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AZ 8, White Sox 1 - Puzzling Evidence

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Record: 34-31. Change on last season: +8

Just when you think you've got this team pegged. Just when you know the season is spiralling down the plughole, holed beneath the waterline by the torpedo which is our bullpen without a cause. [Mix those metaphors!] Just when all hope is about to fade. What happens? We go into the home of the team with the best record in baseball, and give them an 8-1 drubbing, that's all. Devin put it best, in last night's comments: "I think I can say that I am now officially confused by this team."

Of course, you know what the equation was here:
Complete game + four homers - bullpen = D'backs win
Now, all we need is for every starter to go nine innings for the remaining 100-odd games, and the G-Force each to hit a home run every time. Then we should be sorted.

Estes was on top form, pitching his first full complete game since September 24th, 2003 (he had a rain-shortened one in the interim), scattering eight hits with five K's. And he apparently did it while feeling queasy - whether it was something he ate, or fear of him getting yanked and our relievers blowing a seven-run lead is not clear. Though according to Chris Snyder, "I couldn't tell. I think he just might have told you guys that so the complete game looked that much better."

Perhaps the key stat, however, was no walks. This was, rightly, an area of much concern before the season. But it's turned out to be a pleasant surprise. From being the worst in the league for walks in 2004, we're now right back in the middle of the pack - and we'd be higher, if it weren't for our bullpen.

Overall, our starters have allowed 120 walks in 406.2 innings, that's 2.65/nine, fourth fewest in the NL. Given Webb, Ortiz and Estes were the 1-2-3 in the NL for free passes last year, that's mighty impressive. Here's the walks per nine innings for our rotation, this year and last:

          2004   2005
Vazquez   2.73   1.18
Webb      5.15   2.73
Ortiz     4.93   5.08
Estes     4.68   2.98
Halsey     N/A   1.61

Webb and Estes have become about as accurate as Vazquez was last year; Vazquez has become phenomenal; and Halsey has also shown excellent control. Ortiz is the only one not to have shown a marked improvement in this area - but when 4/5 of your rotation is better than average (3.38/nine in the NL last year), that's okay. On the other hand, only the Rockies' and Cubs' bullpens have allowed more walks than ours this year - and hitters aren't batting .298 against their relievers.

The worst thing about our bullpen sucking is the fear that we're going to slap a BandAid on it, trading away one of our delightful prospects for a slightly-less poor reliever. Rumours to this effect have already started: how about Quentin, Nippert, and Bruney/Valverde/Lopez to Toronto for Scott Schowenweis and Miguel Batista? The Tribune reports, "Garagiola seemed to indicate that he will at least entertain the idea of moving a young player. 'I'm never going to apply the `untouchable' label to a player,' Garagiola said." Oh, dear...

On the hitting front, we jumped all over Contreras early, with six runs in the second to give us a 7-0 lead - Snyder, Gonzalez and Glaus all hit home runs in that second. Green added one later, to celebrate being named NL Player of the Week (thanks to Otacon, who pointed that out), for batting 12-for-29, with three homers, 12 RBI, and nine runs scored. Congrats to Green, and also Cintron and Clark, who also received honorary mentions; our bullpen was not present at the ceremony...

Three hits for Chad Tracy, two for Glaus and Snyder. In the past ten games, Tracy is 11-for-24, and raising his average by 24 points to .290. There seems to have been a change in his approach at the plat - he even had two walks in one game against Kansas City, matching his total for the entire month of April. Perhaps Clark's hotness is rubbing off, but it's nice to have the DH this series and be able to get both into the lineup.

Cintron remains "day-to-day" with the wrist injury. Going by previous experience (Lyon, Cruz, Terrero), expect the season-ending surgery to be announced later in the week. That leaves our bench very thin right now: we're carrying twelve pitchers, and with the DH in use, need nine players for the lineup. Cross Cintron off, and we have just three left on the bench.

Finally, we're gradually signing various players from last week's draft:

  • Greg Smith (6th round), LHP, Louisiana State;
  • Cody Evans (10th round), RHP, Long Beach State;
  • Rusty Ryal (14th round), 3B, Oklahoma State;
  • Jake Elder (18th round), C, Minnesota;
  • Travis Tully (23rd round), OF, Houston;
  • Vince Bongiovanni (24th round), RHP, Miami;
  • Matt Fowles (27th round), RHP, Illinois State;
  • Aaron Gamboa (48th round), LHP, Mill Valley, Calif.
Terms have been agree with two top-five picks, but as yet, we haven't even talked to #1 pick, Justin Upton. Discussions with him are likely to begin after he graduates from high school on Thursday. Personally, after the long, drawn-out affair that was Stephen Drew, I want to get Upton signed ASAP.