.714. No, that's not quite adequate. Let's give this number the prominence it deserves.
Thank you. That's Ryan Roberts' spring batting average, after he went 2-for-2 today,. including a walk-off hit to score the game-winning run in the ninth inning. Yeah, it's only spring training, but still... After the jump, we'll review today's victory, in front of another good crowd at SRF@TS, which boosted our record to a slightly less discomforting 3-7. We'll also discuss what Roberts' surge might mean for the team.
Roberts has now come to the plate 21 times in spring, and has made precisely four outs. In the other seventeen plate-appearances, he has collected ten hits and seven walks, for a triple-slash line of .714/.810/.857. Yes, you read that correctly: an on-base percentage of .810. Which you will know, if you read our Statistics 1.0.1. piece on hitting numbers earlier in the week, is not just very good - it's twice what would be considered very good. Ok, it seems like every spring, there's someone whose pre-season numbers go off the chart. Chris Burke's .395 in 2008 is a poster-child for flattering to deceive, along with Matt Kata's .450 (!) in 2004. And it's only 21 PAs.
But going by Jack Magruder's piece on Roberts; Ryan seems particularly determined to make an impression - and has certainly done so, having already matched his entire 2010 spring tally of hits. Last year, he floundered his way off the roster with a .185 average, and Roberts was brutally honest about what went wrong for him.
"I thought I was going to be guaranteed a spot, and I kind of had a lackadaisical mindset and came in unprepared. And it smacked me right in the mouth. It ended up being a very tough year for me last year, very tough on my family and very tough on me... No matter what the case may be, never again will I not be fully prepared. Ever. That was a point in time in my life when I thought a little bit too highly of myself. Never again will that happen."
The problem is, will there be anywhere for him to play? Coming into spring training, as far as back-up middle infielders go, he was likely fourth, being Willie "Scrappy" Bloomquist, Geoff "Two-year" Blum and Tony "Out of Options" Abreu. Thus far, Bloomquist has done best, going 6-for-16, but both Blum (3-for-14) and, particularly, Abreu (4-for-21), have struggled - the trio have drawn exactly one walk between then, compared to Roberts' seven. Of course, it is perhaps the case that RR's playing time has been later in the game, with at-bats against Double-A pitching. But, if the competition for spots is honest, he has certainly parlayed his way into the conversation.
The other performance of note today was from Armando Galarraga, who threw three hitless innings, in his second Cactus League appearance. He struck out two, giving up a walk and hitting a batter. That was definitely an improvement over his first outing (two runs in two innings). Not so fortunate was Barry Enright, who allowed three hits in his three innings - two of which ended up leaving Salt River Fields. The home-run bug was a problem for him late last year, with 12 HR in his final 25.2 innings, but after two starts, he has allowed two runs in five innings, the same as Galarraga. "Hate giving up runs but a lot of positives today," he Tweeted afterward.
Pitching, generally, was sound, with the Diamondbacks restricting the Rangers to four hits and a walk, with clean innings from Micah Owings and Sam Demel, and a total of five strikeouts against the sole free pass. We outhit Texas 10-4, and should probably have done better off their wild starter Colby Lewis, who walked three in three innings, as well as giving up two doubles, two singles and two stolen-bases. We only scored - inevitably - two runs, and had Stephen Drew thrown out at the plate to end the first, though stole a trio of bases (Justin Upton was also caught stealing, in addition to his successful theft).
Drew drove in two runs, with a first-inning double and third-inning sacrifice fly, while Kelly Johnson and Upton each had a hit and a walk - Upton's thirteen total bases are the most by an Arizona hitter to date, though he has been caught stealing four times in five attempts. Juan Miranda got two walks, giving him seven for the season, which brings him into a tie with Roberts for the team lead - nobody else on the Diamondbacks yet has more than three bases on balls.It was another sellout game: worth comparing the attendance at D-backs and Cubs "home" games this season:
- Saturday, Feb. 26: AZ 12,514
- Sunday, Feb 27: CHC 6,892; AZ 10,342
- Monday, Feb 28: CHC 5,405; AZ 7,025
- Tuesday, Mar 1: Both on road
- Wednesday, Mar 2: AZ: 6,985
- Thursday, Mar 3: CHC 6,229
- Friday, Mar 4: AZ: 11,469
- Saturday, Mar 5: CHC, 10,446; AZ: 12,482
So, far the totals are: Arizona 60,817, with Chicago less than half as much, at 28.972, Even on a per-game basis, we are almost three thousand up: 10,136 to 7,243. When the two teams go "head-to-head", both playing at home on the same day, the D-backs have drawn an average of 2,369 more. All told, after the first week, "the engine that drives the Cactus League" seems to be a 1960's diesel i.e. it's having a lot of trouble getting started, and appears so far to have been replaced by a newer model.
In other news, pitching prospect Matt Gorgen will have Tommy John surgery and is going to miss the entire 2011 season as a result. Gorgen was the player named later in the trade of Chad Qualls to Tampa Bay - Nick Piecoro mentions that "Gorgen's twin brother, Scott, who pitches in the Cardinals org, had TJ in October." All the cool kids are doing it: Jarrod Parker, Clay Zavada, Brandon Webb... No, wait. Though Webb did visit the D-backs clubhouse this afternoon, as a Ranger, which must have been kinda weird for all concerned.