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Land of the Giants: Previewing the AZ/SF series

Everything and nothing. That's what's been wrong with the Diamondbacks in their first three series, which have seen them lose each one at home, and slump to a 3-6 record, when a good start to the season was very much needed. However, it has been an infuriating patchwork of reasons, rather than one over-riding flaw, which has caused the team to struggle. One day, our hitters will have more pop-ups than a sale in Sears' toaster department. The next, they'll smack the ball around, but our starting pitcher will serve up batting practice. Then, starters and hitters will be fine, and the bullpen coughs up a massive hairball. It is an ephemeral that's infuriating, not least because something like that is hard to fix. You can't just fire a couple of relief arms and start winning games.

Just about every player on the team has shown flashes of what they need to do for us to succeed, but what's been missing is any level of consistency. Now, though everyone is going to have good days and bad, and there's nothing you can do about that, you generally want these to balance out. Instead, we have been seeing one or two people do well in any given contest, but the awfulness of everyone else has tilted the balance against us. The result has been .241/.303/.425, an OPS+ of just 80, and a team ERA of 6.04, an almost equally-dreadful figure for ERA+ of 83. Those are 'good' enough for 11th- and 13th-best in the National League to date.

Which brings us to the weekend series against the Giants, who are ranked 16th (OPS+ of 66) and 13th (ERA+ 79) respectively, coming into tonight's game. So they have been even more wretched than the Diamondbacks so far. The hitting woes aren't really any surprise - they had a bad offense last season and did very little to improve it over the winter. Their collective line to date is .236/.288/.364, having hit five home-runs [just one more than Albert Pujols, all by himself!] in 258 team at-bats. Their issues seem to be almost the reverse of ours: the middle-infield of Burriss and Renteria are hitting .107 [6-for-56], while the outfield, under Evil Emperor Randy Winn, has been performing very well, batting .345, with three of those homers and almost half the team's RBI.

Most people - and I include myself in that group - expected the pitching, and the rotation in particular, to be a strength by the bay. They had three Cy Young winners, including the reigning champion (Lincecum) and a first-ballot lock for Cooperstown (the Big Unit). But so far, the rotation has an ERA fractionally under seven - and four of five starters are above that. Obviously, the most disturbing is Lincecum, whose first two outings have been horrid: fourteen hits and six walks in 8.1 innings - though still striking out more than a batter per frame. Another bad outing on Friday, and those who wondered at his berserk usage pattern last year - back-to-back starts with 127 and 138 pitches, averaging 109 per game, and piling up Pitcher Abuse Points like they were air miles - will really have grounds to say 'Told you so.' As usual, we'll get more specific as we preview the match-ups over the weekend.

Closer Brian Wilson hasn't even seen a save situation from the mound this year, but has disposed of five of the six batters seen, and the bullpen has not been as much a disaster as the rotation. They've allowed 15 runs in 28.2 innings of work, an ERA of 4.71: while still a little higher than you'd like, it is within touching distance of the league average, 4.52. And, let's be honest, it's a damn sight better than the 6.89 figure posted by the Diamondbacks' relief corps - even if they have picked up two of Arizona's three wins thus far, and have yet to taste actual defeat. [Random note: Max Scherzer's eight winless starts is quite some way from being the worst way to kick off a career. Just ask Bill Caudill, who didn't win a start until his 21st attempt, almost two years after his first one in 1979]

So this series pits two teams who are desperately in need of something like a sweep to kick-start their seasons into a more acceptable form. Based on what they have accomplished to date, it would be foolish to expect much in the way of high-quality baseball, and it really wouldn't surprise me if both teams managed to lose the series somehow. MLB will probably revoke any victories gained, using the little known-rule of Excessive Franchise Suckage, and hand them to the Dodgers. Who will proceed to laugh at both us and the Giants, as they roll around in a jacuzzi filled with money. Yeah, it's gonna be a fun weekend, folks...