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Diamondbacks Round Table: Moving On Up

Starting pitcher Daniel Hudson #41 of the Arizona Diamondbacks warms up in the bullpen at Salt River Fields  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Starting pitcher Daniel Hudson #41 of the Arizona Diamondbacks warms up in the bullpen at Salt River Fields (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Diamondbacks spring training went a little better, later on last week, with the team putting together a four-game winning streak, after suffering a couple of shutouts early on. However, do the results matter? We also discuss the likely absence of Stephen Drew for Opening Day, Bauermania, Josh Collmenter's rotation spot and how interested we are in stats. Guest panelist this week is dbacks25: the waiting list there is Clefo, imstillhungry95, SenSurround, DeDxDbacKxJroK and luckycc. Other entrants are welcome - just sign up in the comments.

Another week in. Are we getting a better idea of this team or is it still just spring training?

Jim:: Bit of both. A big series of reassignments this week, so a greater percentage of the roster are credible candidates to see action in 2012. The gap between pitchers and hitters, resulting from the former's earlier jump, is narrowing a bit now as well. However, it's still spring training, and you're talking about 20 at-bats... One bloop there, that dies in fair territory for a hit as opposed to being foul is worth 50 batting points, so one good day can change everything, stats-wise - as we saw with Jason Kubel.

soco:: Can I admit I haven't been paying close attention? I'm not sure we'll have a good idea of this team until a month or two into the season.

snakecharmer:: It's still just spring training. The names are becoming more familiar and they are playing for longer, but the results are still in the "don't worry about it" stage.

Kishi:: It's still just spring training. Chris Burke and the 2011 Diamondbacks results have helped remind me that spring training only really means much if you're a player fighting for a roster spot or you get injured.

dbacks25:: I honestly don't care about spring training at all. I mean, pitchers may be trying out some new pitches, hitters making adjustments. Spring training is to get players ready.

The team all but admitted Stephen Drew won't be ready for Opening Day. How worrying is this?

soco:: Seems reasonable. If he can come back for most of the season, then that's great. I'd worry if it looked like he wasn't coming back at all.

snakecharmer:: Did we really expect him to be back? It's not worrying to me since it's not a surprise/shock. Our offense did alright without him, defense is pretty good too. While I am really looking forward to Drew's presence with the team again, I'm not too worried to miss it for another month or so.

Kishi:: Not really worrying on the Drew side of the equation, perhaps a little concerning on the side of the production we'll get from the team. But we'll see how it goes, I guess.

Jim:: I think we've been preparing ourselves for the inevitable, ever since he showed up at the start of spring training, without having taken any groundballs. I can't say I am putting too much faith in Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald, but as long as Arizona can keep in touch, then getting Drew back - whenever that happens - will be almost as good as a trade.

dbacks25:: Everyone knew Opening Day was a longshot anyway, but as long as he finishes the season at 100% I'm okay,. I don't want him being pushed because of our alternatives at short.

Most pundits are picking the Giants to reclaim the NL West. Why is Arizona not getting any respect?

soco:: I think it's a matter of the Giants remaining the sexier pick due to some of their name-brand players. After their championship in 2010, the Giants became very popular for endorsements and media attention, and they have players that the media likes to talk about: Lincecum, Wilson, and Posey being the top three, and Cain being the more insider-y pick. Let's be frank, the D-backs do not have the top (in recognition) in any position in the division. If we pick any of our best players, there's another player on another team that is more celebrated. Add in the fact that I bet most pundits believe the D-backs were lucky last year, and that pundits don't like being shown to be wrong, it doesn't make for a situation where we'll get a lot of love.

snakecharmer:: Arizona was really underrated last season. Even after we took and held the lead, until it got to 6 or 7 games, people still expected SF to come back to get it. So, Arizona was really only on the tip of the media's tongues for 6-8 weeks last season. They haven't yet made a longer-lasting impression. Once they prove it wasn't luck, we'll get more respect.

Kishi:: Well, the DBacks really played over their heads last year. We've got young pitchers in the rotation, the offense isn't really stacked with marquee names- meanwhile, the Giants are a major presence. But I'd suspect the team doesn't mind being under-rated.

Jim:: People are still waiting for the D-backs to collapse, I think. Sure, we did have some players who had career seasons - but balance that with the mess at 1B and Kelly Johnson hitting .209 over 114 games next-door, and there's scope for improvement too. The Giants are also still only 18 months away from winning the World Series, and the luster of that hasn't quite worn off.

dbacks25:: What soco said. Haters gonna hate.

Josh Collmenter will start the season in the rotation. Are you surprised this is still being discussed?

snakecharmer:: The rotation vs bullpen discussion? No, not surprised. I think his unusual delivery will naturally cause people to question his use. Poor guy, after every rough start, people will say "See, he's better off in the ‘pen." He's quieted my doubts for the moment, though.

Kishi:: No, and I doubt we're done with it- give it two weeks into the season, no matter how Collmenter's doing, and there'll be people who want to know when he'll be put in the ‘pen so we can bring up Bauer. But Collmenter did a great job last season, and he's earned his time in the rotation.

Jim:: I think it will go on, and understandably so. Collmenter has only 47 career starts above A-ball, and pitchers don't normally come to the majors and post a lower ERA there than they did in the minors, as he did. So there's grounds for concern, and I'd not be surprised to see some regression too. But he should still be a very serviceable #5 starter, and his value there is a lot higher than as a bullpen arm, where the team isn't lacking in depth.

dbacks25:: I'm not surprised but Collmenter deserves at least a rotation spot. It'll certainly be tough to sustain that kind of production and with Bauer waiting on the wings along with Skaggs, Miley, Corbin and others, I feel there is going to be little room for error.

Ok, even Canadians are catching Bauermania now. Is there a risk this might get out of control?

soco:: Yes, though any attention on Bauer will be pretty low wattage compared to other media spotlights. I think the risk is in Arizona fans getting too excited.

snakecharmer:: Yes. Strasburg, Harper, Bauer. As long as Bauer doesn't let it get to him, he'll be alright in the long run. I agree with soco, it's the Arizona fans that have to not buy into it as well. Cut the kid some slack, and don't expect him to win 20 games his first season.

Kishi:: As long as we don't hit Strasburg levels... No, I agree that there's some concern about people buying in to the hype too much- I mean, yes, they may compare him to Lincecum sometimes, but even Timmeh put up a 4.00 ERA his first year in the majors. Let Bauer pitch, let the team develop him the way they think he should be developed, and just be patient, people.

Jim:: I think Bauer is the person least likely to get caught up in it. He doesn't seem like the kind of kid who'd believe the hype, and will just keep doing what he does. I do think the crow-hop routine may need some adjustment - such as removing Miggy as a target! - but from the reports, he's got the kind of talent worth accepting a few eccentricities for. Baseball needs characters like that.

soco:: The crow hop thing needs to go away. All this hype about how the dude prepares is exactly what I don't like. I want him to be a good pitcher, not a sideshow act.

dbacks25:: Any publicity is good publicity right? From the interviews I've seen from Bauer, he seems pretty calm and handles himself well so I don't think it'll get out of control in a bad way.

Yesterday saw a spring-training game in Vegas. Will that ever be a credible location for an MLB team?

soco:: Talk about a low validity environment for a prediction. What's against Vegas getting a full time Spring Training team? It's all about agglomeration. There's a reason why teams have moved to the Phoenix metro area, and it's not just because PMA pays for the stadiums. Teams can move around easier and have more access when they remain in the same area, as opposed to constantly driving between separated metro areas (think Grapefruit League and Phoenix/Tucson divide). So Phoenix will always be the preferred location, especially if it continues to pay for new facilities.

Vegas has the possibility to get ST if, and only if, Phoenix and Florida start refusing to pay for new facilities, and I think it would take a handful of teams to make Vegas viable.

Jim:: Er, I was actually asking about a franchise, not a set of spring training teams, but I appreciate the input on this entirely different question. :)

soco:: In that case, the answer is still no. Vegas doesn't have a great corporate base, the money is volatile, the people are spread out and from everywhere else but Vegas (so it would be Arizona but 1000x worse), and there's no TV market. Maybe Vegas gets to the point that it's viable, but it isn't now or in the near future.

Kishi:: Eventually, I think so. I think cities are getting less willing to pay for new stadiums, and there may well be a point where the only people who will spot the money for a new franchise are companies like the casinos...

Jim:: The argument used to be that proximity to gambling was too much of a temptation, but with the rise of the Internet, I can't see that holding much water any longer: anywhere is just a mouse-click or two from a bet these days. With Houston moving to the AL, I wonder if MLB might look at adding two more franchises at some point, to make it a 32-team league. Four divisions in each league, top two make the playoffs? Probably be a bit much, half the team getting in though.

dbacks25:: I think so, it'll certainly be very interesting publicity wise.

The SABR conference was in Phoenix this week [Dan's working on a write-up or two!]. On a scale of 1-10, how interested are you in the number-crunching side of the game?

snakecharmer:: Interested, 7. Able to understand it, 5.

soco:: Perhaps a 7. I think it's interesting, and as I learn more about statistics and methodology it has become more interesting, but it's completely separated from what I like about baseball. I like baseball, and I like statistics, but they don't need to occupy the same room in the house of my mind.

Kishi:: Maybe a 5? I'm not the most stat-oriented guy, really, but I dabble from time to time.

Jim:: I think I'm a six. I like learning about new ways to analyze the game, but I'm very much a results-oriented mind-set. Don't care too much about the whys or hows of the methodology, more the conclusions and how they can be used.

dbacks25:: I'll say I'm an 8. I love stats, they can tell you a lot of a player performance.