Saturday, June 26, 2004

One Is the Loneliest Number 

As has been the case often lately, it is difficult to work up a head (or
computer) full of steam about last night's D-Backs 2-1 loss to the Tigers.
Another one-run loss, this against the team with the worst record in one-run
games in all of baseball. Another one-run game. One-hit games, thankfully,
are much rarer (the Republic reports it's only the third against the D-Backs
in their history), but it doesn't make it any less painful, especially
against a pitcher whose ERA is 4.68... and that included last night's game.

In a nascent D-Back blogger trend of trying to focus on good things, here
they are:
-- Brandon Webb, complete game, two runs, just four hits and two walks. A
solid game. His ERA is back down to 3.88. (I'm ignoring his actual record,
which of course says more about the D-Backs than about Webb. Stop it!!!
Positive thoughts!)
-- Nice triple by Gonzo, who also drew a walk.

OK, uh, that's it. I could write about Robbie Alomar, or defensive issues
(though no errors), or other things, but that'd ruin the positive vibe.
We'll end it here, then.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Beltran is Texan for "Shoe" 

So Carlos Beltran has been traded to the Astros, giving them their own
version of the "Killer B's" -- Biggio, Berkman, and Beltran. Wonder who
will be moved to right field?... In any case, now that Beltran's been
dealt, the other shoe may soon drop. Disappointed GMs can start calling the
D-Backs to see what the cost will be to rent Steve Finley's services for 3
months instead. Post your suggestions in the Comments section of
yesterday's post...

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Parlor Game: Finley To? 

Who's the only tradeable D-Back who could get anything resembling trade value? Steve Finley. (Randy and Gonzo aren't going anywhere. The discussions on Bautista or Shea aren't worth my research time -- though I'd gladly read others' thoughts. And I don't think there are many teams with magic beans they would offer for Mantei or Dessens. Alomar is a special case I'll leave to others to hash out.)

So, where could Finley be traded? And, for bonus points, who could the D-Backs reasonably ask for (and need)? My answer, and hopefully yours, in the comments section below.


[Scene: An anonymous blogger -- OK, me -- sits at an anonymous computer, staring blankly at the screen.]

Me: That's it. I'm not writing about last night's game.
Voice In My Head: Tough. You have to write.
Me: Who are you?
VIMH: The Voice In Your Head, dumbskull. Read the script.
Me: Oh. What do you mean, "You have to write."
VIMH: Do I have to parse the sentence for you?
Me: No. But it's been such a depressing run lately, I don't feel like writing.
VIMH: Tough. You knew what you were getting into when you started this thing. You did read your Blogger terms of service, right? The BaseballBlogs.org requirements? Starting a baseball blog requires writing day in-day out. No whiners.
Me: But I didn't even see the game last night!
VIMH: Like that's stopped you before. What'd you do instead?
Me: Saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Great movie. Charlie Kaufman is one messed-up dude. This movie, Being John Malkovich, Adaptation. Hey, I could write a review about the movie instead...
VIMH: No, you do that Tuesdays. Focus, dude.
Me: It's just that, well, the D-Backs have lost 6 in a row, and now they can't even win when Randy Johnson is pitching. I mean, how the hell do you get 13 hits in Petco Park with Randy Johnson pitching and lose the freakin' game? They even scored 1 run in the 8th and 9th innings to tie up the game. They've rarely done that this year. And then to lose on a walk-off homerun to Terrence Long. Sigh. I can't continue.
VIMH: C'mon. A little bit more. I know you can do it.
Me: I could mine D-Back stats for some meaningless, depressing statistic.
VIMH: No, you've gone to that well a bit too often lately.
Me: How about Baseball Prospectus stats?
VIMH: Uh... OK.
Me: Look -- the D-Backs are 6-14 in one-run games, trailing only Montreal and, oh, this is a sliver of good news, our next opponent, Detroit.
VIMH: See, now, you're almost finished.
Me: How about a random link?
VIMH: No! Not necessary. Let's wrap this up.
Me: Thanks for your help. I couldn't have done this without you.
VIMH: No problem, anytime. By the way, what did you think of Charlie Kaufman's other recent scripts?
Me: Thought Being John Malkovich was really good, never saw Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. I wonder how well they played in Midwestburg? Hopefully decently.
VIMH: And what'd you think of Adaptation?
Me: Too much thinking, not enough enjoying. Way too meta for my tastes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Random Ramblings (Good News Edition) 

Although there have been some high points for D-Back bloggers this year, it's been difficult at times to remember that baseball at its best (and most of the time) brings small measures of joy to us. Here, then, are some links reminding us of that:

1. Jose Contreras reunited with his family -- this is related to baseball only in that Contreras plays for the Yankees, but it'll be interesting to see how he pitches for the rest of the season now that he's finally been reunited with his family here in the States. Good news for him and his family. (Check out the Times' cheap shot at the New York Daily News on page 2 of the article, though. Not playing nice.)

2. The Republic earlier this week had an article about the Dodgers allowing fans to play catch at Dodger Stadium before the final Dodgers-Yankees game on Father's Day. (Sorry, couldn't find the article online.) That is a way-cool idea -- here's hoping the D-Backs (and other teams) copy the idea. (And that they don't decide that it's such a cool idea that people should pay money for the privilege -- short-term thinking at the expense of building a lifelong fanbase.)

3. "I know I looked like Mini-Me out there on the mound, but I was so flippin' excited" -- Robbie Hammock, on his reaction to Randy Johnson's perfect game. Last week's Phoenix New Times had a long puff piece on Robbie Hammock. It's easy to forget how hard most baseball players, especially the "average" ones, work to get to the bigs. Like I said, a puff piece, but a nice read.

Still Not Good (Padres 2, D-Backs 1) 

So Jim at But It's a DRY Heat tried to talk me (or people like me) down yesterday in his post. And I was ready to admit that perhaps I'd been a bit harsh in my assessment yesterday that the season was over with.

And then we had last night's game. A second straight strong pitching performance from Steve Sparks -- 7 innings, 3 hits, 2 walks. (Note, in June, Sparks has an ERA of 2.51. Randy Johnson has an ERA of 4.50. This means nothing, of course. But it's still scary to me.) But, as has been the D-Backs' modus operandi all season, we gave it away with poor bullpen work (OK -- not poor, but definitely no better than fair -- 2 hits, 3 walks, one hit batsman in 2 1/3) and lackluster offense (10 strikeouts). Throw into the mix poor baserunning (Gonzo -- or Brenly -- what in the world were you thinking trying to steal in the 8th?) and poor defense (2 errors, including the game-costing decision by Hairston to try to tag out Burroughs in the bottom the 10th), and it's unsurprising they lost. Disappointing, but unsurprising.

So lest I work myself into a total lather, the good points for the Diamondbacks (beyond Sparks' pitching): Gonzo throwing out Sean Burroughs not once but twice as Burroughs tried to take advantage of Gonzo's arm. (I didn't see the first play, but the second play looked like Burroughs might have had an argument for being safe.) Quick thinking by Hillenbrand to fire a late throw by Tracy onto home to retire Phil Nevin as be ploughed over Hammock. Nice homerun by Finley.

And for the second straight game, the right-field porch angers Brenly as Tracy's triple in the third ends up being ruled a ground-rule double. The correct call (and it didn't matter anyway), but it's confusing that if a ball hits the railing on the fly it's a homerun, but on a bounce it's a ground-rule double. It makes legal sense (i.e., it's out of play in both cases) but not intuitive sense.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Now Pitching for the D-Backs... Elisabeth Kubler Ross! 

Must. Retain. Eqaunimity.

Elisabeth Kubler Ross is best known for her writings on death and in particular her theory that dying patients go through five stages:
1. Denial
2. Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

This is best summarized in the following sequence from "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Bluefish" in The Simpsons' second season:
Dr. H: Now, a little death anxiety is normal. You can expect to go through five stages. The first is denial.
Homer: No way! Because I'm not dying! [hugs Marge]
Dr. H: The second is anger.
Homer: Why you little! [steps towards Dr. H]
Dr. H: After that comes fear.
Homer: What's after fear? What's after fear? [cringes]
Dr. H: Bargaining.
Homer: Doc, you gotta get me out of this! I'll make it worth your while!
Dr. H: Finally, acceptance.
Homer: Well, we all gotta go sometime.
Dr. H: Mr. Simpson, your progress astounds me.

OK, it's not the right order, but I think the sequence -- one of my all-time Simpsons favorites -- is funnier this way.

Now, it's not clear that all patients go through all these stages at the same time and in the same order. Even when the patients are Diamondback bloggers.

For example, I seem to be moving from denial -- "this baseball team isn't so bad, with a few lucky breaks in this lousy division, they could be right back in it" -- straight into fear -- "how the heck am I supposed to continue writing about this team for another 90+ games?" Other D-Back blogs seem to have settled right into anger. We all seem agreed that if the D-Backs are to enter the "bargaining" phase of their season that it's to trade the overpaid veterans for some new prospects. Acceptance seems a ways off yet, though I see glimmers of it on the horizon.

Of course, all this after what was not that bad of a game last night. Casey Fossum pitched well, just giving up a cheap homerun to Phil Nevin in the bottom of the 3rd. In a sign of Brenly's frustration, he stopped just short of blaming Petco Park's architect for the loss -- "He had all of his pitches working and save for a popup hit into a tricked-up corner of a ballpark, he probably would have had a better result. It's not for me to talk about designing stadiums, but they put that short porch out there and Nevin found it."

Hey, Bob, them's the breaks. It's not like they move the porch out to 375 when Gonzo and Fins come up to the plate. In any case, Fossum pitched 6 decent innings, while Service and Villafuerte struggled somewhat in their two innings.

Doubly frustrating was Shea's grounding into a double play with the bases loaded and no outs in the 5th. The D-Backs managed to get out the inning without scoring. (Whew! Uh... wait...) Shea leads the D-Backs in double plays with 11 and has grounded into 3 double plays with the bases loaded, matching the rest of the team combined. (His OPS in that situation is a nice round .000.) I realize that these are statistical anomalies at the individual level (sort of -- the D-Backs are 3rd in the NL in hitting into double plays total and have the 3rd- and 5th-worst NL record in OPS and GIDP with the bases loaded ), but it makes it no less frustrating.

Take a few pitches, folks, that might help. Gonzo had two of the three walks last night -- he draws walks at twice the rate of the rest of the team. (14.8% of TPA vs. 7.4%).

Finally, apparently Roberto Alomar is less-than-perfectly pleased about his non-return to the starting lineup. Somebody please tell All-Star voters that they should stop voting for him.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Three Weeks Three Questions (Father's Day Edition) 

Isn't it nice that the Diamondbacks are honoring fathers by putting kids in the lineup? I don't think this is an "I'm-getting-old-and-grumpy-comment," -- these guys in the infield just look reaaaaally young. Roberto Alomar's gonna mess that curve up, isn't he?

Three Weeks

The Week That Was

Not pretty. 1-5, outscored 5.25 to 3 (eliminating the high/low scores). I mean, who would've thought that both the Expos and the Devil Rays would have better records against the Diamondbacks than the Yankees? The D-Backs lost 3 games in the standings, sliding to 27-42 (sub-.400) and 11.5 games back of the Dodgers. All the optimism of last Monday evaporated quickly.

The Two Weeks That Will Be

3 games at San Diego, a travel day, 3 at Detroit, then hosting the Padres for 4 games and the Twins for 3. This is not an easy schedule, and the Diamondbacks run the risk of making the week of games following at the Dodgers and Giants before the All-Star Break little more than an audition of trade bait.

The Padres don't hit the long ball well -- last in the NL -- and are next-to-last in OPS, but that could be a function of the supposedly hitter-unfriendly Petco Park. They're in the middle of the pack, but strike out less than any other NL team. It will be interesting to see if their bats come alive in the BOB bandbox. Conversely, it will be interesting if the fair-to-good pitching/defense stats -- 5th-best in runs allowed, 7th in WHIP -- will take a tumble here. Of course, they're 2nd best in walks, so that's not encouraging for our mostly-walk-vaccinated lineup. (Gonzo must've been gone the day they were doing those vaccinations.)

As for Detroit, they have a decent offense, 5th in OPS, 6th in runs, middle of the pack, strike out more than every AL team except -- shocker here, folks -- the Red Sox. As for the other side of the ball, they give up a fair amount of runs (4th) and walks (5th), and, unsurprisingly, their WHIP is 4th-worst in the AL. This series could provide some high-scoring games. (Please?)

Three Questions

1. Who Wants To Be A Major League Starter? Duh, of course this is the big question. We're running out of options. (Unless there's a Father's Day "Be A Starter For A Day" promotion underway that I've missed. If so, please let me know because my daughter liked her last visit to the ballpark, and I think it'd be a nice treat to see her Daddy serve up 50-MPH fastballs to major leaguers.) Nobody has given the D-Backs any reason not to bring Shane Reynolds up for starts once his rehab has finished, and it wouldn't surprise me if Reynolds is in the dugout for the Padres series because he could very well be activiated for the Padres series in San Diego. The blogging community is generally dismissive of Reynolds, but there's no reason not to trot him out to have him get pasted just like everyone else has.
2. Are You Experienced? With Roberto Alomar and Greg Colbrunn ready to come back and Doug DeVore and Alan Zinter sent back to Tucson, will there be pressure to get "experienced" players back into the lineup? (Of course there will.) I will be sad to see Hairston get bumped out of a starting role if Alomar gets put back in.
3. Buying or Selling? Well, we shouldn't be buying, but there's a question if we are to be sellers. Or, more accurately, if anybody would be willing to buy what we're willing to sell. We're not trading Gonzo or Johnson, and nobody's going to give much more than a hill of beans for Mantei or Dessens so that leaves Finley, Bautista, Hillenbrand, and Alomar as the most likely candidates, and aside from Finley, I don't think we could hope for much. Oddly enough, for those who don't like Alomar, your best hope may be that he gets put back in the starting lineup, gets hot, and gets traded.

Stick It Where The Sun Don't Shine 

Undoubtedly my e-mails from Friday and Saturday will eventually make their way to Blogger and be posted in an untimely manner, thereby confusing those expecting to see a recap of the sweep by the Devil Rays. (This is not the first time it's happened, making me a little dubious of Google's offer of a "Gmail" account.)

Urgh. I'm cringing just writing about it. It's not that the Devil Rays are a bad team -- they looked pretty good, and much better than the stats I collected about them last week. It's just that it's sad to see that of the two teams here this weekend, the team with the sunnier outlook for the season is, unlike its home state, from Florida, not Arizona.

Actually, the D-Backs didn't look much worse than the Devil Rays -- they just didn't look good enough. The 11-4 loss on Saturday was another statistical anomaly. That is, both teams got 11 hits (doubles and triples equal) the Devils got 4 walks to the D-Backs' 2, and one homerun. The Devil Rays had one more error. The number of runners left in scoring position was equal. That difference does not equate to an 11-4 loss. Andrew Good's stellar pitching in relief (see missing post from Saturday) made it easy to send Lance Cormier back down to Tucson after his poor performance. (Though, again, perhaps Brenly should try pitching one of these pitchers a second time before giving up.)

And yesterday's 2-1 loss was notable only for Webb's solid outing (along with that of the bullpen)and the offense's inability to drive in runs.

Three Weeks, Three Questions later today...