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Arizona Diamondbacks, First Half Report: Part II, Pitchers

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Starters

Brandon Webb 8-6, 3.37 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .244 OBA
Webb has been solid, but doesn't look likely to repeat his Cy Young season. He's had control issues, and is currently only three bases on balls short of his total for all 2006: the walk rate is almost the same as his 2003 rookie season. His changeup has improved, and he's certainly had his moments; starts in Houston and New York were among the best of his career, and he struck out 13 in San Diego too. Maybe we should just cross him off against the Rockies: facing Colorado, his ERA in four starts is 6.84, while versus everyone else, it's 2.55. Grade: B

Randy Johnson 4-3, 3.81 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, .245 OBA
We rolled the dice, but it doesn't look good. Oh, when he pitched, RJ was fine, posting a 2.56 ERA in his last seven starts, with a K:BB ratio of 53:7. He only pitched past the sixth once, but was frequently dominating, such as in Colorado where he faced the minimum through six innings, and struck out nine of those 18 batters faced. But his back finally gave up on him and his status for the second half is no more certain that it was on Opening Day. Will he come back? How effective will he be? These are issues which will likely decide our season. After his last full start June 10, we were 37-27; since then, we're 10-16. Grade: B-

Livan Hernandez 5-5, 4.54 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, .299 OBA
At one point - say, May 6, when he had an ERA of 3.20 - Hernandez looked like a stunningly astute pickup. However, in the eleven games since then, he's proven very hittable, with the opposition batting .336 facing Hernandez 2.0. If he can avoid the walks, something that's as much in the umpire's hands as his own, he's usually okay, but he's also already had eight outings allowing nine or more hits. He has fulfilled expectations as an innings-eater, going seven-plus in the majority of his starts. We need to get used to seeing the bases littered with runners when he pitches; it's simply what Livan does. Grade: C

Doug Davis 5-10, 4.26 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, .300 OBA
Something has to give with Davis; no pitcher in twenty years has managed to pitch 100+ innings with such a high WHIP, and still have an ERA below five. No-one's been as low as 4.26 since Tommy Byrne in 1951. He's dodged bullets like Neo on meth, right from his first appearance: eight hits and five walks in five innings, zero earned runs. Like Hernandez, it's the free passes that count. In losses, he walks 6.63/9 IP; in other starts, it's less than half that, at 3.24/9 IP. Still, we'd take the 4.26 ERA, even if it's mostly smoke and mirrors - just not with much conviction. Two more years of this, folks... Grade: C-

Micah Owings 5-4, 4.84 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, .282 OBA
Took a little while for the league to catch up with Owings: his first five starts resulted in an ERA of 3.18. But after his turn got skipped, things have been going downhill, and his lack of a third pitch has led to him getting smacked around, especially third-time through the rotation. Had a miserable last couple of outing, conceding thirteen earned runs in 8.2 innings, and if that turns out to be the shape of things to come, he'll have to be moved to the bullpen, or down to Tucson to work on that third pitch. Still, he's only 24, though it's galling to see another 24-year old starter, Matt Chico, posting a 4.39 ERA, after we traded him to Washington for Hernandez 2.0... Grade: C-.

Edgar Gonzalez 3-2, 5.31 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, .267 OBA
Began the year in the rotation, but moved to the bullpen in May, though has made three spot starts since, winning two. EdGon's weakness is the long-ball; twelve in 61 innings is a ratio beaten only by three major-leaguers this year with 40+ IP [one of whom is Claudio Vargas, incidentally]. He's been doing a better job of keeping the ball in the park lately, with only three homers in his last 28.1 innings. Worth remembering that he's five months younger than Owings, despite this being his fourth season. Hard to say where his future lies; rotation or bullpen, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him replace Owings in the second half. Grade: D+

Yusmeiro Petit 1-1, 3.12 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, .222 OBA
Basically, we traded Orlando Hernandez for the Petit Unit, through the medium of Jorge Julio. Pretty damn good thus far, I'd say: obviously, 17.1 innings doesn't let us see what he's really got, but it's promising thus far. Petit throws strikes - Hernandez and Davis take note - and has a healthy 16:6 K:BB ratio, though four home-runs allowed is a somewhat worrying sign. We'll likely see more Petit in the second half, and he should be competing for a permanent rotation spot next spring. We've already won this trade; every out from here on is payback to the Marlins for Dan Uggla. :-) Grade: B-

Relievers

Jose Valverde 0-3, 2.83 ERA, 1.143 WHIP, .198 OBA
Say what you like about Valverde, converting 26 of 29 saves is a pretty good job. Sure, he's had some spectacular meltdowns (I was at the one vs. the Mets), but he hasn't allowed a hit in more than half his appearances. Heartstopping on occasion, certainly, he avoided the implosion experienced last year in May, and has simply got the job done. Home or away, lefties or righties: no-one is batting better than .224 off Joe Greenvalley. Grade: B+

Brandon Lyon 5-3, 2.36 ERA, 1.262 WHIP, .250 OBA
The last man still with AZ from the Schilling trade, Lyon has come of age this season. A 193 ERA+ is a far cry from the man who posted a 6.44 ERA in his first season with us; is Lyon the most improved player in the Diamondbacks this year? Particularly brutal at Chase, where he has allowed four runs in 23 innings, and against the Dodgers where in 20.1 career innings, he now has a 0.89 ERA. With the collapse of Medders, Lyon has stepped up to become an excellent set-up man. Grade: A-

Tony Peña 3-2, 2.17 ERA, 0.946 WHIP, .189 OBA
How good has Peña been? So good I've quietly shelved mentioning his youthful identity crisis. Right-handed hitters have posted a .440 OPS, with just three-extra base hits in 103 plate-appearances off him, and his ERA+ of 209 is surpassed by only two NL relievers with forty-plus innings (Franklin and Bell). He's one pitch away from a 1.63 ERA - Ryan Doumit's homer on May 18th in Pittsburgh - but when he's turned opposing hitters into Bob Uecker this year, there can be no complaints. Grade: A

Juan Cruz 3-1, 3.27 ERA, 1.394 WHIP, .232 OBA
Missed three weeks in April-May with a shoulder issue, but has come back throwing hard, with 43 K's in 33 IP this year. Despite his small stature, is perhaps capable of throwing harder than anyone else in the pen. A few too many walks, but just as capable of striking out the side. Together with the three above, what we have here are the Four Relievers of the Apocalypse. I put the skinny Cruz down as "Famine". :-) Grade: B

Brandon Medders 1-2, 4.84 ERA, 1.657 WHIP, .274 OBA
Oh, dear...can we blame Kevin Seitzer for this one too? Unfortunately, not. Medders' season so far will be remembered for failures, not more spectacular than a first-pitch grand-slam that turned a 3-0 Big Unit lead into eventual defeat. Removal to Tucson was likely for his own safety, but he's been lit up there too: a 1.75 WHIP and 5.89 ERA in 18.1 innings. Might be a while before we see him in a D-backs uniform again. Grade: F

Doug Slaten 3-1, 2.86 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, .275 OBA
Slaten was expected be a super-LOOGY, capable of facing both lefties and righties, but the reality has seen right-handed batters hit .325 off him, ninety points more than lefties. Due to this, since the start of June, nine of 15 appearances have been less than one inning. The results lately have been mixed (4 ER on 11 hits and 4 walks in 8.2 IP), but for a 17th-round pick, we can't complain. Grade: B-