Posted on: September 9, 2009 1:36 pm

A Thank You to the Bullpen

It happened again.  The Diamondbacks held a lead into the eighth inning and an inept bullpen surrendered it without a second thought, wasting the previous seven innings of work by the starting pitcher and the offense. Blaine Boyer, Daniel Schlereth, and Esmerling Vasquez failed to do their jobs and retire three batters before giving up a three run lead.


The Diamondbacks, who had been somewhat consistent since the All Star break, are now on a six game slide and find themselves once again in the basement of the NL West.  During those six games the bullpen has blown the lead twice.  This has been an issue the entire season, and I would be willing to say that had the bullpen performed the team would be close to a .500 record. 


Almost every facet of the team has gone through highs and lows this season, starting pitching, offense, and defense, but the least capable area of the 09 Dbacks has clearly been the bullpen.  In a way it is a fortunate thing to have this slide at this point in the season.  A late season collapse will be more easily remembered than if they had blown a game here and there during the final six weeks. 


This should serve as notice that the bullpen is in need of real change, and without adjustment the Diamondbacks will not be competitive in 2010.  With the exception of first base and an outfield spot the position players mostly in place for next season.  This leaves the front office free to focus a large part of their off season activity around the bullpen.


I would like to thank Blaine Boyer and company for sending a firm reminder that they are not ready to handle their responsibilities.    

Category: MLB
Tags: Diamondbacks
Posted on: September 1, 2009 12:46 pm

Jon Garland and Dbacks money to the Dodgers

Jon Garland was traded last night mid-game to the opposing Dodgers.  Depending on who you believe this was either a good move or a senseless once.  Garland was approached by the Dbacks a few weeks ago about his 2010 option and apparently the meeting did not go well.  It was looking like this would be Garland’s first and only season with the team.  He was a number four starter who was very inconsistent, didn’t pitch well at Chase Field, and often gave up four or more runs a game.  The team certainly should not have gone to any great expense in keeping him.


MLB.com reports that the Dbacks will pay the remainder of Garland’s 2009 salary, approximately $1 million, and his 2010 buyout which would be between $1 to 2.5 million. However, Josh Byrnes indicated in an interview this morning that the team would save around $1 million for the rest of the season with the move.  I’m all for the team saving money anyway they can, Garland only had six more starts this season and if they were able to move him it was smart to do so, but to pay someone to play for the Dodgers is unthinkable.


Byrnes also indicated that both the player to be named in the Garland deal and the player to be named in the Rauch deal would be expected to compete for roster spots for the 2010 Diamondbacks.  There is speculation that the player to be named in the Garland deal is Tony Abreu, a 25 year old infielder who has played in 6 games this season.  He has had a good season so far in AAA, batting .351.  With the Diamondbacks infield largely set for next season it appears that the only place that they would be able to use Abreu would be 2B, where Ryan Roberts has been making a case to be the full time starter next season with his .299 average.


I certainly hope that the Diamondbacks are not paying the Dodgers $2 million to help them in the postseason and only getting in return a player for a position where they have someone batting .299.  I know that the jury is still out on Roberts but there are other areas that really need to be addressed.  If the MLB.com reports are inaccurate and the Dodgers are paying the $2 million then it takes away some of the sting, but I still don’t like trading with the Dodgers.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 31, 2009 5:00 pm

Jon Rauch to Twins

The Diamondbacks traded Jon Rauch to the Minnesota Twins for a player to be named, effectively ending Rauch’s tumultuous tenure with the team.  When the Diamondbacks acquired Rauch in late July 2008 for highly touted prospect Emilio Bonafacio, the expectations were high.  Rauch had been a dominant reliever with the last place Nationals and was to fill an eighth inning void and solidify the bullpen for a playoff hopeful team.  When Rauch came to the Diamondbacks he had a 2.98 ERA in 48 games for the Nationals.  He finished the season posting a 6.56 in 26 games for Arizona.  The Diamondbacks, subsequently, missed the playoffs by two games.


The 2009 season started the same way the 2008 one finished for Rauch, disastrous.  He had a 9.31 ERA through 12 games pitched in April.  Opposing batters had a .333 average, and Rauch had given up more hits than he had innings pitched. The Diamondbacks record fell to 9-13 and their season seemed to be lost already. 


Even though it was only May the Diamondbacks had lost Brandon Webb for the season, Conor Jackson was out with a mysterious illness, Stephen Drew had just been added to the DL, the Dodgers had the best record in baseball, and the Diamondbacks offense could barely muster a run a game.  Hope for a postseason had faded very quickly.  A funny thing happened though, starting in May Jon Rauch progressively improved each month, until August, as the team’s playoff hopes became more and more distant.


Now Rauch finds himself with the Twins, who are in the midst of a playoff run.  They are only 4 games behind the Tigers for the division and only 1.5 games ahead of the third place White Sox.  The division has been very close all season, and now there will be more pressure than ever to finish strong.  I am looking forward to seeing which Jon Rauch shows up for them, the Rauch who is guaranteed to give up a run every time he take the mound or the Rauch that will shut down the opposition to give his team three crucial outs.  Despite his recent success I think that Diamondback fans will always see him as the former. 


Whatever happens to Rauch in Minnesota the most important thing is that he’s gone, and with him a $3 million contract.  That gives the Diamondbacks another $3 million of flexibility for next season.  $3 million on a $70 million payroll is a very big deal, even bigger than a 6’11” reliever with neck tattoos.

Posted on: August 27, 2009 6:29 pm

Diamondbacks in the Power Rankings

“It's apples and oranges, given who they've pitched against and how deep they went into games. All the same, Dan Haren's ERA since the All-Star break is 4.91 and Barry Zito's is 2.06, and the strikeout numbers are roughly even. ... The D-Backs went 153 straight at-bats without drawing a walk last week, which is tough to do even if you're trying. ... Nothing we've seen this year suggests that any of the prospects (with the very notable exception of Justin Upton) are on the star track. This is a moribund franchise about now.”


This was CBS’s most recent assessment of the Diamondbacks in their MLB power rankings.  I’m not sure which prospects he is referring to, as most of the players on the team are in at least their third season.  Brandon Allen?  He’s only played in a few games, nothing to really judge him on yet. Perhaps he is talking about Gerardo Parra who is among the leaders in batting average for NL rookies. Parra is not really on a star track, but he’s having a pretty decent rookie season.  Is he referring to Miguel Montero, who is among one of the better hitting catchers in the NL?  Montero probably isn’t on the so called star track, but I think most teams would gladly take a catcher who hits .290, and I do think that he has the potential to be one of the better catchers in the league.  Is he referring to Mark Reyonlds who is second in MLB in home runs and tenth in OPS?  


I guess I’m just not sure of which prospects they are talking about.  I’m also not sure how many teams have a plethora of prospects that are on the star track.  I think just having one potential super star on a team is pretty good.  The last time I checked guys with Justin Upton’s talent were in short supply.


As the power rankings state the team may be moribund about now, thanks to a season filled with injuries and an unreliable bullpen, but there is no reason to believe they will remain moribund next season.  How many teams can lose their ace pitcher and a .300 hitter at the start of the season and remain competitive?  Is a team’s future really that bleak when they have three players who can hit 30 home runs a season, when they have five of their eight starting position players batting over .280? The Dodgers only have six, the Red Sox only have five, are they moribund and well?


And yes, the streak without a walk was absurd, they went four straight games without getting one, but for the season the Diamondbacks are eighth in the NL in walks and have more walks than both the Cardinals and Giants, who are both potentially playoff bound teams.  It’s good that the baseball season is longer than five games.  If the season was only five games Barry Zito might actually be a more valuable pitcher than Dan Haren.  One of the five bad games that Haren has had over the past four months might have landed in that short time.  For now, I think I’ll just stick with Haren.

Category: MLB
Tags: Diamondbacks
Posted on: August 24, 2009 12:15 pm

Eric Being Eric, Sorry Reno

Eric Byrnes is picking up in Reno where he left off in Arizona.  Currently he’s got a .222 batting average, a .370 SLG, and has one error in seven games for the Reno Aces.  So far he’s showed no improvement from his .216 MLB batting average.  Is it time to pull the plug on Byrnes?  He’s got one year left on his contract, but is the cost of his $10 million worth having him stew on the bench all year, not producing when he is called upon, and taking up a valuable roster spot from a more deserving player?


Byrnes is a square peg in a round hole.  He is something that does not belong on this team.  The team has brought up a number of minor league players this season that have played hard and earned a spot on the roster.  Gerardo Parra (.283 in 350 AB) and Alex Romero (.272 in 114 AB) have both showed that they can play at the major league level thus far.  Chris Young may or may not be back, and both Conor Jackson and Justin Upton will both be back next season.  That’s already five outfielders on the roster; no room for what will be a then 34 year old injury prone player who has failed to reach a .220 batting average in the past two seasons.


I know that the team is hesitant to eat another contract after eating a few in the past, but they are a better team without Byrnes than with him.  It is a sunk cost and they need to move forward.  They made a mistake with his extension and it possibly set them back a few years by costing them valuable payroll, but it’s time to move forward.  The Diamondbacks are not that far off from being a competitive team.  Coming off a disastrous seven game slide that featured 152 at bats between walks it may not look like it, but the truth is they are.  A few more pieces added and an inept outfielder subtracted they can make it back to the playoffs.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 19, 2009 1:28 pm

Jamie Moyer Lights Out

The Diamondbacks were again dominated by a 46 year old pitcher who tops out in the low eighties. In 2009 Jamie Moyer has a 0.00 ERA, 2 wins in two games, and a total of 8 hits and 10 strike outs in the 12.2 innings he’s pitched against the Diamondbacks.  This utter and complete domination is juxtaposed to his 5.22 ERA against the rest of the league.  He pitched one game against the Diamondbacks in 2008, 7 innings, 6 hits, 2 runs, and no walks.  With his complete and utter domination of the Dbacks the past two years it was no surprise that Moyer was called upon in the fourth inning to relieve Pedro Martinez. 

If not for a lead off homerun by Stephen Drew the Dbacks would have been shutout and managed only 3 hits.  Not that 1 run and 4 hits are much better.  This was the team’s third disappointing game in as many days, who also featured lackluster performances in their games against the Dodgers, Sunday, and Braves, Monday.  The post game press conference again showed a subdued AJ Hinch reclining in his chair casually dismissing the team’s poor play.

Maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised though.  Sunday’s loss against the Dodgers happened after they had won the first two games of the series.  For the past two years the Diamondbacks have consistently mailed in the third game of a series after winning the first two.  Monday’s game was a makeup game that took them across the country for a day game less than 24 hours after they finished their previous one.  Last nights game was picked up after an hour rain delay, and traditionally the Dbacks lose almost every game after a rain delay.  Or it could be the team is just wearing down, they’ve only had one day off since July 31. 

What ever it is, they’ll need to get over it.  Their remaining schedule doesn’t get any easier and includes multiple series against the Dodgers, Giants, and Rockies, all teams that will surely be making a post season push in the coming weeks.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 17, 2009 4:53 pm

Boras Clients Just not Worth It

The deadline to sign draft picks is upon us, and yet again we are reminded of the effect of Scott Boras. Boras controls six players who were drafted in the first round this year, and all remain unsigned. It is no surprise that several teams have decided not to draft Boras’s clients by choice. Other small market teams are not able to draft his clients due to financial reasons, often allowing a player that would have been drafted higher to drop to a large market team.

Drafting a Boras Client comes with significant risk; a team will be investing a large amount of money in a completely unproven player.  In 1996 Scott Boras found a loophole that gave free agency to four first round picks.  One never reached the majors; another was the Diamondbacks first big draft pick, Travis Lee, who featured career batting average of .256 in his eight year career that spanned four different teams.

In 2004 the Diamondbacks drafted another Boras client, shortstop Stephen Drew, and again in 2007 with pitcher Max Scherzer.  Both were signed literally minutes before they would have missed the signing deadline and reentered the next year’s draft.  That shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone as Stephen’s brother and fellow Boras player, JD Drew, refused to sign with the Phillies a few years prior and reentered the draft the following year.

Not only are Boras draft picks signing at very high figures, but also his free agent clients.  Looking at the past few years and several notable signings it appears that more often than not the team that signs his clients is overpaying.  Many of his clients either immediately under perform when they get their contract or never live up to the hype that Boras creates.  Below are a few examples of his clients along with their salaries and recent achievements to earn those salaries.

Rick Ankiel: 2009 salary, $2.8 million, current batting average .234                        
Adrian Beltre:  2009 salary $13.4 million, has never hit above .290 except 2004, his free agent year.
Johnny Damon:  2009 salary $13 million, current batting average .283.  Since 2006, the year that he signed with the Yankees, he has hit over .300 only once.
J.D. Drew: 2009 salary $14 million, since 2005 when his salary jumped from $4.2 million to $9.4 million he has not hit over .300
Daisuke Matsuzaka: 2009 salary $8.3 million, career ERA 4.11.
Oliver Perez: $12 million career ERA 4.48
Jeff Weaver 2007 salary 8.3 million (2009 salary unknown), career ERA 4.68                             
Barry Zito 2009 salary $18.5 million, since 2007 has not had an ERA under 4.

The lack of success of so many of his clients begs the question, why would anyone even bother signing a Boras guy?  The player you get most likely won’t earn the money he’s being paid.  Sure there are a few players that he represents that are among the best in baseball, such as Mark Texeira and Prince Fielder, but for the most part they are mediocre players with inflated salaries.  The money that he gets for his players show that he is probably the best at what he does, it’s too bad the players he represents can’t say the same.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 13, 2009 12:42 pm

Diamondbacks Fun Again

Watching the Diamondbacks is starting to get good again.  It appears that players taking the field actually care and are playing at full speed.  Even though the Dbacks have no shot of winning the division or making the playoffs the games are at least exciting to watch, thanks in large part to a group of young and not so young recent call ups.


Trent Oeltjen has been a man possessed since he was called up last week.  He has 12 hits in 29 at bats, he is stretching singles into double, doubles into triples, and has already appeared in the Web Gems segment of Baseball Tonight for his play in the outfield.  It appears that playing in the minors for nine years will motivate someone to hustle once they make it to the majors.  Alex Romero has also been making the most of his recent call up, hitting .393 in the last seven days.   


Due to injuries, trades, released players, and players sent to the minors a lot of guys are getting an opportunity that they normally would not have, and they join a team that is now looking like they are not that far away from being competitive.  During the lean months of April, May, and June not only was the team losing but they were playing sloppy uninspired baseball.  They were getting booed nightly at Chase Field and becoming one of the worst teams in baseball. 


July 3 was the crescendo of their ineptitude, sparking the Mark Reynolds diatribe, and July 4 was their independence day.  They were declaring themselves free of the losing ways and attitudes that had been so prevalent the previous two months.  Since July 4 the team is 21-14, a .600 winning percentage.  Not too shabby for a six week period.  No one expects them to keep that pace up for the rest of the season by any means, but at least it shows that they have it in them.


Trent Oeltjen and Alex Romero will cool off and come back down to Earth, but it sure is fun watching them tear it up right now.  Finally, it is good to be a Dbacks fan again.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com