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AZ 1/0, Giants 4/13 - Well, that sucked.

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Record: 46-37. Change on last season: +6. Pace: 90-72

Quote of the day: "I don't think there's enough history on him yet that would show you have to go get him at a certain number." -- Bob Melvin on Micah Owings

What part of today's game wasn't totally wretched? The most runs conceded since a 15-2 drubbing by the Mets on June 11 last year? The biggest margin of victory since an 18-4 loss, also to New York, on August 24, 2005? The largest shutout in franchise history? Or simply that it came against the Giants? All told, that was utterly miserable, not least in the suddenness with which it all fell apart. Yet again, Owings hit trouble the third time through the order: they haven't updated the stats yet, but today the Giants went 4-for-4 with a walk. I don't know if it's mental, or he relies too much on the same pitch, but it seems teams have absolutely no trouble making adjustments against him.

This is something we've written about before, and Steve Gilbert picked up on this. If it keeps up, and he can't be relied upon for more than four innings, his future as a starter is seriously in doubt, but pitching coach Bryan Price is less worried: "As he progresses and matures as a pitcher, as he gets to know the league and himself more, as he finds other ways to utilize his stuff, he's going to get better, but to give him 12 or 15 starts and say he's a reliever because his numbers go down after 95 to 110 pitches I think is unfair."

Not that he got any assistance by Edgar Gonzalez, who responded to being dropped from my fantasy baseball team, by allowing a homer to the first batter he faced. He then added five more of his own runs in three innings of work, but wasn't helped by two unearned scores, courtesy of Tony Clark. [If Clark is not in there for his defense, what is he playing for? It's certainly not his .217 batting average this year] Doug Slaten got the mop-up role in the eight, and posted a perfect inning; that's a little bit like a bully helping you to your feet after administering a good kicking behind the bicycle sheds.

I could certainly bitch about the umpiring: Klesko should have been rung-up before he homered to put the Giants up 2-0. But, really, we could have had an umpiring crew of Mrs. Owings, Mrs. Gonzalez, Mrs. Slaten and Bob Melvin, and it wouldn't have made any difference, especially given our hitting. Lincecum came into this game, with an ERA of 5.19, and a walk almost every other inning (29 in 59 IP). Seven innings later, he exited, having shaved 55 points off his ERA with seven shutout frames, in which he struck out thirteen Diamondbacks and allowed no walks.

It took him less than fourteen pitches per inning to mow us down; the patience which we showed at the plate in the first month of the season has all but gone now:

  • April: 107 walks (4th in NL), 146 strikouts (14th)
  • May: 78 (12th), 172 (13th)
  • June: 87 (8th), 195 (6th)

Particularly hack-tastic last month were Chris Young (5 walks in 102 at-bats) and Carlos Quentin (4 in 66). Which I could take if there were at least hitting well, but the June averages for them were .196 and .227 respectively, with neither of them reaching .650 OPS. [To put that into context, in 2006 Craig Counsell for Arizona had an OPS of .674] Why is someone like Quentin, who hit prolifically in the minors and last season, been so horrible this year? What has changed? It's time, I think, to begin looking at hitting coach Kevin Seitzer again, who has done absolutely nothing to rectify the problem - or, if he has, it's clearly not working.

Nick Piecoro talked to Seitzer recently - but, being a professional, did not start off with "What the fark are you doing to all our young hitters?" like I would have done. Seitzer reckons Quentin's shoulder injury set him back a lot, but also says, "He's been having a hard time with his pitch selection, swinging at a lot of pitches that are out of the zone." Here's an interesting flashback to what Seitzer was saying early in the season:

"The boys are just having good ABs. They are just battling, battling, battling every pitch, every at-bat. We're not giving away ABs. That's the one thing that's impressed me the most with this whole group. I mean from Day 1 of Spring Training, first inning on, I see guys battling on every at-bat. That's all you can ask for as a hitting coach. Numbers and stats, I don't really get too caught up in it -- all I'm caring about is the quality of the ABs and making the little tweaks and adjustments throughout the game.

As long as I see guys staying with their plan and putting up good ABs, that's all I care about. I think we're just scratching the surface right now at the start of the season with what we're going to be able to do offensively, because the weather is just brutal. If guys can have great at-bats in weather like this, then when we hit good weather it's going to be fun." [Seitzer] thinks that the team could finish with a .370 on-base mark.

Insert 'O RLY?' macro here. Arizona OBP has been .331 in April, .324 in May and a horrendous .306 in June, dead-last in the majors. I fully expected this team of young hitters to get better as the year went on, as they grew more accustomed to major-league pitching: but it doesn't quite seem to have worked that way. Or again: "Credit D-backs hitting coach Kevin Seitzer for Carlos Quentin's newfound comfort at the plate. Quentin said Seitzer helped him form a consistent approach, and it helped him go 6-for-11 at the plate the last three games of Arizona's sweep of Houston." Quentin's average since? .203. so much for "comfort" and "a consistent approach".

Interestingly, it seems to be only the young players that are experiencing this slump. Here's a full chart of OPS+, and the changes from this year to last for the starting members of our team. I've sorted it by the age of the players

          2006    2007    Change   Age
Byrnes      95     124      +29     31
Hudson     100     121      +21     29
Tracy       96     117      +21     27
Snyder      92      70      -22     26
Jackson    101     103       +2     25
Quentin    114      75      -39     24
Drew       115      68      -47     24
Young       72      84      +12     23

This chart suggests that we need a restraining order for Seitzer, keeping him away from anyone under the age of 27. Chris Young is a bit of an oddity, but he did only play thirty games last year, rendering that stat a little iffy [Drew and Quentin were 59 + 57 games respectively, so I've a little more faith in those figures] Overall, that's a net -23 when, again, you'd think most of these players would get better, as they enter their prime.

I suppose I should mention last night's game, at least briefly. We didn't take advantage of our opportuinities: the Giants did. Davis walked far too many hitters, and that's the key. His batting average against is almost identical (.305 in losses; .299 in non-losses), but in nine defeats so far, he's walked 36 in 48.2 innings; in eight wins and no-decisions, he's walked half as many (18) in more innings (50). We had our chances - tying run on base in the seventh, at the plate in the eighth - but after Hudson's RBI single in the first, were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. I have no energy to, or interest in, picking over the bones of that corpse, especially after today's drubbing.

So, I'll just say thanks to those who participated in the two GameDay Threads: hotclaws, DbacksSkins, DiamondbacksWIn, icecoldmo, AZDarkKnight and webby17 were all present, which is much more than can be said for the Diamondbacks. Arizona was outscored 17-1 over those two games, by the team stuck fast in the cellar of our division; never mind beating winning teams, we can't even seem to beat the horrible ones any longer. :-(

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Chad Tracy, +4.7%
God-emperor of suck: Doug Davis, -16.1%

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Doug Slaten, 0.0%
God-emperor of suck: Micah Owings: -19.7%

Yes, folks: we finally did it. Nobody contributed positively to the game today. Well done: you must get up very early... It's definitely good to be getting out of San Franciso. I'm sure Conor Jackson will be equally pleased: "Jackson said after Saturday night's game that as he was jogging off the field following the eighth inning, a baseball was thrown at him from the stands. When he picked up the ball, it was filled with profanities directed at him and his family. "That was classless," he said." Not much more i can add to that, I think.

Congratulations to Orlando Hudson and Jose Valverde, who have both been named to the National League All-Star team for the game in San Francisco on the 10th. Brandon Webb still has a chance, being part of the 25th Man voting that's going on right now. Though I imagine the Chicago Cheep will vote Zambrano in en masse. No love for Eric Byrnes though, which is a shame, as he's probably been the MVP of the first half for us. I can't put my hand on my heart and say O-Dawg has deserved it this year, but I'll still enjoy seeing him and Papa Grande next week.