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AZ 8, Braves 13 - The Madness of King Gonzo

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Record: 56-63. change on last year: +20

In a comment on yesterday's blog, icecoldmo expanded on previous comments about the shortcomings of D'backs advance scouting, and he could really have wished for no better example than Sunday. Though perhaps this was more like insanity, once defined - either by Einstein or Franklin - as, "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

To wit, a sane person would look at Saturday's game, and learn from Francouer throwing out our best base-runner at home plate. "Hmm, better not try that again," one might mentally note. Not, however, Luis Gonzalez. In the very first inning, Gonzo tried to score from second on a single by Clark to Francouer. The result? Oh, look: he's been thrown out. Well, personal experience is the best tutor - he won't try that again.

Except, he did. In the fifth, with Gonzo again on second, Green singled to right field - with the inevitability of the sun rising in the East, Gonzo rounded third, and headed for home - once more to be warmly greeted, by both catcher and ball. But we can't just blame Gonzalez: I think it is about time third-base coach Carlos Tosca was relieved of his duties, since he's clearly not performing them adequately. A scarecrow positioned near the bag with its arms fixed in the 'STOP!' position, would be a preferable option.

I actually wrote the above paragraph before andrewinnewyork suggested virtually the same thing (without the scarecrow, admittedly) in his thought's on yesterday's game - thanks also to Devin for his input . However, I do feel that a veteran like Gonzo should bear some responsibility, as a quick glance over his shoulder would have shown Francouer locked and loaded. I seem to recall similar problems last year with Eddie 'The Windmill' Rodriguez as third-base coach. Maybe it's that hot, Latin temperament. :-)

My predicted line-up was almost wholly incorrect - though given the result, I can only wonder if mine might perhaps have done a little better. Jackson didn't even get to pinch-hit, because he was hit in the eye when a ball ricocheted off the indoor cage into his face. Batting practice doesn't seem to agree with Jackson: as you may recall, he was also hit on the head while chatting on his cellphone down in Tucson, earlier in the year.

Instead, Clark got the start at first, while Terrero was back in center field (and managed to survive the entire game without causing any embarrassment). Stinnett caught, and went 2-for-5, though Snyder did have a pinch-hit two-run homer in the ninth. That, however, merely made the final scoreline look respectable. Normally, eight runs would give you a credible shot at winning a game - but not when your starter gives up seven runs in the third innings, without recording an out.

And will Grace and Brennaman please stop calling Vazquez our "ace", because with an ERA of 4.85, he clearly isn't, no matter what his salary implies. Indeed, here are the stats for our starters this season:

Player   ERA    IP   H  R ER HR BB   K WHIP BAVG
Gosling 3.33  24.1  27 13  9  2 13  11 1.64 .276
Vargas  3.38  69.1  58 28 26  9 19  56 1.11 .223
Webb    3.78 164.1 167 76 69 15 45 122 1.29 .268
Halsey  3.94 132.1 155 74 58 12 31  70 1.41 .296
Estes   4.56 104.2 110 57 53 13 35  56 1.39 .276
Vazquez 4.85 159.2 172 91 86 25 33 142 1.28 .275
Ortiz   6.00  84.0 103 59 56 14 43  36 1.74 .301

With his WHIP, Vazquez likely deserves a better ERA (the NL average is 1.38) - and he's also ranked 48th of 53 in BABIP, a stat which is regarded as measuring how "unlucky" a pitcher has been. But he's now third in the league for home-runs allowed, and even his much-vaunted control isn't all that superior any more [BB/9 = 1.86 for Vazquez, 2.11 for Halsey, 2.46 for Webb] On the other hand, Halsey's .296 average would seem a warning sign, but his BABIP is worse even than Vazquez, so I'm not too concerned. Vargas, however, looks like the real deal so far.

We then turned to new mop-up man, former closer Brian Bruney, who demonstrated he has an equal affinity for long relief as for save situations - very little. He threw 52 pitches, 20% more than he'd ever done in his career previously, and had obviously run out of gas in his second innings of work. He allowed two earned runs there without a hit, on two plunked batters and three walks, the last two of which came with the bases loaded. Cormier, Worrell and Valverde tidied up, but with an 11-3 deficit by the time Bruney left...

Hampton wasn't exactly outstanding, but was good enough to get the win, though overall, we outhit the Braves, 15-13. Clayton and Gonzalez had three hits (though Gonzo also made his second error of the season), with Green and Stinnett adding a pair each - the latter had a homer, as did Glaus and, as mentioned, Snyder. I really can't knock the offense too badly for their performance this series: 21 runs in three games is solid. Heroes + Villains will follow tomorrow, however.

On the plus side, the Padres lost. I'm fairly pleased to have got through the first half of the road-trip, and not lost any ground on San Diego, as we've both gone 2-4 over the past six games. If we can hang on over the next set - us in St. Louis, them in Florida - then the schedule will start to favour us for a bit, though facing the Phillies is no longer looking as easy as it was.

Pleased to report Baby Backs: TNG is back in action, so I can cease my poverty-row efforts to report on how the Sidewinders are doing. And with an off-day today, as we travel to St. Louis, this week's poll (right) is with respect to Javier Vazquez. Should we try and keep him, or trade him - probably to an East coast. If it's the latter, any thoughts on what we should be looking for in exchange?

And don't look now, but Kansas City have dropped 15 straight, and are currently on pace to lose 109 games - at this rate, they might end up surpassing the 2004 Diamondbacks in the futility stakes.