Monday, April 25, 2005

Three Weeks: Forest Edition 

I've come to enjoy doing these weekly (p)reviews. I'm not as detailed, perhaps, as Ryan in his summaries (congrats, by the way, to Ryan on his one-year blog-iversary), but it lends a structure to the season that is easy to miss by focusing on the day-to-day nature of a 162-game season. It gives me the forest -- albeit a small portion thereof -- instead of the trees.

The Week That Was

Record: 5-2
Runs Scored/Runs Against: 3.4 - 3.4 (high/low dropped)
Transactions: RHP Kerry Ligtenburg signed to minor-league deal (4/17); RHP Adam Peterson claimed off waivers (4/18); LHP Armando Almanza signed to minor-leauge deal (4/20); LHP Javier Lopez up from Tucson (4/24), Mike Gosling down to Tucson (4/24)

The D-Backs clearly didn't have the type of week you'd expect to lead to a 5-2 record, but no matter. 5-2 against three division opponents is always good news. The record is powered by a starting rotation that is doing better, man for man, than anybody expected. Considering the pitching staff as a whole ranks just 11th in NL ERA (4.71) and doesn't do much better on any of the more peripheral measures, that might sound odd. Some of that comes, of course, from pitching in BOB's hitter-friendly environs, but still. The starters' ERA is a split-hair below 4.00 (5th best, NL); the relievers at about 6.19 (14th best, NL). The fact that relievers aren't as good as starters isn't new, but this split (especially as some of the starters' runs can be attributed to relievers' hits) is fairly dramatic. Maybe it's still small sample size (and I fully expect those numbers to converge somewhat), but I did expect the relievers to be a little better this year. (Or maybe I just expected the starters to be a little worse.)

No wonder management has been throwing a few darts at the minor-league signing wall and seeing if any hit the bullseye (or at least the dartboard proper).

The Weeks That Will Be

6 on the road (3 at Los Angeles, 3 at San Diego)
7 at home (3 vs. San Francisco, 4 vs. Pittsburgh)

It seems silly to talk about San Diego after facing them this weekend, so a few words about the Dodgers. The Dodgers have surged to the best record in the National League on the strength of… starting pitching? Nope, their rotation, injured, ranks 11th in NL ERA. Bullpen? Even with Gagne out thus far, they still rank 5th in NL ERA, so maybe. Hitting? 1st in NL OPS, even ahead of Colorado, OPSing .827. And in "late innings of close games," they rank 2nd with a nearly obscene team OPS of .935. For whatever reason -- small sample size, talent, bizarre religious rituals -- they've pulled out a ridiculous number of come-from-behind victories. Actually, we know the reason -- their starting pitchers are just good enough to keep them in ballgames, their bullpen doesn't let the game get away from them, and their offense has been hitting lights-out, permitting a number of victories against teams with weaker bullpens. See the first series between these teams at BOB for further details. Can the D-Backs win this series? Sure. Will I be happy with 3 close games and 1 victory? Sure.

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