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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Untouchable

Short Post today as i have friends in town, but wanted to post this:

Brandon Webb has now pitched 2 complete game shutouts in a row, and 33 consecutive shutout innings covering his last four starts. That's the Cy Young winning form i remember from last year. The Dbacks are now four games clear of the NL West...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Run differential for the Diamondbacks

So the diamondbacks are now 14 games over .500 and fighting for the best record in the National League. They also have a 3 game lead in the Division, the NL West, and one of the best records in baseball since the All Star Game.

BUT THEY HAVE BEEN OUTSCORED BY 28 RUNS THIS YEAR!!!! 28!!!

This is a crazy stat that makes almost no sense at all and is very hard to figure out. Many baseball people would say the Dbacks are lucky and that the record has a disproportionate number of wins and it will catch up with them. Thus eventually the record will come back toward the .500 mark. I will take another angle.

In the 10 most lopsided losses and wins the Dbacks run differential is -23, so when we loss, we really lose big. But does it matter if you lose 14 - 0 or 1 - 0? It does not matter in the standing. The Dbacks currently are 25 - 15 in one run games, that is outstanding. 40 one run games is a lot, but i think that the close games and the experience it brings will help this young team develop for the stretch run and playoffs. The record in one run games shows that the Dbacks have an outstanding bullpen, especially with Pena, Lyon, and Valverde shutting down the opponents in the 7th, 8th, 9th innings. That bullpen is allowing our team to come from behind or hold a small lead in close games. Please reread that last sentence. Think about a team that wins close games with an outstanding bullpen, exactly how most playoff games play out. I love the potential that the youngest team in baseball has for the last two months and if Stephen Drew can start hitting like he is supposed to (.280) and J. Upton can play a decent right field this team will play in October. The -28 run differential would lead to the assumption that our long relief pitchers are not very good in that position. One suggestion from me would put BK Kim in the bullpen and throw Edgar Gonzalez into the starting lineup when a 5th starter is needed, which is not much with all of the days off for rest in August.

Let us not worry about the negative run differential and instead focus on the great bullpen late in games. That bullpen allows the Dbacks to win the close games and thus continue to lead the division! On to the Playoffs!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Pre Season Previews: Big East Conference

Ok, it's been a while, but i'm back with more previews of college football conferences. This one focuses on the Big East, or the Big Least as it has come to be known in the years since Miami, Va. Tech, and Boston College left for the riches of the ACC.

As much as i make fun of and disparage the Pac 10, the Big East, at least until last year, was worse. With the departure of Miami and Va. Tech, the conference was rendered almost completely irrelevant, sending 8-3 Pittsburgh to the BCS in it's first year after the big boys left. Pitt was matched against Utah, the first non-BCS Conference team to make the BCS, in the Fiesta Bowl that year, creating quite possibly the least-watched and least-cared about BCS game since it's inception as Utah took Pitt behind the woodshed.

The following year, 2005, W. Virginia won the conference, and the BCS bid, with an entertaining and actually good team, putting on quite a show in the Sugar Bowl as it jumped out to a 28-0 lead and holding on for a 38-35 win over Georgia. It was this year, and mostly this bowl, that started the Big Least onto the path to respectability, culminating in a fantastic 2006 season that had W. Virginia, Louisville, and newcomer Rutgers playing some of the best football games of the season battling it out for the Big East crown. Louisville ended up winning the conference and going to the BCS bowl game, beating Wake Forest (how the hell did they win the ACC?) in the Orange Bowl.

This year looks to be a break-out year for the Big East, with Louisville, W. Virginia, and Rutgers all expected to compete for the championship again, with Pittsburgh possibly making some noise behind the big three. So, without further adu, here is my take:

Team To Beat: W. Virginia

With the dynamic duo of Pat White and Steve Slaton returning to Morgantown for their junior, and in all likelihood last, season, the Mountaineers have title hopes all around them. Include the fact that they are returning 15 of 22 starters on both sides of the ball, and you have a confident and battle-tested team. Their schedule is fairly favorable, with the exception of back to back games at Rutgers and home against Louisville. If they can win one of those games, they should finish no worse than 10-2 and take the conference.

Surprising Team: Pittsburgh
As much as i love to rag on the Panthers to our resident Pitt alumni, Smitty Friend (The Girl), they might actually be able to put together a decent season this year. Although star quarterback Tyler Palko has departed, the Panthers return four of their offensive linemen and have a good receiving core. The defense returns 6 starters from last year, including the entire line. Pitt has a fairly easy non-conference schedule, but their conference schedule is brutal, playing W. Virginia, Louisville, and Rutgers all on the road. Though i don't think Pitt will contend for the conference title, I think they have a good shot to contend for third place and a respectable bowl game.

Disappointing Team: Rutgers
This is mainly due to the fact that last year was a magical run, and a lot of people are expecting the same from them again this year. I don't believe they can create that same magic two years in a row, and thus will finish below where most people are picking them. They do, however, a ridiculously easy schedule, opening with five straight at home, and overall playing 8 of their 12 games at home. Their only tough road game will be at Louisville to finish the season. Even with the schedule, i think Rutgers loses a few of the games they won last year, and will battle with Pitt to finish in third in the conference.

League MVP: Pat White/Steve Slaton
It's too hard to tell which of these teammates is going to have the best year. Both of them have been sensational their first two years, and both figure to be prominently involved in the race for the Heisman Trophy. Much like USC and John David Booty in the Pac 10, these two players will help carry W. Virginia to Heisman hopes and National Championship dreams.

Cardinal's Preview.

There is a decent write-up on the Cardinals over at the Worldwide Leader. Here is the link. I will be doing my own write-up on the Card's before the season starts, but thought this was a good way to start getting into them.

Off Topic: US Soccer

I know most of you haven't been paying attention (though you should be), but on the heels of the Americans great showing at the U-20 World Cup last month in Canada, some of the players from that team are getting international recognition. Well-deserved international recognition, if you ask me. The player signings have come fast and furious as of late, and got started with Freddy Adu's move to Benfica in Portugal. Here is a quick rundown of the signings:

Danny Szetela is set to complete a transfer to Italian side AS Roma in the next few weeks. While the transfer would not take place until Dec. 31st, it's still a great move to a fantastic league, Serie A. AS Roma finished second in the league last year, and has some quality players for Szetela to learn and train under.

Sal Zizzo made the transfer to Hannover 96 of the German Bundesliga. While Hannover was not great last year, finishing 11th in the league, it does boast one other American on the roster, Steve Cherundolo.

Benny Feilhaber, the maker of one of the best American goals i've ever seen (see it here), could be headed to Derby County of the English Premiership League. While Feilhaber is already in Europe playing for Hamburg of the Bundesliga, a move to the EPL would be a great one for someone who has already seen significant action of the Senior US Men's Team.

And last, although not a member of the U-20 team, DaMarcus Beasley completed a transfer to Scotland side Ranger's. Beasley has spent the last few years playing in Holland for PSV Eindhoven.

What does all this mean? Well first, more Americans playing in Europe. What does it really mean? More Americans getting more experience against better competition. And it means the Americans are getting noticed and respected on the international stage. The future of this team looks fantastic, especially with these moves (And a rumor that Landon Donovan is not as opposed to going back to Europe as he was when he returned a few years back).

The moves are great, but those players still need to prove they can play, and play well, with their respective teams. But it can only help to have them playing in some of the best leagues in the world, honing their skills for the up-coming World Cup Qualifying schedule.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Yeah, wonderful pick-up...

It was the 2nd inning of tonight's game, the Dbacks had just scored four runs in the bottom of the 1st to take a 4-2 lead, and Mark Grace and Darren Sutton were talking about how they were glad the Dbacks had picked up BK Kim, who was pitching for the Dbacks. I say WAS pitching, because it is now the 3rd inning, and BK Kim was yanked after allowing two more runs and loading the bases while getting just one out in the 3rd.

Am i the only one who saw they picked up BK Kim and went huh? This is the same guy who started the year with the Rockies, was traded to the Marlins, was then dropped by the Marlins, and who has a 4.61 ERA for the year? This was supposed to be a good move? And we sent Yusmeiro Petit to AAA for him? Petit, who had a 4.21 ERA and had pitched pretty well while he had been up?

Count me among the unimpressed with the BK Kim pickup, and among the ones worried that this is going to be our fifth starter during the stretch run. Especially when he lasts only 2 1/3 innings and gives up 5 runs in his first start. Fantastic...

Oh yeah...

Congrats are in order to Barry Bonds for hitting home run number 756 last night, breaking the Major League Baseball record for most home runs in a career, possibly the most hallowed record in all of sports.

Umm....

Actually, screw Barry Bonds. I hope it comes out that he was knowingly using steroids most of his career, gets kicked out of baseball, and his the record revoked. And soon.

Ok, so i've been lazy...

Yeah, i admit it. I have been pretty bad about posting lately. But at least i have some excuses. I've been camping, and i have a friend in town visiting. So get over it, and thanks for coming back! Now to my column...

I can't seem to stay off the Dbacks lately. I know there are a lot of other things going on in the Valley (and the country on a whole), but this team is absolutely fascinating. There are storylines galore, from the on-going division race, to the new waiver wire pick-ups, to re-signing Eric Byrnes, to the sensational start of Justin Upton.

I'll start with the general, and talk about the play on the field. After a spectacular road trip on which they went 5-1 against the best of the NL West (not including us), the Dbacks returned home amid great news of Byrnes' new contract and with a new found excitement for the Dbacks in the Valley. With a great turn-out of over 25,000 people (myself included), the Dbacks promptly put up a first-class stink job, throwing up four errors (should have been five) and losing by 5 runs. The only bright spot of the game was Justin Upton's offense, which came up a single shy of the cycle. He hit a triple his first time up, a home run the second time, and a double the next. Not too shabby for his fourth game in the Bigs.

The Dbacks are still a very young team, and as such an enigmatic one. Last night was no exception, but luckily a night like that has been an aberration as of late. The Dbacks have still won 13 of their last 16, are still in first place, and are still in great shape. And they are leading in the 3rd inning of tonight's game right now.

Out for now, but back tomorrow with more posts, and back to a more regular posting schedule. Thanks for bearing with me, and thanks for visiting the site.