Posted on: July 30, 2009 4:02 pm
 

The Defense of Josh Byrnes

Josh Byrnes, Diamondbacks GM, has been much maligned for the moves he’s made of the past four years.  Many fans would rather see a chimp on meth sitting in the GM seat than Byrnes.   Some of the criticism is deserved, but much of it is not.  When some of his major trades are reviewed it turns out they are not as bad as we might think or would like to believe. Here is a breakdown of some of the larger and more memorable moves that JB has made.

Trades

12/05 Troy Glaus and Sergio Santos for Miguel Batista and Orlando Hudson
Good trade. Since the trade Glaus averaged .260 and 28 home runs per year, decent power hitter numbers.  He was traded by the Blue Jays after the 2007 season and has not played in 2009.  Hudson was a team leader and offensively productive while he was here and saved the team a lot of money compared to Glaus’s 12 million dollar contract.

11/06 Johnny Estrada, Claudio Vargas and Greg Aquino for Doug Davis, Dana Eveland and Dave Krynzel
Good trade.  Estrada and Aquino are no longer in baseball and Vargas has been either hurt or ineffective most of the time. Davis has had relative success in a Diamondbacks uniform and Dana Eveland was used to acquire Dan Haren.

12/07 Carlos Quentin for Chris Carter
Still to be determined.  This is the one that everybody talks about and considers the largest black mark on Byrnes’s resume. Quentin was a high draft pick with seemingly unlimited potential, however he struggled during his games with the Diamondbacks despite dominating AAA.  He also had problems staying healthy while he was here.  He had a great 2008 season and was in line for MVP consideration until he broke his wrist in September.   

However in the 2009 season he has not recaptured the previous season’s success.  He has missed much of the season due to injury and has only hit .217 while healthy.  He is still, in my opinion, unproven.  Five healthy, productive months do not make him a great baseball player.

While Chris Carter is just another prospect the Diamondbacks had collected he was used in the Dan Haren trade.  Even if Quentin was having the type of season this year that he had last year getting Haren does not make this trade as bad as it appears on the surface.

12/07 Dana Eveland, Carlos Gonzalez, Aaron Cunningham, Chris Carter, Brett Anderson and Greg Smith for Dan Haren and Connor Robertson
Great trade.  The Diamondbacks gave up a lot of prospects, none of which have produced up to this point, and in return they received an ace quality pitcher in the running for the Cy Young award this year.

12/07 Traded Jose Valverde for Chris Burke, Chad Qualls and Juan Gutierrez
Equal trade.  This is another one that received heavy criticism, but when you look at the production of the players involved it is not really that one sided.  Jose Valverde led the league in saves in 2007 and had similar success in 2008 with the Astros.  This year he has 11 saves and 4 blown saves pitched in 28 games 27.1 innings. Qualls had 2.81 ERA in 2008 and has a 3.38 this year.  He has pitched 42.2 innings with 18 saves and 4 blown saves.  A fairly equal trade, especially considering that Qualls makes about five million less than Valverde.  I guess people were more disappointed that Qualls didn’t have a nickname like Papa Grande.  I don’t know why Qualls couldn’t be Papa Grade Dos, he’s just as fat as Valverde.

07/08 Emilio Bonifacio for Jon Rauch
Looking better every day.  Bonifacio was hailed as the second baseman of the future, and for the first few weeks of the 2009 season Diamondbacks fans were desperately wishing they had him back.  Since then he has proved to be another over hyped prospect that has fallen short of expectations, batting only .251 with 82 strikeouts and a .932 fielding percentage, second worst among NL third baseman.   

Conversely, the first six weeks of the season Jon Rauch was a guaranteed run for the opponent, but since then he has settled down considerably, posting a 2.08 ERA for the past two months.  If asked right now who would you rather have between Rauch and Bonifacio, the clear option is Rauch.  The fact that I would want Rauch over anyone is amazing; I think satan just got out the LL Bean catalog to get a new parka because suddenly it’s become unseasonably cool down there.

08/08 Dallas Buck, Micah Owings and Wilkin Castillo for Adam Dunn
Not a good trade.  I do like that the Diamondbacks got a bat to answer the Dodgers acquisition of Manny Ramirez to try and salvage the 2008 division title.  Unfortunately Dunn did not produce as much as they would have liked, and due to the free agent market turning they did not receive the compensatory draft picks that they were expecting.  It didn’t turn out the Diamondbacks way but I do give them credit for trying.

07/09 Tony Pena for Brandon Allen
So far so good, Pena has an ERA over 10 and Allen has an average over .400 since the trade.

07/09 Felipe Lopez for two minor leaguers, names irrelevant.
Good, regardless of how well Lopez plays the rest of the season.  Trading the lethargic free agent-to-be was a needed move.

Signings

Chris Young, signed to extension.  Terrible signing.  Young has got worse every year and should probably be playing in AAA if they had a viable replacement.

Eric Byrnes.  Terrible.  Like Young he has also got worse every year since the signing and he’s also had more injuries every year since the signing.  A knee jerk emotional move designed to appease fans in the absence of Luis Gonzalez.

AJ Hinch. So far so bad.  Hinch has a .438 winning percentage and his pensive approach has not won over the fans.   

Posted on: July 28, 2009 4:55 pm
 

Cautious Optimism

The Diamondbacks do not have a player batting .300, but most of the team is hitting the ball pretty well right now.  They have six everyday players who are batting above .270.  Not too shabby when you only have two players other than the pitcher on a given day batting below that level.  They are still among the bottom in terms of team batting average, but that does include a disastrous April and May.  In June their team batting average was .254, eighth in the NL for that month, and July their batting average was .267, ninth in the NL.

While they have only made two moves, and should still try to make one or two more, the moves they’ve made have been good.  Tony Pena has a 10.13 ERA in the six games he’s played for the White Sox; Brandon Allen meanwhile, is hitting .352 through 15 games in Reno.  Whether or not they both continue on those courses is anyone’s guess, but Pena was probably not going to be successful in Arizona and they filled a need at first base.  In addition two minor league players were obtained for Felipe Lopez, which is just a bonus on top of being rid of his salary and his lethargic play.

Even though there are some bright spots Diamondbacks fans are cautious about being overly optimistic.  The past three years we have heard about all the potential that this team had.  That potential has been largely unrealized.  Chad Tracy is oft injured and won’t be on the team next year, Chris Snyder will most likely not be on the team next year and outside of a few sporadic streaks throughout the year is an offensive dud, Chris Young has digressed each year, and Conor Jackson reached his plateau two years ago.  Not a bad player, but he’s doing all that he will probably ever do.

But maybe there is reason to be hopeful about this core group of players.  Maybe Gerardo Parra, Miguel Montero, Mark Reynolds, Stephen Drew, and Justin Upton can continue what they are doing this year and actually provide the consistent offense that has been missing the last few years.  Maybe Brandon Allen will finally be the first baseman that they haven’t had since Mark Grace.  Maybe they can have three players on the All Star team. 

There is a silver lining in this dismal season, it’s the future of this team learning how to deal with adversity and getting an opportunity to develop their skills without having any pressure of winning.  This season may be a gift in and of itself; I’d gladly take a terrible season for players to learn how to win rather than have a team that is five games under .500 every year and never really in it, but never really out of it.

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 27, 2009 6:08 pm
 

American League vs. National League: The Facts

The National League has been much maligned in recent years as being vastly inferior to the supposedly dominant American League. The All Star Game was over two weeks ago, however still the media is using the AL victory as justification of the American League’s dominance. The pitching is better, the hitting is better, and the American League trumps the National League in every possible aspect of the game.  Or does it?

The NL has lost every All Star game since 2002, when they were able to somehow match the incredible AL and tie it.  So the argument prevails that the AL is better based on the fact they have won those All Star games. However, since 2002 the game has been decided by only 1 run 5 times.  To say that because the AL has won the All Star games they are superior is putting a lot of stock into the once a year exhibition game. 

AL supporters also argue that the AL dominates inter-league play and therefore it is a better league.  Since 2002 the AL has won 53.5% of inter-league games.  Is it reasonable to think that because the AL teams have a professional hitter to hit for the pitcher while the NL team must use a bench player when they adhere to the DH rule that it may allow for the AL to win a slightly higher percentage of games?  

Despite the American League winning 53% of inter-league games it has not led to American League domination of the World Series.  Since 2000 the AL and the NL each have five wins.  Exactly equal.

When you look at the individual player stats for this season it shows equality between the leagues as well.  Both the AL and NL have 5 of the top 10 players in batting average ranks and 10 of the top 20.  The NL has 6 of the top 10 in HR, and 9 of the top 20, 5 of 10 in OPS and 11 of the top 20.  The consistency shows in pitchers as well.  The NL has 5 of the top 10 in ERA and 13 of the top 20.

Is there a great dominance by the American League?  Not really.   

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 21, 2009 2:02 pm
 

Felipe Lopez, Gone, Finally

The Diamondbacks completed the second trade of the season, sending Felipe Lopez to the Brewers for a pair of minor league, mid level prospects.  This was a great move by the front office to remove a player that was everything that the team didn’t want.  On the surface Lopez looks great; veteran player, .300 batting average, and reliable lead off batter.

What the stats don’t tell you is that Lopez is one of the most half hearted players that has ever donned a Diamondbacks uniform.  He made little to no effort on the base path or in the field.  He was routinely out of position, routinely jogged to first base, and made sure that he put himself first in every situation. 

Some of the examples of Lopez’s contributions can be found in the series leading up to the trade.  During the three game series against the Cardinals Lopez failed to slide into home, failed to make any effort to break up a double play, and after Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped strike three, rather than run to first and force the catcher to make a throw he simply walked back to the dugout.  Molina actually appeared surprised, as he popped up ready to make the throw; instead he had to walk a few steps toward the Diamondbacks dugout to make the tag.

Lopez was the only .300 hitter the Diamondbacks had.  They had no real replacement waiting in AAA to be called up, but this was addition by subtraction.  On a team with most of the players having less than three years experience going through a rough season, they could not afford to have Lopez’s bad attitude affect the rest of the team.  They need to have players that want to be there and want to put out their full effort every night.  It should only take until the end of August for the Brewers fans to begin to realize that they only got half a player.

Posted on: July 21, 2009 11:25 am
 

The All 25 and Under Team

The All 25 and Under Team

The past decade has not been a bright spot in baseball’s history.  A large number of the games biggest names are either admitted or suspected steroid users.  Players who have achieved some of the games greatest milestones such as Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, and Mark McGwire, will most likely not be admitted to the Hall of Fame.  Thankfully there is an emerging group of stars in baseball that will have never played during the steroid era, and we can enjoy watching them and celebrate their accomplishments without doubting their authenticity. I present to you the All 25 and under team.

C Brian McCann, 25:  Playing a defensively oriented position, McCann provides consistent offensive numbers.  He has a career batting average of .297 and SLG of .499.  There isn’t a team in baseball that wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to have a catcher with that type of production.

1B Prince Fielder, 25:  Already a two time All Star and recent home run derby champion, he has emerged as one of the premiere power hitters in the game today.  Just how much power you ask?  His SLG % for the season is .615, a ridiculous number, and.546 on his career.  He’s also not too shabby with the glove either, having a career fielding percentage of .991.

2B Dustin Pedroia, 25:  Pedroia hit the ground running when he entered the league, earning the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year.  One of the top second baseman in the game today, he has a career batting average of .311.  Last year his 54 doubles, .326 batting average, and high energy attitude earned him the 2008 AL MVP.   

3B Evan Longoria, 23:  There are a few other third basemen that you could argue should be here, but in total Longoria provides the best all around choice.  He currently has a batting average of .280, 19 home runs, and an OPS of .892.  His fielding percentage also ranks in the top half of starting MLB third basemen.  

SS Hanley Ramirez, 25:  This is not even close.  Not only is he the best shortstop among 25 and under players, but he is arguably the best shortstop in baseball period. He leads the NL in batting average this season with .345, has an OBP of .408, and an OPS of .969.  In short, Hanley Ramirez is really good and it will be exciting to watch him for years to come.

LF Ryan Braun 25:  Braun is in only his third full season but has already been an All Star starter twice.  He has hit over thirty home runs in each of his two prior seasons and is on pace to do it again this season.  His rookie year he had 34 HR and 97 RBI in only 113 games and he’s continued to show why he’s one of the top outfielders in the game today.

CF Jacoby Ellsbury, 25:  This position was a tight race between Ellsbury, Matt Kemp, and Adam Jones, but ultimately the speed of Ellsbury won out.  He has 41 stolen bases already this season, second in the AL, and a very respectable .293 batting average. 

RF Justin Upton, 21:  Upton, in only his second full season, is the youngest player on the list.  He’s batting .292 with a .524 SLG %, an OPS of .887, and has 13 stolen bases.   He’s not quite there yet defensively but at only 21 he’s got time to develop that part of this game.

Starting Pitcher Tim Lincecum, 25: Currently has a 2.27 ERA, and at only 25 he has already won baseball’s highest pitching honor as the 2008 NL Cy Young winner and is the front runner to repeat again in 2009.

Relief Pitcher Jonathan Broxton, 25:  One of the best closers in the game today, Broxton has a microscopic WHIP of .94 and has struck out 71 in only 43.2 innings, showing his utter dominance on opposing batters.  Eric Gange who? 

Posted on: July 15, 2009 3:55 pm
 

The Diamondbacks Invade St. Louis

The Diamondbacks defensive woes were on display for the entire nation to see Tuesday night.  A deep fly ball sailed over Justin Upton’s head allowing Curtis Granderson to reach third, setting up the American League for the go ahead run.  The same type of questionable defense allowed two AL runs in the bottom of the first when Tim Lincecum failed to cover first base in time and Albert Pujols failed to field a grounder.

Although it is not recorded as an error, the ball was clearly misplayed and Granderson would most likely not have reached third had someone else been in left field.  This is the type of play that Diamondback fans have witnessed all season.  On the bright side however, the nation also saw the Dan Haren that Dback fans have enjoyed all season.

My hope is that Justin Upton was embarrassed enough by misplaying a ball on national television that he recognizes it is a problem, and that if he truly wants to remain an All Star it will need to be fixed.  I hope that he concentrates on being a better fielder, he’s got the athleticism, he’s got a great arm, all he needs is to work on the fundamentals of the position.

As we saw last night, a team playing sloppy defense will rarely win, and so far this season the Diamondbacks have rarely won.

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 15, 2009 11:31 am
 

25 Reasons Baseball is Better than Football

1. Baseball players who are not on the field are in the dugout leaving the fans with a view of the game.  Football players who are not on the field are standing on the sidelines leaving the fans with a view of their backsides.
2. Baseball on the radio is far more enjoyable than football on the radio. 
3. Baseball has a statistic to analyze every aspect of the game and determine the effectiveness of the players. 
4. Baseball players are required to play offense and defense.
5. Baseball parks are characters; football stadiums are clones.
6. There are only two ballparks that use artificial turf, next year there will be one, and none in the United States. 
7. Baseball requires the leading team to give the opposition a chance to comeback.  Football allows the team to sit on the ball and run the clock out.
8. The baseball season is broken into mostly three game series.  It’s like having a micro playoff series twice a week.
9. Baseball’s playoffs are decided by a series, ensuring the better team will always prevail. 
10. Baseball is built on accuracy; if a pitch is off by the slightest amount it can cost a team the game.  Football is built on force.
11. Baseball is a game of anticipation; football is a game of instant gratification. 
12. Vin Scully.  Anybody in football come close?
13. The baseball season has two distinct acts and a short intermission in between the two.  The football season just runs together.  
14. Baseball still uses wood bats. 
15. The oldest football stadium is 52 years old.  The oldest ballpark is 97 years old.
16. Baseball has a two seam fastball, four seam fastball, splitter, changeup, curveball, slider, sinker, and knuckleball; Football has a spiral. 
17. Baseball requires runners to be within a six foot base path.  Football requires them to be within 160 feet between the sidelines.
18. Football has TV timeouts.
19. You get to keep score in baseball.
20. A baseball game can be infinite.  A football game is limited to 60 minutes.
21. In baseball once a player goes out of the game they don’t get to come back in.
22. Baseball has Take Me Out to the Ball Game.  There is no song dedicated to football.
23. When a player signs a five year contract in baseball, they do not come back the next year and demand a new contract threatening that they will hold out of spring training.
24. Baseball’s records can be retrieved from memory; football’s records need to be retrieved from an almanac.  
25.  People actually watch baseball’s All Star game.

Posted on: July 13, 2009 2:17 pm
 

Tim Lincecum Named All Star Starter

The Diamondbacks have let down Haren once again this season.  Due to the consistency in which they have blown games or not provided run support Dan Haren has an unimpressive record of 9-5.  It was not enough to compete with Tim Lincecum’s 10-2. 

 

Haren, as expected, was not named as the starter for the 2009 All Star game, but rather Tim Lincecum from the NL Wild Card leading Giants.  Tim Lincecum is a great pitcher, in fact probably the second best pitcher in baseball behind Haren, but he would not have got the nod had Haren been on a lot of other teams.

 

Lincecum has great stats this season; they just aren’t as good as Haren’s.  Dan Haren leads MLB, not just the NL, in ERA, WHIP, and K/BB ratio (among starters).  His batting average against is .189, Lincecum’s is .215, and he leads Lincecum in every other major statistic besides wins and strikeouts.     

 

Whether it was due to the wins, the teams overall records, or just the fact that the Giants are a more popular team than the Diamondbacks remains to be seen.  It was probably a combination of all those things.  Hopefully these same things are less of a factor when it comes to the Cy Young voting. 

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