Friday, May 21, 2004

Looking Forward 

Last night's 5-1 D-Backs loss to the Braves merits little discussion because it was similar to many games this year -- of our hitting, starting pitching, and relief pitching, only one of the three (relief pitching) performed well. Casey Fossum did not have a strong outing, and the offense looked mystified, like they were wondering more about where Andy Kaufman would appear next.

So instead I prefer to look ahead.

I'd hoped to have a little more time to prepare a "Richie Returns" analysis, but with Brenly's announcement that he'd be in the lineup starting tonight, this will have to be brief:

1. This should obviously provide some spark offensively in two ways. First, Richie's .950 or so OPS is considerably higher than whomever he replaces in the lineup (see below), so that should add some punch. In addition, Gonzo's line has sunk from .296/.396/.617 to .268/.379/.597 in Sexson's absence. (In May, Gonzo has hit just .234/.364/.578.) (See here for what happened the last time I mentioned this concern.) I would hope that Richie Sexson's presence behind Gonzo induces a few more strikes than Shea's presence.
2. Two or three weeks ago, I mentioned that Shea Hillenbrand had picked up his offense since moving to first and, along with Tracy's shaky defense, could potentially make Brenly's decision of whom to put in the lineup somewhat difficult. No longer -- Hillenbrand's OPS is something like 150 points below Tracy and it doesn't seem like there's much difference defensively anymore. Shea had 3 errors in 37 plays at 3B while Chad has had 7 errors in 76 plays; Chad's Range Factor at 2.70 is slightly higher than Shea's 2.56 (which tops his career stats at 3B). So at this point you don't really lose anything significantly defensively while keeping a much better bat in the lineup. I know few -- OK, not one -- bloggers would want to keep Hillenbrand in, but for a while there, it at least looked like there might be some competition.
3. Shea's probable demotion to the bench will only highlight how woeful this team's bench is. He's not a great batter, but I'd clearly put him in to pinch hit over anybody else on that bench.
4. Scott Hairston got his first start last night (0-for-2 with 1 walk), and Brenly said before that he would get at least a couple starts on this road trip while Colbrunn stays on the DL. It's unclear what the endgame is here... are they displaying him to see if there's trade interest? Are they trying to give Matt Kata a rest? Is the bloom off the Matt Kata rose?
5. This is going to be a tough series against the Marlins -- they clearly have a better pitching staff and their offense is marginally better (at least by unadjusted traditional statistics). 1-3 is a distinct possibility -- I'd be happy taking 2 from this series.

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