Monday, March 26, 2007

Have You Hugged Your Diamondback Today?

Being able to match a face with a name is a wonderful feeling. For about a month, I’ve been nurturing a growing obsession with Diamondbacks center fielder Chris Young. This infatuation is nurtured almost entirely by a set of numbers on a computer screen. Entering his age 23 season, the honorable Mr. Young has settled into a comfortable .275/.370/.530 type monster, with the mid-to-high-20s homer totals and around 30 swipes.

I’ll give you three guesses as to who had the honor of being the first player I looked up when this season’s Baseball Prospectus PECOTA projections came out. And, sure enough, Young looked stunning: .283/.363/.541, 25 homers, 20 steals, plus defense in center field. Yummy. I proceeded to gobble him up in all of my fantasy drafts, much to my delight.

There was only one problem: I couldn’t pick Chris Young out of a lineup of one. The guy could have been sitting right next too me, and I wouldn’t have looked twice. That’s kind of the paradox of the whole internet baseball revolution: it gives us massive amounts of information that we wouldn’t normally come across, but we remain vitally distant from our newfound objects of obsession.

So imagine my delight when I opened up the Sports Illustrated baseball preview issue (you know, the one with the goofy Angels/Dodgers World Series prediction) to see Chris Young’s smiling mug staring back at me. It was a revelation. Here, at long last, was the face to the name. My obsession was complete.

And the great thing is, there are more reasons than just Chris Young to think twice before flipping past your next Diamondbacks game on cable. The crew down in Arizona has put together the most exciting team in baseball, mixing young players with established stars and a fun old guy or two to create the perfect squad to feed my hunger.

Take Stephen Drew, for example. Just one year older than Young, Drew has already established himself as a cornerstone at short. In his 200 at-bat debut last summer he raked to the tune of .316/.357/.517 after devouring the minor leagues. And then there’s that issue of the last name. Drew, as the younger brother of Red Sox outfielder JD, is looking to overtake his sibling for the title of family superstar. And if he can avoid the health problems that have make JD a pariah in St. Louis and Los Angeles, Stephen has a good shot at becoming the best baseball player in his family tree.

The Diamondbacks have all sorts of other fun hitters (Carlos Quentin, Chad Tracy, Conor Jackson, etc.), but there are good times to be had on the mound as well. The obvious name is Brandon Webb, the reigning Cy Young winner and one of the true aces in the league. From an entertainment perspective, however, he’s far from alone. Livan Hernandez is one of the true freaks of nature in baseball today, famous for his ability to get up in the 150 pitch range without a hint of trouble. He’s an absolute blast to watch work—a throwback that surely makes Bert proud.

And then there’s that other guy. You might have heard the name. A... Johnson? Randy? Yeah, him. He’s back in the desert where, with luck, the warm climate will loosen up his back and give him the chance to make one last run at glory. We all know how much fun it was to watch the Unit mow down hitters in his prime, and something tells me that he’s got a few drops left in the tank that will make this season an exciting one.

It’s going to be a fun summer down south. The division is wide open, and the Diamondbacks have as good a chance as any (and, in my opinion, a better chance than any) to take home the pennant and bring their pleasure-to-watch game deep into October. I know I’ll be watching, and you should be too.

John Sharkey welcomes comments, criticisms, and the sage wisdom of his elders at aodshark@gmail.com.

2 comments:

Cory said...

Fantastic analysis... Imagine my surprise when I once met a big leaguer who I only knew through fantasy stats (and stolen bases) -- and he turned out to be a different race than I had thought he was! I'll leave the names out to protect the innocent, except myself, the idiot.

John Sharkey, Esq. said...

I know what you mean. Young could have been a unique shade of purple, for all I knew.