Bob Smizik: Nobody asked me, but . . .

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Nobody asked me, but . . .

• It’s tough to win in MLB, tougher still when a team’s best player has been out of the lineup for two weeks and its second baseman and shortstop have missed numerous games during that span. And even tougher when the projected ace hasn’t pitched in a month. The bench has not been up to the challenge, but few benches in MLB could overcome this hellish string of injuries.

• One game, as excellent as it was, proves little and that’s particularly true when the game is an exhibition. But there's no disputing that Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier has the skill set to excel. And when was the last time the Steelers had a rookie generating the kind of excitement that Shazier is?

• Injuries: When Brandon Phillips went on the disabled list July 10, joining Joey Votto, the Cincinnati Reds were seven games over .500 and on pace for an 87-win season. With their 10-9 loss to Colorado yesterday, the Reds were 12-20 with their two stars out, a pace that would net 61 wins.

• The tough talk that the Pirates need to step up and sign Russell Martin and that this is some sort of referendum on Bob Nutting’s ownership is nonsense. Martin will be involved in a bidding war when he hits free agency. The Pirates don’t get involved in bidding wars and the case can be made that’s a proper approach.

• Here’s hoping Neal Huntington has a Plan B, when Martin leaves. Plan A -- ''. . . we’ve got an internal option in Tony Sanchez’’ -- is not particularly appealing. Sanchez has nine errors, six passed balls and an 11 percent success rate on throwing out runners trying to steal on the Class AAA level.

• Why Milwaukee will be tough to catch. They have the No. 2 offense in the National League, behind only Colorado, and in the second half their pitching is matching that level. Since the All-Star Game, Milwaukee pitchers are second in ERA, third in WHIP and fifth in BAA (statistics through Saturday).

• Average innings per game for Pirates starters in 2013: 5.67. Average innings per game for Pirates starters in 2014: 5.94.

• Shazier will have to be outstanding to help lift the mediocre Steelers defense.

• Interesting but meaningless stats: As an outfielder, Josh Harrison is batting .282 (51-for-181) with an OPS of about .720 and a home run ever 60 at bats. As a second baseman/third baseman, he is batting .369 (55-for-149) with an OPS of about 1.050 and hits a home runs every 25 at bats.

• A list of the worst trades in Pirates history would include Chris Young, a promising third-round draft choice, who was dealt by general manager Dave Littlefield for reliever Matt Herges in December, 2002. Herges was cut in spring training of 2003. Young has spent 545 days on the DL in his career but has found good health in Seattle where his is 12-6 with a 3.08 ERA.

• In case you missed it, Aroldis Chapman came in to preserve a 9-5 lead for Cincinnati yesterday and walked all four batters he faced as he set the stage for a five-run Colorado ninth.

• Former Pirates coming back to Earth after the ASG (stats through Saturday): Steve Pearce was batting .157 with a .428 OPS for Baltimore; Zach Duke had a 5.40 ERA with Milwaukee; Brock Holt was batting .232 with a .581 OPS with Boston.

• The expansion of MLB active rosters from 25 to 40 on Sept. 1 is one of the stupidest rules in sports. Teams compete under one set of rules for five months and then another in September. It might have made sense in another time, but it does not today.

• Count me among those who consider lineup composition overrated. But Pedro Alvarez batting fifth yesterday -- in front of Travis Snider -- is tough to figure. Sure enough, Alvarez had two hits. It still made no sense. Snider is one of the team’s hottest hitters and Alvarez one of its worst.

• LOOGY Supreme: Since the All-Star Game former Pirate Joe Beimel has made 11 appearances totaling 6 1/3 innings and has an ERA of 0.00 and a .130 BAA.

• Kansas State coach Bill Snyder on the cesspool known as college football: "It's changed. I mean, college athletics, football in particular, has changed dramatically over the years. I think we've sold out. We're all about dollars and cents. The concept of college football no longer has any bearing on the quality of the person, the quality of students. Universities are selling themselves out." Uh, no kidding, Bill!

• Through games of Saturday, Pirates' OPS since the All-Star Game: Chris Stewart 1.104, Travis Snider 1.006, Starling Marte 1.002, Josh Harrison .961, Neil Walker .870, Ike Davis .859, Jordy Mercer .837, Russell Martin .808, Gaby Sanchez .765, Gregory Polanco .668, Andrew McCutchen .655, Pedro Alvarez .470, Michael Martinez .382, Jayson Nix .293.

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