Saturday, June 05, 2004

If Only... 

I'm writing while listening to the game, and a tight 2-0 Dodgers lead has
just expanded to a 5-0 lead thanks to a Dave Roberts home run. If only he'd
gotten Perez out... If only Tim Olson hadn't swung at the first pitch last
night while facing an incredibly erratic Ishii (shouldn't there be some
blanket "don't swing at the first pitch" rule for Ishii?)... If only Arte
Moreno had bought the Diamondbacks instead of the Angels.

I sort of feel like 6-4-2, the Dodgers/Angels blog (link to the right;
haven't figure out how to set up links in e-mail posts), talking about the
Dodgers and the Angels in the same blog. But there was an article in this
morning's Republic (again, can't set up the link) by Mark Gonzales, the
basic implication of which was "If Moreno had bought the D-Backs, they'd be
in first place by now." While I normally enjoy Gonzales' writing, the
article is one of the silliest pieces of journalism I've read in a long
time. Gonzales' major points are:
1. Moreno has made seeing an Angels game more fan friendly. No argument
there -- cheaper seats and cheaper beer are good things. Presumably he
would have done the same thing here, though Gonzales seems to stop just shy
of saying Moreno would have made each fan's beer vendor an attractive female
or male, depending on your preference.
2. Moreno has spent more money on players. No argument there, either.
Vlad Guerrero appears to be worth every penny of his $70-million contract.
But to argue he would (or might) have done the same thing here is
ridiculous, or at least without any substantiation is ridiculous. For one
thing, the D-Backs probably would have cost considerably more than the
bargain-basement $183 million Moreno paid for the Angels. If the Suns just
sold for $400 million, I'm guessing the D-Backs would have gone for at least
that much. So it's unclear Moreno would have had as much money to spend on
3. By spending more money, the Angels are winners. Well, the Angels are
doing well. The D-Backs are not. But the dominoes Gonzales sets up --
Moreno would've kept Schilling, which would have taken pressure off Webb,
which would have taken pressure off the bullpen (Gonzales obviously didn't
read my take on the relief staff) -- are a bit far-fetched. Would Moreno's
presence have kept Sexson from being injured?

The entire article is far-fetched and unfair. Look, there's a reason the
Diamondbacks are in debt -- they spent a lot of money on veterans in the
past so they could win a World Series... WHICH THEY DID. They're now paying
for that high-risk/high-reward approach, and it'll be a year or two before
they're serious contenders again. But I would note that at this point
Moreno's total of World Series championships equals the amount of money he
will ever spend on the Diamondbacks -- zero.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Money's Worth 

Moneyball attracted notice by writing entertainingly about Billy Beane's ability to find good, cheap players for his financially-underwhelming A's. Because of Michael Lewis' financial reporting background, this discussion came off as if Lewis was writing about a stock fund manager who was finding hidden gems to invest in, continuously generating solid returns.

Amid the debate over what the Diamondbacks should do about the season is the underlying debate over who's worth the money. Is Randy Johnson worth $16.5 million? Steve Finley $7.0 million? Matt Mantei $7.0 million? (OK, there's probably consensus on that last question.)

I've been mulling over this question for some time now and want to present the first of many steps in answering that question for the Diamondbacks.

What I propose to do is compare D-Backs' VORP (Value over Replacement Player) with median salaries for MLB ballplayers. My formula for calculating the Ballplayer Value (BV) for any ballplayer is as follows:

BV = VORP / (Salary/MLB Median Salary)

Now, the median salary for 2004 is about $800,000, so the BV formula for 2004 could be as follows:

BV = VORP / (Salary/800,000)

Using this formula, Steve Finley's BV would be 2.8, or his VORP, 20.6, divided by the ratio of his salary (7,000,000) to the league median (800,000).

Here, then, are the D-Backs position players (leaving out Estalella -- now with the Mets, incidentally; DeVore; and Olson). Salaries are from here -- it didn't include salaries for Tracy and Hairston, so I assumed the major league minimum of $300,000 for them. VORP is from here.

Player Salary VORP BV
S. Hairston 300,000 7.4 19.7
A. Cintron 335,000 4.2 10.0
C. Tracy 300,000 3.6 9.6
M. Kata 315,000 2.3 5.8
R. Hammock 315,000 1.1 2.8
D. Bautista 4,000,000 13.2 2.6
S. Finley 7,000,000 20.6 2.4
S. Hillenbrand 2,600,000 7.9 2.4
L. Gonzalez 8,250,000 14.4 1.4
R. Sexson 8,725,000 7.1 0.7
R. Alomar 924,234 -0.3 -0.3
D. Sadler 400,000 -2.7 -1.4
B. Mayne 800,000 -2.7 -2.7
C. Baerga 1,000,000 -3.4 -4.3
G. Colbrunn 2,750,000 -2.2 -7.6

Here are the faults with the BV formula 1.0 as I see them:
1. It requires manual adjustments when dealing with players with negative VORP -- their formula should be VORP / (Median Salary/Salary) so that expensive, bad players are punished accordingly and cheap, bad players aren't punished so much. Strong bad players will not be dealt with here.
2. It merely tells you who's providing "value" and not who's the most effective. I'd much rather have Steve Finley on my team than Shea Hillenbrand, but it's not my $7 million.
3. It doesn't account for time in the lineup. As far as I can tell, VORP doesn't adjust for playing time. If it did, Sexson would probably be even lower on the list. (And Hairston's value will likely fall over time.) Definitely a correction for BV 1.1.
4. No predictive value, of course, though I never claimed it would have it. But it seems like you could use BP PECOTA cards in place of VORP for predictive value.
5. I'm still not keen on the use of median salary over average salary (about $2.5 million), but average salary just seems to punish highly paid, highly performing players more than they should be. I'm trying to strike a balance between wanting to recognize the value to teams of cheap, interchangeable players and wanting to recognize the top 5% or 10% who might really be worth $10 million per year.
6. No provision for defensive metrics.

I welcome any comments or suggested modifications to the BV methodology. Pitchers rankings will come next week.

Fight Club (D-Backs 11, Giants 5) 

There are several times in David Fincher's Fight Club when, in the middle of a fight or the next day, Edward Norton's narrator character or another character gives a bloody (or bruised-eye) smile. They're either pounding or getting pounded, but either way, they're enjoying the fight.

In some way, last night's game reminded me of that smile. Brandon's rocky 1st inning was like too many other innings so far this year in which the D-Backs fell behind early. The only difference was, instead of meekly going into the corner, the Diamondbacks started fighting back with 3 in the 2nd inning (oof!), taking the lead in the 5th inning with 3 more (uuuggh!), and 2, 1, and 2 runs in the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings, respectively (aaaaaarrrrggggh!). Even when Stephen Randolph's luck ran out in the 7th inning (yes, Robert, I'm beginning to come to your point of view regarding Randolph, though he's still better than Choate) and gave the Giants a glimmer of hope, the Diamondbacks came back and shut the door several times in their face.

I know that streaks are illusory and that the Giants are an average team with one superhuman player, but this series win felt good, and I hope the D-Backs can remember what this feels like. (This is, after all, what we expected this team to do this year -- win its fair share of 6-5, 8-6, and 11-5 hitters' games...) And, Jim, looks like your long national (OK, Arizona) nightmare is over at 22 games...

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Getting Defensive 

One complaint this season is that the D-Backs couldn't hit the broad side of the barn if said barn was playing first base or was perhaps the cutoff barn.

I wanted to take a look at the available defensive statistics to see if there was any truth to the allegation. Now, I realize that defensive metrics -- at least the publicly available -- are highly suspect. See this discussion from Baseball Prospectus for the basics. But I'll do the best I can with what I got. (Which may not be much.)

First, traditional statistics -- NL teams ranked by number of errors:

mon 21
chc 22
lad 26
fla 27
col 27
hou 28
stl 30
mil 31
sfg 34
phi 35
sdp 37
pit 37
az 38
cin 39
nym 45
atl 47

Obviously, the fact the Diamondbacks rank 13th on this list is not good. Ranking by fielding percentage makes Arizona look slightly better, though not by much.

chc 22 .989
mon 21 .989
fla 27 .987
lad 26 .987
col 27 .986
hou 28 .986
stl 30 .985
mil 31 .984
sfg 34 .983
phi 35 .982
az 38 .981
sdp 37 .981
cin 39 .981
pit 37 .980
atl 47 .977
nym 45 .977

So the Diamondbacks fare slightly better, moving up to 11th. Now, it should be noted that the difference between the Mets and the Cubs/Expos is roughly 18 errors (assuming about 1,500 defensive opportunities thus far), or about 1 error every 3 games. This is not a terribly significant difference, especially around the middle of the pack.

How about Defensive Efficiency? MLB provides this stat, as does Baseball Prospectus -- for what appears to be the first time, BP accounts this year for reaching by error, which seems to be a valid correction to MLB's stat. Here are both stats, and the table ranked by BP's stat.

stl 30 .985 .7320 .7213
fla 27 .987 .7260 .7170
lad 26 .987 .7240 .7159
nym 45 .977 .7310 .7120
mon 21 .989 .7220 .7117
chc 22 .989 .7180 .7079
hou 28 .986 .7180 .7044
mil 31 .984 .7150 .7000
phi 35 .982 .7130 .7000
cin 39 .981 .7100 .6968
sfg 34 .983 .7080 .6967
az 38 .981 .7090 .6935
sdp 37 .981 .7070 .6908
col 27 .986 .6920 .6848
atl 47 .977 .7030 .6817
pit 37 .980 .6930 .6771

In this case, Arizona slides back down a notch to 12th place. Differences in the middle of the pack are still somewhat small (maybe 9-10 outs for the season so far between the D-Backs and the Brewers and Phillies), though the outliers are more separated -- perhaps 66 outs turned into baserunners by the Pirates as compared to the Cardinals -- more than 1 per game.

Finally, the table below ranks NL teams by the number of unearned runs given up. This is useful mostly just to show that the "unearned run" doesn't show much. The Cubs are apparently awesome (even though their defensive efficiency is just sorta good). But I looked it up, so I wanted you to see it...

chc 22 .989 .7180 .7079 7
hou 28 .986 .7180 .7044 11
lad 26 .987 .7240 .7159 11
col 27 .986 .6920 .6848 11
fla 27 .987 .7260 .7170 14
mon 21 .989 .7220 .7117 14
mil 31 .984 .7150 .7000 15
stl 30 .985 .7320 .7213 18
cin 39 .981 .7100 .6968 18
sfg 34 .983 .7080 .6967 21
az 38 .981 .7090 .6935 25
nym 45 .977 .7310 .7120 25
sdp 37 .981 .7070 .6908 27
atl 47 .977 .7030 .6817 30
pit 37 .980 .6930 .6771 30
phi 35 .982 .7130 .7000 32

My conclusion is that Arizona's defense, while not good, and not even average, hasn't been horrible -- they've just been not average. For those of you interested, MLB's NL defensive efficiency for the past 30 days shows the Diamondbacks slipping to 13th in DE, but with virtually (slightly higher) DE than for the season as a whole.

I also think that the difference between the D-Back defense and an "average" NL defense comes down to at most 10 baserunners thus far. Those of you with better sabermetric memories than I can calculate what that might translate into in terms of additional wins and losses -- my guess, it ain't much.

Not Perfect... (D-Backs 8, Giants 6) 

... but we'll take it.

There was a lot to note in last night's victory. Randy playing dodgeball with Barry Bonds. Gonzo having his 3rd 2-hit night in a row. Shea finally having a night worthy of the cleanup spot. Hairston battling his way back to a walk after getting down 0-2 in the count in the fourth inning, which finally chased the Giants pitcher. Chasing a pitcher early -- it's been waaaay too long since that happened for the D-Back offense. Randy having an off night -- but still winning the game.

The D-Backs go for the series victory tonight with Webb on the mound. When the season started, D-Back fans would have taken this option every time. Now we're not so sure. Here's hoping the sinker ball stays sunks tonight.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Relief, Redux 

Yesterday I discussed the Diamondbacks' relief woes and how, based on some statistics from Baseball Prospectus' website, I thought that the woes could not be blamed on overuse. I wanted to take a quick look at NL relievers that have been used a lot to see how they compared.

How did I define overuse? I thought it would be hard to argue that being used less than 1 inning every other game constituted overuse, so I looked for relievers with 25 or more innings (assuming every team has pitched 50 games). Here's the list, with relievers, teams, games, innings pitched, and Reliever-Adjusted Runs Prevented (see yesterday's discussion):

Madson,R (PHI) 20 32.3 13.1
Benitez,A (FLA) 27 29.7 12.2
Linebrink,S (SDP) 27 30.3 12.1
Hawkins,L (CHC) 27 28.7 11.7
Cordero,C (MON) 24 30.3 11.4
Looper,B (NYM) 24 28.0 9.7
Otsuka,A (SDP) 25 25.3 8.2
Witasick,J (SDP) 20 28.7 7.7
Reitsma,C (ATL) 26 28.0 7.6
Rodriguez,F (SFG) 30 26.0 7.3
Mota,G (LA) 24 28.3 6.3
Brower,J (SFG) 30 33.7 6.0
Riedling,J (CIN) 25 28.0 5.8
Lidge,B (HOU) 27 30.7 5.8
Jones,T (CIN) 27 30.3 5.5
Meadows,B (PIT) 21 29.7 4.9
Worrell,T (PHI) 25 29.0 4.4
Dotel,O (HOU) 23 25.0 4.0
Miceli,D (HOU) 28 33.7 3.8
Stanton,M (NYM) 31 28.0 3.7
Boehringer,B (PIT) 21 25.3 2.9
Koplove,M (AZ) 30 29.7 2.4
Torres,S (PIT) 27 30.0 1.5
Bennett,J (MIL) 23 26.7 0.4
Graves,D (CIN) 31 31.0 -0.2
Wayne,J (FLA) 17 26.3 -0.6
Vizcaino,L (MIL) 26 25.0 -0.6
Cormier,R (PHI) 27 26.0 -1.0
Ayala,L (MON) 24 26.3 -1.2
Bump,N (FLA) 21 31.7 -1.4
Valverde,J (AZ) 24 25.3 -4.2
Herges,M (SFG) 29 26.7 -4.4
Nunez,V (COL) 21 25.7 -5.1

You'll note a lot of teams represented -- every team, in fact, except for the Cardinals (who, as we noted yesterday, just don't use their relief staff). Another four teams had 1 reliever meet or exceed the 25-inning bar. Arizona had 2, which put them right in the middle of the pack. Again, so much for the "overuse" argument for the D-Backs.

The important number here is the RARP number to the right. As a group, these 33 relievers combined for 139.7 RARP. So what? The total RARP for all NL bullpens combined was just 105.1.

In other words, the "overused" relievers prevented 140 runs for their teams, while all the other relievers cost their teams 35 runs.

I realize the inherent limitations in this methodology (e.g., small sample size, looking at innings pitched vs. pitches thrown). I also have made a note to look at these pitchers in September to see how they're doing then (though regression to the mean is always possible). Clearly, if these pitchers are effective as a group, the tendency to rely on them could increase even more.

We'll leave the pitch count discussions to Will Carroll.

Squeaker (D-Backs 6, Giants 5) 

So we finally won a game. Sparks pitched decently, the bullpen had mixed reviews (at least Valverde pitched a clean inning). The top of the lineup is hitting a little better, and Hairston shows every sign of making Brenly's decision-making process difficult when Alomar and Kata come back by hitting the crap out of the ball.

Casey Daigle got sent down to the minors yesterday and lefty reliever Nance got called up in his place. Not quite sure why we need three lefty relievers unless this means Stephen Randolph is going to get Daigle's spot in the rotation. At this point, I guess it's either him or Andrew Good. I don't have a preference between the two -- either is worth a shot.

Finally, speaking of Steve Sparks, I finally got around reading an article in the May 17th New Yorker magazine -- "Project Knuckleball," by Ben McGrath (again, no link available). It's mostly a puff piece (though an entertaining one) on Red Sox knuckleballers Tim Wakefield and Charlie Zink. The piece would make the layperson think, "Gosh, there should be a couple knuckleballers on every squad!" There are a couple passing references to Sparks, who is referred to as having "enjoyed less success than Wakefield, shuttling from team to team." The shame about Sparks this season is that as a knuckleballer, he should have been able to eat up a lot of innings but hasn't been able to thus far...

Well, That's Settled...? 

"I'll stand by what I said all along," Colangelo said. "I want Bob to have this year. He's going to have this year unless the bottom absolutely just falls out."

You just had the worst May in franchise history, he was told. What do you consider the bottom falling out?

"A worst June."

- from Paola Boivin's article in this morning's Republic

So those clamoring for Bob Brenly's firing will be unsatisfied through June. The first offer of support from management can usually be ignored, but the second shouldn't be. Brenly won't be fired on Monday. Barring a collapse (we can't really go 9-20 again, can we?), Brenly will be around for awhile to come.

For those checking for the earliest possible opportunity in July, might I suggest Monday, July 5th, the first game of a 7-game road trip before the All-Star Break (with Randy set in the rotation)?

Now, I also don't hear anything in Jerry's words that suggest any strong desire to keep Brenly beyond this year, so the coaching debate's definitely not over. (Not that any type of statement would stop the debate amongst bloggers, forum-philes, and sports talk radio listeners.) In the end the debate comes down to what do coaches do and how good are they at it. Coaching, in my mind, comes down to three things:
1. Preparation -- teaching skills
2. Motivation -- getting peak performance out of your club
3. Execution -- doing the "right things" on game day, "Xs and Os"

It is definitely a legitimate question as to whether Bob Brenly's skills in these three areas are adequate to the team he has sitting with him in the dugout. As the D-Backs complete the transition from veteran team to much younger team, skills that were less important (preparation) become more so and techniques (motivation and execution) may need to change. The knock on Brenly is that the staff isn't good at preparation and he isn't great at execution. Motivation, the hardest skill to get an objective read on, probably varies. Has the team quit? Does he know which buttons to push with each player? Difficult to read.

It's worth noting that the NBA Finals will feature two coaches who are very arguably the two best NBA coaches of the past 20+ years. My feeling is that Larry Brown and Phil Jackson are the best motivators out there -- it's difficult to motivate players with gigantic guaranteed contracts. And, yes, the Lakers have 2 of the top 3 or 4 players in the league. But those players hate each other, and yet still Jackson has managed to keep the team together.

Makes you wonder where Brenly would actually rank...

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


"Compare [D-Backs bullpen use] to other ballclubs and other bullpens and other managers and you'll find we are not out of line. We do not overuse our guys." -- Bob Brenly

As has been mentioned here and elsewhere, the drumbeats regarding Brenly's use of the bullpen are getting louder -- see this article for Brenly and Joe Jr.'s responses.

When complaints reach fever pitch, that's when I find it useful to see if the complaints hold any water. So, I'm going to use Baseball Prospectus' Relievers' Run Expectation report to look at NL bullpens.

Let's start off by looking at their rankings of teams by "Adjusted Runs Prevented" (ARP), a stat designed to evaluate "the reliever handles his inherited runners, and the support the reliever gets when he turns runners over to others."

Team ARP
PIT 22.2
LAD 20.8
PHI 19.9
ATL 18.4
SDP 17.5
HOU 13.0
FLA 6.1
MON 5.5
COL 3.2
NYM 1.8
CHC 0.5
SFG -2.4
CIN -6.0
STL -6.8
MIL -7.1
ARI -7.6

Yep, our staff has not performed well. (In a related development, we understand that the sun rose in the east this morning.)

But is this poor performance due to overuse? Let's take a look at staffs ranked by number of relief innings.

Team ARP Relief Innings
STL -6.8 134.3
MON 5.5 134.7
CHC 0.5 140.3
ATL 18.4 142.3
FLA 6.1 144.7
PHI 19.9 152.0
SDP 17.5 153.7
CIN -6.0 155.7
HOU 13.0 156.7
PIT 22.2 157.7
LAD 20.8 158.0
SFG -2.4 161.7
NYM 1.8 166.3
COL 3.2 167.7
ARI -7.6 171.0
MIL -7.1 179.3

Hey, Arizona's no longer in last place! And their placement their with Milwaukee doesn't make them look good. But look at St. Louis -- they never use their bullpen. (Apparently because their bullpen is almost as lousy as ours.) It's been too long since I've taken all my statistics classes, so I'm not going to bother running a regression here, but if there's a relationship between bullpen use and bullpen effectiveness, I'm not seeing it.

How about the fact that not everybody's played the same amount of games... This chart is ranked by innings per game played.

Team ARP Innings Inn./Game
STL -6.8 134.3 2.69
MON 5.5 134.7 2.69
CHC 0.5 140.3 2.81
FLA 6.1 144.7 2.84
ATL 18.4 142.3 2.85
SDP 17.5 153.7 3.01
CIN -6.0 155.7 3.05
PHI 19.9 152.0 3.10
HOU 13.0 156.7 3.13
LAD 20.8 158.0 3.22
SFG -2.4 161.7 3.23
NYM 1.8 166.3 3.33
ARI -7.6 171.0 3.35
COL 3.2 167.7 3.35
PIT 22.2 157.7 3.36
MIL -7.1 179.3 3.66

Arizona climbs to #13 by about 1/1000th of an inning above Colorado. Again, no visibly apparent statistical correlation.

Finally, perhaps the problem is that individual relievers are being overtaxed. There are two ways to do this: 1) look at pitchers over a certain inning count and compare their effectiveness over time, adjusted for park effects, etc., or 2) divide the number in the last column by the number of relievers on staff, as counted by Baseball Prospectus for the entire season.

I will choose #2, of course. The table below shows teams ranked by the average innings pitched per game by the average reliever.

Team ARP Innings Inn./Game Inn./Game/Reliever
SFG -2.4 161.7 3.23 .248
CHC 0.5 140.3 2.81 .255
STL -6.8 134.3 2.69 .269
SDP 17.5 153.7 3.01 .274
MIL -7.1 179.3 3.66 .282
ARI -7.6 171.0 3.35 .305
PHI 19.9 152.0 3.10 .310
FLA 6.1 144.7 2.84 .316
COL 3.2 167.7 3.35 .335
MON 5.5 134.7 2.69 .336
PIT 22.2 157.7 3.36 .336
CIN -6.0 155.7 3.05 .339
HOU 13.0 156.7 3.13 .348
ATL 18.4 142.3 2.85 .356
NYM 1.8 166.3 3.33 .370
LAD 20.8 158.0 3.22 .403

What does this tell me? Again, not much. Milwaukee and San Francisco leap up because they've used 13 different pitchers in relief situations this year. Arizona's used 11 different pitchers and ranks 6th on this table. Atlanta and the Dodgers each have used just 8 pitchers, the Mets 9.

There are many problems with the methodology here (e.g., sample size, definition of relief pitcher, inability to look at results over time as "overuse" increases), but I will use the data anyway to draw a conclusion:

The D-Backs bullpen isn't very good because the bullpen isn't very good.

Meaning, Mantei and Valverde and Choate haven't pitched well not because they've been overused but because they haven't played well. Even if the bullpen is "overused," the data don't seem to point to overuse having any statistical effect.

I'm not saying Brenly makes odd bullpen decisions -- maybe he does point to the bullpen in left field earlier than he should -- but based on this, I'm not convinced overuse is the reason for their poor performance thus far.

Three Weeks, Three Questions (Day Late Edition) 

It is a hard time to be a Diamondbacks fan. The team doesn't look entirely like last year's team, though we still have our one certified Hall of Famer. The season got off to a bad start. There's some griping about our General Manager. And we're 10-0 in the past 10 games.

Oops. Wrong team.

Again, it's hard to talk about last night's game, an 8-4 loss to the Giants. A nemesis that hadn't been around for awhile -- defense -- reared its ugly head. Dicey pitching and sketchy hitting were in the mix, too.

Then there was the sixth inning, in which Randolph walked the freakin' pitcher, who then decided to run to third on a single by Tucker. Bautista overthrew the beer vendor in the 10th row of seats along third base, allowing Broweer (the pitcher) to score, while nobody covered third, allowing Tucker to get to third. A comedy of error (not errors, as there was only one).

Moving on, then, to our regular Monday feature (today on Tuesday) -- Three Weeks, Three Questions.

Three Weeks

The Week That Was: 2-5 (not including last night's game). A sweep-age by the surging Giants. Lackluster offense and defense.

The Two Weeks That Will Be: 4 against the Giants (including last night), 3 hosting the Dodgers, a blessed day off, then 3 apiece at Baltimore and Toronto.

Three Questions

1. What Will Richie Do?: I'd hoped that we'd have an answer by now when I raised this question last week. Of course, since then, the Diamondbacks have gone 2-6. Why should Richie (or the D-Backs) risk any additional damage for a season which, increasingly seems destined for failure? (Had the D-Backs gone 6-2 instead, the equation would have be somewhat changed.)
2. When Will Shane Reynolds Be Ready?: Or, can anyone anyone ANYONE pitch beyond the 7th inning? Brenly's receiving criticism for bullpen overuse, which begs the question of whether his starters have been worth leaving in. The answer to that is, probably, no. But there comes a point at which maybe Daigle and Webb (and others) need to learn to work out of their own jams. Brenly, the Enabler.
3. If Not Now, When?: Look at the "Two Weeks That Will Be" above. See that off day? You know who pitches the next night? Randy Johnson. Just as some people thought Brenly might have been canned three weeks ago, before the 13-game road trip, if you're not going to fire Brenly on June 7 and set your new manager up for as much success as possible in his first game, when would you? (Of course, the Friday night game against Detroit on June 25 with Randy up in the rotation after an off-night might also be a good choice.)

But, as I mentioned about three weeks ago, you need to answer three questions -- is the team playing poorly? is it Brenly's fault? would Brenly's replacement do any better? The answer to the first question is clearer than it was three weeks ago (especially as we were awaiting Sexson's return), but the answer to the other two questions are little clearer. I still don't know how to blame starting pitching woes on Brenly. And I still don't know if any willing replacement would do any better. (It all depends on whether Yount or Grace are willing at this point.)

Look, I'm not saying that Brenly should or should not be fired. But if you're going to do it, it seems like you should give your new manager as much chance of success as possible, which means June 7, barring a sudden turnaround in this homestand, could mean new management.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Manure (Dodgers 3, D-Backs 0) 

I've noted here before an abnormally high use of swear words by Diamonbacks
this season. Gonzo and now Brenly (repeatedly). And I don't know if the
use is designed to a) motivate, b) give the appearance of motivation, c)
shift the blame, or d) just express anger. Some comebination of the above
most likely.

And with the Diamondbacks being 6-17 for their last 23 games, who can blame

As everyone knows by now (and Brenly's resorted to complaining about at
least twice in the past week), the inconsistency hurt us once again. The
starting pitching and relief pitching did fine yesterday -- it was the
offense who struggled. At least they drew five walks. The wildness of the
staff settled down a bit against the Dodgers -- they through 1 on Friday and
3 yesterday.

I don't know what happens from here. The offense has been shut out two
straight games. Brenly's been responding to mounting criticism for bullpen
overuse (though I'm not quite sure what he can do, aside from letting his
one currently decent starting pitcher actually pitch into the 8th inning).
Unlike before the road trip, my sense is that the criticism is now is more
of "it's not necessarily the manager's fault, but we need to make a
change... any change."

And right or wrong, it's just going to be easier for management to make that
change with Brenly than with anyone else.

The D-Backs called up Tim Olson in Matt Kata's spot. He started at 3B, went
0-for-3. More on this tomorrow... or maybe not...

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Puff of Smoke (Dodgers 10 - D-Backs 0) 

A decent outing from Randy Johnson and the D-Backs offense Friday night
disappeared in, well, a puff of smoke Saturday night. Jose Lima baffled the
offense, and Brandon Webb is looking every bit not like the person that gave
D-Backs management confidence to deal away Curt Schilling in the off-season.

The Diamondbacks are now 4-8 on this road trip, or 1-8 in games not started
by Randy Johnson (a stat I was planning to use even before the Republic put
it in the lead of this morning's story about the game). I said before the
road trip began that I thought 10 games out was the magic point at the end
of the trip that the Diamondbacks needed to be under in order for Brenly to
ensure his continued employment for the time being. The D-Backs are only 9
games back, but with Casey Fossum going up against Kaz Ishii this evening,
Bob can't be too excited about his prospects.

Kata's dislocated left shoulder will get Scott Hairston some consistent
starts, and as he's been one of the few offensive high points lately, that's
a good thing. Given the bizarre Luis Terrero assault/ball-throwing incident
the other night, I would guess (or at least suggest) Andy Green might get
the call-up. He's been hitting great all season down in Tucson and his
infielding would allow Hairston to give one of the outfielders an occasional
night off. Besides, it sounds like Roberto Alomar will be back with the
team in a couple weeks, and rather than bring Terrero up for his cup of
coffee now, may as well wait a little while longer.