Friday, July 01, 2005


OK, I, too, hoped that the Diamondbacks would make short work of a reeling Giants team instead of getting swept by them and making them think they might actually compete in the NL West.

But, no, 4-2 and 9-2 losses put the kibosh on that hope and my other, unspoken hope that we would enter July at or above .500.

The Republic articles make it sound like Melvin is thisclose to doing something drastic. What that would be, though, isn't entirely clear. Bench Cruz? Sure, that might do a little bit, though Terrero won't do much better, if at all. Bench Glaus? Glaus, for all his low batting average, still has decent power. He still adds more to the lineup than Cintron would.

No, the problem is that this team is playing at about its expected level. Unless Melvin can figure out how to get people besides Clark and Counsell and Cormier to play way above their heads, .500 will be where they stay.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Letting It Pass 

There are a number of frustrated digressions I could go off on regarding the case of Diamondbacks v. Giants, in which the court on Tuesday night ruled in favor of the Giants, 11-3:
1) The same day the bullpen gets an article praising it, it collapses in the 9th inning, giving up six runs (Lance Cormier VORP: 13.2, rest of active bullpen: -5.9, or -10.4 including Vargas).
2) The killed rally in the bottom of the 4th when a rocket off of Counsell's bat hits Snyder in the foot.
3) The fact that the Diamondbacks couldn't get more than 3 runs off Schmidt, who was not at the top of his game.
4) Did I mention the bullpen?

But I had a particularly good set of songs on my iPod shuffle running at the gym this morning -- Springsteen's "Jungleland," Old 97's "Nineteen," Spoon's "Take the Fifth," Built To Spill's "Broken Chairs," Bebel Gilberto's "Bananera" -- shifted my mood accordingly, and so I'll take satisfaction in that:
1) With two days left in June, this team is still at .500, exceeding only the most optimistic of forecasts.
2) Brandon Webb, who should be this team's All-Star representative, pitches tonight.
3) I have a family whom I love and I'll get to spend lots of time with this weekend.

(But I'd still like to see the bullpen get better.)


In Rotation - June 29, '05
Kaiser Chiefs - Employment
Matthew Sweet - Time Capsule: Best Of 1990-2000
Futureheads - s/t
Freedy Johnston - Unlucky EP
Marah - Kids In Philly

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Three Weeks: Such Small Portions Edition 

Old joke. Two women are talking about a recent unsatisfying meal at a local restaurant.

Woman #1: Oh, that food was awful.
Woman #2: And such small portions, too!

Sometimes I feel that way reading the Republic. (Sometimes you probably feel that way reading this blog, too, but let's not go there.) I don't like criticizing the paper's articles for a number of reasons, not least of which is the difficulty of putting out interesting material on deadline, day-in, day-out, but this morning's article on the bullpen begs to be commented on. The biggest howler -- "Strike [Ligtenberg, Herges, Choate, and E. Gonzalez] from the record and the bullpen suddenly doesn't look so horrendous" -- is thankfully completely undercut just a couple sentences later:

"Certainly any team with a struggling bullpen - and there are a lot of them - could play these numbers games and their stats would look better as well."

Well, then why write the article in the first place?

The frustrating part is that there probably are two good articles to be written about the bullpen: 1) are they really as bad as the (traditional) stats say they are?, and 2) if so, how did they get so bad? As for #1, yes, they're bad -- the combined VORP of the current bullpen (excluding Vargas) is 6.9. Take away Lance Cormier, and they're -5.3. As for #2, they got that way through injury, underperformance (or regression, take your pick), and the plain fact that the 11th-best pitcher on a major league squad generally isn't very good, comparatively.

And can we please stop using ERA to measure relief staffs? By definition, it doesn't charge the reliever with the inherited runs they let in. An ERA of 6 for a bullpen is pretty bad.

Moving on, then, to something I haven't done for a while...

The Week That Was
Record: 4-3 (2nd in NL West, 3 games behind San Diego as of Tuesday morning)
Average Runs Scored / Average Runs Against (high/low dropped): 3.8 - 4.4
Transactions: Matt Herges clears waivers, assigned to Tucson (6/23); Luis Gonzalez placed on bereavement leave, Matt Kata recalled from Tucson (6/25)

The Diamondbacks got themselves out of what could've been a death spiral after a 5-game losing streak and win 4 of the next 6 games. Clearly at this pace they've got themselves a date with .500 and the lower portion of the wild card standings through the beginning of September. The team doesn't feel quite right, but it's not a train wreck. I would've liked to have seen them finish the blowout against the Tigers or win the series against the Giants, but look at those standings -- it's hard to complain too loudly without feeling churlish.

The Weeks That Will Be
3 at home (against San Francisco)
3 on the road (at Los Angeles)
7 at home (4 against St. Louis, 3 against Cincinnati)

I don't have much to add to the discussion of SF and LA that hasn't already been said -- San Francisco is in its last gasp to stay relevant until Bonds' possible return. The Schmidt-Halsey matchup tonight doesn't bode well for the home nine, but the D-Backs should probably be favored in the other two games. As for LA, they're sort of where the Diamondbacks are except the expectations are that much higher. Let's hope the fans boo Shawn Green again, because he hit the crap out of the ball the last time they inexplicably did that to him at Dodger Stadium.


In Rotation, June 28, '05
Spoon - Gimme Fiction (this is a great CD, by the way -- rock with a minimalist vibe)

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Grind 

I ground a stump this weekend.

As yardwork (no, not Yard Work, yardwork) goes, stump-grinding is not one of the more pleasant tasks out there.

Lawn-mowing? Dull, but easy, and with a satisfyingly (though unnatural) evenness at the end.

Vegetable gardening? Slow, but with a tangibly tasty end product.

Stump-grinding? Hard work, with nothing to show for it except a big hole and sawdust scattered amidst the surrounding grass. But it's also fun using a big machine to, well, grind something up.

Win some, lose some, I guess.

Kinda like the Diamondbacks.

(Yes, I realize the analogy is strained. Tough.)

On the one hand, the lack of a winning streak makes it hard to generate groundswells of support for the Diamondbacks.

On the other hand, while the avoidance of a double-digit losing streak can sap the creative strength out of a blogger, said avoidance also makes following the team more enjoyable.

And so this weekend's games with the Tigers were an interesting mix:

Friday) Shawn Estes wins a 2-1 pitching showdown. And, really, who the heck expected to type that sentence -- multiple times -- at the beginning of the season?

Saturday) The minute I saw the Tigers were starting somebody making his season debut (Sean Douglass) against Javier Vazquez, I knew that the Diamondbacks would struggle against him. The Diamondbacks have repeatedly struggled against new pitchers this season. Too lazy to post something to that effect ahead of time (and too honest to pre-date a blog entry after the fact), sure enough the D-Backs lose 5-1. Nice to know that everybody else on the team recognizes the problem, too. (I remember reading Jeff at Lookout Landing complaining about the same thing with the Mariners once. Doesn't anybody do any advance scouting? But to be fair, some of these problems have been with the interleague matchups, and it doesn't seem quite fair to blame the D-Backs for not scouting the Tigers minor league system.)

Sunday) Which of course brings us to Sunday's game. And I've got to believe the Tigers bloggers are complaining about Sunday's 13-7 Diamondbacks victory the same way we're complaining about Saturday's game. How could Claudio Vargas hold Detroit to one hit through six innings while Jeremy Bonderman gets pounded for 9 hits and 8 runs in just two innings?

All I managed to see of the weekend's series was about 5 minutes of the D-Backs' implosion in the 7th inning. Vargas tiring and giving up a couple runs (including the "what in the world?" moment of Chad Tracy playing leftfield and seeing a ball sail over his head). What about our Pythagorean record? What about it, huh? Think of the children! In any case, I figured no good could continue from watching (they'd either make it close, or it'd be a blowout in which I missed all of the good stuff already), so I turned off the TV.

Amazingly, they scored 13 runs without Gonzo and Glaus. Luis Gonzalez is still on "bereavement leave" to mourn the death of his stepfather, and while I think that it's pretty cool that that kind of leave is in the collective bargaining agreement (and of course hope Gonzalez' family makes it through this difficult time OK), I'd never heard of it before this weekend. Doesn't it offer all kinds of opportunity? Were Robert still blogging, I can hear him encouraging management to put Royce Clayton on the "fake BL" ("his, uh, grandmother passed away last night. Again.")

Oh, well, a win is a win in the actual standings, and the Diamondbacks are back above .500, still just 3 1/2 games behind the Padres, and with a day off. With three games at home against the Giants, now would be a good time to leave the grind behind.


In Rotation - June 27, '05
Mozart's String Quintets K. 515 & K. 516
Modern Jazz Quartet - Django
LCD Soundsystem - s/t