Saturday, October 26, 2019

Ottawa Jr. Senators 2 at Pembroke Lumber Kings 4 (CCHL) - October 25, 2019


After checking out my first CCHL game on Thursday night in Kanata, I didn't wait long to see my second. The Pembroke Lumber Kings had a Friday morning game and as I had family commitments that evening, it worked very well with my schedule.

Growing up in the Ottawa Valley, I heard the Lumber Kings name often on the local sports, but really had no idea what they were. In those days, Pembroke seemed like a mysterious, far-away land with giant trees being felled by these Lumber Kings. Much older now, I realize that they are just a Junior A team that has played in Pembroke for more than a century.



Nor is Pembroke far away; a 90-minute drive from Ottawa gets you to the Pembroke Memorial Centre, which has been in operation since 1951. I left my downtown Ottawa hotel at 9 a.m. and pulled into the parking lot (free of course, this is small town hockey at its best) at 10:40. The first thing I noticed as I walked towards the entrance were the beautiful murals; below is one that illustrates the history of fiddling and stepdancing in the city (Pembroke hosts championships every Labour Day weekend); the other celebrates MacKay Street Arena, the predecessor to the PMC (barely visible on the far right above).



Tickets here are $12 and you get a stub with that. Pick up a lucky lineup for a buck and you might win a prize, while 50/50 tickets are 3 for $2. There are two main concessions that offer hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels, and candy at reasonable prices. Once you are set, take your time to look at the history on display.



Pembroke calls itself Hockey Town Canada (many small towns do so as well), and at the back of the rink, there is a photo display with teams that played here in the early 20th century, along with the history of the previous arena.



Along the rink siding is a Wall of Honor that highlights the contributions of several Lumber Kings over the years.



The team has had a lot of success and there are championship banners throughout. The league used to be known as the Central Junior Hockey League before becoming the CCHL in 2011, after a single year as the Central Hockey League.



The teams biggest success came under the tutelage of Sheldon Keefe, who is honoured with a banner above the ice. Keefe, who led the Toronto Marlies to the Calder Cup in 2018, won the National Junior A Championship in 2011 and there is a banner at one end of the arena commemorating this achievement. This was only the second CCHL team to win the national title, with the first being the Rockland Nationals in 1976.



As for the rink itself, red benches surround the ice surface on 3 sides. Above that is a standing rail which was popular on this day as most of the seats were filled with school kids enjoying a field trip.



The picture below is from the standing rail and you can see pillars that block a portion of the ice. You have to sit a few rows down to completely avoid them.



At one end is a glass partition behind which you can sit; this area is slightly warmer than the seating bowl and does provide a unique view as you are almost on top of the goalie.



The view below is from the opposite end zone. You might notice that there is no trapezoid behind the net as the CCHL does not enforce that rule about goalies playing the puck too far from their net.



You can stand down by the glass in the end zone if you enjoy that view, though I did not see anyone doing so.



The game was quick, with the Lumber Kings beating the Ottawa Jr. Senators 4-2 in front of 675, with about 600 of those being children from local schools. That made for the third-highest attendance in the league so far this season, with the leader being Rockland that very night, where 900 showed up.



For me, it was a great way to spend the morning finally getting to see what those Lumber Kings were all about. I love old venues with a lot of history, and this one is exactly that. I don't think too many sports travelers are going to put Pembroke on their to-do list, but if you are in the area, it is definitely worth a look.



Notes

If you are on your way to Pembroke from Ottawa (or heading back), consider stopping in at Whitewater Brewery for a bite. They are right along the highway and have a full menu as well as great beer that you can get to go.

Best,

Sean

Friday, October 25, 2019

Navan Grads 3 at Kanata Lasers 5 (CCHL) - October 24, 2019


This trip to Ottawa was made at the last minute, and when I first looked at the schedule, I saw a QMJHL game in suburban Montreal for Thursday night. But that morning, I noticed that there was a Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) game in Kanata, where I spent most of my teenage years. Seeing that would save about 3 hours of driving and allow me to look around the old neighborhood, so I decided to head up to the Kanata Recreation Complex instead of all the way to Montreal.



For those who are not aware of the CCHL, it is a Junior A league, the Tier 2 level that lies below Major Junior, from where many NHL players are drafted. Sometimes, players are drafted directly from Junior A, the most recent notable being Cale Makar, who was taken 4th overall by Colorado from the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) in 2017. But for the most part, any player with a future will play a season here before moving up to Major Junior or onto the NCAA. Marc Methot is a perfect example: after a year in Kanata as a 16-year-old, he spent a year with the London Knights before being drafted in the 6th round in 2003; after 2 more junior seasons he turned pro and played 624 games over a 13-year NHL career. Of course, he is in the minority, most who play here have no chance to make it to the pros and will finish their careers in relative obscurity. Still, I have seen games at this level in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and the hockey is not bad at all. And of course, I got to see a new venue too.



The Kanata Recreation Complex is a small building with two full-size arenas that each have a few rows of benches for spectators and a standing rail at the top. It is located just a stone's throw from the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the Senators. Entrance is $12, with no ticket given out, so pick up a lineup sheet if you want a souvenir.



As with all small arenas in Canada, there are lots of banners celebrating the successes of the local kids' programs.



Eagle-eyed readers with a deep knowledge of the NHL will recognize Mark Borowiecki's name on the white banner below; he was 12 when his Atom team won that championship. Nearly twenty years on and he's a regular with his hometown Senators.



The concession stand here is the highlight, with a great selection of junk food plus the usual hot dogs and pretzels. If you want something more substantial, there are a couple of bars just across Terry Fox Drive that will serve that purpose.



As far as venues go, this level is as low as I will go for counting a stadium; the nearest equivalent was a similar rink in Iceland. At least the hockey was pretty good here.



No reason to recap the entire game however, just the final frame will do. Visiting Navan was leading 3-2 when Charlie Johnson scored a shorthanded marker for Kanata early in the third to tie it. Johnson then potted the eventual winner at 16:27, but the scoreboard operator took his time to add the goal, giving me a chance to snap the rare all-3's scoreboard. Johnson added an empty netter for the natural hat trick as Kanata prevailed 5-3. With no TV timeouts or ice scrapes and 15-minute intermissions, the game took just 2:10 and was played in front of 101 spectators. Glad I finally caught a game here!

Best,

Sean

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Charleston Battery 1-5 at Ottawa Fury 1-4 (USL Playoffs, First Round) - October 23, 2019


I made a return visit to my hometown of Ottawa for the first time in nearly 4 years to see family and friends. Although the lowly Senators were home on two of the three nights I was there, I chose to attend games featuring some true second-tier teams instead. First among these was the Ottawa Fury, who were making their USL Championship playoff debut on Wednesday night at TD Place. Of course, I have been to this stadium many times, including most recently when the Redblacks made their debut in their newly renovated digs. At that time, there were a lot of glitches, so I was interested to see how the stadium looked after five years.



The first thing I noticed was that the surrounding neighborhood has undergone a remarkable transformation. There are several restaurants and bars, with the Craft Beer Market being the recommended one. It is right at the corner of Bank Street and Exhibition Way and offers a wide selection of excellent brews and good food too. It is probably better to visit during a Fury game as there is a smaller crowd and you shouldn't have any trouble getting a table.



My buddies Sharpy and Sean joined, and after a quick dinner, we made our way in. With a season-low crowd of only 2,427 in a stadium that seats 24,000, only the lower deck of the south side was open, along with some suites. So I wouldn't get to see much of the stadium after all.



We did a quick walk around, where the only thing I noticed was a statue of Frank Clair, the longtime coach of the Rough Riders after whom the stadium was once named. When the naming rights were bought by TD in 2014, this statue was erected.



We chose seats near the top of the box, and had much of the section to ourselves. In the past, I have called Ottawa the worst sports town in North America and this game did nothing to change my opinion. Sure, the Senators were home, and the ex-Expos were playing their first World Series game in history, but that should not dissuade soccer fans from venturing outside to see their team in its first USL playoff game. A mere 11 days before, 5,539 showed up for the final home game of the season; over 3,000 of those didn't bother this time around. I wonder if a team has ever had its lowest crowd of the season at a playoff game.



Still, there are some fans who try their best, even if they are not counted in the attendance. There is a condo at the west end of the stadium and some fans set up a small light display with the Fury 'F' to lend their support. If I ever move back to Ottawa, I will try to get a place here.



It was a bit chilly on this night, but nothing unusual for Ottawa in late October, and certainly no reason to stay home. It was quite a disappointment and I'm sure a larger crowd could have helped the Fury on this night. Because they sure needed some.

The Game

This was a play-in game with the Charleston Battery, who finished 9th in the Eastern Division, taking on 8th-place Ottawa. The visitors opened the scoring in the 27th minute when Kotaro Higashi, a Japanese national, was played into open space down the left wing. Higashi raced toward the Ottawa penalty area and curled a shot that keeper Callum Irving got a hand on, but not enough to keep it from touching the twine. The Fury tied it just 13 minutes later when Mour Samb received a pass just inside the box, quickly turned, and fired a low shot past a diving Joe Kuzminsky (below in net). The rest of the match saw Ottawa dominate possession but they could not take the lead and we went to extra time. A delightful outcome on a cold evening.



Of course, the OT period decided nothing and it came to penalties. The first three shooters scored for both teams, bringing Samb to the line. I had a sudden premonition that he would miss, and he did just that, bouncing his shot off the crossbar. Charleston did not miss their next two shots and won the shootout 5-4 to advance to the quarterfinals.Below is the final score with the replay of the winning penalty on the video screen.



This was not a particularly good game, with few periods of sustained possession and a lot of pointless kicking the ball far away. So maybe those fans who stayed away knew what they were doing after all.

Notes

This was the third home stadium in which I had seen the Fury; the first was at Algonquin College in 2009 when they were in the PDL, the second was Keith Harris Stadium when they were in the NASL in 2014. After much consolidation and league movement, soccer in North America is reaching some stability with the USL Championship the sole second-tier circuit. The Fury should remain here for a while and if they can improve, I would expect attendance to do so as well.

The Battery lost their Eastern quarterfinal match to Nashville 3-1, who lost their Eastern semifinal match to Indy.

Update: The Fury suspended operations for 2020, so this turned out to be their last game in the USL.

Best,

Sean

Monday, October 21, 2019

Saint Francis Red Flash 30 at LIU Sharks 0 (NCAA Football, NEC) - October 19, 2019


Long Island University has two campuses: one in Brooklyn, and the other in Brookville, which is known as LIU Post. Up until this year, each school had their own athletic program, with the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds playing in Division I, while the LIU Post Pioneers were in Division II. This past summer, however, the university combined the two programs, and rebranded as the Sharks. With the unification, all programs would now be Division I, including football. This made the Sharks the newest members of the Football Conference Subdivision (FCS), and they became the fifth Division I gridiron team in the greater NYC area, along with Columbia, Wagner, Fordham, and Stony Brook. Of course, now that they were in Division I, I had to pay a visit to see them.



The Sharks play out of Bethpage Federal Credit Union Stadium, which desperately needs a nickname like the Tank or something. It is located at the corner of Shark Street and Gold Coast Road on the LIU Campus, about 45 minutes by car from NYC. Transit options are limited to Nassau County's N20h bus, either from Hicksville or Great Neck LIRR Stations; this bus has limited runs during the weekend so plan accordingly. The building first hosted a game on September 17, 1966, just one day before the Oakland Coliseum opened its doors. Since then, it has undergone a few renovations and looks quite new.



I took the bus from Hicksville, which drops you off at the northern end of campus. A short walk later and I was in the parking lot about 20 minutes before kickoff. It was homecoming and there were a number of tents set up as part of the tailgating scene, though most had run out of their wares by the time I arrived.



There were also food trucks and a small amusement park with a few rides. I believe that both of these attractions were only here for the homecoming game, which attracted nearly 5,000 fans, double that which showed up for their opener a month prior, the only other home game to date.



Tickets are $10 for general admission benches and $15 for chairback seats, which are the sections at midfield. Note the hard ticket, which is one of the best I have seen at any level. Two helmets atop a background of shark fins, with the game date and a unique number. Why big league teams can't continue to do this is beyond me.



You enter the stadium through a gate and walk down a path to the stands. There are a few concessions here with limited options such as hot dogs and nachos.



Before entering the seating area, take a look in the building to the right, which is where the only fixed concession stand is. Down the hall, you will find the collection of trophies won by LIU Post, including four Division II national titles in women's lacrosse. This is also where you will find vending machines which sell a larger variety of soda for 25 cents cheaper than at the concession.



There are two stands, but only one seemed to be in use on this day, named the one on the west side behind the Sharks bench, where the sun is not a problem.



The other stand is a recent addition, but with the sun shining on it throughout the whole game, nobody bothered to walk over there, or possibly it was just closed.



There is also a standing area with a large lawn that is perfect for kids to run around. There was a bunch of pumpkins there for some reason, and some cornhole boards set up, as well as tables and chairs for less interested fans to relax. It was an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon and many fans were more inclined to take it easy over here instead of watching the game.



I spent the last few minutes standing here, and it is not a bad vantage point when the action is close to the end zone. Unfortunately, this was the end zone that LIU was trying for, and as such, there was little action to be found.



Overall, the Tank is a surprisingly fun place to watch a football game. I'm glad I attended the homecoming weekend as there was a lot more to see and do, but even a normal game should provide an enjoyable atmosphere. The Sharks only have one more home game this year, in November against Merrimack College (who are in the process of transitioning to Division I), but they should have a full schedule in 2020. If you enjoy the relative simplicity of FCS football and are in the NYC area, consider a trip to LIU to see the newest addition to Division I.

The Game

LIU (wearing sky blue and yellow below) came in at 0-5 (0-4 in the Northeast Conference), but some of those were close losses, so there was some hope against Saint Francis, who were 3-3 (1-1 in NEC play). The Red Flash opened the scoring with a 26-yard field goal midway through the first, and LIU had a chance to tie on their next possession, but a 31-yard attempt was blocked. The teams then went on a punt parade, with the next 6 drives ending in kicks. On the last of those, SFU's Nick Rinella returned the ball to the LIU 15 and three plays later, Jason Brown found Ra'Shaun Henry for an 11-yard score. The convert went wide and it was 9-0 at the half.



Both teams punted on their first possession of the second half, with the Red Flash taking over on their own 2 with 8:36 left. They then embarked on an incredible 15-play, 98-yard drive that culminated with a Terrell Johnson 10-yard touchdown catch 5 seconds into the final frame. After LIU punted again, Brown found EJ Jenkins for a 79-yard score that made it 23-0, with Saint Francis adding a final TD a few minutes later to complete the rout.



Despite the score, it was not a terrible game, and there were some nice plays along the way. But LIU could not run the ball, rushing 30 times for -1 yards, an incredible statistic. They had 11 possessions, punted on 9 of those, missed a field goal, and fumbled late in the first half. The Sharks were merely chum on this day.



The game took just over 2.5 hours, an hour shorter than a typical televised FBS game. Which is the primary reason I prefer FCS, where the fans at the game are more important than those at home.

Update: Given their poor peformance, I did not mention any LIU players, but their QB on this day was Clay Beathard, brother of 49ers backup C.J. and grandson of Bobby. Tragically, Clay was stabbed to death in Nashville just 2 months after this game.

Notes

There was a promotion called "Kick for Tuition" wherein a randomly selected student would have a chance to kick a field goal for a year's tuition. Sounds reasonable, until you learn that the distance is 45 yards. Few students could make such a kick, but the young woman "randomly" selected was about 5'4 and wearing ankle boots. Needless to say, she did not make it, kicking the ball about 10 yards along the ground.

Meanwhile, another promotion during a timeout had kids participating in a potato sack race. For some reason, the kids ran on the field at one end just as play was about to start at the other. I had visions of a kid getting run over, but someone quickly realized the potential danger and shepherded the kids to safety.



The dance team and cheerleaders lined up to perform at halftime (above), only for no music to be played for over a minute, while they stood there waiting. They had to leave the field for the band, but they did get a chance to perform before halftime ended. So there's still a few kinks to be worked out in the gameday presentation.

As I was leaving, I heard an announcement that LIU Ice Hockey would be taking on defending champion and #1 Wisconsin at Nassau Coliseum at 5:30. I was confused at first because Wisconsin did not win the title last year, and LIU doesn't have a hockey program. But wait! There is women's hockey in the NCAA and LIU has a team that started play this year! It was amazing that they got the top team in the nation to visit for two games (can you imagine Alabama coming here for football?), though of course, they lost both, 10-2 and 12-0. Well, nobody said Division I sports was going to be easy.

Best,

Sean

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Innings Pitched per Win


In the previous post, I showed that a simple statistic that calculates innings pitched per loss (IP/L) saw the two lowest numbers in baseball history this past season for those pitchers having lost at least 11 games. This is because relievers are increasingly taken out after 1 or 2 outs, while homers are being hit at a record pace, meaning more late lead changes and losses for those relievers. Adam Conley of Miami was the new leader, losing 11 games while pitching just 60.2 innings for an all-time low of 5.52 IP/L, with Raisel Iglesias just behind at 5.58 after taking 12 losses in 67 innings.

So would you expect that innings pitched per win (IP/W) would also see new records set? One key difference here is that a relief pitcher must have been the last one to pitch when his team took a lead that they held to the end of the game in order to get the win (the exception is when the starter is removed with the lead before completing 5 innings, in which case the win goes to the relief pitcher who, in the official scorer's judgment, was the most effective). So there is no strong correlation to the relief pitcher's quality and his win total, while there obviously is more correlation to talent (or lack thereof) and losses.

I checked to see if any relievers had won at least 15 games while starting none. Turns out that there were 13 in history that had done so. The most fortunate of these was Roy Face, who went 18-1 for the Pirates in 1959. He appeared in 57 games, tossing 90.2 innings  for an all-time low IP/W of 5.19. He was obviously the beneficiary of many late comebacks by his Pirates teammates, as his other numbers were not particularly spectacular. During those days, relievers often averaged over 2 IP per appearance, and there were far fewer of them, so you would expect higher win totals.

I put together a table of the lowest number of innings pitched for a reliever with each number of wins between 6 and 18 (below). It is clear that more recent years appear when win totals are fewer. For example, John Gant won 11 this season while pitching just 66.1 innings; last year Corbin Burnes managed 7 victories in just 38 IP. This is to be expected given the trend towards fewer innings. With so many starters getting pulled without even completing the 5 innings needed to secure a win, more relievers are getting awarded easy wins. Over a season, you can expect one or two to get lucky and see their win totals boosted significantly this way. Risley and Brazoban should be off this list in the next few seasons.

W   IP   IP/W Pitcher         Team Year
18  93.1 5.19 Roy Face        PIT  1959
17 150   8.82 John Hiller     DET  1974
16 129   8.06 Ron Perranoski  LAD  1963
15 111.1 7.42 Dale Murray     MTL  1975
14  85.1 6.10 Ron Davis       NYY  1979
13  87.1 6.72 Rich Gossage    NYY  1983
12  68   5.67 Johnny Murphy   NYY  1943
11  66.1 6.03 John Gant       STL  2019
10  57   5.70 Mike Dunn       MIA  2014
 9  52.1 5.81 Bill Risley     SEA  1994
 8  48.1 6.04 Jason Motte     CHC  2015
 7  38   5.43 Corbin Burnes   MIL  2018
 6  32.2 5.44 Yhency Brazoban LAD  2004

So it appears as if IP/W is also seeing new records, at least for lower win totals among relievers. How about starters? I did the same analysis, finding the lowest number of innings pitched for starters (defined as having at least 85% of their games as a starter) for each number of wins between 27 and 12.

W   IP      IP/W Pitcher           Team Year
27  238     8.81 Bob Welch         OAK  1990
26  309.1  11.90 Fred Klobedanz    BSN  1897
25  250.2  10.03 Steve Stone       BAL  1980
24  251    10.46 Justin Verlander  DET  2011
23  213.1   9.28 Pedro Martinez    BOS  1999
22  216.1   9.83 Matt Morris       STL  2001
21  180.2   8.60 Blake Snell       TB   2018
20  188.2   9.43 Jered Weaver      LAA  2012
19  169.3   8.91 Storm Davis       BAL  1989
18  143     7.94 Domingo German    NYY  2019
17  150.1   8.84 Matt Moore        TB   2013
16  154.2   9.67 Ken Hill          MTL  1994
15  147.2   9.84 Stephen Strasburg WAS  2016
14  145.2  10.40 Dallas Keuchel    HOU  2017
13  126     9.69 Mike Clevinger    CLE  2019
12  108.1   9.03 Clay Buchholz     BOS  2013

I chose to start from 27 because that was Bob Welch's incredible total in 1990, when he pitched "only" 238 innings, leading to an IP/W of 8.81, which was historically low. Since then, only two starters have had lower IP/W: Blake Snell last season, and Domingo German, setting an all-time record this season. To be fair, two of German's wins were in relief, but he still would have set the record for 16 wins too. Mike Clevinger also set a record for 13-game winners this season, pitching just 126 innings. I expect Ken Hill of the 1994 World Series Champion Montreal Expos to soon disappear from this list. One who won't disappear is Fred Klobedanz, the 26-game winner who pitched 309.1 innings for the Boston Beaneaters in 1897. We will never see numbers like that again.

I enjoy seeing the wide variety of names on these two lists, but the conclusion to all of this isn't particularly stunning. Pitchers are obviously throwing fewer innings every year, so win and loss totals are down too. But when comparing the two, innings pitched are declining relatively more quickly, leading to lower IP/W and IP/L numbers for lower win totals. This trend will continue as long as managers use that quick hook.

Best,

Sean

Monday, October 7, 2019

A New Baseball Stat Leads to a New Baseball Record


If you've watched baseball for more than a decade, you are aware that the game has changed, and not for the better. Games take longer, there are more pitching changes, fewer complete games, plenty of home runs and strikeouts, and not nearly as many balls in play. In fact, 2018 saw more foul balls than balls in play. Great if you are a kid, but not very interesting if you like to see a bit of action on the field.

Another way to tell that the game has changed is from the statistics. As a simple example, homers have increased, hitting a ridiculous 6,676 this year, up 62% from 4,186 in 2014 (that was the lowest total since 1995, before steroids). Hits, however, were up a mere 1% in that time. The difference is that singles are down 8.7% and triples down 7.5%. I like to see rallies rather than a bunch of solo shots, but I understand that most fans prefer home runs. Still, devaluing them by changing the composition of the baseball is not the way to go, despite journalistic shills like this. Note that there is no mention of the juiced baseball that led to all these homers. When Justin Verlander had the temerity to mention the changes to the baseball, he was reprimanded by Joe Torre and others. The lack of integrity in the game is appalling.

Anyway, these are the obvious ways to figure out that the game has changed, but there are other stats that take a bit of digging, but reveal just as much. When I was in Pittsburgh last week, I saw Cincinnati reliever Raisel Iglesias give up a walk-off homer to Pittsburgh's Kevin Newman. It was the 12th loss of the season for Iglesias, which in itself is nothing unusual. But then I checked his stats, and he had only pitched 66 innings. So he lost a game for every 5.5 innings he pitched. That seemed like a very low number (the Reds lost 87 games with 1,438 IP, or 1 loss every 16.5 IP). Of course, relievers will have a lower number, since they pitch fewer innings, often in close games. Still, 5.5?

I decided to do a bit of investigation on the stat Innings Pitched per Loss (IP/L). Using Python, I grabbed all pitching data from 2000-2019, limiting the result set to those pitchers who had lost 11 or more games. I wanted to see if any other pitchers came close to Iglesias (who threw one more inning on Saturday to finish with a 5.58 IP/L). The lowest number before this year was in 2010, when none other than Charlie Morton, then with Pittsburgh, went 2-12 while pitching 79.2 innings (6.64 IP/L). But Morton started all 17 games in which he appeared; he just sucked that year. There are many starters who had terrible seasons with a lot of losses, but they usually averaged at least 5 innings per game, so their IP/L should be at least 7 when you include no-decisions. An example of this is Homer Bailey in 2018 - he started 20 games, went 1-14 with 106.1 IP for an IP/L of 7.6.

To make the comparison meaningful, I had to focus on relievers. In 2004, Luis Ayala of the Expos appeared in relief 81 times, pitching 90.1 innings and finishing with a 6-12 record. That gave him an IP/L of 7.53, the lowest for a reliever in the 2000s (again, with a minimum of 11 losses). I then used Baseball Reference's play index to get a quick idea of what had happened before and found that Gene Garber went 6-16 in 1979 while pitching just 106 innings in relief, for an IP/L of 6.63. That seemed to be the lowest I could find. So it looked like Iglesias would be setting a record. But then I noticed that another pitcher had done even worse this year. Adam Conley of Miami lost 11 games while pitching only 60.2 innings, for an IP/L of 5.52. Take a bow Adam, you are in the MLB record books!

Now, I chose 11 losses arbitrarily, because Iglesias lost 12 and I wanted to see if anyone had lost that many while pitching so few innings. But by looking at hurlers with 10 or fewer losses, you do find even lower IP/L results. In 2017, Sam Dyson lost 10 games between Texas and San Francisco, tossing just 54.2 IP for an IP/L of 5.42. Look at 9 losses and you have Edwin Gonzalez in 2004, who started 10 games and pitched just 46.1 innings for an IP/L of 5.15. As you reduce the number of losses, you get crazier stats, such as Montreal's Woodie Fryman in 1983, who pitched just 3 innings, losing 3 games before retiring at age 43.

So let's use the 11 loss minimum to keep this stat meaningful. Which means the 2019 season saw the lowest two IP/L numbers in baseball history. What does that mean? Not much. Teams change pitchers more often than they used to, so naturally relievers will see fewer innings thrown. And with the ball leaping out of the ballpark, more late inning lead changes are happening, especially to crap pitchers. Combine those two factors and you have Conley and Iglesias setting ignominious records that were completely ignored by everyone else.

You are probably wondering if the sister statistic IP/W is affected. I'll look at that in the next post.

Best,

Sean

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Indy Eleven 0 at Pittsburgh Riverhounds 3 (USL) - September 28, 2019


As I left PPG Paints Arena to head across the Monogahela to Highmark Stadium, I noticed dark clouds coming over downtown. Lacking an umbrella, I scurried across the Smithfield Bridge and past Station Square, arriving at the stadium just a few minutes before kickoff, excited for my third game of the day. Highmark is home to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USL Championship, the second tier in American soccer. It opened in 2013 with a capacity of 3,500, which increased to 5,000 in 2018. The stadium is expandable to 18,500 should the Riverhounds ever join MLS.



There are two main entrances at Highmark, one on the east side (above), and the other on the west (below). Both have ticket windows next to them. Lines were slightly smaller on the east side (above), but either way you will have to wait as there are no metal detectors, just security officers wanding everybody. Tickets start at $17 for the supporters section known as the Steel Army, but I would advise spending the extra $5 to get an edge seat in the main stand, if you want to sit that is. If you wish to splurge, you can get in the club or sit right next to the pitch in the Riverside seats for $44.



I was again to do a review for Stadium Journey, so I had to pick up a credential, which took me around to the west side, where I was handed a VIP badge. This turned out to be a blessing.



I then walked back to the east side and went through security, entering the stadium at 7:00. As is the case in the U.S., soccer games don't start on the hour, so I didn't have to rush, stopping to snap a picture of the Fort Pitt Bridge to the west.



I even had time to do a quick tour and noticed these intriguing beer wagons. I'm not sure if they are in use, but there is a $1 beer special up until game time that I just missed and it is possible that these wagons were the source of the special.



I took a seat in the main stand, which provides views of downtown. You can see the ominous clouds coming our way, as well as the Steel Army section behind the goal.



The players were finishing up their handshakes as I sat down, and I quite enjoyed the bee-like uniforms of the Riverhounds, which were adopted in 2014 to align themselves, at least colour-wise, with the other Pittsburgh sports teams.



Just as the match kicked off, a few drops of rain fell, and by the time the first minute was finished, it had started to pour. I left my seat and made my way to the west side of the stadium, where the Hounds Pub is located.



This is a bar that is usually empty during the action, but had filled up as patrons rushed to avoid the sudden downpour. There is a window that faces the field, and many were watching as the action continued despite the deluge.



I did notice a few pennants and trophies but closer inspection revealed these to be for other clubs like Manchester United. The Riverhounds have won one division championship in their 20 years, though that could change this season.



Eventually, lightning reached the area and the game was delayed with just 8:54 having been played and no goals scored. The players returned to the locker room, while fans were asked to leave the seating area. As I had a VIP pass, I was able to enter the club, which is above the west end of the stadium. There is a terrace here, and when the rain had stopped, I stepped outside and took a picture of the empty stand with Hounds in blue (above). I also like how the netting is in black and gold, something I have not seen elsewhere.



Once the storm had passed, the players returned to the pitch to warm up. I moved down to the standing area behind the west goal, which comes with a few seats and a drink rail, and stayed there for the rest of the first half. At halftime, I went into Hounds Pub to see what was available and was shocked to find quality IPAs for just $6. Obviously a bit more than the $1 special at the start of the game but still a great deal for a stadium. With beer in hand, I stayed behind the goal for the second half and enjoyed what was a great game for the home team.



I believe Pittsburgh has the best collection of sports venues and Highmark Stadium is certainly a part of that. It really is a fantastic place to watch a game, with the views, the pub, and the atmosphere providing a unique experience for any sports traveler.

The Game

The Indy Eleven were in town to take on the Riverhounds in a battle of top teams as Indy were second in the Eastern Conference with 56 points while Pittsburgh was just a point behind. After the delay, the Riverhounds opened the scoring in the 15th minute, when Nico Brett just lasered a free kick from 30 yards out that left Evan Newton (in orange below) with no chance. In the 40th minute, Kenardo Forbes was given plenty of space and sent a rocket to the top left corner from about the same spot. Two incredible goals that need to be seen to be believed.



Indy did threaten a couple of times, but keeper Kyle Morton was equal to the task, stopping an in-close header midway through the half. In the second, Pittsburgh continued to pressure, and were rewarded when Forbes beat a defender with a slick move down low and drove the ball past Newton and off the post. The goal celebration was directly in front of me, which was quite cool.



That was it for the scoring as Pittsburgh moved top of the table with the 3-0 win. Make sure to hang around after the game to watch David Hasselhoff's "Hooked on a Feeling", which is played on the scoreboard after every home victory.



Of the four games I saw on the trip, this was the most enjoyable. People say soccer is boring, and it can be at times, but this match was anything but. Even with the hour delay, it still was quicker than the baseball and the football game.

Notes

There are 36 teams in the USL Championship alone, making it ideal for a long road trip. I'd even be able to visit Ottawa, whose Fury are the only Canadian club in the circuit. Update: I did visit the Fury for a playoff game just a month after and it turned out to be their last as the team folded.

There was a Pirates game still going on in the 7th inning when I left the stadium (it had been delayed too), but I didn't think I would be able to get in at that time, so I didn't head over. Turns out it went 12 innings, so I could have had a quadrupleheader if I had been able to find a way inside. In the end, my true tripleheader did not transpire thanks to the long football game and overtime in hockey, but it was still a lot of fun. I look forward to the next opportunity to try it somewhere.

Next Up

I'll be visiting Washington for the Expos playoffs and doing a couple of local NCAA football games in October. November will see me in Atlantic Canada for three QMJHL games. As always, check back for updates!

Best,

Sean