TIOPS Daily Five: Chances slim the Pirates view Andrew McCutchen as a $14 million a year player for 17


TIOPS Daily Five *Rumblings, Musings, Opinions* 1. The Gretzky bias. Sidney Crosby on Thursday night became the third player in hockey history to have a Hart Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and World Cup/Canada Cup MVP on his resume. The other two are Wayne Gretzky (1987) and Bobby Orr (1976). The other two should be Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr. Lemieux’s dominance during the 1987 Canada Cup in what was really the passing of the torch in Lemieux emerging as the worlds greatest player, saw him dominate the tournament with 11 goals, 18 points in nine games. Yet it was Gretzky and his 3 goals, 21 points who took home the MVP honors. 2. Andrew McCutchen in 2016: 24 home runs, 77 RBI, .769 OPS, -0.5 WAR Pedro Alvarez in 2015: 27 home runs, 77 RBI, .789 OPS, 0.1 WAR Andrew McCutchen has been Pedro Alvarez at the plate and McCutchenRead More »

How the Chips may fall on the Penguins Blue Line


[/hide] Monday’s TIOPS Buzz Column Rumblings, Musings, Opinions 1. Josh Harrison showing signs of finding his swing this past weekend was a key development for the Pirates. If it’s a start of Harrison resembling the hitter he was in 2014, could Neil Walker’s starting spot be in jeopardy down the stretch and in the post-season? Don’t rule it out. The Pirates’ view Harrison as their best fielding second baseman and the organization has been frustrated by Walker’s lack of consistency at the plate this season. If Harrison gets on a run here, interesting dynamic to watch. 2. The Pirates decision to keep Jeff Locke in the rotation moving forward has much to do with the Pirates also projecting Locke to be part of the rotation next season. The team internally hopes to move Charlie Morton this off-season. 3. There’s not a better receiver in the NFL than Antonio Brown. HeRead More »

Daily 5: Happ’s Dominance, Kessel to elevate Crosby?


Photo: David Hague DAILY FIVE *Rumblings, Musings, Opinions* 1. Expecting a dominant start from J.A. Happ is becoming the norm. It’s now been six straight. Happ struck out 10 and allowed three hits in the Pirates 5-4 win Wednesday night vs the Reds. Happ’s strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last six starts is 36/5. Things are setting up for Happ to get Edinson Volquez (2 years, $20 million) money this off-season. 2. Jung Ho Kang first career grand slam Your browser does not support iframes. 3. The latest two games are a glimpse at the lineup Clint Hurdle would love to work going into the stretch run and become the Pirates best lineup with Aramis Ramirez at first base. “We’re just trying to figure out the best solution moving forward, as we try to catch the Cardinals and win the division,” Hurdle said. “I think it’s very black and white. WeRead More »

Daily 5: Joe Blanton time in the rotation; Steelers Trade Talk


TIOPS DAILY FIVE Rumblings, Musings, Opinions* 1. Almost every Major League team has a Jeff Locke as their No. 5 starter but there reaches a point where you have to pull the plug, at least when it comes to Locke pitching another meaningful game in 2015. Locke was a disaster in the Pirates 9-4 loss to the Brewers, allowing five runs in 3 2/3 innings. The left hander has made just two quality starts since June 17. Hurdle after Wednesday’s game was pressed by reporters if Locke has pitched his last game in the rotation for 2015. “I’m not going to get into that right after a guy goes 3 2/3 innings,” Hurdle told reporters. “Those are conversations we’ll have internally. We continue to look at ways to make our team stronger all the time.” Hurdle himself has had a rough go at it in not pulling starters quickly enough.Read More »

Daily 5: Few Dominant starts for Gerrit Cole over last two months


TIOPS DAILY FIVE Rumblings, Musings, Opinions* 1. Gerrit Cole was rocked in the Pirates 7-4 loss to the Brewers Tuesday night. Cole lasted just four innings, matching the shortest start of his career, and allowing five runs, which also matched the most he has ever allowed. “I didn’t work down, I didn’t work efficiently,” Cole told reporters of his performance. Cole since the All-Star break is 2-5 with a 3.36 ERA and opponents are hitting .261 against him. “I looked [at the tape] and I don’t have all the answers,” Cole said of his start Tuesday night. “The stuff was kind of flat, not very crisp, and poor execution as well. I just got beat up real quick.” It’s not panic time for Cole but there’s only been a handful of dominant starts over the last eight weeks, and you need your ace trending in the right direction heading intoRead More »

Daily 5: The Penguins and Cody Franson


TIOPS DAILY FIVE RUMBLINGS, MUSINGS, OPINIONS 1. A.J. Burnett on Sunday threw around 70 pitches, 40 fastballs, 20 cuveballs, 6-10 changeups and the velocity was very encouraging. “He threw all three pitches effectively,” GM Neal Huntington said yesterday. “Curveball was good. Changeup was good for A.J. and the fastball showed life.” The Pirates are about 10-14 days from needing to figure out their rotation for Burnett’s expected return for the Cubs series. “We’ll have a challenging decision to make,” Huntington said. Jeff Locke is the prime candidate to come out, but for Huntington and the Pirates, would there really be any drop off by keeping Locke in the rotation and planting Charlie Morton on the bench? For whatever reason there continues to be a narrative that Charlie Morton is a quality starting pitcher. The only difference between Locke and Morton — Morton makes about $8 million, Locke $531,000 — 2.Read More »

Daily 5: Two knuckleheads unable to stay off the reefer could cost the Steelers big


TIOPS DAILY FIVE Rumblings, Musings, Opinions 1. The Pittsburgh Steelers could miss the playoffs because two knuckleheads couldn’t lay off the reefer. Martavis Bryant pending four game suspension is because of a failed drug test (marijuana) and what should have everyone in the organization furious is Bryant obviously can’t kick the problem as this wasn’t the first time or he would not have been in the program in the first place. In fact, Bryant has either failed four drug tests to receive the four game suspension or failed to cooperate recently with the administered testing which would immediately slap the four game suspension after previously failing three tests. There’s some out there who say drinking alcohol makes you more impaired than smoking marijuana, but no matter what side of the aisle you’re on, it violates the NFL’s substance abuse policy and whether it should be or not, it remains illegalRead More »

Daily 5: McCutchen’s MVP Surge; Sestito fits certain role Pens brass have identified?


TIOPS DAILY FIVE Rumblings, Musings, Opinions 1. Andrew McCutchen making his MVP surge, was 2-5 with a home run and 4 RBIs in the Pirates 7-2 win over the Florida Marlins Wednesday night. On pace for 110 RBIs this season, which would be a career high (previous 96 in 2012), McCutchen’s 85 RBIs currently place him 3rd in the NL. McCutchen’s 2013 NL MVP winning season he drove in just 84 runs. Hitting with runners in scoring position has been an area of improvement for McCutchen. In 2014 McCutchen posted an .887 OPS with runners in scoring position. This season McCutchen’s OPS with RISP is 1.172, batting .394. A fun stat to keep an eye on for McCutchen — His slash line is currently .300/.400/.521. — The last center fielder to post a .300/.400/.500 slash line in four consecutive seasons was Mickey Mantle, courtesy of the Yes Network. 2. TheRead More »

Daily 5: Crosby’s power in the organization


TIOPS DAILY FIVE Rumblings, Musings, Opinions 1. Mike Johnston when constructing his lines believes in pairs of two’s. What’s good to see is he isn’t overthinking things and Sidney Crosby will get the first shot at playing with Phil Kessel. “You’d probably find Kessel starting on the right side with Sid to begin with,” Johnston said today at the Penguins Alumni Outing. Malkin will surely get some looks with Kessel in the preseason but the Penguins plan going into the season with Eric Fehr injured is: Crosby – Kessel Malkin – Hornqvist Bonino – Dupuis And let the other pieces fall into place. 2. There was a report in Canada on the day the Penguins traded for Phil Kessel that Mike Johnston at the draft was already kicking the idea around of Kessel playing with Evgeni Malkin. What changed? Sidney Crosby is not LeBron James when it comes to dictatingRead More »

Daily 5 Weekend Edition: Walker 1B Talk; Hurdle; Brown/Tomlin Connection; Gonchar likely to get contract & more


TIOPS DAILY FIVE: WEEKEND EDITION *Rumblings, Musings, Opinions* 1. Josh Harrison during his rehab stint in Indianapolis has seen playing time at second base and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle believes Harrison’s best position is second base. The ideal scenario for the Pirates that has been obvious for weeks and maybe months is Neil Walker at first base, Harrison at second base, Jordy Mercer at shortstop and Jung Ho Kang at third base. However, the friction between the Pirates and Neil Walker ever since the Pirates made a low-ball 6 year offer in the range of $18 million to Walker way back in 2011 has never been resolved and unless Walker has a new long-term contract in his hands, the Pirates are in the difficult position of asking Walker to move to first base. Would they love to? Absolutely, especially in the off-season where it’s more ideal, but the Hendricks brothersRead More »