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Diamondbacks 6, Giants 4 - Baked Zito

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Record: 86-67. Change on last season: +14. Pace: 91-71
Playoff odds: 90.5%. Playoff Magic Number: 7

Quote of the day: "No. No way. I'll be hunting, fishing and chilling with my family. I'll be done with baseball, and you won't see me on TV again until I get inducted into the Hall of Fame." -- Orlando Hudson, on whether TV is in his future

Last night's game is almost a miniature version of the season: at times it seemed there was no way we were going to win, and at others it felt we were an unstoppable force. The Giants blew two leads, we blew one of our own, and Jose Valverde left the tying run in scoring position at the end of the ninth. However, it's the end result that matters, and with the Phillies enduring a crucial loss in extra innings, we are now 3.5 games clear of them, and keep our division lead at one, with nine to play. There's still a slim chance we can clinch playoff baseball at home on Sunday, which would be nice - though that would require the Phillies to lose today then get swept over the weekend, and Arizona to sweep the Dodgers.

One worrying aspect is Doug Davis, who failed to get through five innings for the third time in a row. Again, Melvin seemed to dawdle a little too long, letting Davis hang out on the mound for two more hitters after the Giants had taken the lead 4-3, but he acted before things got too far out of hand, and Juan Cruz came in to get the final out of the inning. Davis ended with a line of nine hits and a walk over 4.2 innings, and with probably only one more start before the Promised Land, is running out of time to get his act together. Is it fatigue? Don't think so: he's well short of the total from last year. Tipping his pitches? One wonders: 25 hits now, in the past 13.1 innings, isn't good.

Fortunately, we got some clutch hits when we needed them. And clutch walks, too: Chris Snyder took ball four with the bases loaded and one out in the third, and "drove in" the go-ahead run by trotting down to first. Mark Reynolds was, however, then picked off third in the latest in what seems a long series of errors on the basepaths, and that opportunity went nowhere further. Snyder came up big again with the bases loaded in the fifth, after the lead had been given up, doubling home the tying and go-ahead runs once more. He ended with three hits and three RBI on the night, and is batting .319 with 29 RBI since the break: the former leads the team, and the latter makes him one of six Diamondbacks with between 25 and 35 runs driven in. Truly: anybody, anytime. Mark Reynolds also had three hits, continuing his good work of late (if not running the bases), while Upton and Young chipped in with a pair each. The 13 hits was the most since September 1st.

The bullpen was back in form, with 4.1 innings of shutout ball. Still, I doubt any Diamondbacks fan did not swallow nervously during the seventh inning, when Tony Peña took the mound. As on Monday, he had a two-run lead. As on Monday, the batters he faced included Frandsen, Davis, Winn and Molina. Unlike Monday, Pestileñce did not allow five runs in less than inning: he walked Winn, but that was all, and our Horseman re-mounted his Apocalyptic steed with little fuss. Lyon allowed a lead-off infield single in the eighth, and Valverde put the first two men aboard in the ninth but escaped further damage.

Exactly three hundred comments: I like round numbers. :-) snakecharmer, DbacksSkins, singaporedbacksfan, leemellon, dahlian, cj060896, johngordonma, unnamedDBacksfan, suitsmetoATnT, Devin, batster, Diamondhacks, andrewinnewyork, seton hall snake pit, Stile4aly, azdb7 and hotclaws (hope your back is feeling better) took part. A key win for Arizona, especially when combined with the Phillies loss. The Dodgers going down will help too, since they're basically dead in the water in advance of our series with them this weekend. Nothing like having no incentive to win...

Gameday Graph

[Click graph to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Chris Snyder, +34.6%
God-emperor of suck: Doug Davis, -24.7%
Honorary quite goodness: Justin Upton, +16.5%

An off-day, hooray. I'm going to spend tonight playing with Joomla, trying to become proficient there, since I'm supposed to be setting it up on another site. As long as I can stay one step more knowledgeable than the users, that's all I can ask... :-) Still be some gentle scoreboard watching on, with the Phillies game: the Dodgers (6-0 down) and Padres (6-3 up) should be finished before I leave work. So no stressful Hairston-shaped diversions will be needed this evening!

I got an email back from Sal regarding his Pythagorean article at Hardball Times, and my criticism of him saying, "Logic tells us that a team with a good strategy would win lots of games by big margins and only lose the close ones". Here's his interesting reply:

That's one of the sentences I regret writing. I wish I had said, "Logic tells us that a good team with a good strategy would win lots of games by big margins and only lose the close ones." Of course a team with an optimal strategy will win close games, too. But the hallmark of a good team (not necessarily good strategy) is that they score lots of runs and don't allow many to score. That would lead to a large run differential, naturally.

While the core/periphery model is a good one, it doesn't explain the extent of the gap. And it hasn't been shown to be a systematic way to beat your pythag. Take this year's Blue Jays: they're -4 on their pythag. Their top four relievers have a composite ERA of 2.58. The rest of the bullpen has a 5.74 ERA. That's a larger differential in both directions than Arizona's.

More pointedly, it means that just because a team has a core/periphery bullpen, we wouldn't expect a team to outperform their pythag (even if they had before). The larger point is that just because a team has played +X on its Pythag, it doesn't mean that we should expect it to continue, whatever their bullpen/management/clutch hitting is like. That doesn't mean that a team will play to -X to "even" out. It just means that we would expect a team to win to its pythag based on its projected runs scored/allowed (not the runs they're already scored and allowed, since obviously teams change over the course of the season).

Of course, what I didn't say was that the wins that Arizona has in the books are theirs, and nobody can take those away. It's not that they're not deserving of those wins - they did score more runs in the nine innings. That's the object of the game.