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Diamondbacks 2, Angels 7: Sunday Saunders Sux

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Joe Saunders did well enough in the first inning, after giving up a double to the first batter he faced, stranding that man at third. There was another hit to lead-off the second, but the three groundouts which followed took care of that.

Then there was the third inning. Saunders gave up four runs without retiring anyone, jacking his spring ERA up to 15.88, having allowed thirteen hits and ten earned runs in 5.2 innings of work. Our prospective Opening Day starter has hardly looked like it so far, and the Diamondbacks dropped to 3-8 in Cactus League play, largely as a result.

Walk - the third straight lead-off batter to reach off Saunders today. Stolen base. Single. Two-run double. And then, just in case you missed it the first time. Single. Two-run double. Replacement by Empire State Ortega following, leaving Saunders with the uncomfortable line of six hits, a walk and four runs in two innings of work. I know it's only spring training, blah, small sample size, blah, still getting the work in and all, but among the 55 National League pitchers with five innings of work to date, Saunders' ERA is more than double anyone else's. To quote the great philosopher, Han Solo - something regarding a trash compactor - "I've got a baaaaad feeling about this."

While I'm discussing things that get the threat level rising, Nick Piecoro reports that the club "might have to look elsewhere for a left fielder," if Xavier Nady's throwing arm continues its impression of a wet noodle. He's been just lobbing the ball back in, though Kirk Gibson's professed unconcern was somewhat at odds with his words [emphasis added]: "That's where he is. It's either that or shut him down. The only way to get arm strength is for him to throw the way he is now. It may take him awhile. He may never throw like he did before. I don't want him to panic about that." No, don't worry: after two TJ surgeries, we'll take care of all the panicking for Nady.

Piecoro heard a suggestion from "someone in the organization," that if Nady's throwing arm remains problematic, he might be shifted to first, "with Gerardo Parra and Wily Mo Pena sharing time in left field." It's like Brandon Allen has become the forgotten man on the roster. Pena was DFA'd by the Nationals in March 2009, went unclaimed by any team, and hasn't appeared in the major-leagues since a 2008 campaign with Washington where he hit .205 over 64 games. And is still apparently preferred by the D-backs to Allen. I think I speak on behalf of many - but particularly Brandon - when I give a calm and measured response of, "WTF?"

Yeah, I'm feeling grumpy today. Thanks for asking. No particular reason. It just seems that everywhere I look today, I see news to sink my hopes for the coming season. We were held to two runs this afternoon - the fifth consecutive game where the Diamondbacks have scored four or less, with only 13 tallies in total over that time. Meanwhile, the Angels - who had scored a total of nineteen runs in seven games before this afternoon - teed off on Saunders and Kam Mickolio. The latter faced six batters before being relieved in the sixth, and retired only two of them, allowing two walks and two hits.

Reasons to be cheerful? Brian Sweeney retired all four faced, fanning two. And David Hernandez pitched a hitless eighth, though allowed two walks. On offense, Russell Branyan had a double and Arizona's walk (to sit beside nine K's), the only player for the D-backs to reach base more than once. Dammit, here's something else to irritate me: Gibson's response when asked if we can score in 2011 without Reynolds and LaRoche. "I hope we give up less and score more, but time will tell. I'm not a computer, I can't punch that out of my head. San Diego was last in runs, and they were in first place until the last day -- and I'll take that. Again, because they pitch and defend."

Oh, boy. Where to start? The Padres weren't actually in first for the final week of 2010. Their OPS+ was very close to ours (93 vs. 95), and they actually outscored us on the road, 343-329. They scored less than the Dodgers (two runs less!), simply because of Petco. Visiting pitchers had a 3.81 ERA, compared to visiting pitchers in the NL overall, who posted a 4.30 ERA. So that's maybe forty runs lost, simply due to the ballpark. When you adjust pitching for park factors (ERA+), the Padres finish well behind both the Giants + Rockies. And most of the more advanced fielding metrics, e.g. rTot or UZR, say we were a better fielding team than San Diego in 2010. Any questions?

Tomorrow, it's split-squad action for Arizona, with half the team going down to Tucson to take on the White Sox in a game tomorrow, where proceeds benefit the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Fund - Zach Duke and Jarrod Parker will be in that game, along with Kevin Mulvey and Carlos Rosa. The other half of the squad stay in the valley - well, almost, since they're going to Surprise to take on the Royals. Those scheduled to pitch there include Aaron Heilman, J.J. Putz (making his spring debut), Josh Collmenter and Zach Kroenke.

I'm going to go stomp on a litter of orphaned kittens or something.