Friday, May 07, 2004

Elmer Withers -- Whither Elmer? 

What should the Diamondbacks do regarding Elmer Dessens? It seems that there are at least 3 options:

1. Do Nothing: Well, one look at this season's Game Log shows me that he's certainly not improving. His ERA by game is:

4/8: 1.59
4/14: 17.36
4/20: 5.40
4/25: 6.75
4/30: 9.00
5/6: 9.00

Unlike Daigle and Sparks, he's moving in the wrong direction. Elmer was never more than a decent pitcher (he was better than decent, I suppose, in 2002), and he seems to be on the downward slope of his career. I don't like this particular option.

2. Find a current pitcher to replace him: A number of possibilities here. We could bring up Andrew Good or Casey Fossum from Tucson -- I'd like to see either of them get a shot. There's always Shane Reynolds -- he can't be any worse than Dessens (looks around for some wood to knock on). Finally, we could try swapping Dessens and Koplove. Koplove has got off to a great start this year -- maybe he can pitch decently in 6-inning increments. And Dessens' problem has never been giving up runs early on -- it's innings 4-6 that have been problematic. That would seem to make him a good middle reliever or setup man candidate.

3. Go to a four-man rotation: Sabernomics recently discussed moving to a four-man rotation. The net effect would essentially be to move some innings from starters to relievers. While I can understand the concern for Randy's arm, the other three pitchers (especially Sparks) should be able to handle slightly higher pitch counts. And having both Koplove and Dessens pitch out of relief more often might not be so bad.

The fourth option, of course, is to trade for a decent pitcher. I doubt we'll be able to get somebody good at this point in the season. Maybe in July when 10 teams have given up.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Shudder (Cubs 11, D-Backs 3) 

Eeek. Glad we got that one out of our system.

I mean, I didn't have high hopes -- Elmer vs. Matt Clement, we've already taken the first two. But that was worse than I feared. Hitting was tolerable, but the fielding was atrocious (eek, that 7th inning -- there should have been no runs in that inning), and the pitching, save for Randolph (who wasn't great), was atrocious, too. Elmer should be pulled from the starting rotation, pronto. And Matt Mantei, who I thought would do well in a situation that was zero pressure, well, didn't. (That just confirmed that it's gonna be a long time before Mantei sees the closer role again in Arizona.)

Oh, well. 3-3 for the road trip, about what I expected.

Mr. Casey Daigle 

Let's stop calling him Mr. Jennie Finch for now, folks. OK, after his first game against the Cardinals, I could understand the derision. But as I pointed out last week, his ERA by game went from 27.00 to 13.50 to 3.86 to, now, 0.00. Looks like next week he'll throw in a no-hitter and hit a grand slam for good measure. Let's keep in mind, too, that these ERAs came against 3 of the 4 teams ahead of the Diamondbacks in NL OPS. It's not like he was pitching to the Expos.

OK, obviously it's just as silly to project out future success based on 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball as it is to project out a one-way trip to Tucson based on a one-game 27.00 ERA. But perhaps Casey has settled into life here and may make a passable 4th starter this season.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Other Changes 

What of the Diamondbacks' moves from the past week?

The first, recalling Doug DeVore from Tucson in the wake of the Richie Sexson injury, surprised me. I happened to be looking at the Sidewinders' roster a couple days before the move and, seeing DeVore's stats (offensively, not terribly impressive) and age (27), thinking, "there's a guy on his way out of baseball." And two days later, he's in the big leagues. The good news is that he's an outfielder, and I'm glad we have backup for the outfield, but I don't know why he would have been called up when Terrero has been hitting lights out. Perhaps DeVore is trade bait, though if that were the case, he'd have been in a couple games by now.

The second, making Valverde the closer, surprised no one (even though a sports columnist, Bob McNamman from the Republic, used, yes, the phrase "guts" to describe Brenly's decision. See below for my thoughts on that decision.) Clearly something is wrong with Mantei at the moment, and unfortunately for him, the closer's role is not one that permits people to work out their problems on the job. Let's hope it's a while before a game gets Mantei-d up again by the opposing team in the ninth inning.

The third, designating Bobby Estallela for assignment while bringing up Scott Hairston is not so puzzling. We don't need 3 catchers, and with Donnie Sadler slightly injured, another backup infielder isn't so silly. But that still leaves Luis Terrero stranded in Tucson. There's also another infielder, Andy Green, whose BB/9 ratio is nearly 1:1 -- that's pretty good for a minor leaguer. I know nothing about him, but would like to know more...

A Knuckle, Sandwiched 

I rarely engage in second-guessing individual managerial moves, because I can't watch or listen to enough games to make that productive. But last night's game offers a simple opportunity to evaluate Bob Brenly's decision to leave Steve Sparks in the game against Sammy Sosa. Admittedly, Sammy's home run parked into left-center field bleachers didn't affect the final outcome (except by closing the gap to 3 runs, it meant that Valverde's stellar 9th qualified him for the save), but I wanted to do some quick checks to see whether there might have been a more obvious move in retrospect.

First, Sparks had handled Sosa well all night -- 3 ground balls. Knuckleballers should do well against aggressive batters that don't draw walks, and Sosa fits that category. That argues for keeping Sparks in the game. But he'd given up two hits, and could have been losing his effectiveness.

If you were to bring in a reliever, who'd be most likely? Well, since Sammy hits righty, you probably wouldn't want to bring in a lefty (and, indeed, most people haven't -- Sammy's had just 4 at-bats against lefties this season). In addition, Choate's been poor this season and Randolph, although I like him, has already given up 2 home runs this season, so also not the guy to bring in in this situation.

Right-handed relievers? Koplove is the most obvious, and Brenly went to him after Sosa's home run. But would he have done any better? Who knows.

The problem with knuckleballers is when they screw up, against good batters, good batters will make them pay. Heck, even bad batters will make them pay. Just ask Tim Wakefield and Red Sox fans. I don't have a strong case against Brenly's decision; it's just unfortunate that it turned a stellar performance into a good one.

Of course, after the game last night, the radio announcers said Brenly's decision to keep Sparks in the game to face Sosa showed "guts." One would think after the Pat Tillman situation, sports announcers and reporters could lay off the word "guts" for awhile. Especially in the case of managerial decisions that aren't easily second-guessed.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Hope I Don't Jinx This... 

The D-Backs are getting off to an excellent start in their first game against the Cubs -- 6-0 through 5 innings. Finley and Tracy continue their hot hitting, though Gonzo and Bautista are not having good games.

But you have to enjoy a game in which the opposing team ends their half of the inning thus:

"Todd Walker grounds out softly to first baseman Shea Hillenbrand."

I'm just incredibly amused by the adverb "softly" in the official scoring recap from MLB.com's Gameday.


The first game of the Cubs series at Wrigley has started, and for some inexplicable reason, Shea Hillenbrand is batting cleanup. Now, I can understand the logic for putting Hillenbrand in the starting lineup with the players currently on the squad. Doesn't mean there isn't somebody better down in Tucson that should be up here, just that there ain't anybody better in a Diamondbacks uniform sitting in the visitors dugout at Wrigley Field.

But why would you have your worst hitter batting cleanup? Move him down to 7th spot, or someplace he won't do as much damage (or wouldn't have as much pressure placed on him).

Monday, May 03, 2004

Other Cultural Diversions 

Other things I've been reading/listening to...

Population: 485 -- Poet Mike Perry's meditation on living in a small town, working for the volunteer fire department. A wee bit too ramble-y for my tastes, which leaves me less than completely moved by the final "devastating" and "transcendent" chapter (really! that's what the jacket copy said!), but as a scattered description of life, it's good.

The Hurried Child -- This is like the book form of that Arrested Development CD from 1992, except for simple living advocates. The problem is, just like the CD, the high points are weighed down by stuff not quite fully carried off. Plus, it's like the simple living advocates read the word "hurried" and assumed it meant "too fast." The author spends most of the time on "calendar hurrying" -- pushing kids to do things before they're ready. A decent read, but a bit too academic at times.

Blueprint for Disaster -- A recent Get Fuzzy compilation. That, Foxtrot, Baby Blues, and Zits are the only comic strips I find amusing. Get Fuzzy lately has been the best.

Franz Ferdinand: self-titled -- A blast of 70s-era new wave. Lots of attitude, though no truly memorable songs.

Indestructible Object: They Might Be Giants -- If you like TMBG, you'll like this EP. Skewed, slightly disturbing lyrics wrapped in fabulous tunes. The only downside? The too-faithful cover of the Beach Boys' "Caroline, No." This from the band that made "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" completely their own...

And the Diamondbacks, what do they do? Here's hoping that the recent Sparks (not the early Sparks) shows up at Wrigley Field tomorrow. More baseball thoughts to come.

You Know It's Bad When... 

... the Arizona Republic describes your latest job performance as a "meltdown." It's never good to be described in terms last used in reference to Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. I was out of town until this morning, and I first read the story in an out-of-town newspaper. I read the blurb describing how Villereal blew the lead in the 14th inning, and I thought, "Well, at least Mantei wasn't at fault."

Oh, well. (You know, I didn't even know that box scores now recorded blown saves until this morning.)

More comments later.