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Tag:Armando Galarraga
Posted on: December 12, 2011 11:49 am
Edited on: December 12, 2011 11:56 am
 

Homegrown Team: Nationals/Expos



By Matt Snyder


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

We continue the series today with the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos. Yeah, remember them -- the best team in baseball in 1994 before the strike ended the season without a World Series? If you don't, you'll need to be reminded of a certain Bartolo Colon trade, which ended up being awful for the Expos, who got 17 starts from Colon after coughing up three future All-Stars for him. What we see is a team that looks pretty good, but has loads of young talent either already developing in the bigs or soon to be arriving.

Lineup

1. Grady Sizemore, CF
2. Brandon Phillips, 2B
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4. Vladimir Guerrero, RF
5. Jason Bay, LF
6. Danny Espinosa, 1B
7. Ian Desmond, SS
8. Brian Schneider, C

Starting Rotation

1. Cliff Lee
2. Stephen Strasburg
3. Jordan Zimmermann
4. Javier Vazquez
5. John Lannan

Bullpen

Closer - Drew Storen
Set up - Bill Bray, Craig Stammen, Collin Balester, Miguel Batista
Long - Armando Galarraga, Brad Peacock, Tom Milone, Ross Detwiler

Notable Bench Players

Bryce Harper, Chris Marrero, Wilson Valdez, Anthony Rendon, Jamey Carroll, Orlando Cabrera, Geoff Blum and Roger Bernadina.

What's Good?

The starting rotation is really good, especially if you start to think about the future. Much like the real Nats, Peacock, Milone and Detwiler all have the potential to break through and really make this a strong top-to-bottom rotation. Here, you have a perennial Cy Young candidate sitting at the top, too. The batting order definitely has the potential to be good, but there are a lot of question marks, so we can't really be overly excited about it. But, much like with the rotation, there is some serious potential on the way in Harper and Rendon. Finally, the bench is really good. This team has depth.

And in case you're curious, the three All-Stars the Expos gave up for Colon were Sizemore, Phillips and Lee. None of the three had made their major-league debut at the time of the trade.

What's Not?

If we were really going to stick Vlad in right field, we'd have to pray no one hit the ball out there. Should I have gotten more creative and put Vlad at first, moving Espinosa out to right? Maybe. We could move Vlad to 1B and throw Harper into the fire, play Bernadina in the outfield and move Vlad to first or just bench Guerrero. I'm open to any idea, but the idea I used was to maximize the offense. Hey, it worked when the Cardinals put Lance Berkman in right this past real season, right? Also, Schneider is a pretty bad catching option at this point, but there were zero other options on current 40-man rosters or in free agency in the MLB (which is what we used to build these rosters). Finally, the bullpen is very thin in front of Storen in the late innings.

Comparison to real 2011

The real-life Nats are just on the cusp of breaking through, though it'll be tough in the stacked NL East. These Nats would be a bit better with the legitimate ace Lee and a great bench. Maybe mid-80s in wins, but with tons of help on the way. Much like with the real Nats, it's kind of a "watch out next year" type deal -- with the likes of Harper, Rendon, Peacock and Milone waiting in the wings while Strasburg, Zimmermann, Storen, Espinosa et al continue to get better.

Next: Boston Red Sox

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 7, 2011 10:05 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 5:22 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Arizona Diamondbacks
Record: 94-68, 1st place NL West. Lost to Brewers 3 games to 2 in NLDS
Manager: Kirk Gibson
Best hitter: Justin Upton -- ..289/.369/.529 with 31 HR, 88 RBI, 21 SB
Best pitcher: Ian Kennedy -- 21-4, 222 IP, 33 GS, 2.88 ERA, 1.086 WHIP, 198 SO, 55 BB

2011 SEASON RECAP

Nobody expected much from the Diamondbacks and even when they did surprise by leading the National League West, nobody thought they could hold off the Giants. Not only did they hold off the defending champs, they left them in the dust. The Diamondbacks were ruthless in making decisions early in the season, demoting or just flat-out getting rid of players that didn't produce, like Armando Galarraga, Barry Enright, Wade Miley and Russell Branyan. The Diamondbacks won 16 of 18 in late August and early September, while Ian Kennedy became a legitimate Cy Young candidate. The team also discovered it has the makings of a stout rotation with Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders and Josh Collmenter. They even survived the season-ending injury to Stephen Drew, winning despite his absence.

2012 AUDIT

The Diamondbacks are in a pretty good situation. So it seems they have some good, young talent that's not going to cost too much -- something that's very important to the Diamondbacks' front office. The team that they have should only get better and develop. There are small spots to fill, but nothing huge. And with Stephen Drew coming back, the team should be even better than they were in the playoffs.

FREE AGENTS

RHP Jason Marquis
1B Lyle Overbay
2B Aaron Hill ($8 team option)
LHP Zach Duke ($5.5 team option)
OF Xavier Nady
SS John McDonald
C Henry Blanco ($1.5 mutual option)UTIL Willie Boomquist ($1.1 mutual option)

OFFSEASON FOCUS

  • Remember last offseason when the Diamondbacks were listening to offers for Justin Upton? Don't do that.
  • Hill was acquired in a change-of-scenry trade with the Blue Jays in August and it seemed to work for both teams. Hill played well for the Diamondbacks -- but not $8 million well. The team should decline his option, but see if he'd entertain an offer for less. The other side of that trade, Kelly Johnson, talked about returning at a discounted price. If Hill's not interested in coming back on the cheap, Johnson may be.
  • The team could upgrade in left field, but that's not a pressing need. And even if it were, there's not a lot of money to spend on the likes of Josh Willingham. There should be enough on the non-tender scrap pile to bring in competition for the spring and push Gerardo Parra.
  • There's a lot of talk about the White Sox trying to trade Carlos Quentin -- at least listen and see how desperate they are to get rid of him. If they take the bulk of his contract, he wouldn't be a bad fit to put in left.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 12, 2011 4:19 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 5:17 pm
 

How blockbusters explain Manager of the Year

Kirk Gibson

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated came up with what he calls the "Movie Plus-Minus" -- it's a stat he uses to rank movies. It's simply this: how much he expected to like a movie versus how much he actually liked a movie. It's how a good movie can still be seen as bad, because expectations were too high -- or how a bad movie can actually be good. Anyway it's all about the expectations in judging the experience, if you don't expect much and it turns out to be good you have a more favorable impression than maybe a movie that you expect to be pretty good and turns out to be about what you expected, even if that movie is much better in a vacuum.

That's exactly how it seems that the Manager of the Year Award in baseball is awarded. Manager of the Year is usually an easy formula:

(Wins) - (Expected wins) = MoY total.

The highest number of MoY gives you the hardware.

Last year nobody expected anything out of the San Diego Padres, yet they nearly won their division. So little was expected that it didn't even matter that the Giants won the division or the Padres piddled away a lead at the end, they were in it and that was enough for the voters to make Bud Black the winner. In the American League, Terry Francona may have done his best managing in 2010, but because he finished third and the Red Sox are expected to make the playoffs every year, he finished fourth in the voting with no first-place votes. Instead it was Ron Gardenhire, followed by Ron Washington and Joe Maddon.

The likely winner in the National League this year? Well, that's easy. Kirk Gibson is going to be the overwhelming, perhaps unanimous, winner because nobody expected the Diamondbacks to contend, and here they are. Manny Acta and Maddon, whose teams were picked to make the playoffs by just about nobody, are frontrunners for this year's award in the American League.

So which managers scored high on the Movie Plus-Minus? Let's look at this summer's blockbusters and who their managerial equivalents:

Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson as Rise of the Planet of the Apes: In April, it sounded ridiculous -- another Plaent of the Apes reboot? Didn't anyone see Tim Burton's attempt? This was a bad idea. A horrible idea. And that's what it looked like in Arizona, where the team started the season with Armando Galarraga and Barry Enright in the rotation. How about Russell Branyan and Melvin Mora. Geoff Blum? But like Gibson, Apes director Rupert Wyatt made all the right moves, making the ridiculous exciting and harnessing the energy and genius of his enigmatic star (James Franco and Justin Upton). While it may not be the best movie or take home either an Oscar or a World Series title, it certainly had the highest Movie Plus-Minus and Gibson will take home some hardware, even if his team doesn't.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke as X-Men: First Class: The franchise has had its hits, but stumbled in its last outing (X-Men: The Last Stand and 2010). Back with a new focus (the origin story for the movie and pitching for the Brewers), the movie not only lived up to tempered expectations, it exceeded them -- just like the Brewers. A thoroughly enjoyable season for the Brewers and a fun movie, both will be punished because there were decent expectations for the movie and the season, even if they delivered the goods. As a bonus, you can also use Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon to link X-Men First Class and Roenicke -- Roenicke manages Ryan Braun, who was in one of the world's worst commercials with Marissa Miller, who was on Entourage with Kevin Connolly, who was in Beyond All Boundaries with Bacon, the bad guy in X-Men: First Class.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle as Green Lantern: Neither ended up being being good, but compared to expectations, it was an Oscar and a World Series. If you weren't scared off by the words "Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan", you certainly were when you heard about the CGI suit. Expectations were incredibly low, just as they were in Pittsburgh (and after 18 losing seasons, why not?). That said, there were some bright spots -- the suit wasn't anywhere near as bad as expected and there was a sort of tongue-in-cheek nod to superhero cliches in the movie, while Andrew McCutchen is a superhero himself. Both had a  decent quick start, but in the end, both suffered as time went on and some concepts (a ring given to some dude by an alien, or Kevin Correia as an All-Star), proved too ridiculous for anyone to fully get behind the movie -- or the Pirates. In the end, though, you'll remember it as "not that bad" even if the Pirates do record their 19th consecutive losing season, but Hurdle will likely have a positive MoY score.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi as Super 8: You figured it would be good -- it was from J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, there was plenty of money behind it. Expectations are always high for the Yankees and neither Spielberg nor Abrams are strangers to hype. A solid leading man (Kyle Chandler, Derek Jeter) and surprising performances from others thrust into lead roles (the kids in the movie and the not-quite-kids like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia in the Yankees' rotation), made it a great summer. While some expectations can never be met, the Yankees and Super 8 got the job done. Of course, rarely are awards given for merely meeting expectations.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: Everyone knew the story coming in -- Harry would defeat Voldemort and the trio of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels would prove as unbeatable as the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone and Cloak of Invisibility. It was great fun to watch, but the source material was handed to director David Yates by J.K. Rowling, just as Ruben Amaro Jr. and Pat Gillick gave Manuel this pitching and roster. Dismissed as just a press-button manager or director, the film succeeded, but those charged with doing so will have their role in making it so diminished because the perception is that it would be difficult to screw up the hand that was dealt.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy as Cowboys and Aliens: An excellent cast, a director with a good track record, beloved source material and, well, in the end it wasn't a hit.

Astros manager Brad Mills as The Smurfs: You expected it to be bad, but maybe not this bad.

Now, it'll just be interesting to see if Moneyball lives up to Art Howe's managing.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: August 17, 2011 10:57 am
 

Poll: Joyce best umpire, West the worst

Joe WestBy C. Trent Rosecrans

As soon as Jim Joyce made his infamous call costing Armando Galarraga a perfect game last year, we heard many in the game leap to Joyce's defense, calling him one of the best umpires in the game. A Sports Illustrated poll of players upholds that, but also finds another controversial name in its top five umpires in the game, as Joe West came in fifth with five percent of the vote.

Of course, a similar poll by Sports Illustrated had West the overwhelming choice as the worst umpire in baseball with a whopping 41 percent of players responding naming West.

As for the best, Joyce was the leader by a wide margin with 35 percent of the vote, followed by Tim McClelland (18 percent), Jim Wolf (7 percent), Laz Diaz (6 percent) and then West.

The poll was conducted in spring training and had 237 players respond to the survey.

While West got votes as best and worst, the other four umpires in the top five combined for just 1 percent of "worst" votes.

McClelland, 60, got 28 percent of the vote from players in their 30s, still second to Joyce, but not by much. McClelland was less popular from the younger players, getting just 12 percent of the vote from players younger than 25. Position players also preferred McClelland to pitchers (23 percent to 13 percent).

Joyce blew the call for Galarraga's perfect game last year, but he earned high praise for the way he handled the situation, admitting his mistake and taking full blame for the miscue.

Joyce's contrition was the exact opposite of West's reputation as a bully and showboat. "Cowboy Joe" is known more for his quick temper than his country albums, although both are pretty bad.

It's still interesting that he was on both lists, but I would imagine some of it is from players who don't think West is as bad as his reputation. However, that five percent was outvoted by the 41 percent who did find him to be that bad.

The poll is only of players, but we know the Ron Washington's vote goes to Angel Hernandez.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 12, 2011 3:12 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2011 5:11 pm
 

Beat Down: Nick Piecoro on the Diamondbacks



By C. Trent Rosecrans

If newspapers still existed and you opened one up this morning, you'd open up the sports section and see that the Arizona Diamondbacks were in first place in the National League West. It's one of those things that nobody really expected to see on Aug. 12, but there it is. I sure didn't expect it, and wasn't sure I knew exactly how it happened. So, I figured I could research the whole thing and write something about it, or I could go to someone who has been there the entire season, so I e-mailed my buddy Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.

Piecoro is in his fifth season covering the Diamondbacks. I first met him in the press box at Chase Field in 2007 when he was surfing my iTunes library from his computer and sought me out to talk music. Since then, we've had numerous pizzas and beers together, talking baseball and, more often, music. So when I thought about the Diamondbacks, I quickly thought of Nick. And then I thought this might be a good weekly feature looking at some of the teams around MLB from the people who see them the most and know them the best. So, for the first installment of the Beat Down, here's Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic:

Eye On Baseball:  So, really, first-place Diamondbacks? Really? Give me the short version of how this happened...

Nick Piecoro: I know, right? Well, there are a bunch of reasons. I’ll start with the emergence of Justin Upton, who has turned into a force in the middle of the lineup, a threat to do damage every time he’s up. They lead the league in home runs, so there’s a real element of a quick-strike offense. And if you look at their Baseball-Reference page, pretty much everyone in the lineup is at least close to a 100 OPS+, meaning there are no black holes in the lineup.

Then there’s the pitching staff. Ian Kennedy has pitched like a No. 1, and Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders and Josh Collmenter (he of tomahawk-throwing fame) have slotted in well behind him. In the bullpen, they no longer cough up leads every night, and that’s thanks mainly to Kevin Towers acquisitions David Hernandez and J.J. Putz.

EOB: Did you see this coming? I sure didn't. I will say, our senior writers -- Scott Miller and Danny Knobler -- did say the D-Backs would be interesting this year, but I don't think any of us expected this.

NP: No way, not me. In spring training, they were a disaster. Part of the reason they’ve been able to turn it around is because they were quick to act to make changes with guys who weren’t getting the job done, and the list is long: Armando Galarraga, Barry Enright, Russell Branyan, Melvin Mora, Aaron Heilman, Juan Miranda, Zach Duke. Some got more rope than others, but the point is, anyone making predictions before the season was looking at a completely different roster than what they have now. Heck, Ryan Roberts, who has 15 home runs, wouldn’t have made the team in spring training if not for Geoff Blum’s injury.

EOB: How much of this is Kirk Gibson? Is the attitude he brought real? Has it actually changed things?

NP: You have to give him credit, certainly. You hear people talk about a manager’s personality rubbing off on his team, it’s hard not to see some of that with this group of guys, particularly when it comes to their penchant for comebacks and the whole never-say-die stuff. They’re a hard-nosed bunch and that’s exactly the kind of player Gibson was and manager he is. Personally, I’ve always been skeptical of a manager’s impact; I mean, all the stuff above explains their status as contenders well enough in my mind. (That and the fact the NL West and the NL as a whole is mostly devoid of good teams.) A friend likes to say that players win games, managers lose them and umpires ruin them. Well, if that’s the case, Gibson is doing an excellent job of not losing them.

EOB: Is Justin Upton your MVP?

NP:  Maybe not yet. But he could be.

EOB: I'm guessing he's not on the trade market this winter...

NP: Uh, no. I’m not sure I understand why he was out there last winter.

EOB: Are they set up for the long haul?

NP:  You would think so, yeah. They have literally no bad contracts -- not a one -- and they have a bunch of guys coming in the system, namely a few potential frontline-type starting pitchers in Jarrod Parker, Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Bauer. They’ll have a few decisions to make in the next couple offseasons with core guys like Kelly Johnson, Stephen Drew and Miguel Montero set to become free agents, but they’re in great position to retain who they want to retain and even should have money to spend to plug whatever holes might exist.

EOB: Finally, you're perhaps the hippest beat writer in the loop, what are you listening to right now?

NP: Heh. Is that like saying someone’s the MVP of the Pacific Coast League? I’ve been fairly obsessed with the new Handsome Furs album (link to "Serve the People" with a note that the album art has a nekkid lady). And -- how’s this for timing? -- I’m actually going tonight to see Cut Copy, an awesome band from Australia that have this catchy 80s-dance-pop thing going on (link here to "Far Away"). I’ve also been really into the new ones from Cults, Destroyer, Foster the People and others I can’t think of right now.

Thanks to Nick and you can check out his blog here and on Twitter @NickPiecoro.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: June 2, 2011 10:40 am
Edited on: June 2, 2011 10:51 am
 

Pepper: Injuries at forefront



By Matt Snyder

BASEBALL TODAY: What will Tommy John surgery for Daisuke Matsuzaka mean for the Red Sox? What is the latest with Dan Haren? I joined Lauren Shehadi to discuss a few of the injuries around baseball. Click on the above video to check it out.

HUGHES PROGRESSING: Ailing Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes could begin a minor-league rehab stint soon. Hughes threw a bullpen session Wednesday night and was pain-free. If he feels no setbacks following another session Saturday -- likely a simulated game or batting practice -- the next step could very well be a rehab assignment. Hughes has been on the shelf since April 14 with an inflamed shoulder and is hoping to return before the end of the month. (NYPost.com)

ZIMM BACK IN ACTION: It's been quite a while since the Nationals had third baseman Ryan Zimmerman in the lineup, but he took a step forward Wednesday, as he played three innings in an extended spring training game. Remember, this isn't a rehab assignment -- which is limited to 30 days -- but it does mean he's ready to start getting closer to such a step. (MLB.com)

BOCHY'S PLEA: Giants manager Bruce Bochy -- who, you may have heard, recently lost his catcher for the season -- reportedly made a "passionate plea" to Joe Torre in the MLB offices about better protecting catchers from injury. Bochy doesn't want to make any sort of slide rule, but would like the league to suspend players who hit catchers not blocking the plate. Check out the full quotes on Extra Baggs. I'm against any rule changes and the general sanctimony directed at the play just because a great player got hurt, but Bochy's actually got a point. If the catcher is 100 percent blocking the plate, the runner should bowl him over. That's baseball. But if he's off to the side of the plate and the runner goes out of his way to level the catcher, that shouldn't be tolerated.

WELLS READY FOR FRESH START: Vernon Wells got off to an awful start for the Angels and then hit the DL. As he prepares to return, he's ready to forget what has already happened and look for a new beginning. Wells: "You can't go back and change that (poor start). But I guess it is a chance for a new start. You're going to see numbers 'before DL' and 'post-DL' now. You'll have that stat breakdown, before and after. I guarantee you my post-DL numbers will be better than my pre-DL numbers." (OC Register) Just in case anyone's wondering, the "before DL" numbers: .183 average, four home runs, 13 RBI, 18 runs, .527 OPS in 35 games.

MAYBE KEEP IT DOWN NEXT TIME? Rickie Weeks led off the game with a home run Wednesday night at Cincinnati. It was the third time this season he's done so in that very ballpark. He's spreading the wealth, too, because his three blasts have come off three different pitchers (Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake).

POWER OUTAGE: Justin Turner's eighth-inning home run for the Mets broke a 10-game homerless streak, their longest in 21 years. It also ended a 10-game streak of the sort at Citi Field, their longest home streak since 1979. Don't expect questions about moving in the fences to go away anytime soon. (NY Times Bats blog)

COLLINS ERUPTS: Of course, Mets manager Terry Collins doesn't much care about home runs, specifically, but he's getting a little tired of losing. Via ESPN New York, here we go: "I'm running out of ideas here. Do we play hard? Absolutely. That’s not the issue. The issue is not effort. That’s not it. It’s about execution. We have to add on some points when we get the lead. And I’m not looking for home runs. I’m looking for quality at-bats. We can’t make careless mistakes. We do. We give up at-bats. We can’t do that. We don’t have that kind of team." He went on for a good bit, and concluded with this: " ... maybe I’ve got to make some adjustments. And, by god, they’ll be made. I don’t know if it comes with finding different players. But they’ll be made. Something is going to be changing."

MAN OF THE HOUR: We posted about Adam Jones' brilliant catch Wednesday, and after the game the compliments from his teammates flowed. Orioles closer Kevin Gregg raved that Jones "looked like Griffey," while starting pitcher Brian Matusz said, "It was awesome. It was a good momentum thing because it put a smile on my face and it helped me relax a little bit and have fun." O's manager Buck Showalter said that Jones has been "spoiling" his teammates with his defensive play all season. (MLB.com)

PAGING CARP: Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times makes the case that the Mariners should call on prospect Mike Carp immediately and plug him in left field. The fact is the Mariners have gotten basically nothing out of left field, and Carp could give the still-weak offense a boost. He's on a 17-game hitting streak with a .325 average and 14 homers in Triple-A. Meanwhile, Carlos Peguero is reeling in left for the big-league club, which is currently only 1 1/2 games out of first place in the up-for-grabs AL West. As I find myself doing more often than not, I agree with Baker. The Mariners are right in the mix and need more offense.

NO JOYCE FOR D-BACKS: One of the feel-good stories from last season was how umpire Jim Joyce and pitcher Armando Galarraga came together following Joyce's blown call that cost Galarraga a perfect game. It even ended up with the two collaborating on a book -- "Nobody's Perfect: Two Men, One Call, and a Game for Baseball History" -- which is being released Thursday. Due to the business relationship, Joyce has been forbidden by Major League Baseball to work any Arizona Diamondbacks games. Galarraga is not even with the D-Backs at present, as he's in Triple-A, but Joyce is still not allowed to do any Arizona games. (ESPN.com)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: May 29, 2011 11:33 pm
 

Bullpen leads D-backs into first place

By C. Trent Rosecrans

J.J. PutzWelcome to first place, Arizona Diamondbacks.

Yep, you read that right, the Diamondbacks have ridden a six-game winning streak -- all on the road -- to the top of the National League West standing, moving past the Giants with their victory over the Astros and San Francisco's loss in Milwaukee.

"This is good right now, but we've got a long way to go," manager Kirk Gibson told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. "We've talked about playing good baseball. It's hard to sustain it."

But the Diamondbacks have in the last 16 days, going 14-2 since dropping five in a row earlier this month.

As for the short-term changes, Piecoro pretty much nailed it in this piece -- Josh Collmenter into the rotation, Armando Galarraga out. Juan Miranda in at first base, Russell Branyan out. And then he adds the improvement of starter Joe Saunders and second baseman Kelly Johnson.

More than just the last two-and-a-half weeks, the Diamondbacks have been much better than they were a year ago, when they were 65-97, the third-worst mark in the big leagues.

First off, a lot of credit has to go to Kirk Gibson, in his first full year as a manager. His team is playing like he did -- all out, all the time.

Secondly, the bullpen is night-and-day better, and the thanks there has to go to general manager Kevin Towers.

Last season the bullpen had a 5.74 ERA -- the worst mark in the National League since divisional play began.

This year it's 3.40 ERA. The teams four blown saves are tired for fourth-fewest in the big leagues.

Closer J.J. Putz is perfect in his 15 save attempts and has struck out 20 in 22 innings, allowing just four earned runs. He's been joined by left-hander Joe Paterson (one earned run in 22 games), Sam Demel (three earned runs in 21 appearances) and David Hernandez (five earned runs in 24 appearances). Esmerling Vasquez has been pretty good, going 0-1 with a 3.32 ERA.

Demel and Vazquez were in the team's bullpen last season, but Towers worked on remaking the team's bullpen in the offseason, signing Putz as a free agent and getting Hernandez in the trade that sent Mark Reynolds to Baltimore. Paterson is a rookie who was taken by Towers in the Rule 5 draft out of the Giants' system.

In the end, the Diamondbacks may not be able to hold onto this lead -- especially against the defending World Series champs and the powerful Rockies. But they could -- nobody thought Cleveland would still lead their division on Memorial Day, yet the Diamondbacks and Indians are, and that's pretty fun.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: May 29, 2011 2:14 pm
 

Galarraga still unhappy with D-backs

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Armando GalarragaRemember when Armando Galarraga was honored as all that is right with baseball? He's not doing much to help that image.

Galarraga had his perfect game blown by Jim Joyce's bad call at first, but instead of argue or pout, he went out and got the next batter out, won the game and refused to blast the umpire. The next day he shook the hand of the apologetic umpire. It was a great story, except there was no "happily ever after."

Galarraga went 8-13 with a 4.82 ERA in his 21 starts last season after the not-perfect game and was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in January. In eight starts for the Diamondbacks this season, the right-hander went 3-4 with a 5.91 ERA and blew up at a reporter when asked following his last outing if he was worried about his spot in the rotation. The next day he was outright to Triple-A Reno.

He's scheduled to make his first appearance for the Aces today against Sacramento after being rained out last night.

Speaking to Chris Gabel of the Reno Gazette-Journal, Galarraga again expressed his anger at being sent down.

"I don't think there's anything specific I need to work on," Galarraga said. "Whatever they say, I don't care."

As for why he accepted the assignment to Reno instead of choosing free agency?

"The money," he said. "They have to pay me $2.3 million to come here."

Galarraga also defended his pitching this season -- saying he pitched well in his first three starts because his team won those games. In those three games, he went 18 innings, allowed 12 earned runs and 18 hits, including six home runs. In toss starts, he was actually pretty lucky, with a .240 batting average on balls in play. Even though he hasn't pitched in the big leagues since May 16, his 13 home runs allowed are the third-most allowed by any pitcher in the National League, trailing the 14 allowed by Bronson Arroyo and Brett Myers, who have pitched 20 and 26 more innings than Galarraga, respectively.

While Galarraga's attitude toward his team's front office isn't going to win him any friends, it's hard to fault him for not giving up on $2.3 million. That's a lot of money -- and when you're giving up home runs at that rate, it may not be easy to find another taker for your pitching services.

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