15 August 2010

About Town

While we disparaged the All Star Game, injected perspective into Gonzo Nite, and made fun of Jim McLennan, Gibson's Gang punched out a nice little two week run (9-4), all but ignored here. At this point, someone needs to report Diamondhacks as a hate site.

Oh sure, we could re-establish the illusion this isnt a hate site - and pretend to dispassionately analyze us some ball. But why bother? Seriously, we'd written several paragraphs about the state of the team and all the personnel upheaval.
But you can get that blah blah blah anywhere.

  • Under the guise of an "interview" w/ Todd Walsh, Derrick Hall allotted himself several minutes of face time in the middle of Friday's tight game, to prattle on about his visit to Air Force One and The White House. Hall's insight about the plane? It's "really big."

  • Today's game, the one with Strasburg, was interrupted by more interesting folk; what sounds like a fairly well organized militia of SB1070 protesters, who ran onto the field in staggered waves, somewhat confounding Nats' security. I say "sounds" because TV doesnt show people interrupting the game - unless they're Derrick Hall. The article indicates a two minute game delay, but I'm pretty sure it was longer than that. A number of Diamondbacks were shown smiling or laughing at the hijinks; Mark Reynolds was doubled up with laughter at one point.

Locals are hopeful, even excited, about DiPoto's young flingers, and why not. There hasnt been much to get behind at Chase Field (except "getting behind" in games), so you can feel fans latching onto this pleasant development. Visions of Jarrod Parker coalescing with Hudson, Enright and Kennedy, into a fabulous, futuristic front four.

But how meaningful are the recent performances? Predictive tools like BABIP and xFIP suggest everyone's pitching over their heads, most notably Enright. I wont belabor the point. You can do that at Fangraphs. The upshot is that probably only Hudson can confidently be projected as an above average major league arm - and he's pitched 57 ML innings. The others arent bums, but they're not apt to be difference makers either. My more daunting concern is durability, as just Saunders has a 150 IP season under his belt. As well as the newbies have debuted, that may be a structural crisis that's (as James Earl Jones might intone) "waiting in the wings".

It's funny how the personnel upheaval has degraded fans' underlying expectations. A principle that hastened the departures of Haren and Jackson was the club's reasonable assessment that 2010 no longer mattered. Trading veterans for kids doesnt change that, people. These games still dont matter in any current competitive sense, any more than if Dan Haren stayed and flung shutouts for our entrenched losers. To the extent 2010 experience helps next year, it's largely counterbalanced by the benefit to NL hitters of exposure to our "front four".

Well paid veterans' accomplishments are generally taken more for granted - whereas fans reserve a lower, more lenient, standard for unknowns. This contributes to the recent buzz and fuels the FO's carefully choreographed "illusion of progress" I warned of months ago. As predicted, Hinch was dismissed after the brutal June schedule (similar to Melvin's firing a year earlier); not so much to generate wins or make the team objectively better, as to launch a subjective new frame of reference - from which fans can more easily approach a reeling organization. The Gibson Era, if you like.
"Look! He's winning with a bunch of kids! They're playing better baseball!"

That's the results oriented "analysis" diehards crave and the storyline Derrick Hall will feed and exploit. But the reality is the new, "improved" club is still .400 under Kirk, against a pretty soft schedule. It just doesnt seem as bad, because Hinch and Byrnes have been deemed "responsible" for past failures, and we see new faces doing some positive things.

The reality, however, is that this roster lost alot, besides payroll. It loses 400 projected seasonal innings from established workhorses, and despite what transpired this year, Haren & EJack innings evaporate towards the front of the rotation, not the back. We lost our matched pair of two-way, major league able catchers. Say what you will about Snyder's contract and negativity - his absence increasingly ties 2011 fortunes to Miguel Montero's uncertain durability.

As Gibby's crew was rolling, Mark Grace riffed that DiPoto moved some guys who "didnt want to be here", in favor of enthusiastic newcomers. He meant Snyder and Haren primarily and Haren's remarks upon joining the Angels leave little doubt Grace is right. What rings false, however, is the implication Haren's disgust somehow cost the team wins, relative to going to battle with his enthusiastic replacement. Even in his summer of discontent, Haren managed 3.1 WAR, more than twice that of Saunders, his transactional counterpart.

Grace implied the Diamondbacks were winning now by accumulating players who "want to be here". Maybe that's true, if all other factors are equal or controlled for. But they never are, and an unhappy Haren helps his team more than a cheerful Joe Saunders normally will. Acquiring happy players or personalities wont cure what ails the Dbacks. They need to get better players and get the most out of the players they have, via improved scouting, coaching, management and ownership.

  • Finally, the dorkiest local political ad rolled out of AZ this week. Dan Quayle's thirtyish son, who failed the bar and grew up almost exclusively in DC, posing as a principled, "get er done" outsider who will shake up Washington. Are we still in the era when an utterly undistinguished, entitled princeling like this, could actually win a House seat, on the strength of megafunds from his father's friends - including George H.W. and Barbara Bush?

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