Friday, March 18, 2005

No Clarity 

Split squad D-Backs games yesterday:
-- A win over the Rockies, highlighted by a strong outing by Mike Gosling, further complicating any decisions on the #5 rotation spot
-- A win over the Brewers, in which Brandon Webb pitched OK, and I'm most pleased with the fact that he just 1 walk but 5 K's)

More articles on the solidification of the bullpen are appearing, and here's the problem with the use of Spring Training stats. Here are the ERAs and innings pitched of the 6 most-likely bullpen pitchers (let's assume Halsey or Gosling get the #5 rotation spot):

Aquino 0.00, 1.0
Koplove 9.00, 3.0
Choate 5.40, 3.1
Lyon 0.00, 5.0
Villarreal 9.53, 5.2
Valverde 30.00, 3.0

One of these things is not like the other. Really, what are we to make of Valverde's 4 outings? I can certainly look at Cormier (3.52, 7.2), Bruney (3.60, 5.0), or Nance (2.25, 4.0), and make a plausible case for any one of them over Valverde. But at a distance (and waaaay outside the loop), I have no way of knowing what else the staff is looking at. It is less than opaque, to be certain.


Other items of note:

-- An interesting story concerning Luis Gonzalez, Tony LaRussa, and Tino Martinez

-- A look at the D-Backs' new Double-A squad and manager

-- I didn't see any of the steroids hearings yesterday, and have avoided the subject like the plague (or haven't you noticed?), so why should I change now? My one comment? With every week this goes on, I increasingly think of Bud Selig as Colonel Jessup in "A Few Good Men" -- "you can't handle the truth!" In any case, for more complete thoughts, check out Will Carroll's blogs on the hearings.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Random Notes: Department of the Obvious, Duh Division 

Helpful tip: Don't try to enter your men's basketball tournament bracket on ESPN's website 30 minutes before said tournament begins. Not good times.

At any rate, the D-Backs play a couple split-squad games today. Again, there's not much to report from yesterday's game regarding the ongoing position battles. The East Valley Tribune thinks the bullpen is set: Aquino, Koplove, Choate, Valverde, Villareal, and Lyon. Lyon has certainly pitched well according to the stats, but Valverde's and Villareal's stats are less than stellar. Not that that's indicative of anything, anyway.

Maybe the biggest news was the following comment from manager Bob Melvin when asked if his lineup Wednesday was the likely one for Opening Day:

"Nope. Potentially the hitting order, but there's still some work to be done on the catching spot."

The lineup was: Craig Counsell, Royce Clayton, Gonzalez, Glaus, Shawn Green, Jose Cruz Jr., Chad Tracy and Koyie Hill.

That sound you hear is the collective strangulated roar of D-Backs fans. Clayton? In the two-spot? Tracy? In the seven-spot? Now, clearly Tracy's had a bad camp, stat-wise (batting and slugging .208) while Clayton's done well (hitting .304, slugging .435). But as you're tired of hearing me say, Spring Training stats hardly mean anything. At the very least, I hope Melvin is willing to shuffle his lineup three weeks into the season if Clayton and Tracy swap their performances.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Random Notes: Too Busy Edition 

Oh, but that I had time for a more detailed entry, but I've been running around like, as I told my wife, "a headless chicken on speed." (Which raises the question of whether poultry meth labs are a hidden menace. Or whether I've had enough sleep lately.) Luckily (for me), the D-Backs had a day off yesterday and don't play until tonight.

So here are a couple things you've probably already noticed today.

1) The Baseball Analysts hosted a discussion on the NL West. The consensus -- D-Backs in 4th place. While I'm more optimistic (either San Francisco's age, San Diego's youth, or Los Angeles' offseason will catch up with them, leaving 3rd place available), it's certainly a reasonable prediction.

2) Jim has opened the AZ Snakepit for business, setting into motion another change in my sidebar links, along with a some other changes. Comparing my sidebar today with that of last summer is similar to comparing the D-Backs' roster of today with that of last summer -- a few familiar faces, but considerable turnover. Hopefully the sidebar is better. I can guarantee that it's not overpaid. Anyway, I'd be surprised if anyone reading this wasn't already reading Jim's (old) blog, too, but in case you're the exception, do go check him out at his new digs.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Too Many Sous-Chefs in the Kitchen 

Yesterday's game against the Rockies didn't have much of note. Villareal pitched OK -- seems like he's still in the race for the #5 spot.

The big news, of course, was that the Diamondbacks cut 12 people from camp. Here's who the Diamondbacks cut:

Justin Wechsler (40-man)
Dustin Nippert (40-man)
Enrique Gonzales (40-man)
Phil Stockman (NRI)
Casey Daigle (NRI)
Donovan Osborne (NRI, released, may sign minor league contract with D-Backs)

Corey Myers (NRI)
Juan Brito (NRI)

Alan Zinter (NRI)

Reggie Abercrombie (40-man)
Josh Kroeger (40-man)
Doug DeVore (NRI)

One indication of how decimated the D-Backs were last year is that these players had 383 AB's last season, or 7% of the team's total.

Of the 48 players left in camp, that leaves:
-- 25 pitchers (7 spots locked up, 18 fighting for 4 spots)
-- 4 catchers (1 spot locked up, 3 fighting for 1 spot)
-- 11 infielders (7 spots locked up, 4 fighting for 0 spots)
-- 8 outfielders (4 spots locked up, 4 fighting for 1 spot)

The problem is that the D-Backs have just 18 games before the Red Sox come to town on the 31st (by which time I would expect the 25-man roster to be set). Unlike the position players, where the competition for the spots are basically two-man competitions (Hill v. Snyder; McCracken v. Hairston), the pitching situation is much more fluid. And in a spring training where thus far no pitcher has appeared in more than 4 games or for more than 10 innings, it begs the question as to whether the D-Backs invited too many pitchers this spring. If you figure that the 4 confirmed starters will get 15 innings apiece in the next 18 games, plus maybe another 10 innings for the 3 bullpen locks, that's maybe just 90 innings left over for the other 18 pitchers. Congratulations, men, you'll get 5 innings apiece!

Even Bob Melvin noted the difficulty of finding innings, talking of Casey Daigle, "Casey's got good stuff, but I just wasn't able to get him innings in thereā€¦"

I suppose the silver lining in all of this is that the injury bug has thus far only nibbled around the edges of the D-Backs' roster, with only Greg Aquino's injury of any sort of concern. But can you imagine if the pitchers (who for the most part have been the ones injured) had been fine? The time competition would've been even worse.

So maybe next year we can dial back the NRIs in hopes of getting a better look at those players we expect to be on the 40-man.

Dream Analysis Needed 

I dreamt last night that Tony Randall had been revealed to be the author of the Baseball Crank blog.

Considering that I've visited the Crank's site maybe once and Tony Randall shuffled off his lanky mortal coil nearly a year ago, the juxtaposition mystifies me.

Any help (or sarcasm) you can provide would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Four Games... 

3 days, 2 catcher candidates, 1 bad Halsey outing, and still no answers.

Sunday: win over the Brewers (Halsey takes a step back in his attempt to cement the #5 role); loss to the A's (shutout loss played in less than 2 hours).

Saturday: win over the Padres (Randy Choate makes a one-out LOOGY appearanceā€¦ in Spring Training, why?)

Friday: win over the Cubs (in front of nearly 13,000 sun-baked fans).

So what have we learned over the weekend? Nothing, really. Brad Halsey had a chance to cement his status at least as front-runner for the last spot in the rotation, and got pounded. That's still up for grabs. The catcher battle goes with no discernable leader, though I'd guess that the longer this goes on, the more likely Hill gets the call as the older, "more" known quantity. Like most observers, I'd probably prefer Snyder to Hill, but it's not a major preference, and the D-Backs couldn't be blamed based on this spring's performance for picking Snyder. There's also no discernable leader in what is probably a Hairston v. McCracken battle for the final outfielder spot. Again, the longer this goes on, McCracken probably has the advantage, though the fact that the D-Backs would need to clear a 40-man roster spot for him makes things more difficult.

Villareal is supposed to pitch for about 4 innings today, so we'll see if he can get himself back into the race for the rotation.