Friday, August 20, 2004

I Only Have (Dodger Blue) Eyes For You 

And to think I wondered what I'd write after the off day.

As everyone likely knows at this point, the D-Backs dealt Elmer Dessens to the Dodgers Thursday for minor league outfielder Jereme Milons, making it the second trade of the season with the Dodgers (and nearly a third, if some of the Randy Johnson rumors had any basis in fact).  Makes you wonder whether Joe Jr. is a confirmed friend or enemy of the Dodgers.

In any case, from the D-Back perspective I think of this as a good trade.  Save $1 million this year, plus a $300,000 buyout next year.  Dessens might be a decent set-up man, but he a) doesn't want to be a set-up man, and b) clearly wouldn't be worth the $4 million he was set to earn if the D-Backs picked up his 2005 option (which Joe Jr. said they wouldn't have).  As for Milons, I'll defer to Jim, Ryan, and Robert and their Baseball Prospectus 2004s.   But based on the stats in the Republic, he doesn't sound that great, though the speed would be nice.  (I was amused by Joe, Jr.'s comment that "whenever we have a chance to put speed into the system, we do it."  Uh, Joe, take a look at your team and farm system.  You, well, have not put any speed into the system.)

As for the Dodgers, Dessens could turn out to be a decent set-up man for Eric Gagne, though given Gagne's past two games, perhaps there's a bigger worry for DePodesta.  (I know, I know, it's temporary.  But it's bad for the Dodgers anyway...)  In any case, from the Dodgers' perspective, there's little downside risk for them (except for when Elmer takes the mound).  Maybe escaping BOB will give Dessens the consistency that has eluded most D-Backs all season long.

There's other stuff in the Republic today (Paola Boivin saying that Joe Garagiola Jr. will stay as GM, a puff piece on Juan Brito, and a fairly uninformative piece -- to bloggers, anyway -- on the rookies by Bob McManaman), but nothing that I would really encourage anybody to read.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Management By Fear, Redux 

"No one really said anything, but I've struggled of late and they did move (Stephen) Randolph into the rotation -- sometimes, I respond well to stuff like this," Fossum said.  "I tend to pitch better when I'm under pressure, and I had the pressure of losing my job and going back to the bullpen.  I want to start."

So said Casey Fossum, as quoted in the Arizona Republic after his 6-3 win last night over the Pirates.  As I noted earlier this week, perhaps management by fear might not be such a bad idea as Edgar Gonzalez also had a stellar outing last week after being threatened with banishment to the bullpen if not outright demotion to Tucson.  As I also noted, Fossum appears to have had the best year of the non-Johnson/Webb pitchers, as the number of his quality starts exceeds the rest of the non-Johnson/Webb staff combined (I'm not positive, but I'd be surprised if it was otherwise.  Heck, I'm not even sure Webb has 6 quality starts this year.)  Fossum's problem (fan-wise) has been that his other outings have been miserable.  If he could only find some measure of consistency, I'd be more interested in having him stick around next year as a fifth starter.  The only question is whether Lance Cormier or Edgar Gonzalez or anybody else in Tucson have more eventual upside.

In addition to pitching well, Fossum laid down two sacrifice bunts which. the Republic noted, raised our pitching staff's total to 15.  That's right, folks, Fossum single-handedly increased the pitching staff's total for the season by 15%.  Like many sabermetrically-inclined fans, I'm not a huge fan of the sacrifice.  But I understand why pitchers tend to do it, and I'm certainly frustrated that thus far, the pitching staff has been bad in this small thing as well.

Koyie Hill on the DL, Chris Snyder up from El Paso.  Frankly, I would've liked to have seen Ansman get called up, but oh well.

Alan Zinter off the DL, Tim Olson sent to Tucson.  Even in the minor scheme of things that is (currently) Diamondback baseball, this has to be one of the most pointless switches of the year.  It won't affect the team one iota (although, frankly, if I had to choose, I'd take Olson.)

OK, one brief "Get off Terrero's back" comment -- he was in the "Jeers" section of the box score for striking out three times.  OK, he had a bad game.  But his strikeout ratio is improving and is still a barely minor cause of concern for me.  By the end of the season, he'll be just fine...

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Annus Horribilis 

In late 1992, Queen Elizabeth II gave a speech in which she coined the phrase "annus horribilis," or "horrible year." The year was clearly a bad one in which 3 royal marriages collapsed and Windsor Castle was engulfed in flames. A bad year, though I'm sure there are many families -- with far less in monetary resources -- who suffer just as badly.

Last night's 7-1 loss to the Pirates exemplified why this year has been the D-Backs' own annus horribilis. To be sure, although this team was never considered a World Series contender, the depths into which the D-Backs have fallen took us all by surprise. It seems like nobody has exceeded expectations and personal failings (the return to earth -- or worse -- of the 2nd-year D-Backs) and unexpected calamities (the rash of injuries to players talented and less-so) are the order of the day.

To wit: Stephen Randolph making his first major league start. Randolph became the 11th D-Back pitcher to start a game this year, tying the Mets for the most starters in the National League. Randolph joins a long line of D-Back pitchers in having a lousy first game as a starter in 2004. Only Brandon Webb can be said to have had a good first outing.

Pitcher: IP H R ER HR BB SO
Johnson: 6.0 6 3 3 1 3 6
Webb: 6.0 5 1 1 0 2 7
Sparks: 6.0 8 6 5 2 2 3
Fossum: 5.0 5 3 3 1 4 4
Dessens: 5.2 6 3 1 0 2 5
Daigle: 2.2 10 8 8 5 0 0
Good: 3.2 8 7 6 2 1 0
Gonzalez: 4.0 8 6 6 1 2 1
Cormier: 1.1 6 7 7 1 1 0
Reynolds: 2.0 6 6 1 0 2 0
Randolph: 3.0 4 2 2 2 3 3

Randolph pitched about as well as I expected; that is to say, not that well. (Not that Lance Cormier made any argument for putting him back into the starting lineup, pitching even worse.)

And then the unexpected calamity -- Koyie Hill breaking an ankle. Now, considering Hill has been with the team for, oh, 2 1/2 weeks, I'm not going to go into a TwinsGeek-like CAPITAL LETTER swoon over the loss of our catcher. But, still, c'mon. How many more injuries do we have to put up with? With the exception of Sexson (and Gonzo, who packed it in after the season was lost), injuries are not the cause of our poor season as the injured players weren't that good to begin with. But with Hill's injury, I've finally accepted that anything that can go wrong this season, will go wrong.

And I'm glad to get that out of the way. On to 2005.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Three Weeks, Three Questions (Answered Edition) 

Again, a day late... I wouldn't think Monday would be so busy, but...

Three Weeks

The Week That Was

1-5 road trip. Swept for the season by the Expos -- the Expos! Outscored (with high/low scores removed, as always) 5.5 to 3.25.

The Two Weeks That Will Be

3 against Pittsburgh, Thursday off, 3 against Cincinnati. Repeat (on the road).

Pittsburgh is a weak-hitting (13th in the NL in OPS and runs) team that hits its fair share of ground balls and never takes a walk (worst in the NL). The Reds are a fair-hitting (8th in OPS, 6th in runs) team that hits its fair share of ground balls and strikes out a bunch (worst in the NL). The Pirates are an at-best fair-pitching team (10th in NL ERA, 8th in runs allowed) that issues a lot of walks (14th in NL). The Reds are a poor-pitching team (15th in NL ERA, 14th in runs allowed) who don't strike a lot of people out (14th in NL).

In other words, folks, these teams aren't all that good. Frankly, I'm expecting the D-Backs to win at least 5 of the next 11 games against these teams. Probably just stupid optimism on my part, but it's too long since I've expressed any of that, and I'm due for a change.

Hey, these teams certainly aren't the US Men's Basketball Team. (Uh, what was that? They're not very good this year. Oh, never mind.)

Three Questions

This is moot now that Pedrique announced that Stephen Randolph will take Lance Cormier's place in the rotation. But I wanted to take a look at the three pitchers and, purely on performance in the majors this year, see which one should have been voted off the island (ignoring other, very legitimate concerns such as future development and age).

1. Cormier? ERA: 10.97. Starts / Quality starts: 5 / 1
HR/K/BB/9: 3.4 / 5.1 / 3.8
GO/AO: 1.95. WHIP: 2.25. P/IP: 19.1
VORP: -13.4. Improvement: not noticeable
2. Gonzalez? ERA: 9.96. Starts / Quality starts: 6 / 1
HR/K/BB/9: 3.5 / 5.5 / 3.5
GO/AO: 1.37. WHIP: 2.07. P/IP: 17.1
VORP: -14.1. Improvement: never got worse, maybe getting better
3. Fossum? ERA: 7.64. Starts / Quality starts: 18 / 5
HR/K/BB/9: 2.2 / 6.7 / 4.2.
GO/AO: 1.34. WHIP: 1.76. P/IP: 17.1
VORP: -24.1. Improvement: has not pitched as well since "high point" in June/early July.

I guess as I look at those stats, I guess I'd have to say that perhaps Cormier has pitched slightly worse than the other two. I know that Casey Fossum gets a lot of grief (and, oy vey, that VORP!), but I don't think he's too bad. He certainly has had high points more so than the other two, which makes his collapsed starts that much more difficult to watch. Gonzalez gets the nod over Cormier just because he's pitched decently in his last two starts, coincidentally (or not) after Pedrique said he was at risk of getting pulled from the rotation. Maybe management by fear is the way to go with the starting pitchers...

As I noted, I know that the stats aren't the only thing to look at... age, development, etc., and Robert and Ryan do a much better job than I in general.

The sad part is that we really should be voting all three off the island, at least this year.


This morning's article in the Republic on Arizona's 8-7 10-inning loss to the Pirates was sad for many reasons:
1. Placement on page C7, though that's not new.
2. Brevity. These articles are almost as short as the Judo articles from the Olympics.
3. Fully 40% of the article dealt with Koyie Hill's first major league homerun and getting the ball from some kid in the stands. I mean, hearty congratulations to Hill, but c'mon, isn't that a bit much?
4. Burying the reason for the loss (Greg Aquino's poor 10th inning just one day after pitching solidly in relief of Randy Johnson) in the next-to-last paragraph, almost as an afterthought.
5. Not talking at all about another solid performance by Brandon Webb.
6. Not talking at all about the collapse by the bullpen in general.
7. Taking the tone of, hey, these guys are fighting. Look, it may be true, but it's no reason to obscure the facts of the game, which are, the D-Backs lost.

OK, I hope to have more thoughts in Three Weeks, Three Questions later today.

Monday, August 16, 2004

When Bad Teams Collide! 

By no means am I implying that the Mets are as bad as the Diamondbacks. But the Mets looked like the D-Backs in the Diamondbacks' 2-0 victory Sunday. In part that had something (OK, a lot) to do with Randy Johnson, who struck out 14 and gave up just 5 hits in 8 1/3 innings. But there were also some failures (or non-plays) defensively for the Mets, like Terrero's seeing-eye ground ball in the 7th to score the D-Backs' second run. And then there was Mike Cameron who for some reason in the bottom of the 7th attempted to steal third. With his team trailing 2-0. It was a close play; it certainly could have gone the other way, but Mets manager Art Howe wailed enough that 3rd base umpire Andy Fletcher tossed him.

Don't get me wrong, the D-Backs looked D-Back-like themselves -- Terrero getting tossed out at 3rd trying to steal himself; the fact that the D-Backs scored just 2 runs on 10 hits. But it was nice to have Greg Aquino come into the game with 1 out in the 9th and, instead of collapsing and ruining another fine outing from Randy, getting a force out and a strikeout.

(Oh, there's no way that there were 36,590 fans at that game. I'm sure the rain drove away many fans, but perhaps it's true that the camera adds 10,000 fans...)

All in all, much more pleasant to write about that game than the 4-3 loss Saturday, highlighted by the fact that Edgar Gonzalez pitched comparatively well and, in the game of Diamondback Pitching Roulette, earned himself at least a couple more starts. We think.

Of course, other pitchers are now on the hook, with manager Al Pedrique now saying that Stephen Randolph will get a start "sooner rather than later." I'm not terribly enthused by this -- I would rather see Gonzalez and Cormier get more experience and see whether or not Fossum can have any future with the D-Backs. Maybe Randolph will be the inverse of Elmer Dessens -- very dicey in a relief situation, but competent in a starting role. That's the hope I'm going with, anyway.