Is the sky falling at Chase Field? Projecting forward based on what has happened during the first series against the Colorado Rockies, the 2009 Diamondbacks will perform as follows:
- The team will go 54-108
- Dan Haren finishes the season with 35 of those losses, despite an ERA of 1.29
- Chris Young will hit .083 for the year
- That is, however, an improvement on Eric Byrnes and Justin Upton, who both go 0-for the season.
- Brandon Webb will miss half his starts and not win a game
- Mark Reynolds and Felipe Lopez set a new major-league mark with 54 errors apiece
- Jon Rauch's ERA will be 16.20, and he'll be joined in the double-digit club by both our LOOGYs.
Yeah. Not gonna happen. Well, except maybe the last one. Otherwise, the above is all about as likely as Tony Clark hitting 108 home-runs this season - which he's currently also on pace to accomplish. So, breathe deep. While losing the opening series is undoubtedly disappointing, especially at home, there's a reason we play 162 games in a regular season, rather than three. Take a look at the current standings If the playoffs began today, the American League would see their post-season representatives as being Baltimore, Minnesota, Texas and Toronto or Oakland.
Can anything meaningful be seen in the results from the first three games? Really, precious little. Webb's first start and subsequent decision to skip the next outing on Saturday is certainly the most disconcerting thing to happen to the team, mostly because Webb has been so totally reliable over the past five years. The only time I can find him having been skipped for a scheduled start is in August 2006, with soreness in his right elbow. The bad news is, the results when he came back were not so hot: after Webb returned, his ERA was 3.99, compared to 2.74 in the season up until that point. I think what disturbs me most is that it's happening after just one game, and also that's it's deemed serious enough for Webb to miss a game against the team who are possibly favorites for the division.
To recap, after Monday's game, Webb say he'd suffered stiffness in the outing. However, he was fine playing catch at the park before Tuesday's contest. But after another 24 hours, the signs were bad enough to cancel the scheduled bullpen session The official word from the Diamondbacks, however, was cautious to the point of vagueness. Said Bob Melvin, "He came in with a little soreness today, and I decided I'm going to take care of this early on. I'm not going to let him go out there and do a bullpen today, as long as there's some stiffness. Hopefully it's just some lingering soreness, and our training staff will work diligently on that the next few days. Hopefully that's all it is." I repeat: "Hopefully." That's, at the moment, the thread on which our 2009 season appears to hang.
The report that it was a similar issue, which caused the contract extension offer to be pulled off the table, is not a complete surprise. I've heard rumblings in a similar vein since the news broke last summer, and suspect Ken Rosenthal knew about them as well. Now was just a convenient time to bring it out, in the wake of Webb's missed start. It's interesting that it was an insurance medical that proved the block: insurance is a rarely-reported area of baseball contracts. Did our medical - which Webb apparently passed - not show the issue at all? Or was it seen, but not regarded as sufficiently important to break the deal? Rosenthal's story does say insurance medicals are more stringent, which is understandable. It'd be interesting to get the whole story, although I'm not holdiong my breath.
Otherwise, however; pretty much been what we expected. Dan Haren was very good, and Doug Davis mediocre, while the various members of the bullpen have ranged from excellent to utterly crappy. And after a solid enough first couple of games, the anticipated infield defense problems showed up this afternoon - though, much like Jon Rauch, as long as they only appear when the game is already lost, I won't be too upset. On offense, Byrnes has seemed completely lost - when the New Times [hardly a baseball publication] is savaging your at-bats, you know you're in trouble. Young and Upton haven't looked much better, but Stephen Drew and Chad Tracy appear to have hit the ground running.
Definitely worth remembering that we were 1-2 after the first series last season, having scored eleven runs in three games then too - and our offensive line then was only .154/.231/.352. That's rather worse than the current numbers of .229//286/.458, and you'll find that April still ended up being not too bad for Arizona. Part of the reason is that we had exactly one hit with men in scoring position this entire series, in eleven opportunities. Admittedly the figure for runs allowed in 2009 (20) is a good deal worse than the previous year (11), with the most obvious difference being the seven home-runs allowed by our pitching staff to date - only four were given up over the first set in 2008. Yusmeiro Petit's spot start for the team on Saturday at Chase has air-traffic control at Sky Harbor worried.
Perhaps more surprisingly, given the words in spring training, is that we haven't even attempted stealing a base to this point. Admittedly, chances have been somewhat limited, with 12 singles and seven walks. By the time you rule out the likes of Tracy, Snyder and Jackson (though the latter has shown decent wheels), the only real chances to steal were: Ryan Roberts singling to lead off the sixth in the opening game; Drew singling with two outs in the first on Tuesday; plus Byrnes's walk and Lopez's single to lead off the second and third innings on Wednesday - with a left-handed pitcher on the mound. We've been busier trotting round the bases than running them, long balls accounting for seven of our 11 men to cross home-plate.
One thing that has not been in short supply are the K's, which have started this season as they ended last - piling up, at a rapid speed. Through today, one-quarter of our 96 at-bats ended in strikeouts; a rate almost identical to the 24% rate the Diamondbacks put up in 2008. Thanks in part to the varied line-ups, they have been spread about a bit, Young, Jackson and Upton currently tying for the team lead with three K's apiece - J-Up managing that in only five at-bats. Among teams who've played three games like us, that rate is ahead only of the woeful, winless Washington Nationals. Not quite the company we want to keep. Meanwhile, the K:BB ratio is worse than 3:1, with only Drew having more than a single walk. But., as noted, we're still hitting better than at this time last season.
Finally, wearing the costume's during the condiment race at yesterday's game were KTAR's Doug and Wolf, and their producer. They lost the NCAA bracket contest to Gambo and Ash, and this was the resulting forfeit. The photo below proves, beyond any doubt, that there is absolutely no way to look anything except totally ludicrous, when dressed as a snack or condiment jar...