Been a somewhat mad few days - the deadline for our Fear FIlm Festival has meant we've spent most of last week watching indie horror flicks, from the excellent to the...not-so excellent. Fortunately, not a lot happening on the Diamondbacks' front - I should mention that TWIDB entries will appear only on an "as needed" basis throughout the winter. The GM winter meetings proved largely bereft of significant actual Diamondbacks news - and I'd simply have ended up repeating Nick Piecoro's entirely acceptable coverage of the event. Which is what I'm about to do anyway. We're still kicking the tires on Livan Hernandez, but might also be looking at Randy Wolf; the team is interested in bringing back Augie Ojeda; it's not going to be easy to trade Chris Snyder.
Yeah, like I said: not much there worth starting the presses for, never mind stopping them. Still, after the jump, I'll unleash our crack research team, and see if there's anything we might have missed about the Diamondbacks of late.
The Silver Slugger went to Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals, which probably counts as a mild traveshamockery. You're expecting some passionate plea in support of Mark Reynolds' candidacy for the award, no doubt - and he did have more home-runs. But despite the name, the award is not just about power, but all offensive numbers, an on that basis, should have gone to Pablo Sandoval. His OPS was more than fifty points higher than Zimmerman's, with a higher BA, OBP and SLG. Zimmerman (and, indeed, Reynolds) did have more RBI than Sandoval, but that's mostly due to the San Francisco offense, a.k.a. Pablo and the Seven Dwarfs. Here's the stats for the top five third-basemen in the NL, as measured by OPS+. See if you can work out how Zimmerman was superior.
As noted in a fanpost, Dan Bickley has returned to flogging the Diamondbacks in his latest column, in part because of the idiotic comments apparently made by Colin Cowherd suggesting the D-backs be contracted [no doubt partly out of spite due to the situation with frequent show guest, Eric Byrnes]. "D-Backs in battle to stay relevant," says Bickley. Well, duh. Hello? It's the off-season? How "relevant" are the Cardinals in April? While there are some good points - an improvement over the usual Bickley nonsense - it still contains nonsense like, "Can we get Orlando Hudson back?" and "Ticket buyers have become scarce. With the Cardinals soaring and the Suns surging, this team better find some competitive traction soon."
Cardinals soaring? The team that requires an endless series of ticket-selling extensions to avoid TV blackouts? Suns surging? Hang on, not even two weeks previously, someone was writing in the Republic, "The way basketball was in Phoenix for the past four years [it] might never be again. With a new season barely under way, the Suns have embraced reality... They already have conceded that their impressive sellout streak will end Sunday.. More than 2,000 seats remain for the second home game of a new season... They likely will return to the playoffs. But will they ever recapture the magic? It will take many more victories...to challenge the football team, the one that painted the town from orange to red." Who was that writer, questioning the Suns' relevance? Ah, yes: Dan Bickley.
"Many more victories"? Try nine. For here we are, the 9-2 Suns are Bickley's darlings, and had a massive lead in the azcentral.com poll to determine the town's favorite team. Well, there's a shocker. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: sports fans in this state are about as loyal as a Van Buren hooker. There are so many front-runners, they could re-enact the Boston Marathon, and possess the sporting memories (plus, too often, the sporting knowledge) of a goldfish. The solution to the Diamondbacks' alleged lack of "relevance" is simple. Win more games. That's all it takes in Phoenix, and the fans will come flocking back, especially after the Suns and Cardinals are both one and done in the post-season. Now, how does the team win more games? Good question...
Andrew Kneeland takes a look at three signings the D-backs need to make to improve in 2010: Russell Branyan at 1B, leftie Jarrod Washburn for the rotation and Mike Gonzalez for the bullpen. Hmmm. Not so sure. Branyan is another left-handed 1B, and we already have that side of things adequately covered, in Brandon Allen and Josh Whitesell. Washburn's 3.78 AL ERA looks very nice, but was based on a .257 BABIP [his career average is .280], so he'll likely be over-valued this winter. He's also an extreme fly-ball pitcher, and we know how that plays at Chase. And a three year, $15m contract for a middle-reliever? Not my idea of where we should be spending the money. The last sentence of the piece, "He is an intern at the Green Valley News," explains a lot. Thanks for playing, Andrew.
Former Diamondback Orlando Hudson = not happy. In particular, not happy about Joe Torre, and the way their relationship imploded as the season went on, with Hudson seeing less and less playing-time. Said O-Dawg, "My teammates talked to me about it more than Joe did, but I never had any answers because (Torre) and I never talked. There was no conversation... I guess he felt I wasn't the man for the job if he wasn't putting me in there." Doesn't seem likely, based on this, that Hudson will be back in Chavez Ravine next season. I'm sure Bickley will be pleased by that.
Brandon Webb was seen at the PIR over the weekend, at the NASCAR races - not too much of a shock, where else would a good ol' Kentucky boy who loves hunting be? Even though the Diamondbacks do have a NASCAR connection - the Hall of Fame racing team is owned by former Arizona shareholders Jeff Moorad + Tom Garfinkel, and Panda Express CEO Tom Davin - we won't be seeing Webb on the track any time soon. He said "It's a little too dangerous for me out there. I'll stick to the mound."
Here's a name from past: Wally Backman. His tenure as Diamondbacks manager was among the shortest in major-league history, after unsavory incidents from his past came to light, and he was fired four days and zero games after being hired - possibly the low point of the nightmare which was 2004. Five and a half years later, he has finally made it back to a major-league organization. He did have a couple of spells in indie ball, but has now been hired as manager of the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets Single-A affiliate. I can't think of a more perfect organization for Backman.
I've been playing about with the enhanced Play Index feature over at Baseball-Reference.com, which now allows you to search in a variety of new ways. For instance, I found out that twice last season, the Diamondbacks used ten players in a game who were aged 25 or younger, on June 26 and July 4. [This week's trivia - how many of those young gentlement can you name? Between the two contests, there were a dozen in total] That's a number unmatched by any team in the majors - only the Padres and Braves managed more than eight - and is more evidence for the ongoing youth movement of the roster.
Speaking of B-R.com, in the past, we have sponsored various Diamondbacks there. These have included such illustrious names as Chris Snyder, Miguel Montero and Chad Tracy, as well as the not-quite-so illustrious ones of Dustin Nippert and Jailen Peguero. The departure of Yusmeiro Petit for pastures Pacific Northwestern means we had to look at putting our name on another page, and keeping ourselves in the ranks of supporters of this splendid reference site, alongside a couple of other posters here. But who should we pick? The ones available were somewhat limited, especially among the position players - we could get John Hester for $15, and that was about it.
Fortunately, things were a little more open on the pitching side. Though all the big names were locked up, we could still get Kevin Mulvey ($10), Bryan Augenstein ($5), Leo Rosales ($5), Blaine Boyer ($10) or Esmerling Vasquez ($5). However, in the end, we went for Billy Buckner at $10. He has a good chance to be in the rotation next year, and is also cheap. We like cheap. Something temporary has been/will be stuck up on the page as a placeholder, but I am entirely open to suggestions as to the text to go on the page. 255-character limit, so get your thinking caps on, folks. Mind you, this has likely condemned Buckner to injury, trade or abduction by aliens between now and Opening Day. Sorry, Billy.
[Answer to the trivia question: On June 26th, the ten players used by the Diamondbacks who were aged 25 or younger were: Montero, Upton, Reynolds, Parra, Young, Romero, Buckner, Zavada, Vasquez, Gutierrez. On July 4th, Petit and Scherzer (as a PH!) replaced Buckner and Vasquez.]