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Diamondbacks 4, Reds 5 - Bad Luck? Or Bad Play?

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Record: 47-42. Change on last season: +3. Pace: 86-76

Quote of the day: "The results aren't good, but everybody's playing hard, everybody's running hard, everybody's focusing." -- Bob Melvin

O RLY? You mean, like in the bottom of the eighth, just after Arizona tied the game. Mark Reynolds was caught napping and playing far too deep at third, allowing Brandon Phillips to drop down a bunt. And Eric Byrnes then standing still after catching a ball in center, allowing Phillips to advance to second - it wasn't as if the ball required a leaping catch at the fence, so even Dash Incredible shouldn't have been able to tag up and advance. Naturally, an RBI single followed, and Arizona slumped to their seventh defeat in eight teams [we've now also lost six of the last seven one-run games we've played]. Your Arizona Diamondbacks: a gift to sucky teams everywhere.

Remember that wretched offensive streak we had to open May, of fifteen consecutive games where we scored four runs or less? During that time, our line was .223/.278/.366 for an OPS of .644, and 2.8 runs per game. Now, after last night's defeat, over the past thirteen games, our line is .221/.286/.366, making a .652 OPS and 3.0 runs per game. The real difference between these two runs is to be found in the pitching which accompanied them. From May 1-15, we held opponents to a .239 average, and posted a 3.79 ERA. But in the recent run, the ERA is 5.06, with teams batting .294. Defense also plays a part: we've allowed an average of one unearned run per game - in the earlier streak, it was 0.4 per game. All this combines for a 3-10 record, much worse than the 6-9 record posted to open May.

I'm not going to rehash yesterday's latest disaster in any depth. We were lucky to be even in this game, relying on Byrnes three-run swat for almost all of our offense. We botched a chance to add on when we had the lead (man on third, one out in the third, fail to score, and overall 2-for-10 with RISP), and managed two hits in five innings facing a rookie starter with five major-league appearances and an 8.10 ERA. Webb was okay: four runs over seven innings, but both of his walks came around to score.

Peña gave up the lead on three hits and a walk, and with the tying run in scoring position in the ninth, Tony Clark and Miguel Montero were caught with their bats on their shoulders, looking at strike three. Maybe it's time to call up Chris Carter and see what he can do off the bench, because Clark's last hit of any type, off the bench or as a starter, was June 20, and he's hitting .132 since May 26, with one extra-base hit. Oh, and he's not even 'clutch', hitting .171 this year with runners in scoring position.

Joining me in the Gameday Thread, like a bunch of mistreated puppies, were Wimb, MFAN, hotclaws, oklahomasooners, unnamedDBacksfan, DbacksSkins, singaporedbacksfan, DiamondbacksWIn, IndyDBack and a somewhat uppity, it has to be said, suitsmetoATnT, who appears not to have noticed we're still seven games ahead of the Giants. Amazing what a two-game winning streak will do for fan confidence. Wish we had one. :-S

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Eric Byrnes, +33.8%
God-emperor of suck: Tony Peña, -26.8%

Suits does bring up a good point about Eric Byrnes, arguing that he's being under-appreciated by Arizona fans. Well, yes and no. There's no doubt that he is having a fabulous season, and as far as our offense goes, is single-handedly keeping us in the race. I'd far rather have seen him go to the All-Star game than Orlando Hudson, and probably Jose Valverde as well. But is he the long-term solution in left? I think not, and two big factors weigh into this.

Firstly, he is having a career year. His current OPS+ figure of 122 is the highest he's ever had, with BA, OBP and SLG all on course for his best ever figures. But his career OPS is only 102; taken as a whole, he is basically an average player. Has he suddenly discovered how to hit at age 31? Can we rely on this going forward? I sincerely doubt the answer in either case is "Yes". More likely, a combination of random chance, extra effort in his contract year and a third factor I'll get to in a moment, are combining to produce these excellent results.

Also, this has been brought up before, but it's worth repeating. Eric Byrnes is a far better first-half hitter. We're not talking the odd point of OBP either, and we're talking over his entire career, since 2000. Here's the stats for the season splits, along with his record so far.

                  BA    OBP    SLG    OPS
2007 so far     .312   .369   .504   .873
Career 1st half .291   .353   .501   .854
Career 2nd half .234   .290   .389   .679
Difference       -57    -63   -112   -175

I'm not aware of anyone else in baseball who has such a huge gulf in production after the All-Star break, but this seems a repeatable skill, and his figures this year seem right in line with his career first-half performance. He had a monster first-half in 2006 as well (.292/.352/.522 - an OPS of .874, almost identical to this season) and fell off the roof, hitting .239 in August and .227 after that. If Las Vegas took bets on individual players, I'd be all over that. Byrnes will slump. Take it to the bank. I love Eric Byrnes, but his trade value will never be higher. Let some other team enjoy his second-half production, and then sign an average player to a $4 yr, $45 million dollar contract.