Friday, May 13, 2005

The Waiver Wire: Mostly Baseball-Related! 

I've shown a tendency thus far in my Waiver Wire missives to stray far afield from baseball-related subjects. But this week...

A couple subscription-based articles of note from BP. The first is an interview with Mark Johnson, a mathematician who spent a year with the St. Louis Cardinals. It's an interesting look inside a baseball organization from a saber-friendly guy. (Meaning he uses sabermetrics, not that he uses swords. I don't know. Maybe he does, but it's not in the interview.) He seems to have a nice grasp on the niche that sabermetrics can fill in an organization.

The second is a piece on the value of draft picks. The most useful piece of information is "Draft Rule #1: The greatest difference in value between consecutive draft picks is the difference between the first and second picks in a draft." In other words, the D-Backs are in a great position with this summer's draft.


I just found Pennant-Race.com -- this graph illustrates the NL West race quite nicely. (Did I mention that the Diamondbacks are once again tied for first place?) The scale on these graphs on D-Backs' team statistics aren't large enough to be really useful (it'd be nice to drop, say, the first from the graph -- meaning, just start the data one week in), but they're interesting, too.


I never mentioned that a co-worker of mine played blackjack at a table with Eric Gagne for about five hours last weekend (after one of Gagne's outings, I believe). For what it's worth, Gagne is apparently A Poor Tipper.


So does this mean that Martin Sheen will get the Roger Angell role if they ever make a movie about The New Yorker magazine?


Thanks to everyone who read or commented this week. Have a good weekend and go Diamondbacks!

Another 3-2 Wi... Oh, Wait... 

I would like to thank the Arizona Diamondbacks for beating Colorado 6-3 on Thursday night.

Because if they'd won 3-2 again, I was going to be pretty lost.

I'm watching the game in the 8th inning and start of the 9th with the D-Backs leading 3-2, wondering exactly how I would be able to write about the game without re-emphasizing points that, frankly, were already pretty tired the first couple times I made them. Good starting pitching (Russ Ortiz, a little wild perhaps, but definitely decent), check. Good defense (Royce Clayton with a killer stab of a Todd Greene bases-loaded grounder to turn the double play), check. Good relief work (Cormier and later, Lyon), check. Lack of offense, uh, check.

Until the 9th inning, when Jose Cruz Jr. hit his second home run of the night, and Tony Clark hit a massive two-run shot with two outs to break the game open. Clark now has an OPS of 1.023 in an admittedly small sample size of 52 plate appearances. The Yankees must be wondering where the heck that Clark was last year.

(And, if you watched the broadcast, you know that because they were playing "Karma Chameleon" when Clark hit his shot -- don't ask -- we'll probably have to listen to that on TV broadcasts whenever the Diamondbacks need a homerun. It's OK once or twice, but I hope it doesn't get overplayed to the point where I want 10,000 rally monkeys clapping ThunderStix in my ears instead...)

It was a bit disappointing to see Brandon Lyon enter the game in the bottom of the 9th, but I guess he'd been warming up in the pen in the top of the 9th and by the time Clark hit his homerun, there was little point in sitting Lyon down and wasting his warmup pitches. So it's too bad Melvin had to use him in a game that wasn't close, and Lyon's definitely out for tonight's game, but dem's de breaks.

Another potentially tough game tonight as we face Jeff Francis, who pitched well against us last series. With Brad Halsey on the mound tonight, it should be a nice game.

Waiver Wire later today...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

It's Better To Be Lucky Than Good 

That's got to be the Diamondbacks' offensive motto, right? Because they weren't all that good this homestand. In their last five games, they've scored just 13 runs, and somehow managed to win two of those games. At BOB. An "extreme" hitters' park.

But the D-Backs won again last night, beating the Nationals 3-2 for the second game in a row to take the Series.

Javier Vazquez pitched another stellar outing for the Diamondbacks -- 7 innings pitched, 6 hits, 2 runs, no walks, and 7 strikeouts. For position players, the hero is Craig Counsell, who drove in the tying run in the bottom of the 7th (Thom Brennaman falling all over himself to praise the guy) and made a sweet defensive play in the 8th inning.

Now I suppose the difference between the 2004 Diamondbacks and the 2005 Diamondbacks is it seems like last year they would score just 1 run, and this year they at least are capable of putting 2 or 3 runs together in a game. But make no mistake, the offense has gone cold. Over the past seven days, their OPS is .677 (25th in MLB), their BA is .227 (27th), and their runs/game of 3.3 trails only the Astros, Angels, and A's. ("The A Team? More like the 'No Way!' Team," would be what Gene Shalit would say were he to be writing this blog. Why he would be writing this blog mystifies me, but this is a topsy-turvy world, no?)

Past performance -- especially just seven days' worth -- is absolutely no predictor of future success, and so I have no idea if this cold streak will continue. I have mixed hope as to whether or not it continues, because for all the talk of close Diamondbacks games, the fact is that thus far, the D-Backs are just doing average. Just two teams have played more one-run games, and one has played the same number (14), but 7 more have played 13 one-run games. Only the White Sox have played more 1- and 2-run games. The minor difference between the D-Backs and the White Sox, however, is that the D-Backs are 14-9 in their games while the White Sox are 17-7. So is the D-Backs' OK but not outstanding record in close games indicative that they can continue their overall decent winning ways, or is it a sign that the excellent pitching can't hold out for much longer against a weak offense?

Out to Colorado for a 4-game set. The way the D-Backs have been playing, this could be more difficult than the records would suggest, especially since we're going up against Chacon and Francis, two pitchers who've given the team some trouble thus far this year. At this point, I'd be happy with getting out of there with a split.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Puppet Shows, Thom Brennaman, and the Knights Who Say "Ni!" 

[Scene: Arizona Diamondbacks clubhouse, prior to Tuesday night's game against the Washington Nationals]

Bob Melvin: OK, guys, before we go out there tonight, I just wanted to remind you guys that the Nationals are going for their eleventh straight victory against us. That streak just embarrasses me, and should embarrass you. Besides not wanting to lose ground to the Dodgers, I also suspect that there are bloggers out there who'd make some sort of "This one goes to eleven" joke if we lose.

Chad Tracy: Yeah, skip, how many times have I told them at the Arizona Republic, "Arizona Diamondbacks, then puppet show?"

Chris Snyder: It's like when people ask us about our offense with the bases loaded, and it's like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none. None more black.

Jose Cruz Jr.: I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation.

Shawn Green: Hello, Cleveland!

Melvin: [Smiles weakly.] Yes, This Is Spinal Tap references. Very funny. Ha ha. But no more, guys, this isn't fun--

[Luis Gonzalez storms into the locker room.]

Gonzalez: Two words: S--- sandwich.

Melvin: I just said, Gonzo, no more Spinal Tap references.

Gonzalez: Huh? What're you talking about? I just finished talking with Thom Brennaman and that was my review of his commentary.

Melvin: OK, now that you've got that off of you're chest, can we please move on? As you know, we need to do a better job of driving in runners in scoring position (sorry, Gonzo), so I'd like people to commit to how many runs they'll drive in. Let's start with you, Troy:

Troy Glaus: We shalt count to three, no more, no less. Three shalt be the number we shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt we not count, neither count we two, excepting that we then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then shalt we be finished. Right. One... two... five.

Craig Counsell: Three, sir.

Glaus: Three.

Melvin: Aw, c'mon guys, that's not even the right cult comedic classic.

Glaus: Shucks, skip, I'm just excited about the 14 Tony nominations Spamalot received.

Melvin: Sigh. Just go out there and win tonight, guys.


It's such a fine line between stupid, and clever...

3 runs, 3 hits, 3 walks, and 3 strikeouts for the Diamondbacks offense last night. Luckily, even though the though the Nationals had 10 hits to go along with their 3 walks, they also had 13 strikeouts, which helps explain why they only scored 2 runs, and the D-Backs escaped with a 3-2 victory.

Troy Glaus hit a 3-run homerun with 2 outs and runners in scoring position to generate all the offense the team needed. No word on whether Brennaman's reaction was Gonzo-approved.

As for Gonzo, I'm not sure what exactly set him off. Now, understand that even though my tolerance for "homer" announcing is fairly high, sometimes even Brennaman annoys me, so the idea that Brennaman somehow spends too much time criticizing the team amuses me. Especially when it's absolutely true that the team has not done a good job hitting with runners in scoring position. (Unless Thom was criticizing Gonzo -- Gonzo's actually hitting better with scoring position than not.) Whether that's the result of small sample size or something else, it's hard to say, but it's true thus far. And I'm sure this is more teapot than tempest (the media are always interested in stories about people criticizing the media).

I'm sure a 5-game winning streak will make this go away, so let's try that, shall we?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Hold On 

The good news: Jose Cruz Jr. returns to the squad and in his first appearance back, draws four singles and a walk.

The so-so news: He does all this in the 6-spot in the order, which is not optimally useful, especially when the 7 and 8 hitters (Clayton and Snyder) are hitting .236 and .231, respectively.

The bad news: The Diamondbacks lose their third game in a row, 4-3 to the Nationals. That makes 10 straight losses to that club, a streak which is just sad.

The even-worse news: The Diamondbacks just aren't scoring any runs. Livan Hernandez gave up eight hits and six walks in his seven innings of work, and still the Diamondbacks couldn't put together more than 3 runs. It was another game remiscent of last year where we needed all three components (offense, starting pitching, and relief pitching) to do well and really only one of them -- starting pitching, in the form of Brandon Webb -- did.

And it makes you wonder whether the ejections of Gonzo and Melvin in the 5th inning arguing balls and strikes with one out and the bases loaded was just a one-off occurrence, or if it's a sign of something deeper.

We're certainly not dreaming about how pathetic the team has been thus far with the bases loaded -- the D-Backs are last in the NL with an abysmal .125 BA/.156 SLG with the bases loaded. The .47 runs/AB (not PA) is worst in the NL, too. The D-Backs are doing slightly better with runners in scoring position 10th in BA (.245) and 13th in SLG (.385), but clearly the team has had its troubles thus far clumping together its runs, even though they rank 2nd in the NL in plate appearances with runners in scoring position and 5th in plate appearances with the bases loaded. In other words, thus far Counsell and Gonzo have done their job, while Glaus and Green haven't quite. While getting ejected in the 5th inning of a close game was not the wisest of choices on Gonzo's part, I can understand his frustration.

I don't know if this will be an ongoing trend or if the team is just scuffling at the moment. The team had better hold on, though, for the next month as the city is distracted by the bright shiny bauble of the Suns' playoff run. Despite playing like crap over the past week or so, the D-Backs are still just 2 games behind the Dodgers and still has a winning record. Here's hoping there's still a reason for the fans to come back to the ballpark in June...

Monday, May 09, 2005

Three Weeks: Hubris Edition 

"So I guess what I'm saying is, if the D-Backs don't take at least 3 of these 4 games against the Pirates and have a winning record for the week, I'll be disappointed." -- A hubris-laden Diamondbacks fan last week

Color me disappointed.

The Week That Was

Record: 3-4 (overall: 18-14, 2.0 GB Dodgers)
Runs Scored/Runs Allowed: 4.2 - 4.8 (high/low removed, thankfully)
Transactions: Jose Valverde off the DL, Scott Hairston to Tucson (5/3); Kerry Ligtenburg signed from Tucson, Randy Choate DFAed (5/4)

What can you say? After winning a series against the Giants that the D-Backs probably shouldn't have, they look absolutely anemic against the Pirates. The pitching was tolerable -- not great, but not awful either. The blame for the series loss to the Pirates can be placed squarely at the feet of the offense. Apparently nobody told them that they'd returned to Bank One Ballpark, in which their offense was supposed to be light-years better. Urgh.

I don't know whether to be happy that the D-Backs are still in 2nd place in the NL West or to be frustrated in that they really should be tied with the Dodgers right now.

The Weeks That Will Be

3 at home vs. the Nationals
10 on the road (4 at Colorado, day off, 3 at Houston, 3 at Detroit)

Ugh. The Nationals. We've lost 9 in a row to this team. And that was when they were lousy. Looking at today's Pythagenport records, and the Nationals have -- you are sitting down, right? -- the best record in baseball. Absolutely stunning. We're lucky that Vazquez will be pitching in this series, but -- and I can't believe that I'm saying this -- winning this series would make me very, very happy and exceed my expectations. As for the rest of the week, we really need to win the Rockies' series but am not getting a warm and fuzzy feeling from the offense right now. In other words, I'm thinking about a 3-4 record for the week.

Personnel-wise, the biggest question is what will happen when Jose Cruz Jr. returns to the Diamondbacks. Will McCracken be gone? Will Terrero be gone? Will a no-name pitcher (presumably Bruney) be gone? And, will it matter? I mean, I've built up Jose Freakin' Cruz Jr. in my mind as Willie Mays. What if he's barely Willie Mays Hays?


Happy @#^%$! Mother's Day! 

What better way to celebrate the woman who raised you in this great world of ours that to treat her to a 16-2 Diamondbacks loss to the Pirates Sunday?

What? Flowers? A phone call? A card? Why not the D-Backs game? The bullpen was giving out gifts all afternoon...

Which is not to say Brad Halsey pitched much better -- his 4 walks exceeded his season total. But at least he kept the game close. So even though I figured that it would not be the D-Backs' day and turned the radio off after the bottom of the 7th inning, I hardly expected the 16-2 score I saw when I opened up the paper this morning.

Did Mark Grace pitch again?

Really, there's not much point rehashing the weekend. A 8-4 win Friday night -- that's good. A 3-2 loss Saturday night -- that's bad. And a 16-2 loss? Well, you know what that is.

And after watching a poor performance by Javier Lopez (1.0 IP, 2 ER) and a miserable performance by Kerry Ligtenburg (1.0 IP, 7 ER), Randy Choate has to be thinking, "Even I could've done better than that..."