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The Butterfly Effect and our bullpen

Watched a Japanese film, Premonition, last night. It's best described as a more thoughtful version of Final Destination with a college teacher struggling to come to terms with the visions he has, as well as how (or, indeed, whether) to warn the victims of their fate. Truth be told, it wasn't actually that good a movie, but it did get me thinking about the potential impact of small decisions in one's life: the Butterfly Effect, if you will.

This theory, in brief, says that small changes in initial values for complex systems can have large effects on the outcome: a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazonian rain-forest could set off a tornado in Texas. I'm not quite convinced by this, and tend to think reality is more fluid: things that tend to happen, will tend to happen. While it's nice, from an egocentric point of view, to believe our choice of croissant or Danish will decide the next Presidential election, its impact will likely be negligible: certainly less that which candidate spends most.

Put another way, if you toss a coin a million times, odds are it'll come up heads half a million of those - using a double-headed coin for a couple of tosses isn't going to make any significant difference. Sure, a butterfly flap might cause a tornado. But which butterfly? And which flap? Unless you can pinpoint this precisely, the knowledge is effectively useless.

Which brings me to our bullpen, and the various contenders therein - all, basically, a bunch of butterflies, out there flapping their wings in spring training, hoping to cause a tornado and get themselves noticed. However, I have a nasty feeling that with a couple of obvious exceptions (on either end), you could probably throw any seven of the contenders out there, and the results would end up around the same level of suckiness. I'm thinking somewhere below league average, yet not as bad as 2005's version.

So, pardon me if I fail to get particularly excited about the arrival of the new, improve Mike Koplove. Says Koplove, "I made a point during the offseason to focus on my offspeed stuff this winter. That's the main thing that I worked on. There were little mechanical things that I did, changing my grips on my changeup and breaking ball, but more than anything else, I knew I just had to get things back to where they were." AZ Snakepit pauses momentarily, then turns the virtual page.

For we have several days' worth of games to catch up on. Back on Tuesday, we lost 5-4 to the Mariners, in a game shortened slightly by rain. We had nine hits, with Barden the only D'back to get two: however, Gonzalez, Quentin and Gil all homered. Halsey had another ineffective outing, allowing seven hits, five earned runs and two walks without a K in five innings. Bajenaru allowed one hit in the seventh, and Valverde pitched a perfect eighth.

Following a couple of contests where the offense seemed to have been otherwise engaged, normal service was resumed yesterday, with an 11-7 win over Oakland. Fourteen hits, including a pair of solo shots off Loaiza (see yesterday for my opinion on his contract), while Counsell had two hits and his first three RBIs of spring, and Terrero two hits and two RBIs. Byrnes also has two hits.

On the mound, Batista made his first start since returning from WBC duty, and looked a bit rusty: he gave up six hits and three runs in three innings, but did not walk a batter. After Grimsley, Aquino worked two hitless frames, but Goocher and Koplove were each touched for two earned runs, and the A's had the tying run at the plate before White got the last out, a bases-loaded K.

Since I'm here, the first part of today's double-header has already taken place, with Arizona going down quietly, 9-2 to the Rockies. Only six hits, and two of those were to our pitchers, with Bajenaru getting the only extra-base knock, a double. I am somewhat confused by the current MLB report, which says, "Valverde impressive; Counsell drives in a run", because this is radically at odds with the box-score. That has Counsell 0-for-2 with no RBIs, and Valverde allowing two earned runs on three hits and a walk in his innings. Perhaps the usually-reliable Steve Gilbert was watching an alternate universe game. [But wait! It looks like Gilbert was right and the box-score wrong. See the comments for an updated version, and treat the following paragraph with appropriate caution...]

Going with the box-score, a good performance from Vargas could have cemented his position as #5, but we didn't get it. He gave up seven hits over his four innings, which led to four earned runs, though he did strike out six Rockies. Bajenaru, Valverde and Choate followed, though none managed to keep the Rockies off the board, until Glant [who?] pitched a scoreless ninth.

A couple of other sites have written pieces about the D'backs lately. The Hardball Times has Five Questions for the Arizona Diamondbacks. And, as with yesterday, my answers are, respectively: pretty, probably not, I doubt much this year, slightly better, and definitely in 2007. Interestingly, the article expects to see Drew in July this year, and both Quentin and Young in August. Not quite sure where all of these are going to play, mind you.

And over at the Baseball Think Factory, they are looking forward to the Diamondbacks season - though you have to get past the biography of King Charles II first. The ZIPS projections are particularly gloomy on the pitching side: of 22 pitchers listed, only Medders is given more wins than losses, with even Webb slated to go 11-12, and a 4.12 ERA. That seems pessimistic to me: I think he'll be fine. No, the rest of the rotation is largely where the 90-odd losses will come from...