Friday, June 10, 2005

Better Than Nothing 

It took a "subpar" performance by Javier Vazquez (the man walked 3 -- send him to Tucson!), good relief outings by Cormier and Lopez, and another high-wire act by Brian Bruney, but the Diamondbacks once again avoided a series sweep by beating the Minnesota Twins Thursday night 4-3.

I didn't see the game, so I'm moving on to the big news of the day -- the optioning of righty reliever Mike Koplove to Tucson and the recall of righty pitcher Edgar Gonzalez.

I'm not terribly enthused by this move for two reasons:
1) Koplove's been one of the few effective relievers, albeit erratically, in the pen, and
2) When he hasn't been effective is when he's been used in ways other than his strengths.

Diamondback relievers with positive VORPs: Lance Cormier, Mike Koplove, and Brandon Lyon
Diamonback relievers with negative VORPs still on the team (not injured): Bruney, Valverde, Lopez, and Vargas. Edgar Gonzalez doesn't have any major league VORP this year.

I guess it's the devil you don't know in this case -- Bruney and Valverde have been even more ineffective as closers (and, in Valverde's case, as setup guy), but I can see the logic for keeping two closers. Lopez is a LOOGY. Vargas' and Gonzalez' performance on the major league level is pretty much a mystery, but the Diamondbacks somehow feel better taking their chances on them. If it were me, I'd keep Koplove.

"This is a guy we really envisioned being basically our setup guy and we feel like we need him to get to where we want to go," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. The problem is, Koplove's bad performances have been when they haven't used him as a setup guy -- that is, when they've brought him with runners already on base.

Koplove's near the bottom of the league standings in Adjusted Runs Prevented. Thus far he's given up more runs than expected given the runners on base when he takes the mound.

Leading off an inning (7 2/3 IP, or 23 games), he has a WHIP of 1.17 and a ERA of 3.52. With bases empty (17 1/3 IP), a WHIP of 1.33 and ERA of 2.08. With base runners (his other 14 2/3 IP), he's got a WHIP of 1.57 and an ERA of 8.59.

And, here's the worst part. This is admittedly small sample size, but it's true. As best as I can tell, Koplove has come into a game with men on base 6 times (April 13, 17, 19; May 9; June 2 and 7). In those 6 appearances, he's pitched a total of 4 innings. In those 4 innings, he's given up 7 hits and 4 walks, for a WHIP of 2.75. In the other 28 innings, he's got a WHIP of 1.25. The numbers would be even more skewed if I took out the second (full) inning he pitched on June 2 after getting out of the first inning he pitched.

And maybe the small sample size is the reason for Koplove's demotion -- we remember the worst-case scenarios that come true and don't remember the times he's come in, pitched a scoreless inning, and left. He's done that 15 innings in 13 appearances.

He'll be back. Because I don't think the bullpen is any better with him gone.


In Rotation, June 10, '05

Uncle Tupelo - Anodyne
U2 - How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
Pete Yorn - musicforthemorningafter
Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
Futureheads - Futureheads


That's all I've got. Go Diamondbacks!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Silver Lining 

I have Johan Santana on my fantasy team.

Although I've decided to bench Torii Hunter during the Diamondbacks-Twins series (did that make his heroics on Tuesday night more or less painful for me? Hmmmmm....), I chose to let Santana make the start for my team when he took the mound for the Twins Wednesday night.

Bad for the Diamondbacks, good for my fantasy league standings. Complete-game, 4-hit, 9-strikeout, no walk performance. 10-0 Twins over the Diamondbacks.

For the Diamondbacks, it was ugly with a capital U.

I don't really know what else to say here. It was a dominating performance by Mr. Santana. Why dwell on it?

The other, better Diamondbacks pitcher whose last name starts with "Va" goes against Kyle Lohse tonight. The Diamondbacks need to win this one.


In Rotation - June 9, '05

Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
Dixie Chicks - Fly
Kaiser Chiefs - Employment
Borodin's String Quartets #1 and 2
Bebel Gilberto - Tanto Tempo
Lemonheads - It's A Shame About Ray
Matthew Sweet - 100% Fun

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


"We have to find a way to score eight runs and win the ballgame." -- Arizona Manager Bob Melvin after Tuesday night's 9-8 Diamondbacks loss to the Minnesota Twins

Couldn't have said it better myself.

The Diamondbacks threw 3 gopher-balls to the Twins, 2 to Torii Hunter, who I can say without a doubt will be Boyfriend of the Day to BatGirl's batlings. Minnesota, home of the Golden Gophers (as I was reminded when I spent some time in school up there), is well-familiar with all things gopher-related and planted 3 homeruns into BOB's bleachers.

But his homeruns or what was apparently a bizarre baserunning snafu wasn't what made me snap. Nope, it was Mike Koplove coming into the game with the bases loaded in the top of the 6th inning and promptly giving up a game-typing single. I turned off the game, disgusted. I couldn't bear any more.

Overall, this bullpen isn't bad. If you look at BP's Support-Neutral Pitching by Team, you'll see that Shawn Estes and Russ Ortiz have benefitted from the bullpen more so than Halsey's been hurt by it.

But the truth is, Lance Cormier has been lights out and the rest of the team has been... bad.

Cormier's VORP: 13.0
VORP, Rest of Bullpen: -19.9

That "Rest of Bullpen" includes Brandon Lyon, whose VORP of 3.5 seems to understate his contributions this year (coming in tight situations like Koplove was placed in last night and -- here's the key part -- getting out of them). The VORP for the current relief staff (excluding Vargas) is -5.5.

Until Lyon and Aquino come back and put some consistency into the bullpen (by displacing the most inconsistent), the Diamondbacks will have to rely on the mercy of the American League Central to pound the Diamondbacks' NL West compatriots. And that's not exactly a high-odds prospect.


For what it's worth, I thought I'd add a new feature -- "In Rotation" -- to some of my posts. It's nothing more than a listing of what I'm listening to. Feel free to chime in below with your listening suggestions or comments.

In Rotation - June 8, '05
Spoon -- Gimme Fiction
Patty Griffin - 1000 Kisses
New P***ographers - Electric Version (yeah, I'm not interested in the traffic I'd get otherwise)
John Prine -- In Spite of Ourselves

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Three Weeks: Fun With Interleague Edition 

A day late, perhaps, but it seemed weird to include the Philly series as part of the interleague jaunt, so I decided not to...

The Week That Was

Record: 2-5 (2nd place in NL West, 3.5 GB San Diego)
Runs Scored - Runs Against: 4.6 - 5.6 (high/low dropped)
Transactions: Stephen Drew signed to major-league contract (5/31, and barely!); traded OF Doug DeVore to SF Giants for P Matt Herges (6/3); acquired P Claudio Vargas off waivers from Washington (6/3); DFAed P Kerry Ligtenberg, sent Matt Kata back to Tucson, sent Justin Weschler to AA Tennessee, and put Jerry Gil on 60-day DL (all 6/4).

Not sure what all the moves there were, because as I understand it, the Diamondbacks have 40 men on the 40-man, but that includes 2 guys on the 60-day DL. Not clear, therefore, why Weschler had to go now, unless they're trying to sneak him through...

In any case, the pitching roster moves aren't that surprising given the bullpen's inability to pitch with consistency. Word that Greg Aquino could be back with the squad by the weekend is welcome indeed.

After a dark couple of days offensively in New York, at least the bats came alive (Bats! Came! Alive!) in Philly. Still lost the series 1-3, but it was somewhat heartening.

And after all of that, they still only lost 1 game in the standings to San Diego.

The Weeks That Will Be

6 at home (3 each vs. Minnesota and Kansas City)
6 on the road (3 each at Chicago and Cleveland)

The Twins are average offensively (20th in ML OPS and runs scored), but lights-out pitching the ball (1st in ML ERA, WHIP, and OBA). Their K:BB ratio is an amazing 3.60:1 (compare that to the Diamondbacks' 1.99:1. And unfortunately we face Johan Santana and Brad Radke this series. (Santana is going against Claudio Vargas. Welcome to Phoenix, Claudio!) I'd be happy winning one of these 3 games.

The Royals are, well, the Royals, even if they did just sweep the Yankees. Awful hitting (27th in OBP and runs scored). Awful pitching (next-to-last in ML ERA, 26th in WHIP and ERA).

The Diamondbacks have shown a disturbing (or hope-inspiring) tendency to play down (or up) to the level of competition this year. For once I'd like to see the Diamondbacks blow a team out of the water. If not the Royals, who?

Well, Duh. 

Justin Upton picked #1 by the Diamondbacks.

Not shocking at all. Were the Diamondbacks anywhere else but #1, I could understand going for a pitcher, but at #1, go for the best player.

AO? Is That Short For Uh-Oh? 

Before I discuss yesterday's game, I want to address a subject that brought a whole bunch of traffic (relatively) to my site yesterday.

In baseball, what does AO mean?

Maybe there was some sort of internet treasure hunt going on, in which people had to ask that question in a certain search engine and then go to, say, the 4th result. Maybe there was some sort of alien mind-meld going on and instead of sculpting Devil's Tower out of mashed potatoes, people all across the country felt compelled to find out the meaning of an obscure baseball abbreviation.

I don't know. But I do know that they might not have found the answer in the link to my site, but I found the definition in 10 seconds.

Air Outs (AO) - Out is recorded when defensive player catches the ball before it lands on the ground.

Can you use that in a sentence, Stefan?

Sure... How about this?

"Reliever Brian Bruney in his 2/3 innings of work in the bottom of the ninth of Monday's 10-8 Diamondbacks victory over the Phillies pitched no AOs or GOs (ground-outs)."

He just gave up 4 hits, walked 1, plunked another (though Mark Grace theorized that might've been a payback pitch for a couple plunkings of Diamondbacks earlier in the series). Only 1 of those hits were a ground ball.

The inning made me so mad, I had to leave when Melvin mercifully pulled Bruney with the tying run on base. Javier Lopez came in and struck out Todd Pratt to end the game. Or that's what the post-game show said.

There is a reason why the Pythagorean record for the D-Backs is so bad, and it's because the bottom of their bullpen is not good. The top of the bullpen, at least when Lyon and Aquino are healthy, is decent enough (Lance Cormier was lights out, needing just 29 pitches to record 9 straight outs after replacing Brandon Webb on a day when he didn't have his absolute best stuff). But the bottom. [Shivers.]

And, yes, congratulations to the offense for coming through with a big game, and continuing to pile on throughout the game. Those extra runs (e.g., the homerun by Cruz) proved bigger than we should have expected.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Love Is A Many-Splintered Thing 

For Mother's Day I told my wife I would make her a new cover for our clothes dryer, which sits just outside our back door. The old one, present when we moved into our house, had deteriorated badly, and needed to be replaced.

I finally got around to doing it yesterday, after having done some preliminary work on a couple other weekends.

Six hours later, I had splinters all over my knuckles, was experiencing lower back pain, had exhausted my supply of sotto voce curse words, and was wondering whether it wouldn't have been better to just move the *!@#!@& dryer indoors and buy a cabinet to cover both the washer and dryer.

The fact that I missed the Diamondbacks baseball game was the least of my worries.

But, frankly, this team has been frustrating to watch as of late. The double-header Saturday, er, sigh... I mean, if you had told me that the Diamondbacks would lose two games 10-6 and 5-3 with Javier Vazquez and Russ Ortiz on the mound, I never would've guessed that Vazquez pitched the first game and Ortiz the second. Vazquez extended his "no-walk" streak, but I guess that's because he was grooving the pitches right down the middle of the plate -- 10 hits and 8 runs in 4 innings. At least the Diamondbacks came back (I turned the TV off shortly after I turned it on at about 4 PM and saw them trailing 10-1), causing the Phillies to use 4 pitchers, just like the Diamondbacks. Ortiz, eh. At least he pitched 7 innings.

And yesterday's game... well, I might've actually enjoyed that game if I wasn't busy breaking all my drill bits. OK, I would've been mildly peeved about the whole homerun/double controversy, but getting angry about home improvement projects has a way of putting emotions regarding sports into... perspective.