Arrived at work in my fifth different car of the week: our old PT Cruiser on Monday; son's car (post-crash) Tuesday; daughter's truck Wednesday; borrowed friend's car Thursday; and our "attacker's" insurance company ponied up for a rental today. They've agreed to repair or replace the car, so we're breathing a sigh of relief over that - and are, in the meantime, enjoying the new-car smell to be found in the rental!
Welcome back to baseball: no game for the Diamondbacks yesterday, but the Orioles helped us out by beating the Padres, to drop them into a tie with us for first-place. The Dodgers and Rockies also won, so the division (sans the irrelevant Giants) tightens up, with 3.5 games covering the top four teams. Could be a couple of good races in the National League: 4.5 games covers the top four in the NL East, as the Mets slump, with only three wins in 16 games.
In particular, back in the West, watch out for the Rockies. They have the best record in the league over the past month, at 20-7. If it hadn't been for their poor 18-27 start, they'd quite conceivably be leading the division. They just derailed the Yankee juggernaut, sweeping them in Denver, and are batting a collective .292 in the past month. But it's not just the Coors effect, as their pitching over the same period has a 3.37 ERA, second-best in the league.
That stat deserves some more regard, since it also demonstrates the strength of the NL West is its pitching. Five of the top six teams in the league for ERA over the past month are in the West, with the only interloper the third-place Cubs. Even the Giants, who've gone 7-18, are in sixth with a credible 4.09 ERA. We're fifth, at 3.83, but recent performances from Hernandez and Davis have definitely not helped us there.
Thanks to shoewizard for pointing out that Chris Young is walkless in 84 at-bats, without one since his first at-bat on May 26. That's the longest by a Diamondback this season, but is some way short of the franchise record for a position player of 133, set by Scott Hairston back in 2004. The all-time Arizona champion, however, is Randy Johnson. He didn't get a walk in his first 53 games with the team, cruising for 152 at-bats before Garrett Stephenson gave him his first free pass here. Another pitcher, Brian Anderson, reached 151, and left the team with the streak unbroken.
Former infielder Jerry Gil is another D-back with an aversion to trotting down to first: indeed, in his entire major-league career to date, he had 86 at-bats without a walk. Given he had elbow ligament replacement surgery in May, I doubt that the zero will be gone soon. That's the longest walkless career by a non-pitcher since the fabulously-named Overton Trumper went 91 in 1927-28. I note that Jeff Francoeur started his career with 127 at-bats before getting his first free pass - and that was an intentional one. And Chris Young has some way to go to challenge the modern-era record holders: Shawon Dunston and Mariano Duncan both went over three hundred at-bats between walks.
Some thoughts on strength of schedule. There are four teams in the NL outside of our division currently above .500, but we're already done with the Mets and the Phillies, with the Braves and Brewers to face - a total of 13 games. The Dodgers have 17 games against winning NL teams; the Rockies and the Padres both 16 - SD also have three against Boston. Of course, the key is likely the 13 games each in which we have to face both the Padres and Dodgers. We only have six left against Colorado: they way they're playing, as noted, that's probably a good thing.
Matt Simpsons of the Tribune looks at our farm talent, and finds much to like: "Even with prospect after prospect arriving in the bigs over the past two years, the Diamondbacks' minor league system is still stocked with talent." With Scherzer, Greg Smith, Upton and Carlos Gonzalez all looking likely to be major-league ready in 2008-09, things do look bright. But, on the other hand, looking at the struggles this year of Drew, Quentin, etc. I'm now more inclined to exercise caution in my hopes for this area.
If you haven't done so already, check out the new SB Nation homepage. They've finally split it up so you don't need to filter through 300 frat-boy posts about Damm U being better than Fark U, to get to the baseball stuff. :-) Okay, I exaggerate (slightly!), but the appeal of college sports remains utterly lost on me, so the less I have to deal with it, the better. Expect an increase in links to our sibling blogs, since I can now find interesting stories more easily.
Finally, not at all baseball related, but amusing none the less: Emo Crayolas. Though most of the colors there could equally well be applicable to Giants fans. :-)