Letang-Staal-1st rounder for Kovalchuk deal that was all over the airwaves today. We should probably trade Crosby for Ramzi Abid too. I mean, it'd be a steal with Sid being hurt and all.



Feel relaxed now? Good, you should. Maybe you have forgotten that the Penguins were awful at the start of the season last year. Awful. And last season turned out alright. Who is even playing that bad for the Penguins right now? And by bad I mean dreadful? I could go through tons of analysis, but let's try a simple experiment. I'll name a player and give you the first thought that comes into my head for them. Play along and try to keep it to a single word. I am going to write this next section in under 60 seconds...

Letang - evolving
Eaton - shaky
Sydor - uncanny at keepin the puck in the o-zone
Satan - garbage shoveler
Fleury - validation
orpik - decent
Fedotenko - Dupuis
Dupuis - Fedotenko
TK - getting his own shots
Crosby - Crosby
Staal - playing tight
Goddard/Cooke - corner warriors
Sabourin - solid
Goligoski - coming along
Zigamanis - pleasant
Talbot - Fu.Man.Chu
Sykora - Recchi
Bissonnette - nose breaker
Scuderi - Yeoman's work
Gill - unlucky

Do you see "unbearably bad" anywhere? No. People are freaking about Staal, but the kid is in a contract year...and he's 20. You worked at Pizza Hut when you were 20. You did not have millions of dollars on the line 3 years into your first job.

The only guy I got stuck on and didn't include was Malkin. He's undefinable at this point. Just when you think it looks like he is sulking, he's racing over to tackle a teammate that scored. Just when you are wondering how it is humanly possible for a player to maintain puck possession on the offensive boards for 15 seconds, you realize he probably should have passed it 65 different times. He loafs on D in the final seconds of the Rangers game. He breaks up a 2 on 1 last night in Phoenix. He has his hand in almost every PP goal. He completely disregards any type of setup on the PP and rifles every puck he gets at the net.

In the end, you know you are lucky to have him on your team though. You know he will deliver. Just like the Penguins. Which is why no one should be worrying right now.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Next time you might want to put the security cameras on sturdier structures



(Yes, it took my Penn State homerism to come back from "retirement". I'm sure this post doesn't make up for it.)

While this video is probably the best of the youtubes put up of the riots in State College after the 13-6 Nittany Lion victory on Saturday night, none quite do the justice that the mace-filled video does at the Collegian website (second video down in the list.)

Reaction to the game has been mixed, as there are already those out there (1 2) decrying the weak Big Ten schedule and assuming that Penn State will just follow in line with OSU's poor showing the past two national championships.

The Big 12 and the SEC are better conferences than the Big 10. Without a doubt. The NFC East is better than the AFC North. That doesn't stop the Steelers from hanging with what many people consider the top team in that division and in the league. There's no logic in complaining about an undefeated Penn State team going to the national championship game over a 1-loss SEC or Big 12 team. The system, first and foremost, rewards wins, so it rewards an easy schedule. If you can go undefeated with a tougher schedule, the system rewards you more. Which is why Texas and Alabama should be playing Miami if they both win out. In both cases, the system just sucks.

But Penn State and Joe Paterno can't lose, assuming they finish out these last three games. If Texas or Alabama falter they're playing for the national championship. If they go undefeated and don't get in, the bitching heard from a million middle aged white men in Penn State turtlenecks will not let this die. Ever. For non-Penn State fans,the potential of having to watch a subpar championship game for a few hours is better than endless mentions of "they screwed us in '08!" declarations on message boards, blogs, radio shows and TV for the next decade. Yet, if there was one chance for the BSC system to be altered to a plus-1 or playoff system in future years this would be it.

This is likely Joe's last year. The stars are aligning too perfectly for it not to be. Either way this plays out his legacy will be either that of one last total victory or potentially altering the entire landscape of the game. Seems appropriate to me.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

State of the Union

Yes, we are alive. No, we haven't shut down the blog.

But...

But...

Things have changed - that tends to happen after a year and a half. Sure, we've survived some interesting situations before. Our writers have been in Pittsburgh, New York City, Columbus, State College, and elsewhere. Somehow, the site kept going.

And now, the four writers of this here site are all in Pittsburgh. You would think this is a good thing for Doubt About It. Local announcers, local atmosphere, local papers...we should be more on the beat. And believe me, we are. Rob Scuderi taking a puck to the chest in the crease does not show up in the papers.

The thing is, we talk about this stuff all the time now. At work, at lunch, at the bar, on the weekends - by the time I even think to write a blog post about how Nate Washington bugs me, I've already talked about it ad nauseum with Sam, the 'Stache, IWTFTB, and anyone else I've run into. Writing posts used to be how the four writers communicated with one another. Now, they feel like a summation of a night's conversation.

Is that corny? Yup. Does it completely ignore our responsibilities to our readers that have been more than kind to us during our stint? Yes maam. But there is no point in us throwing up garbage just for the sake of keeping the blog alive. If a blog comes across as lacking passion or a unique voice, you shouldnt waste time reading it. We don't want to be one of those blogs.

So, "what happens now?", you ask. Maybe this is the last post ever on Doubt About It. Maybe the stache report comes in Tuesday and life moves on as if the past three weeks never happened. Maybe we blow this thing up, wait til we are hungry to write again, and then start anew. I really cant say. As IWTFTB likes to say, "The shareholders are still mulling over options".

Irregardless, we don't say this enough: thanks, to everyone for everything. This is not a "thank you and good night!", but a general thanks for the support and the emails ("is the 'Stache' actually Joe the Plumber and now he is too busy to write?"). At some point, we'll figure out what is going on here and let you know.

Big one for the Steelers today. J. Staal and I will be there. Sam might find a way to sneak in. We'll see what happens.

We'll see.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Stache Report: Week 5

- That’s two games in a row that Mewelde Moore has come up huge. He registered 99 yards on the ground, and had a couple more clutch catches. He’s our Kevin Faulk, with the way he can catch the ball out of the backfield, move the chains, and spot start in a pinch. And they signed him at a bargain rate (3 years, $4.95 million, $2 million signing bonus). These smart, savvy moves are what separate the Steelers from teams like the Raiders ($50 million for Javon Walker?)

- You want to talk about quality depth? How about churning out 124 yards rushing with your #3 and #4 RB’s? How about Darnell Stapleton stepping up and playing a quality game (check out the first offensive play from scrimmage for the Steelers, where Stapleton blew open a huge hole for Moore). How about having 2/3 of your starting defensive line out and holding Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew to a combined 15 carries for 26 yards? Moore, Russell, Stapleton, Travis Kirschke, Chris Hoke, and Orpheus Roye deserve big time kudos after this game.

- For one week at least, the Nate Washington haters can be quieted. That was a sick double move he pulled to get wide open, and Ben sold it beautifully with the pump. For all the flack he takes for not being able to catch, by my recollection the guy only has one drop (against Houston) which you still can barely count since it would have been a pretty amazing catch. The guy makes plays when given the opportunity. Now, I wouldn't mind seeing Sweed get a little bit of time ahead of Dallas Baker. Can someone tell me what exactly Baker brings to the table?

- A virtuoso performance by Big Ben. He doesn't practice all week, gets shot up on Thursday, and he comes out and destroys the Jaguars. He wasn't going to let us lose this game. You want to know who he reminds me of? Steve McNair in his prime. McNair always had some time of ailment and would never practice during the week, but then he would show up on Sunday, break tackles, make huge plays, and will his team to victory. Ben is worth every penny of that $102 million.

- The day Rashean Mathis retires can't come soon enough. I've never seen one individual player kill a team so much. He will be hence referred to as "Rashean Mathis, Steeler-killer."

- Did John Madden really call Troy Polamalu the best tackler in the NFL? I love Troy, but tackling sure isn't one of his stronger suits.

- Is it me or his Hines dropping two passes or so each game? Although, you could say he more than makes up for it with his blocking and ability to get under the opponent's skin. I'm pretty sure everyone in the city of Jacksonville, including the players, absolutely despise Hines Ward right now.

- Aaron Smith, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Bryant McFadden, Troy Polamalu. These five are playing lights out right now, and they're the biggest reason why this defense is one of the best in the NFL.

- The officiating was atrocious. The PI call on Ike Taylor early in the game was iffy. The Jaguars offensive line was holding Harrison and Woodley almost every play. The roughing the passer call on Harrison was one of the worst calls I've ever seen, and I'm not exaggerating. I will say that the late hit on Clark was legit, but still, it was a piss-poor effort by the zebras.

- I asked for it last week, so I was happy to see the no-huddle make a significant appearance. Ben seems extremely comfortable using it, and it makes it harder for the defense to make substitutions and get fresh pass rushers. While were on the subject of offensive play-calling, there is one formation I absolutely hate: the bunch formation. It's rarely successful, and it's harder for Ben to read the blitz because everyone on the defense is so clustered together. If you're gonna go 4-wide, spread them out and give Ben the opportunity to diagnose who is blitzing pre-snap.

- When Marvel Smith went out with cramps, the Steelers inserted Trai Essex to take his place. The situation involving the $7 million dollar man has turned from odd to downright puzzling.

- 4-1 going into the bye week, which will allow us to get healthier. The return of Parker and Keisel are imminent. All in all, were sitting pretty good right now.

AROUND THE NFL:

Bears-Lions: The Bears might actually win the NFC North, and Kyle Orton might actually be looking like a real NFL quarterback.

Falcons-Packers: I'm shocked the Falcons are 3-2. Matty Ice has been better than advertised.

Dolphins-Chargers: And I'm shocked that the Dolphins are 2-2. Ronnie Brown has been excellent, and so has their Peezy-led defense.

Giants-Seahawks: Don't fool yourself. The Seahawks lost to the Giants 44-6 because of the refs. Just like Super Bowl XL. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Titans-Ravens: A defensive slugfest. When crunch time came, Kerry Collins made the plays needed to be made and Joe Flacco did not.

Colts-Texans: A potential season-saver for the Colts and a meltdown for the Texans. 21 points in 2:10? Unbelievable.

Panthers-Chiefs: The Panthers were missing both of their starting offensive tackles. And they still put up 205 yards rushing. That speaks to how awful the Chiefs defense played.

Redskins-Eagles: More impressive than the Redskins 4-1 start is the fact that they've already played all three NFC East teams on the road and are 2-1 in those contests.

Broncos-Buccaneers: If only the Broncos defense could play like that every game. I'm still skeptical.

Cowboys-Bengals: The Bengals are proving that the talent difference across the NFL isn't that big. They've taken two of the best teams in the NFL in the Giants and Cowboys down to the wire, both on the road. The Bengals are 0-5, and the Giants and Cowboys are 4-0 and 4-1, respectively.

Cardinals-Bills: The Bills need a healthy Trent Edwards if they want to go anywhere this season. They've tried the J.P. Losman experiment already, and it failed.

Patriots-49ers: I'm still scared of this New England team. Even with Matt Cassel. Don't chalk up that trip to New England in early December as a win. Don't even think about.

Vikings-Saints: Reggie Bush. Wow. And it still wasn't enough.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Stream of Consciousness Friday

Man, I should have gotten that Penguins preview done for today. Moving into an apartment made that virtually impossible though. I'll have to get it on the site after the games in Stockholm. Maybe Sam will do the Picks Table at some point today. Probably not, cause he is lazy, which is why I am taking the opposite of all his picks this week. There are a million times that I should have absolutely tore into a Shelly Anderson column, but I didnt want people to think I am a chauvinist. She could atleast spell the guy's name right. I'm sure that will read "Pesonen" in the near future, but as of right now it reads "Pesonon". Whatever.

Have a weekend. A good one, at that.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Thank You, Lanny

In a town that has been fortunate to have Myron Cope and Mike Lange as announcers, it is easy to overlook Lanny Fratarre's contributions. It is even easier to do so when you think about how bad the Pirates have been for so long. The few times I have run into him over the years, he has been nothing but classy, and for an organization that doesn't have a whole lot to hang its hat on nowadays, it was nice to see a guy like Lanny go to such great extent to support the team and it's image.

Today it was announced that Lanny is retiring.

I always felt that Go Ball Get Outta Here! was an underused and underappreciated home run call. And it goes without saying that "There was noooo doubt about it!" has a special meaning for us, even if that meaning is covered in Ronny Paulino-sized chunks of irony and sarcasm. So raise one high for Lanny Fratarre tonight - he was a supporter of the Pirates through bad times, a steady voice in a market of super-star level announcers, and perhaps most importantly...he wasn't Greg Brown.

Ok, harsh. But I havent forgotten La-La-La-La-Roche just yet.

The Stache Report: Week 4

- It took a multitude of injuries, but the Steelers finally started to utilize their new toy, Mewelde Moore. Through the first three games the guy had zero catches, inexcusable for a guy who caught 46 passes two years ago before being phased out of the offense in Minnesota with the emergence of Adrian Peterson. Moore showed how lethal he could be out of the backfield, nabbing three balls, none bigger than his 24-yarder in overtime to get into field goal range. Look for him to be incorporated more into the offense now that the depth at running back has been depleted.

- That depleted backfield illustrates how quickly things can change in the NFL. Before the season started the Steelers boasted one of the strongest running back stables in the NFL with Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, and Mewelde Moore. Injuries to Parker and Mendenhall leave Moore, an unproven Gary Russell, and a recently re-signed Dump Truck as the primary options Sunday night against Jacksonville. I’m thinking Russell may get the start, with Moore being worked in. If Carey Davis can recover in time from a sprained ankle he’ll see some time as well.

- I don’t necessarily think the preseason is useless, but Troy Polamalu is making a strong case against that train of thought. The guy didn’t play a down during the exhibitions, and it allowed him to get fully healthy. He’s playing unbelievable ball right now, twice coming from out of nowhere Monday night to bat down deep passes that could have resulted in sizable gains for Baltimore.

- Anyone else want to see more of the no-huddle? I think Ben is more comfortable in it. The best thing is it allows him to get to the line of scrimmage with enough time on the play clock for him to survey the defense. Too often it seems like the Steelers are pressing to get the play off when they go to their conventional offense. Yet it always seems like they only go to the no-huddle when they’re down and in desperation mode. Once I’d like to see them do it early in a game when that’s not the case.

- Look, I feel bad for Kendall Simmons. I really do. A torn Achilles is as bad as it gets for football players. That said, this line will be better without him. It looks like they’ll go with Stapleton or Essex at guard, but the more prudent move in my opinion is to eventually slide Colon inside to guard and let the $7 million dollar man earn his money at right tackle.

- James Harrison must love Monday Nights. After last season’s performance against the Ravens, he chipped in with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble on Monday. That fumble was picked up and returned for a touchdown by LaMarr Woodley, who by the way also had 1.5 sacks. These two could both be on their way to the Pro Bowl this season if they keep this up. They’re on pace to combine for 36 sacks themselves alone this season, and are the best duo at outside linebacker the Steelers have had in some time.

- I know it’s only four games, but I don’t find myself holding my breath on kickoffs and punts anymore. The coverage teams have done an outstanding job thus far. Let’s hope they can keep it up. And while we're talking special teams, Jeff Reed proved once again that he is money.

- Quick look ahead to next week: Jacksonville has had our number as of late. They’ve won the last four meetings, using a brand of physical football. That might be more difficult this time around. Jacksonville has been decimated by injuries along their interior offensive line, and their run game isn’t in optimum shape as a result. This puts more pressure on David Garrard, who willed his team to victory on Sunday against the Texans. That will be more difficult to do against the Steelers, obviously. On defense, the Jaguars haven’t generated the type of pass rush to take advantage of a lackluster Steelers O-line. They’ve totaled only five sacks as a team thus far. Rashean Mathis left Sunday’s game with a bruised shin and did not return. His status for Sunday’s game is not known as of yet, but his absence would be a huge boost to us. He’s been an absolute Steeler-killer in the past. One thing that worries me: having a short week coming off an overtime slugfest with an extremely physical Ravens team.

AROUND THE NFL:

Falcons-Panthers: Muhsin Muhammad didn’t look like he was 35 on Sunday

Browns-Bengals: Why oh why did CBS stick those of us in western Pennsylvania with this piece of shit? Newsflash CBS, I don’t care if they’re in the AFC North, these teams both suck and I don’t want to watch them.

Texans-Jaguars: Steve Slaton is becoming a pretty dangerous weapon for that Houston offense.

Broncos-Chiefs: I said last week that the Broncos couldn’t keep winning with atrocious defensive play. And they didn’t, falling to the hapless Chiefs.

49ers-Saints: Drew Brees is good. Really good.

Cardinals-Jets: Every now and then, Kurt Warner has a game where he turns the ball over approximately 4,268 times. That game came on Sunday.

Packers-Buccaneers: I know the Buccaneers are 3-0 with him, but in the long-run does Brian Griese really give Tampa Bay the better chance to win than Jeff Garcia?

Vikings-Titans: Merrill Hoge can barely contain his excitement over the Vince Young-less 4-0 Tennessee Titans.

Chargers-Raiders: Gamblers got the ultimate backdoor cover when LaDainian Tomlinson sprinted his way to the endzone in the final minute or so.

Bills-Rams: The Marc Bulger for Trent Green switch reeked of desperation from the get-go. As expected, Scott Linehan didn’t finish the season. Hell, he didn’t even get to the halfway mark.

Redskins-Cowboys: That Monday Nighter against Washington is looking a little bit tougher today. Maybe Harrison can have like 10 sacks that night.

Eagles-Bears: Kids, don’t gamble. It’s not worth going through the pain myself and IWTFTB experienced Sunday night.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Week 4 (Gambling) Roundup

Update: I have been meaning to point this out for weeks, and this Thomas Friedman article reminded me of it. John Buccigross' season ending column from June looks pretty damn prescient given the country's economic problems. Kind of like Friedman's article, only months earlier and from a non-expert. Bucci in '12 anyone?

- My strategy on the picks table this weekend was borne from laziness: simply take the opposite of what someone else takes. Now, given Sam's horrible track record, it would have been a no brainer to take the opposite of his picks. I even told him this. But since Sam takes the effort to actually put the whole thing together, I didn't want to rub it in his face so I told him "just give me the opposite of what the stache takes". And of course the 'Stache practically runs the table one me...

- Except for one game, one rather important game to the 'Stache and IWTFTB. For those of you who gambled on the Eagles-Bears game last night, you were treated to one of those most unpredictable, awful, turnover-prone games in recent memory. TWICE there were back-to-back turnovers, as in, the Eagles threw an interception one play then the Bears threw an interception on the very next play. There was a fourth quarter, four down goaline stand by the Bears. There was Devin Hester doing Devin Hester things, and Desean Jackson taking one step closer to becoming the most Hit or Miss Player in the NFL. Oh, and the game clock wasn't working for patches of the fourth quarter, which was positively maddening. Needless to say, I am glad I parted ways with the Stache and IWTFTB before things in the fourth quarter got particularly hideous for them.

- When the lines came out last week, the 'Stache and I both commented that everyone and their brother would be taking a Broncos-Bills teaser. This practically guaranteed that either the Chiefs or Rams would win (the Chiefs did). In a strange way, the NFL has almost become predictable in its unpredictability. Well, except for the Rams, who are striving to break their "failed to cover" streak from last year.

- The following video has nothing to do with gambling, unless you are betting on Lane Kiffin getting fired. What is the work place equivalent of Lane Kiffin sending out Janikowski for a 76 yarder - showing up to a staff meeting naked? Proposing at the company budget meeting that an extra 76k go towards buying an African Elephant for the office? The possibilities are endless. For the NFL though, nothing quite says "Terminate me" quite like this:

Friday, September 26, 2008