by beating the Giants 6-4 to take the series 2-1. It looked for a while as if they would enlarge their lead over the Padres, but SCOTT HAIRSTON (remember him?) hit a walk-off, 3-run, pinch-hit homer.
Chris Snyder again made the highlight reel by going 3-3 and a walk, with 3 RBI. Mark Reynolds went 3-5 with 2 RBI. Conor Jackson hit a solo homer for the first D’Back run of the game.
Eric Byrnes got 1 hit, a single. It was his first hit ever off Barry Zito (Finally! Congrats!) and it was hit no. 172 on the season. He has 9 more games to get 8 more hits for 180, which was the minimum I hoped he’d get. He blew his chance for 200 by batting .230 in August. He also scored run no. 98 tonight. The last time the Diamondbacks had someone score 100 runs was in 2002; Junior Spivey scored 103 then. Eric should be able to score two more runs somewhere in the next 9 games.
Tonight was Byrnesie’s 151st start, so kudos and thanks to all of you who helped me visualize 150+ starts for him this year. He’s on target to get his 600th AB Saturday against the Dodgers.
Here are some other things I would like to see him do over the next 9 games.
1 double for a total of 30.
1 outfield assist to set a new personal best of 12.
2 triples for a new personal best of 10.
5 stolen bases for a total of 50.
5 homers would give him 100 in his career.
6 homers would give him a new personal best of 27.
8 RBI for 90 on the year.
I’d also like to see him get enough hits in the estimated 36 AB’s he’s got left in the regular season to finish with an average of at least .295. He’s barely clinging to .290 now. Remember how last year he dropped off until he fell below .270 and finished with .267? He’s doing the same thing again only twenty points higher. But I don’t want to see the same thing even if it is twenty points higher. That’s the wrong kind of consistency, especially in a playoff race.
C’mon, Byrnesie! The Padres aren’t going away. The team needs your bat to wake up!
(photo by David Zalubowski/AP)
Here’s what Byrnesie did in April of this year. Last year’s stats are in parentheses:
BA .276 (.237), OBP .347
(.318), SLG .429 (.373), 3 HRs (1), 7
Doubles (3), 15 RBI (5), 13 Runs (7), BB 12
(7), Stolen Bases 6 (1), K/BB 1.33 (1.43).
On the whole, a much better start to the season than he had last year. Areas where he did not improve were triples (0 this year, 1 last year), absolute number of Ks (16 this year, 10 last year), XBH/H (.345 this year, .357 last year), and CS (2 this year, 0 last year).
But triples, unless you are Jose Reyes or Carl Crawford, are nice but not terribly important. Eric is on a pace to finish with 80 Ks, which is better than the 88 he had last year, and his K/BB ratio month-over-month is slightly better. The lower XBH/H reflects the higher batting average, i.e. he is getting singles where last year he made outs. We’ll take that trade-off hands down. The 2 CS are the result of a busted hit-and-run and Byrnes’ belief that a hit-and-run was on when it really wasn’t. His success rate might not be as high this year than last (.892) because he plans to be more aggressive this year. But on the straight steal, Byrnesie is still a smart and careful baserunner. So we don’t expect him to get thrown out at the rate Alfonso Soriano does.
Best of all: 105 ABs (last year 59) putting him on pace to get over 600 ABs for the first time in his major league career. And it’s about time, too! We Byrnes fans know that consistent results come with consistent playing time for him. The best thing BoMel can do for him (and the team) is to pencil him in the lineup just about every day. A day or two (at most!) off a month, for rest purposes, is OK. But too much bench time because BoMel wants to play THE MATCH GAME will only hurt Byrnes’ effectiveness.
Now onto May, historically Eric’s best month. He’ll have to do a lot to top last year’s May, when he went .364/.404/.717, but in certain ways he isn’t far off from his May ’06 numbers now. He had 16 RBIs and 5 stolen bases then. We just need to see a little more power from him. He had 8 homers and 11 doubles last May. If he can end May with a batting average of .295 or better, I’m sure team and fans will be pleased.
BYRNES, BABY, BYRNES!
Diamondhacks turned me on to a page filled with career statistics for you. It is admittedly incomplete, but it gives a fair idea of your career at the plate. I’ve been pondering this list for three or four days while I’ve been considering what would be a successful season for you this year.
It’s been a struggle to tease out some patterns; consistency has been a bugaboo for you throughout your major league career. But even that has a good point: except in a few circumstances, you haven’t been completely, consistently mediocre or bad. It’s just that your flashes of brilliance have been just that: flashes. So the issue for you is to figure out what’s going on when you’re really good, so that you can continue doing whatever that is throughout the course of the long season.
With that in mind, I’m going to pose a few questions, which I think you should answer to yourself for yourself. If you can find the answers, you will easily meet or exceed the benchmarks DTLFL will lay out later.
My first questions concern the differential between your batting averages in the first and second halves of the year. You are notorious for being the guy who leads the major leagues in decline in OPS in the second half of the season. The stats page lists your first half batting average as .285, but your second half average is .234. I’d like to see you bat .285 or better in the second half of the year. (Your stats for last season, which I took from the MLB.com stats page, are .292 for the first half of the season, which they call before the All-Star break, and .243 after the All-Star break). If the 50-point decline in batting average were just for your rookie year, I could think that it was just that the pitchers had figured the new guy out. But the fact that you consistently decline sharply in batting average after the All-Star break raises the question of your stamina over the course of a long season.
You certainly look fit. But is there something about your conditioning program or nutrition that needs reworking? When Barry Zito gave an interview to Dave Fleming at KNBR the day he was introduced as a Giant, Fleming suggested that some "stat heads" thought that Zito was starting to decline. Zito said he was aware that his velocity had declined, but it was probably because he did too much throwing in the off-season and not enough conditioning work on his core. His core weakened during the course of the season, and consequently, his velocity declined. Is something similar happening to you? Are you weakening during the course of the long season with the result that your batting average declines? Is there something you can do during spring training, and throughout the season, that will keep you strong? Also, are you adequately hydrated, especially during those last three hot months?
My next questions concern your inconsistency from month to month. Your career stats show that May is your best month. You’ve averaged .315 over your career in the second month of the season. But the stat sheet says that in April, you average .264, and in June, .276. That tendency to have dramatic shifts from month to month was exaggerated in 2006. Last April, you hit .237. But in May, you hit a phenomenal .364! Then In June, you hit .238, followed by a very nice .295 in July, only to follow that up with .239 in August. Who takes over your body in May, and can we keep him around for the entire season? We’ll even take whoever possessed you last July. Or is it that the real you is the hitter of last May and July, and someone else takes over during the other months?
Seriously, when you’re good, you’re really good. Some guys have a hot streak that will take them from .230 to .260 or .280. But your performances in May indicate you have an ability to hit over .300 for a sustained period of time. This, even though you have an annoyingly large differential between your batting averages against left-handed and right-handed pitchers. In May, you face both, but it doesn’t seem to matter; you bash them both. What are you thinking, feeling and doing in the month of May that has been so consistently successful? Have you really thought about this? I don’t think it is solely a question of stamina here, at least not from April to May. (I’d point to stamina first thing to account for your consistently lousy September/October stats). Your performance in May, followed by your June swoon, makes me think of Wile E. Coyote, who runs off the cliff and through the air until he realizes that he is off the cliff. That’s when he falls. Could something like that be happening to you? Are you cruising in May, and then in June something inside you says, "I’m not supposed to be able to do this." And then you crash? Coyote and Road Runner offer a valuable lesson here. The Road Runner always runs through the air to make it to the next piece of solid ground; he’s concentrating on running. Coyote manages to do something others don’t expect him to be able to do, i.e. run in the air, as long as he’s focused on chasing the Road Runner. He falls when his mind goes off his goal and gets caught up in the vagaries of the situation at hand.
You can do it; you have done it. If you are a lifetime .315 hitter in May, and hit .364 last May, you can hit north of .300 for the entire year. You have the skill and you have the work ethic. And if you have a stamina problem, that can be resolved. Just remember throughout the year that you can be a .300 hitter, and not just against left-handed pitching. Don’t let anyone tell you different, including yourself. And during those times when your hitting cools off, as happens to all hitters from time to time throughout the long season, focus on what you were thinking, feeling, and doing when you were hitting better. Do you watch video of yourself? Sometimes, small changes in mechanics creep in over time. Video can help you keep track of that.
Now… about that differential between left-handed and right-handed pitching. Some differential is common; that’s why managers play percentages. But it is a shame to see a differential as large as yours. It drags down your overall batting average. The great hitters minimize the differential. Again, I suggest you look to your performances in May for an answer to that as well.
Last but not least, especially since you are expected to bat cleanup this year, there is the matter of your clutch stats or lack thereof. Despite the fact that, last year, you set a new personal best for RBI, and that was good enough to tie for second place in RBI on the team, you still have a lot of room for improvement. According to the lifetime stat sheet, you are generally at your best in relatively low pressure situations where there may not be an RBI opportunity except for a solo home run. For example, you bat .308 when a team has a margin of four runs, but only .243, when the margin is two runs. You bat .288 when leading off an inning, .280 when you are batting leadoff, .281 when you’re batting second, and .274 when you’re batting eighth. In the cleanup role, you only hit .205 lifetime, which means you are not batting your listed weight. Batting fifth, you average .246, and batting sixth, you are at .203. You also hit .203 in extra-inning situations. With a full count, or the bases loaded, or a runner at third, or as a pinch-hitter, you are a .200 hitter. With a two-strike count, you’re batting .186. You bat .279 with none out, a full 21 points higher than your average with two outs. The night that always stands out in my mind in this regard is May 31 of last year, when you hit two homers against the Mets at Shea. Both of those homers were solo shots. In your two times up that game with runners in scoring position, you struck out. There are techniques for hitting in certain situations that you can learn if you haven’t already, such as shortening your swing with two strikes. Your hitting instructor can help you with these techniques.
As for the mental side of the game, there are two possibilities here, either of which may be in play at any given point in time. The first is that you are too aggressive in some of these RBI situations. This is where learning how to be a contact hitter is important, even for a power hitter. I remember a game in the Diamondbacks first series with Milwaukee last year, when Carlos Lee came up to bat with the game on the line. He only needed a single to win the game, and that’s just what he got: a ground ball to center. You don’t have to hit a home run every time. A flexible approach will add points to your batting average and RBIs to your run totals.
The second possibility is that you are not aggressive enough, some times. Are you trying not to make an out, as opposed to trying to get a hit? I get that feeling about you when I see you bat with the bases loaded. What are you thinking and feeling in the less-pressured situations where you hit better, as opposed to what you are thinking and feeling when the heat is on? You look more relaxed out there, in general, than you did when you were struggling in Baltimore, but are you really more relaxed, at least in the clutch situations? I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating, don’t try to prove who you are out there, just be who you are. The Diamondbacks need a cleanup hitter this year, and you are the guy with pop in his bat and a veteran’s knowledge of the game. You have the physical tools to do the job. And you have from time to time delivered with exciting results. Enjoy the situation rather than feeling pressured, and you’ll to rise to the occasion more often.
Does anyone remember the commercial from which I took the title of this entry? It was a shaving product commercial, but I don’t remember if it was the razor or the shaving cream.
I thought about it because the Arizona Diamondbacks set a club record by turning 5 double plays in yesterday’s 5-3 win over the San Francisco Giants. The D’Backs took 2 out of 3 from the Giants, who are now in last place, 4.5 games out. Miguel Batista went 6 innings for his 10 win against 5 losses. Tony Pena pitched a perfect 7th, Brandon Lyon gave up the Giants’ 3rd run in the 8th. Jorge Julio closed it out, striking out 2 while allowing no runs and one hit for his 15th save.
Eric Byrnes finally had a multi-hit game in August, going 2-3 and scoring both of the times he reached base. He now has 60 R. DTLFL is not crazy about his being a lead-off hitter, we’d rather see him in the heart of the order. But he’s doing OK in that hole, and if being a lead-off hitter is his destiny, we hope he turns into one of the game’s great ones.
With that in mind, we compared his current stats to those of Yankees lead-off hitter Johnny Damon, who considers himself the best lead-off hitter in the game today. (And considering what King George paid to get him from Boston, at least he and others agree, or at least figure Damon is one of the best). Byrnesie’s stats compare quite favorably with Johnny’s even though he has only 362 ABs to Damon’s 409, and even though the Yankees lineup, impaired as it has been without Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield, is still more powerful than that of the D’Backs.
JD – AVG .289 OBP .359 SLG .472 XBH/H .356
EB – AVG .285 OBP .343 SLG .526 XBH/H .476
JD – H 118 HR 15 2B 24 3B 3 TB 193
EB – H 103 HR 18 2B 28 3B 3 TB 191
JD – R 79 RBI 53 BB 47 K 57 K/BB 1.21
EB – R 60 RBI 46 BB 28 K 56 K/BB 2.00
JD – SB 20 CS 7 SB % .741
EB – SB 16 CS 1 SB % .941
Byrnes has a long way to go, 32 Rs to be exact, to set a new personal best for runs scored, which is a very important stat for a lead-off hitter. A high R total depends not only on his getting on base and into scoring position, but also on his teammates getting him in. DTLFL is very pleased to know that he was driven in BOTH times he was on base last night. All too often this year he has been stranded.
We are also pleased to see that Eric singled his first time up. He tripled in the first inning the day before. One of the jobs of the "tablesetters" in the 1 and 2 holes is to help the team get off to an early lead. Byrnesie hasn’t exactly been dangerous early over the season. If this is now changing, it will really help the D’Backs down the stretch, especially since their pitchers have developed the unfortunate habit of giving up early runs. Take last night as an example. Byrnes singled to lead off the game, moved station to station across the diamond and then was driven in by a Chad Tracy single. That was the only run the D’Backs scored in the first, and the Giants came back to tie the game with a run in the top of the second.
Byrnes neither struck out nor hit into a DP. His batting average is up to .285. Ending the year with anything over .283 would be a new personal best. We still want to see him finish the season at .303 or better. He’ll need another hot streak like the first three weeks of May to do that.
Byrnes also stole third last night, for his 16th SB of the year (in 17 attempts). He needs two more SBs for a new personal best.
Byrnes needs 3 HR for a new personal best of 21. With 16 SB and 18 HR, he’s the team leader in both categories and he’s certainly within striking distance of 20/20. DTLFL thinks he’s got 30/30 capability, but he’d probably have to start 150 games to do that, something he can’t do this year. If he were to start every game for the rest of the season, something that is not likely to happen, he’d have 133 starts for the year.
DTLFL really, really thinks that having Byrnesie sac bunt in the 5th inning yesterday was a total waste. He managed to get the bunt down, moving pitcher Miguel Batista from 2nd to 3rd. Batista eventually scored on Luis Gonzalez’ 12th homer of the year. But why bunt? Batista was already in scoring position at second, and with no one on first, there was little danger of a double play. Byrnesie got the bunt down this time, but he’s not a particularly skilled or experienced bunter, having come up through an organization (Oakland) that does not like bunting. Byrnes has been getting a lot of XBHs lately. He also hit a deep fly to right on Aug 7, which moved Stephen Drew from 2nd to 3rd. Why definitely create an out to move a guy already in scoring position over one with a bunt when the bunter in question is a strong XBH hitter?
We are also not pleased with the fan who interfered with Byrnesie’s hit in the 7th. Replay shows it would not have been the homer some people thought it could have been, but who knows if the ground-rule double might have been a triple if the fan had not interfered? Fortunately, Byrnes stole 3rd and scored that inning. But please stay out of the way, folks! Byrnesie needs one more triple to crunch that A,A’05 category.
Back to the pitching for a moment…the bad thing about a double play is that it means you’ve allowed at least one runner to reach base. The good thing about it is two outs on one play. By turning 5 DPs last night, the D’Backs held the Giants to 3 runs, even though the San Franciscans got 15 hits, 12 off starter Miguel Batista. Since Batista gave up only 2 earned runs over 6 innings, his outing fits the definition of a quality start. But DTLFL doesn’t consider allowing 13 baserunners (12 hits and 1 BB), in 6 innings to be quality. The sparkling infield play behind Batista kept this game from being another one of those ugly blowouts the D’Backs have had this year.
Last night’s win put the D’Backs just a half a game out of first. But as if this afternoon, they are tied for the NL West lead courtesy of the NY Mets, who swept the Padres at Shea. The Snakes have an off day today before playing a series with the Florida Marlins, the only out-of-division series they have during the next three weeks.
Go Byrnesie! Go Snakes!
Kéllia "I want to see Byrnes lead this team into the playoffs" Ramares
with Brandon Webb ranked 2nd in the NL in ERA, with 2.74. He’s tied for the league lead in wins with Marquis of the Cardinals and Zambrano of the Cubs. They all have 12. Webb is leading the league in innings pitched with 167.1. He’s a legit Cy Young candidate.
Luis Gonzalez is leading the league in doubles with 37.
Eric Byrnes and Chad Tracy each have 27 doubles. Only 11 other players in the NL have more.
(Tracy and Byrnes each have 15 homers and 27 doubles. But Byrnes has done it on 80 fewer ABs than Tracy. He also has 55 fewer K’s than Tracy. Tracy is 6th in the NL with 97 K’s).
Johnny Estrada is still leading the team in BA with .317. But he’s falling behind in AB’s. He only has 293. The league leader, Juan Pierre of the Cubs, has 443.
Shawn Green is second on the team at .294. Byrnes is third at .291. Luis Gonzalez is now batting a repectable .288. Orlando Hudson is up to .275 and Tracy is at .273.
Semi-regular Jeff DaVanon is at .286. Semi-regular Chris Snyder is at .282.
The D’Backs are 54-51, in 2nd place in the NL West, a game behind San Diego. I hope June doesn’t come back to haunt them.
Go Byrnesie! Go Snakes!
In a move that dashes the hopes of those who want to see Eric Byrnes come home, the San Francisco Giants have acquired Shea Hillenbrand from the Toronto Blue Jays. They also acquired righty reliever Vinnie Chulk in return for righty reliever Jeremy Accardo.
The Giants wanted a right-handed hitter with pop in his bat. A stats comparison between Hillenbrand and Byrnes show that they are very similar:
AB 296 302
BA .301 .291
SLG .480 .517
XBH/H 28/89 (.315) 40/88 (.455)
OBP .342 .350
K/BB 40/14 (2.86) 49/25 (1.96)
HR 12 13
2B 15 25
3B 1 2
R 40 48
RBI 39 37
In fact, in terms of power hitting, the SLG, XHB/H and 2B stats significantly favor Byrnes. But Hillenbrand was DFA’d by Toronto. There is no official indication yet that the Diamondbacks want to trade Byrnes. But the D’Backs have a lot of outfield prospects: Scott Hairston, whom they brought up in June only to see him hurt his shoulder his first day in the lineup–he’s rehabbing now–Carlos Quentin, whose first MLB hit was a 2-run homer, Chris Young, the Triple A prospect who was supposedly just one season away from the majors–the D’backs got Byrnes to patrol CF until Young was ready–and teen phenom Justin Upton, who has been converted from SS to CF. Byrnes is already the "regular" doing the most timesharing with his backup.
There doesn’t appear to be any long-range plans in Phoenix for Byrnes. If the youngsters are ready for the majors in 2007, and Quentin was deemed ready for the majors in 2006, but the Big Club had no place for him, one could see an Arizona outfield of Hairston in left (Luis Gonzalez’ $10M option not being picked up), Young in center (as planned when Byrnes was signed), and Quentin in right (possibly in 2006 if the Yankees or the Angels make a deal for Shawn Green). That would leave Byrnes on the bench with Jeff DaVanon. We know that manager Bob Melvin likes the "profile" of the switch-hitting DaVanon and that pinch-hitting is not a long suit for Byrnes.
The Diamondbacks hold the rights to Byrnes for 2007, but Byrnesie deserves a better fate than to languish on the bench of a team that might want him around as a defensive replacement and clubhouse cheerleader. He’d be a good fit for the Giants, who need to get younger in the outfield. But:
a) Right now the Giants and the D’Backs are both in the race for the NL West division title. The likelihood is slim that two teams fighting for the same divisional crown would make a mutually beneficial trade. Meanwhile, Hillenbrand was DFA’d by a team more than happy to send him out of their league.
b) The Giants wanted a first baseman. Hillenbrand can play first and third and didn’t like DH’ing. There is no DH in the National League. Byrnes is not an infielder.
c) Barry Bonds did not get indicted by the Feds and suspended by MLB. Moises Alou is back from his second stint on the DL this year and he is doing well: BA .295, OBP .365, SLG .548. So there is not an immediate need for another outfielder at "Whatever They’re Calling It This Year" Park.
My feeling right now is that the best hope for Byrnes is that Shawn Green gets traded by deadline, DaVanon and Quentin share right field, and the D’Backs stay in the thick of the race throughout the season so that the Arizona F.O. doesn’t think the most important thing it can do is check out the prospects for 2007.
Congratulations to Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees, whose 2,000th career hit was also his 450th home run.
Jeff DaVanon is starting in CF and batting leadoff in tonight’s series opener against the Rockies, who are starting righty BK Kim. (Counsell is 9th tonight).
DTLFL has, fortunately, found no reports that Byrnes is injured or ill. We hope this is in fact the truth and we did not miss something.
Today cannot be a legitimate rest day for Byrnes because the entire team was off yesterday.
Neither Byrnes nor DaVanon have a record against BK Kim. Kim, as is typical for righties, pitches better against righties, but his ERA against them is 4.14, which suggests he doesn’t dominate them. (Byrnes is a righty. DaVanon is a switch hitter who is better from the left side).
The lefty Luis Gonzalez has too small a record to tell us much: just 1-3.
(S. Green is another story; he’s 6/13 against BK and 2nd on the D’Backs in BA at .310. We have no issues with him being in there!)
Since the disaster of June 24th, when Byrnes when 0-6 with 4 K’s and a bloody nose from a missed diving catch, he is BA. 13/35 (.371) XBH/H 6/13 (.461), SLG 20/35 (.571), K/BB 4/3 (1.33; he’s usually over 2.00). He’s batted in 4 runs, scored 5 and advanced 6 runners.
He’s gotten at least one hit in 8 of the 9 games he’s started since that awful 6/24, and in the one game in which he did not get a hit, he drew a walk and scored a run. I say he’s rather warm right now.
Byrnes leads the D’Backs in SLG and XBH/H, is tied with Chad Tracy for the lead in HRs (and has quite fewer ABs and K’s than Tracy). He’s second in doubles (and one of the best doubles hitters in the league), and third in BA (.295). He has also gotten a pair of stolen bases lately to tie Craig Counsell for the team lead in that category, but Byrnes has a much better success rate than Counsell).
Byrnes’ BA = .295, DaVanon = 277, Gonzo = .260.
Once again, we are seeing the "regular" D’Back lineup minus it’s "regular" center fielder, Eric Byrnes.
Byrnesie is just one XBH of any sort away from exceed his total in that category for all of abysmal, aberrant 2005, and just two doubles shy of exceeding the total in THAT category. I was hoping he’d get past those two figures tonight.
Oh well, I am late for the gym.
Kéllia "Fire Bob Melvin!" Ramares