Saturday, March 26, 2005

Weekend Non-Update 

I'm enjoying my three-day weekend, or trying to, at least, given what can only be explained as the onset of full-blown allergies. Kleenxes are strewn throughout my house like Homer Hankies at the Metrodome every five years or so.

In any case, when the biggest thing in the past 48 hours is a bee attack at Thursday's game against the Rockies down in Tucson, I guess it's still a slow weekend. (Gosh. Game called after 5 innings so the bullpen didn't have to pitch. Where were those bees last year?)

This morning's Republic gives us no further clues about the final roster decisions. Yesterday's paper suggested Bob Melvin might only take 10 pitchers heading into the season, so I guess it comes down to whether the organization would rather have Hairston or Bruney down in Tucson.

And speaking of Tucson, the Republic also reported that the Sidewinders are hosting a charity gold tournament Monday, April 4. Cost is $125 a person, which includes "lunch, dinner, drinks, and 18 rounds of golf."

If you lose, do you have to golf another 18 rounds?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Drifting Sideways 

One day a meaningless win; the next, a meaningless loss. Estes had another outing that did not swell D-Back fans' hearts with, well, D-Back-ian pride. But, really, how bad has he been?

For fun, the IP, H, BB, K, and WHIP for the six remaining rotation contenders (remember, all Spring Training stats are worthless, but why not obsess over them? What else would we blog about?):

S Estes 21.0 23 7 11 1.43
B Webb 20.0 24 6 17 1.50
M Gosling 14.1 18 5 9 1.63
J Vazquez 13.1 8 1 7 0.69
B Halsey 13.0 12 5 8 1.31
R Ortiz 10.2 16 6 5 2.17

Shawn's right in the middle of the pack, with stats the same essentially as Webb, better than Gosling and Ortiz, and not quite up to Halsey and Vazquez' standard. Halsey starts today; another good outing, and I think the job's his. Gosling's been OK in the randomness of Spring Training, but Halsey's been slightly better.

For fun, part two, AB, SLG, BA for the prized role of 25th-man:

Q McCracken 32 .313 .281
S Hairston 30 .567 .333

I've seen one article recently (which I now cannot track down) which suggested that Hairston would start the season at Tucson. But the offensive stats suggest that Hairston has at the very least staked his claim to being the 26th-man when injuries eventually strike. At the very least, if the D-Backs look to trade Hairston, they have a solid Spring Training to point to as part of their sales arsenal.

All of which is to say that this Spring Training has been pretty dull from a non-attending fan's perspective. I've been deriving much more personal satisfaction from playing "follyball" with my daughter in the cool, dusky evenings. "Follyball" is a game consisting of:
-- a daughter
-- a dad
-- an oversized plastic bat
-- an oversized inflatable baseball and/or beach ball
-- lots of running
-- kicking and heading the ball, hacky-sack-style
-- pitching the ball to my daughter, who swings at it with a massive, non-steroidal swing
-- chasing said hit ball, and hitting it back volleyball-style
-- pulling the occasional weed out of the front yard (this is optional, but I can't stop myself)
-- laughter. Lots of laughter.

I know she's getting more enjoyment out of playing with me than out of playing sports per se, but it makes me happy nonetheless that she's enjoying the sporting life. (And that laughter really is priceless.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

D-Back 2005 Preview: Shawn Estes 

The D-Backs signed pitcher Shawn Estes
Though we're not really sure if his best is
Obscured by Coors Field
Or if he will yield
Home runs or doubles the fastest

Back to the limerick previews. And not a moment too soon. I mean, how would you live without the review of the pitcher for whom the best thing that can be said about his signing is that it's just for one year? But the cynicism of the prior sentence aside, I think that the key here is in BP's discussion of Estes, in which they say that Estes wasn't abysmal last year, "merely lousy." And that's what we're getting, a $2.5 million pitcher who should be good for 150 to 200 innings of replacement-level stuff (or slightly worse - over the past three years, Estes' combined VORP is -14.9). A flyball pitcher in a hitter's park who doesn't strike out that many more hitters than he walks.

But here's one thing: BP thinks Estes will actually have a positive VORP in 2005 -- 9.7. (ZIPS, it should be noted, is more pessimistic, with worse hit, strikeout, and walk ratios.) In win shares last year, he was, well, average. Which brings us to the other thing: an "average" or even a "merely lousy" pitcher would be a significant improvement from the wasteland that was 60% of the rotation last year. The pitching in the 3 through 5 slots truly was abysmal. And while part of me thinks that the loser between Gosling and Halsey for the #5 slot could outpitch Estes, the other part of me says "we thought that about Fossum, Gonzalez, Good, and every other pitcher we brought up in to get bombed." So I'm going to fear the worst and hope for the best. (Though D-Back fans will fear that a good season will lead to a disastrous multi-year signing next offseason.)

Insert Obligatory "Tired" Reference Here 

Ah, Jon, I was all set to make a Blazing Saddles reference when I saw you'd already beaten me to the punch.

So who knows if Barry was just having a bad day, or if his "press conference" was symptomatic of something deeper. What I do know is that Bonds' absence makes the team, well, little better than the 2004 Diamondbacks. I looked at this issue in September and found that the Giants without Bonds were about 4 Pythagenport wins better than the D-Backs (see BP if you need to know what this is; it looks at runs scored at runs given up, adjusted for luck and opponents).

In the end, the Giants had 87 Pythagenport wins last year; the D-Backs, 62.5. Translated into Win Shares, that means 261 for the Giants and 188 for the D-Backs, a difference of 73. Bonds had 53 Win Shares; if you make the same Pythagenport adjustment to his Win Shares, it's 51. That means that the non-Barry Bonds component of the Giants were responsible for 22 Win Shares, or about 7 wins. In other words, without Bonds, the Giants could easily be looking at no more than 70 wins. This ignores, of course, the offseason moves of the Giants, which were generally considered positive, but also ignores the incredibly old nature of the Giants.

Talking about Barry is probably more interesting than looking at yesterday's game (a slightly shaky outing by Webb and Aquino).

And I don't feel like talking about my NCAA pool picks. My women's bracket at ESPN is at least tolerable as I've got 15 of the Sweet 16 teams in my bracket and my champion (UNC, natch) still around. My men's bracket -- urgh. You know those monkeys sitting at typewriters attempting to write the next "King Lear"? I have no doubt they submitted brackets as well, and most of 'em are ahead of me in my Yahoo! pool. At least my champion (UNC, natch -- I'm nothing if not a homer when it comes to free NCAA pools) is still around.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Long View Just Got Longer 

Before rambling, I'll just post these links to news that Barry Bonds thinks he'll be out until at least mid-season. (Thanks to BTF Primer for the links.)

You know, I was unsure which of the three California teams the D-Backs, with a little luck, would finish ahead of in the 2005 NL West race.

I think I've got my answer.

In general, I've been frustrated this spring training season because instead of taking the long view and focusing on a few, random things, noting the silly and sublime, I've given in to temptation and posted links to game summaries and insignificant roster moves (Medders and Cannon sent down; 40 men left in camp). And, really, wouldn't you prefer to hear my views on how concertos of all types remind me of empty RBI stats whereas chamber music lends itself much more to the analysis of stats and performance that is hidden by other things?

For comparison purposes, relevant data (such as it is) for Gosling and Halsey thus far this spring training:
M Gosling 3.77 5 3 14.1 18 6 6 0 5 9
B Halsey 2.77 4 2 13.0 12 5 4 0 5 8

Remember there's no way to control for the quality of competition and teammates, let alone for random acts of luck. But it's simply the number of hits that has Gosling slightly behind Halsey in the race, which won't be called at least until after Gosling's start Sunday. (Halsey starts Thursday.)

And since we still have one other important position to resolve:
K Hill 12 30 11 1 16 .533 .367
C Snyder 11 21 7 0 9 .429 .333
K Stinnett 14 20 7 1 14 .700 .350

As much as there's some hope that the D-Backs will jettison Stinnett and keep Snyder and Hill on the 25-man roster, I don't see anything in Stinnett's stats that would cause management to abandon their plan, regardless of whether it's right or wrong. I still expect Hill and Stinnett to be in Phoenix 2 weeks from now, and when one of them inevitably gets injured, Snyder will come up and fill in just fine.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Hello, Goodbye 

Never let it be said I'm not willing to blog on something that's not already common knowledge (with the exception perhaps of the first item). Sorry, guys, I've been swamped.

With today's (Monday's) strong outing by Michael Gosling, it looks like the race for the #5 rotation spot is still not settled. Saturday's strong outing by Halsey seemed to settle the matter unless Gosling pitched well today. Unfortunately for Halsey, Gosling apparently has (no runs given up).

Besides those games, here are some other links:
Friday: shaky outing by Estes
Sunday: Oscar Villarreal bids adieu to the 5-spot.
Sunday: nice outing by Vazquez.

In other news, Edgar Gonzalez, Jason Bulger, Adam Peterson and Bill Murphy, Tony Pena, and Marland Williams were all sent back down to minor-league camp, staying on the 40-man roster. Gonzalez never really pitched well in his bid for the #5 spot, and Pena got more press for his name change and visa problems than for his pitching, good or bad. Marland Williams seemed to make an impression, though, making the 2006 CF race a little more interesting.

Finally, news this weekend that two members of last year's D-Back Opening Day lineup -- Roberto Alomar and Danny Bautista -- got to Tampa Bay, went through Spring Training, and promptly retired. Although I understand Jim's concern about the difficulty in even getting to .500, the relative awfulness of the 2004 squad -- as exemplified by the immediate retirement of 25% of the Opening Day position-player starting lineup -- means to me that .500 isn't so unreachable.