I recently had the opportunity to give someone I really care for a special birthday present. Each time her birthday comes I search for something unique. But this year I wanted to give her something particularly special. The idea struck me while shopping the previous week. In summer we both like a lot of fruit. This time was disappointing because – despite predictions of bumper crops – the store didn’t have a good selection of fresh strawberries. At that moment the thought hit me – why not combine chocolate dipped strawberries with flowers and a cake?
It didn’t take long for me to look up the selections offered on Shari’s Berries website. I went through their entire list to find the item that would be most appropriate. I hesitated before making my order. Was this really the best present I could think of? Shouldn’t I get a fancy card to go with it? I started to cancel the whole thing, but decided to go ahead because I wanted it to arrive early. I had this romantic vision of her opening the door to receive the flowers and candy from the deliveryman. So I made the order using a Groupon to get a discount and free delivery – I thought she’d get a kick out of that.
Well, naturally my little fantasy was a flop. Yes, the present arrived on time. But she was busy with some project and never heard the doorbell. She relaxed and enjoyed her “day” watching her favorite shows and reading; never noticing something arrived for her. I left it sitting on the doorstep, thinking sooner or later she’d find it when she went to the mail to see if any cards or presents arrived. That was a mistake! By evening thunder was rumbling and the box was sitting like an abandoned pet on the steps. I finally brought it in myself – I had no intention of leaving it out there to get soaked in a thundershower. Finally, she came and saw the box on the table. That was the first time she saw her present. Fortunately, the strawberries hadn’t melted from sitting out in the light. And I guess she enjoyed her present, even if it looked forlorn from sitting outside all that time. I trust they tasted as sweet as she is because that is the main point.
Another tip when it comes to this kind of future bet is to wait until further into the season before placing your bet, because this will let you see whether the favourites are producing the expected form. If they are you will still get the same odds on them, but if they aren’t, you will avoid expensive mistakes. After all, there are other kinds of MLB bets you can make in the shorter term – such as a money line bet on the winners of individual matches – while you wait to place your future bet.
Equally you can play a baseball themed slots game like Hot Shot at an online casino, while you are waiting, as this game is almost as entertaining as the actual MLB. Hot Shot is a nine pay line, five reel slot which also has both scatter and wild symbols – increasing your chances of securing a payout. The slot uses the backdrop of a baseball green and provides audio accompaniment to your play, including the roar of the crowd if you get a winning reel featuring the scatter symbol (a gold cup), and the sound of ball on baseball bat when you get a normal winning reel. The other reel icons are all baseball related, including pitchers, catchers mitts, and baseball hats – so it’s a great game for anyone who loves America’s national sport.]]>
Harper has now caught Miley in FanGraphs's WAR calculation, and has passed him in Baseball-Reference's version. The difference in the month of September has been pretty dramatic. Miley has allowed 19 ER in 29 IP in September, for a 5.90 ERA and a 1.724 WHIP. Meanwhile, Harper has hit .305/.377/.611 with 4 SB during this month. And Harper has two more things going for him. His team has the best record in the National League, and Harper has been a big part of that, while Miley's Diamondbacks have been stuck around the .500 mark. And secondly, Harper has had a historic season for a 19 year old, posting the best-ever WAR by a teenager - http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/eh33M
|Ken Griffey, Jr.||19||1989||2.9|
Miley has had an outstanding season, and has been the Diamondbacks' best pitcher for the year, but his late slump combined with Harper's hot streak means that Miley will probably end up second in the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year balloting.]]>
|Team||Record||Opponents Remaining||Games with WC2 Contenders|
|Cardinals||76-68||LAD(3), HOU(6), CHC (3), WAS (3), CIN (3)||3|
|Dodgers||74-70||STL(3), WAS (3), CIN (3), SDP (3),COL (3),SFG (3)||3|
|Pirates||72-70||CHC(4), MIL(3), HOU(3), NYM(4), CIN(3), ATL(3)||3|
|Phillies||72-72||HOU(3), NYM(3), ATL(3), WAS(6), MIA(3)||0|
|Brewers||72-71||NYM(3), PIT(3), WAS(3), CIN(3), HOU(3), SDP(3)||3|
|D-Backs||71-72||SFG(6), SDP(3), COL(7), CHC(3)||0|
The Diamondbacks have a pretty nice schedule for the rest of the season. They have six games with the Giants, who are basically locked into the NL West lead and the #3 seed in the NL. But the schedule also includes 7 games with the Rockies and 3 each with the Cubs and the Padres. To have a chance, the Diamondbacks probably have to go at least 13-6 the rest of the way, and more likely 14-5 or 15-4. It's a long shot, but there is still a chance. For example, here is an optimistic scenario of how the remaining schedule could go for the six teams, resulting in a Diamondbacks-Cardinals tie at 85-77. The same possibility basically applies to all six of the contenders - a stretch of .700 ball over the final three weeks could propel any of the six teams to the second Wild Card spot.
2) Traded OF Marc Krauss and 1B/LF Bobby Borchering to the Astros for 3B Chris Johnson (July 29, 2012)
The trading of Roberts left the team with some question marks at Third Base. Four days later, the Diamondbacks sent two minor league prospects to Houston for 27-year-old Chris Johnson. Johnson has hit fairly well for the Diamondbacks, batting .264/.304/.519 (.823 OPS), with 26 RBI in 33 Games, but his defense has been below average. He is only earning $495K this year, and he is expected to hold the starting job at 3B next year over Ryan Wheeler.
Marc Krauss (24) had an excellent comeback season for AA Mobile, batting .283/.416/.509 (.924 OPS), and followed that up with a great week for the Astros' AA affiliate in Corpus Christi, where he went 12 for 29 with 5 HR and 16 RBI in just 7 Games. Krauss did struggle during a brief promotion to AAA Oklahoma City at the end of the year, where he went just 7 for 57, but he could be a factor in the Astros' plans in 2013.
Borchering (21) hit well for Class A Visalia (.874 OPS), but struggled at both AA Mobile (.130/.183/.208 in 82 PA) and AA Corpus Christi (.189/.275/.389 in 109 PA). Between the two AA Teams, he struck out 63 times while drawing only 13 walks. He did hit 24 Home Runs for the year, but he is still pretty far from the Majors.
3) Traded LHP Craig Breslow to the Red Sox for RHP Matt Albers and OF Scott Podsednik (July 31, 2012)
This was probably the strangest trade that the Diamondbacks made this summer. Breslow had a 2.70 ERA for the Diamondbacks with 42K/13BB in 43.1 IP, and had been the team's only reliable left-hander in the bullpen. Since the trade, Breslow has not pitched very well for the Red Sox (4.38 ERA, 13K/5BB in 12.1 IP), while Albers has been a little better with the Diamondbacks (3.29 ERA, 16K/5BB in 13.2 IP, but 3 HR), so maybe it didn't really hurt the team. Breslow did have a higher salary than Albers ($1.795M compared to $1.025M).
Podsednik never reported to the Diamondbacks, since he had the right to refuse his assignment to AAA Reno. Since the Diamondbacks did not end up trading any of their outfielders, Podsednik probably realized that his chances of returning to the Majors were better with the Sox, and he was probably correct, as he has made about 100 plate appearances for them since the trade.
4) Traded SS Stephen Drew to the Athletics for SS Sean Jamieson (August 21, 2012)
The trade of Drew has probably ended up hurting the Diamondbacks the most this year. While Drew only had a .601 OPS with the Diamondbacks, and he hasn't hit significantly better with the A's (.644 OPS), Drew's replacements in Arizona have really struggled. The player expected to replace Drew, Willie Bloomquist, has been injured and has only played in one game since the trade. Since the trade, Jake Elmore has made 8 starts, and has hit just .176/.200/.206 (.406 OPS). Veteran John McDonald has made 13 starts and has not hit much better at .180/.255/.240 (.495 OPS). The team also brough back Cody Ransom to help at shortstop. Overall, shortstop has been a disaster since the Drew trade. But the team did save a little over $2M on Drew's salary for this year and also will not have to pay the $1.35M buyout on Drew's $10M option for 2013.
Sean Jamieson was impressive in his two weeks for Class A South Bend, batting .327/.431/.473 (.903 OPS) with 5 SB in 14 games. He's already 23, so he's a little old for a prospect, but his speed and defense give him a chance to be useful at the Major League level.
5) Traded LHP Joe Saunders and cash to the Orioles for RHP Matt Lindstrom
Saunders did exactly what was expected of him with the Diamondbacks, providing the team with plenty of innings at a slightly better-than-average ERA. But the team thought that top prospects like Tyler Skaggs were ready for a shot in the Majors, so Saunders was expendable. Since the trade, Saunders has pitched about the same with the Orioles (4.24 ERA in 3 starts) as he had with the Diamondbacks, while Skaggs has been promising in Arizona (4.43 ERA, 17K/9BB in 20.1 IP).
Lindstrom gives the Diamondbacks another hard thrower in the bullpen. He has struck out 8 batters in 5 IP wthout walking anyone, and has a 3.60 ERA. Lindstrom has a $4M club option for next year, so the team will have to decide if he is worth that much money next year.
Overall, the trades that the Diamondbacks made in July and August probably did not have a major impact on this season. The team has been hovering around .500 all season, and the Drew trade is the only one that may have hurt the club for 2012. But the exchange of Ryan Roberts at 3B for Chris Johnson probably balanced out the loss of Drew. The Diamondbacks did save around $4M, and they have some potentially useful pieces for next year in Chris Johnson, Matt Albers, and Matt Lindstrom, and maybe Sean Jamieson down the road. Finding a shortstop during the offseason has to be the highest priority, especially if Willie Bloomquist has any lingering injury issues, but it unlikely that Drew would have been re-signed for $10M anyway. Next on the shopping list will be a left-handed reliever to replace Breslow, but the Diamondbacks could turn to Patrick Corbin for that role if Trevor Bauer is ready to join Kennedy, Cahill, Miley, and Skaggs in next year's rotation.
Record in One-Run Games
The Diamondbacks also have the largest disparity between their overall winning percentage and their one-run game winning percentage.
|Team||Overall Pct||One-Run Pct||Difference|
If the Diamondbacks' were winning One-Run games at the same rate as their overall winning percentage, they would be around 74-64, right in the hunt for a Wild Card spot. The two questions that immediately come to mind are:
1) Why are the Diamondbacks doing so poorly in one run games?, and
2) Is that likely to be a problem again next year?
Why are the Diamondbacks Doing So Poorly in One Run Games?
The biggest factor in these situations has been the offense, and not the pitching staff. The team is batting just .188/.256/.312 (.567 OPS) in "Late and Close" situations, compared to .258/.324/.418 (.724 OPS) overall. The National League as a whole is batting .239/.317/.369 (.685 OPS) in these cases. Only Jason Kubel and Chris Young have hit near or above their normal levels in Late & Close situations, while the rest of the team has been really, really bad.
|Player||Late & Close OPS|
The pitching has been much better in close games, allowing just a .675 OPS in Late & Close situations, compared to .732 overall.
Is This Likely to be a Problem Again Next Year?
Hopefully not. Team performance in these situations is pretty fluky. In 2011, the Diamondbacks had a 28-16 record in One-Run games, and the offense had an excellent .810 OPS in those situations. They probably overachieved in 2011, and have certainly underachieved in 2012, but if they hit close to their normal levels in clutch situations in 2013, that should be good enough for playoff contention.
Players Who Should Be Added to the Major League Roster after their Minor League Season Ends:
RHP Trevor Bauer, OF A.J. Pollock
Bauer has pitched much better in his last three starts in AAA, striking out 26 batters in 22 IP while walking only 4. This is exactly what the Diamondbacks wanted to see from Bauer, and Kevin Towers has stated that he expects Bauer to get another "start or two" in the Majors this year. But Manager Kirk Gibson also stated that if Reno makes the playoffs (to clinch a spot, their Magic Number is 3 with 6 games left), he is sure that Bauer will stay with them.
Pollock has been up with the team a few times, and after a slow start when he began 1 for 18, he batted 13 for 38 (.342/.395/.474). He should get some opportunites to show his abilities in CF after the Reno season is over.
Players Who Could Be Added to the Major League Roster after their Minor League Season Ends:
OF Adam Eaton, C Konrad Schmidt, LHP Joe Paterson, RHP Sam Demel, RHP Jonathan Albaladejo, 3B Matt Davidson
Eaton has had a terrific year for AAA Reno, hitting .379/.452/.536, and leading the PCL in Batting Average, On-Base Percentage, Stolen Bases, Hits, Runs Scored, and Total Bases. There are two things that could prevent Eaton from being added to the roster - he is not on the 40-Man roster, and he is currently on the 7-Day DL for Reno for a concussion. But the Diamondbacks have space on the 40-Man roster (39 players right now), and could always create more space by transferring Daniel Hudson to the 60-Day DL. So if Eaton is healthy (he is eligible to be removed from Reno's DL this weekend), the Diamondbacks could choose to reward him for his fantastic season.
Catcher Konrad Schmidt has had a mediocre season for AAA Reno, batting .280/.340/.418, but he is the only other healthy catcher on the 40-Man roster. Managers love having a third catcher on the roster, so Schmidt might get called up, even if he won't see much playing time. Paterson, Demel, and Albaladejo all struggled during their brief time in the Majors this year, but all three are on the 40-Man roster, so they might be called up as extra pitching depth. Several of the Diamondbacks' young pitchers, such as Wade Miley and Patrick Corbin, have already thrown over 150 IP this year, so the team could decide to ease up on their workload over the final few weeks. Paterson would also give the team an extra LHP in the bullpen.
Earlier in the season, Matt Davidson seemed like a very likely September callup. He had a .912 OPS with 15 HR over the first half of the year, but slipped to just .735 and 7 HR during the second half. Davidson has been named to the Diamondbacks' Arizona Fall League team, which begins its season on October 9, so the organization may choose to let Davidson rest for a couple of weeks between the Mobile and the AFL seasons.
Other Players Currently on the 40-Man Roster
3B Josh Bell, RHP Joe Martinez, C Henry Blanco (Injured), OF Cole Gillespie (Injured), RHP Daniel Hudson (Injured)
Over the last two years, Lindstrom has significantly lowered his ERA and WHIP, due primarily to better control. His fastball velocity has dropped a little, from an average of 97.6 mph in his rookie year of 2007 to around 95.0 this year, but that would still make his fastball the fastest on the team, just ahead of David Hernandez (94.7) and newcomer Matt Albers (93.4). Lindstrom gets a good percentage of ground balls (career 47.4 GB%), and does not allow many home runs (career 0.51 HR/9). His career Swinging Strike percentage is a solid 10.3%, which is similar to that of J.J. Putz (11.8%) and David Hernandez (10.0%).
Although Lindstrom is 32 years old, his arm has fewer pitches on it than most pitchers his age, because he took a two-year sabbatical from 1999-2001 as a missionary in Sweden. He started his minor league career at the age of 22, but had hardly touched a baseball in the preceding two years.
Lindstrom makes $3.6M this year, and has a $4M club option for 2013, which is a lot to pay for a set-up man, (with a $0.2M buyout). The Diamondbacks will probably decline the option, but may try to negotiate a new deal for the next year or two.
He's shown good speed, with 25 stolen bases in 30 attempts this year, and a little bit of power, with 10 home runs and 25 doubles. The strikeouts are a little high for someone with his limited power, but he has drawn a good number of walks, ranking 4th in the Midwest League with 64. A right-handed batter, he has hit equally well against right-handed (.700 OPS) and left-handed (.698 OPS) pitchers. Defensively, he has been solid at SS, and should be able to stick at the position.
Jamieson is probably too old to be considered a serious prospect, but he does do some things well - speed, defense, and some power and walks. He's a long shot, but at least he has some skills. As for trading Drew, this doesn't necessarily mean that the Diamondbacks are throwing in the towel for the year. Drew hasn't been playing well anyway, so there won't be a big drop-off going to the Bloomquist/Elmore/McDonald combination. Of course, as Drew gets more playing time, he may start returning to the career .773 OPS hitter with good defense that he was before this season.