-- Dave L., Mesa, Ariz.
I would say the most impressive thing about the team so far has been the fact that it has seemingly been in just about every game this year right down to the end. Even games they have lost, they've been able to keep things close and have battled at the end. I'm not sure what to attribute that to. It could be that it's just a small sample size, but the team just seems to have a different "feel" this year.
Maybe that's a result of manager Kirk Gibson's competitiveness, but I wouldn't discount the overall change in culture in the clubhouse. You've got some veteran guys that have been around and are good character guys and you have guys like Chris Young, for example, who continue to mature and develop leadership skills. We'll see how it translates over the course of the long season, but they certainly have been more fun to watch this year than the past two.
As for the most disappointing thing, I would have to pick the starting rotation at this point. That's not to say that I thought they would be dominating, but I expected them to be better than they have been.
That could change, as Ian Kennedy is pitching well, Daniel Hudson seems to have put his early struggles behind him and Joe Saunders looked better against the Padres on Sunday. Still, Armando Galarraga has not pitched well and Barry Enright was demoted to Triple-A Reno. The result has been that the team has found itself in a lot of early deficits, particularly in the first inning.
How much does Gibson rely on stats when making up his lineups? I don't understand some of the decisions he has made. Some really are hard to figure.
-- Sal P., Phoenix
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Sal, I must admit that there are some lineup decisions that leave me scratching my head. When Miguel Montero was swinging a hot bat, putting him in the eighth spot made no sense to me. I also think that he stayed with a struggling Kelly Johnson in the No. 2 spot in the lineup for too long. As for what goes into Gibson's decision-making process, that's hard to say, because he keeps that stuff pretty close to the vest. He receives a lot of input from his coaches, and while he tends to make it sound as if he doesn't use a lot of stats in his decisions, I don't fully believe that.
Do we know yet what we have at first base in Juan Miranda?
-- Luis G., San Diego
No, but I think we're getting a better idea the more he gets the chance to play. He's swung the bat well lately and I think that's probably because he got some consistent at-bats. At least to me, he looked much more comfortable at the plate after a few days of being in the lineup. I still think that you'll continue to see Gibson split up playing time at first.