Record: 73-84. Change on last season: +25
That's how Baseball Prospectus rates our playoff chances this morning. We did our part last night, Webb, Worrell and Valverde combining on a two-hitter, but the Padres' win over the Giants reduced our Black Magic Number to one. It simplifies the equation wonderfully: if we lose any games the rest of the way, or the Padres win any, it's over.
But, hey, what about Brandon Webb? Two hits in seven innings - both off the bat of Choi, both instantly erased by double-plays. Webb ends the season having posted a 2.60 ERA over his final ten starts: I think 20 wins is quite plausible for 2006. In two appearances against the Dodger this year, over 14.2 innings, he allowed two earned runs, walked one and K'd 18. Last night, not a single Dodger reached scoring position all night: Webb faced one batter over the minimum, then Worrell and Valverde were perfect the rest of the way.
Not that we were exactly knocking the cover off Weaver, managing five hits in his eight innings, and only two through the first six. In the seventh, we had Terrero - pinch-running for Clark - on third with one out, but after Glaus walked, Clayton fanned and Snyder lined out to end it, making us 0-for-6 with RISP at that point.
However, Webb got all the run support he need after leaving the game: Brandon had been yanked for a pinch hitter to lead off the plate (McCracken, who flied out, natch), but with two outs, Gonzo doubled. Chad Tracy then came to the plate and, in an incident which will doubtless be the subject of much second-guessing, Dodgers' manager Jim Tracy opted to pitch to his namesake, rather than Luis Terrero.
Weaver went to 2-2, then, according to Tracy, "It was a little cutter, up and out over the plate. With two strikes, I was just trying to get the barrel on it. Good things happen when you do that." "Good things" in this case being the 25th home run of Tracy's year, and the third game in a row he has delivered the game-winning RBI - shame that particular stat was officially "retired" in 1988. For what it's worth though, Kirk Gibson had five in a row for Detroit in 1986.
Here's a startling fact: Tracy's OPS for the year is now at .905, which is exactly the same as Troy Glaus. For next year, the prospect of an outfield comprised of Tracy, Green and Carlos Quentin is an exciting one - offensively and defensively. Though defense is not supposed to be exciting, and I'd prefer reliable, safe and secure any day - Luis Terrero is an "exciting" center fielder to watch, for example. But I digress.
The prospect of Tracy, Green and Gonzalez is much less exciting, but I think that's probably how we'll start the season. Though it's perhaps no bad thing that Tracy had to be moved this year because of the stunning performance of Clark. If Clark had been his mediocre self, as expected by most (including me), Tracy would have been the one blocking Conor Jackson, and we'd likely still be enduring Jose Cruz in center field. Instead, we've got what was probably an inevitable move started early, in a year that was expected to be one of transition anyway.
Whatever Tracy's current limitations with the glove - and I think he will inevitably get better - they're clearly not affecting his hitting. In 48 games between left- and right-field, he's batting .326 with 26 RBIs and 11 homers. Overall, he's above .300 with 25 homers: as previously noted, that's a rarity. 30 qualifying major leaguers are hitting .300 this year; 40 have 25 homers; only eleven have done both. How good a season is he having? Tracy is three batting-average points behind a superstar like Miguel Tejada, with one less homer in 150 fewer at-bats.
Indeed, pre-season comparisons to Mark Grace - whose career-high was 17 homers - would now seem pessimistic. About the only knock on Tracy is his plate patience: he walks less often than anyone else for Arizona than Alex 'Hacktastic' Cintron. And if he keeps hitting like he has been, pitchers are going to be less and less inclined to offer up anything in the zone, so he'll have to learn to take pitches. But he is improving there too: after just five walks in 191 plate-appearances before June 10, he's had seven in 85 this months.
In case it's not obvious, on no account should Tracy be traded. I like to think the D'backs front office wouldn't be so stupid, but first-base has not exactly been a strength for Arizona when it comes to handling prospects. This goes all the way back to the days of Travis Lee, through Lyle Overbay, and on to the current question of what to do with Conor Jackson. Given this track-record, you can understand why I'm nervous.
Particular thanks to William K, who was the lone watchman of the D'backs flame last night, keeping us informed until icecoldmo chipped in at the end. Entirely agree with the latter about Die Hard, which is possibly the greatest action movie of all time, along with Aliens. And Die Hard seems entirely appropriate given the D'backs stubborn refusal to let the 2005 season go. As John McClane said: "Just a fly in the ointment, Hans. The monkey in the wrench. The pain in the ass." Given we're 26-24 against the Dodgers, Giants and Padres this year, I think we've played the pesky spoiler role quite well.