Arizona's week has got better; they can return home with a winning record if they beat the Marlins this evening. We look at the results of the past week, rumblings over the arrival of Paul Goldschmidt and look forward to this week's crucial series against the Giants.
The Diamondbacks week started badly, dropping three of four in Pittsburgh and Miami, but took the last two in Florida to make it a 3-3 road trip so far. Highs and lows?
Shoe: I thought this would be a tough trip and predicted a 3-4 record. Lets hope they take the finale and beat expectations. Low was the struggling offense of course, and the high is that this team seems to be bouncing back once again. They believe in themselves.
Jim: Good starting pitching. A 3.00 ERA over the six games, four quality starts, one loss - and that one was largely deserved, by Saunders. Duke and Hudson - and the team - deserved better than no-decision losses, for their seven inning, one earned run outings in Pittsburgh. And, hey! No one-run wins! Five in a row now, a lot easier on the digestion.
On the downside, I’m really a bit unsure of the bullpen management. I’m sure IHSB will go into this, but Gibson seems intent on reducing David Hernandez’s arm to a bloody stump, and if J.J. Putz does regard "getting up" as an appearance, he’s being horribly overused too. Take today, where Heilman came in with a four-run lead. One man gets on base, and Putz starts warming up for the second time, not to come in.
soco: I think the question kind of answered that. We went through a .500 roadtrip and are a game back from the Giants. Just win one more and we’re tied. But on the other hand we didn’t completely fall out of the race.
Sprankton: It was really nice to see JoePah and Hernandez bounce back from their first taste of serious adversity. On the other hand, seeing them implode was fairly unpleasant.
snakecharmer: As expected, there was a bit of regression. The bullpen took us on a nice reminiscence of 2010, but Hernandez kicked butt in his appearance Sunday. We just need to get back to some consistency, and scoring would be nice.
DbacksSkins: Resiliency -- I’m not entirely sure it’s a repeatable skill, but the team certainly seems to have it. The bullpen still seems like they’ve sold their souls to some baseball luck deity, and the offense has trouble scoring outside Chase/without homers, but they still seem to find ways to win. /cliche
Gibby suggested the offense was coming out of its slumbers and they delivered tacos the next day for the first time since June 1. Are our hitters "trending" [as I believe the cool kids say...]?
Shoe: Clearly this is a streaky group. All teams go through quiet times at the plate. Hopefully they can shorten up those stretches.
Jim: June, to date, has actually been their best month, with a .760 OPS going into Sunday. But that hasn’t translated into runs: they’ve averaged exactly four per game, compared to 4.9 and 4.6 in April and May. Their "clutchiness" appears to be back at or ear league-average, and that, as much as actual performance tends to determine actual results. See Sunday, where the Marlins outhit us, but were 0-for-12 with RISP.
soco: Obviously they need to run more.
Jim: Something to that for Arizona, actually. We stole 27 bases in May; so far in June, we have only five. But there’s also a big difference in our home OPS (.803) and the road one (.685). We have only scored more than six runs three times away from Phoenix this year, one coming in extra innings on Opening Day. We matched that total in our first five home games.
Sprankton: The team is 3rd in the NL in runs scored and tied for 4th in OPS+. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, especially given what I had expected before the season started. A non-statistical approach leads me to suggest that when one guy is struggling, another one seems to pick up the slack. I’m not sure if that translates into a "trending" offense but the production they’re putting out now is probably on par with what we can expect for the course of the season.
snakecharmer: Um... sure? It seems as though they either are all doing well or all struggling; we score 6-7 runs or 1-2 runs. (Just going off of recent memory, not looking at stats.) We need to be able to score 2-3 and support the starters. I think it’s more of a mental approach to accepting the middle ground and I think the staff will get them there.
DbacksSkins: I know we all wish we could score exactly 5.2 runs EACH game, because we’d win a lot more games, but as good as the pitching has really been so far, I feel like I could give the O a bit more slack for sometimes only scoring 2 or 3. Hell, we’ve had our share of shutouts this year, and almost had another on Sunday.
Bryan Shaw became the third player to make his MLB debut with us this year, all of them pitchers. The other two are still on the roster: can Shaw stick, or is he just coverage until Sam Demel and Juan Gutierrez return?
Shoe: Just read that Demel had a setback. And Gutierrez doesn't seem close. So Shaw BETTER stick.
Jim: Yeah, doesn’t seem that Shaw is under any immediate threat. Looks like he’ll get an extended chance to show off his stuff, and will hopefully be better than Kroenke. Obviously, Putz, Hernandez, Esmerling Vasquez and Joe Paterson aren’t going anywhere, so as and when Demel and Gutierrez return, it’ll be between Aaron Heilman, Micah Owings and Shaw to go down. Shaw has options; not sure about Owings. That may prove decisive, as much as anything.
Sprankton: Even if he doesn’t stick there’s still options to turn to, right? Clay Zavada, anyone?
snakecharmer: I didn’t see his outing so I can’t say, but if Demel indeed had a setback, I’d bet he’s safe for a while longer.
DbacksSkins: That really depends. Is Mickolio likely to get another shot anytime soon? Do we really have any other relief prospects in Reno? (Stange?) WILL our heroes deactivate the Doomsday Device in time???
There have been a lot of rumblings about Collin Cowgill and Paul Goldschmidt coming up’ the team has said that when they do, they will be playing regularly. How will the team juggle the roster to manage that?
Shoe: What they SAY they will do, and what they ACTUALLY do are often not the same thing.
Jim: Cowgill could come back and become our left-fielder, with Parra slotting into a utility role to give Young (65 starts in 66 games) and Upton (64) a day or two off. I was going to say, Parra could also be a late-inning defensive replacement, but unless he can learn to play first-base, not sure how we’d manage that. It’s very hard to see how they can fit Goldie, Juan Miranda and Xavier Nady on the roster
Sprankton: Barring a major injury or a major case of suckage, it seems unlikely that Goldschmidt will be called up any time before September. I can see Cowgill filling in at left-field with Parra being baited for a trade. Ryan Roberts would then platoon back and forth between LF and 3B with Willie occasionally filling in as well.
snakecharmer: Now that it’s mid-June and not mid-April, it could be worth looking more at some of the minor leaguers as we dangle the big leaguers as trade bait. I expect KT to make a move or two, and Cowgill could feature into that. Goldschmidt is sure making a case to not be ignored as well.
DbacksSkins: KT has said that they’re close to calling up Goldschmidt, which is surprising to me. But I think it’s more likely that Cowgill gets called up and Nady traded (if possible) or let go.
Getting Goldschmidt, however, would be like making that deadline trade that KT has mentioned -- whether or not he’s likely to struggle at first. I still say we should consider dropping Mora AND Nady and bringing up Cowgill and Goldy to replace the handedness. (Play Roberts at 3B, let Bloomquist also be the backup 2B)
Or, y’know, drop Sean Burroughs.
Who do you take in the SnakePit Dead Pool? Melvin Mora, Willie Bloomquist or Aaron Heilman? [Sean "Zombie" Burroughs is not eligible for this contest]
Shoe: Mora. For sure. Willie lives off his "versatility", and they are down a few relievers already, so they are not going to jettison Heilman. Mora's days are numbered....clearly.
Jim: Heilman is certainly fortunate that there were injuries to Demel and Gutierrez. What I can’t understand is not so much Mora’s presence on the roster, as Gibson’s desire to put him in the line-up - he started four of the last six games. As for Bloomquist’s versatility, he is the baseball equivalent of trying to do brain surgery with a Swiss army knife. Just because it’s possible, doesn’t mean you should be doing it.
Sprankton: Melvin Mora, for the sole fact that he is somehow getting waaayyy too much playing time.
snakecharmer: Until his latest two decent-ish outings, I was going to say Heilman. I read somewhere that it was a mechanical issue with him, so I think he’s more likely to turn it around over Mora.
DbacksSkins: Heilman is serviceable, and Bloomquist can play everywhere, from quarterback to hotdog vendor. Mora. The dude’s already cost us half a win. (-0.5 fWAR, -0.4 rWAR)
MLB has suggested realigning things into two 15-team leagues with no division, and the top five in each league qualifying for the post-season. What do you think?
Shoe: I propose one big league of 30 teams, and 10 teams making a double elimination tournament. The Winners bracket series are 5 games. The losers bracket series are 3 games. The finals are 7 games.
Jim: Radical idea, shoe. Hey, if we’re going there, let’s go for three leagues of ten, with promotion and relegation, like in the European football leagues! But back to the current suggestion, if they have any kind of balanced schedule, e.g everyone plays 11 games against each other side in the league,.plus eight interleague, it’ll mean a lot of extra travel. For Arizona, that’d mean 20-25 games per year in New York, Washington, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. It strikes me as an idea designed largely to favor the Yankees and Boston.
soco: The Leagues have had non-geographic divisions before, so there’s no reason to believe no divisions couldn’t work. It’s a headscratcher how teams would celebrate making the playoffs. Do you put up a plaque for being the #3 seed? The only problem is there would have to be inter-league matchups every week. If you think people whine about it now, wait until there’s one series a week featuring an inter-league showdown.
snakecharmer: Ugh, I JUST got used to the idea of a second wildcard team, I don’t want to think of something ELSE crazy! Weren’t divisions introduced partially to break up the bulk of teams and give other teams a chance to reach the top? I don’t like changing it back.
Sprankton: I’m torn. It would be nice to see a balanced schedule for every team rather than playing divisional foes for the bulk of the season. On the other hand, travel, interleague play, and attendance all figure to be huge question marks.
DbacksSkins: I like divisions. I just wish they were more balanced. Maybe add vertical AND horizontal relegation -- that is, even out the divisions every 2 or 3 years or so. /won’thappen
A big week coming up. We finish off in Florida tomorrow, then it’s a quick turnaround to face the Giants for three in Phoenix - looks like we miss Lincecum - and back into interleague play, as the White Sox pitchers figure out which end of the bat to hold. Will we end the week closer to SF, further behind them or in the same spot?
Shoe: Looks like missing Lincecum is not a good thing these days. ;) It's time to put a hurting on the Giants though. This series is BIG. Especially considering how the previous ones have gone. I say we end the week in first place.
Jim: Tied for the Giants in first. We lost to the Marlins tomorrow, but take two of three from San Francisco and the same against Chicago.
soco: I expect to be disappointed. 2-5.
snakecharmer: Well, we’ll be off by at least a half from now due to tomorrow’s schedule difference. ;)
Jim: Bizarrely, I sat up in bed last night at 11:30pm, realizing the same thing. Not sure why. I’ll stick with my claim. Won’t be right, but probably won’t be far off!
snakecharmer: No idea what to make of the White Sox. The D’backs NEED to play well against the Giants. Even if they lose 2 of 3 but appear to match up well with them, I’d be okay with that, but winning 2 of 3 would certainly be preferable. SF will face Oakland while we play Chicago and that’ll be an easy series for them. At the end of the week, I’d expect to be the same or one back, but any farther than that and I’ll be concerned.
Sprankton: The Giants are beatable, the White Sox are laughable, I say we go 5-2.
DbacksSkins: Shoe beat me to it. Lincecum is having one of his hittable streaks.
At this point, it’s tradition. 3-4. Win vs. the Fish, then go 1-2 against the ChiSox and Giants.
Somehow, I see the Giants losing their series against the A’s, though. One of the season’s luckiest teams meets one of the unluckiest and things even out a bit. But -- that having been said, are the Giants still "lucky" if they’ve been doing it for a season and a half?