Saturday, August 07, 2004

Well, What Now? 

Even at the height of the Randy Johnson trade hysteria, the focus was never so not on the field as in the past 24 hours.  The Republic's article on the D-Backs' 4-2 loss to Atlanta was brief, almost cursory in nature.  It's scary, of course, that Brandon Webb, a sinker-ball pitcher, gave up 3 home runs, including one to the pitcher.  Maybe that deserves a little more attention.  But the smallness felt right, because Jerry Colangelo's ouster (departure, deposing, whatever) is big news.

It doesn't seem worth the effort to go over the history of what led to this point, except that as best I can tell, the problems the ownership group had with Colangelo were not necessarily financial in nature.  See this quote from Craig Harris' article in the Republic:

"In June, Colangelo had a major falling out with the partners, when they were not kept abreast of the financial commitment needed to sign No. 1 draft choice Stephen Drew, who will command a large signing bonus, the owner said."

I glean two things from this statement:
1) The owners are a bunch of idiots -- how could you not know that Stephen Drew would cost a significant amount of money to sign?  I mean, I know the owners have other things to do in their lives, some even have other jobs, but so do I, and I knew Drew would be costly, and I don't have $50+ million invested in this team.
2) Leaving that aside, the other big thing is that this seemed to be a communication problem.  Colangelo "made decisions without informing the partners, said one owner, who asked not to be named."  For whatever reason, Colangelo thought he had the freedom to make moves, and didn't tell the owners enough about his intentions.  Whether this is a failure on the owners' part to make clear Colangelo's boundaries or a failure on Colangelo's part to keep the owners informed, it clearly was a failure.

The other statement of note from Harris' article is that the "owners plan to keep the payroll in the $70 million range.... [owner] Jensen has said.  But the group still wants to sign slugger Richie Sexson..."  (Of course, elsewhere in the Republic, Sexson said he didn't "necessarily feel like [he] owe[d] anybody" to re-sign.  We shall see.)

I don't know if Jeff Moorad will be a good or bad CEO, though of course I hope he's a good one.  But at the very least, he's now the owners' guy, and the lines of command are clear.

Best of luck to you, Jerry.

Friday, August 06, 2004


Interesting article today by BP's Jonah Keri on the Diamondbacks' 2004 collapse. The problem for me was the article dealt with why the D-Backs performed below expectations... not why they performed badly. It's more illustrative of the limitations of any projection system (or at least, PECOTA) than of the D-Backs' woes. Oh, sure, it's clear that the pitching bears the lion's share of the blame for the awful year, but it's not like we needed BP to tell us that.

Keri also glides over two other reasons for the poor performance:
1. Brandon Webb hasn't had a good year.
2. Richie Sexson (and Luis Gonzalez) got injured.

Keri calls it these the "easier story angle," but just because it's easier doesn't make it any less wrong. I don't have a BP subscription, so I don't know what Webb's projected VORP was for 2004, but it would have to be close to the 49.3 VORP he had in 2003. His actual 2004 VORP, pro-rated to the end of the season? 16.8. The difference is similar to the differences in the rest of the rotation. As for Sexson, again, I don't know the projected 2004 VORP, but difference between 2003 (58.7) and 2004 (6.9, and that won't change except for minor statistical flukes) is just as big as the pen. Add another 30-or-so VORP decline for Gonzo (which probably wasn't as big because I imagine his 2004 projected VORP was below his 2003 actual VORP), and all of a sudden these three things, while "easy" are also, if you're a D-Backs fan, "bad."

Perhaps the D-Backs have just been unlucky -- they've lost 10 more games than their 3rd-order Pythagenport record would suggest. But in the end, the D-Backs have a weak starting rotation compounded by a weak bullpen and an offense that, given the departure of Finley, Gonzo, and Sexson, is, at best, fair. In retrospect, this seems obvious; the real question is, why wasn't it in March?

[Note: I didn't start doing this until April, so I was saved the ignominy of having to do projections of my own. If I did, I suspect I would've been optimistic, because that's my general nature. You can slam me next year.]

And just for fun, here's a recent Bill Simmons mailbag.

He's Gone! He's Gone! Yay! 

We won't have to face Paul Lo Duca for 8 more months! (What, you thought I was talking about Roberto Alomar?)

Paul LoDuca OPS as Dodger against the Diamondbacks: .948
Paul LoDuca OPS as Marlin against the Diamondbacks: 1.667
Paul LoDuca OPS, entire 2004 season: roughly .837

Yes, I don't know what it is, but Lo Duca hits the crap out of the ball whenever he plays the D-Backs. Doesn't matter if it's in his home town of Phoenix or in his home ballparks. No different in yesterday's 11-5 Marlins victory over the D-Backs -- 3 for 4 with a home run, two RBI, and a walk.

Funny how a poor performance by the D-Backs pitching staff can be handled with a little more equanimity after winning a couple games -- typical post-3rd-inning collapse by the starting pitcher, poor relief pitching. So I'll just stop right here before I lose the "we won a series" buzz.


Interesting comment in the D-Backs notes on the D-Backs website: "With Robbie Alomar traded and Matt Kata on the shelf for the season, manager Al Pedrique said that the battle will be on between Scott Hairston and Andy Green to 'find out who will be ready next year,' at second base." That's the first time I've heard Andy Green considered for the 2nd-baseman's-slot. Actually, Green is probably competing for a utility-man's slot in 2005, but it's another sign of Hairston's slide.

Standings (August 6) 

The Republic printed the wild card standings for the first time this morning. If they do it consistently through the weekend, I'll stop this by Monday (unless there is a hue and cry from you, my loyal readers).

National League

St. Louis 69-38 *
Los Angeles 64-43 *
Atlanta 60-47 *
Chicago 60-48 WC
San Diego 58-50 2.0
San Francisco 58-52 3.0
Philadelphia 56-52 4.0
Houston 54-54 6.0

Big weekend series: Chicago @ San Francisco, Philadelphia @ Los Angeles

American League

New York 68-39 *
Minnesota 61-46 *
Texas 60-46 *
Oakland 60-47 WC
Boston 58-48 1.5
Anaheim 58-50 2.5
Chicago 54-51 5.0
Cleveland 55-54 6.0

Big weekend series: Oakland @ Minnesota, Cleveland @ Chicago

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Roberto Alomar Traded To White Sox... 

... for a player to be named later and cash considerations.

Obviously, I wish Alomar nothing but the best with the White Sox (well, not really, since I'm a Twins fan), but as a D-Backs fan primarily, his departure is good, good news, even if the player to be named later is 70 years old and "cash considerations" means a $40 "quick cash" withdrawal from an ATM.

This One Goes To Eleven... 

11-6, D-Backs over the Marlins. Wow. It's been a long time since the D-Backs scored in double digits -- more than two months, to be exact (11-5 over the Giants on June 3rd). It's been almost as long since the Diamondbacks won a series outright (road series wins over the Orioles and Blue Jays in early/mid-June, home series win over the Giants in early June).

Oh, yes, early June. I guess it's been nearly two months since I felt good about the team. I realize that this is a function of diminished expectations more than anything else -- heck, it's been more than a month since the D-Backs won 2 in a row -- but it's nice not to think the team is a complete mess.

It's also nice that the D-Backs won a game in which Randy Johnson did not have his best stuff. Now, after pitching great for a month or so without a win to show for it, the team repays the favor by winning a game he probably deserved to lose.

My questions from Tuesday are no less relevant today...

Luis Terrero? The man has a poor left glove (misplaying a couple balls on Tuesday night), but a heck of a right arm (also on display Tuesday). Too powerful perhaps, as he missed the cutoff man last night. Definitely an adventure out there...

Roberto Alomar got 4 hits last night, which further highlights Scott Hairston's recent offensive struggles. I'm not saying we shouldn't start Hairston, I'm just pointing out that is not good for anybody involved (unless it convinces somebody to trade for him).

Standings (August 5) 

National League

St. Louis 68-38 *
Los Angeles 63-43 *
Atlanta 59-47 *
Chicago 59-48 WC
San Diego 58-49 1.0
San Francisco 58-51 2.0
Philadelphia 55-52 4.0
Houston 54-53 5.0

Chicago climbs into sole possession of wild card for first since I've been tracking...

American League

New York 67-39 *
Minnesota 61-45 *
Oakland 60-46 *
Texas 59-46 WC
Boston 58-48 1.5
Anaheim 57-50 3.0
Chicago 54-50 4.5

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Freaky Tuesday 

It wasn't until I was in the car on the way home from last night's 5-3 D-Backs victory over the Florida Marlins that I realized that I'd attended the last two home games for the D-Backs (albeit with a 7-game gap in between).  That may be the first time I've done that with the D-Backs, even going back to '98 and '99 when I had a portion of season tickets.

I might attend a few more back-to-back games if the D-Backs played (and got some luck) like they did last night.  It was almost like they were playing like the Marlins.

And the Marlins, well, the Arizona Republic had it right in their "Jeers" section of the boxscore to the game:

"The Marlins made a few mistakes in the field and on the basepaths that can only be described as Diamondback-like."

For example, Dontrelle Willis stepping into the path of a sharp throw from Encarnacion in right field, which let the ball squirt away from him and Paul Lo Duca, thereby letting Andy Green, who'd held up at third on Bautista's single, dash home.

Meanwhile, the D-Back offense had -- for them -- an offensive explosion, scoring 5 runs, includng three off homeruns.

It's not like the Diamondbacks played great.  Casey Fossum pitched lucky, not good, as he gave up 5 walks (1 was intentional) and a wild pitch (that should have been called a passed ball).  Dessens came in and promptly gave up a double to Lo Duca -- thank goodness he's been traded to the Marlins so we only have to see him 6 times a year instead of 19 -- to tie the game.  Greg Aquino pitched a very shaky 9th inning, getting lucky when Andy Green, who'd been moved to 2nd base, bobbled a sure double-play ball... right to Cintron, standing on second, for the force out.  Aquino then walked Lo Duca on 4 pitches (a case of the right thing happening for the wrong reason), and gave up 3 more balls before eventually getting Mike Lowell to ground into a 5-3 double play.  Aquino was booed by the crowd, who seems to have lost patience with the bullpen altogether.

So there you go.  A decent game.  Not entirely well-played, but we still won.  And even better, I got to spend it with friends in from out of town and even got my friend who's a big, huge Yankees fan to have his picture taken next to the 2001 World Championship trophy.

If Paola Boivin is going to make the claim, as she does in her Arizona Republic column today, that "several weeks ago, Randy Johnson, through his agent, told the team he wanted out of Arizona," the least she can do is offer some proof or source.  The claim may very well be true, but for her to make this claim (especially after talking about having to "dig enough through the muck of double-speak and the mire of misinformation") without providing any source at all makes it no better than any of the other rumors that wafter through the air the past few weeks.

Standings (August 4) 

National League

St. Louis 67-38 *
Los Angeles 62-43 *
Atlanta 58-47 *
San Diego 58-48 WC tie
Chicago 58-48 WC tie
San Francisco 58-50 1.0
Houston 54-52 4.0
Philadelphia 54-52 4.0
Florida 52-53 5.5

American League

New York 66-39 *
Oakland 60-45 *
Minnesota 60-45 *
Texas 58-46 WC
Boston 58-47 0.5
Anaheim 57-49 2.0
Chicago 54-49 3.5

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Three Weeks, Three Questions (Up The Middle Edition) 

A day late, but oh well...

Three Weeks

The Week That Was

After a slightly hope-inducing 4-game split at Houston, the D-Backs imploded at Colorado, getting swept. They were outscored (dropping high/low scores) 6.4 to 2.8. Urgh.

The Two Weeks That Will Be

The D-Backs host Florida and Atlanta for 3 games apiece, get Monday off, then travel to Montreal and Shea Stadium for 3 games apiece against the Expos and the Mets.

Every time I think that it's been a hard year to be a Diamondbacks fan, I think about being an Expos fan. I clicked on the "tickets" icon on the D-Backs schedule at their website to make sure next Tuesday's game against the Expos was actually in Montreal and decided to see what the "Best Available" seats for a pair of tickets were for the game. Section 102, right behind home plate, Row TT, which appeared to be no more than a few rows from the front. Oh, and they were $40 CDN apiece ($35 for children), or maybe $28 American. I admit that this is a game with little inherent interest if you're an Expos fan, but still, that's ridiculous... Actually, I take that back. I think Randy's up in the rotation that night. That should be of not insignificant interest to a long-time Expos fan.

Three Questions -- Up The Middle

1. Who's Our Catcher? Well, that was a big thumb to the eye(s) of Juan Brito, Robbie Hammock, and Craig Ansmann. Koyie Hill, whom Rob from 6-4-2 was less than impressed by, a AAA catcher who'd played exactly 3 games at the Major League level, was designated as the D-Backs starting catcher upon his arrival. I would've like to have seen Ansmann up here for a few games, too... perhaps in September.
2. Who's Our Second Baseman? OK, it's not like I like Roberto Alomar this year. But the clear advantage Hairston had over Alomar at the beginning of the year has nearly disappeared. Hairston's VORP is 7.4, just a shade over Alomar's 4.8, and in nearly twice as many plate opportunities. Indeed, Hairston has 3 Win Shares to Alomar's 2, but Hairston's Win Shares Above Average is -3, while Alomar's got a WSAA of 0. I'm not saying that Alomar should be starting; clearly, we need to find out whether Hairston can learn to play in the bigs. But next spring should set up a battle between Hairston and Matt Kata much more interesting than we would've expected in early June.
3. Who's Our Center Fielder? So, Terrero was expected to move to left with Gonzo's surgery. But with Finley traded, does Terrero move to center? Does Bautista or McCracken (I doubt either of them, but you never know)?

Standings (August 3) 

No change from yesterday with the exception of Boston moving up a half-game with their win.

National League
St. Louis 67-37 *
Los Angeles 61-43 *
Atlanta 58-46 *
San Diego 58-47 WC
Chicago 57-48 1.0
San Francisco 57-50 2.0
Houston 53-52 5.0
Philadelphia 53-52 5.0
Florida 52-52 5.5

Big series: Philadelpha @ San Diego; Atlanta @ Houston

American League
New York 66-38 *
Oakland 59-45 *
Minnesota 59-45 *
Texas 57-46 WC
Boston 57-47 0.5
Anaheim 57-48 1.0
Chicago 53-49 3.5
Cleveland 53-52 5.0

Big series: Oakland @ New York; Anaheim @ Minnesota

Monday, August 02, 2004

Blogging Get-Together Planning Update 

Last week I suggested that D-Backs bloggers and readers get together at a D-Backs game here in the last two months of the season. I wanted to bump this back to the top here and summarize the comments:
1) Good idea
2) When?

Thanks for #1, as for #2, here are the issues:
a) Weekend vs. weekday
b) Which series / when (August vs. September)
c) Particularly bad days

As for me, I have a vague preference for weekdays, but I know Jim prefers weekends and has ruled out Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

I'm assuming that this week is out, which leaves (taking out Tuesdays and Wednesdays and two days --Sept. 10th and 27th -- that are definitely out for me)...

Pittsburgh: (Mon., Aug. 16)
Cincinnati (Fri. - Sun., Aug. 20-22, 22nd @ 1:35)
Dodgers (Thu., Sept. 2)
Giants (Sat. - Sun., Sept. 11-12, 12th @ 1:35)
Colorado (Mon., Sept. 13, Thu., Sept. 16th @ 1:35)
San Diego (Fri. - Sun., Oct. 1 - 3, 3rd @ 1:35)

I guess that of all those games, my first choice is the Dodgers game and the last choice is the San Diego series (I could be busy that weekend).


And to think, last week I'd dared to suggest that the D-Backs might have a shot at winning the road trip.

This, the Greeks would have called hubris and I would have been punished in some way like having my innards slowly pecked out by buzzards or being forced to make trades for George Steinbrenner having nothing more than that monkey from the E*Trade Super Bowl ad at my disposal.

Instead, I just get to watch a, miserable performance by the Diamondbacks in Colorado. 7 runs is a decent performance at Coors Field... IN A SINGLE GAME! NOT AN ENTIRE SERIES! Sigh. The only frisson of excitement I felt in yesterday's 10-2 loss to the Rockies was to see whether Edgar Gonzalez would lose a fourth straight 10-3 game. Sadly, this was not to be.

So now we have the following starting lineup to look forward to...
C: Hill
1B: Hillenbrand
2B: Hairston
SS: Cintron
3B: Tracy
LF: Terrero
CF: Bautista? McCracken?
RF: Green? DeVore?

Which means that, when they take the field tomorrow against Florida, the team really should be introduced as... Your Tucson Sidewinders!

More stuff to come today.

Standings (August 2) 

National League

St. Louis 67-37 *
Los Angeles 61-43 *
Atlanta 58-46 *
San Diego 58-47 WC
Chicago 57-48 1.0
San Francisco 57-50 2.0
Houston 53-52 5.0
Philadelphia 53-52 5.0
Florida 52-52 5.5

American League

New York 66-38 *
Oakland 59-45 *
Minnesota 59-45 *
Texas 57-46 WC
Boston 56-47 1.0
Anaheim 57-48 1.0
Chicago 53-49 3.5
Cleveland 53-52 5.0

Sunday, August 01, 2004


This is how the trade deadline ends... not with a bang, but with a whimper.

My views...

-- Finley for catcher Hill, pitcher Murphy, and outfielder Abercrombie.  As I said before, I would take nearly anything for Finley and the other free agents at the end of the year, and so, without knowing much about these three, I'm glad the trade got made.  I was surprised to read that Hill would be inserted into the starting lineup, as I thought that Mayne's departure would lead to Ansmann's call-up from Tucson.  Oh, well, catcher is definitely a weak spot in our lineup, so another, younger player can't hurt.  (Can it?)   From what little I know, Murphy seems like a decent pickup, but Abercrombie seems like a high risk-medium (if that high) reward player.  In any case, this was a good trade for the D-Backs.
-- Bautista and Alomar don't get traded.  "All I can say is I'm really disappointed," said Alomar.  Join the club.  Bautista's recent recurring injuries probably nixed his trade chances; Alomar's non-trade speaks more about Alomar's disappearing (and disappeared) abilities than anything else.  I do wish these players had been traded, too.
-- Randy Johnson doesn't go anywhere.  As I noted before, Joe Jr. probably felt extra pressure to get something worthwhile after getting pilloried for the Schilling trade.   As such, this was a no-win situation.  Don't trade him, and he gets raked over the sports talk radio coals for not "thinking about the future."  Trade him, and he gets raked over the sports talk radio coals -- by the same people -- for getting duped.

Look, if the "well-played Diamondbacks source" cited in Dan Bickley's column this morning was correct, the Dodgers refused to trade Lo Duca and Mota for Johnson earlier in the week, then later traded them for Brad Penny.  Bickley points out that "other teams believed the Diamondbacks would eventually cave to their best offer that came their way, if only to wipe $21 million off their books."  While I always preferred that Johnson remain a D-Back, I'm glad the D-Backs held firm, because it led to rumored trades such as Penny and Jackson for Johnson which were infinitely better than the useless trade that the Yankees offered and trades that I wouldn't have been disappointed with.  (If that Penny/Jackson rumor was true, I wonder whose feet got cold there?)  It does make you wonder why the Yankees didn't offer anything more to the D-Backs...

Oh, yeah, the game.  8-4, Rockies.  Whatever.  The D-Backs are lucky that the trade deadline was yesterday, because it obscured a poor effort by the D-Backs.  3 errors, which meant that of the 6 runs Brandon Webb gave up, only 1 of them were earned.  Of course, he also hit two batters and had 2 wild pitches, so it's not like he's totally blameless.

I'll get back into the games and analysis more thoroughly starting once more tomorrow.

Standings (August 1) 

National League

St. Louis 66-37 *
Los Angeles 60-43 *
San Diego 58-46 WC
Atlanta 57-46 * 0.5
Chicago 56-48  2.0
San Francisco 57-49 2.0
Philadelphia 53-51 5.0
Florida 52-52 6.0
Houston 52-52 6.0
Arizona 33-73 26.0 (just kidding!)

American League

New York 65-38 *
Minnesota 58-45 *
Oakland 58-45 *
Texas 57-45 WC
Boston 56-46 1.0
Anaheim 56-48 2.0
Chicago 52-49 4.5
Cleveland 53-51 5.0