Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Game 71: Baby Snakes

The average age of the Arizona Diamondbacks' position players is 26.9. That's a half of a year less than the next two closest teams, the Pirates and the Marlins and two years younger than the league average. With a mean age of 30.3, the typical Yankees position player would have been out of high school before the average D-Back batter got their driver's license (in New York anyway).

The oldest regular stick on Arizona is first baseman Adam LaRoche, who is 30. In addition to the two notable younger brothers of well-known MLB players, Stephen Drew and Justin Upton, Mark Reynolds, Kelly Johnson, Chris Young, and Chris Synder are all regular players in their twenties. Geraldo Parra, who has stepped in to replace the recently-traded Connor Jackson, is just 23 years old as well and playing in his second year in the Bigs.

In nature, baby snakes typically hatch of out eggs, but rattlesnakes (including Diamondbacks) happen to give birth to live young - an apt metaphor for Arizona's offense. Despite their relative youth (or perhaps because of it) they've scored the third most runs in the National League, have hit the most homers, are second in slugging percentage and third in OPS.

Even with an offense that's plenty potent, the Diamondbacks still sit a staggering nine games back in the NL West. How is that possible? Partially because their offense numbers are inflated by their ballpark but mostly because of their horrible pitching staff.

Ian Kennedy, who landed in the desert by way of the trade that Curtis Granderson to the Yankees, has been their best starting pitcher so far, sporting an ERA of 3.60 after 15 starts. Brandon Webb injured his shoulder at the beginning of last year and hasn't been back since, but he can only be blamed for so much of the problem. Tonight's starter, Dan Haren, along with last night's, Rodrigo Lopez, and Edwin Jackson (who was also part of the Granderson deal) have ERA's above 4.50, but it really all comes down to the bullpen.

Their "closer", Chad Qualls, who recently lost his job to Aaron Heilman, is currently sporting an 8.87 ERA after blowing four saves in 16 chances and taking three additional losses beyond that. Don't worry, he's not injured, he just sucks. Of the 14 pitchers to throw in relief for them this year, only two have a positive ERA+: Heilman and Esmerling Vasquez. It's tough to win when you can't hold a lead.

So the Yankees failed on two fronts against Rodrigo Lopez last night, 1) not getting runs off of him and 2) not getting to the bullpen soon enough. Lopez had just 87 pitches heading into the 8th inning, and completed the frame on his 103rd. By the time a D-Backs' reliever got the ball, they had a seven run lead and need only to record three outs. I can understand bats going cold, but patience at the plate shouldn't. Perhaps they were just tired after having flown to Arizona and not gotten a day off and mentally checked out when A.J. Burnett got whacked around like a pinata. Perhaps they got a little more rest last night and are now ready to take care of business.

When they face Dan Haren at 9:40 this evening, the Bombers are going to have to either score some runs off of him, or work up his pitch count and get him out of the game early. And try to limit the baby snakes to less than 10 runs. That would also help.

(Baby sna-yay-kes),
Late at night is when they come out,
(Baby sna-yay-kes),
Sure you know what I'm talkin' about.
[Song notes: Baby Snakes is also the name of a really fucking weird clay-mation movie that Zappa made. Since the game doesn't start until 9:40, here are three parts of it. It's not the full 166 minute director's cut, but I don't think anyone would want to watch that anyway.]

Twenty Fackin' Dollahs

This image just showed up in my inbox and since we have hardly posted anything around here lately, I can't just let this sort of easy content slide.

Youk's charity "Hits For Kids" is trying to make their fiscal year-end goals and have evidently stooped to defacing the currency of the United States of America. Despite this illegal behavior, it really is a good cause, so please donate if you can.

Either that or print out this bill and try to sell it to a Red Sox Fan. Just tell them it's like a regular twenty dollar bill, except othah people wickedly undahestimate how it factahs into the economy and it's way fackin' gritty-ah.

Game 70 Recap

[WE data via FanGraphs]

You know it's bad when the Yankees have such a slim chance of winning, so early in the game that I have to chop down the font for their name in the chart to 14 point just to fit it in.

It was already late and I was already tired, so when A.J. Burnett gave up three home runs in the first fucking inning after he retired the first two batters he faced and sank the Yanks into a 5-0 hole, I took the out I was given and just went to bed. I'm glad I did, because aside from Nick Swisher's triple in the third and a few more garbage time runs, the Yankees hardly got to Rodrigo "I give up a shitload of home runs and am not a very good pitcher" Lopez.

As I sarcastically implied in the chart above, let's hear it for A.J. Burnett folks! He gave up seven runs in four innings, all of which came with two outs. That was his fourth straight loss and he adds Lopez to the list of Brett Cecil, Jake Arietta (making his rookie debut) and Jamie Moyer (doing whatever the opposite of that would be) to the list of pitchers who have beaten him over the stretch of death.

The offense hasn't provided a whole lot of support for Burnett as he's been struggling, but over these last four games, he's 21 runs in 20 innings, so he's setting the bar pretty damn high for them. Add those three longballs he gave up last night to the tally and that's nine of them over this dismal span - very nearly one every other inning. Yes, the Diamondbacks hit a lot of home runs, especially at home, but Burnett hasn't seemed to be able to keep the ball in the park against anyone lately.

This location chart from Brooks Baseball pretty much sums the way he's been pitching over his past few outings. Lots of stuff way off the plate that no one aside from maybe Vlad Guerrero is ever going to offer at, lots of it right down the middle and not much around the edges of the zone. That's pretty much exactly what you don't want to do as a pitcher.

I'm not sure how you'd find this out, but I'm guessing last night was one of the lowest rated games of the year, if not the very lowest. It was a Monday night tilt that started at 10PM and the game was all but over by 10:30. It takes a dedicated fan (who didn't go to three Phish shows over the weekend) and/or someone who lives west of the Mississippi to hang in there until the bitter end last night.

Hey, at least tonight's game starts a half hour earlier - at 9:40 - and Burnett isn't pitching! Andy Pettitte will be taking on Dan Haren.