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Livan on a prayer

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Very pleasant time yesterday afternoon at the barbecue. We were graced by Al Yellon, from Bleed Cubbie Blue, one of the lynchpins of the the SportsBlogs Nation army. Er, if an army has lynchpins. Anyway, it was a pleasure to meet him, and listening to him and shoewizard talk about baseball, in every era of the past fifty years, was a genuine delight. Me, I just sat there, drank beer, and soaked it all in.

New poll up, replacing the "Highest BA?" question, which resulted in victory for Conor Jackson, with 40% of the vote. Stephen Drew came second on 30%, and those two were the only ones to reach double-figures. I'd also like, presumably, to thank Mrs. Young for stopping by and being the sole vote for her son. Unfortunately, it seems that Mrs. Snyder was unable to make it. :-) Anyway, replacing that one is an interesting question: if we could keep only one of our prospects for their entire career here, who would you want to keep? You could, I think, make a case for almost any one of them, based on their position and potential, so I look forward to seeing how this unfolds.

Seven wins in a row for Arizona, thanks to Saturday's victory over Kansas City, in which Dustin 'Minimum Wage' Nippert beat Gil '$55m Man' Meche. We fell into a 3-0 hole early, but bounced back, shutting the Royals out for the last seven innings. Indeed, Murphy, Valverde, Lyon and Cruz combined for 4.1 innings of two hit ball, getting eleven of the thirteen outs with K's. That bailed out Nippert, who was admittedly mediocre: 3.2 innings, five hits, three walks and three earned runs. However, Meche was even worse, allowing six hits, three walks and four earned runs in three innings, raising his spring ERA to 5.40.

That was pretty much all down to the fourth inning, where he faced six AZ hitters and didn't retire any of them. We scored four times as a result, including a two-run homer by Jackson, and took the lead - Barden added another two-run jack in the sixth, to make the final score 6-3. It was the bottom half of the order that did the damage: slots six through nine were 9-for-16, with four RBIs, compared to the top three, who were 0-for-14: Krynzel batted leadoff, and went 0-for-5 with 3 K's. Snyder, DH-ing, went 3-for-4, while Montero, Brown and Barden all had two hits apiece. Hairston was never out, getting a hit and two walks

However, the victories came to a grinding halt today, with Livan Hernandez having another one of his sucktacular Spring Training performances - which, it has to be said, he did predict before the Cactus League got going. This time, it was eleven hits in four innings of work, leading to seven earned runs. Though a good chunk of the damage was caused by a three-run homer to Swisher, this wasn't brilliant, and his ERA of 13.06 so far, will have D-backs fans breathing into a paper-bag. Comments like the following won't help:

I feel very good. I threw a lot of strikes. That's important. The only hangup pitch was the home run. I tried to throw a slider inside. It did nothing, and he hit the ball good. I know it's a lot of runs, but the most important thing is how you feel. I can pitch better than that. I feel great. I'll put everything together and be ready for the season.

These kind of statements sound disturbingly like Hernandez v2.0 was channeling the spirit of the Huge Manatee, circa May 2006, but I'd have to check and see how Ortiz did in Spring Training last year to be sure. Okay, I just did: an 8.46 ERA - which would be a significant improvement for Hernandez. Keep telling yourself: it's only spring's only spring training... [And if you've seen the horror movie which used the similar tag-line, you have my sympathy!]

Let's accentuate the positive: our bullpen, again, did very well, with Julio, Daigle, Medders and Peña throwing five shutout innings, allowing five hits and two walks while fanning five. Arizona had twelve hits, and it was good to see Chad Tracy going 3-for-3, including his third homer of spring. Mark Reynolds, who hasn't been seen much, had two hits, and a couple of RBI on his first round-tripper of the year. No sign of Quentin, who's been sidelined the whole weekend with a slight shoulder issue. Hopefully slight, anyway: an MRI might be scheduled next week if he doesn't improve.

I've just about completed an analysis of the twenty-one times Melvin asked a position player to sacrifice last year, which we were talking about in the comments a few days back. Seems Melvin bunts less often there than most in the NL, yet it's a play I instinctively dislike; outs are a precious and fixed commodity, and given them up to move a runner 90 feet seems a horrible waste. However, looking more deeply into the matter reveals it may be more justifiable than I first thought. That's a tease though, since analysis was brought to a grinding halt, and will be finished tomorrow.

For we had to head off to our baseball ticket draft, where Mrs. SnakePit and I pick the ten games to which we go this season. We have a lot more flexibility this year: last time, I was working Fri-Mon nights, so we basically couldn't go to any weekend games. This time, a lot more to choose from, though obviously, the competition for the weekend is greater. Our main plan was to spread out the games throughout the season, so we didn't have too many in any one month. Secondary consideration was promotional giveaways - okay, we're suckers for bobbleheads! The opposition are less important, but we did want to snag a Red Sox and Cubs game, and see a variety of teams in general.

That was the theory, anyway, although the practice ended up not too bad. We did get a bad draw [picking 7th of 8], and all the Boston games were gone by the time we made our first choice - so no Schilling-Johnson matchup for us. We did get a Cubs one though, and will be seeing ten different teams, which is good, with no more than two in any month. Mostly Sunday games, which are generally the kids' giveways; but we will be getting our Orlando Hudson Gold Glove bobbleheads on April 28th! And our season opens April 16th: that's the Dodgers, so will mark the return of Gonzo...and, by no real coincidence, is also my birthday.

Finally, in the Republic today, Bob McManaman reckons it'll be the two Gonzalez boys, Edgar and Enrique, who'll fill out the vacant spots in the rotation on Opening Day, with Eveland pulling long relief duty in the bullpen, while Dustin Nippert and Micah Owings are going down to Tucson. Seems likely to me, that Edgar will be the permananent #5, unless Enrique outperforms him significantly once the real contests start.