Results tagged ‘ Players ’

Bleary Yes, Blurry No

Madduxwithblackdugout_2 Earlier in his career, we never cared much for Greg Maddux. Didnt despise him or anything, but felt his status as a legend was somewhat compromised by the wide berth umpires granted him through the 1990s. One could certainly argue that he facilitated or even earned it, but all the same, that and some visible mound fussiness never sat real well with us. So, like most Diamondback fans, we took particular glee watching the perennial All Star fume as we beat him up on an improbably regular basis.

Well, the old man’s beaten us twice in a week now (reliever Cameron was credited with the Aug 29 W),  in the heat of a pennant race, and I have to say, he’s really earned some newfound admiration. I know he benefits greatly from Petco, and he still gets calls, and the NL is very weak. But for all the talk about Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson and, more recently, Tom Glavine, this Maddux guy captains this generation’s ship of aging mound marvels. All four geezers masterfully screw with hitters’ balance and timing, but Clemens and Johnson enjoy the physical advantage of being power pitchers – the two ex-Braves do not.

With Glavine, we hear constantly how he never gives in. Well, Maddux rarely gives in either; the difference is Maddux doesnt give in and stays in the strike zone. And I do mean stays. Forty nine innings without a free pass? Across a wide range of opponents, home plate umps and ballparks?  Not even an intentional one to some "pitch around" power threat? Maddux hasnt walked a single batter… since July!

It’s a remarkable accomplishment for a 41 year old pitcher without overpowering stuff; a testament not only to his committment not to beat himself, but also to his physical ability in seeing that through. It’s not like he’s at a county fair either, just grooving it in there, knockin’ down milk bottles. Manager Bud Black:

He’s a phenomenal strike thrower. And he’s a phenomenal ball thrower, too. I mean, he can throw a ball when he wants and he can throw a strike when he wants. That’s what makes Greg Greg, is his ability to command the ball."

And Maddux on Maddux:

"The last thing you want to do is have a meaningless walk streak affect how you go about hitters. "I’m not good enough to just lay it in there and save a walk streak. I think my last one ended when I intentionally walked somebody."

More Captain Marvel?   The other day, at Petco, he pounced off the hill to his right – away from a RHP’s natural follow through momenutm – to snare a high chopper and fluidly, calmly throw out a streaking Justin Upton at home. Could even 20% of RHPs, including those half Mad Dog’s age, have executed that play?  I doubt it. For one thing, Maddux doesnt have any follow through momentum – he releases the ball perfectly balanced on the mound and has great fielding range in either direction – a big "secret" to those sixteen gold gloves. Earlier in the game, with speedster Chris Young eyeing MLB’s worst throwing catcher (Josh Bard) from first, Maddux lulled Young with several throws, finally got him rocking the wrong way, and picked him off – a potentially huge turnaround in what resulted in a very close game.

And yesterday, the old man cruised along in a hitter’s paradise with an early lead, in the comfortable knowledge that only walks could beat him, especially against a young lineup that strings together hits like a blind man strings a pearl necklace. And so, true to a winner’s form, Maddux didnt issue any walks. He didnt dominate or blow people away. Yielded a homer, a triple, but no real damage. He just didnt beat himself.

Later in the game, the old man Owingsgopherball_1hit a double . Not exactly Micah Owings, but all things considered, like pennants for example, one doubts the Padres are itching to go "younger, cheaper, or ostensibly better" anytime soon.  Folks have been waiting for Greg Maddux to fade away. However, if Labor Day was any indication, we saw Greg Maddux and the Padres quite clearly. The only thing fading, at the moment, is "Sedona Red".

( photos courtesy of AP/ Pual Connors )

The S Word

Markreynolds2004 Watching Mark Reynolds through his first 300 MLB at bats, almost makes me utter the S word.

Not that S word!

Strikeout?

Again, too obvious. I was thinking more along the lines of ‘Schmidt’.

Now, before anyone goes tellin’ their momma that Diamondhacks went and called our curly haired cabana boy the next Mike Schmidt, let me cut such conclusion jumping to the quick. Mike Schmidt was the greatest third baseman who ever lived. He was a better gloveman than the respectable fielding Reynolds. Schmidt was a better baserunner. And at Mark’s age, despite the .196 average, the Phillie Hall of Famer was already walking considerably more. I do not declare Mark Reynolds to be the next Mike Schmidt.

But aside from the curly hair, Reynolds still reminds me of Schmidt. They both came up around age 23, striking out a ton and hitting homers every twenty at bats or so. Beyond frequency, Mark’s homers often share Michael Jack’s Herculean quality, whether it was yesterday’s 445 foot second deck blast near the base of the left field Petco scoreboard, or his 467 ft jawdropper above and beyond the Turner Field bleachers. 

An unpolished hitter straight out of Double A, who’s already suffered through Bluelagoon_1 extended dry spells, who’s still fundamentally adjusting to MLB pitching, Reynolds is nonetheless doing far more than treading water. Even including that sea of strikeouts, our Christopher Atkins lookalike is hauling in an ocean of RBIs (well over 100 on a prorated seasonal basis) that puts The Blue Lagoon to shame.

Another thing that makes me feel good about Reynolds is his demeanor and body language. Yes, he looks disappointed when he leaves runners on base, but for the most part, even in the midst of terrible slumps, he looks as if he enjoys being out there, especially in the field. He’s not real demonstrative, but can smile even when things arent going well. Nowadays, that lack of a ‘game face’ might foster cries of indifference, but it may better reflect a healthy self confidence. I just get the feeling that nothing much bothers him and that he knows his worth isnt predicated on the next at bat – or the last one; sort of the anti-Quentin.

Mike_schmidt Conversely, when Mark does something huge, like last night when he singlehandedly saved the Diamondbacks season, you wont see showy, insecure fist pumps – just a pleasant expression that says, "Cool. This is fun." Neither the fabricated, professional stoicism that has become de rigeur in most MLB clubhouses, nor the unsustainable theatrics of a Jose Reyes, Reynolds for all his ups and downs on the field, exhibits an even keeled, low key enthusiasm. He exudes a personal quality often in short supply in professional sports. The ability, the nature really, to take both success and failure completely in stride.

Whether his career blossoms a la Mike Schmidt is an open question. The odds are certainly against it. But we’d place even money that another ‘S’ word is in Mark Reynolds’ future.

Success.

(photos courtesy virginiasports.cstv.com, amazon.com & thecoming.org)

Mad Professors

Seitzerphoto By the potentially self serving grace of Josh Byrnes, local fans were spared a showdown Friday between Greg Maddux and a Diamondbacks lineup coached by Kevin Seitzer.

Something’s, as they say, gotta give.

Not since Ray Milland’s nutty professor applied wood repellant to his balls in "It Happens Every Spring", has a brainiac appeared to confound major league hitters more than this KC Masterpiece.

As it happened, Seitzer was "relieved" prior to the game, leaving Maddux less so. 

It’s not like the bookish looking Nevadan has barely kept his head above water amongst the National League either, as his career marks against the NL West attest:   

Colorado      12-7

San Fran       28-14

LA                15-7  Raymilland

San Diego     24-15

In fact, Mad Dog has similarly impressive career records versus fifteen of sixteen National League franchises – and it’s against this amazingly consistent, wildly successful backdrop that his inexplicable 1-10 ledger vs the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks seems like a comic juxtaposition.

The biggest reason for the disparity is that Maddux’s greatest stretch, when he didnt allow a baserunner for seven years, occured prior to 1998. He was still outstanding in the D*Backs inaugural campaign, going 18-9 with a 2.22 ERA, but was by this time allowing baserunners – and lost his only decision to the newbies that year because of this oversight. The next year, he went 19-9 but got no decision against the purple Sonoran sophomores. In 2001, yet another 19-9 snoozer, he split a pair of decisions with the Snakes – but has lost 8 straight since, concurrent with what most doctors diagnose as " jes gettin’ old".   

Arizona fielded just one offensive juggernaut in the Madduxglassesdecade, in 1999, and Maddux lost a couple of tight, low scoring contests. Since 2002 however, regardless of Arizona personnel, relative W/L records, dew point or other circumstances, the Diamondbacks hammer the heck out of the HOFer to be. Oppposite field and gap hits, not trying to do too much, aggressive baserunning, actually drawing walks off the guy – things all teams are supposed to do to chip away at Maddux, but seldom seem to manage as thoroughly as do Greg’s Phoenician foils.   

They did it again last night. Happen’s every summer.

(photo courtesy of jeff gross/getty images & briansdriveinmovies.com)

The Concrete Hall of Fame

When I was a little boy roaming around the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, in the age of Aquarius, it was starting to look a little run down. Some homes werent kept up and the 1968 garbageman’s strike introduced rats to the neighborhood. It was nowhere near as dangerous as Bed-Stye, but by the time the teachers union went on a contentious strike of their own that fall, many parents were looking to move out. Brooklyn’s present, and worse, its future, looked dismal.

As kids, we didnt care much. Younger siblings, like me, played imaginary games on the sidewalk while older boys played stickball right in the street. It was home and we made plenty of fun, oblivious to what academics labeled our downward trending socioeconomic status.

Until relatives from the country would pop in. The first thing their kids usually noticed was how small our yard was. It really wasnt even a yard as much as a decorative patch of grass. The parents would complain about the traffic on the Belt Parkway and try to tactfully express concern that there wasnt a suitable place for their children to play.

My father assured his reluctant sister in law that the kids would be fine as long as they stayed out of the street. Our cousins from Nashville warily followed us boys outside, when my eldest brother blurted, "My brothers arent allowed to walk that far, but five blocks that way is where Gil Hodges lives."

We watched as the Tennesseans craned their necks down our long 28th Street corridor towards a distant Avenue M. We talked some more, and all played outside, until after it was dark.   

Ebbetsfield

Second Best

Policelineup_1This is the second in a series examining the 2007 Diamondbacks batting order. Unlike most teams, the unusually balanced Arizona roster doesnt shout out obvious lineup choices. There’s no high OBP speed demon to leadoff, or proverbial #3 or #4 slugger, leading some to conclude that placement decisions are relatively unimportant. Our earlier installment, on leadoff batters, is here.

If one word defines the traditional role of a #2 hitter that word might be ‘sacrificial’ or ‘complementary’, tablesetting for the sluggers, taking strikes for basestealers, bunting and hitting the other way to move runners along. He is, primarily, a conduit between the specialized skills of the leadoff man and the general excellence of the team’s best hitter. Traditionally, footspeed is not an absolute requisite for the job, but is valued more than it is later in the order.

My personal criteria for a #2 are fairly similar to the ones above, valuing power and complimentary aspects(apart from sacrificial ones) somewhat more than does conventional wisdom. That is to say, an optimal #2 hitter on one team wouldn’t always be an optimal #2 on another.

For example, if Ricky Henderson led off for the Dbacks, I might bat Ricky_1 Chad Tracy second, because he’s left handed and reasonably patient (affording Henderson SB opportunities), Tracy can utilize the hole created by holding Ricky at first, doesnt hit into many double plays, and reaches base reasonably well himself. Chad doesnt run that well, but with Ricky who really cares – Henderson alone has enough disruptive speed for an entire lineup. But Chad would be a less wise #2 choice on our favored Dbacks order, the one led off by Carlos Quentin. Quentin’s relative lack of basestealing nullifies some of Chad’s advantages, and it probably doesnt make sense to frontload Carlos and Chad, forcing all your basestealing to the back of the order.

Quentinbat Assuming Quentin first, we prefer that the #2 man will bat left handed to maintain the R/L/R/L batting sequence. Having eliminated Tracy above, that leaves Drew, Hudson and conceivably Miguel Montero. Let’s drop Montero. Some think Conor Jackson and his nice OBP belong at #2, but remember that he led the team in GIDP, also doesnt run that well and bats righthanded. IOW, his OBP is very important, but he’s kind of a one-dimensional, and not very good overall, fit here.

The debate is really between Drew and Hudson – and the wonderful thing about Stephendrew_1 starting with Quentin is that his broad based skills(OBP/SLG/running) make him very easy to complement. It’s not as if you’re desperate for power at #2, like you would be batting behind Craig Counsell – or in need of a big OBP to compensate for Juan Pierre.

Hudson fizzled at 2, early last year, before rebounding to a career .809 OPS – and Drew was even better in limited time. I expect them both to decline some. Neither steals much, but both run very well; Drew, in particular, flies down the line to first. In 81 PAs with a runner on first, he GIDP once. In 174 similar PAs, Orlando hit into seventeen DPs. Not a sustainable difference, but I’m comfortable projecting Hudson with at least twice as many GIDP as Drew in similar time. Uncharacteristically, both guys actually hit better against lefties last year, but I wouldnt expect that to continue. Hudson switch hits, Drew’s a lefty. Hudson‘s established a better BB/K rate, whereas Drew quite clearly has a larger offensive upside.

Orlando_2  So, who is #2. As much as this surprises me to say, I’m going with a guy I shuddered when he hit behind Counsell last year. Orlando Hudson. He may not match last year’s OPS, but, frankly, I’m more concerned with Drew’s discouraging K/BB carrying over. Why is Hudson ok at 2 this year but not last? It’s not him – it’s Quentin vs Counsell. Quentin’s unusual leadoff package gives Arizona the luxury of following up with a steady, safe, speedy switch hitter who lacks HR power. A goal in constructing the front end is to link together players who will a) make pitchers work , b) not su*k and c) complement each other’s strengths. The value of Orlando’s switch hitting will become even more clear when we unveil our surprising #3 hitter in the next installment.

Think complimentary.

Leading Off

Policelineup_1This is the first in a series examining the 2007 Diamondbacks batting order. Unlike most teams, the unusually balanced Arizona roster doesnt shout out obvious lineup choices. There’s no high OBP speed demon to leadoff, or proverbial #3 or #4 slugger, leading some to conclude that placement decisions are relatively unimportant. Below is our first installment examining that assumption. 

Today we’ll look at the #1 spot. Before tabbing who is best suited to bat first, here’s our leadoff criteria, in order of importance.

1. Ability to reach base consistentlythe key to reaching base consistently is drawing walks. Although a given individual’s walk rate is fairly stable year to year relative to his batting average fluctuations, there’s a far greater deviation, or spread, among different players’ walk rates than there are between players’ batting averages. Some players walk ten times more often than others, whereas hitters rarely double another batting average. By examining walk rates, one can project individual OBP threshholds(ceilings and floors) with considerable confidence.

2. Ability to advance on the bases (ie first to third, stealing, tagging up,etc) – notice how stealing bases is not a stand alone criteria, but has been effectively downgraded alongside less trumpeted baserunning skills.

3. "Medium" power (defined by XBH, isolated power,etc) – while you dont want your best slugger leading off with a bunch of solo homers, it nonetheless behooves a #1 to exhibit some degree of pop. Too often, managers lead off hitters who lack power, which serves to "cancel out" much or all of their baserunning advantage. 

4. High propensity for GIDP – a groundball hitter who GIDP alot will have fewer Conorjacksoncard opportunities to do so when leading off and his propensity will manifest itself less often – and hurt his team less – when he hits in the 1 spot.

5. Another leadoff consideration is maintaining a R-L-R-L sequence through the order, which limits an opposing manager’s ability to sustain platoon advantages with his bullpen. In Arizona’s case, four of the eight regulars are RH, two are LH, and two ( Hudson and the expected catching platoon), effectively, "switch hit". Leading off with a RH provides the Diamondbacks more R/L lineup balance and flexibility later and lessens the likelihood of bunching several RHs elsewhere.

Stephendrewhitting_1 Let’s test some Dbacks against these criteria. Who reaches base ? Based on 2006 – CoJack, Hudson and Tracy fared best – and in less PAs, DaVanon, Drew, Snyder and Quentin held their own. After Carlos, there’s a precipitous drop. But are 2006 stats our best measure of OBP? Not if we’re projecting reaching base consistently. Based on career OBP(MLB and minors), and valuing high BB rates more than high BA, the guys who stand out are CoJack, DaVanon, Tracy, and, by virtue of the HBPs, Carlos Quentin. The others havent demonstrated an ability to reach base as consistently, over time.

Advancing on the bases? Most Dbacks run well enough to leadoff, whether or not they steal many bases. Give extra basestealing points to Byrnes and Young. The footspeed of Jackson, Tracy or the catchers, however, would be a leadoff liability; not taking third base on a single to right, being thrown out at the plate on a medium fly to left – that sort of thing.

"Medium" power? This applies to virtually the whole roster now that a) Counsell is gone and b) no slugger appears head and shoulders over his teammates. The catchers are suspect, and we all know they’re not leading off anyway. Everyone else though, even Hudson and DaVanon, hits more than singles and has sufficient power to hit leadoff.

Double plays? CoJack hit 18, Hudson 17. Surprisingly, Chad Tracy never hits into more than 10 or 11 per year. In 166 ABs, Quentin hit into six; Drew hit one, in 209 ABs.

The candidate who best meets our five leadoff criteria is Carlos Quentin. Worst Quentinheadshot_1 case, if he hits .250, his BB and HBP will cushion him towards a league average OBP; if he hits .280+, as he’s already done against RHP in the bigs, he’s getting on base close to 40% of the time. He runs well enough to advance on the bases and swipe an occasional bag. His power is obvious and he grounds into a fair number of double plays when batting elsewhere in the order. There are leadoff candidates with more speed (Young, Byrnes), better demonstrated OBP (Jackson), more MLB experience (Hudson, Byrnes, DaVanon) and more offensive upside (Young, and perhaps Drew), but no Diamondback brings Quentin’s broad based skillset and demonstrated performance to the leadoff position.

Will Bob Melvin bat Quentin leadoff?

Hardly. Quentin doesnt fit the tired profile of what a leadoff man looks like. We suspect Bob will gravitate towards a 1-2 punch (or punchout) of Hudson and Drew, or maybe Young and Hudson. He’s certainly batted weak hitting middle infielders up near the top of the order (Counsell/06, Clayton/05, Hudson/early 2006) in the past. In truth, Hudson and Drew isnt a bad 1-2, if they both sustain their 2006 numbers. The problem is that Hudson sustaining his 2006 is iffy, Drew sustaining the .316 BA + .500+ SLG is a big if – and both of them doing so is a really big if. If O-Dawg reverts back to his established level of play in Toronto and Drew hits .260 instead of .316, they’ll absolutely kill the offense, not just with the insufficient production at the top, but also by forcing the Dbacks to bat a litany of RH fodder behind them, broken up only by Chad Tracy. In this respect, mercurial Chris Young would seem to be a better leadoff fit than Hudson or Drew. We certainly love his power and speed. Our hesitation with Young is in how consistently he can get on base against MLB pitching. He hasnt demonstrated that ability yet and that’s the most important criterion here. Quentin, by contrast, is a safe choice for #1. Not an obvious choice, perhaps, but a safe choice – even if he struggles some at the plate, his peripherals ensure he wont be a leadoff bust.

Jackson shares this trait, but Carlos simply runs better. And what better way to start a game than with an HBP, perhaps an HBP where the pitcher feels the batter didnt make an effort to get out of the way? It sets a marvelous early tone – a pitcher questioning his control or ability to throw inside, the Dbacks not being backed off the plate,etc.  Psychologically, it’s better than a walk or a single. We cant think of a more unsettling start for a pitcher – unless maybe he yielded a home run. And Carlos should hit a few of those too.

Far From Humerus

Skeletonpitcher Randy Johnson, we are fairly certain, is about to bust a bone. Which of his two hundred and six, or when, we cant exactly say, but the forseen "bad break" will render his trumpeted acquisition a disappointment, and perhaps ultimately, a failure.

Johnson’s considerable skills, diminishing rapidly off an abnormal, awkward physical baseline, coupled with a sudden increase in game-specific injury opportunities, make him a perfect storm of risk factors pursuant to breaking a bone.

Diminishing skills?  It’s clear that batters are hitting Johnson harder – and more often. Within a surprisingly similar run environment (NYY v AZ), he’s yielding 25-30% more homers per inning than in his halcyon desert days, and striking out fewer men, generating many more batted balls in play. Another concern is his reflexes. We cant prove that Unit’s reflexes, specifically, are shot, but the general evidence that reflexive response deteriorates with age is sufficient to bear mention here – and that quickness – unlike, say, flexibility – isn’t recaptured easily, if at all.

Abnormal physical baseline?  Randy’s a geek – a subject usually Randystress_1 broached as a positive – as in, wow, look at the leverage that albatross generates, the sick arm angle, etc.  There’s also perilous downsides to his height. An inept fielder throughout his career, Johnson falls off the mound on his follow through so that His Gangliness isn’t well protected. It takes a long, long time for such a Unit to position a protective mitt down, down, all the way down to the lower regions of his unusually long legs. As it is, his height leaves Randy as close to home plate, post delivery, as any pitcher in baseball.

Ricochetrabbit Sudden increase in injury opportunities? Well, we’ve laid groundwork for the most obvious opportunity: career ending comebackers to the mound. Count on more shots up the middle off Johnson’s eroding fastball, and indeed off the hapless Johnson himself and his seven foot tall bag of bones. A taller, less graceful Ricochet Rabbit. Ping! Ping! Ping! Bear in mind that Johnson is also returning to a league full of hitters experienced with his best stuff itching to even old scores. There will be no transitional honeymoon like there was in the AL.

His projected increase in At Bats (and related baserunning) in the National League present alarming opportunities for injury. In two years in New York, Johnson hit one single. That’s it. No walks, no runs. Just one single in two years! Expect 50 to 75 At Bats in the NL, with perhaps a dozen heartstopping giraffe-like forays around the baserunning veldt. These comic ventures wont likely be bone breaking, per se, as much as back straining, muscle pulling or knee wrenching, further compromising Randy’s season.

The bum knee isnt broken, thank goodness. It’s just..well, bum and will continue to fuel this perfect storm.  Forty three year old knees maintaining, much less improving, when subjected to repetitive high stress impact is simply a non starter. 

Speaking of non-starters, there’s the dreary prospect that, despite "successful" back surgery and Johnson’s claim that he feels great, Randy wont be fit to pitch in April.  And saying he feels great simply doesnt make it so – what’s he supposed to say after pocketing almost $30M – "Thanks alot! BTW, my back is killing me" ? No, the suspect "repair" of his herniated disc, as far as we can tell, primarily represents an opportunity to break, or in this case "re-break", an additional bone.

MikemorganAt the top, we said we didnt know which bone is history, and that remains so, however we’ve ruled out the stirrups, anvils and hammers and dont see a fractured femur in Johnson’s foreseeable future. His ribs should be fine, too – that’s a bunch of bones right there, out of harm’s way. But the knees, the hands, the ankles and the feets genuinely have us worried. Screaming comebacker written all over every one of those intricate bone sets. We were there watching helplessly when rubber armed fixture Mike Morgan writhed on the mound like a wounded animal after getting konked on the kneecap with a comebacker, back in 2002. His last year in baseball.

Of course, Mike was only 42 at the time.

Top Dback Batting ‘Average’

The 2006 Diamondbacks weren’t quite the worst hitting team in all of baseball, but their best hitter, Conor Jackson, was clearly the worst "best" hitter on any major league roster. At least as defined by park adjusted OPS(OPS+) with a 300AB minimum.

Jackson’s team leading 101 OPS+, representing just 1% above league average production (regardless of defensive position), was lower than the top individual figure on any other MLB team, including marginal outfits like Tampa Bay (Rocco Baldelli 119 OPS+), Kansas City (Mark Teahan 117) and the Cubs (Aramis Ramirez 126).

Moreover, Arizona’s second best hitter, Orlando Hudson(100 OPS+), also ranks Estrada_1 dead last in OPS+ among MLB’s 30 "second best" hitters. Rather than disparage the ebullient second baseman (who was, along with Johnny Estrada, the club’s most valuable position player), fingers should instead point to the balance of Arizona’s mediocre position players.

How ’bout one more go ’round, shall we?  Our third best hitter, by this measure, was Luis Gonzalez (97 OPS+). Could he conceivably rank…gulp…dead last among MLB’s "thirds"?  Cue drumroll. The suspense is killing me…

No!!! Thanks to his late season, HOF-ish doubles surge, Gonzo comfortably outdistanced Buc’s catcher Ronny Paulino (94), catapulting Luis all the way to..ta da…29th place among "third bests"!  Well, la di da.

Fanboys will inevitably point out that Stephen Drew(115) and Carlos Quentin(114) were excluded by our 300 AB minimum, but it’s also worth pointing out that many others across MLB were similarly excluded – and even after extrapolating the local phenoms’ figures across a full season and adding them in to an NL West comparison, Arizona’s "top" hitters still sadly trail the relevant competition:

Dbacks

Rockies

Giants

Padres

Dodgers

S Drew 115

Holliday 139

Bonds 156

A-Gon 125

JD Drew 125

Quentin 114

Atkins 138

Alou 132

Cameron 119

Nomar 120

CoJack 101

Hawpe 122

Durham 127

Piazza/Bard 129

Kent 118

Oh Dawg 100

Helton 119

Vizquel 93

Giles 105

Ethier 113

Khalilgreene While it’s true the Giants have little depth, bear in mind that the class of the division(LA & SD) boast numerous "replacements" for Piazza, JD Drew,etc.   Stick Gonzo(97) in for Drew, but dont forget about Furcal(107) and Martin(101) and all the talented LA backups.  Slick fielding Khalil Greene(96) and Marcus Giles (101 in 2005/06) hit well enough and catcher Josh Bard actually had a higher 2006 OPS than Piazza.  Simply put, these are much better offensive teams than Arizona, as is Colorado sans Barmes. Arizona cannot hit with these groups, and with San Francisco’s addition of Dave Roberts(100), Aurilia(112) and the signing of Barry Bonds, the upstarts in Sedona Red may still have an uphill battle hitting with any of their divisional rivals.

Livan On a Prayer?

Livan_1 Livan Hernandez is often dismissed, especially by fans engrossed with fantasy baseball. Ask them to summarize Livan’s past and you might hear something like this:    

ERA+ phenom bursts on the scene as 1997 WS MVP, Marlin and Giant ace, followed by predictable age-induced decline all the way down to it’s current, awful, minimal VORP state.

Well, Livan’s performance has taken a tumble, two actually. Fact is, he fell sharply immediately following his abbreviated rookie year, exceeding the adjusted league average ERA+ figure only once in his first five full seasons. Dusty Baker crowned him staff ace despite the fact Russ Ortiz was the superior pitcher.

Whether due to health, maturity, or Frank Robinson’s tutelage in Montreal, El Duque’s kid brother finally turned his career around in 2003, establishing a 155 ERA+ over 233 innings. This, not 1997, was the true high water mark from which his ERA+ has descended; to 115, 100, all the way to 94 last year.

Despite the drop, Livan’s last 4 years still rather easily outshine his pre-Montreal days. How does one project this down and up (and down again) history onto 2007, especially after he recorded a better Aug/Sept ERA than any Dback starter -including Brandon Webb?

Zips projects his 2007 season thusly:

                          ERA   W   L   G  GS     INN    H   ER  HR   BB    K

Livan        5.14   9  16  34  34   231.0  258  132  31   83  142

The 9 and 16 jumps out for a guy who’s been 54-48 over the last four years with some mediocre clubs. Given his actual, split-season 4.83 ERA, the 5.14 projection for a full year at Chase appears reasonable, until one breaks down the 4.83, by Livan’s 2006 NL East and West opponents:

East                  ERA            West               ERA         ERA diff.

FLA                     11.05                COL                 6.75        (4.30)

NYM                     7.50                 LAD                 4.05        (3.45)

ATL                     6.00                 SD                   3.79         (2.21)

PHI                      4.64                 SF                   2.14         (2.50)

9 starts — 64 IP                                11 starts — 73.3 IP

Wow! In 20 starts, Hernandez established an ERA more than three runs lower against the NL West than the East. That gap wont be sustained, but there’s ample reason to believe that Livan will benefit from the division change. By our calculations, NYM, Atlanta and Phi were 3 of the NL’s top four offensive clubs (adjusted); even lowly FLA rated sixth. The West,while better offensively than often given credit for, is more middle of the pack in scoring runs. We dont expect Livan to morph into a western ace, but Sabermetricianthis "scenery change" will more than offset park factor for him and take the edge off an ERA that we project in the mid to high fours. Given his hitting, fielding and unquantifiable moxie, we suspect he’ll find a way to win close to half his decisions.

One thing is for certain. Livan Hernandez is more effective in the real world than he is in a fantasy league. While the saber toothed stats trekkies drone on about his questionable components and pathetic peripherals, it wouldnt surprise Diamondhacks if Hernandez eventually usurps the #2 role from his more highly esteemed comrades on the Arizona staff.

Wouldnt surprise us at all, actually.

   

Closing Time

This story informs us that Doug Davis has a girlfriend in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Brokenarm_1 tips well at the tavern. Oh, I almost forgot – there’s a little confession at the end of the story about how his arm is shot.   

"I would love to stay in Milwaukee, but I will probably be traded. That’s fine, my arm is cashed anyway. I’ve got nothing left."

It’s looking more and more like the biggest difference between this guy and Russ Ortiz, is that Bob Melvin will insist on Doug throwing 200 innings, whether we like it or not:

"Davis is a guy who is an innings-eater, who is left-handed, which is something we’ve been looking for. Along with Webby and Livan, he gives us another proven guy who should provide innings."

Can hardly wait.

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