Series Preview: Diamondbacks vs. Pirates

The losing streak has reached nine, and things won’t get much easier as the Pirates host the NL West-leading Diamondbacks. Despite being outscored by 14 runs, the D-Backs are in prime position to clinch a playoff spot, holding a 2.5 game lead over the San Diego Padres. One possible explanation for the run differential/record discrepancy? Arizona’s bullpen ranks second in the majors with a 14.515 WXRL. WXRL essentially asjusts relief performance for the situation, assigning credit (positive WXRL) or blame (negative) based on the number of runs that would be expected to score in a given situation. If the reliever holds the opponent to less than the expected number of runs, a positive WXRL is achieved, and vice versa. Despite playing in a good offensive environment, the Diamondbacks rank just 14th in the National League in runs scored.
In more pressing Pirate news, the team now trails the Devil Rays (64-92) by 2 games in a hard-fought race for the #1 overall selection in the draft. The Marlins are also a contender, matching the Bucs with a 66-90 mark.

Tale of the Tape

Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 88-68 (1st in NL West)

Runs Scored/ Allowed: 690/704

Pythagorean Record: 76-80

Defensive Efficiency: .703 (8th)

Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 66-90 (6th in NL Central)

Runs Scored/Allowed: 704/813

Pythagorean Record: 67-89

Defensive Efficiency: .678 (27th)

Probable Starters

Tuesday

LHP Doug Davis (110 ERA+) vs. RHP Ian Snell (117 ERA+)

Wednesday

RHP Livan Hernandez (97 ERA+) vs. RHP Matt Morris (67 ERA+ with Pirates)

Thursday

RHP Brandon Webb (156 ERA+) vs. LHP Paul Maholm (89 ERA+)

Series Notes

Diamondbacks

– Admit it: it’s fun to watch Eric Byrnes play. His full-throttle, headbanger style is a a welcome sight in a time where many players pose at presumed home runs (only to see the ball stay in the park … I’m looking at you, Adrian Gonzalez) and halfheartedly jog toward first on a grounder (Still looking at you, Adrian.)

That being said, was it really wise to give 3 years and $30 million to a 31 year-old who was nontendered not that long ago? The only difference between Byrnes’ career line (.267/.330/.453) and his 2007 line(.289/.358/.468) is around 20 points of batting average. Given Arizona’s home park, that’s a solid-but-unspectacular performance.

The D-Backs have a plethora of potential outfield options (Justin Upton, Chris B. Young, Carlos Quentin, and possibly one out of the group of Mark Reynolds, Chad Tracy, and Conor Jackson.) The Diamondbacks should be reaping the benefits of an inexpensive, talented young outfield, but instead have saddled themselves with a rather pricey contract for a good fourth outfielder entering his decline years.

Pirates

– Jose Castillo is mad as heck, and he’s not gonna take it. The former starter made it clear that he wants a fresh start somewhere else.

Castillo, 26, will almost certainly get his wish. Currently making $1.9 Million and again eligible for arbitration, Castillo is a prime candidate to be non-tendered. Having made no changes to his hacktastic approach at the plate (.238/.265/.324 in ’07) while also moving down the defensive spectrum, Castillo has no future with the Pirates. For all the talk of his “potential”, has Castillo ever posted impressive numbers in the minors or majors? Without the range to play up the middle, Castillo’s bat is downright uninspiring.

Need evidence of how out of favor Castillo is with the Pirates? Journeyman Matt Kata filled in at shortstop during Jack Wilson’s paternity leave.

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Posted in 2007 Pittsburgh Pirates, Game Threads, Home, Ian Snell, Jack Wilson, Jose Castillo, Matt Kata, Matt Morris, NL West, Paul Maholm, September. Comments Off on Series Preview: Diamondbacks vs. Pirates
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