Record: 39-39. Change on last season: +11
It's probably true to say that the scoreline here doesn't fairly reflect the game - up until the ninth innings, there was never more than two runs in it. Though Jason Schmidt's record against Arizona in his last 12 starts is now 8-0, we did at least get to him (relatively speaking), with four two-out hits in the third innings, that turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead.
However, Halsey gave the runs right back up in the top of the fourth, including an RBI to Matheny - with two bases open and Schmidt on deck. Said Melvin, "I take full responsibility for that. The strategy was to throw a ball away, off the plate, and if you see where Snyder set up, it wasn't even close to the plate, but Halsey just pulled it a little bit." Of course, that failure to execute is Melvin's fault...
Counsell should have tied the game back up in the bottom of the innings, but his grounder hit Snyder between first and second, making the third out. Of course, you could argue Snyder shouldn't have been there at all, if Halsey had got down his bunt attempts in the previous at-bat. Terrero struck out with the bases loaded in the fifth, and that was the end of our offensive threat - we headed off to see Howl's Moving Castle at Arizona Mills, so were saved the later disasters.
Counsell also hit his fourth homer in less than four June weeks in that third innings - that matches his season high before this year. Perhaps Daniel's snarky note last night about "steroids" has some truth in it! :-) [Thanks also to frienetic, Devin and William K for their welcome input] Though I think I'd rather have the old Counsell back: despite the power surge and two multi-hit games in a row, his OBP for the month is only .296. In both April and May, it was over .400.
Halsey went 5.1 innings, allowing four earned runs on eight hits and a walk - comparable with Schmidt's line (6 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 3 ER). It was clear the SF pitcher didn't have his A-game, but it was enough to keep this close. After Cormier and Valverde kept things tight through innings 6-8, however, our bullpen had a disastrous ninth, facing twelve Giants hitters.
First, Bruney faced three hitters and didn't get any of them out. Then Lopez allowed a hit to the only man he faced. Finally, Medders came in allowed all both inherited runners to score, as well as two more of his own. All of which gives the lie to Joe Jr's upbeat comments in the Banana yesterday, under the headline: "D-Backs pen is better than stats say it is".
Says Joe, "Baseball is great for instant labels. Always has been and probably always will be. So I think to a large extent right now, the popular wisdom is our bullpen is a disaster. And our guys could put up zeros for the next three weeks and you will still read that the bullpen is a disaster." Or, more likely, a six-spot in the the ninth, eh, Joe? The main thrust is that the stats include players no longer with the club - Herges, Ligtenberg, Choate, Gonzalez. However, it says the average NL bullpen has a 4.50 ERA; with that in mind, here are the ERAs of our current residents:
- Cormier: 2.98
- Valverde: 4.50
- Koplove: 5.24
- Medders: 5.40
- Bruney: 6.23
- Aquino: 12.71
While ERA isn't the best assessment of a relief pitcher, in this case it seems to provide a fairly-accurate view. Apart from Cormier, only Valverde could even be described as "average", and at the moment, we basically have one good pitcher, one average one, and four of questionable (or in Medders and Aquino's cases, unproven) value.
While there's no denying our bullpen is a major weakness, there's no need to panic and run screaming into a trade. Lyon is up to 120 feet, and could throw a bullpen session by the end of the week. Villarreal, too, might be back not too long after the All-Star break, despite his kidney stone problems. And at least Joe seems aware of the cost, and is loathe to trade the likes of Jackson + Quentin: "Would it be extremely difficult to put some of them in deals? Absolutely it would, because with the one eye we have on the future, [we] can see a future that looks pretty good."
Two hits for Counsell, but the shining star was Chad Tracy, who followed up Sunday's three-hit game with four more last night, and is having a blistering June, hitting .431 (28-for-65). Among all major-leaguers with 50 or more PA's this month, that's the second=best average [behind only Adam Kennedy's .455] - ahead of Derrek Lee, Guerrero and Pujols. Chad also has six walks, which is more than April and May combined.
To put the Tracy/Clark platoon in context, here's the production from various 1B around the majors:
BA HR RBI Derrek Lee, Chc .384 23 65 Albert Pujols, StL .340 20 64 Clark/Tracy, Ari .324 20 76 Carlos Delgado, Fla .312 15 56 Mark Teixeira, Tex .287 20 58 Todd Helton, Col .263 6 31 and, amusingly enough: Richie Sexson, Sea .241 17 57
Of course, Clark/Tracy have had more at bats in tandem [thanks to interleague play, Tracy's stint in right, and PH appearances], but this pairing has probably been the biggest + best surprise of the season to date for Arizona. The problem is, what do we do with them as the trading deadline approaches?
If we're going to deal anyone on the club for bullpen help, I'd like to see it be Clark: he was only a one-year rental, and his value is unlikely ever to be higher than it is now. If Tracy goes, then we should be looking for something significant in return, that will help us in 2006 or beyond: either a good center-fielder (Cleveland's Grady Sizemore would be nice) or a starting pitcher.
Speaking of CF, Luis Terrero came back up from Tucson, having been finally pronounced fit for duty - as expected, Scott Hairston was sent back to Tucson. Did anyone notice he was here? In the three weeks since coming up on June 8th, Hairston made one start, got twelve plate-appearances and had no hits or walks. It's certainly better for him to be playing regularly down in AAA, but it would appear he doesn't have much of a future with AZ.