Sunday, April 05, 2009

Batter up: Arizona Diamondbacks

It's that mystical, wonderful time of year where you commit to a team who you know fully well won't win. This season, in honour of an popular Internet meme, we'll present 25 things tangentially about each Major League Baseball team. At bat: The Arizona Diamondbacks.
  1. The recession has hit Arizona hard with close to 200,000 jobs lost and housing prices predicted to fall another 10-15%, according to Sunday's Republic (there are already 60,000 homes up for sale) The state is kind of a poster child for the easy-money excess of the last decade in the U.S. Baseball is more dependent on local revenues than the NFL. The Diamondbacks spring training attendance was down 9% from last season.

  2. Their payroll is in the $70 million US range, so the upshot is they have stayed fairly lean and mean.

  3. Check at the end of year to see how 21-year-old rightfielder Justin Upton did in the second half opposed to the first half. He's steadily improving, so don't sweat him not starting Opening Day.

  4. Lefty-hitting shortstop Stephen Drew and free-swinging centrefielder Chris Young each came on after the all-star break last season. Drew is the best shortstop who doesn't play in the NL East, although he will never have the intangibles of a certain Captain who plays in the Bronx.

  5. Brandon Webb is Arizona's ace unless his heavy workload catches up to him. Since it's human nature to have eyes for another, Dan Haren might be a more viable Cy Young Award candidate.

  6. The common refrain is they don't have much pitching outside the Big Two, but somehow they had the NL's best strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.73) and gave up just 147 homers despite playing in a hitter's park.

  7. Closer Chad Qualls was nails for three seasons as the eighth-inning man out of the bullpen. Their bullpen has been stable through two seasons, but it's hard to stay clear-eyed when a team blows a 4½-game lead in the final month. a href="">AZ Snakepit notes it's time for the "gurgling vortex of bullpen suckage to be turned off."

  8. There is a ripple in the water over Webb saying the Dodgers' Manny Ramirez isn't "going to be doing the same thing he did last year." That was a ridiculous thing to say. People hit .396 all the time (what do you mean, not since 1941?).

  9. Webb winning his first nine starts in 2008 was a bit of a surprises, but it was a total stunner that the last pitcher to do it was Andy Hawkins (career record: 84-91).

  10. Their Triple-A team is in Reno, Nevada, not far from the Jays' farm club in Las Vegas, so there's a natural rivalry. Really? OK, not really.

  11. Qualls attended the University of Nevada, which is in Reno. You just know it's in the back of his mind that if he ever goes down on a rehab assignment, he can hit all his old college hangouts, see if he's still got the high score on Golden Tee.

    (Demetri Martin does a bit that you should be able to look the names of the peoples with the high scores on a video game and add "is lonely." You can do the same with anyone living outside the United States who knows that the University of Nevada football team runs the Pistol offence.)

  12. Not naming name on this site, but whoever wrote the Diamondbacks began last season like they would win 100 games should have his hands cut off. Their best 30-game stretch (21-9) simply happened to come in the first 30 games before their peaks-and-valleys offence caught up to them.

  13. Relievers Billy Buckner and Tony Peña are not related to 1980s players Bill Buckner and Tony Peña.

    It would be a lot cooler for the D-Backs if Billy Buckner has an outlier year as an innings-eating reliever.

  14. One hopes Felipe López has a big year at second base, one season after being released by the Washington Nationals. He's good extra part.

  15. More great moments in digital democracy: A reader says if the D-Backs win the division, "they will do it with pitching and small ball." This was said about a team which had only 58 stolen bases and 1,287 strikeouts last season.

    Playing small ball with that group would be like taking a football team with a great passing game and expecting them to run the wishbone.

  16. Randy Johnson left for the Giants, but they signed 6-foot-11 reliever Jon Rauch, the tallest player in baseball history. One hopes the Big Unit left behind his custom-made wingback chair.

  17. There's something annoying about seeing a Triple-A team's press release that notes it has a pitcher who "made nine appearances as a rookie for the World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001." Do you think he likes being reminded that he was a heartbeat away?

  18. Were ours a just God, they would pay dearly for not re-signing Tim Raines Jr. after his big summer in Triple-A. The chip off the old Rock (so, so sorry) hit .311/.346/.530 with 61 extra-base hits, just like his old man, without the walks, which was why it was in Triple-A.

    Both Tim Raineses are now with the Newark Bears in the Atlantic League.

  19. One name in the system that jumps out is Daniel Stange, a minor-league reliever who's apparently considered the "best sleeper" in Arizona's system.

    As an added bonus, he has the same last name as Lee Stange, who pitched for the 1967 Impossible Dream Red Sox.

  20. First-round draft pick Daniel Schereth (throws lefty, throws very hard), who's being groomed as a closer, is the son of three-time Super Bowl-winning offensive lineman Mark Schereth, who famously had 29 operations during his playing career (and as the NFL's first Alaskan, was good fodder for quirky Sports Illustrated features). The younger Schelereth has only had Tommy John surgery once.

  21. You rarely see a lefty-hitting shortstop, except on the Canadian national team. Drew, though, is one of the few. Meantime, what would cause someone to think the Brewers' J.J. Hardy hits left-handed? That's a mystery for the ages.

  22. Prospective No. 5 starter Max Scherzer is beginning the season on the disabled list.

  23. Outsports is taking them to win the NL West.

  24. Superannuated Tom Gordon is also on the DL. There's no truth that he's in Arizona since it's never too early to shop for a retirement home, cheap.

  25. Former Jay Ryan Roberts gets the 25th spot in this preview, since he got the 25th spot on Arizona's roster. His only career homer was at Yankee Stadium.


Anonymous said...

Good stuff. J.J. Hardy a righty though.

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