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Watching the scoreboards

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Ah. An off-day. Must be something of a pleasure for the players, especially as it comes between two home series, so they don't have to travel anywhere. It's nice for us fans too, as we can engage in scoreboard watching without pangs of guilt. Looking pretty good for Arizona as I write this: the Mets just put a four-spot on the Padres in the seventh, and are leading 7-3 in the eighth, while the Reds are also down four to St. Louis, in the seventh.

If those two results hold up, we just need the Dodgers to lose tonight, and we'll be back (tied) in first atop the NL West. That's despite our players having done nothing more energetic than pop into Leslie's Pool Supplies (LuGon), lecture kids on the evils of tobacco (Green) or jab pins into a Stephen Drew-shaped voodoo doll (Counsell). Of course, Eric Byrnes is probably skateboarding blindfold down Piestewa Peak, but that's Byrnesie...

Padres just lost, so cross that one off the list. El Manati Peque?o got the win there, pitching seven innings of four-hit ball. Here's a thought: it'd be kinda cool if we reached the playoffs, and ended up with a Livan vs. Orlando matchup in Game 3. It's quite possible, as I imagine Hernandez v1.0 would be behind Martinez and Glavine for the Mets, while v2.0 could follow Webb and Batista for AZ. Just a shame that Game 1 - Webb vs. Martinez - would be in Shea Stadium, as I'd love to see that one.

I guess we'd need to win the wild-card for that to happen, unless something drastic happens to the Mets over the last 50 games. At time of writing, there is now a three-way tie for the NL West lead, with the Padres, D'backs and Dodgers all having a 58-56 record. Even before the San Diego loss, Baseball Prospectus has the Dodgers favourites to win the division, at 36%; despite having the same record, we're given less than half that chance, which seems a bit unfair. I guess their run differential so far is an edge, but as we know, past results are no guarantee of future performance.

[Pause to add fangraph to yesterday's game] Very interesting article over at Prospectus discussing our two CF prospects, Upton and Young. Regarding the latter, their report is quite glowing, and is summarised by the last sentence: "He should be handed the Arizona center field job in spring training and has strong Rookie of the Year chances." Difficult to argue with that, much though I enjoy watching Byrnes play. However, their report on Upton is more troubling, and warrants quoting in greater detail:

Upton's season has been marred by an inability to sustain any kind of hot streak, as he's yet to hit over .286 or total more than three home runs in any single month... Upton's raw tools remain among the best in baseball, but scouts who have seen him play this year have described his style of play as flat and uninspired. With so many center fielders having outstanding seasons, it's hard to see him as one of the top three or four prospects in the game, as after nearly 100 pro games, his reputation is only worth so much when compared to his performance.

He is, however, still very, very young, and if it takes him a couple of years before he hits his stride, I don't think anyone will mind too much. Reds went down, so we gain half a game on them, putting us one-half back for the wild-card spot. [And there ends my scoreboard watching till the Dodgers start tonight!] That's an amazing race: there are currently ten teams within six games of Cincinnati, who can say, legitimately, that they have a shot at a playoff spot. Of course, it helps when you could also win your division, unlike Philadelphia, whose only realistic hope is the Wild Card.

Our division, on the other hand, is still up for grabs. Eight major league teams are within four or less games of the division lead - half of them are in the NL West. We've already seen how things can turn around quickly; here's a quick look at each teams major winning and losing streaks of the year so far (min. 10 games):

              Best        Worst
Arizona       10-2 (x2)   2-17
Colorado      9-3,        1-11, 2-10
Los Angeles   11-0, 16-4  1-13
San Diego     14-1        5-11
San Francisco 10-4        1-11

The Padres are the only team to have avoided a long wretched spell thus far. However, they've lost their last three, and are 4-8 over the past two weeks, so perhaps their turn is coming? Just as long as they still suck between August 18-20, when we play them. :-)