Well, that sucked. Four losses in a row derailed what looked like a very promising road-trip, and we now head back to face the team with the best record in baseball. That'll be fun. The SnakePit panel discuss their hopes for the upcoming week, now the Diamondbacks have returned to Arizona, as well as picking over the bones of the last week's action for Arizona, and the news on Geoff Blum.
A mixed bag of results on this road-trip. Two wins in Cincinnati, but nothing at all in New York. Thoughts on the East coast voyage, and heroes and villains of the week.
Wailord: This was largely dependent upon Sunday’s game; although it’s probably nonsensical to let my thoughts go one way or the other based on one game, there’s just a big difference between a .500 road trip and a 2-4 road trip. It was disappointing to see Enright do poorly on Saturday (even if a tiny bit expected), while it was nice seeing Putz come out of hiding again. I think he’s like Punxsutawney Phil or something... rarely appears, but when he does, it signals the game’s over.
Jim: It was looking an awful lot better early on. It went about what most of us expected - a win more than I thought we’d get - but after we won the first two games, I was really hoping for much better. The series in New York was defined by crappy play from the D-backs across the board, and to be 8-12 is below expectations. I largely blame the starting pitching: our rotation’s ERA now sitting at 5.85 - the worst in the NL, until Carlos Zambrano imploded against the Dodgers this afternoon. That won’t win you many games. I didn’t expect it to be stellar [Dan Haren > Armando Galaragga, let’s just say], but nor did I think they’d have just five wins between them, 20 games in.
bb: After winning the first two games against the Reds, I was starting to become optimistic again. Hate it when that happens. Then Dan Hudson went and ruined my dreams. And just when Joe Saunders finally put up a good outing...Kirk Gibson happened. Then Enright happened. And just now Galarraga happened. I knew our starting rotation was going to be our weak spot going into the season, but this week has gone quite a ways towards confirming that. Villains - the entire starting rotation. Heroes - Paul Goldschmidt. Even though he has nothing to do with the road trip, he’s been the only bright spot for me so far this season.
emily: Optimism after the Reds (who I thought we’d struggle much more against) came crashing down to Earth while playing the Mets. It was actually embarrassing.
Kishi: Embarrassing is the right word. We came in to New York against a team that was struggling, and were completely ineffective against them. It was pretty painful to watch all weekend.
soco: I'm not really a fan of successfully predicting the D'backs would be embarrassed by the Mets sweep. Sorry everyone!
snakecharmer: Well, I definitely thought we'd do better against the Mets. Enright and Galarraga were both pretty un-spectacular. Patterson has done real well. Drooo and Roberts had good weeks, poor CY and Kelly did not.
The right side of our infield have been struggling of late, with both our 1B and Kelly Johnson stuck offensively. Can you see them turning it around?
Wailord: Well, you see, Juan Miranda is sorta terrible, Xavier Nady is fairly god-awful, and Russell Branyan should stop, like, striking out. Not feeling all that optimistic about the first base situation... as for second, Kelly Johnson’s batting average on balls in play is nearly 80 points below his career average, and although I shouldn’t use one stat to determine this sorta thing (c’mon, 6% line drive rate, broski?), I still feel that he’ll turn it around. He just did too well last year to suck this season. Infallible logic right there.
Jim: Looking at how our 1B platoon has fared compared to the rest of the league, I was surprised they are close to average. Going into Sunday, the NL 1B line was .258/.339/.410 for a .749 OPS, while Arizona’s was .265/.367/.397, a .764 OPS. It’s mostly the lack of power - through 20 games, our first-basemen have just one homer in over 70 at-bats, which isn’t what you expect from a supposed power-position. Especially given the pedigree of Branyan and Miranda.
Johnson is perhaps more concerning. Some of it is BABIP related, but he’s striking out in close to 30% of his plate appearances, which is a disturbing jump [career average is 20%]. Line-drives are down too. Of course, it’s not like he’ll be costing us a post-season spot, but it’s a huge drop-off from what we got in 2010.
bb: I feel like 1B has performed as much as can be expected. It’s a stop gap year for the position, as we wait for Paul Goldschmidt to arrive. As for Kelly Johnson, I still firmly believe he has the talent to be a good, above-average 2B. Not sure why exactly he’s doing so terribly this year. As Jim points out above, a significant reason for his lack of success is the K-rate. And while I don’t think anyone realistically expected KJ to be worth 6 WAR again, I do still expect him to put up a solid season, between 3-4 WAR. He’ll come around. In some respects, this may end up being a good thing, if we are considering extending KJ after the season ends.
Kishi: I think Kelly Johnson can turn it around. Not April-of-2010 turn it around, but back more in line with what we expect of him. As for first base, yeah, it hasn’t been pretty. But has it been anything other than what we expected?
soco: Yes on KJ. He'll figure it out eventually, but someone needs to call Brandon Allen.
snakecharmer: Kelly seems to be a streaky hitter, he'll be totally fine. I don't know what to do about 1B.
A roster crunch was avoided with the news that Geoff Blum needs surgery and will be out for at least six weeks. Your feelings?
Jim: I would never wish injury on any player (well, almost any), but given I thought Blum was probably the most ill-conceived signing of the winter - two years! - I have to confess to feeling some sense of smugness. Roberts is younger, cheaper and almost certainly going to give us better production. I’ve no problem with us having veteran presences around from whom young players can learn - but that’s why we have coaches. The 25-man roster should be for the best 25 players we can get.
bb: Geoff Blum sucks. Have never really liked the fact that he’s on our roster. This lucky occurrence definitely allows our FO to save some face and not make some hard decisions.
emily: I agree with Jim-there’re only a few people I’d wish injury on, but the feeling here is that six weeks without Geoff Blum can only make the decision easier. However, I would be very very surprised if that timetable didn’t get stretched from six weeks to eight to twelve. Knee surgery is a risky business to begin with, but then you slap it onto an aging middle infielder...he might not make it back.
Kishi: I wish him a relaxing and extended vacation from baseball. Give us a call in July or August or whenever you retire and want to look into coaching. Okay, that’s probably wishful thinking, but the less time I spend being actively reminded that we signed Geoff Blum to a two year contract- ugh- the happier I’ll be.
soco: I feel bad for the guy, and he's already a sunk cost so it would be nice to see if he'll work at all for the team. But really it's a non-issue because he is a sunk cost, and unlikely to perform.
snakecharmer: At least we can FINALLY STOP TALKING ABOUT IT for at least 6 more weeks.
Ryan Braun agreed to a $100 million contract extension which doesn’t even start until 2016. Madness or wisdom? Should we be looking at something similar for Justin Upton?
Wailord: I really don’t see the incentive. Sure, if the player continues to get better then it’ll be a bargain, but there’s just so much room for error. What happens if a player gets injured and isn’t the same? What happens if a few fluky seasons tricked paint a false picture for the future? Ryan Braun’s a great player, no doubt, but Milwaukee had him under control for the foreseeable future and still pulled the trigger this far in advance. I hope we don’t see the same done with Upton.
Jim: I wouldn’t mind an extra year or two on Upton. He will only be 28 at the end of the current contract, so the chance of him being in decline is less than for someone like Braun, who will be comfortably into his thirties when the extension kicks in. But Wailord is right: the risk is too great, and if it went wrong, we could end up hamstrung for getting on a decade.
bb: Madness. Why take on the risk when you can’t afford that risk? There is so much that could happen within the next four years that could make Milwaukee regret this decision. Doesn’t make any sense for them from a risk profile standpoint. Moreover, they are essentially extending him for what amounts to Ryan Braun’s age 32-36 seasons. Since Braun’s defense in LF is already horrendous and will definitely need to be moved to 1B eventually, the Brewers are gambling on baseball inflation, and hoping that by the time 2016 rolls around, Braun is either still going to be an offensive beast (very unlikely) or that the going price for an average to slightly above average 1B is $20 million (also unlikely).
Should we do something similar with Upton? Well, to be fair, Upton hasn’t yet really had the same type of success as Braun or Tulowitzki. And, like Milwaukee, we don’t quite fit the risk profile that can afford an extension of this type. However, one huge benefit of Upton is that an extension would actually cover something along the lines of Upton’s age 29-33 seasons, which would be his prime years. I don’t see us signing something like this with Upton this year. But if he puts up a monster two years, and we are committed to him as The Face of the Franchise, then we could conceivably see something done before the 2013 season, locking him up even longer. At that point though, the risk would be a lot lower than what the Brewers did, and Upton would also have a much higher shot at being worth his contract. If Upton has a couple of monster seasons, I would probably be okay with a contract like this.
emily; It’s dumb. That’s all.
Kishi: Madness. There seems to be a recent trend towards small to mid-market teams locking up their "big name" players- or at least as big name as their team gets- to long-term deals that have a small chance of paying off, and a larger chance of crippling the team financially in the long run, and those two outcomes aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. (Obviously, the Rockies are at the forefront of this movement.) I wouldn’t mind having J-Up for longer, but I’d definitely want to see a year or two like we expect from him before they offered him an extension.
soco: Completely insanity. I'd much rather the D'backs continually draft and develop new talent than take these kinds of risks.
snakecharmer: As much potential and star power as Upton has, one player does not make a team (not even Albert Pujols). If he's worth it then, sure; now, absolutely not.
Three against the Phillies; four against the Cubs, back in the friendly confines of Chase Field. How will we do?
Wailord: Cliff Lee will beat IPK, Hudson will outduel Oswalt, and Saunders will lose to the currently-listed "TBA" (you can see my confidence in him). As for the games against Chicago, I think we’ll split the series, and judging by their performance thus far this season, the Diamondbacks will probably go WLWL. So, I’ll say we win three out of seven.
Jim: I’d be more than happy with a winning record. Sneak one from the Phillies, then paste the Cubs in three of four. In fact, as long as we paste the Cubs, I’ll be happy. Given the Phillies are quite scary, that’s probably the best attitude to have.
bb: We’re going to win both series to go 5-2. Don’t ask me how I know. I just do.
emily: I’m not seeing us take any from the Phillies, and a split with the Cubs. No, that’s not what I want, I’m just being realistic here, okay?
Kishi: 7 games, 7 wins. We’ll drop one to the Phillies, but we’ll manage to beat the Cubs twice in our third game against them. Don’t ask how, I don’t want to give MLB a chance to fix the rules. (We go 3-4 to be optimistic.)
soco: I hesitate to say, lest I curse the D'backs again.
snakecharmer: That Phillies rotation is tough, but not unbeatable (as my fantasy team well knows). If we go 1-2 against them and 2-1 against the Cubs, I'll be happy. (I would've been happy with that on the road trip too, but, nooooo.......)
Finally, if you were a baseball player, what number would you wear, and why?
Wailord: Thirty-one, undoubtedly. When I was first getting into sports, I followed the Suns a bit and the first player that I really followed closely was Shawn Marion, who wore 31. I use it everywhere I have to choose a number and wore the number in the few sports leagues I’ve played in.
Jim: 42, the answer to life, the universe and eve... What? I can’t? Sheesh. Some people just don’t want to share, do they. I don’t have a particular attachment to a number. I’d probably demand something exotic like π.
bb: 13. Because it’s the luckiest number in the world.
emily: Could I have e? It’s a number, right? I got pretty attached to 12 when I was in little league, and 27 was my number in both high school and ASA softball...so, one of those, I guess.
Kishi: Way to drop a nerd answer there, emily. Geez. Like Jim, my first choice would be thwarted, since 42 is retired by all of baseball. I’d be amenable to a handful of others, though- 8 for Andre Dawson, 7 for John Elway, or 01 for the General Lee on Dukes of Hazard. Look, I never said they were good answers.
soco: I regrettably would choose 22, which is now soiled by someone who shall not be named. I have no particular attachment to it, not great player I loved with it (otherwise I'd go 8 for Cal Ripken Jr, 39 for Dominik Hasek, or 12 for Jim Kelly). I like how it looks, though, and it's what I generally get my jerseys with.
snakecharmer: This is actually an important question for me, because I might get to change my # (for power soccer) this off-season! When I first joined my team, of course I wanted 4 for Craig Counsell, but all the #4 jersey was a small (and I aint a size small) so I got #8. Do I want to keep 8 (also Steve Young's number), or change to 4 for Counsell or 20 for Gonzo? Hmmmmmmm........