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SnakePit Round Table: The Thirst For First


First-place, two games up - that's our biggest lead since September 1, 2008. Winning six in a row will certainly help your chances there. Can the team keep it up on a tough road-trip through Philadelphia and Atlanta? How will they replace Jason Marquis? And is Justin Upton an MVP candidate? These, and other questions, are discussed by our panel of round-tablers, including this week's guest Clefo. The current waiting list is: BattleMoses, justin1985, Jdub220, DeDxDbacKxJroK, JoeStock, CaptainCanuck. Should take us through the end of the regular season, so no more applicants are needed for now. 

After dropping the first game against Houston, the Diamondbacks have won six in a row, to roar into the lead in the NL West. Thoughts on the week?

Kishi: Any week that you go 6-1 while your main division rival goes 3-3 is a pretty great week. We’ve put up our biggest lead in the division since September 1, 2008, and it’s our longest stay in first all season. From a win-loss standpoint, this week was fantastic.

Sprankton: All I can say is... WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Clefo: Happiness and joy spread all around in the froufrou land of bunnies where magical fairies blow kisses to the stars and polka-dotted toadstools sing "Good Ship Lollipop" to the tiny mice their little feetie pajamas.... What I’m saying is... it was good

soco: We’re going streaking!!!


DbacksSkins: I’m gonna be Debbie Downer and say that while I’m pumped that they exceeded my expectations (6-1 vs. 4-3), my happiness is tempered by the upcoming roadtrip. /supersadface

shoe: Obviously a huge test. No matter what happens this week it's not make or break for their division title or playoff hopes. But a good showing this week will cement them as a legit contender and erase any doubts. (Even mine)

ZM: I’m still a little apprehensive, since the team didn’t exactly look dominant during that stretch.  However, it’s hard to argue that the overall results (six wins in a row and a two-game lead in the division) aren’t positive.  And if you had told me in March that this team would be two games ahead in the division in mid-August, I probably would have just smirked and said, "Ahead of who, the Padres?"

Jim: An amazing turnaround. We were crushed in the opener and 7-1 down in the second game. Having been outscored 16-2 at that point, any progress seemed very unlikely. Four of the six victories were from behind too. The resilience of the team is amazing: they’re as likely to beat you in the ninth as the first.

The team did lose two players to broken bones, with Jason Marquis the major one hurt. How much of a blow is this, and how should the team replace him? [Note: asked before it seems clear Wade Miley gets the call]

Kishi: Well... Marquis hadn’t really made a positive contribution yet, though he was in the midst of putting together a better outing today when he was hurt. We spent some money on him, though, but I don’t know if that’s a huge loss. For replacing him, I say we should call up Wade Miley. I really like having Micah in the bullpen as long-relief, so I’d prefer to keep him there. And as a pinch hitting option, of course.

Sprankton: It’s a blow in the sense that we’re paying more to have Marquis on the team and he hasn’t given us much back in return. Talent wise, I think a September callup (Miley?) or Owings can easily replace him in the rotation.

Clefo: Marqui-Marq and his funky bunch pitching wasn’t brilliant for us, but he has a track record of being decent but not spectacular. What SHOULD happen is someone like Miley being called up (as the two folks above me mentioned), what WILL happen is probably seeing Duke or Micah back in the rotation.

soco: I wouldn’t say a major blow.  Yes, starting pitching has been thin and he likely would have turned it around eventually (if not today), but it’s not a complete disaster.  Now we need to see what Wade Miley can bring to the table.

emily: I was never impressed with the Marquis acquisition. Just a little disappointed he couldn’t prove that he was worth that Geoff Blum-type guy we traded for him.

DbacksSkins: I chuckled at emily’s response.

Aren’t we still within the 2-week return period? Jinnah dropped her Xmas Kindle last week and Amazon replaced it immediately. C’mon, Nats. Where’s that good customer service?

shoe: I didn't think much of the Marquis acquisition in the first place and didn't expect him to contribute much positive. So it's not that big of a blow to the team's chances. That said......I hope he heals fast and does not have lingering effects from the injury. Good luck Jason.

Jim: Just goes to prove that Arizona is not immune to this season’s curse on pitchers. He had done little to make us miss him, but it leaves the back of our rotation just as thin as it was. Owings or Miley should be okay. I’d like to see what the latter can do in the majors, and not sure we’ll have room for him next season. Free Wade Miley!

ZM: I wasn’t particularly enamoured with Marquis, even though it’s always sad when a player goes down with an injury.  That said, I think Wade Miley, or whoever steps up to fill Marquis’ space in the rotation, will be ready to contribute.

Xavier Nady is also out for the foreseeable future, with Lyle Overbay back in Arizona. What do you think of this move?

Sprankton: Meh.

Kishi: It’s not bad. It’s not great, but it’s not like we traded for Adam Dunn or anything.

Clefo: So long as we don’t trade him for Richie Sexson again. There have been worse moves.

soco: I, for one, welcome our Lyle Overbays.

emily: As I said earlier, the Lyle Overbay experiment has come full circle. Absolute meh.

DbacksSkins: Welcome home, Lyle.

Kinda surprised we effectively traded a righty for another lefty. At least we didn’t need to give up anything.

shoe: As long as he doesn't start more than one out of five games I'm fine. Good left handed bat off the bench, solid defender when you need him. Just don't rob Goldy of too much playing time please.

Jim: Was it really 2003 Overbay last played for Arizona? Amusing that he and yesterday’s starter for the Mets, Chris Capuano, were team-mates. Especially when, of the 21 position players the D-backs used that year, only Overbay, Craig Counsell and Rod Barajas are still in the majors. And Counsell, just barely...

In other words, I have nothing to offer but trivia.

ZM: He’s alright, but not quite good enough to justify taking ABs away from Goldschimdt.

In other words: he’s the perfect backup first baseman.

Paul Goldschmidt has 18 K’s in 41 at-bats. A problem, or just growing pains?

Sprankton: Maybe a little bit of both. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

Kishi: He’s also hammering the ball, so I’m willing to let the Ks slide for now. I have faith in Don Baylor to help him work out his adjustment to the majors.

Clefo: If the power comes in larger loads, you can live with the strikeouts (offer does not apply to Mark Reynolds). He’s only been up for a short time, and it’s not like we have better options. I let him ride it out the rest of the season.

soco: I think there should be concern, but it might be him pressing too much.  Let Baylor try his magic and see what happens.  Remember, he’s only had 41 at-bats.  He hasn’t gotten into the routine of the big leagues, so there still a lot he needs to learn about how people will pitch him, and how to make adjustments, and so on.

emily: I’m gonna say growing pains. The loss of Nady hurts when the new kid should have a day off, and it hurts even worse to see that Brandon Allen is doing pretty well in Oakland. I still don’t understand why the front office refused to give BA a chance. Oh well, I guess he’s free now. /rant

DbacksSkins: Both. Ks were a problem before this season, although much of his strikeout-ness disappeared for awhile in AA. He definitely won’t continue to K this much in the Majors, though he still seems to have holes in his swing.

He certainly rebounded yesterday, though -- K’ing four times on Saturday, getting three hits (and a called K) on Sunday?

shoe: A little of both. You'd sure like to see him making more frequent contact. But this guy has managed to make adjustments before. I think he can do it again.  Watch the next 40 AB's. I bet the K's drop to 10 or 12.

Jim: He does seem to have some holes in his swing, but as we’ve seen, is capable of crushing mistakes. Do not try and get a fastball inside past Goldie. Pitchers will adjust accordingly, and Paul’s success will depend largely on his ability to do so too.

ZM: I think it’s a legitimate problem that the team will have to take steps to correct.  Strikeouts have been a problem for him throughout his minor league career, and if there’s a hole in his swing, pitchers are going to be good enough to exploit that at this level.  Right now though, he’s essentially a rich man’s Wily Mo Pena: a mistake hitter who you can consistantly strike out by making your pitches.

If the season ended today, would Justin Upton deserve to be the NL MVP?

Sprankton: Upton is the MVP of my heart and that’s all that matters. I’d say that Fielder and Kemp are both ahead of him in the actual race, though.

Kishi: Yes. Would he win it? Wellll, that’s harder to say but I’d suspect no. But I think he’s got time to make enough of a push for it. Give him a strong month and a half to finish the season, and if the team remains in the playoff hunt through the last week of games, I think he’s got a good shot at it.

Clefo: Yes. Definitely yes. A thousand times yes. And this comes from the unbiased observer that I am. Would it happen? Probably not, barring a "Barry Bonds in the early 2000s" kind of power surge. I suspect he may get a few first place votes from west coast writers.

soco: I think only Prince Fielder is ahead of him, realistically.  I don’t see Kemp getting the award since the Dodgers are so bad (yes, that’s not fair, but it is how it almost always works), but Fielder is on a red-hot Brewers team that will be a handful in the playoffs.  I honestly think this will be (and has been) the story of Upton’s career.  He’s going to be great, but Prince Fielder will be better, or at least seen and remembered as better.  

emily: I think the perception of his defense is really going to hurt Upton. Would I like to see it happen? Absolutely. Do I think it will? 30% chance.

DbacksSkins: Deserve? Sure -- not that I think he’s the only one who deserves it, but I don’t think many people would complain if he won.

I could still see Kemp getting it -- yeah, he’s playing for a crappy team, but anytime a good player plays for a crappy team in a big market, suddenly all the voters get up in arms about the unfairness of the MVP only going to a player on a winning team.

For what it’s worth, Upton is tied with Prince Fielder for a ridiculous 10th in NL rWAR, but he’s tied with Tulo for 1st in NL fWAR.

shoe: He's as viable a candidate as any other.  But the season doesn't end today, so I think I'll just wait and see how he finishes.  Still 6 weeks to go and he's never played more than 138 games or 588 PA's.  So he needs to finish. But if he keeps up this pace, (155 OPS+) or even better, there is a good chance he will be the reason they make the playoffs. Thats the type of thing MVP voters love.

Jim: Fielder certainly has the larger gravitational pull, that’s for certain. But no love for Ryan Braun, who has been as important to the Brewers? I think there’s no obvious candidate right now, with a number of possibilities in the mix. That certainly includes Upton: if the D-backs do make the post-season, he deserves serious consideration.

ZM: He deserves to be in the conversation.  And if the Diamondbacks end up winning the division, I think he’ll finish in the top 2 or 3, since that seems to be how voters operate.  

Very big road-trip starting tomorrow, with three games against the two hottest teams in the NL this year, Philadelphia and Atlanta. What are you hoping the team can do?

Sprankton: I’d be really happy with 4-2, kind of happy with 3-3, and bummed with 2-4. The Giants also have to play four at Turner Field, so I’m feeling good about our chances of staying on top.

Kishi: Oh lord, this is the part of the season that scares me. I’m closing my eyes and just remembering we get to come home in ten games and play the Padres again. To be honest, I’m hoping we can split it. As long as we’re still in first place a week from right now, I’ll be happy.

Clefo: Well 6-0 would be nice. If that were actually to happen I would sell all of my worldly possessions and join a cult of some sort. Something low key with shaved heads and fancy basketball shoes is what I’m thinking. I think 4-2 is an attainable goal, however. Just as well, I like my hair.

Kishi: I’m going to work up some pamphlets for a cult, just in case, so I can get all of Clefo’s worldly possession. I can use some bookcases.

Clefo: Hope you enjoy the ONE that I actually own, then.

soco: I’d be okay with 2-4 because that means we likely didn’t go on an extended slide.  I’d prefer 4-2, obviously, or even 3-3.  I do think we can take the Braves; this is the same team that just dropped a series to the lowly Cubs, at home.   And it’s not like the D’backs will have a hostile crowd to deal with, like in Illadelphia.

emily: I’m going to be optimistic here. Our streak is going to include two winning series grabbed from underneath the noses of two of the hottest team. More realistically, I think it’ll be 3-3, dropping one in Hotlanta and two in Illadelphia.

DbacksSkins: 2-4. /itshowiroll

Shoe: Well, I'm HOPING the team can shock the baseball world and win both series.

Jim: The Giants probably won’t do better than 4-3, and that will require a split in Atlanta, then two of three in Houston. If that happens, Arizona can go 2-4, and still be in first as they head into Washington, with the Giants the only team above .500 they will face the rest of the season. That’ll do.

ZM: Well I’m "hoping" the team will go 6-0 over that stretch.  But at the same time, I’m also "hoping" the cute girl from my English seminar will go out with me, but I’m not holding my breath.  3-3 would make me perfectly happy, and I guess I’d settle for 2-4, given the quality of the competition.

Diamondbacks Baseball: Hope for the best, expect the worst, be pleasantly surprised when they do something in between.