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Cubs 4, Pirates 3

This game was a bunch drearier than the score makes it seem, so I don't care to spend much time wringing my hands about it, but I do want to point out an interesting little item in the Post-Gazette:

An American League scout watching one of Dumatrait's first two starts, using a detailed grading system, came up with an overall score that ranked Dumatrait as "a No. 2 or 3 starter." Such an assessment is not reached lightly, either, as scouts often are required to explain unusual evaluations to their general managers

See, this is why both stats and scouting are important. The scouts need the stat people to point out that, hey, Dumatrait allowed seven walks today so maybe you should re-think that evaluation before my lung collapses from laughing too hard, just as the stat people need the scouts to point out that maybe taking Ricky Romero with the sixth pick in the draft isn't such a good idea. It's obvious, really.

By the way, the same article is about whether it might be a good idea to move the PIrates back into the NL East. Count me out.

In the article, author Dejan Kovacevic also claims that "Culturally, Pittsburgh belongs to the Midwest as much as it belongs to Malawi." I couldn't disagree more. There's certainly a large cultural difference between Pittsburgh and, say, St. Louis, but it's probably no larger than the cultural difference between Pittsburgh and Miami, Atlanta or New York. And if I had to name large cities similar to Pittsburgh, I'd probably pick Cleveland, Buffalo and maybe Detroit. (Pittsburgh's better, but they're still similar.) Cleveland and Detroit are Midwestern cities, and I'd say the residents of Buffalo also have a pretty Midwestern outlook. Pittsburgh doesn't fall neatly into any broad geographic region, it's true, but it has most in common with the rust-belt post-industrial cities on or near the Great Lakes. Many of these are Midwestern cities, so I'm not really sure what the Post-Gazette is getting at here. Kovacevic lives in Pittsburgh and certainly travels more than I do, but I've been to Cleveland, Detroit and Buffalo many times each and once each within the last year, and the similarities between those cities and Pittsburgh have always seemed so obvious to me as to be almost self-evident.

In addition, a move to the East would make the NL Central less competitive. NL East champs from 2003 to 2007 won an average of 94.6 games, while NL Central champs in the same period won an average of 92.2 games. The article notes that the average payroll of the non-Pirates teams in the Central  is currently higher than that of the East, but that doesn't mean much -- any average payroll figure in the East will be skewed by the Marlins' absurdly low payroll. Meanwhile, the Mets have the third-highest payroll in baseball, the Phillies always rank right up there, and the Braves have a spectacular player development system.

Update: I just want to be ultra-clear here, lest someone interpret my comments two paragraphs above as somehow insulting to Pittsburgh, which to me growing up in Wheeling was a wonderful place that was like London and Tokyo and New York all rolled into one. Really, the issue here is that it's just about impossible to unproblematically break the country into three geographic regions. Yes, Pittsburgh has little in common with some "Midwestern" parts of the country, but it has much in common with some Midwestern parts like Cleveland. Cleveland has little in common with Kansas City, but teams in those cities play in the same division -- should they be in different divisions? I'm fine with them sticking where they are, and short of breaking teams into three-team divisions, I think the categorization of Pittsburgh and Cleveland into the Central divisions is fine and gets more right than wrong.