Johnny Cueto has been, arguably, the most dominant pitcher in baseball so far this season. On Saturday, he showed his stuff in Phoenix, taking a game from the D-backs with a seven plus inning performance. Unfortunately, he also took something much more valuable to the D-backs: the structural integrity of the fourth metacarpal in A.J. Pollock‘s right hand.

Pollock had been on fire, as Jeff recently examined, such that it was starting to look like Pollock might be the second most important position player on the team, behind Paul Goldschmidt (Miguel Montero figures in there, too). In May, Pollock had hit .375 and had a 1.086 OPS. There was little doubt that that wasn’t sustainable — he had had a lot of luck with balls hit in the air, in particular — but I really wondered if we were seeing Pollock come into his own as an elite player, offering great defense and strong offense.

Last season, Pollock ranked 15th in the NL among all outfielders in Wins Above Replacement with 3.6, despite slightly below average offense (98 wRC+). This season, Pollock is already up to 2.5 WAR, a pace for about 7 — only three outfielders in all of baseball did better last season. We eagerly await more news about Pollock, but Nick Piecoro has already reported that he’s “expected to miss considerable time.” Seeing “Action Jackson” Pollock tear around the field has been immensely satisfying this season, and we wish him a speedy recovery.

By the way, have you noticed the new graphic in the sidebar of this site? We’ll be updating those after each game. They come from, which has some excellent data visualization on MLB games. Check out their page on last night’s game — you can see some of the meaningful events a lot more clearly. We appreciate them allowing us to post here at Inside the ‘Zona!

Other announcements: Jeff Wiser was featured on Derek Montilla’s great Knuckle Curve podcast. Make sure to check out Jeff’s episode, and subscribe to the podcast — you won’t regret it!

Also, the formidable Mike Ferrin and Jason Parks of BP’s Fringe Average podcast featured the Diamondbacks in their most recent episode (will start playing once you click). Why the Diamondbacks? Because of Jeff’s brilliant question, of which Ferrin and Parks were both highly complimentary (as well as of Jeff, and of his work). If you’re reading this, you’re pretty much required to listen to that.

Also, a big thanks to David Schoenfield, Supreme Commander of the SweetSpot Network, for linking to Jeff’s work on Thursday (and to Jason Rosenberg, and to MLBTR!). A lot of love in this room.

Also, an announcement-ish note from Jeff: bookmark this MLB Draft Tracker link. Jeff’s first treatment of the draft is here, and he’ll have version 2.0 up on Wednesday.

Lots of great links this week:

  • Check out another piece from Piecoro: this one on how Tony La Russa is still finding his way. This is definitely of interest to other organizations and the baseball world in general. One thing I don’t completely understand is how Kevin Towers’s reputation with other general managers has been a big plus for him throughout this process — in Piecoro’s piece, La Russa is quoted as knowing Towers better than most in part through Walt Jocketty. In my world of lawyering, it’s not uncommon to pay compliments to opposing counsel when it’s warranted, and I think most lawyers are good at recommending good attorneys on the other side of the aisle. But lawyers don’t always compete against each other — and the 30 baseball teams do, in many ways. So I wonder if some of these comments are like saying they really like a particular friend that keeps showing up for poker night and betting on way too many hands. Who doesn’t like having that guy around? Doesn’t mean you’d fund his poker habit if it were your money.
  • In the same notebook, Piecoro reported that Braden Shipley was recently called up from Low A to High A, at Visalia. At ESPN ($), Keith Law published an updated top 25 prospects list. The D-backs have two pitchers on the list — Archie Bradley (12), and Braden Shipley (23), who by my math is the third-ranked member of the draft class of 2013. Law noted in that piece that Shipley had been languishing at Low A probably longer than he needed to be, speculating that the D-backs might have been planning to have him skip the hitter-friendly CAL entirely. Looks like that’s not exactly the case, but if they did keep him in Low A in an effort to minimize his time at Visalia, it might not be long (late July?) before Shipley is promoted to AA Mobile. As a member of the 2013 draft class, Shipley has been ineligible for trades (1 year in the organization is required). That will change soon, but it seems unlikely that the D-backs organization is dreaming on this season enough to sell out the future even more. Also, credit where it’s due — Towers made a fantastic pick in getting Shipley last year. It didn’t seem like he did a good job of evaluating Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Bauer, Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado, but Towers does have that reputation of being a great pitching evaluator. Maybe Towers is just really good in finding finished products, but less adept at determining which pitchers are fixable?
  • Speaking of not going for broke this season — in a piece last week at, Zach Buchanan reported that if the D-backs continued to win at their May pace, they could end up 82-80 on the season. Catcher Miguel Montero termed a 82-80 season a “tremendous comeback,” according to Buchanan, but didn’t stop there. Said Montero: “If we just win probably 15 more games, it’d be like 96 or 97 wins and a chance to win our division.” These comments were from before Cueto’s performance on Saturday to finish off the D-backs’ month at 14-13, but, jeepers, mister. The team is better than it has played, but to get to 96 wins, the team would have to go 73-30 from here on out (.709 winning percentage). That’s ridiculous. Don’t let Miggy calculate the tip the next time you take him out to dinner.
  • This is probably a good time to bring up something Jeff wrote a month ago, with research to back him up: “At 40 games with a sub-.400 winning percentage, the [playoff] odds are almost non-existent and after 60 games, they’re gone entirely.” The D-backs are at .390 right now, with 59 games in the books. If they win tonight, they’ll be at exactly .400. FanGraphs has the D-backs with a 1.1% chance of making the playoffs, better than the Cubs and Astros. And no one else.
  • Speaking of FanGraphs: Dave Cameron ran some “expected run differentials,” and found that the D-backs had scored more or less the number of expected runs (-2 difference), but had allowed more runs than expected (-16). That left the team with the third-highest discrepancy between actual run differential and expected run differential (-18 runs), roughly equivalent to two wins’ worth. There’s at least a bit of bad luck in there with the bad performances.
  • Enjoyed this piece from Carson Cistulli about Jose Bautista recording 9-3 putouts in consecutive nights, against position players. Apparently, there are only 19 of these since (and including) 2000 — select company in which Gerardo Parra belongs, thanks to gunning Dan Haren down earlier this season.
  • Absolutely riveting piece from Sam Miller at BP ($) on Aaron Hill‘s spectacular defensive plays on May 14th (with GIFs!). Miller gives Hill credit for 4 of 4 on routine plays, 1 of 1 on even plays, 2 for 2 on unlikely plays, and 1 for 3 on remote plays (1 to 10% chance of defender making it). And Miller brings up a great point: defensive metrics have sometimes been wildly inconsistent with each other in evaluating Hill’s defense. I wonder why this is… and you may be hearing more from us about that.
  • Fantastic profile by Christina Kahrl at ESPN on Paul Goldschmidt’s rise to excellence. It’s true — there aren’t too many guys that come out of nowhere with MVP-type production like this. Think about the awe surrounding Josh Donaldson’s rise — not too many people like that. But even in that case, Donaldson had been thought of as a top-tier talent when he was younger, before he seemed to stagnate. Truly excellent piece from Kahrl, with feedback from BP’s Jason Parks and from Goldy himself. A must read.
  • Jim McLennan of Snake Pit had some interesting thoughts on Josh Collmenter‘s shutout, in which he faced the minimum 27 batters. By the way, the innings pitched in that game put him over the top in terms of qualifying for the ERA title; as of right now, Collmenter is leading the D-backs with a 3.34 ERA, taking over that spot from Bronson Arroyo, who has a 4.39 ERA. Collmenter’s contract extension, which I’ve called “breathtakingly friendly to the club,” was a fantastic deal for the D-backs when it was signed, and when it was expected that he would stay in long relief. As of now, it’s looking like one of the very best contracts (sub $10M division) in all of MLB.
  • And last, but not least — Jesse Spector did an exceptional review of the Steve Berthiaume / Bob Brenly broadcast team. Spector has done nine of these so far, and he ranks the D-backs team third out of nine. Really loved Spector’s criteria and detail, especially being able to compare the review to the broadcast that was still fresh in my mind. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I freakin’ love this broadcast team. Nobody’s perfect, guys, and when you’re on air for almost 600 hours per season, you’re going to say something inane at least occasionally. Berthiaume and Brenly are why I watch as many D-backs games as I do, and why I started watching as many D-backs games as I do.

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