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Early to bed, early to rise...

I'm not sure I like this turning up to work early thing. Oh, it's fine in theory: Mrs. SnakePit has to be at work 30 minutes before me, so I get dropped off on the way to work, and then have about an hour to kill before formally starting to earn my keep. [In case you're wondering why I don't drop her off - the answer, in one word, is "parking".] Surf a little, finish off the blog entry with the overnight news, drink my coffee, and generally, ease my way gently into the day. It's all good.

However, the reality usually involves the morning supervisor coming over about twenty minutes in, slapping me on the shoulder and asking if I'd mind logging in early because we're a bit short-handed. He does have the courtesy to look sorry to be asking, but even though I like the guy, I've developed a nervous twitch when I see him coming. I do wonder about the staffing too: mornings seem to have far fewer people than necessary. Today, I had a woman who'd been on hold for ninety-two minutes. [She was British: hey, we know how to queue...] And sadder still, I couldn't even really help her since she wanted help with Dreamweaver, a program we don't support. I still talked to her for thirty minutes, largely out of politeness.

So, yesterday's entry ended up being somewhat terse, and slapped up there during my thirty-minute lunch break, in lieu of...oh, I dunno, actually eating. It's clearly going to take some fine management of time skills once the season starts, and there are a lot more evening games to handle.

Let's hope Hernandez 2.0 is correct about always having a bad spring. He certainly had a poor outing last night, allowing ten hits in 3.1 innings, leading to nine runs, seven earned, as we were beaten by Texas, 9-8. The bullpen pitched well, however, allowing four hits in 4.2 innings, Medders, Murphy, Bajenaru and Carrasco striking out seven. Again, decent control, with no walks from our arms. Offensively, Carter went 2-for-2 with a triple, and Richar had a seventh-inning homer. Thompson and Montero were both 2-for-3, the former driving in two runs.

A little while ago, during a debate in the comments with Diamondhacks, I made the claim that the 2007 Diamondbacks were better at every position than the 2006 version. A brave claim, but how likely is it to be borne out? Firstly, we have the following chart, which shows the 2006 OPS from the various positions, along with the NL median value. The chart is ordered, lowest to highest, in order of 2006 production from AZ:

2006    AZ    NL  
SS:   .756  .744
1B:   .767  .866
C:    .773  .742
2B:   .788  .740
3B:   .793  .828
LF:   .800  .826
RF:   .800  .796
CF:   .804  .744

The gulf there at first-base is startling, almost a hundred points of OPS. This isn't all Jackson's fault, since the figures there were dragged down by the woeful performance of Tony Clark and, to a lesser extent, Shawn Green, who appeared in 12 games there. Third-base and left-field were also positions where production was below-average, but this was balanced by good results from second-base and center-field in particular, but also catcher and short-stop. Right-field was almost dead-on, though not much thanks to Green there either.

Next, I took the expectations of five prediction systems for our players there this season: those were James, CHONE, Marcel, ZIPS and Hardball Times. I excluded our community projections, because let's face it, they may be just a wee bit biased. :-). The next chart shows the 2006 production from our everyday starter, along with the low, high and average OPS from the five projections for our expected everyday starter for the upcoming year.

             2006  Low  High   Avg 2007 
SS: Counsell .674 .767  .851  .798 Drew
1B: Jackson  .794 .801  .841  .814 Jackson
C:  Estrada  .772 .701  .778  .737 Snyder
2B: Hudson   .809 .764  .788  .774 Hudson
3B: Tracy    .794 .801  .827  .815 Tracy
LF: Gonzalez .795 .766  .785  .776 Byrnes
RF: Green    .778 .806  .843  .831 Quentin
CF: Byrnes   .795 .760  .861  .819 Young

Now, it isn't an exact comparison, because obviously, the players named are not going to play all 162 games. The low figure for first-base last year, for example, included not only Jackson, but also Clark and Green, which dragged the stats down markedly. Still, the results as calculated show we can hope for better production from most places. That's clearest from SS and 1B, though RF, CF and 3B should also improve significantly, and 2B, LF and C do show a decrease, but at the last two positions, we have very strong alternative candidates, in Hairston + Montero respectively. Scott is predicted to have an average OPS of .818 (range .753 to .856), and Miguel at .768 (.727 to .795). Both figures are better than the expected incumbents, and close to or ahead of the production obtained in 2006.

Even if they form part of the bench, they'll boost production from there, and our replacement players would overall seem to be significantly better. Outside those two, here are the actual 2006 figures and the anticipated ones for 2007, matching them up role-for-role as best as possible.
Clark 2006 = .643; Clark 2007 = .818 (range .787 - .847)
Easley 2006 = .741; Callaspo 2007 = .742 (.720 - .782)
A.Green 2006 = .560; Hammock 2007 = .756 (.741 - .770)
DaVanon 2006 = .819; DaVanon 2007 = .762 (.747 - .785)

Two huge improvements, one about the same (albeit with a better glove, I'd say) and DaVanon the only one expected to show any dropoff in production. So, I suppose, that I might be prepared to concede, and therefore my claim that every position will be better is not strictly valid. Oh, well. :-)

Another factor which I did consciously include when making my claim, was defensive skills. And I think that most positions will be, to varying degrees, stronger there in 2007. Hudson definitely got better as the year went on, adjusting to natural turf and the NL style of play; Byrnes should, at the very least, show a damn sight more hustle than Gonzo; and Estrada's "issues" behind the plate are now a matter of near-public record. Jackson and Tracy will have a year more experience at their positions, Drew should match Counsell, Quentin already showed he's better than Green, and I look forward to seeing Young in centre.

And then, there's the rotation, which I don't have time to discuss in detail (a red light is blinking on the phone in front of me, and I sense a restless stirring from the direction of the morning supe!). But, in brief:
Webb 2006 < Webb 2007
Batista 2006 < Johnson 2007
Vargas 2006 < Davis 2007
Hernandez 1.0 2006 < Hernandez 2.0 2007
EnGon 2006 < EdGon 2007

The bullpen is the only area where I'm a little concerned, not least because the only moves we've made have involved the loss of established arms, and there may be more to come, if Julio departs. Our depth in this area is certainly questionable, even if Slaten and Peña stick around. But the lack of motion in that area does bother me. I'd not be surprised if we do see some action to bring in solid relief help over the next couple of weeks.

Finally, I know we're big fans of Wikipedia here. Prepare to lose a lot of lunch-hours. For I bring you the official Wikipedia list of unusual articles...