Diamond Back?While I was on lunch on Friday, I happened to catch a piece of the Jim Rome show and he had Bob Costas on, who perfectly described the imperfection that is the wildcard. His main point centered around the fact that the best team in either league is given little to no advantage for being better than the wildcard winner over 162 games. Also, Costas pointed out the obvious flaw of the wildcard, it can take away from division races as it did last year with Arizona & San Francisco and Anaheim & Oakland. But even imperfections can be praised. Cindy Crawford's mole. Owen Wilson's nose. Jennifer Lopez's butt. Some might disagree with the latter, but you get my point. This year, detractors of the wildcard are having a bad season. Their case against the extra playoff spot is currently being blasted by both races:
Oakland 71-53 0 GB
Boston 71-53 0 GB
Much of the focus in the NL wildcard has been on Philly and Florida, rightfully so as they continue to flip flop, but the Diamondbacks could continue their upward climb on the back of ace Curt Schilling. Schilling missed all of June, but has since been nearly unhittable. When he came back on July 12th, he was touched a bit, giving up four runs in 6 innings and suffering his 4th loss of the season. However, since the All-Star Break he's gone less than 7 innings just once (6.0 IP) and has allowed over 3 runs or less in every start. He's 3-2 with a 1.26 ERA and minute 0.94 WHIP. He's struck out 59 and walked just 7. His offense has been giving him just 2.86 runs per start during that stretch and thus the mediocre record.
Philadelphia 69-54 0.0 GB
Florida 69-55 0.5 GB
Arizona 65-58 4.0 GB
Los Angeles 64-59 5.0 GB
Chicago 64-59 5.0 GB
Montreal 64-60 5.5 GB
St. Louis 64-60 5.5 GB
With the emergence of Miguel Batista and rookie Brandon Webb, the Diamondbacks have a dynamo 1,2,3 to counter pretty much anyone else in the National League. Just imagine if Randy Johnson could get back on track. Even more key than Johnson righting the ship is the offense putting up more runs. Their 537 runs ranks 24th in the majors which is not playoff caliber! Between the top 3 contenders for the NL wildcard, I'd give the D'Backs an edge if the bats can even uptick their production to 4.8 RPG, or 0.5 better than their season average. Just give these pitchers a little more to work with and they have the best triumvirate of the three, and again, if Johnson gets going.
Only Millwood rates lower in Run Support than any of the Arizona trio. The Diamondbacks finish up their four game set in Atlanta this afternoon before going home for 13 straight. They are producing 5.07 RPG at home, so now is the time to for the D'Backs to surge up the ladder and catch the Phils and Marlins.
W-L ERA WHIP K/BB RS
Randy Wolf 12-7 3.46 1.15 2.59 5.96
Kevin Millwood 12-8 3.80 1.21 2.71 4.40
Vicente Padilla 11-8 3.85 1.29 1.82 5.07
Mark Redman 10-6 2.97 1.15 2.72 5.44
Dontrelle Willis 11-3 3.18 1.24 2.84 4.92
Josh Beckett 6-6 3.38 1.39 2.68 6.65
Curt Schilling 7-6 2.48 0.98 5.62 3.97
Brandon Webb 7-6 2.56 1.11 2.95 4.65
Miguel Batista 7-6 2.86 1.23 2.77 4.20
Push come to shove, pitching wins as everyone knows and thus if the D'Backs can squeeze enough runs out their otherwise youthful lineup led by veterans Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finely, then they will win the wildcard race. Schilling is healthy and dominating like last year and two youngsters have upped their game to pick up for Johnson, meanwhile Matt Mantei appears to be back at full strength as well as he hasn't allowed a run since his return on June 30th. In that stretch, he's notched 22 strikeouts in 16 and 2/3 innings of work while posting a sick 0.42 WHIP. Byung Hyun-Who? Tidbits...While thoughts and prayers go out to Barry Bonds and his father, Bobby, his joining of the bereavement list has interesting implications on the Triple Crown that Albert Pujols is chasing. Pujols is in the midst of a 30-game hitting streak and that has netted him a 14 point lead in the batting average race, and he sits 3 HRs behind Bonds and 8 RBIs behind Preston Wilson. Working against Pujols is the fact that Wilson has 21 more games in Coors.
Juiced ball? Nobody is on pace for 50 home runs.
To the surprise of none, J.D. Drew rejoins his favorite club... the DL.
The continued tinkering of AOPS with other rates to see who's who in terms of hitting outside of HR, RBI, and AVG continues. Results this week...