Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Three Weeks: Such Small Portions Edition 

Old joke. Two women are talking about a recent unsatisfying meal at a local restaurant.

Woman #1: Oh, that food was awful.
Woman #2: And such small portions, too!

Sometimes I feel that way reading the Republic. (Sometimes you probably feel that way reading this blog, too, but let's not go there.) I don't like criticizing the paper's articles for a number of reasons, not least of which is the difficulty of putting out interesting material on deadline, day-in, day-out, but this morning's article on the bullpen begs to be commented on. The biggest howler -- "Strike [Ligtenberg, Herges, Choate, and E. Gonzalez] from the record and the bullpen suddenly doesn't look so horrendous" -- is thankfully completely undercut just a couple sentences later:

"Certainly any team with a struggling bullpen - and there are a lot of them - could play these numbers games and their stats would look better as well."

Well, then why write the article in the first place?

The frustrating part is that there probably are two good articles to be written about the bullpen: 1) are they really as bad as the (traditional) stats say they are?, and 2) if so, how did they get so bad? As for #1, yes, they're bad -- the combined VORP of the current bullpen (excluding Vargas) is 6.9. Take away Lance Cormier, and they're -5.3. As for #2, they got that way through injury, underperformance (or regression, take your pick), and the plain fact that the 11th-best pitcher on a major league squad generally isn't very good, comparatively.

And can we please stop using ERA to measure relief staffs? By definition, it doesn't charge the reliever with the inherited runs they let in. An ERA of 6 for a bullpen is pretty bad.

Moving on, then, to something I haven't done for a while...

The Week That Was
Record: 4-3 (2nd in NL West, 3 games behind San Diego as of Tuesday morning)
Average Runs Scored / Average Runs Against (high/low dropped): 3.8 - 4.4
Transactions: Matt Herges clears waivers, assigned to Tucson (6/23); Luis Gonzalez placed on bereavement leave, Matt Kata recalled from Tucson (6/25)

The Diamondbacks got themselves out of what could've been a death spiral after a 5-game losing streak and win 4 of the next 6 games. Clearly at this pace they've got themselves a date with .500 and the lower portion of the wild card standings through the beginning of September. The team doesn't feel quite right, but it's not a train wreck. I would've liked to have seen them finish the blowout against the Tigers or win the series against the Giants, but look at those standings -- it's hard to complain too loudly without feeling churlish.

The Weeks That Will Be
3 at home (against San Francisco)
3 on the road (at Los Angeles)
7 at home (4 against St. Louis, 3 against Cincinnati)

I don't have much to add to the discussion of SF and LA that hasn't already been said -- San Francisco is in its last gasp to stay relevant until Bonds' possible return. The Schmidt-Halsey matchup tonight doesn't bode well for the home nine, but the D-Backs should probably be favored in the other two games. As for LA, they're sort of where the Diamondbacks are except the expectations are that much higher. Let's hope the fans boo Shawn Green again, because he hit the crap out of the ball the last time they inexplicably did that to him at Dodger Stadium.


In Rotation, June 28, '05
Spoon - Gimme Fiction (this is a great CD, by the way -- rock with a minimalist vibe)

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