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Gameday Thread, #97: 7/20 vs. Marlins

Moehler (5-6, 3.43)
Webb (8-6, 3.64)

This is really not proving a good week for watching baseball. Monday, I was working; Tuesday, I was at wrestling; and tonight is our wedding anniversary, so I doubt there's a game on the horizon either. [While Chris likes baseball, I think if I suggested we order pizza and watch the rubber match between two sub-.500 teams, I might be sleeping on the couch tonight. :-)] And then tomorrow - when I could watch the game - the D'backs aren't playing.

Tonight sees two pitchers apparently going in opposite directions: Moehler has won his last three starts, Webb hasn't tasted victory since June 23, and has been giving up hits at a disturbing rate: 34 in 27 innings, plus 8 walks. At only five innings, his last start tied for shortest of the season (just the third time in 19 he hasn't gone six or more), and had the second-lowest game score of the year, beaten only by a 12-hit outing back in April.

That's the problem with our rotation: consistency. We don't have a "proper" #1, in the sense that there's no guy who strikes anything approaching terror into the hearts and minds of opposing hitters. As starters, here's the stats so far

  • Brandon Webb: 3.64 ERA, 8-6
  • Brad Halsey: 4.10 ERA, 6-7
  • Javier Vazquez: 4.50 ERA, 8-9
  • Shawn Estes: 4.56 ERA, 6-7
  • Claudio Vargas: 4.89 ERA, 3-2
  • Russ Ortiz: 5.88 ERA, 4-6
  • [plus Mike Gosling: 1.80 ERA, 0-0 in two starts]

Here we are, 96 starts into the season, and no-one has won more than eight games. To put the stats into context, our pitcher with the lowest ERA isn't even in the top 20 in the National League - but we have four in the top 40 [Webb #21, Halsey #28, Vazquez #36, Estes #38]. Every starter is within two games either way of a .500 record. We're just so mediocre.

True, there isn't the same sense of dread we had last year once you got past Johnson and Webb - but neither is there any sense of optimism. Will our starter pitch well? We just don't know. Vazquez was anticipated as the #1, but has been far too unreliable. Here's how his 20 starts have broken down this year:
0-1 earned runs: four times
2-3 earned runs: seven
4-5 earned runs: five
6+ earned runs: four

When your "ace" is as likely to allow six or more runs, as he is less than two, that's a problem. In contrast, the Big Unit had one game where he allowed more than five earned in his final fifty-eight starts for Arizona, all the way from August 2002 through the end of the 2004 season. That's an ace. Admittedly, he's a once in a generation pitcher, and we were no doubt spoiled by having him, but that's what we need.

I'd pit our rotation against the #2-5 of any other team in the league, and venture to suggest we have a good chance. However, there's a yawning chasm at the top of the rotation, and so far, neither Vazquez nor Webb have shown they can fill it regularly. Come the playoffs, you will be facing these kind of pitchers, and need someone capable of matching them. This is perhaps the shortcoming in most need of addressing, rather than a closer, retread bullpen help, or a center-fielder. But I digress. ;-)

Back at tonight's game, Green and McCracken are both hitting over .300 off Moehler, with 23 + 15 at-bats respectively, so don't be surprised to see Q starting in CF. Perhaps a little surprisingly, among the Marlins, only Paul LoDuca has more than six at-bats against Webb, mostly from back in his Dodger days. And a belated shout-out to Fish Stripes, the Marlins blog. They had an interview with Baxter: whoever thought the fleabitten furbag could be so verbose?

At the risk of stating the bleedin' obvious, imagine the roof will be closed at BOB; this heatwave is getting too much, even for someone like me, in their fifth summer here. Thunder, lightning, storms: but where's the rain? Damned if I've seen any so far. If it's going to monsoon, can it please make up its mind and frickin' start? Because at least then we'll know the tipover point from "Why do we live here?" to "Why does anyone live anywhere else?" is looming just over the horizon...