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AZ 2, Giants 4 - Mission Accomplished?

Record: 74-83. Change on last season: +1
Rookies in starting lineup: 4

Bit of a good news/bad news game last night. Good news: Carpenter got roughed up. Bad news: Webb didn't win. Good news: Webb didn't lose either. Bad news: Melvin yanked him after throwing only 86 pitches. Good news: he's overtaken Carpenter in the ERA race. Bad news: Carpenter getting to start on Sunday took another step nearer; the Cardinals lost again and saw their lead over the Astros shrink to 1.5 games. All told, I think we have to give the edge to Webb in today's results, but the recent lack of W's for Webb (only three in his last eight starts) is turning what should have been a canter into a slog.

The failures of Carpenter and Webb mean that no NL pitcher will end the year with more than 17 wins, and it is still possible that this could lead voters to go for a closer: Hoffman (44 saves, 1.92 ERA) or Wagner (39, 2.18) are the likely contenders. However, both have blown five saves, which is really quite a lot: when Gagne won in 2003, he was perfect in 55 opportunities. And he's the only closer to have received the award, in either league, since Eckersley for the A's in 1992.

As a dark horse, I wouldn't count out Carlos Zambrano entirely, since he has won almost a quarter of the Cubs entire total, and currently does have the best record at 16-6. He has 28 more K's than Webb, in 24 less innings, although his ERA (3.43) is significantly higher, and he doesn't have a single complete game to his name. But if he wins his last start, to go to 17-6, Webb loses, dropping to 16-8, and the ERA gap narrows significantly too, then he could see significant votes heading his way.

But let's assume it comes down to Carpenter and Webb. There is no way Carpenter can now have a better W/L record: if he pitches Sunday and wins, and Webb loses, they'll both be at 16-8. The good news is, St. Louis play first on Sunday (11:15 am, Arizona time), so we should be able to go into the game with a pretty good idea of how Webb must perform to stay ahead. Here is what Webb needs to do to keep the lead in ERA, for a variety of different scenarios regarding Carpenter.

  • Carpenter does not pitch, or his ERA stays at 3.09
    Webb pitches one inning: five ER or less
    Webb pitches two-five innings: six ER or less
    Webb pitches six-eight innings: seven ER or less
    Webb pitches nine innings: eight ER or less
  • Carpenter throws a complete game shutout: ERA drops to 2.97
    Webb pitches one-two innings: two ER or less
    Webb pitches three-five innings: three ER or less
    Webb pitches six-eight innings: four ER or less
    Webb pitches nine innings: five ER or less
  • Carpenter has a quality start (6 IP, 3 ER): ERA rises to 3.12
    Webb pitches one-two innings: six ER or less
    Webb pitches three-five innings: seven ER or less
    Webb pitches six-eight innings: seven ER or less
    Webb pitches nine innings: nine ER or less

I guess we should also talk about Melvin's decision to pull Webb after 86 pitches in a tied game, rather than letting him go out again and try to get the win. He's already come in for much criticism on this front, and I can see how it's justified. Our best chance of winning the game was certainly with a relatively-fresh Brandon Webb out there, rather than rolling the dice with our randomly-performing bullpen. Sure, he'd just lost the lead in the eighth, but that was largely because Chad Tracy tied the franchise record with his 26th error of the season, and Callaspo then added a second error later that same inning.

BoMel's justification went "I can't run him out there after that. I mean, he's in a no-win [ninth] inning. He did his job and I wasn't going to put him in a position to take a loss." Emphasis added, because that's not actually accurate; sure, we hadn't scored in the ninth, but Webb would still have won the game if we'd scored in the tenth. However, by that stage, Carpenter's loss was already in the books, and you could certainly argue that not losing had become more important than winning for Webb.

Webb played the party line, saying, "I appreciate it, but it's sometimes tough to let somebody else go out there when you feel good and have a low pitch count. But we talked about it and I pretty much agree." He certainly seemed less happy after leaving the game, though that may have been because he'd also just seen his lead evaporate in the eighth without the Giants getting a hit. Tracy's error allowed Feliz to reach; a pinch-runner was then bunted to second, reached third on a wild-pitch, and came home when Callaspo's throw on a ground-ball bounced past Snyder.

Worse was to follow in the ninth. Choate retired the first batter he faced, but hit Linden with a pitch. Enter Lyon, who delivered a 1-0 changeup over the plate, which Moises Alou duly dispatched into the bleachers in left, for a walk-off home run. Chalk up another late-inning loss for Arizona, though at least it was Choate who got tagged with it, not Webb. But the offense, or lack thereof, played their part: the only man to get more than one hit, off the man described by AZ SnakePit as a "Free Agent Bust", was...Brandon Webb.

However, the four rookies we sent out did still play their part: they each got a hit, and together, scored and drove in all our runs. Well, when I say "all", I guess I mean "both". :-( That came in the fifth when Jackson single to lead off, and one out later, Quentin homered - like Alou subsequently, a two-run shot to left on a 1-0 count. The [insert marketing name for rookies here] went 4-for-16 with 2 runs and 2 RBI, which again compares favourably with the 2-for-15, no runs and no RBI, returned by the veteran position players last night. Not one walk for anyone though.

Thanks to William K, VIII, suitsmetoATnT, Diamondhacks and trevjohnson for their particiapation during another spineless outing for our offense. It was our sixth defeat in nine games, and in all of those losses, we've scored two runs or less. That's despite getting decent outings from our starters during that time; overall, we've conceded only a total of 31 runs in those nine contests, which is the same as we've scored. With moderate offense, we could easily be 6-2 on our California tour, rather than 3-5.

Your daily dose of yummy Fangraphs goodness
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Today: Webb + Cy Young: No Decision

The striking similarity in the shape of the above to Sunday's graph is, I'm sure, purely coincidental... Trevjohnson suggests Joe Girardi as a possible managerial candidate for next year - looks likely he won't be with the Marlins. Certainly, what he has done in Florida suggests he would be an ideal candidate to manage our youthful team in 2007. Unfortunately, I suspect he will not be looking for employment by the time Arizona fires Melvin, which I (probably optimistically) predict will take place around the All-Star break next year. I imagine every organization on a limited budget will probably want to hire Joe, given the Marlins Miracle of 2006.

Quick turnaround here, since it's an afternoon game today in San Francisco. After the disappointing result from last night, a win becomes almost essential if we're to pass the Giants in the standings by the end of the year. Preview and GameDay Thread for that one to follow around 1pm, AZ time.