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AZ 6, Braves 5 - A Pinch of Snuff

Record: 48-50. Change on last season: +17

Some wins leave you happy, content with your team's performance. And then there is last night's, which have all the comfort factor of a snuff movie. Er, does anyone know what those are any more, or have I just irreperably marked myself as a teenager of the 80's? If so, this link may help: "The game-film that could only be made in Arizona - where relievers are cheap..."

For the longer this went on, the worse it got, as Otacon pithily observed in the comments. It's one thing for your closer to blow a save now and again; it's another for him to blow a save when it isn't even a frickin' save situation. Yes, Bruney comes in, with a four-run lead...and exits, one out later, with a tie game. That Cintron salvaged things with a walk-off homer in the tenth is like discovering wolves only gnawed off three of your limbs.

Afterwards, Melvin gave his closer the much-feared vote of confidence, despite the presence of Tim Worrell, now lurking in the wings: "That is his first tough outing he has had in a while." That's because we've only had two save opportunities in the past four weeks, Bob. "Bruney has been great. If you look at the numbers of closers around the league and how many chances they have had and Bruney is right there." Hmmm...three blown saves in 13 opportunities?

Okay, I'll bite. Nineteen pitchers in the NL have ten or more save opportunites. Here's the ranking, by percentage made, with ERA as a tiebreaker:

                    Sv SvO  Sv%  ERA
T. Hoffman       SD 27  29 93.1 3.18
B. Lyon         ARI 13  14 92.9 1.96
R. Dempster     CHC 13  14 92.9 4.13
C. Cordero      WAS 33  36 91.7 1.07
D. Turnbow      MIL 20  22 90.9 2.18
B. Wagner       PHI 20  22 90.9 2.18
J. Isringhausen STL 27  30 90.0 1.83
T. Jones        FLA 15  17 88.2 1.52
B. Lidge        HOU 22  25 88.0 2.70
J. Mesa         PIT 22  25 88.0 4.29
B. Looper       NYM 21  25 84.0 3.13
D. Graves       NYM 10  12 83.3 7.58
B. Fuentes      COL 14  17 82.4 3.00
Y. Brazoban     LAD 18  22 81.8 5.72
T. Walker        SF 15  19 78.9 4.32
D. Kolb         ATL 11  14 78.9 5.17
U. Urbina       PHI 10  13 76.9 3.52
B. Bruney       ARI 10  13 76.9 6.31 ****
C. Reitsma      ATL 10  14 71.4 3.43

Oh, dear. If we "look at the numbers of closers around the league and how many chances they have had", Bruney is indeed right there. Right there, second from the bottom, by save percentage or ERA. Now, I know a manager has to go to bat for his team, but please try not to come out with stuff which is easily callable as pure BS, Bob.

I think he's perhaps covering himself, having got ejected while defending pitching coach Mark Davis, who got tossed for yelling, "How many strikes do you want [Bruney] to throw?" at home-plate umpire, Jim Wolf. After Melvin was thrown out - for the second time by Wolf, for exactly the same reason (see also August 23, 2003) - he went over and outlined the corners of home plate with his feet to make his point abundantly clear.

And yet, for the first seven innings, this was among the best we've played all season, bringing the team with the 2nd-best record in the league and outplaying them. Three hits for Clayton, now 15-for-26 since the break, and good to see Gonzo break out of his slump, with three hits and a stolen base. We didn't get Vargas a W, but that's no surprise: only twice in the last fourteen games has our starter won. Over the past month, the team leader in wins, with three, is Lance Cormier...

But I am beginning to think that Vargas might actually be an answer. One run on seven hits and a walk in seven-plus innings? We'll take that. Since moving into the AZ rotation, he's posted a 3.41 ERA in six outings; over the past three (20.1 innings), all quality starts, it's 2.21. "Thank God I am here now and these guys have confidence in me," he says. "I think I am the best I have been on the mound right now since my rookie year. I have the confidence back." No kidding, Claudio. ;-)

A surprising move to make room in the bullpen for Worrell, with our sole lefty, Almanza, being outrighted - he can either report to AAA, or declare himself a free agent. Admittedly, our LOOGYs have sucked this year - before Almanza, both Choate and Lopez had been extremely hittable - but this does leave us with a gap according to the writ of standard baseball knowledge.

However, I can see Melvin's point, when he says, "Quality arms are more important than whether he throws right, left or ambidextrous." For interest, here are the current bullpen inhabitants, in order of batting average vs. left-handers (small sample size warning definitely applies: Medders has only 13 ABs to work off):

  1. Medders, .231
  2. Valverde, .241
  3. Koplove, .250
  4. Bruney, .269
  5. Cormier, .276
  6. Worrell, .353
  7. Aquino, .400