With word that Jed Hoyer will be joining Theo Epstein in Chicago, the Padres have a familiar face sliding into the GM chair.
With Padres GM Jed Hoyer headed to the Cubs in the same capacity under former boss Theo Epstein, another Epstein protégé, Josh Byrnes, takes over in San Diego. Although Hoyer's tenure didn't last as long as anyone expected, he made a few key moves that will help shape the course of the franchise.
The 2006 draft has served as a major talent influx for the top forces in the NL West.
I'd wanted to write about Clayton Kershaw because I haven't discussed him in as much detail as his season merits, but finding a fresh angle proved to be difficult. Improved control? Done. Comparisons to Sandy Koufax? Done. A thousand other things? Done.
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Aaron Cook's inability to strike out batters hasn't kept him from a long big-league career, nor kept one writer from having fun with Wikipedia.
Of the 71 active big-league pitchers who have worked at least 1,000 career innings, only Colorado right-hander Aaron Cook (3.8) has a K/9 below 4. The next two lowest, Zach Duke (4.7) and Jon Garland (4.9), also call the NL West home, although unlike Cook, they have not spent their entire careers with one team.
Saturday's Padres-Diamondbacks matchup personified both clubs' 2011 seasons.
If the 2011 National League West could be distilled into a single game, Saturday night's contest between the Padres and Diamondbacks in Phoenix would make for a strong candidate. Both teams battled for nine innings (and then some), and the contest ended on a walk-off walk followed by a protest that threatened to put both teams back on the field to finish the next day.
While the Giants flounder further from contention, the Diamondbacks continue to rise, largely thanks to their record against losing teams.
Through September 4, Arizona leads the division by seven games with 22 remaining. Although the Diamondbacks have earned their success by playing better than everyone else in the division for an extended period of time—Jay Jaffe has extolled the team's considerable virtues—they also have taken advantage of weaker opponents in a way that the Giants have not.
Sure, the Dodgers aren't having a great year, but when you reframe their situation in the context of history, things start to look cheerier.
A team cannot survive without the support of its fans. And although the Dodgers are not in imminent danger of going the way of the Montreal Expos, the glue that held the franchise together for so long—the people of first Brooklyn, then Los Angeles—has lost some of its adhesive qualities. To say that 2011 has been a difficult year for the Dodgers and their fans is to grossly understate things. In Los Angeles, a town not given to understatement, a host of on- and off-field issues have conspired to shake the faith of its baseball-loving citizens.
Though it looks like a two-horse race in the NL West, even those players on losing clubs have something to play for.
In Phoenix, the Diamondbacks have skidded into a five-game losing streak after riding the heroics of a succession of first basemen (Brandon Allen, Paul Goldschmidt, Lyle Overbay... perhaps it is time to put in a call for Travis Lee?). In San Francisco, the Giants struggle to stay healthy, a problem that dogs all old people, not just those who play baseball for Brian Sabean's geriatric club.
Though the Rockies aren't going to contend this year, their curious decision to sign Kevin Millwood sends signals about player evaluation.
One of the more curious moves in the 2011 NL West occurred last week when the Colorado Rockies signed 36-year-old right-hander Kevin Millwood to replace the injuredJuan Nicasio in the rotation. Millwood started for the Rockies on Wednesday night in Cincinnati and lost, 3-2. He pitched fairly well (7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 6 SO), his only blemishes being three solo homers.
With the Giants in the midst of a tailspin, a visit from the Pirates may be what they need to right the ship. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks have a chance to seize control by beating the punchless Astros.
Headed into their game against Arizona on August 26, 2010, the Padres owned a 76-49 record and a commanding 6 ½ game lead over second-place San Francisco. The Padres would lose on that Thursday afternoon at home, 11-5, the first of a 10-game skid. They would go 14-23 down the stretch, missing the postseason by one game after leading the NL West for almost the entire year. The Giants, who took advantage of San Diego's epic faceplant and rode it to a world championship, now find themselves in the midst of a similar run. After being swept in Cincinnati last weekend, San Francisco came home and lost series to Arizona and Philadelphia.
The varying points at which teams struggle and thrive during the game may hint at when they should use their top relievers.
One aspect of baseball that has long fascinated me is the ebb and flow within a game. A concept such as momentum may seem as old school and out of touch as that of luminiferous ether, but fluctuations do occur. Others will decide whether such shifts are the result of mysterious forces at work or are mere bits of randomness interspersed throughout a given contest. We are looking at outcomes here, not hypothesizing about some greater meaning.
When offense is difficult to come by, the Giants stand tall, but how do they stack up against history?
When the Giants lost to Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw, 1-0 last Wednesday, it was an unusual occurrence for the defending champs. No, not getting blanked by Kershaw; he is a great pitcher, and that will happen. It’s unusual that the Giants lost a one-run game. Even after falling to Kershaw, they are 27-13 in such contests this year (all statistics are through games of July 24), which helps explain why the team is doing so well (59-43 vs. 53-49 Pythagorean record) despite a pedestrian run differential. Their record in one-run games is tops in the big leagues, besting Philadelphia's 17-9.
While the desert is reputed for its retirement-community feel, a youth movement is coming ashore, while in Hollywood, the stars may be young, but the home team ain't.
Like Florida, Arizona has a reputation for being home to a great many old folks. In some respects it is deserved; according to the 2010 census, Scottsdale, a Phoenix suburb, had the highest median age (45.4 years) among all 282 locations in the United States with a population of 100,000. Tempe, which lies a few miles south of Scottsdale, ranks among the lowest median ages (28.1). The fact that Arizona State University (alma mater of several fine baseball players, including Barry Bonds, Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Rick Monday, and about 100 other current or former big-leaguers) is in Tempe helps account for the younger population.