You might have been forgiven for missing the news, since local sports coverage concentrated on the trade which brings Shaq to the Phoenix Suns, but Brandon Lyon was officially anointed as the 2008 Diamondbacks closer today. Bob Melvin said this afternoon, "Brandon Lyon will be the closer, and Chad Qualls and Tony Pena will set him up. All three of these guys are tremendous pitchers, and I would be comfortable with any one of these guys closing." Qualls will get the seventh inning, with Tony Pena moving up to occupy the eighth frame. Melvin did note that Lyon might not be as readily available as Valverde to pitch on back-to-back-to-back days - I wouldn't be surprised to see him go to Pena for the third day.
This is probably a good move, rather than making them fight for the spot in Spring Training. Melvin is likely right, in that any of them could probably do a solid job in the role. But giving them their roles now, means they can go into the pre-season with everything decided, and just work on being as ready as they can be for Opening Day. It'll be Lyon's first time as a full-time closer since the start of 2005: he then went on the DL with an elbow injury, and lost the role to...Brian Bruney, of all people. How long ago that seems now. Since then he has three saves: one right at the end of 2005, and two last year. Let's take a look at the latter.
The first was April 29th against the Giants; Valverde was unavailable, having converted save opportunities on the three previous days. The second was a particularly tough and unexpected one on May 28th in Philadelphia. Lyon came in to get the final out after Valverde took a 5-1 lead and a non-save situation - and converted it into 5-4, with the tying run at third. Lyon got former D-back Rod Barajas to fly to right for the blessed third out. That made for an interesting Gameday Thread, needless to say. 8-P Coping with that certainly suggests he has the mental toughness to cope with the role. 39 of his appearances last year were in 'save situations' - with a lead of three runs or less - and another ten were with the score tied. Hopefully we'll find out there is not that much difference between the eighth and the ninth inning.
In addition to the above, we have news today that Eric Gagne is moving to Arizona as well. Okay, that would be 'moving' in the residential sense, rather than in the pitching sense. The Republic today reports that he and his wife have paid $5.2 million for a 6,842 square-foot Scottsdale home (with a 500 square-foot pool, natch), on the east side of the Silverleaf Club. Chalk up another major-leaguer choosing to live in Arizona, whom we can ask for a home-town discount...
However, seems that the club is seeking to raise some additional cash. The outfield porches which were sold as a group location last year, are being re-developed, and changed into what's being described as "Chase Field's equivalent of the Green Monster Seats in Fenway". There'll be only 60 of these seats, and they'll include:
- Stained concrete floor
- Corian counter tops, approximately 12"
- 22" padded seats
- Wind screen behind the seats for extra privacy
- Lounge area along the back wall
- Two TVs for each set of four seats
- One comp parking pass for each set of four seats
- In-seat waiter/waitress service
- Guaranteed same seats for playoffs
Of course, that kind of luxury doesn't come cheap. Prices range from $75 per seat, as part of a season-ticket package, up to $150 for some of the premium games. That'd be $6,225 for a full season-ticket, but at least there is no "license fee" like for the Legacy Club seats. I must confess to being somewhat ambivalent about these seats; the snarky part of me thinks that you'd need a TV set to watch the game, since you'll be about 140 yards from home-plate. [Though you would seem to have a very good chance of home-run balls, since you are basically in play] I'm also pretty populist as far as the team goes, and would rather have seen them convert the area into a $5 family area, to invest in the fans of tomorrow, rather than another zone aimed at the fairly well-off, but I fully understand the financial benefits of this approach. Hey, if it lures the corporate crowd, that'll mean better seats will be available for us purists, who simply want to be close to the game! :-)
Anyway, we now have an official SnakePit ticket contact in the D-backs office. Please welcome Mike Dellosa, who will be happy to hook you up with tickets, a group outing, season tickets, suites or those new outfield porch seats. Mike's number is 602-462-4126 and his email address is email@example.com. Tell him we sent you. Maybe we'll have to have a SnakePit group outing to a game sometime.
The Hardball Times looks at whether Chicks Dig the Long Ball. The piece is about whether there was a correlation between homers and attendance, but it also looks at other factors that have an effect. "Each win in a season adds...15,000 the next. Making the playoffs is worth about 250,000 extra fans in attendance the next year." Our 14 extra wins in 2007 and a post-season run, should therefore equate to an extra 460,000 through the turnstiles at Chase Field. That would put us at 2,785,000 for the year, about 34,400 per game. We'll see how that works out as the season unfolds.
Sports Weekly published its list of 100 Names You Need to Know for the coming season. Justin Upton is #4, but Jeff Salazar (#88) is the only other Diamondback to make the list. Well, the only current one: Callaspo, now with the Royals, is a very respectable #27 and Carlos Gonzalez, traded to the A's in the Haren deal, is #77. Mind you, Erubiel Durazo was on top of their 2000 list, and we all know how well that worked out, for Arizona at least. In case you're wondering, the rules for inclusion are "that players must have had more innings or at-bats in the minor leagues in 2007 than they have had during all of their major league time." Hence, no room for the like of Micah Owings. :-(
Lee over at Tiger Tales has been running a series of pieces looking at establishing who are the best base-runners. He finds the success rates for base runners in taking extra bases on hits and advancing on ground outs, air outs, stolen bases and other plays, and combines everything into a single base running performance measure called Bases Gained Above Average (BGAA). By this measure, it appears that Eric Byrnes was the fifth-best base-runner in the National League, with a 29.9 BGAA. It's interesting to note this, as that is a skill which does not necessarily show up in the box-score. The straight stolen-base, yes, but the extra bag taken on a single to center is less obvious, and really should be factored into consideration when judging Byrnes' value.
We are occasionally a little behind the curve here, if a piece of news does not directly affect us. Something I somehow missed, is that our expansion brothers in Tampa Bay changed their name back in November, dropping the word "devil", and have become the Tampa Bay Rays. And, look! They also changed their color scheme, two years after being taken over by a new owner - does this sound familiar to anyone? Navy and light blue will be replacing green and black, which means that hordes of die-hards are no doubt plotting a boycott, proclaiming that the once-proud traditions of the franchise have been prostituted for merchandising purposes, and this is being done to sully the memory of the previous owners and their heroic efforts which once brought Tampa Bay a seventy-win season. And so on.
One thing I didn't realise, was that the Dev... Rays have a tank at Tropicana Field, filled with their (former) namesake sealife. I trust this is not an idea which we will be copying at Chase. Inevitably, The Onion has the last word, saying that as well as the name and uniform change, "They are now a minor-league hockey team in the Florida Panthers system. "We tried the combination of calling ourselves the Devil Rays, wearing purple-and-black uniforms, and playing the sport of baseball for 10 years, and it just didn't work out," said Rays goalie Carl Crawford, noting that it was time to move the franchise away from its association with the distinctly shaped sea-dwelling mammal, the diabolical connotations of their team nickname, and the practice of hitting and catching baseballs."