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Pace of play? The Diamondbacks and Rockies hold the longest 9-inning game in National League history

3dclocksYou don’t hear about pace of play this season as much as you did when the new rules to speed up baseball games were instituted in 2015. But don’t be mistaken; it remains one of commissioner Rob Manfred’s top initiatives.  And frankly, he’s fighting a losing battle right now.

Game times are up in 2016, surpassing the dreaded three-hour mark as of mid-May. The biggest culprit? There’s just more of stuff. More pitches, more walks, more strikeouts and more balls staying out of play. Those add up, and you had the perfect storm Friday night when the Rockies hosted the Diamondbacks.

It took 4 fours and 30 minutes for the D’Backs to pull off the 10-9 comeback victory. The game time bested a 15-year National League record for longest nine-inning game by 3 minutes. The previous record-holder was a Dodgers-Giants tilt from 2001.

This one had all the ingredients for a extraordinarily long game: 19 runs; 30 hits; 13 walks; 16 strikeouts (eh, that’s not too bad); six mid-inning pitching changes (serenity now!).

As pointed out by the Rockies’ SB Nation blog, Purple Row, the teams combined for 46 at-bats with runners in scoring position. That is pretty amazing to fathom but easy to understand when you see that there were 12 doubles (tied for the most in a game this year), six stolen bases, five errors, three wild pitches, two balks and all of those damn walks. There were actually 60 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, and imagine how much longer this game would have lasted if the teams had hit better than .196 in those RISP situations.

I never want to complain about game times; my life is always better at the ballpark. But it’s games like this one that make Manfred tear out what’s remaining of his hair. Moreover, there’s really nothing he can do to stop these types of games from occurring. For all of his rules and suggestions, he can’t force pitchers to throw strikes. He can’t stop fielders from booting balls. He can’t stop hitters from taking so many pitches. Like the fans, he just has to sit there and wait for the game to, at some point, end.

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Sunday was all about crazy comebacks in baseball

April 24, 2016 Leave a comment
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Movie, good. Baseball, better.

I saw “The Jungle Book” today. Very entertaining. Even with so many of today’s movies being overwhelmed by computer graphics, the CGI in this movie is outstanding. If there is a criticism, it’s that, other than the wolf pack and a couple others in the forest, there seems to be only one of each animal. One panther. One tiger. One snake. One bear. Forget about the one human boy among the wild; someone needs to investigate what befell so many of the species in this ecosystem.

But that’s all I did Sunday. Otherwise, I relaxed and watched some baseball. However, it’s difficult to relax when you are on the edge of your seat, and that’s where a handful of games put me. There were some wholeheartedly “good” games — Mets-Braves, Cardinals-Padres and Marlins-Giants were all tense late — but four games specifically turned this lazy Sunday into a crazy one.

Let’s start chronologically and with perhaps the wildest game of the bunch: Twins-Nationals. Stephen Strasburg was the story for the first seven innings. But in the eighth, he challenged Brian Dozier with one too many fastballs, and Dozier sent Strasburg’s 114th and final pitch way out for a three-run homer that gave Minnesota a 4-1 lead.

The Nats got two runs back in the bottom of the eighth. Then in the ninth, Dusty Baker made a brilliant managerial move: He sent Bryce Harper to the plate. What a strategy.

Harper had been given the day off, but in a one-run game, it was time for him to get involved.

Harper took a couple of hacks that made it known he wants to hit this ball into the Atlantic. I’m not sure why Kevin Jepsen gave him the chance — so what if you walk Bryce Harper? Throw it out of the zone, for goodness sake — but his low fastball wasn’t low enough. Unless you’re a Twins fan, click here to feel all the chills.

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Best-case/worst-case scenarios for every MLB team in 2016

March 28, 2016 Leave a comment

question-marks-300x300You know the adage that is hammered into every team preview column at this time of year: Hope springs eternal. That hope is then extinguished pretty early for some teams. Really, really early for others. But we should all be optimists in March.  So, here’s what I consider to be the best-case scenario for each team on the field this season.

However, I’m also a realist. “Winning the World Series” isn’t a down-to-earth possibility for everyone. Conversely, there is no chance that the Cubs — even the Cubs — will lose 100-plus games. Consider this list a sensible results spectrum for each team. “Sensible results spectrum” just doesn’t sound catchy as a title.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Best Case: All that action in December pays off as Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller head a staff with a good amount of complementary talent. Patrick Corbin more closely resembles his 2013 form. The offense remains potent, and 36-year-old Brad Ziegler follows up a solid 2015 by continuing to make hitters pound the ball into the dirt. A division crown is very possible, and a trip to the NLCS isn’t out of the question.

Worst Case: This is basically a repeat of the 2015 Padres: Winning the offseason doesn’t promise success over the summer. Miller has an understandable regression, turning the rotation into Greinke followed by a bunch of guys. The offense will still be productive, but the likes of David Peralta and Yasmany Tomas don’t do enough to support Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. Who knows if this will all mesh? If it doesn’t, third place is where they will land

Atlanta Braves

Best Case: For some teams, winning right now isn’t really what’s best for the club. The Braves are one such team. What’s best for them is seeing some of their young players (Ender Inciarte, Julio Teheran, Matt Wisler, Aaron Blair, etc.) provide hope for the future, a healthy Freddie Freeman, and a lot of losses so they can maximize their draft pool and couple Dansby Swanson with another No. 1 overall pick.

Worst Case: Freeman battles more injuries. Atlanta’s green pitchers get thoroughly battered around the league. Coming out to Turner Field only serves to remind fans how the Braves are technically deserting Atlanta and a relatively young ballpark to get their hands on some more sweet, sweet public money where a lot of rich white folks live. No hope.

Baltimore Orioles

Best Case: Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Matt Weiters, J.J. Hardy, Jonathan Schoop, Mark Trumbo, Pedro Alvarez. This team should lead the sport in home runs, so that’s cool. If the starting rotation can be league average collectively, the O’s can slide their way into a Wild Card spot.

Worst Case: The starting rotation is as much of a tire fire as many expect. That unit lost Wei-Yin Chen and basically replaced him with a Yovani Gallardo who is becoming more hittable. Weiters still can’t shake the injury bug. In the game’s deepest division and bereft of an arm they can depend on to stop a losing streak when the strikeout-happy bats are slumping, Baltimore could find itself in last place comfortably

Boston Red Sox

Best Case: What was supposed to be in 2015 comes to fruition in 2016. All of the vets are able to stay healthy. Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez endear themselves to Red Sox Nation. David Ortiz gets one more shot at October magic. The duo of David Price and Clay Buchholz dominate, and the back end of the bullpen with Craig Kimbrel is no longer a point of great consternation for the Sawx. This squad has World Series potential

Worst Case: Another huge letdown. Price remains great, but the rotation otherwise is a mess. Buchholz hardly makes it past 100 innings again. Carson Smith’s elbow injury subtracts a critical late-inning weapon. First base becomes Ramirez’s latest comical defensive venture. With Sandoval, people talk more about his fat than his bat. Father Time continues to wear on Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia. Fourth place and another finish behind the Yankees.

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Big Bang, Baby: Thoughts About The Arizona Diamondbacks Signing Zack Greinke

December 7, 2015 3 comments

A friend texted me on Friday night. core

“My condolences on your boy.”

I thought he was talking about Scott Weiland, the former frontman of Stone Temple Pilots, one of my favorite bands from my childhood; I remember buying their debut album when I was 8 years old. Weiland’s voice and tone were unmistakable and fantastic. It is kind of surprising that he even made it to 48 years of age, but I was still left feeling stunned when I heard the news of his death on Thursday. STP had a bunch of hits, yet combing back through their song catalog that night, even I had forgotten just how many great songs that band churned out. STP, from 1992-96, were something really special.

Alas, my friend’s message was actually in regards to someone whom I readily do call “my boy”: Zack Greinke. As I’ve said many times on this blog, he is my favorite player, seven years running now. Having him pitching just 40 minutes up the road in Dodger Stadium for the past three seasons has been Wonderful. It is a little saddening that’s no longer the case, but at least I and the rest of Los Angles will get to see Greinke on TV much more often

More importantly, signing Zack, if nothing else, should help the Diamondbacks Creep up in the NL West and make that division more competitive. According to Katie Sharp, Greinke compiled a 5.9 FanGraphs WAR last season. That number matches the total WAR of the D-Backs’ entire starting rotation in 2015. 

That’s not to say Arizona is bereft of pitching. Robbie Ray looks like a worthwhile starter. Archie Bradley still has loads of upside, and Patrick Corbin showed flashes this past summer of the guy who was an All-Star in 2013 before Tommy John surgery shelved him for all of 2014. There are pieces to work with there, but Greinke fills the Big Empty space that Arizona had for a proven ace to head the group. With the offense being provided by, notably, Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock, this team has a solid Core with which to compete in a division that saw only the now-weakened Dodgers finish with more than 85 wins.

Chase Field doesn’t offer the friendly, vast confines of Dodger Stadium, but over the past three years while with L.A., Greinke allowed a total of three earned runs through 41.1 innings while in Arizona.  His strikeout-to-walk ratio was 41:7.

For the 2015 season, Greinke led all pitchers in b-WAR (9.8). His final marks in ERA, ERA+ and WHIP all ranked among the top six by a starting pitcher in the expansion era. Since 1961, the only starters to record a better ERA+ than Greinke’s most recent 225: Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux (twice), Bob Gibson in 1968 and Doc Gooden in 1985.

Is that worth $206 million over six years (which is really 11 years when you include the period during which the contract’s deferred money will be doled out)? That’s quite a Pretty Penny, and handing any starting pitcher such a lucrative, long-term pact Still Remains risky given the inherent volatility of the position. But it’s not like there are a lot of red flags in Greinke’s profile.

Excluding the one season during which he had an on-field run-in with a maniacal Carlos Quentin, Greinke has made at least 28 starts in each season since the start of 2008. Through the past three years, he’s registered a 4.3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That he doesn’t rely on pure velocity makes it more likely that he’ll age better during the latter stages of this contract — and also makes me question why the Dodgers, who were reportedly OK with living with Greinke through his age-36 season, turned away from him when he wanted to be paid one extra year. There is no doubt in my mind that Greinke would have re-signed if the Dodgers’ brass had agreed to a six-year deal, because this really was all about the cash for Zack, and the Dodgers have MLB’s deepest pockets. 

Even if this Plush arrangement does take a turn for the worse by 2020, I like this move by Arizona. For at least a few seasons, the Diamondbacks will be able to send one of the sport’s best pitchers Between The Lines every fifth day and give him the support of a young, dangerous offense that scored the second-most runs in the NL last year. If Corbin can rediscover his 2013 form and if one or two young arms meet their expectations, the Diamondbacks are going to be a fun watch and a tough beat. However, with him no longer in Los Angeles, I’m left to express my adoration for Greinke in an Interstate Love Song.

You did a lot of great things while you were here, sir. You will definitely be missed. Greinke too.

Aaron Hill Matches 81 Years Of Baseball History

June 29, 2012 1 comment

Aaron Hill has raised his average 45 points in June

If you’re a baseball player, it sounds nice to have your name stand alone alongside a guy with “Babe” and “Herman” in his name.

Well, Aaron Hill isn’t exactly in line with the formally known George Ruth, but what the 30-year old did tonight was certainly historic.

With a double in the first, a single in the third, a home run in the fourth, and a triple in the sixth, The Diamondbacks second baseman hit for Major League Baseball’s second cycle this season. The first one was completed by … hey, how about that, Aaron Hill. Thus, Hill became just the second player since 1900 to record two cycles in one season. The only other member of that club is Floyd “Babe” Herman. A fine hitter in his own right, and you’ve got to give him points for having “Caves” as a middle name.

Herman’s two single-season cycles came in 1931 while playing for the Brooklyn Robins. By 1932, the Robins became the Dodgers. Herman’s two cycles in 1931 occurred 67 days apart. Hill had to wait a mere 11 days to join him.

Herman is also one of two players — along with New York Yankee Bob Meusel — who hold the record for three cycles in a career. Hill’s got some time to reach that mark. Hell, he might do it by July 4th. For now, Hill is now one of the 19 players with two career cycles.

A Fact Of Nature: Weather Heats Up, Baseballs Fly Out

Jason Heyward provided 1/21st of Wednesday’s home run total in the majors

Summer officially began Wednesday. At 4:09 p.m. Pacific Time, if you need to know the exact minute. If you didn’t know, baseball pretty much signaled the change of seasons for us. Right on cue, temperatures went up and baseball went with them.

There were 42 homers hit today. That doesn’t come close to the record, which I believe is still 62 from July 2, 2002, but it’s still impressive. It’s certainly no coincidence that three of the four day games on the schedule provided some serious fireworks.

The Yankees (four) and Braves (five) combined for nine home runs. That’s the most in the four-season history of the new Yankee Stadium. In Atlanta’s case, there’s probably a better explanation for the power explosion than just the 94-degree heat: Philip Joseph Hughes.

The Diamondbacks tied a franchise record with six home runs versus the Mariners in an always fun football-score game, 14-10. There was one that didn’t quite make it. It was the third time Arizona had hit six. Aaron Hill homered for the fourth consecutive game and has 10 hits in his past 16 at-bats.

The Brewers and Blue Jays hit a total of five home runs, including No. 20 for both Ryan Braun and Edwin Encarnacion.

The Royals-Astros game was the only one played with the warmth that didn’t have a home run. That fact raises this question: What the hell is their problem? Hey, guys: Play along or get the f— out.

Well, at least summer is here. That’ll probably squash all of these no-hitters and one-hitters and talk of pitching domination. Unless pitchers start hitting home runs every night. In that case, I give up.

Stephen Drew’s Ankle Turns 180 Degrees

I’m always one for a hearty injury. It’s like a good horror film — you hate the buildup, but love the scare.

Joe Theismann breaking his leg at multiple spots? Willis McGahee’s knee going backwards? Jason Kendall stepping on a base wrong and paying the price? A University of Houston wide receiver running into some ill-placed carts behind an end zone? I’m not going to link to any of them; you can go find them on your own.

You do have to feel bad for the unfortunate athlete. His season and possibly his life is changed forever. But you may also understand that the moment holds some entertainment value to some.

The list probably just grew by one. The victim is Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew. He suffered a major ankle injury as he slid into home during the fourth inning of tonight’s game versus the Milwaukee Brewers.

It’s not as horrific as what happened to Theismann or McGahee, but it’s probably not worth the watch if you’re squeamish. If you are, I’ll describe it below as best as I can.

If this kind of stuff doesn’t bother you much, feel free to jump to the link here.

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