As the Banana helpfully points out, rain has stayed away from Phoenix longer than baseball has - the drought has now hit 135 days. [While there were some spots on our windshield Tuesday night, I guess they didn't make it to the official gauge at Sky Harbor Airport] But regardless, the Diamondbacks are back in action today, with their first spring training game, against the White Sox. The (tentatively) scheduled lineup:
- Byrnes, CF
- Hudson, 2B
- Tracy, 3B
- Gonzalez, LF
- Clark, DH
- Green, RF,
- Jackson, 1B
- Estrada, C
- Drew, SS
Batista is the starting pitcher. Otherwise, though, this looks very close to the anticipated Opening Day lineup (obviously with no Clark, 5-8 would move up a spot): the main questionmark would be at shortstop, where Counsell's MRI revealed a slight labrum tear that will sideline him for about ten days. At this moment, surgery is not anticipated, with a cortisone shot, rest and building up the muscles around the injury hopefully being enough to hold it together for the season.
For some reason, I am not overly optimistic about this as a scenario. I'm now happy to bet anyone that Counsell will have a DL stint this season. Anyway, with obvious backup Alex Cintron now off to play for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, Drew is getting the start at shortstop. Others on the roster that might see some playing time include Easley, Gil, Upton, Andy Green and newbie Callaspo.
The news of Counsell's departure has sparked some debate in the comments over the lineup Melvin will use through the season. I mentioned this there yesterday, but I think it's worthy of a further plug here. This Lineup Analysis tool, takes nine players, and the stats you specify, and produces the most "efficient" use of them. Tossing my expected values for the upcoming season into it, we get the following "most efficient" lineup:
- Counsell (or Drew)
Beyond the Box Score, which helped come up with the tool, have now published this article, which explains what the most useful attributes for each position appear to be. Somehow, though, I doubt we'll see the pitcher batting anywhere but #9, "inefficient" though that might be.
However, Melvin does appear to have become somewhat more open to sabermetrics, saying: "The numbers show that if you stack your best hitters, that's how you score the most runs in bunches." And while Estrada at #3 might be a bit of a stretch, Melvin is condering him in the #2 spot. However, it still looks like Gonzo will be batting clean-up: this is wrong on almost every conceivable level, and I suspect will no longer be the case by the All-Star break.
And with that, it's off to KTAR to listen to the first game of the season. I'll be around this afternoon, so if anyone feels like joining me, I'll be in the comments section. Play ball!