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The Arizona Diamondbacks appear to be a team without too many holes. Their rotation looks solid from top to bottom, the painfully underrated Conor Jackson is turning into a player that could be a cornerstone for a franchise, and Brandon Lyon has done a capable job finishing games although he never did profile as your stereotypical closer. But this is not exactly a perfect team and the stats show that there may be some rockier times ahead.

It’s not really a revelation to state that Chase Field is a hitter’s park. In 2007, the home of the Diamondbacks had 11% more runs scored within its confines than in the average stadium. In 2008, that figure’s even higher at nearly 27%, which is second highest in MLB. So I find it curious that so far this season, only 9% of fly balls given up by D-Backs pitching have left the yard, which is tied for the lowest percentage in the National League. Even with perhaps the best ground ball pitcher in the game today, Brandon Webb, the Arizona staff have generated only a 43% ground ball percentage, meaning that 57% of batted balls were airborne, a figure that’s higher than the league average (44%). This is a pitching staff that should be giving up more home runs than they have. And I think they eventually will. But the problem is that finding better arms than Webb, Danny Haren, Randy Johnson, Micah Owings, and Doug Davis is a difficult task. They even have Max Scherzer as insurance. But upgrading their lineup to help compensate for the increase in runs allowed isn’t a bad way to go either, and this should be easier to do.

Led by Conor Jackson and Orlando Hudson, the Diamondbacks lineup is sound, but can be improved. Sure, Mark Reynolds has been jacking up dingers like nobody’s business, but as of this writing, 21.5% of his batted fly balls are leaving the park, which is potentially sustainable, but do know that in 2007 there were only seven hitters who maintained that or better. Long story short, I don’t think he’s at those guys’ level just yet. And despite Chris B. Young’s inability to raise his paltry BABiP no matter how hard he tries, he appears to have a ton of talent. And with young Stephen Drew and Justin Upton performing admirably, there’s really only one major hole in their offense – left field (Eric Byrnes).

It might seem blasphemous to suggest that Eric Byrnes, a man who finished 11th in NL MVP voting last season, can be replaced, but it’s true. Simply put, the man never has been as good a player as the general populace thinks. Personally, I blame fantasy baseball. You see that he hit 20+ HRs for the past two seasons and that he swiped 50 bags and think he’s a superstar. But for his career, his line is a pretty pedestrian .264/.326/.447. Despite “breaking out” in 2006 with 26 home runs, he still ended up with a 96 OPS-Plus, which made him a below average offensive player. Last season, he broke the 100 barrier by posting a barely above average 104 OPS-Plus, but this was in large part due to the fact that he also had a .309 BABiP, which for Eric Byrnes, is pretty dang high as he’s usually in the .270 area. To boot, he’s had a terrible 2008 thus far, with a line of .219/.285/.388 and is on the DL with a strained right hamstring, due to return very soon.

The man does, to his credit, play a pretty good left field, leading the position in revised zone rating. But if it weren’t for the ill-advised 3-year/$30 million extension he signed last year, he may have already been benched, grit and spunk be damned.

-What They Need Index-

17 Responses to “What They Need – Arizona Diamondbacks: Another Bat”

  1. Lyndsay says:

    I love the randomness of this post, Sarah.

    another random note: I hate Magglio Ordonez’s stupid fucking hair. it makes me wish he would just get it over with and do the Slater dance while he’s hanging out in the outfield.

    also, is it me or does Dennis Eckersley have the biggest fucking mancrush on Clay Buchholz right now? watch his post-games – it doesn’t matter who pitched the game, he’s like “nevermind Wakefield, I could just watch Clay Buchholz pitch forever and ever! sigh…”
    he’s as giddy as I am every time Jacoby comes up to bat. I have seen none of the blogs post on this yet, but I would like it duly noted.

  2. Lyndsay says:

    I mean, Tom Caron literally has to cut him off. I’m starting to suspect that the Eck and Clay Buchholz are dating.

  3. Sarah Green says:

    Yes, Lyndsay, I have noticed it too. The Eck has a huge mancrush on the Buck. (That’s the first time I’ve tried out that nickname, and I don’t think I like it…it sounds dirty.) In fact, if he’s doing the postgame show tonight I expect a lot of “Well, he only when four innings, and yeah, he gave up some runs, but he’s still so young. I mean, did you see those three changeups in a row? He really owned Curtis Granderson. He’s just got such great aggressiveness, he’ll throw any pitch in any count, and that’s just a great thing in a pitcher. He’s got such a presence on that mound. It reminds me a little bit of me, heh heh…” [fluffs mullet with hint of pride]…”he’s just got such a great future ahead of him.”

    PS—Agree with you about Magglio’s hair. Even worse is the raging hat-head when he takes off his batting helmet. WTF?

    PPS—JULIO LUGO IS GOING TO LOSE THIS GAME. OH MY GOD. TWO ROUTINE PLAYS! TWO BOBBLES! TWO ON, NONE OUT IN THE NINTH! SOX ONLY UP BY ONE RUN! Papelbon is going to make him eat his jock after the game.

  4. Sarah Green says:

    Ugh. Tigers walk off with a gift win after Lugo can’t turn a single routine play in the bottom of the ninth. Papelbon walks all calm-like back to the dugout, walks over to the bench, turns around, and then suddenly kicks the ever-loving crap out of two Gatorade coolers sitting on the dugout steps.

    I just know he was imagining they were Julio Lugo. It’s okay, Pap. I know he’s your teammate but you’re only human.

  5. melissa says:

    To the Chi-Sox the clubhouse is like Vegas, what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse. That seems to be the reaction of most of the players and Ozzie. It’s too bad that they think bizarre facial hair and playing with blow-up dolls can actually make them better at baseball. What I find interesting is that this was not a story in Chicago until after the Toronto papers wrote about it. None of the Chicago beat writers gave it any ink at all so evidently they thought it was Vegas as well.
    Placido Polanco looks like he needs to have holes drilled into his temples to relieve the pressure created by his wide forehead. He has to be in the top 5 of the most bizarre looking players in baseball. Jorge Cantu of the Marlins is the only guy I can think of that looks scarier.

  6. Melissa, it’s not unusual that none of the Chicago beat writers were eager to write about the blow up dolls. Those writers need access. If they start blogging about every little gossipy item from the clubhouse, it won’t be long before players stop talking to them.

    Toronto reporters, on the other hand, don’t need to talk to White Sox players on a regular basis.

  7. Sarah Green says:

    Well, it’s also not really clear to me whether this was a continuously appearing “shrine” or just a stunt they pulled in the visitors’ clubhouse in Toronto. Either way, it was clearly more offensive to Canadian sensibilities than Chicagoan ones.

    What I find kind of sad is that neither the players nor the manager seemed to see anything at all lame about it. I cannot really see Jim Leyland or Terry Francona or Joe Maddon letting things get that far.

  8. Lyndsay says:

    hehe, I was just about to ask, Sarah, how ’bout everyone’s favorite team liability last night, ay? I know how much you love him.

    The Eck surprisingly held back his feelings toward the Buck last night. he seemed overly concerned though about Buck’s “injured” ankle – “can someone please check on him? please? is he ok? can you guys fly me out to Detroit tonight so I can personally ice it? I think the kid needs Dr. Eck right now.”

    all in all a very entertaining game though…what with Youk all mumbling and angry at the ump most of the game. that was one of the more hilarious things I’ve seen on the basepaths in a while.

  9. Lyndsay says:

    Melissa, I always vote for Allan Embree on the bizarre-looking player scale.

    But yes Polanco’s head I noticed is definitely wide, like someone smashed it down into his neck from above. on the other side of the head size spectrum…Clay Buchholz’s head is way too SMALL for his body. it looks like at the end of “Beetlejuice” when B’s head starts shrinking (I really hope someone remembers this!) so that was interesting matchup last night.

  10. Lyndsay says:

    also, I would really like for once one of the reporters in the post-game press conference to come out and ask Tito, “when is the team going to address the issue of how much Julio Lugo fucking SUCKS?” props for balls if it’s Heidi Watney that does that (probably not though, she’s still kinda clueless).

  11. Sarah Green says:

    I think the Buck looks like a sort of desert lizard, that loooong neck seamlessly conjoined to that small, pointy head, the heavily lidded eyes….even the darting, flickering way he moves when he shakes off Varitek. It’s very reptilian.

  12. melissa says:

    Coley,
    You are definitely right about beat reporters trying to stay in the good graces of the players and manager. I don’t think they were afraid to talk about it though, I just think they didn’t see it as a big story. Sunday before the game Sun-Times beat reporter, Joe Cowley actually mentioned it in passing when he was on the radio with the White Sox pre-game host. He said that the Sox had erected a shrine including blow-up dolls in an effort to break their hitters’ slumps. He and the host just laughed it off as if it was a non-story. They also mentioned that the day before players had shaved the 3rd base coach in an effort to bring good luck, I find this more horrifying personally. On Monday it was mentioned on local sports radio that Toronto papers had written about it and Tuesday is when it became front page headlines on the Sun-Times. That’s also when all of the columnists started their finger wagging and tsk-tsking. So in this instance I don’t think the writers thought twice about it being offensive just that it was typical juvenile clubhouse behavior. I would also add that it was in fact a one time incident from everything that’s been reported in Chicago. The other factor that might have played into the reporting is the fact that it occurred on the same day that Ozzie went into an obscenity filled tirade against the fans and media in Chicago before the game. Had Ozzie’s tirade not occurred they might have used this story to fill space.

  13. Lyndsay says:

    hmmm lizard. yes. I noticed last night that his eyes kind of bulge out, like when he was being interviewed in the clubhouse after the game, and it pretty much scared me how big his eyes got.

  14. How bout the Teixiera for Scherzer? I know that Airzona is happy w/Conor Jackson at first, but they could sit one of their light hitting outfielders and move him out there to make room for Teixiera at first.

    After the last couple of weeks, I think it’s time for the Braves to start rebuilding, and to do it with young pitching, the way that has traditionally brought them success.

  15. Danny, there’s no way Arizona is going to trade Scherzer, who is a star in the making, for three months of Teixeira, who is a free agent at the end of the season. Unless, of course, Tex gave the D-backs a window to sign him to an extension, which he won’t do, because he’s a Boras client.

    Here’s an option: why not promote Trot Nixon from AAA? He’s hitting .318 with a .449 OBP and 10 HR. Not too shabby.

  16. You’re right, but let’s do a roleplay. I’ll be Atlanta GM Frank Wren and you be the Arizona GM whats-his-name Byrnes. I want Scherzer, you’re stocked with pitching and need hitting. Who do you want for Scherzer? (Larry Wayne Jones is off the table.)

  17. I don’t think Arizona is going to trade Scherzer, period. If Atlanta wants to trade Teiexeira, they’re going to have to settle for a couple of lesser prospects. I think there’s just as good a chance that they settle for the two compensatory draft picks they’ll get when Tex signs with the Yankees.

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