Saturday, April 09, 2005

Thatching Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory 

Thoughts Upon the D-Backs' 8-7 Loss to the Dodgers While De-Thatching My Lawn

-- [expletive deleted]

-- Glad I didn't pick up Brandon Lyon in the roto league.

-- Defensive miscues... collapsing bullpen... that is soooo 2004, guys.

-- Jose Valentin. Jose Valentin? Must not've been tested for steroids yet.

-- Why is this machine called a thatcher? Shouldn't it be called a de-thatcher? It's not like I want to add thatch to my lawn. I've got enough as it is, thankyouverymuch.

-- Still. 7 runs. That's good.

-- Glad I kept Troy Glaus in the roto league.

-- Oh, and we drew more walks than strikeouts.

-- Has Elmer Dessens completed 6 innings of work in the past 24 months? (Of course, I say that partially out of jealousy as Elmer pitched fairly well -- that was better, I believe, than any outing he had for the D-Backs last year.

-- This thatcher is generating a loooot of dust. I'm gonna be sneezing all day...

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Waiver Wire: More Stuff 

So much stuff, I couldn't fit it into the first Waiver Wire!


I've forgotten to mention that Baby Backs: The Next Generation is definitely back, with a whole bunch of news about the farm system that is more than just adequate -- it's almost pretty darn good! Do check it out.


I have no idea whether Fever Pitch is a good movie. It is, without a doubt, however, a stellar book. It's the best thing I've ever read on what it means to be a fan. That the object of the Nick Hornby's obsession is a football squad (Arsenal, one that I've always associated more with the Yankees, for whatever reason, than the Red Sox as used in the movies) should not drive away baseball fans, or even people who don't like sports at all. It's alternately funny and sad, and fascinating throughout.


Thanks to Lookout Landing for this link to Forbes' valuation of baseball teams. Arizona ranks 19th out of the 30 teams in its valuation (which I'm not going to try to describe here, not least of which because I don't understand it fully -- but, hey, I can link to it!)

Here's the hook for this weekend's series, then -- Arizona ranks #1 in the debt to value ratio (103%, eeesh), while Los Angeles ranks #2 (99%). Bono, we need your Drop the Debt campaign here, stat!

The Waiver Wire: Introduction 

So Rob has what I've always thought was a cool name for those occasional posts consisting of comparatively scattered notes -- Pickoff Moves. Despite the fact that the title I've been using -- Random Notes -- has not only an association with the name of this fine blog but also is, well, accurate in its description, I've long sought a different name.

Until now.

Allow me to introduce to you The Waiver Wire. ("Hi, my name is The Waiver Wire. I'll be your occasional collection of comparatively scattered notes. Can I start you off with something to drink?") It's for things that amuse me, things you might've missed, things you never knew you missed, and for whatever else I don't want to write much about.

So let's begin.


Curse you, Jim. As you pointed out, Ryan's already got the market cornered on series previews. And now you've decided to take over series reviews. Where does that leave me? Huh? What about me? What about my needs? I think the only route left to me is the series "midview," in which I both preview and review a series at the same time. Allow me to consult with Albert Einstein first before attempting that.


OK, so it's Estes v. Dessens tonight. As reader DBackTom commented yesterday, "I think I'll take the OVER." Yes, it could be a long night tonight at the BOB. Dodger fans seem optimistic about their chances tonight, but I'll align myself with comments #44 and 280 -- if Elmer gets out of the 5th inning tonight for the Dodgers, I will be surprised. It's just a question of whether Estes and the bullpen can hold the Dodgers to 5 runs.


Dear Reader: So, Stefan, where can I find snarky commentary by hipsters on music, say, on somebody's mom talking about how the Shins have sold out?

Stefan: Never fear, dear reader, I have just the place for you.

Dear Reader: Gosh, that's slightly amusing. Do they have a baseball board, too?

Stefan: Sure. Here you go. But why go there when you can go to the original?


Have a good weekend, everyone. I will try to be better this season about posting some notes during the weekend, so stop by.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


NL West Standings After April 6, 2005

Team Record
Arizona 2-1
Colorado 1-1
Los Angeles 1-1
San Diego 1-1
San Francisco 1-1

Brigadoon? Once in a hundred years? Let's hope not.

OK, I know it's early. And what can you say about a season in which the only remaining undefeated teams are... wait for it... Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and the Chicago White Sox? But it's as if Arizona said, "Wonder Twins power of... a baseball team!," and their wish was granted.

There are still things to worry about -- 107 pitches for 5 1/3 innings of work is not what I'd like to see from Brandon Webb. Using five pitchers to hold the Cubs to 3 runs? Also not good. But Counsell continues to get on base (drawing 2 walks), the 3-5 spots (especially Gonzo) are hitting well, and defensive miscues, thus far, have been held to a minimum.

The early season success means very little, of course. But to those Cubs fans worried that they've lost to an awful club, I'd remind them that the present 25-man roster has players that had only 39% of last year's at-bats, and less than 33% of last year's innings pitched. The D-Backs could very well end up worse than the 75 wins many observers have 'em pegged for. But we won't get a good sense of that for a few more weeks.

And, scarily enough, with Dessens, Erickson, and Lowe pitching for the Dodgers this weekend, the D-Backs could easily win their second series in a row.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Random Notes: Amusements 

These amused me.

The first, even though it's an out-of-town reference, not least because of the programming. The second, even though it'd've been funnier with a Pirates or Royals reference, because, well, Andy Borowitz is just always funny.

Long Time, No See 

[Scene: A major league ballpark in the Southwest United States]

.500: Hey there, A-Z, what's up?

Arizona Diamondbacks: Oh, .500. Wow. Haven't seen you for awhile. I'm, uh, OK. How, uh, are you doin'?

.500: Oh, you know, same ol' same ol'. Some good, some bad.

AZ: Wow. I haven't seen you, for, what, a year now?

.500: Yeahhhh….

AZ: So what happened? You left without even saying anything.

.500: Well, you know, there were other, more interesting teams.

AZ: Who's more interesting than me?

.500: Uh, Milwaukee. And Tampa Bay. I can't believe I was stupid enough to hang out with those dweebs. They were kinda cool at the beginning, but they ended up being the same losers they've always been.

AZ: Yeah. The Devil Rays, boy... so, I heard you ended up with Cleveland?

.500: Yeah, but, uh, I don't know where I stand with them. Some people think they're too good for me, but I'm not so sure it's the other way 'round. [Flips hair, plays with it.] So tell me, A-Z, you look better this year -- workin' out some?

AZ: Uh, gosh... yeah. I decided I just needed to do some maturin'. Maybe go on the offensive. And my doctor says I've got a lot of my medical problems behind me, though he says I could relapse. Anyway, I feel great.... So, uh, what are ya doin' after the game?

.500: Oh, you know, it's the first week, I want to meet everybody again -- everybody looks so different. I'm thinkin' I might take a look at some upperclassmen -- I heard the Giants got dumped big time. But let's get together a couple weeks from now, see how you're doin'.

AZ: Uh, OK... By the way, can I get the phone number for your older sister .600?

.500: Dream on, big boy.


So the D-Backs reach .500 for the first time since the fourth game of 2004. It feels nice with .500, you know? 2 dingers from Gonzo, a solid 6-inning outing from Russ Ortiz, and passable bullpen work. There are still some question marks -- Shawn Green looked out of place trying to track down a ground-rule double by Michael Barrett and Clayton has done nothing to merit his #2 spot in the batting order thus far -- but this team thus far just feels more stable.

Favorite non-on-field moment -- the guy who caught a foul flair down the first base line -- bare-handed. Maybe we could put him in right field as a defensive replacement.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

First and Last 

Opening Day. A time of hope. A time of new beginnings. A time of... what the #$%#$! 16-6??!!

OK. I just needed to get that out of my system. Odd as it sounds, there were a lot of positives to take out of yesterday's shellacking by the Cubs. The D-Backs had, what, 7 walks? (More?) Counsell got on base three times, twice by walks -- there isn't much more you'd want from a leadoff batter. Gonzo laid down a sweet infield hit down the third base line to drive in a run when the infield had shifted right on him. And 6 runs, 12 hits. That's a good day's work. When you drive the opposing team's starting pitcher out of the game before 5 full innings (thanks to 106 pitches) while getting blown out, that's got to be a moral victory.

Which is not to say that Javier Vazquez did not, in fact, have a bad game. Was he tipping his pitches? Who knows. I'm sure Vazquez was surprised to leave the boo-birds of the Bronx for the boo-birds of... Copper Square. And Greg Aquino didn't have a strong outing, either. But Brian Bruney certainly justified his last-minute addition to the roster.

But in the end, it's just one game out of 162. And faced with two options -- panic or hope -- at this point there's no reason to not continue hoping.


Now, it should noted that I was this sanguine immediately after and even during the game, so my essential optimism should not be attributed to Carolina's victory last night in men's college basketball's last game of the season.

But it doesn't hurt.

I won't say much about the team or the game because I believe that if you don't talk much while the outcome's in doubt, you don't get to talk much when the outcome is decided. But a few words are in order.

I watched the game at McDuffy's with a friend (who happened to be at Carolina at about the same time I was -- we traded stories about our '93 Franklin Street experiences) and with other UNC alums. We were outnumbered by Cubs, I mean, Illinois fans probably 2-1. (I'm not kidding, there were as many Cubs shirts as there were bright orange shirts.) It's always fun to watch tournament games in a bar setting, as it allows for give and take between cheering sections, and last night was no exception.

Certainly, Illinois fans were quiet from about 7 PM to 7:45 PM or so. (Overheard in the restroom at half-time -- I'm paraphrasing here -- "I didn't expect the Cubs to have more points than Illinois.") But Illinois made a great run in the second half, which for the most part didn't rattle UNC.

And then they finally remembered that Sean May played for them in the middle and pounded the ball inside. I tell you, to see May now and compare him to his early years is amazing -- he's really improved. And of course I'm happy to see Roy Williams get a win.

Less than an hour after the game ended, I was at home with my family. Considerably different from watching bonfires in a cold drizzle on Franklin Street until 3 AM like I did 12 years ago, but no less satisfying.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Random Notes: Predictions To Be Ignored 

In the midst of trying not to be completely distracting by a Costco-sized dose of baseball after 5 months of nothing and, oh, my alma mater playing for the men's basketball championship, a couple sets of predictions.

First, Sports Fan Magazine asked me to preview the 2005 Arizona Diamondbacks for them. Their questions -- and my responses -- can be seen here. Please ignore the Kelly Stinnett reference -- who knew that by the time the survey appeared Stinnett would be cut from not one, but TWO teams. In any case, thanks to SFM for asking me.

Second, from BP's Predictatron, here's how I see MLB shaking out this year. I've got a bit of buyers' remorse with the Red Sox, but that's mostly a result of one 9-2 loss. They'll be fine.

American League East
Boston Red Sox 102 - 60 <--
New York Yankees 98 - 64 <~
Baltimore Orioles 77 - 85
Tampa Bay Devil Rays 74 - 88
Toronto Blue Jays 71 - 91

American League Central
Minnesota Twins 90 - 72 <--
Cleveland Indians 84 - 78
Chicago White Sox 78 - 84
Detroit Tigers 75 - 87
Kansas City Royals 63 - 99

American League West
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 94 - 68 <--
Oakland Athletics 90 - 72
Seattle Mariners 77 - 85
Texas Rangers 77 - 85

National League East
Atlanta Braves 94 - 68 <--
Florida Marlins 90 - 72 <~
New York Mets 85 - 77
Philadelphia Phillies 84 - 78
Washington Nationals 59 - 103

National League Central
St. Louis Cardinals 102 - 60 <--
Chicago Cubs 87 - 75
Houston Astros 78 - 84
Cincinnati Reds 71 - 91
Milwaukee Brewers 70 - 92
Pittsburgh Pirates 68 - 94

National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers 90 - 72 <--
San Diego Padres 85 - 77
Arizona Diamondbacks 75 - 87
San Francisco Giants 74 - 88
Colorado Rockies 68 - 94

American League Division Series:
Boston Red Sox over Minnesota Twins in 5 games
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim over New York Yankees in 4 games

National League Division Series:
St. Louis Cardinals over Florida Marlins in 3 games
Los Angeles Dodgers over Atlanta Braves in 4 games

American League Championship Series:
Boston Red Sox over Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 6 games

National League Championship Series:
St. Louis Cardinals over Los Angeles Dodgers in 7 games

World Series:
Boston Red Sox over St. Louis Cardinals in 6 games

Finally, in case you missed it, the D-Backs DFA'ed Reggie Abercrombie to make room for Quinton McCracken on the 40-man roster and Bob Melvin says Brandon Lyon's the closer to start the season.

Enough roster talk. It's baseball time.

Be. Here. Now. 

One of the things I find so appealing about sports, and baseball in particular, is its seasonality. The cyclical nature of competition, both within a season as well as across seasons, gives some structure to sport that is sometimes missing from our lives, which are lived in a more linear fashion.

That linear approach means we also spend a lot of time dwelling on our past and thinking about the future. Too often I'm thinking about what might have been or what could be and ignoring what actually is.

Opening Day, however, is a time of hope, more so than any other sporting day. Last season doesn't matter. Next season doesn't matter, not yet anyway. What matters is the two teams on the field this afternoon, playing a sport with myriad possibility. As soon as Javier Vazquez throws his first pitch, 2004 is over and we can be fully present in this new season.

There will be time enough to look at the statistics for trends and insight. There will be time enough to look at the future of this team and the steps necessary for long-term success. But for now, it is enough to enjoy this game and the small measure of joy that it brings.

Play Ball!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Why the D-Backs Will Improve This Year 

Primer has coined an acronym -- CFBPS -- which stands for "Crazy Fan-Boy Projection System." The definition is pretty loose, but it basically means any less-than-rigorous projection system. And, in lieu of doing real work on a rigorous system, allow me to spend four minutes typing up why I think 75 wins is a none-too-unrealistic goal for the D-Backs this year.

First: the D-Backs' Pythagorean record last year was 54-108. That record, which means the D-Backs' 51 wins was slightly unlucky, is better for moving forward with into 2005. I've thought about this by comparing 2004 with 2005 and using Win Shares, though I'll convert those shares into actual wins added (or, on occasion, subtracted). OK, by position:

LF: Gonzo was out for 1/3 of the year, plus injured the rest of the year. He'll get two wins just by being in the lineup, plus another win for being healthy: 3 wins
CF: Cruz will be as good in a full season as Finley was for 2/3 of a season: 0 wins
RF: Green is projected by BP to hit 17 more HRs than Bautista did in 2004: 2 wins

3B: Glaus will mash: 3 wins
SS/2B: To say that Counsell and Clayton will be better than Cintron and the raft of characters at 2nd is not to say that Cintron might not be better this year. But they were awful last year: 2 wins
1B: I think Tracy will struggle a little bit this year, but will put up similar enough numbers to Hillenbrand: 0 wins
C: Again, Hill and Snyder might not be great, but C overall last year was a hole: 2 win

Position-player bench: Once more, it just seems like we'll be spared the energy-sucking vortex that was the D-Backs' bench in 2004: 1 win.

Vazquez: Even if he has a decent year, he's no Randy Johnson: 2 losses
Webb: Will bounce back, with better defense: 1 win
Ortiz/Estes/Halsey: I recall reading somewhere that the 3-5 starters last year had an ERA above 6.00. Even if these three starters have an ERA of 5.00 (which is where I think BP had them), over 540 innings, that's a difference of 60 runs, or: 6 wins

Bullpen: The worst bullpen offenders are gone, with the best still around. The rotation is stronger. All in all, I think that means another: 2 wins

Manager: I don't know -- I just think Melvin will be good for the team: 1 win

Count 'em up, that's 21 more wins, or 75 for the season. I'm probably overoptimistic in some areas, but I also think there's some upside (Vazquez, Green).

And, really, what's Opening Day without a little hope?