Saturday, September 04, 2004

At Least It Wasn't 22-0 

The positive things I'm choosing to take out of last night's 18-7 drubbing
of the D-Backs by the Giants.

1. Chad Durbin, after a shaky 2nd inning, settled down to pitch a flawless
3rd and 4th inning in relief. 3 innings, 1 hit, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts.
It's not Fernando Valenzuela, but it's not, well...
2. Brian Bruney and Mike Fetters, who were wisely used up in a game well
out of reach. This means that we won't be able to bring them back today (or
even more hopefully, Sunday).
3. The offense scored 7 runs. 7 runs, and they could've scored more were
it not for some collapsed innings in the 1st and 2nd. The top 4 in the
order hit great.

So that's it, really. This afternoon's game has just started, probably, so
I better get this off before it's completely and utterly outdated.

Friday, September 03, 2004

How Much Would You Pay? 

Jon over at Dodger Thoughts has argued that the question of signing Adrian Beltre is not so much should the Dodgers sign him, but for how much should they sign him.

Prompted by Lubomir's thoughts on Richie Sexson's contract, what is the largest contract (if any) you would like to see the D-Backs sign with Sexson?

For those of you trying to keep within $70 M for 2005 and adding and subtracting salary changes from this year, keep in mind that Sexson is getting paid $7 M this year, so the marginal cost of signing Sexson at, say, $10 M per year is only $3 M.

"None" is also an acceptable answer, though you should probably outline what you'd use your money for instead.

I know others (Ryan, for example) have thought about this, too...

So Close, So Little Time 

We were almost there. Another quality start from a D-Back starting pitcher -- Casey Fossum gave up 3 runs on 4 hits and struck out 8 in 7 innings. And then the bullpen -- OK, Shane Nance -- collapsed while the defense was playing an excellent game of hot potato (but a poor game of baseball) with the ball. A tight 3-3 game (and we almost pulled ahead in the bottom of the 7th) quickly mushroomed to 7-3. Final score, 8-4 Dodgers over D-Backs.

And that's it for me. No time for more. (Oh, except for the fact that J0sh Kroeger started in left field. I take it as a sign of how much knowledge I've gained while blogging that I a) know who Josh Kroeger is, and b) think that his promotion is a good September thing. Now, after he struck out 3 times last night, I'm waiting for the raft of articles talking about his lack of control.)

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Take That! 

3-1 D-Backs over the Dodgers. One of those games where you remember how things can go right. Yet another solid starting pitching performance from Brandon Webb -- 3 hits, 3 walks, and 7 strikeouts over 6 innings. 3 solid innings of relief work from Nance, Koplove, and Aquino. And a 3-run rally all started by Webb drawing a 2-out walk with Hideo Nomo and capped by Shea Hillenbrand getting a 2-out bases-loaded single. It was like "Bizarro D-Backs."

There was some talk on Dodger Thoughts' comments section yesterday (OK, at least one comment) about how they expected Nomo to have a good game and Webb, who needed a couple more years seasoning in AAA, would get hammered.

I take no small consolation in seeing the latter prediction refuted entirely (Webb has had a pretty good season, and may have put his early super-wildness behind him) and the former partially. As I keep telling people in "real life," the D-Backs team is bad, but not awful, and is certainly capable, with Johnson and Webb pitching, of disrupting the NL West race.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Somehow, a 13-inning 4-1 D-Back loss to the Dodgers is easier to take coming as it did the same night as a 22-0 Yankees loss to the Indians. Did our bullpen -- OK, Brian Bruney -- collapse? Sure. Were we almost single-handedly beaten by a guy we traded? Yeah, Steve Finley had our number. But, heh, we didn't lose 22-0. We've never lost 22-0.

Randy Johnson must be frustrated after the D-Back offense failed to do well in yet another of his starts. Perhaps the only thing nearly as impressive as Randy's 15 strikeouts in 8 innings of work is that the Dodger staff struck out the D-Backs 16 times. In 13 innings, yes, but still. And no walks. (Whereas the D-Back relief staff walked 4 and struck out none in 5 innings of work.)

If I were more statistically minded, I'd do more work on whether the D-Backs' offensive performance when Randy pitches is statistically significant. As I noted last week, the difference here between runs scored with Randy on and off the mound comes down to about 4-5 runs. I suspect that's due to luck as opposed to anything significant (it's like the clutch hitting argument). It would also be interesting to compare the ERAs of Randy's opponents compared to the rest of the starting rotations. It wouldn't surprise me if Randy was facing other staffs' #1 starters more often, thereby making it more likely that the D-Backs would struggle.

Again, the D-Backs aren't scoring any runs because their offense (especially now with the absence of Finley and Gonzalez) is poor, poor, poor.

With news that Stephen Drew pulled out of classes at FSU, the likelihood of signing him jumped dramatically...
The D-Backs claimed pitcher Chad Durbin off waivers from the Indians... With a VORP of -4.3 and dicey peripherals (11.1 H/9, 4.2 BB/9, 6.7 K/9, and 1.8 HR/9) this year, it's clear we're not going to undefeated with him from here on out. But, hey, he's not the 2004 Mike Fetters, either, so let's give him a shot.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Blogging Get-Together Update 

The start of the month was my last update on the 1st (and maybe last) D-Back Blogging Get-Together. So here it is, August 31st. Time to plan once more.

Remaining non-Tuesday/Wednesday dates (since Jim's busy with his whole Comedy Slam thing on those nights):

Thu. Sept. 2 -- LA (6:30)
Fri. - Sun. Sept. 10 - 12 -- SF (7:00, 7:00, 1:30)
Mon. Sept. 13 -- Colorado (6:30)
Thu. Sept. 16 -- Colorado (3:00)
Mon. Sept. 27 -- Milwaukee (6:30)
Fri. - Sun. Oct. 1 - 3 -- SD (7:00, 7:00, 1:30)

My problem is that the weekend series are bad timing for me, Sept. 16 is bad, too, leaving the LA game Thursday, and the Monday games against Colorado and Milwaukee as the best options for me.

So, is this going to happen... or should we wait for a good Fall League game? Again, bloggers and non-bloggers alike are welcome... let's hear from you...

Cultural Diversions: Genius 

"I wanted to make an album about identity, and within that is the idea of a higher power, the idea of randomness, and that anything can happen, and that we can't control it." -- Jeff Tweedy, on Wilco's 2004 album A Ghost Is Born

"Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." -- Thomas Alva Edison

Another three-fer of reviews, loosely linked by the idea that genius, or at least a great idea, masks a tremendous amount of work behind it...

The Numbers Game, by Alan Schwarz. I decided to read the book after reading a fairly glowing review by Joe Sheehan in BP. (In retrospect, it feels somewhat like a plug, since BP is praised in the book.) Overall, the book is good, not great. The book can be roughly split into three sections:

-- Part One, in which we realize that most of the great statistical ideas (or at least concepts) were discussed, oh, a century ago.
-- Part Two, in which people realize you can make a living from this sabermetrician stuff and, as a result, they can get worked up about it.
-- Part Three, in which they just talk about the numbers.

Part One is kinda cool. Part Two can get tiring. In both parts, you realize just how much went into coming up with statistical analysis in the pre-microcomputer era. Imagine cranking out expected runs charts... with a pencil and paper. Part Three (the last 3 chapters) is awesome. The book is well worth checking out of the library just for those last 3 chapters -- to some extent, the chapters just cover ground many amateur sabermetricians (and, obviously, professional ones) are familiar with, but as a brief survey, it's really good. I especially liked the chapter on luck, how much power randomness has.

Garden State At 29 years old, Zach Braff was best known for his role on the TV series Scrubs, which is one of those few TV shows I'd probably watch if I actually watched TV. But now with Garden State, a whole new world has opened up for him. He wrote and directed the movie, and is in just about every scene. As a writing/directorial debut, it ranks well above the Ed Burns of the world, and much closer to the Wes Andersons and David Russells of the world. The central conceit of the movie, that we can control what happens to us in our lives, is opposed to the idea of luck. It could also serve as a stand-in for what must have been a lot of work on Braff's part to get the movie made. At times, it seems little more than a standard self-realization plot grafted onto some genuinely odd and hilarious sketches of mid-20-something life. But it's still moving and it's filmed with not a small amount of visual flair. Special kudos to the soundtrack -- any movie willing not only to play the Shins not once, but twice, let alone actually name-check them is OK in my book. I'm sure my head-bopping during the scenes in which their music plays must've confused the people behind me.

Learning How To Die, by Greg Kot. This biography of the rock band Wilco and its founder Jeff Tweedy is probably for fans only. Since I'm a fan, I enjoyed the book, but near the end, when the book spends almost all of its time on the revolving door of Wilco bandmates and record company problems and very little time on the music created during that time, my attention flagged. (Kot's occasional lapses into meaningless rock-crit babble don't help, but if talking about what it's like to play music is hard, talking about what it's like to listen to it is even harder.) To some extent, the Tweedy quotation above on randomness strikes me as ironic, because it's clear in the book that over the 20 or so years Tweedy's spent making music for a living, he's learned to take control of his musical destiny.

Monday, August 30, 2004

2/3rds of the way there... 

For the first six innings of yesterday's game, Edgar Gonzalez looked like he'd finally figured out major league hitters in a major way. No-hitter through six.

And then in the 7th inning, well, the wheels didn't really fall off, but there was definitely a little shimmying in the steering wheel. Adam Dunn hit a two-run homerun in the bottom of the 7th, turning a slim 1-0 lead into a slim 2-1 deficit. Luckily Scott Hairston hit his 12th homerun in the top of the 8th to spare Gonzalez another loss. But the bullpen drove that shimmying car into the ditch, exploding it like some Jerry Bruckheimer movie. 3 bullpen pitchers, led by Mike Fetters, gave up 3 hits, 4 walks, and 4 runs in 1 inning, and there you go -- 6-2 Reds. (Note: Mike Fetters is, by all accounts, a very nice person and is a fan favorite. But he's pitched horribly this year and must go by, oh October 4. If not sooner.)

So we were this close to sweeping the Reds. Oh, well. A third-straight good starting pitching performance, a road series victory. Those are small victories, but I'll take 'em at this point in the year.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

It's Only The Reds, But... 

I know, it's not like it's the Dodgers or St. Louis, or, well, anybody good, but to win a series on the road -- before the series is even over -- that has to make one feel good.

Two games, two solid starting pitching performances, two 13-hit offensive outbursts.  Two mostly solid bullpen performances.  One extra-inning victory.

Most importantly, two wins -- 5-4 in 11 innings on Friday night, 6-3 on Saturday.

I even have a not entirely pessimistic view of Edgar Gonzalez's start today.  Gonzalez was moved into the bullpen temporarily, but I'm not even sure that he pitched out of the bullpen, and now with a Stephen Randolph injury, he's going to be starting on the mound in just a few minutes.  Gonzalez had pitched OK his last two starts, so it'll be interesting to see if he collapses this time out or if he continues his trend.

For whatever it's worth, the team is 5-5 over its past 10 games.  Admittedly, that's against the Pirates and Reds, but perhaps the team has finally turned some corner and can shoot for, oh, 57 wins (.350, would require them going 16-16 here on out).