SnakePit Round Table: April and the Diamondbacks

This remarkably cool pic shows Ryan Roberts safely sliding in to score a run past catcher Geovany Soto of the Cubs during the fourth inning of Sunday's game.

The first month of the season is in the bag, so the main focus of the round table this week is to look back at what we saw there; did the team live up to expectations? We also discuss the All-Star balloting, expectations for the week ahead and why Arizona appears to struggle against bad teams.

And so April ends, with the Diamondbacks having gone 11-15 for the month. Overall, what grade would you give them?

soco: D.  They’ve played well, sometimes, and they’ve played terribly other times.

bb: Since I believe in grade inflation, I’ll give them a C (upgrade on soco above). Mostly, that’s just because they are right around where I thought they’d be at this time.

snakecharmer: I would’ve liked to see them go .500, so I’d say a C.

Jim: C-minus. I was hoping for a couple more wins, given 15 of the 26 games were at home, but they had some tough opponents. It’s been all over the place though: some players have passed with flying colors, while I’d be sending others back for a retake.

Kishi: C- sounds about right. Good work against teams I thought would trounce us, like the Phillies and the Reds, but then there’s getting smacked around by the Giants and (*ugh*) Mets.

DbacksSkins: C, simply because the final result is slightly better than I expected.

ZM: C minus.  They look to be a slightly below-average team, so they get a grade that’s, well, slightly below-average.

Sprankton: C-. Like everyone else already said, they’re a below-average team that’s played above-average here and there.

Who were the All-Stars and Bad News Bears for the team in April?

soco: My Gold Stars would go to Drew, Upton, and Miggy.

bb: Ryro and Drew have been amazing, so I guess they are the All-Stars for April. Unfortunately, I’m too pessimistic to believe either one will be able to keep up their current tear. As for Bad News Bears......the entire starting rotation minus Ian Kennedy basically.

snakecharmer: Bad News goes to Kelly Johnson, poor guy struggling so much, and to Enright and Galarraga. Ryan Roberts is en fuego, and Drew and Montero have been solid - gold/silver stars, respectively.

Jim: Yeah, Kelly has been painful to watch, especially because he was so damn good last season. It’s an amazing fall from grace to see him struggle mightily. As mentioned yesterday, the veteran presence has hardly justified their roster spots. Stephen Drew and Ryan Roberts have been great, and David Hernandez out of the bullpen, with a supporting nod to Sam Demel, who quietly beavered away to a better ERA than Putz.

Kishi: Stephen Drew, Ryan Roberts, and David Hernandez get the thumbs up for the month. Josh Collmenter also has given us some great long-work out of the bullpen- I was surprised to look and see he was already at 10.1 innings. J.J. Putz probably deserves to be up there, too, because he had 29 pretty good days on the roster, he just ended the month badly. Kelly Johnson obviously gets a "needs improvement" as does most of our starting rotation- IPK’s the only guy with an ERA+ higher than 75. Ouch.

DbacksSkins: All Stars -- Miggy, Drew, Willie Bloomquist, Ryan Roberts, CY, Justin Upton, Ian Kennedy, JJ Putz, David Hernandez and the majority of the bullpen. Bad News Bears -- The starting rotation outside IPK, Kam Mickolio, Juan Gutierrez, Melvin Mora, Juan Miranda, Geoff Blum by default, Hector Blanco. (Although, fortunately, we haven’t seen much from Blanco)

ZM: All Stars- Drew, Montero, Kennedy and the back of our bullpen.

BNB: KJ, Nady, rotation members not named Kennedy or Hudson.

Sprankton: I’m going to go a different route and award Eric Young and Matt Williams/Glenn Sherlock the all-star trophies. The D-backs ran the bases well and stole a total of 22 bases through 26 games - a number not seen since 1999 when they started the season with 23. The biggest bad news bear has to be Juan Gutierrez, who we are just completely stuck with no matter how much we beg for mercy.

Any particular areas you want to see improved in May?

soco: They haven’t really improved from last year.  I remember going into May 2010 and the team had scored near the top for most runs, but had also given up the most runs.  Few teams have scored more, but few have given up more.  And we’re giving up more than we’re scoring.  It’s not a recipe for success.  We need to get better at not giving the other team big innings.

bb: I just want Zach Duke to get healthy, because sad as this may seem, but he’ll be a decent upgrade on our rotation. Hopefully in general though, our starting pitching will improve in May.

snakecharmer: The broadcast today showed an interesting stat, that I can’t remember the details of, comparing batting average w/ RISP in wins vs losses. It’s purely pathetic in losses. They need to find more ways to win, and the pitching has to get better. Scoring 4 or 5 runs in a game should be enough for the wins most days.

Kishi: Consistency. We’re seeing that "which Diamondbacks team will show up this series" problem like we did before, and if we could get the good Diamondbacks more often, we’ll have a team that’s less painful to watch.

soco: Consistency has been a Diamondbacks problem for so long that I wonder if it will ever be fixed.

Jim. Not letting the opposition score in the first inning appears to be a significant issue - it’s happened too often to be merely a statistical fluke. It’s almost as if we patched up the eighth and ninth inning and simply squeezed the issue round to the front again.

DbacksSkins: Plainly and simply, I would like for the starting rotation to be not terrible.

ZM: I agree with ‘Skins, if this team wants to get better, they need better production from their rotation.

Sprankton: Sad rotation is sad. Here are the ERAs for our starting rotation in order. One of these is not like the rest...

1. 3.92
2. 5.30
3. 5.76
4. 5.46
5. 5.93

Again this week: we played well against the Phillies, struggled against the Cubs. Why does this team have such a problem facing bad teams?

soco: They play down to the competition?  They get amped up to play better teams?  They’re just inconsistent?

bb: Fiery teams are only allowed to win against good teams.

snakecharmer: Well, I have a theory as to why my team does this in our games, but I don’t think "playing at the same speed" really applies to baseball. But it might just be mental, taking a different approach...

Kishi: All I can imagine is maybe the players think past the series and are already looking to the next game, so they aren’t ready.

DbacksSkins: Plenty of theoretically talented teams play to the level of competition. The "good" teams are those that beat the "bad" teams they should. The Diamondbacks are NOT a "good" team, but they do have SOME talent.

ZM: It’s baseball.  Sometimes in a short series, the better team loses, and the Diamondbacks aren’t good enough for us to say that they’re clearly better than anyone else.

Sprankton: Could be that the good teams (Phillies, Reds) simply took the D-backs for granted and got caught trying to take it easy. That’s my best guess.

Diamondbacks pitchers have now allowed 37 home-runs, 24 at Chase. Is it time to think about that humidor?

soco: If you’re going to build a staff full of fly-ball pitchers, then yeah, we should probably get a humidor.

bb: Even if it weren’t for this, I sort of think a humidor is a good idea. In some ways, I think the mentality of a young pitcher can be much more easily shattered than the mentality of a young hitter, and since we’re keen on developing young pitchers, providing a more pitcher-friendly park may be better.

snakecharmer: No. No no no. Just because.

Kishi: I’m still opposed to the humidor. We’ve hit 18 home runs at home, compared to 12 on the road- almost the exact same ratio as we’ve given up- so really the problem should be that we’re giving up too many home runs period, regardless of where we’re playing.

soco: I agree with kishi.  Our pitchers are awful at giving up home runs, so maybe we should get better ones?

DbacksSkins: It’s short-sighted to say we need to start using a humidor because our pitchers are bad. (Which is more or less what this question is about, flyball pitchers or not!) Randy Johnson and Brandon Webb combined for 5 Cy Young awards in the humidor-less Chase Field, not to mention other starters who posted fantastic seasons such as Curt Schilling and Danny Haren.

On top of that, it’ll bite our offense in the ass just as much as our opponents’. For all the claims that we’re going to quit relying so heavily on the longball, that hasn’t happened so far. But I’d even go so far as to say that a hitter-friendly park is better for attendance than a pitcher-friendly park. Chicks dig the longball.

Jim: We should ask ourselves whether we want it as a permanent addition at Chase, because I don’t think MLB will let us bring in the humidor or not, depending on the state of our rotation. On that basis, I do wonder if the environment at Chase has become more extreme of late for some reason, as the home-road splits seem to have increased significantly. It’s always going to be hard for any team playing in an extreme environment to find success e.g. the Rockies, who have never won the division. I can see how moderating the environment could help, but it needs to be not just a quick fix because of our current collection of pitchers.

Sprankton: I agree with all of the above...

It’s back into the division this week, as after the day off Monday, the Rockies come to town, and we head to San Diego for the first time. Hopes and expectations?

soco: If recent history has given any indication, then we’ll beat the Rockies and get blown out by the Padres.  I think we should have a better shot against the Padres, given their league worst offense.

bb: The Rockies are seriously outperforming in my opinion. I say they come back to Earth, and we sweep them. And the Padres just suck. There’s no way we can lose to that kind of team. We win that series.

snakecharmer: I just hope they are happy by the time they get to SF next weeeeeek! Hopes: Don’t get killed by Colorado. Fears: Our offense might disappear in San Diego.

Kishi: I’m not optimistic about the Rockies series, but here’s hoping we can make some Padres fans cry with dramatic readings of pre-season predictions that the team will be fine without Adrian Gonzalez. (I’ll be happy to go .500 for the week.)

DbacksSkins: I’m going to keep being the pessimist at the Round Table (it’s worked out well so far) and say 2-4. We’ll grab a win from each team.

ZM: I say 3-3.  Which series the wins come from, I have no idea.

Jim: Time for the Rockes road record to regress, and regress hard. Two wins there and two more against the Padres. I’m feeling optimistic!

Sprankton: A 4-2 stint would not only be really delightful, but also looks to be fairly doable.

All-Star Ballots came out this week. Is there any point in bothering to vote for the D-backs?

soco: Then it would just be a self-confirming prophesy, eh?  I voted for Drew and Upton.

snakecharmer: I’m not going to vote 25 x a day because we’re just not that popular for it to make any difference, but I’ll vote some.

Kishi: Is there any point to voting for most players anyway? I’ll vote, but I’m not expecting to see any of our guys in the top three for their position.

DbacksSkins: Imma be that guy and vote 25x for every Dback on the ballot. (Except I’ll write-in RyRo rather than Mora)

Is it a stupid and homer-ish thing to do? Absolutely, but fans of more popular teams will do it, so why not?

I may use one or two ballots to vote for the players who TRULY "deserve" it -- Miggy and Drew and Putz, for example.

Jim. Nope. I blame the Interweb.

Sprankton: Not now at least (grumbles about ballots always being too early).

If you could be one baseball player a) historical and b) contemporary, who would you pick?

soco: Bit of an odd question, but it would have been cool to be like Joe DiMaggio.  He played during an interesting era, in a classic ballpark and a great city.  He played the game in a way I admire: low strikeouts, great defensive outfielder, lots of hits.  Also, the dude married Marilyn Monroe!  (I’ve also heard he was a real son of a gun).  

Contemporary?  I guess I’d go Robinson Cano.  I admire his talent, and again, the dude plays in a great ballpark in a great city.

Kishi: Hmm. Historical, Babe Ruth. Guy played for nearly two decades and just dominated the game to a degree that, over half a century later, he’s still one of the names that people automatically think of when they think of the greatest in the game. Contemporary... It’s a tough choice- go with an established player who is towards the end of his career, or a younger guy who still has questions about his future? As much as I don’t really like him very much, I might go with a player like Temmeh. Yeah, yeah, I know, but the guy has some pretty sharp skills, and if he can continue his success, he’ll have an incredible career.

Jim: I kinda want to say Ty Cobb, but that would probably make me a bad person. Sure, he was a racist thug in many way, but he never pretended to be anything else, In a weird way, you gotta respect someone who simply doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, and just goes on with destroying the baseball. He was the Barry Bonds of his time in that way. Except without the actual cheating, which does make a difference.

Kishi: Jim, I’m not sure "outspoken racist" is a much better choice than "cheater".... =)

Jim: Honesty > deceit: with Cobb, you got what you saw, though he was a lot more complex than many give him credit. But, yeah, "intriguing" is definitely more appropriate than "admirable". So I’d go with my country-mate, Bobby Thomson, who hit perhaps the single most memorable home-run of all time. Nowadays, I’d be "scrappy," and they don’t come much scrappier than Craig Counsell.

soco: If I were really wanting to go for a grinder type, I think I’d rather by Pete Rose (minus the gambling, obvs) than Ty Cobb.  That being said, I wouldn’t to be any of these players literally.  I’d just want to be similar in playing/talent/wealth/long flowing locks.

DbacksSkins: To be fair, Cobb was racist in a time when the majority (or, at least, a significant plurality) of Americans were. (I’m sure there were plenty of Southerners pissed at how "liberal" Ty Cobb was) Not that that makes me despise Cobb any less.

Historically? Gimme Roger Maris.

Today? Joey Votto. (Except that I wouldn’t be Canadian)

ZM: Gonzo, maybe?  I’d get to play a huge part in the biggest sporting moment in Phoenix history, and be generally adored in the city.

Sprankton: Historically, you don’t have to go too far back to find my pick - Cal Ripken Jr. He just epitomized everything that is a legacy in baseball. So many unique records, so much good to be found both on and off the field, and he was bald. Bald people are awesome.

Now-a-days I’d probably pick Joe Mauer, who has a very similar likability to Ripken’s.

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