As if Sunday’s late collapse vs the Reds wasn’t evidence enough, last night’s gag vs the Mets solidifies the notion, posed by Diamondhacks on May 20th, that the balleyhooed Arizona bullpen has, in fact, been springing regular leaks for some time. Indeed, the relievers may be finding their rightful level against stiffer competition than that faced by Arizona earlier this season.
Not surprisingly, MLB.com’s embedded Diamondbacks journalist reports that Papa Grande is "suddenly struggling" despite the fact that his last effective outing was two weeks ago, on May 16th, and he has pitched poorly every time since then. Provided the team is playing well overall, an established pattern of closer ineffectiveness apparently doesn’t warrant much response from Melvin*, except to stick with the flamboyant Dominican because he loves Valverde’s "closer mentality".
Diamondhacks didnt go to Berkeley – at least not on purpose – but this seems pretty mental to us:
Gig Name ERA(season) ERA(May)
Closer P Grande 5.85 7.75
While it’s true that Valverde had blown just two saves all year prior to Monday night and also true that the best closers blow saves on occasion, characterizing his struggles as "sudden" evaluates his performance on the most superficial level – and subtly fuels the myth that Bob Melvin* is faced with a "new" problem to address. In light of the facts, this reportage borders on advocacy journalism.
Before tonight’s Mets game, Valverde had been so ineffective in his four prior appearances(3.1 IP,7ER,10H,19.09 ERA) that Diamondhacks wondered if Papa Grande was tipping his pitches. He reportedly wanted the ball "very badly" tonight – to atone for the Reds loss – and Bob Melvin*, despite his annointed closer’s rather lengthy freefall, obliged. Even Mets’ broadcasters were salivating at the prospect of facing the combustible closer. Perhaps if the Arizona manager wanted to win the game "very badly", tonight’s outcome might have been different.
Based on recent observations and in an effort to mitigate getting killed on an increasing basis, Diamondhacks has another bullpen suggestion for Josh Byrnes and Bob Melvin* to consider. We are not ‘baseball people’, but we do recall reading something a while back about a theoretical tool a team might use in certain game situations – a secret weapon, essentially.
It’s called a ‘left handed’ pitcher.
( * – reknowned communicator and player’s manager who attended Cal)
Improved defense and run support certainly play a role -but Webb’s remarkable control has driven the turnaround. The same guy who led the league in walks now leads MLB in fewest BBs/IP. Consider that he’s now actually yielding more hits per IP than at any time in his career – more hits even than when he went 7-16.
Arizona’s ace recently divulged that he used to try to "miss bats" and now he’s trying to "hit bats".
It appears to be working.
STAT MLB RANKING
Winning Pct(1.000) 1st
Complete games(2) 1st(T)
Pitches per IP(13.25) 1st
Few posts delight us more than a regional restaurant shout out or menu provided by an MLBlogger out on the baseball road. So it was with genuine anticipation that we clicked on the potential mother lode – a 16 city lineup of culinary favorites selected by garrulous gourmand, Tommy Lasorda.
Diamondhacks has dined in 9 of the 35 establishments praised by the Dodger legend and was, therefore, underwhelmed, even dismayed, by some of his entries.
Family style chain, Buca di Beppo was Mr Lasorda’s only LA based Italian restaurant of note. Paisano! You’ve got to be kidding! Maybe it’s a step up from Olive Garden, but your favorite Italian…in all of Los Angeles?
Baseball’s beloved BLUEbird lays his biggest egg in our home state, Arizona. Phoenix/Scottsdale now boasts scores and scores of interesting, memorable restaurants. According to The New York Times, the nation’s best pizza joint may be Phoenix’s reasonably priced Pizzeria Bianco. There are prime steakhouses galore, first class Mexican(Carolina’s, La Hacienda), world class southwestern(Vincent’s), outstanding moderately priced chains(Houston’s) – and that’s just the tip of the saguaro!
For an esteemed epicure like Tommy Lasorda to say his favorite Arizona (and Milwaukee) restaurant is the depressingly ordinary Lone Star Steakhouse chain is like Thomas Keller gushing over Applebees.
In the best interests of baseball and to restore the credibility of one of it’s biggest icons, Diamondhacks recommends the following actions:
- If Mr Lasorda fails to amend the post voluntarily, an imposing authority with murky, far reaching powers, like Mark Newman, shall politely threaten to remove the post from the blogosphere.
- If Mr Lasorda still fails to act, the offending post shall be skewered and grilled until golden brown – and it’s juices run clear.
- Mr Lasorda’s "Respected Foodie" card shall be revoked immediately and a replacement card will not be issued – not even within 7 to 10 business days.
Note that our recommendations do not in any way jeopardize billfolds of frequent feeder punch cards or the mountain of unredeemed Chuck E Cheese tokens that may be on Mr Lasorda’s person. We believe such cards should remain in force and all tokens be fully vested.
Diamondhacks is, after all, not capricious…mean, maybe, but not capricious.
Is El Duque "washed up"?
Officially 36, but likely older, Hernandez has a remarkable 52 Ks in 45 IP. Our concern about El Duque involves other virtues as much as his inability to record outs. What upside is there to a reknowned competitor who obviously knows how to pitch? What magical adjustments can Orlando make that he hasn’t already tried?
The best "adjustment" could be a move to a pitcher’s paradise, supported by an excellent hitting team. Shea’s hopeful townies may further the illusion that Orlando is a sufficiently effective pitcher – at least until the Mets cough up first place. Last year, Duque went 9-9 (5.12 ERA) with the champion White Sox and batters are hitting .292 vs him in 2006. Relying on warmer weather seems ill advised as his toasty Chase Field ERA exceeds eight.
The twenty seven year old Julio’s been almost as bad(5.06 ERA) this year, moreso at Shea(6.57), but he too strikes out a batter or more per inning. He’s saved 84 games and joins Aquino, Vizcaino and Lyon as former closers who give Melvin flexibility as Valverde falters.
Jorge’s career ERA is 6.07 in day games and just 3.45 at night. That’s over 300+ innings, so we think it significant. Considering he piled up most of those IPs in Baltimore, fending off the Yankees, Sawx and Jays, 3.45 sounds like a refreshing May zephyr to Phoenicians. Moreover, due to the heat, Arizona plays a limited number of matinees.
Broadcaster Matt Williams said something last night which illuminates why he wasnt able to secure a serious coaching job. He essentially remarked that you dont want to bat your best hitters next to each other; its better if you spread them out.
Is Matty unfamiliar with the entire history of organized baseball? Ah yes, Murderer’s Row: Ruth, Koenig, Coombs followed by Gehrig. Ortiz, Varitek, Alex Gonzalez and then Manny. Diamondhacks doesnt much care what Matt Williams thinks, but here’s what scares us. When asked about his team’s offensive success and comeback ability, Bob Melvin also repeatedly points to the strength of the bottom half of his order, where Shawn Green and Johnny Estrada have been hitting over their heads. "We feel like we can score any inning", Melvin offers, a not too subtle reference to Chris Snyder’s 2005 woes.
This is all true.
But it’s not the big reason for Arizona’s offensive transformation.
Look over these three Diamondback "situational" lines:
AB R H 2B HR RBI BB AVE OBP SLG OPS
54 16 23 7 4 9 3 .426 .456 .777 1.233
35 8 14 1 2 12 4 .400 .462 .657 1.119
64 5 12 3 0 3 5 .188 .246 .266 .512
In limited ABs, two first rung Hall of Famers followed by the second coming of Mark Belanger?
Tick tick tick.
A: It’s Bob Melvin’s primary two-hole hitters:
AB R H 2B HR RBI BB AVE OBP SLG OPS
54 16 23 7 4 9 3 .426 .456 .777 1.233 BYRNES
35 8 14 1 2 12 4 .400 .462 .657 1.119 DAVANON
64 5 12 3 0 3 5 .188 .246 .266 .512 HUDSON
Diamondhacks isnt suggesting that this trio will sustain these numbers over the season. They clearly won’t. Past performance and the law of baseball equilibrium dictate they’ll all move closer to one another.
But make no mistake about the engine behind the NL’s most potent offense (per game) to date. It’s center field. It’s
Rogers Hornsby and George Brett…er… Eric Byrnes and Jeff Davanon turbocharging the two hole. No other lineup postion(Tracy, Gonzo, Green, Counsell, Estrada or Jackson) has been nearly as productive as these guys. Before last night, everyone else is below .850 OPS. Again, this isnt going to last forever and Bob Melvin deserves credit for sending Hudson downstream and identifying at least two of several preferable #2 options .
But Diamondhacks frets.
As crowds cheer on every Oh Dawg outfield gapper, we fret. Each time Bob Melvin emphasizes balancing his lineup from top to bottom and the ability to score in every inning, we fret. And as Byrnes and Davanon inevitably fall back nearer to their established performance levels, we fret.
Can Bob Melvin see the true nature of his lineup’s potency? Can he continue to plug in productive hitters between Counsell and Tracy? Can he keep Orlando Hudson at the back of the order?
I think he can….I hope he can… I wish he can…
While hopeful fans and commercial journalists fell over themselves after the locals’ 10-9 comeback victory, Diamondhacks attention was, of course, fixated elsewhere.
Arizona’s heretofore watertight relief crew showed their first signs of leakage as Brandons Medders & Lyon – and Valverde – pitching an inning apiece with the game on the line…each gave up a late run. Lyon two.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
The Atlanta Braves banged out sixteen hits in all.
Drip. Drip. Drip-drip.
The sight of a damp pitcher in an indoor facility is no particular cause for medical alarm – stained caps and uniform tops are commonplace.
But water was trickling off the brim of Thomson’s cap like a creaky Bangkok air conditioner.
Drip. Drip-drip. Drip. Drip-drip. Drip.
For the sake of the women and children in the stands, can somebody please wipe John Thomson down?
No. Not this John Thompson. He already has a towel.
After beating Jake Peavy last night, the Diamondbacks have made a big move in the NL West standings. Melding surprisingly solid defense with unsustainable bullpen excellence and an alarmingly lofty, league-leading .272 team BA, skipper Bob Melvin has pulled his squad a full 2.5 games out of dead last. At this torrid pace, expect Arizona to be a full 10 games out of the cellar by year end!
Perhaps the biggest early season blessing has been the hitting slump of Melvin’s preferred 2 hole hitter, Orlando Hudson, which has forced Bob to look elsewhere for a bat behind leadoff fixture Counsell. Riding the hot hands of Jeff Davanon and now, Eric Byrnes, has worked well to date, but neither appears to be a long term solution to this problem that follows Bob Melvin like his own shadow. Davanon lacks pop but has patience; Byrnes lacks patience but has pop.
Similar to last year, several long term solutions are staring Bob Melvin in the face. Luis Gonzalez, a weak #3 and below average #4, would make an excellent #2 hitter. Shawn Green doesnt walk much but would still be a superior #2 to Orlando Hudson. Against lefties, Conor Jackson would solidify the spot with pop and patience.
If history is a guide, Melvin wont choose these options. He appears set in loading the front of his lineups with slick fielding middle infielders with decent speed, but who are consistently among the least productive hitters on the team.
A critical development for Diamondbacks fans to monitor will be where Hudson migrates once his bat inevitably heats up. If Bob can resist the temptation to bat Hudson second and stick with short term "hot hands" or wow Diamondhacks with the Gonzo,Green or Jackson option, Arizona will score more runs.
To the extent he manages the lineup with outdated perceptions, the Diamondbacks will score fewer runs. And in a tight division, a playoff appearance could possibly weigh in the balance.
Diamondhacks welcomes Chan Ho Park to Chase Ho Park with a brand new poll regarding that venue’s worst concession ripoffs. ( If you vote for "Other", please leave an appropriately biting comment below. )
5/17 UPDATE: The neomyz.com poll was brought down today due to excessive site traffic – can you even imagine such a thing ;- )
Anyway, you can still vote via Comments below.
What is the worst culinary ripoff at Chase Field?
- Blimpie 6 inch sub $5
- Taste of the Majors Fried Clam Roll $8
- Big Dawg $8.75
- Really, really small cup of beer $4
No man has yet been selected as the charter enshrinee into The Hacks Hame of Fall.
Diamondhacks is, however, pleased to announce – on Mother’s Day – that the late Beatrice Villareal is the first individual to be enshrined into the Hame’s 2006 inaugural class, selected unanimously by that institution’s Picking Committee.
Villareal, known as La Madre de Quibras (The Mother of Failures), was, at the age of 87, "removed" from her lifelong 1000 sq ft home against her initial wishes – to facilitate construction of a ballpark garage. She died six weeks later, some relatives suggest, from the dislocation – and her resulting "curse", it is claimed, ensured subsequent hardship for the baseball franchise that, effectively, killed her.
Her plaque will read:
SENORA BEATRICE VILLAREAL
- Frail octogenarian overwhelmed in life by Diamondbacks lawyers, "La Madre de Quibras" returned stronger in spirit to curse the client franchise throughout it’s arrogant infancy.
Few question the existence of the curse itself, however some have doubted it’s efficacy since the Diamondbacks 2001 World Series victory. Believers posit that Villareal may have taken a brief rest (from hexing) in late 2001, something she was not afforded while bulldozers razed her modest dwelling.