Monday, May 16, 2005

A Flair For The Semi-Dramatic 

"That's the kind of guy Counsell is. I don't think he goes up there looking for a home run, but he certainly has, Number 1, a flair for the semi-dramatic and, Number 2, a great awareness of where the game is, what needs to be done." -- Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin on Craig Counsell, who hit his first homerun since July 5, 2004 to help the D-Backs to a 5-4 victory over the Rockies on Sunday.

So here we are, seeing the Diamondbacks alone once again in first place in the National League West, and we have to decide whether this team is worth investing even more of our attention in. Whether these semi-dramatic gestures in Denver in the middle of May will, just by virtue of their timing and importance, become dramatic gestures in Phoenix against the Dodgers and Padres in late September.

The debate of the week -- even before the 18-3 fiasco of a loss Friday night -- was whether the Diamondbacks' Pythagorean record means anything. The Diamondbacks have scored 173 runs while giving up 193. That translates into a Pythagorean record of 17.4 - 21.6, more than 4 games below .500. Their actual record, you know, the one they actually base playoff berths on, is 7 games above .500.

I mean, should we be happy that the Diamondbacks took 3 of 4 from the Rockies, including a semi-blowout Saturday night (10-4), or should we be worried that they got outscored 24-29 in the series?

The answer is, probably, both. We are nearly halfway to our victory total from 2004, and the season isn't a quarter of the way finished. That is Good News. But even if I take away the three lousy losses (16-6 to the Cubs, 16-2 to the Pirates, 18-3 to the Rockies -- 50-11 for the series), I'm still faced with the fact that the D-Backs haven't had any of lousy wins to match (their biggest margin of victory is 7 runs). And as much as they can't take those 23 wins away from the Diamondbacks, there's nothing that necessarily suggests that the next 123 games won't go any differently than the first 39, except that the "luck" won't hold -- that would mean a record of 55-68 for the remainder of the season, or 78-84 for the season.

I'm not hoping the D-Backs "revert to form." The beauty of baseball, and of all sports, is that it is not, as the cliche goes, played on paper. But the team has been lucky thus far, both on the field (winning the close games) and off (relative lack of injuries). And that luck can change at any minute, especially as reports of nagging injuries to Troy Glaus and Brandon Lyon surface.

My one other comment on this weekend's games (which, Friday night excepted, were generally well-pitched and well-hit) is that it is not fun for a D-Backs' fan to watch Brian Bruney pitch. That 9th inning on Sunday was much more exciting than it had any need to be. If Bruney can just find the strike zone and mix in an occasional slider, he would be an awesome reliever. But I'm not convinced yet he'll be able to find that strike zone.

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