Friday, April 15, 2005
Baseball Prospectus had an interview (subscription only) earlier this week with Mets 3B coach Manny Acta. Acta, as you may remember, was the third finalist for the D-Backs' managerial position. When asked what kind of questions he was asked, Acta said:
"There weren’t many questions about tactics and strategy because I think they know that somebody involved all these years in baseball, and at certain levels, must have some idea of what to do in certain circumstances. They ask those questions, but I think they're basically interested in what kind of communication you're going to have with the players."
This is a good thing, as I agree that personnel management is a critical, critical component is sports coaching success, but it would've at least been interesting to hear what few strategy questions the D-Backs management did ask.
And, yes, I've actually shelled out the $39.95 for a year-long subscription. I can't believe it myself. I expect to be entertained, occasionally angered, and, in the end, still finish 7th in my 12-team fantasy league.
Turning then to the business of sports blogs, Wired had an article on the growing SportsBlogs family (of which Jim is a proud part).
From that, moving to another, slightly larger Internet concern, I thought this was a great use of Google. Dickie V does not have good peripherals.
Finally, a few thoughts on the D-Backs I haven't mentioned yet this week:
-- I like Michael Gosling, but he's not a relief pitcher. 3 1/3 IP, 7 hits, 3 walks, 2 Ks, and an ERA of 16.20. He'd be much better served heading back to Tucson and being called up as a fifth starter if and when one of the other starters get injured. Perhaps when Aquino or Villarreal come back...
-- So Javier Lopez is now a Sidewinder. As Lopez was the third Rockie whom Robert Sarver ejected from a recent Suns game, one wonders whether he'll be quite as vocal in support of the Nuggets…
-- Was the Gonzo Shift quite so pronounced last year? I don't remember shortstops lining to the 1st base side of 2nd base last year, but maybe I just wasn't paying any attention…
Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed a theme with my entry titles this week. I've got General Admission tickets for tonight's U2 show, so here's hoping I get a decent spot on the floor and remember my earplugs. Have a good weekend, y'all.
Bat #1: Man, she was so totally into you, man.
Bat #2: Nawww, she wasn't. She was just playin' around.
Bat #1: I'm serious, dude. Why didn't you get her phone number? I just know --
[The bats bump right into Troy Glaus and Shawn Green, standing there, arms folded.]
Troy Glaus: Hey, guys. Where ya been?
Bat #1: Hey, Troy. Just out sightseein', hittin' the bars.
Bat #2: Yeah. We've had a great day. It is so cool that baseball is back in DC. I mean, first we went to the Air & Space Museum, then the National Gallery because Art-Bat over there wanted to see their Gilbert Stuart paintings. After that we decided to head up to Adams-Morgan to have a bite at this Ethiopian restaurant we'd heard really good things about, then headed down to Dupont Circle for a beer. I tell you, I love this town!
Shawn Green: Uh, what about tonight's ball game?
Bat #1: What do you mean, "tonight's game?" Series starts tomorrow, right? Three-game weekend series always start Fridays.
Glaus: This one didn't. We're playing right now.
Green: Yeah, and we're getting our butts kicked. It looks like we're swinging bats, but they're actually just giant 25-cent bat-shaped pencils. Gonzo's the only one who's had a hit, and he was darn lucky to get that one.
Bat #2: I am so embarrassed, guys. We're so sorry. How can we make it up to you guys?
Glaus: Well, we're about to bat in the top of the ninth. Perhaps you'd like to join us?
Bat #1: Sure thing! Where's Chad?…
It's the only explanation, right?
I'll just chalk it up to Opening Night jitters and hope for better tonight. I do like the fact that the D-Backs had a chance to tie the game in the ninth inning. Vazquez is slowly getting better -- his 8 Ks and 1 BB bodes well. But the anemic offense for the first eight innings was ugly. As for the visitors, congratulations on their Opening Night victory. (Still, how good can your shortstop be with the bat when they decide to pitch to you with two outs and first base open rather than walking you to get to the pitcher. Yes, I know Livan Hernandez is good with the bat. But still.)
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Luckily, I live in this universe and can say with pride that the D-Backs have their first four-game winning streak since 2003 after yesterday afternoon's 5-2 victory over the Rockies. This, to me, is an even greater accomplishment than achieving their first sweep since 2003, even though the drought was even longer. (And yes, Jim, I didn't want to mention either feat before for fear of jinxing the possibility.) Of course, that's because the chances of a 51-111 team winning four in a row are less than 1%.
We have Byung-Hyun Kim to thank for the victory -- in one inning of work he walked four batters (two intentionally) and let the winning run score with a wild pitch. I thought the tone of the Republic's article on Kim was a bit harsh, however, as if wild pitches and walks were the bane of Kim's existence the entire time he was here. Kim will unfortunately and unfairly be judged by those two games in Yankee Stadium. For the record, Kim pitched in 4 games before the World Series and was lights out -- 6 1/3 innings, 4 Ks, 3 BBs, 1 hit, and no runs. Even in the World Series, in his 3 1/3 innings of work, he gave up just 1 walk and struck out 6. (It was the 6 hits -- and the homeruns -- that doomed him.)
Let's put it this way, as I "watched" the game yesterday via "Gameday," I almost felt sorry for Kim as the inning, and the game, melted away from him.
So the D-Backs have their sweep and can now focus on the Nationals. The game tonight pits two teams who are a combined 11-7 heading into the game. Anyone who'd put money down on the D-Backs and Nationals having a combined 11 wins at this point in the season would be very, very rich right now.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Two games above .500? I'm getting dizzy from the heights…
For the first six innings, it was almost as if the Diamondbacks offense was trying to make amends to Rockies pitcher Shawn Chacon for getting tossed from a Suns game a couple weeks ago by Suns owner Robert Sarver. 6 hits, just one run. There's such a thing as being too hospitable. (Though Troy Glaus' anger at striking out to end the bottom of the sixth -- slamming his batting helmet down on the ground -- is probably more indicative of the D-Backs' feelings.)
Poor Brandon Webb, giving up just 2 runs in seven innings, barely escaping when Chacon hit a dribbler down the third base line with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the seventh. You just thought, poor guy, destined to lose another close one.
And then Chacon got pulled in the bottom of the seventh. And then Webb, who'd only thrown, what 80-odd pitches, came back and threw a huge eighth inning, sparing the middle relief from coming in.
And then you were reminded what real baseball is like. The other team makes an error. Your team successfully executes a bunt. Your team successfully drives home the tying run with a massive pinch-hit double by Tony Clark over CF Preston Wilson's head. Your team pinch-runs for Clark and your shortstop, who's had a miserable offensive start to the season, gets his third hit of the night, a single, and drives home the winning run. Props to Royce, who had a great game.
And Gonzo tops it off by driving another huge double past Preston Wilson. Wilson, move back this afternoon, OK? Just some friendly advice.
A solid ninth inning -- 7 pitches -- by Brandon Lyon in relief, and the D-Backs win, 4-2.
This is what we should be doing to the Rockies, but I'm still happy.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
So the patience of the hitters on a night when the bats themselves weren't doing much is a good thing. The strong performance of the pen -- 3 innings, 32 pitches, 2 hits, 2 Ks, and no walks -- is another.
And this, well, Very Small Sample Size Theater is proud to present!...
Pitcher A 10 IP, 1.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 9.00 K/BB
Pitcher B 12 IP, 3.75 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 3.33 K/BB
Which pitcher would you rather have? (Oh, by the way, Pitcher A costs about $350,000 this year; Pitcher B costs you about $25 million and a catcher.) I still think I'd rather have Randy Johnson (Pitcher B) than Brad Halsey (Pitcher A) this season for many different reasons (not least of which is that Randy will still have a better season at year's end). But if we're allowed to gloat or worry over other things with very small sample sizes, why not this one? Halsey pitched well last night, yay for him.
(And, for those who are concerned that I'm too glad, Oscar Villarreal got put on the DL, with Lance Cormier called up from Tucson. The injuries to the bullpen continue. There. You happy now? Thanks for killing my buzz, guys…)
Monday, April 11, 2005
In hopes of being less repetitive and reducing the (minor) workload these weekly updates require, I'm dropping the "Three Questions" part, but keeping the "Three Weeks" part.
The Week That Was
Runs Scored/Runs Against: 6.5 - 6.75 (note: I'll always drop the high and low for on both sides)
Transactions: Aquino on the DL; Villarreal up from Tucson
The last time the D-Backs were .500 in 2004 was after Game 4 of the season. So the fact that we're there after 6 games is, I suppose, a minor step forward. A bigger step forward is the offensive production we've seen thus far. Clearly we haven't seen any tremendous pitchers yet, but there were times last year when I wondered if I could've held the D-Backs to 6 runs. The pitching has been mixed thus far -- some solid and dicey performances, both from the rotation as well as out of the pen. Most worrisome to me thus far -- the fact that no starting pitcher has last more than 6 innings and the average starting pitcher outing has been slightly less than 5 innings. Perhaps some of that is reluctance to push the pitchers too hard this early in the year, but it's not like any rotation guy has pitched well enough to stay in.
The Weeks That Will Be
3 at home vs. Colorado
7 on the road (3 at Washington with Friday! off, 2 vs. Colorado, 2 vs. San Francisco)
3 at home vs.San Diego
As the weeks go by and stats might actually begin to mean something, I'll use them a little bit more, but for now, I'll hold off. (See me in a couple weeks.)
Clearly this week is a crucial week for getting some wins against teams the D-Backs should be better than. Brad Halsey gets his first start for the D-Backs tonight against the Rockies. I would be disappointed if they don't go 4-2 this week. The following week will be more difficult… maybe. It's still so early that it's hard to get a read on the other teams. But it would be nice (and not unrealistic) to find us around .500 at the end of 19 games, not just after 6.
12-10 D-Backs loss to the Dodgers in extra innings Saturday night, then a 5-4 Diamondbacks win yesterday afternoon. The Dodgers win the series, but the Diamondbacks serve enough notice that they've improved considerably. Which we knew, of course, but others are learning now, too.
But considering that there are 16 other teams at 3-3, just like the D-Backs, it's OK to feel a little disappointed that the D-Backs couldn't pull out another one of the games.
I suppose I could complain about the starting pitching not being strong enough -- i.e., not going deep enough into the game -- but it's also nice to know that the starting pitching hasn't been miserable yet (save Vazquez's Opening Day disaster). And the offense thus far has been everything it was supposed to be... last year.
Defensively there still appear to be some issues, but that's harder to tell by catching the game on TV or reading game summaries. There was a nice running grab by Shawn Green in, what, the 8th inning of Sunday's game, but on TV it's hard to tell whether Green read the ball perfectly and saved a run-scoring double, or if misread the ball off the bat and was lucky to catch up to it.
Stop by later today for some more stuff.