Record: 50-55. Change on last season: +17
A thought experiment for you. Here are the career statistics for two players - let's call them Pitcher A and Pitcher B, though I sincerely doubt this is fooling anyone. Which one would you want as your closer?
IP H BB SO ERA Pitcher A: 120.0 88 56 157 3.00 - 25 SVO, 20 saves Pitcher B: 69.1 63 55 78 5.45 - 17 SVO, 12 saves
Okay, maybe Pitcher B is better this season:
IP H BB SO ERA Pitcher A: 40.0 41 13 48 3.15 Pitcher B: 38.0 43 28 44 6.39
Oh, alright: more innings, fewer hits, half as many walks. Pitcher B must clearly be having a far superior month...
IP H BB SO ERA Pitcher A: 13.0 12 3 18 0.69 Pitcher B: 7.2 8 6 11 7.05
Ah. Pitcher A has, in fact, allowed just two earned runs over his past 23 innings. So, short-, medium- or long-term, Pitcher A clearly has produced the superior performances. So why the hell is Pitcher B closing games for the Diamondbacks?
Yes, in case it wasn't bleedin' obvious, Pitcher A is Jose Valverde, while Pitcher B is Brian Bruney. Yesterday, Bruney blew a hard-fought, ground-out 3-2 lead over the Cubs, with an embarrassing outing in which he faced five hitters and retired just one of them. The clouds started hovering after he lost a four-run lead last week, but we still won that game - today, there's no such excuse.
Our chances of winning the NL West are fragile at best, and Melvin's blind adoration of Bruney has got a very good chance of wrecking them. The Padres and Dodgers both lost again, and we should have been just one game behind San Diego. Instead, it's another wasted opportunity: Bruney should not be allowed to touch the ball with a lead smaller than five runs for the rest of the season, or until all playoff hope is gone.
Admittedly, that closers are over-valued is a tenet of my philosophy; but you still want to use your best pitcher when the game is on the line. Yesterday, the game was on the line in the ninth, and Bruney is currently far from our best pitcher. Maybe some day he will be, but two games back, we don't have the slack for his learning curve.
Said Bruney, "My mechanics were a little off... I let them down today, but tomorrow's a new game. Hopefully, the situation is the same and I can come in and I'll do better tomorrow." Pardon me if my hopes for today's game are somewhat different - such as an unfortunate incident involving Bruney, strangulation and the outfield ivy at Wrigley Field. Or as a viable alternative, to borrow a line from Fargo: "Is that your closer in the wood-chipper?" The possibilities are just endless...
This wasted a decent performance from Vazquez, who was rocky early on, but settled down nicely to allow only Blanco's two-run homer in the second, over seven innings. For a long time, it looked like that was going to be enough for the Cubs: through seven, we were 0-for-7 with RISP and only had Green's RBI groundout to show, as Prior was dominating our hitters
However, he tired in the eighth, putting runners on second and third. Gonzo was intentionally walked to load the bases, and it looked a good move, as Glaus was made to look like a rookie, going 0-2 down. But a fastball up in the zone was gratefully received, slapped into left field, and the deficit which looked unsurmountable was suddenly a lead.
Valverde used a double-play ball to get through the eighth, and then it was Bruney time. Two walks and two hits later, it was the Cubs who were celebrating, not us - though some blame must be shouldered by Glaus for not making a play on the winning run.
It's worth pointing out that Glaus is currently on pace for 26 errors, which would equal Tracy's franchise record from last year. Generally, his defense has been poor: among 21 qualifying ML third-basemen, he's 17th in F% and 19th in Zone Rating, though is a credible 3rd in Range Factor. I guess when you slug, you get a bit of a free pass, but he's only hitting .231 with 3 homers in July. And speaking of Glaus:
G-Force Homer Watch
[At-bats by the G-Force since their last home run]
- Collectively: 14 at-bats [since Gonzalez, 7th innings, 28th July]
- Troy Glaus: 44 [6th innings, 15th July]
- Shawn Green: 48 [6th innings, 15th July]
- Luis Gonzalez: 4 [7th innings, 28th July]
Another new record for comments yesterday: many thanks to Andrewinnewyork, Otacon and William K for their part in a wide-ranging discussion which covered everything from Joe Garagiola Jr. to Swedish mistresses...
It currently looks like Garagiola is indeed going to be leaving the D'backs to take up a job with MLB, and we'd like to wish him all the best. It's somewhat like seeing the last of the dinosaurs wander off into extinction, allowing the mammals to come out of their hiding places. I genuinely think we won the 2001 World Series despite, rather than because of, his management.
In the rumours department, Alan Embree cleared waivers, and we're supposedly interested, though recent reports say he's signed to the Yankees. Eddie Guardado is another proto-closer with whom we've been linked, while the East Valley Tribune indicates we've asked about Seattle leftie Ron Villone, but the price was too high. I suspect little will come of all this, personally
Not least because a large helping of bullpen help is now down in Tucson, rehabbing. Both Lyon and Villarreal appeared there on Thursday, throwing a perfect innings each, though it only took them a combined 21 pitches. They'll both probably throw again over the weekend. On the downside, Scott Hairston looks likely to need shoulder surgery after injuring himself trying to avoid a pitch. If all goes well, however, he should be back for spring training. If he hasn't been traded in the meantime.