Friday, May 27, 2005

Well, There Goes Our Pythagorean Record... 

When your team loses 10-0 at home to let their opponent retake the division lead, your options are pretty much:
a) rant endlessly, or
b) look forward to Memorial Day weekend.

For the most part, I'm gonna do b) here. I only listened to about 1 inning of the Padres' 10-0 rout of the Diamondbacks Thursday night -- bottom of the 6th, top of the 7th -- and it was very microcosmic of the game itself. Kinda like watching that "Extra Innings" deal or whatever it's called where you can watch a game in 20 minutes.

Bottom of the 6th: The bottom of the order looked completely out of sorts. Of course, seeing as Jake Peavy threw a complete-game, 94-pitch 2-hitter, the top and middle of the order looked completely out of sorts. It took Peavy, what, 7 pitches to retire the side in order?

Top of the 7th: It was still 3-0, and even at 4-0, I'd've been OK listening to the rest of the game to see if by some miracle the offense would wake up. But when Klesko hit a massive shot to right field on Webb's 116th pitch to make it 6-0, I turned the radio off and moved on to other things.

The tiniest of rants: Why, in a game in which Jake Peavy has faced the minimum number of batters through 6 innings, would you bring in a LOOGY (Lopez) and use him that way? Down 6-0 to Peavy, there was no reason not to bring in Ligtenburg or Koplove at that point knowing that they'd pitch the next inning, too. There was no reason to use three men from the pen.

OK, that's it. The Dodgers come to town while the Padres go to San Francisco. There's no reason why the Diamondbacks can't retake the divisional lead heading into Memorial Day. (But there's no great reassurance that they will, either, unless they can get some pitching from their rotation that actually goes into the 8th inning...)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Twelve Is The New Eleven 

The Diamondbacks would've lost this game last year.

Dicey starting pitching, shaky bullpen work, defensive miscues. Those are all familiar. The offense, powering a season-high 12 runs en route to a 12-11 win over the Padres Wednesday night, less so. Last year, it just seemed like the Diamondbacks would've collapsed after an opponent's big inning (5 Padres runs in the 5th) or let the opponents sneak through (5 Padres runs in the 7th through 9th innings).

But not this year.

So back on top of the National League West the Diamondbacks go in advance of what promises to be another stellar Webb-Peavy tilt tonight. Both are having very good seasons -- even though they've never met "off the field", if they keep this up they could easily be on the same All-Star Squad in Detroit later this summer.

Ironically, both teams once again had 15 hits, same as Tuesday night, but scored 9 more runs than Tuesday night.


One follow-up to my comments yesterday on Russ Ortiz. Like Jim, I always thought that the 4-year, $30+ M contract to Russ Ortiz was overpriced and overlong, but that was all. I figured overpaying was the "price" associated with getting free agents to join a team with 51 wins. But that assumption was based on the idea that Russ Ortiz would be a decent, better than average (but not by much) pitcher -- in other words, $18 M for 3 years would be OK

But one look at the National League averages:

4.27 4.62 9.07 3.41 6.48 1.02 1.386 1.655

versus Ortiz' averages:

5.20 5.37 11.2 5.0 3.7 1.3 1.807 1.262

... show he's been anything but... his park-adjusted runs-against score is 88, less than league-average 100.

At this point, I'd gladly take league-average.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

[Homer]Mmmm... Innings... [/Homer] 

Wasn't Russ Ortiz supposed to be an innings-eater?

Pitcher, IP/Start, ERA

Brandon Webb, 6.9, 3.32
Javier Vazquez, 6.7, 3.49
Brad Halsey, 6.2, 3.47
Shawn Estes, 6.2, 3.56
Russ Ortiz, 5.5, 5.20

Those numbers shouldn't surprise anybody who's been half-awake through the first quarter of the season. Those innings from Ortiz haven't tasted good thus far.

And at this rate, he'll be lucky to give us 180 innings.

Which isn't to say Ortiz isn't working hard -- his 964 pitches ties Vazquez for the team lead. Of course, the problem is that Vazquez has made his 964 pitches go 21% further than Ortiz...

Now, I shouldn't complain too loudly -- the starting rotation has been lucky in that there haven't been any (announced) injuries thus far. And I'm not convinced that anybody currently sitting in the Diamondbacks' bullpen or in Tucson could pitch better than Ortiz this year. And, maybe this is still a small sample-size problem, though that possibility recedes weekly.

But we don't know which bullpen will show up from night to night. Last night it was Dr. Jekyll as 4 Diamondbacks' relievers gave up 5 runs in the Padres' 9-5 victory over the Diamondbacks.

Ortiz, whose K:BB ratio is eleven times worse than Javier Vazquez's, was lucky that the Padres didn't run him completely out of town. And with the bullpen's inconsistency, Ortiz's consistency thus far in not throwing strikes is increasingly problematic.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Waiver Wire: Comings and Goings Edition 

A little bit late, perhaps, but here's the weekly look at random stuff that wouldn't fit anywhere else.


Comings Department: Check out Rising Suns -- the one and only Suns blog -- while it's still relevant. (Glad to see somebody filled the gap I noticed six months ago.) It's all basketball at the moment, so be warned...


Goings Departments: Bye-bye Roses and Rattlers. Again. Come back soon.


Coming Soon Department: Joe at Baseball Digest Daily kindly sent me a link to their
interview with Conor Jackson. Nothing earth-shattering in the interview, but it's always nice to hear a young batter talk about priding himself on pitch recognition. Considering Jackson's hovering at a .400 batting average, he's got nothing to be ashamed of.


Arrived? Department: It's always interesting to read someone else's complete take on your own blog. The Baseball Savant dedicated a fair amount of reading time to the D-Backs' blogs, and published his thoughts here. This fair blog was one of two recommended, but I get the feeling that if Ryan just published more often, I'd've been edged out...


And, speaking of interaction with critics, Bono recently sat down with Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot to talk about some criticisms Kot had leveled at the band. The transcript is interesting reading and makes you wish baseball players and management would be willing to sit down more often and engage in conversation on the record (pun unintended) with smart baseball writers and bloggers rather than sitting down for bland interviews, if at all.

Three Weeks: Sisters of the Poor? 

Let's get to it.

The Week That Was

Record: 4-2 (1st place in the NL West, 0.5 games ahead of SD, 3.0 games ahead of LA)
Runs Scored/Runs Against: 3.75 - 2.25 (high/low dropped)
Transactions: Brandon Lyon on 15-day DL, Matt Kata recalled from Tucson (5/18)

Two road series, two road series wins. I don't care if you're playing the St. Mary's Sisters of the Poor and your son's 6-year-old T-ball league, road series wins matter. Add those to the road series win against the Rockies, and you can make a stronger case that the Diamondbacks are here to stay. They might not make the playoffs, but the 51-win season of 2004 seems like such a distant memory. To those who might say, well, the Diamondbacks are supposed to beat those teams, I'd reply, well, yes. Which they just did.

There are still gaps in this team. The offense disappears for great swaths of innings at a time. The bullpen is mostly solid but, as you might expect with the 6 or 7 worst pitchers on the team, is hardly super-consistent. (Come back soon, Mr. Lyon.) Even the starting rotation has shown some gaps thus far (I'm giving an indirect glance in your direction, Mr. Ortiz). But you look around the National League West and you wonder, why not?

And a moment here to praise Javier Vazquez's tremendous season thus far. Setting aside just one game -- his Opening Day fiasco -- here are his stats.

65.1 IP, 57 hits, 19 ER, 8 walks, 61 strikeouts... that's a ERA of 2.62, a WHIP of 0.99. Those are stats that put him in the Top 5 or 6 pitchers in the National League, especially gaudy considering he's playing half his games in a pitchers' park.

We all hoped Vazquez would be stellar. This stellar, we did not expect.

The Weeks That Will Be

6 at home (3 vs. San Diego, 3 vs. the Dodgers)
7 on the road (3 vs. the Mets, 4 vs. Philadelphia, including Monday, June 6th)

It seems weird to be writing about the Padres and Dodgers once more, so I don't have much to say. The Padres have so-so hitting (11th in NL OPS) and decent pitching (5th in ERA), while the Dodgers have great hitting (1st in NL OPS) and poor pitching (13th in ERA). The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, have so-so-to-poor hitting (12th in NL OPS) and decent pitching (10th in ERA).

What's more important, of course, since nobody actually plays these games with the statistics, is that the Diamondbacks are in 1st place and are playing a set of meaningful intradivision games in late May. They lead the season series against both squads 4-2. I'm not ready to pronounce the season over if they only win 1 game over the next week. I'm not ready to clear out my October schedule to attend playoff games if they win 5 games.

But for all the outsiders who've been waiting for the Diamondbacks to play the "meat" of their schedule (and they've been saying that for a month now), even a 3-3 record for the week would have to qualify as "not bad."

Monday, May 23, 2005

Changing Bandwagons 

That rumbling you heard in the Valley of the Sun over the past 24 hours was thousands of people jumping off the Suns' bandwagon as the Spurs took Game 1 of their series 121-114. Seriously, just reading the paper this morning and listening to talk radio... it's a seven-game series, people!

But to those of you who've given up on the Suns, let me introduce you to a new bandwagon getting ready to leave the station -- the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Ignore the Pythagorean record. Ignore the offense that still isn't running on all cylinders just yet. Ignore the bullpen that, just like most, fills you unease.

Just focus on Javier Vazquez. On Sunday, a day after the bullpen (er, Brian Bruney) blows a 2-1 lead in bottom of the 11th, a day after the offense left the bases loaded in the 7th and 9th inning, Vazquez delivered exactly what the Diamondbacks needed. A complete game shutout, helping the Diamondbacks win by the slimmest of margins, 1-0. 5 hits, 7 strikeouts, and, for the 5th game in a row, no walks.

And did I mention that Vazquez did this after a 3-hour, 14-minute rain delay? Now, all else being equal, I'd've preferred the game started at the 10:05 scheduled start, because my daughter took an early nap and my wife was running errands, which would've left a nice window to enjoy the game all by myself. It didn't work out that way, so I didn't get to see nearly as much of the game as I would've liked.

I know the 7-3 road trip came against 3 teams with worse records. But it's a 7-3 road trip. It was a road trip in which Brandon Webb had a no-hitter going through 6+ innings in a 6-1 victory on Friday that I'm barely even mentioning (even on the radio, his stuff sounded just filthy). It was a road trip that saw the Diamondbacks reclaim 1st place in the National League West.

Suns fans, please stay on the Suns' bandwagon a little while longer -- I don't think the Suns are toast just yet.

Besides, the Diamondbacks will still be here when the bandwagon finally stops, be that next weekend or three weeks from now.