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Who Watches the Watches?

So, it's a Red Sox-Rockies World Series. Boston completed another one of their patented post-season comebacks, thrashing Cleveland soundly in back-to-back games at Fenway. Fox executives have stood down to DefCon Two as a result, since there will be one team people have actually heard of in the Fall Classic. I think that's probably the purpose of the Dane Cook adverts: to inform the masses that Denver is not just for NFL any more. Mind you, seems they had four inches of snow in Denver the other day, which might make for an interesting Game Three.

I finally updated the various D-backs watches with the end of season figures, so figure we might as well go through those, see if there are any lessons to be learned.

Our bet with Purple Row
Value Over Replacement
Livan Hernandez: 20.4
Rodrigo Lopez: 10.9

Firstly, we won our bet with Purple Row, Livan Hernandez proving clearly more valuable than Rodrigo Lopez. Admittedly, this is largely because Lopez missed so much of the season through injury, making only 14 starts - it would probably have been closer if he'd matched Livan's 33. However, part of Hernandez 2.0's value was his "innings eater" reputation, and he passed 200 there for the eighth season in a row. But PR would have been hard pushed to find any Arizona pitcher that Lopez could beat. Here's how all our major pitchers stacked up, as measured by Value Over Replacement Player:

  1. Brandon Webb: VORP 66.1
  2. Doug Davis: 28.6
  3. Brandon Lyon: 24.0
  4. Jose Valverde: 21.6
  5. Micah Owings: 21.1
  6. Tony Peña: 20.7
  7. Livan Hernandez: 20.4
  8. Randy Johnson: 12.3
  9. Juan Cruz: 12.3
  10. Doug Slaten: 9.1
  11. Yusmeiro Petit: 8.0
  12. Edgar Gonzalez: 7.3
  13. Brandon Medders: 3.6

At some point, we have to claim our "prize", in which we get to go over there and say how good we are. Oddly enough, having had our asses handed to us by Colorado in the NLCS, I am not seeking to invoke that any time soon. So probably look for that some time around Spring Training. Though once the playoff wounds have healed, I might also let Rox Girl come over here and tell us why the Rockies are going to kick our butts in 2008. :-)

Gonzo: .278/.359/.433
AZ LF: .264/.333/.426

I'll be honest about the next one: Luis Gonzalez outperformed my expectations in Los Angeles, ending up with an OPS 33 points higher than our left-fielders. Of course, there is more to overall play. OPS doesn't take into account speed or defense - and there's no doubt that Eric Byrnes kicked Gonzo's ass there. But I was expecting there to be a significant difference in output too, in favor of Byrnes and Hairston, and credit to Gonzalez for confounding my predictions there, posting a 103 OPS+.

This monitoring also took a couple of hits during the year: the trade of Hairston to San Diego, and the re-signing of Byrnes to a three-year, $30m contract, curiously similar to the one we had escaped at the end of 2006. Oddly, a few days ago, I got an email from a reader, saying, "I am an Eric fan and your quote has offended me. Two faced webmaster. Plan to email Eric to let him know that your words do not reflect your feelings. Please remove me from your website." I'm not quite sure what triggered that, but more on Byrnes a little way down the page.

2007 RotY Watch
Best D-back/Non-D-Back
Hitting [min 450 PA]
Young: .237/.295/.467
Braun: .324/.370/.634

Pitching [min 130 IP]
Owings: 152.2 IP, 8-8, 4.30
Lincecum: 146.1 IP, 7-5, 4.00

Early hopes of a Rookie of the Year-worthy season from Young evaporated in the face of a sub-.240 average and second-spot on the franchise K list, his 141 trailing only Troy Glaus, who had 145 in 2005. [Though with Braun and Tulowitzki, I'd be hard-pushed to claim he will be unjustly overlooked] On the other hand, Young's 32 homers were a figure beaten only by Glaus since our World Series victory, and the stolen bases were also a nice bonus. One of the big questions for 2008 will be whether Young can increase the average, without sacrificing any of the power.

Micah Owings showed a great deal of potential, and should be a lock for the rotation in 2008. That's as much for his bat as his arm: he was below the Uecker Line (.194) through the end of July, but then batted .483 [14-for-29, with 3 HR and 11 RBI] in the last couple of months. His pitching performances were similarly impressive, with a 3.02 ERA in his final ten starts, a 45:13 K:BB ratio, and holding opposing hitters to a .195 average. That's the kind of level we hope to see for an entire season next year.

EB Post-$30m Watch
.239/.317/.366 = .683 OPS
205 AB, 5 HR, 18 BB, 26 K

Eric duly got the long-term, high-reward contract he wanted, which averages out at more per year than he was paid for the past six seasons combined. However, this does mean that expectations for Byrnes from 2008 on will be similarly high. He'll be earning about twice as much as any other position player on the roster, and will be expected to produce at the level commensurate with his eight-figure salary - rather than what we got from him after he signed the deal. Though his performance may simply have been 'Eric being Eric', rather than anything directly related to putting pen on paper.

For the, by now traditional, second-half slump for Byrnes did indeed come to pass - even Eric admitted his performance in the playoffs, in particular, was below-par. Though, actually, the post-break drop this time, 107 points of OPS, was significantly less marked than the average figure over his entire career (-156 OPS points). It's now happened often enough it can no longer be written off as coincidence, and is perhaps an inevitable consequence of Byrnes' "take no prisoners" approach. On the other hand, it didn't slow him down either: he stole bases two and a half times as often after the All-Star Game. I sense this is one watch which will be carried on into the 2008 season.

Pre/Post-Seitzer Watch
Pre .248/.316/.401 (.717)
Post .253/.327/.428 (.755)

This is perhaps the most interesting of all the comparisons. We fired Kevin Seitzer at the All-Star break, and the results, though not immediate, were significant. It becomes even clearer if we post a month-by-month list of the lines for Arizona:

  • Apr .251/.331/.384 = .715 OPS
  • May .264/.324/.434 = .758 OPS
  • Jun .237/.306/.395 = .701 OPS
  • Jul .237/.302/.404 = .706 OPS
  • Aug .241/.309/.407 = .716 OPS
  • Sep .272/.354/.457 = .811 OPS

July was about a 50/50 split between Seitzer and Schu, meaning August was the first month of meaningful comparison, but it's the sudden leap in September that is the most striking. That was fuelled by our first basemen during the month, where Jackson and Clark combined to bat .320 with 10 homers, 31 RBI, and an OPS around 1.090. But Mark Reynolds also hit .300 with a .916 OPS, while both Montero and Snyder had OPS above .830. The surge was also despite losing Orlando Hudson for almost the entire month, and Byrnes, as already noted, barely passing a .700 OPS.

Finally, here's a player-by-player breakdown of the OPS posted during the two halves of the season, which might give us some idea as to who Schu helped and/or Seitzer hurt most. To qualify, a player must have had 80 or more plate-appearances under each coach.

  1. Snyder .662/.889 = +227
  2. Clark .717/.923 = +206
  3. Jackson .765/.926 = +161
  4. Young .704/.823 = +119
  5. Drew .667/.704 = +37
  6. Reynolds .854/.835 = -19
  7. Hudson .834/.789 = -45
  8. Montero .707/.660 = -47
  9. Byrnes .859/.752 = -107

Certainly, the surge by Snyder in the second-half of the season was unexpected. Most expectations were that he'd lose playing time to Montero later in the season, but there was almost no way to take him out of the line-up. Snyder got three-quarters of the September starts, and appeared in 115 games, trailing only Damian Miller's 2001 figure (123) for catchers in Arizona. Clark's surge is less explicable; surely he didn't have much to learn from Schu? But if Snyder, Young and Jackson can extend their second-half performances over all of 2008, that alone will put us a long way down the road to the offensive improvement we likely need.