Okay, folks: this is the final stretch. Two weeks till pitchers and catchers report, and in a month we'll be seeing Spring Training games here in Arizona, and the long, dark off-season winter will finally be over. Stay strong; keep your focus; the finishing line is in sight! S'funny, I don't remember blogging being this tough last off-season, but I did have things like the All-Time Top 10 Diamondbacks series to help keep me posting. That aside, I think my overall level of posting is actually a bit more frequent too. I'm somewhat curious what "real" baseball journalists do during the off-season: go into cryonic suspension, perhaps? :-)
However, thanks to Rox Girl at Purple Row, we have a challenge, to put a bit of pep into this season's games. She took a little umbrage at my mocking her choice of Livan Hernandez as the player we'd be best off without, and so posted the following over there:
RODRIGO LOPEZ vs LIVAN HERNANDEZ
Yep. That's right. If Jim is so confident in Livan, then he won't shy away from putting the man who put up a 3.76 ERA for Arizona last year against the one who put up a 5.90 ERA in Baltimore. The D-backs' 13 game winner in 2006 vs the Rockies 18 game loser in 2006. It's a slam dunk, right? Of course he'll be smart enough to know that both PECOTA and ZiPS are siding with me on this one, but he'll also be smart enough to know that Livan doesn't really have any good comparable pitchers (31 similarity score) so PECOTA's got to be a little unsure of the prediction itself.
The stakes? I was going to propose we post pictures of ourselves in the opponents' jersey, but that sounds like a lose-lose scenario from my end ;). So instead, I'll suggest the following: If Livan Hernandez posts a higher VORP, WARP, or Pitching RC (Jim can pick which one he wants) score for the Diamondbacks in 2007 than Rodrigo Lopez does for the Rockies, then the McClennans and all their Snakepit friends get to come over for a "Meet the Diamondbacks" day on Purple Row, where they can tell us exactly how great Stephen Drew is compared to Troy Tulowitzki or Miguel Montero to Chris Iannetta, how many years the D-backs dynasty will last, and so on. If, on the other hand, Rodrigo proves better in 2007, then we get to paint the Snakepit purple for a day again, as we post similar propaganda over there.
What do you say Jim? Is your guy up to it? Do you trust Josh Byrnes on this one? The gauntlet is dropped.
And it barely had time to touch the floor, before it was snatched up. In Josh we trust, so them's fightin' words, here in Arizona, and we never back down from a challenge in this state [unless it involves the budget, alternative fuel vehicles, illegal immigration, pollution, etc. etc.]. Hence, bring it on, Gravel Girl! And I'm pretty optimistic we'll be taking this one. Hernandez 2.0's ERA+ in the past couple of seasons may not have been stellar (94 + 100), but it sure beats the 77 + 85 posted by Lopez. I just hope that VORP [the metric I went for] is a stat that can be adjusted to allow for the soggy baseballs they use at Coors these days...
Frankly, I feel a little embarrassed at this one, and reckon Hernandez 2.0 should be handicapped in some way to make it a fair fight: putting a buffet table over in foul territory to distract him perhaps. ;-) But then I realised we're talking about the Rockies. They've specialized in futile struggles since their inception, never winning more than 83 games in any season, and haven't finished better than fourth since the Diamondbacks arrived in the division. Losing: it's what Rockies fans do best, so I feel less bad about inflicting another defeat on them in this challenge. [Though Coors is my #1 pick among the other baseball parks I've seen games in - great venue, great location.]
That said, the Rockies are heading in the right direction, doing something similar to what we are in Arizona; building from within. They have some solid prospects, such as the ones touted by Rox Girl, which is the way forward for any small to mid-budget team. But do they have anyone of the level of Drew, Quentin and Young? Interesting to compare John Sickels' lists of top 20 prospects for the D-backs and Rockies. Both teams have one prospect at A-, and three at B+; the Rockies have a couple more B-grade entries, but the AZ list does exclude Drew and Quentin as no longer being prospects.
I think it will be very interesting to see Drew and Tulowitski going head-to-head over the next few years, competing for All-Star starts, hopefully! Certainly, at the moment, I'd rather be a Rockies fan than, say, a Giants one. Mind you, I'd rather gnaw off my own leg, dip the severed limb in glue and broken glass, and belabor myself over the head with it, repeatedly, than be a Giants fan. But even putting my personal opinions, gently and lovingly, to one side, I think the Rockies could be the biggest challengers to the D'backs long-term domination of the NL West. Pitching seems their biggest problem; they badly need a genuine ace. And, no, Jason Jennings isn't it. :-)
Okay, going to get on with the Community Projections, but before I leave, can I just say, I love Wikipedia. Mrs. SnakePit and I were watching a film last night, in which a sniper picked off a target from a distance of about half a mile, from the top of a building. "Is that possible?", wondered Chris, and of course, we turned to Wikipedia, which tells us the following:
That's pretty freaky stuff, and I don't know whether to be impressed or disturbed. Probably a bit of both. But the best thing about Wikipedia is the cross-linking and categorizations: from "sniper", I went to Juba, the Iraqi insurgent, which took me to their mysterious people section. That led me to the Count of St. Germain article, from where I went to... You get the point: the degree of topic drift and distraction potential is almost infinite, but you learn a lot of, admittedly entirely useless, information. Of course, the open-edit nature [basically, anyone can change any page] does mean a certain scepticism needs to be maintained - but that's probably a good thing with all Internet information, almost regardless of the source.