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SnakePit Round Table: Your One-Run Game Diamondbacks

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The one-run week finally came to an end, with the Arizona Diamondbacks holding on to win Sunday's game, decided by the massive margin of three runs. It wasn't the best of road-trips, but it did end up an improvement on the 2010 one. In this week's round-table, we discuss this remarkable streak, Josh Collmenter's debut, the collapse of our offense and the upcoming slate of games.

Ten of the last thirteen Diamondbacks games have been decided by one run. What, if anything, does this say about the team?

soco: If it was a variety of different scores, some high and others low, then I’d say it’s just a weird coincidence.  It is regardless of the facts, but it is worrying that it coincided with the offense disappearing.  If anyone has seen it, please return to the Arizona Diamondbacks lineup.

Shoe:  The team ERA during those 12 one run games is 2.61, and the RG allowed is just 2.83. Usually when a team has a 12 game stretch with that kind of run prevention they win at least 7 or 8 games.  All the one run games are a direct result of a collapsing offense.  It’s a fluke to have that many in a row though.

Jim: The question is, which are the "real" Diamondbacks? The unexpectedly-good pitching or the unexpectedly-cold bats? Probably both, and neither: both will regress somewhat. It is a surprise: coming in, most people generally thought it would be a case of the hitting which would keep games close, but that hasn’t been so of late. Been a lot more 4-3 games than 8-7 ones!

IHSB: It shows us that the D-backs have moved in the direction that we all knew they moved in - their offense has been diminished, while their pitching, particularly in relief (seriously, this ‘pen has been awesome) has improved. That’s not it though - perhaps this opinion is completely unfounded by stats, but I think this team’s offense comes and goes as Justin Upton’s bat comes and goes - and lately, it’s been going back to the dugout more often than not.  He’s still having a more-than-acceptable start to the year, but he hasn’t had an extra-base hit since the Padres series.

ZM: I agree with what everyone else is saying about the collapsing offense, but part of the reason the games have been so close is the improvement of the bullpen.  Last year, the team would go into late innings of games with the score tied or close, only to see games get blown open.  During the streak, the pitching has been keeping games at least competitive, which is encouraging.

snakecharmer: It shows us that we’re able to stay close late in the game. These one-run games have almost all been due to lack of offense, not poor starting or bullpen pitching. We haven’t been up by 5 runs and then lost due to an epic meltdown. It shows that the pitching is staying strong while the offense finds its way out of the Vortex of Suck, and they will eventually.

As fans, how hard was it to bear the streak of five consecutive losses by the smallest of margins?

Shoe: For me personally not that bad as I had a busy week and could not listen to much of of the games. Had to be tough to watch though.

Jim: I was kinda glad to be working Wed-Fri, so missed most of them too. But in some ways, it’s good to see the team keeping themselves in games. On the other, blowout losses are a lot easier on the nerves, because in some ways, there’s less sense of let-down. Look at what we did with our final at-bat during those six one-run losses:

  • May 6: Go-ahead run on second, two outs
  • May 8: Tying run on base, two outs
  • May 10: Go-ahead run on base, no outs
  • May 11: Go-ahead run on base, no outs
  • May 12: Tying run on third, one out
  • May 13: Tying run on second, two outs

To quote John Cleese from Clockwise: "I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand." The good news is, one-run games tend to even out over time. The bad news? They just did. This streak was pure payback for Arizona having been 6-1 in one-run games through May 3. We’re now 7-7 there.

ZM: The past two years, the team has had a losing streak in May that pushed them out of contention for good.  When they lost five in a row, I felt like it was happening again and it was hard to watch.  But they bounced back by winning the Dodgers series and currently sit only five games out of the NL West lead, so all is not lost quite yet.

snakecharmer: When I was at two of those game in enemy territory, it was quite tough! Thursday’s runners-on-base-in-the-ninth was more heartbreaking than Tuesday’s actually, since there were SO many more opportunities throughout the game. The Lincecum/Kennedy game was just great pitching. But knowing that we’re at least IN these games, it’s a more hopeful feeling overall.

soco: I was bemused more than anything else, and a little disappointed they couldn’t break the record.

The offense...basically wasn’t. We scored more runs in the second inning Sunday than in any other game this week. How long before we see some changes in personnel?

soco: Never.  This lineup will be run to infinity.

Shoe: I have a gut feeling they are going to promote Goldschmidt soon and try to catch lightning in a bottle.  Gillespie is on the 40 man roster. So he would be easier to move up for them.

Jim: As soon as Kevin Towers is willing to admit that the "veteran presence" of Russell Branyan, etc. is neither helping the team directly, nor it appears, making the young players any more productive. I don’t know what Henry Blanco has done to Miguel Montero’s throwing arm, but it appears to have involved realigning the cross-hairs into center-right field. Give any of ‘em genuinely worth retaining coaching jobs. Otherwise, let the kids play,

Shoe: Well, Nady had a HR that will forestal any moves in his direction for a while. l

IHSB: Won’t be any later than the trade deadline. I don’t know how much hope there is to spin off any of the guys on our roster right now, but I think KT is hoping for that. I could see Gillespie, Allen, Cowgill, Owings, Mickolio, and Torra as call-up candidates.

ZM:  I think we’ll start seeing Roberts rather than Mora more frequently at third base, since the team really needs his bat right now.  Changes to the roster probably won’t start happening unless the team has a sustained losing streak that pushes them permanently out of contention, unless someone from the first-base platoon sucks so much that it forces KT’s hand.

snakecharmer: The only position I see Kevin Towers needing to make a change is first base, maaaybe the bench. I think if the regulars (KY, CY, JUp) can’t get it together soon to make up for that first base position, it would be nice to see if somebody else - Allen, Peña, Goldschmidt - can infuse some energy and momentum. (BUT I still would like to see Goldy get experience against AAA pitching first before starting this kid’s clock unnecessarily, it’s just too early to panic.) I can also see us going out in June for somebody and trading prospects.

On the other hand, the pitching has been much better, with Armando Galarraga the only one of the rotation not to throw a quality start last time around. Thoughts here?

soco: It’s getting closer to what we thought we had.  The bullpen has pretty solid, the starting should keep us competitive most days.  Hudson and Kennedy continue to impress even as they sometimes have rougher outings.

Shoe: The bullpen has been great.  Going into Saturday’s game, they have allowed just 11 of 49 inherited runners to score, or 22%  Thats the 4th best rate in the NL.  They keep this up and I’m really gonna have to give it up to KT as the bullpen king.   Heck, even Gutierrez has his ERA under 4.00. Of course with my track record you know they are going to immediately start allowing every IR to score.

Jim: It’s great to be able to trust the bullpen again. I wonder if the message has reached Gibson though, who seems to have a bit of a tendency to stick with the starters an inning too long on occasion. I think it’s more a regression again. The rotation aren’t as bad as they seemed in April -  5.25 ERA, 15th in NL. The current 4.65 figure for the season is getting there.

IHSB: I’m not sure if I trust Saunders to turn around based on the rates from his last start, but he has gotten worse results than his previous results than his peripherals suggested, so hopefully it was simply a return of normal karma. If he can be a #4-caliber starter for us going forward, we’ll be a lot better off. Galarraga, on the other hand... well, his upside was basically a #5 to begin with, so to see him struggling to badly right now is really discouraging. Can’t see him getting more than another start or two to prove his worth.

ZM: Joe Saunders is the key, in my humble opinion.  He’s gotten bad results, and he has bad peripherals to support them, but he probably has the best "stuff" out of Saunders/Collmenter/Galarraga, and there’s very little chance that he’s going to get replaced midseason (unless there’s a trade).  Right now, this team has stayed afloat with two very good starters and three very middling ones.  If they had three starters they could rely on consistently, it would really boost their chances.

snakecharmer: It’s been such a relief to be able to count on the pitching. That said, it won’t last forever. Saunders is hot and cold, and Kennedy can’t throw 120 pitches every outing. If the offense presses and struggles for much longer, the pitchers are going to start thinking they have to be perfect every outing and falter. They are symbiants!

The highlight has to be Josh Collmenter and the bullpen shutting out the Dodgers to give us a win, despite Arizona managing only one hit. Can Collmenter stick?

Shoe: It really just depends on whether his unorthodox delivery is something that hitters will be able to adjust to easily, or if the difficulty in picking up the ball is going to be something that allows him to have a successful career.

Jim: I think he does need to develop a third pitch to be able to stick around. The delivery is certainly unusual enough to be able to flummox an opponent for a while, but it won’t last forever. He hardly used his curve-ball against the Dodgers, barely a handful of times, and he should be working hard on that. The good thing is, he throws strikes. Lots of ‘em. The less walks you give up, the less chance of the hits which will certainly happen, causing a lot of damage.

It’s still some way off, but I am curious to see what happens when Duke returns. If Collmenter continues to pitch well - or even league average - might Galarraga get moved to the ‘pen?

Shoe: The comparisons to Chris Young  and Sid Fernandez that appeared in Nick’s blog are encouraging, because despite  health issues, they were  effective starters whenever  healthy. Hitters never did really "catch up"  to the deception in their deliveries.  But you’re right....he needs a better curveball he can trust.

IHSB: All about the curveball.

ZM: I feel pretty safe in saying that he’s not going to go six scoreless innings every time out.  I agree with pretty much everyone above that he needs a third pitch before he can stick as a starter, but the fact that he hasn’t walked a lot of batters at any level is encouraging.  I think he stays in the rotation even after Duke gets back.  Beyond that, who knows?

snakecharmer: Ditto what shoe said. If hitters can’t pick him up, that’ll be a strong point, but it seems like... I don’t know, I’m not a pitcher and don’t understand the motions, but regardless of mechanics and hiding the ball, he’ll still have to continue to control all his pitches consistently.

Three opponents this week, back home in Arizona. Two each against the Padres and Braves, then interleague play starts, as we get to see the Twins pitchers hit. What are you expecting?

soco: I’m expecting the team to do well against the Padres and Twins, and not so much against the Braves.  But this team loves to ruin expectations, so who knows?

Shoe: I don’t know what they will do....but I know they had better get HOT in a hurry or they are going to be playing for draft pick position again by June 1.

Jim: Five games at home against teams in their division basement? Well, the way this team plays against losing sides, that probably means we get swept. Nah, I’m feeling optimistic. Sweep the Padres, split with the Braves, two of three against the Twins, for a 5-2 week. #Gibbyup!

ZM: I think the offense comes alive after returning to Chase and they go 4-3* over the next week.

*By predicting this, I’ve all but guaranteed that they will not, in fact, go 4-3.

snakecharmer: I have no idea any more. Hopefully some "home cooking" will do them some good. They need to go .500+ or it’ll be disappointing.

Finally, random question of the week. If you were in the majors, what would your walk-up/warm-up music be?

Shoe: AC/DC, Highway to Hell

Jim: I really want something entirely inappropriate and, given my heritage, perhaps British. The Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK will do nicely.

snakecharmer: "Keeps getting better" by Chirstina Aguilerra. The "Some day I’m a super b***h" part. :D

soco: Too many good songs, but I could go for "Dogman" by King’s X.