Then: Craig Counsell Now: Stephen Drew
Tony LaRussa has repeatedly described JD Drew as the embodiment of a player
who gets by with minimal effort, someone who plays to about 75% of his natural
ability. So naturally the main concern with his younger brother was also a
question of fire and desire rather than talent and skill. This concern has
been brought to the forefront with Stephen replacing a fan favorite in Arizona
who gives 110% on every single play.
But it appears that the concerns were unfounded. Just as Ozzie Canseco
never had the talent of his big brother, Stephen Drew doesn't have the attitude
of his elder brethren. And that's a very good thing. Stephen Drew
doesn't take an at bat off if there's no one on base to drive in. He
doesn't get lazy in the field if it's a blowout game, either. All early
reports on Stephen Drew come back lauding him as the complete package. He
makes this Arizona team better than the one we saw in April.
Then: Eric Byrnes Now: Chris Young
Young hasn't officially been named the starter over Byrnes, but there are
several reasons why he should see the majority of the playing time in center
field. First of all, Young is a natural center fielder. Eric Byrnes can
play all three outfield posts, but exhibits below average range for a center
fielder. He's been better than expected offensively for the ballclub, but
a closer look suggests that he would perform better if used situationally.
For his career, Byrnes hits .307 against southpaws, but just .240 against
right handers. He's hit .300 at Chase Field but just .251 on the road.
I can't imagine any scenario where you would want to start Byrnes against right
handed pitching away from Arizona. He also has a .232 career average after the
All Star break. Since he's gotten more playing time this year than any
other time in his career, you have to be even more wary of Byrnes wearing down
in the late August heat. An intelligent platoon of Byrnes and Young
therefore represents a huge improvement over Byrnes full time.
Then: Jeff DaVanon Now: Carlos Quentin
There's nothing wrong with Jeff DaVanon as a utility outfielder, but Carlos
Quentin already has the talent to be a starting outfielder on most ballclubs.
Some call it a luxury to have a player of his caliber as a reserve, but teams
that succeed in the playoffs generally have strong benches. Clearly, the
Diamondbacks have a lot more offensive depth than they had at the beginning of
Then: Orlando Hernandez Now: Livan Hernandez
A tale of two brothers. On the season, Livan has the better record and
ERA while Orlando has a superior K/BB ratio and WHIP. Both pitchers have
performed better lately than they had at the start of the year. So their
performances have been similar, yet the Diamondbacks are stuck with most of
Livan's sizeable contract while the Mets have no obligations to El Duque after
the year is over. Also, Arizona needed to part with pitching prospects
Matt Chico and Garrett Mock to get their new Hernandez, but received current
closer Jorge Julio in exchange for their old Hernandez. I personally
wouldn't trade those two prospects straight up to get Julio, but the question
for our purposes is whether those trades made the major league club better today
than they were in April. The answer is yes.
Then: Russ Ortiz Now: Enrique Gonzalez
It doesn't do Enrique Gonzalez justice to say that he is an upgrade over Russ
Ortiz. It would be somewhat like saying that a Cadillac is an upgrade over
an Oldsmobile. This move alone makes the ballclub far more intimidating
than it was in its April incarnation.
Then: Jose Valverde Now: Jorge Julio
This also isn't particularly close. Julio has been streaky as the
Diamondbacks' closer, but Valverde had been atrocious. But Valverde's
stint in the minors may have straightened him out, and he may even be able to
contribute as a setup man down the stretch. Factor in the Tony Pena over
Jason Grimsley upgrade, and the Arizona bullpen is looking much healthier than
it did on opening day.
Given that the Diamondbacks went 30-22 over the first two months of the
season, the fact that they clearly have a drastically improved roster today
gives cause for great hope. The Dodgers have improved as well, but there's
no way that they can keep up their recent pace. This club should not just
look at the Wild Card Standings; they still have a legitimate shot at winning
the NL West.
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