We hold the evil eye over the Giants in Spring Training: think yesterday's victory runs our record to something like 18 wins in 20 Cactus League games, since the Diamondbacks came into business. I'd be happier if we beat them that often when it actually counted: we're only 25-50 since 2003, and haven't won the season series against SF in the past five years. But based on Monday's result, that could be about to change, emphatically. Yeah, while it's totally meaningless, Spring Training, etc., any signs of Giants suckage are always welcome, and 44 runs allowed in five games [compare AZ's 27] is suckage par excellence. Especially when EnGon and four relievers combined on a four-hit shutout - with only two innings coming from pitchers generally expected to be on an Opening Day roster. [And that includes Julio, who may not be in an AZ uniform]
Enrique Gonzalez was first up, allowing only a double in his three innings of work. Dana Eveland, also permitted two bases in his three frames, only they came on two singles. And Lyon, Julio and Schultz one-hit the Giants the rest of the way, striking out three in their three innings combined - and by all accounts, the hit was a lucky swing on a 97 mph fastball from Julio. Another good point to note: 30 batters faced by the Diamondbacks' pitching staff, and no walks issued. Meanwhile, our hitters got eight free passes, including two for Chad Tracy, which is hopefully a sign that he is being patient at the plate.
Zito was a bit unlucky to take the loss, with the only run he allowed in three innings, coming home on a balk. Justin Upton smacked a home-run in the seventh, and Mark Reynolds had the interesting line, 0 AB, 0 H, 1 RBI, 1 R, I think due to a bases-loaded walk as part of our seven-run sixth. Chris Young batted leadoff, went 1-for-3 with a stolen base, but was also picked off second by Ortiz. Which is somewhat embarrassing for him - even if this is the new, lithe, svelte version of our ex-pitcher, not the one we know and loathe, who had all the speed and agility of a drugged-up sloth, swimming in treacle.
Speaking of the Huge Manatee...I'm somewhat relieved. Sure, we didn't get a hit, but look at the end result: Ortiz is yanked in the middle of an inning, walks three (including Eveland!) in only 2.1 frames, and allows two earned runs. Eye-witness reports appear to indicate there is indeed a TrimSpa Manatee in effect, with somewhat better velocity, but it doesn't seem he'll be bothering Brandon Webb as a Cy Young rival, despite his new diet:
Must be some new definition of "even out", of which I wasn't previously aware. But then, Russ probably thinks a well-balanced meal is a box of donuts in each hand. Shame he didn't experience this revelation when we were paying him $8m per season over the past couple of year. However, as long as he doesn't pitch better than any member of our rotation - and that's my expectation - dumping him was still wise. And 2004-05 levels of ineptitude seem eminently possible, if his new approach involves, as may be the case, avoiding hits by staying out of the strike-zone's zipcode, instead of grooving junk down the pipe.
Okay, so nobody has hit him in 5.1 innings this spring - but if he keeps handing out free passes at the rate seen today, they won't need to. Particularly if the bullpen behind him continues to surrender runs at such a brutal rate. Ortiz left with Arizona holding a slender 1-0 lead, but the Giants relievers tacked a further eight on in four innings. And that was rather better than Friday's outing against the Brewers, where they allowed sixteen in seven innings of work. Like I said, I'm almost as pleased by rival suckage as Arizona competence: this nine-run win was a happy purveyor of both.
Tension in D'backland? Interesting little slideshow over at AZCentral.com, which over pics 6-8 mentions "heated discussions" between Byrnes, Clark, Hudson and Hairston. Pic 8 is probably the scariest, illustrating nicely the point from a couple of days back, about why I would pay full attention if Clark was talking to me. Wonder if this was the incident, and Hairston the player, referred to in the interview, about him having to set the youngsters straight? At least it appears to predate our 'Free Scott Hairston' shirt escapades, or I might feel a bit guilty!
Nice piece in Beyond the Box Score, comparing Conor Jackson to young divisional 1B rivals, Adrian Gonzalez and James Loney. Author JM Barten reckons Jackson's upside remains very high: "If he does add some power, he could be a beast, posting very high OBP's as pitchers avoid grooving a pitch to him and he sits back and lets them give him a free pass. Edgar Martinez is what can happen when those factors converge." I think we'd settle for that. It does point out his defense is a bit questionable, but reckons he'll be okay in the long run. Chad Tracy not throwing balls that force Jackson into colliding with Price Fielder, would probably help there.
The Hardball Times have published their first annual season preview, and a fascinating read it makes, too. And I'm not just saying that because I contributed to the Diamondbacks section. :-) Some people will hate this, but they've gone out and projected batting, fielding and pitching stats for virtually every player of significance for the next three years. Of course, the accuracy of such predictions can certainly be argued - but I defy you to tell me you wouldn't love to peer into the crystal ball and see what's expected from our boys in 2009! The book can be downloaded for $9.95, or the printed version is available for $15.95 plus shipping. See here for more info.
Those taking part in our fantasy league should be especially interested, as it also contains articles about general fantasy baseball strategy and the top rookies to watch. And looks like we now have our league full, with twenty managers stepping up to the plate to take part. I'd especially like to welcome those, beyond the usual regulars, who delurked: dbacktom, revjdub44, mythcalbst, rg, whatuwant, Zephon, leemellon, Ridster, kalum and cavscout. Some of you I know from the DBBP, but you're all welcome. And now you've registered, why not stick around and post some more?