For today, we can use this post for an all day sounding board, trade-rumor mill, and game thread. First, the low down on tonight's starting pitchers:
#11 / Pitcher / Houston Astros
Sep 09, 1972
|2009 - Mike Hampton||4-4||11||11||0||0||0||0||62.0||62||35||32||8||22||41||4.65||1.35|
#15 / Pitcher / Arizona Diamondbacks
Sep 17, 1980
|2009 - Dan Haren||4-4||12||12||1||0||0||0||85.0||61||22||22||10||11||83||2.33||.85|
The 2.33 ERA that Danny Haren boasts leads the National League. He has almost a 9 K/9 ratio, and has a near 8 K/BB rate. He has started twelve games and has a total of eighty five innings pitched. That works out to over seven innings averaged per start. Take all that into account and then note that he has a record of 4-4. The biggest reason why he has those scant four victories is because he is getting the least amount of run support of any NL starter that has pitched at least eighty innings this season. Such is life. Such is baseball. It's not fair. The handsome gentleman just inches above Haren on your computer screen doesn't have near the stats that Haren does, yet has the same record. Kudos to you, Mike Hampton.
Back to that AZ offense. I don't mean to make it sound like they're terrible at scoring runs. There are a handful of NL teams that are worse (the Astros among them), and there are a number of bright spots in that group. Justin Upton for instance, has drawn comparisons to Ken Griffey, Jr. and is in the midst of a breakout sophomore campaign. Felipe Lopez, a first year D-Back, has performed well at second base and at the top of the AZ lineup. Third Baseman Mark Reynolds, when not striking out at an astoundingly high (39.2%) rate, is a masher in the middle of the order.
On the other hand, Stephen Drew has been injured and is just rounding into form at shortstop. Chris Young has seemingly regressed every season in centerfield, and Eric Byrnes is proving everyday that his 2007 season was a fluke. Reynolds, Drew and Upton provide power, but few others help that cause.
Their rotation on paper is as good as it gets: Haren, Brandon Webb and youngster Max Scherzer make up a talented and power heavy top three. Jon Garland is a serviceable fourth starter, and Doug Davis rounds it out. With Webb limited to just four innings pitched this season, and Garland suffering through a trying season, their starting pitching hasn't been able to compensate for the lackluster offensive production.
The Diamondbacks have reason for optimism though, as their farm system is still solid. It recently produced the crop of players that won the NL West in 2007. That fact is probably little consolation to the fans of Arizona, who have heard about this highly touted group of youngsters for years, but has failed to produce anything meaningful besides that 2007 playoff run.
For this three game series, the Diamondbacks have the pitching advantage in Game One. The Astros should like their chances with Roy Oswalt facing Jon Garland in Game Two, and Game Three between Brian Moehler and Billy Buckner is a toss up. Houston has never faced Buckner which usually seems to a bad thing for Astro hitters. When two last place teams meet up, pride is often times on the line, and I'm hoping the Astros build on recent successes during their time in the desert.