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Diamondbacks Round Table: April's Over

Henry Blanco breaks a cardinal rule, and leaves a guy hanging for a high five. But, really, I wouldn't acknowledge someone wearing a shirt that color either.
Henry Blanco breaks a cardinal rule, and leaves a guy hanging for a high five. But, really, I wouldn't acknowledge someone wearing a shirt that color either.

A mixed bag for the Diamondbacks the past week as they faced two struggling NL East teams. They dropped a series at home to the Phillies and then picking up three of four from the Miami Marlins of Anaheim Florida for their first series victory since they went to San Diego from April 11 to 13. But they had a winning week, the offense showed some signs of waking up, posting 17 runs in their last two outings in what early reports have categorized as a pitcher's park, and Patrick Corbin made his major league debut for Arizona with his first W. Are things turning around, or are we just kicking a stumbling team while they're down? The usual band of ruffians has their opinions on the month that was, and sonic barracuda adds in his thoughts. Next week we'll see luckycc, followed by blank_38 and... possibly some other people. I'm just filling in here, I'm sure Jim has a list.

April is in the books, with the D-backs playing close to .500. Overall impressions?

Dan: Club should be fine. One way or another, we’ll probably end up getting better production at third base over the rest of the season, whether it’s because we see Roberts improve, more of Ransom, or a trade at the deadline. Hudson will be back for another 20 starts or so and should be better, Miley looks impressive, no more Collmenter putting us in early holes, bullpen won’t give up this many late leads, etc. CY returning will also help offset some of the unsustainable production we’ve seen from Kubel and the like.

Sonic: Could have been better, could have been worse. Some of the bats are coming alive but I’m still concerned about a few. Goldie needs to get going a little. Roberts has to get going. And Upton really needs to get going. His swing doesn’t look under control right now as if he’s trying to hit every ball out of the park. I hope it’s not the lingering thumb like it did all second half for Young. Thank god the team went out and got Kubel. We’d really be scuffling without him. I think we’re seeing the results of KT going out and buying a lot of insurance in the off season. We’re staying in the hunt through some injuries and slumps and once we get healthy we should be able to put a run together.

Clefo: If this is the nadir of the season, I am totally fine with .500 ball. When guys get healthy and they play the way they’re capable of playing, then I will get the warm and fuzzies about this season.

soco: I feel nervous because some of the luck we had last year seems to have reversed itself. The injuries luckily seem to be not particularly serious, but the guys I thought might regress seem to be wallowing in the land of misfit toys (Goldschmidt, Roberts, Bloomquist, Parra). Of course, they might just regress back up from here, but it doesn’t make feel any less nervous. Also, there’s been some bad bullpen work that is giving me flashbacks to 2010.

snakecharmer: Under most circumstances, a .500 April shouldn’t be all that bad, especially considering we had a few injuries. It was better than last year’s April. However, a lot of the offensive players that we, at least I, were worried about needing to repeat this year - Roberts, Goldschmidt, Upton - have stalled. Overall I still think this team can and, obviously, MUST perform better, including the same bullpen that was such a strength last year. But, a lot of teams get off to slow starts, so I’m not yet too concerned.

Jim: It’s hard not to be a bit disappointed, especially after going 5-1 to start the year. However, you can’t lose your hottest hitter and a front of the rotation starter without some impact, and there have been positives to come out of it as well. Given Justin Upton hasn’t been what we expected either, I think there’s reason for hope more than panic.

Marc: IAWTD (I agree with this Dan)

Kishi: Disappointing, but if you look at them, you can see where things could improve and how the team should do better in the months to come. It’s a long season, and we know April doesn’t define it.

Who was the player of the month for Arizona?

Dan: Chris Young, even with the time missed. He literally carried the club to a couple of wins while he was on the roster, and losing him was brutal (and a reason for us to continue not to panic).

Sonic: Young really got us going the first few weeks, but I think I’d have to give it to Saunders with honorable mentions for Miley and Kubel. Kubel’s a professional hitter and his defense hasn’t been nearly as bad as everyone was making it out to be.

Clefo: Wade Miley. He made that comeback against the Giants possible, and he’s been pretty solid throughout. Honorable mentions to Saunders, Kubel, and Young.

snakecharmer: Joe Saunders and his four starts with a sub-1 ERA. I have warmed to Jason Kubel, too, who has had some great days at the plate and in the field.

Jim: I want to say Jason Kubel, purely for purposes of irritation. But how can you argue against the man leading the majors in ERA for April? That’s the most unexpected pleasure this year.

Marc: Joe "two-seaming, groundballin’, no homerin’" Saunders. Even with the obvious regression around the corner, a lot of Joe’s early success looks legit. He’s throwing more two-seamers and getting more groundballs.

Kishi: Joe Saunders deserves it. Four starts, goes at least 7 innings in each, only gives three earned runs in the whole month. That’s a great month, especially from a guy we expected to mainly fill in the back half of the rotation, and the team is all the better for it.

What else has made the biggest impression, good or bad?

Dan: Tie between Kubel and Miley, on the very good side. Kubel has been far better on the defensive end than I’d expected, and Miley’s stuff looks across-the-board better than a year ago. On the bad end, has to be Roberts. Disappointing to see him unable to put a charge into a ball.

Sonic: Saunders and Miley without a doubt. Didn’t see that coming from our 5th starter and our long relief guy. We’d be in a real hole without those two guys.

Clefo: Kubel. There were a lot of people (myself included) who wondered if he was an overpay, but he’s earning his cash right now.

snakecharmer: Well, I still think we’re paying Kubel too much, but I have warmed up to him. Miley’s been just what we need out of him. Collmenter, obviously, has been the biggest disappointment. I expected the league to adjust to him, but I didn’t expect him to be inconsistent and miss his spots/throws with just so many of his pitches.

Jim: Kubel’s defense has been a startlingly-pleasant shock, far from the traffic-cone some expected. He has got to his fair share of balls and his arm has been strong and accurate. Miley certainly deserves a lot of credit for bailing us out when Collmenter failed, and Cody Ransom has not sucked. On the other hand... Roberts and Goldschmidt have done little to earn playing time, and Ian Kennedy’s last couple of starts have been battles more than smooth sailing.

Marc: With the obvious answers already stated I’ll go ahead and take a different route - attendance. It’s early in the season but it’s kind of a bummer to see that the team is only averaging 94 more fans a game than they did in 2011.

What happened to Josh Collmenter, and do you think he is done as a starter?

Dan: Lost his command, which was vital to him succeeding with an 86-88 mph fastball. Pretty simple: when Josh Collmenter’s throwing his stuff up in the zone, it’s going to get hit a long way. I don’t think he’ll be able to climb back to that spot from behind Arizona’s massive starting pitching depth, so this is probably it for him as a D-backs starter. Whether or not someone else gives him a chance in the rotation is another question.

Sonic: The simple answer is the league is just figuring him out. But it’s more a matter of him not showing the command and control he did last year. Can he get it back? I think so but he might need to go to AAA to do that since he won’t get enough innings in long relief to work through it.The only reason he might be done as a starter (in our organization at least) is because there’s too much talent ready to take his place.

snakecharmer: I don’t think it’s just the league figuring him out. I’m a really bad pitching analyst but his stuff just seems to have a lot less movement and it’s too up in the zone. I don’t know how that’s fixable and how much it needs to be fixed to be a starter.

Jim: It’s probably a combination of factors, but I think the book on Collmenter perhaps got, not just written, but passed around the entire league over the winter, because he has been getting smacked about since the very start of spring training. Hard to see he making his way back, unless there’s a major crisis in the rotation.

Marc: He harvested and ate Barry Enright’s soul thus becoming Barry Enright 2.0.

Patrick Corbin made his first appearance today. Discuss...

Jim: First! Well, it happened, and wasn’t bad, though he seemed to run out of gas towards the end. I haven’t seen the game - will have to wait for that - but for a guy who hasn’t started a game above Double-A, you can’t argue with the results. I think he’ll be a fine stand-in until Hudson gets back, though if Miley continues to pitch the way he has, Mobile won’t miss him for too long.

Sonic: Corbin over Buehrle on the road? Works for me!! He wasn’t great and he wasn’t terrible. Decent outing for a major league debut. He got some VERY timely double play balls that saved his butt. But he also got some key strikeouts. It was an upgrade over what Collmenter’s been giving us so that’s what we were looking for. I’ll expect him to improve off of that outing in New York.

Clefo: He got the win. As we all know that is the only thing that matters for a pitcher as far as stats go.

Marc: Wasn’t able to watch it but the results are decent enough. Perfect game to start your career with against a struggling Marlins offense.

Kishi: Again, didn’t get to see it, but it sounded like he had some first inning jitters and he got out of trouble a couple of times. Not brilliant, but he kept the Marlins off the board while our offense did its damage. Good enough for what we needed.

Which of our corner infielders are you more worried about, Paul Goldschmidt or Ryan Roberts?

Dan: Roberts. Age, approach, and track record are all concerning, and he’s looked pretty lost at the plate. With our relative lack of other options (i.e. we have Overbay to ease things for Goldschmidt), we won’t wait around for too long for Roberts to find himself.

Sonic: Goldschmidt. Roberts probably has more experience to work through a slump. I think we were always counting on Goldie’s bat more than Roberts’. We expected regression from Roberts and certainly weren’t expecting progression. Goldie was expected to be a semi-reliable RBI guy this year and he’s been anything but. He needs to get his batting eye back because he’s getting fooled far more often than we saw last year and throughout his minor league career. I think he’ll be fine eventually because he’s such a hard worker, but the strikeout totals have me nervous. He wouldn’t be the first power-hitting prospect to flop. For the team to really get on a roll he’s going to need to be a part of it rather than a K every other at bat.

Clefo: Roberts. He’s older, and thus has a smaller window to work through any of his issues, and he had his career year last year, so it could stand to reason that he would regress back to "Journeyman infielder with a lot of tattoos" status.

snakecharmer: Can I be worried about Roberts if I’m not surprised? He had a career year last year, and yeah at his age it is going to be more difficult to maintain whatever he had in one year out of many. I am much more worried about Goldschmidt having a Sophomore Slump and him losing what got him here. I didn’t expect a 10-home run month or anything, but he has to perform better - more sac flys instead of Ks, getting on base... the basics. I don’t need .300/40/40 but I need more than nothing.

Jim: Equally. Roberts has shown he can hit at the major-league level in the past - he just hasn’t done it this year. However, age and regression are not in his favor. Goldschmidt seems incredibly vulnerable in certain spots, with a K-rate of almost 30%, that has not improved since last year, and is no recipe for long-term success. Hopefully, both of them can turn it around.

Marc: More concerned with Goldy as he’s showed virtually no power and has a less egregious BABIP of .250 compared to Robert’s unlucky .188.

Kishi: Roberts. Goldschmidt is in his first full season in the majors, there’s going to be some adjustments needed. Get Don Baylor over there and work it out. On the other hand, we all pretty much agree that Roberts had a career season last year, and he’s probably on the downslope. He’s the one I’m more worried about.

Last year, the team lost four games where they were leading after seven. In 2012, they already have three such defeats. How much of a problem is this?

Dan: Not a season-destroying one, but a decent one. I think anywhere from 6-10 such losses should be expected, so that’s certainly a few extra wins to come up with. I think the overall level of talent on the offensive end is better, though, so I’m confident they can come up with those wins. If third base can be remedied, is there a real weakness anywhere on the diamond? No more Miranda & Co. at first, McBloomquist is working at shortstop until Drew returns, and Aaron Hill is killing it at second relative to what Kelly Johnson gave us early last year.

Sonic: I’m a little concerned but not overly so. Hernandez seems to have changed his pitching approach with lots of breaking balls instead of working off his fastball. I’m not sure why he’s doing that unless he’s already losing a tick off the fastball. If he can’t get hitters out with his fastball that’s going to be a problem. I just get the sense DH is pitching backwards. Starting out with breaking balls and then bringing the fastball when he doesn’t get early strikes, a recipe for giving up big flies. I’d rather see him start with the fastball and finish with the breaking ball. It’s possible Shaw could overtake him for primary setup if he doesn’t settle down a little. Putz will be fine. One of those losses was in horrible weather in Colorado where it was all he could do to throw the ball over the plate it was raining so hard.

snakecharmer: That number of 4 had to be among the major league lows last season, let alone any season in the last decade. That was an insane number last year! Certainly I didn’t expect to repeat that again, though I would prefer not to have so many flashbacks of 2010. The part that concerns me is that it’s basically the same bullpen as the second half last year. We had a good bullpen and we kept it intact and it isn’t performing as well as it should. Whether this is normal early season regression or something worse... I don’t know.

Jim: It does bother me, because any losses above four will have to be made up somewhere else, and I’m not sure where. Part of the reason for last year’s success is that the team hammered opponents in the later innings, scoring 42% of all their runs in the 6th-8th innings, so if the bullpen allowed two, we’d score three. This year, that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Marc: Meh. That’s all part of the nature of Arizona sports. Ever watch the Coyotes or Suns? The Diamondbacks just want to fit in.

Kishi: Slightly concerning, but I’ve learned that you should never really trust a bullpen, so I don’t really expect them to be as peerless as they were last season. Ask me again in a month how concerned I am.

Now you’ve seen it, what did you think of the Marlins’ park?

Dan: It’s a strip club-circus hybrid, not a baseball park. I would hate being a Marlins fan and having to go watch games in that park. It’s like they want you to pay attention to everything except for the baseball game.

Sonic: I like it. It’s very "Miami." The fun of the park helps bring in fans which they desperately need. Purists hate it I’m sure, but sometimes we forget that professional sports is in the entertainment business. The way to attract the casual fan is to give them an environment that’s fun. This park does that in spades.

Clefo: It’s gaudy in some places, but it seems like a much nicer place to watch Baseball than Joe Robbie Stadium/Pro Player Park/Pro Player Stadium/Land Shark Stadium/Dolphins Stadium/Sun Life Stadium was. Of course, it’s single handedly killing Giancarlo Stanton’s power (Sunday’s game notwithstanding).

snakecharmer: I’d watched a game or two in it before, though I hadn’t yet seen that home run thingy animate. I sum it up as very "bright". The people, the colors, the atmosphere.. that may be what Miami needs, a fun (albeit not entirely-family-friendly) indoor place to cool off and catch a game. I think there’s waaaay too much green in the outfield and I expect there to be greenscreen ads out there in 3,2,1... but it does look nice and clean and flashy.

Jim: Bit of a mixed bag. I don’t like the theme-park approach to the game, which smacks of desperate hucksterism rather than a long-term approach. But it has got a roof, and that alone is a major, major improvement. They’ll be bringing those fences in before long I think: no free-agent sluggers will want to play there otherwise.

Marc: Looks like a pretty cool place. Not so sure the players enjoy it but I’d imagine a lot of Marlins fans are having a good time there. That centered pitch camera is beautiful as well.

Kishi: It’s kind of like a stadium and a room full of slot machines got married, and this is their baby. I’m sure it could be worse, but I’m not crazy about it.

The road trip continues through the East coast, with three against the Washington Strasburgs Harpers and the New York Ponzis. What are your thoughts?

Dan: I think we can win both series, would still be very content with a 3-3 record on the trip. Split your games on the road and win your series at home, and you’re in business.

Sonic: I like our chances. The Nats will probably be tougher than the Mets and two of the games will feature a raw rookie in Corbin. It will be interesting to see how he performs under the bright lights of New York, his home area I believe. He’ll be pumped. Upton needs to get it going and we may need a new bullpen arm soon. Shaw, Ziggy and Breslow are pitching a lot lately and I’m worried about relying on Collmenter. And with Corbin getting two starts he’ll probably max out at 6 innings in both.

Clefo: I think we take it against the Mets. Then we trade ALL THE THINGS for David Wright /meme’d. I think we could take the series against the Nats, but I think they’re for realsies, so the results of that will be interesting.

snakecharmer: We seem to be hovering at .500, so I expect at least 3-3. Would be nice to improve to 4-2 and go home on a high note, and we especially need to take the series against the Mets.

Jim: I’m looking forward to the Washington series, who have begun the year like they mean it. Say what you like about Bryce Harper, he’s a phenom, and those are always fun. Dread to think how many times this team will strike out against Stephen Strasburg. The Mets should be a bit easier, so I’m thinking 3-3 sounds about right.

Marc: 5-1. No questions asked. Homerism.

Kishi: I’m more of a Milhousian, personally, so I’ll be happy if we go 3-3. I mean, 6-4 on a road trip? I can live with that. Drop two against the Natinals, take two in New York.