SnakePit Round Table: Neck-and-neck with SF

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 07: Collin Cowgill #4 (C) of the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrates with teammates after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on August 7, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Dodgers 4-3. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

A roller-coaster week for Arizona, as they beat the aces in San Francisco, before losing three in a row, then beat the Dodgers' ace at Chase. They now host the worst team in the National League, so will that allow them to take over at the top of the West? Those topics, Justin Upton's slump and what to do at the back of the rotation are among the topics discussed this week by our panel. We welcome guest correspondent Rockkstarr12: if you want to try your hand, add your name in the comments and we'll put you on the waiting list, which is currently Clefo, BattleMoses, justin1985, Jdub220.

The D-backs ended the week half a game back of the Giants. That's 1½ closer than they were last week, but they only went 3-3. Good week or bad for Arizona?

Rockkstarr12: I think that was a pretty good week, being that we got much closer in the standings then we were...not to mention we are right close to the Giants and can overtake them at any time with a victory or two.

Sprankton: Not good, not great, pretty "meh" worthy. The series in San Francisco was awesome but we countered with some lousy results against the Dodgers... at home. If I had to rate it on a scale of 1-10, it would get a 6 from me. Being this close to the division lead, I’m going to hold higher standards for my expectations. MOAR WINZ PLZ.

Shoe: Of course a little disappointing to end up the week by losing 2 of 3 to the Dodgers. While you can't expect a sweep, you have to keep winning these types of series. Nice comeback today against Kershaw though.

Kishi: An okay week, but it could have been a really good one. I feel like the team unfortunately really missed a big opportunity to move into first place, so it’s naturally somewhat disappointing. But hopefully we can pick up our winning ways again against the Astros.

soco: Bad week.  Could have made a statement in San Francisco, or could have taken the division at worst by beating the Dodgers.  On the other hand, we started the week 2 games back (right?) and end .5.  So if they can continue to grind away at this thing, they can still win it, especially if the Giants keep struggling.  The D’backs need to take care of the games they control, though.

DbacksSkins: Bad week, but maybe I expect too much. Taking the San Fran series was nice, but there’s no acceptable reason the Dbacks should be losing series’ at home to the Dodgers if they want to be taken seriously.

Jim: A very mixed bag. That Giants series was excellent, and I think overall, a week ago I’d have settled for us being half a game back. However, the Dodgers series does feel like we should have done better. But then, it could have gone worse, and we did beat Kershaw. That’s the way this team operates. There are spells when they seem unbeatable, but then they’ll have a series where you think, "How the heck are they above .500?"

Josh Collmenter struggled for his second start in a row against the Dodgers. Should he be moved to the bullpen, and if so, who replaces him?

Rockkstarr12: I think that Josh should be moved to the bullpen and replaced by Micah Owings. Zach Duke has proven he isn’t the one for the task at hand, so why not have Micah do it?

Shoe: There are no obvious clear cut replacements for Collmenter unfortunately. A case could be made for Owings perhaps based on him actually having a 3rd pitch. (Ok...I made that case, but nobody else was buying) A case could be made for Duke based on some decent bullpen outings and blind faith his stuff will somehow magically improve. Collmenter still has the best peripherals of these 3 guys, (BB/K/HR) which total up to better FIP and xFIP.  But clearly without a good curveball, Collmenter is going to continue to struggle in the rotation at least half the time, if not more as teams see him more.

soco: Yes, he should be probably be given a different role.  We’re in an unenviable position of having 3 different long relievers, but no 5th starter.  Hell, even our 3rd and 4th starters aren’t guaranteed.  It’s needs to get locked down, fast.

Kishi: I know Collmenter still has his supporters as a starter, and honestly I can’t quite decide. I think he probably should end up back in the ‘pen, because while he’s good when he’s winning, he’s abysmal when he’s losing. I mean, there’s really only one of his losses where you look at his numbers and think, "Aw, man, we should have won that one." But then who takes his spot? Do we give Miley a try in the majors? It’s a high pressure situation to move into, but someone has to step up to take it.

DbacksSkins: Collmenter to the ‘pen. As for his replacement, uh...when do we need a 5th starter again? Can you ask me then?

Jim: That would be Wednesday... Collmenter will get to start there, but it’s more of a "simulated game" than anything else. If he can’t pitch well against the Astros, I vote we return to the double-headed starter approach of Owings and Duke. Seemed to work very well against the Rockies a couple of weeks back.

What do we think of Paul Goldschmidt so far?

Rockkstarr12: I was skeptical at first about this move. While I am not thoroughly convinced this was the smartest move to make, this soon, I would like to see Paul do well offensively for us. I understand that being a rookie, this is all a learning curve for him.

Shoe: So far so good. He is having  some good at bats. He is playing good defense. BUT, of course he is striking out too much too.  (8 in just 20 PA's, or 40%).  55% of his PA's have resulted in a K, Walk, or Homer. (Ok...2 walks and 1 homer).  It will be interesting, (and fun I hope) seeing how he adjusts over the coming weeks.

soco: I want more.  Sorry, I know he’s a rookie and he’ll improve and blah blah blah, but let’s face it.  He was hyped like the second coming of Christ.  I want to see some more mashed potatoes from him.

Kishi: So far, I’m okay with it. Pretty pleased with what we’ve seen from his glovework so far- granted, I haven’t watched all his starts, but he’s made some good digs at first, and no major mistakes, right? He’s gone up against some pretty top-notch pitchers so far, so hopefully he’ll adjust to the majors at the plate soon.

DbacksSkins: I haven’t yet seen Goldy do any worse than our other options. Sure, when he strikes out, I think, "Well, Xavier Nady or Juan Miranda could’ve done that." But unlike those two, I have faith in Goldy improving.

Jim: I’ve been positively impressed with his defense and base-running, but outside of the bomb off Lincecum, his offense has been not an enormous improvement over those he replaced - there seem to be a couple of potential vulnerabilities in his swing. But as ‘skins says, he’ll get better.

Justin Upton is now 4-for-25 this month, with no walks and nine strikeouts. Is this simple regression after his insane July, or is there a problem?

Rockkstarr12: It could be just a regression, a phase of sorts. If it continues, however, then there could be a problem. I hope it’s just a phase.

Shoe: A bit of both. Of course Justin wasn't going to maintain such a torrid pace. BUT, his YTD Walk rate is the lowest it's been since his rookie callup in 2007.  Maybe he is trying to pick up CY and expanding the zone too much with two strikes and runners on base.   It's a process. The mantra about "letting the game come to him" seems to stick more frequently and for longer periods of time.......but he is still prone to trying to do too much sometimes.

soco: It doesn’t seem there’s a problem, he’s just in a funk.  It happens to players, and he just needs to keep doing the things he was doing when he was successful.  He knows that, and he’ll turn it around.  The problem isn’t that he’s in a slump, it’s that there aren’t a lot of others picking up the slack.

Kishi: It’s six games. Every player goes through rough patches on and off, and I’m not going to get too worried over a handful of outings.

DbacksSkins: Regression happens for a reason, but I’m not too worried.

Jim: I like shoe’s idea about trying to do too much ahead of Young, and hope that moving CY out of the clean-up spot will help with the pressure on J-Up. It is a small sample, and I hope that four games against Houston will prove the tonic he needs. But he’s not the worst issue: over the past 14 days, Young is .111 (4-for-36), Miguel Montero .167 (6-for-36) and Kelly Johnson .186 (8-for-43). That’s half our regular line-up struggling simultaneously.

We’re two-thirds of the way through the season. What is the team’s greatest weakness and biggest strength, going into the final third?

Rockkstarr12: Greatest weakness I think is the baserunning. We have had lots of foolish blunders when it comes to the baserunning. I really hope we can nip this in the bud. As for the greatest strength, I think our bullpen has vastly improved over last season’s bullpen, along with the offense. We are seeing more hitting out of guys who were struggling. Many guys are coming of age before our eyes offensively.

Shoe: Weaknesses
4th & 5th spots in the rotation

Shortstop
First base offense, until Goldy starts making more contact
CF offense, due to CY's injury induced slump
Team Baserunning

Strengths
Excellent front of rotation
Very good back of bullpen
Justin Upton
Phenomenal Outfield Defense

soco: Weakness is obviously our mascot.  Strength is Angry Justin Upton.

Kishi: We’ve never had good offense from first base, I consider it a myth. I’m most concerned about the back half of our rotation, our stupid choices on the base paths, and our offense off the bench. I think our defense, our bullpen, and our moxie are our strengths.

DbacksSkins: Weaknesses:
Offense at 1B/LF (Parra may be hitting better, but he’s still not hitting like a typical LF)
Reliance on Willie Bloomquist and Ryan Roberts as everyday players, and Joe Saunders to keep pitching like Tom Seaver
Kevin Towers’ insistence on keeping lousy position players on the roster
Starting rotation in general

Strengths:
Defense

The Justin Upton
Youth (mostly)

Jim: Weaknesses: back of the rotation and the bench are the main ones that stand out. Beyond Saunders, I just don’t know who should be starting, and there’s hardly anyone outside the starting eight who fill me with confidence. Base-running recently, but it’s more an irritant than a serious flaw. Strengths: offense generally, the defense is mostly solid and I do think Gibby is the man to keep the engine running down the stretch. Can’t see him letting anyone coast.

Four at home against the lowly Astros, then three against the Mets. How will we do, and will we be in first-place by next Sunday?

Rockkstarr12: After losing one of their biggest offensive threats in Hunter Pence to a trade, I think the Astros will be sent packing with their tails between their legs. I think the Mets will be our trick pony, since they have threats in Jose Reyes and David Wright, respectively. Their pitching isn’t that great, except maybe rookie Dillon Gee (if we even face him that series). I think we can take Chris Capuano. I think we can be in first place before the end of the homestand.

Shoe: The odds are we will be tied for first at best. The Mets just lost Reyes and Murphy to injury. So you have to think that makes them even weaker. I would expect the team to go 5-2 over these 7 games.   As for the Giants...hopefully their next opponent, the Pirates, decide they are DUE to win a couple of games.  Then the Gnats travel all the way across country to Florida to play the Marlins, who have lost 4 in a row to fall 4 games under .500.  The odds are the Giants win both of those series and go 4-2, so if we go 5-2 we'll be tied for first.  I'm not so concerned with being in first place next Monday. I'm mostly concerned with being within a game or two on August 21 after we get done with Philly and Atlanta.

soco: This team loves to disappoint.  If the offense gets grinding again, I don’t think we’ll have a problem.  If it’s still scuffling, and we still can’t get production from 4th/5th spots in rotation, then it’s going to be a frustrating week.  

Kishi: I think it depends on Pittsburgh managing to pull out of their nose-dive as much as anything else. The Giants are 2-8 in their last ten games, but the abruptly fourth place Pirates is the only team doing worse over that stretch of time. I think we can handle the Astros and the Mets, but if the Pirates continue to sink into disappointment, they might give the Giants an excellent opportunity to recover. C’mon, Pittsburgh, don’t disappoint me...

DbacksSkins: Pittsburgh will ALWAYS disappoint, kishi.

Usually in this space, I predict a 3-4 finish to the week. Today, I’m going to be an optimist. 4-3.

3-1 vs. the Astros, 1-2 vs. the Mets, but a full game behind at this time next week.

Jim: Got to go 5-2 or better. Even if the Giants falter, the schedule then gets a lot tougher for us, as we travel to Philadelphia and Atlanta. Some kind of comfy cushion before that would be very helpful.

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