PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 05: The helmet of Danny Espinosa (not pictured) of the Washington Nationals lays on the grass after he was hit by a pitch and talked to by home plate umpire Rob Drake during the eighth inning of the Major League Baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 5, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Nationals defeated the Diamondbacks 9-4 in eleven innings. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
A relatively quiet round-table this week, with a number of participants apparently sleeping off the after-effects of SnakePitTowersFest [we’ve got a fridge full of leftovers if anyone’s interested!]. However, we still have some interesting topics for debate, as we discuss our MVPs for May, the hit batters in the Washington series, and where our loyalties would be if there were no Diamondbacks to root for.
The Diamondbacks took two of three from the Marlins, and split a series against the Nationals, but dropped out of first-place in the NL West. Thoughts on the week overall?
snakecharmer: Can’t control what the Giants do, only what we do, not too worried about "1st place" as long as we’re close behind in 2nd. We did okay, about as expected. Yeah we need to win more games like Sunday’s but if we keep battling, it’ll work. It was a decent week.
Jim: I was hoping for more, especially after we destroyed the Marlins in the first game this week. The offense scored only 19 runs over the other six games, which is disappointing, and to be outscored by the Nationals 15-11 at home was also not what I hoped. Even if five of those runs probably need to be credited to Gary Darling, rather than Washington.
ZM: It was a solid week, but not up to the high standards they had set over the previous 18 games. I was disappointed that the team wasn’t able to take care of business on Sunday against Jason Marquis, but that’s just the nature of the game.
shoe: More or less as expected. I figured 4-3. The trend of falling behind continues. The last 6 games the team hit .174 W/ RISP, so the regression there was expected. The pitching has still been very good overall, but one by one, those bullpen ERA's will regress for most of those guys. Paterson's jumped 3 runs in one inning. (0.66 to 3.68). There is more where that came from. Hernandez, Demel when he comes back, Vasquez, even Putz, are all due to give up some more runs than they have been. All that said, the team keeps fighting back. They keep battling. If they can avoid injury, they will be in this thing for a long time.
There was a war of hit batters between us and the Nationals, culminating in five plunkings and multiple ejections during Sunday’s game. Can you see a point?
snakecharmer: A point to the plunking? Well some of it seemed to be honest to goodness wildness. Marquis wasn’t trying to hit him with a 1-0 shutout to put the tying run on second base, especially knowing he’d be tosssed. I’m not sure about Vasquez, but he shouldn’t have hit anybody on purpose knowing he’d be replaced by a pitcher of lesser calibre in a tight situation. I don’t mind the back and forth a little bit, but that’s a lot for one series. At some point, just play the game.
Jim: It might not be an exaggeration to say it cost us the game - if Esmerling Vasquez hadn’t hit a guy in the eighth and been ejected, I doubt the Nationals would have scored three runs there. I strongly believe the best payback for a hit batter is to bring him across home-plate, rather than giving the other team a free base-runner. Were the HBPs deliberate? Hard to be sure - but the odds of two teams accidentally plunking five batters in a game seem slim to me, so I suspect some were.
ZM: Give fans their money’s worth, I suppose? Otherwise, I didn’t really see the point of it, and some of the hit batters (Vasquez in particular) seemed entirely unintentional.
shoe: Not really, but it sure felt like the Nationals were the instigators. Our team got b-slapped tonight. They got the last word by winning the way they did, and they got the hardest hit on Upton. Next time they play in D.C. will be interesting. But they'll probably be warnings before the series even starts.
The draft takes place on Monday. On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you?
snakecharmer: 4. I will watch, will I understand what they’re talking about? Not really. It’s hard to get excited for players we might see 3 years from now.
Jim: Someone compared the baseball draft to being told on Christmas morning you might get a cool present in three years. I can see that, but this year especially, with what everyone agrees is a great draft class and Arizona having dual picks, it’s more like being told you’re getting a pony, then finding two little foals in your stocking. I think whoever we pick, I’ll be going "Woo-hoo!" Been following our farm system a lot more this year too, so I’ll call this one a 7.
ZM: Two picks in the first seven? Does this thing go to 11?
shoe: Pretty excited. We are going to get a couple of pretty promising players no matter what happens. But signability at 7 is a real concern, no matter what anyone tells you. Whoever is in that slot has the team over a barrell.
May is in the books, and very well it went too. Who do you feel was our MVP for the month, and explain your reasoning.
snakecharmer: J.J. Putz. We wouldn’t have won 13 of those games without his saves. I am so glad he’s there.
ZM: I don’t know if there was just one MVP. This team kind of reminds me of the 07 unit, with certain players stepping up when others falter. When the offense wasn’t there early, the pitching typically kept the team in the ballgame and gave them a chance to win it late. When Kennedy or Hudson faltered, the offense bailed them out more than once over this past stretch. I know it’s a cop-out, but I’ll give it to the entire team.
Jim: Cop-out! Hard to argue with Putz - 13 appearances and a 0.00 ERA. Ian Kennedy had a 2.43 ERA and almost all of our pitchers were solid, contributing to a team ERA barely above three. On offense, good to see Kelly Johnson getting back in gear with seven homers, and Juan Miranda led the regulars with a .915 OPS. But Putz gets it for me.
ZM: Fine, then I’ll give it to Sean Burroughs. Since he got here right around the time the team started winning, he must be the glue that holds it together, right?
shoe: It was a tossup between Kennedy/Hudson/Putz. All three pitched extremely well. Kennedy and Hudson put up more WAR because they throw more innings, but Putz was nearly perfect in his role. I voted Kennedy in that poll, but you can't go wrong with any of the 3 for May's MVP.
Sean Burroughs. Why?
snakecharmer: Because it’s a good story. He’s not what we need in a bench hitter though, he should go back ASAP.
ZM: Because the 2005 Padres aren’t going to recreate THEMSELVES, y’know?
Jim: Because Kevin Towers hold a deep-seated loathing for WIly Mo Pena? Burroughs was fair enough as a temporary fill-in when Mora was on the BL, but he’s got no power and no plate discipline. Thanks for coming.
shoe: Good question. Is Ryan Wheeler ready ?
If you could not root for the Diamondbacks, what other team in the NL would you be most likely to pick up?
ZM: Maybe the Marlins, if only because I feel like it would be tremendously satisfying to compete almost every year with a tiny payroll and a bunch of castoffs from other teams.
Jim: It might actually be the Rockies or Padres, for geographical reasons, though this would also require some kind of memory-wipe device to remove my deep-held distaste for certain aspects of those teams. Might be the Pirates. I like underdogs.
shoe: Confession time: I grew up on Long Island rooting for the Mets from the mid 60's onward. While living overseas from 1981-2000 I followed them as closely as possible. But until the mid-late 90's all we had was USA Today box scores. I listened to the 1986 World Series on international radio. But that was about it. I got into Bill James in the 80's with his abstracts and then later publications. Hence the heavy stat bent.
When I moved back to the states in 2000, I didn't feel "connected" to the Mets. I already was a big RJ fan, and liked the D Backs. Baseball is an everyday local sport, and I really like to go to a lot of games. So I threw in with the D Backs as soon as I got to the valley. Actually when I planned my move back to the states my criteria was warm weather climate, NL city, not in California or Florida. Pretty much left AZ and Texas. No brainer there. So if no D Backs, but Mets. But I'm a D Back fan and can stay one even from China. I'll be back someday!!
On the road go the Diamondbacks again, to the Pirates for three and the Marlins for four [though the last one is next week]. Calling it six games, how will we do?
snakecharmer: Pirates are no roll-overs. 3-3.
ZM: 3-3, two against the Pirates, plus one against the Fish.
Jim: I’d be happy with 3-3. As ‘charmer noted, the Pirates are doing surprisingly well. at least by recent Pittsburgh standards: The last time they had a better record at this point than their current 28-30 was 1999.
shoe: Probably 3-3, maybe 3-4 for all 7 games. As expected, fatigue starting to be a little bit of a factor. But this team is anything but predictable.