Record: 58-49. Change on last season: +3. Pace: 88-74
Playoff odds: 19.3%. Playoff Magic Number: 57
Quote of the day: "Whatever I was throwing, they were hitting. It's something you can do nothing about." -- Livan Hernandez
Well, that left a mark, didn't it? Still, if you're going to end a losing streak, it's probably better to do in a no-doubt manner like that, where nothing is working at all. We got not one, but two sucky games out of our system in one Sunday afternoon: we couldn't hit for toffee, and our pitching got shelled. If you're going to allow 19 hits, including eleven for extra-bases, you might as well do on a day when you only manage two at-bats with runners in scoring position. Be much worse to have had a game like Oakland or Houston did on Sunday, both teams scoring double-figures and still losing - that's only happened to us four times in Diamondbacks history.
It certainly wasn't a threat on Sunday, as we managed only five hits all day. Young and Byrnes had two-out triples, and that was it. Fortunately, I didn't get to see any of the game, so my criticism on this performance will have to be fairly restrained. But it certainly didn't look like we were robbed. Orlando Hudson drew the only walk, on what seemed like getaway early day for the Diamondbacks offense: Quentin and Montero saw just 13 pitches combined during their six plate-appearances, and all 33 lasted only 110 pitches in total.
And then there's the pitching... Oh, yes: where to start? Let's just say, allowing the Braves to score in every inning until the eighth - and multiple runs in five of those seven - does not reflect well upon our pitchers. Hernandez was thrashed all over the place, surrendering eight hits, three walks, and eight earned runs in only four innings. I was quite surprised to see Melvin pull him, after only 71 pitches. I'd have left our "innings eater" out there for a couple more, to save the bullpen from punishment in pursuit of a lost cause. As it was, Nippert and EdGon were shelled too (six earned runs on nine hits over their four innings), and only Sinister escaped punishment, thanks largely to a convenient double-play ball.
Chipper Jones managed to become a member of a fairly elite club, driving in five runs during the game, despite only getting one, non-homer hit. That's only been done six times in the last fifty years: but, oddly, twice this month. Todd Helton did it on July 4th, helped by a sacrifice fly and two bases-loaded walks. However, the God-Emperors in such things are Gary Allenson of the Red Sox, who drove in five on Sept. 11, 1982, despite only getting a single (he had a bases-loaded walk and a ground-out, in addition to the three-run single) and Ben Petrick (Sept.20, 2000 for Colorado), who drove in four without a hit, on two groundouts, a sac.fly and a bases-loaded walk. Hey, you take your amusement where you can find it, looking at that box-score...
With that drubbing, Arizona's run differential sank to -31: we've conceded 473 runs this year, while scoring 442. That's exactly the same difference as the Florida Marlins: and their record is 49-57 - we are eight games better than the predicted record for such a run differential. That's the biggest positive difference by any National League team since...hmmm, the 2005 Arizona Diamondbacks, also under Bob Melvin, who finished the year eleven games better than you'd expect from their runs scored and allowed. Only one other team since 1997 has passed +8; the 2004 Reds, who allowed almost a run per game more than they scored, but ended up a respectable 76-86, nine above what would be expected.
The reason is clear: we're 23-15 in one-run games, but only 11-19 in blowouts (contests decided by five runs or more). And in super-blowouts (eight runs or more), the margin gets even bigger: since the last Arizona win by such a margin - May 25, beating Houston 13-3, we've lost five such games, by a combined score of 6-58. But our overall record during that time is 31-26. Is it Bob Melvin that we have to thank for this? After all, he has managed two of the most over-performing teams of the past decade - in case you're wondering, in 2006, they were -3. However, if that were the case, it wasn't apparent during his earlier managerial stint with the Seattle Mariners. Both in 2003 and 2004, the team underperformed expectations by five games.
Maybe it has more to do with the pitching staff: the bullpen, in particular, has been phenomenal of late. Now, obviously, you'd expect our team ERA to be lower in wins than losses. But it's more of a yawning chasm, 2.58 when we're victorious, 5.79 when we're not. However, that isn't apparently much of an indicator: the Mets have an even more extreme division of 2.00/6.45, but are only two games above expectations. Looking through the other splits, I can't find Arizona's arms excelling in any particular situation: close and late, or RISP, for example.
What we do seem good at is, breaking ties in the second half of a game. Take the sixth inning, for example; we're 35-8 when we start it with a lead, and 7-34 when we're behind, which is almost the reverse. But when we're tied at the start of the sixth, our record is 16-7. The same is true when starting off tied, for every inning from the fourth through the eighth: our win percentage is .600 or better in all of them, peaking at an amazing 15-3 record when tied after five. My theory - and it's only that - is, by that stage, a tied game means we've probably got a good outing from one of our starters, and on their days, that's capable of beating anyone. All it takes is a little offense: we've now got a 31-game unbeaten streak when scoring seven runs or more...
Thanks to hotclaws for ploughing a lone furrow through the latter innings of the game: very glad this wasn't the one on national TV! Hardly a pleasant task, and I can't blame anyone else for bailing, having done so myself [we had a plane to catch; flying stand-by means exactly that: when they call your name, you have about five seconds to answer, or they move on to the next person!] But thanks to the other participants too: LucaMaz3, nargel and wimb, were the only ones brave enough to stick their heads over the parapet during, while AZDarkKnight, soco, DbacksSkins, TwinnerA and icecoldmo slowed down as the carnage was cleared off the highway.
[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Eric Byrnes, +1.6%
God-emperor of suck: Easily Hittable Hernandez, -39.1%
Honorary "Well done!": Cozymel's Mexican Restaurant, Las Vegas
So, nothing of significance to report at the trade deadline, which drifted past without a move to speak of for the Diamondbacks. Teixiexerea, or however it's spelt, ended up with the Braves, and the Dodgers traded away one of their promising youngsters, in Wilson Betemit, for a reliever. That's always nice to see: but it seems we will be sticking with what got us this far, into the final third of the season, tied for first place in the division. I'm still not quite sure how they got us here, since the number of under-achievers on the roster seems to outnumber those punching above their weight. I think perception of a team's quality is perhaps more closely tied to that run-differential thing, than perhaps their actual W/L record.
If anyone fancies writing about the D-backs on a regular basis, but doesn't fancy that all that technical stuff, setting up their own blog, etc. AZ Sporthub are looking for someone to write exclusively for them about the team: I do weekly updates, but I imagine they are looking for something more regular, particularly down the stretch. Basically, they do all the fixes and upgrades: all you have to do is write, and the WordPress interface is a breeze to use. If you're interested, mail "mblake at azsportshub.com" - email address tweaked to avoid harvesting by spammers!
We're also pleased to welcome another member to the high-altitude fraternity of D-backs blogs. They can be found here, though I'm not quite sure what to call them, since they don't seem to have a catchy name like "Snake, Rattle and Roll", or whatever. Hopefully, they'll stay strong, and not succumb to the ennui which nailed so many of our colleagues over the summer: see the Dormant or Dead section of the sidebar for more example of that trend!
Right, should be about for most of the game: I have a bunch of stuff that needs to be done, so it may be mostly radio, but dinner is the only other thing anticipated to interfere with the process. Let's hope for a better performance all-round, but after suffering the biggest shutout in franchise history, I am comforted by the thought that it can hardly be any worse.